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Supernaturalism’s Effect on Faith in Science – Part 3 of “Culture Wars”

March 16, 2016

In parts 1 and 2 of “Grand Scale Culture Wars” we looked at the development of two opposing views of reality: the naturalism of science and the supernaturalism of most of religion (especially traditional Christianity).

In secular higher education students are pressured to accept pure naturalism or humanism separated from all forms of religion.  Actively fighting this on the other side, the churches of most Americans and many students may actually teach mistrust of science. Many more imply it. This while creating “faith” in God’s timely intervention in human affairs… since God operates outside of nature, manipulating it to his will.  (Of course, the issue of when “last days” turns into “failed prophecy” is pushed under the rug.)

For some people, these absolutes of science and religion are just different angles of view, not opposing. But the “guardians” of both tend to put them at loggerheads, as exclusive approaches to truth.  The result: battles, with massive stakes, over things like climate change.  And much more.

Now I realize that it’s not just pure ideological conflict in this example or others.  The fossil fuel industry has a powerful lobby and money talks!  But I have to think that it’s much easier to get both politicians and many regular people on board with denial of extremely strong scientific consensus when there is already great skepticism of science.

This skepticism often grows directly out of supernaturalism.  God created the world and controls it, in this worldview.  We know because “he” tells us so in Genesis.  But he doesn’t use evolution, as “invented” by science.  In fact, as held by roughly 40% of Americans (shown in numerous surveys), God did this creating in seven days, a mere 10,000 or so years ago.  (Apparently, this God is also a huge practical joker, making things only appear to be billions of years older.)

For our purposes, the point is that science is not to be trusted because the Bible, as revealed (if not inerrant) truth, says things that are in conflict with science.  (Per a certain interpretation.) Agreed: there is a problem when “science” goes beyond real science and presumes to claim proof of a negative… that no kind of God exists.  Or crosses the line from theory-checking into speculation.  A problem also exists when foibles of human nature cause biases and blind spots.  And yes, among “objective” scientists like everyone else.

Sometimes that even builds into a mostly-unconscious “conspiracy” to hold onto an outdated explanation of things, perhaps on a major scale.  Thus, new discoveries can be held off… but seldom for long.  And this process does not seem to explain at all the process of coming to consensus on human involvement in climate change. One wouldn’t expect, of course, a science skeptic to use a scientific approach to examining science itself as the internal critic, Thomas Kuhn, did decades ago.  Rather, religious and/or secular fundamentalism has found ways to “explain”, so they think, how science could be so wrong on such a major issue.

Unless and until you study to gain some sense of how large-scale, international science works, don’t buy this dogma-led or money-motivated kind of crap.  But still, I’ll say again, it’s important to always go through critical analysis…. I have “practiced what I preach” on this climate change issue.

We’ve not yet dealt with the development of the power of supernaturalism.  We’ll do that in the next article.  For now, here are a few of the factors that keep the perspective powerful.  First is “the power of myth”.  This phrase was either coined or made popular by Joseph Campbell in a series of popular works up to several years ago.

Our minds strive for a framework of understanding for our reality, our experiences.  Our discussion has already been around this.  These “mythic” (not “untrue”) frameworks do modify over time, both in cultures and in us individually.  They make small-to-large leaps as we mature… from a childhood magical system to something more rational, on to… [higher stages we’ll not discuss yet.]  But culture tends to reinforce a status quo which resists changing mythic explanations very fast.  This goes, perhaps doubly, for sub-cultures such as fervid religious systems, fundamentalism being pertinent here.

So an individual either raised in such a sub-culture or “converted” into it will not only view things through the group’s framework.  They will also experience strong peer or family pressure to not buck the system.  People don’t like the apple cart being upset. When courageous mavericks do buck too much, voicing excessive doubt or proposing changes, they are usually formally or informally excommunicated.  That way, the group resists change and can stay more stable.

Maybe you understand all this.  But think about how things could be better for others, perhaps some friends or family of yours, if they were educated from an early age to understand these dynamics… and to beware. This is one way to promote positive change.

What’s happened to you along these lines?  Or to people close to you?   

Next time we will trace more of how Christianity began with these dynamics and has operated largely under their thumb.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. btuc permalink
    March 29, 2016 9:36 pm

    I am still learning. For instance, I am marveling over how in years past, laymen were discouraged from reading The Bible. Only priests had that privilege and people were executed for translating The Bible into native languages. We as a population have only been reading The Bible for 200 years.

    What has changed during those 200 years? We have become literate, then educated, and now opinionated and mythology’s hold over us has dissipated. With a fog being lifted off us, we now would prefer to be trusted with the experience of truth that Jesus and Paul had in The New Testament. We don’t want to wait to be sure that we have the whole picture of truth. We want our actions to lead into the same realms that God lifted them into and we are offering each other, through books, insight on how to achieve this.

    • March 31, 2016 10:45 am

      I think it’s good you’ve delved some into what is often called “the history of ideas”. My studies and ongoing reading deals a lot with that. The developments over time are fairly traceable, especially since the 1500s or so. It is indeed enlightening and often encouraging to see “where we’ve come” as a global “society”. And the pace of change seems still increasing. I’m not sure when it may slow, if ever. One major concern of mine, I know shared by others, is that our technological knowledge and capabilities seem to be well ahead of our moral/spiritual societal development. International terrorism is perhaps the most alarming but far from the only evidence of that. Our “orderly” or supposedly peace-loving, caring national governments (Western and non-Western) also have major problems systemically (within) and in individual workers/leaders.

      So while pursuing the “higher” (or “esoteric”) truths and experiences draws me, I also tend to stay “grounded” (or linked to practical “day-to-day-living” concerns) in trying to help people mature on a cognitive level. This growth in understanding I’m convinced must accompany the less rational or explainable aspects of spirituality and esoteric experiences and practices. (See the work of Ken Wilber and Integral Theory re. this.)

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