The floor and the ceiling of thought

I am convinced both by reason and inspiration that there is an underlying unity of truth no man can escape, and an overarching mystery no man can fathom. Between that ground of truth and that heaven of mystery, there is room for respectful and rational disagreement, even among the different sects and different religions.

I deem some traditions have less insight than others: There may be, I suppose, some spiritual enlightenment to be found among the Aztecs, but it does not shine as brightly as that found among the Jews, for example, than whom no people on Earth ever enjoyed a clearer insight into justice, law, and purity.  

My belief in an underlying ground of truth, a moral order of the universe, predates my conversion. There are certain questions which, because of their very nature, cannot be open to question. One cannot have an honest discussion with someone who does not axiomatically value honesty, any more than one can have a truthful discussion with someone who does not believe in truth. One cannot debate the morality of honesty with a dishonest philosopher any more than one can debate the ontology of truth with an untruthful one. It is as paradoxical as debating with a solipsist. The philosophical school of solipsism must be a lonely one: it can only really be sure of having one member.

My belief that there are ultimate mysteries reason cannot penetrate also predates my conversion: The ground of consciousness is something one cannot step outside of consciousness to examine. The nature of logic is something one cannot step outside of logic to justify. The nature of cause and effect is an antinomy of reason: one cannot deal with objects in the real world without such an axiom (no matter what Hume or Schrodinger say) nor can one deal with human beings in the real world with such an axiom (no matter what Skinner, Marx, Freud say): humans qua objects are bound by causes, humans qua humans are not. 

Regarding the alleged war between religion and science, I stand firmly with Kepler and Newton.

Since I just got done reading a science article explaining that everything in the universe is merely information (like the Logos of the Christians) projected from a higher dimension to create what in 3-D is merely a hologram (like the Maya of the Buddhists) I am not convinced that there is any innate hostility between religion and science.

I am not of the camp that disputes Darwin. I have read ORIGIN OF SPECIES: in my considered judgment, his conclusions are as firmly grounded as any finding can be, given the subject matter. Note that the theory of speciation by means of descent through natural selection is not open to disproof in the Karl Popper sense: however, the elegance of the explanation, the abundant confirmation from other sciences, places it firmly beyond the boundary of legitimate dispute.

In order for my esteemed coreligionists to not open our beloved Church to accusations of frivolity and scientific illiteracy, it would be necessary for them to come up with a theorem making specific predictions, containing explanatory power, elegance of assumptions, in alternative to evolution. They have not yet. Quibbling with specific findings, or casting doubts on carbon dating techniques is, if you will excuse the harsh word, trivial. It is as if one were to hold up the geocentric model of the solar system on the grounds that the Hubble Space telescope measurements of distant quasars were inconsistent with the age of the universe predicted by the Big Bang theory. Sorry, but minor inconsistencies and doubtful conclusions surround every science: this is not the same as a viable alternate theory of real explanatory power. Disputing the measurements of Eratosthenes is not an argument in favor of the Flat Earth.

Newton could not explain the procession of the perihelion of Mercury. This in itself was not an argument in favor of Aristotelian physics. The relativity of Einstein could explain the procession of Mercury. This was a legitimate theorem: it makes testable predictions and has explanatory power. If Intelligent Designers can erect a theory as revolutionary as Relativity, which explains any inconsistencies found in mutation theory, geology, astronomy, atomic physics, but which has better explanatory power, this will be a tremendous step. Until then, the argument about Final Causes in nature belongs to philosophy or theology. It is not part of empirical science, because empirical science is too humble to make any contribution to such speculations. The meek spirit of science must remain silent when her older sisters, metaphysics and theology, debate questions too profound for her.   

Convinced by Darwin, I am therefore an opponent of Darwinists, by which I mean eugenic arguments that one race of man is more fit to survive than another, or that man has no moral value because he is not unique—I suspect Darwin would also oppose Darwinists.

Darwin is to Darwinism as Science is to Scientism. Measuring cosmic rays with the Milliken experiment is science; explaining the procession of the perihelion of Mercury by means of Lorenz transformations is science. Claiming that love is an epiphenomenon of a reproductive behavior; or suicide a by-product of a death-instinct; or that altruism is explained by the ratio of one’s genes in one’s nephews: these are metaphysical speculations, or, more precisely, articles of faith, since they are not open to disproof by empirical observation. Scientism is a science-flavored religion that has as little to do with science as UFO-watching has to do with Science Fiction: there is an historical, but not an intellectual, link. Freud is Scientism, Marx is Scientism, Skinner is Scientism.

Consider how deeply the Freudian heresy has penetrated our culture. It is now so routine to speak of “phobias” rather than “fears” that even in politics, movements and ideas with which little minds disagree are called by them “phobias.” The belief that Islam is an aggressive, Jihadist religion is “Islamophobia”; a preference for decency over perversity is “Homophobia”; and so on. As soon as polygamy becomes a matter for heated public debate, monogamists will be described as suffering from “Amoraphobia” or some such convenient term.

Note the difference in the attitude of the speaker toward the subject. A man has a fear: Hector is afraid of Achilles. Hector can be encouraged, shamed into assuming the virtues of a man. A mental patient has a phobia. One would no more reason with a mental patient than talk sense to a malfunctioning Asimovian robot: there is merely something wrong with his mental equipment.

I’ve read Freud and consider him a fraud. His case studies are short stories, like the stories of Kafka, meant to produce by their art a certain conviction in the reader, not an attempt to convey a scientific finding. Freud’s insight into human psychology, his theory of dream-interpretation, came to him in a dream. He is the new Joseph, interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams, not the new Newton. His behavior, especially toward Jung, was that of a religious leader, not a scientist: he was a man who fathered a cause. Jung was excommunicated. The scientific community does not excommunicate heretics; because there is no dogma in science. Religions excommunicate heretics, as they must.

When beliefs are based on an assent of the will rather than an assent of the reason, the will can be tamed by rewards and punishments: whereas it is mere nonsense to reward or punish the assent of the reason. One cannot make oneself believe it is night at noon, or twice two is five, no matter the incentive. One can make oneself have faith in the Brotherhood of Man, and to love one’s neighbors, as this is an act of will. If Freud punished Jung for heterodoxy, the conclusions in dispute were credo, not scientific findings.  

The only real progress in the study of mental illness has been in neuro-pharmacology. Now, just imagine finding someone who has something physically wrong with his brain due to a chemical imbalance, and telling him that his errors of judgment and unreasoning fears are due to a hidden and suppressed desire to commit incest with his mother!

It is an accusation that has no proof, and no way to disprove it. Since it is a ‘hidden’ desire, the lack of evidence is taken as evidence of successful repression. It is like arguing about fairies with a conspiracy theorist. The successful conspiracies are always invisible. Fairies vanish when they don their wee little caps. 

What a horrible thing to do to some madman who trusts you, who came to you for help.

Think of the damage done to our society, to our sanity, by this widespread belief that repression is bad. This belief hobbles the exercise and training of virtue, the pursuit of public decency and decorum. In this madhouse theory, courage is the repression of fears; filial piety the repression of father-hatred; chastity the repression of oedipal instincts. Armed with these theories, we have raised three generations of cowardly and insolent libertines. As if we were to train horses to bear riders without “repressing” their natural instinct not to carry a man on their spines. I am sure the modern horses all feel very progressive and good about their self-esteem, but they are not much use in a cavalry charge.

Between this floor and ceiling, the metaphysical truths that no one, without self-contradiction, can deny, and the metaphysical mysteries no one, no matter his pretensions, can assert, there is wide latitude for respectful and rational disagreement. The modern world by and large has fallen outside this realm of allowed latitude: any theory which wipes out the theorist has fallen below the floor of the self-evident. Any theory that denies the power of the human mind to apprehend and assent to the truth wipes out the theorist.

Likewise, any theory that makes an assertion of knowledge where than can be no knowledge, is mere presumption. How is the mind related to the body? What is the boundary between cause-and-effect and free will? What is consciousness? What is Man that thou art mindful of him? Modern theories along these lines consist, not of explaining, but of wiping out explanations: mind is an epiphenomenon of the machinery of the brain, say the materialists, and consciousness is an delusion. Cause-and-effect is all, say the determinists, and free will is nothing. Man is not man, but merely an naked ape.

The sheer stupidity of these so-called explanations is breathtaking. If consciousness is a delusion, who is being deluded? Am I (wait for it!) CONSCIOUS of being deluded? Did you decide to be a determinist, or were you programmed to be? If man is a naked ape, why are we the only animal who wears cloths? Even in climes where clothing is not necessary, why do we decorate ourselves?

The three great pillars of modernism are the Darwinist, which reduces humanity to merely one animal among many; the Freudian, which removes the conscience and the virtues; and the Marxist, which removes free will, justice, and individualism.

The third is mere evil, and was meant to be so from the beginning. Marx was a man consumed by irrational hate, this mental sloppiness shined through his written works, from his flimsy arguments to his dishonest msiquotes. Marx’s central claim to have discovered the scientific basis of history, that man is an irrational product of a material dialectic of means of production, is presented without facts, evidence, or argument. As a predictive theory, history has shown it false as decisively as the subject matter admits. Capitalism produces wealth, not misery, and communism produces not the next evolutionary step of man, but piles of stiff corpses in the snow outside the barbed wire. Devout communists might still dogmatically have faith in the coming of the messiah, but the intellectual glamour is gone from this particular bit of diabolic enchantment.

The second has also lost currency, to the point where a man with a mental disorder treatable by drugs sued his Freudian psychoanalyst for malpractice. The theory of Freud is now in the same category as a doctor who bleeds you with leeches to restore the balance of your humours.

The first is merely an absurdity, one Darwin himself would never support, and which has no bearing on religion rightly understood. As a man of faith, I am thrown into no confusion to find the Bronze-Age poem that opens my Holy Book, one of the most beautiful things written in any language, is not a literal scientific treatise. If the Creator can guide the Chosen People in their random-seeming wanderings in the desert to the Promised Land, surely He can guide the random-seeming deaths and generations in nature to produce Man from his apish ancestors.

Among the Jews, the phrase “knowledge of good and evil” refers to the age when a boy can make moral choices, the age at which the innocence of infancy is left behind. The fruit of the tree of “knowledge of good and evil” is not wisdom and learning—it is not knowledge in that sense. The fruit of loss of innocence is shame; the fruit of sin is death. That is the point of the myth. If the Garden of Eden should turn out to be a real place in West Africa where the first ape-man turned into a man concerns me not in the least: I have seen, as every father has, the Garden of Eden in the cradle, children who are innocent of the knowledge of good and evil. My youngest son has not yet learned shame at his nakedness, and runs around the house at bath-time in his birthday suit, whooping. There is the real prelapsarian man.

The concept that man, the rational animal, is merely an animal just the same as all others, except that his is rational, might convince an irrational animal but could not convince a rational man.

Talk it over with your ape friends, and see what their scientists have written in the learned books and scholarly studies found in the many universities of Gorilla City. What’s that? Gorilla City is an invention of The Flash comic funnybooks, something meant to amuse children? Why then, is the non-uniqueness of man such a common theme among the modernists? Surely they are thinking on a level above the level of a funnybook!    

Modernism is not really a theory of anything. It is merely an attempt to rob man of the dignity religion and reason grant to him; and once he is disarmed of dignity, then next to rob him of liberty, property, and life.