Proof of Proof is Proof of God
First some unfinished isness before we begin. It's too short a subject to justify a post, but probably too important to warrant just a comment. But the other day, a commenter suggested that I was being a little unfair about Alan Watts. So let's put it this way: if you folks discovered that I was actually an alcoholic and an indifferent and irresponsible father with a spanking fetish, would it make any difference to you?
Would you look at my writings in a different way, if my main purpose in composing them were to trawl for Raccoon chicks and impress them with my continental charm and buoyant repartee? If I enjoyed going on speaking tours of college campuses not because that's where the ignoramuses are, but because that where the nubile babes are?
Here's the point: what I write and who I am are absolutely of a piece. In fact, if they weren't, I would have no right to say them. You will never learn anything about me that surprises you in a negative way, unless it is something that happened 30 years ago, which I enjoy writing about anyway, since it's mostly just funny rather than malicious.
Everything I write is a realized and assimilated truth (or at least "on the way" to it), not just "intellectually," but in terms of being. For better or worse, the writing comes from who I am, not what I think -- which is the only way I can do it on a daily basis. Along these lines, I'm currently reading an excellent book about Plotinus, and he clearly had the same attitude -- more on which later, because this is starting to turn into a post, when I just meant for it to be a quick thought.
I wanted to offer some reflections on something I read at Just Thomism, entitled Evidence For God. I'm going to expand upon it a bit for the purposes of drawing attention to myself and impressing the chicks, but if you read the post, you will see that I am largely playgiaphrasing with the original.
If someone asks what the evidence is for the expanding universe, one could give a simple three word answer: “the red shift.” However, this answer is unlikely to be persuasive or even make sense to someone who doesn't already have a background in science. For example, if you say it to a primitive person, or to someone with a high school diploma from one of our liberal-run schools, they will probably just give you a blank stare.
Furthermore, even if you ask the average person why they believe in the big bang, or global warming, they won't be able to tell you. Rather, they will simply be relying upon authority, or "thinking with the head of another." Suffice it to say that you are in much safer hands if you are "thinking with the head of Aquinas" than with the head of Dawkins. To "think" in the latter manner is to accept materialism on faith and authority -- except that there is no "truth" or "understanding" at the end of the line, just incomprehensibility and absurdity. This is "stupidity as such" masquerading as wisdom.
You could go on to provide a basic explanation of the red shift based upon the behavior of light we see from distant parts of the universe, but this is again unlikely to be convincing enough to overturn the common sense and everyday empirical observation of a scientifically untutored person who can see with his own eyes that the universe is obviously not expanding.
In an analogous way, if someone asks for evidence of God, we might say "truth," or "beauty," or "virtue." For a soul of sufficient purity and depth, this will be an adequate argument, especially once the implications are fully appreciated and worked out in an ontologically consistent manner. However, materialists, Darwinists, Lizards, and other metaphysical yahoos imagine that they can reject the whole of religion based upon a single argument taken out of context, just as a savage could reject the big bang based upon the obvious empirical evidence that refutes it.
Thus, as Just Thomism explains, both types of primitives "want more than evidence; they want the whole science by which their mind could be moved by the evidence" (emphasis mine). They essentially want to see the tree that will prove the existence of the forest, when the forest is on a different ontological level than the tree.
Do you see the dilemma? We get the occasional materialistic barbarian who demands "proof of God," but this is certainly no less difficult to provide than proof of the Big Bang to an eight year-old, which, even if you accept it, doesn't mean you actually understand it. Rather, you are accepting it based upon the authority of hordes of scientists who have worked out the math and physics to come up with the theory, a theory that is also grounded in a paradigm full of assumptions about how the universe works. In turn, many of these assumptions cannot be accounted for by the paradigm, as per Gödel, but the experts don't concern themselves with that. Science is science, not metaphysics, so few scientists care that their paradigm is irrevocably incomplete or inconsistent.
Bear in mind that we are usually dealing with an unintelligent person who is demanding evidence that would satisfy his intellect. Now, this is something I could never do, as I have long since forgotten how to be so stupid. In this regard, I take full responsibility for my failure to persuade trolls that the Permanent Real necessarily exists as a first principle. Likewise, in order for my intellect to be persuaded by the arguments of Dawkins, or Harris, or Charles Johnson, I would have to extinguish my intellect and become stupid, plus ignore years of experiential/phenomenological evidence.
First of all, mere logic and evidence are going to be insufficient for these people, being that they are not inclined to accept it to begin with, nor are they willing to undergo the traditional means of verifying the truths of religion. Furthermore, Just Thomism makes the key point that "what is usually meant by evidence" for the flatland materialist is evidence that will be persuasive to a hostile opponent in the heated context of a verbal combat or short debate -- or “evidence that I can just look at and immediately understand the whole scientific or religious structure in which it reveals itself as evidence.”
As Just Thomism properly notes, "Under this restriction, there is no 'evidence' for God’s existence, or for any other scientific, mathematical, logical, or academic truth." Also, Schuon notes that "in the spiritual order a proof is of assistance only to the man who wishes to understand, and who, by virtue of this wish, has already in some measure understood; it is of no practical use to one who, deep in his heart, does not want to change his position, and whose philosophy merely expresses this desire."
But this is true of all proof. O.J. is innocent to those who wish to believe it, just as "Bush Lied" is a dogma for the liars of the left. You could go so far as to say that truth only applies to good and honest people, but that doesn't mean that we don't hold the bad and dishonest ones to account, or invent a new truth that conforms to their wishes and doesn't bruise their feelings. But this is the essence of the compassionate left: truth as comforter, rather than truth as True.
Thus, logical "proofs of God" aren't really necessary. For example, it is more common for people to arrive at God through "spontaneous intuition which, if it is authentic, necessarily contains in an infused manner the certitude transmitted by the proofs of God or of the supernatural" (Schuon). Again: something is not true because it is logical, but logical because it is true, especially when we are dealing with truth of this order.
Another important point is that human intelligence "coincides in its essence with certainty of the Absolute." The existence of the Absolute is the first principle of any coherent metaphysics, whether "secular" or religious, as it is the condition without which there can be neither coherent thought nor communication of truth. But for the average man, "awareness of 'accidents' has stifled the intuitive awareness of 'Substance'; hence an intelligence that is systematically superficial, fixed upon a fragmentary reality."
Now, I have no objection to the existence of these people. They are often the "intellectual worker bees," and they have their role to play in elaborating the periphery of this or that relative domain. Again, the problems begin when this relativity is absurdly elevated to the Absolute, which ushers in the wrecking ball that brings down both religion and intelligence. These tenured children are completely blind to the fact that if their stance were correct, "we could never prove anything at all."
In a certain sense, proof itself is proof of the supernatural, being that it obviously exists in a realm above matter. The metaphysical transparency of the world is all the proof the Raccoon requires, but all men are not Raccoons, and I do not write for the wider non-Raccoon world. In short, while truth is surely unqualified, it takes a qualified person to realize that.
There is a translogical component to acceptance of any truth. We are not merely "logic machines." In other words, we must make a free act of assent to truth, and this cannot be reduced to the principles of logic. For example, there is no logical proof that one should abide by logic. What if I want to live a life a life guided by absolute spontaneity and transgression of logic, like people who live in San Francisco?