Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Problem with Solutions and the unKnown God of the Godless

Atheism is not a philosophy. It is not even a view of the world. It is simply an admission of the obvious…. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs. --Sam Harris

Science is and must be exciting, since it relies on largely unspecifiable clues which can be sensed, mobilized and integrated only by a passionate response to their hidden meaning.... This is the unaccountable element which enters into science at its source and vitally participates throughout, even in its final result. In science this element has been called intuition. --Michael Polanyi

Continuing our little raiding party on the wild godhead, Schuon writes that on the natural plane -- i.e., the horizontal world of empirical reality -- it is sufficient "to have at one's disposal the necessary data and then to reason correctly."

As it so happens, the same rules apply to the suprasensible world, with one important difference, "that the object of thought then requires the intervention of intellection, which is an inner illumination" (emphasis mine). However, the difference is not really as stark as one might suppose, for as Schuon adds, "if natural things may require a certain intuition independent of reasoning as such, then supernatural things will a fortiori require intuition of a superior order, since they do not fall within the reach of the senses."

Polanyi most adequately expresses this idea of "lower intuition," so to speak, being critical to the evolution of scientific understanding, and therefore progress into the great unKnown. It's not so much that the "intuition" is lower, only that science applies -- and then arbitrarily limits -- it to a lower order of reality, i.e., the natural/horizontal world. But to point out that the material world cannot be understood in the absence of intuition is to affirm the obvious principle that the world is not material (or that matter is not ultimate).

Theists often argue that most of the world's greatest scientists have been religious, and most serious philosophers of science now understand that science as we know it could only have arisen in Christendom (Whitehead was one of the first to notice, in his Science and the Modern World).

In any event, science cannot operate without certain functions that most people would regard as spiritual or quasi-religious, certainly not "mechanical" or empirical. Even to digest the most alimentary fact, "reason requires data in order to function, otherwise it operates in the void." Therefore, something transcending reason must supply the material on which it operates, or else you are truly trapped in a closed universe from which there is no escape, not even into knowledge -- including the knowledge that you are trapped.

In a way, this mirrors the philosophical problem of the ontological status of mathematics. That is, the most perfect mathematical account of the cosmos will never account for three things, 1) the mysterious existence of invariant mathematical operations that map the inner workings of the cosmos, 2) the "substance" to which the mathematical equations apply (in other words, no abstract mathematical equation can create the concrete reality on which it operates, only provide a description of it), and 3) the existence of mathematical subjects and the mysterious reciprocity between (and inner unity of) the objective world, the mathematical world, and the subjective world.

In reality -- which is where we want to be (and can only be, since it is Being) -- the data required by reason can only come from four sources, 1) the world, which is objective, 2) experience, which is obviously subjective, 3) revelation, which is, as Schuon explains, objective, since it enters from outside the world-system, and 4) intellection, "which is subjective since it is produced within ourselves" (Schuon).

Four sources of knowledge: exterior world, interior experience, exterior revelation, and interior intellection.

But it is the work of a moment to see that each of these implies and even "contains" its complementary opposite.

For example, the fact that we may comprehend the "inner workings" of the exterior world indeed suggests that it has an interior, as Whitehead immediately grasped almost a century ago, based upon the (then) new findings of quantum physics.

Likewise, the fact that we may objectively understand reality must mean that there is something of the unwavering object inside the human subject. Of the animals, only man is capable of objectivity, detachment, and disinterested consideration.

And revelation, save for the most fundamaliteralist (who may be a theist or atheist, it doesn't matter) is like a veritable interior cathedral that ultimately discloses the mind of the Creator (not completely, of course, any more than any text could exhaust the mind of its author).

Reason and Experience: both are far more mysterious than the weak and secularized mind can appreciate (and it is because of its all-too-human weakness that it is so easily secularized).

In an essay entitled The Unaccountable Element in Science, Polanyi explains how it is not possible in the practice of science to replace unspecifiable acts of personal judgment -- AKA, intuition -- with the operation of explicit reasoning, as if our minds operate like machines. This applies not only to scientific discovery, but to "the very holding of scientific knowledge."

Based upon his own extensive experience as a working scientist, he knew that "into all acts of judgment there enters, and must enter, a personal decision which cannot be accounted for by any rules." In other words, "no system of rules can prescribe the procedure by which the rules themselves are to be applied." This is particularly obvious in my own racket of psychology. You cannot unambiguously convey to another person the "rules" for apprehending the unconscious mind. Rather, this ability can only be gained through experience, even though it is still "rule bound."

To bring it down to a more mundane (or sophisticated, depending on your point of view) level, when Sidney Crosby and I watch a hockey game (today happens to be opening day), we "see" entirely different realities. What may look like mere noise to me, will constitute a field of extremely significant facts to him. And what looks important to me, may be just noise to him -- a sort of diversion that obscures the real action.

So right away, we can see that one of the indispensable skills of the scientist -- or, shall we say, the expert in any field, from theology to hockey -- is to distinguish between noise and information. The expert is able to convert what is foreground to the untrained eye into background, so as to attend to hidden clues that only the expert can intuit -- which is to say, appreciate as clues. In psychoanalysis it is referred to as "listening with the third ear," while in trolling it is called "listening with the middle finger." But every discipline or field of study must have something similar, whether it is quantum physics, wine tasting, or biblical exegesis:

"This gift of seeing things where others see nothing is indeed the mark of the scientific genius." Atheistic flatlanders such as Sam Harris see simplistic answers to the world enigma everywhere. Indeed, this is one of the reasons why the liberal mind sees a simple solution for every complex problem and a complex solution for every simple problem. In short, they lack depth and therefore wisdom. And when they do try to be wise, they replace intuitive wisdom with a kind of inappropriately mechanical thinking that is simultaneously linear and convoluted (as in the healthcare monstrosity).

In contrast, what the subgenius or even mere genius sees is a problem where others don't: "All research starts by a process of collecting clues that intrigue the enquiring mind.... The knowledge of a true problem is indeed a paradigm of all knowing. For knowing is always a tension alerted by largely unspecifiable clues and directed by them towards a focus at which we sense the presence of a thing -- a thing that, like a problem, embodies the clues on which we rely for attending to it" (Polanyi).

So don't give me this "God is just an intuition" business. For reality itself is nothing but an intuition. And atheism is indeed "nothing more than the [silly] noises [merely] reasonable people make in the presence of [their own] unjustified [ir]religious beliefs."

Or, to put it another way, God is not the solution. He is the problem. But only if you can give up your childishly simplistic solutions and are sophisticated enough to intuit the clues within the noise of the world. In short, to see God, you must quiet the noise -- especially in your fat head -- and get a clue. Otherwise you'll be stuck down in the paradorksical realm where truth lies -- or where "the answer is the disease that kills curiosity."

Why, on what lines will you look, Socrates, for a thing of whose nature you know nothing at all? Pray, what sort of thing, amongst those you know not, will you treat us to as the object of your search? Or even supposing, at the best, that you hit upon it, how will you know it is the thing you did not know? --Plato, Meno

Now -- if you haven't got an answer
Then you haven't got a question
And if you never had a question
Then you'd never have a problem
But if you never had a problem
Well, everyone would be happy
But if everyone was happy
There'd never be a love song
--Harry Nilsson, Joy

15 Comments:

Blogger Grant Maher said...

Of the four types of data, the one I most desire is fresh exterior revelation.

Of the other three I have adequate stockpiles.

Previously compiled external revelation I do not need either.

New exterior revelation is what is needed.

Have you any?

The Sam Harris quote with which you start you post is stark evidence of what happens when you do not have, or discount, revelation.

The quote has a sort of fascinating truth to it which makes it kind of scary.

God is nebulous, he is hidden, must be teased out, and that is anxiety provoking. Hide and seek. Perhaps He's not there?

Horrors. Like losing a parent.

10/07/2010 10:08:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

The quote has a sort of fascinating truth to it which makes it kind of scary.

Truth? Let's look again:

Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.

Oh, my, there are a lot of underlying assumptions in that statement.

Atheism is just as much of a belief system as any other religion. It is a belief in the absoluteness of skepticism, an unjustified and unprovable certitude that all phenomena spring from material causes and nothing more. It is, further, an unreasonable certitude that the atheist possesses a far greater knowledge, experience and understanding than any religious observer; indeed it is the grim assurance that the atheist's personal experience is absolute truth, while the religious man's personal experience is due to some neurological defect.

No truly reasonable person would say, for instance, that since he perhaps cannot see the colors red and green, and will never be able to perceive them, they do not exist and anyone who claims to experience "red" and "green" must be crazy, stupid or a liar; must be operating on unjustified assumptions, with any evidence to the contrary being relegated to coincidence and misunderstanding on the part of others, but never himself. A reasonable person under such circumstances would simply acknowledge that his own lack of perception does not equate to a lack of existence.

10/07/2010 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger Grant Maher said...

Julie:

Your analogy about red and green is well taken. However, red and green have no intrinsic value; no reason to make them up.

God, on the other hand, is such a good thing that one can readily see why God would be fantasized or manufactured. Call it wishful thinking.

There is plenty of motive to be delusional about God, not so much about red and green.

Sooooo, you can't really blame the atheist for thinking that about the religious, in the absense of reliable data. She is wrong, of course, but why does she make this error?

It is because God is not obvious. He is cloaked rather severely. We must presume this is on purpose. If He didn't want any atheists, he would immediately appear before mass crowds, where they could ask each other, "Do you see a resplendent figure, green-robed, with a crown of gold, floating off the ground about two meters?"

Intersubjectivity, Julie, is what is missing. God is not allowing clear verification. So, the blame for atheism must be partially placed on God himself. This is just to be fair to people, who are what they are.

10/07/2010 11:56:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

GM says:

"She is wrong, of course, but why does she make this error?"

Because she is ignorant and/or spiritually stupid.

Alternately, because of religiously mediated mind parasites (e.g. false religion).

10/07/2010 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

Julie says:

"indeed it is the grim assurance that the atheist's personal experience is absolute truth, while the religious man's personal experience is due to some neurological defect."

And this is what makes skepsis catabolic. Kind of like sulfuric acid.

Just eliminate an entire set of data by denying personal experience.

Yeah, there's a good idea if I ever heard one. Where do these people think scientific observation comes from? Personal experience.

The problem is that you can't simply demand spiritual experience like you can demand the microscope view the slide underneath.

Yeah. Because you can't just push a button to make it work, means it can't exist. Solid thinking there.

(And no, I'm not talking about my issue with meditation. That's a horse of a different color.)

10/07/2010 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

"Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs. --Sam Harris"

Nothing more than noises?

Is Sam Harris an atheist? 'cause that's one helluva a sales pitch (eye roll) "Believe my snores!"

Plus, what's this "in the presence of [beliefs]" business. You can be in the presence of a belief? (in his world?) A belief can have a presence? I'd like to see this on paper..
What is the purpose of such language?

10/07/2010 01:23:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

However, red and green have no intrinsic value; no reason to make them up.

God, on the other hand, is such a good thing that one can readily see why God would be fantasized or manufactured. Call it wishful thinking.


While your comment makes sense in a Living cosmos, if atheism were truth it would be completely incorrect. Fantasizing about god would have no intrinsic value.

Pretending for a moment that life just sort of happened for no apparent reason, there would be no use, no evolutionary value, in fantasizing about about much of anything besides your next meal or your next conquest. Religion would be an unhealthy delusion that would in all likelihood quickly result in the natural deselection of its adherents. Just look at the crazy and often very ugly things people do in the name of religion - if there were never any Truth in it, it would never catch on. In a godless cosmos, belief in god would be severely disordered and create a major evolutionary disadvantage.

It is only because there is an Absolute that it can be of any benefit to conceive of it.

Rick - What is the purpose of such language?

The purpose? I think it's the atheist's version of deepakin' the chopra...

10/07/2010 01:30:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Julie,
Yes. The flowery language seems rather "unjustified", to use his term.

10/07/2010 01:51:00 PM  
Blogger Grant Maher said...

Julie, JP, and Rick:

Your comments atheists are all valid. However, we are not on the same page yet about which component of this bundle of problems to approach first, as the basic or linchpin problem behind all of the others.

We do agree that atheism is a problem, right?

Julie calls atheism irrational, JP labels the atheist stupid or spiritually ignorant, and opines you "can't just demand spiritual experiences."

Rick attacks the semantics of the Harris quote, a purely cosmetic detail.

All eyes center on the atheist as somehow deficient, and the cause of the difficulty.

But who, I ask, is running this company? Where is managment?

God is management, and as such sets policies which influence the behavior of all people (his "employees" if you well)in the organization from the top down.

I argue, God is indeed mostly responsible for the atheists problem behavoir. To say He is not is to disrespect Him. What, did you think people were in charge here?

Reasonably, we must accept that God will not give spiritual experience on demand, and in fact many people never have any at all.

OK. Now we blame these unfortunates? These underlings?

We need to stop defending the bosses policies by abusing our brothers. We need to accept that God's paucity of disclosure is policy for a reason, that atheism is a desired and inevitable outcome willed in part by our chief executive.

To see it otherwise is to make a problem out of clearly what is not, and then slur our planetmates accordingly.

Leave the atheists alone. When it is their time to recieve an experience, then they will. But they deserve our compassion and tolerance. Just as the Boss does. Be like the Boss.

10/07/2010 01:56:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

GM says:

"Leave the atheists alone. When it is their time to recieve an experience, then they will."

Only if they are actually looking. Which they aren't. That would involve prayer, at the very least. And that's a no-no for them. Because they are secular fundamentalists.

And I don't feel like going after the athiests. They're more annoying than anything else. And lacking any trancendence, they don't propagate well. They are spiritualy autistic.

I do want to go after the religiously mediated mind parasites. Now they are downright cancerous.

Guns and ammo. That's why I'm here.

10/07/2010 02:07:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"This gift of seeing things where others see nothing is indeed the mark of the scientific genius." Atheistic flatlanders such as Sam Harris see simplistic answers to the world enigma everywhere. Indeed, this is one of the reasons why the liberal mind sees a simple solution for every complex problem and a complex solution for every simple problem. In short, they lack depth and therefore wisdom. And when they do try to be wise, they replace intuitive wisdom with a kind of inappropriately mechanical thinking that is simultaneously linear and convoluted (as in the healthcare monstrosity). "

Bingo.

"...inappropriately mechanical thinking ..."

Nails it.

10/07/2010 02:13:00 PM  
Blogger black hole said...

JP, what are the "religiously mediated mind parasites?"

Are they different from the garden-variety?

10/07/2010 03:19:00 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

GB said "You cannot unambiguously convey to another person the "rules" for apprehending the unconscious mind."

Speaking of which, could you possibly recommend a book, if such exists, about the latest research etc on the unconscious? Something for the mildly educated layperson?

Trying to put together musical expression as a manifestation of the integration of the conscious and unconscious mind.

Not sure where I am going with...hence the need for some suggestions.

Any help would be appreciated.

Thank you,
Jack

10/08/2010 05:31:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Jack:

Very hard to come up with titles that are somewhere between stupid and undigestible for the layman, but I have several in the psychology department of the Raccoon Store. The ones by Almaas are surprisingly good (although his therapeutic application of them is shallow). The ones by Bollas are also quite good, as he's an exceptional writer. The one by Dan Siegel might be the most appropriate to begin with, since he includes the most up-to-date studies in attachment and neuro-developmental psychology. To be honest, I rarely read psychology anymore, and haven't kept up with it for over a decade now. But once you understand some of the deeper and unchanging truths, I don't think that's really necessary.

10/08/2010 06:21:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

Thank you. I will take a look at all of those...

10/08/2010 03:19:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home