Saturday, December 26, 2015

How A Black Cat Tried to Discredit Philosophy

So the other day as I was perusing my news feed, I came across something that made me laugh. No, it wasn't a cat video, but it did involve a feline. Luckily, I've blocked just about everyone from my news feed. It's not even an exaggeration. I just get so tired of seeing updates on food, selfies, and especially seeing all the hateful rhetoric, polemics, and unintelligent memes that is used to insult Christ and Christians alike. Apparently I missed one, because this ridiculous meme came through which tried to compare metaphysics and the like with science. Perhaps you've seen it before:
In the running for most unintelligent meme ever...?
Although I've seen others say so, this meme is not clever in the slightest. The variation I saw took a much more condescending tone ending with "looking for a black cat with a f***ing flashlight." What a great way to get a point across. Anyway, it shows a complete disregard for what all these subject matters pertain to, and all it does is make very apparent that whoever created this meme doesn't adhere to what science actually stands for, but scientism. Let's look a little closer at these claims made, and see why they are so easy to debunk once we try to think a little bit.

First off, whoever made this doesn't realize that metaphysics is a branch of philosophy. Therefore, putting the two into different groupings really makes no sense. Metaphysics is focused on explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world around it. The whole bit about theology is way over the top; it shows the disregard that militant atheists have for those with religious faith, simply writing the study of theology off as some crazed lunatic pointing at something no one else can see. This reduces the argument that God is knowable to a disjointed caricature, making it seem like any arguments (like Aquinas' First Way) should be dismissed out of hand. 

Here's the main problem though: the meme makes it seem that all four (three?) of these things are trying to find something physical, or that they're all trying to answer the same question... where's the cat? By it's very definition, metaphysics is the study of something that can't be seen. You can't use the scientific method to determine the veracity of many things in our daily lives, which is why we have the study of philosophy. Here, we have the ultimate straw-man: science and philosophy are looking for the same thing. They are most certainly not, and this is where we get the errors of scientism plaguing our world once again.

Plato and Aristotle in The School of Athens (detail)- Raphael

It just irritates me so much how all the comments on this picture seemed to agree and laugh at the "foolish" studies of philosophy and theology. There were a few secularists that saw through this though, and noted that apples and oranges were being compared. But hey, if you worship science as your god, and scientism is your religion, how can you not offer thanks and praise to someone who puts your god so highly in a popular meme? The fact is, you can't measure the metaphysical, the unseen, with something that inherently has to quantify something as the scientific method does. The scientific method is great for figuring out many things in biology and physics. But what about a metaphysical or philosophical question such as "Can you prove to me that I am sentient?" This is what often pops into my mind when someone throws their scientism at me. I want them, using the scientific method, to prove that I am a sentient being capable of rational thought. How can they prove that I am not some automaton? How can they prove my self-awareness? With the scientific method, you can't. Self-awareness is not measurable. It's not quantifiable. In the same way, God is not measurable. He cannot be contained by the scientific method. This is why we have the study of metaphysics. 

One of the best modern, Catholic philosophers out there in the Thomistic tradition, Edward Feser, puts it this way:

[Author of The Atheist's Guide to Reality]Alex Rosenberg’s argument, then, is essentially this: 
1. The predictive power and technological applications of physics are unparalleled by those of any other purported source of knowledge.
2. Therefore what physics reveals to us is all that is real.
How bad is this argument?  About as bad as this one:
1. Metal detectors have had far greater success in finding coins and other metallic objects in more places than any other method has.
2. Therefore what metal detectors reveal to us (coins and other metallic objects) is all that is real.
Just like the metal detector won't find a plastic cup buried in the sand, the scientific method won't be able to find the answer if I am self-aware, and won't be able to find the answer if there is an uncaused First Cause. Moreover, if we follow scientism to it's logical conclusion, as some scientists have, we reach eliminative materialism, which in short concludes that the human mind is fiction and that there exists no such thing as thinking or desiring or hoping for something; only the harsh reality of electrons and neurons firing throughout the brain. 
St. Thomas Confounding Averroes- Giovanni di Paolo
This is of course, on it's face ridiculous. It assumes that humans are not greater than the sum of their parts. We can see that this is something immeasurable; therefore we can't use the scientific method to prove it. Which is why we come back full circle; how can someone buy into eliminative materialism and at the same time deny the legitimacy of metaphysics and philosophical and theological questioning? This, my friends, is what makes my blood boil. This Christmas season, let's pray that we may all be enlightened to the one Truth, and that people's blind acceptance of "scientism" will cease. So often Christians are accused of putting a "blind" faith and trust in things not seen, but that is a caricature of our belief. On the flipside, I see no caricature in calling out certain secularists in putting a blind faith in scientism. It is blind. It ends discussion by committing the logical fallacy of appealing to an authority, an authority that can not be disputed because of the "holy" scientific method; and that authority in this case is the idol of scientism.  

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