What Naturalism and Bible Inerrancy have in Common with “Trump is a pro-Supremacist” Arguments
Last week I banged out a piece highlighting how, if you feel that Trump’s remarks (or non-remarks) in the wake of the Charlottesville riots smacked of pro-supremacist leanings, you’d have to defend about half a dozen highly contentious arguments. On the contrary, if you believe Trump’s respond merited far less criticism than it did, you only needed to defend two propositions — that a] the Left did engage in violence and b] POTUS has the right or duty to condemn violence by so-called non-supremacists as well.
My point is that a position’s fragility is in direct proportion to the number of controversial sub-positions it depends on. In the worst cases, refuting just ONE argument can threaten the entire edifice.
Here, I’d like to consider a few other world-views which I feel are a lot more fragile than their opposites in the sense.
a) Atheism / Naturalism vs Super-Naturalism
The position that the material world is ‘all there is’ basically requires that EVERY report of the ‘supernatural’ from all over the world and throughout history can be explained and/or reduced to natural terms. Because naturalism denies the presence of ‘spirits’, the verification of even ONE ‘spiritual’ event effectively rips the whole fabric apart. It is simply inconsistent to claim that ‘only the material world exists’ or that ‘all of reality is reducible to science’ but allow for the possibility of even one ‘minor’ encounter which implies an opening into another dimension.
Conversely, any worldview which allows the possibility of supernatural agency or ‘other-worldly’ factors would have FEWER problematic phenomena to deal with. I therefore find spurious the contemporary dogma that ‘Enlightened’ scientific thinking has (supposedly) replaced ‘traditional’ worldviews with their spirits, angels and demons.
b) Evolution vs ‘Design’ biology
If you believe that our biological world came about wholly by evolution, this de facto limits your explanation to chance mutations and nothing else. Folks like Richard Dawkins cannot allow even ONE occasion where a species may have been even marginally guided by design. From our eyes, to the reproductive system to individual cells, all biological structures must‘ve come about only by chance mutation.
Intelligent design theorists, on the other hand, need only claim that some biological formations (requiring as they do complex information) were the product of design.
This is why, IMO, it’s perfectly legit to claim that evolution is more a subject of faith than scientific theory. There is simply no other option and not even a single piece of evidence in favour of design is allowed.
c) Scriptural Inerrancy (The Bible is error-free) vs Infallibility (The Bible is a good guide)
A similar dynamic is at work when it comes to the view that every word and line in the Bible is error-free. Apart from the paradox of how you can decide is a psalm has ‘errors’ or not, in the context of argumentational fragility, inerrantists cannot accept the existence of even one typo by the ‘original’ Bible writers.
Again, as per evolution and atheism as a whole, you can offer a million ‘proofs’ that inerrancy is correct but MERELY ONE counter-proof potentially ruins it.
In risk management parlance, that’s called being overly exposed to a ‘black swan’ event i.e. your Ponzi-like investment may be bringing you fat monthly returns but you can only need a single scandal to bring everything crashing down.
In contrast, I argue that it’s better to hold that the Bible is an infallible guide to a ‘relationship with God’. This would mean that the OT and NT demonstrate general historical and factual reliability but it’s primary importance is leading believers into deeper faith with Christ. Christians, therefore, needn’t panick if, say, Luke’s account of the census of Quirinius represents creative fiction.
What about psychoanalysis?
When we understand the fragile nature of worldviews, we begin to see how those disciplines generally considered ‘rock solid’ are actually ‘snowflake vulnerable’ (e.g. evolution) whereas other disciplines which we thought were a load of bull may have greater staying power than we thought.
The work of Slavoj Žižek — and psychoanalysis as a whole — is predicated on materialistic axioms but, paradoxically, it posits the presence of the unconscious and un-reality i.e. the world cannot be fully explained by physics and chemistry but in fact represents a ‘grimace of the Real’. Žižek declares that there’s something ‘more’ to the universe which is ,ironically, ‘less than nothing’ and whilst he rejects Christian metaphysics his form of psycho-philosophy would make folks like Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris flinch.
In the context of argument and fragility, I claim therefore that psychoanalytical thinkers like Žižek are less fragile than your average naturalist or atheist because Žižek’s worldview, to put it simply, includes more possibilities and requires less to explain away.
Freud’s work came about, in fact, as part of his efforts to understand physical symptoms which defied medical rationality at the time (and even now). E.g. a woman inexplicably feels thirst each time a certain man walks into a room, or a man’s leg starts to twitch when a particular name is spoken. Can a modern psychology which rejects the (anti)-presence of the Freudian unconscious fully explain such instances? Even if they could, as per evolution and inerrancy, it would only require ONE non-explicable symptom to bring the whole discipline crashing down.
Ergo, a psychology which incorporates the unconscious is less fragile than one which doesn’t.