• Defending Richard Dawkins, Yet Upholding the Fully Natural and Logically Necessary Praxeology of God

    Email Print
    Share


    DIGG THIS

    The
    unseemly antagonistic tone of Richard Dawkins' latest book on the
    so-called God
    Delusion
    has prompted uneasy reviews, even in the professional
    scientific press. However, it contains a remarkable concession of
    sorts. While Dawkins' very explicitly aims to dismiss supernatural
    conceptions of God, Dawkins also very carefully differentiates his
    primary targets from the naturalistic and rationalistic conceptions
    of God of the sort advocated by Spinoza and Einstein. While Dawkins
    certainly doesn't endorse such views, he does leave a huge door
    for rational persuasion wide open. Can't we meet the challenge of
    objectively demonstrating the objective existence of God on such
    grounds, especially given the many considerable 20th century advances
    in the realm of logical ontology (notably including praxeology)?
    I claim that we can do so — and that this will show that "naturalistic
    ontology" is fundamentally much richer (and more "nearly
    supernatural" in some respects) than is commonly supposed.

    Far
    too much of substance has been written on efforts to prove the existence
    of God to adequately survey here. Lacking space for that, we should
    at least then briefly mention the very most noteworthy observations
    about such efforts. (1) The primary motivation for finding such
    proofs is to objectively persuade people concerning the "God
    of ultimately supreme ethical relevance." However, proving
    the existence of a too-abstract or a too-general conception of God
    alone is generally a rather barren achievement in this respect.
    (For example, the ethical import of "the most perfect possible
    being" may be too negligible, or it may be too indeterminate.)
    (2) Attempting to prove the existence of God is an extremely error-prone
    endeavor, and many brilliant philosophers and logicians have stumbled
    here. (For example, purported "first cause" proofs and
    "ontological" proofs are notoriously prone to subtle fallacies.
    Another common problem is finding suitable premises that do not
    inadvertently indirectly presume key characteristics to be proved
    — even the extraordinarily brilliant 20th century logician Kurt
    Gödel fell prey to a subtle version of this error.) A couple
    of possible reasons (among many) for such logical difficulties immediately
    suggest themselves. (a) Their knowledge of logic may be very advanced
    yet deficient in some key respect (for example, due to a missing
    or incompletely qualified axiom). (b) Their conception of God may
    not be sufficiently correct (for example, due to over-generalized
    or mistaken attributes). I claim that others have found effective
    ways around all of these problems.

    Now
    for the scientifically fun part of universal logic. What follows
    is a highly abbreviated proof prospectus that omits many important
    steps and qualifications, but which still aims at outlining a fascinating
    realm of inquiry. By "universal logic" we mean logic in
    the most general sense of the universal common logic that is inevitably
    presupposed in all meaningful propositional (conceptual) thought
    and communication (whether mostly correct or not, whether ambiguous
    or not, whether fictional or not, whether metaphorical or not) —
    and which thereby covers all purported doctrines of God, logic,
    semantics, and so on. (Our logical point of departure is a fairly
    minimal and conventional conception of logic that includes the 2
    Aristotelian axioms of logic, plus the traditional law of identity.
    This basis is sufficient to ultimately prove that this basis is
    just the most classically evident threshold of a vastly richer and
    greater system of ultimately fundamental logical ontology. Done
    carefully, this sort of logical bootstrapping approach avoids many
    traditional problems and common pitfalls, including invalid logical
    circularity.)

    Given
    the many contending conceptions of God (even within the same religious
    traditions, and sometimes even within the same denominations), which
    is the objectively best one to use? We obviously can't prove the
    existence of God based on ontologically flawed conceptions. Indeed,
    a major reason for proving the existence of God is to positively
    identify a generally correct conception of God, and thereby to fairly,
    honestly, and objectively adjudicate among the many contending conceptions
    of God (and especially their corresponding ethical implications).
    We can increase the odds of success (and increase the general relevance
    of success) by concentrating on the single most generally important
    feature of God.

    What
    characteristic of God is most generally important overall in our
    objective quest to prove the existence of God? (That's notably a
    special-case question of maximal instrumental objective value. This
    same sort of "categorical pattern" is reused in a reflexively
    wider context below.) Given that our primary interest is ethical,
    we are seeking the objective God of universal objective ethics.
    So our initial aim is identifying whatever has the provisionally-assumed
    characteristic of universally-supreme instrumental objective value.
    (If our provisional presumption fails, we'll revise it.) This is
    the categorically-designated concept of God that we will be using
    from now on. (It appears to be a tactical error of complexity-increasing
    overgeneralization to prematurely presume that God is most-importantly
    a non-instrumental value.) Loosely speaking, we are provisionally
    assuming that the "objective means to the ultimate truth"
    is an important part of the "objectively ultimate truth,"
    and seeing where that leads us. (The "objectively ultimate
    truth" may be much more of a "generally progressive condition"
    of value "orientation" or "direction" than an
    "end" value or "destination." "God is the
    way" as it were — the eternally continuable direction
    and progressive condition of ethical quality, not a final end point.)

    It
    might seem that our "universally-supreme" qualifier unfairly
    favors monotheism and unfairly discriminates against pantheism,
    polytheism, and some process theologies (among other possibilities).
    However, our attempts at proof can't succeed if we have presumed
    wrongly here, so this is a matter of semi-educated guessing, not
    fairness.

    It
    turns out that you can't get very far with our provisional principal
    criterion of God, because all roads seem to reflexively lead back
    to the axioms of logic. Indeed, there is a shortcut to seeing this
    more directly: deny that logic has our provisionally assumed principal
    characteristic of God, which then gives you a performative contradiction.
    That's a very interesting and very important result, since it could
    be due to our presumption being at least partly axiomatic. (The
    means for positively identifying axioms is a topic for another discussion.
    Self-contradicting statements do not necessarily involve negated
    axioms. Paradoxical statements are warnings that the logic of negation
    is pitfall-ridden due to subtle semantic issues.) The implications
    of this approach are that almost all attempts to prove the existence
    of God have been tantamount to standing on the face of God and looking
    elsewhere — so no wonder that countless such past attempts repeatedly
    (and inevitably) failed. If the axioms of logic are genuinely universally
    fundamental, they must be universally-supreme instrumental objective
    values that are thereby also the primary constitutive characteristics
    of God.

    The
    axiomatic fundamentality and universality of logic reflexively precludes
    all other God options (at least of the objectively ethically-supreme
    kind), and so this logically naturalistic characterization of God
    completely circumvents the supernaturalism that so vexes Richard
    Dawkins. Moreover, Dawkins' beloved evolutionary processes must
    adapt neurobiology in approximate accordance with God in order to
    successfully manifest rational sentience. Hence, it may be almost
    inevitable that many people will be reflexively predisposed to develop
    some sort of vague "God intuitions" (albeit most likely
    multiply-conceived, and most likely overly-generalized towards the
    concrete or abstract) in the course of seriously inquiring into
    the ultimate nature of their experiential universe. In our very
    complex world, the "God doctrines" inspired by "the
    God intuition" naturally tend to be error-prone, but that hardly
    makes them primarily manifestations of irrationality — contrary
    to Dawkins' ironically irrational presumptions about this issue.

    But
    how can this necessary (although possibly partial at this point)
    identification of God and the universally-supreme instrumental objective
    values of universal logic be correct? — logic sure don't look like
    God (or even the fingerprints of God), so to speak. That's certainly
    true, but here we must be very careful not confuse the map with
    the territory. The traditional map (statement) of logical axioms
    is typically very inaccurately rendered — due to omitting the important
    principal qualifying conditions of their axiomatic applicability,
    and due to omitting their direct axiomatic corollaries. Moreover,
    we must recognize that the map here is radically incomplete — as
    we've just discovered, there should be an additionally recognized
    axiom that reflexively states the collective logically-fundamental
    status of the universal axioms as specifications of the universally-supreme
    instrumental objective values (that you should believe and use).
    This 4th axiom of universal logic calls for deep and very profound
    revisions to conventional views of the ultimate nature of logic
    and ontology. The praxeological action axiom (and its immediate
    axiomatic corollaries) is also notably typically missing from contemporary
    lists of logical axioms. This 5th axiom of universal logic calls
    for still further major revisions to our logical value worldview.
    (By the way, it's a terrible pedagogical blunder to call "value-invariant"
    praxeological statements "value-free" — such mindless
    "value-free" usage seriously corrupts ontological intuition
    and hobbles thinking.) Looking at the traditionally badly-expressed
    and stunted list of 3 logical axioms is like looking at the near-noontime
    shadow of a spectacular soaring cathedral — it's no wonder that
    almost everyone completely misses the spectacular crowning glory
    of universal logic when presented with such a pitiful shadow of
    the real thing.

    We
    have now integrally incorporated both the critical special case
    of (person-invariant) universally-supreme objective instrumental
    values and the general category of (person-specific) subjective
    values (which can congruently coincide with both person-specific
    and person-invariant objective values) into the axiomatic formulation
    of universal logic. Each of these steps alone is a radical advance,
    and both together catapult us into the genuinely scientifically-universal
    realm of logic whose foundations transcend many prevailing false
    dichotomies, including the morally-logically horrid science-religion
    dichotomy. For example, the most important cases of the "fact-value"
    and "is-ought" dichotomies (and related "naturalistic
    fallacies") are largely circumvented, since the most fundamental
    axiomatic facts of universal reality are intrinsically universally-supreme
    objective instrumental values.

    The
    fundamental logical primacy of intensional logic (versus extensional
    set-theoretic logic, which is pathologically subject to Gödel's
    incompleteness theorems) should also be recognized as an axiom (albeit
    arguably as an axiomatic corollary of the other axioms). We can
    then consider the reflexive applications of this system to our thinking
    about it, and so seek further axiomatic corollaries.

    It's
    a common logical error to regard some axioms as being more fundamental
    than the others. By virtue of being logically axiomatic, all of
    the axioms and their direct axiomatic corollaries are ontologically
    co-fundamental. In mathematics, it's common practice to select out
    and only state one of several possible minimalist sets of mutually-independent
    subject-specific axioms — but this is motivated by the definitional,
    formal, pedagogical, and proof-taxonomy roles of axioms in mathematics.
    This otherwise useful practice is a huge mistake in "pre-symbolic"
    universal logic, which involves ultimately fundamental and universal
    axioms, which in turn are naturally mutually and reflexively applicable,
    and which cannot be fully logically independent.

    We
    now can see that the "laws of logic" is a misleading label
    for (roughly speaking) "the absolutely fundamental universal
    ontology of logical value." We routinely implicitly treat "value"
    and "experience" as ontologically second-class derivatives
    of other things (such as ourselves) — but this is another demonstrably
    huge (although natural) mistake of inverted perspective. This mistake
    is somewhat analogous to earlier routine presumptions that the sun
    and stars moved around the earth every day (which at the surface
    of the earth, they still appear to do — even though we now know
    better). This logically intrinsic feature of "purely naturalistic
    ontology" is "almost supernatural" in character.

    There
    are of course a great many issues, qualifications, and questions
    that should to be addressed at length in support of the preceding
    suggestions, such as presenting a fully articulated proof. (Those
    who find this prospect dubious should try proving that it can't
    be done. You may find it surprisingly difficult to keep your feet
    out of the line of reflexive fire from unavoidable presuppositions.)
    We also haven't delved into the more directly subjective and personal
    realms of spiritual significance and spiritual practices. These
    things will likely lead to a large number of important questions
    and problems, which are important means of further correction, refinement,
    and discovery. These sorts of things could be dismissed as being
    logically secondary to prior axiomatic necessity — however such
    an overly-stringent and somewhat evasive Rand-like tactic would
    seriously undermine the ease of learning, understanding, applying,
    and propagating the core system — and that notably contradicts God's
    corollary social-ethical imperatives.

    Despite limitations
    of space (and likely limitations of the reader's kind patience),
    we should revisit the principal criterion of God that we began our
    inquiry with, and address some likely further concerns. (1) Whatever
    we can ultimately prove concerning the necessary existence of something
    that satisfies that criterion is still true, independently of whether
    or not you are willing to call it God. And I can't emphasize strongly
    enough that "conventional logic" is a valid but overly-sterile
    shadow of the much more "full bodied" and "deeply
    organic" (as it were) system of "universal value logic."
    Likewise, the corresponding objective concept of God (in the sense
    of its meaning and designation) is very much richer and very much
    more subtle than is initially evident. (2) You may be hesitant to
    recognize this extended family of supreme logical values as the
    logically absolutely-required ontological-heart of any reasonably
    objectively valid conception of God. But what kind of truly universal
    God is worthy of the name that does not principally and integrally
    comprise the universally-supreme instrumental objective values,
    and thereby is the objective God of objective ethics, and thereby
    is the objective God of natural law? (3) You may wonder how to reconcile
    this conception of God with a deep and extensive personal investment
    in the teachings of Lao-tzu, Confucius, Buddha, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad,
    Krishnamurti, or others. The objective concept of God (including
    the wider ontological context of universal value logic) is intrinsically
    a notably much more "spiritual wisdom friendly" interpretive
    context of ancient and near-ancient religious books than the prevailing
    scientific world view. (4) You may quite naturally prefer a seemingly
    more personal conception of God. Is it really so impersonal that
    the demonstrably-objective knowledge of the existence of God absolutely
    requires your first-hand integrally-personal self-knowledge of universal
    value logic — which knowledge moreover amounts to direct, repeatable,
    correctable, and intimately-personal revelation (that is a notably
    unending source of further refinement)? Is recognizing the absolutely-primary
    universal logical ontology of value not more ontologically-personal
    and more spiritually-coherent than either abstract supernaturalism
    or reductive materialism? (5) You may prefer a God that occasionally
    performs miracles. Shouldn't the intrinsically supremely-wonderful
    existence of God (and the corollary infinitely-intelligible order
    of nature) be super-sufficiently "miraculous" enough for
    any seriously religious person? (6) The "universal lighthouse"
    God and the "universal moral compass" God may seem too
    intellectual for you. Do you really expect that you can lazily lapse
    into thinking ignorantly and falsely, but still act wisely and truly?
    Some great religious books very laudably and explicitly proclaim
    the ultimately supreme primacy of Truth, which is an intrinsically
    logical value concept that is intrinsically characterized by our
    conception of God (since that was what we were originally seeking).
    There can be no spiritual-intellectual dichotomy in the realm of
    Truth. So, do you really believe in the ultimately supreme primacy
    of Truth? (7) The God that only "helps those that help themselves"
    may seem too demanding for you. Is meeting your responsibility for
    being recurrently aware of God's value-presence (rather than vice
    versa) and letting that thereby influence your actions for the better
    really that onerous? Is the responsibility on your part to do occasional
    concentrated thinking too much to ask for tapping into the fountainhead
    of supreme scientific genius and accessing the associated bounty
    of world-improving benefits? (8) You may wonder how you would worship
    the objective God. Remember that "objective" here directly
    involves the "primary ontology of value." (The bogus "science-religion"
    dichotomy has naturally encouraged a presumed but also totally bogus
    "objective-spirit" dichotomy.) Contemplative prayer, meditation,
    and meditative prayer are still appropriate. Much of the same ageless
    spiritual wisdom still applies for relating to the actual objective
    God (and likewise for relating to your fellow human beings). (9)
    Finally, you may be a militant atheist who recoils at embracing
    a word that seems hopelessly tainted with many unpleasant associations.
    Aren't you rational enough to overcome that? The objective God is
    associated with the more noble progressive traditions of Aristotle,
    Aquinas, and Spinoza (among many others). You can't honestly equate
    all theism to supernaturalism and irrationalism — indeed, a great
    many theological proponents assumed the "burden of proof,"
    which is very admirably rational, despite their many stumbles. Of
    course many important errors in earlier conceptions of God were
    found and corrected, which is the typical course of development
    of any non-trivial field of science. This time, however, the objective
    conception of God is rooted in the axiomatic foundations of universal
    value logic, so you can't rationally and objectively deny or falsify
    the objective conception of God (because such attempts inescapably
    generate self-refuting performative contradictions). So atheism
    can now be countered by means of a radically-objective counterexample.

    While
    an extended system of universal logic incorporating universally-supreme
    instrumental objective values necessarily exists, delineating the
    details and ramifications of such a system is a complex and exceedingly
    pitfall-ridden endeavor — and I have almost certainly made my share
    of mistakes along these lines. Fortunately, the necessarily universal
    and reflexively invariant character of this system's axiomatic values
    provides a very powerful self-diagnostic tool for progressively
    finding and overcoming such errors (especially given a team of able
    and aggressive critics), thereby leading towards increasingly objectively-correct
    and practically-powerful formulations.

    I
    strongly suspect that there are some additional universal logical-ontology
    axioms (and axiomatic corollaries) missing from our extended list
    of logical axioms (which pertain to the logical ontology of value-experience,
    particularistic properties, polyadic relations, and physical cosmology).
    The advent of a fundamentally-objective doctrine of God should be
    logically powerful enough to reveal a series of previously-overlooked
    opportunities to make Nobel Prize–worthy advances in the social
    and physical sciences. (Here I mean objectively-demonstrable hard-core
    instrumental utility, versus the otherwise-valuable utility of driving
    emotional inspiration. For example, fundamental physics and cosmology
    are all over the map about what things are more ontologically fundamental
    and what things are really ontologically plausible. Progress here
    could help salvage something useful from the almost-awe-inspiring
    profusion of incredibly-but-dubiously complex and increasingly wildly-speculative
    theoretical proposals.) However, I'll conclude here with a much
    more modest promotional claim that this substantially more-complete
    family of universal scientific axioms is already sufficiently powerful
    for establishing the core objective ethical religion of genuine
    science, and for scientifically refining and reinforcing the best
    prior doctrines of natural law (including remedying some of the
    lingering weaknesses in Hoppe's argumentation ethics). Meanwhile,
    praxeological economics is demonstrably the scientifically most-fundamentally
    ethically-superior (and thus most objectively "socially responsible")
    theory of economics (and policies thereof) to promote.

    It
    may now be possible (with a great deal of effort) to prove that
    establishing "the universally-supreme God of logical value"
    as the predominant foundational-methodological doctrine within the
    public world scientific community (my favorite strategic option)
    is a sufficient basis for generating the most powerful possible
    active defense system against the ideological scourges that ravaged
    20th century world civilization — with huge first-mover advantages
    to societies that took the lead in this. (However it might be easier
    and more fun to accomplish such a transformation than to formally
    prove its feasibility.) The spread of this logically deeper scientific
    worldview would be a fairly modest and moderate form of "logical
    value consciousness raising" — but it would also be tantamount
    to initiating a combined 2nd Axial Age, 2nd Renaissance, 2nd Scientific
    Revolution, and 2nd Age of Enlightenment. This would multiply the
    world quality and duration of life many times over. These prospects
    certainly seem wildly improbable at present, but I'll very provocatively
    claim that you don't really have true faith in the objective reality
    of God if you don't think this is a likely prospect before the end
    of the 21st century.

    Hey
    Richard Dawkins! This "extended phenotype" claims
    to have found the world's most powerful meme — the "objectively
    supreme God meme." Pass it on. 🙂

    Postscript
    1: I searched for and found the "objectively supreme God meme"
    in multiple pieces and forms, scattered throughout the written works
    of many other people. From ancient times up through present times,
    many philosophers have written about related things, although in
    widely different terms and contexts. What I've written here is not
    notably new nor original — and given the inherently enormous difficulty
    of doing reliable and realistically valuable philosophy, I shun
    the temptations of personal innovation, and instead concentrate
    on harvesting the best results scattered throughout our era's spectacular
    "information explosion."

    Postscript
    2: I want to defend Dawkins' against charges that he generally inappropriately
    applies "the scientific method of the natural sciences"
    to what might be variously construed as purely logical (or purely
    spiritual) issues of (supernatural) theology. I grant that Dawkins'
    sometimes falsely overreaches, but here are some offsetting considerations.
    (1) There are a number of purported scientific methods, of which
    the most general is "arguing to the best explanation"
    — which integrally incorporates logic, and which better reflects
    actual scientific practice. (I grant that the proper formulation
    of this variously-expressed doctrine is not well-settled.) This
    general perspective also better addresses the issue of what we should
    most responsibly believe and advocate — just because something is
    supposedly never 100% empirically proved does not thereby rationally
    license holding contrary theories (as any reasonably responsible
    aeronautical engineer or medical doctor will attest). (2) There
    is no such thing as an "entirely logical phenomenon" —
    indeed we discern the ontologically constitutive nature of logic
    in the very empirical process of reflexive thinking. (3) Previously
    unrecognized errors in logical reasoning can be brought to light
    and refuted by contrary empirical observations. This position does
    not challenge the ultimate primacy of logic, nor does it mean that
    some such purported refutations are sometimes mistaken — it just
    recognizes that we are fallible users of logic. (4) Many (granted
    by no means all) of Dawkins' conclusions involve pointing out internal
    inconsistencies (or contrary-to-fact implications) of the supernatural
    doctrines he attacks — which is the venerable logical process of
    reduction to absurdity, not questionable empirical induction.

    Postscript
    3: Thanks much to David Gordon for quickly pointing out some important
    oversights and serious misstatements in an earlier and much briefer
    version of this article.

    References:
    It would take many dozens of references to provide adequate background
    for the things I've mentioned above. Personally, the works of Jacob
    Bronowski and H. W. B. Joseph were early major points of departure
    for value and logic. Later, the works of Friedrich Hayek, Brand
    Blanshard, and Robert Pirsig helped provide a much more broadly
    informed and much more deeply ramified philosophical worldview,
    which Ayn Rand's visionary (and sometimes grossly unreliable) philosophical
    works had tantalizingly started and promised, but unfortunately
    failed to deliver. And later still, the comprehensive works of Murray
    Rothbard and Ludwig Von Mises (and followers thereof) were extremely
    enlightening. Along the way, many hundreds of other works provided
    numerous additional items of insight. Not having room to give lots
    of references, I hesitate to give any, but here are a few relatively
    more recent works on logic that I've found worthy of rereading recently
    (despite the inevitable reservations):

    January
    22, 2007

    Conrad Schneiker
    [send
    him mail
    ] is a nanotech inventor and integrated circuit electronics
    engineer. He is writing a book titled: The
    Provably Ultimate Foundation of Science is the Universal Logic of
    the Universally-Supreme Logical-Value System
    . His web site
    is AthenaLab.com.

    Email Print
    Share