An Educational Note Connecting Scientific Progress and Religion

Saturday, February 13, 2016
G. Arthur Mihram, Princeton, NJ, Princeton, NJ
Background: Science is that human endeavor devoted to the search for the very explanation for (i.e., for the truth about) any particular naturally occurring phenomenon. Historians of Science Sarton in 1927 and Butterfield in 1957 conclude that our [Modern] Science has arisen as a re-introduction of natural philosophy. In 1713, the mathematician Cotes, for Newton’s mathematical principles for natural philosophy, delineated how the new natural philosophy requires that any scientific enquiry must begin with observation(s), including reflexion thereon, and not represent a return to the merely conjectural ancient natural philosophers.  Method: The theologian/philosopher Whewell in 1860, seeking “the modes by which Man bests acquires the truest knowledge”, has been answered by the disclosure of our Modern Science’s [six-stage] ‘Method’ in the literature of the philosophy of science. Yet, why has our ‘Method’ developed so successfully and quite exclusively in the Western world? Indeed, Jeannette Wing, Chair of our AAAS’s 2013 R&D Forum (in video format), sought to understand why, then, respecting Asian perspectives on science and technology policy, are there not only ‘Commonalities’ but also ‘Contrasts’ with the USA.  Results: Aware of an earlier 2013 Wesleyan Philosophical Society paper on this very topic, she concurred that this difference must be due to a religious kind of background that any adherent tends to forget: viz., do a particular society’s religious tenets (as, therefore, a part of any adherent’s upbringing) allow criticism to be encouraged and, therefore, to become a minute-by-minute, from adolescence to adulthood, behavioral characteristic and, hence, his/her duty? Even though Confucius had been first to proclaim a ‘golden rule for behaviour’, his did not attain status as an ingrained portion of any adherent’s day-to-day behaviour, in contrast to that attained by Christ’s Golden Rule in Matthew and Luke. She, too, concluded: Well-established peer-review becomes a requirement for the success of Modern Science’s Method historically (still pending geographically). Conclusion: Furthermore, the literature of comparative religion reveals that nearly every one of the major religions worldwide includes a tenet similarly worded to the Golden Rule of Christ, yet none of these others ‘promotes’ this tenet to the status of dogma.  This Golden Rule becomes also the foundation for widespread ‘courtesy’, itself an attribute encouraging even more respect for any ongoing search for the truth about any particular naturally occurring phenomenon.