Friday, February 09, 2018

Drowning in Acid and Calling it Truth

In a recent video, Jordan Peterson uses the analogy of an iceberg to illustrate how people can appear to be standing on two different surfaces which are in reality united beneath the water.

I don't remember the context, but it reminded me of how liberals don't understand that they are standing on the same iceberg as conservatives. They don't see that the left is our mutual adversary. I am aware of only one prominent liberal who tries to point this out, Alan Dershowitz.

The progressive left is standing on an iceberg that shares nothing with the political philosophy of the American founding. Obviously, the Founders were classical liberals, whereas progressivism is fundamentally illiberal.

For example, no one should be surprised at their efforts to shut down free speech, or their attacks on religious freedom. On the conservative-liberal iceberg, these issues were settled long ago -- indeed, at the founding. On the American iceberg, freedom of speech is a natural right and self-evident truth. But on the progressive iceberg, there are no such things as natural rights or self-evident truths.

The progressive left always deploys lexicographical tactics in service of its ideological ends, perhaps the most prominent example being the conflation of liberalism and leftism, which are again at metaphysical antipodes.

Returning to our recent line of thought, you could say that our whole point is to show how Christianity and science are by no means standing on different icebergs. From a certain perspective they appear as two peaks separated by an expanse of water. But look beneath the surface, and damn! Same metaphysical berg. Not only that, but no other religious berg will cut ice for the scientific project, as explained by philosophers of science too numerous to mention.

Except for Whitehead, who may have been the first to notice. The following passage from Science and the Modern World is is copied from an amazon reviewer:

The greatest contribution of medievalism to the formation of the scientific movement [is] the inexpugnable belief that every detailed occurrence can be correlated with its antecedents in a perfectly definite manner, exemplifying general principles. Without this belief the incredible labours of scientists would be without hope. It is this instinctive conviction... which is the motive power of research -- that there is a secret, a secret which can be unveiled.

How has this conviction been so vividly implanted on the European mind?... There seems to be but one source for its origin. It must come from the medieval insistence on the rationality of God, [such that] the search into nature could only result in the vindication of the faith in rationality....

In Asia, the conceptions of God were of a being who was either too arbitrary or too impersonal for such ideas to have much effect.... There was not the same confidence as in the intelligible rationality of a personal being.... My explanation is that the faith in the possibility of science, generated antecedently to the development of modern scientific theory, is an unconscious derivative from medieval theology.

So, science is an outcrop of the Christian iceberg. In the decades since Whitehead wrote that in the 1920s, his observations have gone from controversial to commonplace. To say unconscious derivative is to understand the relation between what is above and below the surface, the former derived from the latter.

Which also reminds me. In the early days of psychoanalysis -- and I suppose among the orthodox faithful to this day -- conscious/unconscious (or CS/UCS) was seen as a kind of vicious duality. But I came to understand them as a necessary and inevitable complementarity -- which is, incidentally, one reason why "artificial intelligence" will always remain so, for there is simply no way to model the UCS, nor its perpetual dialectical play with the CS. Even if we concede that the CS is somewhat analogous to a computer, the UCS definitely isn't, let alone the relationship between them.

This post is turning into the usual Friday ramble. So be it. I'm free associating, and you get what you pay for. But now I'm thinking of The Symmetry of God, which provides a useful way to think about what goes on above and below water. You might say that asymmetrical logic applies above the surface, whereas symmetrical logic rules below. Science is assymetrical, but is grounded in symmetry.

Example. Well, for me, perhaps the most consequential symmetry is that between man and God. If we we are in the image and likeness of the Creator, then that is literally a kind of symmetry. Analogously, my image in the mirror bears a symmetrical relationship to me, even if it is ultimately derivative, a "pale reflection" of the real thing, as it were.

But if there is symmetry between man and God, then that is saying a great deal. For example, it would explain our access to love, truth, and beauty, not to mention virtue, creativity, unity, objectivity, and more. Conversely, if there is no such symmetry, then there is no accounting for the gifts just mentioned. Indeed, they have no ground or even possibility. As such, they must be pointless illusions.

D'oh! You just melted the scientific iceberg with your metaphysical blowtorch.

Other symmetries. How about man and woman? That Eve is "bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" is what you call a hint: above the surface they look like two different beings. Beneath the surface, oneflesh.

Or, heaven and earth, celestial and terrestrial, vertical and horizontal. These are not opposed, nor can the former ever be reduced to the latter. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. The counter-myth of the progressive iceberg is always My will be done, on earth because there is no heaven. Which soon enough brings about hell.

Daniel Dennett rightly calls Darwinism a "universal acid" that, as it were, melts all manmade icebergs. True enough. When "pushed to its logical conclusion," writes Hanby, it also -- necessarily -- "begins to dissolve the very subject and presupposition of Darwinian theory..." Is there an acid that eats itself last?

If you don't believe so, then you haven't been paying attention to this post, for if you acid-wash being with Darwinism, "intelligibility and truth must always be reducible, as a matter of principle, to the unintelligibility and untruth upon which they are premised." At which point you are plunged beneath the waves and drown, even if you're the last to know you've just committed cluelesside.

Religious thought does not go forward, like scientific thought, but rather goes deeper. --Dávila


Anonymous said...

This is a good post, very well crafted. The point about scientific inquiry being linked to Europe fails to account for the methods and findings made by the Chinese antecedent to that. Otherwise pretty convincing.

Regarding symmetry, also convincing. However, a sticking point is there must also be symmetry between a host of things which are seen as negative, like evil, ugliness, and deceit, and the unknown from which they, like goodness, beauty, and truth, must have come forth.

This is hard for the Christian to swallow, I understand. There are any number of work-around which have been tried, none of which need to be trotted out here. I was wondering if you had anything original and fresh on that.

Gagdad Bob said...

Evil is not a symmetrical to good, rather, a privation. And see Jaki, Stark, and others for why science was stillborn in China.

julie said...

I don't remember the context, but it reminded me of how liberals don't understand that they are standing on the same iceberg as conservatives.

To the extent that anyone tries to understand truth, liberal or not, he is an enemy of leftism. Many people who consider themselves liberal find this out the hard way when they try to stand up for something they have always known to be true, and suddenly their "friends" are trying to destroy their lives. Leftism is a jealous god, and requires a multitude of sacrifices.

ted said...

I really liked David Warren's take on Jordan Peterson. Very astute.

ted said...

Bob: I noticed you've been reading a lot of rock music books lately. Any of them any good?

Gagdad Bob said...

Yes! I especially liked Ed Ward's History of Rock & Roll, although I suppose a lot of it won't register if you're not familiar with the artists and performances he references. Then again, it might be fun to check them out on Youtube. At any rate, he has an enjoyable stream-of-consciousness style that is idiosyncratic without being self-indulgent.

I also enjoyed the History of the Electric Guitar, and learned all sorts of interesting facts and stories.

In the more distant past, Guralnick's biography of Sam Phillips was quite good, as was the recent bio of George Martin.

And this is without a doubt the best Monkee's bio. They are not just criminally underrated but unjustly vilified.

Gagdad Bob said...

There was also a good bio of Nilsson a few years ago, but it's not as well done as the documentary.

Gagdad Bob said...

Oh, and the 1200 page Byrds epic was really good, but you probably have to be a fanatic.

ted said...

A lot of great suggestions. I may start with the Martin bio at some point. I've always felt he was the backbone to one of the great bands in a way few producers have been.

Gagdad Bob said...

Absolutely. They -- group and producer -- had the kind of magical complementarity that makes a fellow believe in providence.

Gagdad Bob said...

You have to read the book to understand just how perfect Martin was for them. He had an unusual and even unique skill set that perfectly matched the potentials the Beatles didn't even know they had until he helped actualize them.