Home » Atheism, News, Religion » He said it: Defining the word “rational” so as to exclude most ways to acquire knowledge

He said it: Defining the word “rational” so as to exclude most ways to acquire knowledge

In “Faith, logic can co-exist, UBC study contends” religion writer Douglas Todd, (Times-Colonist May 19, 2012) comments on a recent study purported by some to show that “analytical thinking can be harmful to religious faith”:

A common misunderstanding about religion comes from the way people define the word “rational.”

However, it’s incorrect to assume anything that is not “rational” is therefore nonsensical, illogical, absurd and ridiculous. Instead, there is an entire realm of human, animal and ecological experience that is best described as “non-rational.”

Such “non-rational” realities – including intuitions, emotions, the unconscious and creativity itself – are just as real, if not more so, than many things understood through rationality alone.

Many great thinkers have been aware of this distinction. Albert Einstein was one of them.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge,” Einstein said. “For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

It is doubtful that Einstein could have achieved the insights he did if he lacked imagination. Everyone “knew” that Newton’s laws and time measurement applied everywhere and at all times. It took imagination to see that there could be other laws in force in the universe as well, laws that would provide more accurate models.

Interestingly, Tennyson’s poem, Ulysses, deals with this very subject. Ulysses was a commander in the Trojan War, comes home and finds that his restless spirit, which Tennyson considered more favourable to science, is stifled by the dull round of daily administration. He leaves that to his unimaginative – but virtuous and capable – son Telemachus and sets out on a final voyage of discovery, saying,

I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.

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6 Responses to He said it: Defining the word “rational” so as to exclude most ways to acquire knowledge

  1. I saw this comment the other day,,,

    analytical thinking can be harmful to religious faith

    ,,,And I laughed for it is not even possible for ‘analytical thinking’ to remain coherent for us unless we believe in a God who guarantees our perceptions and reasoning within science are trustworthy in the first place.

    Epistemology – Why Should The Human Mind Even Be Able To Comprehend Reality? – Stephen Meyer – video – (Notes in description)
    http://vimeo.com/32145998

    Random Chaos vs. Uniformity Of Nature – Presuppositional Apologetics – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/6853139

    The Absurdity of Inflation, String Theory & The Multiverse – Dr. Bruce Gordon – video
    http://vimeo.com/34468027

    This following site is a easy to use, and understand, interactive website that takes the user through what is termed ‘Presuppositional apologetics’. The website clearly shows that our use of the laws of logic, mathematics, science and morality cannot be accounted for unless we believe in a God who guarantees our perceptions and reasoning are trustworthy in the first place.

    Presuppositional Apologetics – easy to use interactive website
    http://www.proofthatgodexists.org/index.php

    Epistemology – Why should the human mind be able to comprehend reality so deeply? – referenced article
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1qGvbg_212biTtvMschSGZ_9kYSqhooRN4OUW_Pw-w0E/edit

    further notes:

    This ‘lack of a guarantee’, for trusting our perceptions and reasoning in science to be trustworthy in the first place, even extends into evolutionary naturalism itself;

    Should You Trust the Monkey Mind? – Joe Carter
    Excerpt: Evolutionary naturalism assumes that our noetic equipment developed as it did because it had some survival value or reproductive advantage. Unguided evolution does not select for belief except insofar as the belief improves the chances of survival. The truth of a belief is irrelevant, as long as it produces an evolutionary advantage. This equipment could have developed at least four different kinds of belief that are compatible with evolutionary naturalism, none of which necessarily produce true and trustworthy cognitive faculties.
    http://www.firstthings.com/ont.....onkey-mind

    The following interview is sadly comical as a evolutionary psychologist realizes that neo-Darwinism can offer no guarantee that our faculties of reasoning will correspond to the truth, not even for the truth that he is purporting to give in the interview, (which begs the question of how was he able to come to that particular truthful realization, in the first place, if neo-Darwinian evolution were actually true?);

    Evolutionary guru: Don’t believe everything you think – October 2011
    Interviewer: You could be deceiving yourself about that.(?)
    Evolutionary Psychologist: Absolutely.
    http://www.newscientist.com/ar.....think.html

  2. As to this comment:

    “It is doubtful that Einstein could have achieved the insights he did if he lacked imagination.”

    Here is one of his ‘leaps of imagination’:

    Albert Einstein – Special Relativity – Insight Into Eternity – ‘thought experiment’ video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/6545941/

    The limits of human logic and reasoning is noted here:

    Kurt Gödel – Incompleteness Theorem – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/8462821/

    The limits of logic and reasoning is extended to computers in this following video. As well the necessity for human intuition (leaps of imagination) to overcome these ‘material’ limitations is noted in the video:

    Alan Turing, Kurt Godel – Incompleteness Theorem and Human Intuition – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/8516356/

    Not to completely negate ‘leaps of imagination’ but there is aspect of ‘human intuition’, besides our imagination (human imagination which very often goes severely wrong when unrestrained), that bears worth drawing out of the preceding video. It is interesting to note in the preceding video that although Alan Turing believed humans were merely machines, much like the computers he had envisioned, that he failed to realize that his idea for computers came to him suddenly, ‘in a vision’, thus confirming Godel’s contention that humans had access to the ‘divine spark of intuition’. A divine spark which enables humans to transcend the limits he, and Turing, had found in his incompleteness theorem for computers, mathematics, and even for all material reality generally:

    Moreover gifted people being able to instantaneously know ‘correct’ answers to very complex problems (which is not to be expected for what is considered ‘normal’ imaginary processes), as Turing himself did with his ‘vision’ of a computer, is something that argues very forcefully against the notion that our minds are merely the ‘emergent’ products of molecules in motion in our brain. Several amazing examples of such ‘giftedness’ in people, of people automatically envisioning answers to complex problems, are in the description section of the preceding video:

    As well Sir Isaac Newton stated this in regards to his own discoveries:

    I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by men who were inspired. I study the Bible daily…. All my discoveries have been made in an answer to prayer. — Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727), considered by many to be the greatest scientist of all time

    Verse and Music:

    John 15:5
    “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

    Jeremy Camp – The Way (Official Music Video)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9q6o4sbndVE

  3. 3
    David W. Gibson

    ?? I looked at that study briefly, and it was quite narrow in focus. It compared the (self-reported) propensity for religious belief, with the propensity to make logical errors on some specific word problems. It found a small correlation. The word problems were written so as to make certain types of errors easy to make, and therefore more “intuitive”.

    I’m not sure I buy this particular methodology as indicating anything meaningful. Certainly it doesn’t address imagination, sanity, different ways of gaining knowledge or anything like that. In fact, I don’t think it addresses much of anything.

  4. “The true Enlightenment thinker, the true rationalist, never wants to talk anyone into anything. No, he does not even want to convince; all the time he is aware that he may be wrong. Above all, he values the intellectual independence of others too highly to want to convince them in important matters. He would much rather invite contradiction, preferably in the form of rational and disciplined criticism. He seeks not to convince but to arouse — to challenge others to form free opinions.”
    -Karl Popper

  5. “A rationalist, as I use the word, is a man who attempts to reach decisions by argument and perhaps, in certain cases, by compromise, rather than by violence. He is a man who would rather be unsuccessful in convincing another man by argument than successful in crushing him by force, by intimidation and threats, or even by persuasive propaganda.” – Karl Popper

  6. 6

    Amen.
    Imagination to me doesn’t exist as something out of the blue.
    its probably just a expansion of thinking that allows other options that might be.
    Imagination is saying we might not have the right answer.
    Perhaps its just a better logical trail that going on.
    I don’t think imagination exists without already present knowledge.

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