Re: virus: Religion, Zen, post-structuralism, and the failure of logic

Eric Boyd (
Thu, 06 Jun 1996 15:03:30 -0500

David McFadzean wrote:
> > Faith: confidence in a paradigm without any clear evidence of the validity
> > of that paradigm.
> I would agree to that. Just curious: is there any special reason you
> substituted "paradigm" for "belief"? I think "paradigm" has connotations
> of a fundamental set of beliefs which affects all others. Can't one have
> faith in anything smaller than a world-view?

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do
not see"
Hebrews 11:1

Found this in big red letters on a really pretty wall poster inside a
Church. Anyone want to argue that this _isn't_ how that Church ("Christ
Our Hope Lutheran Church", a rather fundamental one) views faith?

> > Post-Structuralism[2] suggests otherwise; it suggests that there is no way
> > we can get direct knowledge. All of our information-gathering techniques
> > are flawed from the beginning, and we can't hope to overcome the
> > differences. Where a structuralist would have said the task is to seperate
> > the mistaken biases and interpretations from the True Structure, the
> > post-structuralist says that it is all bias and interpretations, and the
> > True Structure, if it exists, *cannot* be percieved. One reason for this is
> > that we are beings in the world, not observers outside of it, looking in.
> If that's the case then I think Science is Post-Structuralist. Or at least
> there is such thing as post-structuralist science. It is still possible to
> practice science, to generate ever more accurate theories, while knowing
> that no theory can perfectly describe reality.

Yes, but the very act of deciding that a model /can even be made/ is
that science views reality as having a "True Structure" to model after.

> > Religion, of course, dictates that Religion is best. If we take a logical
> > approach -- and buy into the self-sustaining argument that David McF
> > proposed -- then of course we will think that logic is the best way of
> > seeing. If we take the religious approach, it will certainly not lead us to
> > logic. In a way, it's a kind of "who do you trust" game.
> Maybe I didn't emphasize this point in my self-sustaining argument,
> but a good portion of the nodes in the self-referential net of scientific
> thought consists of observational data and empirical evidence. Science
> is not just theoretical mathematics holding itself up.

And this point is really the crux of the matter, eh? Science is /based/
on reality (or, at least, our preception of it). Religion
(Christianity, anyway) is based on the Bible, on the word of God. And
since God created the universe, whatever He says about it is obviously
true. (a smily, just for John :-) Christianity, in order to hold it's
own against science, must claim that our senses do not see the world as
it really is. Humans don't really first develop an amphibian kidney,
and then a birds' kidney and then finally a mammalian kidney. That's
just our senses playing around with us.
Essentially what I saying here is that you don't have to accept science
on faith. You have to accept that /your eyes/ (and other senses) are
showing you what's really out there. That peice of faith, plus a lot of
work, can justify the body of scientific knowledge.

> > Or we can take what I call the "enabling step." In other words, taking a
> > leap of Faith, that what we percieve has some connection to reality.
> That implies that we believe our perceptions are connected to reality
> without any clear evidence (by your definition at the beginning of this
> message). I don't agree. Though I agree there is no way to prove it,
> I think it is wildly implausible that our perceptions are not connected
> to reality.

Well look at that. Seems you've already been where I was pointing!

> > Now, just as we would not have everyone be an artist (who would run the
> > coffee-houses?) and we would not have everyone be a botinist (who'd build
> > the microscopes?) I don't think that we want everyone to be a Logic guy, or
> > a Religion guy. And, just as the engineer may dabble in buddism, or the
> > philosopher in computer programming, we shouldn't restrict people to one
> > way of seeing.
> What terrible things do you think would happen if everyone was
> reasonable?

A lot of people whould lose their faith. Bridges and tall buildings
might become popular places...

> > The goal, then, is a new vision of living. It is to learn how to see as
> > others see, and to try to get others to see as others see, and to spread
> > understanding, tolerance, and interest in other forms of vision. Like
> > Buddhism, which rests on an awareness of the *here*ness of people. Like
> > Christianity, which rests in the Faith of the One True Conviction. And like
> > Logic, which explores concepts in detail, and keeps a check on sillyness.
> What is the One True Conviction? Didn't we already dispense with
> ultimate truths a couple paragraphs ago?

As I see it, you must have a "One True Conviction"... for the sciences,
you must beleive that our senses are "telling the truth" and that a
fundamental underlying structure of the universe actually exists. The
second of these two has basically been validated by the body of
scientific knowledge. (your extended circularity argument... reality
has a structure because our models of it are now quite complex and have
proven their relyability) The first is impossible to prove, although
the "leap of faith" is quite small, in my opinion.