Guest post: Logic and faith (or, why we are in trouble)

Guest post

The West is in trouble. An iceberg is looming dead ahead, but our leaders are fighting in the wheelhouse, neither side able to overcome the other to make the necessary turn ? left or right. So we steam straight on.

How did a society so organised, so rich, so powerful ? become so confused? So uncertain about its identity, values or purpose?

First, let?s have a look at the concept that largely governs modern Western society. Rationalism. Google says it is the practice or principle of basing opinions and actions on reason and knowledge rather than on religious belief or emotional response.

For several hundred years, rationalism has been ascendant in the West, while faith has been descendent. And to any thinking person that seems right and good. Superstition, begone.

But perhaps unalloyed rationalism has its limitations. Perhaps, in fact, it has led us into our present trouble.

To illustrate my point, I shall start with something very tangible and logical. The New Zealand coastline. How long is it?

After a brief tapping of keys, I hear you say: 14,000 kilometres. Which is, on the face of it, a pretty solid and unambiguous factoid.

And yet the correct answer is: nobody knows. Nobody will ever know. The closer our coast is examined, the more inlets and indentations become visible, changing the answer. Coasts are a type of fractal, revealing more complexity the closer they are studied, right into infinity.

They are effectively immeasurable.

So to achieve a useful answer, we must draw a line in the sand (pun intended). We must accept that some things are unknowable, and abandon our commitment to absolute fact. The statement that our coastline is 14,000km long is an expression of reason and faith ? blended together.

This curious ambiguity is found right throughout human knowledge. Logic has a way of turning in on itself, creating a feedback loop of ever-increasing complexity. The Greeks, great thinkers, had a word for it: meta.

Another example of this phenomenon can be seen where the commitment to logic ? and aversion to faith ?? is strongest: the science of physics. For over half a century now, ever-increasing investments in physics have yielded ever-decreasing useful knowledge. The science has become stuck in a wormhole of arcane theories, each discovery yielding a new mystery, and little of it of any practical use.

Consider for instance Albert Einstein, who after his revolutionary discoveries early in the twentieth century, became convinced that the Holy Grail of rationalism ? a unifying Theory of Everything ? lay nearly in his grasp. He was certain it would be simple and elegant, like his earlier discoveries. He devoted the last half of his life to the search. He found nothing.

His colleagues shook their heads sadly at the waste, and studied inelegant things like bosons, and string theory, and ended up in blind alleys of their own.

I believe, and some physicists are themselves beginning to suspect, that their search for ultimate truth actually has no end. Not only that, but is increasingly unlikely to yield further benefit to humanity. Physics is becoming meaningless ? like trying to accurately measure a coastline.

In this we can perceive another lesson about rationalism: unrestrained by faith, it leads to nihilism. A person committed to living life by reason alone soon finds themselves paralysed. Unable to reach a useable conclusion about reality, they have no reason to act, for good or for ill. Trapped in a fractal of logic, what is worth fighting for? Why even live?

All the knowledge in the world is meaningless if we can?t do something with it. And to do something with it, we must accept some things are unknowable, which takes a leap of faith. Just like geography. And Christianity.

To return to my introduction. It is clear to me that as a society, we in the West have pursued reason with such singleness of purpose we?ve ended up in this very trap. We are in an endless rabbit warren of logic, none of it settling our debates. Rights, responsibilities, freedom, repression, Hitler, Stalin, racism, inequality; we are paralysed, with no consensus on who we are, or what we should do.

Only faith, now, has something useful left to say.


PS In case you were wondering what faith has to say, here it is: Jesus Christ died for (y)our sins. Islam has no place in the West. We are glad to help others, but after we help ourselves. Nations and peoples are distinct for a reason; unbridled multi-culturalism is unwise, and ethno-nationalism is a healthy, sensible instinct. Abortion is wrong; so is suicide. All men are not created equal. We have a duty to God, family, nation, and all mankind ? in that order.

PPS The beacon of the West quite likely won?t survive another five hundred years. If it does, it will be because people once again chose to believe irrational, unscientific, unprovable things such as these. The answer lies in a balanced blend of faith and reason. It always has.