Friday, 20 April 2012

Christianity and alien modes of thought: evolution, science, mathematics, philosophy...


There is no doubt that evolutionary thinking, when applied generally, is alien to Christianity.

The assumptions, inclusions and procedures of evolutionary thinking are just different from those of Christianity.

But what does this imply?


My belief is that this 'merely' implies that a Christian will regard evolutionary theory including natural selection as hierarchically subordinate to Christianity; in the sense that it must (ultimately) be Christianity which decides the applications of evolutionary thinking.

Evolutionary theory will therefore be restricted to specific applications and specific purposes (and not assumed to be necessarily and generally applicable for all purposes).

This seems straightforward, but there are neglected aspects to this topic.


One aspect is the hierarchy within the 'sciences'.

Evolutionary theory is subordinate to biology, and biology to science as a whole - i.e. the specific explanations of evolutionary theory are required to use the entities and processes as described by biology; and biology must itself conform to chemistry and physics; and all these sciences are required to conform to the rules of mathematics and logic. 

In other words, evolutionary theory is not only subordinated to Christianity (in an ultimate sense) but is more proximately subordinated to the basic sciences, to mathematics, and to logic.

Evolutionary theory just is a subordinate and specialised domain.


Furthermore, evolutionary thinking is in no way distinctive in being a mode of thought alien to Christianity.

Nearly all modes of thought are in fact alien to Christianity.

All sciences are alien modes of thought, from a Christian perspective - because they exclude divine explanations - divine causes, purpose, meanings, relations...

And so, for the same reason, is mathematics - and even philosophy (which is defined as separate from theology).


Does this matter? Yes, it does.

Because it means that when actually-engaged-in any one of these specialised and non-Christian modes of thinking, then the truth of Christianity is obscure, excluded.

And if, or when, a person is actively-engaged-in these activities (or indeed many other activities such as the Law, of medicine, or a craft) as a job, or for long periods; then for at least that time, and perhaps longer, and perhaps permanently - (when the habit is solidly established) a person is alienated from Christianity (turned away from God).


My points are that:

1. In much Christian discourse there is a focus on evolutionary theory as hostile to Christianity. This is true - but it is not only true of evolutionary theory.

2. The metaphysical problem is due to the general application of alien modes of thought (including but not restricted to evolutionary theory) as if they were hierarchically-superior ideas, not to their specific and subordinate application for practical purposes.

3. The psychological problem is one of habit - that a mode of thought which is pragmatically justifiable for restricted purposes becomes so ingrained that it is used automatically (and perhaps rigidly and perhaps irrevocably) as the metaphysical framework for understanding 'life, the universe and everything'. It is always hazardous to use specific pragmatic discourses as general (i.e. metaphysical) frameworks, in case habit obscures the fact that these discourses are selective and biased in content and logic, are created and sustained by their exclusions.

4. In a world of specialised functions, there are therefore many causes and reasons that the human mind is held in modes of thinking which alienate from Christianity.

The cognitive causes of alienation include evolutionary modes of reasoning, but also every other specialised mode of thinking - philosophy, law, politics, the sciences, the arts - since these exclude divine operations.

5. The main hazard of evolutionary thinking is not specific to its use in biology, but its use as a general or metaphysical framework for all of life - the idea that there is a positive value to continuous and open-ended change, that 'knowledge' is relativistic or pragmatic... in sum nihilism: the denial that reality is really real.

But even this is not distinctive to evolutionary thinking: all specialised modes of knowledge including philosophy, science, law, arts... are self-refuting and lead to nihilism if used as metaphysical systems.


Conclusion: the individual and societal hazards of evolutionary thinking are real but not unique: evolutionary thinking is merely one of many discourses with potential to weaken and break the tenuous human grasp on reality.

Any specialised and pragmatically-applicable discourse becomes deadly when used generally and as a metaphysical framework - because its own exclusions and biases prevent any specialised discourse from being refuted in its own terms.


Therefore the only arguments against the general metaphysical application of specialised discourses - such as evolutionary theory - are metaphysical arguments.

The decisive metaphysical argument is that any specialised discourse (i.e. discourse made more precise and pragmatically useful in particular situations by its exclusions and restrictions) is necessarily and by definition incomplete and biased when used as a general framework, yet it will be incomplete and biased in ways and to an extent invisible to itself, hence empirically irrefutable.

The only valid refutation is therefore metaphysical refutation.


To generalise: Modern society does not need more 'evidence', it needs metaphysics.