Thursday, February 02, 2017

Pretending to Know what Can't be Known and Unknowing what Can

Another promising book that didn't quite pan out is Aquinas and Modern Science: A New Synthesis of Faith and Reason. Nothing in it is coonologically incorrect. I fully agree with the author that Thomas's philosophy is as able today to reconcile the worlds of science and religion as 700 years ago. But I guess there wasn't much in it we haven't discussed before.

Aquinas "wrestled with how Christian religion would be affected by the most advanced science of his day," which is something we like to do around here. He was especially critical of the "double truth" promulgated by Islamic philosophers, "that a notion could be true in theology or religion" and simultaneously "false in philosophy or science." No, that is a non-starter. Truth is One because the One is Truth. Absent the One there is no truth at all.

We mean this quite literally. This little talk by Fr. Robert Barron reminds us of what is at stake. In discussing the devil (starting at 3:48), he spells out the etymological roots of the word, which connotes casting apart and scattering.

Conversely, God is the principle of ingathering, of synthesis, of unity. Now, synthesis recurs on every level of reality; to even posit a "cosmos" is to affirm an implicit synthesis of the totality of reality. Truth is always a unity, but its possibility is rooted in the prior oneness of God.

Science studies existence -- i.e., things that exist -- whereas metaphysics is concerned with the being of which existence is but a property. For this reason, "there is no science without metascience."

That is, "the sciences cannot be studied by the sciences themselves," any more than the eye can see itself or the hand grasp itself. Naive scientists can pretend to avoid metaphysics, but only on (implicitly) metaphysical grounds. For similar reasons it is impossible for human beings to avoid religion. An overtly religious person is simply honest about his religious assumptions.

Most of this is just plain logical. I think I've mentioned in the past that one of the things that prompted me to abandon liberalism was that I kept discovering truths that contradicted liberalism. Of note, this had nothing whatsoever to do with embracing conservatism, which I would have still rejected a priori. It was something of a shock to discover that certain truths arrived at in a completely dispassionate and disinterested way were entirely unwelcome on the left, to put it mildly.

To cite one glaring example, an intellectually honest pro-abortion person would have to concede that the Constitution in no way enshrines the right to a dead baby. The fact that this "right" is rooted in an invincible lie is quite revealing. (Earlier in that talk, Barron reminds us that Satan is the father -- or source -- of lies, and a murderer from the beginning.)

A similar example of ironyclad logic is that "those who defend scientism" are "unaware of the fact that scientism itself... is a nonscientific claim." No one can prove scientism via the scientific method. To think otherwise is absurd. Why can't we all agree on this?


Perhaps. But I don't want to sound crazy just yet. Nevertheless, there must be something -- some principle -- that prevents human beings from all being on the same page with regard to certain undeniable truths. If we can't agree on first principles, then there is little else with which we will agree. What is so frustrating is that these principles can be known. We don't have to guess or speculate or bullshit about them.

Here is an Undeniable Truth with which only a tenured ignoramus or ideological knave can disagree: "Scientism [or naturalism, or positivism, or utilitarianism, et al] poses a claim that can only be made from outside the scientific realm, thus grossly overstepping the boundaries of science." It is self-refuting, because "if it is true, it becomes false. It steps outside science to claim that there is nothing outside science."

This is the sort of logical idiocy I've been teaching my son to be able to sniff out. If some relativist or deconstructionist tries to tell him there's no such thing as truth, he knows how to respond. And he will accept no evasions or equivocations. The conversation will proceed no further until the deconstructionist answers the question: is that true?

So many arguments could be settled -- or at least stopped in their tracks -- by two words: Prove. It.

In fact, Thomas Sowell says you can pretty much put the left out of business with three questions (jump ahead to 3:45): compared to what, at what cost, and what hard evidence do you have? As he points out earlier in the clip, there are no "solutions," only more or less costly tradeoffs.

Did you hear a single liberal spell out what we were giving up in order to get Obamacare? Or what we were trading for the trillion dollar stimulus? Or what we were going to get -- good and hard -- in exchange for pulling our troops out of Iraq?

And just as there are no cost-free solutions, there are no... how to put it... no scientific theories that don't exclude infinite dimensions of reality. The word "infinite" is used advisedly, because the infinite is everything we don't know, and what we do know is always a fraction what we don't. And God is everything we don't know -- in the apophatic sense.


mushroom said...

But I don't want to sound crazy just yet.

The left thinks Trump fired Satan and replaced him with Bannon.

Sounding crazy has gotten a lot tougher the last couple of weeks.

ted said...

Colbert had an interesting discussion with Rick Jervais last night on religion verses atheism. Notice how Rick says atheism isn't a belief system. Hmm. And then says if all the holy books and science books were destroyed, only the science books would come back the same. Really?

Gagdad Bob said...

Pretty stupid, since science presupposes a Judeo-Christian metaphysic.

Gagdad Bob said...

I wonder if any of you can watch this and keep a dry eye.

julie said...

Ted - "And then says if all the holy books and science books were destroyed, only the science books would come back the same. Really?"

In Jeremiah, that more or less happened. God just told told the scribe to write it all again.

Re. Sir Nicholas, that's beautiful. God bless him.

Re. liberal solutions, it seems fair to say at this point that it would be impossible to defeat them with anything resembling logic or reasonableness; they are too far unmoored from reality, and only seem to be getting farther. People who delight in literally beating their opponents with the signs proclaiming their opinions are beyond thought.

Anonymous said...

Liberals and progressives are exasperated with conservatives because of their self-destructive tendencies.

Pick up trucks? Bacon? Duck hunting? Beer drinking? Really?

There's no excuse for pick up trucks. Bacon is decadent and unhealthy. Duck hunting is cruel. Beer is the flatulence producing product of decomposition.

How can you not see the red stater's tendency to embrace the horrid, the cruel, the wasteful, and the unhealthy?

Public transport. Vegan cuisine. Animal conservation. Kombucha. Get behind the thrifty, the healthy, the kind, the sensible.

I know you all here are former Democrats. Come out and be yourselves. Get your hippie on.