The Problem with Solutions and the unKnown God of the Godless
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