Friday 13 April 2018

How these increasingly-evil times helped a soul to Christ (my own)

I think that if I had been born into less evil times, I probably would not have become a Christian.

The reason is that I have always had an ethic of truthfulness - that was what I tried hardest to live up to. And this was a reason why I studied science and became a scientist.

Yet, because of the evil of these times, I was under constant and increasing pressure to be dishonest in my work; and dishonest at many levels. I was supposed to work on subject matter that attracted external grants and funding, rather than where I felt I could make the best contribution. I was supposed to conduct the work in ways that optimised income and prestige rather than in the ways most likely to yield success. Publication, discussion, self-evaluation, 'research assessment' were all supposed to be done with an eye to institutional obedience to whatever was the latest managerial priority. And I was expected to censor my work (or avoid topics in the first place) whenever these led to politically incorrect conclusions...

Therefore, the pervasive and increasing dishonesty of The System had a direct impact on every aspect of my work that I most valued, to which I was most committed.

I was in a direct and existential confrontation with my own metaphysical assumptions - which were overall atheist, materialist, utilitarian... The World wanted me to discard my deepest ethical intuitions - and I found myself more and more puzzled why I did not just get on and Do this (as almost everybody else did).

My theoretical understanding implied that I ought to be a worse person, and all the rewards were aligned to making me a worse person - why didn't I simply become that worse person? I had ample excuses...

Specifically, why wasn't I just dishonest (in a 'good cause')? Why did I sacrifice my career and my colleagues careers to this ethic of honesty which I could not justify - which indeed my professed beliefs contradicted? Why did I try to be better when almost everybody wanted me to be worse?

The only barrier was conscience - yet my theory was that conscience was merely a product of natural selection - that is, of contingent, selection factors operating on my ancestors and having zero validity except in terms of reproductive success.

It was this conflict between my intuitive conscience and the world that led - eventually, after many years of delay, of putting-off the job - to examine my preconceptions; and that led (within a few months) to becoming a Christian.

But what if the world had been less evil? What if I had been just left-alone to get-on-with my science? - as the previous several generations had been - Well, then I would never have realised the incoherence of my convictions; I would never have become a Christian.

Thus the evil of the world, the increasing evil of the world, brought me to a point of clarity and choice that otherwise I might never have reached.

1 comment:

Joseph Moore said...

Excellent essay. What worries me is that so many just get on. Feynman speaks of the assumed honesty of scientists, how - and this 50 years ago! - scientists were just assumed to understand that they had to be scrupulously honest or their work, and the whole project of modern science, would fail.

We see this today in so many ways. Thanks for saying no to the easy lie and saying yes to the Truth Who is a Person.