Novak (novak) wrote,

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Theological Notebook/Personal: Feast of Francis a Wash-Out; 2006 Theology Lectures

Ah, well, today's Feast of Francis ended up being mostly a wash-out, personally. Once I was done with teaching my classes, I came home feeling rather punk and achy, and mostly have just slept as much as I could while my head and sinuses took turns throbbing. Whee.

Thing started alright before then, I guess. I was a bit disappointed with today's panel discussion on Intelligent Design at the Raynor Library, with faculty from Law, Biology, and Theology. The Law professor talked about the Dover case in Pennsylvania, understandably, from last year, and what Constitutional concerns play out from this material. The Biology professor just spent his session talking about what the best evidences for evolution were, and showing us resource on the web for educating against Intelligent Design promoters. He admitted he hadn't read any of it, which had been obvious to me, since – as far as I recall – no one doing the I.D. work thinks evolution is untrue. Rather, as I understood it and have reproduced some of that debate material here, it had a lot more to do with the borders of science and philosophy (not theology, per se) and the limits of what knowledge could be determined by the hard sciences. The problem seems to be that classic American fundamentalist Creationism has claimed "Intelligent Design" language for its own purposes and just re-packaged their own material under the current "hot" phrase. The Theology professor, who specializes in the interaction between science and theology, gave a more pointed critique of I.D. from a perspective of theological methodology, particularly on the long-problematic move of filling in gaps in our scientific knowledge with "God did it," which tends to make "God"-statements look silly once such knowledge is later attained. This raised the question, it seemed to me, of asking why these biochemists or cosmologists were willing to risk calling certain phenomenae "irreducably complex," but the panel didn't go into that sort of detailed and specific examination.

After a great comment by Ralph Del Colle on the real question here being one of the epistemological, "faith and reason" sort and our respective abilities to gain knowledge, I also stood and offered a comment. I just simply said that as a matter of American cultural history, Creationism is a beasty with a long pedigree, and one worth studying or understanding for its influence in our culture. But I clarified that while Creationists – such as those in the Dover case in Pennsylvania – had run off with Intelligent Design language for their own purposes, that that does not mean that we ought to be equally-sloppy and agree to allow Creationists to distort the question on their terms. If a distinct set of questions was being asked here, and I understood that there was, along the lines I mentioned above, about the borderline between the sciences and philosophy, then we were responsible for dealing with the actual questions and not allowing a red herring or distortion to set the terms of the conversation. I asked for a second panel to meet again and to really focus its conversation on the actual issue. The Marquette Tribune interviewed me afterward, which – given earlier experiences with being misquoted by the press in favour of less-complex thoughts – has got me a little nervous. We'll see how that turns out.

There was a professor who spoke during the discussions – and then left before anyone responded to him – who I had partially addressed, when he expressed his suspicion of why I.D. was being pushed in the high schools but not being done in the grad schools, as it were. Obviously, that's more of an indoctrination, Creationist style of cultural battle. But on the other hand, the real philosophical point being made is one with a huge impact among children. Philosophical Naturalism, or Scientific Reductionism is a philosophy that has been repeatedly smuggled into science teaching: that is, to put it loosely, it is claimed that only the kind of knowledge the scientific method supplies is legitimate knowledge, and that therefore religious belief has no reasonable basis. That philosophical hammer has been used in indoctrination with schoolchildren with just the kind of illegitimate, false-scientific enthusiasm that the Creationists have for their own program. And for mainstream theological teaching (and, I think, reasonable scientific understanding) both Naturalism and Creationism are dead wrong in their belief that "Science and Religion" are incompatible modes of that thought: that you have to pick one or the other. They've been incredibly destructive with their sloppy, amateur philosophy in the cultural life of the United States.

Along with all of that, I see that the Department has posted the list of the major Theology Lectures and such for this year:
Doerr Chair Lecture:
Fr. Robert Doran, S.J., "Being in Love with God: A Source of Analogies for Theological Understanding"
Date: Wednesday, October 25 at 4:00 PM
Location: David A. Straz, Jr. Hall, room 105

Wade Chair Lecture:
Fr. Gerald O’Collins, S.J., "Birth or Death: The Shadow of Calvary over Bethlehem"
Date: Wednesday, November 8 at 4:00 PM
Location: David A. Straz, Jr. Hall, room 105

Immanuel Kant Conference:
Dates: Saturday, November 11-Sunday, November 12

Wade Chair Lecture:
Fr. Hans Waldenfels, S.J., "The Recent History of the Vatican’s Approach to Ecumenism"
Date: Thursday, February 22, 4:00 PM.

Abrahamic Traditions Conference:
Dates: Thursday, March 1-Friday, March 2

38th Annual Père Marquette Theology Lecture:
Dr. Christopher Rowland, Oxford University
Date: Sunday, March 25 at 2:00 PM
Location: Weasler Auditorium
Tags: faith and reason, marquette, personal, philosophical, political, père marquette lecture, scientific, secularism/modernity, teaching, theological notebook

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