Young people enter adult life confronted with an endless confusion of ideas and beliefs, many of which have come down to us since primitive humans first walked on the earth. When some Greeks stopped believing in ideas from mythology and observed the world about them, they invented science and then philosophy. By the time of the Enlightenment, it was thought that further advances in science and philosophy would make it possible, if not at that time, then at some future date, to replace the beliefs of primitive humans and the very different beliefs of the scholastics in the Middle Ages with certain knowledge based on logic and mathematics. But the Romantic Age that followed destroyed that approach to understanding the universe. Societies in the West have since become semi-detached from their traditional beliefs and values as a consequence of the mingling of diverse cultures and their beliefs, together with advances in science. Science forges ahead but progress in philosophy since the Romantic Age has been slow and uncertain, and many today think that little further progress is possible. During the course of these discussions, it is shown that this conclusion is wrong and suggests why belief and reason, which are the only weapons of understanding available to us, have so easily led to error. The author examines the historical and religious background to these problems and suggests solutions based on current knowledge that are relevant to the welfare of individuals living in western societies today.
The author is a physician with clinical and research experience at Liverpool University, with the Medical Research Council, the Postgraduate Medical School of London, and has now retired. Experience of life and the end of life extending over many years led to the investigation of questions about good and evil, truth and falsity, life and death based on ideas from science, philosophy and religion. The same questions perplexed the physician John Locke in the 17th century. He it was who initiated philosophical and social trains of thought in the context of the science of his day, which laid the foundation for the democratic societies of today. Professor Sir David Weatherall, at the leading edge of progress in molecular biology today, considers the future of medical science in his book, ‘Science and The Quiet Art’. The author of ‘Beliefs and Human Values’ presents the problems facing individuals and societies in the 21st century in the light of current evidence from science, philosophy and religion.