3rd October 2012

“I find it extraordinarily irritating when people treat the bishops in the Lords, or the Church elsewhere, or the clergy in general, as moral experts.”

Mary Warnock

8 Responses to “3rd October 2012”

  1. R J Says:

    OH, SO DO I ……… SO DO I

  2. Sinjin Smythe Says:

    Me too. I think that the fundamental core of what motivates any person to seek clergy as a career is filthy rotten. It is like what motivates the petty thief, the rapist, and the murderer. There can be no space for these sick creeps in daily life.

  3. Dan Says:

    Not just when they’re treated as moral experts… it blows my mind away when they’re treated as scientific experts too.

    But just generally, why would anyone consider a member of any sect’s clergy to be an expert in anything??

  4. Sinjin Smythe Says:

    Exactly Dan! They can’t even be considered religious experts given the lack on continuity in the message. I think we would all enjoy your perspective on the scientific understanding of morality.

    I might ask you to comment, from your biological perspective, on the dialogue betwwen disciplines: biology, psychology, neuroscience, philosophy and the formations of new comingled disciplines of neurobiology, psychobiology, evolutionary psychology.

    Some points that I’ve cherry picked from articles I’ve been reading follow:

    William James argued that the scientific study of psychology should be grounded in an understanding of biology:

    Philosopher and economist Adam Smith argued that our ability to empathize with others is at the root of our morality.

    Alan Kamil, PhD, is a trained psychologist who spent the first 25 years of his career working in a psychology department, but if you ask him what he does for a living, he’ll tell you he’s a biologist.

    In a NYT article written by John Monterosso and Barry Schwartz report “All psychological states are also biological ones”.

    I think you are far more expert than any clergy person I’ve every met so I’d be interested in your take.

  5. The Heretic Says:

    Let us assume for a moment, that some of the clergy go into said profession for purely good reasons. Charity, love for fellow man, whatever (god notwithstanding). Considering their extreme limitations on living and enjoying life, I find it astounding that they would be able to provide moral commentary, much less guidance. If you are not allowed to walk the walk…the only thing that you would ‘know’ about life’s trials are what you saw in childhood or read in a book.

    I find that appallingly similar to people, who have never been in the military, to have an opinion on how the military should live and what values they should possess. There is too big a gap of understanding.

  6. Sinjin Smythe Says:

    Heretic that is a great point! For having been in the military your point resonates with me for sure.

    Prior to being a parent a man said to me in effect the same thing, “until you are a parent you can’t understand”. I doubted that then but since having become a parent I no longer do.

    There is something about being in the circumstance that ‘not having been’ makes for too great a disconnect or divide in understanding.

    In the case of today’s quotation I think we can all agree Albert Einstein was a really smart guy but that doesn’t mean we’d trust him with our podiatry, HVAC work, airline piloting, or any other of the variety of work outside his speciality.

    The clergy person, by virtue of the way of life he leads, can’t be called upon as a guidance counselor for people who simply live under a different set of rules.

  7. Jeff Says:

    Once more, on this subject, I think we have a bit too many former Catholics speaking on this subject. Please be aware that Protestant clergy marry and have families just like the laity, and therefore suffer the same slings and arrows as their flock. What’s more, many of the evangelicals answer to no higher authority than their collection plates when it comes to their theological pronouncements. If the flock likes the particular form of hell fire and damnation they preach, then their income increases – capitalism in its purest form, if you will.

    As to those from the more mainstream sects, they do have a central authority, but are much freer in their interpretations, based upon the fact that each sect has some central thesis, but beyond that each minister is pretty much free to go his (or her) own way.

    Sorry, but I think you’re being far to free with the condemnation of the clergy as folks who live outside the ordinary concerns of life. Sure, the Catholic clergy does so, but as to the rest of the Christians, the Jews, and the Islamics, not nearly what you portray.

  8. Dan Says:

    Sorry Sinjin for the delay in replying – I’ve only been able to check in here once or twice a day lately! Before I continue though let me just say openly that I have little background anything such as a scientific understanding of morality or ethics. My own opinion is that morality and ethics are embodied by the notion of “do no harm.” Put another way, moral decisions are those where [benefits of the decision times the number of people affected] greatly outweighs the [harms of the decision times the number of people affected]. That’s a very qualitative, unscientific way of putting it, but it’s the best summary of morality that I have yet heard of.

    What I don’t understand is why so many religionistas disagree with this simplistic way of defining morality. Morality is dictated from authority, and remains moral even when the prescribed solution significantly harms a vast number of people. Case in point: the Pope’s assertion that condoms are immoral. Just an assertion helps no one (except maybe the church itself, which is selfish), and harms a great many people.

    So in short I would agree with you re: Adam Smith’s morality. I’m not sure about the psychology/biology however. I think that that is a separate issue altogether from “What is Moral?,” which is philosophical, and instead asks the question of “How do we determine what is Moral?,” which is psychological.