Posted by: gcarkner | June 5, 2022

Virtues of Human Stewardship of Planet Earth

Respect & Receptivity: If life in all its diversity is a gift from a benevolent Creator, we should respect its innate, intrinsic and precious value—its creational integrity. Biodiversity (a rich and full flourishing fittedness) is an intended result of God’s wise and orderly creative activity. We as the human dimension of creation are only one species among multitudes, and so we should cultivate the earth in harmony with other creatures, so that we can all sing a symphony of God’s praises together (Psalms 104; 148).

In other words, other creatures count morally or have moral standing. We have the same God-loved home, and are interdependent with other God-loved creatures on this planet. The virtue principle is to act to preserve diverse kinds of life. The opposing vice is conceit: to ignore or disdain other creatures, or just use or abuse them for our appetites or pleasure. Conceit has no genuine interest in another and will if necessary violate the integrity of the other through a lack of regard. A different kind of vice would be to worship the other creatures through an excess of reverence. Receptivity is a form of hospitality, which acknowledges our interdependence with the creaturely other; self-sufficiency is the vice that says we don’t have need of the other.

Self-Restraint and Frugality: The assumption here is that since creation is finite, others’ basic needs take precedence over our greedy wants. We should learn to live within our means and learn when ‘enough is enough’. There is a prima facie duty to preserve non-renewable resources and conserve scarce though renewable resources. Self-restraint is moderation (old Greek concept) of inordinate desires (temperance), a habitual control of one’s appetites and desires. The vice here is profligacy or self-indulgence (to be belly-oriented). Frugality speaks to an economy of the use of finite goods which acts as a form of hospitality. The opposing vice is greed (excessive acquisition) or avarice, a craving to acquire, blinded to the limits inherent within creation. Think of the recent financial meltdown for illustration of this vice or the destruction of the rainforests of the world.

Humility and Honesty: Humility speaks to the art of being responsible, unpretentious and aware of one’s limits; it recognizes that we humanoids are both finite and faulted; we should act cautiously and move slowly with a view to the consequences of how we consume and live with others. We don’t know all of the implications of our actions and so we should endeavour to be circumspect and careful. The opposing vice is hubris or overweening pride, an exaggerated self-confidence in our own creativity. Honesty means to be without guile or duplicity (perversion of truth for personal gain); it entails that we will act with forethought and put on the brakes even when we are disadvantaged. Its opposite is deception, a cunning misrepresentation of the facts often fuelled by envy and spite in order to see enemies harmed and humiliated. When we make creation our enemy, we can see the potential for harmful destruction. When we make creation our partner as in the recently built greenest home ever near Kamloops, it is speaking to humility, truthfulness and integrity.

Wisdom and Hope: Wisdom is an excellence of intellect, developed over time, one that allows us to live the good life (For the Beauty of the Earth, p. 150). It originates in the fear or worship of God. It is “sound practical judgment based on uncommon insight honed through long experience and informed by cultivated memory.” Assumption: it is God’s will that the whole of creation be fruitful and flourish, not just humans. We should act in such a way that the ability of living creatures can maintain themselves and reproduce—fecundity. Foolishness is the vice of habitual lack of sound judgment, to act as if the earth is endlessly exploitable. Hope is trust oriented forward in time rooted in God’s promises as talked about in an earlier section, a yearning for shalom or wholeness. Despair, hope’s nemesis, is the absence of any expectation of a good future; it leads to the sickness unto death of Kierkegaard, and this cynicism leads to death dealing against others in creation.

Patience and Serenity: Assuming a belief in Sabbath rest for land, humans and animals, it is a principle of rejuvenation. It takes the long view and shows a calm forbearance. We should act in such a way that the creatures, land and property under our care are given their needful rest. The vice is impetuousness, an impulsiveness based on fear of the future, that drive to gratify our desires in the immediate moment. Serenity is an unruffled peacefulness, an inner calm amidst chaos rooted in an assurance of God’s grace and his patience. This is the founding principle of farming: planting the seed and waiting. This takes the pressure off our obsession with productivity, acquisition, and consumerism. If rest is part of our rhythm, we will stay in the game longer and do better more creative work–work towards the bigger contribution.

Benevolence and Love: Benevolence is willingness to promote the well-being of another despite our feelings; love involves a feeling of affection (care) for the other. To love the earth means to serve and cultivate it and protect it from harm (to be earthkeepers), to take responsibility for it. It involves recognition of God as the real owner and we humans as the tenants, those who tend the earth gardens for the Master. If we love God’s good creation, we will not exploit, waste or pillage it; we will nurture it and preserve its well-being. This idea of loving (not worshipping) creation may seem strange, but it is biblical (Genesis 2:15). Caritas (charity or love towards the other) is the ultimate goal of Christian spirituality. The ecological tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico should actually break our hearts; creation is groaning (Romans 8); what a terrible waste.

Justice and Courage: Justice is a central feature of human flourishing, the disposition to act impartially and fairly; it implies respect for the rights of others, especially the vulnerable. In Isaiah 24, justice is intimately tied to the health of the land; social justice and ecological health are bound together. Biblically we are enjoined to act so as to treat others, human and non-human fairly and to attend to the weak, widow, orphan, sick and handicapped. Courage is the moral strength in the face of danger, tenacity in the face of opposition, a stubborn persistence in the face of adversity. Often it takes tremendous courage to sustain justice, to lobby for justice and to do the right thing.

Such is the leverage of virtue. In today’s late modern world, older vices such as acquisitive attitude have become virtues causing a moral inversion. There is still time to recover and retrieve these ancient virtues once again and to truly flourish on this blue green planet. Steve Bouma-Prediger is a good place to start on this journey home. He is a lead voice in this field of creation care

Notes from the book,  For the Beauty of the Earth by Steven Bouma-Prediger

Posted by: gcarkner | May 23, 2022

Gord’s Summer Reads 2022

Gord’s Summer Reads 2022

Putting Knowledge to Work for a Better World

Daniel K. Williams, The Politics of the Cross: A Christian Alternative to Partisanship (Eerdmans, 2021).

Rosaria Butterfield, The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radical Ordinary Hospitality in our Postmodern World (Crossway, 2018).

Eric Mason (ed.), Urban Apologetics: Restoring Black Dignity with the Gospel (Zondervan, 2021).

Michael Ward, After Humanity: A Guide to C.S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man (Word On Fire Academic, 2021). 

Robert Farrar Capon, Hunting the Divine Fox: Images of Mystery in the Christian Faith.

Walter M. Miller Jr., A Canticle for Liebowitz.

Michael W. Higgins & Peter Kavanaugh, Suffer the Children Unto Me: An Open Inquiry into the Clerical Sex Abuse Scandal (Novalis, 2010).

William Lane Craig, In Quest of the Historical Adam: a Biblical and Scientific Exploration (Eerdmans, 2021).

Brian Stanley, Christianity in the Twentieth Century: A World History (Princeton University Press, 2018).

Kati Martin, The Chancellor: The Remarkable Odyssey of Angela Merkel. (Simon & Shuster, 2021–Ute’s pick)

Douglas Moo, A Theology of Paul: The Gift of the New Realm in Christ (Zondervan, 2021).

Daniel Block, Covenant: The Framework of God’s Grand Plan in Christ (Baker Academic , 2021).

Paul Gould, Cultural ApologeticsRenewing the Christian Voice, Conscience, and Imagination in a Disenchanted World (Zondervan, 2019).

Russia Explained by Dr. Peter Rutland, Wesleyan University

Posted by: gcarkner | May 15, 2022

Daily Habits Help us Keep Perspective

  1. Eat a good healthy diet: roughage, vegetables, probiotics, prebiotics, good protein and fats.
  2. Kill the ANTS in your life: Automatic Negative Thoughts. They distract from good effort and waste your time and energy.
  3. Exercise daily at some capacity: aerobic and muscle building, plus stretching.
  4. Write, Create, Teach something to someone every day. Invest in the future generation.
  5. Manage your stress and work on your patience when things don’t go your way.
  6. Learn something new–keep an open and active mind. Be a curiosity bug for positive life-affirming content.
  7. Get adequate sleep. This is critical. Set boundaries on your work or burnout will surely come.
  8. Develop a positive peer group, support group. This is priceless to keep you persevering in your quest. They also help you see the lighter side of life.
  9. Do your daily devotions and spend time with God in prayer.
  10. Keep play and pleasure reading in your life.
  11. Bless other people whenever you get the chance–it raises the moral and emotional capital of campus life.
Posted by: gcarkner | May 1, 2022

Charles Taylor on Lost Language

Some elements in modern culture have repressed our language usage, in particular what Charles Taylor calls the ‘meta-biological’, the language of significance. Restricted language means necessarily limited awareness/thinking capacity. This webinar is not about a lost civilization discovered by an anthropologist, but similar. Taylor seeks a recovery of ‘constitutive’ language, and he wants to expand our restricted linguistic horizons to enrich and empower our lives. Dr. Gordon E. Carkner shows the dynamics of the three rungs in Taylor’s ladder of meaning: habits, verbal articulation, and interpretation. Scholar N. T. Wright offers an excellent illustration of Taylor’s expanded linguistic grasp in speaking of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. He reveals it afresh within a larger landscape of meanings, building out the human imagination. See also Gordon Carkner’s YouTube webinar ‘Charles Taylor and the Modern Quest for Identity.’

Posted by: gcarkner | April 17, 2022

Easter is When Hope in Person Surprises the Entire World

On Good Friday, love embraced suffering as Jesus drank the bitter cup that led to his humiliation, alienation and violent death. All was broken, disillusionment reigned. Hope seemed utterly lost. But his resurrection on Easter morning is something brand new—a singularity that cannot be explained by anything prior. Evil, nihilism and despair did not win. Resurrection remains an epiphany, a brilliant, inbreaking possibility for change, forgiveness, reconciliation and renewed relationships. To practice resurrection and lean into its power calls us to a new level of being (Eugene Peterson). It casts a long shadow into the future.

Andy Crouch in Culture Making captures the gravitas: “The resurrection of Jesus is like a cultural earthquake, its epicenter located in Jerusalem in the early 30s, whose aftershocks are still being felt in the cultural practices of people all over the world, many who have never heard of, and many more who have never believed in, its origins…. The resurrection is the hinge of history—still after two thousand years as far-reaching in its effects as anything that has come since…. The second Adam’s influence on culture comes through the greatest act of dependence, the fulfillment of Israel’s calling to demonstrate faith in the face of the great powers that threatened its existence comes in the willing submission of Jesus to a Roman cross, broken by, but breaking forever its power.” 

Jesus the Messiah is a re-interpretation, the hermeneutic of a new reconciled humanity, drawn from all the nations of the globe, committed to bless and make peace, to embody agape, to live shalom, to shine moral light into a dark world. There is no other who can compare. He is the eternal flame of the kingdom of God—the realm of forgiveness, mercy, love and indestructible life.

Truth & Consequences  “Our task as image-bearing, God-loving, Christ-shaped, Spirit-filled Christians, following Christ and shaping our world, is to announce redemption to a world that has discovered its fallenness, to announce healing to a world that has discovered its brokenness, to proclaim love and trust to a world that knows only exploitation, fear and suspicion…. The gospel of Jesus points us and indeed urges us to be at the leading edge of the whole culture, articulating in story and music and art and philosophy and education and poetry and politics and theology and even—heaven help us—biblical studies, a worldview that will mount the historically-rooted Christian challenge to both modernity and postmodernity, leading the way… with joy and humour and gentleness and good judgment and true wisdom. I believe if we face the question, “if not now, then when?” if we are grasped by this vision we may also hear the question, “if not us, then who?” And if the gospel of Jesus is not the key to this task, then what is?” (N.T. Wright, The Challenge of Jesus)

Enactment/Articulation/HermeneuticLove is the most complete form of knowing and the resurrection is the most complete form of love. ~ N.T. Wright’s theme for his Gifford Lectures 

A new creation people, a new moral order, a new future in the present, emerges through the cross and resurrection. Love is articulated as a new, life-giving hermeneutic.

Jesus’ resurrection, by unveiling the creator’s love for the world, opens up the space and time for a holistic mode of knowing, a knowing which includes historical knowledge of the real world by framing it within the loving gratitude which answers the creator’s own sovereign love.” ~N. T. Wright from his Gifford Lectures

New Creation and New Covenant/God’s Good Creation and God’s Healing Justice: (Romans 8: 18-30) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GenlGUkZ-6Q Resurrection and the Renewal of Creation, address by super scholar N. T. Wright

https://youtu.be/6081klkdqGo Charles Taylor & Recovery of the Language of Meaning

An Easter Carol by Christina Georgina Rossetti

Spring bursts to-day,
For Christ is risen and all the earth’s at play.

Flash forth, thou Sun,
The rain is over and gone, its work is done.

Winter is past,
Sweet Spring is come at last, is come at last.

Bud, Fig and Vine,
Bud, Olive, fat with fruit and oil and wine.

Break forth this morn
In roses, thou but yesterday a Thorn.

Uplift thy head,
O pure white Lily through the Winter dead.

Beside your dams
Leap and rejoice, you merry-making Lambs.

All Herds and Flocks
Rejoice, all Beasts of thickets and of rocks.

Sing, Creatures, sing,
Angels and Men and Birds and everything.

All notes of Doves
Fill all our world: this is the time of loves.

Posted by: gcarkner | April 4, 2022

Is there rational evidence for the resurrection?

Under Investigation: Some Allege that the  Resurrection of Jesus was a Hoax

If this statement is true, there is no evidence for the most central Christian belief next to the existence of God. That would be tragic indeed. As the Apostle Paul wrote to one of the first Christian churches, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless, and so is your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:14). Easter becomes pure myth without historical substance. This is a powder keg question.

But a reasonable and responsible person needs solid evidence. It is common historical knowledge that Jesus died on a Roman cross and was buried. And the biblical records indicate both that his tomb was found empty shortly afterwards and that a large number of people claimed to have spoken, walked and eaten with him after his death. These claims are indeed unusual, even  startling! They need explanation. We must decide whether there is a more plausible alternative than an actual physical, bodily resurrection. Much hangs on the answer.

Alternate explanations abound: 1) that thieves stole the body of Jesus; 2) that the Roman or Jewish authorities stole it; 3) that Jesus’ disciples stole it; and 4) that Jesus was not actually dead when buried and left the tomb on his own. Below we deal with each one briefly.

1) We are told (for example in Matthew chapter 27:62 through to chapter 28:4) that the authorities placed a guard at the tomb to prevent the body from being stolen. And when the body was discovered to be missing, it was noted that the grave clothes—loaded with spices to preserve the body—were still present. They would be strange grave robbers who would fight Roman soldiers to steal a naked corpse, when the only thing of value in the tomb would have been the spice-laden grave clothes.

2) The authorities posted the guard to keep the body buried. We must ask why they would subseqently remove it. When Christianity was first proclaimed, it was seen as a threat to the political and religious establishment of the day. Jesus was executed partly as a threat to Rome’s sovereignty. Because the new teaching was explicitly based upon belief in the resurrection, it would have been a simple matter for the authorities to quash the rumour by producing the body of Jesus. The fact that they did not do so indicates that they did not have the body. Why hold back such critical evidence?

3) Because Roman discipline provided punishments ranging from beatings to death for sleeping on duty, we may assume that the soldiers were alert. This means that the disciples (a discouraged, frightened group of fishermen, tax collectors. and one political activist) would have had to fight the soldiers to get the body—a fight they stood a poor chance of winning. But it was not just the disciples who claimed to have seen Jesus alive post-crucifixion. They would, in other words, have had to convince others to join them in their deception—a deception these others would have no motive for maintaining. Furthermore, 11 out of the original 12 disciples were martyred for their belief and their claims that Jesus rose from the dead. Now people might die for what they believe to be true, even if they are wrong. But few will die for a known lie or deception. The fact that the disciples died saying that Jesus was alive, and therefore Lord and God, means that they certainly did not have his dead body hidden away somewhere obscure.

4) If no one stole the body, then perhaps Jesus did not quite die on the cross, but was buried alive and revived in the tomb. This may be. However, this position reduces to absurdity when we are asked to believe that, half dead due to blood loss, a beating and no medical attention after his crucifixion, Jesus struggled free from his shroud, pushed aside a stone that three healthy women were not sure they could move (see Mark 16:3), and walked several miles on wounded feet. Then he met his disciples, claimed to be risen, victorious over the power of death, and was so convincing that Thomas called him “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). After about a month he wandered off and died in solitude. Remember that no one ever found his body, and that there was massive motivation to search for it. This is surely a theory of desperate last resort. A supernatural resurrection is certainly not less probable than this, unless we reject it from the outset by an uncontrollable bias. Perhaps we should rethink our position as skeptical lawyer Frank Morrison was forced to do by the evidence (Who Moved the Stone).

In conclusion, there is considerable weight behind the claim that Jesus rose from the dead. The implications are staggering! It changes everything. We must then ask why it happened. And we must deal with the Christian claim that this is the supreme act of God intervening in history to restore the world to himself through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, called the Christ or Messiah. Hear the profound implications from a modern author Andy Crouch (Culture Making):

The resurrection of Jesus is like a cultural earthquake, its epicenter located in Jerusalem in the early 30s, whose aftershocks are still being felt in the cultural practices of people all over the world, many who have never heard of, and many more who have never believed in, its origins…. The resurrection is the hinge of history—still after two thousand years as far-reaching in its effects as anything that has come since…. The second Adam’s influence on culture comes through the greatest act of dependence, the fulfillment of Israel’s calling to demonstrate faith in the face of the great powers that threatened its existence comes in the willing submission of Jesus to a Roman cross, broken by, but breaking forever its power…. Indeed one of the most dramatic cultural effects of the resurrection is the transformation of that heinous cultural artifact known as a cross. An instrument of domination and condemnation becomes a symbol of the kingdom that Jesus proclaimed: an alternative culture where grace and forgiveness are the last word…. He faces the worst that human powers can do and rises, not just with some merely “spiritual” triumph over those powers, but with a cultural triumph—an answer, right in the midst of human history, to all the fears of Israel in the face of its enemies…. The worst that culture can do, is transformed into a sign of the kingdom of God–the realm of forgiveness, mercy, love and indestructible life.

Other Resources:N.T.Wright’s excellent DVD video on the Resurrection; and his book The Resurrection of the Son of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God, Volume 3. (academic depth)

Richard Swinburne, The Resurrection of God Incarnate.  Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003.

Classic Historic Debate between Gary Habermas and Antony Flew: Did jesus Rise from the Dead? The Resurrection Debate. Harper & Row, 1987.  (republished Wipf & Stock 2003) Famous Atheist Philosopher Antony Flew has converted to theism since then. See Antony Flew, There is a god.

The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus
Gary Habermas and Michael Licona

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ay_Db4RwZ_M Gary Habermas on scholarship re: Resurrection

Eugene Peterson, Practice Resurrection.

Michael Green, Christ is Risen: So what? (popular writing)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7M5P_DxqPas N. T. Wright on Why the Resurrection Matters @ Emory University (Veritas Forum).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4iyxR8uE9GQ Resurrection Reflections: William Lane Craig in Southampton, UK

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59L1CkF1y98 Tim Keller Encountering the Risen King

Empty Tomb

An Easter Carol by Christina Georgina Rossetti

Spring bursts to-day,
For Christ is risen and all the earth’s at play.

Flash forth, thou Sun,
The rain is over and gone, its work is done.

Winter is past,
Sweet Spring is come at last, is come at last.

Bud, Fig and Vine,
Bud, Olive, fat with fruit and oil and wine.

Break forth this morn
In roses, thou but yesterday a Thorn.

Uplift thy head,
O pure white Lily through the Winter dead.

Beside your dams
Leap and rejoice, you merry-making Lambs.

All Herds and Flocks
Rejoice, all Beasts of thickets and of rocks.

Sing, Creatures, sing,
Angels and Men and Birds and everything.

All notes of Doves
Fill all our world: this is the time of loves.

Posted by: gcarkner | March 25, 2022

Spring GFCF Featured Lecture Presentation

April 6, 2022 Upcoming Lecture

Professor Ard Louis, Theoretical Physics, Oxford University

Science & Scientism 

12:00 NoonWednesday, April 6, 2022  on Zoom

Abstract

Abstract

Science is perhaps the most successful endeavour that human beings have ever engaged in.   It is tempting to think that it should also answer the big questions of life, such as why we are here and whether there is a purpose to life. 

Such hopes give impetus to modern versions of secularism.   At the same time a fully fleshed out scientism, the idea that only science brings us reliable knowledge about the world, remains  unpopular in the academy, in part because it hollows out these existential questions.   I will argue that it is not hard to see that neither science, nor any conceivable advance of science, can answer such existential questions.   Nevertheless,  implicit versions of scientism remain surprisingly influential in the academic world.  What can and should we do about this? 

https://www.whyarewehere.tv/about-science/scientism/ A Clip of Ard Louis.

Biography

Ard Louis is Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Oxford, where he leads an interdisciplinary research group studying problems on the border between chemistry, physics and biology at the Rudolf Peierls Centre for Theoretical Physics. He also writes and speaks widely on science and faith, for which in 2013 he was elected a member of the International Society for Science and Religion.  He recently made the 4-part documentary Why Are We Here with David Malone and  appeared in  The Story of God with Morgan Freeman, giving him an Erdős–Bacon number of 6.

No Model of the universe is a catalogue of ultimate, comprehensive realities.

~C. S. Lewis

An admirably severe discipline of interpretive and theoretical restraint [modern empirical science] has been transformed into its perfect and irrepressibly wanton opposite: what began as a principled refusal of metaphysical speculation, for the sake of specific empirical inquiries, has now been mistaken for a comprehensive knowledge of the metaphysical shape of reality; the art of humble questioning has been mistaken for the sure possession of ultimate conclusions. This makes a mockery of real science.” (David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God, 2013, 71)

Satire: “Physics explains everything, which we know because anything physics cannot explain does not exist, which we know because whatever exists must be explicable by physics, which we know because physics explains everything.” (David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God, 2013, 77)

Posted by: gcarkner | March 8, 2022

Scientism Revealed

Scientism & its Cultural Discontents

Epistemological Claim: No knowledge is deemed valid or justified unless its claims can be tested and verified empirically through experimentation, observation and repetition. This criterion is part of an intellectual house of the mind which controls the way people think, argue, infer, and make sense of things. Truth claims that do not submit to this kind of scrutiny automatically become irrelevant, invalid, implausible, or unacceptable. This principle of knowledge is heavily weighted or biased towards the instrumental and mechanistic. Its attraction is to greater certainty, especially of the mathematical/statistical type.

The Utopian Sentiment: Science is the futuristic guide to human progress, both intellectually and culturally. Past tradition, especially that influenced by Christian religion (any religion really), is taken as false opinion or superstition, even dangerous (Yuval Noah Harari). The growth of scientific knowledge is thought to guarantee social and political progress. Scientism entails a warfare model in the science-religion relationship, a posture that began in the mid-nineteenth century (C. A. Russell, Cross-currents, 1985). Secularity 2 (Charles Taylor) assumes that, as science advances religion will be culturally displaced, demoted in importance. This extreme optimism is found in the transhumanism discourse, and is the tone we often find in Wired Magazine, or the Humanist Manifesto. Quentin Schultze speaks to this in his Habits of the High-Tech Heart (2002). 

The next century can and should be the humanist century. Dramatic scientific, technological, and ever-accelerating social and political changes crowd our awareness. We have virtually conquered the planet, explored the moon, overcome the natural limits of travel and communication; we stand at the dawn of a new age…. Using technology wisely, we can control our environment, conquer poverty, markedly reduce disease, extend our lifespan, significantly modify our behavior, and alter the course of human evolution. (Humanist Manifesto II, 5) 

Intellectual Exclusion or Hegemony: Insights from the humanities, philosophy and theology are treated with suspicion. The poetry of life is removed. Scientific rationalism dismisses faith as mere fideism (belief without good reasons, non-evidential). Scientism’s inherent materialism entails that “science” refuses mystery, the metaphysical or anything transcendent, the miraculous, even the mythic, metaphorical or epiphanic. Certain common human ways of knowing are simply written off, ignored or treated with contempt. Example New Atheists.

Anthropological Consequences: People are viewed as sophisticated cogs in the cosmic machinery, or simplified as merely the most intelligent animals (higher primates). All human characteristics, including the mind or the soul, are believed to be explicable in terms of bodily functions (neural networks, DNA makeup, biochemistry or physiology, or at bottom physics and chemistry). A philosophical (ontological) reductionism is at work: methodology morphs into ontology: the phenomenon of ‘nothing but’. The higher order is explained in terms of the lower, mind in terms of brain, human social behavior in terms of ant colonies (E.O. Wilson). Humans are appreciated for their instrumental value: their earning capacity, socio-political usefulness and their excellence of giftedness (E.F. Schumacher, A Guide for the Perplexed, 1977; Craig Gay, The Way of the Modern World, 1998Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos, 2012).  

Scientism and Ethics: Science is seen to normatively provide a more reliable and superior decision-making guide. It becomes the new alternative to religion and traditional morals in discerning the good and shaping the moral self, moral discourse (Sam Harris, The Moral Landscape: how science can determine human values, 2010; Compare James Davison Hunter & Paul Nedelisky, Science & the Good: the tragic quest for the foundations of morality). Science asserts dominance as a culture sphere, absorbs and redefines morality in scientific categories, meeting a scientific agenda. Scientism claims that the scientific principle, scientific rationality is applicable to all things, all arenas of life, all culture spheres. Religious or personal moral values are to be kept to the private sphere of one’s life, but not to be part of public discourse (Lesslie Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks, 1986).

Weakness of Language: Within the scientism frame/map of reality, knowledge depends on a designative (versus an expressivist-poetic or constitutive) tradition of language (Taylor, 1978, 2007, 2016). Designative language (Hobbes to Locke to Condillac) traps the pursuit of wisdom within language and confines it to immanence where language and its relationship to truth are reduced to pointing or representation. Language primarily designates objects in the world. The object is held and studied at a distance, observed but not participated in. One assumes a use of language based on quantitative judgments that are non-subject dependent (objective). This view of language contributes to scientism’s mechanistic understanding of the universe, rendering it disenchanted (without soul or mystery). For a fuller treatment of the two major types of language, see Charles Taylor’s tome The Language Animal (2016). In my book, The Great Escape from Nihilism, I also compare the epistemological to the hermeneutical way of seeing and understanding the world.

Our language has lost its constitutive power: denotative versus expressive. This means that we can deal instrumentally with realities around us, but their deeper meaning (the background in which they exist), the higher reality which finds expression in them, is ignored and often invisible to us. Our language has lost the power to Name things in their embedding, their deeper, richer and higher reality. The current incapacity of language is a crucial factor in our incapacity of seeing well and our flourishing. Our language, our vision and our lives often remain flattened in late modernity. (C. Taylor, A Secular Age, 2007, 761; The Language Animal, 2016).

Scientism Acts as a Prison of the Mind: This ideology is a picture of the world that holds our minds captive. For some of the reasons above, scientism can lead us to nihilism, cynicism, addictions and despair (the malaise of modernity—Charles Taylor). There is a logical progression from the epistemology, ontology and anthropology of scientism to the moral confusion and identity crisis of late modernity. Scientism alienates and oppresses us, makes us less than we can be. We intuitively see ourselves as more than machines, more than animals, beings with purpose (telos). The dogma of scientism stifles, and even questions our very freedom and agency. It cramps and constricts our imagination, even in the practice of science itself. Ultimately, it threatens the human quest for meaning. Transhumanism seeks to remake humans in the image off the algorithm and the machine.

Dr. Gordon E. Carkner, Meta-Educator with UBC Postgraduate Students, Online Webinar Producer, Author

Posted by: gcarkner | February 13, 2022

Charles Taylor & the Myth of the Secular

https://youtu.be/f4KZhWc2TDY Charles Taylor and the Myth of the Secular 

Many people seem to be hungry for fresh perspectives on the current Western cultural ethos. I argue that we need to urgently rethink our view of the ‘secular’. In this video, I reveal something quite astonishing in the work of eminent Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor. See if you agree. At stake is a more complex and creative discussion of the secular that opens the imagination to dialogue and discovery–even new language. Taylor points out that many of our common assumptions about the relationship between science and secularity are shown to be quite faulty–including bad leaps of faith. His critical analysis of the Immanent Frame, which heavily influences the social imaginary of contemporary Western thought, is a brilliant contribution. I also offer a helpful comparison between Taylor’s idea of a Closed versus an Open Immanent Frame. This webinar gives insights that could well alter our outlook on the world in which we seek our freedom, identity and meaning. It can give Christians fresh angles and confidence in defence of the faith as well. The articulate grasp of some of these concepts make all the difference in the world.

Charles Taylor is a key thinker assisting us in our exploration through late modernity. He is one of the top twelve living philosophers according to many of his peers, the preeminent Canadian philosopher in the political, cultural and moral realm. We might well call him the premiere philosopher of Western modernity. Together we will attempt to discern our location within Western culture, with its various views on secularity, and thereby to rethink our identity. We will claim that Nihilism does not have the last word. Although we are located here amidst a confusing plurality of ideas and convictions, we are not intellectually trapped within an immanent frame. There is hope for connection with the transcendent. What follows is a deep structure protest that there are broader horizons, so much more to be said, explored, researched and discovered. The journey ahead entails an archival rediscovery of lost insights and language such as the good, metabiological meanings and incarnational humanism. 

Our language has lost its constitutive power. This means that we can deal instrumentally with realities around us, but their deeper meaning (the background in which they exist), the higher reality which finds expression in them, is ignored and often invisible to us. Our language has lost the power to Name things in their embedding, their deeper, richer and higher reality. The current incapacity of language is a crucial factor in our incapacity of seeing well and impacts our flourishing. Our language, our vision and our lives often remain flattened in late modernity. (Charles Taylor, A Secular Age)

~Dr. Gordon E. Carkner, PhD University of Wales in Philosophy of Culture.

Related Upcoming Lecture

Professor Ard Louis, Theoretical Physics, Oxford University

Natural Science & Scientism: Probing the Difference  

12:00 NoonWednesday, April 6, 2022  on Zoom

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Dr. Ard Louis Zoom Link

Abstract

Science is perhaps the most successful endeavour in which human beings have engaged. It is thus tempting for many to think that it should also answer the big existential questions (identity, morality, why we exist, the higher meaning of human life). Such explanatory hopes (rooted in the ideology of scientism) give impetus to modern versions of reductionistic/closed-world secularism. Scientism, the idea that only natural science brings us reliable knowledge, is less popular in the academy than it once was. This is partly because it hollows out and depreciates these important metabiological questions. Nevertheless, implicit versions of scientism remain surprisingly influential. What should be done to correct such perceptions? Realities beyond the realm of scientific study are pertinent to overall human flourishing. Professor Ard Louis will argue that neither science, nor any conceivable future advance in science, can answer such significant life questions. The scientific imagination contains appropriate built-in limits, and yet we want an articulate grasp of all domains of meaning available to us.

Biography

Ard Louis is Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Oxford, where he leads an interdisciplinary research group studying problems on the border between chemistry, physics and biology at the Rudolf Peierls Centre for Theoretical Physics. He also writes and speaks widely on science and faith, for which in 2013 he was elected a member of the International Society for Science and Religion.  He recently made the 4-part documentary Why Are We Here with David Malone and  appeared in  The Story of God with Morgan Freeman, giving him an Erdős–Bacon number of 6.

No Model of the universe is a catalogue of ultimate, comprehensive realities.

~C. S. Lewis

An admirably severe discipline of interpretive and theoretical restraint [modern empirical science] has been transformed into its perfect and irrepressibly wanton opposite: what began as a principled refusal of metaphysical speculation, for the sake of specific empirical inquiries, has now been mistaken for a comprehensive knowledge of the metaphysical shape of reality; the art of humble questioning has been mistaken for the sure possession of ultimate conclusions. This makes a mockery of real science.” (David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God, 2013, 71)

Satire: “Physics explains everything, which we know because anything physics cannot explain does not exist, which we know because whatever exists must be explicable by physics, which we know because physics explains everything.” (David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God, 2013, 77)

Posted by: gcarkner | January 31, 2022

Grappling with Radical Individualism

This new teaching video grapples with the power and the problems of the ideology of Radical Individualism in Western culture. The goal is to give perspective and to help people avoid the vulnerabilities of moral autism. Our success in life has a lot to do with our network and commitments over the long term. It is part of Dr. Gordon E. Carkner’s growing channel to stimulate mind and heart towards the good.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNA6wmP9Phg The Perils of Radical Individualism: the Myth and its Alternative

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