Meet scholars who are working on the frontier of knowledge about the true nature of reality. Part 4/4.
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Dr. Alexander: It’s not that they're all separate, I'm not suggesting that they're separate layers. So if you were to build those layers that way, you got arrows going this way as well. So the layers are connected. So it’s not the ethics that is divorce from science, far from it. But it’s just that science itself can't give us the final understanding on what we ought to do in this life. And nobody actually lives their life as if science was enough. If they did, I think they would be in serious problems. So everyone lives their own personal biographers and makes ethical decisions while beyond science. Male: For Dr. Alexander, the layers of reality are meant to provide a composite of reality. It’s not that one is more useful and helpful than another, they must work in concert. Dr. Alexander: I think that it’s helpful to see these layers as complimentary. And they're not rival with each others. And I don’t think the biochemical understanding the cell is in any sense rival to an ethical understanding of human beings or an aesthetic understanding or indeed to a theological understanding. I think we need all these various layers. And they're all complimentary to each other. We need them all to do justice to this complex reality that we call life. Male: If we look at the world strictly in terms of pure matter, this could lead us to very dangerous thinking that leads to undesirable consequences according to Dr. Alexander. Dr. Alexander: Yes, I think it is a fad fact, if you take the scientific account is the only account that matters. And without any other normative ethics coming in to guide your ethical decisions and reflections, obviously you can end up in some pretty bad place. And a classic example is if we go back to early roman society, then infanticide is very common in Greek society in Athens. The exposure of the young infant on the hill side, they have special places, they would go to the little hills around Athens. When if you didn’t want your baby to survive, you didn’t need the baby, maybe it was female and you wanted male, something like that. Male: Dr. Alexander said that infanticide was a common practice and was stop when the roman emperor Constantine became a Christian. Later, other emperors responding to Christian ethics made infanticide illegal. Dr. Alexander: And that was based on the normative ethics introduced by Jesus. That every human individual has an absolute value which is independent of their genes, on their background, the color of their skin. And the baby therefore has absolute value. A baby cannot kill a baby for some sort of utilitarian reasons gives a baby absolute value. Sahid is a very interesting example in the history on historical times where an ethics came in which actually changed a complete practice in society. Male: The beliefs of Hitler and Nazi Germany is another example of view of the world that was distorted by looking at life on strictly one level. Dr. Alexander: You have people like Hitler, of course, in Nazi Germany introducing evolutionary justifications to try and argue for struggle for existence and therefore for the struggle of the powerful over the weak and introducing eugenics as a justification for the holocaust and so on. And again, that’s another example where if you just take a scientific story by itself without any other kind of ethical principles being imposed, then you can certainly go in directions that we would not want to go in. and that’s always been dangerous to science. If you simply take a biological account of human beings, then you might could be on a dangerous pathway there. Male: Dr. Alexander agrees with moral cognitive scientist who believe that almost everyone has some deep sense of fairness. A sense of what is right and what is wrong. But he believes that it must be encourage and nurtured through the study of ethics, spirituality, and religion. He refers to it as a basic toolkit with which we are equipped. Dr. Alexander: I think then, religious belief com