Truth and the Restoration of Reason

Editor’s note: This article is part three of a five-part series, Truth in Modern Times.

In our modern world science is king.  For it is an intellectual and practical certainty.  Now, science is the singular source for truth about life and living.  It is also a modern truism that unless something can be subjected to scientific research it cannot be asserted as truth on the same scale of certainty as scientific truth.  

Simply, our modern truism about knowing the truth is limited to what can be proven and demonstrated through science and its many rigors.  All else outside of the scientific bodies of study are simply matters of mere ideas, matters of cultural and social, political and personal preference. 

But, just think for a moment how pervasive reason is in all aspects of the scientific method.  To understanding and proving its findings.  To applying and extrapolating its laws.  To indicating and compelling the need for further research and refinements.  And, given all this understanding, about how important reason and rationality is in science, leads us all to two inevitable questions, particularly for those moderns who believe science is our only way to know with certainty. 

Ask yourself, can science be science without the rules and rigors of reason?  And, might reason’s rules and rigors reveal other truths beyond those discovered in the physical world of the senses and the many sciences?  These two natural and rational questions about reason and logic are crucial and should be essential to finding the possibility of truth beyond the truths the many sciences supply. 

Well, with a brief bit of reflection, it is clear science uses reason all along the way.  For without reason there is really no way to conduct pure scientific research.  For every step of the empirical process relies on reason.  From hypothesis development to choosing appropriate experimental methodology, reason’s demands for rational and logical thinking guides all those questions, decisions and criticisms in these early stages of experimental exploration. 

Ideas and decisions about hypotheses and methodologies are guided and justified by reason.  For the rigors of rationality are absolutely critical and are part of scientists’ thinking and analysis.  During the critical review of hypotheses and methodologies, reason’s rigors are implicitly and explicitly employed.  In the processes of criticizing the tentative decisions considered about the nature of the phenomenon under investigation and about the best possible methodologies, reason’s rigors play a crucial role.

So, if reason is so essential for the conduct of scientific research and applications, can reason demonstrate and prove other truths in areas outside the pure and applied sciences.  Well, if reason finds scientific truths, might it also be capable of finding other truths?  Wouldn’t reason’s logical deductive and inductive processes prove other hypotheses on intangible matters, just as it does in mathematics?

Reason’s primary role and rigorous use in science of all types and in mathematics is also reason’s primary role when it comes to questions of a philosophical nature.  Just as science’s exploration of the physical world guided by rational rigors is common and clear, shouldn’t it also be applied to philosophical questions with equal rigor?  Philosophy, guided and subject to reason’s rigors in all its core questions and its many manifestations, should reveal a certainty similar in substance and stature to those of the sciences. 

Think about that idea.  That statement.  That assertion.  Philosophical inquiry, properly guided and substantiated, should get us to truth, just as it does in science, provided it is conducted rationally.  If rigorous rational inquiry about philosophical ideas and questions is done rationally, it can get us to philosophical truth, just as it does in the sciences. 

And, that means we can actually know and have truths beyond those of the physical sciences, provided reason’s rules and rigors are followed.  And oddly, it is relatively easy to demonstrate and to prove.  Let’s start with the biggest philosophical question of all – the question of the existence of God.

So, despite our common conception that God’s existence is a matter of belief, the real and rational question of God’s existence is a question of fact.  It is a matter of fact because “God’s existence” is a factual question.  Period.  And, our common understanding is that existence is a factual reality.  This is why reason requires two and only two possibilities.  Either God exists, or God does not exist.  Clear. Simple.  Certain.

Those are the only two possibilities, given the foundational nature of the question of God’s existence.  God exists.  Or, God does not exist.  And, that is the full range of possibility when it comes to the most basic and most fundamental question of reality.  Of all existence.  Of all physical, tangible existence.  Of all intangible existence. 

So, there are the choices.  And, there are only two.  And, rudimentary reason tells us this whether we believe it or not.  For we know God cannot actually exist and not exist.  Or, to put it in more modern terms, God cannot exist for me and exist for you.  God must be or not be, regardless of your perception or preference.  For belief does not make God exist.  God is.  Or, God isn’t.  Only one of these two mutually exclusive possibilities can be true.  And, only one of these two beliefs can be true.  And, reason tells us this with absolute certainty.

But, the rigors of reason also tell us we need evidence to determine whether or not God does actually exist.  For any and every idea or belief is merely a question, a hypothesis until all the crucial evidence is assembled and considered, examined and evaluated.  And, all this sounds just like science.  But, it’s not.  For these rigors arise from reason’s requirements and its demanding standards.  For science is built on reason’s rigors.

So, so far, reason tells us God must either exist or not exist.  And, reason tells us we must have evidence, carefully considered evidence before we can prove God does exist or God doesn’t exist.  And, these rational certainties have nothing to do with science or empirical experimentation, and everything to do with reason and logic.

Not only that, but reason’s primacy is already implicitly evident and explicitly demonstrated.  Knowing the rational certainty of these two mutually exclusive possibilities as irreconcilable and knowing the truth about God’s existence must be a function of the evidence, the magnitude of evidence and the sheer weight of evidence.  And, we know all that because of the rational and logical certainty of reason.

So, the next consideration in our search for evidence about this most fundamental question is what constitutes evidence.  What kind of evidence would be germane to the question of God’s existence? 

And, it is right here that the modern bias toward science reveals its myopic mindset, its denial of rationality, its preference for scientific materialism.  Here the modern penchant for presuming evidence may only be found in the physical firmament is revealed.  Here the modern reflex leads it to avoid grappling with the very nature of intangible reason and rational order.  And, here the modern mindset reveals its total misunderstanding of the rational order upon which the scientific method is based.      

But, the very nature and order and power of reason is where the need for evidence finds its origin.  Reason is what compels the need for evidence.  And, reason compels and demands the criteria by which evidence is evaluated. 

Yet, our modern assumptions about science’s primacy falls apart.  For reason is the primary principle for knowing, not science, simply because science is conceived in reason, guided by reason, reliant on reason.  But reason is not reliant on science. 

Reason makes science possible, not the other way around. And, the existence of reason’s rigors, its power, its ubiquity, its certainty must have an origin.  Simply put, the existence and the order of reason must be explained for it is an intangible reality.  And this powerful, intangibility must be understood and explained and science is of no help here. 

We’ll pick up that idea in tomorrow’s article entitled, “Reason’s Rigors and Revelations.”  Just ponder how the nature of reason’s order and power and our almost universal facility and ubiquitous use of reason is possible.  Ponder how science is impossible without reason and how all of the sciences use reason without explaining or justifying reason’s presence, power or order. 

Think about how the case for science’s explanatory capability cannot be made with science. 

For such a case cannot be subject to experiment.  It can only be made with reason.  And, such a reasoned case can only be made with rational reasoning.  Such a case can only be made philosophically, not scientifically.  And, that is a logical contradiction and a fatal flaw in the assertion that science is our primary way of knowing truth. 

Photo by Sylvain Brison on Unsplash

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Mr. Cronin has studied on a graduate level in education at Harvard University and at the University of Connecticut, in leadership at Columbia University and in theology at Regent University and Holy Apostles College and Seminary. He also writes regularly for The National Catholic Register and appeared on EWTN’s The Journey Home with Marcus Grodi following his 2007 reversion to the Catholic faith from atheism and evangelical Protestantism.

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