Reason and Faith, and Some Science News

Reason and Faith, and Some Science News March 22, 2018


Black hole from NASA
A NASA artist’s public domain concept of a black hole


A few further notes from the British Marxist literary critic Terry Eagleton’s 2008 Terry Lectures at Yale University, published as Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009):


Richard Dawkins claims with grandiloquent folly that religious faith dispenses with reason altogether, which wasn’t true even of the dim-witted authoritarian clerics who knocked me about at grammar school.  (109)


Moreover, faith is for the most part performative rather than propositional.  Christians certainly believe that there is a God.  But this is not what the credal statement “I believe in God” means.  It resembles an utterance like “I have faith in you” more than it does a statement like “I have a steadfast conviction that some goblins are gay.”  Abraham had faith in God, but it is doubtful that it could even have occurred to him that he did not exist.  The devils are traditionally said to believe that God exists, but they do not believe in him.  (111)


It is important to recognize that just as one can have faith but not knowledge, so the opposite is also true.  If God, enraged at the flourishing of atheism almost everywhere but in his own specially favored United States, were tomorrow to emblazon the words “I’M UP HERE, YOU IDIOTS!” in mile-high letters in the sky, it would not necessarily make any difference to the question of faith.  Instead, it might be a bit like the aliens in the Arthur C. Clarke novel who turn up for all to behold, but who make scarcely any difference to anything and are in the end more or less ignored.  For such a dramatic self-disclosure to be relevant to faith, rather than just adding an extra item to our stock of knowledge, it would have to show up in a radical transformation of what we say and do.  And whether seeing such a sign would really produce such a transformation is a point that the Jesus of the New Testament angrily takes leave to doubt.  (113)




Some miscellaneous science news:


“Who’s Afraid of Noam Chomsky?  Is Chomsky’s influence on psychology waning?”


“Scientists detect radio echoes of a black hole feeding on a star: Signals suggest black hole emits a jet of energy proportional to the stellar material it gobbles up.”


“Dark Matter and the Earliest Stars”


Your family history just became a bit simpler:


“No human DNA found in Neanderthal genome: Despite evidence that Neanderthals and humans swapped genes, none of the human ones appear to have been retained.”


Personally, I never wondered about this; my family wouldn’t have consorted with Neanderthals.  Your family, though?  Who knows?


And, in case any of you have been terrified by this prospect:


“No Need To Fear Universe Ending In ‘Collision With Bubble Of Nothingness’(False Vacuum Collapse Of Higgs Boson)”



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