Faith, Science…and Poets too

Though Chris Uhlman landed his essay a bit haywire (too wimpish, I suspect, no matter where one falls on these conversations), he offers some interesting wrestlings with the role of faith in the public square. 

Here’s a teaser:

The older I get the less certain I become and the more bewildered I am by the unshakable convictions of both strident believers and atheists.

However, I am certain that I have little time for those who hold believers in contempt. And I have begun to suspect that, in the West, science is assuming the altar once carved out for God.

We have steadily replaced the absolute moral certainty of theocrats with technocratic absolutism…That is not a criticism of science because real science admits uncertainty. It is taking issue with those who suffer only one kind of knowing and deride all else as cant.

And you might know me well enough to know that I loved this line:

The place where technocrats fall silent is precisely the place where poets, artists and priests take up the story. 

What can we know? And how can we know it? And who gets to decide what the ground rules are for such things? 

If you want to go further, you may want to peek at Dallas Willard’s new book, Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge. Here, Dallas makes the case that knowledge grounded in faith (and defining this loosy, sometimes-sentimentalized word “faith” is crucial to his work) is a valid way of knowing.

4 Replies to “Faith, Science…and Poets too”

  1. If science is assuming the altar once carved out for God, it is doing so incredibly slowly. The vast majority of Americans still believe in a higher power. Those who believe that religion is poison, as much as they dominate the airwaves, find themselves in a vanishingly small minority.

  2. I've also recently read that 45% or so of scientists hold some version of belief in a god/higher power. This god notion is either a false myth that runs very deep or the truest of myths that won't die because it is enduringly true.

    It still seems to me that though the vast majority of us cling to some idea of a god, we don't give that god a whole lot of power. Popular perception seems to be that you go to god for faith-y things, but you go to science for real knowledge, for answers and truths that are anything other than just my opinion.

  3. Should we be surprised that most scientists make science their god?

    I absolutely agree, the god of the majority is not a very powerful god. We also must understand the limits of what science can teach us, or rather what we can teach ourselves through science.

    I'm struggling to process the idea that most folks go to God for "faith-y things" and science for "real knowledge." Do I think we can find real knowledge through science? Yes. Through God? Yes. Still, knowing Ohm's law is a very different thing than knowing the golden rule. I feel most people understand this.

    However, with the advent of social evolution and evolutionary psychology an increasing number of people are turning to science to construct their entire framework of belief. Are enough folks doing this to proclaim that science is disassembling God in the public consciousness? I'm not so sure.

  4. Yes, I would hope it seems self-evident that Ohm's Law (any relation to Juli, by the way???) and the Golden Rule are different. However, in the academy and in the way it plays out in popularized version, often (how often, I couldn't say – but not irregularly) the hard sciences are perceived as the realm of things you can truly know because they are verifiable, testable, etc. However, god-things are the realm of "faith," often defined as things you can't really know because, in that framework, scientific knowledge makes the rules.

    I do believe this stranglehold is cracking and has been for quite sometime. However, I think it's one of the assumptions modernity was built on – and we still have a good bit of the after affects.

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