Introducing myself with an explanation of basic terminology like objective and absolute


(Mervin Bitikofer) #81

I happen to be reading a book right now that is rekindling in me a renewed sympathy (perhaps in synchrony with your sharply expressed conviction above) for this same visceral reaction against some things the church has bound itself to. I don’t know if you’ve ever read Philip Gulley, a Quaker pastor and author whose universalist and ecumenical convictions trip the alarm bells of doctrinaire guardians everywhere. But I’m in the middle of reading his “If the Church were Christian” and after some of the experiences he shares in there, the reader is left wondering why anybody is still a member of any churches at all. And while many have fled from churches that are bent on enforced doctrinal correctness, Gulley doesn’t pursue the same route of thinking the whole enterprise should just be chucked. But nor does he hesitate to let a lot of bathwater spill. [edited]

Quote from the end of the chapter I just finished reading:

If the Church were Christian, mirroring the compassion of Jesus would be more important than echoing the orthodoxy that has built up around him.


(Mitchell W McKain) #82

On the other hand, I can also acknowledge the very real possibility that all this may be a result of our habit of remembering the horrible things so much better than the good things. Perhaps it wasn’t really as bad as it sounds and there were great times of peace and good families to who love each other. It might simply be like the news where we focus on the bad things – but then again… these things get our attention because they should get our attention. These are the things we need to learn from and act on to make changes for the better.


(Randy) #83

Speaking of horrid things from the church, I am reassured by great things too–John Dickson, an Aussie apologist, remarks on violence and also on the predominance of Christians in charitable NGOs.


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #84

I would agree that it requires a secular state, which does not favor a particular religious faith or denomination. I would not agree that we must secularize our culture or people.

Definition of sec·u·lar from the internet.
[ˈsekyələr]

ADJECTIVE
denoting attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis.Contrasted with sacred.

The problem with many people who stress secularization is that they want to take religion and the spiritual out of life, which is impossible (as I have been saying.) If we make a distinction between the religious and the spiritual, that might make it clearer.

The other thing that makes me nervous is that we are talking about values and motivations. I know what religious and spiritual attitudes e, but what are secular motivations and attitudes? Are they greed, fear. hatred? I have tried to talk to non-believers about a secular morality to no avail.

That is not the point at all. The point is that ideas have meaning and consequences.

By agreeing with those who say that then universe is basically not rationale, you are taking the need to be rational out of human life. Al-Ghazali was not an extremist. He was a logical theologian.

That is a return to the Dark Ages only if it involves the same type of philosophy, theology, and science of the Dark Ages. History does not move backward. What makes you think that a secular 2084 is going to be better than a spiritual 2084.

Please do not distort the actual facts. Religion opposed smoking long before science did. “Secular” government and science in the form of the Surgeon General belatedly opposed smoking over the objections of powerful tobacco interests. You need a real example, not a phony one.

My problem with your position is still, What role does rational thinking play in it? You say the all thinking but scientific thinking is subjective and not dependable, that is unsound. Scientific thinking is limited to the physical sciences so it does not help much in everyday life.

How does one decide for whom do I vote when there is no equation to guide me? How do I decide to tell the truth if the truth is uncomfortable? Do I try to settle an argument which has troubled my family?


(Robin) #85

Mitchel…whatever suits you. But you honestly do not believe or live by much of what you propose is the best approach. Nor does it resolve any issues.


(Mitchell W McKain) #86

Wow! Is that what kind of forum this is? Where people drop unsupportable accusations of a personal nature out of the sky as if they were God who can say what other people believe and live by? Is that what gracious dialogue means?


(Mitchell W McKain) #87

Yes, the problem is the difference between the words “secularism” and “secularization.” In my post above I presented the definition of secularism which is right on the money for what I mean. But the definition you show here for “secular” got me to look up “secularization,” and what a difference!

Secularization refers to the historical process in which religion loses social and cultural significance. As a result of secularization the role of religion in modern societies becomes restricted. In secularized societies faith lacks cultural authority, and religious organizations have little social power.

According to this, I see I misspoke. Religious freedom requires secularism NOT secularization!!! And thus you are 100% correct to point out that what is required is a secular state and not that we must secularize our culture. Definitely my mistake there.

But here you are not correct. You are offensive, and making up what amount to nothing less than an outright lie. Perhaps you are equating YOUR rationale with the only rationale. And way the antiscience of Al-Ghazali ended the golden age of Muslim civilization is a warning against the danger of antiscience rhetoric in modern times that threatens to also plunge us back into a dark age if we do not oppose them. Will we also look back at this time as lost golden age, because people couldn’t even consider a modification of a bunch of unreasonable dogma? While I do not favor secularization I would choose that over the filth and ignorance I see implied by your attempt to turn back the clock.

Now might be a good time in this thread dedicated to explicating the definition of term to present what I consider to define rationality, according to which I do judge the beliefs of others:

  1. logical coherence is the requirement for a belief to be meaningful.
  2. Consistency with the objective (scientific) evidence is the requirement for a belief to be reasonable.
  3. Compatibility with the ideals of a free society is required for a belief to be moral in the kind of society I want to live in.
    Together these are the conditions for rational belief and they are far from determinate. In other words I defend a great diversity of human beliefs as rational, and I consider that diversity to be both healthy and an asset for human civilization. Indeed, I would compare it to the genetic diversity of the human species, which makes us more adaptable.

A rational future that supports science and religious liberty is better than a “spiritual” future that is opposed to science and religious liberty. The problem addressed by George Orwell’s 1984 was totalitarianism and the attempt to control the way people think. The sad fact is that rhetoric using the word “spiritual” very very often becomes one of the tools for doing just this as is the case in numerous distopian visions: THX 1138 based on Orwell’s 1984 used computer priest to do this, and I am also reminded of “Priest” with its loudspeakers blaring “to go against the church is to go against God.”

Nonsense! The problem with religion is always that there is a vast majority of opinions and no reason for anyone to agree with them. Just because a few cults/religions like the Mormons opposed smoking does not substantiate your absurd claim. The VAST majority of Christianity has NEVER opposed smoking. AND it is quite dishonest of you to ignore the other example of radium (once sold as a health product) so that you could raise your bogus objection. No! Tobacco is an excellent example and so is radium, but sure I can add a lot more: mercury in cosmetic products, lead in paint, asbestos in buildings, arsenic in skin creme,… And to remind and emphasize the point being made: science EXCELS in determining what is harmful to people.

The problem seems to be what rational thinking consist of. Logic alone gets us nowhere because all that does is take us from whatever premises you start with to the equivalent conclusions – important, yes, sufficient NO! With science we can finally make some progress in getting real answers. This history has demonstrated in spades! Only science is objective because it provides written procedures anyone no matter what they believe can follow to get the same results. Science has proven itself to be billions of times more dependable than religion.

This is downright hilarious. We have the term “physical sciences” precisely because the scientific thinking is not limited in to this branch. There is also biology, sociology, psychology and your attempt to exclude the biological sciences gives away the game. You are a creationist aren’t you. I came to this forum to get away from that insanity. You can leave me alone now. I am not interested.


(Mark D.) #88

It really isn’t, though as emotional, rationally imperfect beings we do occasionally miss the mark.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #89

Okay, I was probably the one who started all this and got you feeling defensive – so I probably deserve a portion of that jab. I appreciated some of the nuance you added in on clearing up a misunderstanding between you and Roger above.

And I appreciate how your one paragraph began with …

Amen to that! But on the rest of that same paragraph, you can expect pushback, (at least from me).
You continued…

You made it clear before that “Scientism” had not been a familiar term for you. But for what it’s worth, I think you nailed it in spades above. You may not have realized it is called that, but it would be hard to supply a better definition of it than what you exhibit above. The last sentence in particular (“science a billion times better…”) sums it up pretty well; In other words: Religion and science have been in a zero-sum competition to answer all the same sorts of questions, and science is winning.

My own quick response to that: There are many questions in life (addressed not just by formal religions, but the humanities in general) that simply are not scientifically accessible kinds of inquiry, but are no less important for their lack of empirical purchase. Beauty, love, meaning, purpose, ethics are a few big topics where science can answer some skin-deep things about them, but never get to the heart of any of it, much less compel us with finality toward any answers.

We do and will persist in gracious dialogue (at least I hope you don’t see my push-back above as being rude - what else would we want from each other but our sincerest responses?) But statements like that above will involve critical response because there is a bit of an “anti-Scientism” infestation here. :bug: :spider: And I’m part of that too, but you are certainly not alone in thinking as you expressed above either. In any case, I continue to read your responses with interest. Especially the parts that I disagree with, because I learn from those. Thanks for your continued exchanges, and I do hope we can all show grace and patience with each other, while refraining from mockery.


(Mark D.) #90

I’m not so sure. I see him differentiating between claims we can expect to persuade others without regard to their faith commitments and claims which we must recognize only make a claim on those who start with similar commitments. I think this is right and that the claims of science are the epitome of that which we can expect will persuade others.

I think of scientism as being the bias that only the claims of science should ever persuade anyone of anything. For me, scientism = nothingbut’ism. I’m pretty sure Mitchell isn’t guilty of that. But I see him as more willing/eager to give science its due in the realm of what should be persuasive with others. He can correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t hear him saying he holds no beliefs as surely as he holds those made by science.


(Robin) #91

Mitchelll…I did not mean to sound ungracious. Sorry if it came off that way. I see that there are a range of thoughts being tossed around in this email chain. All interesting in their own way…but I was trying to refer to what you initially said. You and I do agree, at bottom, in a secular state. But we believe it for very different reasons. A secular state simply keeps its nose out of other people’s religious choices. This should not extend to official or unofficial pronouncements against “forcing our religious beliefs on others,” and I think that the definition of that phrase (“what do you mean by ‘force’?”) would itself raise controversy.

It seems — based on your posting of the two (as you see them) definitions of God (which moderator Christy called a false dichotomy — that this image of yours might be behind much of your thinking and concern.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #92

Agreed. You obviously have nuance in there that is still slipping by me, Mitchell, since you are a believer. That is why I continue to be so interested. And I tend to process things by expressing them (approaching the world,“mouth-first” so-to-speak). So please don’t take my disagreements as a total affront so much as my way of trying to “synch-up” with your thinking.

“Without regard to their faith commitments” is something that I continue to take issue with. I don’t think any of us argues about anything (including science) “without regard to our faith commitments” I mean, yes – i can appreciate Mitchell’s point that scientifically verified facts about the world should be the sorts of things everybody can agree on without regard to what overt religion they subscribe to. He wouldn’t be the first to assert that here, and I think most of us here accept that assertion. But to take “the entire enterprise of science” as itself an objective enterprise, with regard to what we choose to study, what we choose to find important or ignore, what applications of it all should be pursued … All of those kinds of directives are very faith-based commitments, whether a person sees themselves as religious or not. And even with regard to so-called “brute facthood”, I would borrow a previously expressed idea (Polanyi) that “all facts are theory-laden” and even extend that to “all facts and theories are belief-laden”. Because no knowledge of facts exists in a vacuum. It only exists in already richly furnished minds with a myriad of contexts for it to be embedded in, as well as some context to furnish it with its present importance to the fact-holder distinguishing it from the myriads of other facts which that individual is choosing to ignore in the same moment.

In short … I just don’t see any compelling reason to accept the assertion that “scientific” = “most objective on all fronts”. Perhaps we can say that within a material realm of human affairs, science has proven to have the most objective set of processes. And I’m fine with that, if also acknowledging that there are important issues we must answer and live by that transcend material considerations.


(Mitchell W McKain) #93

@MarkD @Mervin_Bitikofer @bluebird

The comment was simply meant to remind bluebird of this commitment of the forum, and make it clear that I thought his remark was not living up to it. He has apologized and that is the end of it.

As for the rest of the complaints by Mervin I hope I can summarize it up best by responding to the following:

Science is the best access to the objective and the strictest standards for doing so, BUT its methodology restricts its applicability rather severely. (I have said this in different words above quite a few times.) It cannot be most objective on all fronts because it simply doesn’t have something to say on all fronts. Now the metaphysical naturalist may to choose to believe science defines the limits of reality, but that is not something science can tell us and thus there is no objectivity in that choice and belief whatsoever.

So as MarkD has caught on quite well, the point is that the objectivity of science gives us a basis for expecting agreement from other people. Written procedures which anyone can follow to get the same result guarantee this. What I would have loved to hear from the creationists and deniers of the biological sciences was a challenge to show them what these written procedures are in the case of evolution. The fact that they did not do so just goes to show that they really are not interested in any kind of scientific inquiry into the origin of the species. I think they resent the fact that science would even ask such questions rather than simply accept what they declare to be the case.

So, the frank truth is that when science has nothing to say, then we are left with the subjective reasons and personal experiences and thus a diversity of opinion and there is no way around this. And that means I see no objective means for handling the issues of religion – NONE! Which is why I make a committed defense not only of religious liberty but also the rationality of atheism .

Yes, a secular state keeps its nose out of religious issues. BUT when religion tramples on the liberties and well being of people, then it is no longer acceptable to treat this as a religious issue. The plain fact is that not all religions are compatible with a free society. The human sacrifice religions of the Mayans and Aztecs are a particularly extreme example of this.

CORRECT! It would be an complete misunderstanding of me to think that I have a greater commitment to science than Christianity and then there is my own metaphysical theory as well. I am simply vigorously honest about the fact that I cannot prove these things or that have one shred of objective evidence. It may shock other Christians but I frankly think this means my beliefs in those things don’t deserve any more regard than the beliefs people may have in ghost, faeries, psychics and UFOs (actually perhaps I even relish that shock LOL). OR… perhaps I should turn around to say that I don’t think those who do believe such things should have any LESS respect. AND… to spread this around evenly… this includes atheism too.

I guess the Christians are have a hard time seeing how I can grant epistemological superiority to science while still taking Christianity seriously. It is probably because they haven’t seen me arguing with the aggressive atheists. In those arguments it is all about my insistence that life requires subjective participation and my conviction that there is a irreducibly subjective aspect to reality as well as an objective aspect. And then there is that popular rhetoric which defines atheism as a lack of a believe in God so that babies are born atheists. I will get rather fierce in my refutation of that one. Where the aggressive atheist is likely to challenge me is on whether there is such a thing as subjective evidence, because they try to convince themselves that everything they believe is totally objective, which I will argue is delusional because it is an impossibility.


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #94

@mitchellmckain, Thank you for doing your “homework” and correcting a misstatement that you made you might be surprised at how rare that is on these pages. I commend your honesty and transparency.

I do not agree with Al-Ghazali as anyone who read my book, The Dimple ONE and the Complex One can attest. What I am trying to do is say that we must not demonize those religious views that we disagree with, but oppose them with good theology, philosophy, and science. You cannot reasonably defend religious freedom and label the vast majority of Muslims who agree with Al-Ghazali as extremists.

Good idea.

As far as I can tell making science the judge of the reasonableness of faith, as opposed to philosophy, is sufficient to rule that no faith that I am aware of is reasonable. Do you agree? If so the rest of what you say makes no sense.

!984 as well as lesser known novel was based on the real “secular” totalitarianism of the Soviet Union, which I can assure did not use religion to enslave its people.

I beg to disagree. I was born into a family of Methodists. The Methodist Church had it origin in the preaching of John Wesley to the workers and miners in 18th century England and soon spread to America.

He urged working class people to safeguard their health by refraining from smoking and drinking. The Methodist societies taught the uneducated to read, founded schools, and hospitals. The Methodist Church has been a liberating and empowering force for the poor and lower middle class in England, the USA and around the world.

I am now a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church which has liberated Black people just as the Methodist Church has liberated working people. I find it hard to understand why you seem to paint the church in such negative terms when I can see the positive contributions that she has made to the lives of billions.

Yes, the church is not perfect, and no not even science is perfect. Did science and scientists oppose Hitler in Germany or Stalin in the Soviet Union?

Yes, science is useful, but scientists are people who have the same strengths and weaknesses that all people do. Faith helps us to overcome our weaknesses and make the best use of our strengths for others, not just ourselves.

Good science is good at what it does, which is fine. Good religion also works very well. Again it is not either/or, but both/and. This is what BioLogos stands for and so do I.

It is not true that faith is not dependable, but of course you have to believe in it to work. If you trust in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, you will be saved from the power of sin and death! No ifs, ands or buts. Science is good, but faith is better, and they are both from Gods so we do not have to choose between them.

I do not happen to be a Creationist, but I do not view this label as a dirty word or an insult. Your claim to be interested in defending religious freedom rings hollow when you dsiplay intolerant attitudes toward Creationists and others who disagree with your understanding of science.


(Mitchell W McKain) #95

I have encountered people like this before. But your denial of the biological sciences makes you equivalent as far as I am concerned. And I am still not interested. Disinterest is not intolerance. I have no beef whatsoever with people who are simply not interested in science or Christianity. Life is limited and we have to make choices on how we spend our time. So when it comes to a few things like reality tv shows and the rhetoric of the biological science deniers, I am not interested. I simply ask you again. Leave me alone.


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #96

I did not deny the biological sciences. I said something that you took to be the denial of the biological services, and you choose to fit me into your anti-science stereotype instead of doing some research as to what I really think.

What I think about evolution ide very clear. I have been an active participant in the BioLogos discussion of this topic for years, not days. Your problem is that you jumped to a conclusion on little evidence and failed to take the available steps to confirm or contradict that conclusion.

If you do not want to discuss with me, that is your prerogative, but do not use this lame false excuse. If you do not want to talk with real Young Earth Creationist then it is best not to post on BioLogos because these boards are open to all and some do contribute.

If you want to contribute to the tribalism of our time by not talking to people like me, that is up to you, but I do not think that this is the right thing to do. It certainly does not follow from the universalism of Christianity.


(Mitchell W McKain) #97

It is correct that I came to this conclusion from what you said. I have no stereotype, I simply have no interest in indulging a certain type of rhetoric. I don’t want to hear it anymore, any more than I want to listen to Nazis. I used up my patience for things like that, and I have no more. But if you want to explain why what you said does not fit this conclusion, I will listen.

You said…

Why would you say such a thing? Did you misspeak? I can very much sympathize with the latter thought and have said many similar things like… “Science is just an activity (like football or pottery), not a way of life.” “Science is objective observation, but life requires subjective participation.”

I may well come to agree with you that BioLogos is not for me, though it will not be because of the YECs.


(Andrew M. Wolfe) #98

I for one hope that this is not the case! I’ve mostly been lurking and skimming but appreciate your voice here.

That said, life is short and not all conversation partners and conversation spaces are worth the investment, so of course you’ll have to do what’s right for you.


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #99

Roger: Scientific thinking is limited to the physical sciences

My statement does not deny the biological sciences and the fact of evolution.

The reasons why I made it are this. There us a difference between the physical sciences and the biological sciences, because the object of the physical sciences is not alive and is thus objective, while the objects of the biological sciences are alive, sensate and not objective. There is even a bigger difference between the physical sciences and the human sciences, because people do think and thus are not objects. Despite what Dawkins claims animals are not machines and this includes human beings.

You are the one who made a radical se4paration between objective and subjective knowledge. It seems to me that the physical sciences reflect the first and the others reflect the second and I am sure that I am not the only one with this perspective.

You reject reason in the form of philosophy and theology. Without reason human minds are open to all sorts of irrationality. People who claim that science is our only protection against bad ideas are very wrong. Secularism does not help without the desire to work together which does not come from science.


(Mitchell W McKain) #100

I agree that there is a difference. The human sciences are certainly softer sciences which means that the ideals of objectivity are a little harder to realize in them. Objective observation presumes that the observer is separate from what is observed, which is difficult when you are the subject of observation. But while it is difficult and caution is required, it does not change the scientific methodology which is used in both case. There is still honesty of testing hypotheses rather than looking for evidence to prove what you want to believe and there is still the written procedures which anyone can follow to get the same results.

There is NOTHING subjective about the chemical composition of DNA and how it works (or in the rest of biochemistry). Nor is there anything subjective in anatomy and the functions of bodily organs. Nor is there anything subjective in the results of a large number tests we can make about the function of the human brain. There is a difference but you are exaggerating the difference in such a shameless way that it strongly suggests a twisting of things to fit an ideological agenda. I am not interested in that ideology – whatever it may be.

I would agree, but I think I can make this considerably more clear. Living organisms are not machines because living organisms are a product of self-organization while machines are a product of design. This is because doing things for their own reasons is what it means to be alive. The biochemistry has nothing to do with it. I have every expectation that we will soon be using much the same biochemistry to make machines that will be like viruses in many ways. But there is a fundamental difference between the two. Viruses don’t have much life, but they are alive because they are a product self-organization and the biomachines we will make will be a product of design and so they will not be alive.

Yes and I insist on this separation. Objective knowledge gives us a reasonable expectation that others should agree. Subjective knowledge does not. I am willing to accept such limits to my subjective knowledge and I DEMAND that other accept the same limitations when it comes to theirs, because forcing their subjective beliefs on others is unacceptable in a free society.

But this is plain wrong – demonstrably so. I repeat, there is nothing subjective about DNA or any of the other elements of the biological sciences.

As for these other people you speak of… there are all kinds of people in the world and this include the flat earthers, nazis, and all kinds of irrational people which I have no interest in. It is not about requiring agreement with what I believe. I have no reason to believe in fairies, UFOs, healing crystals or psychics nor any of the beings of numerous religions around the world, and I do not agree with Muslims or atheists, but I will not avoid a discussion with any of these or pretend that my Christian belief have any more objectivity than their beliefs.

Incorrect. What I reject is that there is any objectivity to be found in them, so we cannot reasonably expect others to agree with their conclusion. There are no written procedures to be followed regardless of what you believe in order to get the same results. The problem is that the methodology of philosophy and theology is logic alone which can only take you from premises to equivalent conclusions, but it cannot establish the truth of the premises you start with. This is why there is a multiplicity of opinion in philosophy and theology and there always will be.

I can only repeat that rationality as I see it stands on 3 things.

This defines the rationality in a free society.