Technology and ethics II

The conflict between religion and science does not arise when each pursues its own field of interest. But it is not a mere academic divergence, as with, say, organic chemistry versus Victorian poetry. The conflict is implicit in that both science and religion are tempted to describe the totality of the universe, and by different and ostensibly irreconcilable criteria.

As mentioned in an earlier entry, the conflict tends to resolve itself as a clash between not science but technology and not religion but ethics. Both science and religion have the internal means to refute outlandish hypotheses in their spheres of interest. But manifested as technology — such as medicine, engineering, or manufacturing — science has been greatly abused. Conversely, the history of religion easily demonstrates ethical abuses, corruption, and scandals regardless of theological fine points.

In his book, The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality, the Dalai Lama rightly recovers the proper spheres and relations of science and religion, though intellectually and not by grounding both in culture. The concept of paradigm shift has shown that science and by extention religion are not realms of absolute knowledge. It can be pointed out that both depend upon cultural ambience, their cultural milieu, their material and intellectual environment, and the cues provided by culture. Hence the abuses to their practical applications of technology and ethics are essentially cultural, and the ontological status of either science or religion is distinct from real world applications. A proper view of what can or cannot be understood — and a focus on areas of mutual interest such as consciousness — will greatly benefit a humanity beleaguered by wars of religion and science, wars of ethics and technology.