A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Critiquing the Sophisticated Requires Sophistication

Peter Enns has written a thoughtful post on the series "Cosmos" hosted by astrophysicist, Neil degrasse Tyson. Like Pete I thoroughly enjoyed the series. It was well done and provided many pondering and thought-provoking moments. But Pete also expresses a concern about the series that I share as well:

What disappointed me a bit, though, was how little awareness there seemed to be of how religious people, including Christians, genuinely synthesize cosmic, geological, and biological evolution in their thinking. I say "disappointed" but not really surprised, for I am not sure I expect a series like this to have its finger on the pulse on Christianity as a whole, especially given how much air time Creationism gets in the media.
Many Christians understand that the Bible does not give scientific explanations of physical origins but mythic explanations in keeping with ancient modes of thinking, and as such are not to be juxtaposed to scientific inquiry.
Still, the choice that seemed to be posed in the series was rather simplistic: between science and any sort of faith in a higher power, supreme being, whatever we want to call God. The reason for such a dichotomy seems to be the nearly total focus on the extreme of Creationism as a contrast to demonstrable scientific discoveries.
This dichotomy seemed peppered throughout the series; scientific advances vs. medieval and/or fundamentalist dogma. At each point, legions of Christian and other religious thinkers could have contributed to the discussion in ways that might have disarmed the simplistic view of religion of the series.
I would go so far as to say that the series had an agenda, though, again, more subtle than the original series, that science has dethroned religion and it is high time we all got over it.
It is all too easy to critique what I think are often the less sophisticated views of the extremes on the right and the left. I must confess I have become weary of those whose sole mission in life, it seems to me, is to go after the "fundies" or the "libs" in virtually everything. I feel this way for two reasons: first, it doesn't take much intellectual rigor to do so (which means the arguments have become real boring), and second, it is simply more productive to dialogue, analyze, and critique the views of those who are more sophisticated and nuanced.

I sometimes wonder if some in the blogosphere continually go after the intellectually unsophisticated because underneath it all they are afraid they cannot hold their own in a intellectually rigorous discussion with those who really know what they are talking about. It is easier to pick the "low-hanging fruit" of the simplistic and feel good about oneself for the "points scored" in their response.

Peter concludes,
I am not trying to stir a debate here between theism and atheism/agnosticism. I'm simply reflecting on a series I enjoyed tremendously, learned much from, but that also seemed to have a large blind spot about the existence religious people-- including scientists-- who have a more sophisticated view on religious matters.
Even the intellectually sophisticated can have huge blind spots.


Ted M. Gossard said...

Excellent post, Allan. Appreciated both your thoughts and those of Peter Enns. Our culture seems steeped in this problem. Hard to find true discussions nowadays between those with differing and opposing points of view it seems.

Allan Bevere said...


As someone said in a Bible study I was in yesterday-- We have lost the art of conversation.