Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Progress of Science and the Science of Progress

In a note to a friend, Einstein passionately described how "it is a magnificent feeling to recognize the unity of a complex of phenomena which appear to be things quite apart from the direct visible truth." True enough, but why? And why would he say this in a Valentine's Day card? Did he really think that this was an effective way to impress a girl? No wonder he ended up marrying his cousin.

Yes, the part about Valentine's day was a gag -- unless you're an ideological Darwinian, in which case that exalted feeling described by Einstein really must be just a roundabout way of getting chicks.

In a lecture, -- and this goes to the question of why so many scientists are leftists in spite of themselves -- Einstein advised that if one wanted to truly understand the methods of theoretical physicists, "I advise you to stick closely to one principle: don't listen to their words, fix your attention to their deeds."

The reason for this is that scientists are rarely philosophers, not even of science, let alone realms outside their narrow area of expertise. Ironically, this did not prevent Einstein -- who was obviously a decent man -- from nevertheless repeatedly beclowning himself and becoming the type of dreaded "public intellectual" that Thomas Sowell eviscerates in his new book on the subject. Many scientists almost suffer from a kind of philosophical autism that prevents them from transcending their little specialized rut -- or, from overgeneralizing their rut into a cosmic superhighway. In Einstein's case, many of his political sentiments are those of a child.

A rare exception -- as we have discussed in the past -- was Michael Polanyi, who was a first rate scientist during the first half of his professional life, but then spent the second half reflecting on the scientific enterprise. In The Logic of Liberty, he discusses the fundamental danger that leftist statism poses to science, with its attempt to control us from the top down: "the social orders most important to human well-being are spontaneous orders that result from the interplay of individuals mutually adjusting their actions to the actions of others. Spontaneous orders are the result of human action but not human design."

Again, the irony is that so many academic leftists oppose the spontaneous order of the free market, when they are primary beneficiaries of this same order as applied to science, which is (or should be) an intellectual spontaneous order. Whenever it becomes a top-down "command ideology," as in global warmism or ideological Darwinism, it undercuts the very conditions of a robust scientific enterprise. (And this applies no less to religious fundamentalists who superimpose their own top-down constraints on science; extremes meet, which is why the ID debate is mostly between extremist fundamentalists in each camp.)

Because the truth of the matter is quite straightforward: Polanyi believed that "for there to be a scientific order something more is needed -- a channeling 'device' through which the diverse actions of scientists are coordinated."

Now for the left, this command and control comes from the top, which again fundamentally undercuts the conditions of science. But for Polanyi, this "mechanism," as it were, is "the pursuit of truth. For Polanyi, it is in the belief in the transcendent reality of truth that science has its extraordinary character as an intellectual system" (Warner, from the forward).

So, just as our political liberty devolves into mere license if it is not guided by the telos of virtue, our epistemological liberty descends into a riot of philodoxy if not guided by the telos of transcendent truth.

And who would it be that attacks the very idea of transcendent truth? Yes, that is correct. Which is why attacks on religion are always covert attacks on the transcendent reality of the intellect and the possibility of truth. "Academic freedom" is not a value unless it converges upon truth. If it only converges on Marx, or Alinsky, or Gore, well....

As I have mentioned before, Polanyi draws a sharp distinction between what he calls the free society vs. a merely "open" one. The free society "is dedicated to a distinctive set of beliefs" toward which freedom is aimed. But the open society is just another name for chaos and dis-order with no spontaneous center oriented around truth. Its methods would include things like deconstruction, multiculturalism, moral relativism, etc.

Now, any materialist view of nature, be it Marxism, Darwinism, or scientism, can have no basis in the transcendent realities that make genuine science possible. A subtle transmogrification follows, one that ushers in a kind of monstrous science unhinged from humane civilization: "The rejection of those [transcendent] realities leads to a conception of science as instrumental, and this conception requires that science be used in the service of material ends" (Warner; emphasis mine).

And "In the hands of those who subscribe to the 'virtues' of planned science, the activities of scientists should be directly prescribed by the State. Science as public liberty is thus subverted...." Instead of a spontaneous order, we again have the top-down order of the state -- for example, as reflected in Obama's effort to personally settle the unsettled science of global warming through executive fiat. He wants to put an end to this science, just when it's getting interesting. Which, of course, is the whole point.

For as Warner says, "All movements of thought and practice that attempt to render spontaneous order nugatory -- that are captured by the idea that all social order either is or should be planned -- also threaten public liberty and thus the fabric of a free society."

But what makes the left in general and Obama in particular triply dangerous is the return of the repressed -- the transcendent order which cannot be denied -- in the form of moral passion without moral judgment. This leads to a kind of frenzied earthbound moralism that serves as the justification for, say, a government takeover of healthcare, or of likening those of us who are not worried about global warming to "Holocaust deniers." Again, note the insane moral passion completely severed from the theological virtues that must guide this passion, e.g., prudence and temperance.

Friday, February 12, 2010

On Practicing Your Scales of Being

I hope this isn't getting too dreadfully repetitive. As I mentioned a few posts back, I'm just flipping through this book by Jaki, commenting on whatever arrests my attention. True, none of it is strictly new, but nothing else is either. In a way, virtually everything is just the same old same mold, just new fungus in old bathtubs.

I think the great lesson of Groundhog Day is not that there is a magical way to prevent yourself from living the same day over and over. Rather, the idea is to imbue the day with transcendent meaning, perhaps in the way that a melody confers meaning "from above" on the notes below. After all, there are only twelve notes in the chromatic scale, but an infinite number of melodies that can be created out of them.

And although two melodies can employ the identical notes, one of them can be deep while the other is trite and shallow (just as two scientific theories can rely upon the identical facts to arrive at very different explanations). As we were saying the other day, it's all a matter of soul, which is the dimension and measure of depth in the cosmos. No soul, no depth, irrespective of the discipline.

This is why, by the way, a blues giant -- say, Howlin' Wolf -- can achieve great depth despite the structural simplicity of the music, while a virtuoso can be an artistic mediocrity despite all the training and complexity. Simple is not necessarily simplistic, or every garage band would sound like Creedence Clearwater Revival.

I remember a comment by George Martin, the Beatles' great producer. Someone asked him if he could have written any of the Beatles' tunes. Despite his indispensable contribution to the actualization of their musical vision,

"the answer is definitely no: for one basic reason. I didn't have their simple approach to music.... I think that if Paul, for instance, had learned music 'properly' -- not just the piano, but correct notation for writing and reading music -- it might well have inhibited him.... Once you start being taught things, your mind is channelled in a particular way. Paul didn't have that channelling, so he had freedom, and he could think of things that I would have considered outrageous. I could admire them, but my musical training would have prevented me from thinking of them myself."

Repetition, of course, is the mother of pedagogy, but this is especially true in realms transcending the senses and the (small r) reason (i.e., those pertaining to the "eye of spirit" discussed in yesterday's post). The reason for this is obvious. There is an ascending cosmic force and a descending one. In the metaphysics of Vedanta these are referred to as the gunas of sattva and tamas respectively, but I just call them (↑) and (↓) in order to sheer them of the unnecessary wooly mythological accretions and to sheepishly trancelight them into one's own tradition.

The point is that the descending tendency -- at least for most people, and especially for some -- must be actively countered. Which is why I engage in these verticalisthenic gymgnostics first thing in the morning, in order to sound the tone for the day. The day -- and the secular world in general -- inevitably draws one's consciousness down and out, so most of us need a way to gather consciousness in and up.

And as I've also mentioned before, persistent practice of your Orobic exercises will eventually reach a tipping point, at which one transitions from the terrestrial to the celestial attractor. At that point, it is no longer such a struggle to shun the downward pull of the (so-called) "world" and its terminal moraine of urgent nonsense. (Not to be confused with our slackrament of the Beer O'clock tippling point.)

Schuon discusses the idea of repetition in a useful manner. That is, despite his detailed exposition of the universal Sophia, it "is quite evidently inexhaustible and has no natural limits." Furthermore, "as it is impossible to exhaust all that lends itself to being expressed [think of the notes/melody analogy above], and as repetition in metaphysical matters cannot be a mistake -- it being better to be too clear than not to be clear enough," it is always possible to express new "illustrations and applications" of metacosmic principles that are not themselves subject to change.

So, do I repeat myself? It never feels like it when I'm in the middle of it, because it always feels like a discovery, or a jam session in O.

At any rate, the next two chapters almost require no commentary, as their titles should be sufficient to provoke intellection: One is called Bricks without Mortar, the other Arch without Keystone.

What is the mortar and who is the keystone of reality, Grasshopper?!

Hint: start by reverse imagineering the world!

Now, regarding our evolving I-magination of the cosmos, Jaki has an excellent chapter on the transition from the Newtonian to the quantum-relativistic world of the twentieth century, and once again, it is only Judeo-Christian metaphysics that made it possible. The great physicist Max Planck, for example, was driven by an unshakeable belief in "the objective existence of a rational, wholly harmonious cosmos in which everything was united through a single, ultimate law," and the "unswerving commitment to the notion of an objective, absolute truth embodied in the physical universe" (emphasis mine).

So, how Lo can He go? How about all the way inside-out and upside down, a vidy long descent indeed to the farthest reaches of sorrow and ignorance! --The Wholly Coonifesto

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Sleep of Reason Produces One-Eyed Monsters

Yes, we laugh at the provincialism and naivete of the global warmists and ideological Darwinians, but there will always be temporocentric mediocrities who are "trapped into seeing in the science of the day its ultimate phase of development" (Jaki).

Which is a puzzling trap to be in for a person who supposedly believes in evolution, for if evolution is occurring, there is no reason to believe that our current scientific understanding is anything like what it will be in 100 or 1000 years. Not only does the content of science change, but so too do entire paradigms, i.e., the frameworks within which science perceives and contextualizes its facts.

In contrast, traditional metaphysics does not change. For example, no scientific finding will ever overturn the principle that the world is uniquely intelligible to man's intelligence. For if this principle were not true, the practice of science would be impossible. Likewise, it is only because truth and being converge that we may know the truth of being.

I realize that my own racket of psychology is not a science in the materialistic sense. But that's the whole point. It can never be a science in the way that physics or chemistry are, because the mind is not a material object, precisely.

Yes, there are still many hard scientists who believe that mind is reducible to brain, but what can you say to them except that they need to get out more often? Seriously, the only "cure" for them is a deep experience of the undeniable reality of the soul. But if one is defended against such an experience, it is much less likely to occur. True, with spirit all things are possible, but it helps if one cooperates rather than fights with it.

The traditional view has always been that there are different degrees of reality, and that one cannot apply the same method to study them. One cannot understand the mind in the same way one does the body. To imagine otherwise is to commit a category error so fundamental, that there is no possibility of pulling yourself out of your philosophical death spiral. But I suppose it's not really a death spiral at all, for the truth is, such an earthbound philosophy never really achieves flight.

I guess I first realized this after reading Ken Wilber's Eye to Eye, in which he distinguishes between the physical eye (which knows sensory/empirical reality), the rational eye (which knows math and logic), and the eye of contemplation or intellection (which sees the higher realms of consciousness and deeper truths of being). Each of these is separate and distinct, and not reducible to the other.

It's painfully obvious once you think about it, for how can one possibly understand, say, the square root of negative one in empirical terms? Nor can you use empirical measurements to explain why the tone of Stevie Ray Vaughan's guitar is so perfect. And although the Trinity is a "number," to imagine that it can be understood mathematically is the height of folly.

Regarding my own field, psychology, I've witnessed its evolution (and devolution!) on a first hand basis. One thing you will have noticed is that the higher up one ventures into the great chain of being (i.e., matter, life, mind, spirit), the greater the potential for fragmentation, schism, and competing theories.

Now, I don't happen to believe that this fragmentation is necessary, and that most of it is due to sloppy, undisciplined, and unsystematic thinking (in fact, it's not really "thinking," more like fantasy). But one of the primary reasons contemporary thinking is so sloppy is the pervasive reductionism and materialism that prevent people from ever acquiring the proper skills and methods to explore, map, and colonize the higher realms.

For the essence of science -- at any level of reality -- is the reduction of multiplicity to unity. As such, there is clearly an appropriate kind of reduction, so long as it confines itself to its own domain, and doesn't try to pull all of the other ones down with it. Even if the material realm operated under completely mechanistic principles, that would have no relevance to the manner in which the mind operates. Your Dreamer, for example, couldn't care less about linear causation or Aristotelian logic.

When psychoanalysis was invented by Freud in the 19th century, he tried to make it completely consonant with the naively mechanistic and positivistic scientific paradigm of the day, which is why some of his ideas are absurdly outdated. America had its own version of a mechanistic and "scientific" psychology with the development of behaviorism. Here again you see how otherwise intelligent people can be "trapped into seeing in the science of the day its ultimate phase of development."

In my view, we should begin our philosophizing with those things that will never change, or with the eye of Spirit. Nothing that occurs in science has any relevance to these truths, since they are timeless. And although they have no direct relevance to the practice of science, they certainly have an indirect relevance.

For example, if a scientist insists that Darwinism proves that there is no objective distinction between good and evil, or that beauty is entirely subjective, we know that he is a fool. And there is no reason to try to argue him out of his delusion, any more than one can explain to a blind man why he shouldn't wear brown shoes with a tux. In both cases, the eyes must be open (the eye of flesh in the case of the blind man, the eye of spirit in the case of the blind Darwinian).

There is another absolute prerequisite for the practice of science, and that is freedom. The scientist must be free to put forth hypotheses and arrive at conclusions, and be unhindered by authorities who insist that only certain truths are acceptable. Which has immediate political implications, for it means that the most free societies will have the most robust scientific activity. Which makes it all the more ironic that there are scientists who are passionate men of the left, when the very purpose of the left is to limit freedom at every level, from having to devote four months per year working for the state, to campus speech codes and other constraints on thought and inquiry.

Even worse, there are scientists who deny free will! Again, if a scientist denies free will, there is absolutely no reason to regard him as anything other than a crank, for it is as if he is salting the soil - the very spiritual conditions -- in which science flourishes. There are obvious religious reasons why science only developed in the West, one of which is our metaphysical certitude of the reality of human freedom: Where the Creator is, there is liberty. Conversely, where liberty isn't -- e.g., Iran, the Soviet Union, liberal humanities departments -- those shriveled and desiccated souls have sequestered themselves from the ultimate reality that is their source and destiny.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Reductionism: That's No Way to Treat a Lady!

I guess scientists are finally being forced to abandon the primordial soup theory, but I've never really understood why anyone would accept it to begin with. It was always a little like Steve Martin's technique for becoming a millionaire: first, get a million dollars. Next....

And yet, like its retarded cousin, ideological Darwinism, it was still taught as if it were objectively true. Why? Why can't we just teach children the truth -- that science has no freaking idea how life arose; or, for that matter, what consciousness is, or how such an exquisitely ordered cosmos came into being, or why human beings have so many extravagant abilities that are inexplicable on any Darwinan basis?

In short, why the mania for reductionism? I mean, I understand the appeal, because I understand that human beings are afraid of the dark. We are born into a world which we do not understand, and which we (super)naturally wish to understand. But few things interfere more with understanding than premature closure of the psychic field, or placing arbitrary boundaries on the subjective horizon -- which is why Bion's favorite adage was the answer is the disease that kills curiosity.

It is not possible to repudiate and discredit philosophical reductionism any more than it already has been. After all, how many times can you prove that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts? In point of fact, you have only to prove it once in order to falsify any scientific theory that claims that the whole is nothing but the sum of the parts (I believe it was Alan Watts who called this the philosophy of "nothing buttery"). And yet, we still have these radical secularists, atheistic simpletons, and bonehead materialists who worship at the horizontal church of perpetual reduction.

There is nothing wrong with reductionism per se, specifically, so long as it is simply a part of the scientific method. But if you conflate method and ontology, you, sir, have beclowned yourself. You may call yourself a "philosopher" -- a lover of wisdom! -- but in fact you love wisdom like Andrew Sullivan loves women and Jews. You cannot have real intercourse with Sophia if your philosophy a priori reduces her to an inflatable party doll. (Seen at right, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Johnson --->)

Reductionism "always buys clarity and certitude at the price of mutilating reality, in a sophisticatedly seductive way of course" (Jaki). This is a key point, because if you exclude any reality above matter, then of course you can be certain that nothing but matter exists. Duh!

But that is not a statement about reality, nor is it any way to treat a lady. In fact, it's not even a statement about matter (or mater), for if lifeless matter is pregnant with life, than matter is not what scientists think it is. Indeed, one would think that the capacity to conceive life would be its most shocking property -- at least until one confronts the biggest cosmic surprise of them all, which is that it can also think -- and create, and love, and laugh, and ridicule. Charles Johnson.

Nothing is easier -- and more simplistic -- than reducing quality to quantity by abstracting the former and assigning it a number. But just because you've assigned a number to something doesn't mean it really is a number. You can't be reduced to your social security number (that is, unless Obamacare passes).

Of course there are fields that reveal virtually no qualitative aspects, for example, mathematics. And yet, even that isn't really true at all, for any first rate mathematician will tell you that they are motivated by a sense of mathematical beauty. Where does this beauty come from? Is it really just the sum of the parts? How can that be, when one of the fundamental characteristics of beauty is wholeness (along with harmony and radiance)?

Any hope of explaining life in reductionistic terms was rendered impossible by Gödel. If one takes a broad view of his theorems -- which I do -- the bottom line is that a system can be either complete or consistent, but not both. Or, to be precise, consistency will be purchased at the price of completeness (and vice versa). Thus, as Jaki mentions above, reductionism is ruthlessly consistent, but at what cost in terms of completeness? What must it exclude and even mutilate in order to maintain its consistency and its certitude?

Only everything. That is, only everything that defines us as human and confers meaning and purpose upon our lives.

But real science -- as we have been harping on lately -- steers that middle course between empiricism and idealism, between the extreme below of matter and the extreme above of the nominalist God who makes everything happen directly. Ours is in fact the approach of that father of modern science, Newton, who not only knew how to treat a lady (in this case, mother nature), but

"was driven back again and again by his scientific creativity" to the "explicit conviction about the validity of going mentally from the realm of phenomena to the existence of God. Such a mental process for him was not a hackneyed exercise in syllogisms but an unquenchable urge to secure a consistent basis for intelligibility and being" (Jaki).

Hey, that's no lizard, that's my wife!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Absolutist Philosophy and Totalist Necrophilia

Yesterday I touched on a point that I had intended to expand upon, but -- look, a squirrel! -- got distracted and never fleshed it out.

Sometimes a topic is so large, that I can't just tackle it head on. Rather, it requires repeated approaches from various angles in order to metabolize it. The explanation can't really be linear, because -- to use a visual image -- the object of study is more like a pulsating, centrifugal center with rays extending outward. Trying to describe that center is difficult, because as soon as you latch onto one ray, it shoots you back out toward the periphery. But this is the only way to "think" about it, because to "be" at the center is to no longer think but to repose -- to relux and call it a deity.

Nevertheless, if you ride one of those centrifugal rays outward, they do partake of being, for the same reason that a ray of sunlight on earth is really not distinct from the Sun itself -- it is of the same substance. And, of course, you can always follow one of those rays back to the Sun -- which is why the traditional proofs of God are effective for the mind capable of tracking knowing back up to its source in Being, or (n) to O.

Anyway, I wanted to get into the question of why this debate about Darwinism is so important. I'm not concerned about the science, which will take care of itself. Just in case it's not obvious, I am much more concerned about the cultural, spiritual, and psychopolitical effects of Darwinism-as-religion, i.e., a totalistic explanation of man's origins, being, and destiny. For example, even if some fundamentalist denies the scientific reality of micro-evolution, his body still believes in it, so long as he takes antibiotics. Antibiotics are effective even for literal creationists.

A Raccoon is first and foremost an absolutist. Perhaps we need to come up with a better word, since this one seems to be tainted by certain unwelcome associations, but it is the key to the whole existentialada, i.e., that the Absolute exists and that it is prior to us.

Therefore, no human being has the right to pose as the Absolute, which automatically has certain psycho-political implications -- for example, in the words of our founders, that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable Rights. Under the terms of Darwinism, such a statement is unalloyed nonsense, because there is no "Creator" and no "rights" that are unalienable.

Thus, metaphysical Darwinism has its own kind of absolutism, but I think a better word is "totalism," which has the intended association with "totalitarian." It is a total explanation that is anything but liberating, if for no other reason than it renders spiritual freedom an illusion. Or, you could say that it can only be total at the cost of excising what is most dear to us -- eg., freedom, truth, unity, etc.

Now, what would be the difference between absolutism and totalitarianism? I don't think I want to get too deeply into that question because it's just too vast a subject, but it is beautifully addressed in one of my perennial raccoomendations, The Book of Absolutes: A Critique of Relativism and a Defence of Universals, by William Gairdner.

A key point is that the Absolute does not deny our freedom, but is its first and last guarantor. Once you understand this, then you should immediately understand the danger of the left, which again replaces the Absolute with own totalistic and coercive orthodoxy. As indicated in the book's description,

"Current dogma holds that all cultures and moral values are conditional, nothing human is innate.... Challenging this position, Gairdner argues that relativism is not only logically and morally self-defeating but that progress in scientific and intellectual disciplines has actually strengthened the case for absolutes, universals, and constants of nature and human nature.

"Gairdner refutes the popular belief in cultural relativism by showing that there are hundreds of well-established cross-cultural 'human universals'. He then discusses the many universals found in physics -- as well as Einstein's personal regret at how his work was misinterpreted by the public's eagerness to promote relativism. Gairdner also gives a lively account of the many universals of human biology, including the controversial topic of universal gender differences or 'brain sex'.

"He then looks at universal concepts of both natural and international law, and ends by discussing language theory. He shows how philosophers from Nietzsche to Derrida have misused linguistic concepts to justify their relativism, even though a sustained and successful effort by serious scientists and philosophers of language has revealed myriad universals of human language, ranging from language acquisition, to word-order, to 'Universal Grammar'."

So, one of the "paradoxes" (not really, since it makes perfect sense) is that liberal relativism leads to the false absolute that in turn paves the way for totalitarianism in all its guises (eg., political correctness, speech codes, government regulation of "corporate" speech, the monomania of multiculturalism, cultural marxism masquerading as "diversity," the harsh intolerance of the tolerance mongers, etc.).

Here is one thing that puzzles me about our trolls. Let's stipulate that I am indeed a dangerous, deluded, and obnoxious assoul. That being the case, why on earth would you want there to be any possibility of someone like me micromanaging your life? Because it is for the very reason that I regard you as a dangerous, deluded and obnoxious assoul that I don't want you or anyone else micromanaging mine. Is that really so outrageous? After all, this is certainly what America's founders believed. Why don't we arrange a political system so that, say, neither a Keith Olbermann nor a Sarah Palin could have too much power over us?

As Dennis Prager often discusses, the history of the left is the history of the totalitarian temptation. And the reason the temptation exists is because the centralized power of the state is there for the taking, and gravity takes care of the rest. Again, the American political system was designed in order to prevent this from happening. It did not anticipate an Andrew Jackson, FDR, or Obama, who all diminished individual liberty at the price of increased personal power.

Another problem with philosophical Darwinism is that it is not really about life -- which it does not even pretend to understand -- but Death. Death becomes the absolute, the great shaper of mankind. Again, natural selection doesn't produce anything "positive" per se; rather, it only produces random copying errors, and Death selects the lucky winners. Everything, no matter how sublime, is to be explained in this manner: error + death.

Love? That only exists because humans who didn't have the illusion of love died off and didn't pass their genes on to the next generation. But the same literally applies to any human capability or accomplishment, which in the end is just a tribute to the grim efficiency of Death. One doesn't thank God or anyone else for one's life. Rather, it is only thanks to the ruthless economy of Death.

For the absolutist, it is the other way around. We locate Mind, Life, and Spirit at the top. Furthermore, the only reason evolution in our view is possible is because of the prior involution of these things, so that, for example, mathematics is discovery, truth is recollection, and spirituality is a recovery of Self. We do not believe that matter can possibly be the absolute, for if it is, then so too are death, falsehood, illusion, disintegration, confusion, instinct, will, and chaos.

For the absolutist, each of these things -- death, falsehood, illusion, et al -- is no less a reality. However, in our system they take on a relative reality, in the same manner that catabolism and anabolism are complementary sides of metabolism. Yes, bodily tissue breaks down in order for life to continue, but that is not the purpose of your life. Nor is stupidity the purpose of intelligence, at least outside liberal academia.

Monday, February 08, 2010

The Fractured Fairy Tale of Darwinian Evolution

Realism, n., an accurate representation of human nature, as seen by toads. --Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

Or blind lizards, as the case may be.

As we have discussed in the past, the irony is that evolution is strictly impossible if one accepts the materialistic presuppositions of metaphysical Darwinism.

Again, the idea of evolution was around long prior to Darwin, and in fact, in the first five editions of The Origin of Species, he didn't even mention the word. Rather, he only slipped it into the sixth edition in 1872, apparently hoping that no one would notice that he was 1) redefining the plain definition of a word, in order to 2) take his theory well beyond science, and into the world of religion and metaphysics.

It is this novel fantasy of evolution-without-divinity that is so insane and destructive, not the mere science of natural selection, with which we have no problems at all. Only after Darwin was the word "evolution" widely imposed on his theory, a word that had previously referred to the idea that things unfold or "evolve" toward their prototype, like acorn to oak tree.

Thus, in point of fact, "Nothing is less like Darwin's doctrine than the idea that new species should already be present in their ancestors, from which they only have to evolve in the course of time."

As Gilson points out, when Darwin inserted the word "evolution" into later editions of the Origin, he was purloining a term "already in use to signify something completely different from what he himself had in mind," i.e., "the inverse movement of in-volution, the un-rolling of the in-rolled, the de-velopment of the en-veloped."

One might say that Darwin's thinking devolved (in terms of philosophical sophistication) as he came to be increasingly dominated by his theory: "The more one comes to know Darwin, the more one is persuaded that, from the day when he conceived the idea of transformation of species, he felt charged with the scientific mission of revealing to men a truth which was in his eyes indubitable; but this scientific truth was at the same time the reverse of a religious certitude which he himself had lost. The antireligious always has a bit of the religious in it" (Gilson).

The reason for the latter well-documented phenomenon is that the person who has lost his faith in reality has an inner need to "proselytize" and convert others in order to not feel alone in his cosmic meaninglessness. This is the work of mind parasites. You might say that the kryptonite of mind parasites is that they must always induct others into their fantasy in order to go on being. They have no energy of their own, but must be "fed" by certain types of relationships with projected parts of the psyche -- even if the relationships are frustrating, self-defeating, and growth-stifling.

This is the only way to account for the obnoxious proselytizing energy of the materialists, for if the psyche is just an illusory byproduct of matter, why should they of all animals care what others think? In contrast, if truth exists, human beings naturally wish to radiate it to others, in imitation of their Creator. That's my position: I love truth, and just get a joy out of sharing it with other folks. But I fail to see how materialism can account for truth, love, and a passionate love of truth that has no immediate relevance whatsoever to genetic survival.

As Cardinal Schönborn points out in his foreword to Gilson's From Aristotle to Darwin & Back Again: A Journey in Final Causality, Species and Evolution, "reductionist accounts of evolution" are only "the visible parts of an intellectual iceberg," so that "the issues that lie under the surface of the current evolution debate are ultimately far larger and more important."

That is, in case it's not obvious, our contemporary zeitgeistberg goes much deeper than the often unedifying debates about intelligent design, or creationism, or separation of church and state, for ultimately it has to do with the preservation of man qua man, and the very possibility of truly human civilization.

Clearly, an unprecedented amount of change has occurred over the past three or four centuries. But change is obviously not synonymous with progress. And it is an absurdity to suggest that conservatives are somehow "opposed" to change.

Rather, what the conservative specifically wishes to conserve are the tried-and-true mechanisms that lead to progressive change, not just change for the sake of changing. Every conservative should know that a complex and dynamic system only preserves itself through change, and only changes through preservation (think of your body).

Something unique and unprecedented in human history occurred with the American founding. Somehow, Americans stumbled upon the very means to unleash human potential through liberty, individual initiative, free markets and representative democracy, to become the unrivaled economic, scientific, and political leader of the world. How did they do it?

I just recently read What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848, and there is an instructive passage about the American intellectual consensus of the early 19th century, at the very time we began our ass-kicking world-historical ascent (and bear in mind that this is a secular scholar with no religious agenda whatsoever):

"As this chapter is written in the early twenty-first century, the hypothesis that the universe reflects intelligent design has provoked a bitter debate in the United States. How very different was the intellectual world of the early nineteenth century! Then, virtually everyone believed in intelligent design. Faith in the rational design of the universe underlay the worldview of the Enlightenment, shared by Isaac Newton, John Locke, and the American Founding Fathers....

"The commonly used expression 'the book of nature' referred to the universal practice of viewing nature as a revelation of God's power and wisdom. Christians were fond of saying that they accepted two divine revelations: the Bible and the book of nature." (Raccoons, of course, accept three, including the mirrorcle of the human subject.)

Howe goes on to say that the belief that nature revealed the divine power and wisdom "constituted one of the principal motivations for scientific activity in the early republic, along with national pride, the hope for useful applications, and the joy of science itself.... The perceived harmony between religion and science worked to their mutual advantage with the public" (emphasis mine).

So, the very roots of America's scientific dominance reflect precisely what we were saying yesterday about the balance and harmony of idealism/rationalism and empiricism, and the relevance of that balance to the progress of science. Do I wish to conserve this harmony? Indeed I do -- not in order to prevent the further evolution of human potential, but to make it possible! Perhaps the radical materialists have failed to notice that it has only been with the ascent of secular fundamentalism and the stranglehold of liberals on our public schools that America's educational decline commenced.

To be continued....

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Speed-Blogging at the Edge of the Subjective Horizon: We Are All Christians Now

An experiment in speed-blogging: 30 minutes of blogging in 30 minutes....

As Jaki points out, science can only be successful and self-sustaining if it steers a middle course between empiricism and idealism. If it hews too closely to the former, one ultimately ends up with mere sensationalism, with no way to collate the sensations. For if the world is empirical, one of the things it excludes is thought, which is not only not empirical, but cannot be explained with recourse to any purely empirical approach -- as if brain and mind are the same thing.

As we've discussed on a number of occasions, Christianity bridges empiricism and idealism in a most audacious manner, by positing the God-man who is Word-made-flesh; but one could just as easily say idea-made-empirical, universal-made-particular, or center-made-periphery.

This is our first principle, and we all know -- thank Godel -- that first principles cannot be proved within their own system, so to say that God became man should be no more outrageous a metaphysical presupposition than anyone else's first principle -- the difference, of course, being that ours works.

For example, what is the first principle of ideological Darwinism? And let's be completely fair here. What is the unprovable principle upon which their whole pseudo-intellectual edifice is built? It is that all of the biological diversity we see, all of it, both external/objective and interior/subjective -- the latter of which reduces to the former -- is a strictly random process based on genetic copying errors. Could it be true? I suppose it could be, but we could never know it, because it would mean that epistemology -- what we can know -- reduces to zoology -- what kind of animal we are.

For this reason, I don't think ideological Darwinism even qualifies as true science as outlined above -- that is, steering a middle course between empiricism and idealism. And ironically, the problem is not that it errs on the side of empiricism, for there is very little empirical support for Darwinism -- e.g., millions of transitional species in the fossil record, or any evidence whatsoever of one species transforming into another. There just isn't.

The problem is that it is too idealistic a theory, too deductive. It does not end, but begins with the idea of natural selection, and on that basis becomes unfalsifiable because it is their first principle. It can't be proved any more than you can empirically prove that man is in the image of the Creator.

However, you can determine whether Darwinism "works," which it does, to a certain extent, especially in terms of micro-evolution, which is beyond doubt. And I don't see any reason to doubt that it provides a piece of the evolutionary puzzle, but to insist that it is the only piece? Madness. And literally so, for to insist that man is an animal like any other is to insist that there are no human norms, which is madness defined.

Let's suppose that Darwin really did have a brilliant new insight that solved the enigma of man once and for all. But as Jaki points out, "there is no such thing as a logical method of having a new thought." In other words, if we honor Darwin, there is no reason to do so, since humans are just logic machines, and if it hadn't been Darwin, it would have been some other machine who cracked the case.

For just as in evolution itself, there are no "leaps" in logic. Rather, it's all very linear and orderly. There is no ontological gap between an ape and a man, but a radical continuity. So for an intellectually consistent Darwinist, the discovery of natural selection can be of no more value than the ape's discovery that if you wash the dirt off yams in the ocean, they taste better. There is not, and cannot be, any "higher" or "lower." We can have our preferences, but that's all they are.

As Jaki points out, "discovery is the soul of science." But can a merely rational man truly make a discovery? One thing you have to constantly remind patients -- especially the educated ones -- is that "buddy, that's not thinking, that's just logic." Anyone who convinces themselves that thinking may be reduced to logic is -- well, for one thing, they'd be extremely tedious to be around. But it also creates a kind of radical leveling, as if there is no difference between an Einstein and a typical worker bee scientist.

It seems that Darwinists and other crude materialists never stop to ask themselves the question, "What must the cosmos be like in order for me to know anything?" For Jaki emphasizes the point that all science is ultimately cosmology.

In other words, to make any scientific statement is to make a statement about the cosmos in its totality. For the vast majority of scientists, they never bother to explicate their cosmology, so it's all unarticulated and in the background. But if they were to articulate it, they'd soon discover that it is unworkable and self-refuting at every turn.

However, I again insist that there is nothing self-refuting or unworkable in the principle that, thanks to the Christ-principle, or Word-made-flesh, human beings are potentially the link between the One and the many, Spirit and matter, God and cosmos, universal and particular.

Just because science cannot account for a truth hardly means that the truth is not true. But I say that scientists, without being aware of it, actually do unconsciously hold all of the Christian principles alluded to above. The problem is that, in their hubris, they imagine that a cosmic exception has been made for them, and that they alone can have a godlike understanding that transcends their own limiting paradigm.

Thus, Darwin did not believe that his ability to know truth was limited by natural selection, any more than Freud thought that his ability to understand unconscious motivation was was limited by his own unconscious motivation. So we end up with Darwin and his spiritually and metaphysically retarded heirs, who devote (an interesting word) their lives to the purpose of proving that the world is purposeless, freely insisting that free will is an illusion, and absurdly affirming that only their opinion has the unique privilege of transcending their own paradigm and therefore being true.

And no apologies for the word "retarded." Look it up. It is meant literally, not as an insult.