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notebooks.jpgFrom the Notebooks

All people suffer from what Daniel Kahneman calls a “puzzling limitation” of the mind: “our excessive confidence in what we believe we know, and our apparent inability to acknowledge the full extent of our ignorance and the uncertainty of the world we live in.” Thinking, Fast and Slow. He also writes that there are “two important facts about our minds: we can be blind to the obvious, and we are also blind to our blindness.” Part Three of Thinking is devoted to this phenomenon with such statements like this, “Our comforting conviction that the world makes sense rests on a secure foundation: our almost unlimited ability to ignore our ignorance.”

These things resonate with me, no doubt because I am fan of Nassim Taleb, whose work relies heavily on the psychological advances of Kahneman and others of the skeptical ilk.

They also resonate with me because I love the way it turns the sword of skepticism on science itself. Science has historically been the bane of religion: by pointing out “scientific facts,” the sciences purported to replace the need for God and to debunk religious ideas and replace with them with “healthy skepticism” toward all things metaphysical.

But there have always been thinkers (beginning with the atheist (or agnostic?) David Hume) who have pointed out that science doesn’t know anything either. The type of extreme skepticism reflected in the thought of Hume and Karl Popper have long been derided by Christians because their skepticism strikes at many things that Christianity holds dear.

The tension between Christianity and these extreme skeptics is unfortunate. Sure, Christianity and skepticism have historically been foes, but one needs to distinguish the shallow skepticism of, say, Francis Bacon and John Dewey from the far more penetrating skepticism of Hume and Popper. Whereas Dewey would crush religion and erect a monument to science, Popper would crush religion and science and erect a monument to nothing.

In that environment, religion could rise . . . or not. Truth will out, as long as the playing field is level (leveled). If government would stop trying to program its subjects in ways that make them fans of the State, big education, big business, war, and science, I honestly think the Catholic Church would prevail, but under the current conditions, the Church has to fight at a huge disadvantage because its message runs contrary to everything the culture pushes. If a pervading sense of skepticism took hold over the culture, all the claims of Wall Street, Hollywood, and DC would be seen for what they are: baseless. People could then look into their own souls for answers, and when they do, I suspect they’d come to embrace the Shepherd that provides real information: mystical answers that transcend knowledge and skepticism.

One Response

  1. Josh Williams