Darwiniana

History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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Theoretical and practical reason…

February 11th, 2010 · 1 Comment

The previous post’s discussion shows us that we must distinguish science, as theoretical knowledge, from the protocal of behavior, which is not a science, but the principle of action, practical reason, to use the language of Kant. Practical reason is a generalized ethics, or simply a refernce to action pure itself with or without ethical judgments. This distinction is more general than the crippled science/religion distinction, and might substitute for it among secularists who are too often forced into the camp of scientism because of the anti-secularism of certain religious critics (who usually are plying a crude variant of the Kantian distinction above).

We live in a science culture where scientists fail to make this distinction and never see the problem in applying theory to action. In some cases, there is no problem with that, but in general we need two categories, corresponding to theoretical and practical reason. Theory and praxis.
Yet scientists tend to refuse this distinction, because they don’t want complications (keep it simple, stupid), exceptions, or intractable entities/issues like ‘free will’ to mess up their universal set of rules. One result is that evolutionary Darwinism becomes a universal law to apply to behavior, unwittingly, producing Social Darwinism, the application of a theory, natural selection, unconsciously, to behavior, disregarding the demands of practical reason, which would counsel the misapplication of theory evident in the confusion (natural selection becoming a ‘should’).
In general the world of science has at best one half the answer. I won’t say that religion has the other half, not by a long shot, but the clear duality of theoretical and practical reason is essential to the right application of reason to action, and enquiry. A most reasonable demand, yet one that scientific fanaticism refuses.

Tags: ethics

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