Will Smith and the Science of Slapping Chris Rock

Jesus says turn the other cheek. Darwin says survival of the fittest. When Will Smith walked up onto the 2022 Oscar stage and slapped the taste out of Chris Rock’s mouth, it may have had an evolutionary advantage. Who can say? Jesus would have condemned this act of televised violence, but what does science tell us?

Science can measure the force exerted on Rock’s face, but can it measure the rightness or wrongness of walking up on stage and slapping the taste out of a man’s mouth during the Oscars?

Science is the study and measurement of the physical observable world- quantities and measurements, and cause and effect relationships. For instance, one can observe Chris Rock- weigh him, measure how tall he is, and determine what elements of the periodic table make up is physical structure. One can determine the optimal nutritional intake for a man of his size. Science can say a LOT about Chris Rock.

But science can never turn an is into a should.

For instance, Science could observe that man killing and eating his neighbor. It can determine the force applied and the damage which resulted in his neighbor’s death through study of human anatomy. Science can determine the nutritional value or lack thereof in eating one’s neighbor when compared to the normative human nutritional needs. But what science cannot do is determine whether a man should kill and eat his neighbor or if he should not.

There is no observation of science that says Thou shalt not kill. There is no observation of science that says we should or should not do anything. That is outside the realm of science.

We can study the video of Will Smith slapping Chris Rock and determine how many Joules of force were applied. We can use the study of human anatomy to determine how much damage was done, or how much more force would have been necessary for Will Smith to have killed him. But no observation of science or calculation based there on can ever tell us if it was WRONG for Will Smith to have done so. That is outside of the realm of science. That calls, not for a description of what IS, but a description of what SHOULD BE.

He shouldn’t or should comes from the Edict of an authority declaring to those under his authority what they should or should not do. Shouldn’t and should comes from a creator setting into motion the way his creation is intended to function to best achieve its purpose. As Creator and King, God has both the right and the responsibility to tell us how to live, because He knows our purpose, and it is His place to judge us.

Atheists have been trying to determine morality apart from God. Some claim that science can ground objective morals without the need for God’s input. Even if one seeks to have a utilitarian morality based on science and some notion of “human flourishing,” there is still no connection between what is and what should be, but rather only between what is and what one happens to want there to be. Even the common call for “Human flourishing” is based on a bias to our own species and the speaker’s personal idea of what “Flourishing” would be. Whatever it is, I think it would be easy to discover that it cannot be defined by science. And even if we let the Atheist define right and wrong, we’re back to square one, and science cannot help us. Having thrown out God, the Atheist is forced to put himself in God’s place to declare what SHOULD and SHOULD NOT BE. And he will be wrong, as he is only a man.

The desire of one person does not create a moral necessity. Nor would the desires of all people- even if they were United. At best it would be fashionable or trendy, but not morally absolute because the desires of people can change just as fashion changes.

If a civilization changes from one which is barbaric, savage, bloodthirsty and merciless into one which is compassionate, kind, generous and helpful, there is no way to declare that an improvement unless there is some Transcendent value above and outside of that civilization by which  to compare the beginning and ending state of the civilization. Mankind cannot be the measure of all things because mankind is the very thing that needs to be measured.

The social scientist can tell you that a civilization has changed from one where men kill and eat each other to one where they do not kill or eat each other, but they cannot tell you if that is an improvement. The sciences can tell you all kinds of things about a man, but they cannot tell you if it is right or wrong to slap the taste out of his mouth right before you accept an Oscar. For that you need a higher authority than science, and even, if I can risk the wrath of Will Smith, an authority over that of the screen actor’s guild.

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