MARCH 12th 2007
What do we mean by 'Conscience'? If you Google the word you will see straight away that we don't know. The word has been used in various contexts and senses, so we have to decide which we infer or imply when we use the word. For many it is something involved with regret and hindsight because, not being gifted with infallible foresight, we can all make mistakes. When we do, some people have the result 'on their conscience'. Others like to act at all times in a way that they describe as 'according to conscience'. This gives birth to what we call 'The Precautionary Principle'. If taken too far, this principle inhibits useful activity and evolution. If taken to its extreme it demands we should commit suicide. I intend to discuss the resignation of a Labour politician from his position of responsibiity on the grounds of conscience, concerning the Nuclear Deterrent

First, some references (which I have not read but which you might like to).

Book results for meaning of conscience
The Mental Philosophy of John Henry Newman - by Newman, Jay
Theology of the New Testament - by Georg Strecker, Friedrich Wilhelm Horn
Fundamentals of the Faith - by Peter Kreeft

Conscience — ... is a faculty or sense that leads to feelings of remorse when we do things that go against our moral ...
According to

conscience: Definition, Synonyms and Much More from
onscience n. The awareness of a moral or ethical aspect to one's conduct together with the urge to prefer right over wrong: Let your conscience be. - 110k - Cached - Similar pages

Dictionary Information: Definition Conscience - Description ...
A how to self help knowledge base to answer questions on control, management and understanding self, helping one deal, learn, know and master self. - 8k - Cached - Similar pages

Voice of conscience - definition of voice of conscience by the ...
Definition of voice of conscience in the Online Dictionary. Meaning of voice of conscience. What does voice of conscience mean? voice of conscience synonyms ... - 29

Mr Griffiths resigned with "a heavy heart but a clear conscience".  By using the word 'clear', he gives us a big clue. The opposite of clear is opaque. This describes the state of contemplation in a confused mind. We clear the slate to get peace of mind. Like the predicament of a professor struggling to explain some reasoning by writing math on a blackboard, who comes up with an answer he doesn't inderstand, or can't explain to the class, the way out is to rub it all out and leave it for another day or even another teacher.

In an even more telling sense, conscience is the function of mind we use when we cannot use reason and logic. We resort to emotion and instinct..

This function is very important because it can also by extension empower collective human action. It can enable masses of people to act effectively and succeed by cooperation, often against appalling odds, sometimes with the sacrifice of those at the edge (as with penguins - the principle goes back a long way and the herd effect is a survival mechanism). It also leads to violence in crowds and mass extinctions (see Gadarene Swine syndrome). There is no guarantee of the optimum result, just of the huge power of emotionally coordinated human action for good or ill.

Mr Griffith's conscience is apparently reflecting the collective emotions of his constituents, or at least those on whose votes he is dependent on. I do not consider it a 'bold stand'.

I do not wish to decry the importance or value of emotions. They are a privilege and a highlight of human experience. But I note that regardless of their contribution to life on this planet they are tested in the light of reason and logic and if the privilege becomes an indulgence, leading to the closing of the mind to hard and difficult judgments, they lead to errors. By following emotions we can act according to instinct, only to find out later that our instinct was faulty, because it was valid for circumstances which no longer apply..

It is self evident that to escape from the cyclic self destruction of civilisation we have to go beyond the instincts and seek enlightement through reason. I am very impressed by the current TV series 'The Trap', which analyses with great caution the orthodoxies and the revolutionaries in Game Theory and other philosophies. There are no formulae which can take away the necessity for human judgment, even though they may be used for education and exploration. Reason cannot be left to abstract maths any more than actions should be ultimately guided by emotion without logic. There is no sanctuary, other than temporary respite, in an evolving world.

When we come to the logic of the nuclear deterrent, the reasoning is very clear.
Is our UK contribution to the maintenance of this deterrent on behalf of ourselves and others likely to both avoid and deter any nuclear exchange in the foreseeable future.?
The answer in reason and logic and experience is Yes (see Nuclear Deterrent).
There is no place for so called conscience here and no need to stir the collective emotions to achieve some mass, regrettable action we would have on our true conscience.
As to those who say the money could be better spent on education and hospitals, it will be, anyway. It cannot be spent any faster on these by delaying a decision on Trident. Economics is not a simple science and conscience, use as a cop-out from responsibility, is not deserving of our respect.

Conscience is a coward, and those faults it has not strength enough to prevent it seldom has justice enough to accuse.
OLIVER GOLDSMITH, The Vicar of Wakefield

"Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all" .- this was written in another context by Shakespeare but relevant nonetheless.
If you click this link, do not be confused by the discussion on Bardo,
the intermediate state between lives in Mahayana Buddhism. Buddhists are on the other end of the same string as absolute materialists. In the light of modern science we can appreciate nature as a whole and see that a human individual is part of the conscience of which it is true to say that not to be is not an option.  The string of which these opposing views are the extremes is in reality one, so there is no need for an intermediate state, only of understanding.