Category: Secular Science

Sadly, this story is no longer news. What is shocking is how many evangelical Christians, who profess belief in biblical creation, send their kids to nominally evangelical and Reformed colleges that long ago sold their scriptural birthright for a mess of secular scientific respectability (and research funding) and still  expect their kids to remain evangelical or Reformed. Once faculty members lose their faith in the authority of Scripture and the biblical account of creation, the devolution of their institutions and students into formerly Christian colleges and students is only a matter of time and chance and random encounters of the secular kind. That devolutionary shift is certain because the words of Jesus are still true:  “A student when mature will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40).

Read more on this sad trajectory in this World magazine article.

Several scholarly  publishing associations are pushing for new principles to guide article submission and selection criteria to offset concerns over editorial practices at some open access journals. The trick will be separating the truly rigorous peer-reviewed journals from those with sloppy research standards without inadvertently (or intentionally) attacking journals with legitimate philosophical and methodological differences from the mainstream scholarly pack. Weeding out truly bad journals is a noble cause. Unfortunately, there is often a fine line between such legitimate efforts to ensure quality and integrity and squelching legitimate scholarly efforts based solely on different philosophical or ideological grounds. One need only look at the evolution pack’s assault on anything that breaks with their assumptions and received narrative (such as intelligent design) to see how group-think can become blind to genuine scholarship and turn academically tyrannical.

Read more on this story, “Principles of Transparency,” at Inside Higher Ed.

Thomas Nagel’s provocative little book, Mind & Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False, challenges reductionistic materialsts who claim to offer the only scientific explanation to the origins of life.

Below are some quotes from Nagel’s introduction to whet your appetite for his arguments against “the consensus of scientific opinion.” (Curiously, this common phrase, “consensus of scientific opinion, “so often invoked by reductionistic materialists themselves, is self-contradictory. A consensus of opinion is typically invoked as an argument from authority [in this case claiming validity because it is held by a supposed majority or mob], but it is most certainly not a scientifically derived conclusion itself–it is, rather, just another opinion, another belief that may or may not be warranted. It has no privileged status or authority in matters of science, theorizing, or factual claims because even majority opinions can be very, very wrong and even delusional–but I digress).

Nagel writes,

“My target is a comprehensive, speculative world picture that is reached by extrapolation from some of the discoveries of biology, chemistry, and physics–a particular naturalistic Weltanschauung that postulates a hierarchical relation among the subjects of those sciences, and the completeness in principle of an explanation of everything in the universe through their unification. Such a world view is not a necessary condition of the practice of any of those sciences, and its acceptance or nonacceptance would have no effect on most scientific research. Continue reading

Thomas Nagel’s newish book, Mind and Cosmos, challenges some long-worshiped idols of the  scientific priesthood of naturalistic materialism.

A brief summary of the book, “The Core of Mind and Cosmos,” by Nagel himself can be found  here in the New York Times.

The key takeaway from Nagel’s argument is that the reductionistic science based on naturalistic materialism simply cannot account for the world as actually lived and experienced.He argues that “the wide popularity among philosophers and scientists of (a), the outlook of psychophysical reductionism, is due not only to the great prestige of the physical sciences but to the feeling that this is the best defense against the dreaded (d), the theistic interventionist outlook” [emphasis added]. However, as someone who finds psychophysical accounts of the universe self-evidently false and others completely implausible, he still doesn’t want to Continue reading

Two articles worth reading again, one recent, one from a couple of years ago, highlight why the liberal arts are crucial for our future.

The first, published in 2011, is a report from Inside Higher Ed about how Chinese universities have begun to realize the necessity of the liberal arts for creating and sustaining a culture worth having.

Studying Latin and Greek in China

“While Chinese universities are discussed in the United States as science and engineering-focused, narrowly so, Sun Yat-sen University is part of a growing movement in China to promote general education — which includes global (meaning Western) philosophy and culture.

“Boya College at Sun Yat-sen is a liberal arts institution at which an intense general education sequence in the first two years includes elements of Chinese culture (classical literature, calligraphy, history) and also considerable study of Western civilization, with every student taking not only English, but also Latin, Greek, and courses focused on specific authors (Homer, Herodotus, Dante) and periods (such as ancient Hebrew civilization). Courses also focus on such topics as political philosophy and musicology.

All classes are taught in small groups, with students required to participate, to read individually and respond to great works, and to write extensively. Beyond writing requirements for class, each student must write one 5,000-word essay each month on any topic not related to a course.

Gan said that the program — along with summer institutes along the same lines appearing at other universities — reflects a desire to break out of the “overly specialist training” that has dominated Chinese universities. “What has been lacking” in Chinese universities, he said, “has been the humanities.” 

These programs, he said, are needed because they are part of being a well-educated person. “I don’t believe general education can help a worker find a better job,” he said. “The danger in today’s global capitalist age is that money is seen as the highest value, but there is other value — in thinking — that has much higher value than money, and that is the purpose of general education.” [Emphasis added]

The second, more recent article in the Huffington Post by the president of Gordon College (MA) notes that the liberal arts are perhaps the most practical and important element for our educational and cultural future. The reason is rooted in their integrative character. They help us understand how we and the things around relate to one another. A specialist may be quite expert, but without a broader, integrative understanding and appreciation how that specialization fits in the wider world, it will often become worthless or, worse, reductionistic or even tyrannical.

D. Michael Lindsay writes,

Certainly, the twentieth century was an era of specialization, with a number of highly specific majors ballooning to match the highly specific requirements of a specialized job market. But our 21st century has already demonstrated that it will be an era of integration, not specialization. Those most likely to make an impact in this new generation will have a broad, holistic knowledge base and a drive to connect disparate interests through innovative problem solving. As I’ve noted before, the liberal arts approach prepares students to think holistically, drawing together many schools of thought and disciplinary approaches.

Indeed, the pendulum of popular opinion may have already begun its swing back toward a healthy respect for the humanities and social sciences. The American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences — a large cohort of public and private sector leaders and educators including presidents of major corporations and universities — recently released a report, The Heart of the Matter, which stresses the indispensability of the disciplines. What’s more, it does so chiefly by considering who is fit to lead in the 21st century: “Who will lead America into a bright future?” the report asks. Their answer? “Citizens who are educated in the broadest possible sense, so that they can participate in their own governance and engage with the world. An adaptable and creative workforce…” The Commission understands the vital importance of holistic thinking in the century to come. [Emphasis added]

Academic freedom and creationists are both at risk these days on secular campuses where new academic witch hunts are underway.

A fair number of science professors at state universities,  sympathetic to a non-evolutionary theories of origins, are being vilified, brow-beaten, ostracized or even dismissed for their “unorthodox” views leaking into the classroom. Calls for their dismissal from the faculty or removal from their courses abound from secular scientists whose own religiously deep commitments to evolutionary theory and naturalistic materialism will tolerate no divergent opinions. For them, scientific orthodoxy is at stake. Their opponents are the new academic heretics.

Quite apart from the supposed conflicts of church and state–which have always been overstated by secularists and undersupported by the U.S. Constitution (all “separationist” language is found outside the constitution, not in it, for example*)–this issue has become a deep and important test of  academic freedom at secular universities.  If the new generation of evolutionary zealots win, can academic freedom–in any meaningful sense–survive? I think not. Continue reading

State universities are bastions of liberalism, but this may be a first:  CU wants to add conservatives for intellectual diversity. Too bad libs don’t recognize conservatives as a protected class minority. Imagine them throwing a “coming out” party for a faculty member who declared herself a conservative or better, a Christian.

Read more here.

Stanford University Professor Jennifer Summit’s fascinating article on “Renaissance Humanism and the Future of the Humanities” (Literature Compass, 9/10 (2012): 665–678), raises a number of important questions worth discussing regarding not only the future of the humanities, but the past and future of liberal arts education, broadly understood.

Part of the challenge she raises is the daunting task of trying to sort through the

thoroughly secular Modern (and Post-Modern) spins on
the emergent secular Renaissance redefinitions of
a sacred Medieval understanding of wisdom-and-discipleship filtered through
a frequently syncretistic reading of the pagan Greeks (ala Plato and Aristotle, especially) of
a Solomonic (Proverbs 1-13), Pauline (Eph. 6:4) and Hebraic (as in Hebrews 12) vision of paideia.

For example, consider this passage and its challenging questions from Professor Summit:

“. . . [T]he deep history of the studia humanitatis encourages us to view the humanities as a long-term dialectic between episteme and techne, whose two poles, equally valuable, are necessary, though difficult, to balance. Formulating the problem this way invites the humanities to respond to the different and more interesting challenge of not just defending embattled turf, but engaging in the necessary task of self-definition for a new age, which might begin with questions such as these: what kinds of knowledge (episteme) do the humanities produce, and what kinds of skills (techne)? What is the relationship between the teaching of knowledge and skills and moral education (paideia, or phronesis)? And what impact do digital cultures of literacy – not to mention visual, musical, and informational consumption – have on the epistemic and technical practices of our disciplines, as well as on our understanding of the moral and ethical challenges of the world into which we are launching our students?

Read the entire article here.

This “interesting” article confuses functionalism with education, the arts necessary for freedom with the arts useful to the slave, and so misunderstands the history and purpose of the liberal arts. Its call for more “practical” arts explains in part why today’s secular university is increasingly irrelevant and shallow and confused and a major contributor to our cultural malaise.

PNAS | Mobile

A new report shows that withdrawal of articles from scientific journals due to fraud and other unethical conduct is up 10-fold since the 1970s. The pressure to publish or perish and to show impressive “results”to keep the (usually federal) research funding flowing is encouraging researchers to cook the books. Welcome to secular science without a foundation for ethics. See more at: