OST is closed for business but its spirit survives on my blog.

Re: Richard Dawkins, Knowledge, and Faith

Re: Richard Dawkins, Knowledge, and Faith

this is not problematic at all.”

Discoveries come and go.”

You offer one; I have read others.”

I posed four issues that frighten me about pragmatism. I wouldn’t harbor these fears if I didn’t take pragmatism seriously. And you’ve seen that I resonate with some of the ideas. That you seem to find only reassurance in what I fear adds a fifth terror to my list.

Do I fear those who claim to have found the Objective Truth? Sure: that’s what your post was about. I share Dawkins’ fear of those who claim to know the Objective Truth about God. Empirical science as currently practiced relies on falsification rather than confirmation of hypotheses, so Dawkins is being true to his methodological commitments by maintaining his agnosticism, his ultimate uncertainty about the Objective Truth. Typically it’s the politicians and talkshow hosts who turn science into dogma, not the scientists themselves.

I understand that discoveries come and go. What I fear is when this coming and going becomes indistinguishable from passing fad and fashion. I understand that popularity often trumps beauty and truth and justice. What I fear is equating popularity with beauty and truth and justice. I understand that perceptions are typically more influential than evidence, both individually and collectively. What I fear is that popular perceptions are manipulated by money and power, and even by psychologists and sociologists hired by those who wield money and power.

On the other hand, I understand that upholding standards which purport to supercede popular opinion is a typical move invoked by elitists attempting to preserve their status in class wars. And as you’ve alluded to, Jacob, power has often been wielded in the name of purported certainties promulgated by the elite: the superiority of the Aryan race, the WMDs in Iraq, etc. So there are things to fear either way.

Finally, I return to the “You offer one; I have read others” remark. This is of course insufferable, inasmuch as it’s the only thing you’ve had to say about my interpretation of Genesis 1. The implication is clear, however: from a pragmatic point of view there is no practical use for you to make of my reading. To be honest, though, I wrote the nonfiction book about Genesis 1 from pragmatic motives: I thought that I’d have an easier time getting nonfiction published than fiction, and I thought that my Gen. 1 interpretation would offer a practical solution for those conservative Christians who wanted to preserve scriptural accuracy while acknowledging the empirical and logical discrepancies embedded in the Biblical text. I hadn’t counted on the emergent evangelical crowd moving on to poetic and true myth readings of Genesis 1, wherby empirical (in)accuracy is deemed irrelevant to the meaning of the story for the Christian community. I also hadn’t counted on my coming to regard my own pragmatic reading of Genesis 1 as true and beautiful and just in its own right. And so I find myself an embittered and disillusioned old man, hanging around this Christian website when there’s no real practical reasons for me to do so any more.

I would ask you more about your dissertation, but for the sake of ego preservation I’m forced to say something like this: “Meh, dissertations come and disertations go. If it gets you a job you want, then that means it was a good dissertation. If it doesn’t, then it wasn’t.” I find it easier to put remarks like this in the mouths of fictional characters, contrasting them with other fictional characters who uphold the value of an intrinsically excellent dissertation regardless of its practical implications for the writer, for the reader, or even for the world. My fiction always remains ambivalent, so neither character would unilaterally win the day. And then of course the finished novel would remain unpublished, unread, unreal…

Richard Dawkins, Knowledge, and Faith By: Jacob (60 replies) 6 February, 2010 - 01:49