Sunday, July 06, 2008

I Ain't Gonna Work on Darwin's Farm No More: The Limits of a Limitless Science (7.16.11)

... [T]he notion of forest does not become invalid just because it is not possible to define quantitatively the number of trees that would constitute not merely a grove but a forest. It is not possible to find the number of pages that would necessarily constitute a book and not a mere pamphlet.... Human knowledge... concerns two separate realms, quantities and non-quantities, and these two realms are irreducible to one another. --Stanley Jaki

This is tomorrow's post today.... or today's post tomorrow, depending on how things unfold. It's just that I woke up early, it's nice and quiet, and I have this indeterminate amount of slack to play with, whereas tomorrow I'll be more pressed for timelessness.

First of all, the second part of the title of this post is not original to me, but to the philosopher of science Stanley Jaki, who has a collection of essays by that name. In fact, he also has a book entitled The Savior of Science, on the vital relationship between Christian theology and the development of science:

"Beginning with an overview of failed attempts at a sustained science by the ancient cultures of Greece, China, India, and the early Muslim empire, Jaki shows that belief in Christ -- a belief absent in all these cultures -- secured for science its only viable birth starting in the High Middle Ages. In the second part of the book Jaki argues that Christian monotheism alone provides the intellectual safeguards for a valid cosmological argument, restores the sense of purpose destroyed by theories of evolution, and secures firm ethical guidelines against fearful abuses of scientific know-how." (BTW, just ignore the hostile review by the fellow who didn't quite understand the book. Actually, he has written better books; this summary of his ideas is probably my favorite.)

Are there limits to the scientific method, or is it absolute? Clearly the answers are "yes" and "no," respectively. In fact, as Jaki points out, "one may rightly say that there is nothing so important as to ascertain the limits to which science can rightfully be put to use." For example, Darwinians inform us that human beings are just replicating machines, or the gene's way of making more genes. If they truly believe that, is it permissible to treat a human being as a machine? Why not? Just because we "feel" it would be bad? What if other people such as Peter Singer or Adolf Hitler feel it would be a good idea to murder certain people?

There are very sharp limits to the scientific method, one of which is that it specifically applies to the relative, not the absolute. Another intrinsic limit would be Gödel's theorems. Others include quantifiability: "science ceases to be competent whenever a proposition is such as to have no quantitative bearing" (Jaki). This is why, when the scientist forces his paradigm into areas that intrinsically elude its competence, he always sounds stupid, like the adolescent kos kid or middlebrow Lizards.

For if the scientistic mind were capable of understanding these subtle metaphysical matters, they wouldn't be true. To put it another way, there are times that it just isn't possible to descend to the low intellectual level of the Lizard or bonehead materialist. Rather, they must ascend (or evolve!) with a discontinuous leap upward. This upward leap is called "faith." But it is every bit as justified as putting one's faith in the teacher of a subject one doesn't yet understand. Understanding will come, if only you give up your pride and allow it to. It is hardly blind faith, but backed by the full faith and credit of brilliant transpersonal visionaries who have seen much further, deeper, and higher than you ever will with your tiny lizard brain. That is a guarantee.

Science can only operate within a matrix of a freedom that it is powerless to explain. Rather, it just assumes a freedom that nevertheless "cannot be." But where did this idea of freedom come from? Muslims certainly don't believe in it -- much less value it -- and to the extent that scientists do, they can't account for it. Is it a good thing? Obviously, most people, right up to the present time, don't believe so. Even in America, "land of the free," at least half the population are freedom-hating liberals -- most of whom probably harbor the conceit that they are more "logical" and "scientific" than religious believers!

Spengler points out the irony that Muslims and atheists are much closer in their metaphysical assumptions than are Christians with either, which is why Muslim apostates so often become atheists, for it is much easier for them to understand "no God" than a loving one:

"Islam is much closer in character to atheism than to Christianity or Judaism. Although the 'what' of Muslim and atheistic thinking of course are very different..., the 'how' is very similar. Secular liberalism, the official ideology of almost all the nations of Western Europe, offers hedonism, sexual license, anomie, demoralization and gradual depopulation. Muslims do not want this....

"For Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality.... Ibn Hazm went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that 'nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practice' idolatry.

"What does it mean for God to be 'absolutely transcendent'? .... Allah does not limit himself by ordering the world through natural law, for natural laws would impinge on his absolute freedom of action. There are no intermediate [i.e, horizontal] causes, in the sense of laws of nature. Mars traverses an ellipse around the sun not because God has instituted laws of motion that require Mars to traverse an ellipse, but because Allah at every instant directs the angular velocity of Mars. Today, Allah happens to feel like pushing Mars about in an ellipse; tomorrow he might just as well do figure-eights."

Here is the money quote which demonstrates the moronic convergence of Muslms and the Lizards who despise them: "That notion of a god who accepts no limitation, not even the limit of laws of nature that he created, characterizes mainstream Muslim thought since the 11th century. St Thomas Aquinas wrote of its deficiency, drawing on the critique of the 12th-century Jewish theologian and philosopher Moses Maimonides. Despite its vehement and haughtily carried-forward idea of the unity of God, Islam slides into a monistic paganism.... Allah is no more subject to laws of nature than the nature-spirits of the pagan world who infest every tree, rock and stream, and make magic according to their own whimsy" (emphases mine).

The cognitive problems of Islam are more than self-evident. But note that phrase: a god who accepts no limitation. Functionally speaking, this is no different than the scientistic god who accepts no vertical limitation, and deems itself fit to pronounce on subjects that far transcend it, thereby reducing intrinsically transcendent categories such as virtue, beauty, truth, freedom, dignity, nobility, charity, compassion, etc., to the deceptive and self-flattering survival strategies of genes. Only the sober Darwinist sees through the ruse of these ruthless and entirely self-interested genes.

The brilliant Roger Kimball says something similar, in citing E.O. Wilson's morally and intellectually insane comment that “an organism is only DNA’s way of making more DNA.”

"Now, just sit back and think about that. Think, for example, of your favorite organism -- your spouse, for example: is he or she only DNA’s way of making more DNA? Is E. O. Wilson himself only a mechanism for the production of deoxyribonucleic acid?" (This is what I mean when I say that Darwinism is logically self-refuting.)

Likewise, that renowned metaphysical yahoo, Richard Dawkins, says that we are just a "robot-vehicle blindly programmed to preserves the selfish molecules known as genes." Not only does this idiocy converge with the fatalistic and freedom-hating Muslims, but with the deterministic Marxists and their many modern-day spawn who believe, for example, that poverty, rather than bad values, causes crime. I have no doubt that they will eventually identify the "gene for crime" -- if they haven't already -- which will make the tyrannical marriage between Darwinism and leftism complete. Instead of the radically transcendent religion of Islam, it will be the radically immanent religion of Scientism. But both result in a fascistic repression of our divine-human birthright, i.e., our humanness.

A couple more passages by Spengler before I attempt to tie this all together and wrap up: "the absolute transcendence of Allah in the physical world is the cognate of his despotic character as a spiritual ruler, who demands submission and service from his creatures. The Judeo-Christian God loves his creatures and as an act of love makes them free. Humankind only can be free if nature is rational, that is, if God places self-appointed limits on his own sphere of action. In a world ordered by natural law, humankind through its faculty of reason can learn these laws and act freely. In the alternative case, the absolute freedom of Allah crowds out all human freedom of action, leaving nothing but the tyranny of caprice and fate."

"The empty and arbitrary world of atheism is far closer to the Muslim universe than the Biblical world, in which God orders the world out of love for humankind, so that we may in freedom return the love that our creator bears for us. Atheism is an alternative to Islam closer to Muslim habits of mind than the love-centered world of Judaism and Christianity."

I guess I don't have to tie it all together, because that pretty much did it.

Contrary to the claim that DNA is the secret of life, life remains the secret of DNA.... Microbiology has not found a quantitative answer to the question of free will. Brain research cannot answer the question, "What is that experience, called 'now,'" which is at the very center of consciousness.... Nor is the universe as such an object for science. Scientists cannot go outside the universe in order to observe the whole of it. --Stanley Jaki


Gerard said...

Before I actually read it, I want to say that I love that title.

walt said...

Taking "time" when you have it to promote the "eternal" is to not only embody, but to real-ize the Cross, and share it.

That be good karma!


Gerard said...

"Not only does this idiocy converge with the fatalistic and freedom-hating Muslims, but with the deterministic Marxists and their many modern-day spawn who believe, for example, that poverty, rather than bad values, causes crime. "

Suggesting of course the world-destroying "Nonharmonic Convergence."

Shiver me Shivas!

Gerard said...

And one also thinks of the glorious "Scientific People" from Bester's The Stars My Destination:


"We are The Scientific People," Joseph said. "I am Joseph; these are my brethren." He gestured.

Foyle gazed at the grinning crowd surrounding his litter. All faces were tattooed into devil masks; all brows had names blazoned across them.

"How long did you drift?" Joseph asked.

"Vorga," Foyle mumbled.

"You are the first to arrive alive in fifty years. You are a puissant man. Very. Arrival of the fittest is the doctrine of Holy Darwin. Most scientific."

"Quant Suff!" the crowd bellowed.

Joseph seized Foyle's elbow in the manner of a physician taking a pulse. His devil mouth counted solemnly up to ninety-eight.

"Your pulse. Ninety-eight-point-six," Joseph said, producing a thermometer and shaking it reverently. "Most scientific."

"Quant Suff!" came the chorus.

Joseph proffered an Erlenmeyer flask. It was labeled: Lung, Cat, c.s., hematoxylin & eosin. "Vitamin?" Joseph inquired.

When Foyle did not respond, Joseph removed a large pill from the flask, placed it in the bowl of a pipe, and lit it. He puffed once and then gestured.

Three girls appeared before Foyle. Their faces were hideously tattooed. Across each brow was a name: JOAN and MOIRA and POLLY. The "0" of each name had a tiny cross at the base .

"Choose," Joseph said. "The Scientific People practice Natural Selection. Be scientific in your choice. Be genetic."

As Foyle fainted again, his arm slid off the litter and glanced against Moira.

"Quant Suff!"

Gerard said...

And to put a coda to that one would quote Snyder:

"Once a bear gets hooked on garbage there's no cure."

Petey said...

Shiva, me tinders!

Gagdad Bob said...

Believe or not, that Tom Jones-Jools Holland collaboration in my sidebar is great -- very gritty & authentic R & B. As a matter of fact, if things had turned out slightly differently, Jones could easily have been, say, Joe Cocker, as their musical influences were identical. Here's an early, pre-MOR clip from 1964:

Chills and Fever.

Gagdad Bob said...

Yup, everything uncool is hip again -- Metaphysics, the Tijuana Brass, Tom Jones... seriously, check out the dancing, and compare it to the choreographed sissies of today.

Gagdad Bob said...

Most soulful white woman ever?

Gagdad Bob said...

She's pretty close, but you have to hear the song on a decent stereo to appreciate the majesty.

Gagdad Bob said...

Not forgetting Eva.

Gagdad Bob said...

Nor should we forget the wicked Wanda.

Gagdad Bob said...

Wanda's musical memo to Iran.

Gagdad Bob said...


I don't believe it. If Walt is right, lurkers unmask yourselves!

Gagdad Bob said...

Hmm... somehow I deleted the wrong comment. But Walt suggested that there are actually a large number lurkers out there, which I doubt....

Anyway, the important thing is that wife and child are out shopping, and I just found another cool Wanda clip.

walt said...

Now I feel deep compassion for -- and even perhaps solidarity with -- my deleted troll bruh-thas.

Gagdad Bob said...

There you have it: no lurkers or even non-lurkers! Which is to say, those who do and don't ignore me are "not two," or proof that Godwin doesn't exist.

Anonymous said...

My first comment-
I notice the many references to LGF. It is a real disappointment to see how Charles has latched onto hyper-Darwinism, the Darwinism that will brook no dissent

Richard Dawkins is a fine example. I read his books years ago. "Blind Watchmaker" and actually agree with much of what he says. I like a lot of socio-biology and read E O Wilson's books. But I believe in God and know that evolution cannot explain everything

It will not happen but a grand synthesis of Dawkins, Rupert Sheldrake and Christianity would fit the bill


walt said...

Lurking Anon -

Wasn't that published once previously, under the title One Cosmos Under God?

Anonymous said...

A favorite music clip. The innocence! With an Akido like wave of her hand she turns Ringo around


Cousin Dupree said...

Thank you, Walt, you saved me the trouble. But you know Dear Leader -- modesty forbids.

Anonymous said...

GBob likes Sheldrake? Were you talking to me?


Gagdad Bob said...

Sheldrake has just "one big idea," but it's not really a new idea, merely a sort of updated metaphysical platonism, so he's right as far as he goes. But I think he also introduces certain errors that only someone like Geunon or Schuon can fully resolve.

Gagdad Bob said...

As with so much metaphysical thought, what's true isn't new, and what's new isn't true. But I respect him for trying to slip metaphysics into the back door of science. Then again, I imagine he runs with the Deepak crowd, so I don't know....

Gagdad Bob said...

Also, Sheldrake lapses into the fallacy of trying to prove metaphysical truth with the scientific method...

cousin Dupree said...


If you could reduce that to bullet points... wrong word... perhaps if you could just give a brief summary?

cousin Dupree said...

This will do (from akhter's site):


Gagdad Bob said...

Does that include spelling problems?

Anonymous said...

Very much appreciated GBob. Geunon or Schuon? Never even heard of them. I will try to read your "One Cosmos" but meanwhile I will try to read every new blog entry of yours

I am a suspicious peasant or at least like to think I am. So was my father. The older he got the more suspicious he got. He despised all doctors in his last years. He passed last year. His girlfriend told me he never got a real eye exam in his last decade. He just renewed ye old prescription. He liked the plush anonymity of the marble floored Cleveland Clinic. Half the reason he had me take him there was the Starbuck's concession there. He adored that latte stuff. Was a real treat since he probably only had 5 in his long life of coffee drinking. I never drink the stuff and it's boring to watch others do as it perks up their brain a bit and they start talking

I planted some fruit trees recently. My best recent accomplishment. All tree planting is forward looking. "Forward looking" is a big cliché these days. Same as the words "passionate" and "focused" I wish I had a dime for everytime I heard Hillary use the word "focused"

I like your raccoon totemism. Mine would be a duck


Gagdad Bob said...


Forgive my ignorance, but is there a "Muslim Tom Jones?"

walt said...

Cuz -

You prolly noticed that both comments on that post were requests from other sites that he not leave long comments on their blogs.

I'm not sure, but me playing "shill" today doesn't seem to be working.

Perhaps Bob could offer "Free Coffee," or something . . .

Gagdad Bob said...

I think Akhter thought we were giving away a free kufi...

Gagdad Bob said...

What fabulous music we're listening to here today. With the family out, we can really crank it to eleven! And LaFayette is drawing big laughs with his famous "grumpy dance."

Anonymous said...

As with so much metaphysical thought, what's true isn't new, and what's new isn't true. But I respect him for trying to slip metaphysics into the back door of science. Then again, I imagine he runs with the Deepak crowd, so I don't know....

I would guess his followers like Deepak to. I doubt Sheldrake is anywhere near as rich as Chopra

Sheldrake was a real favorite of the New Age magazines I would read 25 years ago. But don't write off all this new age stuff. I've done zen meditation and TM. In my case at least it helped me to "get" Islam very quickly with the help of Robert Spencer

BTW Islam is the ultimate sociobiology driven religion. Its evolutionary strategy is the best with its polygamy and cousin marriage and hunger for non-Muslism women. Stanly Kurtz is the authority on this


walt said...

We may not be referring to the same thing, but I learned to "grumpy dance" at home, in my spare time.

Gagdad Bob said...

To be honest, LaFayette picked it up from Future Leader -- who does it when he's constipated -- and it just kind of took on a life of it's own.

walt said...

Yep. That's the one!

julie said...

Walt, my niece picked out this hat yesterday
"I'm Grumpy because you're Dopey"

walt said...

Julie -


But usually I'm Dopey because I'm Sleepy.

Can I get a Wakey, wakey?

Gecko said...

By O, I did the linky dink finally! Baby steps,babysteps with thanks to Mizze,Joan, and Ben and to all coonposters for their great coontributions to all who knock.

christopher said...

Gbob, love your post today on the limits of science. I happily agree, a matter of different realms that "really" exist. Science is a game, as described in the mathematical theory of games, and within its rules there are an indeterminate number of paths of specialization. We are in no way at the end of its limits but there are indeed limits. The limits are self evident, as are the limits placed on the movements of chess pieces and the definition of the world (chessboard), but these limits are not part of the action of the game. Instead they make the game possible.

There are normal human daily experiences outside the realm of science that take place in the subjective and intersubjective realms. There are other encounters that are more rare but also do not pertain to the rules of science, that take place in some kind of "objective" realm not amenable to scientific methods.

Many of these we call spiritual.

And yet within the rules of scientific activity, there is nothing like an end to the inquiry anywhere near, and also such an end cannot be predicted. The data can and will continue to be gathered and as can be seen on any of hundreds of internet sites, the fruits of these endeavors grow on one another exponentially.

In other words, any time a system reaches a sufficient complexity of operators and operations, there is an indeterminite, a pseudo-infinite result. Science and chess are both such systems. So is music, why we have not come to the end and cannot come to the end of musical composition even though every component is limited in scope.

There are life paths open to any who choose the scientific disciplines involved, and there are many scientists engaged in the effort, with communities and communications among themselves, something called peer review and repeatability being important features of the whole lifestyle.

The best of these guys and gals remember just what you point out here in the blogs I have read, that there is a great deal of our human experience which does not happen within the limits of the scientific method. This is simply so. The best scientists will live public professional lives within their discipline and private lives outside it. Quite as it should be.

Exaggeration and abuse occurs in any human endeavor, including spiritual ones. For one Richard Dawkins, I call with one Jerry Falwell. Then I raise with one Deepak Chopra. You call with Christopher Hitchens, and then me, I raise again with the local Unitarian minister whom I am now boycotting with regret.

What I will not do is tar with the same brush the guy down the street who works in the medlab and the fellow over at Portland State who is chasing down data on the movements of upstream and downstream salmon migrants. Or even the crews at CERN who are chasing signs of the "God" particle.

julie said...

"What I will not do is tar with the same brush the guy down the street who works in the medlab and the fellow over at Portland State who is chasing down data on the movements of upstream and downstream salmon migrants. Or even the crews at CERN who are chasing signs of the "God" particle."

I don't think anybody here is doing that, Christopher. Nobody here is (or should be, anyway) anti-science. Hell, if it weren't for science we wouldn't even be having this conversation. The objection is to those who would elevate science to religion.

And as to the phony hucksters of faith, as Bob pointed out a couple of weeks ago a counterfeit bill only has credibility or value if the real thing actually exists. Counterfeit wisemen cloak themselves in trappings of partial truth, and some of it may even have real value. But the whole of the wisdumb they try to pass along tends to be rather less than the sum of the induhvidual parts.

phil g said...

I'm a daily lurker...just always a day late and a remark short given the time zone difference (East coast) and the fact that I like to download these gems into my mental software early in the morning when the spirit is moving.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I'm a daily larker
I like meadows and lemons
Bob' post is all net

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

What did I do? Besides makin' the easy stuff look hard that is?

"Alot of people are afraid of heights. Not me, I'm afraid of widths."

Van said...

"Even in America, "land of the free," at least half the population are freedom-hating liberals -- most of whom probably harbor the conceit that they are more "logical" and "scientific" than religious believers!"

Having bought into a denial of Free Will... and with awesome Poetic Justice... they have no choice but to be freedom hating literals.

Van said...

Julie said "But the whole of the wisdumb they try to pass along tends to be rather less than the sum of the induhvidual parts."

Heh... now that alone was worth the price of admission!

Steven Wright said...

If you had a million Shakespeares, could they write like a monkey?

Steven Wright said...

My theory of evolution is that Darwin was adopted.

Steven Wright said...

When I die, I'm leaving my body to science fiction.

christopher said...


In re your reply to me...

I kind of feel they're the same guy is the point I was making, and deserve the same bashing. For the same reason. They twist the real.

The vertical as we call it here can't be real without the horizontal any more than the other way around. Existence is cruciform. It is no accident that the cross is a strong religious symbol and was prior to the Jesus experience.

The pursuit of science is as decent a lifework as pursuit of God. The hucksters remain hucksters in any endeavor, not any less dangerous each to the other. Neither can there be hucksters in science just as in religion without the genuine article actually being the backdrop against which they work. The genuine article has depth and weight and God's favor in the horizontal realms as well as in the vertical.

The illusory nature of our situation is no less thick along the vertical as along the horizontal. It is also no accident that raccoons are twilight critters, night critters, and bandits. We have to steal the real out of the illusion.

Eahab said...

The notion that God is conceived of as strictly transcendant in Islam is mistaken. God is first and foremost Al-Rahman Al-Raheem, The All-Merciful. God's Mercy preceeds His Wrath even though His Wrath maybe the gateway to His Mercy. If the emphasis on the transcendance of God is disquieting to Christians whow would say "why would I want rush to a wrathful God," for the mentality of Muslims it is "Why would I respect a God who is pure mercy." The immanance of God is also shown in that His 99 Names are manifested as shadows in his creation "Wherever you turn... There is the Face of God" "And He taught Adam all the Names." For all of your nuance, you have a very caricatured view of Islam. You may benefit from the Metaphyics of ibn Arabi, unless it is your politics, a topic clearly drowning in relativity, which blinds you to viewing Islam on a higher plane.