Beyond Reason


The Source of Language

Posted in Faith by Abigail on January 15, 2007

The last post briefly touched on “the scientific assault on free will.” This issue appears extremely similar to one I heard on NPR recently (The Infinite Mind – 11:00 on Sundays). They interviewed some scientists attempting to locate the source of language in the brain. And, a substantial group of theologians had trouble with this endeavor. It appears that these theologians believe that if you locate the source of language in the human brain you’ve reduced a human to the mere physical – that you’ve eliminated his soul (since language is so unique to humans). Obviously this would be a problem for Christianity (and most religions). But, the fact is, it’s been believed for years that my “thinking” occurs in that upper part of my body we usually call the “head.” Why has that concept not been a problem? Since I have a head, does that mean I have no mind? I think we could explain everything (physically) and have explained nothing (metaphysically). By definition, the physical and the non-physical are separate (this pretty much goes without saying). So to find a physical cause for something that we’ve always known is at least partly physical – the various aspects of a human – seems to add no new difficulty to the current set of difficulties. It still leaves those who have the faith that a mind and soul exist to continue relying on that faith – science doesn’t address the metaphysical.

But this answer seems too obvious (meaning, why wouldn’t that NPR broadcast have run into theologians who understood this concept?). Am I missing something? Anyway, it’s the argument that I’ve heard for a long time and it currently – to me – seems impervious to assault (I just really wanted to use that overly dramatic phrase). Perhaps I am missing something? Any thoughts?

Good, Good Stuff

Posted in Faith by Abigail on January 12, 2007

This article made me very happy because it is so interesting. I’m still walking around the edge of this issue, just taking a peak. Anyway, excellent article. You should read it.
The Scientific Assault on Free Will

The Great Bane of our Time: Walmart

Posted in Politics by Abigail on January 11, 2007

I had posted a bit about Walmart because I’m curious to understand the contorversy. Steve P has some good comments below. I might post again when/if I understand the controversy better. It’s interesting. (I pulled what I had here ’cause I thought it was way over the top. So, censoring myself again!)

Heroes of the Imagination

Posted in Writing/Reading by Abigail on January 7, 2007

I told myself not to post until I had something worth saying (as opposed to my previous post). And I can’t do it.

I am about 26 pages into a book entitled The Creators: A History of Heroes of the Imagination. It covers all known history and tries to sum things up: an incredibly aggressive attempt but certainly not the first one. Let me qualify that a little. The author, Daniel J. Boorstin, has three books in a series. The first is entitled The Discovers, the second is this one, and the third is The Seekers. This one focuses on art while the first touches science and the third religion. But, he is wise enough to see that they don’t really separate so what you get in this book – the art-focused one – is all of the above: philosophy, religion, science, the whole gamut.

Yeah, so only 26 pages in. This is no time to report. But I am. Boorstin taught history for 25 years, was director for part of the Smithsonian, and has served as the Librarian of Congress. The book is amazingly easy to read and he addresses one of my favorite topics – the relation between philosophy and theology. Good man! Anyway, when I have something truly worthwhile to report, I will. Perhaps I should start one of those seriously nerdy pages which states which books you are currently reading. That could be embarrassing.

Pulling Back the Curtain… just a wee little bit

Posted in Pure Nonsense by Abigail on January 3, 2007

To blog about blogging, or not blog about blogging? That is the great blogging question. Second only to it is: how many times can I get the word “blog” in one sentence?

Winter break is ending and I will return to school in a few days. It is with deep sadness that I must now take life seriously. No longer can I blabber on on my opinions of the world. No longer can I take advantage of this great free online digital soapbox. Oh yeah! I love blogging! I never realized that if you couldn’t get published all you had to do was publish yourself! I am the greatest. I am sure! Doesn’t everyone want to know what I eat for breakfast, how I live life as the great me, and who I’m dating? Ahhh, I know the blogosphere welcomes me with open arms.

My carefully thought out posts are SEVERELY censored. I’m a national security threat otherwise. And my own social life is always in danger. I could incinerate that at any moment. Watch me go!

Actually the point of this post is to say that I will be posting less. That’s all. But, you know. This is one of those posts that slipped by the censors. (They were sleeping. I always tell myself not to make big decisions at night.)

So, expect nothing less than less posting.

Yours truly,

The self-censored national security threat theologizing philosophizing blonde hero smashing fool

Does anyone have a name for my blog? I can’t think of one…

The Return

Posted in Faith by Abigail on January 2, 2007

Returning to a previous conversation…

To anyone new who is actually brave/interested enough to read this monster: you may want to read the previous posts in the Faith section.

A Bit of Resolution
Viewing theology as a form of philosophy is incredibly helpful. I have a slightly better handle on what theology is. (It’s gotta be the most unique of human endeavors.)

Also, what was always there has become more clear. I was disturbed at the “tandemness” necessary for theology to “work” but realized that that “tandemness” was always at the crux of the Christian conception of the world. The idea of relationship – between a creator God and created beings – requires that both be individual entities, in other words, that both have free wills.

Retraction
This is my favorite part of my post – I get to make a retraction. In attempting to correct one “error,” I’ve made another. (I’m working to demonstrate fallibility for us all. I should do quite well!) I said “theology has nothing to do with salvation.” I had gotten to that conclusion because I couldn’t see how a faith that’s truly from God could be filtered by men at all – considering men are the ones in need and men are fallible. This was really the crux of my whole problem. Christian teaching is just that – teaching. It is man flapping his jaw (I’ve heard a lot of it in my time – church my entire life, Christian high school, and Christian college). And men are good at being wrong or getting their egos involved or just getting tripped up by semantics. Truly placing a concept inside of language, without distorting it, is most likely impossible. So, we start with error? Probably. Except for my post here (that’s a joke). So, I retract my statement.

But here’s my defense. I was referring to the academic discipline of theology. That is not necessary for salvation. But, we’re all theologians to some degree.

Either way, man’s intellect/will is involved in salvation, in turning to God. And that’s a question I’m not getting into.

New Question
I’ve been questioning theology from a distinctly Christian viewpoint and left out entirely the fact that you don’t have to be a believer to be a theologian. (I can imagine some people disagreeing with that.) I would say since you can study things you don’t believe in, you don’t need to be a believer to be a theologian (was that an incredibly redundant sentence?). Does this seem accurate?

And then that raises the question: The man who studies theology from belief – he’s got to be the most biased researcher on earth! What has more pull than the topic regarding the destiny of your eternal soul and your behavior from day to day? (I don’t think this is any real problem. It is just interesting.)

And if you’re not a believer, why would you study theology? At that point, it’s no longer theology but instead mythology. Although mythology is very interesting…

Free Will
Since the “philosophy and theology problem” seems to end in the free will problem (for the Christian theologian), I’m going to revive this later (just a little bit – this topic seems to end in nonsense pretty quick).

Responses 

Chris – Thanks for your clear answer! That helped a lot. I read your blog post. Do you subscribe to the compatibilism idea? Would you say that whatever position’s taken is somewhat nonsensical?

Brad – It appears you would not say theology is a form of philosophy. Is that the case? I talked to a guy recently who thinks philosophy is bad and theology is good (to put things extremely simply). This obviously couldn’t be if one is a form of the other. His implication, I believe, is obvious – he recognizes the danger of philosophy (man is fallible and we have a tendency to become infatuated with ourselves, ultimately denying God). He also brought up Prov. 3:5,6. He essentially said – just believe the Bible! Which is a really nice thought but there are obviously many ways to interpret it.

Thanks for your words on philosophy and its history. That is quite informative! I enjoy reading your explanations.

About the nonsense that I was beginning to head down… when I asked if it was fair to even trust your words… I do see that there are base assumptions, or axioms, that we must make. It’s part of being human. But they should be recognized for what they are, right? Assumptions. Necessary assumptions.

I think I probably didn’t understand everything you said but, I did read it all! Several times.

Systematizing – C.S. Lewis has a great couple paragraphs on that. Reading him was the first time I realized that point you made – that analysis kills. It’s truly amazing. And, yet again, it is necessary. I couldn’t imagine a person who doesn’t think.

I really appreciated this sentence: “Theology takes a sharp right hand turn from any “ology” because the object of Theological study is the only one which exists necessarily.” Very good point.

How would you differentiate between philosophy and vain philosophy? I am very curious.

Jai – That’s absolutely fascinating about philosophy becoming a form of theology. Good point. I still think it’s the other way around though because I’ve only been referring to the academic disciplines which any person, believer or not, could take part in.

Your point on the motivation for theology and your practical answer under number 2 were both excellent. Thanks.

Your “longer but incomplete answer”: wow. You introduced me to concepts I’ve never heard of. Like God not having free will. Very interesting… I enjoyed your potential universes theory. Freaking crazy. I have heard that one before.

Thank you for your encouragement! I read your post several times to try to make sure I understood it and got it all. I really appreciated this sentence: “Just make sure that the pursuit of knowledge about God never outweighs your pursuit of God.” Thanks.

Oleg – I would guess you are the only person, not a part of this conversation, that read all the way through. And English isn’t even your first language. You deserve a truckload of cookies! 🙂

So much for shortness.