Quote of the day—Steven Den Beste

Way back in the depths of time, Greek philosophers ended up with two basic and incompatible ways of looking at the universe. One way was materialism, which says that there is a material universe which behaves in a consistent way, and if you study it you can learn the way it works.

That’s the world view of engineers and scientists — and businessmen, for that matter. It’s the world view of people who understand and use mathematics, and statistics. It is a place where cause leads to effect. It’s the place that game theory studies. It isn’t necessarily inherently atheistic; a lot of religious people live in the materialist world.

But there are people who don’t. A different epistemological view is teleology, which says that the universe is an ideal place. More or less, it exists so that we humans can live in it. And human thought is a fundamental force in the universe. Teleology says that if a mental model is esthetically pleasing then it must be true. Teleology implies that if you truly believe in something, it’ll happen.

Steven Den Beste
December 6, 2009
Government by Wishful Thinking
[H/T to wfgodbold in the comment to A process failure.

As I have said before (and here, here, and here) our opponents have a “currency” which is emotionally based. I find the dealings in this currency perplexing and frequently repugnant. But what is scary to me is the number of people that advocate this currency, deal in this currency, and hold great political power.—Joe]


5 thoughts on “Quote of the day—Steven Den Beste

  1. Long time ago I saw a bumper sticker on a car that said “Visualize Whirled Peas”.

    That was a sarcastic response to all the bumper stickers that said “Visualize World Peace”. As if just wishing it true would make it true.

  2. “Teleology implies that if you truly believe in something, it’ll happen.”

    Sounds like something out of a Disney movie. And we all know how that works in the real universe.

  3. ‘Teleology says that if a mental model is esthetically pleasing then it must be true.’

    You mean like string theory?

  4. While it might not seem important, I think it’s a good thing that Den Beste pointed out that religious people can have a materialistic outlook; it would have been useful if he pointed out that atheists aren’t immune to teleology, too, as demonstrated by Communists throughout the world.

    Indeed, I think the distinction between materialist and teleologist mindsets is very important: we need to understand how the world works, and how individuals think–and realize that no law is going to “push” us to an ideal world, because such a world does not exist. (Or, from a religious perspective, will not exist, until we all become angels…which isn’t going to happen while we are all mortal!)

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