Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Reality is Simple but Not Simplistic

I've been meaning to discuss another book in conjunction with Koestler, that is, The Science Before Science. It's not a very well written book, but it does highlight the scientific fact that there can be no science in the absence of a metaphysic that makes science possible.

And this metaphysic is some version of the Aristotle-Thomist tradition that emerged in the Christian west and nowhere else. The irony is that even the most bigoted anti-religious scientistic loon is, in all likelihood, implicitly operating out of this matrix, which is just Common Sense laid out in a somewhat dry and sometimes tedious manner.

You might say that as soon as the scientist thinks -- coherently, consistently, and deeply -- about what he is doing, he runs into Aristotle and Thomas walking toward him in the distance. They've been there before you. The idea that their approach can be "surpassed" is absurd, because while science itself always changes, the science before science never does. If it did, then no science would be possible. Analogously, the surface structure of language constantly changes, but not the deep structure of grammar. If it did, we couldn't say anything intelligible.

Indeed, this is one of the central reasons why science did not develop in the Muslim world, as it is entirely foreign to their dysfunctional metaphysic. There can be no stable "science behind science," because if there were, it would imply a constraint upon Allah's radical freedom -- one might say whim -- to do as he will. "Occasionalism" is the word for this cognitive pathology, and it is shared by the "everything happens for a reason" crowd.

This latter is nothing less than a rejection and undoing of the very metaphysic that allows us to explore and understand the world, in the confidence that God made it intelligible and us intelligent. I'm all for intellectual humility, within reason. We don't have to go all the way to absolute stupidity to make the point.

Interestingly, sometimes there is a direct connection between theology (not metaphysics per se) and science, as in the case of Kepler, who was convinced that the sun had to be at the center of the solar system for the same reason that God is at the center, period. As Koestler writes, Kepler's answer not only "came before the question" but "was the answer that begot the question." And as we know, there is much more light in a good question than in a dim answer.

However, for the same reason, Kepler had a hard time assimilating the idea that the planets don't run in perfect circles. But although not as beautiful as circles, at least oval orbits "cleared the Augean stables of astronomy of cycles and spirals, and left behind me only a single cartful of dung" (Kepler).

In other words, it would have been an example of bad metaphysics to start with the principle that circles are the perfect form, and deduce from it that planets therefore must run in perfect circles. There's always going to be a bit of dung left over, but perhaps we should think of it as cognitive fertilizer. For example, in modern physics there is quite a large pile due to the fact that special relativity cannot be reconciled with quantum physics, or the macro with the micro, but at least it keeps a lot of fertile minds busy.

I suppose the great discovery was that the same laws apply to both the terrestrial and celestial worlds, so the same force that holds the earth in its orbit causes a stone to fall to the earth. But it seems to me that this should be a direct deduction from, or consequence of, the fact of creation. If this is truly One Cosmos Under God, then it should operate with one set of rules and principles. Otherwise, we're back in Whackistan.

Speaking of which, Rebecca Bynum's Allah is Dead: Why Islam is Not a Religion, is pretty timely, isn't it? That's a bold statement coming from someone who no doubt prefers to have her head attached to the rest of her -- or who rejects the head-body dualism of the Islamists.

All religions are the same? Let's be honest: Islam is nothing like Christianity, and is in many ways the very opposite. The Islamists certainly see this. Why can't we? Who benefits by the conflation?

The left benefits, that's who, because their overriding goal is to discredit religion, so if Islam and Christianity are the same, then Christianity is crazy if not evil. But the Islamists also benefit, because if Islam is just a religion like any other, then what's the problem?

In the pre-PC world, people could be candid about the differences without fear of intellectual violence from the left and physical violence from Islam. For example, just last night I read a crack by Chesterton to the effect that "Everybody knows" -- everybody! -- "that in the very darkest hour of of the Dark Ages a sort of heresy had sprung up in Arabia and become a new religion of a military and nomadic sort, invoking the name of Mahomet. Intrinsically it had a character found in many heresies from the Moslem to the Monist."

Now, when Chesterton uses the word "heresy," he's talking about intrinsic heresies, i.e., modes of thought that are inherently dysfunctional, either because they are self-refuting, or prevent human happiness and flourishing, or render the world unintelligible, etc.

Specifically, it is "an insane simplification of religion, because it simplifies all to a single idea and so loses the breadth and balance of Catholicism." One such simplistic idea is alluded to above, i.e., the notion that everything is directly caused by Allah, with no secondary causes and no human freedom. That's insane, but it is also believed by materialists (minus the Allah part), Marxists, and those Christians who claim to believe in predestination.

Thus, Bynum is correct in noting that "when Islam is analyzed philosophically it reveals itself to be much closer to ideologies such as material determinism, nihilism, and even social Darwinism than it is to either Christianity or Judaism." Why can't we all just agree about this instead of going insane when someone points it out?

Another obvious difference: "In the Western tradition, legality and morality are two different things," whereas "In Islam, they are one and the same." Every Muslim knows this, so how come liberals don't? If only Islamists didn't so hate the West, I suspect that liberals would notice the homophobia, the misogyny, the racism, the inequality, etc. But since leftism is a doctrine of hate, there is a deeper unity on that basis.

18 Comments:

Blogger Joan of Argghh! said...

In the Western tradition, legality and morality are two different things," whereas "In Islam, they are one and the same.

Which is why you can't argue with a Leftist. Their morality is solely derived from the code of their Tribe, for the good of the Tribe corporately, and for no good reason but what the 1%ers of the Tribe put forth.

What their code lacks in morality, it makes up for in control.

9/10/2014 09:07:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Thus, Bynum is correct in noting that "when Islam is analyzed philosophically it reveals itself to be much closer to ideologies such as material determinism, nihilism, and even social Darwinism than it is to either Christianity or Judaism."

Fellow travelers.

The reason that the left fails to note the conflation of legality with morality is because they can't make the distinction either -- e.g., abortion should be "safe, rare, and legal" -- regardless of how immoral it is to destroy an innocent life.

9/10/2014 10:22:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

...those Christians who claim to believe in predestination

And the key word is "claim".

9/10/2014 10:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Petey said...

If it were true, you couldn't claim it. If you can claim it, it isn't true.

9/10/2014 10:28:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

It's not a very well written book, but it does highlight the scientific fact that there can be no science in the absence of a metaphysic that makes science possible.

This morning, we saw a bright rainbow. The boy asked, "Who made that?!" Great opportunity to discuss both the Who and the how.

9/10/2014 11:32:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Petey, did you see this one? I'm not mocking them (yet). This is the actual title, Scientific evidence that you probably don't have free will.

They are funny, and they don't even know it. I guess they can't help themselves.

9/10/2014 12:17:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Mushroom, I find it amusing that they consider it vitally important to prove to people that they have no free will, and thus the belief in free will needs to come to an end. As if we had any choice in the matter!

9/10/2014 12:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Petey said...

I'll believe it when a non-human animal makes the argument.

9/10/2014 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

Good one Julie.

I notice Sam Harris' new book featured prominently ... what a surprise that he's one of the "no free will" preachers.

9/10/2014 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Occasionalism" is the word for this cognitive pathology, and it is shared by the "everything happens for a reason" crowd."

Also the Platitude Driven Life (so Rick Warren can get rich) crowd.

False teachers thrive on platitudes and twisted theology.

9/10/2014 01:27:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

If we don't have free will why are militant atheists and leftists so hysterically hateful of conservative Christians?
It's not like we had a choice.

9/10/2014 01:30:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

If everything happens in accordance with allah's will he must really hate Muslims.

9/10/2014 01:36:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

And if everything is Allah's will, why should Muslims care whether anybody else believes something different? It's Allah's will.

For that matter, if we have no free will, why should atheist determinists care if anybody has faith? It's DNA's will.

9/10/2014 01:40:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Islam's main prophet, Mohammed, was a pedophile.

I wonder why uttering this truth enrages Muslims and leftists?

9/10/2014 01:40:00 PM  
Anonymous remps111 said...

, the path of the righteous is as the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.

Thank you, Joan (comment from an old Gerard entry)

9/10/2014 05:55:00 PM  
Blogger Peyton said...

Bob, I hate to quibble (not so -- I LOVE to quibble), but when Chesterton uses the work "heresy", he's talking about deviation from Catholic belief, i.e., monotheism without the messiness of Trinity, God without the tempering of Father, omnipotence without the constraint of love. Reference Belloc, "The Great Heresies".

9/10/2014 06:34:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Disagree, otherwise how could he say Islam is an intrinsic heresy?

9/10/2014 06:47:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

It's not like Mohammad was a deviant Catholic.

9/10/2014 06:48:00 PM  

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