Wednesday, May 20, 2015

You Can Learn a Lot from a Scientistic Imbecile

A random fragment of scientistic ignorance plucked from somewhere, probably either Happy Acres or American Digest:

There are scientific popularizers -- which is a noble and worthwhile endeavor -- and then there are scientistic popularizers, who are really just evangelists of a strange god.

For example, in the case of Tyson, he both inverts the cosmos and pulls it inside out, such that man becomes the container of That which contains him.

In other words, God is literally reduced to less than nothing, since he is simply "what scientists don't yet know." God is a circle surrounded by socially awkward MENSA members who have never kissed a girl.

With nothing else to do, it is only a matter of time before one of them illuminates the dark circle and becomes so famous that he finally gets a date.

I realize that not everyone has the time or inclination to think their ideas through to the end, but c'mon. Has Tyson really never heard of Gödel, whose theorems happily prove that no man will ever encircle or contain the truth which contains him?

In other words, any comprehensive theory begins with assumptions that cannot be proved by the theory, but must be taken on faith. Tyson, like anyone else, begins with faith but then halfassedly covers his tracks and calls it Certitude.

This actually plunges him beneath the realm of religion, in that at least the sophisticated religious believer acknowledges his faith up front. Furthermore, we also acknowledge an outside source instead of pretending to an omniscience that is unavailable to man.

That was just a brief asnide, but it does have some continuity with yesterday's post, because Tyson is precisely the kind of imbecile described at the end. Yes, we have some Bernanos again today:

"[T]he intellectual is so frequently an imbecile that we should always take him to be such until he has proved to us the contrary.... [He] is particularly at home in the modern world of technology and numbers, [because] in such a world he can climb to a very high position without giving away his half-culture.... [He] is informed about everything and hence condemned to understand nothing."

Ironically, Tyson only imagines that the Great Nothing has been (or will be) explained, when in reality it has simply been displaced to his intellectually vacant head and renamed omniscience.

Of course, he is not claiming personal omniscience per se, but he is using funds from a loan on future knowledge, i.e., the projected omniscience of science. Therefore, he is very much like the radical Calvinist who is assured of his own salvation. Like the latter, it is the ultimate Humble Brag, only on the plane of intellectual salvation.

Continuing with our daily Corbin, Bernanos (in Cheetham) goes on to say that technology is transforming man into "a sort of demonic inversion of the mystery of the Incarnation."

To back up a bit, if you fail to regard the Incarnation as a principle -- or at least an axiom or proposition -- then you're depriving yourself of a great deal. A principle is essentially a proposition which cannot not be -- i.e., we cannot think without it -- whereas an axiom would be more "a premise or starting point of reasoning."

The latter is a useful compromise between a fully operational Faith and something less. However, once you realize how spiritually and intellectually fruitful the axiom, you may find yourself elevating it to Principle, especially because it is difficult to comprehend how man could have come up with the principle of Incarnation on his own. Rather, limited to his own devices, man tends to come up with Tyson-level sophistry.

For example, the gratuitous principle of Incarnation explains how it is that man has access to ultimate truth to begin with. Note again that Tyson surely believes in ultimate truth, as per the statement above about science surrounding and conquering it.

But he just assumes man's ability to know it without ever explaining how a randomly evolved being may explain itself, or, more to the point, how radical contingency can even know of absoluteness, let alone attain it.

Therefore, Tyson literally transforms Incarnation to discarnation: the truth that is concretely and a priori present in, and available to, man, is vaulted into a realm of scientistic abstraction, which is precisely why we refer to these imbeciles as infertile eggheads.

It's all about the vertical fertility (AKA vertilization), isn't it? Here again, you can regard the Annunciation as a mythic formulation at one end, or a metaphysical Principle at the other, but either way, the truth is that the soul of man is analogous to a womb in which the Divine Seed is planted and grows.

Again, it is how all this absoluteness and eternity and infinity -- all this useless truth and beauty -- get in here. It is obviously not present in mere animals, or at least they have no conscious contact with it.

At risk of re-belaboring the obvious, it is surely present in Tyson, with his smug conflation of science and absolute truth.

Speaking of which, there is another principle at play here, and it goes to how one may know one is on the right track in the joyous pursuit of truth. That is, it always covaries with humility. Smugnitude, while no doubt pleasant in a certain narrow sense, is a hint from God that you need to go back to First Principles, because you've veered off track. In fact, you've committed Genesis 3 all over again.

As to principles which may sound mushy but are actually rock solid, we'll leave you with this:

"Benedict says... that 'integrated human development' involves a 'broadening [of] our concept of reason and its application. 'Intelligence and love are not in separate compartments: love is rich in intelligence and intelligence is full of love, and love must therefore inform the disciplines as a whole marked by unity and distinction" (in Cheetham).

Or in other words, scientific progress -- which involves the reduction of multiplicity to unity -- is only possible because the latter truly loves the former. Or as Blake put it, "Eternity is in love with the productions of time."

16 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

For example, in the case of Tyson, he both inverts the cosmos and pulls it inside out, such that man becomes the container of That which contains him.

I was just thinking this morning, in light of Magister's comments, about how important it is as the kids get older to make sure they understand that any God worthy of the title is one that can be questioned. By which I mean, when the kids discover the difficult problems, they must not be afraid to ask and ponder. I want them to discover that, for instance, science and faith are not only compatible, but that in fact science is impossible if God is impossible.

I know quite a few kids who grew up in rather sheltered Christian homes, only to go off the rails - and lose their faith - upon growing up and moving out into the world. They've never questioned, and so have never been inknowculated against fools like Tyson. They honestly believe science and scientific discoveries are capable of disproving God.

5/20/2015 09:43:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

"God is an ever receding pocket of scientific ignorance."

I don't know, when he says it, it doesn't even sound like a compliment to science. I mean, his slogan ends in "scientific ignorance" for Pete's sake.

5/20/2015 09:48:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Well, said, Julie.

5/20/2015 09:48:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

And btw, his "receding pocket" is a Mighty Big Pocket. And as to the Unknowable God "portion", it may not even be fixed -- it may be increasing. How would he know.

5/20/2015 09:50:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Check out Vanderleun's sidebar link to Tom Wolfe. Indignation can be as effective as smugnitude in auto-elevating the imbecile:

"If you become indignant, this elevates you to the plane of "intellectual." No mental activity is required. It is a rule, to which there has never been an exception, that when an actor or a television performer rises up to the microphone at one of these awards ceremonies and expresses moral indignation over something, he illustrates Marshall McLuhan's dictum that 'moral indignation is a standard strategy for endowing the idiot with dignity.'"

5/20/2015 09:51:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

In other words, all he's reducing is the portion which is reducible.

5/20/2015 09:52:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Rick @ 9:50,

It's like looking through a microscope at ever higher resolution, then declaring that everything outside the lens has been explained as well.

5/20/2015 09:52:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Bill Maher and Obama are fine examples of indignation as a substitute for intelligence.

5/20/2015 09:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Tyson said...

Gödel who?

5/20/2015 09:55:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Speaking of which, there is another principle at play here, and it goes to how one may know one is on the right track in the joyous pursuit of truth. That is, it always covaries with humility. Smugnitude, while no doubt pleasant in a certain narrow sense, is a hint from God that you need to go back to First Principles, because you've veered off track. In fact, you've committed Genesis 3 all over again."

Well said, Bob.
Those like Tyson, or Obama with orders of smugnitude greater than the average smugnidude have no use for humility, and more often than not, mock it.

Of course, they devalue all the other virtues as well.
Who needs virtues when you have quantum smugnitude?

5/20/2015 10:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Tyson said...

I am an ever-expanding pocket of bloviating sophistry.

5/20/2015 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Ironically, the more indignant one is the less one knows about dignity.

5/20/2015 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

...he is very much like the radical Calvinist who is assured of his own salvation

I do think they share a common tradition. Genuine faith -- and Julie hits it in the first comment -- has room for doubt and ambiguity and growth. I am not stuck in the Sunday School Primary Class explanation of God and theology that are perfectly suitable and appropriate for eight-year-olds.

God is omnipotent and omniscient, but that doesn't mean I'm not a free moral agent. Faith has to hold paradoxes or it becomes pharisaical dogma. Some forms of Christian fundamentalism, Islam, Scientism, they are related whether they like it or not.

5/20/2015 10:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Until recently scientific ignorance included the notion that Delta Cephei was non-binary. From a May 12th new release:
"While it was thought that nearly everything was known about the prototype of cepheids, named Delta Cephei, a team of researchers...have now discovered that this star has a hidden companion."

http://phys.org/news/2015-05-delta-cephei-hidden-companion.html

5/20/2015 12:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Cousin Dupree said...

Didn't see that coming.

5/20/2015 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

Bob, this may interest you.

5/21/2015 03:57:00 AM  

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