The great deception

When ‘rational’ thought becomes a fraud

Consider a spotlight targeting a plane in a dark space. The light forms an illuminated circle of a certain radius. Imagine that whatever lies inside the conical space between the source of light and the illuminated circle on the plane is visible, while everything outside the illuminated space remains pitch dark. Creative souls use their powers of abstraction to draw conclusions about the reality of the space from the available visual data, which they keep sharing with their less-creative fellows. These conclusions are constantly refined by testing them against more detailed visual observations. Whatever lies outside the illuminated zone is (rightly) considered outside the scope of the whole activity because it is not amenable to observation. So far, so good. With the passage of time, however, some of them gradually start insisting that just because they cannot possibly have tangible evidence for what lies outside the illuminated space; there must be nothing outside it. As more time passes an increasing number from among their audience starts accepting their position.

The illuminated space in the above analogy is the empirical domain, abstraction of reality from particular observations is what the physicists do, and the dark region outside the illuminated domain is the meta-physical (literally after- or beyond-physical) domain. Positive claims regarding nothing being outside the illuminated space amount to positively refuting any metaphysical reality even though metaphysics is, by definition, outside the scientific domain. By giving a verdict outside the domain of empirical verifiability, the knowledge-system oversteps the very boundary it set for itself in the beginning.

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Dismissing out of hand the possibility of anything outside the purely physical and rejecting the need and scope of any possible source of knowledge barring empirical knowledge is merely the beginning. Having rid themselves of the metaphysical from the outside world, humanism, and its cousins scientism and secularism, now feel obliged to get rid of it from human psychology as well. This reduces man – including his mind – to merely being a collection of atoms, and therefore subject only to the physical laws that govern inanimate objects of the universe. By declaring man just another object, they ignore the subjective side of man altogether – the side that sets man apart from anything else in the world. Just consider the intellectual contortion this brand of epistemology necessitates: Man, on the one hand, is merely matter at the mercy of outside forces; but on the other hand, he is capable enough to independently figure out all there is to figure out. It would be quite a joke, were its consequences not so grave.

Science no-doubt reigns supreme in the empirical domain, but with its overwhelming influence on the average man’s life, it is rather easy to apply it outside its valid domain.

Science no-doubt reigns supreme in the empirical domain, but with its overwhelming influence on the average man’s life, it is rather easy to apply it outside its valid domain. Also, what is not appreciated enough is that all rational thought, whether inductive or deductive, is based on a priori axioms that provide the framework or the context in which all subsequent knowledge is placed. In a way, knowledge is all about context making: to know is to place things (objects) in their proper contexts. For the monotheist, the idea of God is not something that can be placed in a context. Instead, it provides the context in which subsequent facts are placed. The idea of the One Transcendent God then for him is an a priori idea. And by no means is he unique in allowing a priori knowledge in his scheme of reality. In fact, no scheme of reality is possible without such knowledge. So it is that the rationalist cannot help placing everything in a-priori contexts of time, space, matter, and invariable association. These are ideas which the subjective mind applies on the universe to make sense of it. It does not prove them; he accepts them as concepts that are antecedent to any data that is subsequently presented to the senses. The so-called rationalist’s demand for God to be ‘demonstrated’ is therefore not only absurd but smacks of inconsistency as well because he cannot possibly demonstrate his own a priori ideas on the standards he expects from the theist.

Rationality, when it becomes rationalization, is oft-times a fraud. For rationality is the handmaiden of ambition, not its master. It is purpose-driven, not purpose-free, as many seem to imagine. It is always driven by some agenda, and in a direction that helps that agenda. The problem with the so-called ‘free enquiry’, then, is that it is anything but free.

There major groups are involved here. Those who are the perpetrators of this deception. They are beyond hope as they are intelligent enough to know what is going on and are happy with the success of the project. Then there are those armchair science enthusiasts who unconsciously become carriers of this empiricism-only epistemology. They are the real victims of the very propaganda that they unwittingly help peddle and spread around. Finally, there are those theists who are overawed by the propaganda and do not know how to respond to it. If this essay ends up helping even one individual from the last two groups, the author will consider his effort to have been worthwhile.

Hasan Aftab Saeed
Hasan Aftab Saeed
The author is a connoisseur of music, literature, and food (but not drinks). He can be reached at


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