Do Faith Claims Have a Place? (RJS)

There is an interesting column by Paul Pardi in the Huffington Post: Why Faith Claims Should Be ‘Corrected’: A Professor’s View (HT JT). In this column Pardi discusses a recent article and talk by Professor Peter Boghossian of Portland State University.

At the heart of Boghossian’s argument is the idea that students should leave a classroom more informed about the world than they entered it, and since faith claims aren’t publicly testable, students who make them “shouldn’t be given a seat at the adult table.” Boghossian makes a distinction between a private belief that impacts only the person believing it (like the belief that peanut butter tastes good) and public claims that are supposed to have implications for the rest of us (like the claim that God disapproves of contraception). Beliefs about God and his activity are private beliefs that students are welcome to hold but these beliefs should not be a part of the educational conversation. If a student makes a public argument that is based on a private belief, professors should call these students out and help correct their thinking.

What place do faith claims have in public discussions?

More from Pardi’s article:

Boghossian is clear that the crux issue is not about the claims themselves. Rather, he focuses on addressing the processes one uses to get to those claims. Professors must “meaningfully discuss these issues and talk about the process one uses and the fact that certain processes are unreliable to lead one to the truth — faith being one of those processes — and have educators call people out on, quite frankly, delusion.”

And his conclusion:

What role should faith play, if any, in the way we think about the conversation in the classroom or an ordered society?

According to Boghossian, it should be relegated to personal preference like a taste for peanut butter or what to do in one’s free time. Faith claims should not be given any educational or social authority. And in case you missed it, that’s a public truth claim and one that should and will be discussed broadly and deeply as the role of faith continues to evolve.

Read the full article, where there is also a link to more by Professor Boghossian. As a professor and a scholar I agree that faith claims should be challenged and tested. But they are not tested on objective, empirical, scientific grounds alone. There is more to knowledge and scholarship than empirical science, or philosophy, admits. And faith claims – including Boghossian’s – certainly belong in the public sphere and in the classroom.

What do you think?

Are faith claims merely personal taste, like a preference for lefse or lutefisk?

Which faith claims should have a place in the public sphere or the classroom?

(Added) By the way – Justin Topp, through whom I found Pardi’s article, posted on it today as well. His post is well worth reading: False faith claims and faith as a cognitive sickness.

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net.

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  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    Sounds like Boghossian is making a public faith claim about public faith claims, in which case, his argument is self-refuting.

  • Rick

    He is not truly educating, at least without giving a qualification about limiting his scope.

    What makes him different than the religious fundamentalist that does not allow certain material to be discussed?

  • Susan N.

    How has it been working out for us, as a society, in attempting to be tolerant and P.C., to avoid conversing about potentially “difficult” or controversial topics like faith?

    Stuffing those differences and questions doesn’t make them go away. We all have faith in *some* thing/one. We live/act out according to our values and beliefs.

    Rick — we’re batting two for two these days, as far as I’m concerned, I agree that it is more dangerous to suppress questions and discussion. I think we, as Americans and not excepting the Christian church in America, too often have a problem having a healthy, respectful dialogue. We want to win more than we want to learn; we feel an urgency to “correct” others instead of just communicating *our* beliefs and opinions. How do we learn to quit that?

    Teaching isn’t simply dumping knowledge into a student’s head; it is also giving a student the desire and means to take the ball and run with learning. As I thought about science in particular, we talk about the academic rigors of testing and proving ideas and inventions; learning and discovering, historically, tells us that a whole lot of “failures” precede success. Scientific discoveries continue to be made. We haven’t “arrived” by any means as a civilization; and, if so, where have we arrived? We don’t want to stay put indefinitely. Theology and our related faith is a learning process just like that. Patience and humility. That’s my .01.

    I have really thought about yesterday’s post and the impassioned commentary on my part and that of others who shall not be named… Sometimes I speak hastily and regret my wording. I think I still mean today what I said yesterday!

  • Susan N.

    Hey, RJS, I just wanted to put a plug in for an excellent book that demonstrates how healthy inter-cultural dialogue *can* be done. (I’ve mentioned it here on JC before — on the Weekly Meanderings, I think.)

    ‘The Faith Club: A Muslim, a Christian, and a Jew — Three Women Search for Understanding’ by Ranya Idliby, Suzanne Oliver, and Priscilla Warner.

    Tolerance isn’t avoidance; peacemaking isn’t peacekeeping.

  • http://johngreenview.wordpress.com John Thomson

    For all of us our ‘public’ life is based on our ‘private’
    worldview (that is our ‘faith claim’). The problem is the secular person refuses to recognise his opinions are based on presuppositions as much as those of the religious person. There is a breath-taking arrogance here.

  • Paul W

    “Are faith claims merely personal taste, like a preference for lefse or lutefisk?”

    I don’t think that it would be wise to connect fundamental religious beliefs with the word “merely” period. There is something elusive and mysterious about our deepest convictions that resists the reductionistic impulse of so many of these sorts of discussions.

    I do think that religious belief itself is more akin to tastes than to simple choice. That being said, it doesn’t follow that our religious beliefs are merely subjective. There very well may have an existing external referent to which they point.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Do we know if he is railing against atheistic claims too, which are faith claims? If someone started out, “Because there is no god we blah blah blah” then that too is a faith claim.

  • RJS

    Pardi’s final point – in the last paragraph quoted above – makes the observation that Boghossian is making a faith claim, and doesn’t seem to realize it.

    Perhaps a better question would be – what faith claims have a place? (A question I just added.)

  • Norman

    I understand the precept but I wonder how the professor is going to handle a discussion of space , black holes, event horizons and space time continuum that presently baffle almost all scientist and leave them groping for answers; like the rest of us. When you enter into the world of black holes you enter a world in which no data can really be applied beyond the event horizon so in the professor’s classroom the discussion should theoretically end at that point since there is no testable data to deal with at present. I’m curious how he would make exceptions for the untestable.

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    Faith is an understanding. Faith is a decision one continually makes. Faith is a commitment. Christian faith is enabled by God: Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God, and no one can confess, apart from the Holy Spirit, that Jesus is Lord. Because of the divine element involved, faith is more than merely a preference. Faith is more than personal, because it affects every area of one’s life, private and public. Of course, all these statements I make about faith are themselves faith claims. 8)

  • Josh T.

    “If a student makes a public argument that is based on a private belief, professors should call these students out and help correct their thinking.”

    That sounds to me like an effective way of getting people to shut up ahead of time and keep their beliefs to themselves. Sounds similar to the problem with people in church avoiding bringing up legitimate questions and doubts in front of other believers for fear of being judged. In other words, if this Prof has his way, there won’t be any discussion. I think there is a difference between bringing up something that may be discussed/debated and bringing up something that will lead one to being “corrected.”

    And with the little unprovable assumptions we ALL bring to the table, it would be impossible to eliminate them from public discourse, so it seems to me that the Prof potentially will stifle good discussion and promote his own agenda instead (unprovable assumptions, included) whether he realizes it or not.

  • LexCro

    If faith claims don’t have a place in the public square (including their voice in public education) then we should retroactively erase the Abolitionist Movement and the Civil Rights Movement from the public square. Contemporary anti-Christian secularists consistently miss this.

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    Everything comes down to faith claims, because everything comes down to one’s philosophy, worldview, presuppositions or assumptions. Eliminate all faith claims and you eliminate all discussion about anything. It is important, then, that we be able to identify what our philosophies, worldviews, presuppositions or assumptions are. To recognize what lens we are looking at the world through and how it might affect how we see the world.

    Let every faith claim, then, come to the table and let them be analyzed. But to analyze a faith claim, one must first be aware of the faith claim they are bringing. Boghossian makes a faith claim about faith claims (and, I expect, about a great many other things) and apparently does not even realize he is doing so. The result, in this case, is the incoherence of making public the faith claim that faith claims have no business being made public. A man who is aware of his faith claims (philosophies, presuppositions, etc.) has an advantage over a man, such as Boghossian, who is unaware.

  • Amos Paul

    Hypothetical student.

    Some Faith Claims:

    - Believing that I’m not a brain in a vat or that there’s an external reality around me filled with other minds to interact with.

    - That the history I’ve been educated upon up to that point in my education has been basically accurate.

    - That whatever subject the professor is teaching upon is actually comprehensible and that the professor and his/her field in general are *correct* in the claims they’re making to educate me.

    - That respect and responsibility are goods worth pursuing when interacting with others and learning.

    Etc.

    If I reject all these ‘private’ and irrelevant faith claims in class–do we even have a class anymore?

    I suppose there might be some topics that are, generally, irrelevant to simply bring up to discuss in many class scenarios… but the idea that one’s fundamental views upon reality and how one approaches the world overall are completely irrelevant to one’s education is both preposerous and harmful to education.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Well, I have now listened to about 40 minutes of his interview here:

    http://www.philosophynews.com/post/2011/12/05/Interview-with-Peter-Boghossian.aspx

    Frankly, I agree with him.

    He makes a bunch of points, so I will summarize some of them.

    1. Pervasive interpretive pluralism is the primary evidence for the lack of reliability in faith claims as a means of reaching valid conclusions (he does not use that term though)
    2. Methods of argumentation and thinking should be developed that produce reliable results. Given PIP, the process is inherently unreliable.
    3. You can tell a faith claim by whether the person is willing to have his claim falsified by evidence
    4. People can have rational beliefs even though they don’t have evidence, that’s not the point.
    5. His arguments and points are not about the conclusions, but about the methods. I agree with this and see no problem here as long as people recognize this caveat.

    Interestingly, he also noted that the ruckus over his talks and work has come mainly from his colleagues and not the theists. He says the theists have been quite polite and respectful of his perspective.

    I agree with him. If people are going to use faith based claims then they need to understand the implication of them doing so. I think that is important.

    What is more dangerous, in my view, is when people make the faith based claim without understanding the basis. For example, those who are against homosexuals and think it is an abomination share my faith but produce a different conclusion. Therefore we both need to understand that it is still our interpretation of the evidence that we are weighing, not the actual will of god.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Jeff#13, I think he does understand his presuppositions etc. He is simply arguing that if we are to give equal weight to all faith based claims then we would not have a reliable method of producing results. He quotes Dawkins who says something like, theists are atheists about every other religion out there. He just takes one more step and also eliminates that last religion. (My son has used that on me.)

  • Rick

    DRT-

    On a side note, how did the funeral go and how are the family and friends doing?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    BTW, he also discusses why his leftist colleagues are more upset with him than the theists, and this is interesting. He says that his the idea that individual subjective experience is equally valid for all individuals opens the door for things like intelligent design. That the subjective claims made by this group are equally valid to the claims made by any other group. His lefty friends do not want that view to have a seat at the table and his logic allows it. Remember, he argues against it because of PIP, not because they are necessarily are wrong.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Thanks Rick, there were so many kids there all crying. Closed coffin, no one understanding how this can happen. Everyone in gross disbelief.

    http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/timesdispatch/obituary.aspx?n=grayson-clarke-hall&pid=155229239

  • Susan N.

    DRT (#15) – “Therefore we both need to understand that it is still our interpretation of the evidence that we are weighing, not the actual will of god.”

    Different interpretations of the same “evidence”, leading to opposite or vastly different conclusions…otherwise known as “blik.”

    We are *whole* people. As much as we would like to compartmentalize our areas of knowledge and opinions, I think it’s very difficult to do this. We’re not robots or computers.

    Open discussion and respect for people with a different “blik” is a better way, imho. Learning for understanding, more than proving how right one is, or to win an argument, I think promotes creativity and critical thinking.

    If Boghossian were my professor, or one of my children’s, I would honor his rules, play the game, and get the grade and credit, because it’s his and the university’s party. I would resent the authoritarian teaching style, though, and my respect for the man would be greatly diminished. And, I’d keep right on thinking for myself, and seek out individuals and groups with whom I could have an honest, open dialogue for deep thinking, learning, and growth :-)

  • Susan N.

    DRT (#19) – I’m saddened for the family of your son’s friend, and praying that God’s comfort and healing will surround you all. I have known tragedy, DRT. A child’s death seems so unbelievable and unreal. It’s a shock to our “system” and challenges our faith, big time. My heart goes out to those who are grieving.

  • T

    As others have pointed out, the hypocrisy/irony is so thick it makes me want to laugh or cry.

    This professor’s viewpoint reminds me of the enlightenment-fan author, Pinker, and the clip of the review of his book that was posted here today:

    “On one level, perhaps, it is all terrific nonsense: historically superficial, philosophically platitudinous[.] . . . But there is also something exhilarating about this fideist who thinks he is a rationalist.”

    Ultimately, I find that I have little patience for “believers” who think they purely rational; probably something I need to pray about. Once someone at least realizes that all knowledge is “reasoned-faith” we can at least have an interesting conversation about our respective reasons and the steps of faith we’re each willing to take and which we’re not. But this guy needs philosophy 101. What a shame; he’s probably tenured.

  • http://everythingnew.org Jeff Cook

    All statements of fact assume presuppositions.

    “Faith claims” are simply an identification of one’s presuppositions.

    To assume otherwise, it seems to me, is naive.

    The problem then is not faith claims, but the lack thereof.

  • http://everythingnew.org Jeff Cook

    Ah…see a lot of other folks have already made that point.

    (Note to self: read other posts first).

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    I think a lot of people have no idea how wealth is created.

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    Oops! Wrong thread.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I didn’t mean to suck all the air out of the room.

    Back to the post, presuppositions notwithstanding, I believe what he is trying to do is give people a way to think about decisions given, or presupposing the US state of theistic tolerance. I think that is a good thing to teach people to do, but that needs to be stated without condemning folks who hold to theism.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Another thought, if anyone cares to engage.

    I am quite disenchanted by the thought that folks can just claim that your basis for views involves presuppositions and that your presuppositions and like anyone elses, strictly presuppositions.

    I have no doubt that the argument from presuppositions is true, but want to find out a way to clearly express, particularly to Jeff Doles, that it can be irrelevant to many conversations.

    For instance, in this conversation. I realize that he is presupposing that the atheistic view is somehow more rational than views that are theistic, and therefore he is on equal footing with the rest. But, in our context it does make a difference if you are arguing from the theistic or atheistic standpoint. To be more specific, there is a difference when one invokes a holy book or other tradition that is said to be outside of the domain of man. That is clearly different that alleging that we are going to argue/debate within the auspices of our non-revelatory knowledge base.

    I am interested in starting a conversation to help those like Boghossian to relate to those with theistic beliefs. I presuppose that there is more value in people working together in harmony than not, and it certainly is a relevant topic to us today.

    How can we bridge the divide?

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    I do not think one’s presuppositions are irrelevant. They are the foundations upon which one build’s the rest of one’s thoughts. They are the lens through which one views the world, identifies this as “evidence” or that as “fact.” Not all presuppositions, assumptions or philosophies are equal, and they must each be evaluated. And, of course, not everyone will agree on what value is to be given to each. But everyone should be aware of their own presuppositions (actually, the complex of presuppositions they hold), and the nature of those presuppositions as, ultimately, matters of faith.

    I acknowledge my presuppositions as including a faith in the existence of God and that He has revealed Himself in the world, that He has given us revelation of Himself in a holy book. Others do not share those presuppositions but presuppose the opposite. One’s “non-revelatory knowledge” base begins with presupposition. For example, it is a presupposition that there even is a knowledge base, or of what the knowledge base consists, presuppositions of epistemology. Every truth claim is essentially a faith claim, a statement of what one believes, for whatever reason, revelatory or non-revelatory, to be true. Every claim to knowledge is likewise a faith claim, a statement of what one believes he knows.

    So, for like Boghossian to preclude faith claims from the discussion is to saw off the branch on he himself sits. It is, as I noted earlier, an incoherence and a self-refuting point.

    Rather let faith claims into the discussion, let the presuppositions be identified on each side, and let them all be evaluated. This may or may not result in agreement or the changing of minds, but I think it will lead to clarity over where disagreement lies, and why.

  • Dan Arnold

    Jeff (#29),

    Out of curiosity, how do you propose to evaluate faith claims? For example, an empiricist may presuppose naturalism and point to the self-correcting nature of the scientific method to validate her/his claim. How would you justify your belief in God? How is it superior to Russell’s Celestial Teapot?

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    There are, of course, counter-arguments to Russell’s Celestial Teapot. Just google it.

    But the reason I believe in God is because I’ve met Him. However, I’ve never met the Celestial Teapot.

    Everyone has to weigh out faith claims for themselves. I cannot do it for you; you cannot do it for me.

    As I said earlier, I believe that faith in Jesus the Messiah comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God — it is a revelation that comes from the Holy Spirit. That is the truth I claim by faith, the truth I have experienced, and the truth through which I view and understand the world.

    Others view the world differently than I do. They see it from a different perspective and through a different lens. They also make truth claims about the nature, just as I do. But their truth claims are essentially faith claims, just as mine are.

    Empiricism and naturalism are two presuppositions: That the natural universe is all there is to reality; that the only way to know reality is through the empirical method. Can those be proven? If the empirical method is the only to know truth, then there is no way to test that claim, because if we use the empirical method to test the truth of the empiricism, we are merely arguing in a circle: assuming the validity of that which we wish to prove. The “self-correcting nature of the scientific method” could possibly be no more than an illusion. It does not prove the presupposition, it merely continues in it. I don’t accept empiricism or naturalism, but I do accept the scientific method as a way of understanding how the world works on a physical level. But it is still based on a set of assumptions about the nature of reality and its knowability.

  • Dan Arnold

    Jeff,

    See, for the empiricist, having a means for self correction internal to their world view, while not necessarily proving a naturalistic metaphysics, at least provides a means to evaluate claims internally and I suspect this is what Boghossian is getting at. Because of PIP, there is no way to evaluate theistic faith claims without making personal experience the final arbiter. What makes your claim of having met God any different, much less superior to a Muslim’s?

    Those of us who work with people like Boghossian are looking for ways to start conversations (in DRT’s words) with them. Spiritual experience is not a trustworthy way to evaluate claims for people used to having a means of falsification internal to their world view.

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    Dan Arnold, that sounds like a circular argument: testing the truth value of the scientific method by assuming the truth value of the scientific method in order to conclude that the scientific method actually has truth value. And it does not prove that the scientific method has any bearing on the nature of reality and its knowability. Nor does it demonstrate that the natural universe is all there is or that the empirical method is the only way to know the truth about it. If circular argument is allowed, then one can find a number of epistemological systems that are internally self-consistent.

    The scientific method works, to some degree, for those who hold its presuppositions in common. Even then, however, there is a lot of disagreement by those who practice. Fir example, not all practitioners agree about global warming, or evolution, or the age of the earth, or about geology, or about medicine. Did somebody mention PIP? With variations in the presuppositions of the scientific method, there are different ways of interpreting the data. If scientists were all in agreement about their various fields, then perhaps the argument for internal testing would have more value.

    I can say that my faith in Jesus the Messiah is internally consistent and a means of falsifying competing views. If Jesus is the creator of the world (John 1) then that falsifies claims of any other creator entity. If Jesus is the King of the world, that falsifies any other claimants to be king of the world. And there are many people who share my faith claim who would agree with these conclusions.

    And if I am allowed to do the sort of question begging you present above, I can test my presupposition by assuming my presupposition and concluding that my presupposition has truth value.

    But of course, I am well aware that my presupposition is a matter of faith. So are the basic philosophical assumptions of the scientific method, such as assuming that the universe is at all knowable. As claims to truth, they are all essentially faith claims.

    So, if the Boghossians of the world leave no room for faith claims at the “adult table,” they also ban themselves from that table.

  • Susan N.

    I spent a fair amount of time yesterday morning reading more about “blik” and onlook in the realm of philosophy, philosophy of religion, and philosophy of education…

    Maybe if Boghossian clarifies the educational objective in establishing the rules of engagement, it would be more helpful, as there are different philosophical schools of thought on which he could be basing his own assumptions and teaching.

    Also, in the exchange between DRT and Jeff Doles, I would ask whether it is legit and more productive to admit that — having first acknowledged as much as we are capable metacognitively — our presuppositions based on faith, whether theological or scientific, have limited value in *proving* what is true or “factual?”

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    Susan N.,

    I think scientists are at their most honest when they acknowledge that science is not reality but a model, a way of looking at and understanding reality. And acknowledge the philosophical assumptions that are at the base of that.

    But it is when they play this game of “You have faith, but we have fact,” that I object and point out that science is based on a set of presuppositions, without which they would not even be able to recognize data as pertinent to anything at all or interpret it as meaningful in a particular context. For all we call “facts” are essentially the interpretation of data within a context, and interpretation requires an interpretive grid or lens, a set of interpretive principles which ultimately fall back on presuppositions.

    They may wish to excuse or exclude all others from the discussion about what reality is and means, but that is merely the arrogance of claiming a monopoly to which they are not entitled.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Jeff,

    I think the difference really comes down to independent verification. I am a theist and scientist, of sorts. I certainly have a life long relationship with science.

    I agree with you that it is insulting to for scientists to say “you have faith, but we have fact”. Instead of using that as a strawman and putting those words in a scientist’s mouth, I would rather come up with a way that we all can respect each others presuppositions, and be able to move forward, make progress in cooperation.

    For instance, I find it beneficial to ask people of a great many faith traditions their views on various subjects. I put aside my particular brand of theism and engage these people in their framework. What seems to happen when I engage with you on the topic of science is that you immediately, or soon thereafter, throw up the argument that science has its own set of presuppositions thereby making it no better than any other framework.

    But I do believe it is different from other frameworks in a key way. It has independent verifiability built into the process. Yes I know that there are presuppositions built in such as the laws of nature not changing over time and from place to place and more, but I do believe it is characteristically different from other frameworks because the independent verifiability of its process can be done by anybody and be successful.

    My request of you – how do we engage in a conversation directed toward a scientific perspective without going down the unproductive rabbit hole of comparing our presuppositions?

    Certainly this post begs for the presupposition discussion and pointing that out. And it has been highlighted. But to get value out of this instead of us whining that he is thinking his presuppositions are better than ours we need to offer a way to move the conversation forward. I can’t imaging that you would think the right answer is to always treat everyone’s view the same, can you? We would never get past simply hearing everyone’s perspective.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Which brings me back to RJS’ last question – Which faith claims should have a place in the public sphere or the classroom?

    Should all faith claims be admitted? Is that what you are saying Jeff?

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    DRT, I am happy to consider science as a perspective, a way of looking at reality. But I will not accept it as the only perspective. When it appears that those who promote it have forgotten that it is based upon philosophical assumptions and presuppositions, I will, ever so gently, remind them.

    “You have faith but we have facts” is not intended as a quote but as a summary of an attitude I have seen often enough so that it is not a strawman. For example, someone speaking in favor of science and against religious faith will speak of “the evidence” or “the fact is,” as if the identification or interpretation of anything as “evidence” or “fact” did not ultimately rely on presupposition. I do not think it is a dishonesty but an unawareness — that is, the presuppositions are so ingrained in one’s thinking that he does recognize how much of his thinking relies on those presuppositions. A man is free to believe as he wishes, even to believe that science is the only legitimate perspective by which to view the world, but he should understand that it is after all, a matter of belief, and that when he equates the perspective of science with truth and reality, he is making a faith claim.

    If you are unwilling to acknowledge that science is a perspective and not the perspective (that is, the only viable one), then you should probably not try to engage me in a conversation about science. Because I will, from time to time, bring that reminder, as well the reminder about the presuppositional nature the first principles of science. But I will not withhold bringing my point of view to a thread any more than I would ask you to withhold your own point of view in a discussion.

    In the public sphere, I should think that any faith claim should be admitted that the public desires to bring. That does not mean that all claims, frameworks or perspectives are equally viable. But the public is, after all, the public.

    When someone like Boghossian wished to exclude from the “adult table” those who do not share his presuppositions, it is not whining to suggest that he is being arrogant and condescending to everyone else. Perhaps you accept that as acceptable behavior. I do not.

  • Susan N.

    DRT (#36) said, “For instance, I find it beneficial to ask people of a great many faith traditions their views on various subjects. I put aside my particular brand of theism and engage these people in their framework.”

    As you engage in this scientific process of cultural anthropology, it is more than indirect, detached observation of data, isn’t it? You presumably must be interacting with the subjects from whom you seek information. In other words, you are part of the experiment! How do you design for adequate controls?

    As others articulate their faith (philosophy of religion), your understanding of it (however accurate or incomplete), affects the conclusion(s) you make from the experiment. Further, the framework of knowledge and existing beliefs must influence the way you digest and process the information received. How can you truly put aside your particular brand of theism? I can see how it is possible to assume a humble, listening attitude with others of different beliefs and backgrounds; but how are you going to think about any new information, if not from the perspective of your own knowledge and beliefs?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Jeff Doles, I agree, his arrogance was astounding. I guess I have lived with enough scientific people like that that it does not bother me but for a bit. I spent about 15 years in the engineering community and they (we) are some of the most arrogant.

    Susan N., I get your point, it is difficult, perhaps impossible. But that is exactly the reason I do it. I am trying to test my worldview to find fault in mine, not in theirs. The most important thing I could do is find something in my perspective on the world that I did not know that I had. BTW, I have found quite a few implicit assumptions about my worldview here at JC, and for that I am quite thankful!

  • Susan N.

    DRT (#40) – Ditto, to all that you said here.

    I was prompted to comment specifically on what you said of engaging with those of different beliefs and cultural backgrounds, because (as you may recall), I am married to a person from another country and much different faith background. Your words caused me to reflect on the early years of our marriage. OMG!! — how much we did *not* know or understand about each other… And, in retrospect, we were earnestly attempting to communicate, and *thought* that we had effectively articulated ourselves and been accurately understood, far, far more often than was actually the case. We found out as time went on, and we began to finally comprehend various aspects of our individuality and coupledom, all that we had previously and obliviously NOT known — at least not rightly and truly. It’s a miracle that we are still married. But I think we both enjoy a challenge :-) Never a dull moment with us.

    I’ll tell you what, this particular discussion thread has kept me pondering. Went out with my husband on a few errands and to the health club this morning, and he questioned why I was so (uncharacteristically) quiet. Ha-ha, I know you will find that funny…

    Orienting myself from a faith perspective, I think it is a very good thing to be continually examining my own thoughts and motives, prayerfully seeking wisdom from God. Having others who will give feedback, without of course beating me over the head with the truth as they see it, is indeed a blessing for which I am very grateful. Happy New Year, DRT!

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Happy New Year to you too Susan.

    My marriage is also a journey in relating to someone so incredibly different. She is female :)

  • http://www.thefaithlog.com Jeff Doles

    It is helpful to discuss with people from different perspectives. Even if we don’t end up with agreement, it is a benefit to see where we disagree and also why. It helps me understand my own perspective better, as well as other perspectives.

  • Susan N.

    Jeff (#43) – This is my take on the situation, too. Thank you for your part in this thought-provoking discussion. Very challenging, but in a good way. ~Peace~

  • Paul Johnston

    Late to the party…a thoughtful and engaging thread.

    Bravo, Jeff.

    Keep pushing back. As per your comment @ 43 you have helped me better understand a right rational response to the ignorant, feigned as intelligent, pre suppositions of Mr. Boghossian. Wow! The banning of argueably the single most important cultural predispositon that helped create the academic envioronments that Mr. Boghossian so zelously seeks to save…you know those envioronments where people are allowed to freely engage in, exchange, defend and debate ideas….those whatchamecallit places….

    Apparently professors today are smoking more and better quality dope than they did back in the 70′s.

    On a more constructive note perhaps we engage the likes of Mr. Boghossian by asking if he is tolerant of anything metaphysical. If so, than perhaps he could promise to permit a theistic approach, as one of several possible explanations, to such understandings.

    In return I promise not to bring my Catechism to Calculus class.

  • Susan N.

    For any who may still be following this thread:

    I have had an interesting experience this weekend. Due to the New Year holiday, my family and I have been watching a few movies. I was preoccupied with this and RJS’s previous post, and had been reflecting on the questions and ensuing lively discussion — in addition to some reading on the Net that I looked up to inform myself a little better about the subject of philosophy.

    My son’s movie choice was ‘Rango.’ A delightfully funny and hopeful animated flick. *Do* see it with your family! Loved it… Best line: “You can’t walk out on your own story.” (And your story is more about “them”, than you.) Johnny Depp brings the lizard role he stars in to adorable life.

    Today, then, I chose the movie “Atlas Shrugged”, because a few of my Facebook acquaintances had been posting favorable recommendations about it when the movie came out in the theater. I knew that the story was based on the novel by Ayn Rand, who is a controversial figure for her philosophy of objectivism and rational egoism.

    (Anyone see the irony in the contrasted themes of these two movies?)

    Sweet Jesus! It always shocks me to learn what some people believe. I really had no huge exposure to Ayn Rand’s “systematic philosophy”, but I can’t help but connect her very disturbing ideology, at least to some degree, to what we have been talking about here.

    And you know, it is my faith that gives me the sense (gut instinct, intuition, discernment of the Holy Spirit?) to be very, very disturbed by Rand’s ideology and anything that smacks of it. I may not know everything about everything (theological or academic), but I know enough to know that this objectivist philosophy is not kosher on so many levels.

    We can have faith *and* an ability to reason with some degree of logic *and* come together with respect for one another to dialogue for learning and understanding.

    I’m having one of those “God” moments — an epiphany of sorts; call me crazy, if you wish, but it’s very odd that as I’ve wrestled to make sense of these questions and comments in my own mind, some deeper understanding comes along in the most unlikely of places. I take it at least as a subtle *wink* from God that I’m on the right track. :-)

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Susan, sounds like a fun weekend!

    I have been reading Atlas Shrugged but am bogged down in it and have almost totally switched over my oldy but goody to be The Brothers Karamazov. She seems to be trying to hard, and I really just want the concept….

    What got it on my reading list was this article which horrified me:

    http://www.utexas.edu/news/2008/03/20/lib_arts_ayn_rand/

    It says among other things “”Atlas Shrugged” is the second most influential book for Americans today, after the Bible.” Sounded like something I should read.

    Your coincidence is quite the hobby of mine. I am a Jungian since my wife and I own all of Karl Jungs books and I really think he is/was onto something. I believe that god does work within our world, but I also think that much of his work is built into the fabric of our existence. Jung’s exploration of synchronicity is quite fascinating to me, and reminds me of your experience.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synchronicity

    I believe our universe is far more interconnected and complex than most believe. I believe that god has incorporated a tie between us all at a fundamental level and, eventually, psychology and physical science will start to converge and identify the mechanisms that operate in these realms. Anyone who has lived long enough realizes that if you throw something out there into the world, it comes back to you in various ways.

    Then at other times I just say it is all god and go no further. I enjoy both paths.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    ….and as my version of synchronicity while writing that post, first Congressman, Eric Cantor, was being interviewed on 60 minutes and I put him squarely in the Atlas Shrugged mold.

    Also, the match ups for the play-offs are confirmed and my Steelers are going to play Tim Tebow next weekend. I know I said on this site that I would give the kid a break, but I think I will delay that until after next weekend :)

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    …argh, “first my Congressman, Eric Cantor.” Not nearly a day goes by that I don’t wring my hands that he represents me.

  • Susan N.

    DRT (#47) – ‘Atlas Shrugged’ being most-read, second only to the Bible, should concern the general public, imho. I can’t imagine two more contradictory views of the world!

    I will confess that I have never read the 1,000-pg. tome, ‘Atlas Shrugged.’ I’m mostly grateful that I missed out, and have been reading the Bible instead :-D But, sometimes, what you don’t know or understand will also hurt you. In this day and age, when Rand’s philosophy is having a significant influence on our collective ‘blik’ (without many perhaps even being aware of why they are inclined to believe a certain way), we would be wise to wake up and stay alert to misleading (vain) philosophies.

    DRT, I don’t know, aside from informing yourself, how is reading ‘Atlas Shrugged’ edifying you? I have read glowing reviews of its literary excellence. I suppose you can just admire the literary qualities of the book. My advice: Skip the dreadfully depressing subject/themes of the book and watch the much shorter movie version! Part I is available on DVD now. I got the point, loud and clear. Whew! Chilling. Talk about an “insane blik!”

    In ‘Letter to My Daughter’, Maya Angelou writes of a near-death experience from which she was saved, but just barely, through a wildly unbelievable chain of events. Angelou titles the chapter, ‘Accident, Coincident, or Answered Prayer.’ She chose, at the time and till this day, to define it as a miracle…God breaking in to the story and answering her prayer. The choice to believe is an act of faith…a “faith claim.”

    It is interesting to think about exactly *how* God works in the world, isn’t it? One day, maybe we will be closer in our scientific understanding of the universe to explaining God’s ways and means. For now, it is enough for me to have faith and to say that God somehow, sometimes, works in ways that are a mystery to me.

    Which brings me to my waking thought this morning: Yesterday, I wrote: “We can have faith *and* an ability to reason with some degree of logic *and* come together with respect for one another to dialogue for learning and understanding.”

    To refine and qualify that statement, I would add: Faith, reason, and interpersonal communication each have their limitations, because we ourselves are limited, “in process”, imperfect (through-a-glass-darkly onlookers). Humility and patience…and an eternal hope are required in large doses to press on. I like to throw everything I’ve got into living. I at least give it a good college try, this living fully and well :-)

    I get discouraged by politics and politicians, too. A week or so ago, I was driving and listening to my favorite oldies station. Jackson Browne’s ‘Doctor My Eyes’ came on the radio. That song has been stuck in my head ever since. Yeah, that about sums it up for me, those lyrics. I wish I knew a simple solution to the complex and various problems contributing to the mess we’re in. All I can really do is hang in there, stay reasonably informed, exercise the privileges of my citizenship to vote, and pray fervently for wisdom and reconciling peace. “Let justice roll down, Lord…” (And let me be part of the solution, not part of the problem!)

  • Susan N.

    DRT – re: Jungian psychology / “synchronicity” — interesting theory. Psychology and sociology are amateur interests of mine.

    My (other) favorite blog site (besides Jesus Creed) is ‘Experimental Theology’ hosted by Dr. Richard Beck. I connect in a deep way to Dr. Beck’s perspectives and have spent hours reading posts at ET over the past year. You should check it out, if you haven’t already discovered it. Today’s post is coincidentally (?) relevant to this discussion :-) The holiness and precedence of time over space, in God’s economy. I love it!


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