Sommerferie

Kjære fine leserfolk!

Jeg tar en liten pause herfra frem til slutten av august. I mellomtida må du føle deg fri til å sende mail, dele, lese, bruke søkefeltet for å finne et tema, foreslå nye tema eller kommentere på gamle poster, som vil bli besvart. Som tidligere sagt bestemte Facebook plugin seg for å slette alle kommentarer som ble skrevet tidligere, men dette skal visstnok ikke skje igjen. Det skal dessuten være mulig å kommentere uten å logge inn på Face. :)

Spør gjerne din ungdomsklubb, festival eller menighet om dere ikke skal arrangere en trosforsvarskveld til høsten. Min erfaring er at tema som tro, filosofi og naturvitenskap engasjerer veldig om dagen, blant både unge og eldre. Det er dessuten veldig aktuelt og spennende, dersom det blir kommunisert på en engasjerende måte. Kristen tro bygger på historiens mest enestående intellektuelle tradisjon, i sterk samhandling med vår fornuft, og det burde vi få øynene opp for.

Når kritikere tror at Gud kan sammenlignes og avvises på likt grunnlag med Zeus, varulver og julenisser. At han er et vesen på lik linje med andre vesener, en årsak på lik linje med andre årsaker, en ting som må eksistere, snarere enn å være Eksistensen selv. At religiøs tro og naturvitenskap er motsetninger. At naturvitenskapen har bevist at naturen er uten mål og mening. At den har motbevist at vi har en sjel, at vi mennesker bare er dyr, eller at “men hvem skapte Gud” er en smart innvending, med mer, viser det jo at vi har gjort en for dårlig jobb. En jobb som bare skaper grunnlag for de mest banale diskusjoner. Ta gjerne kontakt på mail eller Facebook!

Faith and science: “Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth. 

Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are.”
Den Katolske Kirkes katekisme, artikkel 159

Ha en helt fantastisk sommer!

En liten godbit under i et intervju med John Milbank med en historie som nok mange vil kjenne seg igjen i. Om dagens misforståelser om religion og sekulær fornuft, myten om den sekulære, og hvorfor teologi igjen er på vei tilbake til sin rettmessige plass som “the Queen of the Sciences”. Mye å ta tak i fremover! :)

“(…) [T]hat what Milbank means by religion, is almost the opposite of dogmatism, or a repressive piety. He thinks of it as an exercise of reason. A freer exercise than what is possible within secular limits.”

Og blant andre nyheter: Paven bannlyser mafiamedlemmer fra Kirken.

Hva er en sjel?

Det virker som om de fleste har et konsept om en sjel. Når jeg spør både troende og ikke-troende rundt forbi, fra BI til bibelgruppa, har de fleste en formening om hva en sjel er, og av at de selv har en.

Noen av definisjonene som kommer frem, er ting som “Selvet vårt”, “identitet”, “vårt indre liv”, “livskraften vår”, “vårt åndelige spekter”. Det som imidlertid er interessant, er at såpass mange tror på at at de faktisk har en sjel, selv om dette bare burde være enda en av disse gamle, religiøse og derfor overtroiske ideene menneskeheten burde ha kommet seg forbi. Vi er jo tross alt i 2014? Vi har jo fått vitenskap og Darwin og sånt lzm…

Kanskje er tanken på at vi mennesker ennå har noe som skiller oss fra en ellers meningsløs verden, fylt av materie og dumme dyr, vanskelig å kvitte seg med. Et tegn på at vi fremdeles har en høy folkereligiøsitet i Norge?

Those who devote themselves to the purpose of proving that there is no purpose constitute an interesting subject for study.
– Alfred North Whitehead

Men, nå finnes det selvfølgelig ingen grunn til å tro at mennesket er fullstendig materielt og (metafysisk) meningsløst, og god grunn til å tro at vi faktisk har noe slikt som en sjel og lever i en natur av iboende hensikter. Som G. K. Chesterton skriver i Orthodoxy

If you leave off looking at books about beasts and men, if you begin to look at beasts and men then (if you have any humour or imagination, any sense of the frantic or the farcical) you will observe that the startling thing is not how like man is to the brutes, but how unlike he is. It is the monstrous scale of his divergence that requires an explanation. That man and brute are like is, in a sense, a truism; but that being so like they should then be so insanely unlike, that is the shock and the enigma.

(…) No; the chasm between man and other creatures may have a natural explanation, but it is a chasm. We talk of wild animals; but man is the only wild animal. It is man that has broken out. All other animals are tame animals; following the rugged respectability of the tribe or type. All other animals are domestic animals; man alone is ever undomestic, either as a profligate or a monk. So that this first superficial reason for materialism is, if anything, a reason for its opposite; it is exactly where biology leaves off that all religion begins.

Så hva er en sjel? Nå som vi har gått gjennom noen aristotelisk-thomistiske idèer, kan vi kanskje forsøke oss på en forklaring i samme tradisjon. Den er litt tung, men vil være verdt det. Fra tidligere

  1. Fire årsaker som forandrer alt
  2. Forført ut av form
  3. Hvordan kan forandring skje? Om aktualitet og potensialitet

For å få en clean start, er det fint om du kaster vekk alt du har av fordommer og forestillinger fra Hollywood, populære romaner eller Åndenes Makt. Alt av spøkelser, ektoplasma, flyvende skygger og vandrende ånder.

Til forskjell fra det mer moderne kartesiske synet (etter filosofen Rene Descartes), er ikke sjelen noe som er løsrevet fra kroppen og eksisterer utenfor den. Sjelen er ganske enkelt menneskets formale årsak eller menneskets form – det første prinsippet for liv.

To seek the nature of the soul, we must premise that the soul is defined as the first principle of life of those things which live: for we call living things “animate,” [i.e. having a soul], and those things which have no life, “inanimate.”
St. Thomas Aquinas i Summa Theologica, spørsmål 75

Men hva er liv? Vel, hvis vi tar frem noen klassiske, skolastiske verktøy, og ikke følger visse former for moderne overtro, så kan vi si at liv er evnen til iboende kausalitet, sammen med instrumental kausalitet. Ikke-levende ting har bare instrumental kausalitet. Levende ting kan altså (grovt sett) starte årsakskjeder innenfra seg selv, og er ikke bare instrumenter, men kan selv rette seg mot å utfylle sin egen natur eller sin finale årsak.

Men vent litt, sier du kanskje. Hvis en sjel ganske enkelt er første prinsippet for liv, må det vel bety at det ikke bare er mennesker som har en sjel?

Det er korrekt. Både planter, dyr og mennesker har en sjel, men disse må forstås i et tredelt hierarki, rangert fra planter til mennesker. Nemlig

  1. En rasjonell sjel – som vi finner i mennesket
  2. En animalsk sjel – som vi finner hos dyr
  3. En vegetativ sjel – som vi finner i planter og levende vekster

Dette hierarkiet er kumulativt. Det vil si, mennesket på toppen innehar også egenskapene til sine evolusjonære forfedre i det animalske riket, mens dyr også innehar egenskapene til det vegetative riket.

En vegetativ sjel gir planten mulighet for å handle i henhold til sitt eget “good” eller “mål” om du vil. Den kan f.eks. innta ernæring, vokse og formere seg. Dyr kan, som planter, ernære og formere seg, men de kan i tillegg ting som å sanse, bevege seg i henhold til sine behov og skape mentale representasjoner. Dette utgjør naturen til dyret, og det vil det gjøre selv om det ikke alltid skulle klare å utfylle alle sine egenskaper, ved f.eks. defekter som manglende bein, øyne, ødelagt hjernefunksjon eller lignende.

Mennesket derimot, i tillegg til dyrenes og plantenes egenskaper, innehar en rasjonell sjel på toppen. Det som gjør deg til et invidid. En person. Naturen vår, altså det som karakteriserer oss, er derfor at vi er rasjonelle dyr. Evnene vi får i kraften av den, er nærmere bestemt to ting: Vilje og intellekt. Disse er i streng forstand beviselig immaterielle prosesser. Intellektet, som ikke må forveksles med mentale representasjoner (som f.eks. mentale bilder av en bestemt ting), kan gripe ekte universalier som f.eks. rødhet, triangularitet og menneskehet, samt utføre logiske resonnementer og matematiske kalkulasjoner. Viljen vår er fritatt fra å være underlagt naturens determinerende “lover”, men er reelt fri til å vurdere, evaluere og velge. Vi er altså moralsk ansvarlige i ordets rette forstand.

Siden vi som mennesker innehar en del som ikke er materiell, kan vi heller ikke tilskrive den til materielle prosesser i evolusjonenshistorien, men er noe som har oppstått uavhengig av den. Og godt er det. For hvis intellektet vårt var mulig å fullstendig redusere til evolusjonshistorien, ville det vært absolutt ingen grunn til å tro at vi kunne ha sanne påstander om noe som helst. Som filosof og kognitivst Jerry Fodor skriver

Darwin isn’t in the epistemology business, and evolution doesn’t care whether most of our beliefs are true. Like Rhett Butler in the movie, it just doesn’t give a damn.

En liten avsporing – jeg tror at en videre utviklet versjon av dette argumentet, koblet med et “argument from reason” av typen Popper eller Lewis/Reppert, viser hvorfor bortimot samtlige moderne (ikke-teleologiske som f.eks. aristoteliske) ateister har en dypt falsk forestilling om hvordan naturen faktisk fungerer. Antakeligvis er eneste mulige scenario for en virkelighet hvor en slik naturalistisk ateisme er sant, en hvor vi ikke aner at noe som helst er sant, inkludert vår tro på at naturalisme er sant. Vel, jeg sliter med å se at selv dette i prinsippet kunne vært mulig. Så muligheten for oss å kjenne sannhet kan være et bevis mot ateisme? Hah, skulle likt å se den i et av Dagbladets kommentarfelter. Dette er tydeligvis verdt en egen, mer detaljert post. Liten brannfakkel foreløpig.

Men tilbake – dette tilsier dessuten at vi har en del av oss, nemlig vår rasjonelle sjel, som ikke blir berørt av vår fysiske død, og man begynner å forstå hvordan vi faktisk kan sies å være udødelige. Denne delen er hva jeg sitter igjen med når alle mine animalske og vegetative evner er borte, fordi min fysiske kropp er død og gravlagt. Merk imidlertid at mennesket er integrert kropp og sjel (kontra Descartes). Både materie og form. Dette er den relativt enkle ideen som befinner seg bak det vanskelige ordet – hylomorfisk dualisme.

Min immaterielle del kan bare eksistere videre i en sterkt redusert tilstand, og er ikke bokstavelig talt personen Daniel Joachim Kleiven. Jeg kan ikke hjemsøke gamle hus, smugle meg med på TVNorge eller kommunisere kryptiske meldinger til øst-europeiske spåkoner. Nei, jeg må gjenforenes med en fysisk kropp for at jeg skal bli meg selv i noe slikt som et “etterliv”. Her stopper naturligvis muligheten for rasjonell filosofisk utforskning, og vi må appellere til noe som guddommelig inngripen.

Til sist – å forsøke å henvise til nevrovitenskap for å motbevise ting som at vi faktisk har en fri vilje, er etter min mening, en kategorifeil. La oss si at du klarte å kartlegge alle nerveprosesser fra du valgte å utføre en handling, som å kaste en ball, til den var gjort. Hva skulle selv dette vist fra eller til? Dette var nemlig aldri et naturvitenskapelig spørsmål i utgangspunktet. Noen tidligere innlegg om menneskesinnet under, med flere på vei.

  1. Om Thomas Nagel – del 1
  2. Om Thomas Nagel – del 2
  3. Mindblowing og andre eventyr
  4. Din tanke er fri – fri fra materie
  5. Zombier, Mary og en kinesisk nasjon mot materialisme
  6. Materialist anthem

Tror du dessuten at Darwin motbeviste konseptet om at det kan finnes noe slikt som former, altså sjeler, også hos biologiske vesener? Vel, tenk igjen her og under. En slik tanke er ikke avhengig av at raser eller genus ikke har mulighet for å forandre seg.

Fixity of biological species is not an ancient belief. It became widely accepted for the first time both among naturalsts and theologians during the eighteenth centuryy, only about a century before Darwin (…) Prior to the establishment of species fixism, naturalists theologians, and common people held a dazzling variety of transmutationist belief (…) Species fixism is not an ancient Christian doctrine. Very few authors discuss prefixist transmutationism. Of these authors, many report that Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, and other church authorities such as St. Basil and Albert the Great (…) had categorically denied that God created all species during the first six days.
– Ron Amundson i The Changing Role of the Embryo in Evolutionary Thought: Roots of Evo-Devo

Så da har du fått tilbake sjela di. Hvilken bedre måte å feire på enn ved å hoppe på…

Om synd, korset og imperialistiske humanetikere

imperialism: the policy, practice, or advocacy of extending the power and dominion of a nation especially by direct territorial acquisitions or by gaining indirect control over the political or economic life of other areas;

Jeg har kritisert humanetikere tidligere, og vil nok gjøre det flere ganger fremover. Det største problemet deres, etter mitt skjønn, skrev jeg om sist gang:

Jeg må innrømme at jeg er litt ambivalent til sekulærhumanisme. På den ene sida er jeg umåtelig glad for at de finnes som et areligiøst alternativ til nihilisme, og de står for mye godt. Norske humanister, i det minste den nye generasjonen, virker mange hakk sterkere enn de britiske. Men på den andre sida, sliter jeg med å se hvordan de kan rettferdiggjøre humanismen sin rasjonelt, og virker høyst utsatt for kritikk som den av John Gray. Det er en fin tanke at man kan skape mening til eget liv og arbeide for menneskeverd, men spørsmålet utsetter man dermed bare til neste runde: Hvordan kan man rettferdiggjøre noe slikt, gitt en underliggende materialistisk eller naturalistisk virkelighetsforståelse?

De svever med andre ord som oftest i et vakuum, uten egentlig evne til å slå den ene eller den andre veien. Uten en gjennomgående refleksjon av det fundamentet de selv har bygget sitt slott på.

Siste mann på banen, er lege Morten Andreas Horn. En person jeg har stor respekt for, med en forbilledlig diskusjonsvilje og menneskesyn. Men i dette siste innlegget etterlyser han en kirkesplittelse hvor de som ønsker å forlate synds- og fortapelsesbegrepet går sin egen vei. Jeg har et umiddelbart tilsvar like under. Det meste jeg ikke rekker å skrive her, står allerede der.

For Horn sitt utspill er veldig, veldig tåpelig, og viser i realiteten en ekstrem nedlatenhet, kamuflert inn i et tomt språk av platte, fine ord og intolerant toleranse. Men verre enn nedlatenheten, er at den ikke engang forsøkes forsvart, men bare antas. “Joda, vi er tolerante, men bare dersom dere mener det samme som vi mener at dere burde mene”. Religion er vel bare en luksusvare uansett? Man kan vel selv velge de ingrediensene som passer en best? Dere tror vel ikke egentlig på det? Sannhet er bare sooo last year lzm. Yolo!

Hvem kan si: «Jeg har holdt hjertet rent,
jeg er renset for synd»?
Ordsp 20,9

Det finnes uansett ingen grunn til hvorfor Horn skal slippe bevisbyrden av å måtte rettferdiggjøre sin egen virkelighetsforståelse, eller hvorfor denne skal ha forrang på noen som helst vis. Noe han gang på gang feiler å argumentere for selv. Den “sekulære fornuften” er en myte.

“Thus, the misguided notion that we can just reject God and then live in our commonsense, natural world without any consequences is wholly misguided.”
– Conor Cunningham i Darwin’s Pious Idea

Utspillet kunne fint vært rettferdiggjort dersom kritikken kom utenfra, som religionskritikk mot den kristne tro. Da ville den vært et kjærkomment bidrag som kunne diskuteres på sine egne premisser. Men Horn setter seg i posisjon som kirkens strategiske rådgiver selv.

For det er ikke noe galt i at Horn ikke selv tror på alt dette, men problemet er at rådene hans viser en total manglende forståelse for det store teologiske narrativet dette er en del av, med Gud selv som inkarneres i menneskeform og gjenoppretter balansen med mennesket ved å kontinuerlig ta synden på seg i en manifestasjon av Guds uendelige nåde. Derfor fortjener Horn kritikk selv.

Han som ikke visste av synd, har han gjort til synd for oss, for at vi i ham skulle få Guds rettferdighet.
2 Kor 5,21

For siden syndsbegrepet er helt fundamentalt for kristen tro, og utgjør mye av konteksten for hvorfor Jesus måtte dø på et kors – en ikke helt perifer del av den kristne historien – så ber Horn egentlig kirken om å bryte ut i en del som ikke er kristendom i det hele tatt. En kirke som ikke forvalter himmelrikets nøkler. En kirke som egentlig bare er…Human-Etisk Forbund. Et får i gudeklær. Imperialisme.

En kirke som bedriver en slags metodologisk ateisme. En kirke som forkynner kristen humanisme – men som godt kan la kristendommen være. En kirke som forkynner nåde – men som godt kan la sannheten ligge. Er den så farlig da…? Vi lever da tross alt i 2014?
(Fra Verdidebatt)

Horn gjør det snart tydelig at han ikke prater til meg, men at han som humanetiker synes det er lettere å forholde seg til kristne som ikke snakker om synd. Vel, jeg synes generelt det er lettere å forholde meg til kristne som er ærlige om synd enn humanetikere. Jeg synes det er tøysete å høre enkelte ateister diskutere hvordan mekaniske, materielle prosesser i prinsippet kan ha skapt noe slikt som et menneskesinn med individuell personhet, men jeg må likevel ta med arbeidet av å argumentere mot dem. Jeg synes også det er lettere å forholde meg til folk som er fotballinteresserte, enn de som liker opera. Hvem sier at Horn sitt ønske skal veie tyngre enn mitt? Merkelig manøver.

Om Horn videre ønsker å appellere til kristne som ikke kan nok kristen teologi og antropologi (uten at de skal klandres for det – vi har ulike interesser) til å forstå at syndsbegrepet er fundamentalt i kristen tro, er det en heller skitten strategi. At Horn ikke har gjort sitt forarbeid er greit nok. At han forsøker å råde andre fra å gjøre det, er verre.

“For the crucifixion, in its sublime gruesome blasphemousness, lays bare the true meaning of sin. It is Non serviam, “My will, not thine, be done!” pushed through consistently. To rationalize evil, we must obliterate the Good. To justify lawlessness, we must put to death the Lawgiver. And yet there can be no “rationalization” of any action in the absence of Good. There can be no “justification” without Law. In the crucifixion we see the sheer, satanic madness of sin. 

And we cannot possibly atone. Yet we are not without hope. For the Supreme Lawgiver against Whom we offend is also Infinite Mercy. The God Who can lay down His life can raise Himself up again. And He lays it down willingly, for those He calls His “friends” – for us, His very killers! Even as we commit the greatest of crimes against Him, His thoughts are – astoundingly – with us: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Having put Him on a cross, we can but humbly kneel before it – in sorrow, in thanks, in worship.”
– Edward Feser i “The Meaning of the Passion

Jeg regner altså med at Fri Tanke (ofte et ironisk navn) lett vil trykke mitt neste strategiske forslag: At Human-Etisk Forbund burde splittes, få en egen del som forlater den grunnleggende naturalistiske eller “sekulære” troen og omfavner en teistisk virkelighetsforståelse og en mer tradisjonell filosofi. Bedre i stand (etter mitt skjønn) til å gjøre rede for ting som et ukrenkelig menneskeverd og eksistensen av reell godhet. Disse kan gjerne fordele seg fritt utover Den norske kirke, Den katolske kirke, Det mosaiske trossamfunn og Central Jamaat-E Ahl-E Sunnat.

“Has the self-belittlement of man, his will to self-belittlement, not progressed irresistebly since Copernicus? Alas, the faith in the dignity and uniqueness of man, in his irreplaceability in the great chain of being, is a thing of the past – he has become an animal, literally and without reservation or qualification, he who was, according to his old faith, almost God. (…) Since Copernicus man seems to have got himself on an inclined plane – now he is slipping faster and faster away from the centre into – what? Into nothingness? Very well!”
– Friedrich Nietzsche

Hvis det skulle være noen tvil: Jeg for min del oppfordrer Den norske kirke til å ta sterk avstand fra akkurat dette utsagnet, og stå samlet som forvalteren av en sannhet og et kjærlighetsbegrep som ikke er begrenset til en lukket kulturell forståelse i et lite tidsrom omkring Norge i 2014. La den ha mot til å være ærlig om synd. Både at den eksisterer – og at vissheten om den er nødvendig for kampen mot den, sett i lys av Guds nåde. En frimodig kirke med ryggrad til å forandre verden – snarere enn å bli forandret av den. Ingen splittelse med andre ord.

Dette burde være lite kontroversielt, uavhengig av om du som leser tror på Gud, kaller deg kristen, eller ikke.

Så kan det jo hende at det dukker opp mer fruktbare samarbeidsarenaer med HEF senere. Horn er en verdifull samtalepartner, men bare ikke akkurat her.

Religiøs analfabetisme og komfortisme er farlige i hverandres selskap…

Sier vi at vi ikke har synd, da bedrar vi oss selv, og sannheten er ikke i oss.
1 Joh 1,8

Les også:
Noen tanker om kjærlighet og homofili

Red: I all rettferdighet kan jeg nevne at Horn har skrevet et tilsvar til dette, men at han ikke selv har Facebook til å få postet det her. Det ligger her:
http://www.verdidebatt.no/debatt/post11504585.zrm

Filosofifotball

I oppladninga til VM kom jeg over denne. Dette var morsomt for oss som er glade i både filosofi og fotball. Herlig absurd og gjennomført humor.

Hvis jeg en dag får tid og mulighet, håper jeg å kunne spille inn hele ExPhil-pensum på denne måten. Kanskje min egen bok også. Hvem stiller opp som skuespiller?

Noen gullkorn:

“Beckenbauer obviously a bit of a surprise, there”

“Aristotle as sweeper – Aristotle very much the man in form” (sånn apropos form)

“And here is Marx! Let’s see if he can put some life into this German attack! Evidently not. What a shame.”

“Nietzsche has just been booked for arguing with the referee. He accused Confucius of having no free will.”

“Hegel is arguing that the reality is merely an a priori adjunct of non-naturalistic ethics, Kant via the categorical imperative is holding that ontologically it exists only in the imagination, and Marx is claiming it was offside.”

Supernaturlig matematikk, Gud og den store Berlinski

Når jeg starter forsøket om å oppfordre en uinnvidd til å tenke om Gud, pleier jeg å bruke en analogi til matematikk. Tenk deg en immateriell realitet som vi mennesker på en eller annen merkverdig måte har tilgang til gjennom vårt intellekt, og som korresponderer til de fysiske tingene vi opplever omkring oss hver dag. For det virker som om matematikk aldri i prinsippet kan reduseres ned til materielle årsaker, fiktive hjelpemidler eller til å bare være forårsaket av nerveceller i hjernen noen dag.

Matematikk er en objektiv, sikker og bestemmende øvelse av et kaliber som ingen materielle prosesser er. Vår evne til å utføre slike øvelser viser også at menneskesinnet vårt må ha et immaterielt aspekt, som James Ross gir et glitrende argument for i quaddisjonseksempelet her. Likevel virker matematikk til å være uavhengig av både mitt og ditt sinn. Når vi snakker om matematiske enheter som det arabiske numeralet “4” eller det romerske numeralet “IV”, og foretar kalkulasjonen “2+2=4” eller “II epler+II epler=IV epler”, utfører vi begge nøyaktig det samme. Men det er ikke snakk om materielle årsaker i hjernen min som heldigvis korresponderer til materielle årsaker i hjernen din. Kvantiteter, sett, strukturer, symmetrier, kontinuiteter og perfekte triangler har en ekte relasjon til virkeligheten, og Pytagoras’ teorem, summen av vinklene i en rettvinklet trekant og enkel aritmetikk var sant lenge før det første mennesket kom inn i eksistens, og vil fortsette å være det til universets ende.

Vi oppfinner ikke matematikk – vi oppdager det – som nok et iboende aspekt ved et fabelaktig skaperverk. Denne type platonsk eller aristotelisk realisme til f.eks. matematikk står i kontrast til det vi kaller for nominalisme, som holder til at matematikk bare er et slags språk som vitenskapen benytter, og at alle disse tingene bare eksisterer inne i hjernen din og ikke har noen nødvendig, objektiv relasjon til virkeligheten. Samme argument kan også gis for logiske, nødvendige proposisjoner som det at to gjensidig utelukkende påstander ikke kan være sanne samtidig, eller for universalier som f.eks. rødhet, triangularitet og menneskehet. Jeg har utfordret nominalisme ved en rekke argumenter nederst i denne posten.

Hvis du vil lære mer om en aristotelisk teori for matematikk, kan du lese James Franklins artikkel her.

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Så du forstår nå hvordan intellektet vårt kan ha en type direkte tilgang til immateriell matematikk, som igjen kan påvirke hverdagen vår som begrensede, dødelige mennesker? Vel, da er du på vei til å se hvordan mennesket til alle tider også kan ha reell kunnskap om den transcendente, immaterielle og evige Gud. Og det bringer oss til David Berlinski…

“But asking someone like Richard Dawkins about the evidence for God’s existence is a little like asking a quadruple amputee to run the marathon.

The interesting point is elsewhere. There is no argument against religion that is not also an argument against mathematics. Mathematicians are capable of grasping a world of objects that lies beyond space and time.”

Jeg kom over et intervju med denne agnostiske matematikeren og sekulære jøden, som er en skeptiker av darwinisme, samt en selvbeskrevet vennlig kritiker av Intelligent Design. Men sammen med ateisten Thomas Nagel (som jeg har skrevet poster om her og her), er Berlinski også en forfriskende ekte og sjelden fritenker, selv om man ikke trenger å være enig i alt han ytrer. Kontra de mest vanlige “fritenkere” i kulturen vår som tror definisjonen på fritenkning er “avvise alt som ikke passer med virkelighetsforståelsen og kunnskapsteorien jeg allerede har bestemt meg for at jeg vil ha – selv uten gode argumenter i min favør”.

Mannen er dessuten vittig til tusen, så du vil nok like intervjuet jeg har gjengitt under mellom ham og Jonathan Witt. Mye læring å hente. Hvis du liker mannen, er det vel verdt å ta en titt på boka hans. Hvis du, som jeg, med diverse poster ute på web de siste ukene (her, her, herher og noen bidrag her, her og her), himler med øya over ateister som tror at de kan ytre det magiske ordet “naturvitenskap” i troen på at det skal fungere som et get-out-of-jail-free-card i deres favør uten videre spørsmål eller undersøkelse, så er den en fin innføring til å ta diskusjonen litt under dette banalt overfladiske. En annen du trenger, er naturligvis klassikeren til E. A. Burtt.

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… Why do you think the debate about Darwin’s theory of evolution has taken on such a nasty turn?

David Berlinski: Nasty, eh? If so, the nastiness is not entirely ecumenical. As far as I can tell, only one side is now occupying the gutter, even though the gutter is, as gutters generally are, more than spacious enough for two. But you raise a good question. Why are Darwinian biologists so outraged? Like the San Andreas fault, the indignation conspicuous at blogs such as The Panda’s Thumb or Talk Reason is now visible from outer space.

There is a lot at stake, obviously. Money, prestige, power, influence – they all play a role. Darwinism is an ideological system and when such systems come under threat, their supporters react in predictable ways. Freedom of thought very often appears as an inconvenience to those with a position to protect. Look at the attempts made to humiliate Rick Sternberg at the Smithsonian Institute, or the campaign now underway to do the same thing to Guillermo Gonzalez at Iowa State. There is nothing surprising in all this. I myself believe that the world would be suitably improved if those with whom I disagreed were simply to shut up. What is curious is how quickly the Darwinian establishment has begun to appear vulnerable ….

… Not to scientists …

DB: No, perhaps not. But to everyone else. Consider the latest Pew poll. “Two-thirds of Americans,” the New York Times reported, “say that creationism should be taught alongside evolution in public schools.” But even among those quite persuaded of Darwin’s theory, “18 percent said that evolution was ‘guided by a supreme being.’” Now these are astonishing figures. They represent an authentic popular revolt against elite thought. I cannot remember anything like it. The fact that so many Darwinian biologists are utterly tone-deaf when it comes to debate has hardly helped their case. It is no small thing to have appeared before the American public in a way that suggests both illimitable arrogance and scientific insecurity.

… With all due respect, Mr. Berlinski, there are times reading what you have written when it seems that you are right down there in the gutter with the best of them. You did, after all, refer to Richard Dawkins as – and I quote – “a remarkably reptilian character” ….

DB: Did I? Well, mine has been an exercise in defensive slumming.

… I see. What really accounts for your hostility to figures such as Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins? …

DB: In the case of Daniel Dennett, I think contempt might be a better word than hostility, and indifference a better word still. There are, of course, lots more where he came from – P.Z. Myers, for example, or Eugenie Scott, or Jason Rosenhouse. Throw in Steven Weinberg, just to reach an even number ….

… The Nobel Laureate? …

DB: None other.

… But Dawkins …

DB: An interesting case, very louche – fascinating and repellant. Fascinating because like Noam Chomsky he has the strange power effortlessly to command attention. Just possibly both men are descended from a line of simian carnival barkers, great apes who adventitiously found employment at a circus. I really should look at this more closely. Repellent because Dawkins is that depressingly familiar figure – the intellectual fanatic. What is it that he has said? “It is absolutely safe to say that, if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that)”. Substitute ‘Allah’ for ‘evolution,’ and these words might have been uttered by some fanatical Mullah just itching to get busy with a little head-chopping. If he ever gets tired of Oxford, Dawkins could probably find a home at Finsbury Park.

… You do not, I gather, think much of the kind of atheism Dawkins is concerned to promote …

DB: It’s pretty much the sort of stuff Bertrand Russell used to put out when he needed to knock-off a popular best-seller or dazzle one of his mistresses. You see, my dear, belief in god is no better than belief in a teacup orbiting Mars, whereupon my dear would generally begin loosening her undergarments. The fact is that these kinds of arguments have been known to embarrass a wart hog. This has been tested at zoos, by the way, and the experiments widely reported.

… But why should we take seriously religious beliefs that are lacking in evidence?

DB: We shouldn’t. But asking someone like Richard Dawkins about the evidence for God’s existence is a little like asking a quadruple amputee to run the marathon.

The interesting point is elsewhere. There is no argument against religion that is not also an argument against mathematics. Mathematicians are capable of grasping a world of objects that lies beyond space and time ….

… Come again …

DB: No need to come again: I got to where I was going the first time. The number four, after all, did not come into existence at a particular time, and it is not going to go out of existence at another time. It is neither here nor there. Nonetheless we are in some sense able to grasp the number by a faculty of our minds. Mathematical intuition is utterly mysterious. So for that matter is the fact that mathematical objects such as a Lie Group or a differentiable manifold have the power to interact with elementary particles or accelerating forces. But these are precisely the claims that theologians have always made as well – that human beings are capable by an exercise of their devotional abilities to come to some understanding of the deity; and the deity, although beyond space and time, is capable of interacting with material objects.

… And this is something that you, a secular Jew, believe? …

DB: What a question! I feel like I’m being interviewed by the Dean at some horrible community college. Do you believe in the university’s mission – that sort of thing. Look, I have no religious convictions and no religious beliefs. What I do believe is that theology is no more an impossible achievement than mathematics. The same rational standards apply. Does the system make sense; does it explain something? Are there deep principles at work. Is it productive?

… You know, Dawkins, at least, is quite clear that insofar as religion is expressed as a sense of wonder, he counts himself a religious man ….

DB: … Sure. But that’s because he has found it remarkably convenient to associate his views with those of Albert Einstein – you know, the standard starry sky at night, my goodness the universe is wonderful routine. Why should Dawkins, of all people, find the universe wonderful if he also believes it is largely a self-sustaining material object, something bigger than a head of cabbage but not appreciably different in kind? The whole place supposedly has no meaning, no point, no purpose, and no reason for its existence beyond itself. Sounds horrible to me. Wonder is the last reaction I’d expect. It’s like being thrilled by Newark, New Jersey. A universe that is nothing more than a collection of atoms whizzing around in the void is a material slum …

…How would you react to the argument that Dawkins has made that any form of religion that goes beyond the scientific facts about the universe really represents a form of brainwashing …

DB: He’s probably right. Most education is a form of brainwashing – so much better in French, by the way, lavage de cerveau. Give a child to the Jesuits, they say, and ten years later the man will cringe when he spots the Cross. But look, ten years or so spent studying physics is a pretty effective form of brainwashing as well. You emerge into the daylight blinking weakly and talking about an endless number of universes stacked on top of one another like an old-fashioned Maine pancake breakfast. Or you start babbling inanely about how meaningless the universe is. But if you ask me just who is the more credulous, the more suggestible, the dopier, the more perfectly prepared to convey absurdity to an almost inconceivable pitch of personal enthusiasm – a well-trained Jesuit or a Ph.D. in quantum physics, I’ll go with the physicist every time. There is nothing these people won’t believe. No wonder used-car salesmen love them. Biologists are, of course, worse. Tell them that in the future Richard Dawkins is going to conduct a personal invasion of Hell in order to roust the creationists, and The Panda’s Thumb will at once start vibrating with ticket sales.

… Perhaps this isn’t the most productive of topics to pursue …

DB: That’s fine. You lead, I’ll follow …

…Can you say a little bit more by what you mean by an ideological system?…

DB: Marxism is an ideological system, or was, and Darwinism is like Marxism. Darwinism, I must stress, the sibilant distinguishing the man from his message. By itself, Darwin’s theory of random variation and natural selection would simply be a hopelessly premature 19th century thought experiment, vastly less important than Clerk Maxwell’s theory of the electromagnetic field, which was completed at roughly the same time. But like confined quarks (or any number of quacks), Darwin’s theory never appears by itself in contemporary thought …

… Let me interrupt you. Can you be a little clearer on the difference, as you see it, between Darwin’s theory and Darwinism? …

DB: It is a matter of attitude and sentiment, Look, for thousands of intellectuals, becoming a Marxist was an experience of disturbing intensity. The decision having been made, the world became simpler, brighter, cleaner, clearer. A number of contemporary intellectuals react in the same way when it comes to the Old Boy – Darwin, I mean. Having renounced Freud and all his wiles, the literary critic Frederick Crews – a man of some taste and sophistication – has recently reported seeing in random variations and natural selection the same light he once saw in castration anxiety or penis envy. He has accordingly immersed himself in the emollient of his own enthusiasm. Every now and then he contributes an essay to The New York Review of Books revealing that his ignorance of any conceivable scientific issue has not been an impediment to his satisfaction.

Another example – I’ve got hundreds. Daniel Dennett has in Darwin’s Dangerous Idea written about natural selection as the single greatest idea in human intellectual history. Anyone reading Dennett understands, of course, that his acquaintance with great ideas has been remarkably fastidious. Mais, je divague …

In the case of both Crews and Dennett, it’s that God-awful eagerness to explain everythingthat is the give-away. The eagerness is entirely academic or even literary. But, you know, what sociologists call prole-drift is present even in a world without proles. Look at Christopher Hitchens – very bright, very able. Just recently he felt compelled to release his views on evolution to a public not known eagerly to be waiting for them. What does he have to say? Pretty much that he doesn’t know anything about art but he knows what he likes. The truth of the matter, however, is that he pretty much likes what he knows, and what he knows is what he has heard smart scientists say. Were smart scientists to say that a form of yeast is intermediate between the great apes and human beings, Hitchens would, no doubt, conceive an increased respect for yeast. But that’s a journalist for you: all zeal and no content. No, no, not you, of course. You’re not like the others.

… Thank you, I’m sure. I am still not sure what you are getting at when you refer to Darwinism as an ideological system? Many biologists such as Paul Gross simply reject the term altogether …

DB: Yes, I know. The term – Darwinism, I mean – has been a long standing banana peel for poor Gross. No matter how often he swears not to slip, he can inevitably be spotted straddling that banana and about to slip-up all over again. Ah, there he goes – vawhoomp. I have a service that lets me know every time Gross topples.

But enough about Gross. Let’s get back to me. It’s not that easy to say what Darwinism amounts to, but then again, it was never easy to say what Marxism amounted to either. If you look at Marxists journals from the 1930s, the party line shifted all the time, so much so that in the 1940s, Stalin had to sit down and write an account of the principles of socialism. It reads very much like a high-school textbook in biology – a very sophisticated high-school textbook, of course. The real mark of an ideological system is its presumptuousness. There is nothing it cannot explain by means of a few trite ideas. Why is romantic love a sign of bourgeois decadence, Comrade? Because, Comrade, it represents a form of false consciousness. In Darwinism, natural selection has displaced such old standbys as false consciousness or the class struggle, Comrade. You don’t mind if I call you Comrade? It’s the least I can do ….

… But …

DB: Take the short essay in a most recent issue of The London Review by Thomas Jones, one of the review’s editors – no dope, by the way. “Since we use our brains to make up stories, and to make sense of the stories of others,” Jones says, “it is hard to disagree with the idea that the capacity for storytelling is the result of evolution.”

 

And here’s something Stephen Pinker said, it’s even better …

… But look, someone like Jones is simply stating the obvious – like everything else, literature must be understood in evolutionary terms. What other terms are there? …

DB: Why must literature be understood in any terms beyond the literary? Just recently someone named David Barash – an evolutionary psychologist, it goes without saying – published a book together with his wife called Madame Bovary’s Ovaries. Her ovaries? Look, set aside the appalling vulgarity of the book and its title, its almost unfathomable literary and intellectual crudeness. To talk about Madame Bovary’s ovaries is a little like looking at one of Rembrandt’s late self-portraits of his face and wondering whether the man suffered from bunions. What we know of the man is right there on the canvass. Nothing else. To imagine that somehow there is a real woman to be found in Flaubert’s nacreous masterpiece is to regard art the way an infant or a primitive regards art.

If you think you can take the story of Anna Karenina and connect its meaning to any anatomical, physiological, neurological, or biochemical feature of the human brain as it is now understood, by all means go ahead. We do not know how the human brain establishes that the word ‘cat’ designates a cat. Or that it does. Or that it has. Or that it can.

But even setting that aside, what reason do we have for supposing that differential reproduction tells us anything more about the anatomy of criticism than the class struggle tells us about the anatomy of love? That’s a learned reference, by the way …

… I have read Northrop Frye, Mr. Berlinski …

DB: Glad to hear it. Then you understand how pointless it is to coordinate our remarkable human powers with a filter so crude as the biological desire to promote oneself into the main chance.

You wouldn’t argue that the capacity for carpet-weaving is the result of evolution, would you?

… Yes, I would …

DB: Well, you would be wrong. Men and women make up stories, wander around foreign cities, take up sky-diving, invent financial swindles, learn to speak Mandarin, or weave carpets out of silk pretty much because they feel like it. Evolution has nothing to do with it.

… But how they feel and the decisions they make are shaped by evolution …

DB: That’s trivially true. If human beings did not have the kinds of brains they do, they wouldn’t make the choices they do. Different livers would probably lead to different choices, too, and who knows what a man shaped by evolution to have six sexual organs might contemplate.

… Oh please, isn’t that just clever word play? If the human brain did not arise by evolution, how did it arise? …

DB: I have no idea. It’s not my problem.

… That is an awfully convenient out for you …

DB: Sure. It’s the same out that Darwinian biologists take when it comes to the origins of life. Not our problem. What’s good enough for Richard Dawkins is good enough for me.

… How do you see Darwinism in the larger context of social or academic attitudes …

DB: A congeries of sentimental attitudes are at work in the humanities – atheism, moral relativism, materialism. They are incarnated locally in the United States by Richard Rorty, a philosopher, I must say, who while espousing irony as an antidote to anomie (and anything else that ails you) seems to me, at least, to exhibit an almost elephantine earnestness in everything he writes. The man could paralyze an infantry battalion just by beginning a lecture. I may have to consult with my spies in the Pentagon about this. Within the sciences, the governing attitude is often designated by the word ‘naturalism,’ especially by those sophisticated enough to know that adverting to the Temple of Reason after Robespierre might not be a good idea.

… Meaning? …

DB: Hard to say – again. Naturalism is sometimes taken to mean that there is only one body of human knowledge, and that is contemporary science; at other times, it is taken to mean that there is only one method by which knowledge can be acquired, and that is the scientific method. This is a little like arguing that cabbage is the only food and that prayer is the only way to get it.

… Why? …

DB: Mathematics is a counter-example to the first thesis, and the law, a counter-example to the second. In any case, science has no more method than golf …

… You don’t believe that …

DB: You mean about the scientific method? Certainly I do. Where science has a method, it is trivial – look carefully, cut the cards, weigh the evidence, don’t let yourself be fooled, do an experiment if you can. These are principles of kennel management as well as quantum theory. Where science isn’t trivial, it has no method. What method did Einstein follow, or Pauli, or Kekulé? Kekulé saw the ring structure of benzene in what he called a waking dream. Some method.

… I wonder whether we could get back to naturalism …

DB: A vos ordres. Carl Sagan seems to have captured the emotional content of naturalism when he remarked that the universe is all that there is, was, or would ever be. A curious sentence, don’t you think, and one that embodies a curious claim? Its denial is a contradiction, and so the claim is itself a logical triviality. This has not discouraged any number of commentators from embracing it warmly. Eugenie Scott is a small squirrel-like creature who is often sent out to defend Darwin. Whenever doubts are raised, she withdraws a naturalistic nut from her cache and flaunts it proudly. And if naturalism won’t do, there is always methodological naturalism. One nut is, after all, pretty much as good as another.

… What is the connection between Darwinism and naturalism? …

DB: There is none – at least if by a connection, you mean a logical connection. There is, however, a sentimental connection. A commitment to naturalism, however defined, very often makes Darwin’s theory seem more plausible than it otherwise might be. Naturalism is sentimentally a sufficient condition for Darwinism. By the same token, Darwinism is sentimentally a necessary condition for naturalism. Richard Lewontin has made this point explicitly, by the way. The point is elementary but it explains a good deal, as so many elementary points do. Biologists persuaded that there is nothing out there but atoms and the void are naturally made apprehensive by the thought that Darwin’s theory might be false, for in that case, it follows by contraposition that naturalism might be false as well.

… What do you think accounts for these sentimental connections, as you put it …

DB: Fashion, for one thing. It’s what everyone seems to be saying in the faculty dining room at Mongaheela State Community College, or at The New York Review of Books, much the same environment, now that I think about it. A good deal of this is changing, I should hasten to add, as academics prepared to sneer at religious experience or moral absolutes remember just who happens to pay their salaries. This consideration alone has a wonderfully clarifying effect on one’s theoretical commitments.

… If Darwinism is so unworthy of respect, what is the appeal of Darwinism? After all, a great many scientists disagree with you. They can’t all be fools, after all…

DB: I’m not sure why not.

… I’d like better to understand your views on science. You talk very often of, and I quote, “the serious sciences.” I take it you mean to exclude biology altogether. Is that your view? …

DB: To a certain extent. My real view is that there is only one science, and that is mathematics, and that the physical sciences are really forms of experimental mathematics. The idea that there is out there a physical world which just happens to lend itself to mathematical description has always seemed to me to be incoherent. There is only one world – the universe, in fact, and it has the essential properties of a mathematical model. For reasons that we cannot even begin to understand, that model interacts with out senses, and so without measuring devices, allowing us to pretty much confirm conclusions antecedently reached by pure thought.

 

But to tell you the truth, I’m not at all sure I understand my own views, remarkable as they are.

… I’m sure that in this you are not alone, Mr. Berlinski …

DB: No doubt. But it is odd, isn’t it, that we really have no good views about science itself. Its existence is as much of a mystery as the phenomena that it explains. I know of nothing like an imagined overall theory that even begins to explain the role of science in the universe. No theory explains itself, after all, even if it could explain everything else.

… I’m not sure what you mean …

DB: Suppose one had a fabulous final theory. The universe is made up ultimately of wriggling strings – or whatever. The theory would not explain itself in the simple sense that unless the theory is in some odd and perverse sense self-referential, it would leave something out – the reasons why it just happens to be true. For that, one would have to deduce the theory from something else, and so far as we know or understand, deduction is itself a relationship between theories.

… But how is this connected …

DB: Not to worry. It’s probably not.

… Mr. Berlinski, you have frequently been accused of being a crank, someone more generally participating in what has come to be called crank science. I know that …

DB: So?

… Well, is the accusation one that you accept? …

DB: Sure. It’s obviously true in essence, although I prefer to describe myself as an iconoclast, one whom history will vindicate …

… No doubt …

DB: But the point is the same, whatever the terms. But speaking of terms, maybe I spoke too soon. Look, it’s one thing to say that someone like me is a crank. That’s fine because it’s true. It’s quite another thing to talk about crank science.

… Surely crank science is what cranks do? …

DB: Surely. But that is not how the term crank science has come to be used. Look at someone like Jeremy Bernstein – a good physicist and a very good writer about physics. He means something quite specific by the term crank science, and that is a willingness to deny the cumulative structure of modern physics, the fact that each great physical theory represents an enlargement of its predecessors. This is terrifically important as a rhetorical strategy because it means that the burden of skepticism becomes impossibly high with each new theory. This is just another way of protecting the sciences from criticism. To go on the attack, it is not enough to say, hey look, this particular theory is wrong, or absurd, or preposterous. You must instead take on the entire history of a tradition. Not quite sporting, I say.

… Yes, but isn’t it true? Science is cumulative and the more it accumulates the greater the weight of evidence in its favor …

DB: Yes, this is the claim. Steven Weinberg has made it explicitly. He at least knows of no advance in physical theory that has really overturned previous developments.

… How could you possibly object to that? …

DB: How? By remarking that it’s just nuts, that’s how. Weinberg is a very good physicist, but as an intellectual historian he rather resembles a horse put to work in a glass factory. He can’t help it, of course, it’s just not his métier. He gives that pompadour of his a shake, and a dozen fragile figurines just topple. Far from being cumulative, it’s the reverse that’s more really true. Let’s try and be just a little bit more precise. What’s a theory, for example? Now I’m an old logic hand and the only answer I know is that a theory in the physical sciences is just like a theory in mathematical logic – a consistent set of sentences satisfied in a model. Not the best way of putting things, but so far as I know, the only good way. Now take Newtonian mechanics and compare it to general relativity. Is it true that GR is a consistent extension of Newtonian mechanics?

… Surely many physicists would say so …

DB: Yes, and they would be wrong. Newtonian mechanics is committed to the view that the spatial structure of the universe is classically Euclidean. Not so GR. Newtonian mechanics holds that if you accelerate a rigid rod, neither its length nor certain temporal intervals will change. GR holds the opposite. But why am I telling you all this. It’s obvious.

… But Mr. Berlinski, no one would deny these points? GR is an extension of Newtonian mechanics. It goes further and because it does, we see better …

DB: An extension, maybe, but a consistent extension? Never. Consistent? If so, then Newtonian mechanics and GR must be satisfied in the same model by the compactness theorem. But how can a single mathematical model satisfy the postulates of both theories? It just can’t be done. No, no, I’m not appealing to anything like a paradigm shift. It’s perfectly possible to compare Newtonian mechanics and GR. One theory is better than the other. It explains more. It reaches for deeper principles. It is more elegant. I’m talking about Newtonian mechanics, of course. But the intersection of the set of sentences in both theories is inconsistent and so satisfied in no model whatsoever. If this is so, then the whole image of science as a cumulative structure breaks down. What one really has is a collection of cathedrals on a kind of fruited plane [sic!]. Some are taller and grander than others, others are smaller and more elegant. No one cathedral is really built on top of the other.