With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special councel appointed!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 18, 2017
This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 18, 2017
Is not Donald Trump "changing reality." This is Donald Trump whining. But it isn't the sound of a sui generis man-child, it is the sound of Trump's supporters who still think there is nothing to the allegations made against Trump. And they think that because they, too, are whiners. They think their privileges have been taken from them, that life has not been fair to them, that they deserve better than they've gotten, and many of them probably dream of living the way Trump lives: loudly, ostentatiously, gaudily, bragging about his sexual conquests and parading a small army of blond wives around, each younger than the last, each more "pneumatic" than a blow-up doll. I'll put it bluntly and you can read the article at Slate to get my context: Trump isn't "reshaping reality" with his language (he's hardly one of the unacknowledged legislators of the world; he deals in toddler-speak). He is simply giving voice to a minority who put him in office because of the quirks of the electoral college and low voter turnout in 2016. They aren't trying to change reality; this is how they see the world. The "consensus" view of politics, law, international relations, government, is not their view. If there is a danger in Trump, it is in not recognizing who he speaks for, however inadvertently. But are they going to rise up through Trump and take over America? Is their view going to prevail? In some sense, they have, and it does: the GOP is the dominant political party throughout the country, despite the fact it is numerically the "minority" party. But will that last?
Only the future will tell, and no one can predict that. Which brings us to the other interesting story in the news: Slate also tells me that ESP is real, and that fact has broken science.
Well, the headline says that; the article says otherwise. A 10 year study by Daryl Bem concluded that replicable evidence of ESP had been produced, based on results above statistical expectations (albeit barely, as best I can tell). What interests me is not the assertion, but the reaction to the assertion; and I don't mean the reaction the article focusses on. The thesis of the article is that Bem instigated a review of standards regarding the scientific method which may reverberate throughout not just psychology and the social (or "soft") sciences, but reach ultimately to chemistry, physics, etc. I don't think that would be a bad thing, especially considering how much blind faith (yes, I said it!) is given to science today, based on the fact that it's science!, and therefore must be true! Oh, sorry: True!
No, what interested me was the connection between that article and this argument about proofs of the existence of God (a philosophy of religion issue, by the way, not a theological one. I always feel constrained to clarify that point, now. Anyway....). You see, the interesting reaction to the publication of Bem's results was not: "Gee, is that possible? Should we conduct some experiments to find out?", but:
“I was shocked,” he says. “The paper made it clear that just by doing things the regular way, you could find just about anything.”
The paper, you see, had to be wrong. Mind, the methodology was impeccable:
“Clearly by the normal rules that we [used] in evaluating research, we would accept this paper,” said Lee Ross, a noted social psychologist at Stanford who served as one of Bem’s peer reviewers. “The level of proof here was ordinary. I mean that positively as well as negatively. I mean it was exactly the kind of conventional psychology analysis that [one often sees], with the same failings and concerns that most research has.”
But it couldn't be right. The results were unacceptable, so clearly something was wrong. But is that conclusion the result of the scientific method; or the result of a refusal to let paradigms shift?
The article moves to other concerns with how scientists actually follow the scientific method (spoiler alert: badly!), and I'm not making a case for the reality of ESP. But if you can read a peer-reviewed paper published in a scientific journal and conclude immediately it must be false, then how do you ever accept a proof of God's existence?
Not that you have to, but what is the purpose of such a proof except to overcome doubt? That isn't the purpose, actually. If you read the excerpt at Thought Criminal outlining the argument of Duns Scotus, you'll note the argument is more theological than philosophical (do I contradict myself? No.) because it is aimed at establishing the nature of God, not at overcoming modern atheism (anachronisms abound, and again I choose my words carefully). Even if it is taken as a proof of God on par with Berm's "proof" of ESP, I can see many a philosophical atheist concluding "With logic you can find just about anything."
Or, as Kierkegaard put it: if you do believe, what proof do you need? And if you don't, what proof is possible? A point illuminated by the Slate article: Berm has not convinced "skeptics" that ESP is real, but he himself remains convinced it is. How would you dissuade him? How could he convince you?
And is anyone ever going to convince Trump, or his most ardent supporters, that reality is not centered around them?