Archive for March 2nd, 2008

What can be known?

Posted on March 2, 2008. Filed under: Philosophy, Science, Spirituality |

There is much discussion about whether a faith-based or science based view of reality is correct. While many of us embrace some combination of the two, there are others who take a mainly empirical or mainly religious view of life. My position is that there are two basic ways of looking at reality, but not the faith vs. science ones we hear about most.
The two are: (a) We can’t know something to be true or not true. Or, (b) we can know, either by evidence or by faith. The Scientific Method and Religious Belief both share characteristics of the second, namely, that we can know something to be true.
Faith-based knowledge contends that a Supreme Being(s) or God, by grace, can allow us to know what is true. Our job is to “believe when next we doubt”. Scientific, or empirically based knowledge, on the other hand, is gained by what can be observed or experienced through the five senses, or with equipment as extensions of eyes, ears or noses. Devices have enabled humans to observe phenomena which had been hitherto considered in the realm of the unseen, or paranormal. For instance when scientists began to use microscopes and developed germ theory, infectious diseases which had been considered as consequences of a curse or spontaneous generation were then found to have a sound scientific cause.

I will put it to you that there is no cause—of anything—other than our own conscious manipulation of time, space and matter in order to explore creation and expand our understanding. We each feed knowledge into the whole. We are none of us as individual as we like to assume, but we’re extremely valuable as individuals to the whole because of the unique perspective and balance we bring to the entirety. I take this position using the tools of observation, meditation, reading and listening. I reserve the right to change my mind, and I wouldn’t want to impose my belief system on anyone else. In fact, I believe that “belief systems” themselves are conscious creations, and have no more intrinsic validity then, say a sculpture. The art I produce may represent a way of being or seeing that I currently embrace. It may evoke strong emotions or feelings of “oneness” in others, but, chemical analysis of the piece would show only the properties of clay.

So there are two camps: “It Can be Known” or “It Cannot be Known“. Position #2 might be considered “Agnostic”. I’m comfortable with that unless it’s used exclusively as a religious term. Agnostic comes from the Greek word agnosis, which means “not knowing”. I am agnostic as well regarding science, or history, or even the arts. I believe in the wonder of scientific discovery but I also engage in spiritual practices. Both of these are valuable to me because they allow me to explore my reality. I follow scientific and spiritual developments “for their own sake”, as it were. In this I have some good company. This discussion about Emanationism references Theosophy, Sufism, Buddhism, and such fantasy adventures as Dungeons and Dragons and Lord of the Rings. With Middle Earth containing philosophy to incorporate into a worldview, life is good!

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