On What There Isn't, Research Time, 22/12/2017

Here’s another takeaway from the chapter in What Is Philosophy? about the nature of science – Atheism is ridiculous.

Now, I’m not talking about the many different schools of thoughtful, philosophically rigorous, conceptually beautiful atheism that people have discussed and believed in for millennia.

Forget about Bertrand Russell’s arguments for skepticism. Forget Nietzsche’s disturbingly ethical rejection of Christianity, on grounds that it was a morality that made people weak and resentful. Leave the Hellenic Cynics behind.

He's just so smug. Frankly, all the trolling jerks and fascists are so
insufferably smug. Have fascists ever been quite so irritating as
they are today?
I’m going to come back to Spinoza, because of course I am.

Think about that shrill atheism of people like Richard Dawkins.* Dawkins own second, longest, and most annoying wave as a public intellectual began with his advocacy for atheism in the early 1990s. Deleuze was writing What Is Philosophy? He knew who Dawkins was, and would have heard talk of his new books.

* Canadian politics sidebar. Do you think Jordan Peterson might be shooting to become the Richard Dawkins for the revanchist set? Dawkins courted a populist college kid atheism of thinking religion was stupid. Peterson’s demo simply thinks the same about women’s rights. I think a severe category shift just happened.

Science and religion don’t need to be hostile to each other. They are pretty much all the time, but it’s not necessary.

I think the secret is in the ideology of Western science that’s grown up around it for the past couple of centuries. It goes – Science can investigate the entire universe, discovering the truth in the material world and proving religion empty dogma. The Galileo Myth, you could call it.

Galileo the person is totally absent from this mythic version of him so many of us learned, if not in school, then on PBS. His estate eventually licensed his image for use in the cleaned-up PIXAR-perfect movie version of his life.

The general method of science is to describe the world as it is in the greatest possible detail. Its domain is the entire universe.

Deleuze has the very rare clarity to say that this means science will inevitably fragment disciplines fractally ad infinitum – and that’s great! We need scientific knowledge to find out more and more about the world. We need scientific knowledge to help us figure a way out of this economic-ecological-political clusterfuck we’re in as a global civilization.

Pictured: A proper atheist. I only wish official portraits of
Spinoza depicted him as how brown he really was. The
man was born in Amsterdam to a family of Portuguese-
Jewish immigrants. Put him in a time machine, he would
likely fit in fine walking around Marrakech or east LA.
But that truth contradicts the today’s cult of populist atheism. Because populist atheism has two founding Myths – Galileo and Einstein. Well, more like Galileo’s Myth and Einstein’s Word.** E=mc2

** Fitting that the Man be Catholic and the Word be Jewish. Moses heard the Word and Christ had become the Man.

The ideology of populist scientific atheism has twin foundations. 1) Science’s truth stands against religion’s dogmas; 2) The most universal truth of science will be simple enough to put on a T-shirt.

I remember reading Stephen Hawking talk about the theory of everything having as simple a heart as E=mc2. These days, I can’t believe someone apparently so smart could be so naive.

When you understand the world in more and more detail, it doesn’t make things simpler. It makes things more complicated. There are so many domains of knowledge – what there is to be learned gets denser and denser. Each scientific discipline is a different domain of knowledge.

Real scientific investigation – discovering more about the world – will never unify all the domains because such an investigation moves in the opposite direction as simplicity and unity.

Empirical knowledge expands and proliferates – even the most arcane theoretical work relies on the empirical reality of having to make sense of our everyday world.

What about religion? God isn’t something you find like you find the Higgs Boson, building an experiment to detect God by a predicted ancillary affect. God isn’t even something you find like your car keys, remembering that they slid off the table where you threw them coming home and you thought you’d pick them up later.

You want to know how you discover God? Read Spinoza. Second time you read it, start with Book One. First time you read it, start with Book Five and go backwards. You find God in learning more about the world, and how to move with ease, happiness, and joy within it.

You realize that when a real atheist says, “I believe only in material reality,” he is literally saying, “I believe only in God.” Substance. Material reality, of which we’re each a flickering little quirky process.

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