There’s a quote by Thomas of Aquinas that I like to dust off every time I meet a religious person who wants me to “understand” their point of view, and “respect the difference of opinion”. The quote goes like this:
“The truth of our faith becomes a matter of ridicule among the infidels if any Catholic, not gifted with the necessary scientific learning, presents as dogma what scientific scrutiny shows to be false.”
It is good to keep in mind that the Scholastics weren’t much for fuzzy logic. They spent lifetimes debating logic with rigour and precision. For instance, perhaps the most famous logical rule is from this school. It was the Scholastic William of Occam who coined “Occam’s Razor” which states: “Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.” The scholastics weren’t woolly thinkers; not one bit.
There is a powerful kinship between the Scholastics and the later Empiricists of the scientific area. It’s no accident. The empiricists grew out of the Scholastic movement during the renaissence, and they use many of the same mind-tools, techniques, and ideals. The difference between Scholasticism and Empiricism is that while Scholasticism used inductive logic, Empiricism use deductive logic.
Inductive reasoning is where the premise of a hypothesis sets the outcome of the exercise. Deductive reasoning is where the facts shape the outcome of the reasoning. So, if you start with a premise that “God exists” then inductive reasoning looks for facts to support that premise. With deductive reasoning you start with “Does God exist?” and the answer to the question, with its supporting fact, decide the answer. Inductive reasoning looks for facts that supports a predetermined answer. That makes all the difference and is the reason why scholasticism failed and empiricism triumphed.
Because of all this, the modern religious-leaning conservative would have been slaughtered by the Scholastics. They would have held the conservatives in utter contempt as lazy and non-rigorous thinkers. When John Scalzi recently coined the term “Trump’s Razor” in memory of Occam, it fit very well. I’d like to extend the metaphor, and create a corollary: “Boris’ Razor”.
“Trump’s Razor” means according to John Marshall of Talking Points Memo that “the stupidest possible scenario that could be reconciled with the available facts and went with it, that almost always turned out to be right.”
To create that corollary razor, to sit along side of Occam’s and Trump’s, I’d like to see a “Boris’ Razor” that would mean “that the most untrue scenario that could be constructed from a preset premise, that will inevitably spill out of Boris Johnson’s mouth in the most embarrasing way possible for this country”.