Friday, May 16, 2014

On being an apologist

Glenn Peoples argues against getting an apologetics degree, here.

I replied as follows:

I think I agree, at least in principle.
Let me use C. S. Lewis as an example. Here you have the most influential figure in apologetics in the last century, and guess what? He pretty much backed in to the arena. He wrote books when he was asked to write them or when he was asked to appear on radio. He went from atheism through a long path to concluding that Christianity is true, and then became a Christian. He came to Christian conclusion by reflecting on various things, and then wrote apologetics to why he came to believe as he did.

Today the word “apologist,” in many circles, has a negative connotation. The idea is that you we committed to begin with to Christianity and then went out looking for reasons why someone should believe it. My goal is to think as clearly and as carefully as I can about what is true, to do my “job”, which happens to be philosophy, and if there are apologetic implication to that, then “apologetics” is a matter of sharing those. If I really think an argument is indefensible, then I shouldn’t be presenting it even if I think it will be widely accepted by many people. I remember it took some time in graduate school before I was fully convinced that the argument from reason, which I ended up writing my dissertation and a book about, was a good one.
I think you have to do philosophy, or science, or mathematics, or biblical studies first, as honestly as you can, and if think there are positive apologetic implications for what you say, then by all means share them and defend them.

18 comments:

John Moore said...

So, don't pick your position first and then look for ways to defend it.

Instead of studying apologetics, just study philosophy in general and see where that takes you.

Bob said...

Degrees in apologetics? Wow, I never knew such things existed. Learned something new today. I could understand having courses in apologetics, but it does seem like overkill to major in something like that. Is it really that difficult to defend the Christian faith?

Anyways, it was an interesting article. Thanks for the link. Also, I agree with your view that one would most likely be better off majoring in something like philosophy or history rather than apolgetics.

Bilbo said...

Of course, once we start discussing the topic "Apologetics," we are admitting that there is a field of knowledge that is worth discussing and therefore may be worth studying. And if that field is extensive enough, we could understand someone getting a degree in it. We could envisage people with PhDs in Apologetics giving lectures on various aspects of its history, variety, value or lack thereof. And of course, one need not be a theist in order to be an expert in Apologetics. One could be an atheist as well.

Bilbo said...

Ed Feser just offered a perfect example:

Pre-Christian Apologetics.

Bob said...

Bilbo,
As I mentioned above, I'm not familiar with these degrees in apologetics. Is that the main thrust of these degree programs: an objective study of how apologetics was and is practiced?

Based on Glenn's article and Victor's response, I had assumed those majors were designed to help one practice apologetics, to be skilled at defending one's faith.

Bilbo said...

Hi Bob,

I didn't read the article, and your assessment is probably correct. However, as one continues to study the field of Apologetics, the level of knowledge and sophistication grows. After all, in order to achieve a B.A. in Apologetics, there must be Ph.D.s in Apologetics.

Papalinton said...

Bilbo: "Ed Feser just offered a perfect example:
Pre-Christian Apologetics."


I don't think so, Bilbo. This is Feser having yet another haranguing whinge at Christian apologists who don't subscribe to his form of New-Scholasticism pablum.

If one were said to be working in a vacuum Feser is the example. "Thomistic scholasticism in the English speaking world went into decline in the 1970s when the Thomistic revival that had been spearheaded by Jacques Maritain, √Čtienne Gilson, and others, diminished in influence. Partly, this was because this branch of Thomism had become a quest to understand the historical Aquinas after the Second Vatican Council. Still, those who had learned Scholastic philosophy continued to have unresolved questions about how the insights of the medieval synthesis could be applied to contemporary problems. This conversation departed from the academic environment and entered internet discussion groups such as Aquinas,[24] Christian Philosophy,[25] and Thomism,[26] and websites such as Open Philosophy,[27] where it continues today."Wiki

The influence of Scholasticism in philosophy is a rump of its former self, with discussion largely restricted to circles at the periphery of the internet. I cannot help but picture Dr Feser as the Don Quixote of catholic apologetics. Who, might you ask is Don Quixote? "While mostly a rational man [Don Quixote] of sound reason, his reading of books of chivalry in excess has had a profound effect on him, leading to the distortion of his perception and the wavering of his mental faculties. In essence, he believes every word of these books of chivalry to be true though, for the most part, the content of these books is clearly fiction. Otherwise, his wits are intact." READ HERE

We all have our fetishes. Feser is no exception.




Victor Reppert said...

And what is yours, Papalinton, or dare I ask.

To be honest with you, I see little in your posts over and above cheerleading for New Atheism. Your mind works, in reverse, exactly the way the believer's mind works in the atheist stereotype of Christians. You may think this is critical thinking, but I have a lot of trouble seeing it myself.

Bilbo said...

Hi Papa,

You're right, it wasn't as much a discussion of pre-Christian apologetics as I had hoped it would be. As to whether Feser's Thomism can stand up to your sharp, penetrating analysis, I'll leave for others to decide.

Glenn said...

This will likely come as no surprise, but I'm inclined to agree, Victor. :)

Papalinton said...

Victor,
"And what is yours, Papalinton, or dare I ask."
To be honest I still have a hard time wrapping my thoughts around the prospect that there is no 'free will', and all that we do is a product of determinism. But I'm pretty certain 'free will' iof it does exist is not a product of some ineffable GOB.

"To be honest with you, I see little in your posts over and above cheerleading for New Atheism."
And you're probably right. But it is only different to your cheerleadership for all things not natural in the sense that you root for the antithetical position to mine. I consider all things supernatural as not natural, for if they were, they would all be part of the natural world. In the main, for me, it is the 'cultures wars', a struggle for the middle ground between those that chose to doggedly persist with what I can only describe as an Amish-like mindset [locked in time within a paradigm of 'tradition'] of religious superintendence supervening public policy and social governance, and those that look to position humanity on a clearer, informative, empirical, evidence- and research-based footing in terms of improving and progressing human values and worth, as a means of bettering the human condition.

"Your mind works, in reverse, exactly the way the believer's mind works in the atheist stereotype of Christians."
This is both a red herring and a strawman. If my description or characterization of a christian does not match the exact self-perception that the Christian reader of my comment has of him or herself, the protest of stereotyping is such a common and cheap charge. When it comes to the detail, there are 2.1 billion christians believing 2.1 billion versions of christianity on this planet. Hell, I would have thought even you would have appreciated the diametric versions between ilion and Yachov on this very site. No. Your psychologizing of my mind is akin to reading the mind of GOB; and remains quite unconvincing.

"You may think this is critical thinking, but I have a lot of trouble seeing it myself."
And I with your supposed 'critical thinking'. As I say, it is largely our engagement on the opposing sides in the culture wars raking up the hearts and minds of middle ground that is being played out here. The role of Christianity is generally being right-sized within the community to simply one of many minority groups that form the rich tapestry of the modern multi-cultural and socially diverse community. Gone are the heady days of Christian hegemonic dominance. And that is a good thing; good for Christians, good for non-christians and good for the community as a whole.

jdhuey said...

Victor said:
"I remember it took some time in graduate school before I was fully convinced that the argument from reason, which I ended up writing my dissertation and a book about, was a good one."

I would appreciate it if we could return to this topic soon. Frankly, I'm not at all sure that fully understand the argument. It seems to me that the AFR rests on the assertion that ability of humans to reason can not be accounted for nationalistically. Whereas if human reasoning is just part of the overall natural information processing that takes place in the brain then the AFR simply fails to show that Naturalism is wrong. This strikes me as the nub of the question where all the rest of the argument is just filigree. Is my assessment anywhere near correct?

jdhuey said...

Oops. "nationalistically" should be "Naturalistically".

BenYachov said...

"The influence of Darwinism in science is a rump of its former self, with discussion largely restricted to circles at the periphery of the internet. I cannot help but picture Prof Dawkins as the Don Quixote of Evolutionary apologetics. Who, might you ask is Don Quixote? "While mostly a rational man [Don Quixote] of sound reason, his reading of books of chivalry in excess has had a profound effect on him, leading to the distortion of his perception and the wavering of his mental faculties. In essence, he believes every word of these books of chivalry to be true though, for the most part, the content of these books is clearly fiction."

Here is a challenge. By swapping out a few key words you can make Paps sound like any other Young Earth Creationist scientific know nothing.

Because a New Atheist scientific/philosophical know nothing isn't really all that different except for a few accidental traits.

BenYachov said...

>I consider all things supernatural as not natural, for if they were, they would all be part of the natural world.

Thank you captain obvious. Perhaps for an encore you could say "red" is a color & it's not the color "green"?

Papalinton said...

Yachov says: ""The influence of Darwinism in science is a rump of its former self, with discussion largely restricted to circles ......"
Here is a challenge. By swapping out a few key words you can make Paps sound like any other Young Earth Creationist scientific know nothing."


Ben. Please don't wear your astounding ignorance on in the middle of your forehead. It's not a good look.

For your edumaction, here are the main branches of the biological sciences, every single one of them, for which the Darwinian theory of evolution is the central axiom. Young Earth Creationists, Old Earth Creationists, Christian Biblical Inerrantists, Catholic Adam and Eve mythicists, indeed theology, religious superstition and ancient shamanic practices simply cannot hold a candle against let alone match the level of knowledge that these disciplines have contributed to human understanding. As Paul Henri Thiry, French philosopher and encyclopederiste so adroitly observed: "Theology is but the ignorance of natural causes reduced to a system"

Aerobiology – the study of airborne organic particles
Agriculture – the study of producing crops and raising livestock, with an emphasis on practical applications
Anatomy – the study of form and function, in plants, animals, and other organisms, or specifically in humans
Histology – the study of cells and tissues, a microscopic branch of anatomy
Astrobiology (also known as exobiology, exopaleontology, and bioastronomy) – the study of evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe
Biochemistry – the study of the chemical reactions required for life to exist and function, usually a focus on the cellular level
Bioengineering – the study of biology through the means of engineering with an emphasis on applied knowledge and especially related to biotechnology
Biogeography – the study of the distribution of species spatially and temporally
Bioinformatics – the use of information technology for the study, collection, and storage of genomic and other biological data
Biomathematics (or Mathematical biology) – the quantitative or mathematical study of biological processes, with an emphasis on modeling
Biomechanics – often considered a branch of medicine, the study of the mechanics of living beings, with an emphasis on applied use through prosthetics or orthotics
Biomedical research – the study of health and disease
Pharmacology – the study and practical application of preparation, use, and effects of drugs and synthetic medicines
Biomusicology – the study of music from a biological point of view.
Biophysics – the study of biological processes through physics, by applying the theories and methods traditionally used in the physical sciences
Biotechnology – the study of the manipulation of living matter, including genetic modification and synthetic biology
Synthetic Biology – research integrating biology and engineering; construction of biological functions not found in nature
Building biology – the study of the indoor living environment
Botany – the study of plants
Cell biology – the study of the cell as a complete unit, and the molecular and chemical interactions that occur within a living cell
Conservation biology – the study of the preservation, protection, or restoration of the natural environment, natural ecosystems, vegetation, and wildlife
Cryobiology – the study of the effects of lower than normally preferred temperatures on living beings
Developmental biology – the study of the processes through which an organism forms, from zygote to full structure

CONT.

Papalinton said...

Cont>
Embryology – the study of the development of embryo (from fecundation to birth)
Ecology – the study of the interactions of living organisms with one another and with the non-living elements of their environment
Environmental biology – the study of the natural world, as a whole or in a particular area, especially as affected by human activity
Epidemiology – a major component of public health research, studying factors affecting the health of populations
Evolutionary biology – the study of the origin and descent of species over time
Genetics – the study of genes and heredity.
Epigenetics – the study of heritable changes in gene expression or cellular phenotype caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence
Hematology (also known as Haematology) – the study of blood and blood-forming organs.
Integrative biology – the study of whole organisms
Limnology – the study of inland waters
Marine biology (or Biological oceanography) – the study of ocean ecosystems, plants, animals, and other living beings
Microbiology – the study of microscopic organisms (microorganisms) and their interactions with other living things
Parasitology – the study of parasites and parasitism
Virology – the study of viruses and some other virus-like agents
Molecular biology – the study of biology and biological functions at the molecular level, some cross over with biochemistry
Mycology – the study of fungi
Neurobiology – the study of the nervous system, including anatomy, physiology and pathology
Population biology – the study of groups of conspecific organisms, including
Population ecology – the study of how population dynamics and extinction
Population genetics – the study of changes in gene frequencies in populations of organisms
Paleontology – the study of fossils and sometimes geographic evidence of prehistoric life
Pathobiology or pathology – the study of diseases, and the causes, processes, nature, and development of disease
Physiology – the study of the functioning of living organisms and the organs and parts of living organisms
Phytopathology – the study of plant diseases (also called Plant Pathology)
Psychobiology – the study of the biological bases of psychology
Sociobiology – the study of the biological bases of sociology
Structural biology – a branch of molecular biology, biochemistry, and biophysics concerned with the molecular structure of biological macromolecules
Zoology – the study of animals, including classification, physiology, development, and behavior. Subbranches include: Ethology(animal behavior), Entomology(insects), Herpetology(reptiles and amphibians), Ichthyology(fish), Mammalogy(mammals), and Ornithology(birds)

BenYachov said...

>Ben. Please don't wear your astounding ignorance on in the middle of your forehead. It's not a good look.

"Dear Benson, you are so mercifully free of the ravages of intelligence."

I'm taking your words changing them a bit to show how eerily you sound like a Young Earth Creationist twat.

What I wrote sounds stupid because it's modeled on your stupidity. Of course I am trying to sound stupid on purpose in imitation of you. What's your excuse?

I already believe in evolution or at least I don't disbelieve it.

Aristotelian metaphysics is the foundation of ALL MODERN SCIENCE in every field. Not just biology.
Aristotle is the source of the scientific method.

To this day gym teacher you can't tell the difference between Philosophy & Theology. In your little pea sized fundamentalist brain you still think they are the same thing.

What is the point of you?