To what degree might chronological snobbery affect our thinking about the matters we discuss on this forum?

(Mike Gantt) #1

While I was reviewing the original post of the thread Things are not as they seem, I was thinking as well about a somewhat related issue: what C.S. Lewis called “Chronological Snobbery.”

When I’m not aware of my own chronological snobbery I tend to feel sorry for antiquity and wonder how they ever made it - given that they didn’t have modernity to guide them.

Then I wonder if the old quote often attributed to Mark Twain might have some bearing on modernity’s view of antiquity:

When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.

Maybe modernity is still somewhere between fourteen and twenty-one.

Christians and Climate Science: Moving Beyond Fear to Action
(Jon) #2

It isn’t a matter of chronological snobbery. It’s a matter of having an increasingly good understanding of what they did and didn’t know, and having an increasingly greater sensitivity to looking at Scripture through their eyes, not our own. As has rightly been said many times, Scripture was written for us, but not to us. Until we acknowledge this, we’ll keep reading Scripture through modern, Western eyes. Now that’s snobbery.

(Jennifer Thomas) #3

One of the interesting aspects of the human brain that has been little researched and little discussed among cognitive neuroscientists is the human sense of time and timing, which seems to originate in the parietal and parieto-temporal regions of the brain when all goes well.

The human sense of time and timing is related to other extremely important System 1 traits such as empathy, memory, faith, boundary issues, learning from mistakes, and the ability to see oneself from the inside (interoception).

When we reach adulthood in such a way that our brain is well accustomed to working with timelines, we’re less threatened by data that has a time-related component. This includes such simple tasks as reading analog clocks (as opposed to digital clocks), having a strong sense of direction (which includes a strong inner sense of direction – also known as “conscience”), and being able to remember the mistakes you’ve made so you can learn from those mistakes and become a wiser, more compassionate person.

You’d be surprised at how many of the best aspects of the human experience rely on a firm grasp of time and timing.

(Curtis Henderson) #4

I may be “reading between the lines” a bit too much, but are you asking why we, with our fancy-shmancy modern science tools, feel like we have a better picture of the age of the earth? If so, I would say that modern tools do allow us to achieve a better understanding of our world because we can look at the same things in new ways. There are quite a few areas, such as memory skills in groups with strong oral history traditions, that I would say the ancients far surpassed us. For example, there are probably very few people alive that have the memory of Torah like typical scribes and pharisees of Jesus’ day. I believe it is important to at least recognize the possibility of “chronological snobbery”, but there are indeed some things that we can understand better with modern technologies.

(Ray Bailey) #5

Your observation on the abilities of the ancients memory is not entirely lost, even among the Jews. I have a personal friend, Rabbi Yochanan, who can recite the entire Tanakh verbatim. I have to take his word for it that his recitation in Hebrew is accurate, but as he can translate it instantly into English is proof enough for me.

To say that he puts my memorization of Scripture (nearly nil in comparison) to shame.

Jennifer, is “System 1” timing related to repetitive usage of such cognitive processes? I would assume the actual usage of such things in value judgements increases the sense of timing.

I ask this because the Idea of “Chronological Snobbery” can be related to nothing more than the failure to think about we are not the only people alive.

Our current society is clearly not interested in history and wider cultural understanding. A steady, constant barrage of self-inflicted entertainment and self-indulgence has to have a major affect on the “System 1” sensitivity. I have observed in my 63 years the degradation of society’s ability to function in some very basic ways. My 94 year old mother agrees to an even greater agree!

No matter how educated we are we are the product of our culture. As I remarked eslewhere:

Ray :sunglasses:

(Ray Bailey) #6

Mike, I’d say that is endemic to modernity, and has been ever since the “Enlightenment”. It is the same since a Sumerian looked down on a Hittite (or Homo-Sapiens at a Neanderthal) and has to be a in-built “human” problem. The first result of “sin” is “not Me!” and the sam is reflected throughout in all societies: “They’re not me or mine, and we’re better!”.

(Any Football fans want to rumble?)

As to the degree it occurs, has to be based on the sincerity of the person involved in at least trying to be honest in their attempt. They may lack the requisite knowledge to be effective, but that has to be the start.

Ray :sunglasses:

(Jennifer Thomas) #7

Hi, Ray, good to hear from you. You and I seem to have the same generational glasses – and I have a father who’s almost 94 and still reads the news from cover to cover every day. So I think he’d agree with you, too.

If you have a chance, you might consider googling “Dual Process Theory,” which posits two parallel but quite different processing systems in the brain. Scientific American has posted a few readable articles on this topic if you’re not big on slogging through peer-reviewed psychology research. (Really, I need a lot of coffee before tackling the original papers.)

I’d like to be able to say I stumbled on Dual Process Theory strictly by keeping up with my reading list, but the honest truth is that I pestered God and Jesus during my countless hours of work as a cataphatic Christian mystic until they finally started dropping gigantic hints about the importance of learning more about how the brain actually works – and especially how the brain-soul nexus actually works. So several years before I stumbled on Dual Process Theory, I was already continuing my research with the basic Soul Circuitry versus Darwinian Circuitry model I arrived at independently. (I called my model the Christ Zone model.)

I just hate it, though – completely hate it – when folks of mystical bent try to talk others into accepting major paradigm shifts without tons of regular, everyday, classical-physics-type scientific research to back it up. So don’t listen to me. Listen to all those cognitive researchers who are talking about the importance differences between System 1 and System 2 goals, priorities, etc. – even when the researchers don’t believe in God.

The great thing about God’s science is that it’s always true and always has ways of shaping and improving our lives even if we don’t happen to believe in God.

God bless,

(Ray Bailey) #8

I tend to like to paraphrase Jesus’ classic quote about taxation:

"Render unto science the things that are science and to God the things that are God’s.

General Revelation = Physical world (The Seen of John 3)
Special Revelation = Spiritual world (The Unseen of John 3)

Then rendering thee things of Special Revelation to God (the WHY) and the Physical Revelation (the HOW) to Science, psychology, et al.

Good to meet you Jennifer.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #9

Twain’s wit has penetrating insights. Somehow I’m not surprised that you read him, and I’m with you that it still applies today just as it ever has. I think we see examples of what you’re talking about when modern researchers “discover” things like how important human community is, or when leading business captains “discover” the concept of servant leadership. When biblical ignorance is the norm, so many of these gems have the air of fresh novelty. Many of our depression-era grandparents knew the value of conservation and thrifty living before science started showing us the rapacious effects of living as we now do.

In so many ways, scientists crest many new mountains only to be welcomed up by believers already strolling around the summit. I think your observation is dead-on. Of course, anything Twain says in a few dozen words, I can say with a few hundred.

And while we have Twain in mind – I’ve always liked his observation (attributed to him anyway, and going from my memory here) that: “It isn’t the parts of the Bible I don’t understand that bother me nearly so much as the parts that I understand perfectly well.”


In my experience, if your only out is “hundreds of thousands of scientists over the last 200 years must be completely wrong about the most basic science” then you don’t have much to stand on. If someone doesn’t want to buy your 5,000 ton concrete airplane, it usually doesn’t help to say “Well, maybe gravity is a figment of our imagination”.

(Albert Leo) #11

Hi Jen. I am interested in investigations of this sort, but I think I made a mistake in trying to skip the more introductory articles like the Scientific American one(s) you mention. (Yrs. Mo.??) I recently purchased R. Sapolsky’s “Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst”, but I have bogged down somewhat in the details of neurobiology he describes in detail. If you have read it, what is your opinion? Worth the effort?

I definitely disagree with this quote of yours. Throughout the history of science, the initial discussions of a paradigm shift begin before there “are tons of research” to back them up. Not surprising, they go against the grain of what was currently accepted as Truth. Although I spent a lifetime in science (67 yrs member of ACS) I consider myself ‘of mystical bent’ in that I believe that we humans appeared on the scene when one or more of our ancestor’s brains was epigenetically ‘programmed’ into Mind. And when we discover the biological mechanism for this world-shaking event (some DNA methylation in the brain, perhaps), it will not change the Truth that it is the Cosmic Christ that is moving us from the Alpha to the Omega as stated in Revelations.

Incidentally, since I am in my 92nd year, I fit in with your Dad and @RLBailey’s Mom in still being vitally concerned where This Old Earth is heading. It has a lot of my progeny on it.
Al Leo

(Jennifer Thomas) #12

Hi @aleo,

Thanks so much for taking the time to add your thoughtful remarks. I completely agree with your remarks about scientists of mystical bent. In fact, my academic research in the history of mysticism has led me to realize to what extent cataphatic nature mysticism has shaped the forward movement of science in the best ways possible.

But cataphatic mysticism isn’t the only form of mysticism. Anagogic mysticism and apophatic mysticism have both played a much greater role in the history of organized religion and organized economic/political structures than in scientific fields. And between you and me, Albert, there’s almost nobody in this world who scares me more than an apophatic mystic who’s unsaid everything except for his/her “right to be right.” And these are the mystics who create a lot of suffering in the world unless their revelations are overturned through the application of solid scientific research – and lots of it, too.

You’re right, though – I should have been more specific in my comment. I apologize.

Best wishes,

(Jennifer Thomas) #13

A short P.S. about mysticism, Albert @aleo. (And I’d better keep it short, or I’ll get yelled at for going off topic).

Three mystics climbed together to the top of the hill to seek God. One was an anagogic mystic, one was an apophatic mystic, and one was a cataphatic mystic.

The climb up the hill was long and arduous, but finally they reached the top.

The anagogic mystic said, “What a fine view! Now that I’m here, I’m surely closer to God than all those people at the bottom of the hill. I’ll build myself a fine tent here and wait for God’s imminent visit – or at the very least God’s revelation to me.”

The apophatic mystic said, “What a fine view! But I need to be even closer. God is surely in that cloud over there, and I’m worthy of being taken up in that cloud. So I’m going to jump. I trust God will save me as I’m falling and take me into the cloud of knowing/unknowing where I will rejoice in my salvation.”

The cataphatic mystic looked over the edge of the hill and saw what was left of the apophatic mystic at the bottom of the hill. As he was shaking his head at his friend’s lack of respect for science, he noticed a small town close to the hill where many people were struggling to grow their crops and feed their families without a good well. The cataphatic mystic said, “You know, the hill thing isn’t really working for me. I think God is down there as much as God is up here. I’m going to go back down the hill and see what I can do to help those people feed their families. Maybe, with God’s help, I can figure out a way to dig a better well.”

Jesus was a cataphatic mystic.

(George Brooks) #14


I have to confess that i never thought I would encounter a sentence like this one at BioLogos!

  1. …cataphatic mysticism isn’t the only form of mysticism.

  2. Anagogic mysticism and apophatic mysticism …

  3. …have both played a much greater role in the history of organized religion and organized economic/political structures than in scientific fields.

4)… between you and me, Albert, there’s almost nobody in this world who scares me more than an apophatic mystic who’s unsaid everything except for his/her “right to be right.”
[Short list of amazing statements]

Perhaps postings of this sort help make it clear why religious instruction should be kept out of the public schools…

(George Brooks) #15

I am a cataphatic mystic.
I know this because I hate mountain climbing.

(Ray Bailey) #16

@aleo, I was just reading about the ASA in preparing my friendly debate with my friend. Your post means you joined in 1950 (three years before my birth!).
So you rubbed elbows with the founders! My salute to you with respect and admiration on both your achievements and longevity!
Any comments you care to make concerning how the YEC rift has become so Grand Canyon-esque?

(and to stay on topic – concerning chronological snobbery?
Ray :sunglasses:

(Albert Leo) #17

Hi Ray
In discussing the current topic, Chronological Snaobbery, and its inherent pitfalls, we might as well keep in mind its close cousin, Intellectual Snobbery, and its use to support an argument of doubtful validity. Your mention of the Grand Canyon makes me think of someone with a Ph.D. in Hydrology using it (to a less educated audience) in support a ridiculous argument that the Grand Canyon is physical evidence of the Great Flood described in Genesis. I was lucky to have a better informed instructor to show me the wondrous effects that hydrology and geology had on the 75,000 ft of continuous sedimentary rock exposed in Nevada and Arizona. This instructor was my brother-in-law, “Chick” Perkins, whose highest academic degree was a diploma from the Moapa Valley high school. But he spent many years prospecting in those mountains–looking for mineral wealth, but with an observant eye for fossils and for the forces that bent those once-level strata into arches and whorls. Chick’s “advanced degree” was in Nature, Directly Observed. My Ph.D. in Reaction Mechanisms in Organic Chemistry, was irrelevant. Under his tutelage, I think I gained a pretty good understanding of how all that marvelous scenery came to be.

Returning to the subject of Chronological Snobbery, I often wondered why most people think it works only in one direction in a theological sense; i.e., God rather profusely directed his revelation and his miracles to the Patriarchs in the distant past, but since Jesus’ return to the Father, genuine miracles and new revelation has become very scarce. Do you believe that is true, Ray?
Al Leo

(Ray Bailey) #18

Thanks for the response. I used the Grand Canyon as I had just read a link on that issue in another topic. :grin:

Yes, my observations agree that at least “new revelations” are very scarce. However, I think the problem is more to do with the delayed reaction time in determining if somebody has revealed something that makes a critical difference. Only after a person has died and an extended period of evaluation has passed is the church able to make a case for a genuine “saint” like the Catholics do - in process – but not in volume!. I feel their “quality control” cycle on selecting “Saints” has more to do with church politics than real sainthood–or filling the coffers for building cathedrals and such! :frowning2:

As for miracle here is a link to the incident I told in another post: Continuing the discussion from Can science discover supernatural activity even though science might not call it that? That miracle had a significant effect on that young man, his family, and the community (over several years).

I believe miracles do happen, if not quite as often as most people wish to believe, yet most are not believed because even as Christian’s we are infected with the material/scientific mindset of our culture. It takes “miraculous evidence to support a miraculous event” (I can’t find who said that, but I remember it --Thomas Aquinas?). Besides, the purpose of a miracle has to be significant for the occasion (as God sees it, not to our eyes).

I also note that significant miracles tend to happen in non-western cultures. I personally know missionaries from Africa, India, and Asia who have witness, and had miracles happen when they laid hands on people. I personally had a miracle happen (which I will describe in private if requested)

I do believe a time will come, when the pressure is on the church (the true church) during the tribulation (I believe in the pre-wrath rapture re: Marv Rosenthal Zion’s Fire) we will indeed be turning stones into bread and raising people from the dead.

To the Topic: It requires an open mind free from chronological or intellectual snobbery to recognize – or be the conduit for revelations or the miraculous. IMHO :grin: Only the humble and needy need apply!

Ray :sunglasses:

(Ray Bailey) #19

@aleo, I forgot: I believe God can make miracles as miraculous or as “natural” as he requires for the purpose and the time. Our judgement of his purpose and timing is seldom necessary unless he reveals it to us himself. It is seldom self-evident!
Science has no cabability to determine otherwise except within the confines of the material. If may explain HOW, never WHY!.

Ray :sunglasses:

(Jennifer Thomas) #20

Hello, George. If you makes you feel any better, I have a chemistry degree. And the research I do on mysticism is all filtered through the lenses of neurophysiology and quantum physics. (Not that I’m really thinking this will make you feel better, but I’m just saying . . . )

One of the reasons Christianity has been having so many problems in recent decades is the lack of willingness to be honest about mysticism and to engage in ethical, scientific research on brain traits such as intuition (which mysticism is merely an extension of).

The brain is capable of lot more than simple accumulation of System 2 facts and figures. Perhaps the brain’s non-Materialist talents are of no interest to you. But most of the people I know who are interested in God, soul, spirituality, faith, meaning, empathy, and connection to the Divine are pretty darned interested in those non-Materialist networks and talents.

There would be no Christianity – nor any Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, etc. – without the contribution of various mystics along the way.

Some examples of scholars and major contributors to Western thought who thought of themselves as mystics (which is a biological brain talent not a “supernatural” talent) and who looked to the natural sciences to guide their research and their teachings:

Thomas Aquinas
Florence Nightingale
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
George Washington Carver
Rufus Jones
Wolfgang Pauli
Erwin Schroedinger

And these are only a few. So you can laugh or you can pull on your research boots and learn more about how these individuals brought science, God, and faith together into their lives of service and scholarly research for the benefit of others.