Source: Brian Holdsworth via YouTube
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Music written and generously provided by Paul Jernberg. Find out more about his work as a composer here: http://pauljernberg.com
Spanish translations by Vélez Translations, http://www.veleztranslations.com
When we use our reason to try to understand something, we are assuming, from the outset, that the thing we are investigating can be understood by reason because it is reasonable and that it will reveal itself in a rational way, that behind the mystery of the thing, there is order and governance that can be discerned.
But if you knew, before that inquiry was ever undertaken, that the thing in question is composed of meaninglessness and chaos, then you would never try to understand it. One day you’d look at it and it would be blue with a certain size and weight, composed of certain properties, and operating in a certain way, the next time you look at it, it’s hot pink, and an entirely different random arrangement of properties.
Trying to understand a phenomenon like that is a complete waste of time and effort. So how does this relate to science?
Science is a method of applying rational inquiry to the natural world or the natural universe. It assumes, from the outset that the natural world is governed by order and intelligibility.
So, science seeks to audit it, to understand that order. We assume that human reason is compatible and can be applied to the natural universe the same way that human reason is compatible with and can be applied to accounting records or something like a machine.
A machine is governed and ordered by certain ideas and principles. It is designed by intelligence and is, therefore, intelligible.
If the universe is not designed by an intelligence, then it follows that it is not intelligible. Our classical and medieval ancestors in Europe understood this. They first assumed that it was designed by an intelligence and therefore the work of discovering its ordering would not be a waste of their resources.
European theists were obsessed with unravelling the rational mysteries of the natural world and they invested huge resources to develop academic training, research, and methods which yielded what we now know to be the scientific method.
By contrast, many other societies looked at the natural world and assumed it was chaotic which is why they weren’t nearly so preoccupied with this kind of inquiry. They noticed that one day it would be rainy and cold, the next it would be warm. One night the stars and moon would shine, the next they would disappear.
One day, the wildlife would behave a certain way, the next they would do something different. This appeared to them to be the temperamental behaviour of a personality who was suffering from mood swings. And so, they concluded that the universe was something like a person. This became known as pantheism and almost every primitive culture embraced it.
Theists like Jews, Christians, and Muslims, by contrast, believed that the world was created by a supreme rational mind and was, therefore, imbued with rationality such that you could rely on it to behave in an ordered way, even if it didn’t give that appearance at first glance. It only meant you had to deepen your inquiry to discover the laws that were behind the phenomena.
We’ve since inherited that axiom and all the great achievements of the founders of science who were, to a man, theists – people like Thales, Aristotle, Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon, Nicholas Copernicus, Isaac Newton, & Renee Descartes.
And now we take it for granted that science is valid, but we don’t know what first principles had to be assumed to begin that great work. And since we’ve forgotten what those first principles were, we assume we can neglect them and carry on doing science, without admitting that we have conceded the existence of an intelligent mind behind the governing laws of the universe.
Header image: Brian Holdsworth via YouTube