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Monday, October 08, 2012

There's Nothing Conservative About Many Republicans...

As Andrew Sullivan notes, quoting Rep. Broun: ""All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell."

A real conservative respects traditions, including our scientific tradition. A real conservative might take notice of the fact that the Big Bang theory was first developed by a Catholic priest. He might recognize that modern science is a uniquely western enterprise, a crucial component of our cultural legacy. People like Broun are radicals, intent on stripping our civilization of all its inheritance that does not fit in with their own, idiosyncratic interpretation of a single book.

15 comments:

  1. Seeing that Rep. Broun is a MD and a chemistry graduate, it's pretty clear there is a cynical attempt to exploit a particular voting base.

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  2. 'Fundamentalism' usually seems to mean, in this context, believing what the vast majority of professed Christian theologians, etc, believe for most of Christian history (that death was not created by God, but, resulted from Adam's sin; that the earth was created in a relatively short period, etc; in other words, the first 11 or so chapters of Genesis are not metaphorical fables).

    It is more than just saying those who believe these things are engaging in "act of will to over-ride reality with totalist faith." There exists an hierarchy of truth. Within greater truth subsist lesser truths; i.e., a greater truth would be the Deity of Christ, which, from a certain point of view, seems infinitely more 'improbable' than their being no original first parents to mankind.

    If a man stated he had invented a perpetual motion machine that dispelled all the laws of physics in that matter, would it be 'closed' minded of the physicist to simply dismiss the man on principle? Or would it be that the physicist knows, that, since he this machine violates the greater laws (like the laws of thermodynamics), he can dismiss the claim out of hand; and, must, therefore seek another explanation in total conformity (or reasonable conformity) with what he knows is the truth.

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    1. "'Fundamentalism' usually seems to mean, in this context, believing what the vast majority of professed Christian theologians, etc, believe for most of Christian history (that death was not created by God, but, resulted from Adam's sin; that the earth was created in a relatively short period, etc; in other words, the first 11 or so chapters of Genesis are not metaphorical fables). "

      Sorry, my man, fundamentalism is a NEW phenomenon that only arose after the Reformation.

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    2. By fundamentalism, you mean an attitude, as opposed to a set of beliefs about something? I'm still confused on everyone's definition.

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    3. No, I mean you are wrong that the vast majority of significant theologians were "fundamentalist" in the sense you say for the first 15 centuries of Christian history. Augustine in 400, for instance, argued strongly against a literal interpretation of Genesis. He believed "six days" was just a metaphor, and Adam and Eve were mortal before the Fall. And Augustine is quite simply THE most authoritative theologian of the first 13 centuries of the Church. Paul considered the stories of the sons of Abraham an allegory. Origen considered six days a metaphor, as did Clement and Cyprian. Aquinas regarded the details of Genesis as of little importance; if science told us the order that things came about was different, Christians should not dispute the science.

      So someone has been pulling your leg, Hieromonk!



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    4. Origen (and Clement of Alexandria being his disciple of sorts) and St. Augustine were in the minority in regarding Genesis in this matter. St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom, the Cappadocian Fathers, St. Gregory the Great, etc, were in the majority in regarding the days as what we regard as days.
      http://orthodoxinfo.com/phronema/evolution_frseraphim_kalomiros.aspx

      St. Augustine, while venerated, was not widely influential in at least half of Christendom (the eastern half); thus, he could only be considered influential, and progressively so, after the 5th century, and particularly only in the west.

      As regards the references to Gal. 4:24; the vast majority of the patristic commentaries understand it as literal events, but, providing an allegory for the two covenants (see Chrysostom's Homily on Galatians, Jerome's Preface to Galatians, and even Theodore of Mopsuestia's Commentary). While Protestant Fundamentalism is indeed in error on an host of points, they are not incorrect in asserting that it was the common Christian belief that Adam and Eve were literal persons, that the Scriptures were to be understood in the general historical meaning, etc. The reaction, for example, in Russia to the introduction of Darwinian views was extremely negative, to say the least, among the clergy and laity (who cannot honestly be said to have been infected with Protestant fundamentalism, when many had never even heard of protestantism). Bp. Ignatius Brianchaninov, for example Elder Ambrose of Optina, etc, whose sources of instructions were simple the Scriptures, patristic commentaries, and the tradition of understanding, were not receptive to the theory; nor were others in the Orthodox world.

      They may be wrong, from your view, but, it is wrong to say that they had learned to interpret the Bible 'literally' from Protestant (or even Roman Catholic?) teachers who infested Russia, Greece, Bulgaria, etc, secretly and somehow overturned the traditional understanding.

      It is not my intention in this line of argument that you have to accept this view; it is only my intention to dispute the contention that somehow the Reformation made everyone to start to believe Adam and Eve were literal people, that the earth was only 7 or so thousand years old, etc.

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    5. If I might make one more comment on St. Augustine. As I recall, in the City of God, Book 12(?), chapter 10, St. Augustine states his opinion that the earth is about six thousand years old. He says something similar in chapter 12. St. Augustine in Book 13, chapter 1, teaches that death is the punishment for Adam's sin; that is, if he had not sinner, he would not have died.

      My point, whether one believes he is accurate or not, is that this was the common understanding.

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    6. Hieromonk, you are throwing up red herrings. Many people took many parts of the Bible as literal before the Reformation, and others parts figuratively: the point is it was not a matter of faith or heresy to say "Six days is a metaphor" or "Eve being created from a rib is a poetic image." (At least in the West.)

      THAT attitude only developed after the Reformation, and that is what I would refer to as fundamentalism.

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    7. Ok. Yes, I understand. However, it would have been considered wrong to say, something like, "This person 'Eve' never existed; we're just commemorating a fictional person in the martyrology at Mass" or "This feast dedicated to the OT forefathers is just fiction for us". They would have considered Eve a real person, even if there were difference between persons about what 'rib' meant ( I know this because of the debates about the souls origin via either 'creationism' or traducianism in medieval and ancient writers.)

      In the pre-reformation period, all theologians would have to reconcile everything with verses like, Wisdom 1:13 or Wis. 2:24, and others.

      Yes, you are right; if you said, "I agree with St. Augustine in saying the six days are the manner of organization God use to demonstrate his creative processes, as opposed to it being 6 24hr period," no one would have accused you of heresy. If you started saying something like, "God created life to die, and everything to decay, and this isn't a result of the Fall," that would have been seen as wrong (as there was almost frantic affirmations and denials over the Pelagian heresy over the 'naturalness' of death). They wouldn't have cared, on the other, if you had come up with the most 'fantastic' theories or scenarios to incorporate this into different sciences (see St. Gregory's the Theologian 'Against Eunomius' for his views on the universe) as long as you affirmed it.


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  3. Somehow I don't think pointing out that Lemaitre was was Catholic priest would score any points with a Southern Baptist.

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    1. Much more true 40 years ago than today. There has been much Catholic - Evangelical ecumenical activity of late.

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  4. I can see why Broun might have a problem with evolution and the Big Bang (though obviously I don't agree). But I can't figure what his beef with embryology would be. If anything, you would think that this would be supportive of standard Republican policies.

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    1. Modern embryology would seem to suggest that life does begin at conception. However, I think he may object that embryology is used to explain that man's biological ancestors were at various times other life forms. Thus, embryo development by some, is (or was) taken to recapitulate the invertebrate states (like gills), etc.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recapitulation_theory

      Even though it isn't accepted by moderns; I remember actually learning it in middle school.

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  5. Do you believe ancient to medieval China had (something you recognize as) science? Why or why not?

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    1. Most historians of science believe that a few cultures approached modern science, but fell short: the Greeks never really developed the experimental method, the Arab scientists got shut down when Islam rejected free inquiry, and China saw more and ad hoc, untheoretical advance in technology.

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