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A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

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Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979)
 warned of rise of one-dimensional 
man





C. Wright Mills was a sociologist at Columbia University in New York. He is best known for his work The Power Elite.[16] It is from that work that we take the popular phrase of the 1960s, “military industrial complex.” In The Sociological Imagination[17] he explodes the illusions by which the power elite cover their own lack of understanding. His message there is that not only does the system run over the individual but even those who are in charge of it are dragged along by its momentum and don’t really know where they are going. Mills was one of the first thinkers to use the term "post-modern" (which he hyphenated). For Mills, writing in the '50s, modernity had already passed away, post-modernity had dawned. "The ideological mark...[of the post-modern epoch] --that which sets it apart from the modern age-- is that the ideas of freedom and of reason have become moot; that increased rationality may not be assumed to make for increased freedom."[18] As with Schweitzer, Mills reflects that the technological structure separates people from control over or reflection upon the ends of their lives. "Caught in the everyday milieux of their limited lives, ordinary people cannot reason about the greater structures both rational and irrational of which their milieu are subordinate parts."[19] (168).

The individual learns not to reason, but to rationalize the goals and ends of life, and his or her position in the overall scheme of things. Given...the ascendant trend of rationalization, the individual 'does what he can.' He gears his aspirations and his work to the situation he is in and from which he can find no way out. In due course he does not seek a way out: he adapts. That part of his life which is left over from work he uses to play, to consume, to have fun. Yet this sphere of consumption is also being rationalized. Alienated from production, from work, he is also alienated from consumption, from genuine leisure. This adaptation of the individual and its effects upon his milieux and self results not only in the loss of his chance, but in due course of his capacity and will to reason; it also affects his chances and his capacity to act as a free [person]. Indeed, neither the value of freedom nor of reason, it would seem, are known to him.[20]

The end result, according to Mills, is that society becomes filled with "cheerful robots," those who obey the programming of technique and cannot seek alternatives.[21] Mills charged that the social sciences help to further the aims and methods of technique, hiding behind the " scientific objectivity," unwilling to mount any critique. Mills anticipates Herbert Marcuse's work, written in 1964, One-Dimensional Man.




            Herbert Marcuse (July 19, 1898 – July 29, 1979) was a German academic who fled to America to avoid the Nazis in the 30s. He worked for the OAS during the war and latter become the major intellectual powerhouse behind the New Left of the 1960s. He was based in San Diego where the taught, Ronald Reagan tried to have his Doctorate revoked to silence his criticisms of the war and the establishment. He was a Marxist, some say Neo-Marxist he was critical of Stalin and called a revisionist by Stalinists. Marcuse was best known for his seminal work One-Dimensional Man (1964), one of the greatest books of the era and one of primary importance for the century. In One-Dimensional Man, Marcuse argues that affluent capitalist society has been good at providing primary needs to a mass population (despite continuing poverty for some) and it has created a bourgeois society that perpetuates false needs. The American worker has bought into his place in the capitalist order as a cog in the machine, or a bit of overhead for the owners of the means of production, because in exchange will continue to supply the false needs upon which he has become admitted; that is the material trammels of an affluent society.

...The irresistible output of the entertainment and information industry carry with them prescribed attitudes and habits...The products indoctrinate and manipulate; they promote a false consciousness which is immune against falsehood. And as these beneficial products have become available to more individuals, in more social classes, the indoctrination they carry ceases to be publicity; it becomes a way of life. It is a good way of life' much better than before and as a good way of life, it militates against qualitative change. Thus emerges a pattern of one-dimensional thought and behavior, in which ideas, aspirations, and objectives that, by their content, transcend the established universe of discourse and action are either repelled or reduced to terms of this [social-political] universe. They are re-defined by the rationality of the given system and of its quantitative extension.[22] (12).

The prognosis for one-dimensional man doesn’t end with just supporting capitalism as the basis of false needs. The whole concept of being a thinking person who lives in a society in which thinking people can determine their own lives is called into question and in fact done away with because the concept of freedom is illusory and not scientific. The scientistic crowd is telling us that freedom is a trick. The issues of one-dimensional man don’t stop Marxism because there is more to power than just capital vs labor, or capitalism vs. Marxism. Lurking behind the accumulation of false needs (technological version of bread and circuses) is operational thinking. This is what Marcuse means by "quantitative extension of the given system" (quotation above). " The trend [one-dimensional consumer society] may be related to a development in scientific method: operationalism in the physical, behaviorism in the social sciences. The common feature is a total empiricism in the treatment of concepts; their meaning is restricted to the representation of particular operations and behavior...In general, we mean by a conceptnothing more than a set of operations...a positivism which, in its denial of the transcending elements of reason, forms the academic counterpart to the socially required behavior."[23] The positivist and reductionist tendencies of contemporary scientific thought, which props up the technostructure and furnishes it with "empirical proof," works to eliminate all concepts that cannot be quantified, and therefore, eventually ”commodified.”
            Stanly Aronowitz wrote Science as Power, in which he argues two things: power is possessed by a process of legitimating, and science has lent itself to that legitimating at the expense of all other forms of truth.[24] In other words power is not merely taken by a group or an institution but it is built through a process of self legitimating moves. That process is part of the means by which modern science procures funding and perpetuates itself in modern society; by being of use to power through lending itself to the development of the means of power. We see this explicitly through the military but more subtly through industry and the development of technology, the status of scientific funding in the university and so on. In lending itself to power as an enforcement mechanism science subsumes other views and other concepts of truth. This process is inherent since science has always provided a certain aspect of truth in revealing the mechanism through which the natural world functions. Apart form the cultural currying of power, Aronowitz finds, science has an intrinsic power in its conflation of truth and knowledge. “Devising a method of proving the validity of propositions about objects taken as external to the knower has become identical with what we mean by ‘truth.’”[25] In other words science purports to tell us how the physical world stacks up and wont allow any other method to introduce other kinds of truth that it would consider authoritative, that becomes all there is in the world, the physical set up that science can study and quantify. The process by which modern though came to understand itself as its own object, from Plato’s observation of truth as self representing, to Hegel’s notion that consciousness takes itself as its own object, is done away by modern science. [26]Perhaps that’s why atheists have such abhorrence for the subjective. We can’t trust our own perceptions we can only trust that which is produced by the scientific method. The problem is so much of modern science is not procured through the process of empirical verification that is the hallmark of modern science, but must be reached though calculation, in terms of modern quantum theory for example. Then truth comes to be a rubber stamp placed upon “truth” by science. As Aronowitz points out, “Science is truth, and can for this reason represent itself by means of its procedures…self criticism of science is conducted within the boundaries of its own normative structures.”[27]
            The thinkers from Schweitzer to Marcuse and Aronowitz they are all building on the indicators of civilization in decay that Schweitzer originally saw. By the time we get to the end of the twentieth century they are so far gone one dimensional man is established. We are now working on moving from one-dimensional to cheerful robot. There’s a snowball relationship in that the scientistic mentality creates the situation then feeds off of it. Knowledge is reduced to one thing, science, then that one thing is transmogrified from knowledge to technique, or illusion of technique. Finally humanity itself is displaced as freedom is reduced to just anther false need. That is to say freedom becomes confused with the products one buys and with the process of choosing products. The concept of freedom itself is ratcheted down from a personal philosophical understanding of the goals and ends of one’s life to purchasing power to obedience. The real discourse becomes closed around the one possibility left to us, which is how best to obey. When the only form of knowledge is science knowledge of freedom must disappear, there is no freedom in science. The concept of freedom requires a substantial conceptual background to cover all the bases. We have to understand the parameters of freedom, the possibilities, the impediments to freedom, balancing freedom against responsibility and so on. When the only form of knowledge is about the facts of nature and how they work there’s no room for an abstraction like ‘possible freedom.’

Separation from God.

            For those of us who feel we know the reality of God in our lives, this is a great harm. It would rob those who don’t know that reality of the ability to ever learn. Reduction of knowledge to only scientific knowledge, ala the ideological administration of scientism, robs us of knowing God because it reduces religious experience to the level of the “subjective” the emotional, these are greatly things to be avoided in the ideology of scientism. Scienstism portrays itself as rational and objective it places all that does not bow before it in the category of the irrational and the subjective. We have already seen the way new atheism rationalizes scientific protocols to manipulate “God does not exist” into a scientific fact, via Austin Cline (see above FN 7).  To reprise that statement:
"this alleged entity has no place in any scientific equations, plays no role in any scientific explanations, cannot be used to predict any events, does not describe any thing or force that has yet been detected, and there are no models of the universe in which its presence is either required, productive, or useful." [28]
But that’s just circular reasoning because it assumes at the outset that since there is no argument that is deemed acceptable scientifically, there can be no warrant for belief in God. As long as the only form of knowledge is science then the only valid argument is scientific. While there are valid scientifically based arguments for God (see chapters nine and ten) there is no “fact” accepted in science such that “God exists.” Therefore, any argument for the existence of God is met with “that’s disproved before we start because it’s not science.” Cutting off other forms of knowledge the gate keepers of scientific acuity merely denounce warrant for belief based upon their own prejudices. Based upon that assumption it is deemed “unscientific” to argue for such a warrant. In fact what I’m saying is that scientists are human and they embody the same prejudices as anyone. That has to be ignored when the only from of knowledge is science because the human factor is not part of the scientific process. Thus belief in God is removed from reality by a series of protocols that amount to nothing more than jumped up ideology.

God belief and the realm of discourse

            Belief in God is more than just belief in an entity. It’s also the basis for rejecting the closed realm of discourse. This is true for two reasons, (1) because as the Transcendental signified God sets in motion the basic first principles that serve as premises of logic. God determines the basis upon which truth is held, since God alone is the ultimate creator then God alone is the final assigner of meaning. Thus the realm of discourse can never be truly closed by temporal power or human concerns. (2) Because in a practical sense the open nature of discourse depends to a great deal upon the understanding of technique. When we come to vest the illusion of technique with all power and all logic then we vest it with all right. That’s when we start thinking its right to pursue actions merely because we have the physical prowess to do so. As long as God is understood as the orbiter of truth no human technique affords one the efficacy to close the realm of discourse around any one social project. An example of what I’m talking about is the case of a worker in stem cell research who was injured by the technology but was denied direct medical care. “I was denied directed medical care for exposures from dangerous embryonic stem technologies incurred while at work. Unbelievably, I was denied under the premise that ‘trade secrets’ supersede a worker’s right to specific exposure information. Welcome to the embryonic stem cell world, a world of legal quagmire where human rights and public rights are slated toward the chopping block.”[29]

In fact, the public has been fooled. The embryonic stem cell research industry is far from the altruistic persona it has painted itself to be. Rather, embryonic stem cell research is about big money, first and foremost. It is about securing a position of power within the economic and legal mainstream of the American public. That is why biotech worker’s rights regarding safety and healthcare have been denied. That is why, unfortunately, the public’s right will be denied too.

And the media has not helped. The media has purposely turned the human embryonic stem cell debate into a polarized “religion versus science” contest.

But issues lying in-between those two polarities contain much of the tainted meat that can negatively impact the public toward human rights. These concerns get no media attention. The public remains ignorant. In fact, the public lacks an understanding of the legal, social and cultural effects that could negatively impact them as advanced technologies move forward.[30]

What’s the link from science as the only form of knowledge and this case? The realm of discourse is closed around the illusion of technique. Ethical consideration disappear because we have the technology we know how to do it, it’s sanctioned by the thinking experts who make decisions for us. These are the guys that know stuff, there’s no knowledge outside of science, these are scientists so they must know all about ethics and if they do can do it, must be good to do.





[16] C Wright Mills, the Power Elite. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1956. No page given.
[17] C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination. New York, London: Oxford University Press, 1967 (originally 1959)
[18] Ibid, 167
[19] Ibid., 168
[20] Ibid., 170
[21] Ibid., 171
[22] Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Soceity. Boston: Beacon Press, 1964, 12.
[23] Ibid.
[24] Stanley Aronowitz, Science as Power: Discourse and Ideology In Modern Society.Minneapolis Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1988, ix.
Stanley Aronotwitz is professor of Sociology and cultural studies at CUNY Graduate Center, New York. He is a long time cultural critic and political activist.
[25] Ibid., vii.
[26] Ibid.
[27] Ibid., viii the idea about quantum physics he states on page ix
[28] Austin Cline, “Scientifically God Does Not Exist: Science allows us to say God Does not Exist, there is role for God in science, no explanation that God can provide.” About.com, Agnosticism/Atehism. Online publication:http://atheism.about.com/od/argumentsagainstgod/a/GodScience.htm  accessed 12/27/13.
[29] Becky A. McClain, “Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding Threatens Human Rights and Public Interests.” Watchdog on Science. On line resource. Septermber 14, (2010). http://watchdogonscience.blogspot.fr/2010/09/embryonic-stem-cell-research-funding.html   
accessed. 1/15/14.
[30] Ibid.


3 comments:

I don't throw out compliments, as you know, Meta: but that's one of your best articles ever. A fine conclusion to that chapter you're working on!

JRP

thanks man I appreciate it

Pretty disturbing stuff there Joe. But I think your analysis explains much about where we are socially.

As long as the only form of knowledge is science then the only valid argument is scientific. While there are valid scientifically based arguments for God (see chapters nine and ten) there is no “fact” accepted in science such that “God exists.” Therefore, any argument for the existence of God is met with “that’s disproved before we start because it’s not science.”

Yep. What you describe there is the best of all possible atheistic worlds in the guise of honest intellectual inquiry. "My understanding of science says that God cannot be a scientific concept. Now please give me some scientific evidence for God."

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