Tongaling With a Devout Euratheist
Therefore, I will proceed to bring this grumpy nederföcker down, baby. Down to Chinatown. Point by point.
"The blogger is Robert W. Godwin, a psychoanalysist and self-appointed spiritual guru, who runs One Cosmos."
First of all, I am not a psychoanalyst, only a psychologist. And I am certainly not a "self-appointed spiritual guru." Rather, I was appointed by Petey.
Mr. Karlsson avers that we must first "remember that the very definition of a fact is 'Something demonstrated to exist or known to have existed.' A fact is not a part of a theory but the foundation on which every scientific theory is built. A fact is also a thing on which we have universal agreement, or at least theoretically so."
This is an epistemologically naive definition of "fact," as no significant fact speaks for itself in the absence of a theory. Not only is there no such thing as an isolated fact, but we would not know how to recognize important facts unless we have a theory that tells us where to look for them, i.e., what is important. Furthermore, a fact is not -- and cannot be -- perceived by the senses, but only by the intellect. A fact can only be recognized by something that transcends the senses. No experience can tell us what we are experiencing, nor can perceptual experience interpret itself.
For example, as a psychologist, I observe the facts of a patient's psychic life as he free associates. But these facts will not be accessible or observable to someone who is not trained in psychoanalytic therapy. In short, any "fact" emerges in the transitional space between nervous systems and the world they encounter. A fact is not unambiguously "in the world" or "in the observer," but in the space in between, as outlined by Michael Polanyi, who compared scientific theories to probes which extend our senses into the unknown, similar to the way in which a blind person might use a cane. In so doing, the blind person does not attend to the raw sensations ("the facts") of the cane against his hand. Rather, the cane becomes an extension of the nervous system in space, allowing him to "visualize" what is beyond the hand. Only by internalizing the "subsidiary knowledge" of the senses will it lead to "focal knowledge" beyond them.
Karlsson suggests that "A fact is not a part of a theory but the foundation on which every scientific theory is built." This is manifestly false, as it promulgates the naive idea that science is a wholly "bottom up" affair that operates through pure induction -- as if disinterested minds merely survey the landscape and notice things labeled "facts," and then put them together to create a thing called a "theory." I don't think that any philosopher of science has taken the idea of pure induction seriously since Thomas Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions. (I might add that there are many aspects of Kuhn's philosophy that I reject, but not the general idea that the paradigm we use shapes the facts we see.)
I might also add that if the world were actually structured in the logically atomistic manner suggested by Karlsson, minds -- which are the quintessence of a priori cosmic holism -- could never have evolved in the first place. In other words, the wholeness of the cosmos is prior to our atomization of it into individual parts -- which is why Life and Mind are possible to begin with. A mind is not a pile of neurological facts.
Here is another whöpper: "Since there are no facts (at least not if the word shall retain a fragment of its normal semantic meaning) that can fall outside the frame of scientific investigation I assume that Mr. Godwin means something else, probably conjectures."
"There are no facts that can fall outside the frame of scientific investigation." I would ask Mr. Karlsson: is that a factual statement? If so, would you be so kind as to point out where this fact is labeled in the world? Obviously, this is an assumption, not a fact. And if your perceptions are limited to that assumption, then yes, you will perceive none of the infinite facts that lay outside your blinkered materialistic worldview. Truly, Mr. Karlsson is like the Frenchman at the bottom of the well who imagines that the sky is only as big as the little circle of light at the top.
Of course there are facts that fall outside the frame of scientific investigation. These are called "qualities." Qualities are facts, no less than quantities. But science reduces qualities to quantities, because that is all it can do. It is a fact that Sun Ra was a great composer. But this cannot be proven scientifically. Similarly, "life" is a fact, but life is not equivalent to the quantitative facts of DNA. DNA is a function of Life, not vice versa.
Karlsson -- who describes his own faith as "humanist och militant ateist" -- then states that "it is also only in a trivial sense that science requires faith. Science requires faith in the operation of your senses and the basic laws of logic.... No other 'suspension of disbelief' is necessary, or allowed! to make good science, and in no way are you allowed to “unknow' things known, only to test and investigate them. I cannot see that the this kind of necessary faith (necessary for survival and mental health) can be equated with a faith in an 'aesthetic or spiritual world' nor does Mr. Godwin supply any reason for us to accept that notion. But his own crude grasp of science might to some degree explain this misapprehension."
Let's break this down. "Science requires faith in only a trivial sense," which is to say, faith in one's senses and the basic laws of logic. This is false on its face, and ignores the historical conditions that brought about the rise of science, which was associated with a unique religious metaphysic not shared by other cultures. For example, Professor Rodney Stark's work (e.g., The Victory of Reason) has demonstrated that Islam lacks
"a conception of God appropriate to underwrite the rise of science... Allah is not presented as a lawful creator, but is conceived of as an extremely active God who intrudes in the world as he deems it appropriate. This prompted the formation of a major theological bloc within Islam that condemns all efforts to formulate natural laws as blasphemy in that they deny Allah's freedom to act." Not surprisingly leading historians and sociologists of science have concluded '...it is indisputable' that modern science -- an organized, empirically directed effort to explain natural phenomena through theory construction and testing -- that modern science 'emerged in the seventeenth century in Western Europe and nowhere else.'"
Why is this? If science is so natural, as suggested by Karlsson, why wasn't it obvious to everyone? Why did the 99.99% of other cultures in the world fail to notice these obvious things called "scientific facts?"
Karlsson's faith informs him that "science only requires faith in the operation of your senses and the basic laws of logic." However, it is actually a huge leap of faith to suggest that mere "sense + logic" will disclose a thing called "truth" or "reality." In any event, it is an untrue faith, because reason alone does not disclose the Real, since logic is a circular operation. Logic can only draw conclusions from premises. Furthermore, logic cannot furnish its own materials. Rather, that requires a mind. A thing is not true because it is logical, but logical because it is true. Is this not obvious?
Faith, as I understand it, represents the existence of what Schuon calls "anticipatory perception in the absence of its content; that is, faith makes present its content by accepting it already, before the perception properly so-called. And if faith is a mystery, it is because its nature is inexpressible to the degree that it is profound, for it is not possible to convey fully by words this vision that is still blind and this blindness that already sees."
In this sense, atheistic materialism, no less than religion, is an "anticipatory perception" that determines what the atheist may perceive of reality. Which frankly isn't much.
I guess I'll continue with this tomorrow.