Tuesday, 18 February 2014

BBC's "The Case for God" - Rabbi Sacks and Prof Blakemore

I've commented before on this BBC TV interview between Chief Rabbi of the UK Jonathan Sacks and Professor Colin Blakemore "The Case For God".

It's on YouTube.

I remarked then on the pair regarding each other as being reductive.
Sacks sees the evolutionary-physicalist account as reducing or eliminating human subjectivity (or as Marilynne Robinson puts it, "dispelling inwardness from the modern myth of the self").
Blakemore apparently sees as reductive what he regards as a "short-cut to truth": people  "resorting" to "easy ways" to get to truth when they take up religion, cutting outwhat he regards as the only story with any value: modern science.
If so, this is a very large and unjustified generalisation, put to a lot of use.

In the film, Professor Blakemore aknowledged his stark reductivism, agreeing that "electrical impulses in the brain" are there but not "I" or "you". But to sweeten this, he takes exception to Rabbi Sacks' use of the word "just" (as in, "We are just electrical impulses"), to re-iterate that in using this word Sacks makes of the belief that we are indeed completely causal machines and without free will "trivial". In case we should feel any despair at our actual meaninglessness, Professor Blakemore urges us to consider "the beauty" (he uses the word "advisedly", he tells us) we can appreciate in the stupendous complexity and wondrousness that it is in fact the case that "I" and "you" are an illusion. But surely it is this very capacity to appreciate beauty that is trivialised, or rather eliminated, in the Professor's materialist philosophy? The freedom of claiming that this, and not that, is beautiful is denied to me, because (according to Professor Blakemore) I am not free. So there can be no beauty.

As the scientist and philosopher Michael Polanyi put it in 1959: "the naturalistic explanation of morality [denies] the very existence of human responsibility"
(Polanyi "The Two Cultures", Encounter, 1959).

In a similar "new atheist" vein, a report in the Daily Telegraph ('We are winning the war against religion', 12th Sept 2013) reads "[Professor Richard] Dawkins said he did not believe religion had any moral value, 'But I do believe it has had, historically, artistic value'".

Nothing of artistic value is without moral value.
Wittgenstein arrived at this conclusion in his Tractatus Logico Philosophicus:
6.421 It is clear that ethics cannot be expressed. Ethics are transcendental. (Ethics and √¶sthetics are one).

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