Sunday 6 March 2022

The deadly fallacy: "Because people in the past were wrong about science, *therefore* they were also wrong about metaphysics..."

Over the past several centuries there has been a rapid Christian apostasy, rejection of the reality of the spiritual, and in general secularization - starting in Western Europe but now spread over the world. 

Behind this lies a perceived conflict between "science" and religion - which conflict presents itself in a manner that is simple and fallacious - simple because it affects so many people, of so many types, in so many places and cultures. 

Yet fallacious; because secularization has by-now also destroyed the basis of truth which was the basis of science; such that what now calls-itself science is merely a careerist bureaucracy serving the interests of its paymasters.  

Perhaps the key fallacy is the misinterpretation and overgeneralization of an overwhelmingly convincing observation: the observation that 'modern' science is able to do far more than was possible in the past. 

From this is correctly inferred that people in the past were often wrong about specific matters of science; but from this comes the general and false inference that therefore people 'nowadays' know-better than people in the past

(This overturned the centuries-old opposite assumption that the past was wiser than the present, and that the world was getting worse.) 

The observation of an objective improvement in scientific (and therefore technical) ability was correct - but the inference of modern superiority was false; because it was generalized from science to metaphysics - and metaphysics includes the assumptions that underpin science.

In other words; the present came to assume that the past was wrong - not only in the specifics of science, but in the generalities of metaphysics.  

For example, because many past scientific beliefs were wrong (or, at least inferior to the present), 'therefore' past basic assumptions were also regarded incorrect: assumptions such as the reality of a personal God who was creator; that (therefore) we live in a created reality; that there is a spiritual beyond the material; that Men have a soul - as well as a body; that the soul survives death.

All these, and many other, basic metaphysical assumptions from the past were rejected as a package - along with the scientific specifics of the past.  

This has been a disaster first for Western civilization, then the world; because in reality, science emerged-from Christian metaphysics - and (it turns-out) cannot survive without it.

Indeed, it turns out that nothing Good can survive without that rejected metaphysics - including the concept of Good itself; which has now been subverted into a relativistic relabeling of evil; while 'Christian truth' has been (and is increasingly) inverted into mandatory demonic lies. 

Even worse; one who yields to the deadly fallacy, enters into error by what is almost a one-way door leading towards more and greater error.  

In other words; one a personal and individually-loving God has been erroneously rejected (as 'unscientific') then there is neither basis nor reason for 'truth' - and so this error is no self-correcting. 

This deadly fallacy was not inevitable - Men could have chosen otherwise; although clearly it has been a temptation too strong for most people to resist.

But now we - as a civilization, as a mass majority - are deep into this error; and working from their own existing assumptions, people are helpless to correct it.  

To correct this deadly fallacy requires going back to discover and re-examine basic metaphysical assumptions; and that is something anybody can do - but extremely few people are willing to do. 


Dr. Mabuse said...

As you say, it used to be that "the wisdom of the ages" was assumed, and the problem was how to hold on to it, as time eroded memories and traditions. But in a curious circular way, past wisdom does sometimes re-emerge. Take the matter of food: until very recently people grew their own food using very natural methods of cultivation. In the 20th century food became highly processed and packaged for mass consumption, and this was often touted as being very scientific as well as modern and progressive. Then the wheel turned, and lo and behold, people now regard locally-grown and natural (now called 'organic') foods to be better. Only they won't say 'Our ancestors were right all along! It's much better to grow your own food and not put a lot of chemicals and preservatives into it.' They say that Science has discovered that this sort of diet is healthier, so we are listening to the best minds of today, not the ignorant fools of the past. They just didn't know better, so they get no credit for being right. We have experimental evidence now, so we can still plume ourselves on being superior to our predecessors.

It's like Chesterton said: There are 2 ways of getting home. One is to march all the way around the world until you end up back where you started. The other is to stay there in the first place.

Epimetheus said...

It seems to me that the geological falsification of Genesis was the beginning of the end for elite Christian faith. First it was the ancient earth of science versus the young earth of the Bible, then came Darwin and the idea of the self-assembling universe. It's hard to take the Bible's story seriously when it starts with a scientifically-ridiculous fairy tale, is it not?

I take the God idea seriously, but I still wonder what to make of the Bible's authority in view of its absurdities.

jorgen said...

Its not that people rejected metaphysics because people in the past were less technologically advanced. Its that people who believe in metaphysics became more pacifistic towrds those who don't as technology advanced. Thus resulting in more people who reject God living longer due to not being executed.

xxxx said...

Well, the fact that Genesis should not be interpreted literally is not new, and it does not derive from modern geology or darwinism. Saint. Irinaeus (one of the most ancient Christian scholars) didn't think Adam and Eve existed. Saint Augustine (fifth century) said that Genesis should not be interpreted literally.

To be fair, other Christian sages did believe in a literal Genesis, but it was a mather of opinion, not a dogma of faith. It is not that belief in Christianity requires believing in a literal interpretation of Genesis.

The problem is bigger in Protestant countries, because Protestantism rejects any primacy of the Church in interpreting Scripture. It says that the Bible is clear so it can be interpreted by anyone. This tends to a literal interpretation.

This is why there is no equivalent in Catholic countries of the war for the teaching of darwinism and intelligent design in schools. The Vatican described evolution as "more than a theory"

Full disclaimer: I am a Catholic. I don't believe in a literal interpretation of Genesis. I don't have religious problems with darwinism: it could be an elegant way for God to create species. I do have a scientific problem with neodarwinisn: the theory is untenable from a scientific point of view and it is artificially maintained because of its metaphysical implications.

Nathan Wright said...

Epimetheus' phrase is interesting: "scientifically-ridiculous". What, it's not just plain ridiculous? (no, it's not, is it) It seems that science itself is just plain ridiculous, inasmuch as it rules everything non-material out, but then proceeds to pronounce on non-material questions (eg, the origin of the universe). Science's account of the origin of the universe, the big bang from a singularity, reaches untold heights of ridiculousness. How did any asymmetry ever arise in this scenario? ("uh, maybe there was a fluctuation?")

jorgen said...

@xxxx, Of course early Christians interpretted the OT allegorically because they felt all that was needed from it was prophecies to validate Jesus before the Jews. Augustine is the one who changed this. He didn't take Genesis 1 literally but demanded almost all the rest of the OT be taken literal, which eventually led to Origen being condemned as a heretic centuries after his death since he took most of the Israelite history as just allegory.

"This is why there is no equivalent in Catholic countries of the war for the teaching of darwinism and intelligent design in schools. The Vatican described evolution as "more than a theory"

The Catholics are wrong in this. They allowed the Satanists to win by this position. One doesn't have to take literally that only two people were created at the beginning (that sure makes it hard to explain races!) or that the woman was literally made from the man's rib---but that humans were specially created not evolved is an absolute necessity. Catholicism has gone atheistic. Augustine and all those guys just didn't take the 6 days literal but they weren't arguing something evil like evolution of humans. Animals, who cares---even the Genesis narrative itself implies animal evolution, i.e. "let the earth bring forth","let the sea bring forth", whereas humanity is specifically crafted by God to show his special place, a special place backed up by all of scripture (except Ecclesiastes at his most depressed).

Bruce Charlton said...

I think the point is being missed in comments that metaphysics comes before and sustains science; and that science cannot challenge metaphysical assumptions - by which I mean it is incoherent if people think that science refutes metaphysics.

The significance of natural selection is that it incoherently pretends to refute and replace metaphysics - not that it actually does so.

It's not that science and metaphysics are 'separate' but that *real* science operates within prior metaphysical assumptions - and only some (Christian) assumptions can actually sustain science over the long term (i.e. over a timescale of generations).

I argue this in Not Even Trying.

Jack said...

The medieval scholastics were the most logical thinkers in human history. They aren't given their proper credit for this because of our modern bias, but anyone who has read those scholastic writers is in awe of their principled and deductive way of thinking. They simply were the most logical thinkers in history because they took the most talented logician in history (Aristotle), made him their philosophical master, and built an entire school of thought and a monastic education system based on his logical technique. The breadth of Aquinas, for example, and the subtlety of Scotus is mind blowing. I've heard it stated that after the breakdown of medieval scholasticism, European philosophy was taken over by talented amateurs who lacked the scholastic rigour and sophistication. Modern philosophy may be more varied but it's not nearly as systematical or professional. The medievals' skill for metaphysics is comparable to our modern skill in mathematics; reader a page of a later scholastic like Cajetan and you'll see what I mean, the level of both logical abstraction and precision is absurd. Those medieval monks were the greatest metaphysicans of all time; perhaps only the ancient Indian writers of the Sanskrit scriptures could give them a run for their money.

Jack said...

Just for your information, the old theory of how the Bible accounts for the origin of race is put down to the three sons of Noah. Remember that the Bible says the entire human race was wiped out except for Noah and his family, so naturally we are all as much descended from Noah as from Adam. So Noah's three sons are Shem, Japheth, and Ham. Shem is the father of all the semitic peoples (shemites) of the middle east; an by extension Abraham and the Jews. Japheth is the father of all the Indo-Europeans. Ham is said to be the father of the black Africans (there was even the theory that Africans are black because Ham's son Canaan was cursed, and the curse turned his skin black). I forget which of the three sons the East Asians and Indo-Americans are assigned to, whether they're Shemites or Japhethites (there's also a theory that the god Jupiter is a slurring of Japheth, the general idea being that the names of pagan gods belong to ancient ancestors and ancestor worship). Later on of course, after the flood, there is the tower of babel and the confusion of tongues given as a biblical basis for the scattering and separation of the human nations.

Bruce Charlton said...

@J - Re Scholastics, I mostly agree - except that I regard the generations after Aquinas (Scotus, Occam etc) as dismantling the system established - by introducing incoherent tendencies that meant that things never settled afterwards. I think of it that Scotus and Occam introduced the tendency to sacrifice the whole to the part, which has continued to the utter absurdity of recent philosophy - where philosophy has (by its own account) destroyed its own basis - sawing off the branch on which it was sitting.

Lucinda said...

I find the micro version everywhere, parents advocating the superiority of their children, children dismissive of parents' accomplishments. From the parents' perspective, I think there is the hope that their children actually do accomplish more than them, making it easy for parents (mostly moms?) to be deceived. And the children seem to be suffering from stunted intellectual growth from always being 'safe' on the one hand because of material prosperity, and demoralized on the other hand because of the loss of family structure and expectations.

Do you think it started post WWII that parents were this way? Or is it a natural human tendency to set children on a higher course, that is usually tempered by harsher, less prosperous realities?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Lucinda - I think it crept up over a long time.

Leftist radicals such as Bernard Shaw were saying these things a couple of generations before they began to percolate into the mainstream. Since the 60s there has been an official pandering to youth (among other 'victim' groups) which is nauseating - especially when it is sincere.

As for 'accomplishments' almost all of them dissolve into nothing with the perspective of age - and will be left-behind at death. And what remains as most important will surprise many.

The accelerating rate our civilization is self-destructing is dizzying - and when that is gone...