Science is a Cultural Construct: Supernatural is a Fact


Last time I wrote an article about the atheist IQ scam, round II, the latest go round with Nybrog and friends. We have not heard the last of the IQ issue, I still plan to write part 2. Yet there is an aspect of that last post that I want to go into while I'm writing part 2. One aspect of that bear further reflection, that's what Brown said about the Flynn effect. The Flynn effect is the notion that IQ's have been rising, that the IQ's of our great grand parents would have been extremely low, low enough to count as restarted. The reason is because, as I said in that article:


This is all very self referential because IQ is only measuring IQ not intelligence. Brown talks about the Flynn ects which shows that IQ's are getting higher. Our children will be smarter than us, we are smarter than our parents and grandparents. The problem is they are only getting higher not because people are really smarter but because the concentrated urban environment re-writes cultural literacy. It's the same problem as the bell curve. In the olden days people lived in the country and hunted. So a question "what do a god and rabbit have in common?" the old answer was "use dog to hunt rabbit." Yet this is now a wrong answer. Now we don't hunt and we are all into scinece, so the right answer is they are both mammals. Thus people in the ancient past are automatically stupid compared to us. Flynn finds that by modern stagehands the average student around 1900 had an IQ between 50-70. So how did they even function? A person today with an IQ of 50 would be profoundly restarted, live in an insinuation and not be able to tie his shoes. Yet doctors, Lawyers, and bankers rant he world with IQ that would today be 60-70.

Andrew Brown's Blog
online Gurdian
Brown reflects:

The answer, he [Flynn--of Flynn effect] says, is that one of the things that IQ tests measure is "post-scientific operational thinking". This is not the same as scientific thinking. But it is thinking about the world in terms of the categories by which science understands it. For instance, if you ask, "What do dogs and rabbits have in common", the post-scientific answer, that we would now regard as evidence of intelligence, is that they are both mammals. The pre-scientific answer is that you use a dog to hunt a rabbit. That's what matters about the two animals, not what class they belong to.

It is that kind of difference in reasoning which accounts for the huge measured IQ differences between urban and rural Brazil, and, of course, the fantastically low IQs measured in African countries.

But could something similar be true of religion? In particular, could dogmatic and fundamentalist religion be more useful to the poor and wretched? Could it lift them to the stage where they could experiment with doubt, with nuance, with novelistic thinking? The history of the early Methodists suggests exactly this. Remember John Wesley's reflection on his own success:

The Methodists in every place grow diligent and frugal; consequently they increase in goods. Hence they proportionately increase in pride, in anger, in the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life. So, although the form of religion remains, the spirit is swiftly vanishing away.

Brown is putting the spin on poverty as the big divide in culture. There's more to it than that. What is being tested it seem in the IQ tests are cultural literacy and puzzle working. Cultural literacy is part of the world of cultural constructs. Of course how could it not be. When I say that science is a cultural construct atheists go nuts laughing and mocking because they think science is a fact only new age Postmodern nitwits think things like this. Here's a perfect example. The mammalian answer becomes a scientific answer. It's based upon a scientific fact, rather a perceived fact. Lesson one in cultural constructs: taxonomy is a construct. We don't have to classify rabbits or dogs as mammals, all we have to do is change the way we define mammal. That's taxonomy, that's how you classify stuff and we can classify stuff any way we want to. That means it's not a "fact" of nature, it's not written into the gene code, the genome for rabbits doesn't have a gene that says "I am a mammal." To assume there is a scientific fact that can' t change to say "rabbits are mammals" is to say there's a mammalian essence that is somehow extracted from the natural and exits in some real a part from actual rabbits in the woods. That's Paternalism; that's actually part of the world of philosophy and spiritual stuff that's been done away by science.

What does it mean that science nerds can't see this? I can just see some atheists saying "that's crazy you just don't know anything about science (that's what they say when I point out their mistakes) you don't know what mammals are. I do know what mammals are, but I also know that taxonomy is not based upon essences but upon the way we see things. The way we agree to classify mammals could change. Chinese classified horses as "ordinary," "superlative" and "belonging to the emperor." Those were written into nature, for them, as much as mammals are born live, have hair and eat hay is written in for us. That's all a matter of the way you want to see it. You can re-order your classification system any way you wish. This sort of thing is discussed at length by Michele Foucault, in his ground breaking work The Order of Things. I highly recommend it for some eye opening truths about postmodern thinking.

This is a perfect example of science as a cultural construct. Because the mammal answer on the IQ test is not only based upon a "scientific fact" (the fact is that we classify both animals as mammals, not that there is some essence of mammal-hood that both contain) and the fact of it as the right answer on the IQ test as contributing a small bit to the modern perception of IQ's becomes a scientific fact as well. The fact of it being "the right answer." The reality that the "right answer" is purely a matter of cultural reactivity remains obscured. Thus the illusion that scientific facts can't change or be products of culture is enhanced by the fact that if you don't answer the question in such a way as to give the assumption that it's a fact, then you are stupid.

This same phenomenon is undoubtedly true for all the spiritual and theological things that are being ignored and set and mocked and ridiculed by atheists. Look at easily the atheists say "theology is stupid," having never read any not known anything about it. If those guys were writing the IQ test they would say "the supernatural is false and stupid" is a true answer. Then they look back and say "ok this means people who believe in supernatural are less intelligent." Hey, a standardized test says so! That's proof that's a fact. If the test says it than it's fact. You are are even stupider if you don't believe it. They don't have an IQ on which the atheists who get this culturally relative bit are ranked as stupid, but I rank them so--the one's that don't get this.

So far we have a good illustration of science as a cultural construct, especially true of taxonomy related ideas, and the failure of standardized testing (yech! on that I say "poowie") there's more. My concerns are greater. Think of what it's doing to the culture. The culture takes this stuff and uncritically disseminates it. The way our parents and grand parents thought about the world just becomes this fossil that no one understands, even the people who study history and anthropology are separated from it forever by a thick film of cultural relativity. Belief in the spirit and what means changes, becomes a thing of ridicule, and so on. Saying "smart people don't believe that" is really more like saying "the cool don't believe that." That's all it is. We are not doing this for survival. It's not like our neolithic ancestors so really modern culture that enshrines such relativity is more a matter of cultural acceptance (being cool or not) than "fact."

This does mean all of us who believe in a supernatural (whatever that is) are like fossils or frozen out of the "modern" scene. We are officially stupid because belief in things not "scientifically factual" become "scientific fact." Even though one would have to go through scientific fact with a fine tooth comb to separate what is truly fact from what is culturally relative. This is why I feel a dinosaur knowing about the musical career of Joan Baez or who Richard Farnina was. There's more to it than that. It's going to mean that we don't associate art and literature with factual things. These are no longer marks of intelligence; they are now decoration or hobby or whatever. The culture itself becomes shaped around "scientific thinking." The so called "scientific" answer is the right answer on the IQ test, even though others kinds of answers could be right given a different cultural context. This is what we in the olden days used to call "cultural bias." The mentality and insight that saw it that way is now part of the stupid answer, and enshrining the pseudo-scientific as fact is now the smart answer.

The quote by Wesley above puts the dichotomy between spirit and materialism in terms of prosperity choking out the spiritual. Even that is part of the antiquated view of the past that becomes the stupid answer on the IQ test. The other dichotomy there that Brown might not have thought of is between culturally relative pseudo-science and reality. The reality is the experience of the spirit (religious experience) can't be stopped or made null and void by an IQ test. People will have these experiences and be drawn closer to God even if they call it that. The experiences are the supernatural. This was the case when the words was coined by Dionysus in 500 AD (On Divine Names and Mythical Theology). Even if we don't classify them that way (theology is a kind of taxonomy in it's own right), they will continue to be real and people will go on having them.


Mr. Mark said…
I'm a fan of science and I guess I'm sort of nerdy (wear glasses, goofy, uncoordinated - but never got into Star Trek, so I dunno).

However, I don't see the reason for the big conflict between science and Christianity. I agree with neither the militant atheists who try to use science and reason to attack Christian belief nor with the Christians who, with the greatest of intentions, attempts to defend Christianity through refutation of science. To me, both of you are tripping over the furniture and face-planting into the floor.

I am certain that many other Christians would disagree with some of my views on science. However, there are a few things that we should be able to agree on. Chief among these are:

1. God created our universe. If science reveals that there are multiple universes, then he created all of them. There is nothing that was not created by God, one way or another.

2. God is therefore unconstrained by the laws which govern his creations. For instance, if time is linked with space and all things in our universe are bound by time (things happen in a certain order, we experience time in only one direction, so on and so forth), that does not mean that God is bound by time. God created time. God can constrain himself to time if he wants to, or he can choose not to. It's up to God. Likewise with every other characteristic of our universe: mathematics, reason and logic, matter, energy, everything.

Now, apply these two ideas to the various debates with militant atheists.

Atheist: There is no evidence of God.

Me: So?

See how different that is from falling into the atheist's trap of fighting this battle by his rules? Why do we need evidence? The atheist is appealing to reason. God is not bound by reason. I don't need reason to believe in God. I only need faith.

Atheist: The universe has existed forever (this could be viewed as applying whether or not you believe in the Big Bang theory)

Me: Okay. Definitely possible.

Now, many a fellow Christian would be angry with me for not arguing on this point. I, however, don't see anything to argue about. It is entirely acceptable to me that it may be simultaneously true that God created the universe and that the universe has been here forever. God is not constrained by the parameters that constrain the universe.

You can continue to apply this to just about everything that the militant atheists blather at you.

The atheist chooses not to believe in the absence of reason. He lacks faith.

I choose to believe in the absence of reason, and that is because of my faith.

Science does not contradict God. Science reveals the nature of that which God has created. (And I'm a proponent of evolution! Like I said, many Christians would disagree with some of my views...)

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