Ways of Knowing

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When engaged in our scientific way of knowing, a human being stands in requisite isolation outside of the creation, as an inquiring, analytic, ‘onlooker’ — and from this standpoint it is reasonable that we can make nature subservient to our intellect and our will. From this sensible, useful vantage point, come all our noteworthy achievements in science and technology, and the economic growth and abundance that these occasion. But as a spectator to life and creation, science itself has no, and needs no, intrinsic system of ethics: ethics must come from within life. Unfortunately, because this detached modern endeavor is so little informed by traditional wisdom, for all our incredible know-how and frenzied attempts to transform the whole world, we are increasingly helpless before the world we are creating. A moment’s reflection upon the stunning developments taking place each day in the worlds of computers, weaponry, genes, and clones, provides sufficient verification for this statement.

Traditional ways-of-knowing live on, of course, and most of us retain at least some vague feeling that there must be some sense and significance ‘behind it all’. But we are hesitant to allow these vague feelings to carry the same weight as scientific facts, they are not really considered to have anything to do with authentic ‘important’ knowledge, and we may even feel somewhat ashamed to harbor such ‘irrational feelings’. Yet there is no rational justification for such an unexamined attitude — it is just a symptom of our jaded indifference, our deeply ingrained submissiveness to the current scientific vogue.

Socrates declared that the soul is immortal. This may or may not be true. But the truth of this statement cannot be decided one way or another by anything scientists have to tell us.