Sunday, July 12, 2009

Anti-theism, Anti-Liberalism and Fascism

Crypto Fascists?

Here is my response triggered by someone who posted a thread entry on Network Norwich and Norfolk here.

Continuing this rather bizarre interleaving of topic threads:

Hi Mike_v_02

Let’s get back to basics Mike and forget God, for the moment; if such is possible for you.

The explanatory objects used by the physical sciences are primarily just two; namely “laws” and “statistics”. These objects are only descriptive in nature; that is their logical type. When using them to describe physical phenomena a certain amount of logical compression of descriptive content takes place, but it is no more profound than that.

This descriptive role ensures that the road of science has an in principle terminus; science halts if and when finite scientific description ends in a complete description. That this point is implicitly understood amongst physicists is evidenced by the search for a “Final Theory”. If (a big “if”) and when a full and complete description has been reached, then attempts to push the boat out any further leads to a tortoise like regression whereby one effectively describes the descriptions of the descriptions and so on without any real content being added. (Clearly we are using the tortoise scenario metaphorically here and not literally!)

Science only works if there is a threshold level of complexity in the world: This is because its descriptive role depends on and presumes the existence of pattern, and pattern posits a relatedness of one item to another. Thus, scientific explanation is meaningless in an imaginary cosmos consisting of, say, only a few bits of data.

Standard scientific description, then, requires some kind of a-priori complexity to be meaningful. It is also clear that an even greater level of a-priori complexity is required if we are expecting to find some kind of “self explanation” (that is aseity). The two basic explanatory objects of science (law and statistics) are simply not logically complex enough to provide self explanation. Science deals with finite objects, and baring “tortoises all the way down” type explanations, standard physical science terminates in axiomatic brute facts.

In order to circumvent the “tortoises all the way down” effect we have to ask ourselves if self explanation (=aseity), is an intelligible concept, a concept we are not going to find in the merely descriptive world of law and statistics. So what kind of object do you think would have the property of aseity? Can we, in fact, conceive such an object? Again forget gods, china teapots, tortoises, and try and come to this question afresh. Be prepared to face down your demons and avoid a state of nervous denial that may stem from a fear of what might pop out of the ontological woodwork….

The above questions require one to take a meta view of science, a view that actually introduces a level of logical circularity in that one has to use a kind of science to probe the nature of science. One of the few persons who seems to have understood that this meta perspective immediately creates difficult issues that need to be dealt with and who is trying to tackle them from a NON-THEISTIC angle seems to be Paul Davies. One DOES NOT have to be a theist to appreciate the mystery of aseity or see that bog standard “law and disorder” science doesn’t provide ultimate solutions, if indeed there is a meaningful problem here. Positing the aseity of an a-priori complex deity is just one attempt to tackle the problem. Some anti-theists seem to be in state of denial about these meta issues because it seems to make them jittery about what’s coming next. (BTW James Knight has alerted to me to the “anti-theist” category, a category of proactive protagonist who seems to be a very different fish from the plain atheist. Anti-theists seem to have deep subliminal fascination with God; but then so has the devil!)

Given that science attempts to describe the world using the simple objects of law and statistics we can’t expect science to provide any deeper answer to “why” than the description of mechanism. But just as the descriptive explanations of science require a threshold level of complexity to work, deeper “whys” require yet another layer of given complexity to be meaningfully asked. E.G. the standard question “why” is often a loaded term that presumes all the complexity and trappings of a-priori personality and intentionality to be meaningful.

Even if religion is merely some kind of mythologically expressive structure invented by humanity as it attempts to come to terms with its predicament, it is clear that the orbiting teapot makes no serious point here; it trivializes world view analysis and sheds little light on the anthropological role of a religion in the life of a culture as that culture attempts to make sense of its place in the cosmos.

Finally forget the concept of simple “evidence”. Such evidence really only comes into its own for the simple objects of physical science like springs and moving weights, fields and matter; objects that are amenable to the formal procedures of science. Like the law courts formal science puts its evidences and verdicts in the public domain, but its methods only seem to work for a sub class of cases. Some cases (like alien big cats, Jack the Ripper et al) remain enigmatic and scientifically intractable, although that doesn’t stop one having private opinions based on one’s proprietary experience of the world which, of course, doesn’t classify as authoritative public domain knowledge. What deeply worries me about the anti-theist agenda is that in the final analysis it is a fascist agenda that is anti-liberal; it seeks to attempt to mobilize a contrived scientific authority in order to outlaw religious people and proprietary domain knowledge. Shades of the Soviet gulags and KGB persecution of Jehovah’s witnesses etc come alarmingly to my mind when I listen to the likes of Dawkins et al.

When it comes to the far more complex and intractable objects of “world view” ontologies, the epistemological procedures are very seat of the pants, and proprietary. The resultant ontologies are very narrative intense and cannot be expressed using law and statistics only. In this connection it is better to think in terms of huge sense making mental structures that attempt to embed a very wide experience of life into a grand narrative. These structures are created informally and on the hoof. It’s an exciting form of “joining the dots” with all the risks of being wrong that that entails. That’s what humans do, even when the data samples (=dots) are thin on the ground. But remember this; a search engine only needs a few search key words to sift out a few web pages from millions, so in principle a few dots may be enough.

One of my greatest fears is that the anti-theists are in actual fact crypto fascists with a closed ended epistemology, a closed ended ontology and above all a closed mind. They will not stop until they have made their insecurity everybody’s insecurity and brought to an end the exciting project of the world view analysis of an open ended world.

c Timothy V Reeves (NOTE Copyright. Beware plagiarizers)

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