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Monday, June 30, 2008

Arrogance of Theology. Humility of Science.

"The most important scientific revolutions all include, as their only common feature, the dethronement of human arrogance from one pedestal after another of previous convictions about our centrality in the cosmos." -- Stephen Jay Gould

So, I was listening to the latest Way of the Master radio show (I'm a masochist), and there was something very revealing about the way theists think about Scripture and why we hear what we do with them about science. A person had emailed them about the new perspective on Paul, and he responds as such:
Why do we need a new perspective on Paul? There's an assumption that is built into the premise of the question and that is there is something wrong with the old perspective. Or is it that time has changed the Gospel that Paul delivered? Either one is ridiculous, so out of the shoot I say: if I'm going to take a look at a new perspective on Paul that means that every great man, every great woman who have [sic] gone before me and studied Scriptures and understood very clearly what Paul's perspective was, they were an idiot! I'm not buying that. [... brief digression on recent trend to bring new perspectives or thoughts...] It's not needed and it's not good!
That... is very revealing. Firstly, Scripture does change. It has changed a lot. How many hands has it gone through? You must not only have faith that it is the word of God, but you also must have faith that it has not been corrupted by intent or accident as it has been passed along. Then, it is a fact that it has been through many translations and you can look up where things have been lost in translation, lost to scribal errors, and lost in the evolution of language.

But let's just take the false premise as true, that it does not change. You know what else doesn't change? The physical world; how it operates. The mechanics which governed the natural world three millenia ago (the oldest that the Bible is dated) govern it today. Science is all out understanding it. When Newton put forward his law of universal gravitation, it was based on the unchanging world. If scientists were as obstinate as you, Einstein would have simply said:
Why do we need a new perspective on gravity? There's an assumption that is built into the premise of the question and that is there is something wrong with the old perspective. Or is it that time has changed the way gravity operates? Either one is ridiculous, so out of the shoot I say: if I'm going to take a look at a new perspective on gravity that means that every great man, such as Isaac Newton, who has gone before me and studied gravity and the physical world and understood very clearly what Newton's perspective on gravity was, they were an idiot! It's not needed and it's not good!
You know why it's needed and why it's good? Because if you are seeking veracity of your beliefs and not just the confirmation of them, you are continually open to new ideas in one area as new truths have been discovered in others. This is why it is good that men do not live forever, or else our understanding would be so bound to those who have come before us that no new understanding can gain ground and we lose something quite profound -- or rather, we will fail to gain something profound.

This should be something you would think people would be more than willing to embrace about the Bible. If they think it is truly the Word of God, that means that they think a perfect being, with perfect understanding and perfect wisdom and perfect knowledge wrote the Book. Shouldn't that, by the very premise, mean that they could not possibly perfectly understand it, if even at all? As Ray would say: how dare you? You are not omniscient! Only God is.

Arrogance, ignorance, intransigence, and obstinance.

6 comments:

Garret said...

COCONUT! When you said this site is your coconut to Rays banana, for some reason it brought to mind that scene in 'There's Something About Mary' where they were at the beach with the mentally retarded- and one of them got a coconut and from the background he ambles up and plops it in front of them and says 'COCONUT!' they respond, and he is sure to follow up with 'COCONUT!' -lol- Sorry for the pointless ramble, then again you read Rays site, so you are used to it.

I am a recently recovering Fundy who actually earlier in the year could be found there defending the Christian position- no longer! Logic and reason have spoilt my brains, and now JEBUS shakes his head in sadness at my sinful ways and lack of prayers- poor poor JEBUS!
You said-
The mechanics which governed the natural world three millenia ago (the oldest that the Bible is dated) govern it today. Science is all out understanding it. When Newton put forward his law of universal gravitation, it was based on the unchanging world.

A 'logical' theistic response to your comment might go like this- don't forget that a natural law claim is not the biblical claim, a biblical miracle is the violation of natural law, intentionally so, by Jebus or his PAPA or the Ghost. In otherwords- a believer can acknowledge that the average, run of the mill day, month, decade, or century can go by operating with no appearant miracles happening- but the claim is that they did happen at one time, can happen at anytime, and will happen in the future. They will also claim that it is reasonable to believe this, which I currently very much doubt. I think it is reasonable though, to say that a phenomenon that doesn't currently happen could have happened.

Now please excuse me while I easily crack into a fresh coconut with my bare hands.

DisComforting Ignorance said...

I feel for you being a recovering fundie. I will make a post soon describing my path to atheism as well. I very much remember the logic of it and even to this day, things that were so inculcated in me, I find it hard to shake them from creeping into my mind (evolution, Hell, dinosaurs, etc). I wrote this post after just getting off the phone of a two hour conversation with my father who is a fundamentalist (spends all day, every day studying the Bible). It's something else.

On your second note, yeah, this is something Dinesh D'Souza brings up countless times. It goes along with Ray's absolute certainty/knowledge shtick. Dinesh's spiel is he quotes some scientist about absolute certainty (a mined quote) and says that you can measure and test gravity 50 million times, but you can never know that the very next measurement will hold to the trend, and that's what allows miracles. Miracles are by nature rare events, so it's reasonable to assume that the conditions for them would occur too infrequently to detect.

When it comes to something like this, it's just a conversation stopper. The person has their mind so closed off to reason there's really nothing which can be said. For example pointing out impossible things in the Bible (stopping the Sun in the sky), they just fall back on magic and say it's a testament to the power and majesty of God. The results are even more damaging on their minds when it comes to scientific questions, then.

I suppose, though, what you could do is bring up the other big magic man, Satan, and say he's probably done some black magic or something on the Bible.

On the coconut thing, I gave a personal account of mine with coconuts for why I chose it as the response to the banana argument. Haha, I just thought about your comment of cracking into it with your bare hands and how it fits in to what you said: it's not really an argument against the banana. Why are we to assume human strength now is what it was then? When God invented the coconut, the humans were able to get into it as easily as a banana. I just got owned :P

Garret said...

hehe... You make some good points! Best of luck with your blog...I will be a regular visitor :)

The Ranting Student said...

...You know, it's very true. The bible has also been translated into many different versions [not to mention there are tons of different sects of christianity].

really now, what's right? KJV? NIV? Jehovas Witnesses? Protestants? Ray Comforts?

Yep. Christianity is a market.

flinging dust said...

Recovering fundy here too, although I wasn't an adult fundy, I was raised in it. Parts of that indoctrination as a child still sit in my psyche too and pop up from time to time, even in my dreams. I thought about a month ago that I was ready to write about it, but I'm still not there.

Keep up the good work. Love your blog.

weemaryanne said...

Poor old Todd Friel. I think he'll eventually backtrack on his don't need no stinkin' new approach. Apologetics is just marketing and if marketing doesn't cater to the buyer today then there'll be heads rolling tomorrow.

That's the rule. I didn't make it up.