This is a guest post from Alexey Burov summarizing his seminar given to our club on Monday 12 of September 2011
inviting discussions with him about the talk on our blog
the link to the audio file
It is http://fermiru.org/fireflect/CERN%20talks/Spiritual%20Dimensions_tr.mp3
and to the talk
Spiritual dimensions of scientific cognition
By its content, scientific knowledge is universal, impersonal, and thus value-free. However, being a hard human adventure, science requires certain values and sacraments, faith in them. From another perspective, the scientific worldview makes its own imprint on the entire human culture, destroying some sacraments, and elevating others. Due to that duality in science-faith relations, self-negation of the scientific cognition happened. As a result, we are living in a split world of internally hostile Duoverse of Macrocosm and Microcosm. Is this split state dictated by rational thinking? Is there any way to return to the Universe, rescuing all the noble values, scientific values included?
“Ethics and psychology are grounded in metaphysics. When it comes to saving man’s essential nature, psychology – whether as such, or in the form of psychotherapy – is helpless; ethics as a mere doctrine or imperative is helpless unless man first comes to have different fundamental relation to Being – unless man of his own accord, so far as in him lies, begins at last to hold his nature open for the essential relation toward Being…”
“The most thought-provoking thing in our thought-provoking time is that we are still not thinking.”
Martin Heidegger, “What is Called Thinking?”, 1954
Science can be defined as the cognition of universal or pure reason. Both theoretical concepts and scientific facts must be independent of personal, cultural and biological properties of theorists and observers. Science is a sort of knowledge, designed to be maximally transferable to any sufficiently developed extraterrestrial reasonable beings.
“The kernel of the scientific outlook is the refusal to regard our own desires, tastes, and interests as affording a key to the understanding of the world.”,
Bertrand Russel, “The place of Science in A Liberal Education”
Thus, the spiritual sphere is a priory excluded from science. Humans, seen through scientific glasses, cannot be distinguished from animals. This is not a drawback of science – it is just its limit, other side of its power. Due to this limit, only our bodies can be scientifically seen. Man as a spiritual being is neither observable, nor thinkable scientifically. The same is true for any real or imaginary personalities – for God, in particular.
Scientific Doubt and Scientific Faith
Doubt in the existing scientific knowledge is absolute – this is a necessary condition for this knowledge to stay open. From another side, science is based on its values, on the strong faith in its values – as any big and difficult human affair. Since the very essence of faith contradicts to global scientific doubt, this faith requires certain out-of-science ground. It is ethics, which gives us values and motivations. Thus, ethics plays a fundamental role to the scientific cognition.
A. Einstein on the scientific faith
“ I maintain that the cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest motive for scientific research. Only those who realize the immense efforts and, above all, the devotion without which pioneer work in theoretical science cannot be achieved, are able to grasp the strength of the emotion out of which alone such work, remote as it is from the immediate realities of life, can issue. What a deep conviction of the rationality of the universe and what a yearning to understand, were it but a feeble reflection of the mind revealed in this world, Kepler and Newton must have had to enable them to spend years of solitary labor in disentangling the principles of celestial mechanics!
Those whose acquaintance with scientific research is derived chiefly from its practical results easily develop a completely false notion of the mentality of the men who, surrounded by a skeptical world, have shown the way to kindred spirits scattered wide through the world and through the centuries. Only one who has devoted his life to similar ends can have a vivid realization of what has inspired these men and given them the strength to remain true to their purpose in spite of countless failures. It is cosmic religious feeling that gives a man such strength. A contemporary has said, not unjustly, that in this materialistic age of ours the serious scientific workers are the only profoundly religious people.”
“Religion and Science”, 1930.
Cosmic religious feeling as the Scientific Credo
– There is the Rationality – Logos behind all phenomena.
– The Logos kingdom is all-scale and total – from tiniest particles to the entire Universe.
– The Logos is beautiful.
– The Logos can be visible to human minds – it is the scientific cognition.
– Science, as a human communion with the Logos, is one of the noblest ways of life.
– Quantum Mechanics: The Cosmos is a product of not only Logos, but also of Chaos.
Brief History of “Logos”
Plato and platonics: Cosmos resulted from the primordial Chaos, formed by Creator, through His emanation of Logos and Soul. Human soul and reason have the same divine origin.
John 1:1-1:18 “Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος” – “In the beginning it was Logos and Logos was with God and Logos was God…
Christianity essentially inherited Platonic metaphysics, with its consequences
– World is created as rational. Platonic God loves theories.
– Human ability to see this rationality has the same divine source.
For R. Descartes, trust in God was a precondition to trust our ability to think and observe.
I. Newton: “It is the perfection of God’s works that they are all done with the greatest simplicity. He is the God of order and not of confusion.” After his life, success of his physics worked against his belief in personal God.
It was Benedict Spinoza who first clearly proclaimed religion of the totally ruling Software – impersonal Substance – instead of personal God. His Substance was omnipotent and omnipresent, leading to total determinism and refutation of the free will. All the values lost their power when the old God was killed and impersonal Substance was enthroned instead. Spinoza at some moment of his life started to believe that there must be only one explanatory principle of the World. He saw that there were two of them: Reason and Person. Thus, one of them had to be sacrificed. “The reason and will which constitute God’s essence must differ by the breadth of all heaven from our reason and will and have nothing in common with them except the name; as little, in fact, as the dog-constellation has in common with the dog, the barking animal.” – Spinoza, 1677.
“We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.” – Laplace on his “demon”, 1814.
After the Darwinian exclusion of God from life and human reason (1859), Nietzsche coined his diagnosis: “God is dead”. Saying this, Nietzsche actually meant more than death of God. He also meant death of all big values: Truth, Justice, Love, Beauty, and yes – Reason. Thus self-negation of Reason was spoken. Dehumanization of the Universe was finished. Metaphysically, man lost his divinity and fell down into a world of objects among objects. Any resistance to that became either obscurantism, “wishful thinking” or a white lie.
If man is an object among objects, the society is a machine to be optimized.
Some old details have to be eliminated, of course…. Evil is probably eternal. But in this new kingdom of Reason the very concept of sin was abolished. Scientific communism and national socialism were consequences.
Scientific worldview as a self-negation of Reason
Negating all the values, scientific worldview negates the scientific credo as well, i. e. we see a self-negation of Reason as a consequence of its idolization.
With empty heavens under his head, man is running to collectivistic cults, Dionysian madness, drugs, suicide, or just degrades in a meaningless shallow life. In the Spinozian world, all the values are contingent nonentities, as man is. Cognition is not excluded. A soap bubble, even one reflecting sunlight, is still just a bubble. In the Spinozian world, there is no difference between humans and bubbles.
When God was killed, cosmos got a face of daemon, a single look on whom ruins all the values, turning people into stones.
To save our human world, a theme of cosmic hostility is actually tabooed. We have to pretend that the king is wonderfully dressed. We have to lie to each other for the sake of our life and civilization.
It does not help though. Our values are fatally humiliated by the scientific cosmos. True values cannot be accepted out of fear, even if it is a fear for the humankind. Values, accepted under a gun, can neither inspire nor give strength at the face of tragedy.
In fact, the current Worldview shows not one, but two worlds, hostile to each other: the scientific world, negating a person with its values – and the human world, trying to keep all its values – heroically and illegitimately. It is not a Universe, but a Duoverse.
Witness of B. Russell
“Brief and powerless is Man’s life; on him and all his race the slow, sure doom falls pitiless and dark. Blind to good and evil, reckless of destruction, omnipotent matter rolls on its relentless way; for Man, condemned today to lose his dearest, to-morrow himself to pass through the gate of darkness, it remains only to cherish, ere yet the blow falls, the lofty thoughts that ennoble his little day; disdaining the coward terrors of the slave of Fate, to worship at the shrine that his own hands have built; undismayed by the empire of chance, to preserve a mind free from the wanton tyranny that rules his outward life; proudly defiant of the irresistible forces that tolerate, for a moment, his knowledge and his condemnation, to sustain alone, a weary but unyielding Atlas, the world that his own ideals have fashioned despite the trampling march of unconscious power.” “A Free Man’s Worship”, 1903
Back to the Universe
We are doomed to live in that internally hostile Duoverse, unless personality will return its cosmic position. To return a meaning to my life, I have to return the Person as a highest cosmic principle. It means I have to resurrect the killed God, and restore our true connection, true re-ligion: the religion of love. The God’s acceptance is not “wishful thinking”, and is not science negation. On the contrary – it is reconciliation of the human world, Microcosm, with the scientific world, Macrocosm, saving us from a poor split state, where all the noble values, including reason, are indeed nothing else but “wishful thinking”.
Gospel of John
Descartes, “Meditations on First Philosophy”
Heidegger, Martin. “The Word of Nietzsche: ‘God Is Dead'”
Lev Shestov, “In Job Balances”, http://shestov.by.ru/ijb/jb_0.html
Talk given in CERN, Sep. 12, 2011