Scapegoat University and the Big Box Top of LifeAugust 17, 2007 — Deacon Duncan
It’s time for XFiles Friday, and another installment in our analysis of Geisler and Turek’s book I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST. As we saw last time, the book opens with a story designed to stimulate the reader’s mistrust of educated people and to set a properly superstitious atmosphere for what follows. And if there was any doubt about the intention of the opening anecdote, the authors are quick to dispel it.
The term “university” is actually a composite of the words “unity” and “diversity.” When one attends a university, he is supposed to be guided in the quest to find unity in diversity–namely, how all the diverse fields of knowledge…fit together to provide a unified picture of life. A tall task indeed, but one that the modern university has not only abandoned but reversed. Instead of universities, we now have pluraversities, institutions that deem every viewpoint, no matter how ridiculous, just as valid as any other–that is, except the viewpoint that just one religion or worldview could be true.
Ok, so the modern university is wrong, and good Christians should simply ignore the things that they teach, because they’re all just a bunch of hypocrites who’ve philosophized themselves into a complete inability to discern the truth. It’s nice of the authors to lay out their biases right up front (though it’s a bit ironic, considering that Dr. Geisler is himself a career university professor and president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary). But is any of this true?
Yes and no. It’s true that a lot of university professors hold to the “postmodern” vogue, to the point that they judge the validity of scientific research entirely based on what they see as the scientists’ “bias,” and entirely ignoring any role played by actual, verifiable evidence. But you don’t find these postmodernists in the physics department or the biology department or any other scientific discipline that works with hard, measurable data, you find them teaching literature and philosophy and even theology.
That’s a distinction that Geisler and Turek are careful not to point out. The whole reason they don’t like “the modern university” is not because it tolerates a wide range of ideas in the philosophical, literary, and theological realms. It’s because the science department is increasingly finding out that the gaps in our knowledge that God was supposed to be hiding in are actually gaps that are occupied by ordinary natural forces and processes. And Geisler and Turek certainly don’t draw attention to the fact that many conservative Christians are also jumping on the postmodern bandwagon, under the slogan “Teach the Controversy.” I haven’t finished reading the book yet, but I’ve got a suspicion that before we’re through we just might see Geisler and Turek themselves defending the idea that “every viewpoint [about science and origins], no matter how [scientifically] ridiculous, is just as valid [in the public schools] as any other.”
Despite the denials streaming from our universities, we believe that there is a way to discover unity in diversity. And if one were to discover such unity, it would be like seeing the box top of a jigsaw puzzle. Just as the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle are difficult to put together without the picture on the box top, the many diverse pieces of life make no sense without some kind of unifying big picture. The question is, does anyone have the box top to this puzzle we call life?
In volleyball, this would be called the setup–the maneuver you use just prior to giving the ball a good hard spike. The authors have disposed of virtually all modern scholarship with just a single anecdote and a sketchy and inaccurate accusation, and with that out of the way, it’s time to turn to superstition (religion) to see if we can find one that gives us a simplistic and appealing rationalization for everything. Think they’ll find one?
In the past 2,000 years, nothing has been found that does a better job of putting the jigsaw puzzle together than science. The scientific method, while not perfect, is at least self-correcting and open to adapting its conclusions to fit new information. Science is so successful because it lets reality itself serve as the picture on the box top. Contrast that with various religious efforts, which start by asserting that someone or other taught some doctrine which was, is, and ever shall be dogmatically true. As new information comes it, it must be spun, hammered, tweaked, and sometimes outright denied, just to keep all the puzzle pieces wherever so-and-so said they ought to be put.
So ok, we have our box top. Next time we’ll see how Geisler and Turek do with theirs.