7.1 Tentative but Crucial Illustrations of Value Innovations in Beyondism

An ethics based on scientific, evolutionary foundations leads to rules of inter-group conduct provocatively different from those somewhat unquestioningly assumed today to follow from revealed religions, but the canons of within-group morality so reached are remarkably close to Christian and other revealed ethics. (These two realms are not the totality of moral areas, but that of the response of world citizen to world citizen we may leave to Chapter 9.) Nevertheless, some vital differences of values and reasons for values exist even within the intra-group behavior injunctions. Our aim now is to bring out whatever contrasts may exist with traditional religio-moral systems, first, in this chapter in values themselves, and secondly, in Chapter 8, in the social and political action that would follow. By this contrast Beyondist ethics can be further worked out.

Two dangers accompany these chapters in terms of accuracy of communication dangers that have not troubled us before. First, concentration on contrasts, though enlightening, is apt to divert attention from equally important features which the systems have in common features the understanding of which is not necessarily already established. Secondly, Beyondism calls for founding the more specific ethical values upon research on the above principles; but most of the necessary research has yet to be accomplished. Consequently, one must recognize that the truth of Beyondism does not stand or fall by the soundness of any specific socio-political injunction reached tentatively in these present pages. The ethical inferences must be considered as examples, planned to be illustrative of method. In some cases they may yet prove as misguided as Leonardo's recipe for an airplane.

In taking a sample of modern problems it has seemed best to take those which have also tended to recur through history. These include wars "to make the world safe for democracy" (Athenian democracy); the presence of distressing poverty, despite systematic charity (any century); difficulties in assimilation of markedly different races (the Pharaohs finally forbade importation of Nubians into Egypt); pollution (which kept medieval Europe on the move) and so on. It is hard to name an important modern problem that, with suitable change of detail, is not old. But journalists, who by their name have to talk about things of the day; the young, who like to think they are newer than they are; and intellectuals, who like to think their crucifixions by the mob are unique, do not make the best uses of historical education. Perhaps the fact that so many problems are perennial underscores the need for a change from the moral foundations of the last two or three thousand years to a derivation founded on science, which, in its major growth really is new, and therefore may at last offer solutions.

It is unfortunately inevitable that the differences in recommendations of Beyondist and traditional religions will excite marked antipathy in the latter, even though we have argued for retention of their values until more reliably demonstrable values can be established. Only fools knock down the old before they have plans to build the new. It is not by noisy "protest" and destruction that the new Jerusalem will be built, and, indeed, some walls will be the same. And, whereas "the warfare of science and religion" (Draper, 1898; Julian Huxley, 1953; Wells, 1930) disturbed the intellectual a century and a half ago; and the liberal could almost think of churches as the work of the devil, yet today any man of moral feeling is more disturbed by the imminent danger that the fall of this blind Samson will bring down with it the pillars of civilization. For, as we have already reasoned, while the rising tide of alienation, of crime, and of sheer low cultural morale has many specific causes, such as were present in most former historical fluctuations of morale, there is nowadays more basically and more ominously, suggestion of a final decline in the supporting religions' authority for morality. By education and the mass media, the scientific criticisms of revealed religious truth, once entertained by the intellectual few, are now the property, and also often the excuses of the vast insensitive majority. Let us note, however, that all substantial religions today are substantial also in the sense of being educational institutions, and businesses like any other vested interest. Thus they have a natural momentum and resistance to dissolution which precludes any graceful, rational re-organization, if and when new truths make their doctrinal basis no longer tenable. Beyondism, whatever its inherent truth and promise, is socially the frailest of seedlings in a forest of moribund, but enormous, trees.

In my book, Psychology and Social Progress (Chapter 5), nearly half a century ago, I was far more concerned, in recognizing these "political" realities, to consider the resistances, rather than the assistances, which traditional revealed religion could offer to a science-derived morality (and which I then called the ethics of cooperative competition). Today, I am more optimistic that except perhaps for such self-sufficient and highly organized churches as that of Roman Catholicism we can count on active interest from church congregations peopled by individuals who are more educated to feel that they should adjust to scientific change. It is therefore possible that individuals of high moral concern will step over their institutional dogmas more freely than ever before, and some whole churches, such as the Unitarian, may prove capable of making a rational evaluation of Beyondism, and of incorporating those parts which they feel careful inquiry can sustain.

Although we must not, therefore, overlook considerable agreement in an approximate sense, it behooves us to be explicit on the main differences from both traditional revealed religions, and such modern re-hashes as Humanism and Existentialism. Five major differences may be summarized as follows:

(1) In Beyondism, ethical values are intended to be subjected to continuous revision on the basis of research. It may be objected that this is not new since it is already systematically done in the Catholic Church by papal encyclicals. Indeed, the evolution of dogma (which Cardinal Newman more happily called the development of doctrine) is a close functional parallel to research, but (a) for true scientific research is substituted exegetical, philological re-analysis, and (b) for the basic evolutionary principle is substituted the preserved sayings of a half-legendary figure. These differences are momentus.

(2) The design in Beyondism for cooperation of diversely oriented cultures, cultivating and stressing their diversities, constitutes a complex universalism of markedly different though inter-locking congregations, very different from the simple (and, may one add, sentimental?) "homogenous" universalism sought in the imperialism of traditional religions.

(3) There are few traditional religions that do not make a virtue of poverty and dependency or decline to see possible evil in unbounded expressions of compassion. Beyondism has a more conditional and complex attitude on these. First it desires to see poverty eradicated instead of persisting through palliatives. Secondly, though it agrees that love (agape) and compassion are precious, whereas erotic love, pugnacity and narcism are cheap and redundant, it considers that love as pity (agape) can also be subject to many perversions.

(4) Although Beyondism sees all men as bound by a common purpose, this is different in the implications to be drawn from it from the universalistic assurance to mankind that they are "all one family." It is different in the economic interpretations[1] regarding mutual support and in the biological implications. Very probably one of the first recommendations of Beyondist research may be that mankind should plan to diverge into several distinct non-interbreeding species to avoid the danger of having "all eggs in one basket."

(5) Beyondism is incompatible, as an objective search for truth, with attempts to proselytize by "emotional deals," such as all traditional religions have practiced, or by propaganda having the character of psychological warfare, i.e., deliberate deception in the name of persuasion. It has to be completely open to investigation and experiment. This does not prohibit, however, bringing out all the real emotional satisfactions available in Beyondism, in a skilled educational "persuasion."

As to the first difference above, it is one found not only in the contrast of Beyondism and revealed religion, but is part of a vaster contrast between two cultural eras the static and the movement-oriented. As Bury (1920) best brings out, before the Renaissance men lived essentially in a static world, aware of a rhythm of generations, but expecting and aware of nothing in the nature of a continuous trend. "Progress" did not exist in Egypt, or in any modern sense in Rome or in medieval times, and arose only dimly in the Renaissance. One may argue that even if they gathered other perspectives than those of the ages in which they were born, the great revealed religions needed fixed dogmas at the time of their reigns. Only thus could they hope firmly to withstand the mortal storm of human waywardness. Caught in the present widespread implicit, popular acceptance of evolutionary change they are at last forced to hesitant, clumsy and ad hoc modifications as is the Catholic reaction to birth control. This charge of maladaption to movement, incidentally, is no criticism of any religion's firmly standing by deeply established principles when attacked by modern popular movements totally ignorant of history and lacking the wise perspective time alone can offer. But the fact remains that it is the essence of Beyondism to maintain positive evolutionary change in the light of deliberate scientific investigation and this is no part of traditional religions.

However, this vital readiness of Beyondism to grow continuously is also the main source of its vulnerability. Just so is the mammal more vulnerable than the crustacean or the insect, who have only brief periods of growth and danger between long periods of armored rigidity. Here the traditional religions are safe because of the very rigidity of their dogmas. And on the opposite side, the wider social recognition of change as normal to our era brings the danger of expecting too much of a too easy and too unstudied "change for its own sake." There is a type of incontinent mind, especially common in journalism, on T.V. and the stage, which can spawn to the public more excited and impractical ideas in an hour than good scientists can bring home the fallacies of, by a year's tidying up. One can justifiably fear that as soon as it is realized that ethical habits are a domain for hypotheses and invention, a tremendous smoke cloud of ill-considered, fragmentary ideas will arise to blind the public. (Brave New World and 1984 are among the least bizarre of the arbitrary propagandas we may expect.)

The misfortune of too glib a public discussion is that ethics is really the most complicated field of science, requiring the greatest deliberation, insight and good sense for its investigation. Above all, it requires experiment and statistical analysis for which the individual journalist or speculative writer is unqualified, so that "popular" discussion has from the beginning a built-in futility. Steady advance, and the development of a real science of morality, can come about only by deep study of large group experiments, requiring research institutions for gathering data, and calling for steady perspectives while generations of scientists make their contributions. Hopefully we shall soon learn enough about the psychology of research itself and have sufficient instrumentation for detecting pleasure principle and narcistic components in thought to be able to separate the charlatans, the sophists, the Cagliostros, and the creators of Piltdown men, from the Darwins, Einsteins and Newtons. Thus, by vocational selection of researchers, and the growth of tests for the quality of thought, the subject can benefit from the deep originality of individual thought, without letting mere cleverness take over the house of wisdom.

With this brief indication of the gains and dangers in moving to an ethics which is built to grow, let us turn to the second above-listed difference from traditional religious values that of universality. The universal brotherhood of Beyondism is based on a sympathy and love in the understanding that we belong to diverse, competing experiments, sharing the common human fate of transience, but bound by a great goal. Because of its acceptance of different values in different groups this might be designated federated universalism. The universalism of revealed religions, on the other hand, would abolish competition and establish an egalitarian uniformity of values and aspirations everywhere hence the expression "homogeneous" universalism above. It has been suggested above that the universalistic quality appeared in religion by an historical growth out of a within-group morality first developed only within groups by natural selection[2]. Whatever the details of the dynamics of its persuasion may turn out to be, there is no doubt that universalism flatters all kinds of minds with a sense of their liberality and expansiveness. It quickly appeals even to the easy-going man in the street who is apt to deplore in the field of cultural specialization everything from customs declarations and language difficulties to armaments' costs and the draft! In particular homogeneous universalism is the dream of those who perceive or misperceive it as an assurance of universal peace and who value nothing beyond the goal of peace. It finds resounding support among ethical reformist writers, such as Comte, Wells and Russell and even politicians, as in Wilkie's recent slogan "One World."

Yet if the Beyondist position is sound and we have encountered nothing yet to contest its basic logic a simple, sentimental, homogenous form of universalistic ethic would wreck human progress very quickly in two ways. It would abolish the stimulus and test of inter-group competition, and it would reduce that local group variation in ethical and other values that cultural adventure and inventive racial mutation which is the indispensable condition of diversity for evolution by natural selection. Just as the scientist aiming to discover some new and effective product, tries out his various mixtures in a carefully segregated and labelled array of test tubes upon his shelf, so must evolution keep some self-contained, inwardly-developing apartness in its treasures. For evolution has no alternative but to proceed by diversification and selection, culturally and biologically. In the usual goal of homogenistic universalism we are actually being asked to applaud to crowning disaster of all the test tubes crushed in one confused mess in the sink. By contrast, the universalism of Beyondist ethics is very real, but complex. It requires insightful modification by checks and balances, more fully discussed in Chapter 9, Section 9.1.

One must repeat, however, that as far as the rules of internal behavior of groups necessary for evolution are concerned, they much resemble those of the great universalistic religions, especially those of Christianity. Indeed, the social psychologist wishing to turn first in his research to the causes and consequences of the most vitally important virtues and vices cannot do better than to start with those which stand at the center of the discussions of the Great Christian divines. Condensed to a distant view, we see the Judaic religion and the Mosaic code, carried further in the beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount, and, brought by St. Paul to the essentials of faith, hope and charity. These joined with the well-thought-out four virtues from a different stream that of Greek and specifically Aristotelean wisdom, justness, temperance and courage. They became for medieval scholars the seven virtues, in the shadows of which stood seven deadly sins. The almost certain alignment with these virtues of the values inferred from evolutionary ethics bids us, despite their salient importance, spend no time in discussion.

Only among the sins is one which perhaps has special relevance that of malicious envy. For it is in the nature of Beyondism that it will require certainly more than such secular religions as Communism a toleration of diversity and apparent inequality of endowment of men, races and cultures. The faster a pennant is carried and the more certain its direction, the more it streams out in the wind. Only in an army in confusion are the vanguard and the rearguard inter-mixed. The most vigorous Beyondist societies are those in which excellence of all kinds is cherished and sympathized with, rather than resented and cut down. Societies with an egalitarianism based on envy and jealousy have paid heavily for it. Men of psychological intuition and we can go back here to Chaucer's judgment that envy is the worst of the deadly sins, because it is against the good have recognized that though envy of property or status is of little moment because to the wise man these are trivia, jealous hatred of intellectual or moral excellence is indeed deadly to society.

The third of the main differences listed above between Beyondist and traditional ethics that on poverty and charity deserves a section to itself, as follows.

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