Furthermore, if you have read the comments after my last Doctor Who review, the following will probably still not make very much sense to you.
Is the problem that we are using "empirical" and "rational" as if they were the same when actually they are very nearly opposites?
(Rational: Only what a man in dark room with no knowledge of the world could work out from first principles is really real; Empirical: Only what you can see and touch and weigh and measure is really real.)
I think that the existence of this question is more interesting than which side is right.
Remember C.S Lewis's use of Haldane’s paradox. (My reason tells me that my brain is composed of atoms; if my brain is composed of atoms than my thoughts are the result of non rational chemical atomic and subatomic processes, if my thoughts are the product of non rational processes then I have no reason to believe what they tell me, therefore I have no reason to think my brain is composed of atoms.) One side thought that the problem was unresolvable, the other side couldn't see what the problem was.
(We all know the story about how the philosophix pulled this argument apart when Lewis tried to use it to disprove the non-existence of miracles; what's often missed is that she thought that it was a proper grown up philosophical argument and that his second version was a great improvement. A.N Wilson delivers an impressive punch to Lewis when he points out that Lewis only became convinced by this argument after he became a Christian.)
Some people say that there is nothing apart from what can be weighed and measure and expressed to four significant figures, or proved logically from first principles.
Those people often say that beliefs about how you should live and how you should act (in particular the ones they don’t agree with) are superstitious or literally meaningless...something we should all have grown out of, like the belief that bears will eat you if you stand on the cracks in the pavement.
So if I say that it should not be permissible for a physician to kill a patient (even if that patient is very sick and wants to be killed) (which I wouldn’t necessarily say, i incidentally) they say that i only think this because I believe in various entities who’s existence cannot be proved from first principles or weighed and measured and expressed to for significant figures -- the soul, angels, god, morals. The nice ones say that its quite okay for me to believe in such things in the privacy of my own homes, laws should only be based on things which you can weigh and measure and prove. What some of us sometimes find confusing is that it often turns out that those very same people have very strong beliefs that are very important to who they are -- that hurting people is wrong even when it is useful; that men and women should be treated the same; that you shouldn't eat horses or show your willy to strangers; that Wagner and Dylan and Picasso have a sort of floaty goldy magic regeneration stuff in them that One Direction basically don’t. When you say “but hang on a minute, you didn't find those things out by weighing and measuring or by working it out from first principles “ they often literally don’t understand the question and say “Oh, i suppose you think that only people who believe in the tooth fairy can be good, do you?”
When Mr Spock talks about logic, he is sometimes actually talking about logic, in the sense of deriving conclusions from premises. He would have no problem with saying that if I believe in such and such a thing, I would also have to believe in such and such another thing and behave in such and such a way, without committing himself on whether it was right of me to believe in the original thing or not. Vulcans are often portrayed as having very strong mystical beliefs and a very strong sense or personal honour (they are, after all, mutant Romulans, or possibly vice versa.) But they follow through on the implications of those beliefs, like an orthodox Rabbi who regards the Torah as non-negotiable but will take on all-comers in a rational debate on what it means and how you apply it. Nimoy was Jewish.
But very often, "Logical" just means "sensible", or "scientific" or simply alien. (If Spock describes some aspect of human behaviour as illogical, he often just means "I don't understand this" or "I don't approve of this". Nimoy recorded a song, god help us, in which he argued that it was highly illogical that
a: if a lot of people own cars and use them for short trips, they sometimes find it hard to find a place to park them and
b: however much two people love each other, when they have lived together for a long time, each of them can start to find the other irritating.
Terry Nation (or was it Terrence Dicks, or even Douglas Adams) thought that being logical meant being stupid. Davros, like a very primitive computer, could draw conclusions from premises but could not conceive that those premises were false. Which is true as far as it goes: I can't find out from a maths book how much money is left in my current account. But I imagine that a brilliant scientist, however mad, might have spotted that you need accurate data to work from.
The Doctor's collywobbles about wiping out the Daleks is a bit mixed up, of course. Partly, he's worried about interfering in history at all: he doesn't really know what a history of the universe rewritten without the Daleks in it would be better or worse. Partly, it's based on the idea of absolute values -- you don't kill children or commit genocide no matter what. Partly, I suppose, it is about empathy: Sarah thinks of the Daleks as being like a deadly virus; the Doctor at some level thinks of them as people. At the beginning he accepts the Time Lord's judgement that the Daleks will eventually wipe out everything else in the universe and that this would be a bad thing. But how is that any more than an aesthetic judgement? -- it would be bad because variety is more pleasing than uniformity, it would be bad because humming birds are prettier than Daleks. If Darwinian logic says that eventually the race most perfectly adapted to survive is the only race which survives, how is that different from Newtonian logic telling us that eventually the the universe will run out of energy and there will be nothing at all?
Forty years of fandom has inscribed Genesis of the Daleks with a meaning that Terry Nation never really intended it to have. It's all about Time Lord self interest. A Dalek dominated universe would be bad for the Time Lords so they used the Doctor as their pawn to strike the first blow in the great time war.
When I said that I might have been happier if Clara's leaf had been defined as a "magic" leaf I think I was thinking of Tolkien and or Lewis's definition of magic as "objective efficacy which cannot be further analysed". The Key to Time is clearly magical: rules established early on state that "if you put these six bits of crystal together and make a cube, time will stop. It just will." I don't think anything would have been gained by expanding on that and saying that its made of Timestopanium which will cause the the higgs boson wifi quantum to atrophy...
I think that the difference here is between those of us who think that if you believe in morals at all, you must believe that morals are magical, like the Key to Time: things which are there because they are there and can't be further analysed; and those who think that people worked them out or divided them or constructed them based on something else. Do you say that you should follow the Golden Rule because you should follow the Golden Rule because it is a good rule and you should follow good rules because it is good to follow good rules; or do you say that the Golden Rule is a sort of approximation, based on trial and error, of the kind of behaviour which will, all things being equal, make you and those around you fairly happy, most of the time, probably. As a matter of fact following traditional morality probably will make you and those around you fairly happy, most of the time; but if a moral rule is a moral rule and not a sort of actuarial utilitarian estimate then you have to apply it even on days of the week when it is going to make you and those around you miserable. That's why magistrates always asked pacifists whether they would stand aside if a German officer was about to kill their children: they were prepared to excuse him from military service if he really believed "Thou Shalt Not Kill" was a rule -- not if he turned out to actually think it was more of a guideline.
The great theologian Johnny Cash said that he hoped that his preference for dark coloured clothes would draw attention to those people who didn't know about Jesus "path to happiness through love and charity". The idea that Jesus offered agape as a sort of self help system, on the lines of "a path to weight loss through yoga and cabbages" is completely off the wall: only one step up from the fellow who says "become a Christian so that your business will prosper." (Terrific song, though.)
So the problem is not that there is an opposition between "rationality" and "morality." The problem is with people who say. "There are no magical things. Everything can either be worked out from empirical observation or derived from first principles -- oh, apart from that thing over there. That's a magical thing, obviously."
Sadists and racists often tell the following story.
A dusky skinned foreigner from a non-specific middle-eastern country has planted an atomic bomb under a skyscraper. He is now in the custody of a special agent who has only (for the sake of argument) twenty four hours to find the bomb. The dastardly terrorists, while brilliant in many ways, were not clever enough to train their guy hold out under torture for a short period of time, or to move the bomb to a new location should their operative be captured. So: is our special agent (lets call him "Jack" to simplify things) entitled -- indeed, morally obligated -- to horribly torture the dusky skinned foreigner in order to force him to disclose the location of the bomb? Is he, entitled -- indeed, morally obligated -- to horribly torture the dusky skinned foreigner's five year old son (who is conveniently also in his custody) in order to force him to disclose the location of the bomb. And if the suspect were to say "Actually, I can deal with torture, but like all dusky skinned followers of queer native religions I am a colossal paedophile, so if you will allow me to brutally molest your five year old son for an hour or two, I will happily tell you the location of the bomb" is Jack morally obliged to hand the little boy over. (The third example, you will note, is exactly the same as the first two, unless you have smuggled in the idea that the terrorist suspect deserves to be hurt for being a terrorist suspect and the terrorist subjects son deserves to be hurt for being the son of a terrorist suspect -- or, indeed, that white kids matter more than dusky skinned foriegn kids.) Logically, one screaming child is preferable to six thousand screaming children. But when people talk about "morals" they generally mean "I don't care if it useful or not. Torturing children is off the agenda."