Most of the time, individuals who ask this question generally are thinking of recent events that have occurred, such as tornados, hurricanes , earthquakes, tsunamis, recent murders or rapes. But let us briefly discuss one that very few individuals in the America’s are aware of.
The Lisbon earthquake of November 11, 1755, had its epicenter at the bottom of the sea near the port city of Lisbon, Spain. Lisbon was hit by violent shocks, followed by eighteen-foot waves at Lisbon and sixty-foot waves at Cadiz, Spain. Subsequently, Lisbon was gutted by a fire that lasted for six days, accompanied by rioting and looting. 60,000 people in Lisbon died. Many more were sick, injured, and homeless.
After every natural disaster, many people wonder why God let it happen. Men with an intelligent epistemology realized that events like this are beyond the scope of human reason to explain. The wise man is obliged to leave the answers to such questions in the hands of God. One cannot use reason to climb up above God and judge his actions. Yet Modernists, loaded with epistemological arrogance, routinely have done just this
A group of rationalist philosophers stepped forward and arrogantly claimed that they could explain the Lisbon earthquake from God’s point of view – and justify God to man. The intellectual and cultural triumph of the West nurtured overweening pride, and Western man was feeling his oats.
The arrogant philosophers who tried to justify God committed a special kind of logical fallacy. God, the Creator, stands outside the creation. One cannot start from inside of a rational system and ascend a staircase of inductive logic to reach a first cause, prime mover, or design that comes from outside the system.
The rationalist philosophers of the era developed comprehensive systems by drawing a line around everything and attempting to explain everything by the internal logic of the system. As we shall see, such systems bring their adherents great confidence based on an illusion about what their system can explain. However, the comprehensive closed systems of the rationalist philosophers had several concealed fallacies:
1) The fallacy of reductionism. In order to explain everything, a comprehensive model must reduce everything to the level of interlocking parts, like gears in a great machine. Things in the real world that are complex and subtle must be drastically reduced and distorted to squeeze them into the closed system.
Reductionism imparts the illusion of clarity – because reductionism makes complex things simple and understandable to man’s frail mind. However, as objects are collapsed in on themselves to fit into the system, they must be distorted at best and obfuscated at worst. The price of artificial clarity is the distortion of reality.
2) The fallacy of internal consistency. The fact that comprehensive systems are logically self-reinforcing within the system creates the illusion of certitude. Such systems can be impressively consistent and self-reinforcing on their own terms, but highly inconsistent with reality.
Such systems, by their nature, must be uncertain – contrary to the illusion of certitude. This uncertainty was proven with mathematics by Kurt Godel. Human assumptions that are used to construct the system are prone to error and uncertainty. Furthermore, man cannot anticipate the kind of assumptions that his system will need in order to interpret the dumbfounding complexity and subtlety of reality. The almost universal failure of multi-variable, mathematical computer systems models is due to the near impossibility of assembling all the right variables in exactly the right relationships.
3) The fallacy of closed systems. Godel’s discovery of the fallacy of closed systems opened the door to the discovery of other fallacies and illusions inherent in closed systems. I am not sure how many of these other illusions were noticed by Godel. He was a great mathematician, but not necessarily a psychologist interested in illusions of the mind. Among such fallacies are these:
- A system cut off from the presuppositions of the creator of the system cannot logically exist. The illusion of a closed system leads to the illusion of comprehensive inclusion. One perceives a complete and comprehensive world of knowledge inside the system. However, such models can never contain more than a tiny and distorted fragment of reality.
The contemporary cult of social inclusion comes from closed-system cultural determinism. Such systems breed the illusion of comprehensive inclusion and foster a horror of exclusion. Selective exclusion implies an open system where people may or may not be in the system. Closed system junkies fear that exclusion will destroy the closed system and damn those who are expelled from the system.
Inclusive education – without standards or differentiation between good and bad scholarship – breeds intellectual mediocrity at best, and animosity towards reason at worst. The horror of selective social exclusion can breed left-wing paranoia, as it did in the destructive revolutions of the nineteenth century.
- The illusion of reality involves the misperception that one has command of reality from inside the system. One who has this illusion is actually cut off from reality. This mental illusion leads to magical thinking.
- The illusion of reality is akin to the illusion of solipsism – the narcissistic fantasy that I am everything that exists and the outside world is illusory. This illusion helps to explain the exhibitionistic narcissism of Michael Moore, Cindy Sheehan, in-your-face homosexuals, and the New Age Movement.
- The illusion of solipsism is akin to nineteenth century German philosophy of Idealism, which posits that nothing exists apart from my conscious awareness of its existence. This view is only possible for one with the illusion of reality and the illusion of solipsism.