Future Priests of the Third Millennium

A little insight into the life of seminarians from various dioceses preparing for ministry as Roman Catholic priests, including daily activities, personal interests, special events, the spiritual life, news from the seminary, and almost whatever comes to our minds!

Friday, April 18, 2008

More on Science

By happy coincidence, an article I read for my Moral Theology class, the course material for my Christianity Since the Enlightenment class, and the theater release of the documentary film, Expelled all seem to have aligned for a brief moment as though they were the planetary dancers in a rare celestial event. The axis around which they have revolved is the relationship between religion and science. This topic has been the underlying theme for all of the material in my Enlightenment class. It was the platform from which our discussion of biomedical ethics embarked in moral theology, and in his movie, Ben Stein asks why science reacts so viscerally to the concept of intelligent design. I offer, for your enjoyment, the following installment of posts summarizing Yuval Levin's argument in his article, The Moral Challenge of Modern Science (The New Atlantis, Number 14, Fall 2006, pp. 32-46.), as well as some of my own reactions to the article.


In his article, The Moral Challenge of Modern Science, Yuval Levin presents a cogent argument suggesting that the moral neutrality that science claims for itself is in fact a myth. Like all disciplines, science relies upon certain philosophical and moral presuppositions. These presuppositions, though not altogether apparent, have had a profound effect in shaping the conscience of western civilization. While some good has come of this phenomenon, there are also various pitfalls. Though convincing, Levin’s argument fails to consider a number of important points which would help his argument succeed.

Science has consistently claimed a certain neutrality for itself, insisting that it does nothing more than elucidate the facts that people have discovered through the process of scientific observation. Thus, science often defends itself against critics by noting that a moral quality can be assigned only to those means by which the observations of science are employed. It is easy to decry the use of atomic weapons as evil; it is not so easy to criticize the science by which nuclear technology became possible. Nevertheless, Levin concludes that at its inception, “Modern science was a profoundly moral enterprise, aimed at improving the condition of the human race, relieving suffering, enhancing health, and enriching life." So pervasive was this outlook that society soon embraced this end as the primary good toward which human cultures should strive.

Levin argues that the scientific conception of the telos of human existence – the preservation of life and the alleviation of suffering – remains normative today. For this reason, science is careful not to cause undue suffering or danger to human research subjects. Though this sort of mentality is based upon a moral supposition, some objectivity is still maintained inasmuch as science does not believe itself to force any particular way of living upon people. Humans are presumably free to live as they choose in light of scientific advancement. Such a statement is not altogether true, though. Unfortunately, science and its ends have become the prism through which the rest of reality is interpreted. As a result, it now seems quite foreign to assume that society exists for the sake of helping man achieve excellence, as Aristotle would have contended. Instead, the entire role of society is to help man escape or at least mitigate the misery inherent to his existence. As Levin notes, modern man has come to the point of “confusing the avoidance of the worst with the pursuit of the best.”

1 comment:

J. Thorp said...

I hesitate to say too much just yet -- it's rude to talk when you're still chewing on something, right? But this is great, Tyler -- thank you!

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