Compassion and Morality in Technology and Science

Posted on 5 November 2006

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Technology is an amplification of human power. Whether we’re talking about spears and fire or nuclear engergy and genetic engineering, technology increases our ability to influence ourselves and our environment. Thus, the more powerful our technology becomes, the greater the need for us to be aware of the consequences of our actions, and the more important it is that we be aware of the motives for our actions. Wisdom and compassion are in greatest need when our power is greatest.

Although the exponential development of technology in the past hundred years has increased the importance of morality, the fundamental issue is the same: How do we determine, individually and collectively, what is right from wrong? The answer is simple in principle, but often challenging in practice: Our action is bad insofar as it arises from selfishness, greed, or hatred, motivated by a will to act for oneself without regard for the whole. Conversely, our action is good insofar as it arises from selfless love and compassion, motivated by a will to act for the good of the whole. And the goodness will be more effectively manifested the more we have an understanding of the consequences of our actions. Compassion is crippled without wisdom.

The converse is also true: wisdom is crippled without compassion. What we do not care about we ignore, and what we ignore limits our understanding. An open heart and open mind go hand-in-hand. Science and morality are not independent or opposed realms of fact vs. value. Openness is as essential to the development of wisdom and understanding as it is to the development of love and compassion. Closing the mind limits the capacity for manifesting compassion just as closing the heart limits the capacity for knowing.

The implication is clear: the fullest development of science and the fullest development of morality are not opposed, but necessarily imply each other. And it is critical in this period of history that we manifest this integral vision.

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Posted in: Philosophy, Science