Sunday, August 27, 2023
Sunday, August 20, 2023
Where there is hatred, let me sow loveWhere there is doubt, faithWhere there is despair, hope
Sunday, August 13, 2023
In his new book, Joseph Hinman lays out a simple chart to demonstrate his analysis that New Atheism is a belief system:
Many people have noted that atheism and Marxism set themselves up as a replacement for religion. Hinman's chart appeals to the analytic mind by laying it out cleanly for easy analysis. While Hinman notes there is some over-simplification involved in that brief chart, he makes a case that the basic features of a belief system are filled by New Atheism in the same way that they are for Christianity (or for Marxism). I find myself tempted to adjust words here or there; still, Hinman's point stands that these systems share many of the same features and functions. Hinman worked through three examples, but it's easy enough to find more. For my own part, I tend to think of partisan politics along those lines, but the reader may have other things that are volunteering to be placed on that "belief system" spectrum.
Do you see, on the chart, the first column with the criteria for belief systems? From another viewpoint, those same things are the criteria for dramas. It would be simple to re-label the rows in dramatic terms: conflict, victim, villain, hero, resolution, action (though in a drama we'd have saved the resolution for last). On a related point, those systems also meet the criteria for Karpman's Drama Triangle that deals with the psychological analysis of conflict: in addition to the victim we have the "villain" as the perpetrator and the "hero" as the rescuer. The fit onto Karpman's drama triangle comes with the classic warning of Karpman's triangles: often and easily the victim or rescuer slides into the persecutor / villain role before the end, in real-life examples.
One of the observable lessons of 20th Century communism was that as the old regime falls, the "rescuer" generally replaces the perpetrator at the top of another scheme as corrupt and oppressive as the one before it. The power propping up the oppressive system changed, but the oppression remained. Systems obey what I think of as the Law of Pyramids: the bigger the system, the more people are on the lowest tier and the less they are considered by those at the top. And there actually is such a thing as a class difference: it's just that it resides in the pyramid itself, and so isn't fixed by changing who is at the top.
This problem isn't unique to communism, but comes with the large scale of the system. Because of this Law of Pyramids, globalism is inherently dangerous to almost all of the population, who can never be relevant to the decision-makers. However, also because of the Law of Pyramids, the influence and decision-making will be in the hands of people who benefit from this system.
The next point I'd like to add to the conversation is that these narratives make a claim upon our actions. To follow Hinman's chart: Those who believe the great struggle is to eliminate class differences (and that the solution is to put the party in power) then would seek to advance a certain party line. Those who believe the great struggle is to eradicate belief in God then seek to mock and ridicule religious belief. Those who believe the great struggle is against the corruption in the human heart seek to spread the message of forgiveness and renewal in Christ. In each case what we believe isn't a story outside us, but a story that involves us -- and as such, calls us to action.
I briefly mentioned globalism as the ultimate example of the Law of Pyramids: the bigger the system, the more people are on the lowest tier and the less they are considered by those at the top. What globalism has lacked has been that narrative about why people should join its cause, in fact why they should consider themselves as already caught up in its cause. In our day we can see global health and environmentalism both vying for the key spot in that narrative. They both speak of a dramatic and existential threat. Those who believe the great struggle is to eliminate global problems (and that the solution is to take away local power) then would seek to advance a certain party line.
My thanks to Joseph Hinman for a thought-provoking look at belief systems.
Sunday, August 06, 2023
Readers here and other religious bloggers may be familiar with the work of long-time friend and blog-neighbor Metacrock, aka Joe Hinman. I'd like to spend some time interacting with Joseph Hinman's newest book, God, Science, Ideology: Examining the role of ideology in the religious-scientific dialog. Joe has graciously provided me with a review copy.
There's an issue with doing a mere review of anything written by Joseph Hinman: his main style is dailectic, and it works best in conversation. So I have been enlisting the help of ChatGPT (via chatpdf.com) to start a discussion about the book, with the bot taking Hinman's point-of-view as known in the book.
Bot: Welcome to this informative PDF file about the relationship between science and religion! In this file [chapter 1], we explore the idea that science and religion are often seen as opponents, but is this really the case? We examine the arguments of Colin Blakemore and Richard Dawkins, and question whether any success for science must automatically mean defeat for religion.
- What is Colin Blakemore's view on the relationship between science and religion?
- How does Richard Dawkins believe Darwin's theory of evolution impacted religion?
- Is it possible for science and religion to coexist peacefully, or will they always be in conflict?
As the discussion continues, I will include these suggested questions and some additional ones of my own.
WF: What is Colin Blakemore's view on the relationship between science and religion?
Bot (for Hinman's POV): Colin Blakemore sees science and religion as opponents in a chess match. He believes that advances in science are automatically viewed by his camp as a detraction from religion, and that the discoveries of Watson and Crick were a defeat for religion. Blakemore wants to see religion as some primitive thing that science is beating.WF: Please provide some brief background on Colin Blakemore using any available resource.
Bot (for Hinman's POV): Colin Blakemore is a British neurobiologist who was born on June 9, 1944. He is known for his research on vision and the development of the brain, and has published numerous scientific papers and books on these topics. Blakemore has also been involved in public debates on science and society, and has written articles and given talks on topics such as the relationship between science and religion, the ethics of animal experimentation, and the role of science in education. He has held various academic positions throughout his career, including Professor of Physiology at the University of Cambridge and Director of the Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Oxford. Blakemore has received many awards and honors for his contributions to science, including a knighthood in 2014 for services to scientific research, policy, and outreach.WF: Leading up to Blakemore's knighthood, what are Blakemore's key policy recommendations?
Bot (for Hinman's POV): I'm sorry, but the PDF file does not provide information on Colin Blakemore's key policy recommendations leading up to his knighthood. The file mainly focuses on the relationship between science and religion, and Blakemore's views on this topic.
WF: How does Richard Dawkins believe Darwin's theory of evolution impacted religion?
Bot (for Hinman's POV): Richard Dawkins believes that Darwin's theory of evolution was a vital move in the chess game between science and religion, and that it removed the main argument for God's existence. Dawkins sees nothing beyond the material universe, and therefore, if science gets the material realm, then it has everything . He makes an "in your face" attack upon all religion, revealing an ideological sense of "all or nothing."WF: Is it possible for science and religion to coexist peacefully, or will they always be in conflict?
Bot (for Hinman's POV): According to the PDF file, there are different views on whether science and religion can coexist peacefully or not. Colin Blakemore sees religion and science as opponents in a chess match, and believes that any success for science is an automatic defeat for religion. On the other hand, Richard Harries, former Bishop of Oxford, claims that religion has a territory that science can never invade, a totally safe sanctuary for Christian field mice, and that religion is the only approach to questions that start "why" . Stephen Jay Gould, a paleontologist and evolutionary biologist, also believed that science and religion could coexist peacefully, as long as they were kept in separate domains. Therefore, the answer to this question depends on one's perspective and beliefs.WF: The question whether they can coexist peacefully does not yet address the question of whether people -- and culture at large -- accept the use of one tool to suppress the other. Does the current pdf address the involvement of people and policies in the question of a peaceful coexistence?
Bot (for Hinman's POV): The PDF file does not directly address the involvement of people and policies in the question of a peaceful coexistence between science and religion. However, it does mention that Christian leaders, even the Catholic church, have reluctantly accommodated the discoveries of scientists, with the odd burning at the stake and excommunication along the way. This suggests that there have been conflicts between science and religion in the past, and that some religious institutions have been resistant to scientific discoveries. The file also mentions that some philosophers and physicists are becoming more attuned to tolerating diverse opinion, which could suggest a move towards peaceful coexistence. However, the file does not provide a comprehensive analysis of the role of people and policies in this issue.WF: Are there more specific examples of tolerating diverse opinion?
Bot (for Hinman's POV): The PDF file does not provide more specific examples of tolerating diverse opinion between philosophers and physicists. It only mentions that at meetings where the two groups come together, they strike the author as quite compatible, and that the philosophers in attendance tend to have training in physics, and the physicists are eager to learn, even if they can’t tell their Hegel from their Heidegger.WF: Some parts of the pdf seem to discuss a conflict between science and religion; others seem to discuss a conflict between science and philosophy. Does the author explain his views on the relation between religion and philosophy?
Bot (for Hinman's POV): The author of the PDF file does not provide a clear explanation of their views on the relation between religion and philosophy. The file discusses conflicts between science and religion, as well as conflicts between science and philosophy, but it does not explicitly state the author's position on the relation between religion and philosophy. However, the file does mention Stephen Jay Gould's concept of "Non-Overlapping Magisteria" (NOMA), which proposes that science and religion are about different aspects of reality and do not overlap. This concept suggests that religion and science can coexist peacefully, but it does not address the relationship between religion and philosophy.
Hinman's new book tackles a key issue for Christians in our day: stepping clear of the ideological traps that seek to frame faith in God as anti-scientific. Hinman's background in philosophy -- and in decades of discussions with new atheists -- should lead to more interesting conversation.
To be continued