Monday, March 25, 2013

On Thomas Nagel in the National Post

Let's pair this with something someone searched the other day:

Hutchison quotes the remarks of Francis Bacon, who said that final causes are like vestal virgins, dedicated to the gods but unproductive, and, he continues, "The Aristotelian classification that comes closest to modern scientific views of cause is the efficient cause."

Just at this point Luther would have raised violent protest.  If modern science agrees in Hutchison's estimate of its philosophy, it is deceiving itself.  Luther would have said that just this is the basic error of modern science--it professes to know more than it knows.  In reality it can find only material and formal, or instrumental, causes, but in its ignorance it imagines that it has found efficient and final causes.  It is this attitude which is behind the "scientific" assertion that diseases cannot be caused by devils because they are caused by germs, or that God cannot answer prayers for rain because rain is the result of the interaction of complicated meteorological factors.  Man, with his reason, can only deal with phenomena, and he ought to be conscious of the limitations which this places on all his investigations. 
...Since reason cannot truly know God, and since God is the only true efficient cause, and God's will is the only true final cause, therefore reason can never go beyond material and instrumental causes.  Consequently reason can never know anything correctly.

In parallel, just like reason cannot go beyond material causes and deal with anything that really matters correctly, neither can Darwinism tell us anything important because it does not deal with consciousness

This much used quote of Einstein fits in, in a way, too:

Einstein also studied physis and inadvertently ended up “beyond” it, in meta-physis. And Einstein also had notions about religion that still divide lesser minds today. Was he an atheist? A believer? Everybody wanted to know. So Einstein penned an answer, which concludes (page 387 in this biography):

The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is something that our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly: this is religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I am a devoutly religious man.

You cannot take the metaphysics out of the physics.

But Einstein just talks about an emotional experience.  This is how far he can go with it.

But the mysterious, the numinous, the worshipful--it is a powerful experience common to all mankind.  It is not disconnected from physics formulas, or other scientific understanding, nor contrary to it.  The more we learn the more we have new impulses and reasons to marvel. This is not only the impulse for art and science but it also is the impulse for religion.  This is why we have retreated to the mechanistic universe.

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