Universalism, like any other ideological terminology, is hard to define precisely. And perhaps it makes little sense to define it precisely. But intuitively, it refers to a concept of putting universal and global concerns (like peace, well being, human rights and dignity) before one’s personal concerns. Even at times above local and national concerns.
One would have hoped that as our scientific worldview has progressed, a better understanding of our biology, environment and the vast beyond-ness, of space, would have produced a radical shift in our worldviews with regard to the universal nature of human concerns. As we become ‘aware of our relative insignificance of the vastness of existence.’ But the evidence for that having happened is sparse. We are still steeped in wars, violence, unrest, poverty and massive global inequality. It can be doubted whether anything has really changed from our earlier days when most societies were based on ‘theologically inspired’ models. Ideological differences has led to massive levels of violence in so-called ‘theologically liberated’ climates in the world wars and even beyond – communism vs the free world vs conflicts of interests.
Science without conscience is the soul’s perdition. ~François Rabelais, Pantagruel, 1572
Perhaps, whats lies at the heart of Universalism is something which is worldview independent; irrespective of whether we believe in science, God, stay undecided or agnostic, or call ourselves humanists or secular or anything else at all. These are external concepts, which are often imposed upon us, or even adopted on the basis of social circumstances or as our personal understanding progresses. While they shape our thoughts, they dont influence our innate senses of justice, morality, truth, beauty and altruism. ‘Scientific’ opinion on this may be divided, but not everything needs ‘scientific’ validation to be held correct. Instances of pure altruism and sacrifice have been recorded in the animal world, in humans from their infancy; concomitantly with other instances of cruelty, violence and oppression. Whether our interests are linked to our own personal concerns only, that of our immediate social group, nation or even that of our notions of entire ‘humanity’ are often the product of complex interactions between our innate instincts, personal circumstances and moral choices alone. Our external beliefs have nothing to do with them fundamentally; although they are often used for purposes of justification of our actions and choices on an ad-hoc and post-hoc basis.
And in this context, arguments for and against science and religion are fruitless; arising out of a compulsion to support our worldviews, rather than deep, honest soul-searching. In the end, we ourselves are responsible for our moral actions, and defining the sphere of our morality.
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