Stuff that has helped me from James Davison Hunter,Neil Postman, and George Marsden

If you wonder how to wade through the culture wars over science and faith and American politics, you will be living my life for the last 15 years.

Two men and two books that have helped me greatly

James Davison Hunter’s Culture Wars. Hunter is a sociologist at UVA.

His advice that I can remember:

  1. Find out what people consider sacred first.
  2. Pluralize a system if it is binary. Involve all voices, all people, not just two.
  3. Realize that if stuff goes to court and becomes a media circus, the whole system leans toward a binary polarization of good and evil without grey area.

Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death

  1. America moved from a typographic culture to the transmission of visual images across a national space as television was created. Rational political discourse was detonated when people stopped reading printed matter.

Lincoln-Douglas debates—hours and hours long responses were the norm, and the debates were reprinted to be read in newspapers
Present political debates----minutes long responses

George Marsden
Told me Francis Schaeffer didn’t want to entertain middle categories. He was a preacher involved in politics. Two category systems are easy to digest.

I read somewhere online black-and-white thinking is destructive in this way.

Mercury is hot, and Neptune is cold, but the space where life can exist and thrive is the grey area in which earth sits.

Let’s move beyond simplistic and reductionistic polarizations and embrace grey area in our complex world.

I was thinking about how much visual images and quick soundbbites are killing discourse. I counter that force by incorporating reading into my classes in a particular way. By letting my students read the original text of things like Common Sense by Thomas Paine when we cover the Revolution.

I look forward to any thoughts you have


Hallelujah. Count me in.

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Very good post. Thanks. Just a little humor from Calvin (who I think I sometimes resemble)


They are easier to digest. And when we get into “us vs. them” ways of viewing others, our goal becomes certainty, or “being right” at all costs and we don’t want to hear that we might be wrong.

Getting out of this way of thinking isn’t easy. Once I became less certain in YEC, it was easy to try and attach that same level of certainty to science itself, because I needed something to fill that void, but that can lead to problems also.

Given this, it is not all that surprising that some will go from YEC to atheism, when they’ve been taught all their lives that it’s all a binary and none of the categories in between are legitimate. That’s probably why I’ve gained a lot more from discussions about nuances rather than all-encompassing theories of everything that attempt to perfectly synthesize science with a literal/historical reading of Genesis 1-3.


… so you’re saying we can either use simplistic and reductionistic polarizations, or we can embrace gray area?


By chance, do you see any gray area between those two possibilities?

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