Wednesday, March 09, 2005

All Scientists Believe in God

This quotation is from Walker Percy's Lost in the Cosmos. (The initial question is a little awkwardly worded, and though I include it for completeness, it is not essential to the point I'm making here.)

Question: Why does it make scientists uneasy that it appears to be the case that Homo sapiens sapiens, a conscious languaged creature, appeared suddenly and lately—when scientists profess to be interested in what is the case, that is, the evidence?

  1. Because scientists are understandably repelled by the theory of the special creation of man by God, in Biblical time, say 6004 B.C. at 11 a.m. on a Wednesday [Friday?] morning.
  2. Because scientists find it natural to deal with matter in interaction and with energy exchanges and don't know what to make of such things as consciousness, self, symbols and even sometimes deny that there are such things, even though they, the scientists, act for all the world as if they were conscious selves and spend their lives transacting with symbols.
  3. Because scientists are uneasy with discontinuities, even when there is evidence of such discontinuity in the appearance of man in all his contrarieties. Revealed religion has its dogmas, e.g., thou shalt not kill. But so does science: thou shalt not tolerate discontinuities. The question is which is the more entitled.
  4. Because scientists in the practice of the scientific method, a non-radical [radical = 'to the root'] knowledge of matter in interaction, often are not content with the non-radicalness of the scientific method and hence find themselves located in a posture of covert transcendence of their data, which is by the same motion assigned to the sphere of immanence. Hence, scientists operate in the very sphere of transcendence with is not provided for in science. Given such a posture, it is not merely an offense if a discontinuity turns up in the sphere of immanence, the data, but especially if the discontinuity seems to allow for the intervention of God. A god is already present. A scientist is god to his data. And if there is anything more offensive to him that the suggestion of the existence of God, it is the existence of two gods.

"A god is already present. A scientist is god to his data."

As we've seen, one of the conceptual foundations of modern science is Rene Descartes's erroneous idea that mind is completely separate from matter (or nature). This is the reason that the scientific observer is "unnatural" and always implicitly and absolutely excluded from scientific conceptions (though modern physics partially corrects this); this is why modern philosophies never incorporate the philosopher and can't justify the act of philosophizing.

Adopting a god-like absolute transcendence is only a small step from believing that "I am God, there is no other."

Walker Percy, Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book. (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1983), 163-164. (Clipped from the Augustine Club, emphasis added)

Stanley L. Jaki's Means to Message (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman's, 1999) is a great elaboration of the intrinsic inconstency of modern philosophy.

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