THE UNBRIDGEABLE CHASM BETWEEN SCIENCE AND THEISM
If Joe Darrow’s report, Science and Religion, The Port Times Record, November 09, 2006, of Reverend Guy J. Consolmagno’s lecture at Stony Brook University is accurate in its attempt to narrow or erase the divide between “religion and science,” it is evident that not enough attention has been given to the interpretation of language particularly since so much of it is couched in metaphor, euphemisms, and poetic irrelevancies, i.e., nonobjective expressions.
At the outset, to address the issue of science versus theism, as the Reverend is reported to have presented it, requires at least a perfunctory comment about the abuse of language and the uses of the two terms, ‘objectivism’ and ‘subjectivism.’
Theistic authorities are fully aware that our societies and schooling institutions are not interested in, not capable of, or are completely lacking in understanding the importance of distinguishing falsifiable, verifiable, concrete, predictably recurrent related language of perception from unfalsifiable, unverifiable, abstract, hypothetical, metaphorical, supernatural, and transcendental language. Nor do they wish to alert them to the fact that there is no such thing as absolute truth and knowledge.
Consequently, no one calls them to task for the games they play with language enabling them, as George Orwell warned, to control the thinking and behavior of the general public.
They do not dare teach that every declarative statement is preceded by an unspoken “if”; or if not that, then by a spoken or unspoken preceding or proceeding “according to available evidence.”
Such egregious negligence by the powers that be, in the world of what is euphemistically called “education” plays right “into the hands” of those who by design or with nefarious intentions or out of ignorance enables them to manipulate language to their own advantage.
Theists, for centuries have utilized this absence of interest in understanding the lack of clarity in metaphorical euphemisms. Not only have they succeeded in retarding the advance of science for centuries but, having failed to undermine it completely, are still hard at work to convince the general public that there is little fundamental difference in the way science and theism arrive at their beliefs.
They unabashedly admit that their theistic edifice is founded on faith—blind faith, in spite of evidence and in the absence of evidence while at the same time subtly and convincingly insinuate that they have absolute knowledge of an unknowable god’s existence, describing him (it, she?) in great detail.
If they can convince the general public, as it is evident the reverend is attempting to do, which has little understanding of the catastrophic dangers inherent in the misuse of language, that “scientific knowledge is metaphor, non-objective, and is not literally true,” they can succeed in undermining respect for science and will maintain the power and authority that they have gained throughout history abusing language to the detriment of peace on earth.
By paralleling the beliefs of science with an unfalsifiable description of “God,” Reverend Consolmagno hopes to shore up his claims for His existence.
However, he seems to ignore the fact that the unbridgeable chasm existing between the untestable edicts of theism and the self-corrective theories, laws, and methods of science includes many more dogmas than merely blind faith in the complex expanse of theistic dogmas relating to a never evident divine being defined in unfalsifiable language. The lack of reference to them is glaring in their absence.
As to ‘objectivism’ and ‘subjectivism,’ if one could call a symposium of the philosophers and thinkers throughout history to discuss these too terms, it would soon become apparent that no agreement as to the “correct” use of them could be achieved.
The reason for this is that all efforts to arrive at one, as to the present, appears to rest on discovering some kind of abstract, singular, and absolute ontology of meaning relating to the multiplicity of “levels” of language upon which they are used.
Until our philosophers, thinkers and teachers pay serious attention to the fact that no linguistic symbol has an inherent meaning, even as they refer to “usage” of the terms, they subconsciously, in ignorance, or willfully ignore the fact and continue to emulate the dog chasing his own tail, i.e., a “will o’ the wisp,” succeeding in accomplishing an expansion of the abusive use of both terms diminishing even more the effectiveness of their multiple attributed “meanings.”
Obviously we can play linguistic games with the term, ‘objectivity.’ Even as the reverend says, “Metaphor is the only way we know to describe what we’re talking about, clearly he seems oblivious to the serious implications to be drawn regarding the true relationship of our metaphorical language to our perceptions and conceptions.
If the reverend feels obliged to apply the linguistic metaphors, “nonobjective,” “not literally true,” etc., to science because the scientists are not in touch with Immanuel Kant’s “ding-an-sich” (i.e., the thing-in-itself), he is also obliged to use the metaphors relating to scientific perceptions describing them as verifiable, predictable, recurrable, and falsifiable in counter description of theism to which such metaphoricals cannot truthfully be applied -- but more of this later.
The basis of his lecture is essentially predicated upon his fundamental assumption that scientists must have faith (a euphemism for “conditioned conviction”) similar to that of a theist’s blind faith in an unknowable god.
Subsumed under that faith are his three other assumptions that he claims scientists believe without reservation, 1) “in the absence of evidence that the universe actually exists,” 2) “that the universe makes sense,” and 3) the “dual assumptions that there are laws, not chaos, governing the physical universe, and that human beings can discover them.”
Obviously the reverend has a limited sense of the uses of the term, ‘evidence’ giving no explication of the term, leaving the impression that evidence is strictly “empirical,” that is discoverable by direct observation, beyond our perceptions. In addition to that, he went to great lengths to define “science” as merely “metaphorical and nonobjective.”
The conclusion to be drawn from the reverend’s thesis is that thinking of the language of knowledge as metaphor, he has shown the faith of theism and science to be “similar.”
In doing so, he is, possibly unwittingly, indicating that there is no evidence for the existence of his god also, without ever openly admitting it.
It would seem that the reverend’s reference to science being “ultimately nonobjective” is disingenuous, exaggerated, or at least confused. The weakness of his argument is his abuse of the terms, ‘ultimately’ and ‘nonobjective.’ The former implies that the whole of science is based on blind faith and the latter is misdirected at science.
All objective evidence is nothing more than predictive recurrence of perception. To attribute to a perception what it is not would be, in my view, a nonobjective claim.
There is, of course, a world of difference between the nonobjective “must be” of theism unsupported by any public perceptual evidence, and “must be” of science supported by evidence predictably and recurrently perceptive, therefore objective. The reverend is guilty, though I suspect unwittingly, of committing the fallacy of the straw man attack.
It seems clear that his motivation was, as is that of most Jesuits, to give the impression that there is a weakness in the scientific enterprise and to show an unassailable parallel between the ways in which scientists and theists arrive at their beliefs.
Not mentioned, of course, was the role played through indoctrination (a euphemism for conditioning) of the minds of helpless and innocent children. Another euphemism is the term, “religion,” instead of the intended meaning, “theism.”
Obviously his motivation was not to “help” science or to “strengthen” its image. It is rather an attempt to put the hoped for “validity” of theism on an equal footing with science. It is theism that is competing for the hearts and minds of the world’s population.
The competitive attributes of science lie within not outside its own structure. There is nothing it can gain by competing with theism whereas theism has everything to gain if it can show the world that its claims are as legitimate as are those of science.
It is important to distinguish between the two terms, ‘religion’ and ‘theism.’ Not all religions are predicated upon the existence of a god.
For instance, Einstein said, “I am a deeply religious non-believer.”
There may well be a god. However, as Biblically defined, there is no way to verify it -- faith in Christ incarnate aside.
As to his fundamental assumption, obviously faith plays a role in science. Every person in the world has faith, even atheists and agnostics have, related to everyday events in their lives.
However, it is not blind conditioned faith in a god that eventually evolved out of countless concepts of gods in the polytheistic ages or gods of today.” Rather, it is trust in the evidence of past experience.
Nobody worships, trusts, or has faith in a god. Each worshiper has faith in his personal, nonobjective concept of a god without the critical or analytical ability to discern the difference
As to the first of his subsumed assumptions, this is a more complicated issue in need of extensive explication. It calls for an examination of our uses and abuses of language in general, as well as an inquiry into how such terms as ‘evidence,’ ‘objective,’ ‘metaphorical,’ and others are used.
Suffice it to say, for the present, if one assumes there is no evidence as to why we believe there is a universe beyond our perceptions, possesses and expresses no curiosity about the possibility for it, one is not likely to seek, or find, any, particularly since science is not spending billions of dollars proselytizing its existence.
His second subsumed assumption is also subject to the above comment with this caveat: In the approximately two hundred and fifty year history of science, though a case can be made that it extends beyond that, much sense has been made, with abundant predictable evidence to show for it, about the universe we know, i.e., our perceptions of a presumed universe beyond them.
As to the final subsumed assumption, it too applies to the universe of perceptions we know. No credible scientist presumes, in fact, to claim discovery of physical laws even though they so often carelessly, habitually, and even sometimes deliberately abuse our language causing those uninformed of the methods of science to interpret the language falsely.
What they discover are perceptions of predictable recurrence of other perceptual events that they subsequently describe and codify into what we deem to be laws, theories, rules, etc.
The reverend appears, if he does believe there is a real universe beyond our perceptions, also to be ignorant of the fact, whatever the nature of the universe may be, that ‘chaos’ and ‘order’ are value terms and that chaos is a form of order. Surely he has heard of “chaos theory” or at least witnessed the “chaos” of a child’s bedroom that some movie director might like to reproduce for his film.
The Reverend claims science “is ultimately nonobjective -- it requires a belief in a universe characterized by order and intelligibility, a belief similar to faith in God.”
The dictionary defines the term, ‘objective’ as “having to do with a known or perceived object [such as a tree] as distinguished from something existing only in the mind of a person thinking” [like a concept of a god].
Faith in science, however, is trust in perceptually recurrent evidence [the “tree”] until new evidence shows a need for refinement or correction.
It is not enough to say, “Science and religion rest on belief.” Much depends on the nature of the belief. Is its language warranted (based on evidence) or unwarranted (incapable of being based on evidence)?
The Reverend says: “All scientific discovery comes from the motivation and perspective of the scientist making the observation.”
In this day and age, not only do scientists work in teams but also, the claims and discovery of any one scientist are immediately subject to the final judgment of the worldwide scientific community.
When the Reverend says, “Thinkers like Stephen J. Gould miss the point: Science and religion meet in the human being who is the scientist, the human being who is the believer,” it is he who misses the point.
Obviously “science and religion” are intended to mean, “the beliefs of science and religion (i.e., theism).”
If so, he does not seem to understand that the symbols of language are tools having no inherent meaning, and how much and atrociously it is abused allowing countless nonsensical, unfalsifiable beliefs to be held by the uninformed and promulgated by those in seats of power. Their beliefs too “meet in the human being” who is firmly convinced they are true.
Scientific achievements and language are self-corrective, predictable, public, testable, and verifiable. Theistic dogmas and conditioned beliefs are not.
This very fact is evidence that the edifice and achievements of science are independent of whether there is a world beyond our sense faculties. The theories, laws, experiments, mathematics, etc., are self-corrective tools through which scientists arrive at the conclusions that have so benefited humanity.
In the case of theism, however, its unfalsifiable dogmas are indispensable, i.e., non-corrective and not to be questioned. Lack of faith in them by the masses would mean the end of theism's control of the beliefs and behavior of its flock.
Moreover, the end of belief in “sin” would force theists to seek other employment..
It is to be admitted that Reverend Consolmagno alludes to important verifiable facts and philosophical issues. It is unfortunate that he interprets them through the lens of his conditioned and unfalsifiable theistic language of his convictions. No doubt, fundamentally, he is referring to the perennial philosophical issue of “appearance and reality.” He is essentially correct when he says, “Metaphor is the only way we know to describe what we’re talking (i.e., semaphoring) about,” though there are other ways to communicate. But let us be clear: what we are describing is our personal interpretation of our perceptions.
He is quoted having said, “Human eyes interpret what and how we do, and what we will perceive when we get there.” He is concerned to show that this applies to scientists’ claims as well as those of the rest of us. In that respect, even if not literally, he is, without question, correct.
He neglects to point out, however, that in the history of man, probably 99 per cent of the population, including his “true believers” had and have no clue about that fact. Moreover, their beliefs are generally synonymous with the correspondence theory of truth despite all its weaknesses.
In any case to claim, assuming he understands the functions of language, “similarity to faith in ‘God,’” is not only an arrogant excessive stretch, but, as well, in contradiction, puts him in opposition to the Biblical reference to a possibility of plurality of gods (given the term, ‘Elohim,' as used in Genesis and Exodus, with all its ambiguities) and clearly exposes him to the charge that the countless gods of other religions, throughout the history of human beings were and are false gods.
What I found to be disingenuous of the reverend, or at least uninformed, was his resort to the fallacy of the small sample in citing differences of opinion among some scientists, at the same time offering, “science works.”
He seems little impressed by the enormous contributions to the health, well-being, technological advances, and predictive understanding of the perceptual recurrence of events of the universe, all of which, to the reverend, are “metaphorical.”
Is he acceding to William James’ theory of truth that, “What works is true”? Perhaps he should consider, the converse, “What is true works.”
Moreover, he seems to have a limited and skewed concept of why one would be inclined to do science, declaring simplistically though poetically, “Every human [sic] scientist has chosen to be a scientist for reasons of the heart, for reasons, Reason does not know.” (Wow!)
His comment that “the meaning of knowledge depends on the context we put it in” and “that context is always a human context” is quite vague, or, to say the least, simplistic.
Knowledge, probabilistic in nature, is a warranted state of mind about our perceptions of the assumed existence of things in our environment with which we assumedly come in contact. Can it be otherwise? And, the knowledge acquired from within a “forward moving present” represents the source of new evidence that underlies the self-corrective mantra of science that is lacking in theistic dogma.
There is no doubt of the accuracy of the reverend’s claim that science is not purely objective if he means by that merely what we can all agree upon, i.e., that science does not have empirical evidence that it is perceiving a physical universe.
No credible scientist would claim to the contrary. If he means that science has no justifiable reason to believe there is a “physical” universe beyond our perceptions, this is a claim that is in need of revisiting in light of the shadow cast upon our use of the term, ‘empirical evidence’ which literally does not exist when used in conjunction with the term, ‘the physical universe,’ as suggested by Einstein who stated,
“The only justification for our concepts and systems of concepts is that they serve to represent the complex of our experiences; beyond this they have no legitimacy.”
Surely this can clearly be interpreted to be stating that any claim to any interpretation of the term, ‘objectivity’ implying existence of any imaginable kind beyond our perceptions has “no legitimacy in fact.”
It needs to be said, however, that it does not rule out a justification of belief that there is, based on certain aspects of our perceptions.
Concepts, as John Dewey so wisely stated, are instruments. By analyzing these tools we will acquire the experience that there is some empirical justification that even the reverend lives by, for believing in a world beyond our senses. As we shall see, an analysis of our uses of language may show that Einstein’s statement is subject to minor equivocation.
As to the differences of opinions that existed or exist among various scientists, is the reverend not aware of the human proclivity to differ among personalities possessing different upbringing, values, and viewpoints? Scientists too, are first human beings possessing all the foibles of other human beings.
But unlike the conditioning upbringing of theistic dogma, science is founded upon a self-corrective principle wherein the passage of time and the finding of new evidence bring about agreement.
If scientists did not trust, i.e., have faith, in their methods in the face of verifiable facts (Perceptions are facts too.), deduced from the application of their hypotheses, laws, observations, experiments, induction, and the like, there would be no scientific achievements such as have made life much more comfortable and interesting for humanity.
If one cannot see that the application of man’s intelligence has made all this possible, then one is willfully blind and is guilty of denying the evidence in typical fashion of that state of mind by which the true believer accepts claims in spite of the absence of evidence and despite evidence to the contrary.
Moreover it is a crime against humanity, that the theistic edifices of history have so thoroughly conditioned a vast measure of the populace to have blind faith in a biblically admitted unknowable divine entity in clear contradiction of the absence of personal intervention of some supreme being -- “acts of God,” aside.
Another fallacy, theistic authorities have a fondness for, is the fallacy of an appeal to authority. Typically the authority is the Bible, i.e., the writings of the men who wrote the scriptures in the absence of knowledge of science, a deceased theistic authority, the Biblical God, the legend of Christ, as opposed to the assumed “living Christ,” and the like.
The reverend, striving to justify his contention that there is no difference between the faith of theistic religion and science, resorts to quoting the “prince” of science, Albert Einstein: “I know how the universe works. God is subtle; he is not malicious. . . . God would not have fooled me that way.”
Either the reverend neglected to point out or is unaware that Einstein also said,
“I cannot conceive of a personal God who would directly influence the actions of individuals, or would directly sit in judgment on the creatures of His own creation. I cannot do this in spite of the fact that mechanistic causality has, to a certain extent, been placed in doubt by modern science. My religiosity consists in a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality. Morality is of the highest importance – but for us, not for God.”
Moreover, it is highly unlikely that any living human being believes that we don’t know there is a universe. Why? The answer lies in the fact that we experience a universe of perceptions, a la Bishop George Berkeley who proclaimed, “To be is to be perceived.”
Note, I’m not agreeing with him, nor could I ever, considering that he is referring to an immaterial God’s perceiving it.
One might argue as to whether perceptions are real as is argued by so many phenomenological philosophers, like, for instance, Jean-Paul Sartre in his Being and Nothingness in which he argues that being is nothingness.
Now there’s a twist on meaningful language if there ever were one. I cannot, for the life of me fathom what sensible meaningfulness can be attributed to it.
Moreover, the history of philosophy is pregnant with such unverifiable language.
As Bertrand Russell observed:
"The failure to consider language explicitly has been a cause of much that was [sic, is] bad in traditional philosophy."
Though this is not the time or place to discuss such an issue, I am wary of being one of those people to whom S. I. Hayakawa referred in his book, Language in Thought and Action (first edition), when he said,
“Educated people are best at hiding their ignorance by using big words.”
Hence, I shall simply ask, “Has there ever been any evidence that ‘something’ can evolve from nothing” or be created by nothing, i.e., an immaterial god?
On the one hand, one does not have to be a rocket scientist to recognize the technological progress achieved by the methods of science, even if we know about it only by our predictable and recurrent perceptions.
On the other hand, if George Santayana is correct in declaring religion and theism to be forms of art, not to be confused with reality or beauty, though much of it is experienced as beautiful, there is every reason to believe that science too involves art and beauty.
After all, anything not ‘born” of nature but created by man is a form or art. Aspects of it beheld in the eyes of some beholders are experienced as beautiful, in the eyes of others are not.
Scientists, like Einstein, the violinist, being human beings, view much of their scientific achievements including their mathematical formulas and scientific theories as art.
Because of the obvious accompanying beauty and sense of spirituality that scientists -- experience in science, the reverend says, “Scientists are likely to trust theories that are beautiful,” and that the study of science “is driven out of a love of the elegant.
Somehow, I cannot fathom how, the reverend came to the conclusion that scientists, as the reporter noted, “. . . are likely to trust theories that are beautiful."
I can understand “partly driven,” but “is driven” implying “at the expense of pursuit of truth and knowledge” is clearly questionable.
I detect no evidence that leads to the reverend’s judgment that they “trust beauty,” as I interpret the phrase.
Whatever happened to the clearly recognized curious nature of every newborn child without which knowledge of science would be “dead in the water”?
The pursuit of elegance, spirituality, and beauty are Johnny-come-lately personal values that would not exist were they not preceded by an innate curiosity.
Moreover, if the history of theism is any evidence, whatever art and good it accomplished, it more than countered it with false comfort, religious crusades, inquisitions, contention, persecution, torture and terror, dictatorial law and order, power of the state, pogroms, conditioned mentalities, faith’s reliability upon pie in the sky at the expense of man’s faith in his own talented propensities, and the confiscation of enormous wealth used over the centuries for proselytizing, through ecclesiastical means of indoctrination, for the inhuman treatment of heretics.
In a reference to spiritual and intellectual lives and an apparent admission that he knows, in the absence of evidence, there is a universe, the reverend comments, “If we close our eyes to our universe, we are closing our eyes to God,” he seems to use the term ‘spiritual’ and even ‘beauty’ in a theistic sense.
Apparently he’s forgotten the original usage, “breath,” and another evolutionary usage, “mind,” before the term, ‘spiritual,’ acquired a theistic attribution. He does concede, however, with some vagueness, to a human aspect of it when he declares, that beauty, both in human spiritual and intellectual lives, “is the source of what we trust.”
But for those who believe that “spiritual truths” (I confess I don’t know what can be meant by that phrase), can be tested by appealing to “100 percent of the population,” clearly shows ignorance of the fact that one cannot verify a truth merely by voting. “50 million Frenchmen can be wrong.”
I find the looseness with which he uses such language to be quite disconcerting in its vagueness not alone in its possible falsity.
It is commonly understood that what is beautiful is a contentious concept, recognized as “in the eyes of the beholder.”
I have no trouble understanding “enjoying beauty.” But to imply that scientists believe, “If it is beautiful, it will work,” is a disservice to their intelligence, unless, of course the attribution of “It will work,” is now part of the conventional use of the term, ‘beautiful.’
Moreover to speak of “trusting” beauty makes no sense. Waxing poetically, he seems to take language at face value.
Most of the artistic language in the history of humanity, from religious, poetic, fictional, or musical, etc., has elicited a range of sensations of beauty from none to some extremely painful.
However, the function of the language of beauty and art is not to convey truth and knowledge that is to be trusted – or not. Rather it is to elicit an aesthetic emotion – not necessarily happiness – that is in tune with one’s personal life-experiences.
For instance consider the beauty one experiences in enjoying a movie that has one reduced to tears because of its sadness or the sense of beauty exemplified in a movie theme in which a professional assassin exclaimed, in admiration of the manner in which a private detective “turned the tables on him,” “Beautiful!” as he fell dead to the floor.”
The reverend surely does not understand the method of science if he truly believes that it gives precedence to the experience of beauty and spirituality in science over, predictability, testability, recurrence, verifiability, evidence, observation, and the principle of self-correction -- admittedly all terms in need of examination of their relationship to our perceptions and our sense of beauty.
It is usually agreed that most attributed meanings for such terms are conventional usage and culturally inherited and recorded in dictionaries. Even though the reverend recognizes the fact that all language is metaphor, it is apparent that he has not given enough subtlety of thought to what was the “object” to which these terms, and in particular the terms, ‘objective’ or ‘nonobjective’ were originally directed -- and still are.
Nor does he seem to recognize the distinction to be drawn between first and second order metaphors.
When he says, “Science is not objectively true,” He is personally attributing to his claim a kind of absolutivity of value above and beyond the fact that the phrase is a tool -- a metaphor -- expressing his thoughts -- in this case non-perceptively based thoughts.
Is it not also a metaphorical term? And are not all metaphorical terms ultimately abstract terms?
If so, is it not important to distinguish between “abstract” for all terms and “abstract” when distinguishing between terms related to perception and those not?
In that case, is not the second order of abstract metaphors also a form of the fallacy of begging the question, i.e, not supported by evidence?
There is good reason to believe that the two symbols, ‘objective,’ and ‘nonobjective,’ “infinitely” small parts of a language system, were meant to be conventional in nature.
In that sense, the objects of the terms, historically and presently, were and are, even if unknowingly by the masses, being applied to the “existence” or non-existence of perceptions not of an assumed universe beyond them.
Since the perceptions are the objects referred to by the scientific language -- the “metaphorical” language is considered to be objective, denotative, and public.
There is no observable external universe to language about.
Hence it is the language of scientific "observation," i.e., of predictively recurring perceptions, that is, without question, objective, or not, while the language of theism, without question, is not.
As the reverend should know, fundamentally our language, expressing our thoughts and attributed meanings, is dualistic in nature, as probably it has been since the dawn of man.
It is directly related to our perceptions and conceptions, referred to as public -- or private, of an assumed external world. It is not directly related to an unperceived world. It makes no sense to claim that language is about anything other than our ideas and perceptions.
The issue, therefore, is whether there is any justifiable mode to account for external causes of them.
It is our language, i.e., the meanings of our thoughts, not an external world that is referred to as public, or private, objective or nonobjective.
Surely an informed person would not believe that
all the “things” we language about, that is attribute meaning to, are
nothing more than language.
Surely an informed person would not believe that all the “things” we language about, that is attribute meaning to, are nothing more than language.
The reverend also said, "While . . . science is not objectively true, it doesn’t mean it’s invalid. What can he possibly mean?
Only arguments, from a logical point of view and conventional uses aside, can be valid of invalid.
The hypotheticals of hypothetico-deductive arguments elicit nothing more than hypothetical conclusions.
The whole edifice of scientific ideas based on predictably recurrent perceptions should hardly, practically, be reduced to a hypothetical “argument.”
And, surely when our perceptions, i.e., “observation,” of a falling object in a vacuum is publicly observed and measured to fall according to the equation S=1/2gt2, this can hardly be said to be merely valid “not objective” even if the caveat, “All language is metaphor about perception,” is granted.
Then as if “The Scandal of Particularity” of Catholic theology were an apt analogy with the scientific discovery that atoms are discrete entities, the reverend gave the partially unfalsifiable explanation that “ . . . humans live and die, make their choices and are responsible to God for them, all ultimately as individuals.”
Surely this is not true of atheists and agnostics who would argue: “We perceive that ‘humans live and die,’ but it is, according to available evidence, impossible ever to verify that they “are responsible to God.” Is the reverend not begging the question in referring to science, i.e., scientific language, as nonobjective?
Are not the terms, ‘objective’ and ‘nonobjective’ also metaphorical hypostatization of values?
And is not the reverend’s God” an abstract, metaphorical, not to mention supernatural, transcendental, and metaphysical hypostatization?
Are not all hypostatizations and abstractions a form of “the fallacy of begging the question?
It is quite clear to any informed person that all language is metaphor, characterized as “dead” i.e., denotative or expressed in concrete terms or as “live, ” i.e., connotative or expressed in abstract terms predicated upon the fact that it is in reference to our experience, i.e., perceptions of an assumed “real” world, not necessarily of a physical universe.
In the case of language, however, it is incumbent upon us to be wary of its “begging the question” possibilities.
With apologies to Bishop George Berkeley and David Hume, to say the least, an abstract term begs the question of particularity, discrete perception, or even existence.
It serves the purpose only of intensifying the metaphorical character of language and creating the impression of clear communication.
Metaphorical linguistic abstractions not related to perceptions must not be equated with abstractions that are related to perceptions. The latter are perceptive the former are not.
The reverend and I are in agreement regarding the metaphoric nature of language which, of course, includes the two terms, ‘objective’ and ‘nonobjective. We seem to be involved in a verbal disagreement, not a real one. Each of us is interpreting the language of the agreement differently.
The argument revolves around to what it is that the terms are referring.
I argue, since all language is metaphor it is about two fundamentally different kinds of experience, i.e., perceptions and conceptions.
He argues that it is about the thing-in-itself beyond our perceptions.
Let us bear in mind; no informed person equates conceptions with a reality beyond our perceptive experiences except for our conceptions of memories of perceptions.
We do not agree as to the significance of this contention. Since he has been reported to say that science is not literally true but is metaphor and quoted as having said, “Metaphor is the only way we know to describe what we’re talking about,” This issue, too, clearly needs to be revisited.
Does it not follow logically that his claim, that “Science is not literally true but is metaphor,” turns back upon itself? Where do we go from there?
Is not his statement a metaphor about a metaphor, i.e., science? This leads to the question, “What is ‘science’ a metaphor of?” The answer quite obviously and in fact is “about our perceptions and conceptions,” not a physical reality beyond them.
The term, “non-objective,” implies that there is a total absence of evidence that there is a universe, whatever may be meant by the use of that metaphorical expression, and that if there is no evidence of order, events in the universe cannot be made sense of.
Apparently, the reverend is not doing his homework about the uses of such language as “literal truth,” “evidence,” “objective,” truth and knowledge, or of the “ultimate” implication that all language is metaphor.
If one fails to distinguish between kinds of metaphor and is unaware that symbols do not have inherent meanings, it is understandable why one would arrive at different conclusions.
Clearly, he uses these terms as if all of them have the quality of absoluteness despite clear evidence that the predictability of recurrence of perceptions is undeniable evidence that an abundance of sense is being derived about an assumed interaction of assumed matter. There is, for example, such a concept as “circumstantial evidence.”
What the reverend further does not seem to understand is that underlying the “faith,” he attributes to science, is the methodological fact that were evidence presented to science (i.e., scientists) that scientific beliefs (i.e., conclusions) were wrong, science’s self-corrective mantra would instantly “kick in.” With theistic dogma, evidence plays no such role.
I suggest the following: It is agreed 1) that all language is metaphor,. 2) It is not about a reality beyond our perceptions. 3) It is about our perceptions.
Considering that scientists do not concern themselves with what appears to be a philosophic concern and have no problem ignoring the issue David Hume raised denying the possibility of acquiring knowledge of cause and effect, or whether there is a universe beyond our perceptions, since the issue in no way effects their methods and achievements, obviously it makes no sense to accuse science or scientists of being nonobjective.
It just does not matter to science whether there is a “physical” universe.
Their language is about what they do experience, i.e., perceptions. As the reverend said, “Science works.” Should or even ought one ask for more? Whether scientists do or don’t have such concerns, does not alter their methods one wit.
Wondering whether he is aware of the various theories of truth, I find it curious that he would assert that science, being only metaphor, is not literally true. The same can be said about all human claims to knowledge, including the language of theistic dogma.
At least science is predicated upon a complex of public methodological human endeavors not through mere unsubstantiated edicts.
But more than that, considering that there could be no truth or knowledge in the absence of language, i.e., the mental function of attributing meaning to our experiences through the mental acts of symbolizing, referring, and inferring, by his interpretation, there is no such thing as literal truth.
Hence, terms like ‘literal truth,’ ‘objective,’ ‘subjective,’ ‘metaphorical,’ and the like make sense only when used within the bounds of the two kinds of metaphor, “dead” and “alive” referring to predictable publicly recurrent perceptions and denied to language of conceptions relating to claims unrelated to such perceptions.
If one accepts that the language of our perceptions and of science is metaphor, then logic dictates that the language of hypostatized theistic abstractions is twice metaphor, and twice nonobjective not to mention guilty of the fallacy of begging the question as indicated above.
It is worth repeating here, if one assumes there is no evidence as to why we believe there is a universe beyond our perceptions, possesses and expresses no curiosity about the possibility for it, one is not likely to seek, or find, any.
It is imperative, therefore, to examine certain linguistic usage and abuses if we are to seek evidence that might possibly justify the common belief that there is a world beyond our perceptions.
This calls upon us to do some nitpicking examinations of relevant terminology such as “metaphysical,” “objective,” “nonobjective,” “metaphorical,” and the like.
Importantly, we need to recognize that the term, ‘evidence,’ must not be conflated absolutely with the term, ‘empirically physical,’ a term that has no referent in fact in our experience.
It is important that we make a linguistic distinction about the term, ‘Subjectivity,’ because it is subject to equivocation. All mental activity, “privately belongs” to the entity in which the activity occurs. Thus it is designated “Subjective” with a higher case “S.”
When mental activity occurs through the function of our sense faculties, through which all perception is experienced, it is referred to severally as “public,” “objective,” and “denotative.
Sometimes we designate this, in error under these circumstances, as capital letter “O.” When there is non-perceptive related mental activity severally referred to as “individualized,” “private” and “conceptual” it is designated to be “subjective” with a lower case “s.”
This method of designation of our mental activities, perceptive vs conceptive, is in need of revision. And just as there is a second order (small s) subjectivism, there is another second order subjectivism designated with a small letter “o” for “objectivism.”
There is no higher case letter ”o” because there is only the conceptual “objectivism of a ding an sich. In my view, however, such a term as “conceptual objectivism” is typical of the way we abuse language giving the impression that such nomenclature assures the ontological existence of the conceptual meanings attributed to it.
I suggest that we designate the language we use to refer to our perceptions of “physical things,” as first order metaphor (higher case letter) “O” and non physical functions of our perceptions, such as dancing, driving a car, talking, music, movement of the tree in the breeze, use of language, and the like as second order metaphor (lower case letter “o.”)
More accurately, however, our designations should be S (perceptual and conceptual experiences), Ss (private experience), SO (“public” experience), and So (public experience of functions of “matter.” Conventionally, however, they could be shortened to S, s, O, and o.
Experience informs us that we are active in the formation of many of our thoughts, particularly those not related to perceptions or related to memories of our perceptions.
We perceive also, in the behavior of other people, that they are having similar unwilled perceptions.
As to the perceptual meanings, consider the fact that a perception is acquired despite willfulness of the perceiver if his sense faculties are functioning well. We have no willful control over what we will perceive, for instance, when we open our eyes or when a sound wave impinges itself upon our inner eardrums. Language describing such perceptions is considered to be public because countless perceivers under the same circumstances will have similar, though not identical, perceptions.
We do have willful control over concepts. It requires, however, the will to exercise that control. We have thoughts, stimulated it is scientifically, i.e., biologically, determined, through our sense faculties and thoughts stimulated by the brain’s mind alone, i.e., thoughts based on mental experiences no one else can have, so-called extra sensory experts to the contrary. With the former if we look in the direction of a tree, we have no choice but to see it. With the latter, though previous perceptions may somehow through memory or creative mental activity underlie our thoughts, other than in dreams, we can choose to refrain from thinking them.
Clearly, belief in an external world is accordingly strongly justifiable unless one is solipsistic.
Moreover, it is unlikely that of the billions of people on earth, not to mention populations of the past and probably of the future, any normal thinking person truly believes in solipsism or that he was not the issue of a physical mother and father. Such a belief in the face of perceptive evidence of the behavior or other people, separate but similar to our own behavior, can hardly be equated by any clear thinking person with belief for which there is and cannot be any verifiability. Would the reverend deny the existence of evidence of any kind? He does speak of individuated atoms having been proved (I assume he means scientifically verified) or is he selective as to what he will or will not accept as evidence?
For instance, if 100 people agree upon the fact that they witnessed an accident occur at a given moment, and at least most of the descriptions of it were similar and if all of them showed photographs of the event they had taken immediately after it occurred, to which one of those persons i.e., “perceptions,” all insisting they witnessed it, would you attribute to his having only a perception of an event that did not actually occur but showed up on 100 photographs -- and would you be arguing only with an uncaused perception of someone arguing with you, i. e. with yourself?
Obviously such a seriously taken conclusion would be the height of irrationality.
Whatever may be the nature of the universe our perceptions are part of it, even if the only part of it.
Consequently, our problem is not whether there is a universe but rather whether there is more to the universe than we now experience. The same cannot legitimately be claimed for the multiplicity of gods proclaimed to exist by uninformed conditioned believers.
Moreover, there is clear evidence, that trillions of other life forms on this earth have experiences radically different from ours.
Which "view" of the assumed thing-in-itself is the accurate one?
I cannot help wondering how the reverend would account for the fact that a new born child growing up in this world of only perceptions experiences similar ones as those of, for instance, his great-great-great-grandpa, long deceased, from whom generations of children inherited the home and property, that are only perceptions, not to speak of experiencing perceptions of the same far away places they both had visited over the centuries.
Is a newborn child only a perception? Does his being only a perception, ad infinitum, cause his perceptions, so long as a human perception exists? Is there no external “world” “causing” these complexes of perceptions?
In fact the reverend’s whole life is a testament to the fact that he is more than just a perception particularly since so much of his thought experiences have nothing to do with perceptions other than possibly his thoughts creatively fashioned from memories of his life’s experiences.
But more than that he must wrestle with the question, “To whom was he lecturing when he opined that there is no evidence of a world beyond his perceptions. Surely it would make little sense to claim that a first cause perception is the cause of all other perceptions.
Having said that does not entitle us to say, “We know objectively that there is a universe external to our perceptions.”
But, we are very much entitled to say, “We have very good reasons, many of them of second order perceptions, i.e., "o," to believe that there is.”
However, to claim as some theists have, that God is the first cause in the face of a total lack of any possible evidence, makes no more sense than to claim that the universe is the first cause.
Not only do such claims ignore the principle of parsimony but, they commit a host of other fallacies of reasoning.
If I may appeal to one myself, Aristotle, in paraphrase, said, “Talk of beginnings and endings has no epistemic significance.”
At least we know there is a universe, whatever its nature may be and that it is a prerequisite, i.e., an "infinity" of causes, however that phrase may be defined a la John Staurt Mill. To assume that it was created out of nothing is sheer epistemic nonsense in the face of evidence to the contrary.
We can play metaphoric linguistic games with the term, “objectivity.” But no one should be fooled into conflating these games with an ontological status of value beyond our perceptions, a verifiable ontological status, or by such a status by any definition of the term, ‘ontology.’
The proper designation for such unfalsifiable claims is not “non objectivity.”
“Rather, it is “epistemic nonsense.” Strictly speaking it makes no sense to say, “Science is nonobjective. Only an intelligent entity can be objective or nonobjective and express those qualities through such language in its myriad complex forms.
This being the case, it is questionable as to whether the reverend can get into the minds of every scientist to determine whether or not thought is given to there being a physical world in the face of the fact that all the successes in science have resulted whether there is an absence of evidence of cause and effect -- or not.
Is it not obvious that there is no similarity of beliefs -- or achievements -- from theism compared to those of science -- even if a few "scientists" who were conditioned to be theists, claim to have such beliefs? Isn’t that the “proof of the pudding”?
And speaking of metaphors, a few green apples in the barrel should not be conflated with a whole barrel of red apples.
Never can the chasm between science and theism be bridged.