Sophisticated theology

by Neil Rickert

Jerry Coyne posted this at his site:

The history of science and theology together shows that the former constantly nibbles away at the ambit of the latter, forcing theologians into ever more abstract conceptions of God, in which He either disappears or His actions become undetectable.  This rearguard action, consisting entirely of special pleading and post facto rationalization (also called “making stuff up”), is known as Sophisticated Theology.

I sometimes think that Jerry overdoes his posting about religion.  But I do completely agree with that quoted statement.

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14 Comments to “Sophisticated theology”

  1. It is a good quote even if it is entirely false. 😉

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  2. Sophisticated theology*—arguing about whether Russell’s Teapot is Wedgewood or Delft.

    *Tea-ology? Sorry!

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    • Sorry, I’m not sure why that appeared as a reply to Christopher; it wasn’t meant as such.

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      • … why that appeared as a reply to Christopher

        Actually, I don’t think it did. But the next one shows as a reply to yourself.

        With this theme, the distinction between a reply and a new comment can be subtle. But then you probably saw a message that your comment was awaiting moderation, and that might have made it even harder to distinguish.

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  3. I think one problem is that people assume they are more special than anybody or anything else in the universe. It is this anthropocentricism that guided their conception of what “God” must be. If we simply remove people from the equation and look at the many other wonders on Earth and in the universe, we’d see that there is no universal morality (rather there is the law of the jungle) and no objective “right” or “wrong”. Once people realized that, they’d accept that this conception of “God” is whittled down to an entity that set the universe in motion. One could argue that the subatomic infinitely dense starting condition along with the big bang was the universe being “set in motion”. I myself see “God” as just the energy in the universe (whether it’s in a rock, a star, an electron, a sound wave or a human being). My view of “God” can’t be whittled down really, but it is because I avoided the foolish route of anthropomorphism and anthropocentrism. Why are humans so darn egotistical?

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    • Why are humans so darn egotistical?

      Yes, that’s exactly the right question, though I take it to be a rhetorical question.

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      • I agree it is rhetorical. I mean after all, what is the “ego” other than something defined as a human attribute? It is the brain’s production of a higher state of consciousness a.k.a. self-awareness as well as our ability to manipulate the environment to the point of being at the top of the food chain — which appear to be the main reasons for this anthropocentric view. At the same time, people such as myself and many others in the world have found a way to minimize that anthropocentric view in their philosophy/religion, despite this ego. It amazes me that we have the ability to transcend this ego and experience the holism — that is, dissolving the illusory boundaries between “me” and “you” and everything else in the universe to realize that we are all “it”. When this happens, blind obedience towards manipulative religious views evaporates. After all, if a religion is based on anthropocentric views, it makes perfect sense that there may be other selfish motives underlying it’s propagation (i.e. who stands to gain from people obeying the religion? God? Or people…).

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        • At the same time, people such as myself and many others in the world have found a way to minimize that anthropocentric view in their philosophy/religion, despite this ego.

          Yet philosophy is dominated by language, which only humans have. So that seems highly anthropocentric and egocentric.

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          • “Yet philosophy is dominated by language, which only humans have. So that seems highly anthropocentric and egocentric.”

            I disagree. I think that we communicate with one another just as other animals do. The difference is that how we communicate and what we communicate is more complex. We have many rules (i.e. language, grammar, etc.) so that we are able to agree on what’s being communicated. That is the only reason for our complex language. Those rules differ from culture to culture and are catalyzed by the needs of communication in that culture. We all communicate with each other however so I see no anthropocentric quality from that communication. We have particular ways of transfering information, just as other animals do.

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          • I want to add that even if philosophy, dominated by language was confined to humans — the philosophy itself (concepts of god, existence, etc.) wouldn’t necessarily be anthropocentric. The philosophy is a way of organizing the human beings’ ideas (coherently and methodically) and the language allows them to think about complex concepts as well as express those concepts to each other.

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