Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cultural Intelligentsia

On this past Weekend Edition at NPR, I was listening to Scott Simon interviewing a Jesuit author, James Martin, S.J. Martin is the culture editor at America magazine and has written about humor as it relates to religious persons. I won't go into a lot of detail of the conversation. (The transcript of the interview is here.) However, at one point Martin and Simon were discussing prejudice against Catholics, and Simon used the term, "popular intelligencia culture" to describe the mindset of the people who feel free to make derogatory statements against Catholics. (Wikipedia spells it Intelligentsia. The term signifies the social group of intellectuals and those related, such as teachers.)

In another website, Evolution News and Views, Michael Egnor describes the people at the New York Times who fired Ben Stein because of his support of Intelligent Design and others like them. He uses the term "scientific materialism" to demonstrate the idea of the modern understanding of reason. Persons who hold this especially claim that science has replaced religion and to believe in God is to be ignorant. And they make no effort to respect any other point of view.

I am interested in these terms, because I think they describe a whole group with a certain mode of thinking. Perhaps the terms can be further developed, but I think the idea is clear enough.

Now, what does that have to do with Francis Bacon, who is pictured here? He lived in England from 1561-1626 and was the scientist and philosopher who introduced the modern scientific methodology. However, his own method of induction and experimentation for science should not be interpreted as making God obsolete. It is very interesting to note that Bacon himself believed in God. From Wikipedia (link above) you can read:
Regarding faith, in De augmentis, he writes that "the more discordant, therefore, and incredible, the divine mystery is, the more honour is shown to God in believing it, and the nobler is the victory of faith." He writes in "The Essays: Of Atheism" that "a little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion."
Bacon was right about needing a new approach to the development of science compared with that of the Middle Ages. He said:
"Men have sought to make a world from their own conception and to draw from their own minds all the material which they employed, but if, instead of doing so, they had consulted experience and observation, they would have the facts and not opinions to reason about, and might have ultimately arrived at the knowledge of the laws which govern the material world."

Bacon was fighting the notion at that time that magic and/or alchemy could produce gold out of any other material. What is ironic is that people today have replaced their pre-conceived notions in a way that is just as wrong as it was in the middle ages. To assume that biology has developed by blind material forces alone keeps a person from being open-minded enough to evaluate facts correctly. At this time, there are no physical or chemical laws which can explain the existence of biological life. Those are the facts. But the opinions, that God does not exist and therefore could not have any supernatural hand in biology, keep some away from the possibility of true knowledge.


1 comment:

RAnn said...

Thanks for joining us