Sunday, September 04, 2005

 

ONE REASON WHY SCIENTISTS RESIST THE IDEA

A principle emotional problem involved in the idea of the reconciliation of science and religion is the justified fear that “religion” refers to one or another of the exiting traditional faiths. These are characterized by their archaic institutions, their fundamental irrationality and their illiberal and coercive methods. No progressive thinker would want any part of such a marriage. Nor could such a union foster an era of spiritual progress.

If a genuine reconciliation of science and religion were to come about it would be highly improbable that the spirituality that would emerge would resemble any existing religion in its historical or dogmatic details.

Instead, it would consist of an overarching spiritual vision that would be subject to rational criticism, revision and augmentation. Any imperatives or obligations that may be implicit would have to be humane, moral, democratic and universally acceptable based not on authority but on objective reason alone.

All the while such a rational religion would have to offer a compelling response to the monumental existential quandaries identified historically and addressed (albeit imperfectly) by the great mythologies and religions of the world.

 

THE COMPLETED SCIENTIFIC METHOD

There is a single universal epistemology underlying the process of any problem solving whatsoever.

(1) Articulation of the problem: This involves formulating the problem in such a manner that it can be objectified and understood, and so that the conditions of its ultimate solution can be predicted.
(2) Invoke authority: The next step in the solution of any problem involves the appeal to authority. Authority refers to the repository of solutions to the present or similar problems, which already exist. These solutions can be recovered from memory, from the knowledge of others, from the literature, from computers, etc. Valid deductions from all these sources also fall under the heading of authority.
(3) Creativity: When there is no means by which the problem can be solved by appeal to authority, or by means of logical deduction from what is already known, human creativity remains as the only further appeal. There is no protocol or formula for creativity. All that can be said is that our experience confirms that we are capable of bringing forth new ideas (ideas that are not theorems of what is already known) that in turn are able to solve problems that cannot be solved by means of authority.
(4) Verification 1: Does the solution solve the problem? The first of three principles of verification involves the subjective test. Does the solution eliminate the quandary? Is the problem, in the light of the solution, no longer a problem?
(5) Verification 11: Are the elements of the solution self-consistent? Once the presuppositions that make up the statement of the solution (the theory) are articulated are they mutually coherent? A solution, which contains a contradiction, cannot endure as a solution through time. Eventually, the logical error will result in practical failure, and thus in the reemergence of the initial problem or some new problem.
(6) Verification 111: Are the elements of the solution logically consistent with existing paradigms? Since the solution to any problem must coexist with the myriad solutions to other problems, which we regularly confront, the same principle that applies internally, applies also externally. Where we employ two mutually exclusive theories to deal with different problems, one or both will eventually prove to be untenable, and their status as solutions will be invalidated in failure.

This is the universal epistemology and it applies to the practical, the scientific and the spiritual.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

 

A NEW METAPHYSICAL BEGINNING


I believe that everything in the universe is composed of one ultimate essence and that this essence is alive and free.

I am forced to consider this hypothetical conclusion because it takes three things to make the universe meaningful, and rational religion and spirituality possible.

These three fundamental elements include:

1. Being
2. Consciousness
3. Free will

If you begin with being only (as science does) there is no logical or empirical means to get to consciousness or freedom. Any subsequent readmission into our discourse of consciousness and freedom becomes strained, artificial and ultimately invalid. This is, in fact, the dire predicament we find ourselves in today: Our materialist metaphysic has foreclosed rational and creative advance in the realm of the spirit. Much of the alienation, over-consumption, and amorality that we are witnessing today can be attributed to this problem.

If, however, we begin with free will as the ontological foundation, we get all three. For what is free must be conscious and what is conscious must have being.

As radical as this may sound to the contemporary intellect, there is nothing in logic, science or the empirical method that prohibits this alternative beginning. At the same time, the significance of its implications make its exploration compelling. Of course what follows must rise to the standards of rational objectivity, accountability and universality.

It has been my life’s endeavor to work toward the establishment of a discipline for the spirit that can be elevated to the same level of creativity and cognitive sophistication as that of the hard sciences.


Thursday, September 01, 2005

 

FREE WILL


There are two major questions concerning free will:

-What is it?
-Do we have it?

Here I would like to shed some light on the first question.

Two caveats are in order:

1. It is impossible to know what freedom is, in its essence.
2. What we can know is how freedom is manifested wherever it is brought into being.

It is impossible to know how freedom operates in its essence for this simple reason. To know how something operates, is to know its causality, its necessary and sufficient preconditions. And to say that, “we know the necessary and sufficient preconditions of freedom” is, at the same time, to deny the existence of freedom. To know the cause of something, whether in a logical or in an empirical sense, is to know the determining factors. Once we know what “determines” “freedom”, there is no longer any room left for freedom.

This does not, however mean that we are destined to remain ignorant about freedom. In fact, there is only one model for genuine freedom that is not absurd. Any model that cannot be reduced to this one fails to offer a rational instance of autonomy.

1. There must choice. Thus, there must be at least two mutually exclusive options of which one must be chosen.
2. Both alternatives must represent a positive incentive. That is, both must offer the prospect of subjective improvement over the present state of consciousness.
3. One of these alternatives must be more proximate (in time or in ease of acquisition) while the other must be more remote (in time or ease of acquisition).
4. The more remote incentive must, in the subjectivity of the agent at the moment of the choice, represent a qualitative improvement over the more proximate.
5. Genuine freedom comes into existence when, and only when, the agent opts for the more remote choice over the more proximate.

I offer this challenge: There is no other viable candidate for free will that does not ultimately conform to this model. All other contenders are absurd.


Friday, August 26, 2005

 

EPISTEMOLOGY 101


*All problems are of the same fundamental nature.
*All solutions are of the same fundamental nature.
*All solutions derive from the same two fundamental sources
*All solutions are evaluated by the same three principles of verification

All Problems are ultimately phenomenological. They emerge (before they are ever articulated) as a subjective distance or “vacuum” between what “is” and what “ought to be” for the subject.

All solutions must, therefore, ultimately be evaluated based on how effectively they mitigate the vacuum between what “is” and what “ought to be” for the subject. A solution, in the final analysis, is anything that can be placed into the breach to bring “is” and “ought” closer together.

All solutions derive from two and only two sources:

1. Authority
2. Creativity

Authority is exemplified by anything that once qualified as a solution, by the present criteria, and is now made available to re-deploy as such. Examples of authority include: memory, the knowledge of others, culture, literature, art, databases and valid deductions based on these sources.

Creativity represents the potential we have to bring about new solutions, which have never before existed and add them to the body of authority for future reference.

All solutions are validated by means of three and only three criteria:

1. Does the solutions mitigate the vacuum, narrowing or eliminating the gap between subjective “is” and subjective “ought”?
2. Are the elements of the presuppositions implied by the ideas that comprise the solution logically coherent?
3. Are these elements consistent with those of the other paradigms, which together comprise the current body of solutions, that is the current state of our knowledge and understanding?

Is there any reason why this epistemology would not apply equally to the empirical and the existential, that is, to science and religion?


 

THE RATIONAL REHABILITATION OF RITUAL

Ritual is found in every religion. In fact, religion can be loosely defined as a mythology coupled with its body of ritual. The former represents its ontology while the latter animates its practice.

In the modern critique of religion, ritual is reduced to the absurd primarily because it is based on the irrational notion that symbolic beliefs and actions can have positive or practical cosmic efficacy, without the need to define an empirical link between the act or belief and the expected result. This, after all, is the definition of superstition.

We may however have to reconsider this over-hasty dismissal of ritual. All acts that are defensible as “rational” are rational precisely because they are both logical and practical. Moreover, all practical acts are rooted in the selfish and sublunary. They are quid pro quo relationships. Human behavior, as is all animal behavior, is grounded in those responses and preoccupations that are useful for survival and reproduction.

As such, they are inherently unsuited for a unilateral, or selfless, relationship to God. They are unsuited for holiness, worship and thanksgiving. The instrumental, as crucial as it may be, is invalid when it comes to religion. In fact, where religious behavior degenerates to the level of the ulterior, to the political, economic, social or visceral, it becomes counterfeit and inauthentic.

The idiom of genuine spirituality must therefore be purged of the practical and replaced by the sacrificial. As such, its language must necessarily be symbolic rather than efficacious. Ritual is sacrificial speech. It is the idiom of holiness.

Nothing else is suitable except ritual. Ritual hence is the foundation of any religion whatsoever and it is a foundation that is, in its apparent irrationality, entirely rational. Ritual is and must remain the foundation and ultimate expression of any rationally defensible religion whatsoever.

 

INTELLIGENT DESIGN

The frightening specter of the intrusion of “Intelligent Design” into our nation’s core curricula results from the fact that it is employed as an “intelligent design” for the insinuation of religion and its irrationality into the acculturation of the next generation.

As such, it is indeed an instance of mixing the inherent irrationality of a narrow theology and its authoritarian pitfalls with an educational system ostensibly committed to reason, enlightenment and cultural diversity.

The tragedy however is that this patent abuse of the idea, and its justified negative reaction, obscures the fact that the notion of intelligent design as such is, at its foundation, every bit as rational as the prevailing theory of Darwinian evolution and genetics. There is nothing in the best science of the age to refute the possibility of an intelligent designer, nor is there anything inherent in the idea of an underlying purpose that could not be subjected to thorough scientific scrutiny. The fact that the dynamics of nature can mimic deliberate intentionality does not imply that there can be no such thing as deliberate intentionality.

Further, as to which paradigm ultimately turns out to be a better principle of explanation is something that is amenable to mediation based entirely upon reason, creativity and the scientific method.

And on this level it should be introduced as a viable alternative to the prevailing theory along with the necessary instruction as to how such an alternative to Darwinism would have to be fleshed out, strengthened and verified in order to be elevated to the cognitive status of the prevailing paradigm which has withstood one hindered and fifty years of the most intense empirical scrutiny ever to bear on any other scientific idea.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

 

THE FORMULA FOR IRRATIONALITY

The coefficient of irrationality varies directly with the magnitude of what its advocate deems to be at stake.

We seem to forget that reason did not evolve as an end in itself. Instead, it arose and endured, as a powerful strategy in the struggle for survival. But this remarkable evolutionary augmentation emerges with an inherent paradox. Reason has the tendency to become a witness against the incentive for its invocation. When this happens, self-interest allies itself with self-deception, the irrational becomes “practical”.

The adaptation, which gives us the power of logic also enables us to uncover implications, which argue against the goals and predilections of the logician. Reason, unlike instinct, is blind to interest. Its revelations are as likely to reinforce an imminent goal as to frustrate it.

It should therefore not be surprising that rationality is so easily sacrificed when it comes into conflict with desire, while an understanding of what is at stake for the logician, is often a powerful predictor of just how much irrationality one is likely to encounter.

Religion is a powerful case in point. Since eternity is at stake, reason is the first and ultimate casualty!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

 

ONE HAND CLAPPING? - LIBERAL V CONSERVATIVE

This debate is ill-defined, ill-advised and unnecessary.

To be conservative is to recognize that we did not get to where we are without the endless refinement of what is most practical, most rational and most noble. This great bounty needs to be identified and preserved.

To be liberal is to understand that despite great progress there is endlessly more to be done and hoped for, and that we have an unceasing moral obligation to be creative and to forge deliberate progress.

The only ideology therefore that makes any sense at all is characterized by an understanding and application of this tandem process, together with the commitment to remain rational, honest and selfless in the determination of when to be more liberal and when to be more conservative.

Friday, August 12, 2005

 

SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENTALISM

Within our prevailing ideology environmentalism is a zero sum game. To defer to the planet and its ecology it is necessarily to sacrifice, to do with less, to suffer restriction, to endure some negative experience. This equation will inevitably cause resistance and encourage cheating and deception. It already does!

Additionally, our economy is grounded in progress and increased consumption. Its expansion is necessary to its survival. To fail to grow is to stagnate and decline. Furthermore, we measure our success and happiness on the basis of consumption and the prospect of ever-increasing consumption.

All this foreshadows disaster. If the entire world’s population were suddenly able to consume even at the rate of the poorest citizens of the First World, the planet could not sustain it.

There is only one viable solution to this problem, and it does not involve:

*The undermining of our economy
*The end of capitalism
*Confiscatory taxation
*Burdensome government restriction
*Arduous self-denial

Instead, the solution lies in an enlightenment born of education by which the bounty of an intact environment, and the efforts to preserve and sustain it, becomes an intrinsic source of joy and fulfillment. In this way environmentalism becomes a positive incentive, a source of meaning and purpose. Only then will it be possible to derive continued satisfaction from consumption within sustainable parameters, while we strive towards ever-greater fulfillment as a function of pursuits, which not only preserve the environment, but also enhance and celebrate its vast untapped potential.


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