I just read an interesting article by Gary Gutting, "Debating God: Notes on an Unanswered Question", over at "the Opiniater blogs" of the NYTimes.
To me this debate is typical of the dualism originating in "the roots of Mideastern civilizations". It is no accident that this kind of debate leaves the large majority of people indifferent in East Asian societies.
One point should be evident by now to every human and that is that "the whole of reality" is unattainable to humanity. By that I mean that the scientific method is limited to the realm of "what is attainable" to humanity. Empirical evidence and rationality only function inside this "what is attainable". But how about the realm of "what is unattainable?".
What is troubling is that many rationalists reject this notion on the ground that what science has not yet explained it will undoubtedly succeed to do tomorrow. That kind of attitude is identical to the attitude of the religious believer who is stuck without proof behind his belief. But the fact of the matter is that reason and science don't work in the realm of what is inaccessible. If space and time are not infinite their immensity nevertheless surpasses what is accessible to human reason. How indeed could humanity that is characterized by an utterly short timespan have access to what will emerge eventually from the very long timespan of our universe's expansion? Narrow minded rationalists are espousing an ideological form of reason that is generally referred to as scientism or blind faith in humanity's demiurgical power akin to the power of the maker of the world in Platonic philosophy. Religious believers happen to accept the fact that a good chunk of "the whole of reality" is unattainable to human reason and refer to this inaccessible as being god. It is nevertheless not necessary to believe in a religion to possibly accept the fact of this unattainability.
In light of this I found the following quote by Gary Gutting to contain the holy grail of "human societal operationality".
G.G.: So it seems that you agree with most of your interviewees — believer and nonbelievers — that practice is more important than doctrine.
g.g.: Yes, and I agree with Kitcher that the greatest obstacle facing atheism is its lack of the strong communal practices that characterize religions. People need to believe something that provides a satisfying a way of living their lives, and most people need to find this in a community. So far atheism has produced nothing like the extensive and deep-rooted communities of belief that religion has.
This is where the indispensability of "societal cohesion" enters the picture.
Societal cohesion refers to the sharing by all or most citizens of a same representation of reality that solidifies their society behind a unified vision which helps those societies to reproduce themselves into the future. Historically this soon gave rise to the consciousness about the necessity for worldviews to glue the minds of citizens in order to ensure that societies reproduce. The arts find their origin and their "raison d'ȇtre" with the rise of that consciousness. What's important indeed is not an hypothetical or unattainable truth but the practice that glues the minds and the role of the arts has always been to facilitate such a practice... in religious societies as well as in non-religious societies.
Now notwithstanding the fact that "practice is more important than doctrine" we observe that Modernity (rationality and science) have weakened most traditional worldviews (religions) to the point that they have become societally in-operational. Furthermore Science itself is not a real worldview in the sense that it does not supply a ready-made grand narrative about the working of the whole of reality. The weakening of all traditional narratives and the fact that science is not offering such a grand narrative, for a great deal, explains why Late-Modernity (late stage of Modernity) is crumbling and opening the door to a new paradigm. That paradigm will solidify in the historical area of what comes after Modernity. I refer to this area as "After-Modernity" in opposition to Post-Modernity because that term has been eviscerated of its real meaning along the last decades.
The path from Late-Modernity to early After-Modernity is a slowly evolving process that is going to be spreading over time. For us living amidst this process it is unfortunately difficult to pinpoint with any degree of certainty what is going on which leaves us at the mercy of our illusions. That I feel is our predicament, our ultimate weakness, in Late-Modernity and Early-After-Modernity; the consciousness that we live in a time of great societal changes without being able to discern the wheat from the chaff.
During this transition to what comes after Modernity humanity could gain a lot by learning to accept that a big chunk of "the whole of reality" is unattainable and that in consequence our views about the working of reality are merely grand narratives whose function serve to strengthen the cohesion of our societies. Such a consciousness would undoubtedly be accompanied by an increase in tolerance for all the other narratives than our own. Something which is in dire need today in our late Modern time to reduce the hate and violence that are spreading like wild fire around the world. I'm nevertheless well aware that human will shall weigh very little on changes of the magnitude of those I evoke.
Creatives should approach the uncertainties accompanying this process of change with a great relief because this period of transition from Late-Modernity to After-Modernity acts like a challenge to reason. Reason now begs to discern the nuts and bolts of the new societal paradigm in the making. Their accrued sensitivity places creative individuals and artists in the front-line seats of that grandest of shows. Will artists size this historic opportunity?