I’m not a chess fan, and don’t know much math, but I do love Jason Rosenhouse’s website when he goes to town on creationism or religion. And he’s got a doozy this week: “Where can we find the really good theology? Part one.” His starting point is theologian Edward Feser’s critique of my approach to theology, and my response yesterday. But Jason has engaged in his own “theology project,” and has been underwhelmed:
Since then I have read a fair amount of highbrow theology. I have read my share of Augustine and Aquinas, Barth and Tillich, Kierkegaard and Kuhn, just to pick a few names. I have read quite a lot of Haught and Ward and Swinburne. I did not go into this expecting to be disappointed. Conversion seemed unlikely, but I expected at least to find a lot of food for thought. Instead, with each book and essay I read I found myself ever more horrified by the sheer vacuity of what these folks were doing. I came to despise their endlessly vague and convoluted arguments, their relentless smugness towards nonbelievers, and, most seriously, the complete lack of any solid reason for thinking they weren’t just making it up as they went along. I thought perhaps I was just reading the wrong writers, and that I would eventually come to the really good theology. But I never did.
I came to see theology as a moat protecting the castle of religion. But it was not a moat filled with water. No. It was filled with sewage. And the reason religion’s defenders wanted us to spend so much time splashing around in the moat had nothing to do with actually learning anything valuable or being edified by the experience. It was so that when we emerged on the other side we would be so rank and fetid and generally disgusted with ourselves that we would be in no condition to argue with anyone.
I’m starting to realize Jason is right, but, rank and fetid, I press on to become familiar with the opposition. But he’s now been cleansed in the blood of the Dawkins, so go read his post.
I’ve just noted that Jason has posted part 2 of his critique, also very nice:
But this is just getting silly. Even the most ardent religious fundamentalist does not claim there is no knowledge behind science or that scientists routinely just make stuff up. They might demur from a particular scientific consensus, but they usually bend over backward to emphasize their great love for science. That is because they can see as well as anyone that science produces tangible results. They have no problem with the idea that consistent predictive accuracy (among other characteristics of good science) is a sound reason for accepting a scientific idea.
What science brings to the table in this discussion is a set of investigative methods that everyone regards as legitimate. That is precisely what theology lacks. There is no compelling answer to be given to the question, “How do you know “’original sin’ refers to anything real?” let alone “How do you know that Smith’s understanding of original sin is right and Johnson’s is wrong?”
Or, as Stephen Hawking put it more tersely: “Science will win because it works.”