Sunday, March 06, 2005

On campus

There is a thoughtful post about the role of religion on the university campus at Left2Right:
Some would say, however, that religious thought is superstitious nonsense and does not belong on a university campus. It seems to me that there should be room in a university for this position to be advanced in a robust way. But it would be quite a different thing for a university to take such a position. In the interests of academic freedom, secular universities ordinarily (there are exceptions) do not take positions on controversial questions. In keeping with this, a secular university should not take theological or anti-theological positions. A secular university should not take positions about what God has to say about a subject or whether there is a God that has something to say. But to say that theology is superstition and that theologians should be excluded from a faculty commits the university to an anti-theological position. To be sure, universities can exclude astrology on the ground that it is insufficiently scientific. This is not controversial. Excluding religion, however, exhibits blindness not only to the religious character of the culture, but also to the religious demographics of a university faculty. I am guessing here that the combination of believers and agnostics on a university faculty outnumbers the atheists, and many of the atheists would have the intellectual humility to think they might be wrong or that theologians might have something useful to say, or that students might benefit from knowing how they think.
I think one of the reasons I was sorely disappointed with university was its one sidedness. One gets tired of hearing marxists in kaffiyehs drone on about the things that marxists in kaffiyehs drone on about. Not that they have no right to be there. No, I just think it would be useful to let other sides be heard. It would force greater intellectual rigor on all sides. The less droning the better, I say. Since graduating, for example, I have been shocked at how good some (some!) religious writing is. There's no reason not to include it course syllabus. Agree or disagree, this knowledge would be useful to students one they leave their studies. Such a mix of opinion is in fact the culture we all live in.

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