Scientists examine evidence in their pursuit of reality; however they are sometimes accused of abandoning human values and other concepts of the good.
Creative optimists including storytellers, artists, theologians, mystics, and dreamers often suspend reality to better imagine and convey a sense of good.
These observations are often cast as a false dichotomy, encouraging us to choose between science and art.
This dichotomy can be easily resolved if we consider how each activity represents good and correspondence with reality independently.Consider the area plotted below where “correspondence with reality” is represented on the horizontal axis, and “worth” is represented on the vertical axis.Genocide and other grand challenges are real, but not good. Heaven describes good, but is not real.
Courtesy of Leland R. BeaumontAttribution Non-commercial
Seeking Real Good
It’s fun and instructive to place items on this plot. Moral Virtue seeks to be good, but may not be entirely real because it is abstract, and ideal. Performance virtues, such as intelligence and courage, occupy a large middle ground.They are abstractions and rare, so they are not entirely real. They may be used for good or evil, so they are not entirely good. Dreams also span a large region because they are not real, and range from idyllic visions to terrible nightmares. Myths are interesting because they seek to explain what is real, such as the daily appearance and disappearance of the sun, with unreal stories. Santa Claus and the tooth fairy are near neighbors of classical mythology. Money is only real as a social construct, and it can be used for a variety of purposes, some more good than others. A beautiful sunrise is rather real and quite good.
It is also important to recognize that neither complete correspondence with reality nor absolute good can be achieved. It is best to consider pursuit of these elusive goals as an ongoing quest. The blue arrow indicates the direction of that quest, but not its end. Examining evidence, critical inquiry, and applying the scientific method assess correspondence with reality. I offer a tentative description of good here: http://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Virtues/Good and welcome your participation in improving that characterization.
As you encounter various claims of good, plot each on this diagram to locate it along the quest. If it can be made more good, then push in that direction. If it fails to correspond with reality, then please do not mistake it for being real.
Please value correspondence with reality in your quest for the good.