I recently read Charles Lamore’s book review of Charles Taylor’s “A Secular Age” from the April 9, 2008 issue of the New Republic. Taylor’s book, as Lamore notes, is in many ways similar to Max Weber’s “Economy and Society” in which he famously spoke of the West-shaping influence of “the Protestant [work] ethic”.
At one point, Lamore, vigorously countering Taylor’s book “by a Catholic for Catholics”, asserts the following:
We know a great deal about the workings of nature and human society. What may lie beyond them, if anything, is a matter of conjecture, at least so far as generally accepted modes of inquiry can determine. Taylor appears to forget the difference between the two. We may hope that there is something more to things than is contained in the disenchanted picture of modern science. There may even be moments in our experience when we feel moved by what may be some deeper spiritual reality. (Weber himself might have acknowledged such a feeling if he had reflected on his own passionate devotion to truth.) But intimations are not an adequate basis for jumping to metaphysical or religious conclusions. They should be seen for what they are: inklings, no more. In such situations, leaping is precisely what we ought not to do.
The response warranted by our modern predicament, it seems to me, is not to commit ourselves one way or the other about whether the immanent frame is all there is. We ought to remain unsure, hesitating, groping, searching for some insight, but always remaining wary, and concerned with the integrity of our beliefs. We ought to leave open the possibility that the immanent frame is open. But that is a very different thing from asserting, through a leap of faith, that it is indeed open–that our secular conception of the world really is incomplete.
Lamore is upset because he thinks Taylor refuses to validate the idea that the evidence that we are responsible a Divine Nature (Higher Power) is inconclusive, and hence agnosticism (although perhaps not atheism) is a justifiable position.
This is the pious*** secularist lie.
I submit that the evidence is of two primary kinds: First, as we interact and communicate with others about the world we share, all human beings can’t not receive a direct, immediate, and innate awareness of the Divine Nature responsible for the cosmos. Second, for those concerned to be more scientific: if we agree that there was a beginning, and that like effects proceed from like causes (Newton), and agree on the “effect” of existence (i.e. we really do exist), it seems obvious that existence is more like mind/intellect (rational, ordered) than non-mind/nonintellect (irrational, chaotic). Therefore, it seems to follow that a mind (i.e. a Beginner or Big Banger or whatever) is required by the observation of the evidence that we see. This, it seems clear to me, is the least complex explanation for this problem (if one counters by saying that we can’t conceive of what “non-mind” would be like, is that really a point in their favor?). In other words, the pure materialist seems to be like a man who, after receiving crucial radio communication that helps him to navigate his surroundings, claims that he has, at bottom, really obtained nothing but atmospheric noise. The agnostic pipes in, suggesting that this could indeed be the case.
And the child says “the emperor has no clothes”.
*** Note: “pious” defined as “Having or exhibiting religious reverence; earnestly compliant in the observance of religion; devout.”