Renaissance, Science and God: ] Paradox of Modern Western Education—X] Logical positivism or Logical Empiricism

The new mind has assumed such a shape that religion and science are considered to be always at logger heads
"With this note, let’s proceed further to know why an increasing number of literate people say that they have no religion." [Representational Image]
"With this note, let’s proceed further to know why an increasing number of literate people say that they have no religion." [Representational Image] Special arrangement

Religion and religious belief in the West were eroded by so many philosophies, ideologies and movements, as a result of which such generations were born who could hardly know anything about religious truth. As a matter of fact, people born early in the 20th  century got replaced by subsequent generations with very weak religious convictions.

When children are raised by parents who are less religious than their parents had been, then with each passing generation, due to the spread of materialistic ideologies through the modern education system, religion and morality have to face the brunt.

What happens, in fact, is that people do not become less religious over their lives; rather, the more religious generations die off and get replaced by newer generations that are less likely to be religious; each successive birth cohort is less religious than the preceding one.

With this note, let’s proceed further to know why an increasing number of literate people say that they have no religion.

In several European centers a movement flourished through the 1920s and 30s and in the United States in 40s and 50s that rejected altogether all forms of truth and knowledge other than experimentation and observation. This movement was known as logical positivism.

In this write-up we shall try to understand logical positivism and how it made a long-lasting impact in the field of education first in the West and then in the rest so much so that today a common ‘educated’ person believes religion, values and metaphysical realities to be a subject of blind faith and hence of no value.

The new mind has assumed such a shape that religion and science are considered to be always at logger heads. Result — nothing is absolute; truth is relative.

Logic

Logic is the study of reasoning and argument. It has three distinct branches. There is formal deductive logic, concerned with the study of valid forms of deductive reasoning. There is inductive logic, concerned with the kind of enquiry and reasoning typical ordinary life and some of the sciences.

And there is informal logic, which is about the many kinds of reasoning employed in debate, in law and politics, indeed in the setting of and defending of the theses in any branch of discursive enquiry and in the fallacies and rhetorical devices typical of such debate (Grayling, 2019, 585).

Positivism

Positivism is a philosophical system recognizing only that which can be scientifically verified or which is capable of logical or mathematical proof, and therefore, rejecting metaphysics and theism. It is the name for the scientific study of the social world.

Empiricism

Empiricism is the idea or a philosophical theory that all learning comes from only through the five senses. Empiricism not only negates religion but it is also contradictory to rationalism. While rationalism — also known as intellectualism—says that knowledge can also be developed by exploring concept and through deduction, empiricism says that knowledge can come only through experimentation and firsthand experience. In this way the modern mind is entangled into a mesh. Confusion, uncertainty and mental waywardness is the state in which the modern educated man remains caught permanently.

Logical Positivism or Logical Empiricism

Logical positivism is also called logical empiricism, and both are together also known as neo-positivism, or scientific philosophy. It is a philosophical movement that arose in Vienna in the 1920s and was characterized by the view that scientific knowledge is the only kind of factual knowledge and that all traditional metaphysical doctrines are to be rejected as meaningless. Thus, religion has no sense at all and so should not be discussed.

Role of Logical Positivism in Education

As said, logical positivism, is a theory of knowledge which asserts that only statements verifiable through direct observation or logical proof are meaningful in terms of conveying truth, value, information or factual content. The primary concern of this movement is the important role that science can play in reshaping society.

This movement enables students to ask big out of box questions. By developing a scientific theory of truth which asserts that knowledge comes only or primarily from sensory experience, logical positivism prompts students to reject everything which may not be verified. As a result, they downright reject all beliefs that cannot be verified by science.

Since in empiricism research is driven by the senses only, it creates a mindset that “I will believe it when I see it.” Consequently, religious subjects have long been dropped from curriculum. Once upon a time people used to learn moral and religious values I schools.

But now are the times when such things are Greek to the students.  That is why a common school going student is generally unable to understand the genuine reasons for accepting God. Atheism has overshadowed the atmosphere of education and God is the subject of a layman.

A Big Question

Western education brings modernity. And modernity, sooner or later, brings secularization (in its Western sense that there is no religion), which expresses the idea that as societies progress, particularly through modernization, rationalization, and advances in science and technology, religious authority diminishes in all aspects of social life and governance.

That is why Religion is in decline especially across the Western world where the process of secularization took place long before the education system was devised to server the cause of materialism. Science is good, technology more than that.

But the big question is what about modernity and secularization it inevitably brings with it? Why does the East seem hellbent to follow the footsteps of the West to finally land into the same delusion and dilemma the later has been struggling with ever since it took to secular education and said good bye to its spiritual existence?

Some people argue that ending religion based lessons in schools leads to overall decline in belief but not morals. But this argument has practically proved invalid as the modern-day educational institutions have utterly failed to create moral atmosphere as they have miserably failed to produce morally upright pass outs.

This is the reason why we need a curriculum that should encompass the all-round educational unification of diversified subjects and aim at achieving full human potential and develop an equitable and just society. Emphasis should be on the development of the creative potential of each individual.

It should be based on the principle that education must develop not only cognitively but also social, ethical, moral and emotional capacities and dispositions.

Syllabi and textbooks should be developed at all the school stages, emphasizing on ethical development, inculcating the values, attitudes and skills such as human rights, justice, tolerance, co-operation, social responsibility, non-violence and respect for cultural diversity, etc. required for living in harmony with oneself and with others. 

And religion is the most important and the most potent factor which can enable the education system cater to all such needs of the new generation.

To be concluded…

Dr Nazir Ahmad Zargar, Coordinator, Department of Religious Studies, Central University of Kashmir, Ganderbal

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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