Towards a Lexicon of Folly: Factard
Example 1: "The problem was not merely the extension of warfare and its exploitation on an interplanetary scale. It was also the science-fiction claim that mankind itself—fallen and corrupt, as Lewis knew—should be imagined as extending across the cosmos." (my italics)
To say that Lewis knew mankind to be "fallen and corrupt" is to ascribe verified actuality to a metaphysical theory, to treat an alethic model as an epistemic certainty. It is to say that existential actions result from and/or generate an essential state-of-being defined in spiritual terms -- "sin" or "grace" -- as a relationship to an Absolute Deity and its Laws. Since humanity can only be "fallen and corrupt" if it (and all material reality indeed) subsists within a specific metaphysical system, to say that one knows this to be so is to say that this metaphysical system is a verified actuality. The example above is therefore equivalent to an assertion, "I know that God exists." The logical response to such an assertion is, "How do you know that God exists?"
Where the answer offered does not refer to a decisive action of verification, but rather to a persuasive process of justification, where it reiterates the reasoning that underpins the alethic model rather than report the steps by which that model was proven to be not just valid but true, no matter how coherent and comprehensive the answer demonstrates that model to be, it does not legitimize the original assertion of knowledge. However justified, if a firm conviction of actuality is not verified, it is not a cognizance of verified actuality. It is not knowledge, only belief, and the person who made that assertion has revealed themself to be a frickin factard.
Where the answer offered does not even point to a persuasive process of justification, but rather to an intense sense of conviction, where it offers the experience of absolute confidence as the decisive action that legitimizes their assertion -- as in a statement like "I just know!" -- this is the conflation of conviction and certainty par excellence. Such a failure to distinguish belief and knowledge, an implicit disclosure that one is working on the principle of "I believe it so it must be true," is the very definition of a frickin factard.
Example 2: "The other is that reason reveals an underlying order so profound that even a robot can see that it is the handiwork of God. (my italics)
To say that a robot "can see" that the underlying order of reality "is the handiwork of God" is again to ascribe verified actuality to a metaphysical theory, to treat an alethic model as an epistemic certainty. It is to say that the complex order evident in existential reality is a product of deliberate design carried out by an Absolute Deity as named and characterized in a specific religious belief-system. To say the robot can verify this by observation is to say that it is a verified actuality the robot need only become cognizant of. The implicit assertion here is "I know that God created the world," which similarly begs the question, "How do you know that God created the world?"
In this example, the answer is coded into the original assertion. The teleological argument is implicit: to observe the complex order evident in existential reality is, in and of itself, the decisive action of verification; such complex order can only arise from design, so to establish the epistemic certainty of such complex order is to establish the epistemic certainty of the action of design having been carried out by a designing agency. Two follies in this argument are immediately obvious:
1) the specification of any such designing agency with the qualities of an Absolute Deity as named and characterized in a specific religious belief-system is entirely spurious, on par with taking a watch as proof not simply of a watchmaker but of Sylar, the psychopathic serial killing supervillain with a clockwork fixation, as named and characterized in the TV series Heroes; the spuriousness of such characterization is, of course, the satirical point of the Flying Spaghetti Monster;
2) the premise that "such complex order can only arise from design" is also entirely spurious, an absolutist axiom offered with no substantiation, and one that is, in fact, demonstrably unsound both in existential terms -- where the simplest principles enacted in a chaotic system result in the emergence of incredibly complex order without the action of a designing agency -- and in essential terms -- where a designing agency is, by definition, a being of such complex order that, by this premise, it too must be the product of another designing agency, which must in turn be the product of yet another designing agency, and so on, in an infinite regress.
The teleological argument is however more interesting for the folly it embodies as exemplar of the factard's conflation of conviction and certainty. This is because it predicates itself not upon a judgement of complexity ipso facto, but of a degree of complexity sufficient to induce conviction. Where it asserts that the order inherent in existential reality is "so profound" that one "can see that it is the handiwork of God," this is at root a valid description of human responses to complexity: as one becomes cognizant of higher and higher degrees of order one is quite likely to experience a higher and higher conviction that this order is the result of deliberate design. However, the teleological argument asserts that this notion becomes proven simply when the cognizance of order and resultant conviction of design become intense enough as a subjective experience that one's belief becomes absolute.
The only action of verification proposed here is, in fact, the decision to believe with an unqualified commitment that rejects all doubt, said decision being based on entirely arbitrary and personal dispositions: the extent to which we see pattern in the world; the extent to which we read pattern as purpose; the extent to which we deny the possibility of unpurposed pattern; the extent to which we allow firm convictions to become inflexible by disacknowledging contingency.
To subscribe to a teleological argument like this is to say, in essence, "I believe it so much, it must be true." And there is no weaseling out of this folly. Whether or not a high degree of belief can be justified on the basis of a high degree of order is entirely irrelevant if the argument is not presented as an explanation of faith but as an a assertion of knowledge; to say that one "can see" is not the same as to say that one "can't help believe". So it does not matter if the factard reiterates the reasoning that underpins their alethic model in terms of the connection they assert between pattern and purpose, since this establishes only grounds of belief, not epistemic certainty. The crucial import of this sort of teleological argument is the blatant disclosure it embodies, that the person utilizing it holds their action of subjective interpretation equivalent to the establishment of an epistemic certainty simply because that action was sufficient to induce a strong enough conviction. They cannot distinguish conviction from certainty. They believe that a belief held strongly enough is knowledge.
They are a frickin factard.
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