With the car in neutral, you are going nowhere

June 22, 2014 § 17 Comments

“You see,” said Aslan, “They will not let us help them.  They have chosen cunning instead of belief.  Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out.”  – The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis

Modernity likes to see itself as standing neutrally above all of reality: as a transcendent stage of humanity in which the prejudices, biases, and oppressions of bygone years have been left behind by the human elite.  Religious conflicts between superstitious tribes have been replaced or at least regulated by a dispassionate, clinical neutrality that stands above all of those petty conflicts and keeps the peace by not permitting any one tribalism to tyrannize another. Modernity focuses on formalisms and methods, eschewing the unsolvable dilemmas of metaphysics/religion and frequently viewing the latter as illusory, at least from a practical standpoint.

Modernity further insists that its formalisms and methods must be metaphysically neutral: otherwise they are inauthentic, just more superstitious tribalism by another name.  Marxism viewed classical liberal capitalism as inauthentic for this very reason: capitalist society was more or less isomorphic to medieval feudalism, with just different labels being used, and thus was lying about its commitment to freedom and equal rights.  Catholic positivists will tell you that sure, naturalism is false philosophically, but doing good science requires a methodological assumption of naturalism — never mind that all the most profound scientific discoveries were made by scientists with very ‘opinionated’ metaphysics, and never mind that the methodological qualifier on a lie doesn’t make it any less a lie.

God is not mocked, and it isn’t even rationally coherent, let alone actually possible, for human beings to make fences to keep Him out of the various places we want to treat as our own little domains where we are God.

§ 17 Responses to With the car in neutral, you are going nowhere

  • Peter Blood says:

    Was it Adam Smith in Theory of Moral Sentiments who popularized the idea of being an “impartial spectator”?

  • Einstein introduced the cosmological constant instead of the Big Bang theory because he wanted the universe to be eternally unchanging in order for it not to have been created, so as to avoid the question of the Creator.

    That’s the only response that’s needed to the atheist’s assertion that scientists work best with less metaphysical baggage.

    Well, that and the fact that there is no such thing as *less* metaphysical baggage, only *less orderly* metaphysical baggage.

    And if you want ot have the simplest, most orderly metaphysical thoughts, you’re left with the pandeism of the Stoics or out and out Christianity.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    Physics may be defined as the study of computable aspects of things.
    Do you claim that there are either no computable aspects of things or that the computable aspects are inextricable from non-computable aspects?

  • Zippy says:

    If by “the study of computable aspects of things” you mean nothing but the computable aspects of things, then physics isn’t that.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    “Those who believe that the formalism is the scientific theory and that the interpretation isn’t science”

    I do not hold that prediction is the goal of physics or sciences more generally.
    I hold that understanding is the goal (this point is emphasized by CS Lewis in the epilogue of The Discarded Image).

    But I do not see any contradiction between “understanding the causes of things” and holding physics to be “the study of computable aspects of things”.

    And indeed I mean nothing but the computable aspects of things,
    It is for you to provide a counter-example.

  • Zippy says:

    I did provide a counterexample: quantum mechanics.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    Aren’t computations involved in QM? Or you are thinking of the interpretation(s) of QM making it “non-computable” and “non-formal”?

    The point is that physics concerns itself with things that can be measured and computed using some well-defined procedures.

    Consider a prediction made through physics, even QM, and an intuitive prediction made by one’s mother or wife regarding what a man may do under certain circumstances. The second prediction is what I call non-formal and indeed non-formalizable.

    There is a clear demarcation between physics (the spirit of geometry or computation) and the spirit of intuition.

  • Zippy says:

    You keep repeating that physics is nothing but what is measureable/computable, and that there is a clear demarcation between intuition and mathematics, etc etc. But repeating that just tells me that you are ignorant. If you had solved the demarcation problem in the philosophy of science you would be a very famous person.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    At least I am not confounding physics and science.
    I define physics in terms of computable, and not biology or psychology.

  • Zippy says:

    There is no positive demarcation between physics and other science, or science and non-science. Your assertion that physics is computable, again, just demonstrates your ignorance. You should read more philosophy of science before commenting on the issue.

  • […] Positivism can be understood in any number of equivalent ways.  One way is to understand it as the assertion of a positive, rigorous demarcation between one kind of knowledge and another: as the belief that there is a straightforward mechanical verification procedure which can be used to determine whether any given proposition is (say) scientific or unscientific.  “Mechanical” here means roughly “a neutral procedure that doesn’t rely on any particular metaphysical assumptions.”  (Ahem). […]

  • […] arising from a text or other formal representation taken in itself.  Positivism presumes that metaphysical neutrality is rationally coherent and possible, that formal expressions can have meaning on their own. […]

  • […] be set apart from other kinds of knowledge – there must be a positive demarcation criteria, a neutral verification procedure for every proposed expression of knowledge to settle whether it is within […]

  • […] with his positive theories, is not to critically examine his question begging theories or his metaphysical dependence upon them. His first instinct is to disbelieve in the reality of the counterexample sitting right […]

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