3.1 The Bond of Religion with Morality, in Inspired, Metaphysical and Scientific Perspectives


The preliminary glance in the last two chapters at the present state of society suggests that at best our culture is in the doldrums, awaiting a fresh breeze, and, at worst, in a slowly sinking condition. The old values have failed; the new secular values typified in a Russell, Huxley or Sartre have led only to poor morale.

A basic scrutiny of the validity of avenues to truth has led us to the conclusion that much of the difficulty arises from dependence on methods less realistic and less subject to verification as well as less organized constructively for research than is scientific method. The attempt to maintain that the ethical insights of religion are still the best we can get, while admitting the obsoleteness of the religious view of the cosmos, is increasingly breaking down with educated people. Through whatever avenue we get our understanding of the universe and its working, through that channel we must also get the understanding of ourselves. A coherent morality requires a coherent worldview.

Now the new emotional values promised here cannot be conveyed directly to the individual as emotional values; they must grow from his appreciation of a new analysis of the world around us. What is about to be developed here can lead to a new basic life attitude and state of mind in the individual; but it is first to be derived from a cognitive view of the universe. The quick appeal of many religions is that they offer immediate solace to the individual, not bothering him with any complex origin, and they then trust that many people with this attitude, when brought together to consitute a religious community, will "work out" new emotional patterns. This type[1] of purely need-satisfying religio-moral adjustment is open to all of Freud's criticisms of religion as being essentially only an alleviation of a neurosis.

It is true that some popular religious movements and philosophies today, including modern Existentialism, have also approached values purely in terms of satisfying subjective needs. It is also true that religions are properly concerned, on the one hand, with "a state of being," but they are also concerned with "works" and the advance of a society the City of God. Theologians, as much as social psychologists, have recognized that these two are organically connected, but that in various climes and ages their functioning as an organic harmony has been rather fragile.

In maintaining here that a state of mind cannot be divorced from a state of society a view which religious mystics, for example, contest we encounter a principle deserving a little more explicit development. For it will be invoked here in several other contexts, and it has moreover the status of a primary postulate in social psychology. Just as the crystalline or organic structure of a physical object is found to be consistent with the individual properties of the molecules which go into it, so as can be shown in actual group dynamics experiments the "shape" of the whole group is a function of the form of attitudes and personalities in the constituent individuals. (This does not imply or require, however, the apparent one-way causal action that happens to exist in the present physical or physiological analogues.) Just as for each chromosomal structure given in the single cell there is an exactly corresponding total organism, so for each form of personal behavior and values an average style of individual adjustment there is a kind of society. On a miniature society of only two, but with delightful convincingness, Shakespeare shows us in The Taming of the Shrew the simple example that two people cannot hold together a marriage when each is in a constant blaze of angry self assertion. It is perhaps unnecessary with the sophisticated reader thus to emphasize that certain states of mind are prerequisites for a society to cohere at all. It seems desirable, however, to give in footnotes[2] a little more concrete social scientific support for the principle of man-group equivalence, stating that for each form of personal adjustment there is a corresponding form of society. The particular state of mind and moral values of the individual can thus, on the one hand, derive from his view of the universe ("can," because much will derive reciprocally from his society itself), and, on the other, be consistent with a particular form of society though, of course, as an average citizen, he may not have insight into all the connections.

Now the position we are about to develop, and which may be called Beyondism, for reasons that follow, begins with the acceptance, among other things, of the scientific view that mankind is in process of evolution in a physically and biologically evolving universe. It admits the possibility that the future evolution of his species may fail, but also that there is no inherent reason why the present stage may not be a mere first step in tremendous evolutionary advances yet to come. From adopting this latter hope, Beyondism reasons back by means of technical social-scientific arguments to defining what the moral laws for individuals and groups have to be to produce such evolution. And from this definition of individual behavior it comes ultimately to what the "state of mind" or personal values need to be.

Before proceeding to a more precise analysis of the logic and technical assumptions of this inference, it may help to see, as in any birth of ideas, what its ideational genealogy may be. In particular, what is the history and the past success of attempts to derive individual moral values from a pre-statement of a group goal. And what help to the ultimate clarity of this concept can we gain from analyzing the elements in the current Zeitgeist to which it is related or from which it is definitely different.

In the first place any origination from the typical rationalism of the French "Enlightenment" has been expressly repudiated. The demolition by the latter of religious "superstition" may have prepared the ground socially, and, of course, reason is an ingredient in the present development, but the other descendant movements from that particular origin are completely alien to Beyondism. Many writers, such as Voltaire, merely paid lip service to science and, in fact, rested their reforms on a priori human value postulates. Mathematicians in that movement, such as Condorcet, liked to think that science was with them, but mathematicians are apt to prefer their own frameworks to those of nature. Moreover, like Plato and Aristotle before them, the rationalists were impeded by lack of the sciences needed the biological and social sciences and an altogether excessive worship common among philosophers, mathematicans and logicians of a priori "illumination."

Since the position we are about to take will put much weight on the life and character of the group as such, and on the evolution of whole cultures, it is even more important than any repudiation of philosophical confusion with rationalism to make also a fundamental distinction from Hegel, Marx, and Herder as to the purpose of the group, and from Herbert Spencer and Schopenhauer as to the character of evolution[3]. To the present writer as to many modern social scientists Hegel's writings about the group are too remote from quantitative observations and hence too mystical and pretentious to be acceptable. His philosophy explicitly claims metaphysical action the effect of a cultural "spirit" beyond the causal action known to science. In this respect it is akin to the Gestalt movement in psychology and certain Russian views on psychology and neurology (Luria, 1965) and in sociology (modern dialectical materialism). These, at best, describe the action of "wholes" in too mysterious a manner, and, at worst, succumb to teleological, extra-scientific explanations. Without entering on the more detailed empirical analysis of culture patterns to be presented later, let us agree that action of the total culture is real enough, but that it can be handled by factor analytic procedures and multivariate, emergent models in a scientifically effective causal analysis (Cattell, 1965).

On the other hand, there is one vital point made by Hegel to which many experimental social scientists still seem not to have responded namely, that some kinds of scientific experiment can be repeated as often as one wishes, but history does her experiments only once, as regards any identically repetitive sense, and that these experiments are part of a unique, unfolding, irreversible stream of data. The difficulty of separating and checking general principles from data thus becomes greater in the social than in the physical sciences. And if we admit that some principles are never fully understood until they appear in their most complex contexts, and that history is a movement toward higher complexity, we may never hope to understand how to predict certain events from certain principles until the events have occurred! (Who would know the saltiness of salt in a universe in which sodium and chlorine had not yet reached combination?) Even apart from this principle, the predictor of social events faces the practical difficulty that the number of influences at work in any event is so great that the fastest computer might not be able to calculate the event as fast as it occurs. But, granted these limiting conditions, the behavior of social groups belongs to the same science as other sciences, and needs no Hegelian metaphysics or intuitions beyond science.

It is necessary to guard not only against the confounding of the Beyondist concern for the group with Hegelian super-individual values, but also of its concern for evolution with enthusiasm for the Nietzschean superman. The writings of Nietzsche are often such sheer rhetoric (and sometimes fine poetry) that the gross intellectual misunderstandings of evolution in his writings are overlooked. Actually if a poet of evolution is required, Tennyson is more lucid and more apt in feeling than Nietzsche. Nietzsche, feeling imprisoned by the wall of nineteenth century piety, perhaps aided, by his sledge-hammer blows, the necessary breaking of a crust of cultural custom. Thus the vitality and beauty of his poetry is undeniable, but, unfortunately, it embraces among other errors of scientific conception the notion (a) that the survival of the fitter is an affair of individuals, and (b) that competition and aggression are one. The praise of primitive aggressiveness does not belong to a realistic understanding of natural selection. If nature had shared this Nietzschean valuation two million years ago it would have produced a still larger gorilla and vetoed the small and shivering naked ape who became man.

However, we are not concerned with the details of these earlier, often misguided attempts to respond to evolution and to a more scientific world picture. A philosopher-historian concerned to find clearer beginnings for our present development of ethics from science here will not find them in Hegel, Fichte, or Nietzsche, but in Locke and Hume, and in Paine, Bentham, Mill, Comte, Haeckel and Spencer. What began with Locke and Hume had been called English empiricism. (As such it has been accused of distrust of pure reason when actually it respects reason to the point of wishing to protect it from merely a priori verbal logic.) It has stood positively by the tenets of scientific method. From this source, at any rate, springs the only attempt at moral systems that implicit in Comte's positivism and that explicit in the utilitarianism of Bentham and Mill which will help in giving the ancestral family atmosphere back of the present birth. They strike the essential note by bringing together, as here, on the one hand, a regard for the empirical laws of social behavior and on the other, an explicitly stated final social goal.

Accepting "the greatest happiness of the greatest number" as a reasonable goal for society, Bentham (1834 ) and Mill (1863) thus set out to ask the social scientists what moral rules and what social legislation would, according to the verdict of empirical research, lead to this goal. To avoid any false lead at the outset of this discussion of Beyondism, however, one hastens to emphasize also our differences from the above while not overlooking what is at least a continuity. The continuity abides in the rejection, as a source of morals, equally of religious revelation (except as an historical make-shift), and of metaphysical, verbal-rationalistic systems. The difference arises in the present scientific ethics searching in science itself for the goal, instead of accepting the too subjective and spuriously simple formula of "the greatest happiness of the greatest number."

The utilitarian and posivitist developments in ethical thought which gleamed for a moment in the nineteenth century, as a herald of that more complete integration with science that is now possible, unfortunately failed to survive philosophical criticism (as many essentially sound inventions have failed in their first form). A post mortem suggests that the utilitarian movement failed for four main reasons: (1) the unsatisfactoriness of the subjective, arbitrary and indefinite nature of the goal, (2) the unpopularity with people of religious values of the possibly hedonistic nature of this goal, (3) the neglect to include the unborn the biological future in defining as "democratically" satisfying the "happiness of the greatest number (present)", (4) perhaps, in suggesting (partly through its historical association with liberal thought) a greater degree of "laissez faire" in moral matters than experience of moral control indicates to be workable. In any case, after Bentham, Mill, and Spencer the next fifty years showed little followup, except for Sidgwick (1893), and Stephen (1873) who clarified and criticized, but did not radically improve. Nevertheless, the general idea was handled, with typical caution by Darwin, with moderate enthusiasm by Thomas Huxley and Haeckel (1929), and (still as a general, not rigorously defined notion) as a reasonable, implicit assumption by countless progressive writers since, such as Shaw (1965), Wallas (1914), Wells (1903), Marx (1890), J. Huxley (1957), Russell (1955), and others. Having investigated some causes of failure in this first move toward scientific ethics, let us turn to a newer design for success.















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