Science v. Religion
I put these two terms together as if there is some essential war between them, or at least an antagonistic relationship, but both, we shall see, can be oppressive and dominating. In fact, in some sense, the German word “Verhältnis,” meaning not only relationship but also love affair is more appropriate here — both share the love of truth and liberation, but both have been used for domination and oppression.
That, in short, is what a quote remembered from Nietzsche means, although it seems to have disappeared entirely as no one has been able to locate it. Still, the quote, as translated, is “Science has saved us from Religion; now what will save us from Science?” Few, if any can locate that quotation, a few can at least understand it, but the three aphorisms from Adorno reprinted below explain it in sufficient detail. I have eliminated the first sentence of the second aphorism as it unintentionally restricts the scope of the commentary and also shows the danger of referring to specific current even in philosophical discussions. To be fair, I am placing the sentence at the end of this entire post as a footnote.[i] Another statement by Nietzsche is “God is Dead,” but it is repeated all too often by those who have no idea of what it means, where it came from, and who have never read Nietzsche at all. They merely quote what someone else had quoted. I will soon post my own version of his quote, along with the context, and explain not only that God died, but how He died (which I have not seen discussed elsewhere).
For centuries religion has served to subjugate individuality and free thought, one reason why Marx called it the “Opiate of the Masses.” To some extent, the Scientific Revolution, or Cognitive Revolution, of the 17th Century liberated man as it relegated God to the role of some cosmic clockmaker who put things together, wound them up, and then left. At least the ominous warning that “God is watching” lost much of its authority amongst individualists and freethinkers.
However, Science soon banished value from life and favored quantification. In many ways, the old barter system, which is still employed daily by many without awareness of it, was far more equitable as it was more concrete, less abstract. People traded services and objects based on their individual values, not on the basis on some abstract decimal system of valuation. When we hear the term “value” used today, almost always with refers to some monetary sum “owned” in one way or another by some person. Who, ultimately, has any meaning left when he says that one person is “worth” more than another? This is a subjective value judgment best left to each individual in relation to another.
We can see this rampant and manipulative quantification being used daily to manipulate the masses who have absolutely no concept of what is being done to them. In fact, some wealthy ideologues hand-pick their own statisticians to justify their own greed and economic elitism and actually wind up believing their own lies and are surprised when things do not transpire as their bribed soothsayers predict. The whole idea behind hiring these hacks was to fool the people, but the force of quantification was so great that the employers were actually convinced by their own lies.
The brainwashing of the modern concept of science also banishes imagination or inspiration from the world, or discipline. Capra discusses this in his Tao of Physics. Allow me one small example: It is clear that electrons, orbiting a nucleus, can only be a specific, quantifiable defined, orbits, or energy states, or only so far from the nucleus. However, any electron may move from one state to another. The question is, where is it between one state and another? How does it travel from one level to another since there are no levels inbetween? Doesn’t this mean that time itself is quantum? These is no smooth time, but simply intervals of time between which time does not exist? If so, what exists when time is moving from one interval to another? No physicist even considers these questions lest he loose any chance of grant money or reputation. Imagination is banished from the universe. In fact, such imagination has long since been sucked from his system.
The ignorant and willfully blind will stick to their preconceived notions, however, as they have their entire life invested in this ignorance. To them, rising up and above this stupidity would cost them too much and they will remain content in their chains of ignorance which perpetuate their domination by the unseen “Thou Shalt,” which will persist until they system itself destroys any chance of its own continuance. It is well on it’s way with what is called “climate change,” and uses religion, faith, patriotism, pseudo-science, and more simply to maximize its short-term profits while its long-term existence has already been self-assured. Perhaps in the 70s of the past century strong action could have prevented this, but that time has long passed. Here are Adorno’s reflections from a safer past:
Intellectus sacrificium intellectus. [Latin: Intellectuals sacrifice to intellectuals]. To presume that thinking would profit from the decline of the emotions through increasing objectivity, or that it would remain indifferent to such, is itself an expression of the process of dumbing down. The social division of labor recoils on human beings, however much the former may facilitate the accomplishments required of the latter. The faculties, which develop through reciprocal effect, shrivel once when they are torn from each other. Nietzsche’s aphorism, “The degree and kind of sexuality of human beings reaches into the furthest peak of their Spirit [Geistes]” strikes at more than just a psychological state of affairs. Because even the most distant objectifications of thought are nourished by the drives, to destroy the latter is to destroy the former’s own condition. Isn’t memory inseparable from the love, which wants to preserve, what nevertheless passes away? Doesn’t every impulse of the imagination arise from the wish, which transcends the existent in all fidelity, by displacing its elements? Indeed isn’t the simplest perception modeled on the fear of what is perceived, or the desire for such? It is true that the objective meaning of cognitions has, with the objectification of the world, separated itself ever further from the basis of the drives; it is true that cognition fails, where its objectified achievement remains under the baleful spell of the wishes. However if the drives are not at the same time sublated in the thought, which escapes such a baleful spell, then there can be no cognition anymore, and the thought which kills the wish, its father, will be overtaken by the revenge of stupidity. Memory is tabooed as uncalculable, unreliable, irrational. The intellectual asthma which results from this, which culminates in the breakdown of the historical dimension of consciousness, immediately debases the synthetic apperception which, according to Kant, is not to be separated from the “reproduction in the imagination,” from commemoration. Imagination, today attributed to the realm of the unconscious and defamed in cognition as a childish, injudicious rudiment, creates alone that indispensable relation between objects, out of which all judgment originates: if it is driven out, then the judgment, the actual act of cognition, is exorcised as well. The castration of perception, however, by a controlling authority, which refuses it any desiring anticipation, thereby compels it into the schema of the powerless repetition of what is already familiar. That nothing more is actually allowed to be seen, amounts to the sacrifice of the intellect. Just as, under the unrestrained primacy of the production process, the wherefore of reason disappears, until it degenerates into the fetishism of itself and of externalized power, so too does it reduce itself down to an instrument and comes to resemble its functionaries, whose thought-apparatus only serves the purpose, of hindering thought. Once the final emotional trace is effaced, what solely remains of thinking is absolute tautology. The utterly pure reason of those who have completely divested themself of the capacity “to imagine an object even without its presence,” converges with pure unconsciousness, with idiocy in the most literal sense, for measured by the overweening realistic ideal of a category-free actuality, every cognition is false, and true only if the question of true or false is inapplicable. That this is a question of wide-ranging tendencies, is evident at every step of the scientific enterprise, which is on the point of subjugating the rest of the world, like so many defenseless ruins.
Diagnosis. – A humanity is secretly emerging, which hungers for the compulsion and restriction, which the nonsensical continuation of domination imposes. These human beings however have, favored by the objective social arrangement, seized hold of the functions which by rights ought to generate dissonance against the pre-established harmony. Among all the cashiered slogans, one stands out: “pressure produces counter-pressure” – yet if the former becomes powerful enough, then the latter disappears, and society appears to want to contribute considerably to entropy, by a deadly equilibrium of tensions. The scientific enterprise has its exact equivalent in the kind of minds [Geistesart], which it harnesses: they need hardly do any violence to themselves, proving eager and willing administrators of their own selves. Even when they prove to be quite humane and reasonable beings outside of the enterprise, they freeze into pathic stupidity the moment they think professionally. Far from perceiving such prohibitions on thought as something hostile, the candidates – and all scientists are candidates – feel relieved. Because thinking burdens them with a subjective responsibility, which their objective position in the production-process prevents them from fulfilling, they renounce it, shake a bit and run over to the other side. The displeasure of thinking soon turns into the incapacity to think at all: people who effortlessly invent the most refined statistical objections, when it is a question of sabotaging a cognition, are not capable of making the simplest predictions of content ex cathedra [Latin: from the chair, e.g. Papal decision]. They lash out at the speculation and in it kill common sense. The more intelligent of them have an inkling of what ails their mental faculties, because the symptoms are not universal, but appear in the organs, whose service they sell. Many still wait in fear and shame, at being caught with their defect. All however find it raised publicly to a moral service and see themselves being recognized for a scientific asceticism, which is nothing of the sort, but the secret contour of their weakness. Their resentment is socially rationalized under the formula: thinking is unscientific. Their intellectual energy is thereby amplified in many dimensions to the utmost by the mechanism of control. The collective stupidity of research technicians is not simply the absence or regression of intellectual capacities, but an overgrowth of the capacity of thought itself, which eats away at the latter with its own energy. The masochistic malice [Bosheit] of young intellectuals derives from the malevolence [Bösartigkeit] of their illness.
Large and small. – One of the most disastrous transfers from the realm of economic planning into that of theory, which is actually no longer distinguished from the architectonic of the whole, is the belief that intellectual labor can be administered according to the criteria of whether what one is working on is necessary or reasonable. A ranking hierarchy of urgency is established. But to rob thought of the moment of involuntariness, is precisely to cashier its necessity. It reduces itself to detachable, interchangeable dispositions. Just as in the war economy, where priorities are decided in the distribution of raw materials, in the production of this or that type of weapon, so too is a hierarchy of importance creeping into the construction of theory, with a preference given for especially up to date or especially relevant themes, and disregard or indulgent toleration for what is secondary, which may pass merely as padding of the basic facts, as finesse. The notion of what is relevant is produced according to an organizational point of view, that of contemporaneity measured by the objectively most powerful tendency of the day. The schematization into important and subsidiary subscribes to the form of the value-order of ruling praxis, even when it contradicts such as content. In the origins of progressive philosophy, in Bacon and Descartes, the cult of the important is already at work. In the end, however, this latter reveals something unfree, something regressive. Importance is represented by the dog on a walk, which spends minutes sniffing at some random spot, unyielding, earnest, reluctant, and then satisfies its bodily needs, scrapes the ground with its feet and runs along, as if nothing had happened. In prehistoric times life and death may have depended on this; after millennia of domestication it has turned into a nutty ritual. Who is not reminded of this, when watching a serious committee determining the urgency of problems, before the staff of coworkers is given a carefully designated and time-tabled list of tasks. Everything of importance has something of such anachronistic obstinacy, and as a criterium of thought, it is tantamount to the latter’s ensorceled fixation, to the renunciation of self-constitution. The great themes however are nothing other than the primordial odors, which cause the animal to hold still, and where possible to produce them once more. This does not mean that the hierarchy of importance is to be ignored. Just as its philistinery mirrors that of the system, so too is it saturated with all the latter’s violence and stringency. However thought should not repeat it, but dissolve it through its completion. The division of the world into primary and subsidiary matters, which has always served only to neutralize the key phenomena of the most extreme social injustice as mere exceptions, should be followed to the point that it is convicted of its own untruth. It, which turns everything into objects, must itself become the object of thought, instead of steering the latter. The great themes will also appear, though scarcely in the traditional “thematic” sense, but rather refractedly and eccentrically. The barbarism of immediate magnitude [Grösse] remains philosophy’s legacy of its earlier alliance with administrators and mathematicians: what does not bear the stamp of the overinflated world-historical bustle, is consigned to the procedures of the positive sciences. Philosophy behaves therein like bad painting, which imagines that the dignity of a work and the fame which it garners, depend on the dignity of the painted object; a picture of the Battle of Leipzig would be worth more than a chair in oblique perspective. The difference between the conceptual medium and the artistic one changes nothing in this bad naïvété. If the process of abstraction strikes all conceptual formation with the delusion of magnitude [Grösse], then what is also preserved in this, through the distance of the action-object, through reflection and transparency, is the antidote: the self-critique of reason is its ownmost ethics [eigenste Moral]. Its opposite in the most recent phase of a thought which disposes over itself is nothing other than the abolition of the subject. The gesture of theoretical labor, which arranges themes according to their importance, neglects those doing the laboring. The development of an increasingly smaller number of technical capacities is supposed to suffice, to adequately equip them to deal with every assigned task. The thinking subjectivity is however exactly what does not let itself be fitted into a heteronomous set of tasks arranged from above: it is adequate to the latter only insofar as it does not belong to such, and its existence is thereby the prerequisite of every objectively binding truth. The sovereign matter-of-factness, which sacrifices the subject to the investigation of truth, rejects at once truth and objectivity itself.
[i] That the world has meanwhile turned into the system which the Nazis unjustly berated as the lax Weimar Republic, is evident in the pre-established harmony between institutions and those who they serve.
A new post on Science v. Religion will be here soon. These things just take time to do thoughtfully, and time is not always kind.
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