Apologia: The Fullness of Christian Truth


``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D


Science as the Enemy of Truth (excerpt)
by Hillaire Belloc



The capital, the fundamental sin of method [not of creed] in what we call the Modern Scientific Spirit, is the substitution of Numerical Synthesis for Integration.

Other accompanying errors of method allied to and in particular proceeding from this capital error shall be noted; but before proceeding to them it is necessary to explain the terms used and to show why the substitution of Numerical Synthesis for Integration as a method of arriving at truth is calamitous, and, far from leading one to truth, debars one from attaining it.

We mean by integration that faculty in the human mind whereby it is able to combine an indefinitely large number of impressions [colloquially we say: "an infinite number of impressions"] in order to arrive at reality.

For instance, if a man seeing another man coming towards him along a path says: "Here comes my friend, Brown," he is quite certain of the truth of what he says, and he is right to be certain. His mind has not created an image, but appreciated an external object, and his judgment is coincident with that object.

But he has not noted every detail characteristic of Brown. He has not cataloged one by one the gestures and the gait, the elements of the contours and all the rest of it. He has received an indefinitely large number of indefinitely small impressions and combined them, without addition, into one immediate whole.

It is the same with a taste, with a color, with the recognition of anything. A man sees the truth that a distant vessel is of such and such a rig, if he is familiar with that rig, though the indications, if he were to set them down, would seem each individually quite insufficient, and even any sum of them insufficient. Or take what is perhaps the most lucid example of all, the recognition of a type of tree. A man looking at a tree a good way off says with complete certainty, if he is acquainted with such trees: "That is an oak." He cannot see the individual leaves, and if he did he would be a great fool to go over them one by one and not be sure of his oak until he had examined them all. He would be a great fool if he went on to say: "Well, the leaves seem to be all right; but now I must look closely at the bark and I must have a section of the grain, and what about the shape of the boughs?" He, as we say, "knows an oak tree when he sees one." And that "knowing" is a process of integration. It is the immediate combining of an indefinitely large number of indefinitely small indications into one short flash of communion with reality.

The metaphor of "Integration," the best I know in this connection, is taken from mathematics, in which science the word "Integration" is used of arriving at a result through the consideration of what are called "infinitesimals"; an infinitely great number of which, for instance, give the formula of a curve.

This God-given faculty of Integration is the just and only method of perception we possess: I mean, of perception sufficient to bring us into touch with reality and to recognize a thing. It is our only way of truth. We use it in every moment of our lives, and in proportion to our vigor in using it are we sane.

Integration lies at the basis, not only of our recognizing things, but of our judgment upon character and events. Thus, we say that one man "is of good judgment," because he integrates well, though he may not be able to give reasons for his judgment; and another man "of bad judgment," because he integrates badly, although he piles up reasons and calculations over much. Hence, also, we say that good judgment is based upon experience, and hence do we rightly mistrust a man's judgment in practical affairs -- other things being equal -- when he is inexperienced in the particular matter involved, however well he knows the theory of the business.

Now, the Modern Scientific Spirit has more and more fettered itself with a different, false and almost contradictory method of arriving at truth.

It adds together numerically a comparatively small number of ascertained truths with regard to any object and then propounds its conclusion, as though by possession of these few gross certainties it had a sufficient basis for that conclusion. What is more, it very impudently puts forward such a conclusion against the sound conclusion arrived at by the powers of integration present in the common man.

I shall never forget a personage of my early youth who gave us boys lectures in chemistry [for the honor of my old school I must say that it was not at this school that they were given]. He came out one day with this enormity: "A diamond is therefore" [Oh, glorious "therefore"!] "the same thing as a lump of coal." Why, a man might go to jail for pretending that they were the same thing! A diamond is not a lump of coal, and a lump of coal is not a diamond. The Science of this lecturer was the enemy of Truth.

Upon one line of analysis, insofar as the gentleman in question had knowledge, a lump of coal gave the same results as a diamond. They both, along that one line of analysis, presented themselves as what he called "carbon"; and "carbon" was what he called an "element," and an element consisted of hypothetical "molecules," in which there was but one kind of hypothetical "atoms." The atoms he was quite sure were atoms of carbon, and therefore [Oh, glorious "therefore"!] the diamond and the carbon, whose difference stared him in the face, were the same thing. But we infants knew very well they were not the same thing. Nor are they the same thing. Though most of us were of the middle class, we had seen diamonds -- and with coal we were all familiar. We had done our little integrations in these affairs, and we knew that a man who could call a lump of coal a diamond would call cricket, football. Along one line of analysis cricket and football are both games. Along another they are both played with a ball. Along another they are both of English origin. In each case "Experiment on independent lines confirms the hypothesis of identity." Nevertheless, to affirm identity between them is to talk rubbish.

The Modern Scientific Spirit is at war with common sense and with universal judgment -- that is with truth -- principally because it has fallen into this false method.

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