Thursday, November 09, 2017

Cosmic Extortion and the Drunkard's Search

Yesterday I was thinking about metaphysical Darwinism. (Would a strict Darwinian say that "Darwinism was thinking about me?"; for to think about it is to have transcended and thereby escaped it, which the theory would say is impossible.)

Or better, call it Darwinian literalism. Yes, it is an explanation of how we got here, but it cannot be sufficiently emphasized that it is only scientific. The literalist will no doubt respond: "Only scientific? As if mythology trumps fact and reason!"

Well, yes and no. It is, for example, an undeniable scientific fact that your body is roughly 50% water and that 99% of it is composed of six elements.

But what relevance does this have for your humanness? After all, it's only science. You can't treat a person like a chemical. For practical purposes our chemistry is of no consequence, any more than it matters what typeface is used in writing a book. Imagine a review that begins and ends with a sober analysis of the size and style of font. You'd think the person was an obsessive-compulsive nut.

Darwinian literalism "is the classic example of the bias that invents 'horizontal' causes because one does not wish to admit a 'vertical' dimension" (Schuon). Now, I wonder what is the motivation for this denial? Whatever it is, it is a passion; which is not necessarily problematic, except that in this case it is a passion for something other than Truth.

But Truth is the first priority and prime objective of our little adventure. If it becomes the first casualty then dreadful consequences follow, all the way up to extinction.

The extinction may or may not be physical -- in the previous post we spoke of Christian Science, which may redound to personal extinction if followed to the letter. But certainly soul death follows the rejection of truth -- or at least asphyxiation, dehydration, or starvation due to failure of pneumosynthesis.

Yes, pneumosynthesis. Good word. In fact, I'm a little surprised it isn't a word. I mean it by way of analogy to photosynthesis, which is a real word but no less mysterious. Photosynthesis "is a process used by plants and other organisms to convert light energy into chemical energy that can later be released to fuel the organisms' activities."

Okay. "A process used by plants." So, what process did the plants use before using photosynthesis? I don't know. It's a long article, and rather technical.

The geological record indicates that this transforming event took place early in Earth's history, at least 2450–2320 million years ago, and, it is speculated, much earlier..... Available evidence from geobiological studies of Archean sedimentary rocks indicates that life existed 3500 million years ago, but the question of when oxygenic photosynthesis evolved is still unanswered.

When does one begin the study of biology? Fifth grade? I distinctly remember learning about photosynthesis, and the teacher telling us that science didn't actually understand how it works. Is this still true? In my opinion, no one will ever understand how sunlight is transformed to life. And what would it mean for practical purposes? That our thoughts are nothing more than transformations of solar energy? If so, then the theory of photosynthesis itself would be reducible to a chemical belch.

There is a kind of knowledge that paradoxically diminishes us with its increase. However, you can't really blame the knowledge. Rather, blame the metaphysic that conditions it -- in this case, the above-noted exclusion of verticality. What conditions the choice of metaphysic? Two possibilities: truth or preference. Which is to say, objectivity or subjectivity, reality or passion.

In the case of a solely horizontal metaphysic, "one seeks to extort from the physical plane a cause that it cannot furnish and that is necessarily situated above matter" (Schuon).

Necessarily. Which is to say, objectively. Reality does not care about your feelings, even scientistic ones. Extortion is wrong. Using feelings to extort facts is the beginning of all mischief. You could even blame our primordial catastrophe (G3AOA) on it if you want to.

Scientists -- and we are speaking here of the scientistic type -- want to know, right? That's what they tell us, and we should believe them. But so too does the drunk man sincerely want to find his keys by searching for them under the streetlight. It's a real thing:

The streetlight effect is a type of observational bias that occurs when people are searching for something and look only where it is easiest. Another term for this is a drunkard's search.

So, the Darwinian literalist looks for man's origin where it is easiest, right under the scientistic streetlight. What makes this paradoxical -- or self-refuting, really -- is that light can only come from Light.

What I mean is that science incontestably furnishes light. But it only does so because of borrowed Light. If science is the light, then it is no light at all, and we are again reduced to cosmic indigestion -- a weird failure of entropy.

One reason I reread Schuon is that I always discover subtle points that may have been obscured by the bigger ones -- as in how the stars disappear in the presence of the sun, even though they may actually be exponentially larger. In this case, he writes that "the sense of essentiality attracts us toward shores other than those of the limited plane of physical phenomena alone."

Mm mm mm. This mysterious little "sense of essentiality" turns out to be everything, humanly speaking. What does it mean? It means that human intelligence is defined by the ability to see beyond appearances to the reality behind or below or above them.

Ironically, this is precisely the mission not only of any science, but any rational human inquiry whatsoever, from history to psychology to literature. Obviously it is the mission of art as well, only in reverse: to create a surface for the audience to unpack. Both are fun! Which is to say, the encoding and decoding of mysteries. If you fail to engage in this -- well, let's just say you're missing out on a damn good thing.

Switching gears -- or books, rather -- Augros writes that "we must think that the human mind differs from the animal mind in some way as the infinite does from the finite."

Even that sentence proves the point, because it contains the word "infinite," or at least presents us with the humanly intelligible antinomy of finite <--> infinite, which transcends animality. But only infinitely.

We'll continue down this path tomorrow. Or up, rather, where the light is better.

1 comment:

julie said...

In my opinion, no one will ever understand how sunlight is transformed to life.

I find it fascinating that of all living organisms, only plants receive nourishment not only from other living organisms (their waste and their remains, having been broken down into fertile soil), but also from sunlight itself. As though their primary food is grace.

Scientists -- and we are speaking here of the scientistic type -- want to know, right? That's what they tell us, and we should believe them. But so too does the drunk man sincerely want to find his keys by searching for them under the streetlight.

Acts 28:
23 So they arranged a day with him and came to his lodgings in great numbers. From early morning until evening, he expounded his position to them, bearing witness to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus from the law of Moses and the prophets. 24 Some were convinced by what he had said, while others did not believe. 25 [f]Without reaching any agreement among themselves they began to leave; then Paul made one final statement. “Well did the holy Spirit speak to your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah, saying:

26 ‘Go to this people and say:
You shall indeed hear but not understand.
You shall indeed look but never see.
27 Gross is the heart of this people;
they will not hear with their ears;
they have closed their eyes,
so they may not see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart and be converted,
and I heal them.’
28 Let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” [29 ][g]