Rationality

February 19, 2011 on 3:50 pm | In Deep Thoughts, Faith | No Comments

While I do enjoy the story, Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, when I encountered the sentiment (referring to Aslan from Narnia) that if the Lion existed, we wouldn’t be necessary, I finally realized what was nagging at me: rationality had been taken too far.

The claim that we would be unnecessary if God existed assumes that we can comprehend God’s motives — that He operates either the way we do or at least in ways that we can imagine — but, by definition, that is not God the Creator of the Universe. God defies rationality because, by definition, He transcends anything we can describe.

Rationality is basically the application of the scientific method to everything we experience. For it to work, experiences must be reproducible. Religions experiences, however, are notorious for being irreproducible. This does not mean they are not real, only that it is difficult or impossible to apply the scientific method. If there actually is a higher plane of existence with one Intelligence or multiple intelligences that help or interfere on our plane, then there is no reason why they should play along with our attempts to understand them. They probably look at us the way we look at ants, so our science cannot find them.

Of course, history is littered with examples of tunnel vision rationality. The earth seems completely solid, so it took a long time for plate tectonics to be accepted. Newtonian mechanics worked so well that everybody had a lot of trouble believing Einstein’s theory of Relativity. (Einstein received the Nobel Prize in Physics for the explanation of the photoelectric effect, not for Relativity.) Einstein himself fought against quantum mechanics and the existence of black holes.

Two hundred years from now, today’s theories will surely also be viewed as incomplete or even obsolete. The people who will be remembered in the future for advancing mankind’s understanding will be those who dug deeper, not those who were satisfied with the existing theories. In the case of spirituality, it does seem awfully difficult to find a place to start, but people do have unexplained experiences, even after you weed out the crackpots. Personally, I believe that God has spoken to me, guided me, and answered prayers. Shouldn’t we at least try to investigate, rather than dismissing it as pure nonsense or overactive imagination?

Of course, we might not like what we discover. The more we learn about the brain, the more what I call me appears to be merely chemistry. There are many famous examples of radical personality shifts due to localized damage in one part or another of the brain. Psychoactive drugs can achieve the same effects.

What, then, is the soul? Will there be anything left after we fully understand the brain? Is the point of developing character to create a particular wiring pattern in the brain that something on a higher plane of existence can copy to a different substrate, thereby providing life after death? Nobody knows, but it would certainly be interesting to find out.

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