Again, weigh the 400 years of science, and the 135 years since Nietzsche, against 6,000 years of religion-centered human civilization. Would it be unreasonable, in light of that comparison, to suggest that we might want to slow down the forward rushing train of scientific progress long enough to consider whether we’re on the right track? Do we like where we’re headed? Do we need a course-correction?
This is a stretch on two fronts. First, it’s not entirely accurate to say that scientific methodology only goes back as far as the Enlightenment. Empricism as a means of obtaining knowledge dates back to antiquity, and the scientific method dates back at least as far as ~1000 AD in the astronomy and optics of the medieval Arab world.
Second, even if you were right, saying that 400 years of science is a drop in the bucket is like suggesting that SMS messaging is only a few of decades old and, since it hasn’t stood the test of time, it may be that writing letters by hand and mailing them by post is a far superior method of communication and we will revert to that any minute now or, perhaps even more backed by time, that we will all revert to being illiterate, since most humans have been illiterate for most of human history.
The development of “compassion and flexibility in our motivational structure” as an antidote to “basic instincts, such as greed and jealousy” is exactly the role religion has always traditionally played in human life. You may disagree with the tenets of one specific religion or another, and clearly not all religions succeed to the same degree or in all times in their dedication to “global solidarity, empathy or rationality,” but it’s hard to deny that developing human compassion has always been a core function of pretty much all religions. In all of recorded human history, religion has been the primary cultural training ground in this area.
I frequently see the case made in books, TV shows and Internet articles that, to ensure our future as a species, religion must be abandoned and science embraced as the controlling authority of human civilization.
You’ve spliced together a few false dichotomies here. First, the implication that compassion is somehow impossible without religion and, second, that religion is incompatible with science.
I am a member of a religion — The Satanic Temple. One of our tenets is:
- Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs.
So, you see, my religion is not at odds with science at all. Religion can easily incorporate scientific belief, and it is my contention that religions should if they are to remain relevant in an increasingly technological world. And, lest you get the idea that Satanists are bad people, and that my religion is some sort of outlier that shouldn’t count, I should inform you that our very first tenet is:
- One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason.
So, there you have it, compassion and science together in a religion. This is a religion for the modern era.