Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Darwinians and Other Intellectual Darwin Award Winners

The decisive error of materialism and of agnosticism is to be blind to the fact that material things and the common experiences of our life are are immensely beneath the scope of our intelligence. --Frithjof Schuon

Berlinski is an iconoclast, a contrarian, and a freethinker. In reading The Devil's Delusion, I got the impression that if religion were the dominant religion instead of materialism, he might critique it in the same way he does scientism, atheism, Darwinism, and any other crude form of reductionist faith. He seems to be most opposed to people drawing vast ontological conclusions from very limited data, and thus foreclosing the mystery of existence. Humans are habitually taking what little they do know, and then imagining that that's all there is to know; or that our mental abstractions exhaust the Real, which tosses up scientific theories like an ocean washes grains of sand from the celestial surf to the cognitive turf. He might very well agree with Bion's adage that the answer is the disease that kills curiosity.

Much of what scientists insist they know is for the purpose of eliminating anxiety about the unknown, fundamentally no different than the most primitive aborigine from the temporal back of beyond. Contrary to what William Henry said, putting a man on the moon can be no better than putting a bone in your nose, if both are used merely to allay anxiety and control evil spirits (i.e., some version of "if we put a man on the moon, we can do anything").

Materialists are totally constrained by an imaginary paradigm of their own making, and then wonder why others don't share their crimped view of the world. In their arrogance, they imagine that religious people are incapable of understanding their vision, when it is quite the opposite. Again, the atheist converts what is clearly an pneumapathological infirmity into a virtue. But myopia is not just another way of seeing.

As we have mentioned before, with every discovery of science, it adds to our knowledge in a linear way but adds to our ignorance in an exponential way. Remember the image of the expanding sphere. As it grows with knowledge, it is as if the outer surface of the sphere -- where it shades off into the unknown -- expands with it. Therefore, it is no exaggeration to say that with every scientific discovery, our ignorance outpaces our knowledge (that is, if we reduce knowledge to mere rationalism or empiricism). Therefore, it is laughable to suggest that science is doggedly filling the gaps and interstices where God once dwelled. To the contrary, as Berlinski points out, those gaps have only grown more expansive with the rise of science (more on which below and in subsequent posts). We are actually farther away than ever from filling those gaps; after all, in the pre-scientific world view, there were no gaps at all, just a smooth hierarchy of being (which is by definition continuous) extending from God, to angels, to man, and to beasts. (As we shall see, this is much closer to the truth than is the modern view.)

But in rejecting the hierarchy of being, science cannot account for the simplest continuity. To cite one particularly glaring example, our paradigmatic science, physics, has arrived at two "foundational" worldviews, relativity (which applies to the macro world) and quantum physics (which applies to the micro). The problem is, these two realms are radically incompatible, and no one has any idea how to reconcile them. Now obviously, the Cosmos is "one," hence the nickname uni-verse. But physics is powerless to explain how this can be so, being that it has run into a blind alley of twoness. It actully has no scientific reason to assume a Oneness that it faithfully believes to be there. The assumption of rational Oneness is merely a religious holdover from the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Will this scientific twoness ever be bridged? Well, you can imagine that it will be, and that is again where scientistic faith comes in. This is what string theory is all about -- the attempt to harmonize the macro and micro realms with ever-more complex mathematical formulations, similar to the way complex planetary epicycles were added to save the appearances of the ancient Ptolemaic system.

Many of these mathematical monstrosities are downright ugly, which should be a clue to their absence of ultimate truth. Not to mention the fact that it has become a sort of academic parlor game, in that there are apparently many different versions -- somewhat like taking bids from hundreds of contractors on how best to build the Bridge to Nowhere. Let's not even mention the fact that they all forget about Gödel -- as if it will ever be possible to arrive at a mathematical account of reality that doesn't have built in assumptions for which it cannot account. We already know ahead of time that that will not happen because it cannot happen. Not only that, but the moment the scientist understands his theory, he has generated an ontological twoness -- a scission -- for which the theory cannot account.

James Joyce is considered an "ultra-modernist," and yet, yesterday I stumbled across a statement he once made, that "I don't believe in any science, but my imagination grows when I read [Giambatista] Vico but it doesn't when I read Freud and Jung." I don't believe in any science. What a quaint thing to say. But surely, what he meant is that science hardly exhausts the content of the soul; draining the soul of its transcendent meaning is hardly synonymous with understanding it.

In fact, not only is science largely irrelevant to the soul, but if misused and misunderstood, it can -- often very subtly -- foreclose the space where your soul would otherwise be. Or, put it this way: science is independent from other, irreducibly non-scientific modalities such as vision, intuition, and even intelligence. Being that we are (partly) products of our time, most of us have no idea of the pressure to conform to a certain way of looking at and experiencing the world, just as a peasant in medieval Europe probably had no idea of the pressure to interpret all experience through the lens of Christian dogma. It just seems "self-evident," which accounts for the bovine confidence of the atheistic crowd. You can't fake that kind of boastful ignorance. They genuinely don't know; furthermore, they don't know that they don't know, which is not just twice-over ignorance, but stupidity squared. It becomes a kind of qualitative stupidity that I am sure most of my readers can recognize. It is impenetrable, which is why it is so senseless to argue with them.

It reminds me of something Roger Kimball wrote in a different context:

"In a word, the establishment of the Beat 'church' was significant as a chapter in the moral and cultural degradation of our society. Regarded as a literary phenomenon, however, what the Beats produced exists chiefly as a kind of artistic antimatter. It would not be quite right to say that its value is nil, for that might imply an innocuous neutrality. What the Beats have bequeathed us is actively bad, a corrupting as well as a corrupt phenomenon. To borrow an image from the Australian philosopher David Stove, the Beats created a 'disaster-area, and not of the merely passive kind, like a bombed building, or an area that has been flooded. It is the active kind, like a badly-leaking nuclear reactor, or an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in cattle.'”

Here again, I sense that this is one of Berlinski's main concerns: the loss of true humanism with the rise of spiritually radioactive materialism. It has reached the point that modern men are no longer even capable of knowing what they have lost in their inability to respond to religious truth. What they have lost is their soul, precisely. However, this hardly means that the soul doesn't continue to go on being, any more than sexual impulses no longer exist if you repress them. Rather, they will simply reappear in a disguised form. This accounts for the religious fervor of the atheistic rabble and the passion with which they proselytize.

Scientists imagine that they know what's going on; but what's really going on -- and what their science cannot explain -- is that the immaterial soul is capable of imagining what's going on. So now the question is no longer whether science is "true" or "false"; rather, the question is, who's soul has the more encompassing vision, the more penetrating imagination, the more fruitful and generative way of thinking about the world? Like Joyce, I am quite sure that it isn't the Darwinists. (And please trolls, for the last time, when I talk about "science" or "scientists" in this coontext, I am specifically referring to naive scientism and to those who [usually unwittingly] embrace it; you idiots need to read a few posts before you think you understand what I'm saying.)

"Coherence" -- including a coherent worldview -- is something that only takes place in a mind. As Berlinski points out, there is this fanciful idea that science offers -- or can offer -- a "coherent vision of the universe," but this is a priori false. Looked at from a distance, yes, the gaps seem to disappear, just as the earth looks like a solid blue orb from a distance. But the closer you look, you see that there are large bodies of water surrounding each and every discipline and sub-discipline, with no smooth transition between them -- for example, between psychology and psychiatry, which, no matter how close they get, can never actually "touch." Likewise, I can assure you that no matter how far "down" physicists look, and no matter how they emend and elaborate their theories, they will never, ever be able to bridge the gap that opens up when I so much as command my hand to make a fist, and all of a sudden, the subatomic particles in my vicinity alter their trajectories and conform to my will. As Whitehead put it nearly a century ago in Science and the Modern World,

"The doctrine which I am maintaining is that the whole concept of materialism only applies to very abstract entities, the products of logical discernment. The concrete enduring entities are organisms, so that the plan of the whole influences the very characters of the various subordinate organisms which enter into it....

"Thus an electron within a living body is different from an electron outside it, by reason of the plan of the body. The electron blindly runs either within or without the body; but it runs within the body in accordance with its character within the body; that is to say, in accordance with the general plan of the body, and this plan includes the mental state.... [T]he molecules may blindly run in accordance with the general laws, but our molecules differ in their intrinsic characters according to the general organic plans of the situations in which they find themselves."

Make no mistake: no scientist has the slightest idea how this can be, for the gap between their abstract model and the concrete reality is literally -- literally -- infinite. You can't get here from there, and you never will. Rather -- and this is the key -- you can get there -- to the abstract world of quantum physics -- from here -- the mind -- and only from here.

And what is this here, this mysterious place where it all happens? I mean, if you think for one moment that Richard Dawkins imagines his mind is constrained by his own selfish genes, you've got another think coming. That kind of reductionism is for Darwinian losers. No one actually believes it. I dare you to try.

Part 2 of 87.

These splendid [scientific] artifacts of the human imagination have made the world more mysterious than it ever was. We know better than we did what we do not know and have not grasped.... We cannot reconcile the human mind with any trivial theory about the manner in which the brain functions. Beyond the trivial, we have no other theories. We can say nothing of interest about the human soul. We do not know what impels us to right conduct or where the form of the good is found.... No scientific theory touches on the mysteries that the religious tradition addresses.... The answers that prominent scientific figures have offered are remarkable in their shallowness. --David Berlinski, The Devil's Delusion


Elizabeth Marie Crum said...

Excellent writing today. (Do you recommend the book, or no?)

Petey said...

No, the book recommends itself.

julie said...

This comment was posted anonymously at the end of yesterday's comments; I'm copying it here, because it seems like an honest call for help, and I know it might be missed otherwise:

"I have a slightly off-topic question, but you guys seem to be a good group to ask. Is suicide ever an option for a person?

I am often extremely depressed and/or angry. Suicide often crosses my mind since my life just does not seem worth living. I don't see much reason for continuing to face the pain of existence. About the only reason I haven't bailed out yet is because I do not want to hurt my friends and family. I don't want them to feel like they failed me. It really has nothing to do with them. I just look around and see no good reason to put up with all the crap of going on.

Could this be one of those be mind parasites you mention?"

Gagdad Bob said...

This person is depressed and needs urgent psychiatric help, just as a person with chest pain needs to go to the ER. There is no reason in this day and age for a person to suffer with this kind of senseless depression.

julie said...

Thanks, Bob, and sorry for hijacking the thread. I just hate to see a comment like that, if it is serious, go unanswered, even though there's probably nothing we non-professional can say to be very helpful.

julie said...

Er, I meant to say "we non-professional raccoons," of course as opposed to you who are a professional.

Gagdad Bob said...

No need to apologize. The whole purpose of this blog is to save people from various forms of suicide -- intellectual, spiritual, political, and others.

Anonymous said...

One aspect of the examination process for obtaining a doctorate in my field is passing "comprehensive exams" over all of one's subject area. As I was in the throes (and throws, some of the books were rather bad) of the process, a senior professor asked me how I was doing. "I'm plumbing the depths of my ignorance and still haven't hit bottom." She replied that I never would, and never should, because there is always more to learn, find, explore and study.
As in my faith, so in my worldly vocation, apparently :)


Robin Starfish said...

Book of the Hopi
first world tokpela
footprint of our emergence
spiral galaxies

hoarhey said...

Anon from yesterday,

Don't give up.
Humbly pray for Divine help while actively seeking earthly help. And DON'T quit until the paradigm shifts.
Look forward to it, it will come, and that's a promise.

mushroom said...

Scientists imagine that they know what's going on; but what's really going on -- and what their science cannot explain -- is that the immaterial soul is capable of imagining what's going on.


One of the RSS feeds I have to my homepage is for science news from space.com. I have it mainly to get reminders of various celestial phenomenon Every few days there are new revelations about dark matter, missing pieces of the cosmic puzzle, quirks in quarks, etc. If you bother to read the articles, which I do occasionally, you are struck by how unenlightening and equivocal most of the "discoveries" are, especially relative to the headline. Part of that is journalism versus science, but there is also the element of scientism's proselytizing, as GB says. The thoughtless hear and believe, yea, verily, for it was published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Let me tell you, I have had more than one piece of peer-reviewed code crash and burn with a fervent heat.

Will this scientific twoness ever be bridged? Well, you can imagine that it will be, and that is again where scientistic faith comes in.

The "theory of everything" is scientism's holey grail.

ximeze said...

Are you the first Anonymous from yesterday's comment thread?

As jwm said yesterday:
It's nice to be addressing an 'anon' who has a point and a question, rather than a bone to pick. Welcome.

Unlike you, Aninnymice often show up here to snark & display their stupidity squared, as Dear Leader so aptly put it.
One comment is usually enough to peg them as trolls, with predictable nonsense sure to follow.

Qualitative un-stupidity resonates with Raccoons also. Just trying to figure out how many more place-settings to add at the den feast-table.

Johan said...

Ouff! “Gödel”… “Coherence”… “Imagination”… Wow, you don’t know much this post “re-minded” me of today. A couple of keystones that will help putting the picture in so much more clarity now, thank you!

I kind of hoping for a post of thins kind would come now... it's been like a tension beeing build up the last three or four posts.

And regarding the comment from yesterday – If anything at all seems truly meaningless, that would be to stop looking for the meaning. Please follow the already given advice.

Anonymous said...

this is the depressed anonymous from yesterday -- thank you for responding. I will contact my doctor and discuss it with him. I guess I should have realized something wasn't right. Thanks again.

Gagdad Bob said...

Please do! And feel free to let us know what your doctor says. I can't give specific advice, but I can certainly share some general guidelines. There are wonderful things that can be done for depression these days, as is true of most any medical condition.

NoMo said...

Here is how I see it. Original humanity, made in the image of God, consisted of a trinity of body, mind and spirit. The fall from that state is often referred to as spiritual death or separation from God (Spirit) because it resulted in a mind and body devoid of spirit - leaving a gap (gaping hole). Perhaps what we refer to as “soul” is what was left in the gap – a phantom remnant of spirit – something often mistaken for spirit. As a fallen human (“natural man”), one is literally incapable of seeing anything beyond the realm of body and mind. Only revelation from beyond that realm can lead to rebirth and subsequent spiritual growth. Every false faith – scientism, materialism, atheism, Darwinism, etc. – seeks to bridge the spiritual gap “naturally” - an ultimately fruitless undertaking. What is referred to as being born again “of the Spirit” is God individually re-creating a triune human – body, mind, and spirit – resulting in open eyes of faith and the very possibility of believing. After all, the unseen is where it’s at!

Darwin said...

Alright, ALRIGHT!
I made a mistake!

Do over?


NoMo said...

Darwin - That was no mistake, dude. You're part of the vast left-wing conspiracy. There's no do overs for you. Just look how much trouble you caused. Monkey-boy!

Anonymous said...

You cant get nuch nore shallow and reductionist than the propaganda/ideology that the barbarians at the so called "Discovery" Institute peddles.

Cousin Dupree said...

You spoke too soon.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Will this scientific twoness ever be bridged? Well, you can imagine that it will be, and that is again where scientistic faith comes in. This is what string theory is all about -- the attempt to harmonize the macro and micro realms with ever-more complex mathematical formulations, similar to the way complex planetary epicycles were added to save the appearances of the ancient Ptolemaic system."

Or as I like to call it, "silly string theory."

Great post, Bob!

Van said...

"You can't get here from there, and you never will. Rather -- and this is the key -- you can get there -- to the abstract world of quantum physics -- from here -- the mind -- and only from here. "


"Part 2 of 87"


NoMo said...

According to Herbert E. Meyer, when he asked Dr. Jonas Salk if he subscribed to Darwin's famous theory about "survival of the fittest", Jonas Salk replied, “Survival of the fittest is correct, but we need to change the definition of "fitness" from what it meant when Darwin used it. In the modern world, "fitness" no longer refers to physical strength. From now on, it means wisdom."

Anonymous said...

Ximeze - No, I didn't post on Monday.

sorceror said...

"Make no mistake: no scientist has the slightest idea how this can be, for the gap between their abstract model and the concrete reality is literally -- literally -- infinite. You can't get here from there, and you never will."

I was struck by the similarity of the above to this quote from a prominent physician, J. S. Haldane, close to a century ago, discussing the "mechanistic theory of heredity" (Mechanism, Life, And Personality, 1913):

On the mechanistic theory this [cell] nucleus must carry within its substance a mechanism which by reaction with the environment not only produces the millions of complex and delicately balanced mechanisms which constitute the adult organism, but provides for their orderly arrangement into tissues and organs, and for their orderly development in a certain perfectly specific manner.

The mind recoils from such a stupendous conception; but let us follow the argument further... This nuclear structure or mechanism must, according to the mechanistic theory, have been formed within a very short period by the union of two others - a male and a female one. How two such mechanisms could combine to form one is entirely unintelligible, and the observed details of the process tend only to make it, if possible, more unintelligible. When we trace each nuclear mechanism backwards we find ourselves obliged to admit that it has been formed by division from a pre-existing nuclear mechanism, and this from pre-existing nuclear mechanisms through millions of cell-generations. We are thus forced to the admission that the germ-plasm is not only a structure or mechanism of inconceivable complexity, but that this structure is capable of dividing itself to an absolutely indefinite extent and yet retaining its original structure...

There is no need to push the analysis further. The mechanistic theory of heredity is not merely unproven, it is impossible. It involves such absurdities that no intelligent person who has thoroughly realised its meaning and implications can continue to hold it.

Reading this passage, it's striking how clearly he recognized the functional requirements that a mechanism for inheritance would have to meet. But he could imagine no physical arrangement that could satisfy those conditions, and concluded that therefore such a mechanism was impossible. Indeed, he insisted that a spiritual explanation was the only remaining option. Laborious work by Watson and Crick (and Wilkins and Franklin) has since discovered DNA, however, greatly illuminating that which was previously obscure. What if Haldane had decided to "push the analysis further"?