Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Bearing Witness to the Light LVIII...Atheists Shed Light

J.M.J. + O.B.T. + M.G.R.*


This article relates an atheist's "belief" without understanding E=mc2 with the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation.  There are several interesting points to consider here.  What I want to emphasize is the both/and outlook: 

Why can it not be 
BOTH transubstantiation AND E=mc2?

In the NY Times Best-Seller


by Daniel Dennett

the case is made in Chapter Eight

Belief in Belief
1 You better believe it

I think God honors the fact that I want to believe in Him, whether I feel sure or not. —Anonymous informant quoted by Alan Wolfe, in The Transformation of American Religion

The proof that the Devil exists, acts and succeeds is precisely that we no longer believe in him. —Denis de Rougement, The Devil's Share

3 The division of doxastic labor

Fake it until you make it. -—Alcoholics Anonymous

So we have the strange phenomenon, as Kant assures us, of a mind believing with all its strength in the real presence of a set of things of no one of which it can form any notion whatsoever.
—William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience

Language gives us many gifts, including the capacity to memorize, transmit, cherish, and in general protect formulas that we don't understand. Here is a sentence I firmly believe to be true:
(1) Her insan dogar, yasar, ve olur.

I haven't the foggiest idea what (1) means, but I know it's true, because I asked a trusted Turkish colleague to provide me with a true sentence for just this purpose. I would bet a large sum of money on the truth of this sentence—that's how sure I am that it's true. But as I say, I don't know whether (1) is about trees, or people, or history, or chemistry,... or God. There is nothing metaphysically peculiar, or difficult, or unseemly, or embarrassing about my state of mind. I just don't know what proposition this sentence expresses, because I'm not "expert" in Turkish. In chapter 7, I noted the methodological problems confronting anthropologists intent on
understanding other cultures, and suggested that part of the problem is that individual informants may not view themselves as experts on the doctrines they are asked to elucidate. The problems that arise for such "half-understood ideas" are exacerbated in the case of religious doctrines, but are as often encountered in science as in religion. Here, one might say, is the ultimate division of labor, the division of doxastic labor, made possible by language: we laypeople do the believing—we sign on to the doxology—and defer the understanding of those dogmas to the experts! Consider the ultimate talismanic formula of science:

(2) E = mc2
Do you believe that E = mc2? I do. We all know that this is Einstein's great equation, and the heart, somehow, of his theory of relativity, and many of us know what the E and m and c stand for, and could even work out the basic algebraic relationships and detect obvious errors in interpreting it. But only a tiny fraction of those who know that "E = mc2" is a fundamental truth of physics actually understand it in any substantive way. Fortunately, the rest of us don't have to; we have expert physicists around to whom we have gratefully delegated responsibility for understanding the formula. What we are doing, in these instances, is not really believing the proposition. For that, you'd have to understand the proposition. What we are doing is believing that whatever proposition is expressed by the formula "E = mc2" is true.10 The difference for me between (1) and (2) is that I know quite a lot—but not enough!—about what (2) is about. In the infinite space of all possible propositions, I can narrow down its meaning to a rather tight cluster of nearly identical variants. A physicist could probably trip me up by getting me to endorse an almost right paraphrase that would reveal my ignorance (that's what really tough multiple-choice exams can do, separating the students who really
understand the material from those who only sort of understand the material). With (1), however, all I know is that it expresses one of the true propositions—cutting the infinite space of propositions in half, but still leaving infinitely many propositions indistinguishable by me as its best interpretation. (I can guess that it is probably not about how the Red Sox beat the Yankees four straight to win the American League Championship in October 2004, but such whittling away doesn't take us far.) I drew an example from science to show that this is not an embarrassing foible of religious belief alone. Even scientists rely every day on formulas that they know to be correct but are not themselves expert in interpreting. And they sometimes even foster the separation of understanding and memorization. A vivid instance can be found in Richard Feynman's classic introductory lectures on quantum electrodynamics, QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (1985), in which he amusingly cajoles his audience to loosen their grip and not try to understand the method he is teaching:
So now you know what I'm going to talk about. The next question is, will you understand what I'm going to tell you?... No, you're not going to be able to understand it. Why, then, am I going to bother you with all this? Why are you going to sit here all this time, when you won't be able to understand what I am going to say? It is my task to convince you not to turn away because you don't understand it. You see, my physics students don't understand it either. That is because I don't understand it. Nobody does.... It's a problem that physicists have learned to deal with: they've learned to realize that whether they like a theory or they don't like a theory is not the essential question. Rather, it is whether or not the theory gives predictions that agree with experiment. It is not a question of whether a theory is philosophically delightful, or easy to understand, or perfectly reasonable from the point of view of common sense.... Please don't
turn yourself off because you can't believe Nature is so strange. Just hear me all out, and I hope you'll be as delighted as I am when we're through. [pp. 9-10]
He goes on to describe the methods of calculating probability amplitudes in terms that deliberately discourage understanding— "You will have to brace yourselves for this—not because it is difficult to understand, but because it is absolutely ridiculous: All we do is draw little arrows on a piece of paper—that's all!" (p. 24)—but defends this because the results the methods yield are so impressively accurate: "To give you a feeling for the accuracy of these numbers, it comes out to something like this: If you were to measure the distance from Los Angeles to New York to this accuracy, it would be exact to the thickness of a human hair. That's how delicately quantum electrodynamics has, in the past fifty years, been checked—both theoretically and experimentally" (p. 7). And that is the most important difference between the division of labor in religion and science: in spite of Feynman's uncharacteristically hypermodest denial, the experts do understand the methods they use—not everything about them, but enough to explain to one another and to themselves why the amazingly accurate results come out of them. It is only because I am confident that the experts really do understand the formulas that I can honestly and unabashedly cede the responsibility of pinning down the propositions (and hence understanding them) to them. In religion, however, the experts are not exaggerating for effect when they say they don't understand what they are talking about. The fundamental incomprehensibility of God is insisted upon as a central tenet of faith, and the propositions in question are themselves declared to be systematically elusive to everybody. Although we can go along with the experts when they advise us which sentences to say we believe, they also insist that they themselves cannot use their expertise to prove—even to one another—that they know what they are talking about. These matters are mysterious to everybody, experts and laypeople alike. Why
does anybody go along with this? The answer is obvious: belief in belief. Many people believe in God. Many people believe in belief in God. What's the difference? People who believe in God are sure that God exists, and they are glad, because they hold God to be the most wonderful of all things. People who moreover believe in belief in God are sure that belief in God exists (and who could doubt that?), and they think that this is a good state of affairs, something to be strongly encouraged and fostered wherever possible: If only belief in God were more widespread! One ought to believe in God. One ought to strive to believe in God. One should be uneasy, apologetic, unfulfilled, one should even feel guilty, if one finds that one just doesn't believe in God. It's a failing, but it happens. It is entirely possible to be an atheist and believe in belief in God. Such a person doesn't believe in God but nevertheless thinks that believing in God would be a wonderful state of mind to be in, if only that could be arranged. People who believe in belief in God try to get others to believe in God and, whenever they find their own belief in God flagging, do whatever they can to restore it. It is rare but possible for people to believe in something while regretting their belief in it. They don't believe in their own belief! (If I found that I believed in poltergeists or the Loch Ness Monster, I'd be, well, embarrassed. I'd think of this as one of those dirty little secrets about me that I wished were not so, and I'd be glad that nobody else knew! I might take steps to cure myself of this awkward bulge in my otherwise impeccably hardheaded and rational ontology.) People sometimes suddenly awake to the fact that they are racists, or sexists, or have lost their love of democracy. None of us want to discover these things about ourselves. We all have ideals by which we measure the beliefs we discover in ourselves, and belief in God has been one of the most salient ideals for a long time for many people. In general, if you believe some proposition, you also believe that anybody who disbelieves it is mistaken. And by and large, it's too
bad when people are mistaken or ill informed or ignorant. In general, the world would be a better place if people shared more truths and believed fewer falsehoods. That's why we have education and public-information campaigns and newspapers and so forth. There are exceptions—strategic secrets, for instance, cases where I believe something and am grateful that nobody else shares my belief. Some religious beliefs may consist in proprietary secrets, but the general pattern is for people not just to share but to try to persuade others, especially their own children, of their religious beliefs.

4 The lowest common denominator? 

God is so great that the greatness precludes existence. —Raimundo Panikkar, The Silence of God
It is the final proof of God's omnipotence that he need not exist in order to save us. —Sermon by the hyperliberal Reverend Mackerel, hero of The Mackerel Plaza, by Peter De Vries

The Church Militant and the Church Triumphant has become the Church Social and the Church Bizarre. —Robert Benson, personal communication, 1960

Many people believe in God. Many more people believe in belief in God! (We can be quite sure that, since just about everybody who believes in God also believes in belief in God, there are actually more people in the world who believe in belief in God than those who believe in God.) The world's literature—including uncounted sermons and homilies—teems with tales of people wracked with doubt and hoping to recover their belief in God. We've just seen that our concept of belief allows that there is a clear empirical difference between these two states of mind, but here is a perplexing question: of all the people who believe in belief in God, what percentage
(roughly!) also actually believe in God? Investigating this empirical question turns out to be extremely difficult. Why? At first it looks as if we could simply give people a questionnaire with a multiple-choice question on it:
I believe in God: Yes ______ No ______  I don't know ______ 
Or should the question be:
God exists: Yes ______  No ______   I don't know ______ 

Would it make any difference how we framed the questions? (I have begun conducting research on just such questions, and the results are tantalizing but not yet sufficiently confirmed to publish.) The main problem with such a simple approach is obvious. Given the way religious concepts and practices have been designed, the very behaviors that would be clear evidence of belief in God are also behaviors that would be clear evidence of (only) belief in belief in God. If those who have doubts have been enjoined by their church to declare their belief in spite of their doubts, to say the words with as much conviction as they can muster, again and again, in hopes of kindling conviction, to join hands and recite the creed, to pray several times a day in public, to do all the things that a believer does, then they will check the "Yes" box with alacrity, even though they really don't believe in God; they fervently believe in belief in God. This fact makes it hard to tell who—if anybody!—actually believes in God in addition to believing in belief in God. Thanks to the division of labor, it is actually worse than that, as you may already have fathomed. You may find that when you look in your heart you simply do not know whether you yourself believe in God. Which God are we talking about? Unless you are an expert, and sure that you understand the formulas that officially express the propositions of your creed, your state of mind must be somewhere in the middle ground between my state of mind with regard to (1) (the sentence in Turkish) and my state of mind with regard to (2) (Einstein's formula). You're not as clueless as I am
regarding (1); you have studied and probably even memorized the official formulas, and you believe that these formulas are true (whatever they mean), but you have to admit that you are no authority on what they mean. Many Americans find themselves in this position, as Alan Wolfe notes in The Transformation of American Religion: How We Actually Live Our Faith, his recent survey of developments in American religion: "These are people who believe, often passionately, in God, even if they cannot tell others all that much about the God in which they believe" (2003, p. 72). If you fall in this category, you must admit, contrary to the way Wolfe puts it, that, although you may well be one of those who believe in belief in God, you aren't really in a good position to judge whether you actually believe (passionately or otherwise) in the God of your particular creed, or in some other God. (And you have almost certainly never taken a tough multiple-choice test to see if you can reliably distinguish the expert's conception of God from the subtle impostors that are almost right.)
Alternatively, you can set yourself up as your own authority: "I know what I mean when I utter the creed, and that's good enough for me!" And that's good enough—these days—for a surprising number of organized religions, too. Their leaders have come to realize that the robustness of the institution of religion doesn't depend on uniformity of belief at all; it depends on the uniformity of professing. This has long been a feature of some strains of Judaism: fake it and never mind if you make it (as my student Uriel Meshoulam once vividly put it to me). Recognizing that the very idea of commanding someone to believe something is incoherent on its face, an invitation to insincerity or self-deception, many Jewish congregations reject the demand for orthodoxy, right belief, and settle for orthopraxy, right behavior. Instead of creating secret pockets of festering guilty skepticism, they make a virtue of candid doubt, respectfully expressed. As long as the formulas get transmitted down through the ages, the
memes will survive and flourish. Much the same attitude has recently been adopted by many evangelical Christian denominations, especially the booming new phenomenon of "mega-churches," which, as Wolfe describes in some detail, go out of their way to give their members plenty of elbow room for personal interpretations of the words they claim to be holy. Wolfe distinguishes sharply between evangelicalism and fundamentalism, which "tends to be more preoccupied with matters of theological substance." His conclusion is intended to be reassuring:
But those who fear the consequences for the United States of a return to strong religious belief should not be fooled by evangelicalism's rapid growth. On the contrary, evangelicalism's popularity is due as much to its populistic and democratic urges—its determination to find out exactly what believers want and to offer it to them—as it is to certainties of the faith. [2003, p. 36]
Wolfe shows that Stark and Finke's frank marketing approach is not at all foreign to religious leaders themselves. He notes without irony some of the concessions they are willing to make to contemporary secular culture, concessions that go far beyond Web sites and multimillion-dollar television programs, or the introduction of electric guitars, drums, and PowerPoint in their services. For instance, the term "sanctuary" is shunned by one church "because of its strong religious connotations" (p. 28), and more attention is paid to providing plenty of free parking and babysitting than to the proper interpretation of passages of Scripture. Wolfe has conducted many probing interviews with his informants, and they reveal that revision of tradition is often hard to distinguish from outright rejection. A derisive term has been coined by these memetic engineers to describe the image they are trying hard to shed: "churchianity" (p. 50).
Indeed, Lars and Ann, like many evangelicals throughout the country, say that faith is so important to them that "religion"—
which they associate with discord and disagreement and, therefore, if often in an unexpected way, with doctrine—cannot be allowed to interfere with its exercise. [p. 73]
There is no denying the results of this marketing expertise. Pastor Chuck Smith's Calvary Chapel has over six hundred churches, some of them with ten thousand worshipers a week (Wolfe, 2003, p. 75). Dr. Creflo Dollar's World Changers Church has twenty-five thousand members, "but only thirty per cent of them were regular tithers" (Sanneh, 2004, p. 48). According to Wolfe, "All of America's religions face the same imperative: Personalize or die. Each does so in different ways" (p. 35). He may be right, but his argument for this sweeping conclusion is sketchy and anecdotal, and though there can be no doubt that the phenomena he describes exist, the question of whether they will be permanent features of religion from now on or a passing fad is a question that cries out for a testable theory, not just a set of observations, however sensitive. Whatever its staying power, and the reasons for it, the example of such laissez-faire "noncredal" religion contrasts vividly with the continuing doctrinal emphasis of the Roman Catholic Church.

5 Beliefs designed to be professed 

A mountain climber foolishly climbing alone slips off a precipice and finds himself dangling at the end of his safety rope, a thousand feet above a ravine. Unable to climb the rope or swing to a safe resting spot, he calls out in despair. "Hallooo, hallooo! Can anybody help me?" To his astonishment, the clouds part, a beautiful light pours through them, and a mighty voice replies, "Yes, my son, I can help you. Take your knife and cut the rope!" The climber takes out his knife, and then he stops, and thinks and thinks. Then he cries out: "Can anybody else help me?"
According to the old maxim, actions speak louder than words, but this actually doesn't say what it means. Speech acts are actions, too, 
and a person who says, for instance, that infidels deserve death is performing an action with potentially deadly effects, which is about as "loud" as acting can get. What the maxim means, on reflection, is that actions other than speech acts are typically better evidence of what the actor really believes than any words the actor might say. It is easy enough to pay lip service (such a wonderful idiom!), but when the concrete consequences of your actions depend on whether you believe something—whether you believe the gun is loaded, whether you believe the door is unlocked, whether you believe you are unobserved—lip service is a puny datum easily swamped by the nonverbal behavior that expresses—indeed, betrays—your true beliefs. And here is an interesting fact: the transition from folk religion to organized religion is marked by a shift in beliefs from those with very clear, concrete consequences to those with systematically elusive consequences—paying lip service is just about the only way you can act on them. If you really believe that the rain god won't provide rain unless you sacrifice an ox, you sacrifice an ox if you want it to rain. If you really believe that your tribe's god has made you invulnerable to arrows, you readily run headlong into a swarm of deadly arrows to get at your enemy. If you really believe that your God will save you, you cut the rope. … But what could you do to show that you really believe that the wine in the chalice has been transformed into the blood of Christ? You could bet a large sum of money on it and then send the wine to the biology lab to see if there was hemoglobin in it (and recover the genome of Jesus from the DNA in the bargain!)—except that the creed has been cleverly shielded from just such concrete tests. It would be a sacrilege to remove the wine from the ceremony, and, besides, taking the wine out of the holy context would surely
untransubstantiate it, turning it back into ordinary wine. There is really only one action you can take to demonstrate this belief: you can say that you believe it, over and over, as fervently as the occasion demands. This topic is broached in a telling way in "Dominus Iesus: On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church," a Declaration written by Cardinal Ratzinger (who later was elected Pope Benedict XVI), and ratified by Pope John Paul II at a plenary session on June 16, 2000. Again and again this document specifies what faithful Catholics must "firmly believe" (italics in the original), but at several points the Declaration shifts idiom and speaks of what "the Catholic faithful are required to profess" (italics in the original). As a professor myself, I find the use of this verb irresistible. What is commonly referred to as "religious belief or "religious conviction" might less misleadingly be called religious professing. Unlike academic professors, religious professors (not just priests, but all the faithful) may not either understand or believe what they are professing. They are just professing, because that is the best they can do, and they are required to profess. Cardinal Ratzinger cites Paul's letter to the Corinthians: "Preaching the Gospel is not a reason for me to boast; it is a necessity laid on me: woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!" (1 Corinthians 9:16).
Though lip service is thus required, it is not enough: you must firmly believe what you are obliged to say. How is it possible to obey this injunction? Professing is voluntary, but belief is not. Belief— when it is distinguished from believing that some sentence expresses a truth—requires understanding, which is hard to come by, even by the experts in these matters. You can't just make yourself believe something by trying, so what are you to do? Cardinal Ratzinger's Declaration offers some help on this score: "Faith is the acceptance in grace of revealed truth, which 'makes it possible to penetrate the mystery in a way that allows us to understand it coherently' [quoting John Paul II's Encyclical Letter Fides et Ratio,
p. 13]." So you should believe this. And if you can, believing this should help you believe you do understand the mystery (even if it seems to you that you don't), and hence do firmly believe whatever it is you profess you believe. But how do you believe this? It takes faith. Why even try? What if you personally don't happen to share the belief in the belief in the doctrine in question? Here is where the meme's-eye view can provide some explanation. In his original discussion of memes, Dawkins had noted this problem and its traditional solution: "Many children and even some adults believe that they will suffer ghastly torments after death if they do not obey the priestly rules.... The idea of hell fire is, quite simply, selfperpetuating, because of its own deep psychological impact" (Dawkins, 1976, p. 212). If you have ever received a chain letter that warned of the terrible things that would happen to you if you failed to pass it along, you can appreciate the strategy, even if you didn't fall for it. The assurances of a trusted priest can be much more compelling. If hellfire is the stick, mystery is the carrot. The propositions to be believed ought to be baffling! As Rappaport has trenchantly put it, "If postulates are to be unquestionable, it is important that they be incomprehensible" (1979, p. 165). Not just counterintuitive, in Boyer's technical sense of contradicting only one or two of the default assumptions of a basic category, but downright unintelligible. Prosaic assertions have no bite, and moreover they are too readily checked for accuracy. For a truly awesome and mind-teasing proposition, there is nothing that beats a paradox eagerly avowed. In a later essay, Dawkins drew attention to what we might call the inflation of credal athleticism, the boast that my faith is so strong that I can mentally embrace a bigger paradox than you can.
It is easy and non-mysterious to believe that in some symbolic or metaphorical sense the eucharistic wine turns into the blood of
Christ. The Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, however, claims far more. The "whole substance" of the wine is converted into the blood of Christ; the appearance of wine that remains is "merely accidental", "inhering in no substance". Transubstantiation is colloquially taught as meaning that the wine "literally" turns into the blood of Christ. [Dawkins, 1993, p. 21]11
There are several reasons why this inflation into incomprehensibility would be an adaptation that would enhance the fitness of a meme. First, as just noted, it tends to evoke wonder and draw attention to itself. It is a veritable peacock's tail of extravagant display, and memetics would predict that something like an arms race of paradoxology should ensue when religions confront waning allegiance. Peacocks' tails are finally limited by the sheer physical inability of the peacocks to carry around still larger ones, and paradoxology must hit the wall, too. People's discomfort with sheer incoherence is strong, so there are always tantalizing elements of sense-making narrative, punctuated with seriously perplexing nuggets of incomprehensibility. The anomalies give the host brains something to gnaw on, like an unresolved musical cadence, and hence something to rehearse, and rehearse again, and baffle themselves deliriously about.12 Second, as noted in chapter 5, incomprehensibility discourages paraphrase—which can be death to meme identity—by leaving the host with no viable choice but verbatim transmission. ("I don't really know what Pope John Paul II meant, but I can tell you that what he said was: 'Jesus is the Incarnate Word—a single and indivisible person.'")
Dawkins has noted an extension or refinement of this adaptation: "The meme for blind faith secures its own perpetuation by the simple unconscious expedient of discouraging rational inquiry" (1976, pp. 212-13). At a time when "faith-based initiatives" and other such uses of the term have made "faith" almost synonymous in the minds of many with the term "religion" (as in the phrase "people of all faiths"), it is important to remind ourselves that not
all religions have a home for the concept or anything even very close to it. The meme for faith exhibits frequency-dependent fitness: it flourishes particularly in the company of rationalistic memes. In a neighborhood with few skeptics, the meme for faith does not attract much attention, and hence tends to go dormant in minds, and hence is seldom reintroduced into the memosphere (Dennett, 1995b, p. 349). Indeed, it is mainly a Christian feature, and as we recently noted, Judaism has actually encouraged vigorous intellectual debate over the meaning, and even the truth, of many of its holy texts. But a similar athleticism is honored in Jewish practice, as explained by a rabbi:
That most of the Kashrut [kosher] laws are divine ordinances without reason given is 100 per cent to the point. It is very easy not to murder people. Very easy. It is a little bit harder not to steal because one is tempted occasionally. So that is not great proof that I believe in God or am fulfilling His will. But, if He tells me not to have a cup of coffee with milk in it with my mincemeat and peas at lunchtime, that is a test. The only reason I am doing that is because I have been told to so do. It is doing something difficult. [Guardian, July 29,1991, quoted in Dawkins, 1993, p. 22]
Islam, meanwhile, obliges its faithful to stop what they are doing five times a day to pray, no matter how inconvenient or even dangerous that act of loyalty proves to be. This idea that we prove our faith by one extravagant act or another—such as choosing death over recanting an item of doctrine that we don't understand—permits us to draw a strong distinction between religious faith and the sort of faith that I, for one, have in science. My faith in the expertise of physicists like Richard Feynman, for instance, permits me to endorse—and, if it comes to it, bet heavily on the truth of—a proposition that I don't understand. So far, my faith is not unlike religious faith, but I am not in the slightest bit motivated to go to my death rather than recant the formulas of physics. Watch: E doesn't equal mc2, it doesn't, it doesn't! I was lying, so there!
I feel no guilt in making this little joke, unlike people who would find it deeply difficult to utter blasphemous words or recant their creed. But isn't my faith in the truth of the propositions of quantum mechanics that I admit I don't understand a sort of religious faith in any case? Let me invent a deeply religious person, Professor Faith,13 to give a little speech that articulates this charge. Professor Faith wants to teach me a new word, "apophatic":
God is a Something that is Wonderful. He is an appropriate recipient of prayers, and that's about all we can say about Him. My concept of God is apophatic! What, you may ask, does that mean? It means I define God as ineffable, unknowable, something beyond all human ken. Listen to what Simon Oliver, writing about Denys Turner's recent book, Faith Seeking (2003), has to say:
... the God rejected by modern atheism is not the God of orthodox, pre-modern Christianity. God is not any kind of thing whose existence might be rejected in the way that one might reject the existence of Santa Claus. Turner's God—owing much to the medieval mystics—is profoundly apophatic, wholly other and, in the end, unknowable darkness. We begin our journey into that alterity in our realization that our being is a gracious gift. [p. 32]
And here is Raimundo Panikkar, writing about Buddhism:
The term "apophatic" is usually used in reference to an epistemological apophaticism, positing merely that the ultimate reality is ineffable—that human intelligence is incapable of grasping, of embracing it—although this ultimate reality itself may be represented as intelligible, even supremely intelligible, in se. A gnoseological apophaticism, then, comports an ineffability on the part of the ultimate reality only quoad nos. Buddhistic apophaticism, on the other hand, seeks to transport this ineffability to the heart of ultimate reality itself, declaring that this
reality—inasmuch as its logos (its expression and communication) no longer pertains to the order of ultimate reality but precisely to the manifestation of that order—is ineffable not merely in our regard, but as such, quoad se. Thus Buddhistic apophaticism is an ontic apophaticism. [1989, p. 14]
I claim that these claims really aren't so different from what your scientists say. Physicists have come to realize that matter isn't composed of clusters of hard little spheres (atoms). Matter is much stranger than that, they acknowledge, but still they call it matter, even though they mainly know what matter isn't, not what it is. They're still calling them atoms, but they no longer think of them as, well, atomic. They've changed their conception of atoms, their conception of matter, quite radically. And if you ask them what they now think matter is, they confess that it's something of a mystery. Their concept is apophatic, too! If physicists can move from concreteness to mystery, so can theologians.
I hope Professor Faith has done justice to this theme, which I have often encountered in discussion. I am not at all persuaded by it. There is a big difference between religious faith and scientific faith: what has driven the changes in concepts in physics is not just heightened skepticism from an increasingly worldly and sophisticated clientele, but a tidal wave of exquisitely detailed positive results—the sorts of borne-out predictions that Feynman pointed to in defending his field. And this makes a huge difference because it gives beliefs about the truths of physics a place where the rubber meets the road, where there is more than mere professing that can be done. For instance, you can build something that depends for its safe operation on the truth of those sentences and risk your life trying to fly it to the moon. Like the folk religionists' beliefs that they should sacrifice a goat or that they are invulnerable to arrows, these are beliefs that you can act on in ways that speak louder than words. People who give away all their belongings and climb to some mountaintop in anticipation of the imminent End of the World
don't just believe in belief in God, but they are the exceptions, not the rule, when it comes to religious convictions.

Sincerely yours
in Jesus through Mary,
Mike Rizzio

Imitate Mary
Become like Jesus
Live for the Triune God

Seek the Light of Our Lord Jesus Christ
See you on the High Ground!

* - J.M.J. + O.B.T. + M.G.R. stands for:
Jesus, Mary and Joseph;
O Beata Trinitas;
St. Michael, St. Gabriel and St. Raphael

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