Friday, February 05, 2010

You Must Have a Whole In Your Head!

Yes, you must.

For among other things, science would be impossible if not for the whole in your head. This nonlocal whole is what guides and sponsors "the metaphysical quest for the reality of God," which -- like it or not -- is "the only support of that universal intelligibility which alone can satisfy man's inquiring mind and provide a solid basis for his actions."

In the absence of this whole, science becomes an ad hoc enterprise, a pile of debris with no unifying center, no genuine coherence, and no ultimate aim. It becomes all bricks with no mortar, an arch with no keystone, the Beatles with no Ringo.

I'm just going to flip through the book we're discussing, and note some of the things that arrested my attention.

Again, as mentioned yesterday, if it doesn't take off and become self-sustaining, it isn't science: "the invention and the progress of science are of one and the same nature." The phases of its progress "are but the replay of the original invention, a sequence of similar insights, and perhaps of efforts more or less equal."

Thus, "if the ancient Hindus and Chinese made no progress in astronomy, it was only because they did not invent it." To be sure, they had some of the elements of science, e.g., close observation of celestial phenomena, but other ingrained assumptions prevented the emergence of true science. The difference is as dramatic as that between a live baby and a stillbirth. Both are "infants," but only one goes on to grow and mature.

For Jaki, it is "not deism but Christian theism that served as a principal factor helping the scientific enterprise reach self-sustaining maturity." He gets into the metaphysical assumptions of cultures where science was stillborn, one of which is belief in cyclical time and eternal recurrence.

For example, in Hinduism there is the "treadmill of the yugas," which is clearly inconsistent with the irreversible time of the Christian West. Likewise, the ancient Greeks could not reconcile change and permanence: "if there was only change and nothing permanent," then "any explanation became meaningless." And "if change was only apparent," then "explanation was unnecessary."

Even -- or perhaps especially -- Plato developed the "dichotomy between a perfect world of ideas and a shadowy realm of matter," which placed science on the latter side, i.e., the study of derivative and deceptive shadows dancing on the walls of the cave. Aristotle followed by placing an ontological division between terrestrial and celestial matter, which again fails to apprehend the radical wholeness and unity that undergirds all of creation.

Jaki points out how common it is for even -- or again, perhaps especially! -- the man of genius to "be blinded by the logic of his initial presuppositions." Get those presuppositions wrong, and everything you build upon those assumptions will be wrong, regardless of your intellectual candlepower.

To jump ahead a bit, Jaki shows with example after example that a functional science must steer a middle course between a naive empiricism and dreamy idealism. This is why, ultimately, a science that denies either the vertical or the horizontal breaks down into metaphysical incoherence. To build a house you need bricks and mortar and effort and a blueprint.

So "science failed to become an open-ended avenue in the great ancient cultures just as their quest for the ultimate in intelligibility, which is the quest for God, failed to go convincingly beyond man's own self..."

In other words, in Eastern religions, the ultimate in intelligibility is the interior self, which, in a way, makes them very much compatible with the Kantianism that radically split the western world between noumena and phenomena. If reality and intelligibility are within, why waste one's life studying the ceaseless changes of maya-matter? Doing so only deepens the illusion and attachment to what has no reality, precisely.

All of this changes if the phenomenal world is not just an accidental byproduct of Brahman, but the intentional creation of a rational Creator who wishes to be known. Yes, the world is still contingent, but the contingency is shot through with intelligibility, not just deception and mystification.

Thus, Aquinas could affirm the Raccoon principle that "all knowing beings implicitly know God in any and every thing they know." If you really know what knowledge is, you know that it could only be anchored in the permanent, the absolute, and the eternal. Otherwise it is opinion, precisely, in a world where only opinion is possible. And to have "faith in opinion" makes no sense at all.

A second principle is of the utmost importance, and this is the very idea of a universe, for anyone who says "universe" says "God." No one has ever seen this thing called "universe," and no one ever will. Rather, it is the assumption of an internally related "totality of contingent but rationally coherent beings."

At every turn, the combination of contingency and intelligibility serves "as a pointer to an ultimate in intelligibility," which is ultimately "outside" the universe of space and time, and yet, mysteriously accessible to man's intellect. In the absence of this intimate connection, there is no reason in the world to believe that our knowledge is "true." Therefore, there is no objective knowledge at all. Rather, the world is just one big elite university humanities department.

Until the end of his life, Darwin was haunted by a particular thought, and well he should have been, for it is the logical corollary of his incoherent and nihilistic system: "With me, the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there were any convictions in such a mind?

The question answers itself, but only in someone with a modicum of philosophical consistency and intellectual honesty.

To be continued....

30 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

Or, sometimes, the dog licks you...

2/05/2010 08:43:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

"Very few people are truly motivated by slack, and willing to risk all in order to acquire it."

I have been confounded by this statement over the past day or so and wonder about it's practical applications. Do you really mean "risk all in order to acquire it"? Or am I being knuckleheaded literalist? How far does one go for slack?

2/05/2010 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Relux, it's just a humorous restatement of the first commandment.

2/05/2010 10:30:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

okay..phew! I was being a knucklehead! What a relief!

2/05/2010 10:34:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

See pp. 232-235 of the Coonifesto for the exciting details.

2/05/2010 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger f/zero said...

It's lucky I look good in a hat.

2/05/2010 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

"In the absence of this whole ... It becomes all bricks with no mortar, an arch with no keystone, the Beatles with no Ringo."

Hey: Ringo found the whole in his head.

2/05/2010 10:51:00 AM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

One of the more common refrains at the annual Village Atheist Convention in Rio Linda is how "christianists" are attempting to drag mankind back to the dork ages, before illustrious Science magically popped into existence in order to sweep cheap myth-making aside.

How many of those Rio Linda atheists would comprehend today's column? Honest question, how many would be capable of comprehending what is being said? As GB said the other day, you can't really converse with these people since you can understand 100% of their points while they lack essential background and the inclination to understand those strange raccoon scratchings...

2/05/2010 11:49:00 AM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

Which leads to a thought experiment: what would a Wikipedia article on the Way of the Raccoon look like? What if we had to explain things in an article accessible to anyone so that they would come away with some inkling of what we're on about? I mean, we all had to start somewhere, right?

BTW, the phrase "one cosmos under god" gets 8 hits on Wikipedia now (and yes, they're references to the Coonifesto).

2/05/2010 11:56:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

In the absence of this whole, science becomes an ad hoc enterprise, a pile of debris with no unifying center, no genuine coherence, and no ultimate aim.

Or occasionally, there is an aim - to line somebody's pockets by creating a sense of urgency in the hearts of Gaia-worshipping do-gooders, who then mistakenly believe (without questioning the source of their particular brand of revelation; after all, "the science is settled") that there is a unifying center: to save the world. Best accomplished by doing away with man as such, one way or another.

Steyn: By 2008, Syed Hasnain’s decade-old casual chit-chat over the phone to a London journalist had become “settled science,” so Dr. Pachauri’s company TERI (The Energy & Resources Institute) approached the Carnegie Corporation for a grant to research “challenges to South Asia posed by melting Himalayan glaciers,” and was rewarded with half a million bucks. Which they promptly used to hire Syed Hasnain. In other words, professor Hasnain has landed a cushy gig researching solutions to an entirely non-existent global crisis he accidentally invented over a 15-minute phone call 10 years earlier. As they say in the glacier business, ice work if you can get it.

2/05/2010 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

It's at least plausible that Christianity was necessary for the development of modern science. That does not in itself, however, say anything one way or the other about the truth of Christianity. Consider how scaffolding and cranes are necessary for the erection of a building, but once the building is complete they are taken down.

2/05/2010 12:35:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

That is correct. Science exist because of God, not vice versa.

2/05/2010 12:41:00 PM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

Julie:

I'm every bit as skeptical of the leftist "global warming" bandwagon as anyone.

Sometimes though we forget that there are legitimate scientific questions about if and how we do actually affect the climate. If definitive evidence were discovered tomorrow by a trustworthy source (i.e., someone not remotely "progressive") then I would not let the fact that the Left exploits and lies about climate science cloud my reaction to the real deal.

Now, this of course is likely to be a blip of some sort, however I find it mildly interesting that Roy Spencer (a truly reliable climatologist who has rejected the leftist shenanigans from day one) has observed that January 2010 is the hottest since satellite records began.

If we could somehow keep the progressives out of the picture, science would progress so much faster. As GB said, the Left hates science (and the true Christian loves it).

2/05/2010 01:17:00 PM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

Dave,

God is not the "scaffolding" which supports the building. God is both the ground and gravity itself. These are necessary for a building and are of course taken for granted by the builders.

2/05/2010 01:24:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Sometimes though we forget that there are legitimate scientific questions about if and how we do actually affect the climate.

But there's the rub: first, scientists in general need to admit that there is so much that is completely unknown, and also that the climate is affected by any number of variables that are both vaster by orders of magnitude than man-made effects (for instance, the sun and volcanic activity) and completely beyond the ability of man to control. Additionally, the notion that "climate change" of any kind is bad is, quite frankly, incredibly stupid and unworthy of any individual capable of giving the subject more than a moment's thought. I'll take a warming trend over an ice age any century, but that's just because I like it warm. What I really prefer is a climate that changes. That's because stasis = death, whether we're speaking of cells, living bodies or planetary weather systems. Don't trust anyone who tells you otherwise. Is it important to come to a better understanding of weather and how it works? Absolutely. But panicking because things change should not be part of that understanding. Like anything worth knowing, it should be approached with dispassionate curiosity and a desire to grasp the truth, whether the findings are to our liking or not.

With that in mind, the satellite data is interesting, but also exceedingly incomplete and still not cause for panic (and for clarity's sake, I know you're not panicking, NB. But there are plenty of people heavily invested in their belief of AGW who will seize that evidence as proof that they're right and we're all gonna burn). Without being able to see data points for a vast variety of locations on the globe it's like listing average incomes for the entire world since 1970. You can see that things are happening, but what they mean if that's all there is to work with is anyone's guess.

Now, if you want to speak about being good stewards of the land, I'm all too happy to listen. But from what I've seen, the best way to achieve general good stewardship is to improve everyone's standard of living, in both horizontal and vertical senses. And again, dispassionate moderation is key.

2/05/2010 01:49:00 PM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

julie:

You and I are in complete agreement about the travesty of the AGW "movement".

One of the things that truly pains me about this whole episode is the damage to science itself.

We just got our "extra" ultrasound because at 36 years old L. is classed as "old" when it comes to pregnancies. For me it was yet another sigh of relief (and heartfelt prayers of thanks) that everything was green lighted across the board. Baby is a girl, and she is 80 percentile size-wise (2.5 lb now).

2/05/2010 02:46:00 PM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

julie:

To clarify further what I meant re legitimate climate science, while I am totally against the leftist factor in this thing, I never want to become like them, except in the opposite direction. Most leftists will not accept counter-evidence for global warming no matter how solid. Although it is exceedingly unlikely, in principle if some bona fide scientific breakthrough emerged tomorrow essentially proving that AGW was real and dangerous, then I would not hang on to my anti-AGW "dogma" the way the leftists have done despite the crushing blows to the IPCC et al in recent months.

2/05/2010 02:52:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

I'm with you on that one. To go back a point, though, you're half right: a tremendous amount of damage has been done. But. Not so much to science, as to the credibility of those who claim the title of scientist. Quite simply, too many people saw them as infallible and somehow superhuman, including many of the scientists themselves. Now that their all-too-humanness has been exposed, many people will distrust them as much as they trusted them before.

For a while, I think science may even benefit as scientists struggle to prove themselves again, meaning that (hopefully) they will be more rigorous in sticking to truth and backing it up with lots of evidence. Some will probably even go too far in that direction, mistaking quantity of information for quality. But, human nature being what it is, eventually they'll get cocky again. And of course, others will never learn.

For instance, the next disaster is already upon us. The question is, will common sense rule the day or will this be just another excuse to institute draconian control measures of dubious benefit whose real fruit will be to line the pockets of "earnest" researchers?

Yeah, that's rhetorical. If those figures are remotely accurate, the common sense approach would be to see what America is doing right, improve on that, and get everyone else up to speed. Instead, count on America being global enemy #1, with massive changes demanded to drag us down to speed with everyone else.

I'd love to be pleasantly surprised, though.

2/05/2010 03:20:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The left wing assault on science never ends: second hand smoke, alar in apples, global cooling, global warming, bilingual education, keynesian economics, DDT, genes cause homosexuality, no differences between boys and girls, embryo stem cells, rent control, anti-nuclear power... And those are just off the top of my head...

2/05/2010 03:23:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

I try not to keep too much of that near my head at any given time; leads to headaches...

As far as weather catastrophes go, I was thinking of acid rain and the ozone layer, the two big ones constantly pounded into our brains while I was in school.

2/05/2010 03:36:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Oh, yeah - and deforestation. Because trees never ever grow back. Especially not in the rainforest.

2/05/2010 03:37:00 PM  
Blogger grant said...

What is the proper aim of life?

2/05/2010 03:45:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

To align oneself with the Absolute by knowing what is true, doing what is virtuous, loving what is beautiful, and being what is real.

2/05/2010 03:51:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

Amen to that!

2/05/2010 04:10:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I like this one. I'll have to think about it.

2/05/2010 06:37:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

To bulid a house you need to know what a house is for.
Same with science. Most importantly with man.

2/05/2010 08:51:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"Jaki points out how common it is for even -- or again, perhaps especially! -- the man of genius to "be blinded by the logic of his initial presuppositions." Get those presuppositions wrong, and everything you build upon those assumptions will be wrong, regardless of your intellectual candlepower."

Got that right. Hippocrates was a man of genius began medicine as being reliant on observations of facts, inferring causes and experimenting with cures (and as such might have a claim to being the first actual Science, as it did have an actual goal of life and health... but separate from ideas of creation and purpose... went little further), but his initial presuppositions assumed illness was caused by an imbalance of the humours... and that was a fundamental error that drove doctors and medicine for thousands of years... and it's patients into the grave.

Paracelsus (you gotta look at his real name) was a man of genius, he rejected using magic in medicine, pioneered the use of chemicals and minerals, created laudanum... but the four humours still drove medicine with the idea that they had to be cleansed by things like purging and bloodletting.

Even after Harvey described the circulatory system, those initial presuppositions drove the development of medicine because of the intelligence and genius of it's practitioners.

And for NB's and Julie's comments about global warming... we are at best at the point of, say, Harvey's discovery of the circulatory system... but we haven't even begun to discover things like the composition of blood, let alone electrolytes, etc. Any attempts to act on our current 'knowledge' of how climate and weather operate, will doubtlessly have a similar effect as those well meaning, highly intelligent, doctors who tried to help George Washington to recover from his illness, bleeding him and giving him 'medicine' which actually put him in the grave.

We of course need to pay attention, observe, try not to be stupid... but to think that we can 'fix' anything... takes the concept of Hubris to a whole new level.

We just ain't there yet, and we need to have the wit to recognize it... but that'll take regaining the philosophical attitude that we can actually know something about reality, which for all it's current claims, modern Science, rooted in Hume's notions, does not believe, and so their ideas start at the top... and cherry pick what 'evidence' it can find that will fit into a facade of support for it - not as scaffolding, but as theatrical sets.

Bogus from the get go (Hey NB and other techno-coons, ever come across an extensive application designed by some IT genius who fundamentally misunderstood a core business rule (probably never checked it with the actual users, rather than just their mgr's) and built that error into a root class which everything else in the application inherits from? And then you have to come in and try to 'fix' it? Oh My!).

Until we again discover reality, and it's metaphysical roots and Wholeness... fragmentation is all that will follow.

2/06/2010 08:41:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"This is why, ultimately, a science that denies either the vertical or the horizontal breaks down into metaphysical incoherence."

Bingo. And which is why this,

"To align oneself with the Absolute by knowing what is true, doing what is virtuous, loving what is beautiful, and being what is real."

is so whOlly dead on true.

2/06/2010 08:50:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"If you really know what knowledge is, you know that it could only be anchored in the permanent, the absolute, and the eternal. Otherwise it is opinion, precisely, in a world where only opinion is possible. And to have "faith in opinion" makes no sense at all."

Wham. The leftist probably doesn't even realize they've been struck when reading that... just wonders where the sudden dizziness and all the stars came from.

"A second principle is of the utmost importance, and this is the very idea of a universe, for anyone who says "universe" says "God." No one has ever seen this thing called "universe," and no one ever will. Rather, it is the assumption of an internally related "totality of contingent but rationally coherent beings.""

If you grew up within a sphere, if paying attention, you'd gno that it was round and surrounded you... but you'd have no way of knowing whether it more resembled a ping-pong or basketball... let alone anything about the game being played. Doesn't seem to stop folks from defining some whacky rules for dribbling or the impossibility of there being any outside containing their inside, or even of all of the curved surfaces ever making up one sphere though.

"With me, the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there were any convictions in such a mind?"

There's an inner view into what becomes of the mind of a man who has traded all of his knowledge for opinion... who has transformed all of his knowledge, and even the possibility of knowledge, into opinion. Skeptics are haunted by the ghost of what once lived, and which they murdered ('Out, damned spot! out, I say! One; two: why, then, ’tis time to do ’t. Hell is murky! Fie, my lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account? Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?'), within themselves.

2/06/2010 09:17:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

NB said "For me it was yet another sigh of relief (and heartfelt prayers of thanks) that everything was green lighted across the board. Baby is a girl, and she is 80 percentile size-wise (2.5 lb now)"

Hey NB, coongrats to you and your 'old lady' (sheesh), for making some real progress!

2/06/2010 09:21:00 AM  

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