Friday, October 10, 2008

Science and Faith Are Irreconciliable

This is a topic that seems to have been done to death, but I feel I have a contribution to make that I haven't seen elsewhere.

I do not believe the essential difference between Science and Faith are to be found in their respective professed aims: truth or The Truth. The essential difference between Science or The Life of Inquiry, and Religion as Obedience to Revealed Truth. is ethical. However compelling the belief that the similarity between Science and Religion can be expressed in propositions, this compulsion only misleads.

Science emphasizes scrupulous adherence to procedure regardless of the outcome of those procedures. Of course, in individual instances, one finds fraud and willful blindness, but if science were merely fraud and willful blindness, it would not be able to exist as human institutions. The quintessence of fraud is the systematic hiding of some fact or insight that would unmask the deception. Epistemic fraud, more commonly known as "lying," means that some things may not be discussed lest unhappy consequences ensue. Language becomes a means to obscure and hide truth rather than means to its discovery. It is part of the myths of science -- eg, the story of Galileo is as good an archetype as any -- that there are many truths right under our noses waiting to be uncovered.

It is intrinsic to this myth of uncovering and discovering that authority has every reason to lie, and few, if any to be truthful. Consequently, it is part of the ethos of science that one must weigh for oneself what counts as truth. Considered religiously, this means that all authority is only provisional as far as it accords with one's understanding of the world.

When science is considered as an ethical and value-laden enterprise, individual autonomy is held in very high esteem.

Religion, especially a religion of revelation such as Christianity, has obedience as its highest value. Obedience to God's Will, obedience to the church hierarchy, obedience to the word of scripture, etc. The greatest sin is always that a person might think for themselves.

When Science and Religion are considered as ethical enterprises, it is clear enough that they are irreconcilable.

The Church of the Fightin' Jesus

Church of the Fightin' Jesus

For some reason I had to shrink the picture otherwise only the left two thirds would display. Click on the picture to see it in all its glory.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Power & Narcissism: Cursory Remarks

The principal characteristic of narcissism, whether one wishes to use a Freudian understanding or one drawn from popular psychology, is that of a disconnect between one's emotional life as well as one's intellectual and spiritual life. Or to use one of Nietzsche's telling phrases, it is a "denial of reality." Narcissism considered as a problem requires consideration of "reality." In essence, narcissism leads to the creation of an alternate reality: one in which one's dreams, desires, hopes and plans, which would otherwise go unfulfilled, may find fulfillment.

Consequently, the reality principle, to use Freud's phrase, is simply that fulfillment of those dearest dreams, hopes, and plans have no guaranteed fulfillment. Further, reality always means the Unexpected. The dream of guaranteed fulfillment motivates the creation of narcissistic reality. Reality has sharp, rough edges. Metaphorically, and not so metaphorically speaking, reality is the sharp table corner a small child happily at play suddenly discovers by running into it while at play.

Power considered in this context means the capacity to overcome the shocks to which the flesh is heir. A given quantum of power allows unexpected events of a certain intensity to go unnoticed. Power makes the sharp, rough edges of reality smooth. In fact, some of those unexpected corners come to be perceived as smoothness itself. Consequently, it is intrinsic to power that it obscures perception and makes denial of reality into something more than a simple recipe for disaster.

If this last paragraph should seem especially opaque, consider the example of any true believer and his ideology. A Christian, for example. It is enough to contemplate sitting in judgment of angels, for the effects, causes, and consequences in this life to become of little consequence. The fantasy of being at some future date on the winning side is enough to incite feelings of power and consequently, of the capacity to ignore the trials and tribulations of this life, even though there is no guarantee of no other.

The underpinning of the lust for power is fear of frustration and hurt in this life. Hence the need for the Christian God to be both all powerful and all good.

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