Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Scientific materialism

Reading for me comes and goes in spurts, usually based on whatever else is going on in my life. The 3.7 people who actually read this blog have sometimes asked me where I find time to read all that I read. I really don't, I just make stuff up...

Actually, reading and travel often go hand in hand. I'm 6'5" and...well...somewhere around 3 big bills. So I hate trying to work on airplanes, even though I'm on them a lot. And since I was in Oklahoma City and now in a hotel room in Dallas today, I read.

A few weeks ago I picked up "Modern Physics and Ancient Faith" by Stephen M. Barr at the library. I finally started reading it today. Barr is a professor of physics at the University of Delaware, and (I assume from the first few chapters) a practicing Roman Catholic. The book is about exposing the anti-religious bias not so much in some nebulous "Science" category (something we talked about recently), but in the beliefs of scientific materialism as establishing the mythical nature of religious belief.

I definitely want to put some of Barr's thoughts down, but in chapter 2 he quotes Augustine of Hippo in a great quote that I had heard bits of before, but this was the first time I had seen it all like this. Let me quote it here, and we'll pick up with Barr in the next post:

"Usually even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and seasons, about the kinds of animals shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics, and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn...If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe our books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren, ...to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture, ...although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion."

Augustine, "De Genesi ad Litteram"

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