I’m not in the habit of writing my blog posts in English. But since it is an Anglo-Saxon blogger I’ll be dealing with, I reckon that to address him in Swedish would be unfair. The blogger is Robert W. Godwin, a psychoanalysist and self appointed spiritual guru, who runs One Cosmos. To give those of you who don’t frequent his blog a flavor of what kind of man this is I’ll begin by making some quotes and comments on his style and reasoning. Thereafter I’ll deal with the basic tenets of his epistemological reasoning, that is, as far as he makes them clear.
When he thinks it fit to speak on science he expresses himself thusly
Science, for example, ignores facts that do not fit into the materialistic paradigm.[…]Both science and religion require faith, that is, a willing suspension of disbelief in order to enter their respective worlds. This is very similar to the aesthetic experience. In order to enjoy a play or movie, we must temporarily forget that it is “just a movie,” and fully abandon ourselves to its world. Through a process of “unknowing,” we eliminate the barrier between us and the aesthetic or spiritual world, and convert that line into a transformational space, where the other world makes contact with our imagination.
First we should remember that the very definition of a fact is “Something demonstrated to exist or known to have existed”. A fact is not a part of a theory but the foundation on which every scientific theory is built. A fact is also a thing on which we have universal agreement, or at least theoreticaly so. Fossils, for example, are facts, but every explanation of what they are or how they got there are conjectures based on other facts.
Science itself is one part collecting facts and one part making conjectures in a systematic way. Since there are no facts (at least not if the word shall retain a fragment of its normal semantic meaning) that can fall outside the frame of scientific investigation I assume that Mr. Godwin mean something else, probably conjectures. And phrased “Science, for example, ignores
facts [conjectures] that do not fit into the materialistic paradigm.” it makes perfects sense, but is far less sensational than the idea of extrascientific facts. It is also only in a trivial sense that science requires faith. Science requires faith in the operation of your senses and the basic laws of logic, such as the laws of identity (A=A) and contradiction (P or Non-P), these are by the way necessary elements in any non pathological mind. No other “suspension of disbelief” is necessary, or allowed!, to make good sience, and in no way are you allowed to “unknow” things known, only to test and investigate them. I cannot see that the this kind of necessary faith (necessary for survival and mental helth) can be equated with a faith in an “aesthetic or spiritual world” nor does Mr. Godwin supply any reason for us to accept that notion. But his own crude grasp of science might to some degree explain this misapprehension. In another post he writes
Proofs of God are not linear equations, as in 2 + 2 = 4. Rather, their proof is contained in their formulation, very much in the manner that the “proof” of a great work of art is not separable from the work itself. The genuine work of art is its own proof, its own certificate of authenticity. It is vertically self-confirming, is it not?
2+2=4 is not a linear equation, it is not an equation at all and the truth of any mathematical statement is contained within the statement itself. Mathematics is simple (thought not simple to grasp) logic and it is thus not subject to any empirical testing, but is the basis on which empirical tests are done. Though I do think the contrast between religion and esthetics versus logic is a correct one.
For quite some time it has been known that truth comes in logical types, i.e. the logical function of true statements are not one and the same. For example the logical function of the statements “Allotetraploid is seated”, “Allotetraploid was seated 04.00 PM on the 17 of august 2007”, “2=2” and “lobsters are delicious” are quite different. The first statement is an elliptic one, i.e. it is a transient truth that will be true or not true depending on when I speak it. The statement next in line is a fixed truth that will be true or untrue whenever I speak it. The statement that “2=2” is not true in any physical sense since it does not say anything about the physical world. It is a self contained truth that will be asserted whenever anyone utters that statement. And finally we have “lobsters are delicious” that are theoretically meaningless, i.e. it has no logical properties and are thus void of content. It can attain a logical meaning though, by being transformed to the statement “I think lobsters are delicious”, because only in a relation between two objects can things like “delicious”, “cute” and “sad” be given any reasonable meaning and thus be true or false. In this sense we can understand such statements as a proof of god is like a piece of art and that it is self contained. The truth of the “proofs of God” will be the aesthetic or emotional type of truth and not of the logical type as in “2=2”. But that being said the consequences will be that there are no such things as proofs in the regularly accepted way we use that term. It’s logical meaning will instead be that a proof of god is whatever anyone accepts as a sign of his existence, but gods existence in the elliptical sense “God exists” will in no way be connoted.
At one point I actually thought that Mr. Godwin had made this realization by himself, because in one of the first pieces of him that I read entitled “There is No God, and We are His Children” he wrote
For example, Eckhart wrote that “In my birth all things were born, and I was the cause of myself and of all things… And if I did not exist, God would also not exist.” What did he mean by this? In fact, it was something very similar to Grotstein’s description of the godlike aspects of the unconscious. That is, the God that we can know cannot exist without our first “conceiving” and giving birth to him — God needs our assistance, or cooperation, to manifest here below. He needs an inlet.
This could quite well have been a poetic way of talking about those transcendental feelings we all have from time to time. A way of saying that the meaning and patterns we see in our lives doesn’t exist until we create them, i.e. the joy of being needs an inlet and a realization to exist and this state of mind can well be described as God with capital G, since this is the only “divine” that truly exists. But that wasn’t what he had in mind and here it starts to get really ugly.
Earlier on I’ve just picked on some errors of metaphor and faulty logic, so finally, let us come down to business. He writes
You must begin by transforming your vision and developing a spiritual way of “seeing.” As a matter of fact, this is something we routinely do. For example, when you look at the letters on a page, you actually make them invisible by looking through and beyond them to the words they spell.
By this he is not referring to anything else than seeing (read know) in the objective sense, that he has previously, though erroneously, denounced as a “linear equation”. But this knowledge he means to attain by different means. In another place he refers to this as “standing ‘above’ the plot”, the “plot” being human contingencies, such as the physical reality. But he also uses the old term of Tillich “ultimate reality”. And as a matter of fact, most of what he is saying is more or less direct plagiarism of Tillich. There is one important difference though and that is that Mr. Goodwin defends the most outrageous form of social conservatism, objective aesthetics and denounces the lack of faith as a neurosis. All this in an post called Never Make a God of Your Irreligion .
It simply boils down to that Mr. Godwin feels that the Christian religion is true in the same way as he feels that a painting is beautiful or a lobster tastes good, and this feeling of being right is all that he needs to authenticate the truth of it all, in the same way as the feeling that the lobster tastes good is its own verification. His talk about spiritual understanding being equivalent to reading might hold more truth to it than he dears to admit. Reading is namely not about looking through and beyond the ink; it is all about looking at the ink in search for previously learnt patterns. The reading process does in no way supply you with new information, it simply uses old skills. If you are in any doubt, try to read an alphabet you don’t know, and then learn the alphabet and try to understand without using a lexicon, then get a lexicon and try again and now you should be getting somewhere. The same goes for Godwin’s cold reading of the spiritual world. You have to accept his propositions and make use of his grammar and lexicography to get started. There is nothing more to it than the age old trick of conquering the semantic field by redefining terms. Just as the Nazis made in Germany Mr. Godwin wish to do in the American political discourse. But he is not very god at it.
For the existence of God he supplies no other reason than this; stand up and look at history and the universe and try to, with your feeling, substantiate the truth of the Christian dogma. If you are a Christian this should prove to be very easy since this feeling is already present. Don’t mind the fact that “true feelings” and “objective truth” are two different logical categories as well as two different empirical concepts. After you have sold out objectivity for the perverse narcissism of wishful thinking there is no end to the possibilities. You can substantiate whatever claim you like in art and politics simply by referring to your inner liking and call it “vertical truth”. In this way Godwin give credence to the old argument of design as put forward by Paley, as we all know this is no more than an argumentum ad ignorantiam, but why bother when it feels like it’s true, even though the feeling is a product of my own ignorance of facts. There is nothing profound in this line of reasoning and the nicest thing I can say about Mr. Godwin is that he’s a shallow minded intellectual impostor.