Sunday, January 31, 2010

Symbiosis and Spirituality--Morality Monopoly

Religion has cornered the morality market.  Think of it.  Functionally speaking, what is the one institution in modern society that teaches morality on any advanced level?  Well, a tad in philosophy class (esoteric theory) and maybe a few ethics class (liability dodging).  Other than that, it's the churches that teach Americans what they ought to be ashamed of. haha.

I'd like to see that change.  I don't know how it will, but I'd still like to see it change.

Since "going secular" this has been a great obstacle in my mind.  It was one of my favorite things about Christianity to delve into the moral teaching of Jesus.  I found them incredibly rich and stimulating.  Can it be replicated or is the magic recipe of frankincense, myrrh and brimestone copyrighted?

So, I'm going to provide a few thoughts/lessons that might be a potential means to gain moral insights from symbiosis.  I'm fully aware of the limitations of nature--that it's inherently amoral. As well as my own fallacies--I'm both guilty of the Naturalistic Fallacy and the Moralalistic Fallacy.  These teachings are more the result of my own musings and personal internal, subjective heart worldview of late than they are any attempt at a sophisticated system of ethics.  You may find them scientific heresy, but hopefully they'll be moral heuristic.

Here's the question:  Is it possible to, using the framework of religious moral teaching, gain moral insights from nature and more specifically symbiosis?  Let's try. :)

How does religion teach morality?  I'll break it down into three categories of didactic methods.

1. Story/Narrative--think about it, what percentage of the Bible is story?  Gee-willakers.  Practically the entire thing.  Why?  Because stories are the lingua franca of the common man.  They are an incredibly powerful and easily absorbable means of teaching morality.  It gives concepts skin, flesh, personality.  Be like this person, not this one.  Do what this person did, not that one.  

2. Principles--Simplistic religion receives this as straight forward divine fiat, but more advanced religion interprets commandments as principial templates that embody the "spirit of the law".  Examples: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." "It is more blessed to give than receive."  "Turn the other cheek." "Do not remove a fly from a friends head with a hatchet."

3. Progression/Goal/Exemplar--I see this as religion's way dangling the carrot in front of us.  It comes in a wide array of different forms.  It can simply be--you do this you go to Heaven, but it often exhibits itself in much more complex forms such as: be like Christ, reach Nirvanna, becoming enlightened, absolving yourself of the desires of the world, Scientology levels, and I'd even put Kohlberg's six levels of moral development in this category.  It gives a valuable guiding incentive.  Even if it's nothing more than the subconscious, "I want to be a good christian."

I will apply this thinking to symbiosis to give an example that in the words of Lewis Carroll, "Everything has got a moral if you can only find it."

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