Presuppositions, Prejudices, Patterns and Proof.

If we were teaching a course in ethics, and wanted our students to look beyond their two P’s, prejudices and presuppositions, where should we start? (I am concerned with this issue because practically all of the media, pundits, bloggers, and victims claiming their “15 minutes of fame” aspire to teach ethics) Perhaps we could ask, “what is the point of teaching ethics” or “what are ethics anyway” or “whose ethics?” All good questions, none of which even begin to touch those two P’s. More foundational are two other P’s, proof and patterns.

We Westerners live in a world where we think science trumps faith, without questioning what science is. A good working definition of science is “a systematic enterprise that creates, builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.” The bases of the scientific method are: hypotheses, experimental testing of hypotheses, replicating results of testing, thus either proving or disproving the hypotheses. When the replication of test results satisfies some statistical standard, it is said that the experiment “proves” the hypothesis. Hmm…what if there were a major unexamined presupposition that upends the whole concept of “proof” itself? 

A presupposition is a condition that must be present in order for a statement or belief to make sense in the language spoken. When a physicist says his experiment proves the existence of a particle or whatnot, his foundational presupposition is that our universe is orderly, meaning that if you repeat an experiment using exactly the same materials and parameters, you can expect to duplicate the same results. Order–repeatability–is presumed. If our universe were random, what would be the point of experimentation? Every result would be an accident, no pattern could be established. 

The magic word here is “pattern”. The very existence of patterns, whether in nature or human behavior, strongly suggests that the universe is not random. A pervasive example is gravity. It is always an attractive force, never repulsive i.e. objects are always pulled towards each other, never pushed away. The gravitational force always increases with the mass of the objects and always decreases with the distance between them, always going down by a factor of 4 as the distance doubles. If you didn’t have a prejudice against God as Creator, and tried to explain gravity patterns on the basis of any other theory of how the universe started, why would you expect objects to always fall? Why wouldn’t stuff fall one day and rise another? This is what I mean by unconscious presuppositions.

Where would order have come from? Can order come from randomness? Stephen Hawking asked these questions “Does it require a Creator to decree how the universe began? Or is the initial state of the universe, determined by a law of science?” in his lecture The Origin of the Universe.origin He proposes a theory of creation of the universe which you can read at that link, and goes on to say about it, “This would remove the age-old objection to the universe having a beginning; that it would be a place where the normal laws broke down. The beginning of the universe would be governed by the laws of science.” It isn’t his theory that demonstrates his anti-Creator bias or the hold his own subconscious presuppositions have over him. Read both sentences over. What is the “age-old objection to the universe having a beginning?” Whose objection? Even more to the point–which is the apparent inability of so many experts to question their own presuppositions–if the “laws of science” governed the beginning of the universe, where did these laws of science come from??? Or should I ask “from whom”, since laws presuppose a LAW GIVER!

The central problem with the self-styled experts–including “geniuses” like Hawking–trying to teach the rest of us ethics (and his theories are a form of ethics teaching, hence his “age-old objection” comment) is that they know everything but themselves.