On Ignorance

jread
SuperfanTheist
jread's picture
Posts: 353
Joined: 2007-05-17
User is offlineOffline
On Ignorance

        I've been thinking about something that I would like you all to consider with me. I recently had a conversation with my fiancee about scientific study within a theistic belief system. She expressed the idea that she is completely comfortable with accepting the creation story in Genesis as being a record of how the Earth, Universe, etc. were actually created. Now I understand that almost everyone here will disagree with this point of view towards life and the universe. I include myself among this group who disagree with her position.

[Note: I don't want to discuss the plausibility of the Genesis story of creation in this discussion. Please leave it out. It does not pertain to my agenda.]

Important:  I want to ask, that in replies to this post I would not like direct references made toward my fiancee as an individual. However, everyone is more than welcome to attack her general epistemological position because, in fact, that is what I am about to do. So consider my incorporation of my fiancee, as mere background to the story of why I've been thinking about this topic.

Ok, so here it goes.

Working Thesis: The choice to merely ignore the progress of human understanding in a life-understanding field of study is unacceptable. What do I mean by unacceptable? Well, I think I mean a couple things. One, it appears to me to be rationally unacceptable. Second, it appears to me to be morally unacceptable.

Rational unacceptability:

                In practically all epistemological frameworks, the human being is considered a rational animal; I think we can all agree on that. Because of this fundamental commonality between all beings who are human, I consider this to be a fundamental part of what it is that makes us human, our claim to fame so to speak. Thus, if a human being fails to use their rational capacities, they cease to function as a human being would. Well wait a minute, does ignoring scientific research mean that an individual is not at all rational? Clearly no. However, is not studying scientific research (and gathering your own thoughts on the matter) an unacceptable omission of human exercises in rationality? I think that it is. Essentially, if one does not study that which attempts to explain the existence we encounter everyday: our body, physical reality, experiences of all sorts, etc. then, one is being flagrantly negligent in living their life as an animal with rational capacities.

Moral unacceptability:

               Presently in my discussion on moral unacceptability, I am going to discuss morality in terms of the theistic conception i.e. divine command. Consider this essentially, a thought experiment (for example, if you are not a theist) within the theistic framework of good and bad. I find, that within this system, willingly ignoring pertinent human knowledge about this life and existent things is bad. Consider the following scenario. Suppose God created man. Suppose even further, that God gave man rationality with hopes that they would use it. Now, having supposed these factors, consider whether or not God would want human beings to study what other human beings have thought up and conceived. I find that learning what human beings past and present have researched and studied to not be an intrinsically bad thing. Would you agree? Now, if this general statement is not incorrect, then let me take it one step further. I find that learning what beings past and present have researched and studied in relation to scientific knowledge to not be an intrinsically bad thing. Would you agree? I would assume that only a theist would have beef with that statement. Why does the theist disagree? Why is science a special category of human endeavor that does not get permission to be studied seriously? How can the theist consistently maintain that while studying human knowledge in other areas is a good thing, quite possibly what God would want us to do, and then assert that studying scientific research and theory is a bad thing, something that God wouldn't want us to do? Is the theist whose unwillingly to research science afraid of what science will teach them? Is the theist scared that it may show that there is no God? Possibly, I suppose it depends on the person. Personally, I find that a theist should have no reason to willingly neglect science just because it's science. I find that doing so, it morally unacceptable because it shows a lack of faith in God and an unwillingness to use your rationality. Consider the following argument [Note: it does incorporate general ideas from the Bible.]


1. Human knowledge is lesser than God's knowledge.                        [Given]                           [From the Bible]

2. Scientific knowledge is a type of human knowledge.                       [Given]

3. Ignorance is fear or laziness.                                                           [Given]

4. Most theists are ignorant of scientific knowledge.                           [Given]

5. If human knowledge is lesser than God's knowledge, then theists should not fear human knowledge.

6. If scientific knowledge is lesser than God's knowledge, then theists should not fear scientific knowledge.

7. Theists should not fear human knowledge.                                    [1,5] MP

8. Most theists are fearful of studying scientific knowledge.               [4,3]                            In conflict with premise 7 via premises 4 & 3.

9. Scientific knowledge not lesser than God's knowledge.                  [8,6] MT                       Contradiction via premises 1 and 2.

10. Human knowledge is not lesser than God's knowledge.               [9,2]                            Contradiction of premise 1.

 

        Ok, so my logical proof notation may be a bit rusty, but I think that my argument is valid, and hopefully sound. If it is not, then just post up the mistake. [I suspect I may be committing a fallacy of composition in premise 10, so help me out if I am.]

        Back to my point. Because of the derivation of contradictions in lines 9 and 10 coupled with the conflict between premises 7 and 8, I find that this essentially shows a lack of epistemological consistency on behalf of the theist. The inconsistency arises because the theist's choice to ignore scientific research is creating an inconsistency between what the Bible taught and what the theist chooses to ignore. For example, if God's knowledge is greater than human knowledge, and scientific knowledge is a form of human knowledge, then what is there to fear or be lazy about if human knowledge doesn't possess the power of God's knowledge? By choosing to be ignorant of scientific knowledge, I believe that the theist is not placing enough faith in God. For, if the theist chooses to ignore science out of fear, why does he/she fear science? There should be no reason to fear what may be happened upon because part of the theist's belief system is that God's knowledge is far superior to human knowledge. Do you see my point? Maybe not; maybe there is no point...Nevertheless, I had to lay it out there.

 

       Lastly, I wonder if those of you who have known me for a little while now can sense my frustration? I know that most of you may imagine that because of my openness and personal study into a clearly non-faith subject I may be experiencing a type of faith questioning period in my life. It's not so much a questioning which is occurring presently, rather, it is more than I am believing ignorance to be an overall bad thing. I realize that I cannot know or even attempt to know everything. Additionally, I wouldn't expect anyone to know everything to then say that they are not ignorant. The type of ignorance that I want to remove is the type that encompasses areas that I find myself attracted to. An area may be attractive either because I agree or disagree with what it says. I also understand that others may not be attracted to science and that's why they choose not research it. Fine. But, once a theist rejects science knowingly, freely, without researching it for themselves (and from non-biased sources!) then they are doing a serious disservice to themselves and others.

The implication that we should put Darwinism on trial overlooks the fact that Darwinism has always been on trial within the scientific community. -- From Finding Darwin's God by Kenneth R. Miller

Chaos and chance don't mean the absence of law and order, but rather the presence of order so complex that it lies beyond our abilities to grasp and describe it. -- From From Certainty to Uncertainty by F. David Peat


HisWillness
atheistRational VIP!
HisWillness's picture
Posts: 4100
Joined: 2008-02-21
User is offlineOffline
If I'm incorrect in any of

If I'm incorrect in any of the following, please let me know. After reading your post, I got the impression that your main question was:

"Why would a theist fear scientific knowledge?"

Fear, of course, is not a rational experience. But that doesn't exempt it from speculative explanations. Feel free to criticize any of my comments to whatever degree you feel, because I think you raise an important question, and it should be resolved to your satisfaction.

First of all, some people fear work. There is a great deal of work to be done when learning in general, and specifically in dealing with very difficult questions. Sometimes this work can exceed the talents or interest of the people involved, so in this case, it would be unfair to consider these people "lazy" outright. But it does explain why they'd be relieved to pick up a book that gives them sure answers; it helps explain why people would be more comfortable with absolutes.

Second, given an ignorance of science, people can fear things they don't understand. There are barriers to entry in the scientific community that don't help the situation, either. If you've never received a basic scientific education, it's difficult to understand the discussions of experts in scientific fields, and that can be extremely intimidating for people. From the intimidated person's point of view, science, rather than a meritocracy of falsifiable knowledge, becomes overwhelming amounts of information that no reasonable person could be expected to absorb. That's because they've been lead to believe that it's all totalitarian dogma, and not a meritocracy. That's also my explanation for theists who post on this forum statements like "science says X" and "logic says Y".

On that same point, if you're used to being told what the absolute truth is from an authority, you may get used to authorities who are totalitarian, and assume that all scientific authority figures are equally totalitarian. The fear of that particular person might be assuaged by introducing science as a meritocracy. That's no easy task for someone who is not motivated by curiosity and would rather have the matter settled.

As for your fiancée, I can't side with you in (apparently) asserting that her lack of rationality in this one area makes that area of her life inhuman. It may be our claim to fame, but I'm not sure it's defining.

If, however, you're asking the question "Why won't my fiancée listen to reason?" that's way out of my league. I think the standard answer is "Because I'm not your bitch."

 

Saint Will: no gyration without funkstification.
fabulae! nil satis firmi video quam ob rem accipere hunc mi expediat metum. - Terence


jread
SuperfanTheist
jread's picture
Posts: 353
Joined: 2007-05-17
User is offlineOffline
HisWillness wrote: If I'm

HisWillness wrote:

If I'm incorrect in any of the following, please let me know. After reading your post, I got the impression that your main question was:

"Why would a theist fear scientific knowledge?"

Indeed.

Quote:

Fear, of course, is not a rational experience. But that doesn't exempt it from speculative explanations. Feel free to criticize any of my comments to whatever degree you feel, because I think you raise an important question, and it should be resolved to your satisfaction.

First of all, some people fear work. There is a great deal of work to be done when learning in general, and specifically in dealing with very difficult questions. Sometimes this work can exceed the talents or interest of the people involved, so in this case, it would be unfair to consider these people "lazy" outright. But it does explain why they'd be relieved to pick up a book that gives them sure answers; it helps explain why people would be more comfortable with absolutes.

Interesting point. I knew that by just saying 'fear' I left a lot of background factors out. I think it is very interesting your point on absolutes. It does make a lot of sense that someone would enjoy the comfort of 'this is how it is' even if that 'this' is extremely vague. You do put into perspective the other options of why someone would want to remain scientifically ignorant. But, I still feel that it's wrong to choose to ignore something like science if human beings are to live up to their claim to rationality (and using said rationality).

Quote:

Second, given an ignorance of science, people can fear things they don't understand. There are barriers to entry in the scientific community that don't help the situation, either. If you've never received a basic scientific education, it's difficult to understand the discussions of experts in scientific fields, and that can be extremely intimidating for people. From the intimidated person's point of view, science, rather than a meritocracy of falsifiable knowledge, becomes overwhelming amounts of information that no reasonable person could be expected to absorb. That's because they've been lead to believe that it's all totalitarian dogma, and not a meritocracy. That's also my explanation for theists who post on this forum statements like "science says X" and "logic says Y".

I find myself sometimes thinking this way. Isn't this way of thinking a mistake only when applied to theories i.e. thinking they are how things in fact are (the truth). When instead, an individual should view theories as working models that can completely change or be done away with and in no way hold truth claims. Is that what you getting at? If you are, I agree that this is a tough jump to make. I think that the philosophy background I had before going into personal scientific study made this step unnoticable.

Quote:

On that same point, if you're used to being told what the absolute truth is from an authority, you may get used to authorities who are totalitarian, an assume that all scientific authority figures are equally totalitarian.

      Indeed. This line of reasoning makes the only choices available to the theist, who thinks this way, to be either that science is true or it is false. If the theist who thinks this was sees that only God is the author of truth, then science is false because only God is the author of truth.

      But this is where I would ask the theist, "Why fear science so much if it is false?" And I would also like to ask, "If science is false, then why is it so hard to disprove? Shouldn't this suggest that there may be at least some value of researching it within a theistic framework?"

      I realize I could just be whining in these questions, but I can't think of any other way to phrase them so that a theist can relate.

Quote:
The fear of that particular person might be assuaged by introducing science as a meritocracy. That's no easy task for someone who is not motivated by curiosity and would rather have the matter settled.

Indeed. I find it so difficult to conceive how someone can say that they are rational and not be curious about science.

Quote:
As for your fiancée, I can't side with you in (apparently) asserting that her lack of rationality in this one area makes that area of her life inhuman. It may be our claim to fame, but I'm not sure it's defining.

I tried to explain that I don't think lacking this one area of rationality makes a person lack rationality entirely. I just think that by voluntarily omitting this area of research fails to utilize an important subject of rationality and is a poor reflection on how one lives as a rational animal.

Quote:
If, however, you're asking the question "Why won't my fiancée listen to reason?" that's way out of my league. I think the standard answer is "Because I'm not your bitch."

No worries, I'm not asking that question directly. I would never hope to change a person. Again, my bringing her up was mainly background to my thoughts on the issue. She, for our purposes, was mainly one example of the larger group of theists who share her opinions.

 

The implication that we should put Darwinism on trial overlooks the fact that Darwinism has always been on trial within the scientific community. -- From Finding Darwin's God by Kenneth R. Miller

Chaos and chance don't mean the absence of law and order, but rather the presence of order so complex that it lies beyond our abilities to grasp and describe it. -- From From Certainty to Uncertainty by F. David Peat


Eloise
Theist
Eloise's picture
Posts: 1804
Joined: 2007-05-26
User is offlineOffline
jread wrote:

jread wrote:

        I've been thinking about something that I would like you all to consider with me. I recently had a conversation with my fiancee about scientific study within a theistic belief system. She expressed the idea that she is completely comfortable with accepting the creation story in Genesis as being a record of how the Earth, Universe, etc. were actually created. Now I understand that almost everyone here will disagree with this point of view towards life and the universe. I include myself among this group who disagree with her position.

[Note: I don't want to discuss the plausibility of the Genesis story of creation in this discussion. Please leave it out. It does not pertain to my agenda.]

Important:  I want to ask, that in replies to this post I would not like direct references made toward my fiancee as an individual. However, everyone is more than welcome to attack her general epistemological position because, in fact, that is what I am about to do. So consider my incorporation of my fiancee, as mere background to the story of why I've been thinking about this topic.

Ok, so here it goes.

Working Thesis: The choice to merely ignore the progress of human understanding in a life-understanding field of study is unacceptable. What do I mean by unacceptable? Well, I think I mean a couple things. One, it appears to me to be rationally unacceptable. Second, it appears to me to be morally unacceptable.

Rational unacceptability:

                In practically all epistemological frameworks, the human being is considered a rational animal; I think we can all agree on that. Because of this fundamental commonality between all beings who are human, I consider this to be a fundamental part of what it is that makes us human, our claim to fame so to speak. Thus, if a human being fails to use their rational capacities, they cease to function as a human being would. Well wait a minute, does ignoring scientific research mean that an individual is not at all rational? Clearly no. However, is not studying scientific research (and gathering your own thoughts on the matter) an unacceptable omission of human exercises in rationality? I think that it is. Essentially, if one does not study that which attempts to explain the existence we encounter everyday: our body, physical reality, experiences of all sorts, etc. then, one is being flagrantly negligent in living their life as an animal with rational capacities.

Hi Jread,

I disagree with your logic here, but not necessarily your conclusion, I agree with your conclusion, actually.

The way I see it is that negligence applies in the event that one claims a position of knowledge on the matter of human origins. Since most all adults do it follows, to me, that an adult that does not engage their rational capacity and become informed as regards to the scientific study of human origins and condition, then has been negligent, because there would be few exceptions, if any, to adult people making a knowledge claim on these matters.

Quote:

Moral unacceptability:


1. Human knowledge is lesser than God's knowledge.                        [Given]                           [From the Bible]

2. Scientific knowledge is a type of human knowledge.                       [Given]

3. Ignorance is fear or laziness.                                                           [Given]

4. Most theists are ignorant of scientific knowledge.                           [Given]

5. If human knowledge is lesser than God's knowledge, then theists should not fear human knowledge.

6. If scientific knowledge is lesser than God's knowledge, then theists should not fear scientific knowledge.

7. Theists should not fear human knowledge.                                    [1,5] MP

8. Most theists are fearful of studying scientific knowledge.               [4,3]                            In conflict with premise 7 via premises 4 & 3.

9. Scientific knowledge not lesser than God's knowledge.                  [8,6] MT                       Contradiction via premises 1 and 2.

10. Human knowledge is not lesser than God's knowledge.               [9,2]                            Contradiction of premise 1.

 

        Ok, so my logical proof notation may be a bit rusty, but I think that my argument is valid, and hopefully sound. If it is not, then just post up the mistake. [I suspect I may be committing a fallacy of composition in premise 10, so help me out if I am.]

        Back to my point. Because of the derivation of contradictions in lines 9 and 10 coupled with the conflict between premises 7 and 8, I find that this essentially shows a lack of epistemological consistency on behalf of the theist.

I am of a similar mind on this one. I could never quite stomach the framework of apologetics, to what end does it makes sense to defend the 'ultimate' against the something supposed to be comparatively feeble. Same goes for theological politics and churches regulating any secular functions of society. The late push from evangelical christianity to 'win nations for God' by assuming positions of power and authority in secular society is particularly nauseating. To what end would an all powerful creator require us to assume power over things for it? it is nonsensical and incoherent to defend or ally any confrontational position in the name of an all powerful creator against a purportedly weaker force. what on earth could threaten God?

 

 

Quote:

 

 

       Lastly, I wonder if those of you who have known me for a little while now can sense my frustration? 

I can't say that I did, but as you've mentioned it I'll throw in my 2bob.

Some of the worst ignorance in the world is self deception. Ignorance of something you've never encountered or been likely to encounter in the framework of your life experience there's no point begging. But to ignore some proportion of the contents of your own mind is beyond reckoning.

This kind of ignorance has nothing to do with how much you know or do not know, it is entirely a matter of what you do with the knowledge you have, and the very valuable receptacle of consciousness you store it in. 

We all, I think, to some extent have exclusive frameworks of thought which don't always square up with each other perfectly, and when we use one psychological framework to gauge and inform our degree of action it is ordinary and unremarkable for the most to ignore another one which we would apply to other purposes (eg employee hat vs friend hat). 

It's therefore not exactly extraordinary that people use this psychological faculty to the purpose of shelving parts of the same knowledge, like Theism, and justifying contradictory action by putting on a different hat for each action instead of each situation. But it is a frustrating thing to deal with because, and this is just my opinion, at the crux of it the person doing so sees themselves as merely employing a psychological tool that everybody uses. At the basis self-ignorance is seen as a harmless and inviolate prerogative.  Those who closer inspect to see that it isn't all that innocent are then seemingly at the eternal disadvantage of never being able to get across to the other person that there is something ill-intended about it.

Theist badge qualifier : Gnostic/Philosophical Panentheist

www.mathematicianspictures.com


entomophila
ScientistSuperfan
Posts: 233
Joined: 2007-05-04
User is offlineOffline
reality

" In practically all epistemological frameworks, the human being is considered a rational animal..."

What would ever make you think that humans are rational?


jread
SuperfanTheist
jread's picture
Posts: 353
Joined: 2007-05-17
User is offlineOffline
I think I remember reading

I think I remember reading it in a book somewhere. 


jread
SuperfanTheist
jread's picture
Posts: 353
Joined: 2007-05-17
User is offlineOffline
Eloise wrote:I disagree with

Eloise wrote:

I disagree with your logic here, but not necessarily your conclusion, I agree with your conclusion, actually.

 

My overall conclusion or something more specific?

The implication that we should put Darwinism on trial overlooks the fact that Darwinism has always been on trial within the scientific community. -- From Finding Darwin's God by Kenneth R. Miller

Chaos and chance don't mean the absence of law and order, but rather the presence of order so complex that it lies beyond our abilities to grasp and describe it. -- From From Certainty to Uncertainty by F. David Peat


Eloise
Theist
Eloise's picture
Posts: 1804
Joined: 2007-05-26
User is offlineOffline
jread wrote:Eloise wrote:I

jread wrote:

Eloise wrote:

I disagree with your logic here, but not necessarily your conclusion, I agree with your conclusion, actually.

 

My overall conclusion or something more specific?

your specific conclusion that refusal to investigate the science on human origins and condition is rationally unacceptable in itself. A person of maturity simply has no excuse because to be mature is basically to stake some claim to knowledge of such things, the barest of exception may apply but generally I think this is true.

Theist badge qualifier : Gnostic/Philosophical Panentheist

www.mathematicianspictures.com


HisWillness
atheistRational VIP!
HisWillness's picture
Posts: 4100
Joined: 2008-02-21
User is offlineOffline
jread wrote:You do put into

jread wrote:
You do put into perspective the other options of why someone would want to remain scientifically ignorant. But, I still feel that it's wrong to choose to ignore something like science if human beings are to live up to their claim to rationality (and using said rationality).

I think the perspective of selective ignorance is difficult to understand for people who are naturally curious. Some people also feel as though they can't participate in rationality because they're not the sharpest knife in the drawer. The alternative of a supernatural book means they only have that one book to read, and they're in the game. At least, that seems to be the idea that drives theists to this site.

jread wrote:
Isn't this way of thinking a mistake only when applied to theories i.e. thinking they are how things in fact are (the truth). When instead, an individual should view theories as working models that can completely change or be done away with and in no way hold truth claims. Is that what you getting at? If you are, I agree that this is a tough jump to make. I think that the philosophy background I had before going into personal scientific study made this step unnoticable.

There's the wonderful humility of science that doesn't exist for the absolutist. Even if the Theory of evolution (which is capital "T" Theory because it's so incredibly comprehensive and brilliant in its explanation) was tested and observed for another 1,000 years beyond doubt of anyone on the planet, the positivist would of course say that there's still a chance that we'll find those couple of skeletons that tell us we're full of shit. The falisifiability of the positivist postion is also puzzling to theist absolutists, who believe that it's a chink in the armour. For capital T Theory, however, the chance that the model will "completely change or be done away with" is pretty remote. For instance, when Einstein's relativistic models were introduced, they were just able to explain a couple more things than Newton's. From a mathematical perspective, it was a massive leap in understanding and total genius. From the the perspective of earth-bound individuals, one could still easily get by on Newton's equations. That's how solid this stuff is.

jread wrote:
This line of reasoning makes the only choices available to the theist, who thinks this way, to be either that science is true or it is false. If the theist who thinks this was sees that only God is the author of truth, then science is false because only God is the author of truth.

You may be assuming logic where there is none. I would suggest that "my pastor/father/mother is trustworthy, therefore I trust that their claim of biblical truth is valid." That would explain how visceral people can get about this topic. "Are you saying my mother is a liar?" is more of what we get here than actual logical arguments about truth and falsity.

jread wrote:
But this is where I would ask the theist, "Why fear science so much if it is false?" And I would also like to ask, "If science is false, then why is it so hard to disprove? Shouldn't this suggest that there may be at least some value of researching it within a theistic framework?"

You'd still have to break the social trust of those you believe are telling you the truth. That's much more concrete than what might be interpreted as just an  intellectual exercise.

I find the position tough to understand myself.

Saint Will: no gyration without funkstification.
fabulae! nil satis firmi video quam ob rem accipere hunc mi expediat metum. - Terence


jread
SuperfanTheist
jread's picture
Posts: 353
Joined: 2007-05-17
User is offlineOffline
     Will, would you

     Will, would you consider your last two points appeals to emotion on behalf of the theist? For example, they don't want to consider their pastor/father/mother a liar because that would just be too tough to accept. I'm just trying to figure out how to classify the theist's position in those cases.

The implication that we should put Darwinism on trial overlooks the fact that Darwinism has always been on trial within the scientific community. -- From Finding Darwin's God by Kenneth R. Miller

Chaos and chance don't mean the absence of law and order, but rather the presence of order so complex that it lies beyond our abilities to grasp and describe it. -- From From Certainty to Uncertainty by F. David Peat


jread
SuperfanTheist
jread's picture
Posts: 353
Joined: 2007-05-17
User is offlineOffline
Eloise wrote:jread

Eloise wrote:

jread wrote:

Eloise wrote:

I disagree with your logic here, but not necessarily your conclusion, I agree with your conclusion, actually.

 

My overall conclusion or something more specific?

your specific conclusion that refusal to investigate the science on human origins and condition is rationally unacceptable in itself. A person of maturity simply has no excuse because to be mature is basically to stake some claim to knowledge of such things, the barest of exception may apply but generally I think this is true.

This isn't a challenge Eloise, but I was wondering if you might have your own ideas on how to arrive at the conclusion you like using different logic? I would be very interested in mulling over them with you. I like thinking about this kind of stuff a lot.

The implication that we should put Darwinism on trial overlooks the fact that Darwinism has always been on trial within the scientific community. -- From Finding Darwin's God by Kenneth R. Miller

Chaos and chance don't mean the absence of law and order, but rather the presence of order so complex that it lies beyond our abilities to grasp and describe it. -- From From Certainty to Uncertainty by F. David Peat