i’ve always been highly skeptical of organised religions and any sort of ‘god package’ that a man in a frock or a mad mullah wants to sell me. i think that sort of swivel-eyed group conformity deserves a fair amount of debunking. i’ve always identified as agnostic though, and found the 2000s dawkins-atheist zeitgeist to be cringe in the extreme.
people like dilbert and others of very low intellectual horsepower have ‘converted’ religious credulity for a sort of equally dogmatic, naive scientific naturalism. they take it that science owns the ground of truth now and that only scientists have managed to access ‘impersonal’, objective, absolute reality, etc. this sort of naturalism is actually bad science – even philosophers of science and eminent scientists don’t commit to such bad faith thinking.
not since the mid-20th century have scientists been so cocksure about claims to truth and totality. karl popper elucidated several major critiques of scientific epistemology, such as his well-known critique of inductive reasoning (à la hume before him in the scottish enlightenment); hence why he tightened up his take on the scientific method by introducing concepts of falsifiability/repeatability as central to the epistemic method (don't dare ask how much of modern science actually practices these ideals of falsifiability or repeatability; 'blind faith' in unrepeated experiments with cherrypicked data and manipulated p-values, anyone?). further thinkers like thomas kuhn, with his paradigm shifts, have shown us by historicising the field how scientific method and truth can find itself in unproductive cul-de-sacs.
i studied arts so clearly the idea that there are worthy realms of experience and meaning beyond the narrow positivism/empiricism of science chimes with me. being intimately familiar with how the practice (and business) of science is done, i see how it is a set of human practices, with human foibles, human errors, human egos, etc, etc, not some perfect and disinterested contemplation of the capital-T truth. science as a human endeavour and set of human institutions has its fair share of problems; yet scientific naturalists take it as given that they’re unequivocally getting at ‘the right stuff’ and have transcended millennia of wisdom, which they hurriedly dismiss as ‘hocus pocus’. (science is, of course, a magnificent achievement and the best expression and sum-total of our empirical intelligence; but empiricism itself has limits which the naturalists won’t admit; a good scientist will readily admit the bounds of their knowledge.)
to me, the religions of the world are anthropological examples of human beings as meaning-making creatures, as homo narrans if you will as well as homo sapiens – knowing isn’t all that characterises us – and this impulse to explain, to make myths, to imbue our lives with telos and purpose and grand narratives is just as human as that part which has been trained to collect data and test hypotheses (science can give us the ‘what’ or ‘how’ but never the ‘why’, or integrate into our lifeworld in such a way that it has an actual appreciable meaning, which is where narrative and the desire to go back to first causes, big bangs and beginnings creeps in; it’s the repressed desire for narrative). if all this stuff is fallible and irrational: well, there’s plenty of bias and fallibility that creeps in to scientific thinking via the back door anyway. the narrative and meaning-making encodes values and purpose where modern science leaves us with reams of big data, shiny toys … and moral void.
i’m not particularly interested in questions of ‘is there a god fella’ and ‘what does he want from me’, and i’m not sure that’s what ‘spirituality’ is in an everyday sense anyway. i don’t need a doctrine or a daddy figure; i’m merely open to the supra- or irrational as being irreducibly part of what being human IS. in the same way that a scientific empiricist can try to reduce love down to chemical triggers and effects and a narrowly causal-deterministic model: well, that doesn’t negate or rubbish 2,000 years of love poems, songs, drama, sheer human experience, does it? telling someone that their feeling of joy (or grief) is just a set of chemical reactions in response to external stimuli might be the best scientific understanding we know, but it’s surely inadequate at getting inside the subjective qualia and ‘meaning’ of such things: that involves things surplus to reason, like empathy and imagination, for instance (no surprises dilbert lacks these).
lastly, and importantly, i don’t think spiritualism and scientific thinking are incommensurate. i interact with many top-level scientists who are full of wonder and imagination when it comes to the content of science. dilbert approaches it like a dry dullard and a technician. no scientist presumes to be able to answer every question: every professional scientist knows, after popper, that the best we have is consensus-making through hypotheses, after which the inductive method runs aground on the limits of sense-experience (hume) and inference (logic). but dilbert and all the snarfing, scoffing dawkins-bestseller readers like this narrative that science is a ‘progress’ from earlier thinking – nevermind that the apparatus of logical reasoning itself was transmitted from pagan ancients through pious monks – much in the same way that they like the ‘simple’ tales of ‘evolution’ that they tell themselves when being terrifically scientifically illiterate racists.
Last edited by uziq (2021-11-10 15:04:22)