Including the Means by Which the Opposition of the Rational and the Empirical Arose and Its Continuing Effects
Theology, as a praxis, arose initially out of Christian apologetics. It’s for this reason that I consider theology properly a Christian phenomenon. Theological insight has been applied to other belief-systems (and indeed to other things that exhibit a similar structure, as we understand similars by similar means), but that doesn’t imply that in its provenance and basic tenor it doesn’t remain essentially Christian, and as Christian essentially metaphysical, since the particular Christian circumstances in which it arose involved a metaphysical interpretation of Christianity, not to say a metaphysical interpretation of reality itself.
By metaphysical, I don’t intend any random positing of something that is non-physical. That interpretation is an anachronism insofar as metaphysics antedates physicalism and even the notion of the physical in the modern sense by more than a millenniim. As such there is only one metaphysics insofar as the intrinsic sense of the term. Other uses of the terms are simply different uses arrived at by analogy. This metaphysics is specifically an interpretation of what might be called the ‘culmination of the first beginning’ of philosophical thinking in the West, primarily in the works of Plato and Aristotle, but specifically as interpreted by the neo-Platonists in the first couple of centures CE, guided by the injection of a specific notion of origin accomplished by the Stoics in the transmission of those works. Christianity absorbed neo-Platonic metaphysics largely through St. Augustine at the end of the 3rd century CE and that absorption was carried to its completion by the rediscovery of how to read ancient Greek, and the follup to Austine made possible by that rediscovery, in the appropriation of Aristotle by St. Thomas Aquinas. This preliminary may seem irrelevant, but in fact it determines the development of the opposed (but in a sense interdependent) views of rationalism and empiricism that merged in the founding of modern science.
What distinguishes theology from explications of religious thinking in other belief-systems (and from the application of theology to those belief-systems, compared with their non-theological self-explication) is that reality, and therefore the Theos that created or at least is the ground of reality, are rational. In this case by rational I mean the term in its modern guise, as not precisely equivalent to ‘logical’, but in some sense as implying that what is understood ‘rationally’ could be understood ‘logically’, but due to the very restrictive nature of formal logic in actuality logic is reserved only for the most simple things, since its application to anything more complex would be at best exceedingly tedious. The irony, of course, is that historically ‘logos’ was far more inclusive, far less restrictive, than ‘ratio’, although ratio remains a correct translation in that what Latin writers intended by ratio is what most Greeks on a day to day basis would have intended by logos. Both fundamentally mean the measured, although measure is only taken in the more restrictive meaning of physical measurement via measuring technology after the beginnings of ‘modern’ science. As examples of the more inclusive meaning, we still speak of taking a ‘measured’ approach to something without implying that we’re armed with some sort of ruler; we speak of a ‘measured’ response to a situation without implying that we’ve somehow determined the absolute mass of every aspect of that situation, or even that every aspect can be said to have mass. How much mass does public opinion have, for instance? It could be argued that it is substantial since it appears to have significant inertia, but I don’t know of anyone who has come up with a means of determining it with any precision.
Logic, during the late medieval period of thinking known as scholasticism, became largely restricted to deductive logic, itself an extrapolation of Aristotle’s idea of the syllogism. This was supplemented by the notion of inductive logic, where the middle term was drawn from the empirical rather than being already given in the logic by 12th century clerics in France. The syllogism, as the basic logical construct, runs something like “If a then b, but a, therefore b”. Thus by substituting particulars for the variable we can say, “If something is mortal then it is a man, Socrates was mortal, therefore Socrates was a man.”
This is obviously a very limited notion of logic compared to that of the Greeks, where it had a profusion of meanings an applications. It also appears odd in that it has no reference to measure itself, which is fundamental not only to logos but to its translation as ratio, and comes some way to understanding how the ‘logical’ (and initially the rational as well) was at the very least suspicious of the empirical, if not completely opposed to it. This opposition became its own argument, in a sense, and during the period of the beginning of modern science there were the older style logicians, or rationalists, who made no concession to the empirical, together with an extreme of those who included inductivel logic and its dependence for an accurate judgment on the empirical middle term, and therefore referred to themselves as empiricists. These oddities, though, can be readily understood when the reason syllogistic logic takes such a minor place in Aristotle’s work. Far from seeing it as a means of judging the validity of thinking, for Aristotle syllogistic or deductive logic was merely a means of winning a parlour game that was popular at the time.
That the rational and the empirical have an interdependence can be seen in that their justification, in the last instance, is liable to invoke the other.
Thus the final justification of an extreme rationalism, Descartes’ doubt of the reality of the external world being an example of such, lies in the empirical observation that only our own thoughts are experienced unmediated by our senses, and the further empirical observation that our senses can be and often are deceived.
Conversely, pushed to justify an empiricism likely not really thought through with any rigour, an empiricist is likely to point out that only that which can be verified at least theoretically by any observer can be considered real, which is in itself a purely rational thought process.
In the ‘argument’ between them the less intuitive position, rationalism, has the advantage in that its dependence on the empirical is much more indirect than the dependence of the empirical on the rational. Thus in the various forms the argument has taken in the intervening centuries, (idealism vs realism, idealism vs materialism, idealism vs physicalism, idealism vs naturalism) rationalism has only undergone one transmutation, into idealism, which properly refers to the thinking of the group of people known collectively as the German Idealists, while empiricism has undergone numerous transmutations in an attempt to subvert this basic argumentative advantage (which show up very directly in that the very form of argument that must be employed by both sides is rational, and therefore empiricism as an argument immediately shows its dependence on rationality).
The epitome of rationalism, in terms of the various fields of human inquiry, is mathematics, which admits of no relevance to the empirical whatsoever. Not only can a mathematical system be validated with no reference to anything empirical, the recasting of mathematics by Cantor and others in the 19th century served to remove the last vestiges of mathematics’ relation to the empirical, which existed in the axioms, which are axiomatic in that they are empirically certain to everyone, and simultaneously unprovable. By contrast, the axioms of Zermelo-Frankel set theory are purely rational, and don’t appeal to any ‘already certainnness’ of any specific empirical phenomenon.
Although modern science is both rational and empirical, it’s foundation, found in Descartes’ Discourse on Method, is purely rational in that certainty is found only in what, to an empiricist, is not observationally verifiable by ‘just any’ observer,
“that I think”. This allowed Descartes to posit mathematical certainty as the foundation of all surety in human knowing, which counterintuitively led to the extreme of empirical parsimony: that only what can be measured and described mathematically constitutes the observationally verifiable, and thus the real. This move, though, invalidates the very posit on which mathematical certainty is itself based, and as such the contradiction between the two positions was not resolved but made into the most notable feature of modern science.
Mathematical certainty, though, in order to be a valid foundation for all surety of knowledge, has a necessary a priori assumption, which is that reality is describable both adequately and completely via pure number. This assumption is in turn justified by an assumption that on some level, everything is the same, i.e. comprised of components that in themselves are identical.
The original name for this belief is atomism, but it is radically different from modern ‘atomic’ theory in that modern atoms are not identical, so a subatomic level must be posited where things might be identical. Particle physics, thus, always posits that level anew (as another level beyond whatever level is already posited), but invariably complicates each new lower genera by introducing types, without which the initial generic level cannot be accounted for.
This goes all the way to the most basic posited type of particle, those that pre-exist even the physical in our usual understanding (i.e. they have neither mass nor extension, nor even in a strict sense do they have temporality or location). Yet they are differentiated by ‘spin’, which itself is often described analogically as ‘colour’, although of course they cannot have ‘colour’ in any literal sense. Thus we have red quarks, blue quarks, etc., with no determinate meaning, other than that in some way they are different, implied by the descriptors ‘red’ or ‘blue”.
Every reductionism is in a sense a form of this atomistic mysticism, a mysticism unfortunately refuted at every turn by actual evidence. Since reductionists are also generally materialists, they never take reduction to its logical conclusion, since as Heisenberg put it ‘at base, what we call matter is itself nothing that we could consider ‘material’.
Practically speaking, every reductionist’s arbitrary stopping point is that of their own specialty. Reductionists are fond of quoting Aristotle to the effect that reduction is a valid scientific tool, but reduction and reductionism have very different implications, which shows in the ‘nothing but’ that every reductionist applies to things that require a more comprehensive perspective than his specialty allows. Thus neurologists will claim that cognition is ‘nothing but’ neurological impulses, bacteriologists are fond of claiming that more complex forms of life are ‘nothing but’ aggregations of bacteria, geneticists will claim that life itself is ‘nothing but’ than a means by which self-replicating molecules self-replicate, etc. The most consistent materialist reduction is that of Cian Dorr, and as such is also the most ridiculous when its implications are thought through, not to mention anti-scientific, since it is anti-empirical in that the only things he accepts as real are not observably verifiable.
Essentially Dorr’s contention is that what we term ‘things’ are ‘nothing but’ aggregates of subatomic particles. He stops short of the lowest level of posited particles by modern particle physics of course, since that would refute materialism or physicalism itself.
Like all other reductions, Dorr’s posited stopping point is not directly observable. Any directly observable stopping point of a reductionism would be immediately ludicrous, since as observable and therefore fully imaginable, it would lead to an immediately absurd mental image.
To give you an example of what I mean, the idea of life as a means for molecular self-replication, as per Dawkins, doesn’t immediately seem as absurd, for instance, as the notion that animals are fundamentally a means of developing hair, and thus the higher animals have more developed hair, which human beings take to a entirely different level in terms of intentionally cutting, changing and styling their hair, inventing new technologies with which to do so, and developing industries to manufacture those technologies and all the contrivances of modern society in order to distribute them. Thus human being is not simply a new solution for developing hair, but a generator of new solutions.
Immediately one gets a ludicrous mental picture of different forms of hair moving around and interacting via whatever accidental form of life they’re attached to: hair directing traffic, hair designing skyscrapers and aeroplanes (the latter to effect a more intense windblown look than the convertible car, of course).
Yet the contentions of neurological reductionists, genetic reductionists, and subatomic reductionists like Dorr suffer the same fate if thought through, but since they are not directly observable, the thinking through requires a bit more effort.
Unless the (more or less) orderly flow of traffic in a modern city, for instance, is nothing more than a happy coincidence ‘really’ determined by the chance operation of bacteria or self-replicating molecules, or indeterminable actions of subatomic particles; unless subatomic particles randomly set work schedules and then arrange for contrivances via which we can meet them; unless self-replicating molecules randomly create everything meaningful in existence, then every reductionism is equally as absurd.
Each form makes itself absurd by eliminating the more comprehensive view under which what can only appear as coincidental happenstance at the perspective of a particular reductive specialty becomes intelligible and systemic. Dorr’s case is not simply absurd, but self-contradictory since it claims to be a ‘scientific’ reductionism. As scientific, something is real only insofar as it is observably verifiable either directly or indirectly. In the case of subatomic particles, the indirection involved is not only dramatic enough that they cannot themselves be demonstrated to be more than what is (perhaps only symbolically) a possible genera of things that, while themselves exhibiting a radical randomness, are made systemic precisely by their formation into the various types of atoms. Since atoms, though, are themselves not directly observable, in turn they depend on observations of things at an observable scale. Since those things are precisely what Dorr denies any unity to, though, the observable that renders atoms and subatomic particles, if unverifiable in the strict sense, at least a sensible model of what must exist in some sense in order to give rise to the observed behaviour of more macroscopic ‘things’. Since a ‘thing’ is a unity perceived in a set of data that originate from an empirical ‘body’ already perceived as a unity, or an entelechia, denying those entelechia as being more than random aggregations of subatomic particles is self-defeating. Dorr is denying the very possibility of intelligible behaviour the things whose intelligible behaviour, interpreted multiple times to yield lower genera of things, justifies the notion of subatomic particles in a scientific sense.
It’s not that the perspectives of the speciaties themselves are incorrect, in fact they are necessary in order to restrict analysis to a set of data that it can realistically analyse, at least within the lifetime of a given human being. But since they are by definition self–limited perspectives, they cannot be true in any full sense since other valid perspectives are a priori eliminated, and they must take as arbitrary and coincidental, and thus unintelligible, aspects that are immediately intelligible on a more comprehensive view. (In fact, as ‘things’, unities grasped in data, and not simply ‘bodies’ in the sense of things grasped by the biological, rather than the intellectual, frame of experience, properly speaking the ‘things’ of any specialty themselves are fictional. Were they bodies, it would be mere mystification to claim that they no longer exist insofar as they are part of a larger body. However since the determining unity is grasped only at the most comprehensive level, insofar as the things of any area of experience other than the biological are simply unities grasped in a set of given data, it’s nonsense to say that a subset of that data, although the identical data, constitutes a different unity. Thus, bodies that systematize what is coincidental for simpler bodies is no contradiction, in fact its the basis of the evolutionary hypothesis itself, but things within things is a contradiction, since by ‘thing’ we intend the determinating unity that makes them that thing which they in fact are. As a body, we have kidneys, but as things in the scientific sense the data representing a kidney is only a partial perspective on data representing the being as a whole, which may be a dog or a person. Any determinations made of that partial data must be reinterpreted in order to integrate them with determinations arrived at from other equally valid, but equally partial data, and finally judged by its empirical relevance to the rational understanding the being a unity of such a being.
As empirical-rational, and therefore based on a differential argument within theology, modern science remains in a certain sense theological, though obviously not in every sense. As such, science is focused on explanation from origin, which despite the pragmatic orientation of the sciences in other ways, is itself anti-pragmatic, since there’s no necessary correlation between a valid explanation and a useful, pragmatic understanding. No amount of physics, cognitive science and mechanical biology can in fact assist an athlete in doing what he or she does, for example. It is explanatory, and as explanatory more or less valid, but has no direct pragmatic relevance.
The sciences run into their fundamental difficulty, though, precisely in the philosophy that most defined the ‘enlightenment’, specifically the dialectic between the philosophy of Hume and Kant. Each in its own way exhibits the limitations of the empirical and the rational respectively, and their inherent contradictions not simply with each other, but internally. Kant’s findings find their most obvious pragmatic expression in the spectacular failure of scientific psychology and cognitive science, for instance. I call it spectacular not merely because neither has managed to even describe their subject matter, but both, as any cursory examination of current journals in either testifies, have become so confused that they can no longer locate their subject matter, leading many in each field to posit rational consciousness itself as illusory. The claim is made as if it were in any way sensible notwithstanding that such a posit requires the active operation of the rational consciousness being posited as illusory. Hume’s exhuming of the limitation of the empirical finds its most obvious pragmatic demonstration in the Higgs field and the Higgs boson, which are empirically demonstrated effects of nothing, as such are themselves not simply nothing, but less than nothing. The Higgs field exists, within the quantum mechanic model, precisely because it takes less energy to sustain than a pure void, or pure nothing, and in a very odd inversion what we consider as purely human and symbolic, i.e. the notion that one state of being (or non-being, in this case) is cheaper than another and thus preferable, is inscribed into the model of reality itself. That we can move so easily between ‘less energy’ and ‘cheaper’ is facilitated by the reality that our measure of price is itself at root based on the availability of potential energy, specifically in the form of crude oil (in other words, the petrodollar, which is the reserve currency, or ground, of all other currencies today).
There is a more important, but more subtle, problem within the sciences first exposed by Hume and Kant, but in a concrete sense developed by Darwin, de Chardin and others. As rational-empirical, the sciences must assume reality to be rationally intelligible, and rational intelligibility must be empirically demonstrable. The difficulty lies firstly in maintaining the former in the face of empirical evidence that reality is developmental, and that rationality itself is a very recent development of a particular species. Secondly, the evidence of the natural-historical record is itself justified as evidence by analogy to the historical record, and the historical record in turn justifed as evidential by analogy to the bookkeeping record. The analogical as much as the logical is an explicit description of the a priori movement of cognition itself, but if cognition itself is merely a biological adaptation it has no necessary correlation to reality.
This doesn’t cause a serious issue to the Christian (and most usually Catholic) understanding of science as rational and empirical, since this correlation is guaranteed extrinsically by religious tenet. However for the non-religious it creates a series of problems that at the moment appear insoluble, in that it isn’t even clear which of the problems is more fundamental, so there isn’t even a starting point. (The best explication of the series of problems I’ve come across lies in Nagel’s “Mind and Cosmos”, and since Nagel is an atheist, it is not simply the positing of problems for holders of one view by holders of the inverse view. Unfortunately his solution, though he doesn’t explicitly admit it, negates his fundamental metaphysical position).
To the series of problems we have, at present, three solutions (the posit that reality simply always was, as common to both Aristotle and Aquinas, is a fourth possibility, but since our common metaphysics was determined by neo-Platonism predicated on the determination of reality as having a definite beginning by the Stoics, that fourth possibility is largely not part of current thinking). The three basic positions are as follows:
1. The Catholic theological position.
Essentially the Catholic position is similar to the atheist position, with three basic differences. The singularity in the atheist account of origin is replaced with the Catholic god. The notion that beginning is a one time event is not operative. Finally, the idea that god as the telos of the development of reality itself is not incompatible with the notion of god as ground of the same reality, since in the final instance god is not merely sempiternal, or ‘everlasting’, but is aeternitas, or ‘eternal’, and since the relation of eternity to temporality is itself indeterminate (or in Catholic terms, a mystery) there is no inherent contradiction with the notion of an eternal being grounding his own development into such.
The difficulty of the Catholic position is simple, to common sense, pragmatic understanding, it seems absurd.
2. The atheistic position.
This position includes such elements as evolution, rational intelligibility of reality via the sciences, and the material origin of reality in the ‘big bang’, all of which are the same as the Catholic position. The basic difficulties this conception overall raises include the following:
Since rationality, as a development of a particular species, occurred at a particular moment which in universal terms is phenomenally recent, on what grounds rational intelligibilty of anything that preceded it is posited becomes obscure.
The singularity posited as at any rate the ‘site’ of the initial ‘big bang’, if not the cause in a temporal sense, while having in the main the same necessary features as the god of the theologians (i.e. what of god can be rationally understood), it contains numerous problems that don’t arise in the notion of god as radically transcendent beyond even being, such that in our sense god is not a being as such.
Since the singularity, as far as observation can tell and the theory (in its atheistic form) states, is no longer, it must be temporally tensed in some sense, though not in the sense of time experienced within the universe. This leads to a problem of origin, since what is no longer cannot be eternal it must itself have an origin. This origin simply can in no way be posited without infinite regression.
As causal in a determinate manner, the singularity, although not ‘real’ in the sense of having mass or extension, has a determinable state which is mathematically describable. Though the specific determination of this state is disputed, all of the contending determinations that current seem possible are more improbable than anything in known reality. Interestingly, in justifying that this may simply be the case, Hawking resorted to the identical argument used by Christian apologetics for the existence of such a complex being as god prior to all other reality, specifically that the wondrous and improbable nature of \reality itself implies an even more wondrous and improbable origin. The weakness of this argument, suffice it to say, has been sufficiently demonstrated by the theology that superseded apologetics, that Hawking’s resort to it demonstrates nothing other than ignorance. It also puts Dawkins even more naive ‘argument from improbability’ squarely back in his own lap, as the argument causes a major issue precisely for the atheist position, not for the Catholic position. As an eternal and necessary being, the Catholic god is doubly exempt from any considerations of probability whatsoever.
The singularity in itself, as described, is problematic in that it is not an intelligibility found in a material thing, or even an intelligence that arises from a material thing, as is everything else we have knowledge of. It precedes not only materiality and temporality in the only senses we understand them, yet is subject to determination and description by mathematics, which in itself is purely rational. Our only evidence of the purely rational itself, though is our direct evidence of rational cognition as it occurs in ourselves, and as we are reflexively able to simultaneously experience that occurrence. This experience of ourselves as experiencing, however the self that experiences such is posited in itself, is what we generally call the psyche, mind, or human cognition. But as a result of billions of years of development, and a very recent result in universal terms, rational consciousness as the subject matter the mathematical descriptions of the state of the singularity is radically problematic (which implies the concept of state itself is part of the problematic – i.e. in what kind of system is that state to be found?), since any “a priori to all reality” rational consciousness could only rationally correspond to one human concept, that of the Theos, however it is defined in different human societies. However this undermines the very claim that atheism is atheistic to begin with.
Since the developmental nature of reality itself is predicated on empirical evidence that is taken analogously to represent a “natural-historical record”, there is a basic questionability of this analogy in terms of how far it can be taken. Nature is obviously not in any real sense some sort of two bit bookkeeper, and as such the “natural-historical record” doesn’t simply contain gaps, but it by and large consists of such gaps, punctuated by random sets of records that often originated in an unusual sequence of events. The further back one attempts to go the fewer the remaining traces of such events. At what point, therefore, can we speak of evolution “proper” itself beginning? Further, in terms of any possibility of discovering such, we need to define what we mean by evolution, as opposed to anything developmental in the most general sense.
The purely rational notion of evolution, as described particularly by the neo-Darwinists, is predicated solely on adaptation via selection from a limited set of random changes, to a relatively consistent environment, with punctuations triggered by a largely undemonstrable catastrophism (an idea common long before Darwin). The difficulty is that adaptation, as logical or in the most general sense computational, can only make more coherent any given set of solutions. Computationally, for example, one can theoretically at least work out the coherence of all the posits of a given system of mathematics, yet as Godel demonstrated, every given system contains an insoluble, yet describable equation, that which describes the system itself as a whole. Further there is no logical transition between systems of mathematics. Thus even at the simplest level, algebra is in no way implied by simple arithmetic, and the meaning it ascribes to the same symbols is radically different. Just as the ability of the mind to do computation is demonstrated by the work of mathematicians, so also the reality that the computational is neither the only nor the determinate system of mind is also demonstrated by the work of mathematicians. Computationally, or logically, there is no way to solve Godel’s theorem within any given system, one must invent a meta-system. But this meta-system is as such not a logical progression of the system containing the initial problematic. Since solving the problematics inherent in Godel’s theorem by inventing such meta-systems is a large part of mathematicians work, and evidentially they do solve them, for simple systems rather easily, for more complex systems with greater effort, their cognitive abilities cannot be simply computational. Similarly, the process of evolutionary development as logical, rational adaptation can solve different problems in logically related ways, but cannot rationally create a new generic level of organization, a more comprehensive determining system, that renders what is insoluble (the problem to be solved by life, in a general sense, is the problem of making a given scheme of recurrence, specifically that which it is as an individual or as a species, more probable than it would otherwise be, given the general distribution of probabilities found in its given environment) for any given generic level soluble on the more comprehensive level. In both the case of the mathematician and evolution, a dialectical approach that complements the logical is necessary. With that understanding Gould’s notion of ‘ex-aptation’, where the change gives rise to a new genera of life and simultaneously to a wholesale resructuring of the environment posing the problem, becomes itself more comprehensible. But there is no logical or adaptive means to go beyond any given ex-aptation, since the transition is in itself non-rational. Catastrophism is simply the superstitious assigning of some unknown external cause to what is not, in the simplest sense of rational temporal causality, a causal phenomenon at all. But there is the further problem of how, prior to the development of rational and dialectical consciousness, this ‘solving the problem of life’ could be effected. Certainly to a point there are more primordial forms of what we know as experience, insight, and will, but the question then becomes how far back in evolutionary timeframes can we posit even these more rudimentary forms of what we experience as human as already operative. This dialectic of logic and dialectic itself is already part of the modern Catholic position, largely derived from Hegel’s solution to the Kantian dilemma., as is the notion that human rationality, understanding and experience are built on more rudimentary forms, largely derived from earlier solutions to even more basic problems in the combination of the rational and empirical largely found in Leibniz As such neither contradict, for instance, the evolutionary ideas of de Chardin in the way that they do the ideas of the neo-Darwinists.
It can be seen in this sense that man is at once both genus and species. An animal species is a specific solution, determined in the last instance by its sense-oriented psychology in concert with its physical attributes, to the problem of living, i.e. the problem of making the recurrence of the self same, itself only ever more or less probable, more reliable. As an animal, man is of course a species. However, within beings that are ‘simply’ animals a new solution requires a new species, since its sensitive psychology is both determined by and in turn reinforces its physical attributes and potential behaviours. In the translation from intelligible to intelligent, man is not only a new solution, but a source of an unlimited number of possible new solutions. That there is no evidence of species differentiation since the earliest hominids that can be speculated as having made this transition confirms that as genus, man has no need of species differentiation, and by implication of biological evolution at all. Human evolution is by contrast at base societal in nature, yet in no way loses its evolutionary character. Rather it bypasses the inherent difficulties in biological evolution, especially those in species-differentiation, and results in a huge increase in the velocity of both adaptation and ex-aptation. That man’s societal evolution is teleological, though imperfectly so, retrospectively implies that a teleology is inherent in the notion of not merely the evolutionary, but the developmental in its most general sense. Looked at without a prior bias against such a teleology, evidence of it at work is rather easily come by. As a simple example, the development of the nervous system, eventually giving rise to the sensitive psychology of animals and the more developed psychology of humans, during its incubation has no apparent use, it cannot arise via adaptation since there is nothing that it could enhance adaptation towards, nor is there no means by which it could enhance adaptation in general, until it reaches its telos in sense oriented psychology, or it’s further telos in self-aware, reflexively intelligent psychology, in the limiting case of the human being. This is also no issue in terms of the Catholic position, since that teleology was always assumed, but it is a problem to posit a teleology in a situation where no ground for such exists.
There are further problems within each of these general problems, but to go into them all would make for a long story.
Suffice it to say that the atheist position has a number of seemingly insoluble problems beyond the absurdity of the Catholic position, while retaining an equivalent absurdity.
3. The Creationist solution:
The Creationist solution is in a general sense a return to the priority of the rational over the empirical. Noting the problematic nature of natural-historical evidence, it proceeds to simply deny its relevance.
The naive idea that creationists as a whole don’t understand evolutionary theory is contradicted by studies that reframed scientific questions (posed to members of the public in earlier studies) by qualifyiers such as ‘evolutionists believe that …’, or ‘scientists state that …’, and comparing the results with both the earlier studies and comparing the results of the later studies between those who profess different religious and/or political self-determinations. The earlier studies were interpreted as demonstrating a lack of scientific understanding in the general populace, especially prevalent in the United States, and specifically in those who consider themselves Republican (no correlation was in fact found even in those studies between those who consider themselves religious in a more general sense and the non-religious).
The reframed studies showed a far different pattern. Since to answer the questions required a basic understanding of the concepts the scientific position incorporates, without simultaneously requiring a positive judgement of that position, the reframing gives a more accurate idea of the average understanding of current scientific concepts and the distributions of this average understanding. Surprisingly to the author of the studies, Americans did better, on average, in terms of understanding scientific concepts than most other countries (there were a few countries that scored marginally higher, but not as ridiculously higher as the earlier studies claimed). Further, among those who were self-described Republicans, the average understanding was higher than those who were self-described Democrats by a significant margin. Even further, those who were self-described creationists did far and away the best of any of the groupings, including the grouping of self-described atheists and the group of self-described scientists. This implies, as the author noted, a radical discrepancy between understanding a concept and subscribing to it. While understanding a concept (at least in the general sense of an understanding at second hand) is largely neutral, subscribing to it is a large part of self-definition, and thus anything but neutral. Further, those that are against a concept are liable to look further into it than those who simply accept it on faith. Thus faith itself proved to be more common among scientists than among creationists.
While this was surprising to the author of the studies and subsequent studies that confirmed the findings, it makes perfect sense if you consider creationism as a rationalist set of ideas that pay little to no mind to the empirical. Insofar as modern creationism exists within a context in which the scientific enjoys a certain prestige, some do a half-hearted job of using scientific notions and terminology to attract a similar prestige, but in fact they are largely unswayed by empirical evidence since it can be, in point of fact, more easily put into question than the basic rationalism that supports their contentions.
To sum up the third possibility without spending too much time on what, for me, ignores the only possible means of judging between any set of internally logical positions, the Creationist position contains the absurdity of the earlier two, while denying the intrinsic relation that obtains between rationality and the empirical themselves.
ARE THESE THE ONLY POSSIBILITIES?
As noted at the beginning, the position taken by Aristotle and Plato themselves, and in a different sense by Aquinas and others, is a fourth possibility, however without modification it suffers from similar defects, though for different reasons, as the Creationist position. However despite their brilliance, and despite a certain sense in which Whitehead was correct in pronouncing the entirety of western philosophy a series of footnotest to Plato, and the entirety of western science a series of footnotes to Aristotle, Plato and Aristotle are neither the last words in philosophy and science, nor even more the last possible words. On top of this, it’s by no means apparent that the basic assumptions that all three positions require are themselves either Platonic or Aristotelian, rather they arise from a specific interpretation of the first beginning of western thinking, an interpretation accomplished by the neo-Platonists predicated on assumptions injected into the reception of Plato and Aristotle by the Stoics. This interpretation is properly what we mean by metaphysics.
While I noted that the Catholic position took certain aspects of Leibniz’ and Hegel’s thought, it by no means adopted all of either. It should be noted as well that the sciences themselves, particularly but not solely the science of physics, have also taken aspects of both and in doing so gone beyond science insofar as we take that to mean the mechanistic, physicalist or naturalistic reductionist science deemed as ‘modern’ and largely arising in the 16th and 17th centuries. There is a sense in which the thought of any philosopher looks both backwards and forwards, and as such thinker from Leibniz to Malabou both look backwards upon thinking as metaphysics and forwards beyond thinking as metaphysics. That they can do so indicates that we are in a peculiar stage, one in which metaphyics itself largely determines how things are, yet is in a sense ‘finished’ in that positive new possibilities inevitably appear to lie outside it. Insofar as thinkers from Leibniz to those most current look backwards, particularly to Plato and Aristotle themselves, they look at the culmination of the first beginning, not as inevitably leading to the problematics of the positions enumerated, but since they themselves thought prior to their interpretation that specific interpretation and the assumptions it grounds, metaphysics itself, cannot be said to be operative in their thought. Thus as the culmination of the first beginning their though contains the most concise and simultaneously best elaborated account of the first beginning, with all its possibilities, and not merely those that were actualized via the metaphysical interpretation. In any attempt at a different history, in this case only a potential in any case, one initial step is to understand the first beginning as such, not merely one specific and, it must be said, somewhat dubious interpretation of it. Another step is to look at those thinkers, whose names include Leibniz, Hegel, Schelling, Marx, Nietzsche, Benjamin, Whitehead, Heidegger, Foucault, Zizek and Malabou among others, in terms of assessing their forward view, and in what sense they attempt and to what degree they accomplish the perhaps somewhat tentative first steps of another beginning.
Heidegger explicitly names this ‘looking backwards’ as a destruktion of metaphysics. Derrida’s translation of destruktion into the French deconstruction brings out a different, yet inherent side of destruktion while simultaneously softening (and perhaps to a degree that is not valid) what is more harsh in the first term.
The term ‘metaphysics’ itself is not a ‘primordial word’ in thinking, but a mistake of interpretation versus intent.Aristotle’s students placed his uncollected writings he referred to generally as ‘first philosophy’ after the Physics when putting together all his writings as a set, as such they termed them the ‘meta da Physica’, or ‘after the Physics’, and no ‘beyond the physical’ in the modern sense was intended, since they didn’t have the modern notion of the physical to begin with. The very fact that what appeared to his students as an orderly progression of his works appears to modern eyes as backwards is itself food for thought in terms of the difference between the way those in direct contact with Aristotle understood his work and the way the neo-Platonists, who lived between 3 and 700 years after Aristotle, interpreted it, not to mention the changes and inversions metaphysics itself has undergone, while remaining in a sense the same, isomorphic to the original.
Heidegger defines metaphysics as it has developed as onto-theology. In this term we can hear something of how certain assumptions, proper to theology but certainly not relevant to ontology as such, since theology, like the sciences, must assume an ontology and cannot therefore develop one, became the unstated grounds of all of the three positions, including the one that claims (and to be fair, in some cases tries quite hard) to rid itself of such assumptions.
Unfortunately, rather than actively judging the validity of these assumptions on their own merits, atheism often assumes it has done so by denying propositions such as ‘god exists’, ‘god is real’ or simply ‘god is’, while questioning the meaning of neither the subject, the predicate, the implicit middle term, or in the last version the implicit predicate itself of such propositions. The naive contrast of ‘science’ and ‘belief’ becomes a vicious interference as well, since outside the tiny amount that constitutes what one has personally worked out and verified, science is belief. Without such belief human collaboration in general, never mind scientific collaboration, would be of no use since each individual would have to reaccomplish the entire development of man through society by himself. We can call such beliefs as a whole shared knowledge in large part because what is virtually unconditioned, and as a result leads to the judgment that any insight is a true insight, is that by and large men are honest and that the verification that was done is therefore valid. However this requires an a priori faith, or trust, in human beings, or in the more restrictive case human beings insofar as they are scientists, have a desire to know that, at least in a generalized fashion, overrides less pure interests that might direct someone to the propagation of a lie. On the other hand, there is a difference between such shared knowledge and a firsthand judgment of something as true, or virtually unconditioned. Beliefs can be mistaken with an ease that is quantitatively so much greater than direct personal knowing that it becomes different not merely of degree but of kind. Thus we need a corresponding acknowledgment that the self-correcting tendencies of shared knowledge are themselves limited, and cannot correct biases that are common to most if not all members of a given society.