“The Devoted Student”

Interesting op-ed in The New York Times: “The Devoted Student” by Mark C. Taylor.

He observes that fundamentalists have become more agressive in his (and other) classrooms. Fair enough, though those of us who are science (rather than humanities) faculty probably could have told him that having to deal with fundamentalists in the form of creationists is not really a new challenge. What is curious, though, is his swiping at “secular dogmatists,” presumably in some hamhanded attempt to be evenhanded.

About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09584034445340497926 bpabbott

    I agree with you objection. I assume you object specifically to this passage in Mark Taylor’s article.

    “The aim of critical analysis is not to pass judgment on religious beliefs and practices — though some secular dogmatists wrongly cross that line — but to examine the conditions necessary for their formation and to consider the many functions they serve.”

    In cases where objective conclusions can be made, passing judgement is a moral responsibility. For example, if a math student claims 1+1 = 8 the instructor is morally responsible to pass judgement and correct the error.

    With that said, if individuals seek to make non-objective claims, or embrace non-objective belief (ex: why does the universe exist?), then I do concur with Mark Taylor … perhaps this was the perspective he had intended in his article?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04342276684016718532 Harry Eagar

    ‘The aim of critical analysis is not to pass judgment on religious beliefs and practices’

    Well, that emasculates critical analysis and puts superstition in the driver’s seat.

    Curious, though, that Professor Taylor finds religious objections to classroom lectures to be growing beyond what they were 30 years ago.

    I was in college 40 years ago, in a Southern university where, probably, at least half the student body was Fundamentalist or close to it. We few freethinkers used to make fun of their testifying in class, which did happen, but seldom.

    I don’t know whether they compartmentalized their religious and practical beliefs (it was largely a scientific school), or whether they resented secularism but lacked the confidence to challenge it.

    Religion had been hammered down by its failures by 1960. As always, the believers’ obnoxiousness revives as the social standing of religion rises.

    Another difference between 1960 and now may be that religious herd-think has been united with the individualistic victimology that rightwingers and libertarians like to associate with the left.

    Professor Taylor may indeed be right that different sects share cultural traits.


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