Voices of Reason

Here is a very good blog post and timely because it touches on many of the elements we’ve been discussing in this series on Caputo’s book.
The most notable element being how secular fundamentalism is just the other side of the religious fundamentalist coin.  They both feed off each other.  They need each other.  It is a weird family squabble.  The only time they ever take a break from yelling at each other is if a postmodern outsider (the other) comes around.  Then they become the best of friends as they both turn on the outsider.  Of course when they are done yelling in unison at that person, and he walks away bemused and confused, they begin yelling at each other again.  
From the post:
“What I’m trying to say is that scientists, in their role as society’s new priests, often tell religious and metaphysical stories that actively alienate a lot of people and are not scientifically justified. It is justifiable, scientifically, to say that the universe is 13.6 billion years old, or that humans evolved from proto-anthropoids. It is not justifiable, scientifically, to say that the universe is meaningless and there is no hope for an objective purpose to life.
This is only my opinion, and I’m sure many readers will disagree. But consider this: there was no fundamentalism in Christianity before the 19th century. Virtually no sociologists of religion will disagree that fundamentalist Christianity – exactly the kind of absurd, wacky nonsense Bill Nye was so valiantly crusading against last week in Kentucky, little bowtie and all – is in part actually a reactionary product of science’s overreach into spheres of meaning.
That’s right: science as a cultural force (not as a methodology) isn’t just fighting fundamentalism. It created it…”
He goes on:
“…I think it’s important that this war come to an end. Like, soon. Because unlike Neil DeGrasse Tyson or Sam Harris or other Important Public Men of Science, I believe that the human need for meaning is much stronger than the human need for the National Science Foundation. If we keep pressing this sore spot, if we keep insisting as a culture that you can either have meaning or knowledge but not both, people will by and large choose meaning, and science will become nothing but a plaything of aristocrats once again. And then we will lose all hope of ever solving climate change, of coming to grips with evolution, of exploring space.”
In contrast to this either-or dichotomy (either meaning or knowledge), a postmodern understanding allows for the importance of both.
“So are you one of those who thinks religion is stupid, and science is great? Wonderful. Keep it to yourself. Every single time you post a comment anywhere that perpetuates this war, any time you snark to a religious person about how science makes his or her worldview obsolete, you are bringing our culture one step closer to epistemological shutdown. And that means we all lose.”
Good advice.
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3 Responses to Voices of Reason

  1. Burk Braun says:

    No fundamentalism before the 19th century? Obviously this person is unacquainted with history. What was Protestantism but a form of fundamentalism, clearing away the detritus of the gilded church, and returning to sola scriptura? Religions everywhere and always go through cycles of progressivism and fundamentalism. The fundamentalism only turns violent occasionally, when other issues intervene, like the sad state of the Muslim world at the moment. But the basic cycle is timeless.

    One of the issues that fosters fundamentalism is a sense of threat. And Darwin created an enormous threat to both the historical and the broader theological and existential claims of religion. Fundamentalism is certainly one response, but it is purely an internal religious affair. Scientists as such neither promote it nor care about it much, except as it degrades overall scientific literacy, propagates falsehoods, etc. The writer's insinuation that there is some cabal to force priests out of science, or in the curent world to prop up fundamentalists couldn't be more wrong. It was intellectual standards alone that forced out the priests.

    “… our culture one step closer to epistemological shutdown. And that means we all lose.”

    Oh, for heaven's sake, could you be more melodramatic? Our culture will be happier and healthier the less religious we are. Have no fear. Meaning is plenty easy to see and make without fictional totems and institutionlized guilt trips.

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  2. Burk Braun says:

    Sorry, but I can continue briefly on your putative position in this post …

    No, the problem you have is your problem, not anyone else's. You have a problem with modernism and with science, and with the intellectual standards that came in with the enlightenment, to whit that if you claim to speak of what reality consists of, it is incumbent on you to walk the empirical walk, not just talk the talk. It is you who are trying to evade the evident non-reality of god and religion by proclaiming it “really real”, without showing the evidence. That is the issue, and whether your fundamentalist co-religionists embarrass you by being more forthright about the conflict and brazen in their solution is merely a sideshow.

    What are your criteria for claiming that something is “really real”? How can you define truth about reality in a way that ignores the contents of that reality, in favor of tradition, pre-suppositions, mystical intuitions, etc.? We all make inferences about unseen properties of the world. The question is how one goes about making such inferences in a critically rigorous way, not just to do apologetics and defend a received / preconceived idea, but to truly find out new things and validate only the true things.

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  3. Darrell says:

    Hi Burk,

    Sorry, I was out of town for several days…

    “No fundamentalism before the 19th century? Obviously this person is unacquainted with history. What was Protestantism but a form of fundamentalism, clearing away the detritus of the gilded church, and returning to sola scriptura?”

    This may be one of the most misinformed things you've ever asserted. Laughable. Protestantism has never been considered a form of fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is something that happens within both Protestant and Catholic traditions (and the secular as is so clear from your writings) and as the term is used now it is of recent vintage. It is you who is unacquainted with history. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_fundamentalism

    “One of the issues that fosters fundamentalism is a sense of threat.”

    True, this is why the new atheists appeared. It is why you appeared. Both sides fear the other—it is all fear based. It is just cousins fighting—sort of like if in the movie Deliverance the hillbillies were just molesting each other. But both sides, as the writer pointed out, feed the other.

    “No, the problem you have is your problem, not anyone else's. You have a problem with modernism and with science…”

    I have no problem whatsoever with science and you cannot point to a single comment or assertion I've made, ever, to even suggest such a thing. I do have a problem with modernity, but so do a lot of other people both religious and otherwise—it is hardly my problem alone. The reason we are even discussing any of this is because of all the books, essays, and people talking about the problems they associate with modernity.

    As usual, the rest of your comments are just question-begging ramblings. Yawn.

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