Thursday, October 04, 2012


Got That Part Right!

Ah! The Houston Baptist University has acquired papers from Phillip Johnson, "father of the Intelligent Design movement."
[University provost Dr. John Mark] Reynolds said he believes this is a great opportunity for the University to become better known across the country.

Reynolds added that he hopes this acquisition will encourage other theologians to donate materials to the University, which could help enhance the school's reputation.

"We are the best-kept secret in America," Reynolds said. "A lot of people know Phil, so this way, people get to know HBU."
Well, famous and infamous are not exactly the same thing.

But Reynolds at least knows how to properly categorize Johnson and his work.

If only they had theological value.

-- pew sitter
If only they had theological value.

Well, I'm not quite sure what would constitute "theological value."


But I would take it if the IDers would just be honest about it being theology.
;-) I wink back, knowing that our views differ, so take this as a 'for what it's worth.' (Nice icon of St. John, btw)

There is such a thing as good theology and bad theology in the same sense we can talk about good philosophy or bad philosophy or good art or bad art or good poetry or bad poetry. Now, if you think the enterprise itself is inherently suspect -- whether it's theology, art, or philosophy (my father calls philosophy a total waste of brainpower and ink) -- then you're not going to find value in it.

The ID-ers base their 'theology' on a misunderstanding (the charitable assumption) or the deliberate misrepresentation and misuse (my assumption) of scientific knowledge. If they were not misusing science they could not promote ID, would you agree? Their theology is based on deception and misrepresentation.

It is one thing if you are William Paley in the 18th century; given the understanding of nature at the time, he was not misrepresenting the science of his time to promote his theological arguments. But Johnson in 2012 is.

Any theology that grounds itself in misrepresentation is bad theology.

And any theology that does not take into account the shared realities we encounter in our daily lives, whether it's scientific knowledge, the experiences of love, of beauty, of suffering -- that's bad theology too. If it glosses over shared reality, the things we can compare and talk about, if it shows no depth of understanding of the world we live in and the experiences common to all human beings, if, in short, it is untrustworthy and uninsightful about the realities we can touch and measure and feel -- whatever our convictions -- why on earth should we trust it when it ventures further away from shared realities into mystery? Why would you trust an explorer who can't seem to find his or her way out of the local supermarket parking lot?

There is a big difference between grappling with mystery and turning one's back on reality. Good theology starts with a deep engagement with lived, shared reality, whether it's reality we share through experimentation and peer-review or whether it's reality we share through traversing very common human paths of love and suffering.

And Johnson does not do that.
Oh, that was me, above, btw...

-- pew sitter
I don't know if Johnson's work is theology or not, but it is bad philosophy. The argument consists, primarily, of taking it as a given that the only options, metaphysically, are some sort of crude, reductionist materialism or some sort of vague, never-really-cashed-out theism. He doesn't, from what I can tell, give an argument for why those are the only options.

Given those options, he proceeds to give some objections (which are not, in themselves, all that bad) against the crude, reductionist materialism he's setting himself up against, and thereby declares victory for his vague, hand-waving theism.

In short:

(1) P v Q
(2) ~P
(3) So, Q

looks good at first, but it dissipates under closer examination.

@ pew sitter:

I would certainly agree that any theology (art, philosophy, literature ... or science) that is based on dishonesty, as I think all "professional" IDologists engage in (the "laity" may just be mislead), is "bad." "Value" is another question but taking into account shared love, beauty, suffering, etc. is, IMHO, always "good." I did not, in any way (if it needs to be said), mean to say that I do not find "value" in your opinions.

@ Carlos:

See my most recent post on Brian Leiter's and Michael Weisberg's deconstruction of Nagel's (purportedly) non-theological but yet telological bad philosophy. As some brilliant philosopher once said "That trick never works."
John Pieret, I've always felt welcome here, and appreciate your work in promoting good science and good philosophy. ID drives me nuts, both scientifically and theologically, and it has lots of slick promoters. I'm glad you're a strong and consistent voice against it.

Also, most of my circle is fairly churchy, and it's fun to converse with people who are not.

-- pew sitter
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