Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Exact Sciences vs. a Science of the Inexact

Men are divided into two camps: those who believe in original sin and those who are idiots. --Dávila

Chesterton remarked that "The one doctrine of Christianity which is empirically verifiable is the fallenness of man." And yet, the doctrine is still a little vague, being that it is clothed in mythological terms. Which is fine. So long as you get the message and refrain from deifying man or trying to create heaven on earth.

However, a fair number of modern sophisticates, tenured barbarians, and credentialed riffraff reject the message because of the mythology. No doubt this is part of the appeal of Jordan Peterson, who reframes the myths in contemporary terms. At the same time, it is why he is so hated and feared by the left, which only attacks what threatens it:

Few public figures inspire more vitriol and mockery on Twitter than, you guessed it, Jordan Peterson. And never before have I seen vitriol so out of proportion to the “threat” of the man’s underlying message....

After all, if you’re a theologically conservative Christian or Jew -- a person who is Biblically literate and strives to live according to Biblical morality -- the flaw of the Peterson message is that it feels a bit basic. As I wrote in my review, “readers who are already grounded in a Biblical worldview will find some of the counsel extraordinarily elementary."

.... Peterson stands out because he is.... disrupting an emerging secular cultural monopoly with arguments about history, tradition, and the deep truths about human nature that the cultural radicals had long thought they’d banished to the fringe....

When Peterson walks into a secular university or a secular television studio and addresses a secular audience by referencing ancient theological arguments, the effect is not unlike inviting a genderqueer women’s-studies professor to a Baptist Sunday-school class. Some things (in some places) are just not said (French).

French quotes Peterson to the effect that "We cannot invent our own values, because we cannot merely impose what we believe on our souls,” and concludes that "ancient truth can indeed provide the seed for new beginnings."

This post is not about Peterson, but about the universal metaphysic disclosed by Christian doctrine. But while looking up the exact quote by Chesterton, I also bumped into this gem: "There is a religious war when two worlds meet; that is, when two visions of the world meet; or in more modern language when two moral atmospheres meet."

So our civil war is ultimately -- as is always the case -- a religious war, and both sides know it. The irony, of course, is that the left believes the religiosity is confined to one side: that it is a war of "secularism" or "reason" (or whatever they wish to call it) against religion. But it is nothing of the sort. Again, one reason Peterson so annoys them is that he exposes the truth about the left's religiosity. And if you think Christianity is rooted in some dodgy myths, just apply that same standard to the left!

The whole point of genuine religious doctrine is that the myth is verifiable, or discloses a higher or deeper principle. Conversely, in the case of the left, the myth is the myth, with nothing to back it up except force or power: for example, men and women are basically the same, or else! Or, people are basically good; or free speech is a tool of white privilege. Poke around for the ground or source of these myths, and that's when the fur flies.

Christians should never be like that. Rather, to paraphrase Paul, always be ready to rationally defend the reasons for your hope and faith. Don't be like the Times and merely smear your opponent. That is surely not a sign of confidence in the truth of one's doctrine, but of great cognitive insecurity.

We'll say it again, for it is one of the rock bottom principles of One Cosmos: all truth is of the Holy Spirit -- indeed, even those truths held by the atheist. For it is not so much that the atheist is devoid of truth. Godlessness forbid! Rather, that he elevates a fragment to the whole, while either denying or blending vertical levels. His mistakes are in his method, mode, and perspective, not necessarily in what he says per se.

For example, there is no God in science. But that hardly means there is no God, for that is merely to dress a methodological assumption as an ontological conclusion -- an elementary but nevertheless persistent error, especially among those who do not think, or who allow science to do their thinking for them. In the words of the Aphorist -- which are always the last word --

--Nothing is more alarming than science in the ignorant.

--To believe that science is enough is the most naïve of superstitions.

--Natural laws are irreducible to explanation, like any mystery.

--The natural sciences can be adequately cultivated by slaves; the cultivation of the social sciences requires free men.

--Being only falsifiable, a scientific thesis is never certain but is merely current.

--Science, when it finishes explaining everything, but being unable to explain the consciousness that creates it, will not have explained anything.

--The Christian who is disturbed by the “results” of science does not know what Christianity is or what science is.

--Properly speaking, the social sciences are not inexact sciences, but sciences of the inexact.

Oh yes. I'm yoinking that one for the title.

Back to the universal metaphysic. Over the weekend I re-re-reread an essay by Schuon called The Question of Theodicies which, for my money, has the most lucid and far-reaching account of what the doctrine of man's evident fallenness must actually mean.

In fact, the essay is from the book Form and Substance in the Religions, and the title says it all: for example, the mythological account contained in Genesis 3 is a form, but the purpose of the form is to transmit the substance, especially to the "average man."

Which it surely did for some seventeen centuries or so, until the so-called "enlightenment," which lights certain areas while endarkening others, for metaphysically there is no free launch. Again, elevating a fragment to the whole is the road to hell. At best it is a game of whack-a-mole, in which no object can whack down that last fragment of subjectivity.

For those living in Rio Lindo or Manhattan, theodicy involves the attempt to reconcile God and evil -- or how and why a God who is a priori good can allow all this obvious evil to exist. Let's be honest: there is no question that something has got to give. Evil is evil, and God is God. But how?

I think it is accurate to say that Genesis 3 is mythological stab at answering this question. But what is the metaphysical substance beneath the mythopoetic form? I'm running out of time, so I'll just cut to Schuon's explanation and then comment upon it:

Infinitude, which is an aspect of the Divine Nature, implies unlimited Possibility and consequently Relativity, Manifestation, the world. To speak of the world is to speak of separation from the Principle, and to speak of separation is to speak of the possibility -- and necessity -- of evil; seen from this angle, what we term evil is thus indirectly a result of Infinitude, hence of the Divine Nature....
The bottom line is that evil must exist because the world is neither God nor paradise. But just because it must exist, that (orthoparadoxically) doesn't mean that God wills it per se. Analogously, I willed (so to speak) my son into existence, but I don't will him to be naughty. Or, America's founders willed the American government into existence, but that doesn't mean they willed the likes of Obama, Holder, and Brennan to be exponentially naughtier.

By the way, scripture definitely supports what Schuon says above. I'm thinking of two particular statements by Jesus (both paraphrased), 1) that evils must come, but woe to the fellow who commits them; and 2) why do you call me good, when no one is good but God alone?

We'll wrap things up with an aphorism or two:

--Evil only has the reality of the good that it annuls.

--Hell is any place from which God is absent.


ted said...

I think how Dyson reacted to Peterson at the Munk debate sums it up perfectly: I can't beat you logically, so I'm going to call you "a mean mad white man".

ted said...

Peterson's mistake was to take it too personally. He tends to rarely show a sense of humor. Better to take Truth seriously, but not oneself.

Gagdad Bob said...

This is what happens when white liberals attempt to assuage their guilt by giving morons like Dyson phony degrees in made up subjects.

ted said...

Dyson was praising Foucault. That's pretty much a dead end, and speaks to what garnered at the academy

Gagdad Bob said...

That someone like him can be called an intellectual tells you all you need to know about the left and its "intellect."

julie said...

The whole point of genuine religious doctrine is that the myth is verifiable, or discloses a higher or deeper principle.

Thinking back to last week's commenter Inflation, the reason someone seeking God is (infinitely) more likely to encounter the God of Christianity than a Zeus or Odin is not only that Christianity is the dominant culture in America, but that what is disclosed in the Bible is indeed verifiable, and discloses higher and deeper principles throughout. The wonder of studying any part of it lies in realizing that it is not merely a bunch of stories about something that happened to someone once, but rather these are the things that happen to pretty much everyone all the time, and the paths of life and death are quite consistent. It is, simply, true.

Who are we? Why are we here? What ought we to do? Science can't answer that, nor could Zeus or Odin. The Word, which is the Truth, is all to happy to explain to anyone willing to listen.

Anonymous said...

It should be noted that evil is needed to make the world function as it does.

If things were 100% good, then the world would be in a static situation in which all was 100% bland, and would eventually drive everyone to distraction. It could be said that unrelieved goodness is evil.

A basic sensation like hunger is "evil." Left unattended, this urge becomes a horror and potentially leads to evil deeds. So, latent evil is built right in to the system at the core.

To expunge evil, you would have to do away with needs. "I am enough, I have enough." Some try to make this attitude work. It could work. As long as there is a steady food supply, oxygen, water, etc. But you could arrive at boredom again, which why the very good always get interested in helping unfortunate others; in doing so, they partake of evil vicariously and avoid losing their minds from ennui.

Remember why God created the Cosmos now? That's right...He was looking for something to do.

Byron said...

Thank you for the reference to Schuon's treatment of theodicy. I think his insight into this question is compelling but I wonder what it means for the traditional understanding of divine omnipotence. It is as if the very fact of manifestation acts as a curb to God's power seeing as it establishes an ontological 'remoteness' from the Principle. How else can one explain outrages like the slow and painful death of children from cancer, for example? Yes, you're quite right - 'something has to give'. Perhaps it is omnipotence that must be the casualty of this resolution to the problem of evil and human suffering.

Gagdad Bob said...

I agree entirely. I have no problem with the tweaking of what is understood by omnipotence. I would say omnipotence means that God has the absolute power to do what God can do, but that even God cannot contradict his own nature, a big part of which is to create things that are not-God, so to speak. As Schuon would say, God didn't have to create this particular universe, but it is still necessary for him to create. That may sound like a limitation, but I don't think so, since creating is much more exalted than not creating.

Anonymous said...

It is high time for a major new religion to make an appearance. What shall it be?

doug saxum said...

The religion of Wisdom.

Anonymous said...

Uhhhh..... Judaism - the Source from which Christians took this story, these verses - does NOT have a doctrine of Original Sin, nor does it interpret this story - originally our story, as with so much of Christianity - as indicating a Fallen world, or Fallen Man.

Human beings are intended to bridge heaven and earth - to combine a physical body with all its drives and shortcomings with a Divine soul and moral conscience. That is why there are 2 stories of human creation - one that parallels the material world, one that addresses man's unique soul and purpose. If I had to pick one verse it would be Genesis 2:5.

The Garden of Eden story is interpreted by those who first recorded it as the story of the birth of human consciousness. Like a toddler who gains self-awareness by saying no, it is necessary for humans to become aware that they have free will - and that different rules govern (and elevate) their lives. Note that the Garden is surrounded by waters, like a womb...

According to Rabbinic tradition, the entire Eden story takes place on the 6th day of creation - Chapter 2 and 3 are expansions on the creation of man in Chapter 1 (see Genesis 2:4 which clearly implies this). Only *after* they discover their moral dimension, and their power of free will, does G-d then say "Heaven and earth were completed... and G-d saw that it was VERY good."