Drinking from God's Firehose
--I have trouble wrapping my head around the implicit ontological monism of the scientific method. How would science look if it were done by a Coon?
--Theology used to be known as the queen of sciences, and no one at the time perceived any kind of contradiction in that designation. Would science done by a Coon still employ the scientific method, only recognizing its limitations?
--Atheism is generally a visceral thing. The atheist has some personal beef against God. It's not as if materialists simply use the scientific method to come to a rational conclusion about God. So, why do materialists blame their bad religion on the scientific method? Because in fact there were (and are) theistic and even Christian scientists before the onset of militant materialism. So, they had their miner's helmets on, right?
Also, one hates to respond to an attention-starved troll, since the troll is always here to teach, not to learn. As such, the only appropriate response to one such as Zi is a tactful silence followed by uproarious laughter as soon as he is out of earshot. As he says, he is affirming, not arguing. Nevertheless, he made a number of provocative affirmations that we are free to reduce to feathers, even if he is not, such as
--Serious people get beyond a mere acquaintance with philosophy before dismissing it as Bob does [which Bob does not do, by the way].
--Socrates is a much better example of human excellence than Jesus or Augustine.
--Bob fails to understand that for many people there is no desire or need to "escape." Perhaps Bob needs to posit something outside his everyday Being to make life worthwhile or to explain it, but this is simply Bob's pathology and he should not suggest [not even suggest?] that others share it.
--Bob worships his own psychopathology, which is fine, but just don't pretend that others should. [I thought I was only "suggesting," which is true: I offer my views, but I do not insist that anyone accept them, least of all the uncomprehending troll for whom my writing is not intended to begin with.]
--Bob's conception of Religion is myopic. Not all religion is an attempt to account for some misperceived Lack in the world. [That explains a lot, being that the answer is the disease that kills curiosity: no lack, no substance -- or, in the terms of chaos theory, a closed system cannot evolve.]
--And we should turn to Taoism, because it represents a wholly naturalistic religion/philosophy which regards the world as materially and logically self-sufficient, with no outside causes that need be evoked to explain or account for anything.
Let's begin with Susannah's general question, "what would science look like if done by a Coon?" The answer is simple. It would look exactly like what it looks like. The only difference is that a Coon does not confuse method with ontology. As I mentioned in a comment yesterday, there is actually no philosophy or science that is incompatible with Christian metaphysics, which easily I-AMbraces everything from Taoism to existentialism to materialism. But the reverse is never true: materialism or Taoism can never account for Christian truth, since the latter is on a higher and more encompassing metaphysical plane.
In other words, science is simply a rational way to "interrogate" the material world. It begins with materialistic assumptions, but these are simply for the purpose seeing what we can see with those assumptions -- with that particular miner's helmet. And we can see a lot.
However, the materialistic helmet cannot tell us the meaning of what we see with it. We should not conflate the assumptions of science with conclusions, which is what the philosophy of scientism does. Materialism is simply an assumption dressed up as a conclusion. Obviously, you cannot actually derive any truth whatsoever from matter, for "truth" would simply be reducible to matter, which is clearly neither true nor false. It just is. If that. Again, no absolute truth can be known in a materialistic universe. In fact, one of the reasons we know that the universe is not reducible to matter is that it is the prerogative of man to know absolute truth and know it absolutely.
The truthful aspect of Thomas Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions is that the scientific enterprise is always informed by an overarching paradigm that not only shapes what we know, but what we can discover. In short, "percept follows concept." The most profound scientific discoveries, such as quantum physics, require a change in paradigm, since the existing paradigm cannot account for the anomalies, for example, the idea that a subatomic entity is simultaneously a nonlocal wave and a local particle. Nothing in our everyday experience of matter can prepare us for such a shockingly counter-intuitive discovery. It literally makes no sense under a materialistic paradigm. Instead, we must posit something along the lines of an implicate sea of nonlocal energy underlying our everyday wideawake world of cutandry subjects and objects.
But from the human standpoint, is the world disclosed by quantum physics more "real" than the human world of color, emotion, thought, love, laughter, poetry, beauty, and truth? No, not at all. Again, that's just another misplaced materialistic assumption. It's not as if there are two worlds, a false one that we experience, and a true one that we can never experience, but only infer through abstract mathematical equations. For one thing, only a human in this world can peer into and study the quantum world. Therefore, you might say that it is an "extension" of our world, as opposed to the human world being a sort of "residue" floating atop the quantum world.
In fact, a Coon insists that this is the case, for the very same reason that man is not descended from animals, but rather, vice versa. Put another way, the human being is not "animal plus X." Rather, various animals are "human prototype minus X," just as life is not "matter plus Y," but "life minus Y." (If I recall correctly, this was an argument in Schumacher's Guide For the Perplexed.)
This is a key point, for a world is simply a ponderable reality. There are empirical worlds below and intelligible worlds above. When we talk about Christian truth, we are specifically talking about intelligible truths from an ontologically higher realm. As soon as they are reduced to empirical truth, then confusion arises. This does not mean that certain things didn't "happen" in the material sense, only that they cannot be comprehended in that way. Rather, they are intelligible in the light of awakened faith and an activated intellect, or nous. Obviously, there are plenty of "spiritual materialists" -- both religious and irreligious -- who attempt to comprehend Christian truth empirically. I say, let the dead bury the tenured, and vice versa. They are of no interest to a Coon. They are medullards who think only with the hindbrain.
Returning to the so-called conflict between science and religion. There is neither conflict nor is there complementarity, as if they are simply two sides of the same coin. This is an unfortunate idea that entered the Western stream through the illustrious Saint Augustine, which made the development of science possible, but in such a way that it eventually became needlessly "detached," so to speak, from theology. For a variety of reasons, this never occurred in the world of Eastern Christianity, and it is this latter (which is to say, earlier) view that I embrace. Rather than regarding theology as a handmaiden of science -- or vice versa -- they achieved a genuine synthesis.
According to Nesteruk, the early Christian fathers "found that they could easily accommodate themselves to any partial view of nature with no fear of losing their orthodoxy and the integrity of life in Christ." This is because the world is not merely an epistemological construct, a la Kant, but "an ontological rational order whose existence has its ground in something other than the things that are ordered, that is, the very being of the reason or Word of God." Again, this is why the world is intelligible to the intellect, since both are a reflection of the same Word that subtends them. But it is also why higher spiritual worlds are accessible and intelligible to us -- why it is possible for us to understand Christian truth.
Now, as to this question of the ontological monism of science. The Coon view is that this is a logically self-refuting position, and we do not spend a great deal of time trying to refute it, at least since we wrote our book. Christian truth is necessarily grounded in metaphysical truth -- those truths which cannot not be, and which are as follows.
The early Christian fathers drew a sharp distinction between dianoia and nous. The former applies to our rational understanding of the created world. But the nous operates though direct perception of an intelligble spiritual truth. For the same reason, the fathers made a sharp distinction between theologia and economia. This correlates with the difference between God's essence and God's energies. God's absolute being is known only to him, which is why we may ultimately only approach it through the negative theology of apophaticism.
Another way of saying it is that there is God with distinctions -- say, the trinitarian God whose face is toward us, so to speak. But the early fathers also insisted on the absolute ontological priority of God's being-in-itself. Pondering the intelligble mysteries of the cataphatic God can lead us to the threshold of the apophatic God that is beyond the horizon of human knowability. Indeed, this is the basis of Christian mysticism and theosis, through which the intelligible mysteries lead to the absolute ground, as Meister Eckhart would later call it.
This then is what we mean by the ontological dualism of Christianity. Our first principle must be the distinction between Being and Non-Being, or between God and Godhead ("God-beyond-being"). The Supreme Reality is absolute; being so, it is intrinsically infinite. The first distinction, therefore, is that between Absolute and relative, or Infinite and finite. Thus, the knowable God -- because he is knowable -- is the "relative Absolute," since the Absolute may only be unKnown -- which again, the early fathers paradoxically insist is a mode of knowing that is appropriate to the Absolute.
The next distinction, as formulated by Schuon, is the vertical principle within the world of relative being, between heaven and earth, or principle and manifestation.
You know what? I'm running out of time and starting to rush this, which I don't want to do. Someone compared one of my posts to "drinking from the firehose," which is what national security folks such as Thomas Barnett call it when they must rapidly assimilate a great deal of information. Well, this is truly the firehose, so I want to slow down a bit, so we can at least swallow a few drops. To be continued.