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42952Faith, Science, Philosophy, etc.

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  • C. S. Wyatt
    Dec 31, 2007
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      The last time I read passages from any religious text was about a year ago when I went
      through the Q'ran yet again, as well as much of the Hadith I could locate in languages I
      can read -- meaning other than Arabic, sadly.

      Recently, I decided I would like to order several of the texts omitted from early
      Christianity, especially those covering the lives of Jesus, Peter, and Paul. Nothing like a bit
      of heresy to remind us that what a faith is today is unlikely what it was during its formative
      years.

      But I read these texts not to believe them -- I read them to understand societies from a
      "social science" perspective.

      I am not going to argue with a Christian, Muslim, or practicing anything else that there is
      not Creator as they understand such a being. Why bother with a debate I cannot win?

      In my teaching post, I must not (by rule of the university) offend anyone of faith (one faith
      in particular, it seems), by suggesting that science is "right" about such matters as
      evolution. I must be careful not to discuss some philosophers, especially feminist
      philosophers, without allowing students to opt out of discussions.

      My view is that all religion, especially fundamental beliefs, is hard to reconcile with science
      and most contemporary philosophy of science. I've had students tell me what I teach about
      the mind cannot be true because (fill in the blank) made mankind in such-and-such a
      way. Whatever. I'll keep right on teaching that the human brain evolved, and certain traits
      are the results of that evolutionary process.

      I'll keep quoting Pinker when I talk about language, de Waal when I talk about morality,
      and even Dawkins when I discuss ethology.

      Philosophers generally value "reason" -- so at least I can discuss "knowledge" and all but
      the most radical philosophers accept the idea we can know some things about the
      universe and humanity. Most philosophers I work with don't question that the world's
      climate is shifting (for whatever reason) or that humans evolved.

      Faith, however, is certainly posing a problem for some students.

      My single worst review from a student was an angry tirade because I did not spend
      enough time letting her voice her ultra-traditional views on humanity in a technical class.

      Why do I react so strongly against "faith" at times, while still trying to force myself to
      respect religious men and women from the past? Because my students are not Kierkegaard
      or even Ayn Rand. They are ignorant young people clinging to religious traditions that
      limit knowledge and exploration.

      On this list, the opposition to faith can be heated. In part, it is likely because the people of
      faith we encounter today are not Pascal or Kierkegaard, Buber or Tillich -- they are
      Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, whatever-else, radicals that cling to ignorance and pull
      mankind backwards in one sense and forwards towards a cliff in another sense.
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