Saturday, December 04, 2010
Faith vs. reason. Does it have to be in conflict?
For the next few blogs, I want to explore something that has a great deal of interest to me. It's about science, logic and what makes something a fact. (I understand that for some people, facts do not exist and it's all relative. They believe this until they fall off a cliff and the fact of gravity makes itself felt). What I want to explore is how science, logic, reasoning and facts play into our current culture wars (and they are wars although fortunately for now wars of words and ideas). This will be about education in particular and how these cultural ideas are impacting it.
You could look at this as all about education in our public schools; but it's not. I care a lot about public education in the United States. I, my children and now my grandchildren have all benefited greatly from a time of valuing quality education for all citizens as a strong value of our culture. Where I do think some of that is threatened, this is about more than public schools.
No education should end with walking out of school. The real point of education is to teach us how to educate ourselves, how to make our entire lifetime about education. It should inspire us to always want to learn, to be open to new ideas and information. That's what it should do.
It can do this by helping us discern facts from fantasy, teaching us tools of logic, and giving us a basic understanding of the physical world in which we live which involves communication skills, history, science and mathematics. No matter how far we went in school, school should be only the beginning of this learning.
Some don't live their lives this way. They operate on emotional whims. They ignore what has happened and think they can just take a flyer on what they wish would happen. Anything that pushes them to think deeply is a threat. Even more damaging some think there is a big daddy in the sky who will overrule any mistakes they make and keep things humming along.
There is another bunch who think their religion will teach them all they need to know. Oh they go on learning but it's what they are told to learn and they don't question its truth.
There has always been this division in how humans see the world where some look for a religious answer and some a scientific one. I don't know that there has to be a war between these two views; but sometimes there does end up one. If someone puts faith and reason on opposite ends of the scale, with faith overbalancing reason, they aren't much interested in learning facts which they will dismiss as not true anyway or a test of their faith. What they want is a faith based society and it will be their faith. The idea that man should think for himself, well that is dangerous.
It might seem with the Christmas season straight ahead, this is an odd time to explore such weighty subjects. Isn't this the time for pretty songs and spending a lot of money? Well I disagree with that and think it's the perfect time. What is more important to discuss as we are a approaching a season about conspicuous consumption, where a certain religious mindset believes it has been set aside to celebrate the birth and life of a god-man, who was not remotely about conspicuous consumption-- in fact the exact opposite? Is there any logic in that?
So the next week or two or three will be anything but light. It will be about something I think is important in our country today. I'd like to say it's not partisan, but it does seem, when I hear a Republican defend extending the top bracket's tax cuts for people who don't need that money for basic needs (remember they'd be getting the cuts under income earned up to $250,000) while Republicans fight any extension of unemployment benefits for people who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads, that it is a partisan and cultural divide and I don't mind at all pointing that out as I go along.
I am not thrilled with Democrats on this either while they try to tell me that they can't do a thing about the tax cuts or hikes because they can't overturn a filibuster. They conveniently ignore something called reconciliation which is how we got these unbudgeted tax cuts anyway.
IF this kind of thinking is upsetting to you, or if it disturbs you to work through such things as human origins, global climate changes, religious values, you might want to come back and see me again after Christmas.
The photo at the top is the Calapooia River east of where I live, flowing out of the Cascade Mountains. I had never seen it this high in the hills and it's rather amazing how it changes its personality as it flows toward the Willamette River where it will become part of many rivers.
Downstream The Calapooia is flat, sluggish and seemingly without all the power I saw in the foothills where it's really moving. Even different fish tend to live in these waters depending on its flow. It's how cultures can be, starting out with power and energy and ending up losing all of that. I believe a wise approach to education is one way to avoid that in any culture. It is the basis of making wise choices when it comes time to vote. I am going to make my case over the next few weeks.
I will start though with what some other, greater minds have said on the topics, and that comes next.