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Paul K. Moser on Expectations and Religious Epistemology

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Many people, including philosophers, have misguided expectations for God. These expectations are misguided in their failing to match what would be God’s relevant purposes, if God exists. The latter purposes include what God aims to achieve in revealing to humans (the evidence of) God’s reality and will. Misguided expectations for God can leave one looking for evidence for God in all the wrong places. In failing to find the expected evidence, one easily lapses into despair, anger, or indifference toward matters of God. We find such regrettable attitudes among many people, including philosophers and theologians. ¶ The needed antidote calls for a careful reconsideration of our expectations for God. This antidote enables us to approach religious epistemology in a way that does justice to the idea of a God worthy of worship. As we shall see, the evidence available to humans from a God worthy of worship would not be for mere spectators, but instead would seek to challenge the will of humans to cooperate with God’s perfect will. This would result from God’s seeking what is morally best for humans, including (a) their cooperative reconciliation to God, (b) their redemption from volitional corruption, such as selfishness, pride, and despair about human life, and (c) their ongoing cooperative life with God. ¶ What if, as Kierkegaard (1846) suggested, God maintains God’s value by refusing to become a mere third party and instead offering second-person (I–Thou) access to humans? What if, in addition, God is elusive in hiding from people unwilling to cooperate with God’s will? Such “what if” questions can shake up misguided expectations for God and point us in a new, reliable direction.

Aaron Kheriaty on Sex and Sadomasochism

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Before making decisions about our sexual behaviors, we need to ask ourselves some questions about what we want to be doing to our brain and our body — what kind of neural tracks and networks do we want to be reinforcing through these behaviors? Do we want to be fusing sex and love? Sex and security? Sex and attachment or commitment? Sex and fidelity? Sex and trust? Sex and unselfishness? Or do we want to be fusing in our brain and in our experiences sex and violence? Sex and dominance? Sex and submission? Sex and control? We shape our brain by our choices. And we develop increasingly automatic and ingrained habits by our repeated choices. But the initial choice of which path we embark upon is up to us.

Noah J. Efron on Opposing Narratives of Science and Religion

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A Newtonian might put it this way: for every myth there is an equal and opposite myth. Consider popular accounts of Christianity’s relations to science. Everyone is familiar with the myth that popes, bishops, priests, ministers, and pastors all saw it as a sacred duty to silence scientists, stymie their inquiries, and stifle their innovations. Lately, a new account of Christianity’s link to science has been put forth, opposite in attitude to the first but equally bold and, in the end, equally wrong. In this account, not only did Christianity not quash science, but it and it alone gave birth to modern science and nurtured it to maturity. And the world is a far better place for it.

Dennis R. Danielson on Heliocentrism as a Promotion

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Rather scandalously, heliocentrism was seen as “exalting” the position of humankind in the universe and pulling the earth up out of the cosmic sump that Copernicus’s predecessors thought it occupied — and conversely, placing the divinely associated sun into that central yet tainted location. To preempt this charge, Copernicus and his followers did what they could, rhetorically, to renovate the cosmic basement … Copernicus tried to enhance the status of the center by envisaging it as an advantageously located throne (solium) that formed a poetically fitting place from which the kingly sun (sol) could illuminate and govern his subjects. In Copernicus’s cosmology, the center was transformed into a place of honor, while at the same time earth was promoted to the status of a “star” that “moves among the planets as one of them.”

Lesley B. Cormack on the Medieval View of the Earth’s Shape

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Did people in the Middle Ages think that the world was flat? … From the seventh century to the fourteenth, every important medieval thinker concerned about the natural world stated more or less expliclity that the world was a round globe, many of them incorporating Ptolemy’s astronomy and Aristotle’s physics into their work. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274), for example, followed Aristotle’s proof in demonstrationg that the changing positions of the constellations as one moved about on the earth’s surface indicated the spherical shape of the earth. Roger Bacon (d. 1294), in his Opus Maiusi (ca. 1270), stated that the world was round, that the southern antipodes were inhabited, and that the sun’s passage along the line of the ecliptic affected climates of different parts of the world. Albertus Magnus (d. 1280) agreed with Bacon’s finding, while Michael Scot (d. 1234) “compared the earth, surrounded by water, to the yolk of an egg and the spheres of the universe to the layers of an onion.” Perhaps the most influential were Jean de Sacrobosco, whose De Sphera (ca. 1230) demonstrated that the earth was a globe, and Piere d’Ailly (1350-1410), archbishop of Cambria, whose Imago Mundi (written in 1410) discussed the sphericity of the earth. Both of these books enjoyed great popularity; Sacrobosco’s book was used as a basic textbook throughout the Middle ages, while d’Ailly’s book was read by early explorers like Columbus. … With the exception of Cosmas, no medieval writer denied that the earth was spherical — and the Catholic church never took a stand on the issue.

Cornelius Hunter on the Just-Add-Water View of Life

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Evolution’s just-add-water view of life had led astronomers to expect that the universe is teeming with life. ETs should be common and if we point our radios to the stars we should eventually pick up some interesting signals. But no such signals have been found. It is a clear example of yet another falsified evolutionary expectation. … Krauss makes the common evolutionary appeal to future findings. “We currently DO NOT know,” the publicly-funded professor begins, “the factors that allow the evolution of life in the Universe.” ¶ I’ve seen this response many times. Evolutionists argue the science proves their theory, and when they are presented with the actual evidence they then make the argument from ignorance. So [when] the evidence is against them, future science might switch things around. ¶ Absolutely. That certainly is true. Who knows what science may discover in the future.

David Bentley Hart on the Discipline of Theology

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The majority of the faculty of most modern universities would surely regard the claim that theology constitutes some kind of “science” absurd and presumptuous. ¶ Religion, after all (as  everyone knows), is a realm of purely personal conviction sustained by faith, which is (as everyone also knows) an entirely irrational movement of the will, an indistinct impulse of saccharine sentiment, pathetic longing, childish credulity, and vague intuition. And theology, being the special language of religion, is by definition a collection of vacuous assertions, zealous exhortations, and beguiling fables; it is the peculiar patois of a private fixation or tribal allegiance, of interest perhaps to the psychopathologist or anthropologist, but of no greater scientific value than that; surely it has no proper field of study of its own, no real object to investigate, and whatever rules it obeys must be essentially arbitrary.

H. Richard Niebuhr on Being Part of Something Glorious

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Sometimes we feel in the midst of these many tasks in our vast world as though we were laborers in a giant factory where something is being made that we can never see. We are being required to stamp out this piece of sheet metal, to make this handle, to tighten this bolt — and to do all this over and over again without knowing what the whole process is all about. … But for the most part we fundamentally believe that something is going on, something is being accomplished. … We dimly see and hope that this is something glorious in which we are engaged. Something which, if we knew what it was, we could take pride in acknowledging as a work we had been allowed to serve.

Iñaki Ábalos and Renata Sentkiewicz on Dualism in Architecture

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Much historic architecture takes its compositive tension from two theoretically incompatible morphological organizations that correspond to different universes or languages. This technique leads to a certain kind of monster or hybrid characterized by dualism. One of the basic monster assembly techniques involves the union of two organizations with one degree of compatibility and another obvious degree of incompatibility. Unions between different forms and materials can be carried out physically or by processes of chemical fusion. “Dualisms” may refer to limited scopes or can expand and infect all the scenarios affected by architecture, starting with its disciplinary definition, which is challenged by the view that the struggle between two disciplines is intrinsic to the project, or by incorporating a material, formal and geometric contradiction. Likewise, space can be conceived by introducing tension between the lower and the upper parts, or between interior and exterior, or by means of intrusions of varying depths and differing configurations.

Scott McCloud on the Hostility in Humor

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The piece is an attempt to explain Freudian humor theory, especially the idea that humor stems from disguised hostility. “Most humor is a refined form of aggression and hatred,” Spiegelman writes. “Our savage ancestors laughed with uninhibited relish at cripples, paralytics, amputees, midgets, monsters, the deaf, the poor and the crazy.” I’ve taken this idea as a jumping-off point in my own work. Whenever I’m considering why something’s funny or not, I always tell myself: find the victim. Humor is targeted. It may be aimed at an individual, at an institution, or the entire superstructure of rational thinking. But something is always being skewered. ¶ The leadoff joke of “Cracking Jokes” is one case in point — finding the victim helps us articulate why the joke is funny. We’re laughing at the patient. Despite the doctor’s well-meaning (and self-assured) intervention, the patient can’t escape his delusions. It’s a vision of humanity as impervious to logic, impervious to rational thinking, impervious to progress. That’s a pretty bleak notion. And yet the depiction of humanity as this series of malfunctioning bumper cars, forever careening about and crashing into each other and failing to make any kind of progress—well, it’s delightful. It skewers the very idea of progress as the natural order, of learning as the natural order. What better target for one’s disguised hostility than the whole institution of education and progress? These normalizing societal forces constrain us, keep our ids forever hamstrung. And so — through humor — we fight back.