Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Lost Response to an Elizaphanian Post

I typed this up at work due to ideas that came about from a post at Elizaphanian (Sam), then sent it to myself at home and forgot what [exactly] it related to (I was following a post and was going to respond). Anyway, it looked like there was something to it (of course unfinished, like everything I do).

It seems to me that to consider there is no God is to ask a scientific question. Which of course is fine, but what relevance does it have with regard to religion?

Once you bring up the sort of discourse shown here, you’re no longer talking about religion (this isn’t an instance of meta-religion); rather this is an instance where you’re critiquing a system of thought with another system of thought which need not necessarily apply to it. If religion isn’t scientific, then how can you talk about it scientifically? How can you apply scientific principles to it?

I’m reminded here of Pirsig with his concept of believing in ghosts. Where ghost may simply imply a language or system of thought used to describe the world relative to experience. Pirsig pursued the “ghost of reason”, which in many ways can be thought of as the dogma related to modern mans way of thinking relative to reason. He aimed to do a critique of reason itself, with itself. Now THAT, is a bit of a bootstrap problem. Further, the system of thought itself isn’t real in any corporeal sense; it has no existence aside from the human mind. It’s a ghost. God in this way is every bit as much of a ghost as atoms, or laws of logic. The key for me however, is that both are *systems* of thought, ways of looking at the world which again, are not necessarily related.

Rationality [again] is nothing more then a ghost, but we believe in it so much (so dogmatically) that for many it’s become what the world is. Things are not real, things are not true, things do not exist, unless they’re rational. After-all, name one truth which exists void of rationality, void of a proposition which makes it so.

Religion, on the other hand, is not propositional; it doesn’t take its hold in the mind through rational processes as we know them. The language that exists to describe it is not what it is; it’s merely a path to understanding what it is and once this understanding occurs, the words may be discarded. Seems pretty irrational hu? Yes, of course it does, it’s not scientific.

Reason doesn’t work in this way. The propositions which represent the truths we know and love, gravity for example, are no truth at all without the principles, the mathematics and the reason which underpin it. Reason in this way *IS* language. It’s a tool to convey a homogenous, continuous, consistent view of the world from mind to mind. In this way we can communicate and have an understanding. Reason and scientific method becomes dogmatic when the propositions become the reality, and furthermore when outside those propositions there is no reality; which is in fact the case with reason and science. If science cannot prove something, cannot speak to something, then it isn’t true, it doesn’t exist. This is important to understand. On the one hand this is necessary to reason; after all, we don’t want to go into a building project unless all the guiding principles of architecture are understood to a degree that what we finally build is safe to live in. Reason in this way can and should not leave any stone unturned insofar as it can do so. But this doesn’t mean that there are not any further stones, only that, reason does not see them.

So to the bootstrap problem:
You cannot analyze of system of thought with that same system of thought - You cannot analyze scientific method with itself, without running into a problem of infinite regress; you’ll never get anywhere. So, instead of validating ones own system of thought, it’s much easier to invalidate another; in this case, religion. Again, Pirsig said, “I don’t believe in ghosts (in the 15th century sense of the term) because they are not scientific.” And in this way he’s simply adhering to his own dogma.

Modern rationalists and scientists like to the say the same thing about religion; it isn’t true, there is no God, the bible is bogus, because it’s not scientific. Then religion can turn around and say, science is not the ultimate source of truth because of course, it isn’t very religious.

Consider the bootstrap problem in this way. Can religion critique religion? It does, but how does it do it? Islam likes to critique Christianity and visa versa, so to with many other religions. But in doing so the religious thinker must leave the world of religion and enter into an entirely different one; namely, Reason. It ends up attacking another religion on objective grounds, it attacks another religions objective validity in the same way science does. It pokes at it’s mythology, it’s history, it’s rules, it’s morality; it attacks the *words* that make up the message. Once again, this is exactly what science does. Religion cannot attack itself on religious grounds because at the core they share the same meaning; it would eventually run into the same problem of infinite regress in the form of defining the root meanings of those things which encompassed the religion. They would find, they are both religious. (I guess the question is then, what’s religious?)

From a religious perspective, there just is God; that's it. There isn't anything reasonable about it because reason has nothing to do with it. Without God, there is no religion. Now of course one could say, "some religions (Buddhism) don't have god[s], but this is nothing more then a confusion of what one means by God and is again, asking a scientific question and not a religious one. When him with eyes to see sees, this is plainly understood.

An after thought: (Some questions I want to answer)
1.) What is science?
2.) What is the goal of science?
3.) What does science do?
(these seem like easy questions, but I still don't have an adequate answer. How does one say what one is?)

1.) What is religion?
2.) I don't know enough about question 1 to ask question 2, likewise for 3. I can say with some honestly that I feel I know the answer, but as of yet I lack the rational capacity to verbalize it. Perhaps this is for the better.

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