A Comment on Caravaggio and a Thought Experiment

The Incredulity of St Thomas - Caravagio c.1601 - Truth comes to the doubter

The Incredulity of St Thomas  – Truth comes to the doubter                                    [Caravagio c.1601]

A reader left a comment on the image of The Incredulity of Saint-Thomas by Caravaggio from my March 10,2012 post: When the Uncertainty Monster Rears its Wicked Head Should We Tell the Truth?-A Comment on Curry.  And you know me well enough by this point to know that if I’m going to take the time to write a 500 word reply I’m not going to simply leave it to languish forever buried under an illustration for a year old post.

So, here it is.

Mr. Davies said:

…In a nutshell: Aristotle came up with logic, which essentially is math for things with just two states like statements which can only be either true or false.

Saint Thomas of Aquinas, tried applying this logic to his religion and instead of tossing out his religious beliefs, decided that logic didn’t apply to religion.

If he had been correct, then logic would have been invalidated, (…although he apparently didn’t realize this ‘obvious’ error in logic he was making.)

So, there you have it. Either logic is flawed, which means all of mathematics and science is founded on nonsense, …or the religious beliefs are pure fantasy.

Now, since religion is such a strong, fundamental belief in many, they will refuse (as St. Thomas did) to abandon it.

But to the credit of the church, some inroads have been made over the centuries. First to go was the notion of Earth being the center of the universe: The story of creation, Adam and Eve, and even heaven and hell are now officially declared to be allegorical by the Pope.

…It’s not so much that logic denies religion, as religion would deny correct (deductive) reasoning.

Logic cannot prove anything to be true, but it can prove something false by showing that it contradicts itself.

Logic should be taught in first grade, by law.

I replied:

Hi Mr. Davies,

Thanks for your comment.

I am half in agreement with you and half in agreement with St. Thomas.

In Integral Meta-Theory as proposed by Ken Wilbur and others we recognize that the dilemma you so carefully describe can result in from scientists and theologians not recognizing that they are trying to describe different halves of the Universe – Universe in it larges possible conception that is.

In Integral Meta-Theory we tend to use the heuristic device of dividing the Universe into an Exterior/Objective [E/O] realm and an Interior/Subjective [I/S] realm.  The Exterior/Objective realm, the physical cosmos, are most appropriately described by using the ‘scientific’ methods of mathematics, empirical reductionist science and logic.  The Interior/Subjective realm, the non-material universe of meaning, culture and values.  Both realms are REAL both are valid, but the appropriate tools for understanding and analysis are specific to each realm.

Thus if you want to have a ‘strong’ theory about the Universe, you have to play with a full deck.

The confusion comes when people are unable to distinguish properly between the two realms or use the wrong tools for understanding the domain they are studying.

The scientist with his mathematics, logic and empirical methods tends to be blind  to the reality of the Interior/Subjective, they pretend it isn’t real, because it isn’t material.  The scientist wrongly equates reality with materiality – a very dehumanizing process.  The theologian, on the other hand, tends to project the operation of the Interior/Subjective onto the material.  The two argue past each other, both making the same essential mistakes, and make no progress.  Too bad.  Humanity has wasted about two thousand years on that one.

So, St Thomas Aquinas was not completely wrong in his statement that as you put it “logic doesn’t apply to religion.”  If he was in error it was because his theory was not sufficiently strong to distinguish properly the difference between logic and religion as the Exterior/Objective and Interior/Subjective and that different tools and methods were required for understanding the two halves of the Universe.

At some point, somewhere there is an inter-phase between the two realms.  No one has a convincing theory about what that is, in my opinion.  Science with its double slit experiments has shown that an object of up to about 60 AMU, pretty big, can have two separate existences and two distinct quantum histories.  The inter phase between E/O and I/S may be fatter than we suppose.

Obviously we are physical creates with physical brains, but none of the activity that we attribute to our own consciousness takes place in the material universe.  The big question is where then does consciousness reside?

Don’t believe me?  conduct this thought experiment, first look around you, take in the view, then tell me where the picture is.  It’s not in your head, it’s not in your brain – it has something to do with your brain – but its not in your brain.  In fact no one can tell you where the hell your experience of yourself actually exists.  No one.  To help you out in the thought experiment let me point out that the neuro-chemcial activity of your brain is not the picture you see, they are related somehow, but none has a theory,mostly the brain scientists studying the issue have not even seriously begun to ask the question.  Where is the picture?

As an Aside – As a scientist as well as philosopher, what I have always appreciated about the biblical story of Thomas the Apostle is his doubt, “Not till I put my hand in the wound will I believe!”  In walks the resurrected Christ and says, “Thomas, put your hand in the wound.”  Fairytale?  Almost certainly, yet, with a key significance for Christians.  Of all humans, ever, because of his doubt, Thomas was vouchsafed the distinction of touching the resurrected body of Christ.  No one else got to do that.

This is the kind of comment I really like, articulate, well spoken and leaves me enough room to reply in a way that expands the conversation.

There may be hope for this blog.


Please leave a comment - It's all more interesting in the Q&A

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