Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Magical Thinking of The Secularists (for which you can read "atheists")

A couple of people got upset with me for pointing out how common magical thinking is in current atheism and in the same week one of my relatives became unhinged when I told him I no longer believed that natural selection was a real thing.

First the relation who brought up natural selection as an explanation of a natural phenomenon only to have me commit the thought crime of skepticism in regard to both his application and the idea, itself.  Since I have written lots and lots as to why I believe that natural selection is an ideological delusion, in pretty much everyone of the many, not infrequently contradictory articulations of the idea,  I was prepared for the argument, though other than producing inarticulate and non-responsive anger in a guy who holds a Bachelor of Science in biological topics, that didn't do much.  It did turn out that I'd actually read a lot more about the theories of natural selection, from On The Origin of Species up till today than he had, his knowledge of Darwin's actual claims on that count, by his own admission were confined to whatever of it there was in The Voyage of the Beagle (none to nil) and Darwin's last published work, The formation of vegetable mould, through the action of worms, with observations on their habits, (likewise) as those were the only words of Darwin he'd ever read, his anger was pretty irrational and a confirmation of what I believe Darwin is for most of his most ardent true believers, a symbol of ideological and class identity, not much to do with science. 

Oh, and as a magic charm or talisman of some sort, and as in cult religions, the religious talisman is as much about group identity as it is supposed to have some potency in manipulating or mitigating the natural world.   Sort of like what Trump is for his true believers as at that link yesterday.

As far as I can tell my relation is still pissed off at me for disbelieving in natural selection, though I assured him my skepticism is a result of my thinking and reading about evolution, that the evolution of species was too big to fit into that clearly inadequate framing,* though that framing is the ideological requirement of anyone who wants to do biology.   Like those who want to claim to be rigorously for The Law of Moses or the Gospel but don't really want to have to hold their behavior to the rigors of those, they will trim and tuck, take short-cuts, deny they are at odds with them, contradict themselves and, as all of science has, made constant and at times complete revisions in the concept and call that the same thing.  When you require people abide by an ideological framing which doesn't really work, you can expect that.**

In the case of the magical thinking of the "brain-only" cult which insists that our ideas have to have their origin in physical structures in the brain, which are made by the brain, the entire thing depends on that kind of magical thinking and worse forms of it.  As I brought up the week before last, to even start the process of the brain being motivated to start making those physical structures and to make the right instead of wrong ones would require magic as the idea couldn't be there to motivate it or instruct it on what it needed to make because that structure wasn't already present in the brain to do that.

When I first realized that this was a definitive hurdle over which materialism couldn't jump the only way out I could see for them was in some kind of telepathic or clairvoyant presence of the idea, but that would disconfirm materialism because the idea couldn't be a physical "thing" and the brain would have had to have recourse to ideas, not as a physical entity, but as some metaphysical entity independent of physical sensory stimulus.  And if you're going to go there, why not admit that the mind is not identical with the brain but is, also, metaphysical.  I had already realized, long ago, that if the brain is not physical then the old atheist dodge about how a non-physical mind would interact with the physical brain overlooked the very good possibility that a non-physical mind would have recourse to qualities and powers that physical objects don't have because, otherwise, such a mind would be in no way different from a physical object.***

And that's not even getting down to where most of the atheist magical thinking really resides, in mid-brow and lower incantations of "DNA" "natural selection" "random chance" "probability" "multi-verse" "evolution (though not as it really has been but in a facile, folk simplification)" and literally dozens of other magic  charms and words of believed potency replace thinking or knowing what they're talking about.  If you press them on any of those, citing what they really mean and the real consequences of taking what your opponent said a lot more seriously than they do, you will get pretty much the same reaction I got over natural selection last week.

When you think very hard about these things the old atheist-materialist-scientistic conceit that they are exempt from magical thinking by virtue of their faith, quite often if not always, it falls apart.  It is the rarest of rare atheist who will admit that a lot of what they base their thinking on has little to no empirical basis and even rarer to get one who admits that their thinking is based in ideological and personal preference, sometimes a preference inherited from their dad or both of their parents.  I am struck at how many hard-core, even blathering barroom style atheists will brag that they learned their atheism from their parents, even as they mock religious believers for believing what they do because their parents brain-washed them into believing it.  And they'll go on and on about how they learned their atheism from the family tradition even if you point that out, holding that, somehow, it's different when it's atheism.   No doubt that difference is magical because there is no rational basis for otherwise believing that it is.

*  I think it is absurd to believe that one force is responsible for every speciation event in the billions of years long history of evolution, that "natural selection" could mean the same thing in all of the species covered under the five denominated kingdoms of life on Earth, which have such radically differing lives and cover every event or even a majority of the events that account for the differential rates of reproduction in every evolving species.  And I especially think it's absurd to think that Charles Darwin, on the basis of his knowledge in the 1850 s would have guessed what that force would be.  Practically the smoking gun forcing skepticism and suspicion is the fact that he used Malthusian economics, an economic theory that favored his economic class interests, as Marx pointing it out, distorting it at the most basic level in order to impose the British class system on all of nature, only to have his theory adopted, immediately, by other members of his class and the analogues of his class in other countries. 

I think the success of Darwinism as the controlling ideology of biological science is ideological and is based in class and ideological interests.  Instead of explaining phenomena, I think it imposes an ideological requirement on how those are to be thought of.  I doubt it really explains much, though it is used to cut out much from consideration.  My guess is that close to every citation of it in the literature is to impose that kind of framing on things and most of the rest are reassurances to others that the person writing the paper or making the claim isn't straying outside of orthodoxy.  There is no greater confirmation of that than the use of accusations of apostasy against pretty conventional, even devoted Darwinists that they have gone out of bounds.  Even a boob like Daniel Dennett, who has no qualifications to do so, likes to make that accusation instead of backing up his claims.

**  Though in the case of The Law and the Gospel, sometimes what has changed is the meaning of words, contexts that existed then but don't exist now.  Divorce, for example, and the serious, literal ban on remarriage after divorce contained in the Gospel.   What changed there was what a marriage was and what divorce was, a means of a man to get rid of a wife and likely children he didn't want to support anymore, casting them into destitution if not death by that action.  What both marriage and divorce are now, at least in come cases, changes the meaning of the ban on remarriage after divorce, though the law being still liable to favor men over women and children, it's always a gamble to depend on the law making things better.

*** It's one of the commoner and stupider atheist misconceptions about the God of monotheism, the God that most thinking Jews, Christians, Muslims, and, as I'm finding, many actual monotheists in what are misrepresented as polytheistic religions, many schools of Hinduism, many forms of African and American indigenous religions in which the "gods" would be better called "saints" or "angels" or some other lesser figure.  I'm finding out, to my surprise, that monotheism is much more widespread than my education led me to believe.

1 comment:

  1. Scholars distinguish Islam, Judaism, and Christianity as "radical monotheisms." You remind me it is an important distinction.