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Russell W. Shurts

The Epistemological War

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The explosion of the Muslim world over Danish cartoons caricaturing their religion is perfect for demonstrating the essential issue in the ‘War on Terror,’ which I believe would be far more appropriately called ‘The Epistemological War.’ To see why I label it so, read on.

Muslims who threaten and resort to violence over such depictions have an unshakeable belief in the righteousness of both their religion and it’s prescriptions for living one’s life. It is belief not subject to any kind of thought process, understanding or consideration of the possibility of the believer being wrong. I call it ‘Believing without Thinking.’ With such a state of mind, any kind of affront to that belief is considered to be every bit as wounding as the actual infliction of physical pain.

Opposing these people are the people of western civilization who for over a hundred years have progressively devolved to a state I call ‘Thinking without Believing.’ For decade after decade the universities of the west have consistently put forth the idea that ‘nothing is certain,’ that no idea can be considered ‘right,’ and no action can be considered ‘proper.’ The people of Europe and America have been so indoctrinated by this pervasive skepticism as to be incapable of asserting even so bold a statement as, ‘ the sun comes up in the east.’ According to modern western philosophy there are no absolutes, and it is pointless to even attempt to find one. Westerners can and do ‘think’ about a great many things, but heaven help them if they ever actually believe anything. If you think I am overstating the case, consider if you have ever uttered or thought the following, ‘who am I to know,’ or, ‘who knows,’ or ‘that may be true for you but it is not true for me.’ In addition consider just how squeamish you feel whenever you assert yourself or even think about asserting yourself about any kind of intellectual question.

Though western civilization is powerful almost beyond comprehension, and its’ Muslim adversaries are barely beyond the Stone Age, it is the primitive Muslim culture that has the upper hand in this war. This is so because a culture that asserts itself will not be defeated until it is physically and morally defeated while a culture that can accept ANY idea or action as valid will eventually be convinced that its own demise is perfectly acceptable. Indeed, this is exactly what we are seeing from many intellectual commentators in the west. They see nothing wrong with Muslim demands to stop doing the things free westerners have done for centuries; things like publishing political cartoons, things like women becoming doctors, lawyers and military officers to name just a very few of the professions they can aspire to, things like men shaving their beards, things like enjoying the beauty of a beautiful woman, things like enjoying one’s life for the sheer pleasure of it; well you get the picture. The reason intellectuals see nothing wrong with these demands is because they can come up with ‘logical’ reasons why each of these activities SHOULD be stopped. Because their skepticism has convinced them so thoroughly that NOTHING is provable, certain or absolute they can come up with ‘logical’ reasons for ANYTHING.

This is why the proper name for this war is “The Epistemological War.” Webster’s definition of epistemology is “the study or a theory of the nature and grounds of knowledge especially with reference to its limits and validity.” In the end, the Muslim culture is not contesting our civilization but our epistemology. They KNOW all the answers to the questions of life and are both willing to die and willing to kill for that belief. They are attempting to force their epistemology on a society that has essentially given up on the very idea of a search for a theory of knowledge. ‘Believing without Thinking’ will always trump ‘Thinking without Believing.’

But all is not lost. There is a critical weapon available to anyone willing to understand it that will utterly destroy the Muslim epistemology. That weapon is Objective Epistemology, or to continue in the same parlance as before, ‘Thinking for the express purpose of Believing,’ or put another way, ‘Believing supported by a proper method of Thinking.’

I can hear the objections now, however. Anyone who proclaims any certainty of knowledge is immediately confronted with hundreds of arguments from the skeptics. They focus exclusively on what we don’t know about reality or how human beings have been wrong in the past and will likely be wrong in the future or how easily fooled human beings can be.

What such objections always evade is the absolute fact that human beings have achieved certainty time and time and time again, that we accept certainty as not only possible but likely on a continuous basis, and finally that we rely on certainty as an absolute and continuing fact of life. Even the most skeptical modern philosopher accepts all of what I just said in every single minute of his miserable life.

Think I am out of my mind… well; consider the following in your own life.

Let’s start with your first awakening each morning. You are warm and dry because you went to bed the night before relying on the fact that the house (or apartment, or dormitory…) you live in will keep out the weather, and that your central heating system will keep the temperature comfortable.

The home you live in was built using a process of reason to insure it will keep standing and protect its inhabitants from the elements. The materials it is built out of were taken from nature and re-worked using a process of reason so they would perform as the builder expects them to. All of this works with certainty to keep you dry. Your central heating system was designed by the builder, using a process of reason, to circulate warm air throughout the home keeping it at a desired temperature. The machine that blows hot air throughout your house was invented using a process of reason. It burns fuel in a controlled fashion to generate heated air that is subsequently moved through the house by fans. Indeed, a process of reason was used to develop the concept of temperature and the means for measuring it. These various machines work, absolutely, to keep your home at a desired temperature. You rely on the house and the central heating system to keep you and your possessions warm and dry in every moment of your life.

After waking up you drag yourself to the shower so you can clean your body and start your day fully awake and refreshed.

The shower you step into was created by a process of reason to bring water from a source outside your home via a series of pipes to your bathroom. And some of that water is diverted temporarily into a large tank that uses another controlled burn to heat it before it is sent on its way to come pouring out on your face and shoulders. You absolutely rely on this device every single day (hopefully) to keep you clean and sweet-smelling.

After your shower you go to your closet and pull out a variety of different clothes designed to both enhance your appearance and keep you warm and protected throughout the day.

All of the shirts, shoes, pants, socks, dresses, coats and underwear have been developed using a process of reason so they will fit properly and comfortably, last a long time and be cleanable. The material each article of clothing is made from came from nature, and each material is processed and reworked using a process of reason so it will exhibit the qualities required by the person designing the clothes. You can know with certainty these clothes will serve their purpose day after day.

After putting on your clothes you proceed to the kitchen where you find the food and drink you prepare for your breakfast. In your kitchen you find cabinets and shelves holding cereal, bread, jam, fruit and coffee along with the bowls, cups, glasses and plates to contain them. You also find a refrigerator holding milk for your cereal, or cold pizza from the night before. You use your coffee maker to make your coffee, and your toaster to toast your bread, and you put your meal on the dining table where you sit down and consume it using metal utensils.

Let’s look at ALL of the things developed using a process of reason that allows you to eat your morning meal:

• Cabinets and shelves designed to hold foodstuffs and various utensils used by you to hold, cook, prepare and consume those foodstuffs.

• All of these various utensils are designed in such a way as to be useful, long-lasting and pleasing to the eye

• The refrigerator that removes the heat from a contained area for the purpose of keeping perishable food items fresh longer.

• The materials the refrigerator is made from so it can isolate the contained cold area from everything around it for a very long, long time, but also provide easy access to its contents and the ability to keep some of them in a frozen state.

• The coffee maker that mixes water and coffee beans and then heats the combination in such a way that it creates the liquid refreshment known as coffee.

• Cereal that is developed from raw materials, processed, packaged and shipped in a pleasing container that keeps it fresh, dry and edible for a long time.

• Bread that is baked using raw materials, wrapped and delivered fresh.

• Jam that is taken from nature, processed and placed in glass or plastic containers to be shipped to the market (another process of reason developed this business), where you purchase it and bring it home.

• Fruit that is picked from trees or vines in such a way so as to protect it, and then packaged and delivered to your table.

• Coffee that is picked from plants, processed, packaged and transported to your market, where you select it and take it home to be processed in your coffee maker.

• And finally milk which is taken from the cow, refrigerated immediately, placed in glass or plastic or paper containers, shipped to refrigerated bins at the market to be purchased by you and placed in your refrigerator.

All of these things happen every day, if not every hour or every minute, with absolute certainty, and you rely on each and every one of them, again with absolute certainty every single day of your life.

Are you tired yet? We haven’t even gotten out the door, and I have conclusively demonstrated at least 35 separate instances where you absolutely and positively rely on the certainty created by a process of reason in order to live your life the way you want to live it. And frankly I have been kind in this litany; there are probably a hundred or maybe even a thousand times these separate instances where you are relying on the certainty of a process of reason in order to sustain your life and make it better.

Just to drive home the point a little better let’s make a relatively short list of the devices and materials you will be using the rest of the day to sustain and enhance your life. Each of these things required a process of reason to be developed; a process of reason that you rely on every day with absolute certainty.

• Doors to the outside world

• Garage Door Openers

• Automobiles including all of the following:

o Tires

o Steering Wheel

o Leather Seats

o Windows

o Sun Roofs

o Radios

o CD Players

o Engines

o Brakes

o Heaters

o Air Conditioners

• Roads

• Curbs and Gutters

• Sidewalks

• Office Buildings or Factories

• Desks

• Chairs

• Production Machines

• Computers

• Copiers

• Telephones

• Electrical Power Systems

• Fax Machines

• Lunchrooms

• Restaurants

• Merchants of every conceivable type and kind

• Stoplights

• TV’s

• DVR’s

• Ovens

• Microwave Ovens

• Krispy Kreme Donuts

The whole point of this exercise is to impress upon each and every one of you just how MUCH certainty there is in your life, and it is ALL certainty provided by a process of reason, i.e. a proper method of thinking about the natural world for the express purpose of accomplishing something that will be beneficial to human beings. The very idea, foisted on us by so-called intellectuals, that we human beings are incapable of being certain about anything is beyond laughable. Take several moments from your own day today to see just what you absolutely, positively are relying on, and how it came into being. I think you will see that your life is a constant, minute-by-minute experience of on-going certainty about the man-made world you live in.

I have spent the last three pages describing in minute detail many of the things people are certain of in their daily lives, but modern skeptics are incorrigible. I can hear them complaining that virtually every one of the things I’ve mentioned fails to work properly from time to time, and therefore they ‘can’t’ be relied upon.

Au contraire; the fact that some of the things we absolutely, positively rely on each day sometimes fail only adds more substance to my arguments. It is because we come to expect all of these things to work properly that it is both annoying and relatively big news in our lives whenever one of them fails to work. For example, the keyboard I am writing on is working perfectly right now. I have used computer keyboards for over 20 years, and can count on one hand the number of times I have ever had a problem with one. Let’s assume that means I have experienced five problems with keyboards over the last 20 years, and let’s also assume that I use a keyboard approximately 50 weeks out of every year, and that I use one ten times every day. That would work out to 70,000 usages of a keyboard with 5 failures in that time, a failure rate of .007%; but of course, there is no such thing as certainty. But these facts aren’t most damning to the modern skeptic’s case.

What happens when a problem occurs speaks volumes about what people really believe in. If this keyboard suddenly stopped working, would I throw my hands in the air and moan about my inability to know anything? Would I wail about the hopelessness of life, and the inevitable rotten end that will come to us all? Would I get down on my knees and pray to Allah to fix it? Perhaps I would do a little ‘techno dance’ to implore the gods to let my keyboard work again?

Or maybe I would start using a process of reason to try to determine what the problem is; so I could fix it. Even when the products of our processes of reason fail us, we know enough and have enough belief in the reliability of reason to apply a process of it to the failure. We KNOW that only by employing such a process will we be able to achieve the success of our goal, and we KNOW this because we know there really isn’t a Santa Claus out there taking care of everything for us, and we know that reality NEVER plays tricks on us. Our minds might play tricks on us from time to time, but reality never does. But then again we also know that our only hope of sorting out the tricks our minds might play on us is to once again employ a proper method of thinking, i.e. a process of reason.

But our persistent modern skeptic might come back on me and say, “But you don’t understand all of the things you have been talking about. You don’t know how a car works or how a house is built or how thermometers tell temperature. How can you claim certainty, when you don’t know how anything works, or how to re-create any of these things should any of them ever vanish?” And to a certain extent, he would be right. But only to the extent that I truly don’t know how many of the things I use REALLY work, and I wouldn’t be able to develop them myself. But once again, all this does is prove my point all the more. It does this in two ways.

First, though I don’t know how many of these things work, there is something I do five days a week that I do know very, very well. My career is the one place where I am the expert. Many, many people rely on me to know what I am doing in the job functions I perform, just as I am certain that many, many people rely on each of you to perform the job functions you have learned through years of experience. They and I can be certain of the work I perform using a process of reason. Perhaps you might think you are not an expert at what you do, but if you think about it, regardless of what you do to earn your sustenance, it must be of sufficient value for another person to pay you for it.

Second, though I don’t know how many of the things I use work I do employ a process of reason in purchasing and using all of them. I sometimes make mistakes, but if I employ a proper method of reasoning in making my choices I typically end up with exactly what good or service I am trying to acquire to enhance my life. I may not know how these things work, but I can trade my own expertise to others (through a medium called money) to acquire the things they are expert at providing. And I can use a process of reason to evaluate the quality and effectiveness of the goods and services I am trading for, and the quality and moral character of the people I am trading with. Once again, a process of reason leading to certainty reigns supreme and positively explodes the idea our ‘intellectual’ leaders put forth that we are all just helpless automatons in an unknowable, malevolent world.

Finally, your garden variety modern intellectual would likely claim that all I have been discussing are goods and services, and that of course reason works for making things or for serving drinks, but it doesn’t work in the intellectual realm, i.e. ethics, politics, esthetics and epistemology. To answer this, let me first pose a rhetorical question; would you prefer to live under the Constitution of the United States or the Sharia of the Muslim religion. The first was created using a process of reason applied to reality and human nature. The second was created by a 7th century egomaniacal religious dictator using a process of faith. Even with all of its faults there has been no finer political system for human beings to live under in the history of the world than the American system.

And there could be no more daunting a task in the realm of politics than creating a just and lasting rule of law over an entire continent; yet that is precisely what our Founding Fathers created for us. For all Americans reading this that means that for all of your life you have relied on the certainty provided by this political system every time you make a purchase, work at your job, go on a vacation, create something new or any of a million endeavors you engage in throughout your long life.

Do you still give ANY credence to the supposed intellectuals who tell you that you can’t be certain of anything, most emphatically including the objective value of the American culture and your life in it?

This is why I call this ‘The Epistemological War.’ In the end, the only reason the situation has gotten so bad is because Americans no longer have certainty about the value of their political system, their culture and their lives. The only way this could ever have happened is because they have swallowed whole the nonsense spewed out by their supposed intellectual betters that there is no such thing as objectivity. And the only way it is ever going to get better is by the good people of this country regaining the idea of certainty and proudly asserting that fact using a proper epistemology, i.e. a process of reason.

Belief supported by a proper process of reason will ALWAYS trump Believing without Thinking and Thinking without Believing.

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