“If you don’t get me that bike, then you don’t love me.” Though illogical to a parent, it is not illogical. The statements are connected in a plausible cause-effect relationship.[BH1] It is called Toulmin logic and is widely recognized as the fundamental form of verbal communication.
Toulmin is an informal system of argument relying on reason and data to make a claim. Implicit within the type of argument is a warrant. This is a more or less revealed assumption to connect the data and the claim. The solid construction of an argument should have several characteristics. Claims should be stated clearly and qualified carefully. Qualifications are ideas like – probably, partially, one possible outcome, a contravailing factor, I believe, etc. Second, claims should be supported with data and good reasons. Third, claims and reasons should be based on assumptions readers will likely accept. If these assumptions are in contrast to readers initial beliefs, then the assumptions need to be elevated to the level of claims with proof, or at least evidence, provided. Fourth, all parts of the argument need the support of solid evidence. Five, effective arguments anticipate objections readers might offer and respond to them carefully.
The strategy of science is to seek coherence. The parts are connected in more or less clever ways allowing an aggregate analytical mind to follow them. In other words, most people who read that type of material. The problem readily seen here – is a high level book on PhD mathematics coherent? To most people, it’s just a jumble of words and symbols. We have to leave it to the mathematicians. But what if they disagree?
Neither logic nor science has demonstrated the connectivity between the material and the immaterial. The doctrine of epiphenomenalism merely denies the immaterial – leading to a worse problem – what connection can there be between the existent and the non-existent? None.
These holes have no bottoms. We can continually dart around them like swimming fish. And we should for a time. But at some point, we must make a statement about something meaningful.
To establish proper relations with the logical mind is more important and more difficult for the scientist than for others. To be clear, the proper relationship for each person with rational mind is different. That is not a judgment on the person. It merely asks how useful rationality is for their existence. It falls under the topic Freedom. Rationality is certainly not the end-all and be-all of everyday affairs. The scientist’s proper relation is – absolute proof can never be attained. The great mind of logic realizes that logic is only part of the picture. The measure of logic is not the measure of truth.
It is an assumption to believe that rationality can explain the fundamental tenets of the universe. Perhaps it can. Perhaps it cannot. But this assumption has not been remotely proved. Such a proof has not even been attempted. One of the problems of logic and indeed experimentation is that they do not know when they have reached the end. They do not know if there is an end. The universe has many characteristics of an infinite system. Multiply the bottomless depth of the quantum realm by the limitlessness of space. The middle realm, us, the size of animals, tends to be the one that is not accorded the status of reality. Interestingly, we look for the absolute largest and the absolute smallest.
The assumption that logic is an all-prevailing mechanism leads to consequences, philosophical in nature, but practical in our lives. This high level vision of the universe as logically comprehensible creates the universe in its image just as the notion of a creator God creates the world in its image. Science has elevated the ideas known as science and logic to godhead. Let us call it what it is – multi-abstract idea theism.
Judge Napolitano wrote a book called the The Tyranny of Good Intentions. I mention it because the title so well describes the situation. For the most part scientists don’t particularly wish to do harm. Mostly they’re good-natured fellows, curious and quirky. But the world-view of such a powerful enterprise spreads out, contaminating all it meets.
The premise one finds frequently is that logic is the means to truth. The evidence is in the results. However, computer models routinely use falsifications – false premises to get useful results.[i] The upshot is that science cannot be said to be true solely on the basis of its successes.
To prove means to establish a thing as truth. And capital T Truth means that which is beyond change. If something is true today, but not tomorrow, it is not a vigorous truth. It is not absolute; it is relative. Change is the definition of the relative. And we are, of course, relative. This is why science strikes at the absolute. It seeks to find the unchanging, the guiding laws behind the changing appearances. We know it has not yet hit the mark, but how wide is it? It could be looking in the wrong place.
In his documentary Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control, Errol Morris bios a mole-studying scientist. It is an apt analogy. These days, science is a particularly mole-like endeavor. Most scientists spend their time in the lab or on the computer sifting through an impossibly specialized subset of an area of their particular larger category of study. Nietzsche foresaw this demise of the researcher in Zarathustra with his portrait of a researcher who studied the depth and breadth of leeches. Zarathustra couldn’t quite figure him out, but he accepted that. It was an inspired stance – accept confusion.
Accept confusion might be an excellent scientific principle. We rationalists struggle to pretend that that the universe is being properly fathomed. The struggle interferes with valid inquiry, taking it off-course. Science seems to have suffered from mission creep. Actually, it hasn’t suffered – science is doing what is meant to do. In other words, mission creep is the very essence of inquiry. Unfortunately, those pursuing it do not know that meta-rule. This makes it confused.
As an example, take string theory. String theory has the feel of scientific pornography. It earns the disapproval of most of society, but many love it. Some are secretive, but the more egregious embrace it with no shame. String theory is a beautiful dead end, tracks leading into an endless wilderness of abstractions and unsolvable equations.
Though difficult to believe, it seems to have limitless potential to explain things. That may be a goal of a unified theory. Such a theory should be able to, in principle, answer any question of physics put to it. But what does ‘in principle’ mean? If it cannot do it, it cannot, and if it can, then it can. A theoretical ability says it could if certain conditions were met. This is code for ‘it can’t.’ Yet these sorts of wildly unprovable statements are very common. It violates the fundamental rule of science concerning experiments. But, perhaps we are past that age now.
As a comment on this, W.K. Clifford, a British mathematician once said, “It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.” Perhaps, but why should we believe it when he presents us with no evidence? What is sufficient? What is evidence? What does ‘wrong’ mean? Is it a moral conclusion or a logical one? It is a strong statement, indeed an absolute one, and we are ironically expected to believe it based on its logic alone.
Which brings us back to the central topic. One of the difficulties of logic is that it instructs one to move from connection to connection. That is the inbuilt premise of logic. If A then B. If A and B, then C. If A and not B, then not C. Some seemingly logical formulations fail the truth test – If I am tall and you are short, then I am taller than you. But I could be a child. These kinds of assumptions can be found in most logical formulations. For example, in mathematics. Do the symbols convey an accurate and complete representation of an underlying physical reality? If the first word of the answer is ‘Well…’, the answer is No. You cannot have an exact replica that is qualified. And if you do not have an exact replica, you cannot be accurately portraying the actual thing.
None of this is to criticize science, or say it needs to be abandoned. Science investigates more and less genuine areas of relative reality, but it misses a fundamental link to the absolute. In the relative world, science is king, but it fails to ask the right questions to transcend its own limitations.
In Buddha is an Atheist, I analyze logic in a different way. There I find (right or wrong, but with evidence) that logic cannot prove truth, but only detect falsehood. It is an excellent tool for clearing away illogical falsehoods, but it does not work on logical falsehoods. Therefore, it cannot prove truth.
Science has analyzed relative reality to the point of fuzzy logic, chaos theory, and the uncertainty principle. One of the lessons of these ideas, especially the last, is that there is an area of the universe that cannot be known. Not that it is difficult, but that basic restrictions exist which make the lifting of the veil impossible under any circumstances. A corollary is: the area may not exist. And any unprovable objective reality may as well not exist. This unknowability of certain fundamental structures is not a philosophical interpretation of the uncertainty principle – it is the principle. In other words, science has made a strong case that there is no objective reality in objective reality.
While science has not definitively proven objectivity to be mythical, there is enough evidence to chart a new direction. We should formulate new theories based on non-objectivism. What we call reality is no more than mass consensus. It may be consensus on a theory, such as gravity. That becomes our reality. It is only a relative reality, however.
For some, string theory is reality. But it’s no more real than a bank account. Well, a bank account can’t be real, right? It’s nothing but a set of numbers in a proposed relationship called ‘ownership.’ Yet people commit suicide over those numbers. What could be more real than that?
If your business partner steals a million, disappears and leaves you two million in debt, what would you do? Some would kill, some would suicide, almost anyone would become depressed or angry. If the bank account could prove that you and your partner committed fraud, you could go to jail. Things that have no provable reality can create tremendous consequences in our lives. There is no such thing as a provable reality. This is not an assumption- it is a claim the book intends to demonstrate.
To follow this up through the lens of atheism – if there is no inherent reality, there can be no God. But there can also be no state in which there is not a god. There can be no fixed bottom line realities. You cannot disprove god because god has so many meanings. If, to me, god is the mysterious ‘field’ controlling the unfailing mechanism of quantum mechanics, then would the skeptic tell me that god is not real? ‘But we don’t know what’s there,’ could be the response.
Which is exactly the point. It could be God. Here is a proof that it is God: God is that which is beyond any possible comprehension. The quantum mysteries are beyond comprehension. Therefore, they are part of God.
It’s not a convincing proof, but it is logically constructed. The problem is the assumptions. But the definition of God is reasonable – that which cannot be comprehended. Unfortunately, science makes an inverse of the same argument – ‘we do not understand it, therefore it is not God.’ What is worse, it fails as logic where the former succeeds. The logical trick is to say, ‘we have solved many areas that were said to contain God and found he was absent. Therefore, this is not God, because we have found from past experience that God is not hiding in mysteries once they are solved.’ It seems a workable inductive argument, reasoning from specific examples to a general conclusion.
But this glosses over the root law of reality – the uncertainty principle. There is a fundamental difference between the two cases. The typical situation is one where reality is not yet comprehended. Uncertainty says there is an area where it can never be comprehended. These are different worlds.
At some point this taxonomy of reality and the tools to discover it becomes unbearably frustrating. The whole mess, filtered through our thoughts, created by them, is utterly subjective. It is concept, not actuality. We always and every time return to this glaring and ignored truth – words are words; they are not the reality they attempt to represent.
Here is another example of a failure of logic – Marcus has a mole. The man coming towards us does not have a mole. The man coming towards us is not Marcus. But if two people know two different Marcuses, then is the first statement (Marcus has a mole) true or not? There is nothing wrong with the logical formulation of the syllogism. The statement is either true or false. It depends on the object of reference. It is impossible to say whether this syllogism is true or false, only whether it is true for a particular person. This paradox exists despite the fact that the syllogism is composed only of verifiable facts and that it is precise formal logic. Logic fails as the test of truth.
The objection to this line of reasoning is that there is hidden information to confuse the logic. But it is axiomatic that in the ‘real world’ there is always hidden information.
Reality is different depending on our frame of reference. Importantly, that is a tenet of relativity. If we continually examine assumptions, we will constantly be taking our support away. We will arrive at an uncontrived space with far more possibilities, but nothing certain. It is uncomfortable. That is only a first impression. Though for many, the first impression is intense fear. There are more and less dangerous methods for knocking away the underpinnings of one’s personal zeitgeist. But it must be a part of the conscious intent of the project. Or else, new props will immediately create themselves as solid as the old. It may seem strange that you must remove the ground beneath your feet in order to fly, but that is the theory of gravity in a nutshell.