Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Flying Spaghetti Monsterism

OK, so we have a new joke religion. I have some points to make on it.
  • I don't follow the Intelligent Design movement, based on the persuasive arguments of my professor of systematic theology Fr. Edward Oakes, S.J. I won't go deep into those arguments here, except to link to his articles: Zenit articles on evolution, parts 1 and 2; his review of "The Wedge of Truth;" and his response to criticism. Basically, whereas most popular critics call it bad science, Oakes argues that it is, more importantly, bad theology. It mythologizes God's creative activity in a way that makes theodicy impossible, and is a throwback to the unsustainable theosophies of 19th century deists.
  • However, FSMism is only the slightly more colorful (and increasingly boring) rehash of bad agnostic doctrine. It merely repeats the belief (itself non-scientific) that the physical sciences define the upper limit of practical human knowledge. I think it's laudable to push for the purity and integrity of the physical sciences as they are taught (not only in public schools, but in Catholic schools as well). But people who jump aboard the FSMism bandwagon seldom consider that atheistic and agnostic science teachers (and even textbooks) have it easy when it comes to exploiting their authority to purvey non-scientific ideas. When I tell you that the physical evidence doesn't mesh well with Genesis, I can do that in a way that permits your Christian faith or mocks Christianity. Either way, I won't be censured by public school authorities.
  • Let's talk about the 1st Amendment - 'no established religion'. In a sense, people both have the freedom of religion, and a freedom from religion--or at least, from undue impositions by one particular religion. But what the 1st Amendment doesn't protect us from is the freedom of philosophy. That means that teachers--and any government official, for that matter--can teach and govern by any philosophy they choose--good or bad, friendly or hostile to religion. Thus, as a public high school teacher, I can teach agnostic doctrines because agnosticism is not a religion. But if I argue against agnosticism, even on philosophical grounds, I risk losing my job (because, by implication, my arguments would encourage an examination of intellectual conscience regarding religion).
  • Thus the Intelligent Design movement, even if their theory is both scientifically and theologically bad, do have a point. They expose the double-standard of public education. Because our whole country is philosophically stupid, we don't see how good and bad philosophies (mostly bad) are running wild and untamed on high school campuses, creating a tremendous imbalance in favor of defaulting to the comfortable noncommital of Aldous Huxeley. If the I.D. movement is perceived as illegitimately soiling the purity of public high school science classes with non-science (religious or no), it could argue that it is hardly innovating by doing so. For the standards of the correct interpretation of data are not themselves determined by science but by the philosophical branch known as hermenuetics. And in a realm where largely Kantian/atheistic/agnostic hermenuetics have reigned supreme (whose priviledged status is, I repeat, not scientifically self evident), who can blame the I.D. movement for wanting to introduce what they consider a complimentary, theistic/deistic hermenuetic?
  • I don't blame them, but neither do I agree with them. If the problem is the impurity of the science in science classes, then the solution is not to turn the science classes into a tug-of-war between theistic and atheistic hermenuetics. 'Course, when it comes to high school, my solution to everything is to make a year of philosophy mandatory for graduation.

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