Irreducible Meaning


It seems to me that ‘science,’ as it’s practiced now, is practically meaningless. Perhaps that’s by intent. Niel Bohr once remarked in a book review that “It is the task of science to reduce deep truths to trivialities.” [1] It certainly bears out when we note how scientific theory is becoming more and more complex [and less and less comprehensible] in direct defiance of Occam’s razor. Take string theory, for example.

There are reasons for this complexity, of course. Truth is simple or we are. I think both conditions are accurate. Truth is only true in its purest and simplest form. The additions, alterations, distortions, subtractions and conditions we add to truth only reveal our preconceptions, our dearly defended biases. As Professor Indiana Jones — ;] — remarked [paraphrased], “If you want truth, try philosophy.” The implication is that science is about facts and philosophy concerns meaning. This reductionist truism is patently false, for science is the attempt to interpret facts which implies its own variety of meaning. We cannot interpret facts without a frame of reference. I once read that “A textbook on physics, without a human to read it, is just paper and ink spots.” [2] The frame of reference of science includes both elements of language and a philosophical worldview. Materialistic science, the favored trend of the current priesthood, contends that the universe emerged via purely natural forces without the need for a Creator and that all phenomena have natural explanations which can be discovered by careful observation and diligent study. The material scientist interprets all facts through this framework. Anything that doesn’t fit, he explains away, dismisses or distorts to fit into his worldview. The Creationist does the same thing only, according to the strict materialist, he cheats. The creation scientist notes that God has revealed that He is beyond human comprehension, that His ways are higher than ours and His thoughts higher than ours, but that nature and the Bible reveal what man may know of Him. Materialists believe in final answers; creationists acknowledge the limitations of the enterprise.

The worldview of the Creationists seems to be verified by science’s increasing trend away from empirical methods toward “informed speculation” such as that offered by Stephen Hawking. Hard science is running its course.

This is no more evident than in the issue of origins. In his book, Life Itself, Francis Crick wrote, “The origin of life appears to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have to be satisfied to get it going.” [Simon & Schuster, New York, 1981. pg.88] Unwilling to capitulate his reputation to the admission of the need for a Creator, he has suggested that life on Earth was seeded by aliens. The problem with this obvious dodge is that it leads to the inevitable question of “How did alien life originate?” Any serious scientist will admit that the Drake Equation [N = N* fp ne fl fi fc fL] is overly optimistic. It goes without saying that if life was unlikely on this planet, even given the allowance of an evolutionary time scale, it is even more improbable if we first have to wait for an alien race to come to be, evolve and develop to the point where it can travel to Earth with life seeding technology. We also have the Big Bang to consider. A point of Origin necessitates an Originator. Materialist scientists had tried to dodge this by saying there are multitudes of improvable, unknowable universes and this one just happened to turn out all right OR by saying that another, equally inaccessible and improvable universe anthropomorphically “birthed” this one OR by positing the myth of an impossible and improvable singularity made of matter and theoretical antimatter which could never come together naturally because, in theory, they would instantly explode. The latter theory would require Outside Intervention, so some folks have, of course, theorized that aliens in another universe that we can see and can only speculate exists birthed ours in a scientific experiment. Which brings us back to who made them. All of this preposterous sci-fi is offered as a dodge to the admission of the merest hint of the possibility of a Deity.

Some say that creation science has the same trouble when it encounters the question, “Well, who made God?” The answer is “No one made God. He’s always been.” God exists outside the universe or He couldn’t have made it and outside of time or He’d be bound by it. You might ask, “How is this different from saying aliens created our universe in a lab?” Your question merely reveals your own bias filter. Materialist science must answer the question of, “Well, what came before that?” because every question must have a natural explanation. Creationist – or better yet Supernatural science – may include supernatural elements such as an eternal existent non-created Deity. We are not compelled to answer the question of who made God, because our worldview allows [demands] that He be the Final Answer. Materialist science demands that some natural mechanism be the Final Answer. Supernatural science has a Final Answer as revealed by God through nature and the Bible. Natural science is faced with an irreducible Whodunit.

Maybe you think that’s a cop-out. Not at all. If you believe in the cop-out of purely naturalistic evolutionary science with his improvable, improbable theories of origins, I fail to see how supernatural science can be ruled out, except on the philosophical grounds that you don’t want to believe it, which is poor grounds, indeed, since I could reverse the equation and negate your worldview. It’s not a popularity contest. A thing is either true or it isn’t.

I believe everyday folks are more concerned with meaning than factoids. Naturalistic science offers no meaning at all. True, some scientists propose that natural selection offers all the meaning we need, but they’ve never been able to prove the truth of that claim in any practical way. The idea that we are a cosmic accident and that some day we will be replaced by something better before the universe’s heat death does not inspire more than hopelessness, fascism and hedonism. It inspires these things precisely because it offers no meaning. Think about it: even if materialistic science manages to come up with a Theory of Everything, will we care? If physicists for example do the impossible and prove string theory in all of its theoretical 10 dimensions, why should humanity do more than give it its 15 minutes of fame? Proving such a mathematical abstraction is likely to have all of the weight of Douglas Adams tongue-in-cheek answer to the universe [“42”] in the The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It will mean little to the common man. As Roger Shepherd said, “Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but if a theory is so complicated that no single person can understand it [or so trivial that no man sees a practical application for it], what satisfaction can we take in it?” [3]

While I’m concerned primarily here with the meaninglessness of materialistic science, I should add that creation science or supernatural science is not to be confused with pure mysticism or superstition. Supernatural science would be better defined as an attempt to reveal what can be known of God through nature and in accordance with what He has already revealed in Scripture. Hence, it is a reasonable faith. Mysticism is just as meaningless as naturalistic science since it is has no rational base. Anything might well be true or false, as there is no evidentiary support for their worldview. Superstition and skepticism are really just polarities of the mystical coin.

Meaning can only be found in a reasonable faith, not the Just So stories of materialistic science or the sinking sand of mysticism. That’s because meaning is found in a Person, not trivialities, factoids or biases disguised as beliefs.

— Sirius Knott

    

[1] Nature, Aug. 6, 1992, p. 464.

[2] The End of Science? John Horgan. Helix Books, 1992. P.234. The statement is either the author’s comment or possibly a paraphrase of psychologist Roger Shepard.

[3] Ibid. By Shepard.

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. Bad says:

    “n direct defiance of Occam’s razor”

    I think you misunderstand Occam’s razor. The point of the razor is that we shouldn’t invent unnecessary explanatory entities when we don’t need to. It is NOT “every explanation should be really simple.”

    “Materialists believe in final answers; creationists acknowledge the limitations of the enterprise.”

    That’s pretty much exactly backwards. It also sort of contradicts your claim that science is concerned only with meaningless trivialities.

  2. Sirius says:

    I’ll be happy to elucidate.

    My reference to Occam’s Razor should be taken in the sense of “All things being equal, the simplest solution is usually best.” Granted, this is a truism, but the point is that the more complicated the explanation, the more suspect it ought to be.

    As to your other concern, think of t this way: Materialist science is the irreducible search for an answer. It believes a purely mechanistic answer must lie at the end of it all. Yet each layer only reveals more questions and each question concerns something of less significance and more triviality than before. My assessment is, of course, subjective. This is how see it. Naturalistic science is searching for an answer and finding triviality. I believe its goal is noble but its aim is horrible because it presumes that the answer will be purely mechanistic. Christianity has an answer and has found meaning, I believe, because it allows for a non-mechanistic solution. It doesn’t rely on it when it doesn’t have to [that’s mysticism], but it allows for it. The purely mechanistic scientist’s weakness is that he does not allow for every possible answer. He has limited the search according to his biases.

    I shall explain further when I have more time.

    Thank you for your comments,
    Sirius Knott

  3. Lenoxus says:

    I’m curious about something — why is a “non-mechanistic solution” better than a “purely mechanistic” one (although I think that might be a false dichotomy anyway)? If the nature of “meaning” turns out so be transcendent, what makes that better than just plain “cendent”?

  4. Sirius says:

    You make a good point. You make a good point about a point I did not intend to make!

    Perhaps I ought word it better. I mean this: A purely mechanistic solution denies the other facets of life. Life is material, but it is more than just that. Life is transcedant; why isn’t our view of it of a similar bent.

    I believe the answer is because we have come to rely upon sola ratione, the idea that we should rely upon reason alone to determine reality.

    I give a fuller treatment to this phenomenon in this post:

    https://siriusknotts.wordpress.com/2008/01/29/friggin-reason/

    Thanks for your questions,
    Sirius Knott

  5. Bad says:

    My reference to Occam’s Razor should be taken in the sense of “All things being equal, the simplest solution is usually best.” Granted, this is a truism, but the point is that the more complicated the explanation, the more suspect it ought to be.

    This is neither a truism nor the point of the Razor. The Razor values not simplicity for its own sake but getting rid of the extraneous when explaining something. The point of the Razor is that if we can explain all the evidence with theory X, then we don’t need theory B which explains all the evidence but with far more extra assumptions and alleged entities.

    Materialist science is the irreducible search for an answer. It believes a purely mechanistic answer must lie at the end of it all.

    This is also wrong. Science deals with the materialistic because it can only deal with things for which there is testable evidence: it is not an ontological commitment, but rather a practical one.

    Christianity has an answer and has found meaning, I believe, because it allows for a non-mechanistic solution. It doesn’t rely on it when it doesn’t have to [that’s mysticism], but it allows for it. The purely mechanistic scientist’s weakness is that he does not allow for every possible answer. He has limited the search according to his biases.

    No, he has limited his search according to what’s possible. You cannot correct error, or separate truth from falsehood, unless you have some means of comparing evidence against your ideas.

    Christianity has some ideas, but there’s no way to tell if they are actually answers or just one of zillion otherwise untestable mystical possibilities.

    Life is material, but it is more than just that.

    How do you know? How would you know, especially when we do not fully know the limits or contents of the material (i.e. testible/evidence-based) world?

  6. Sirius says:

    Bad,

    Perhaps you should take a step back and consider what you’re saying. My application of Occam’s Razor is perfectly valid since the reason we get rid of the extraneous when explaining a matter is because a more complicated answer or an answer containing unnecessary elements is usually more suspect, GIVEN TWO CHOICES.

    The choices here are a purely materialist/mechanistic solution or a solution that incorporates BOTH mechanistic elements and non-mechanistic elements.

    Now by saying that the mechanistic scientist does not limited his search by his biases, but has limited it by what is possible, you are claiming that Christianity is not testable.

    You’re wrong. You can test Christianity on several levels.

    You can test it by fulfilled prophecies recorded in its sourcebook.

    You can test it by the accuracy of historical and geographical data contained within its sourcebook.

    You can test the details of the historical event which serves as the lynchpin of Christianity [the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth].

    You can test its claims against observable nature [ideas like original sin, universal death, universal morality].

    We can have a reasonable faith in these things, your dodging argument from ignorance aside [Darwin would be proud, btw. He stated in Origins that while his theory couldn’t be proven, we also couldn’t rule it out as a possibility since we didn’t know everything.], based on the available evidence.

    The question is: Are you willing to test it? Or are you just dodging the issue because you don’t want to believe?

    Be honest,
    Sirius Knott

  7. I find all your posts very knowledgeable and great for entertainment… watching some Dawkins jr. atheists come out of no where, with some hodge podge counter arguement. How they simply fold to your counter arguement, mainly because they’re knowledge comes from http://www.WHYIHATETHEBIBLE.com, which is some useless badgering from some hip shot puppet, under the guise of a ruthless atheist/agnostic philosophy professor.

  8. ps: i just threw in that website i dont think its a real one haha

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