Thursday, April 26, 2007


The Consolation of Philosophy

The other day, we reported that the Nebraska Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education has decided to change the prefix of Jim Garretson's creationism course at McCook Community College from science to philosophy "to better reflect the nature of the subject matter."

Naturally, there was some grousing from the philosophers among RSR's readership who don't believe proselytizing is quite the same as philosophizing, but for the most part they kept a stiff upper lip as they took one for the team.

That's why we wanted to link to this story, "Science, a Creation of God," by Gailon Totheroh on Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network. Togheroh turns the usual Christian right rant against science and scientists as the spawn of Satan on its head by writing about scientists who were devout Christians.

Togheroh cites sociologist Rodney Stark as calculating "about 96 percent of innovators from the mid-1500s to 1700 were Christian believers. And the great majority of those-- 61 percent -- were devout Christians." (To achieve these figures, current fundamentalist opinion about who qualifies, and who does not, as a Christian, had to be broadened to include deists such as Isaac Newton.)

Amusingly, in Togheroh's revisionist view of the Christian origins of science -- the early Greeks and Muslims get short shrift here -- scientists aren't the god haters, it's those damn philosophers:

"The views of leading intellectuals like Hobbes, Voltaire, and Rousseau show that fields like philosophy were often the province of unbelievers ... "

He goes on to quote Henry Schaefer as saying, "You can give basically a library list of all the great contributors to philosophy, and they're all skeptics - skeptics, agnostics or atheists -- so it is clear that science has been a particularly Christian activity."

We don't know if that's a consolation for philosophers, or the consolation of philosophy, but there it is.


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