Friday, September 4, 2009
Why Head-Over-Heart, Head-Over-Hormone, Head-Over-Heaven?
When I explain to some folks the basics of being a "Militant Enlightenmentist," a few always wonder if I'm putting the scientific method on a pedestal. Does inductive reasoning itself become a religion, if you're trying to advance the Enlightenment by all means necessary?
Let's clear up a few issues here. I think that faith-based ways of knowing are entirely legitimate, and that some resonances deserve supernatural explanations. I think that sometimes, the best way to comprehend something is in love or anger or joy or fear, not in logic. I think there are times when horniness conquers all.
But there is a special reason why science, mathematics, and logic deserve a special place, besides the fact that they work the best to sort out what certainly appears to be an independent physical world out there. We live in a multicultural world. Faith-based ways of knowing like to boast of a "universal truth," but you can say "Jesus is the way, the truth, and the light" until you're blue in the face to a Buddhist, and it won't mean a damned thing. You can insist others respond in anger to some outrage, but if the person you are talking to does not consider honor a trait worth honoring, your appeals will go nowhere. You can insist the time for pheromones is now, but sometimes no means no.
However, scientific and mathematical laws operate across all cultures at all times. Logic in both Boolean and abstract forms simply is. We may not agree that the eight-legged creature on the wall is called a "spider," but we agree about the characteristics we have learned through observation and experimentation. And that's why science, math, and logic hold the trump cards. Call upon authorities like God or the president or daddy all you want, get angry or funny and expect others to share your emotions, let yourself be ruled by the times you're in heat, but none of those factors operates across cultures. The Enlightenment is a trump card that holds certain truths common across all sentient beings, and that trump card beats out holy books and limbic systems and hormones.