Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Science: Ultimate Truth?

Science is a very good predictor of observable events. But it doesn't tell us why or to what purpose or how to act. All truth doesn't come from science. Science vehemently denies that; all events have material causes and can be explained by natural forces acting in the universe, Science argues: even the inner workings of the Brain. Now we know a lot about the brain. But the brain is more or less a tool for the mind; science contradicts this to argue that we are mere products of chemical processes within the brain.

Freud argued very convincingly that reason, much like the ancients thought, could be the tool to release the inner daemonsThe arguments for the Science’s claims are compelling. Technological advances are astounding in the areas of flight and computing and medicine just to mention a few. The pre-Socratics some 2,500 years ago began to postulate what was the composition of nature: earth or water or a mixture of elements: earth, wind, fire, water, in order to replace mythic explanations, such as Hesiod's stories about the supposed god's creative activity. Ever since divine activity in nature has been gradually reduced in scope. Thunder was thought the voice of god or demonstration of his power; think that Luther, the great Protestant reformer, committed himself to the monastery when caught in a thunder storm. We can guess he heard God's wrathful voice as He directed the wind, rain, and lightning. Five hundred years later we take it for granted that weather has its natural causes.

Over time natural philosophers saw the workings of God behind the natural forces sustaining and moving the universe: the forces of gravity and centrifugal force causing the planets to move in ordered patterns for example. Eventually scientists of the 19th and 20th Centuries saw all observable events as product of natural forces. The things for God to do became few indeed. And since the universe was eternal, as Aristotle surmised long ago, truly there was nothing for God to do and Nietzsche can say, God is dead.

Now science has come to dispel the spirits and ideas and the mythology within the Brain. Come to find out we're simply a product of chemical reactions within the brain and nothing "spiritual" or godly there either. Further more Darwin tells us we're products of evolutionary forces and all our mental activity arises from and is subject to them.

Socrates argued our inner essence as being more real than the changeable observable reality that passes away. And went to great lengths to prove the disabilities of relativism.

The ancients including the Psalms saw our existence after death as shadowy. Hades was a land of shadows and lesser reality. Orthodox understand that Jesus at his Death on the Cross descends into Hades releases the spirits formerly doomed to this less than real existence, spiritual existence.

Ironically, Freud, Scientist of the Mind of the prior 100 years, held differently. He dominated psychological thinking in the first 80 years of the twentieth century, at least in America. To Freud, a neurotic himself, our distress arises from improper suckling as an infant and proposed very convincingly for his contemporaries that reflection and reason could be the tool to unlock the most deep seated complexes in our minds; his project was to release the “ID” from the constraints of society. Even psychosis, universally understood as chemical imbalances today, was deemed amenable to the “couch”, the Analysis.

It was enough to dispel spiritual realities and replace them with the knowledge that natural mental forces were captive to social ones; spiritual truths were dismissed. Similarities to his method can be seen in the Ancients, who would propose to use Reason to harness the incensive powers and appetitive urges to good. Freud postulated the Id (basic urges), Ego (conventional thinking) and Super Ego (our censor); i.e. another 3 part partition of the brain with our Reasoning as arbitrator. Freud, on the other hand, wanted to liberate the Id (appetitive) not harness it.

His therapies have been superseded by chemical approaches to mood changing. Science only admits evidence from its own tools and own purview: the observable universe not moral or spiritual one. And he insists this is the entire universe of facts, unless they posit an infinite number of these universes ala Mr. Hawkins. God not seen here! they confidently proclaim. Yep, no, God there!

They don’t know who built their ideological framework. They’re like ideological Druids who claim to be heirs to a structure that was built a thousand years before they were on the scene. The Medieval Scholastic, with the belief we are images of God and free agents, was discovering the immutable Laws of God. Upon science’s ascendancy Hume, the 17th Century skeptic, dismissed the certainty of Science in the face of those bent on discovering God’s Laws; Kant demarcated science’s limits with his Categories, in the Critique of Pure Reason.

Overwhelmed with science’s manifest benefits, we concede as to the Priests of the Megalithic era, because they could determine when to plant, since they provide us comfort and pleasure and longevity. (Which seems to be the ultimate truth to them and anything questioning these being the highest values becomes a danger.)

Truth becomes that which promotes the greatest ease. Please note science always has created weapons of mass destruction that could end civilization and even life on the planet.There are several limits and problems with the “all-knowing” scientific principle. All that’s here is a product of forces, including our thought process then where is the objective truth? Isn’t the right project for the seekers of this “truth” then a transcendence of the “Maya” the illusion, the Eastern Mystical path?

The Modern Scientist is using a putative feeble instrument, the brain, a product of the same universe it’s trying to discern. Where is the grounded truth? The brain is a product of the Universe and where does it gain its insights but from that the same forces and reactions that created the same Universe. Truth becomes a bit relative. Furthermore, our moral sensibilities are simply a product of the evolutionary forces, we’re told. Let’s turn that on its head. So Religious practice may be an evolutionary adaption (I’m certainly not convinced of that of course) and those avowed atheists who have begun to crawl out the woodwork, after the fall of atheist Communism, making it safe to be an atheist again, may be an evolutionary mal-adaption doomed to extinction, despite all their efforts in Soviet Russia, Communist China, Eastern Europe, revolutionary Mexico (1911+), Republican Spain (1930’s), etc. to exterminate Christians for their faith in the last hundred years.

A religious fanatic like me could be as right as the brilliant Chris Hutchins, atheistic Crusader, being that the stated ultimate purpose is to survive and we’re simply a product of it. I’m deluded in thinking I’m going somewhere after this life. He must content himself with ephemeral pleasures of this world, thus his melancholia and dim outlook or at least undisguised hatred of the Religious, less optimistic you know.But wait there’s more.

Heisenberg’s principle of Uncertainty: either motion or charge can be discerned but not both at the same time in the subatomic world. Whatever method we choose determines what is observed. Thus we see the observer merges with the observed. The objective observer fails us, ultimately. The retort I imagine that scientific method works everywhere else it’s claimed, but we’re making absolute claims. The claim is that the scientific method explains all and is the foundation of all truth, but fails at the sub-atomic level. And so the very method touted as the gleaner of truth in each and every instance falters; the scientific method is found to have limits.

Most importantly, how can one prove the proposition that scientific method explains all, using the scientific method to prove it? We can’t of course. See Hume above, the skeptic. Note Hume was far from being a Religious. Each demonstrated hypothesis is superseded in time by another, the geo-centric universe of Ptolemy, then Kepler and Newton and now Einstein, challenged by Heisenberg principle of uncertainty in the inner workings of the atom. To the modern scientist this seems natural and right but he doesn’t think through the full conclusions of it. Eventually, the current models give way to others. There’s little ultimate or absolute about them. I suppose it’s enough to demonstrate that a divine power didn’t act to cause them. Their amoral universe continues to be supereminent and actions can have no moral restraints; all is well, I suppose.

Scientific models are limited in scope as well. Einstein’s General Relativity fails to operate within the sub-atomic world. In the Big Bang universe our psychics fail in the “singularity”. The all-encompassing scientific universe has many a gap, it appears still waiting to be filled. Faith in science, despite its failure under sub-atomic realms and elsewhere, remains supreme; the scientist will faithfully wait until an answer is formulated to explain the “Mysteries”. The tool, the method works quite well….to a point, you see.

My thrust is theological not philosophical. It’s interesting the ancients had sympathetic views to a moral and spiritual universe as well. Socrates argued our inner essence as being more real than the changeable observable reality that changes and passes away, and went to great lengths to prove the disabilities of moral relativism. Now mind you, the ancients including the writers of the Psalms saw our existence after death as shadowy. Hades (Sheol) was a land of shadows and lesser reality.

Orthodox understand that Jesus, the Redeemer at his Death on the Cross descends into Hades releases the spirits formerly doomed to this less than real shadow, to spiritual existence. Our forthcoming spiritual life is to have greater substance than in the fallen, current world.The Platonics, the Stoics and others except the Epicureans believed in the existence of a moral universe; one that we all subscribe to, poignantly demonstrated when it’s violated.

C.S. Lewis, 20th Christian Apologist expostulates that everyone is attune to their moral universe (Mere Christianity). When violated, we naturally demand justice. (Note once again this is not akin to motivations related to the struggle for survival, which evolutionists deem predominant.) If possessions are stolen or one is addressed rudely, our moral compass is disquieted. We envisage redress for these wrongs. This is our moral universe. Even scientists have one. Spiritual universe has been reported throughout human history by the most primitive peoples up to today. All manner of Christian Saints, including many desert Fathers, psychics (Swedenborg, R. Moody, Van Praagh) and others across religious traditions such as the Tibetan Book of the Dead report contact and visitation of a spirit world, including out of body experiences (St. Paul).

Unfortunately, these are most usually dismissed as simply delusions and discounted. Most recently there is clinical evidence of life after death. People, who are clinically dead, report an experience being out of body see their surroundings and at times reaching a very bright light. One recent best seller recounts this experience in 90 Minutes in Heaven. Note Socrates had what seems to be a spirit guide, daemon he called it. Note I only mention these to say there is a spiritual world that science knows nothing of. Orthodox Christian tradition, the Saints including the Desert Fathers, and others strongly caution against contact with this reality. Contact is likely to be daemonic in origin and thus very dangerous. I do not encourage or advocate contact with it.

As Christians our destiny is meant to transcend this demonic realm (the Tibetan Buddhist and Socrates would too both look beyond this realm as our true eternal destiny, despite not being in full knowledge of Christian Truth). There is a spiritual world that science can tell us nothing, although they have claims to explaining it all away one day I presume.There is a mental universe. In effect the brain is a tool for the mind and that’s why there’s a placebo effect. The results of drug tests must take into consideration. They give sugar pills to one group and the real drug to another. The real drug must out perform the other group’s mental state affecting in some part the cure of the illness. And frankly, I don’t accept my mental state is a product of determinist evolutionary forces and I don’t think must people do either. Something tells them there’s a “me", a brain whose complex calculations predicted planetary motions and more.