Faith and Reason: Is There a Sharp Divide? (Part 6)
The Enlightenment. Skipping now hundreds of years, we now turn to another revolutionary movement in the history of thought. Yet, in a strange way, this new movement that wasn’t too different from the old one, which lead to the birth of western philosophy. it was known as The Age of Reason; Man escapes from the darkness of submission to religious dogma and steps into the light of learning, studying, and experimentation according to the dictates of autonomous Reason (again, note the capital R). Autonomous reasoning is human reasoning that believes that it the ultimate standard of what is true and false, right and wrong, without having to consult an outside referent (such as God).
The Age of Reason is also referred to as the Enlightenment. Out of the intellectual darkness of the middle ages (which weren’t exactly dark at all, with such brilliant minds as Anselm, Boethius, and Ockham), these thinkers sought to break free from all authority structures such as: the Church, Tradition, and Nationalism. Autonomous reasoning, free from these controlling structures, must be its own Judge, its own Master. Followers of Enlightenment thinking believed that this autonomy of Reason could lead us unto perfect knowledge in not only the sciences, but in all areas of life. They applied the method of the physical science (biology, mathematics, etc)to the study of the social science (sociology, politics, religion, etc). In effect, whether they consciously meant to or not, they aspired to the knowledge of God himself.
Philosophical Modernism. In time, the Enlightenment ushered in what has come to be known as Modernism. We are not talking about architectural modernism, or literary
modernism, etc. We are discussing Modernism, the worldview. It is characterized by overconfidence in reason and science. It does not take religion and the idea of a supernatural realm seriously at all. Two subdivisions of Modernism are: Scientism and Naturalism. Scientism is view that only those things that can be tested by the methods of science and be proven by the methods of science are capable of being true. Now this very principle cannot be proven by the methods of science, so therefore according to its own standard it is not true. Science is dependant on induction. Induction is the principle that we can arrive at generalized conclusions from the observance of specific instances. A faulty example of induction is:
Repeated observation: all geese I’ve ever seen are white
Inductive [faulty] conclusion: all geese are white.
Here’s an example that we believe holds true:
Repeated observation: everything I throw up comes back down
Inductive conclusion: what goes up must come down. (for more on induction, click here)
Science also assumes that its findings have universal validity. That whatever it “proves” is true for all, not just for group B. These assumptions cannot be proven by science itself, but must be assumed for science to have any legitimacy. These necessary assumptions are the philosophical underpinnings of science, that which holds it together. These are held by faith.
Here I borrow Ronald Nash’s notion of a box to understand naturalism. Nature is the box and everything in it has to be explainable by something else in the box. This leads to determinism, the theory that all observable events have fixed natural causes. A consequence is that all of our emotions, hopes, desires, and thoughts would be completely explained by chemical and physiological causes. The boomerang effect of this is that it serves to sabotage the very reasoning that came up with this theory in the first place. According to determinism, I’m not a naturalist because I reasoned my way to this position, I actually had no choice. Chemical collisions in my brain made it so that I had to say this….and this….and this….