Saturday, August 9, 2008

Beyond

[Author’s note: this is the sixth in a series on the process of reason and rational thought],.

Is there evidence of transcendence?

"There is no evidence of transcendence" is a statement that is not provable. It is assumed, in the sense of an axiom. Any evidence of transcendence is rejected in advance, declared not to be valid precisely because it IS evidence of transcendence which does not exist by definition. Evidence violates the axiom.

But this is not a universal axiom. It is axiomatic only to those who wish it to be truth. So it must be examined, questioned in the spirit of scepticism. If this axiom is false, the impact of its invocation is to remove knowledge from our access.

If one says, "there can be no Leichtenstein", and then concludes, "therefore, Leichtenstein does not exist", it is circular reasoning. If one says, "there can be no transcendence", and then concludes, "therefore transcendence does not exist", it is also circular reasoning.

If one says, "there is no material evidence of transcendence", he is correct, because transcendence is beyond material. It "transcends" material existence. So not producing material evidence of transcendence is an expected observation, consistenct with the non-material nature of a transcendent entity.

So we are justified in concluding that the logical and evidentiary arguments against the existence of transcendence are not valid and cannot preclude the possibility of its existence. So the choice now is either to ignore transcendence, or to explore it.

If there were evidence of a transcendent entity, what would it look like? We have established that it probably won't be material evidence. Is there any evidence that we might think to be transcendent?

At this point the materialists will complain that if a thing is knowable, then it is material. This drags the argument into the realm of opinion, the opinion that the mind is material, the opinion that information is material, the opinion that time is material. These are non-empirical and fruitless arguments, and they depend on the faith in the omniscience of the scientist... in the future. This is not provable. Being not provable, it is not empirical. Being not empirical, it is not a valid argument for the exclusively material nature of reality. So these arguments will be ignored by a true sceptic in search of valid realities.

There are certain categories of evidence that are not material. These are accepted by the courts. Non-material categories include information/data and witness testimony, as well as circumstantiality of material evidence.

Let's focus on witness testimony. Can a witness be disqualified due to the nature of the testimony he brings forth? If he testifies to an unpopular conclusion, does the unpopularity of the conclusion disqualify the witness? Obviously not. A witness may be disqualified for several reasons, such as lack of integrity, bad motive, not having been an actual witness, incompetence or insanity, etc. But the testimony itself does not disqualify the witness.

If there are multiple witnesses, there are several possibilities. If they agree in substance on the issue at hand, then the testimony is strengthened. If they disagree entirely on the substance of the issue, then the further question arises as to why.

Testimony may disqualify itself if it is seen to be non-coherent, self-contradictory, or not pertaining to the substance of the issue. But testimony of a non-material entity cannot be disqualified for not being material.

The genius mathematician Blaise Pascal underwent a religious experience. Despite his obvious intellect, he was subjected to derision because of the nature of the testimony. Because the testimony was a priori false due to axiomatic dogma, the testimony was considered unbelievable.

A.J. Ayer, staunch materialist that he was, experienced an out-of-body episode, but denied its transcendence in keeping with his prior belief.

Isaac Newton was convinced of transcendence and "although a critic of accepted Trinitarian dogmas and the Council of Nicaea, he possessed a deep religious sense, venerated the Bible and accepted its account of creation. In late editions of his scientific works he expressed a strong sense of God's providential role in nature.[1] For Newton there was no disconnect at the boundary of material physics.

Some knowledge is a priori; this includes logic, mathematics, and philosophy. These exist without material form, weight mass, length, width and height.

Other knowledge is a posteriori; this includes sensory input, memory of sensory input, and empirical findings.[2]

Much of the a posteriori knowledge is based on the universe being a "closed system". But is there evidence for that? And how would verification of that evidence be accomplished? Moreover, if information - and by extension, knowledge - is independent of the media on which it resides, then information and knowlege are both transcendent, beyond the material realm and thus strong indicators of an open system.

In light of the recent release of Hawking's quantum theory of the creation of the universe, in which a quantum equation collapses bringing previous probability into material reality, it is no longer unrealistic to think that time itself is a series of collapses of quantum probabilities, brought about by an external observer, who is creating reality anew every instant. As Berkeley famously said, the tree out in the quad, although unobserved, persists because it is observed by God. In the sense of Quantum theory there is no disconnect between transcendence and material existence.

So there is no reason to reject transcendence, and there is no reason to reject the open system nature of the universe. And there is no reason to reject an external, creating intelligence, merely by invoking a faulty axiom. But do they all exist? Stay tuned.

[1] http://www.newton.ac.uk/newtlife.html
[2] http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/religion-science/

1 comment:

  1. Stan,

    This section made me refer back to this passage. "Logic is nothing other than the science of mental coordination, of rational conclusion, and that it therefore cannot attain to the universal and the transcendent by its own resources. In fact, logic as such, like the reason or discursive mind which employs it, can attain nothing on its own on any level, even that of empirical nature. Reason needs data in order to function. These data may be supplied by physical perception, intuition, or revelation, or they may be derived from the conclusions reached through another operation of reason.But reason cannot generate its own raw material. It would be unreasonable and illogical to suppose that it should. It is equally absurd to assume realities which exceed the limits of our physical senses are therefore beyond the reach of logic, though this is a common mistake. The first lesson of traditional metaphysics is that the rational or logical, on the one hand, and the empirical or physical , on the other, are not the same. The rationalism of a frog living at the bottom of a well is to deny the existence of mountains: this is logic of a kind, perhaps, but it has nothing to do with reality."
    - James Cutsinger
    Advice To The Serious Seeker

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