Apologetics, Metaphysics, Philosophy, Traditionalism, Wolfgang Smith

Wolfgang Smith: Preliminary Remarks

School of AthensThe contemporary debate between religion and science, faith and reason, creation and evolution will most likely continue to rage on for several generations. And no matter how ardently avoided due to the vitriolic annoyance of the modern cult of new atheist personality, the traditionalist will at some point have to wrestle with these debates despite the ill-conceived categorizations. The atheist may feel comfortable with these erroneously presumed classifications by mindlessly repeating the mantra that science has defeated religion, or that reason has won the day over faith, or that evolution is scientific fact while creation is a misbegotten magic fairy-tale, but these pontifications have very little to do with the crux of the disagreement between the opposing worldviews.

The atheistic Weltanschauung requires these conflicts because the principles they are attempting to commandeer in support of their irrational dogma are undermined by their own materialistic presuppositions. The desperate hope for the atheist, then, is to go on sophistical autopilot by way of repetitious platitude in an attempt to persuade others to refrain from thinking in ways that transcend the procrustean reductions of materialism. The traditionalist, however, recognizes the perpetuation of these dialectical categorizations to be a fallacious starting point, a dead end program that ultimately traps a person in the corner of absurdity. There is no conflict between religion and science because “religion” examines revelation, which comes from God, through mystical contemplation of the theological recognition of divine mysteries, while science is a methodological study of those secondary causes discovered in nature that have been created and sustained by God. Faith and reason are not competitive aspects of the human mind and will; rather, they share a dynamically interactive relationship on the same spectrum of contemplation.

Creation and evolution, however, are at odds with one another and there is simply no way to get around this fact. This is where the conflict can become tricky. Evolution is claimed to be a scientific fact, whereas creation is dismissed as frank stupidity resulting in a staggering level of anti-intellectualism. These are the claims made by the atheist, inexorably linked to a Darwinism that perpetuates the erroneous notion that religion and science, and faith and reason are diametrically opposed to one another. Due to this interconnected narrative attacking religion, many contemporary Christian apologists have committed themselves to making peace with the secular sciences in order to analytically demonstrate, not necessarily the truth of revelation, but the compatibility of faith with secular reason according to a probabilistic epistemic theory. This maneuver has proven to be as disastrous as it is unnecessary. Rather than “sanctifying Christ as Lord in our hearts,” contemporary apologetics has knelt before the dictates of a phony secular prestige in order to look respectable.

Instead of prostrating before an ideological enemy, the traditionalist must set the terms of the debate by exposing the specious assumptions crafted by the atheist. The disagreement isn’t within the scope of scientific discoveries against the mythos of a bygone era of superstition; the debate is between a traditional mythos and a modernist anti-mythos pretending to be scientific. The sooner this is realized, the sooner the traditionalist might no longer be intimidated by illusory methodological prestige.

This is where the thought of Wolfgang Smith becomes vitally important for the traditionalist looking to confront the errors of modernist heresy. Smith is a Roman Catholic, an adherent to the perennial school of philosophy, and his credentials are notable,

“The author (Wolfgang Smith) graduated from Cornell University at age eighteen with majors in physics, philosophy, and mathematics. After taking an M.S. in physics in Purdue University he pursued research in aerodynamics. In those early years he distinguished himself by his papers on the effect of diffusion fields, which provided the first theoretical key to the solution of the re-entry problem for space flight. After receiving a Ph.D. in mathematics from Columbia University, Dr. Smith held faculty positions at M.I.T., U.C.L.A., and Oregon State University, where he retired as a Professor of Mathematics in 1992. In addition to numerous technical publications (relating mainly to differential topology), he has published five other books dealing with foundational interdisciplinary problems, and has become widely recognized as one of the foremost authors to offer a critique of modern science in light of traditionalist metaphysics. He has made it his mission to unmask conceptions of a scientistic kind which are today generally accepted as scientific truths, in the hope of opening doors which have been officially bolted since the Enlightenment.”[1]

These credentials indicate that Smith is well equipped to interact with the claims being made by the secular scientific community. In addition to his ability to interact with the technical rigors of modern scientific theory, Smith possesses the aptitude to philosophically engage the assumptions being posited as scientific breakthroughs when in actuality many of these so-called discoveries are themselves rationalized conventions. Indeed, these capabilities make up for various deficiencies within the contemporary traditionalist school when attempting to refute the modernist anti-mythos.

There are three deficiencies often hindering the total annihilation of the modernist anti-mythos:

  1. First, there are numerous Christians who have attained the necessary academic credentials to critically engage contemporary secular science, but often times these same Christians lack the ability to identify key philosophical issues important to the debate taking place between the opposing worldviews.
  2. Second, there are many Christians who have attained the necessary academic credentials to critically engage contemporary atheistic/naturalist/physicalist/materialist philosophy, but often times lack the ability to identify key scientific issues important to the debate taking place between the opposing worldviews. This results in an apologetic endeavor attempting to show that Christianity can at the very least co-exist with secular science, which in my view is totally inadequate. Another scenario that may take place is the appropriate recognition that the debate is fundamentally metaphysical and ontological, which results in the scientific community’s assumptions frequently escaping critical scrutiny.
  3. Third, the philosophical interaction with modern atheistic philosophy and secular science is most often not done from a distinctively traditionalist perspective, that is, many mainstream Christian apologists share the assumptions of the mechanistic metaphysical worldview that came out of the Enlightenment and overthrew the ancient, organic, hierarchic Christian view of reality.

Wolfgang Smith uniquely overcomes these deficiencies by not only having the scientific and philosophical acumen necessary to deal with the important issues under consideration in the dispute, but he also approaches the debate from a traditionalist perspective.

The result of Wolfgang Smith’s thought is an uncompromising traditionalist refutation of the modernistic atheism hiding behind the esteem of scientific discovery.

The refutation and reinterpretation constructed by Smith has three important phases in its process:

  1. First, it is recognized that scientistic ideology is masquerading as science, that is, method is being mistaken for metaphysics. The philosophical ideology of scientism not only reduces itself to an untenable absurdity, it also nullifies the possibility of properly interpreting authentic discoveries of the natural order.
  2. Second, once this illegitimate marriage between metaphysical ideology and the legitimate methods of science has been annulled, so to speak, authentic discoveries of the natural order can be separated from the modernist anti-mythos so that they may be reinterpreted in light of sacred tradition.
  3. The third and final step is taken when the authentic discoveries of the scientific community are newly reinterpreted in light of sacred tradition so that a fuller, more robust comprehension of the cosmos can begin to emerge. Instead of reducing the whole of reality to its atomized parts, the traditionally understood hierarchic created cosmos is once again free to proclaim the splendor of the Creator.

Wolfgang Smith is one of the most important, and yet unknown, Catholic intellectuals of our contemporary era. His thought is not only relevant for defeating the errors of the modernist anti-mythos, but also, for seeing reality through new eyes. Smith makes it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled traditionalist.

 

– Lucas G. Westman


[1] This summary of credentials is located on the back of his book, Science & Myth.

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3 thoughts on “Wolfgang Smith: Preliminary Remarks

  1. Rick DeLano says:

    You have correctly identified this man as presenting us with one of the most vital missing elements in the coming restoration:

    A Catholic cosmology.

    Beautiful essay, thank you.

    Like

    • Rick,

      Thanks for taking the time to read this article. I am pleased that you enjoyed it. I am doing a series of articles examining many of Smith’s essays. The next installment is going to take a look at this essay titled, Science and Myth, where he talks about the idea of myth and anti-myth. Smith identifies three primary paradigms that informed the modernist anti-myth – Newton, Darwin, Copernican. A very eye opening essay to say the least.

      Like

  2. Pingback: Socratic Catholic Archive IN PROGRESS | Defense for the Hope

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