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- Religion - Science Development Discourse Health Care Knowledge

Poverty and Revelation

Poverty is as ineradicable as the house-fly! The misguided conviction that material resources exist, or can be created by scientific and technological enterprise, to entirely eradicate poverty is a myth of global scope. Social scientists are hardly necessary to uncover the reason for this manifest paradox: scientific  and  technological research pursue a  set  of  priorities set by financial interests and corporate investors. This elite technocratic minority is pursuing its own vision of middle class consumer desires and marketing entertainment. Science and technology therefore are the pet projects of a wealthy elite and their professional priorities. If scientific research does impact the lives of the masses it does so because it is tangentially related to the real interests of the generality of humankind.

A radical reordering of these priorities will be required if the burden of poverty is finally to be lifted from the world. Such an achievement demands a determined quest for appropriate values, a quest that will painfully purge humankind of both its spiritual mis-orientation and scientific structure. Religion must lead the way in setting new priorities, with humankind and the generality of the masses as its beneficiaries. The agenda must be set by the most dire and widespread of global human needs. With research topics that identify agriculture, education, sanitation, infectious disease, and other issues as the thrust of scientific and technological advancement.

Mainstream religion will be severely handicapped in contributing to this undertaking as long as it remains a prisoner to outmoded traditions, sectarian doctrines which cannot distinguish between metaphors in their scripture designed to motivate people, and stories told to 6th graders to keep them from misbehaving in the teachers absence. Contentment and mere passivity are not the same thing, and mainstream religion must learn to express the distinction which entails keeping up with modern trends in social justice and moving beyond an obsolescent past of sexual and racial prejudices.

Ascetic interpretations of mainstream religion which teach that poverty is an inherent feature of earthly life, the escape to which lies only in a world beyond, deserve to pass like the tide of eurocentric prejudices that we have passed beyond already, into the next world. Humanity no longer requires ancient religious practices to inform its scientific agendas, research values, or social priorities. To participate effectively in the struggle to bring material well-being to humanity, the religious spirit must find — in the Source of inspiration from which it originally flowed — a new commitment to life in the 21st century. New spiritual concepts and principles must be conjured up, or if none can be found then new religions must be embraced.

Religion with Authority Divine in origin; religion with Revelation satisfying in volume; religion with administration democratic in representation; religion with followers selfless in unity; religion with education first rate in its caliber and accessible globally — religion with values worthy to restructure the priorities of scientific research, is needed to answer the question of poverty.

Poverty

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- Language - Science

Claims About Social Reality

The physical and material aspects of our complex reality are not the only ones with objectivity – the human mind is able to make objective statements about all of reality, including social and spiritual reality.  As an example related to social reality, one can claim that “one of the causes of violence in certain countries is pervasive social injustice”.  This statement contains a relationship between two observable phenomena, namely violence – demonstrated by crimes like robbery, murder, assault, and by increased need for police, security, and gated homes – and social injustice – shown by analyzing conditions of certain segments of the population, and interactions of certain groups of people with social institutions.  One can then observe societies to see if there is a positive correlation between the two.  Of course, correlation is not causation, but the statement claims that injustice is “one” of the causes, and therefore has some degree of objectivity to it.

One point to note is that objectivity is not synonymous with truth.  Furthermore, subjective statements can easily be presented as objective.  For instance, consider a hypothetical situation of a doctor who hires poor employees and pays them low wages, who sees poor people as patients and charges them high prices for unnecessary medical testing, and works in a system that blocks their progress.  This person would not make the subjective statement “I like to profit off poor people”.  Instead, this person would make the objective claim “poor people are lazy and uneducated and therefore stay poor”.  Because objectivity can be tested, it should be straightforward.  However, an observer can be biased by his or her own subjective judgements.  For instance, he might see that his family members worked hard and then became wealthy, or that a lazy person lost his job and became poor, or even notice a poor person who was also lazy.  From these limited, yet objective, observations, the observer would accept the claim that the poor are lazy.

However, a more thorough analysis will reveal this statement false.  Hard work is not the only factor in the generation of wealth – it also includes starting capital, access to credit, technical knowledge, fair wages, and a somewhat just social structure.  All of these factors need be to examined and controlled for if one is to scientifically and objectively link work to wealth; and even observations need to be made about the resulting amount of work done when opportunities are given to the poor.  It becomes clear that subjective prejudgements about social reality, often false, can be disguised as objective.

Can you think of other statements that pass as objective, yet in reality are subjective?

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