Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Fear of the Unseen:The Courage to Be vs. The Cowardly Mind


Paul Tillich wrote a little paper back called The Courage To BE in which he set forth one of his most important concepts, the "God beyond God." That phrase refers to the truth of God beyond the cultural constructs and religious doctrines which are constructed out of cultural constructs. Of course Tillich didn't write in all this post structuralist jargon. The idea behind the title is that belief requires courage. A lot of people think he was saying that the existentialists have the real courage, but he was not only lauding the existentialist but any person of faith who is willing to seek God beyond traditionalism. The phrase "cowardly mind" I take from Joseph Campbell in his Hero With A Thousand Faces. There he says that cynicism appears as insight to the cowardly mind.

This is phrase is very apt for atheists on CARM and fora  huge segment of atheists in general, especially the "new atheists." What the phrase means is this, you have cynics who dogmatically take the negative, believe the worst, area always ready to tear down anything that isn't in their comfort zone. New thoughts and ideas are always a negative proposition for such people. Everything is bad you can be sure everything will turn out wrong. We see these people in Atheist circles and on Atheist message boards to a extreme degree. They think cynicism is insight because they are afraid to risk being wrong. These are the people who mock and ridicule faith because "belief without evidence is stupid." Usually they don't face belief without evidence they face a barrage of evidence which they ignore, they dogmatically sweep aside without truly examining it. We can see this in their responses to God arguments where they always take the option that is least likely. No matter how unlikely it is they will take over the risk of belief in God which may turn out to be wrong.

For example in my version of the cosmological argument (cosmological necessity) I can work it down to a choice between the unsupported possibility of a rules change beyond our space/time or some other unknown, like string membranes or something we have no support for, vs the probability which is on our side, that every we see requires a cause. They are always willing to assume that the unsupported is more likely becuase it supports their unbelief, and to assume that God is least likely because why? they don't want God. They are afraid to move beyond the template of their ideological socialization because that might be a risk and risks are always bad. That's a cynical move but they embrace it as insight. That's the point, the cowardly mind looks at the world and sees the constant critic who never says anything positive or supportive but constantly ridicules and they take this as "insight" because it supports not taking risks. Atheists are always lauding "skepticism" that's to be expected, they are skeptics of course. A certain amount of skepticism is good. But I find so many atheists expressing real contempt for the basic concept of belief itself especially if it invovles the unseen. They hate the concept of the unseen. To them that's a red flag to a bull. I think that is becasue the unseen threatens to take them out of their comfort zone where they have come to rest in the trumped up concept of science as all knowing; thus they place scinece in the place of God and expect it to save them from the angry God they  hope doesn't exist.

I can't blame anyone for rejecting the concept of hell on its face due to the absurdly revenge oriented nature of it. I can't blame anyone for dumping the concept of the big angry sky father as a instigator of the abruptly vengeful concept of hell. But this sort of thing gets to the point where they distort the meaning of faith itself, creating a straw man argument to the extent that "faith is believe any kind of evidence" to such an extent that the true meaning of faith, trust, is forgotten and seems  a foreign concept, than I just suspect this is the cowardly mind at work. They want their comfort zone which is built upon the assertion that only science matter, because scinece "proves" (supposedly) that religion is stupid so therefore they are not in danger. This I see as the cowardly mind because they are afraid to move beyond the safe confines of that which can be proved empirically and that which the white lab coat god will approve.

Recent run-ins on CARM have borne this out for me. One atheist self styled "Big Thinker" (yea, can you bleieve it?) was saying that God is imaginary. "Prove it" I say. His proof: God doesn't' exist. God is imaginary because he's only the mind. Astounding proof! The proof that he doesn't exist? He's not real. further prodding revealed his line of reasoning: imaginary things can't be seen, can't be detected with the senses, have no impact upon the world, and God is like this too. God can't be seen or detected with the senses and has no impact upon the world (that we can prove to his satisfaction)  therefore God must be imaginary. In other words, if you think it quakes like a duck, if you hallucinate that it walks like a duck, it it's in your fantasies that it looks like a duck, you might be having a delusion that you see a duck.

I try the old reliable ploy of bringing up thing in scince that fit the same criteria, we can detect them with the sense and they don't have a perceptible impact upon the world:

the singularity
the big bang
string membranes
dark matter
other subatomic particles.

The scoffed at the concept of dark matter, he must think it's a Christian doctrine. But when all was said and done what it came down to was, that stuff is ok, it doesn't matter that it meets the criteria of imaginary things because scinece guys say its ok, ("its part of a theoretical heuristic--he didn't know that word--that is demonstrated by a theoretical data matrix blah blah yada yada). My stuff that can't be seen is imaginary because it's not part of this er zots god thing he worships which protects from the angry god. In other words, if it's part of the ideological template it's ok. It's his stuff so it doesn't matter that that it meets the same criteria. It's only stuff not sanctioned by the ideological template that is indicative of delusion.

This tendency to abhor anything not part of the ideological temple is an aspect of the cowardly mind. Just ilke the guys who were afraid to look through the telescope and see mountains on the moon because they feared it would be a trick, they are refusing to think about things hey have not thought about before because they have their little world all worked out where its comfy and they don't have to think too hard and it is not scary because it keeps big mean god away. If they move out into the cold cruel world where we don't know everything then they might have to re think the big mean god thing and get scared again. It's this fear that kept people from sailing off the end of the world. Of course the real joke is that these cowardly minded people call themselves "free thinkers!"

Part of the myth that supports their comfort zone is the pretense that science is the only form of knowledge. That's how they know there's nothing to fear, becasue there's nothing beyond what science tells us is there. Science will never tell them the big mean god si there so they don't have to worry, but only so long as scinece is the only form of knowledge. If there are other forms of knowledge then they have to fear becasue one of those forms might tell them that there is something to think about in the unseen that will bring on fears of the big mean god. For this reason when his stuff meets the criteria of imaginary that's ok because it's sanctioned by the ideology, when it doesn't then we have to disparage it and go on message boards and mock and ridicule people who believe in it. In the old days we had an expression for that, it was called "special pleading."

Now it is true that these phenomena such as dark matter have some aspects that are supportive of their existence. We can't see them or detect them with our senses and we have no devices that will pick them up as radar detects a storm moving in, but there are ways of doing it:

John Polkinghorne (major physicist)*

To respond to (2) first: since no-one knows what Dark Matter is, almost anything is possible.  But Dark Matter is subject to gravity – that’s how we deduce that it is there.  Therefore any abnormal increase in the density of Dark Matter (such as would be associated with a putative DarkHomoSapiens) would presumably have measurable gravitational effects.  This rules out many obvious ways in which there might be a DarkHomoSapiens. And the whole area is so speculative that it is scientifically impossible to address meaningfully.

Polkinghorne himself did not write that but his assistant did, and we are told the man himself reads all and approves the answers. But thing is I've laboriously discussed in the past how we can detect the Trace of God, I just wrote a book about it. That book may be coming out in a few months (hint hint). Same your pennies. We have these 200 studies, yes peer reviewed, yes published in academic journals, and they show religious expression can be discernment scientifically and distinguished from fantasy and folly. Like the guys who refused to look through Galileo's telescope the atheists on CARM steadfastly refuse to look at a single study. I have put out the link to a chapter in the text book by Ralph Hood the major researcher on the M scale (inventor of the M scale) the leading researcher in the field. The chapter talks about the studies on mystical experience and explains the M scale in detail. They refuse to click on the link. I put it right in front of them and they wont look. All the while the insightful cynics steadfastly that the studies are no good, they are not in peer reviewed journals, they can't be trusted, yet none of them has ever bothered to get one!

That is the cowardly mind at work (not to mention laziness). They are so anxious to have the universe sealed off from God that mock and ridicule metaphysics but they are doing metaphysics all the time. It is metaphysics to say "there is no such things as the unseen." To say "there is no metaphysics" is a highly metaphysical statement. They are so anxious to have their comfort zones totally proved and supported 100% and declared the only form of truth that they are closing off possibilities and losing phenomena and special pleading all over the place. In fact most of what exists is unknown to us.

Polikinghorne again:

However since it is known that only 4% of the matter and energy in the Universe is made of what we understand as matter, and most of the universe seems, on current understandings, to be “dark matter” and “dark energy” about which we know nearly nothing, and no-one knows how to reconcile Quantum Mechanics with General Relativity (the much-hyped String Theory looks increasingly like a dead-end) it is unwise to assume that current understandings of cosmology represent the last word.

I would suggest that this 4% is really more like 0.000000000000000000000000000x? When we take into account the whole of reality. The cowardly mind forms itself into a constant critic which must ridicule everything that crosses its path because it has to maintain the inviolability of the ideology at all costs. That means it's bound for a paradigm shift, it can't help but become top heavy with anomalies eventually.

One thing about Jesus, he's a good paradigm shifter.

*Retraction. I had originally called him a Nobel Prize winner. That was based upon an article by Fritz Shaffer on Leadership University, way back in 1998.  I can't find any reference to his being a Nobel winner although is very distinguished in physics. I suppose that was my mis-reading of the article.


Sam Meyerson said...

Er...exactly when did Polkinghorne win his Nobel Prize?

Metacrock said...

thanks for pointing out the problem. Read the aticle again to see the retraction. I got that from an article on Leadership U. back in 98, it could have been my misreading. It's been listed wrongly on my website all these years.