Friday, March 07, 2014

Between Cynicism and Faith

Because science is science, it can never be settled. Nor can it have any absolute content per se. That is, it is a relentlessly skeptical enterprise that progresses by doubting what we think we know.

For example, if no one had doubted the commonsense geocentric model of the solar system, we wouldn't have the counterintuitive heliocentric. If no one had questioned the crystal clear Newtonian paradigm, we wouldn't have the transparently obscure quantum-relativistic.

So science has content, but it is by definition preliminary and tentative because falsifiable, at least in principle. No matter how many white swans we see, there is always the possibility of a black one, especially if the DOJ gets involved.

However, human beings cannot live in a world of pure doubt. Or, adequation to the world cannot consist of unalloyed doubt, or it would imply that ultimate reality is the purely dubious. But in reality, there must be a reality prior to our doubt. Analogously, an optical illusion is not a hallucination.

A good working definition of scientism is the metaphysic that transforms science from concrete method to abstract doctrine.

AGW would be a quintessential example, because its advocates insist that it is somehow unscientific to doubt the theory, when doubt is precisely what makes the scientific world go 'round. So, who's being unscientific?

Although natural selection has its place in the scheme of things, I seriously doubt that it can account for everything unique and important about man. To believe that it can is another instance of scientism. Likewise the belief that mind may be reduced to brain, or that homosexuality is "genetic."

Chagnon came up against precisely this perversion of science when he publicized his findings. As far as Big Anthropology was concerned, the science was settled: human behavior is a consequence of culture, not genes, and human conflict is caused by scarcity of material resources -- i.e., primitive Income Inequality -- not anything intrinsic to man.

You will no doubt have noticed that this perversion of thought may begin in the mountain rivers of academia, but it doesn't stay there. Rather, it flows into the creeks and sewers of the left, all the way down into the stagnant, disease-ridden ponds of journalism and public education.

Thus, for example, the left cannot comprehend Islamic terrorism, because they think it must be caused by something we did to, or took from, the terrorists. Palestinian culture can't just be evil. Rather, they just want their dirt, or rocks, or olive trees back. Likewise, Putin is not a nasty SOB. He just wants stuff. If we give it to him, he'll go away quietly.

Learning a discipline begins with an implicit internalization of what is considered important, what is settled, and what must not be questioned.

For example, in the last 40 years, the origins of homosexuality has gone from a fascinating question to an insistent and belligerent answer, with nothing in between. It is as if all the previous research just doesn't exist, because the questions can no longer be asked.

One of my favorite aphorisms of Don Colacho is I have seen philosophy gradually fade away between my skepticism and my faith. Religiosity is not typically seen to be an exercise in skepticism, but it certainly is for me.

I suppose one normally thinks of faith and skepticism as being at polar extremes, but I see them as complementary, almost like catabolism (tearing down) and anabolism (building up).

Now science, as alluded to above, is relentlessly catabolic. It is nearly omnipotent in its ability to tear down even our most precious illusions. Love? Just a trick of the nature to induce us to reproduce. Children? Just the survival of our genes. Religion? Just fear of the unknown (or scientifically pre-known).

The problem with science is not the catabolism, but rather, the absence of proper anabolism. Because it cannot legitimately accomplish the latter (in any final way), scientism simply elevates its own substitutes to the teleological ends of science, where everything is settled and the idolatrous soul finds its rest.

Yes, but I am a cynical lad. I see through these idols, and can see how these tremulous scientists, so fearful of ambiguity, cling to them in the dark night of tenure.

But I am not only cynical. Rather, like the scientistic believer, I too have faith. Except my faith conforms to the Absolute Real and not the absolutely dubious.

12 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

Because it cannot legitimately accomplish the latter, scientism simply elevates its own substitutes to the teleological ends of science, where everything is settled and the idolatrous soul finds its rest.

Assuming for a moment that scientists find their unified theory, and the singularity is reached, and people - or at least, some small percent - can live darn near forever, well... Then what? If it were somehow possible to strip the world of all it's mystery, with every secret laid bare on the dissecting table, what would be the point of living?

3/07/2014 09:31:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

At that point some of them will finally ask: but seriously, why?

3/07/2014 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

"Thus, for example, the leftist cannot comprehend Islamic terrorism, because they think it must be caused by something we did to them."

It is caused by something we did to them.

Namely, it's caused by our decision to continue to engage in thoughts that they don't like.

It's either that or the fact that we continue to exist in their world.

I think it depends how they feel in the morning.

If they wake up feeling good, then it's the former. If they wake up in a grumpy mood, then the latter.

3/07/2014 10:08:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I think they're like the Yanomamö: it's all about sex and violence for them, even if the sex obsession takes an inverse form.

3/07/2014 10:11:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

"Assuming for a moment that scientists find their unified theory, and the singularity is reached, and people - or at least, some small percent - can live darn near forever, well... Then what? If it were somehow possible to strip the world of all it's mystery, with every secret laid bare on the dissecting table, what would be the point of living?"

I think saw this in a Star Trek episode where a Q wanted to kill himself.

3/07/2014 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger Magister said...

I ask'd thee, 'Give me immortality.'
Then didst thou grant mine asking with a smile,
Like wealthy men, who care not how they give.
But thy strong Hours indignant work'd their wills,
And beat me down and marr'd and wasted me,
And tho' they could not end me, left me maim'd
To dwell in presence of immortal youth,
Immortal age beside immortal youth,
And all I was, in ashes.

Tennyson

3/07/2014 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Hell, AKA immortality without hope of improvement.

3/07/2014 01:13:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Boy, with this missing hour, a post tomorrow seems unlikely. Which is too bad, because I already have a provocative title: Theology, Theologic, and Thenomena. "Thenomena" is my word for experiential Facts of God, or spiritual data, unless someone can come up with a better term by Tuesday.

3/09/2014 09:33:00 AM  
Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

Theodata? Pneunomena?

Theorrata would be a good term for all the ways that people get God all wrong.

3/09/2014 02:40:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

No post tomorrow?

Man, this spring is working out to be one crushing defeat after another, until you just wish Flanders was dead.

3/09/2014 03:17:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Did you see where an Ethiopian woman was first across the finish line in the LA marathon?

They gave her a 17 minute, 41 second head start, and she beat the fastest man -- also an Ethiopian (do you get food for winning?) by 41 seconds.

Does this seem fixed to you?

It reminds me of the old joke about the golfer who was struck by lightning and died. He got to heaven, and St. Peter apologized, "It was a little mistake. It wasn't your time to go. To make up for it, we're going to send you back as anything you want."

"Well," he says, "I'd like to go back as a lesbian."

St. Peter raises his eyebrows but nods, "OK, that's the deal, but do you mind if I ask why a lesbian?"

"You still get to make love to women, but you get to hit from the red tees."

3/10/2014 12:41:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

OT, new interview with David Berlinski at The Hover Institute:

Uncommon Knowledge, David Berlinski, new book: The Best of Times

It's good.

3/10/2014 06:35:00 PM  

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