Darwinians and Other Intellectual Darwin Award Winners
Berlinski is an iconoclast, a contrarian, and a freethinker. In reading The Devil's Delusion, I got the impression that if religion were the dominant religion instead of materialism, he might critique it in the same way he does scientism, atheism, Darwinism, and any other crude form of reductionist faith. He seems to be most opposed to people drawing vast ontological conclusions from very limited data, and thus foreclosing the mystery of existence. Humans are habitually taking what little they do know, and then imagining that that's all there is to know; or that our mental abstractions exhaust the Real, which tosses up scientific theories like an ocean washes grains of sand from the celestial surf to the cognitive turf. He might very well agree with Bion's adage that the answer is the disease that kills curiosity.
Much of what scientists insist they know is for the purpose of eliminating anxiety about the unknown, fundamentally no different than the most primitive aborigine from the temporal back of beyond. Contrary to what William Henry said, putting a man on the moon can be no better than putting a bone in your nose, if both are used merely to allay anxiety and control evil spirits (i.e., some version of "if we put a man on the moon, we can do anything").
Materialists are totally constrained by an imaginary paradigm of their own making, and then wonder why others don't share their crimped view of the world. In their arrogance, they imagine that religious people are incapable of understanding their vision, when it is quite the opposite. Again, the atheist converts what is clearly an pneumapathological infirmity into a virtue. But myopia is not just another way of seeing.
As we have mentioned before, with every discovery of science, it adds to our knowledge in a linear way but adds to our ignorance in an exponential way. Remember the image of the expanding sphere. As it grows with knowledge, it is as if the outer surface of the sphere -- where it shades off into the unknown -- expands with it. Therefore, it is no exaggeration to say that with every scientific discovery, our ignorance outpaces our knowledge (that is, if we reduce knowledge to mere rationalism or empiricism). Therefore, it is laughable to suggest that science is doggedly filling the gaps and interstices where God once dwelled. To the contrary, as Berlinski points out, those gaps have only grown more expansive with the rise of science (more on which below and in subsequent posts). We are actually farther away than ever from filling those gaps; after all, in the pre-scientific world view, there were no gaps at all, just a smooth hierarchy of being (which is by definition continuous) extending from God, to angels, to man, and to beasts. (As we shall see, this is much closer to the truth than is the modern view.)
But in rejecting the hierarchy of being, science cannot account for the simplest continuity. To cite one particularly glaring example, our paradigmatic science, physics, has arrived at two "foundational" worldviews, relativity (which applies to the macro world) and quantum physics (which applies to the micro). The problem is, these two realms are radically incompatible, and no one has any idea how to reconcile them. Now obviously, the Cosmos is "one," hence the nickname uni-verse. But physics is powerless to explain how this can be so, being that it has run into a blind alley of twoness. It actully has no scientific reason to assume a Oneness that it faithfully believes to be there. The assumption of rational Oneness is merely a religious holdover from the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Will this scientific twoness ever be bridged? Well, you can imagine that it will be, and that is again where scientistic faith comes in. This is what string theory is all about -- the attempt to harmonize the macro and micro realms with ever-more complex mathematical formulations, similar to the way complex planetary epicycles were added to save the appearances of the ancient Ptolemaic system.
Many of these mathematical monstrosities are downright ugly, which should be a clue to their absence of ultimate truth. Not to mention the fact that it has become a sort of academic parlor game, in that there are apparently many different versions -- somewhat like taking bids from hundreds of contractors on how best to build the Bridge to Nowhere. Let's not even mention the fact that they all forget about Gödel -- as if it will ever be possible to arrive at a mathematical account of reality that doesn't have built in assumptions for which it cannot account. We already know ahead of time that that will not happen because it cannot happen. Not only that, but the moment the scientist understands his theory, he has generated an ontological twoness -- a scission -- for which the theory cannot account.
James Joyce is considered an "ultra-modernist," and yet, yesterday I stumbled across a statement he once made, that "I don't believe in any science, but my imagination grows when I read [Giambatista] Vico but it doesn't when I read Freud and Jung." I don't believe in any science. What a quaint thing to say. But surely, what he meant is that science hardly exhausts the content of the soul; draining the soul of its transcendent meaning is hardly synonymous with understanding it.
In fact, not only is science largely irrelevant to the soul, but if misused and misunderstood, it can -- often very subtly -- foreclose the space where your soul would otherwise be. Or, put it this way: science is independent from other, irreducibly non-scientific modalities such as vision, intuition, and even intelligence. Being that we are (partly) products of our time, most of us have no idea of the pressure to conform to a certain way of looking at and experiencing the world, just as a peasant in medieval Europe probably had no idea of the pressure to interpret all experience through the lens of Christian dogma. It just seems "self-evident," which accounts for the bovine confidence of the atheistic crowd. You can't fake that kind of boastful ignorance. They genuinely don't know; furthermore, they don't know that they don't know, which is not just twice-over ignorance, but stupidity squared. It becomes a kind of qualitative stupidity that I am sure most of my readers can recognize. It is impenetrable, which is why it is so senseless to argue with them.
It reminds me of something Roger Kimball wrote in a different context:
"In a word, the establishment of the Beat 'church' was significant as a chapter in the moral and cultural degradation of our society. Regarded as a literary phenomenon, however, what the Beats produced exists chiefly as a kind of artistic antimatter. It would not be quite right to say that its value is nil, for that might imply an innocuous neutrality. What the Beats have bequeathed us is actively bad, a corrupting as well as a corrupt phenomenon. To borrow an image from the Australian philosopher David Stove, the Beats created a 'disaster-area, and not of the merely passive kind, like a bombed building, or an area that has been flooded. It is the active kind, like a badly-leaking nuclear reactor, or an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in cattle.'”
Here again, I sense that this is one of Berlinski's main concerns: the loss of true humanism with the rise of spiritually radioactive materialism. It has reached the point that modern men are no longer even capable of knowing what they have lost in their inability to respond to religious truth. What they have lost is their soul, precisely. However, this hardly means that the soul doesn't continue to go on being, any more than sexual impulses no longer exist if you repress them. Rather, they will simply reappear in a disguised form. This accounts for the religious fervor of the atheistic rabble and the passion with which they proselytize.
Scientists imagine that they know what's going on; but what's really going on -- and what their science cannot explain -- is that the immaterial soul is capable of imagining what's going on. So now the question is no longer whether science is "true" or "false"; rather, the question is, who's soul has the more encompassing vision, the more penetrating imagination, the more fruitful and generative way of thinking about the world? Like Joyce, I am quite sure that it isn't the Darwinists. (And please trolls, for the last time, when I talk about "science" or "scientists" in this coontext, I am specifically referring to naive scientism and to those who [usually unwittingly] embrace it; you idiots need to read a few posts before you think you understand what I'm saying.)
"Coherence" -- including a coherent worldview -- is something that only takes place in a mind. As Berlinski points out, there is this fanciful idea that science offers -- or can offer -- a "coherent vision of the universe," but this is a priori false. Looked at from a distance, yes, the gaps seem to disappear, just as the earth looks like a solid blue orb from a distance. But the closer you look, you see that there are large bodies of water surrounding each and every discipline and sub-discipline, with no smooth transition between them -- for example, between psychology and psychiatry, which, no matter how close they get, can never actually "touch." Likewise, I can assure you that no matter how far "down" physicists look, and no matter how they emend and elaborate their theories, they will never, ever be able to bridge the gap that opens up when I so much as command my hand to make a fist, and all of a sudden, the subatomic particles in my vicinity alter their trajectories and conform to my will. As Whitehead put it nearly a century ago in Science and the Modern World,
"The doctrine which I am maintaining is that the whole concept of materialism only applies to very abstract entities, the products of logical discernment. The concrete enduring entities are organisms, so that the plan of the whole influences the very characters of the various subordinate organisms which enter into it....
"Thus an electron within a living body is different from an electron outside it, by reason of the plan of the body. The electron blindly runs either within or without the body; but it runs within the body in accordance with its character within the body; that is to say, in accordance with the general plan of the body, and this plan includes the mental state.... [T]he molecules may blindly run in accordance with the general laws, but our molecules differ in their intrinsic characters according to the general organic plans of the situations in which they find themselves."
Make no mistake: no scientist has the slightest idea how this can be, for the gap between their abstract model and the concrete reality is literally -- literally -- infinite. You can't get here from there, and you never will. Rather -- and this is the key -- you can get there -- to the abstract world of quantum physics -- from here -- the mind -- and only from here.
And what is this here, this mysterious place where it all happens? I mean, if you think for one moment that Richard Dawkins imagines his mind is constrained by his own selfish genes, you've got another think coming. That kind of reductionism is for Darwinian losers. No one actually believes it. I dare you to try.
Part 2 of 87.
These splendid [scientific] artifacts of the human imagination have made the world more mysterious than it ever was. We know better than we did what we do not know and have not grasped.... We cannot reconcile the human mind with any trivial theory about the manner in which the brain functions. Beyond the trivial, we have no other theories. We can say nothing of interest about the human soul. We do not know what impels us to right conduct or where the form of the good is found.... No scientific theory touches on the mysteries that the religious tradition addresses.... The answers that prominent scientific figures have offered are remarkable in their shallowness. --David Berlinski, The Devil's Delusion