Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What Must the World Be Like In Order that Man May Know It?

We begin with two questions; or really, one question put two ways: "What must nature, including man, be like in order that science be possible at all?" (Kuhn). More simply, "What must the world be like in order that man may know it?" (Jaki).

There are two kinds of people: the great majority of those who don't find these to be interesting questions; and a vanishingly small number of orthodox Raccoons who suspect that they hold the key to everything. As I've mentioned on a number of occasions, I am much more fascinated by how scientific knowledge is possible at all, rather than this or that scientific finding. And I am interested in two ways, one horizontal, the other vertical.

The horizontal has to do with how all of our diverse scientific knowledge fits together, say physics with biology, or neurobiology with developmental psychoanalysis.

As I mentioned in the Coonifesto, the cosmos doesn't brood over the mystery of how it is possible for matter to suddenly come alive, or how an erstwhile (mere) animal is able to begin hosting truth, beauty, and virtue. These things happen quite spontaneously, even if science not only cannot account for them, but has no idea how any strictly scientific theory ever could account for them (that is, without violently reducing them to something they are not). They don't even yet have a decent paradigm for a preliminary theory for a tentative hypothesis.

In other words, materialists don't even know how it would be possible to know these things, because knowing of any kind reverts back to question #2 above: what must the cosmos itself be like in order that man may know it? And their kneejerk strategy of reductionism or materialism results in a cosmos that cannot be known, period.

Yes, such a world can be perceived, but there would be no reason to believe that these perceptions correspond to the thing called "reality." In this approach, Kant would be absolutely correct: that there are the phenomena available to our species-bound ways of perceiving the world; and there is the noumenon, about which we can say precisely nothing.

In the Kantian view -- and I don't see how it is possible for the profane thinker to extricate himself from Kant's bifurcation -- there is reality and there is human thought, and never the twain shall meet; or, if they do occasionally meet, we would have no way of confirming it. How did Whitehead put it, Jeeves? "The present is all that you have; and unless in this present you can find general principles which interpret the present as including a representation of the whole community of existents, you cannot move a step beyond your little patch of immediacy."

No, not that one.

"No science can be more secure than the unconscious metaphysics which it tacitly presupposes.... We habitually speak of stones, and planets, and animals, as though each individual thing could exist, even for a passing moment, in separation from the environment which is in truth a necessary factor in its own nature."

No, the other one -- you know, that crack about how the naive and unexamined metaphysics of science ends up with conjecture on one side and a dream on the other. So science ends in a kind of absurcular and tautologous dream interpretation -- for example, who survives? The fittest! Who are the fittest? Those that survive! Or, what is man? An animal! What is an animal? A concatenation of random accidents adapted to its environment! And just what can a random accident know of reality? Nothing! How do you know that? Shut up, creationist!

Speaking of which, I just don't believe that such a beautiful girl could result from random copying errors:


Can I prove this? Yes, certainly to my satisfaction. If Darwin is correct, animals are selected only for their adaptive fitness. If they possess this thing we call "beauty," it would only be a kind of optical illusion designed to get us to copulate. Now, I love my dog, but...

Sure, I can understand why the bee would convince itself that flowers are beautiful. But damned if I can understand why people think they are. And it's not just flowers. Rather, why is there so much beauty everywhere? Not just visual beauty, but aural beauty, poetic beauty, moral beauty, mathematical beauty. And why can beauty sometimes move a man to tears? What's that all about?

What must the world be like that man may weep tears of joy and gratitude over its celestial truth radiant beauty?

Here is the Christian answer, as expressed by Jaki: "the world [is] an objective and orderly entity investigable by the mind because the mind too [is] an orderly and objective product of the same rational, that is, perfectly consistent, Creator." This is why the Raccoon not only has no problem with science, but with art or religion either.

Note, for example, that the consistent Darwinian must reduce art to something less than it is -- as just another meaningless trick of the nervous system, with no bearing on transcendental or objective beauty, much less truth. Such an impoverished philosophy is not even interesting, let alone true. Like the epicycles of the pre-Copernican solar system, it saves the appearances of the theory, but at the cost of absurdity.

Or, like "climate science," no one could believe it except for someone who already believes it. Such science doesn't really "evolve"; rather, it merely comes up with more elaborate and tendentious schemes to patch up its holes and prop it up. Call it "Weekend at Bernie's" science. Just ignore that bloated and stinking corpseman over there at the IPCC.

The irony is that the same people who fundamentally eroded our trust in the mind's ability to know reality, are the ones who arrogantly insist that they are not only right, but cannot possibly be wrong. Again, from whence comes this misplaced faith in sham absolutes such as ideological Darwinism? For if Darwinism is the last word on man, it would call for the most abject humility about making absolute pronouncements of any kind whatsoever.

The humble theist knows that he is not worthy of the sublime truth that uniquely elevates him to cosmic worthiness. But the grandiose ideological Darwinian somehow believes that he is uniquely worthy of a universal truth that renders man unworthy of any truth at all. Strange.

25 Comments:

Blogger Northern Bandit said...

Is it just me or was this post one of the more illuminating in some time? Now and then it really helps to have the Raccoon way set out clearly and concisely.

"What must the world be like in order that man may know it?"

Indeed!

Yet as you say, the vast majority never pause to consider such a question, or would if it were posed to them, which it isn't in our society. Frankly I don't have a problem with people who go about their lives unburdened by this sort of curiosity; millions are Godly in their humble way. I do have a problem with the jackasses who stomp around making absurcular retard noises such as the comment Julie(?) noted which was attached to the Scientific American article claiming that spirituality does not partake of the transcendental, but rather is an epiphenomenon tied to particular patches of tissue in the melon. The comment was something along the lines of "Spirituality arises from brain damage. Imagine my surprise". There but for the Grace of God go I. I mean that as literally as possible.

2/17/2010 09:48:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

Yesterday I read an article by a climate scientist who bemoaned the fact that the GW discussion had deteriorated so. As a scientist, he said, he would continue to look at the facts, based on models, etc., etc. He stated that he wished he could convince others to do the same -- after all, he takes his doctor's advice, he turns to specialists in various fields, he does what his wife tells him.... Why can't the "doubters" see who knows and who doesn't about GW?

Heh.

Today you wrote:
"...the Raccoon not only has no problem with science, but with art or religion either."

And no, I do not. My problem almost always boils down to what people in the guise of human beings actually do.

"What must the world be like in order that man may know it?" Good question!

2/17/2010 10:06:00 AM  
Blogger f/zero said...

Yes, such a world can be perceived, but there would be no reason to believe that these perceptions correspond to the thing called "reality."

Yes, as I vainly attempt to point out to my few photography students. There's more to this picture than...

2/17/2010 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger f/zero said...

As I mentioned in the Coonifesto, the cosmos doesn't trouble itself with how, say, it is possible for matter to suddenly come alive, or how an erstwhile animal is able to begin hosting truth, beauty, and virtue. These things happen quite spontaneously, even if science not only cannot account for them, but has no idea how any strictly scientific theory ever could account for them (that is, without violently reducing them to something they are not).

I grabbed this book off the new releases shelf at the library a couple weeks back because of the title, The Genesis Enigma. Quite interesting actually, looking at the first few verses of Genesis from a strictly scientific basis. The author refreshingly chips away at commonly construed Darwinism and creationism in equal measure, making a few questionable theoretical leaps along the way (e.g. the development of eyes), but after nearly 300 pages concludes that the Genesis account is eerily and almost impossibly accurate, matching well with the fossil record. And because there is no way the Genesis writer could have known this on his own, he concludes that there may be something to the divine after all.

I'm not really recommending it because although it's a very quick read, it's one of those books that could have been condensed to 100 pages with better effect. Nevertheless, I don't remember running across a book quite like this before, where the author doesn't have a preset agenda, but is honestly puzzled by evidence that doesn't fit and goes about openly exploring it. Whether his conclusions are entirely on target or not, it's an indication that just perhaps there are still some truth seekers in the scientific community willing to publish against the tenured tide.

2/17/2010 11:08:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

"and a vanishingly small number of orthodox Raccoons"

Present.

(..back ta da post.. by the way, haven't missed a single one since 27 Jan 2007)

2/17/2010 01:18:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Take two..

Anybody read Dr Berlinski's Origin of the Novel?
It'll only take a minute..

2/17/2010 01:24:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

he does what his wife tells him

At least he's not a complete idiot.

Unless his wife is Aunt Esther.

2/17/2010 01:28:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

"If they possess this thing we call "beauty," it would only be a kind of optical illusion designed to get us to copulate."

Did nobody say "designed"?

2/17/2010 01:33:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

"And it's not just flowers. Rather, why is there so much beauty everywhere? Not just visual beauty, but aural beauty, poetic beauty, moral beauty, mathematical beauty. And why can beauty sometimes move a man to tears? What's that all about?"

One could hardly blame the Creator.

2/17/2010 01:35:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

f/zero,
I had the same experience as that author while I watched (again after about 30 years) the beginning of "The Bible" (1966 movie) about a year or so ago.
Bob can back me up on that..

NB,
Bob hit skydirt today. Again.

2/17/2010 02:04:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Yes, such a world can be perceived, but there would be no reason to believe that these perceptions correspond to the thing called "reality." In"

Not serious right? Although that is what Kant proposes, it not only couldn't be understood, it couldn't even be perceived... what would you perceive, if it didn't correspond to reality... and how could anything be understood, if it wasn't understood in relation to some other 'portion' of reality? There'd be no "what to ask what was that?" of, and no possible consciousness with which to ask it.

I know... too picky. That kind of week.

Btw... I liked the original title... oh well.

2/17/2010 04:25:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"In the Kantian view -- and I don't see how it is possible for the profane thinker to extricate himself from Kant's bifurcation..."


By not stepping into it to begin with... it's easy... look up, if across the archway it says "Abandon hope all ye who enter here"... my advice is don't enter there.

"-Pro-fane:
1 : to treat (something sacred) with abuse, irreverence, or contempt : desecrate
2 : to debase by a wrong, unworthy, or vulgar use
"

Oh that 'profane'... oh... well... yeah... nevermind then.

Carry on.

2/17/2010 04:32:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Van:

That's actually a good point. The world, whatever it is, cannot be perceived by a Kantian. I suppose I meant "sensed." We can have a sense of something "out there," but that's as far as it goes. We can't know if the sensations correspond to anything "real."

2/17/2010 04:42:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"No science can be more secure than the unconscious metaphysics which it tacitly presupposes.... We habitually speak of stones, and planets, and animals, as though each individual thing could exist, even for a passing moment, in separation from the environment which is in truth a necessary factor in its own nature."

Exactly! GO Whitehead!

Hey kids, remember that when the profanessor stands up in front of class and asks you to seriously consider a 'hypothetical' necessary vs contingent example of "You can't imagine a square circle, but you can easily imagine ice that doesn't float", no, you can't, not if you understand that the Cosmos is One integrated whole. Such hypothetical's aren't meant as examples illustrating the metaphysically given vs that of chance, such as "You can't imagine a square circle, but a stool could have 3 legs or 4", but an example of a kantian attempt at seeding your mind with metaphysical weeds to spread their assertion that reality is arbitrary and unknowable.

Remember to keep plenty of Petey's We'd killer handy in class.

2/17/2010 04:52:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Or, like "climate science," no one could believe it except for someone who already believes it. Such science doesn't really "evolve"; rather, it merely comes up with more elaborate and tendentious schemes to patch up its holes and prop it up. Call it "Weekend at Bernie's" science. Just ignore that bloated and stinking corpseman over there at the IPCC."

Lol.

"The irony is that the same people who fundamentally eroded our trust in the mind's ability to know reality, are the ones who arrogantly insist that they are not only right, but cannot possibly be wrong. Again, from whence comes this misplaced faith in sham absolutes such as ideological Darwinism?"

Ah... let me count the ways... Dewey, James, Pierce, Marx, Hegel, Fichte, Kant, Hume, Rousseau, Descartes, Hobbes... oh... blech... the heck with it... that vase of flowers is One heck of a lot more useful... not to mention Good, Beautiful and True to boot.

2/17/2010 05:02:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Gagdad said of the kantian "We can have a sense of something "out there," but that's as far as it goes. We can't know if the sensations correspond to anything "real.""

Hence modern education.

;-)

2/17/2010 05:11:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

... which FINALLY brings us around to this Central Falls to fire every high school teacher

Woo-HOO!

2/17/2010 05:15:00 PM  
Blogger Gandalin said...

Bob,

I'm late to this party, but you might be interested in Alexander Skutch on the origins of floral and avian beauty in nature. He is a Darwinist, but not entirely unenlightened. (I became acquainted with the works of this storied ornithologist through a column by David Warren.) His books, "Birds Asleep," "Origins of Nature's Beauty," and "Harmony and Conflict in the Living World" hint at the vertical, from a non-revelatory standpoint.

2/17/2010 06:24:00 PM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

Rick:

Thanks for the Berlinski YouTube clips. One of my favorite sections is where he tells us America has lot a great deal in the field of insultainment. He encourages the mocking of people like Dennet and Dawkins, and proceeds to do just that ("his last real idea was in 1936, under pre-natal influences").

He's not religious at all, but that doesn't prevent me from nominating him as an honorary Raccoon.

[Benefits of] Name Calling.

2/18/2010 06:28:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

NB,
You’re welcome. I love the guy. Definitely a funny guy and I’m not entirely sure if he’s not “socking it to ‘em” in other ways. He may be guarding his “belief” too, as not to give any ammo. I mean, the guy is all about staying on the subject. Lefties as you know love to jump all over the place in a debate.
Love the Krammer hairdo and, come on, the guy’s whole interview in “Expelled” takes place with his head back as if he’s sitting in some beanbag chair and the camera straight up his nose.
The guy can do “snob” like none of them can. His whole being says, "Please. Enough."
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

2/18/2010 06:39:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Btw, good on Sade, am I right?
I may nominate “In another time” as the perfect song if nobody’s looking.

Back to the salt mines..

2/18/2010 06:41:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Berlinski - "Richard Dawkins is accepted as a great intellect? And a fine prose stylist too... I mean the guy writes... his prose style resembles a string of sponges strung together on a wash line. Should be said, should be said."

lol...

;-)

2/18/2010 07:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And just what can a random accident know of reality? Nothing! How do you know that?

Yes, just how do you know that? I see no reason why a random accident cannot know reality.

2/18/2010 04:05:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Of course not. How could you?

2/18/2010 04:19:00 PM  
Blogger Ilíon said...

"What must the world be like in order that man may know it?"

It must be a creation, rather than an "arising."

I've been exploring (at my dusty little blog) the question of what the world must be like --
The First Question
You Cannot Reason

2/26/2010 09:52:00 PM  

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