Wednesday, 6 March 2013

A storm warning: for science and religion

Over the horizon of public perception a conceptual storm lays waste doctrinal differences in the intelligent design debate, revealing their common foundation  – animism. A comprehensive animism must impute not merely spirit to common objects but its accompaniments such as autonomy and intention.

Animism is the belief, the common foundation, of religions and sciences, in whose corner the design debate is waged. In this grand animism objects per se are set up through their own existence which in turn is more or less a depiction of the way an object appears to us. This is the animistic gesture, where existence does service for spirit, and appearance for its manifestations. Here the object, physical or mental, has boundaries determined by the very fact of its existence, a paradox itself. Neither is this paradox dissolved by reducing the mental to the physical.
The conceptual storm, which ushers that other, non-animistic, world is one where objects are items not of existence but of knowledge. Their existence is assured of course, but existence does not define them. Objects do not come pre-formed, they do not have their boundaries drawn around them as it were, by their appearances; rather, they are set up by identifying conditions that draw boundaries. For, Nature does not set any boundaries or objects itself. For example, the object we call a TV is not set up by simply being there, announcing itself through its own existence. It is set up through the identifying condition of “entertainment”, otherwise it would be indistinguishable from the carpet it stands on.
This is animism because an obejct per se, in the transcendentally real mode, sets up its own boundaries or limits, through its own intentions and concepts.

Both sides of the intelligent design debate view their respective arguments through the spectacles of animism or transcendental realism. For them, the fish’s eye really is a fish’s eye, independently of any observer. For them, this object, and all other objects, are objects per se that set up their own boundaries through some inexplicable animistic gesture and, equally inexplicably, convey their limits more or less accurately to us, the observers.

The storm has a name. It is transcendental idealism. No easy name, it is true. It makes no animistic gestures. Its principle is that objects are defined, not by their existence, but by their identification. That is, for objects identification is prior to existence. There is no elimination of (physical) existence it must be noted, so this is not an idealism such as Berkeley's.

In transcendental idealism there are no material objects per se (existing on their own terms). There are material objects. Here, objects are a set of boundaries arbitrarily set up by the condtions of identification. An example. There is no object “TV” per se. Rather, there is an object “TV” whose physical limits are not determined by itself, by the TV per se. The physical limits of this TV are determined by the conditions for identification of a TV. One such condition is “entertainment”. There are other conditions, of course, that help us set up a "TV", that distinguish a "TV" from a carpet it stands on.

The intelligent design debate is fitfully dosing. It struggles with the source of the existence of objects rather than the source of the very forms, or conditions of identification, of objects. We cannot awaken from this dream until we release the hold that animism, or transcendental realism, has held over the sciences, mathematics, logic and most religions.

As I say, I am one man, and holding no parley with fate cannot speak for its inscrutable social and individual profiling. I suspect that this storm will pass us by this generation, but will return.

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