Don’t particularly care for the title they gave it, but such is life. This one is a semi-sarcastic examination of the idea of ‘The Age of Faith’ as it applies to the modern age
We’re not taught how to reason in school: we’re just presented with “right answers” and told to put those down. Science textbooks don’t delve into the complexities of research, competing theories, the long, hard process by which accumulated facts slowly create a clearer and clearer picture of the workings of nature. They just list the facts, laws, and theories as ready made, sometimes with an understated sneer at those who initially doubted them for failing to give the right answer.
It’s like this with most aspects of our lives. When was the last time you actually heard someone lay out the reasons why, say, racism is wrong, or democracy is good? We don’t make arguments, just statements of faith based on what we’ve been taught to say.
The trouble is that this kind of faith-based approach is very fragile (which is one of the reasons the old Christians didn’t use it). It’s apt to breed resentment and rebellion, and to crumble if the observed facts don’t seem to match the received doctrine.
We’re sometimes told with horror that half the country doubts evolution. Well, why shouldn’t they? They’ve been taught it as a matter of faith, not as a scientific fact dug out of nature through observation and reason. They’ve simply been told, in essence, “This is true and you’re a bad person if you don’t believe it.”
We should only expect some people to rebelliously turn their backs on it for that reason alone. Then again, there’s the fact that anyone of basic intelligence can see where evolution, as it is usually taught, seems to contradict the observed world around us. It doesn’t make sense that the vast variety, beauty, and efficiency of the natural world came about simply by random mutations that happened to be beneficial (I am told modern evolutionists generally think the situation is much more complicated and interesting than that). So, when forced to choose between the rather patronizing faith that’s been shoved down their throats or their own good sense, they choose the latter.
Read the rest here.
3 thoughts on “New Essay Up at the Federalist”
I’m still digesting the article, but wanted to leave a note of thanks before I got too busy. You’ve verbalized something that I’ve been trying to think through for years. This POMO mindset is far more faith-based than the one formed with a Biblical worldview. I encourage you to seek a longer form for developing these ideas. One concrete suggestion for getting this line of thinking into the public’s view would be to contact Dennis Prager for a Prager U video. I would love to hear Ben D. interview you on The Federalist podcast. I also think Ben Shapiro or Dave Rubin would be interested in understanding how your framework intersects with their “intellectual dark web.” Press on!
I am also digesting this article, but more as an outspoken critic than an enthusiastic cheerleader. I came here from The Federalist and after reading through the entirety of your article I found a lot I’d like to rebut.
First and foremost, it’s true that the theory of natural selection is just that: a theory. We have a lot of evidence that errors in reproduction of genetic material leads to differing outcomes in the new organism and that these errors, while mostly located in genetic code that isn’t expressed, sometimes result in traits that either increase or decrease that new organism’s rate of survival and therefore reproduction, BUT it’s still just a theory. Yes, it is what I was taught in school and all us little fifth-graders took Ms. Cunningham’s word for it. But what possible reason could there be for the perpetuation of something you assert is full of logical contradictions? To draw people away from a mindset of human exceptionalism and expound upon the idea that there is no God? I honestly don’t know the answer. I myself believe wholeheartedly in my Creator, but saying He steered the course of life on this planet or saying it all happened as a result of random mutation is for me a matter of semantics. The end result is we exist and have
The second biggest widely-accepted scientific truth you decide is full of holes in is climate change. I can’t imagine why on Earth the overwhelming majority of climate science would support the assumption that there has been a radical shift in our atmosphere, oceans, and soil since the advent of the Industrial Revolution, but let’s put that sort of speculation to one side for a moment. Why do people doubt climate change? What possible benefit could there be? Bringing back coal? Thwarting China’s nefarious agenda? I can’t imagine those outweigh the health benefits of cleaner air and water and insuring against the possibility that all this climate change nonsense is actually true. I can think of many reasons why wealthy executives in the fossil fuel industries would want to tamp down on all the evidence that the reason for their massive fortunes is eating away at our planet, but who knows.
Of course I have many more objections to raise (“look at all the evidence of these poor black people being worse and lending credence to my bigotry”), but I don’t have the energy or the time to engage in a futile exchange with that kind of poison. Instead, I’d like to say what we actually have in common and ask that you take a step back to examine (as Descartes put it) “the apple basket of your beliefs”. Thinking and being we can take as read and I’ll skip over a bunch of other assumptions about the nature of reality until we arrive at the big one: Our experience is real, but how did it come to be? To me, it’s a cop-out to say “It’s so beautiful and complex, it couldn’t have happened by chance”. If your base assumption (the existence of God) relies on faith, then I’ll just stop you there and say we won’t be able to convince each other of anything. If it’s the world itself that forms the basis of your argument, in all its efficiency and whatnot, that’s a sample size of one and doesn’t mean squat. Therein lies the problem with any theory, whether its Intelligent Design or Evolution. We don’t have enough evidence to say with absolute certainty. However, that doesn’t mean that the arguments are equally valid. If everything in our primary school science education curriculum is taken on faith, then college would be where the real arguments are had. And shockingly, the people who study climate science and evolution have gone to college and I happen to trust their opinions since they literally devote decades of their lives to answering these questions.
I appreciate your long, detailed response, but unfortunately you seemed to have missed the point entirely and taken my examples for arguments. My point was not arguing against Natural Selection, Climate Change, or any other particular theory; my point was the *way* we approach these subjects.
As an example: I did not, in fact, say anything against climate change as such. I mentioned it twice, both times as an example of instances where a scientific theory is held as unquestionable and where opposing views are often greeted with ad hominum insults rather than actual answers to the objections raised. Whether or not climate change is true, that this happens and is fairly common is a matter of public record (to the point that some non-fringe voices have even called for making ‘denial’ illegal). I contrasted this with methods of reasoning and debate common in the Middle Ages and Renaissance where standard practice was to frame your opponent’s position as strongly as possible before attempting to refute it.
My whole point in the essay was that, as a rule, we do not do this in modern debate: we either frame the opponent’s argument as weakly as possible or we simply ascribe evil motives to him and act as if that excused us from answering his argument. Perhaps you haven’t observed this, but I have. Moreover, part of my point was that, assuming the position being argued is in fact true (which, again, I am not arguing one way or another), this method of reasoning and argumentation exposes it to be questioned and doubted if any apparent contradictions arise without giving anyone the means to actually answer those contradictions (I specifically cited opposition to racism as an example of a true position that can be undermined by this sort of thing).
The way to refute my argument would not be to present your own reasons for believing in, say, evolution or climate change (again, neither of which I in fact disputed; at worst I said there were reasonable objections to them. This is true of just about every scientific theory: that there is an objection doesn’t mean it can’t be answered), but to cite evidence from recent public discourse and public education showing that the type of reasoning and argument I advocate in fact is common practice in today’s society. Nothing I myself have observed or have read from the accounts of others indicates that this is so.