2007/05/31

Rationality versus religion, a non-sense debate.

To make any sense about religion and rationality, it seems to me that, we have first to situate them in a societal evolutionary perspective and I'm afraid that the question has to be viewed from within the more globally encompassing framework of what is humanity and how it does operate. What I mean to say is that the reproduction and then the evolution of humanity (as an ensemble) necessitates a balancing mechanism in order to keep in check its polarities: societies and individuals.

Individuals tend to push the envelope of individualism which leads to change while societies tend to preserve, at any cost, the existing against such change.

With the start of civilization physical force appeared insufficient to keep in check populations scattered over always enlarging territories. When the men of power awakened to this reality they understood that the only way out for guaranteeing the reproduction of their power over their subjects was to find some psychic glue, in the form of the sharing by all of a common worldview, and impose it on their subjects.

In the Middle-East the men of power recoursed to religion as the shared worldview. But the religions of the word got their biggest boost from the Roman Emperor Constantine's decision to impose Christianity as the official religion of the empire. This is what made Christianity to become the shared worldview of all in Europe and of all in Europe's outposts around the world.
Force here is to observe that in other geographic areas the men of power did not recourse to religion but used the existing animist philosophies of life: Hinduism, Taoism, ... to unite their subjects.

What is slowly starting to sink in our consciousness is that:
1. individuals can't survive without belonging to societies
2. societies can't survive without the sharing by the individuals of a common worldview.

Animism, religions, philosophies and rationality are "worldviews".

In Western late-modernity religion can only be considered as a reliquary of history while science and rationality are the "worldview" of the men of knowledge of modernity. What I mean to say here is that to each particular period of history in each particular area of the world corresponds a given reality and a given "worldview" and it just makes no sense to try to re-apply today the worldview of past conditions.

On the doorstep of post-modernity we vaguely sense that the worldview of modernity, rationality, will necessarily be overtaken by a more globally encompassing knowledge system... The philosophy of rationality was derived out of the application of the logic of capital along several centuries. It laid the groundwork for the blooming of science that radically swept away past conceptions about reality but, in the end of the day, we are forced to observe that science left us in a societal quandary.

Tt appears clearer every passing day that the belief in science as the ultimate discoverer of reality was no more than adolescent certitude. The overwhelming immensity of our universe starts only to sink in our consciousness but it already let's us perceive the impossibility for science to ever come to the end of its quest for understanding. This means that we are bound, in essence, to remain in the dark about the nature of the whole in which we are such tiny particles... But this does in no way diminish the fundamental jump in the quality of our observations and deductions that science helped us to reach along these last centuries. This only brings us back to our senses from our adolescent dreams.

At this point two factors impose themselves to our attention:

1. Science is not a complete system of understanding, in other words, it can't offer us all the answers and, it is by now proven scientifically that, it never will. From this we know that science could never bring us a satisfactory story about reality for all to share.

2. For reasons that are still not well understood science, as the worldview of modernity, has been left to fight for credibility on the societal "level playing field" with all kinds of charlatans. The men of power under modernity did not further impose any worldview on their subjects. In other words the separation of power and knowledge under modernity left both isolated in their specialization and each went it alone along their own way.
Even if we make abstraction of this separation of power and knowledge, we have to recognize that the body of knowledge accumulated by science is nothing but a very complex system that can only be approached through many, many, years of studies without ever a chance of an end in sight. Such a system does not exactly qualify to be reduced into a simple story that could be given to all for sharing.

For reasons that I wrote about, in my book Artsense and in articles in Crucial Talk, I believe that our future shall witness a radical departure from the present and that post-modern societies will be given to share a new worldview answering the conditions of those particular times.

Under the aegis of "necessity" the knowledge level playing field, where the complex system embodied by science is left to compete for attention with all kinds of simple "foundational" stories, has a high probability to be superseded in a foreseeable future by a re-convergence of power and knowledge. My writing and my painting are entirely focused on the new knowledge that, I think, is bound to spread in the future. The power aspect is not a concern of mine but I nevertheless think that power shall eventually be involved, at a certain stage, in the spreading of that knowledge...

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