Tag Archives: Morality

Controversy between Science and Religion

Is it possible for a person to be both religious and accept science at the same time?  The debate between science and religion has occurred for centuries.  Ever since the Classical antiquity, these two different views of acquiring knowledge have been a hot topic with many different views and opinions.  Science generally acquires knowledge by using reason, empiricism, and evidence, whereas religion relies on revelation, faith, and belief in the unseen.  In The Eye of Allah, the Abbot’s faith is tested when he discovers pathogens under a microscope.  He finds himself in a situation where science interrupts his life and causes him to pick whether he wants to keep his faith or turn to science and reason.

In early 1200s AD, religion dominated life.  Religion was the main answer to why things happened because technology had not evolved yet, but mainly because scientific reasoning was not conventional.  The conflict between church and science was created because scientific thoughts were sins and were not accepted in society.  The church often ruthlessly persecuted many scientists or people who spoke out against the church, causing narrow-mindedness.

Rudyard Kipling in The Eye of Allah introduces science in a time when society is not ready for it.  When the Abbot is faced with the challenge of keeping the microscope or destroying it, he says, “’it would seem’, he said, ‘the choice lies between two sins.  To deny the world a Light which is under our hand, or to enlighten the world before her time” (170).  It is true that the Abbot does not know what to do, but in the end he chooses to pick his religion over science.  The reason is unknown, but it can be assumed that he wanted to censor the world from this new technology or simply because he wanted to save his position in religion.  In the end, was he right to choose religion over science?  Was the Abbot really helping society?  And is it indeed possible to believe in both religion and science?

Controversial Writing- The Marquis de Sade

marquis de sade When it comes to the Marquis de Sade, much controversy is in play. He was imprisoned for many acts that suggested extreme immorality, and his writing suggested the same. During his time, in late eighteenth century France, what he wrote was extremely shocking to people. Times have obviously changed a considerable amount since then, and with all the information that the media displays today, it is often difficult to be shocked by anything we learn. However, Sade’s writing would still astonish a good amount of people today, based on how graphic its content is. The major question we face now is whether or not his writing should be restricted.

Many would argue that his writing is not appropriate to be sold nor viewed, particularly when it comes to youth. It has been proposed that some of his writing, which can be classified as violent pornography, has the power to influence people in a very negative way. Ted Bundy, one of the earliest known serial killers, told an interviewer that he read the work of Sade and was hugely impacted by it. This is not to say that everyone will be affected in the same way, or that Bundy only committed his crimes because of violent pornography, but it is possible that this kind of material can heavily influence somebody. Some would say that if it is possible to influence one’s mind to replicate such acts, then Sade’s writing should be restricted, especially to young people.

On the other hand, it seems highly unlikely that most people would be influenced in the same way Bundy was, so it would not really be fair or necessary to restrict Sade’s work. Personally, I don’t think there should be restrictions, because there is no way to prove that if people like Bundy had never read violent porn they would never have committed their crimes. I think it is up to each individual whether or not he or she chooses to read a certain piece of literature. This material goes against some beliefs, so the people with those beliefs do not have to read it if they disagree with that. However, some people may be interested in it, so why stop them from reading?

It might even be important that we keep Sade’s work around. It can “’serve to remind us… of the absolute evil of which man is capable’” (290). To forget the dark side of human nature would be the wrong thing to do; we need to understand our ability to do wrong in order to properly fight that. This knowledge is necessary to have because if we don’t understand the bad in humans, we don’t really understand ourselves.

So, how do you think Sade’s work and other work of his kind should be dealt with?

The Psychology of Evil

Below is a video of a TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talk by Philip Zimbardo, the psychologist who conducted the Stanford Prison Experiment, an experiment to which Paul referred in his comment on Jess’s recent post.

In this talk Zimbardo raises a number of questions about the nature of humans and their capacity for evil which intersect, in many ways, with a good number of the texts we read (and especially Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde).

The talk also raises interesting questions about the capacity of humans for evil (and good) which might prove pertinent as you think about the readings about Sade for Monday.

TED Talk: The Psychology of Evil

Scientific Knowledge- When is it too much?

In this blog post, I would like to ask your opinions on scientific knowledge and what your views are on this complicated subject. Firstly, Roger Shattuck, the author of the article “Forbidden Knowledge” addresses the issues of atomic bombing and genetic research on DNA. The atomic bomb was constructed because of the fear of an “unprecedented attack on civilization” (173). In order to make an atomic bomb, scientists had to go explore further into science and technology to understand how to make something so difficult. By under coving this knowledge on how to make something so dangerous brings out both pros and cons. Some pros are advancements in technologies and safety mechanisms for warfare. However, the most important negative effects for exploring this scientific knowledge is the fact that finding out the knowledge to make these dangerous weapons allow other people to make them as well. It also raises the question of what is moral when fighting in warfare? Do you think atomic bombs are appropriate weapons in war? Are the health risks associated with them worth it?

Another complicated topic that Roger Shattuck discusses is genetic research on DNA. Scientists now have been able to crack the code of life by learning how to analyze DNA to test for genetic disorders. A few examples used to do this are to test individuals for one carry of a gene for a disease that requires two copies of a gene. Scientist also uses genetic research on DNA to test prenatal diagnostics. Shattuck states that, “as increasing numbers of fetuses are diagnosed with serious disorders, abortion has become a widely practiced therapeutic procedure” (177). Is this necessary right? Is it fair and right for expecting parents to test for diseases before the newborn is born? Is it right to get an abortion in order for the child to not suffer knowing it will when it is born into the world? This scientific discovery is extremely sacred because it influences the lives of other people. Also, being able to test for genes for certain diseases that require both genes from the parent can help two people decide to not conceive and have children if their baby will have the disease. Is this right? Is it our responsibility to mess around with creating life? Should we have science influence who should be born and who shouldn’t?

These two topics are current controversies in the world that connect to a lot of the texts we have read in class. We have discussed consequences of knowing too much but more specifically what are the limits of scientific knowledge? In the world we live in today we strive to keep learning and growing and gaining more knowledge but at what point do our morals take over? Should we be making atomic bombs that protect us but also put ourselves in danger and should we be playing God and messing with human lives? One major point that Roger Shattuck argues in his article is that science is basically just the “habit of simple truth to experience [which] has been the mover of civilization” (224). Is this the right way to look at it? Is science just simply the truth that is there for us to explore? Science is there no matter what which is why it is so tempting to keep researching it because essentially as a scientist “you believe that it is good to find out how the world works; that it is good to find out what the realities are; that it is good to turn over to mankind at large the greatest power possible to control the world and to deal with it according to its lights and values”.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Looks Can be Deceiving

Ever since the time we are little we are told that first impressions are everything and it’s crucial to make a good impression on the people we are meeting.  Likewise, we often times judge people – even if it’s inadvertently – on our first impression of them and in the process form conclusions and opinions about them regardless of whether they are factual or not.  However often times there is more to a person than meets the eye.  In the case of Dr. Jekyll what we see on the surface reveals very little about what’s inside.

When Mr. Utterson first describes his impression of Dr. Jekyll he states “He is not easy to describe.  There is something wrong with his appearance; something displeasing, something down-right detestable.  I never saw a man I so disliked, and yet I scarce know why.” (Pg. 53).  So often we judge people on their appearance, or are quick to get a bad feeling about someone.  But many times there are people that we dislike, or form opinions about subconsciously yet we never really know why.  For Dr. Jekyll while the Mr. Hyde that he becomes draws immediate images of a monstrous murderer, there is more to Mr. Hyde then meets the eye.  Mr. Hyde for Dr. Jekyll represents freedom.  He represents freedom from the constraints of Victorian society, freedom from anything holding him back from the lifestyle he wants to live, and most importantly it represents freedom from the parts of himself we wants to forget about.

Ultimately looks can be deceiving, what we think of others and the impression we have others only often tells half the story.  Many times people hide their real selves from others because they fear the reactions and judgment that will be passed upon them.  In the end whether we choose to look past our first impressions and find out the full story or we choose to let our own uniformed opinions define what we think of others, we can never ignore the question who are we?  Are we the people others think we are or we the person that we see ourselves as?