… this thing we all know, this thought, this mind, cannot in fact be really alien to the nature of the universe. Or, putting it the other way round, the nature of the universe cannot be really alien to Reason. We find that matter always obeys the same laws which our logic obeys. When logic says a thing must be so, Nature always agrees. No one can suppose that this can be due to a happy coincidence. A great many people think that it is due to the fact that Nature produced the mind. But on the assumption that Nature is herself mindless this provides no explanation. To be the result of a series of mindless events is one thing: to be a kind of plan or true account of the laws according to which those mindless events happened is quite another.C.S. Lewis, in “De Futilitate”, Christian Reflections, The Collected Works of C.S. Lewis, (New York: Inspirational Pre
For every thinking human, faith is a given. One of the first (and almost always unarticulated and assumed) articles of human faith is that, somehow, thinking relates to reality. Even fantastic and magical thinking starts from what is known, from what has been thought of as the “real” universe which exists, in order to create an alternative. Even in magic and fantasy there is some acceptance of the processes of basic logic –actions beget reactions, what is done and left undone produces consequences.
In our previous discussion in this series, we related that all approaches to reality are essentially religious, in the original sense of interpreting what exists through a system of concepts which ties it all, or at least most of it, back together (Latin religio)so as to be able to function in the universe as we find it. Science is not “religious” in the popular sense of delimiting how to approach whatever God, gods, or spiritual powers may exist, but it is inevitably, etymologically religious in imposing a system of constructs, principles, and methodologies through which to understand what our senses and reason discern about reality.
The same can be said of socio-economic- political ideologies claiming to be objective and secular. They may deny or ignore God, but they are inevitably religious. In fact, no system of human thought (philosophy in its widest sense) is without theology, for all take a position on whether there is a God, and, if the existence of some form of Deity is acceptable, how to relate to such (a) being(s). Agnosticism, the “I don’t know about God” approach, is just lazy atheism because it says “God may exist, but I choose to ignore Him/Her/It as irrelevant” (to me, at any rate), which is really passive atheism.
We always return to the core issue of faith, which we have described as trust in its most practical manifestation. As we have said, faith without trust in what is (or is said to be) believed is not faith, but a sterile intellectual position. The Christian Scriptures describe such “faith” as sterile, dead, empty of real meaning and content. Real trust means acting on the basis of that trust. Science and post-modern philosophy function on trust in human reason. For post-modernism this is a self-inflicted contradiction, because post-modernism assumes the fallibility of all positions except, of course, its own basic premise that all thought is fundamentally personal interpretation, which allows all opinions and views equal validity. Of that absurd position, more another time.
Science and rational thought of every variety, whether Occidental or Oriental, must trust the efficacy of human Reason, the ability of logic and rational thinking to truly relate to what is, not what might be, if only things would or could just work differently. So we speak of scientific laws, experiential proofs, systematic exploration until we uncover the secrets of the universe – from its tiniest to its most gigantic aspects, including the very function of human reason itself. There is enormous faith involved in the power of the human mind to uncover all the most hidden mysteries of existence and its meaning, if not now, then in the future, for as long as the species homo sapiens sapiens will exist.
In our opening citation, C.S. Lewis, a great thinker of the mid-twentieth century, discussed the amazing phenomenon of human logic and thinking with great insight. He also deconstructed the fallacy that it could spontaneously emerge from the sort of universe posited by so much of modern and post-modern science and then be able to understand all the “how, when, why, what” with any hope of trusting it could make valid conclusions about such huge questions. As he said:
No one can suppose that this can be due to a happy coincidence. A great many people think that it is due to the fact that Nature produced the mind. But on the assumption that Nature is herself mindless this provides no explanation.
Consider the essential post-modern posit that all thinking is first and foremost personal and subjective and that therefore no absolutes can be found, and perhaps none exist to be found. This statement is blatantly absolute, exposing the fallacy of post-modernism at its root. The element of truth in it is that we humans, as self-aware individual persons, must by nature think personally. Thus there is always an element of subjectivity in all we experience, observe, discern, and, however tentatively, conclude. So far we can agree.
The conclusion that there is therefore no real discernible truth or absolute anyone can discover or experience manifestly does not follow. Yet the West has bought into this self-destructive hoax to the point of denying most of its inherited wisdom hard-gleaned from millennia of human discernment. Why? Because of unresolved historical issues which have left a bitter legacy.
Our ancestors made many mistakes, and some were among the most terrible and destructive kind based on the fanatical profession of absolutes about the nature of reality and our identity as humans within that reality. There is no excusing any of those dreadful misdeeds and their misappropriation of higher principles to act in the most fearful fashion against dissenters and deniers of the prevailing interpretations of truth.
What came after as the replacement of religious truth with secular wisdom and the power of Reason and Science to set us all free began with solemn affirmations of Tolerance and Respect for all. It eventually precipitated its own apocalypse which outdid anything ever done previously (Gulag and its Chinese Communist equivalent anyone? Holocaust anyone? Killing Fields anyone? ISIS and Jihadism anyone?)
Humans do not function as merely and simply biological machinery. All our history and experience from all the history we have any clue about declare that we have ever held to the Cosmos being an awesome and awe-full place which shouts that it was and is created by an operative will according to a design. The will and design are demonstrated by what is, what is in evidence, in actual existence all around us, inside and out, in all things and everywhere all the time. And it all points to Something higher and greater than we – in fact, Someone much more than Something.
What shall we do, then? Blame the Designer for designing us as flawed beings who can choose to be stupid, to think and act selfishly? Shall we say that the Creator had no business creating an open-ended Cosmos because that means we can make bad choices and suffer for them – both our own and those of our fellow creatures? Shall we say that it is unjust that we are subject to the processes unleashed by all the magnificent powers and processes this Cosmos includes? Shall we rant and rave against His/Her sadism in not protecting us against the sometimes wild destructiveness of the processes of Nature, large and small?
Shall we proclaim how unkind and ungenerous this Divine Immensity is in not empowering us to understand all the aspects of His/Her own intentions and thoughts and designs as if we could encompass all this in our finite mind?
It is a lot to ask us to trust such a Being who cannot or won’t show Him-Herself to us.
TO BE CONTINUED