An Attack on Science

 

Science is based on an unscientific judgment of value. Science and its followers claim that knowledge and truth about the world are only possible through the scrutiny of the scientific method. Therefore, all other sources of knowledge are doubtful, if not, downright mistaken. It eradicated subjectivity from its grand representation of the universe and claims to speak as matter-of-fact and objective as possible.  However, the scientific enterprise has still to prove why we should deal with the cosmos as a problem to be solved; it has yet to answer why knowing is much more important than any other human activity. The great technological benefits we enjoy today are not at all essential; we clearly see the animal world enduring without vehicles or television, or notions such as gravity and entropy, such ‘animals’ even have very complex societies or innate flying abilities. Therefore science cannot claim to be the ultimate route to a better and wiser life, it is a historical phenomenon existing only for the past few centuries and not necessary to life on this planet. In this sense science is morally unscientific; it cannot provide evidence for why a scientific attitude is more preferable than, for example, an aesthetic or nihilistic one. This is simply because science has not been able to predict human emotions or chart our future decisions, it has nothing to say about what we should do; it merely states what is not what should be. 

Scientific-minded people believe themselves to be the most rational minds today. They have associated rationality with one method of inquiry (i.e. scientific method) and have abolished all other sources of data and knowledge. This seems to me more like a limitation than an advantage, precisely because science cannot deal with the whole spectrum of our experience. It works simply on the observable external phenomena and has yet to contribute to an understanding of human consciousness. It pretended for many centuries to get rid of this uncomfortable fact but the shadow of consciousness has crept into modern physics and it is now clear that even basic physical concepts such as mass, distance, velocity, time, are dependent on an observer. In a broader sense, rationality should encompass more than just science and its mother logic, considering that science is narrowly limited by its inability to connect with our whole experience of life. In other words, we are aware of things that the analytic mind cannot formulate. The rational discourse of science is incomplete; it cannot be the entire picture since it lacks insight into our inner life which is as real and undeniable as the external world. For this reason we can learn about life equally as much from a scientific treatise as from a novel, a poem, a kiss or a beautiful landscape. 

(This is not an attempt to invalidate science but simply a reminder that the powerful mystery of life cannot be grasped from one perspective. Those that are dedicated to the exploration of existence must remember: there are no official paradigms; we alone bestow authority to whatever we choose to believe. We cannot limit the cosmos to certain aspects of itself, it is beyond our attempts to reduce it to one knowable thing.)

The Problem of Free Will

 Are we as free as we think we are?

 

 

The problem of Free Will is inextricably linked with a scientific belief. This belief is in itself perhaps older than formal science but nonetheless it acquired great force with the birth and development of the scientific enterprise. It can be stated thus:

 Everything in the present is the direct result of the configuration of the past.

Nothing is without a cause. Thus, whatever we encounter in a present state can be explained or understood by its former state and the natural laws involved. If this belief is to be adopted thoroughly, if nothing can escape causality, then anything we experience has a direct cause in the past.

When we bring this kind of reasoning to the debate of Free Will, we can conclude in the following manner:

Psychic phenomena all have a cause regulated and governed by natural biological laws that at present we cannot name them all. Whatever we experience in the present is inextricably linked to a past state of affairs.

We understand Free Will as the ability to make an act or decision independently of any necessity compelling us to choose one thing over another. Stated this way it seems that the act of choosing has escaped the law of causality. But if this is to be rejected by our common scientific understanding of the world, we arrive at a different conclusion. Any decision-making process is only possible when the individual is in a particular situation where (s)he reacts to the evidence or stimuli presented for making a decision or act. This stimulus is the psychic content, patent or latent, that takes part of the decision-making moment. To pick an apple over a banana is the result of the apparition in the individual’s consciousness of past experience with these fruits, past reactions to these that make one fruit preferable over the other. A decision cannot be achieved without the pre-existent conditions for making a decision; that is to say: desire in the individual for eating (something that is quite involuntary), the past experience with the objects and objectives of the decision or act. Bound to memory, expectation, desire, and many other, the decision-making process is dependent on psychic phenomena that arises in the mind without a conscious or voluntary action. When an act of “Free Will” has taken place we remember the act, and the possibility of choosing otherwise, but we forget the requirements for us to arrive at the chosen action. The action was conditioned by involuntary psychic phenomena, something which we do not control and therefore acted out of a necessity towards this stimuli that was presented to us: Desire, Aversion, Memory, Imagination, Etc.

In such a way the problem of Free Will can be reconciled with the idea of causality. And with this knowledge now in mind the upcoming decisions will be influenced by this new awareness. We may doubt at the moment of decision-making in order to prove our putative freedom, but we are still only reactions to involuntary psychic phenomena that permit the processes we call free and voluntary.

 

However, to understand the laws of the human psyche at the present seems unlikely because of the complexity involved; the apparent arbitrariness or spontaneity of the stimuli that allow our decisions to take place is sufficient to permit our current morality – based on the supposition that we are free agents making responsible decisions – to remain established.

 

::::::::::::: APPENDIX ::::::::::::::::

 

The main idea behind this short inquiry is to reconcile two basic assumptions we have about the world.

1. Everything is the effect of a cause. Therefore all effects can potentially be explained or understood by their causes. (A general accepted supposition in our contemporary scientific culture)

2. We are free agents, making decisions independently of any external necessity obligating us to make a certain choice.

These two assumptions we all have in the back of our minds are in stark contradiction. How can we be free if everything in the world is determined by natural laws and follow an unchangeable course? We then would be part of the immutable course of things and all our actions are predetermined since the beginning of time.
If we follow the suggestions of logic, we will conclude that we are nothing but puppets manipulated by the general course of nature’s laws. However, we don’t feel this to be the case. We feel we ARE free and independent.

The above paragraphs attempt to show that we may be deceived by our belief in Free Will. Simply stated, our decisions are not made by an omnipotent-omniscient ego that at each moment can decide what it wills. Our decisions are based and chained to mental phenomena that arise involuntarily into our consciousness (that is to say it appears quite without our consent, as a cloud would appear suddenly in an open sky). This involuntary phenomena (desire, aversion, fear, tribulation, excitement, anxiety, and countless others) determine the choices we make. Our choices have natural causes that do not depend on us. With this explanation we can find causes for our decision-making lives and discover that we are not as commonly believed: free creators of our destinies.

However, if we can find reason to doubt the first assumption: everything has a cause by which we can know the effect, then Free Will may be conceived without logical contradiction. And it is wise to reassess our dogmatic belief in science and the principles of casuality, which may be in the end altogether mistaken.

 

 

 

A line of thought

 

 

We haven’t reached the spiritual vertigo of Zarathustra, for in his abundance of knowledge became weary of too much wisdom; nor are we broken down by so much grief as Titus had to endure. We are not too small to be completely insignificant, nor great enough to awake with daily pride. Our real circumstances are somewhere in between the extremities, our toils are not fully tragic or heroic.

    We battle through the repetitions of the calendar and if we strive to send out a message, a moral for our collected personal histories, what unclouded expression can give meaning to the facts of our plainer existence? What, for instance, is the final message of the universally acclaimed films of Forrest Gump or Amelie? What feature in their unwinding plots seizes the spectator’s mind-body and synchronizes its fictitious reality with our own living novels? The former film is a wonderful exposition of the Ying-Yang character of any human life, yet in the end the legendary up-and-down events of Gump’s life become simply a background for the truly memorable moments of his life as he describes them to his life-long love: gazing at the stars at night, contemplating a sunrise, running by a crystalline lake, and surveying without distinction the earth and sky. The latter film from the onset exposes a lover of life in her most basic and simple experiences: sticking a hand into a sack of beans or skipping pebbles on water.

    For both films, besides the eternal search for love, these aforementioned singular and unpretentious experiences somehow seem to magically justify the turmoil of existence, our inevitable mortality and the lurking solitude that hides away in every human heart.

    But while Zarathustra, Titus, Forrest and Amelie lie tranquilly behind the surface of a book’s page or the film’s screen, what is for the true mortal being the climax of his life? When do we find the ultimate recognition of our satisfaction, and if we do, are we able to leave behind forever the racing dream that we have called our daily reality? In other words, once we find a simple reason for our being, can we then allow it to return to non-being?

    The search for fulfillment needs not reach the extremes of intellectual inquiry of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra or the emotional explosiveness of Shakespeare’s Titus, perhaps our day to day lifestyle will be enough if it be endowed with sufficient awareness, a recognition that behind our meals, offices hours and snoring sleep an intuitive beauty akin to what Forrest and Amelie felt in their rudimentary experiences is available to us.

    After all, is not the triviality of the familiar set before the grand theater of stars and galaxies? Is it so surprising that this world as it is, is just enough, that we need seek no more, progress no further, attain nothing more…

   Had today been the last day of this earth and we the living saw and participated in the last scene of this earthly play, would not every last smile turn into a divine sign, every last meal a most sacred ritual, every last conversation a most treasured bible, every last kiss a most unnatural miracle.

    The potential of the ordinary is quite extraordinary once we acknowledge how rare and marvelous is our neglected existence.

Terror and Indifference

 

 

Formulate my desire
O’ World of Wonders!

 

The diversity and variety is astonishingly intimidating. We can choose from numberless alternatives and attempt to satisfy the most serious question mankind has ever asked: 

What should we do? 

What, amongst infinite possibilities, should we do with our life? A life uncertain and finite but nonetheless it is here – we breathe the nectar of life! And with this monumental gift who has satisfactorily guessed what we should do with it? 

Are we certain we are capable of battling with that question, the pinnacle of all morality? Aren’t we more like frightened little creatures led astray by the currents of uncertainty in the vast ocean of incomprehensibility? 

Isn’t it easier for us to admit that our lives have no definite course, no preordained commandments; that the heaven of our ideals is blank without purpose, empty of constellations that could guide us through our erratic nights? 

What is left when we stop pursuing the specter of a deceased spirituality, what do we find but a total dimension of nothingness? 

Open to multiple interpretations, Nietzsche wrote: 

“He who fights with monsters should be careful
lest he thereby become a monster.
If you gaze long into an abyss,
the abyss will also gaze into you.” 

Is he speaking of the abyss of meaninglessness or perhaps of purposelessness – or the emptiness of being that is in our constantly escaping existence?

That vast open ocean of emptiness in which we float and sink incessantly is terrifying and hideous. Once we renounce any definite course in our lives, what is left but the constant terror of the unknown…?

 But swim and swim in the treacherous waters of solitude and when you face the monstrous shadow of the universe, bleak and senseless, pray you will have not renounced everything for nothing ––

 That in that terror of being alone
religion-less and closing into death
you might stumble upon a Liberation:
that crushes your hopes and rewards you
with a dauntless indifference
to the horrors of existence