Casting out demons, or, the modern god of the gaps
February 17, 2014 § 24 Comments
I’ve spoken before about positivism: about how the enlightened modern insists that everything meaningful about a given part of reality can be formally codified into communicable knowledge; and the postmodern, suspecting (correctly) that the modern project of banishing all mystery and codifying all meaningful knowledge in any sufficiently interesting domain is impossible, leaps to the conclusion that he definitely knows that no definite knowledge is possible and people who say such things are tyrants. The one thing moderns and postmoderns agree upon is that if we cannot in principle become omniscient like God, then a pox on reality.
To the modern knowledge is like a sphere, the acquisition and codification of knowledge fills in the empty spaces in the sphere, and the remaining “gaps” in knowledge are closing all the time. Benighted superstitious Christians fill in those “gaps” in knowledge with their “God”, and because those gaps are now filled in with “God” the Christian is inherently against acquiring more knowledge and specifically against Science[tm]. Acquiring more knowledge would, to the positivist, squeeze out any epistemic “room” left for God. Har har har you superstitious Christians, once the sphere of knowledge is complete your God will disappear.
I’ve also discussed before that God is God of both the gaps and the non-gaps, and that in any case this picture of the relationship between knowledge and mystery is incoherent and irrational. I won’t explain why in detail, but if you don’t understand why positivism (and its reflection in the mirror, postmodernism) is crap you should keep on exploring reality until you do.
That is all just preliminary background to the subject of the post.
I recently visited one of the top medical facilities in the world and spoke to some of the smartest doctors on the planet. What I found interesting is that whenever a particular discipline is forced to look at a particular case and say “I don’t know what is going on”, the immediate (and appropriate) response is to refer to other disciplines. That’s great as far as it goes. But what is pertinent here is that medical science as a whole is very, very reluctant to admit when it has run out of explanations. The neurology clinic at this facility sees many patients who present with the physiologic symptoms of seizures, for example. Of these, one doctor estimated that a third do not have epilepsy; that the cause is unknown to neurology. These are classified as “pseudoseizures” and are referred to … drum roll please … psychiatrists/psychologists. He explained that the mind is much more complex than the brain and that, here is the punch line, because we know it isn’t caused by the brain it must be in the mind.
Got that? We don’t know what caused it, so the cause must not be physiological.
Evolution makes the contrary assertion: we don’t know what caused it, but the cause must be physiological.
Watch those “gaps” close between the scylla of evolution and the charybdis of psychology, ladies and gentlemen, and make sure you remember to take your antidepressants!
Is it any wonder that the great last stop on the modern explanatory railway, the telos of modernity-as-religion, is evolutionary psychology?