Given the many technological and scientific advances over the last two hundred years, it is startling to consider the stupefying malaise and paradoxical plague that prevents so many of us from seeing the obvious truths of living.
How do we, who so explicitly and implicitly accept the rationality inherent in the scientific method, miss the certainty inherent in simple rational proofs and arguments? How do we, who properly employ science to find and apply the truths about our physical world, miss the use and power of our rational and logical capacities to find truth in the realms of metaphysics and human nature, in morality and in culture? Such is the inversion and perversion of our modern times.
For the real plague besetting modern times is not the many problems occupying our political and cultural discourse. Nor is it class and race, gender and identity, or even liberal and conservative. Our primary problem is simpler than most of us may surmise and more foundational than we may suspect. Yet, it is so obvious, it is a wonder we overlook it.
Our modern problem is really a solitary and severe one, yet a simplistic and superficial one. It is a self-inflicted crisis of knowing—an epistemological crisis, a crisis of truth. And, derivative from this epistemological crisis, many moderns live with a malignant metaphysical confusion.
As modern “naturalists,” most of us blindly believe only science can give us real truth—practical and demonstrable truth. Truth, in naturalism, is confined to the realm of physical things alone. Consequently, all other truth claims of an intangible nature, be they metaphysical or moral or even aesthetic, are relegated to the realm of raw belief with no possibility of real proof.
Yet, our modern epistemological and metaphysical mindset is wrong to such a degree and with such frequency, it is all but astounding we miss the scale and substance of it. For the assertion of science’s complete hegemony over truth cannot be demonstrated scientifically. This assertion of science’s sole explanatory power is grounded not in the scientific method, but in rational argumentation and deductive reasoning of a faulty and flawed nature.
And this belief in science’s dominance is so silly and irrational, it is hard to find softer and more sensitive ways to describe it. For this belief in science as the sole source of truth is founded on a flagrant and fatal contradiction. For if science is the only way to know truth of any kind, that assertion can only be proved with scientific investigation and empirical experimentation.
Yet the case for science’s supposed singular source of truth can only be made with reason, not with empirical experimentation. In light of this fatal contradiction, science’s limitations are clearly circumscribed. Science is our way of knowing how the physical world works–its many laws, its order, its dynamics, and its composition. In this realm, it is the predominant method, a powerful path to the truth about the physical world.
But in the realm of the intangible—like our human mind, its rational powers, its commonsense, its intuitions, its pre-conscious components—science cannot really help us to determine truth. Truth about life’s inherent meaning and ultimate purpose, about morality and beauty, must be pursued through a different method, a different epistemology than science.
Truth about human love and brotherhood, about courage and sacrifice, and about justice and freedom can only be found with a more human and humane way of knowing, a more realistic and rational way. For these truths are only known through reason and human experience.
Understand that science isn’t really a separate way of knowing, despite our tacit modern assumptions. It is a composite way of knowing that relies on the order of the physical universe, the reliability of our human perceptual senses, and our rational abilities.
Science really is just a rigorous application of reason to the tangible world. From hypothesis development to experimental methods. From data collection and analysis to experimental findings and theory development. From review and replication to application and adaptation, science relies on reason every step of the way.
So, the first obvious error is that science isn’t a separate and competitive way of knowing when compared with reason. Science is a composite way of knowing founded on reason in both its philosophy and in its use. Science is replete with reason. It is reason applied to knowing about things physical.
Science is not a separate way of knowing. It is a derivative way of knowing. It is fueled by rational curiosity and driven by rigorous rational application and review. Science relies on reason and validates reason’s ascendancy by its processes and its findings.
The second error is asserting science as our single and solitary path to actual truth. That assertion cannot be even explored scientifically, let alone proved. Proving that assertion can only be accomplished with reason and to do so would constitute a fatal logical contradiction, as explained above. The typical appeal used to promote this contradictory conclusion is to appeal to the litany of scientific truths and its many applications.
Having appealed to the sheer volume of physical truths discovered by science, most rest their case and are baffled if anyone should take issue with what they think is a bulletproof defense of science’s dominance. But the presence of all these physical truths does not prove its dominance. For its focus is the physical world alone. And its method relies on reason.
Thirdly, science, in this vein (which is really scientism), relentlessly asserts that the physical world is the only reality there is. Yet, science relies on reason across the breadth of its empirical process. Yet such rational reliance also contradicts science’s assertion of the solely tangible nature of the world and human experience. This naturalistic view that everything is simply matter and energy reduces reason to neural activity and eliminates the reality of rationality, rational order, deductive and inductive proof, as well as mathematics and even science itself.
Fourthly, using reason alone and some simple observations about the physical world, we can prove the physical realm that science claims is its dominion must be a contingent reality—not a first or final reality. Just look at the law of cause and effect briefly. Every effect must have a prior cause. That is a fundamental presupposition of the scientific method. It is also a fact of reality.
If every effect is the product of a prior cause, sooner or later wouldn’t there have to be an uncaused causer? Because effects follow causes, the sequence of causes and effects requires a pre-existing uncaused causer, an intangible uncaused causer. Shocking though it may seem to our modern conceptions and assumptions, the physical universe is not the ultimate reality and science is not its dominant epistemology.
Our physical universe, which is an effect, is a contingent reality reliant on an intangible uncaused causer. Because causes precede effects, the effect that is our cosmos must be preceded by some intangible cause that is not part of the physical universe. That is a rational necessity and a scientific inevitability. Indisputable. Incontrovertible. Irrefutable. And, that is a cataclysmic fact for our modern naturalistic theory of knowledge and for many of our secular and scientific assumptions.
Finally, the existence of reason, its rational order, its deductive power must also be explained. How did this powerful and definitive order, the backbone of science and mathematics, come to exist in the first place? How did the power of logic and rational analysis that compels the development of science and guides it even still, be overlooked so completely in our modern and sophisticated times?
It is indeed unbelievable that these aspects of science’s dependency on reason and reason’s primary epistemological position would be so overlooked, so misunderstood, so misapprehended. Yet, this epistemological error is really the root cause of so many of our modern woes.
Our loss of meaning, our confusion, our despair, our anger, our doubt all find some degree of causation in a universe where science is the sole way of knowing and where reason is merely manipulative, a rhetorical gimmick used for dominance, persuasion, exploitation. For naturalism’s implicit dominance is truly the root of so many of our cultural and political ills, our philosophical and religious confusions, as well as the rampant relativism we encounter every day in our public and private lives.
And it is simple to demonstrate. If the only truths we can know are scientific ones, then we have no truths to guide us in all the personal, social, moral, political, and relational areas of our lives. We can only follow the laws and the norms in our public lives and the expectations of others in our personal lives, knowing full well these are merely arbitrary aspects which happen to be dominant or democratically adopted. There is no truth about life, for in life the only real truths are the laws of the various sciences.
Paradoxically, we know this because reason tells us this is so. If we begin with this false assumption about knowing, then all the truth we can possibly know is found only in the sciences and through the scientific method. And so reason cannot reveal any truth to us. Commonsense, logic, and intuition can’t tell us any truth. Even a synergy of all these methods including science can’t tell us any real actual and factual truth.
And, this faulty idea leaves anyone, who implicitly adopts this view of science and knowing, with a deep knowledge of the physical universe and in complete ignorance about everything else. For them, everything else is arbitrary, a product of individual or collective whim.
But if we embrace a more rational and sophisticated view of knowing based on reason and commonsense, our humanness becomes a reality—not a sensation and not a neural illusion. By expanding nothing more than our theory of knowledge to encompass the rational essence of science and reason itself, we can see and embrace our true and real humanity.
Now, we know we are truly human in the fullest sense. For our full humanity is only ours if we are more than just biochemical machines, more than just an accidental composition of mere matter and energy. For correcting our faulty epistemology changes everything. And that everything includes all the aspects and areas of life that make human life truly human and magnificently Divine.
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