A Parable

Long ago, in a place far, far away, some great thinkers discovered a cave. This was not just any cave, this was a great cave, much better than the one Plato had found. This cave was truly magnificent – it had natural ventilation, its own natural light source, essentially everything you need (it’s a parable, okay? Work with me on this) to live. These great thinkers began to study the cave, and learned more about the cave than anyone could have imagined; they became exceptionally knowledgeable about the cave and developed wonderful theories about how the cave worked, and even how the cave came to be.

Many of these great thinkers liked the cave so much, they decided they would never leave. After a period of time, some of these cave-dwellers started to believe that the cave was its own closed system, and that the stories about the world outside were just myth and make-believe. After all, everything they needed was in the cave, and nothing that they learned from the cave told them of an outside world.

However, there were those who claimed to live in the outside world. They were considered fools by the great thinkers of the cave. None of this information was given any credence whatsoever, as it was empirically impossible to verify from within the cave. Any information that claimed to originate from or speak about the outside was classified as heresy and became an object of ridicule by the great thinkers.

Then there were those who appeared to be great thinkers, who worked and studied in the cave shoulder to shoulder with the great thinkers. However, pseudo-thinkers also claimed to have experiences in the outside world, and even claimed that this mythological outside world actually accounted for life inside of the cave! Obviously, these were the biggest fools of all; to look at the evidence of the cave, and then claim it spoke of an existence outside of the cave! The pseudo-thinkers then tried to spread their strange ides among the populace, challenging the teachings of the great thinkers whenever possible. But, the great thinkers controlled the cave education system, and began to work to silence the pseudo-thinkers and deny them tenure. If reason and logic failed, censorship was the only alternative.

But there was life outside of the cave, and lots of it. There would be periodic reports of goings-on in the cave, to which the outsiders would listen to politely, then turn to one another and yawn, “whatever.”

Now, this little parable is not to annoy or vex anyone, or to oversimplify an issue, and it certainly isn’t a perfect analogy. All I mean to do is illustrate a point with regard to a paradigm known as philosophical materialism. PM, in general terms, is a worldview that presumes that there is nothing which is not of the material world or which is not, given the proper methods and tools, observable and measurable. In this worldview, all issues of faith, revelation or non-measurable experience is inconsequential, and to some, it is outright dangerous.

My proposition is that those adopting a paradigm of philosophical materialism are in less of a position to comment on the world than those who are at least open to other forms of knowledge; science is not the only way to know things. Logic would have to say that someone who chooses only to look at a portion of information is limiting what they know. That does not mean that PMists can’t be experts in their own limited fields, just that they greatly limit their ability to see “beyond the cave.” On the other hand, those who choose only to know spiritual things are not qualified to address issues of science; but, they may prove to have chosen more wisely.

If nothing else, we can revisit Pascal’s Wager, and ask which is wiser: to choose to limit all consideration to only that which is scientifically verifiable, or to at least consider all of the potential interpretations of what is observed? The odds don’t look good for philosophical materialism.

5 thoughts on “A Parable”

  1. “and it certainly isn’t a perfect analog”

    ROTFLOL

    “My proposition is that those adopting a paradigm of philosophical materialism are in less of a position to comment on the world than those who are at least open to other forms of knowledge; science is not the only way to know things.”

    There you go again – misusing the word “know”. You are not using the same dictionary that I am using.

    “…ask which is wiser: to choose to limit all consideration to only that which is scientifically verifiable, or to at least consider all of the potential interpretations of what is observed?”

    That’s not related to “Pascal’s Wager”.

    Considering all of the potential interpretations of what is observed without relying on the past experience of others is called “a very serious waste of time”. And scientists are the best authority at an accurate representation of the past experience of others. Do you propose philosophers or the Pope as a better authority?

  2. Ah… but in my cave, the “outsiders” would say that the exit has always been clearly marked and obvious…

    You know, I’ve never read Ayn Rand.

    But, I did go out and buy Stenger’s book yesterday (where he tries to prove that there is no cave exit), as our library doesn’t seem to be getting it in. I’m sure I’ll have a few posts dealing with it…

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