A Feeling of Understanding
In several preceding blogs, I have noted that the view being expressed was highly influenced by a Rice professor, Trent Wann, I took a seminar from one year. I should acknowledge that the substance of the previous blog is also owed to him in the sense that I came to his class as a philosophical "realist" and left as a skeptic. We battled and battled and battled and he won I am happy to say.
There is another contribution he made to my thinking and that is the thesis that what people believe is what gives them a feeling of understanding. A person's feelings of understanding reflect his or her intellectual history (the propositions they are taught to believe or acquire through independent reasoning), as well as their experiences, the enviornments in which they grew up, and hosts of other things. Persons of different ages will have different intellectual histories, of course, and different experiences. Inevitably people of different races, genders, sexual orientations, religious backgrounds, ethnicities, financial interests, etc. won't have had the same intellectual histories and will inevitably disagree. And nothing is going to change this though people who do not have frozen brains may be vulnerable to rational argumentation.
I'm quite sure that those who wish to hold on to the Biblical claims about the origins of the universe and of humans will have taken comfort from my arguments that sciences are inevitably limited both in their scope and susceptability to being proved correct. They shouldn't. Those who advocate Biblical theories of the origin of humans, for instance, are in vastly worse shape than are those who advocate Darwinian theories since their evidence is extremely limited, consisting primarily of ancient texts subject to multiple interpretations. Meanwhile Darwinians, however problematic their theory is (and will be, possibly forever), have human bones older than the Bible seems to say humans have been on earth (my Bible reading days ended 45 years or so ago so I might get some things wrong). Since Creationists make no empirical claims that could be tested by digging up the ground somewhere to find who knows what or doing anything else that would resemble empirical evidence independent of these texts (someone's having had a vision or seen something they believe to have been a miracle would not be empirical evidence), they could, of course, say that God planted these bones in the ground and gave them the properties they would need to have to seem much older than they really are given our means of dating such things. But why in hell would he do that?
Naturally, Creationists will normally have had a different intellectual history from the typical Darwinian. A Creationist might have learned the tenets of this belief system at home as well as in church while a Darwinian might have learned these tenets at church but be taught at home not to take the Bible literally. This is why Creationists are so desperate to get Creationsim (Intelligent Design) taught to the young as a viable theory before the children being indoctrinated have developed sufficient critical abilities to defend against it. Creationism (Intelligent Design) isn't a theory at all as scientists use the term. It is a belief system. Nothing more; nothing less. There is nothing wrong with belief systems so long as one does not confuse them with the truth.
Separation of church and state is a good thing. It protects religions as much as and possibly even more than it protects the state. History abounds with instances of religous groups suppressing other religions once they grab a political foothold. Jews, Christians, Muslims, members of the Bahá'í faith, and others have all been persecuted at one time or another with the implicit or explicit approval of the state. And in the case of China and the former Soviet Union and other communist states, all religons were suppressed. It is too bad that militant Creationsts don't understand this simple fact.
In any event, we are all inevitably going to disagree with others on one thing or another whether the issue is the origin of humans or which flavor of ice cream is best. There is nothing to be done about this state of affairs. The only "remedies" occur in totalitarian states.