Mailvox: Reason misconceived

JS is both conflicted and confused:

I was intrigued by your article as a both a Christian and a devoted Ayn Rand fan (I know obviously I have unresolved issues). But your column, while it makes a decent argument for the concept of non-overlapping magisterium, which I support, never really argues against reason per se. You say that religion is important to human societies and culture (which is no doubt true but not an attack on reason), that Dawkins and Harris (and I guess Hitchens too) make fallacious arguments in support of atheism, that most good charitable work is done by people with religious motives (which is somewhat questionable), and that Enlightenment philosophers were more emotional than rational (Nietchze comes to mind) in their arguments, but the idea that mankind can use logic, evidence, and reason to reach important conclusions about us, the world, etc., is never really challenged. I don’t know if you wrote your headline but perhaps it was mis-applied to your argument.

I did not write my headline; one of the keys to living life as a content and well-adjusted columnist is accepting the fact that the average editor neither reads nor necessarily understands your columns. They’re too busy checking for typos, grammatical errors and potentially offensive metaphors to either worry or care much about what you’re writing. Naturally, this doesn’t prevent them from writing the headline; meaning always takes a backseat to puns and alliteration.

The significant point isn’t that Man can’t use reason as an effective tool, which he can, but rather that reason, in itself, can no more provide the basis for moral and ethical systems than can a computer. It is a tool, nothing more; assertions based on reason are best understood as supporting justifications for underlying arguments rather than as arguments in their own right.

Some devotees of reason consider it to be both ironic and frustrating that I can wield reason and logic more deftly than they can, especially since I do so in the service of what they consider to be irrationality. What they don’t understand is that they are doing precisely the same thing, with the exception of the fact that they quite literally do not understand what they are doing.

When TIA comes out, I suspect many readers will be shocked at how closely some of my conclusions resemble Jonathan Haidt’s assertions; it may prove to be an interesting example of how formal scientody is not the only path to knowledge.