Thursday, July 24, 2014

Is Scientific Thought Truncated?

Because Doctor Logic says that the scientific method is the only way to transcend bias in thinking, I want to give some arguments from C. S. Lewis that scientific thought is truncated, and that therefore scientism introduces a bias of its own into our thinking. I am redating this post from 2006.

From Chapter 6, Answers to Misgivings, in C. S. Lewis's Miracles: A Preliminary Study, pp. 41-42.
All these instances show that the fact which is in one respect the most obvious and primary fact, and through which alone you have access to all the other facts, maybe precisely the one that is most easily forgotten—forgotten not because it is some remote or abstruse but because it is so near and so obvious. And that is exactly how the Supernatural has been forgotten. The Naturalists have been engaged in thinking about Nature. They have not attended to the fact that they were thinking. The moment one attends to this it is obvious that one’s thinking cannot be a merely natural event, and that therefore something other than nature exists. The Supernatural is not remote and abstruse: it is a matter of daily and hourly experience, as intimate as breathing. Denial of it depends on a certain absent-mindedness. But this absent-mindedness is in no way surprising. You do not need—indeed you do not wish—to be always thinking about windows when you are looking at gardens or always thinking about eyes when you are reading. In the same way the proper procedure for all limited and particular inquiries is to ignore the fact of your own thinking, and concentrate on the object. It is only when you stand back from particular inquiries and try to form a complete philosophy that you must take it into account. For a complete philosophy must get in all the facts. In it you turn away from specialised or truncated thought to total thought: and one of the fact total thought must think about is Thinking itself. There is a tendency in the study of Nature to make us forget the most obvious fact of all. And since the Sixteenth Century, when Science was born, the minds of men have been increasingly turned outward to know Nature and to master her. They have been increasingly engaged on those specialized inquiries in which truncated thought is the correct method. It is therefore not in the least astonishing that they should have forgotten the evidence for the Supernatural. The deeply ingrained habit of truncated thought—what we call the “scientific” habit of mind—was indeed certain to lead to Naturalism, unless this tendency were continually corrected from some other source. But no other source was at hand, for during the same period men of science were becoming metaphysically and theologically uneducated.

10 comments:

Edward T. Babinski said...

Vic,
Lewis didn't put his thoughts in a numbered syllogistic format.
Ed

es said...

it is obvious that one’s thinking cannot be a merely natural event, and that therefore something other than nature exists.

Religious folks love to assert this. But the facts do not bear out this assertion. The facts in fact refute this assertion and demonstrate that thinking is solidly based in the body.

Anonymous said...

Not all religous folks, es. As a theist I find thinking to be a purely natural activity. Nothing supernatural about it at all.
Lewis and others can assert the contrary all they wish. I think theirs is more an anti-science pov than a pro-religous one.

Don Jr. said...

Anonymous,

Lewis wasn't anti-science. And there are many non-religious people who believe naturalism has problems accounting for thought.

Es,

I, in fact, don't know many "religious folks" who "love to assert" that thinking cannot be explained naturally. To assert that they do is, I would say, against the facts since the facts (at least in my experience) do not bear out that assertion. Moreover, the claim that thinking cannot be explained naturally is tantamount to the argument from reason, which is a philosophical argument. But it is often said that "religious folks" don't like philosophizing (or using their minds). I wonder which is really the case.

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous,

Lewis wasn't anti-science. And there are many non-religious people who believe naturalism has problems accounting for thought."
One could argue that it is a tough problem for naturalism but that is I think because naturalism is more restrictive in the sorts of explanation it allows. I don't see that as adequate grounds for rejecting naturalism or the scientific method.


"Es,

I, in fact, don't know many "religious folks" who "love to assert" that thinking cannot be explained naturally. To assert that they do is, I would say, against the facts since the facts (at least in my experience) do not bear out that assertion."
I'm afraid you are being a little uncharitable in your reading of Es' remark. In fact, it looks to me as though you've completely misread it. He didn't say that religious follks love to assert that "thinking cannot be explained naturally". The assertion he was responding to was: "it is obvious that one’s thinking cannot be a merely natural event, and that therefore something other than nature exists."
Seems to me he was responding to a claim that thinking is a supernatural event and not a natural event: that thinking is only possible because of this other world that is other than nature. Of course, not all religious people believe that. As a Christian theist I think Lewis' view here is mistaken and so find myself uncomfortable with this sort of apologetical approach. Seems to me to deny God's power and knowledge in being able to truly create a world independent of Himself.

"Moreover, the claim that thinking cannot be explained naturally is tantamount to the argument from reason, which is a philosophical argument. But it is often said that "religious folks" don't like philosophizing (or using their minds). I wonder which is really the case."

Not sure why you threw this in. Es never claimed that religious people don't like to philosophize.

Don Jr. said...

Anonymous,

Who said we ought to reject the scientific method?

"Thinking cannot be a natural event" is not different from "thinking cannot be explained naturally." I'm not going to argue over trivialities such as that. If you disagree with the arugment from reason, that's fine. My comment to Ed was not a defense of the arugment. I didn't even say I agreed with the argument. But you seemed to think it necessary to give a brief case against the argument. Not sure why you threw that in.

You say, "Es never claimed that religious people don't like to philosophize." I never claimed that Ed claimed that. So I'm not sure why you threw that in.

Anonymous said...

""Thinking cannot be a natural event" is not different from "thinking cannot be explained naturally." I'm not going to argue over trivialities such as that."

There is a big difference between saying there is not a natural explanation for a particular phenomenon and saying that such phenomenon is supernatural. It may very well be that we are not capable of explaining all natural phenomenon. That doesn't mean they are supernatural.
Not really arguring with you here. Simply pointing out that you misread what es was saying.

"My comment to Ed was not a defense of the arugment. I didn't even say I agreed with the argument. But you seemed to think it necessary to give a brief case against the argument. Not sure why you threw that in."

That's easy to explain. I "threw it in" in order to clarify what I think es' original claim was and why it was mistaken. He seems to think that Christians have to believe that thinking is a supernatural event. And that is simply not true.

"You say, "Es never claimed that religious people don't like to philosophize." I never claimed that Ed claimed that. So I'm not sure why you threw that in."

I "threw it in" to indicate why I was puzzled over your last remark. I'm still puzzled.

Don Jr. said...

Anonymous,

When I used the phrase (though I neither defended nor supported it) "thinking cannot be explained naturally," I meant the idea that naturalism cannot account--or at least has a serious difficulty in accounting--for thinking. If I simply meant to convey the idea that thinking couldn't be explained, I would have said I don't know many religious folks who assert that "thinking cannot be explained" and would have left out the naturally part. If you interepreted me differently, then you have simply misread me.

However, since you are insistent on playing the part of Es's interepreter, I ask: What exactly did Es mean when he said, "Religious folks love to assert this"?

Anonymous said...

"However, since you are insistent on playing the part of Es's interepreter, I ask: What exactly did Es mean when he said, "Religious folks love to assert this"?"

Es quoted the assertion he was referring to in his post:

"it is obvious that one’s thinking cannot be a merely natural event, and that therefore something other than nature exists."

Seems clear to me that Lewis in that assertion is saying that thinking is a supernatural event. If true, then there would not be a natural explanation for thinking. However, it is not correct to assume becasue there is no natural explanation for thinking that thinking is supernatural. Lack of a natural explanation could simply be due to a limitation of our intellect: thinking could still be a natural phenomenon.

Kind of weird that we are having so much trouble coming to an understanding on this becasue I think we both disagree with Es.

Don Jr. said...

Anonymous,

You didn't answer my question (or at least the answer wasn't clear). Rather you said a bunch of stuff about what Lewis said and about how you disagreed with it. However, if you could say something like "When Es said, 'Religious folks love to assert this', Es probably meant . . .," then that would provide a clear answer to my question.

I have yet to agree or disagree with the passage from Lewis in any of my comments in this discussion. My objection to what Es said had nothing to do with the truth or falsity of what Lewis wrote. I objected to what Es said about "religious folks." That's it. So I'm very unclear about why you keep trying to discredit what Lewis said in every comment that you give since that has nothing to do with my objection here. You disagree with Lewis. I get that. Congradulations.