7.5 Some Further Disparities of "Secular Religious Values" and Beyondism


Another danger of the muddled secular moralities is that they lend themselves to that inexplicit mixture of social science and values which has become the greatest threat to social progress in our time. Admittedly, a dishonest social scientist can present a misleading conclusion even when, as with Beyondism and the revealed religions, the moral principles are explicit enough to be separately stated. But when the moral views are themselves already an unknown mixture the goal of presenting intelligent citizens with clear choices in the integration of scientific facts with moral principles is impossible.

As we shall see in later examples, the arena of public economic policies quite as much as mores in sex, political life, etc. becomes powerfully modified by changes in moral values. A respected liberal sociologist, Myrdal, whose reliable factual observations we have quoted with appreciation (page 226), unfortunately elsewhere offers a typical example of the undisciplined and unashamed mixture of secular (Humanist, as it happens) moral values with conclusions proporting to come from social science. The educated citizen knows, he tells us (1965, page 50), "how much more has to be spent by the community in the slum districts, on police, fire protection, health, emergency aid, and the like, and how, in spite of these provisions, there is much more crime and prostitution, illegal gambling and gangsterism, houses on fire, debilities and chronic illnesses, as well as epidemics and short-term sicknesses, alcoholism and mental illnesses, and so on, in the slums than in the type of well-kept and clean suburb where he lives. He knows that infant mortality is higher there, as is the rate at which mothers die at childbirth.

"The educated American also knows since several decades that, as a general proposition, the higher incidence of all these unfortunate things among the poor is usually not due to inborn differences in human quality but is caused by the environment. In a queer contradiction of this theoretical knowledge, he posits a sort of general moral feeling that nobody needs to be unemployed and poor unless he is a bad person. Nevertheless, it remains something of a mystery that the majority of Americans show such lack of concern about these facts."
The real mystery here is that Myrdal can conclude (a) that the majority of Americans are unconcerned, and (b) that the "theoretical knowledge" that inborn differences play no role in the difference of earning capacity, control, etc., is real knowledge. There is a significant correlation of measures of psychological effectiveness with capacity to earn well and to spend and save wisely, and a statistically significant part of this association, by any good mathematical model, goes with genetic characteristics. In regard to inborn aspects of emotional instability, mental disorder, etc., the exact figures are still to be investigated[8], but in culture-fair intelligence measures alone the correlation of social status with intelligence is in the 0.2 to 0.6 range. (For the child and the social status of his parent the correlation is 0.2 to 0.3. For the adult and his own social status the correlation is, as Horn points out (Horn and Knott, 1970), decidedly higher about 0.6.) This is more positive evidence than anything Myrdal presents and contradicts him in showing that poor status is more a consequence than a cause of the psychological disability.

It is precisely because practical politics is misled by "liberal," Humanistic writings like Myrdal's, conveyed with some authority, that the poverty problem with which he reproaches the American citizen remains unsolved. It so remains, in Myrdal's country as in America, because social action has become confused in aims. There are, of course, both environmental and genetic determiners of individual differences in the ability to maintain good material and moral standards of family life and we simply cannot give in precise figures at the present moment the relative variance contribution of each. The best and safest estimate today would be that they are of equal importance, but Myrdal's "usually" conveys to the innocent reader that the problem is purely one of environmental mistreatment of the slum-maker. To compound his offense he then accuses the intelligent citizen of believing the person of low status is wicked, whereas a far more commonly expressed conclusion of the intelligent citizen is that he is incompetent. And this is a sounder basis for devising remedies for the situation than the sentimental sociologist's conclusion that it has no systematic cause whatever, or the paranoid conclusion that it is all due to "oppression" by this or that group.

Virtually all men believe they are earning less than they deserve, and consequently, are ready even without the persuasion of modern psuedo-liberals to ascribe too much of any deficient earning to external environmental influences. But, as pointed out in Chapter 6, there are, additionally, pleasure principle distortions favoring rejection not only of personal moral responsibility but even of the realities of heredity. As Hardin (1964, page 118) has well said, "The human implications of the idea of selection are so upsetting that even today most people, including many biologists, cannot see [i.e., recognize and accept] the more threatening of them." A similar substantially documented criticism of the incapacity of the current Humanist subdivision of "intellectuals" to absorb and constructively handle the reality of inborn individual differences, was recently made by a distinguished research physiologist, Roger Williams, in the American Scientist [9].

Since, at least on a purely logical basis, it would make better sense for a person concerned about our society either to enhance the importance of personal responsibility by decrying heredity, or, if his taste runs the other way, to emphasize heredity and appear to take responsibility for the individual, one wonders what motivation moves the Humanist simultaneously to try to reject both heredity and responsibility. A moment's psychological analysis suggests that he must be defending the reign of the pleasure principle in human affairs against both the demands of the super-ego and the scientific, cosmic realities, as presented in the facts of biology. This defense of indulgence which, by the nature of Humanism, could so easily dominate the whole movement, is soon perceived to go far beyond the particular illustrations used here of bypassing heredity in social science, of advocating indulgence as the nostrum for crime, or of calling for virtually every form of sexual permissiveness.

Actually the ultimate and central danger in its claim to be a desirable moral system is its emotional overvaluation of human stature, achievement and rights; the removal of any perspective that would keep us aware of the superhuman distances that mere humanity has yet to travel, and the smug anthropocentrism that would tend to overlook all other species and indeed all natural forces, in the universe. A recent "prophet for our generation" has announced, "I preach that it is not sinful to be idle; it's being human." Setting "idleness" as an ideal value quite aside, the important and recurrent non sequitur in such writings still remains: that no moral criticism of what is human can be permitted. For is it not human to err? The Humanist and mystical poet, Thomas Traherne sings:
No business serious seemed but one, no work
But one was found; and that did in me lurk.
D'ye ask me what? It was with clearer eyes
To see all creatures full of Deities;
Especially oneself: And to admire
The satisfaction of all true desire.
Toleration is one consequence of the virtues raised to a supreme position by Humanism. It is a strangely illogical mentality that can, if it has any conception of truth as a desirable goal, regard all toleration as a virtue. Toleration is logically either a lack of moral concern or a lack of certainty on moral values. Uncertainty is admittedly widespread, but the sincerity of a truth-seeker is judged by the efforts he makes to reduce it. One may suspect other motives than truth-seeking in those who worship, prolong and perpetuate uncertainty. It is consistent with the needs of the pseudo-therapists discussed on page 264 above that they believe in reducing "pathological" (forsooth!) concern about uncertainty and unreliability of evidence. For there is great uncertainty, indeed, about whether their own therapy works! The aim of a scientific ethics and indeed of any ethics if we accept the underlying religious values is to narrow the uncertainty about the ethical helpfulness of all kinds of behavior. In as much as Beyondism aims by research to find objective bases for values, that will reduce uncertainty, it follows that it is actually aiming to reduce "toleration." That is to say, it is working to reduce obscurity of moral values within any one society and to abolish hypocritical toleration. At the same time it is deliberately asking for true and meaningful toleration on a grand scale in terms of sympathy for deliberately diverse experiments, each planned with regard for its own consistent, sincere set of moral values.

There is, of course, even in such a vague socio-intellectual movement as Humanism (lacking in clear or rigorous doctrine though it is) a recognition by its adherents of the existence both of a more intelligent and sound and a more debased and "heretical" expression of doctrine. To be sure that we are not misrepresenting Humanism it is important strongly to represent the former. Russell, who has been accepted widely as an enlightened protagonist of Humanism, says, "the importance of moral action diminishes as the social system improves" (1955, page 110). In this statement the liberal-Utopian philosophy of the last nineteenth century is expressed and confessed (Marx also believed that the Communist society would ultimately need no government). Such a statement also has the implication, however, which few liberals would embrace, that the more society achieves the less sensitive it becomes in its moral concerns! But the path of evolution is far longer than this straight line to a Utopia. "Good" societies good in their time and in a limited frame of reference will come and go; but the importance of moral striving will remain. If society has reached a high level there are still higher targets possible, and the only constant goal of a good society is to maintain the tension of moral purpose to become a better society. The implication of much Humanistic thought is thus actually that mankind has already "arrived." With a little goodwill and polishing here and there it is assumed that it will have reached its Utopia.

Naturally, Beyondism and Humanism, as value systems, have, on the other hand, not only antitheses, but values in common. They share an appeal for greater altruism, and a desire for deeper understanding of individuality, and both contrast with the dogmatic position of revealed religion, in that they expressly call for a reasoned approach. In other respects, e.g., in their acceptance of new facts, in their attitude concerning the fallibility of intuitions in the intelligentsia; in their degree of admiration for man as he now is; and in their sophistication about the psychological peril of the pleasure principle they are poles apart. In the secular, eclectic moralities of this century, which are now probably in their heyday, there is no understanding of what we have called the genetic-cultural adaptation gap; and still less of the notion that culture itself has yet to spiral out of sight beyond the values of the contemporary literature of Humanism. And, of course, there is no entertainment whatever of so revolting an idea as the possible viability of a concept of "original sin." But the greatest difference resides in Humanism deriving morality from the felt inner needs of man, and Beyondism from the realities of man's position in the universe.















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