There are trivial truths, and there are great truths.
The opposite of a trivial truth is plainly false.
The opposite of a great truth is also true.
- Niels Bohr
Monday, December 21, 2009
I look forward to your comments!
Monday, July 28, 2008
Several schools of thought have emerged that support this observation. These include anti-foundationalism, anti-essentialism, and anti-realism. They are all very similar but have subtly different contexts, or purposes.
Anti-foundationalism states that there is no "transcendent" reality that can be known. It is used mainly to prove that you can never arrive at an irrefutable statement of truth, and that all statements appear to be dependent on cultural and historical contexts. It is often used as a weapon against metaphysical arguments.
Anti-essentialism means that you do not need to invoke God in order to arrive at a scientific explanation. Unfortunately many people of science see this as evidence that God does not exist (like Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins, two men I admire). This too, is an anti-reductive attempt to counter metaphysical arguments, as its origins were in logical positivism.
Anti-realism states that there is no provable reality outside of our space/time sensory constraints. This comes about due to the non-physical nature of time that exists only due to our physical memories (time is only the difference between two memory states). In other words, time does not exist quite the same way if we did not have memories in which to compare states. Anti-realism was invoked as the way to prove the Copenhagen interpretation of the Quantum Theory. Most notably Albert Einstein was a realist, in that he stated that the reality that we perceive and can discover actually does exist. His own theories of relativity which depended on the variability of time and the constant of the speed of light, depended on it.
So what does this mean for anyone that has a more spiritual or metaphysical bent? One contemporary theologian and Jesuit priest, Bernard Lonergan, had no difficulties with any of the scientific approaches that omitted the possibility of a Creator God.
Lonergan's theory of God will be the topic of future posts, so stay tuned!
Friday, July 18, 2008
What is fascinating is that both points of view (foundation in God or a higher being or creator, and the relative nature of truth) are both without any way to dispute them. I am going to agree with the postmodernists here and say that everything that we perceive and say or agree on is relative. This is because we simply don't have access to any sort of evidence that is independent from our limited ability to perceive and express our perceptions through language and art. This is not to say that there isn't a reality independent from our experience, but that we are trapped in our bodies and can only confirm our findings with other people who are trapped in their bodies. So everything out there may exist, and things may be the way they really are, but we can't be so cocksure of ourselves when we say some thing or some belief is true or not. We just don't have access to an independent point of view to say who is right or who is wrong.
From a theological perspective, this is huge. And for many, this is the reason why there is a massive rejection of religion, or why religion has turned on itself or its members (I'm thinking of the Roman Catholic church here), or why people turn to spiritual beliefs that better reflect the current conception of reality. Basically religious dogma, which tends to be fixed, goes against a very simple fact that the way we conceptualize our existence, including our conceptual definitions, evolve and even radically change over time. In fact, religious dogma is no different from any other conceptual scheme, in that it must evolve, or it will become extinct.
Note that this is not a traditional war between scientific belief and metaphysical belief as taking precedent. I think we have moved beyond that debate, especially since the emergence of and the acceptance of philosophy of science as a legitimate critique. What philosophy of science has shown, over and over again, that even scientific thinking has a basis in metaphysical beliefs, or beliefs that just have to be believed. Nor is this a debate between logic and emotion, as we have evolved sufficiently enough to know that our emotions color just about everything we experience, say or do.
Actually from a theological perspective this is a debate over defining "right" vs. "wrong", in other words an ethical issue. And how theologians basically try and salvage the value of religious dogma to guide us in our behavior, whether from a human social or biological or planetary awareness perspective. So basically religion has been de-contented down to a set of guidelines for living and behaving, an interpretive text that is somehow universal and applicable to the post-modern condition. This is obvious in the western attraction to Buddhism, the re-emergence of judaic mysticism, not to mention the incredible growth of Islam throughout the world.
Basically as humans we don't have a roadmap, and haven't got a clue about what we are supposed to do, how we are supposed to act, and what we are supposed to believe. So we turn to ancient wisdoms, some of which are very explicit, and some that are not explicit at all, and we marvel at how "universal" they seem in the current context. And we follow them.
Stay tuned for the next installment, which might be surprising for some readers.