Conservative Colloquium

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Posts Tagged ‘intellectual’

Conservatism & Science: Why Politics is Not a Science

Posted by Tony Listi on January 1, 2011

Science is conservative in some respects:

  • It generally changes incrementally and gradually as new evidence comes to mind.
  • It tests everything against experience. Results matter, not just theories or intentions.
  • It inherently looks to the past. Past occurences and observations are the foundation of science. Without faith in the past, science could not function.
  • It sees the world as inherently orderly, functioning according to certain reliably consistent laws of nature.

But science is not conservative with respect to the fact that science is fallibilistic. The foundations can and have been uprooted several times. The notion of science as the slow, steady, and conservative accumulation of knowledge was destroyed by a series of revolutions at the biological, cosmic, and atomic levels. Copernicus, Darwin, Einstein, and Heisenberg in partcular were instrumental in proving that science sometimes radically uproots the current paradigm of empirical/scientific knowledge. Strictly speaking, nothing is ever really “settled” in science.

True conservatism does not allow for epistemological revolutions in moral and political philosophy:

Conservatives do not deny the existence of undiscovered truths, but they make a critical assumption, which is that those truths that have already been apprehended are more important to cultivate than those undisclosed ones close to the liberal grasp only in the sense that the fruit was close to Tantalus…. Conservatism is the tacit acknowledgement that all that is finally important in human experience is behind us; that the crucial explorations have been undertaken, and that it is given to man to know what are the great truths that emerged from them. Whatever is to come cannot outweigh the importance to man of what has gone before. (William F. Buckley Jr. in Up from Liberalism)

Marxists and libertarians of almost all varieties think that politics is a science. But it isn’t, strictly speaking.

Conservatism is a more humane political philosophy because it recognizes the reality of human nature and the influences upon it. People are not mere physical material, mere combinations of atoms and molecules, who react in the exact same way to certain external stimuli, whether economic or political. Sure, human nature in general doesn’t change, but culture and nurture mould the raw material human nature. Also, people are individuals and thus sometimes deviate from nature, culture, or nurture by willful choice. No nation is perfectly virtuous, but some nations are more virtuous than others in certain respects. 

Thus, while there are certainly timeless political principles, their direct and pure application will not yield the same results for every single group of people under any and all circumstances. Prudence cannot be dispensed with, and thus politics should be considered an art ultimately. Of course, just because something is an art doesn’t mean that reason should be ignored. Orderly art requires reason, the faculty that creates order.

Moreover, it is actually the notion itself of politics as a science that has been so harmful to American politics. Science became largely about experimentation and knowledge for its own sake or for the sake of power, unhinged from moral considerations. Regressives applied hubristic, reckless, and immoral political experimentation in America, irrationally disregarding experience and time-tested experience (not to mention constitutional law). The consequences have been devastating.

Science in itself has no moral compass. To say that politics is a science is to introduce the element of amorality (or rather immorality) into politics.

Posted in Conservatism, Political Philosophy, Science and Politics, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Quotes: Faith–Intellectual Doubt?

Posted by Tony Listi on November 19, 2007

“If you scream for insight and call loudly for understanding, if you pursue it like you would money, and search it out as you would hidden treasure, then the Lord will be awesome to you, and you will come into possession of the knowledge of God.”                                                                                                                                -Proverbs 2:3-5

“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!””
-Mark 9:24

“If God does not exist, then life is futile. If the God of the Bible does exist, then life is meaningful. Only the second of these two alternatives enables us to live happily and consistently. Therefore, it seems to me that even if the evidence for these two options were absolutely equal, a rational person ought to choose biblical Christianity. It seems to me positively irrational to prefer death, futility, and destruction to life, meaningfulness, and happiness. As [Blaise] Pascal said, we have nothing to lose and infinity to gain.”                                       
-Dr. William Lane Craig, qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel 

“Those who believe they believe in God but without passion in their heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God himself.”                                                                                                                              -Madeleine L’Engle, Christian and writer, qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“For many Christians, merely having doubts of any kind can be scary. They wonder whether their questions disqualify them being a follower of Christ. They feel insecure because they’re not sure whether it’s permissible to express uncertainty about God, Jesus, or the Bible. So they keep their questions to themselves−and inside, unanswered, they grow and fester and loom until they eventually succeed in choking out their faith…. At the same time, many Christians have a completely different perspective. They believe that having doubts isn’t evidence of the absence of faith; on the contrary, they consider them to be the very essence of faith itself.”       
-Lee Strobel in The Case for Faith

“The shame is not that people have doubts but that they are ashamed of them.”                                               
-Os Guiness, qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“The struggle with God is not lack of faith. It is faith!”                                                                                     
-André Resner

“[A]re you trying to poke holes in Christianity because you really think it’s an illusion−or are you raising objections because you don’t want it to be true?…I had a lot of motivation to find faults with Christianity when I was an atheist. I knew that my hard drinking, immoral, and self-obsessed lifestyle would have to change if I ever became a follower of Jesus, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to let go of that. After all, it was all I knew. Consequently, instead of trying to find the truth, I found myself attempting to fend off the truth with fabricated doubts and contrived objections. I don’t think I’m alone in doing this. Many spiritual seekers have legitimate questions concerning Christianity and need to pursue answers that will satisfy their heart and soul. Yet I think some seekers get to the point where they are subconsciously raising smoke screens to mask their deep-seated motivations for rejecting the faith. The same is true for Christians who fall prey to doubts about their beliefs. Often, they’re having a bout of sincere misgivings about some aspect of their faith; other times, however, their professed doubts may actually be a subtle defense mechanism. They may think they’re hung up over an objection to some part of Christianity, when the reality is that they’re actually just casting around for some excuse−any excuse−not to take Jesus more seriously.”                                                                                   
-Lee Strobel in The Case for Faith

“Men, he says, are greatly inclined to ‘wait quietly’ to see whether proofs of the actuality of revelation will drop into their laps, as though they were in the position of arbitrators and not in that of the needy. ‘They have decided to test the Almighty in a passionless judicial fashion, with total lack of bias, with sober minds.’ It is an error as common as it is fatal, says Newman, to think that ‘truth may be approached without homage.'”         
-Flannery O’Connor: Voice of the Peacock, Kathleen Feeley on the comments of John Henry Newman

“In fact, I personally think all unbelief ultimately has some other underlying reason. Sometimes a person may honestly believe their problem is intellectual, but actually they haven’t sufficiently gotten in touch with themselves to explore other possibilities…. When you scratch below the surface, there’s either will to believe or there’s a will not to believe. That’s the core of it. [Faith is] a choice…. [Faith is also a gift from God] and that raises a big mystery about choice and free will…. [O]ur wills make the decision to put our trust in Christ, and God empowers us…. [I]f we have the will to believe, God then confirms that Jesus is from God. [F]aith is a decision of the will that we keep on making, but we’re given that option by God’s grace. We’re empowered to keep making it by his Spirit. [It’s a choice we must make without having all the complete information we’d like to have] Otherwise, what we would have is knowledge, not faith.”                                                                      
-Lynn Anderson qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“A man rejects God neither because of intellectual demands nor because of the scarcity of evidence. A man rejects God because of a moral resistance that refuses to admit his need for God.”                                          
-Dr. Ravi Zacharias, qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“[Y]es, people have a psychological need to believe−just as some people have a psychological need not to believe…. [P]eople really have to decide why they want to believe…. If they have intellectual doubts, that’s fine, but don’t stop there. They need to go deeper into what really may be driving them to back away from God….”                                                                                                                               -Lynn Anderson qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“People mix up faith and feelings. For example, some people equate faith with a perpetual religious high. When that high wears off, as it inevitably does, they start to doubt whether they have any faith at all. Feelings are connected with some dimensions of faith, but a lot of that has to do with people’s temperaments. Some folks are just not wired to feel very much, even though they may have strong values and convictions…. [A fluctuation of feelings should not be a fluctuation of faith.] That’s why we have to be careful about our feelings−they can be fickle…. Faith is not always about having positive feelings toward God or life.”                                               
-Lynn Anderson, qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“[Y]ou can have doubts even when you believe…. Now, I don’t know where you cross the line into corrosive, eroding, negative doubt, but I do know that where there’s absolutely no doubt, there’s probably no healthy faith…. Doubt [can help] develop a more substantial and realistic faith−to trust God in the face of [death and suffering] and not just in the face of [happiness, pleasure, and miracles]. You see, a faith that’s challenged by adversity or tough questions or contemplation is often a stronger faith in the end.”                                            
-Lynn Anderson, qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“[If a person wants to believe,] I suggest they go where faith is…. Get around people who you respect for their life, their mind, their character, and their faith, and learn from them. Watch their life. And I encourage people to put faith-building materials into their mind. By that, I mean books, tapes, and music that build strong motivation for faith, that clarify the nature of God, that examine the evidence pro and con, that deal intelligently with the critic of the faith, that give hope that you can connect with God, that give you tools to develop your spirituality…. So people need to clarify their reasons for believing…. [T]he only object of faith that is solidly supported by the evidence of history and archaeology and literature and experience is Jesus…. To experience the truth and be set free, you have to be a following learner. In other words, do what Jesus says and you’ll experience the validity of it. It’s kind of like riding a bicycle. You can’t watch a video or read a book about it; you’ve got to get on one and get the feel of it…. [Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.] Faith is action; it’s never just mental assent. It’s a direction of life. So when we begin to do faith, God begins to validate it. And the further we follow the journey, the more we know it’s true…. [I]f you pursue the whole Jesus journey, you find that his teachings work consistently because they’re true. Christianity isn’t true because it works; it works because it’s true.”                                                                                                                                 -Lynn Anderson, qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“If faith never encounters doubt, if truth never struggles with error, if good never battles with evil, how can faith know its own power? In my own pilgrimage, if I have to choose between a faith that has stared doubt in the eye and made it blink, or a naïve faith that has never known the firing line of doubt, I will choose the former every time.”                                                                                                                                 -Gary Parker in his book The Gift of Doubt, qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel 

“If doubt and faith can co-exist, then people don’t have to fully resolve each and every obstacle to between them and God in order to have an authentic faith. In other words, when the preponderance of all the evidence tilts decisively in God’s favor, and a person then makes the rational choice to put their trust in him, they can hold some of their more peripheral objections in tension until the day comes when they’re resolved. In the meantime, they can still make the choice to believe−and ask God to help them with their unbelief.”                  
-Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith

Posted in Quotes, Religion and Theology | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »