Thursday, February 03, 2005

Metaphysical claims

Vomit the Lukewarm has a short-ish post up about the relationship between biology (evolution) and religion. He concludes:
Natural theology exists independently of biology and natural history, just like calculus and basketweaving and Ptolemaic Astronomy and Grammar and your feelings about who should have won the Superbowl IX. If you want to affirm or deny a metaphysical claim, YOU NEED METAPHYSICS!
Why does this issue get mixed up so much? I dunno, but I have a pet theory. Liberalism and Fundamentalism are related. They share a common assumption that gained rapidly in acceptance starting roughly from the 1800s, namely that all of the Bible is to be read literally and can therefore be put to the test of the physical sciences. Now, the historical bits can be tested archaeologically and as far as I am aware, they have never been found wanting. But allegory and metaphor, wisdom and intuition - they are not like that. This could be called a category error. The Liberal reads all of the Bible as history, looks around, sees a lack of proof and concludes the Bible to be of little worth. If he's generous he might say it's interesting. The Fundamentalist also reads it literally and contorts his view of the world to conform to his assumption. The category error appears to me, as a Catholic, to stem from the doctrine of sola scriptura, which seems to downplay our ability to reason. The Fundamentalist embraces this; the Liberal rejects it. (I'm open to hearing commentary on this) In a strange way they need each other. The Fundamentalist needs an "example" of what happens when "the fundamentals" are questioned and the Liberal needs a bogeyman to represent what he has rejected as well. He'd rather take questions from the Fundamentalist than from someone holding the more nuanced and reasonable position of traditional religion. Pointing to the fundamentalist opposition to Darwin, for example, allows him to try and stuff all religion (i.e. opposition to his planning and his material power) into a box and dismiss it.

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