WHAT ARE THE SUPPOSED BENEFITS OF A SECULAR EDUCATION?

school counselor

Striving For The Goal

Ostensibly, as a fanatic, Right-Wing Christian, I wrote this post to deride the supposed benefits of a secular education. However, I doubt the wisdom of making fun of the beliefs of others. Moreover, I have observed that what we are for is much more important than what we are against, and we should never lose sight of that fact. Therefore, this post will constantly point to a goal.

Proverbs 22:6 New King James Version (NKJV)

Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.

Parents have a responsibility to bring up their children so that their children know how to use their God-given gifts and how to live as God would have us live. Unfortunately, clever people work overtime trying to convince us that we must avoid this or that disastrous pitfall. By focusing our minds upon our fears, they can get us to spend all our efforts trying to get us to avoid that thing we fear instead of working on that thing we desire. Then, instead of educating children we spend all our time trying to prevent something bad from happening to our children.

When we spend our lives driven by fear; we don’t accomplish much of anything. We just run and run and run, always tired and spent. Finally, we just give up.

If we let ourselves become confused enough, we will have forgotten what it is we wanted in the first place. Yet we don’t have to be confused. We don’t even have to be afraid. We just have to take responsibility for our own children.

Why Would Christians Want A Secular Government?

Why would Christians want a secular government? The answer goes back to the First Amendment.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Because Christians believe that each of us is entitled to the freedom of our own consciences, we believe in limiting the power of government.  Hence, the Constitution restricts Congress from interfering with the religious practices of the American people. Therefore, in the sense that government does not exist to promote or implement any particular religious belief, the founders considered the government secular.

However, the founders did not set out to create a secular society. Nor did they intend to shield the government from religious influences.  With the First Amendment they simply stated that Congress could not uses its powers to force anyone to practice any particular religion.

Secularism: An Ideology of Nots

Since the founding, what was a simple prohibition on Congress has grown into an ubiquitous monster.  The reason? We insist upon providing our children a secular education. Yet, curious though it may seem, most people have no idea what is meant by a secular education.

Carefully consider the definition of “secular.”

secular
adjective

  1. of or relating to worldly things or to things that are not regarded as religious, spiritual, or sacred; temporal: “secular interests”
  2. not pertaining to or connected with religion (opposed to sacred ): “secular music”
  3. (of education, a school, etc.) concerned with nonreligious subjects.
  4. (of members of the clergy) not belonging to a religious order; not bound by monastic vows (opposed to regular ).

Whatever is secular is just what someone in authority says is “not” religious. Thus, the whole point of a so-called secular education is to NOT teach something, especially something religious in nature.

Hence, whenever someone proclaims the glories of a secular education, that someone has only a vague idea of what they are advocating. All they know is that a secular education supposedly excludes the religious, spiritual, or sacred. That’s because Secularism is defined by what it is against, not by what it is for.

Refusing to teach children to believe in something is a bad idea.

This is a dangerous state. If they don’t stand for something, they will fall for anything. (from here)

Is A Secular Education A Rational Goal?

Is a secular education a rational goal? Probably not. At best, a secular education is pointless. Because some people want government-run schools, to avoid religious freedom concerns these people insist upon a secular education.

But stop and think. When a parent chooses a secular education, what is the purpose of the education? How do we define what the child should learn? Once we educate a child, what do we expect that child to do with what he or she has learned? When we secularize the education of children, how do we answer such questions?

Don’t get it? Then consider some of the subjects of we want children to learn.

  • Metaphysics (metaphysical philosophy): When we consider metaphysics, we consider how we look at the world and each other at a very basic level. How can we know something is true? What are the appropriate methods of inquiry? What are appropriate questions? Is there a God? The secularist sets this basic question aside as immaterial.
  • Science (or natural philosophy): Science involves applying the logic of philosophy to the study of the natural world. Here in particular the secularist says God is not relevant. In fact, the devout secularist considers belief in God an obstacle when it comes to “logical” inquiry.
  • Ethics (moral philosophy):  What passes for ethical education in the public school system politicians usually refer to as “character education,” but what are secular ethics? Whose secular ethics do we use? Do parents want their children to practice secular ethics? Isn’t the secularist likely to foul up an ethical problem by altering the relevant point-of-view? Instead of defining the difference between right and wrong from God’s point-of-view, what is the probability the secularist will have us define the ethical point-of-view relative to the individual, even relative to a particular individual in a particular situation. That’s situational ethics and moral relativism. That’s the kind of ethics that advocates the distribution of condoms in the public schools.
  • Reading and Writing: Reading provides the primary basis we use to learn. Writing provides us a means to record our thoughts, even to communicate to others. We fill our hearts and souls (and the hearts and souls of others) with what we read, hear and see. Many of our reading tastes are acquired. That is, what we have read, heard, and seen in the past biases our choice of what we will choose to read, hear, and see in the future. When we should be taking care to set our minds on the thing above, not the things on earth (Colossians 3:2), the secularist will encourage us to read, write, learn, and communicate for our own fleshly pleasures.
  • History/Civics: Many secularists set aside or misinterpret both the historical and the present role of religion in human history. For example, there is a common misconception that wars start over religion, the Book of James offers a different explanation. Pride promotes strife (James 4:1-6).
  • Literature and Art: Once people produced literature and art primarily for the glory of God. Today the reverse is true. In fact, much of today’s literature and art is riddled with pointless sex and gratuitous violence. Do most advocates for secular education condone pointless sex and gratuitous violence in literature and art? Probably not, but too many secularists simply don’t care.

Nothing Is Secular

When we send our children to school, we must remember we prepare them to live, not just to do an eight to five job. That’s why The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit: Sermons, Parts 225-236 contains these words from Charles Spurgeon:

To a man who lives unto God nothing is secular, everything is sacred. He puts on his workday garment and it is a vestment to him. He sits down to his meal and it is a sacrament. He goes forth to his labor, and therein exercises the office of the priesthood. His breath is incense and his life a sacrifice. He sleeps on the bosom of God, and lives and moves in the divine presence.

When we believe in God, we believe in a Creator, that everything is of God.

Just so that we can be clear: there is no such thing as a secular world. By that, I mean that there is no such thing as the world apart from God, a world without God, or a world existing in a “neutral zone.” The good God who created the heavens and the earth, sustains them in their very existence. He has not made Himself absent, nor so endowed the world that it has existence apart from Him. We have created ideological zones in which we try to remove all reference to God or to control behavior in such a way that it can be conceived apart from God, but these are mere intellectual tricks. We cannot make God disappear, regardless of our ideas or declarations. God is simply everywhere present, filling all things. (from here)

If everything is of God, then nothing is secular. If nothing is secular, then our children’s education must include the knowledge of God. If we give our children a secular education, we will teach them they can safely ignore God. If we give our children a Christian education, we will teach them God loves them and that they should love Him in return.

Background

In WHY DO CHILDREN NEED A RELIGIOUS EDUCATION?, we started a discussion on education. In addition to a significant number of comments, other blogs offered their opinions.

WHY DO CHILDREN NEED A RELIGIOUS EDUCATION? grew out of IS MULTICULTURALISM A RELIGION?. That post attacked the way the public school system is being used to indoctrinate young into a foolish belief.

Other Views

To Be Continued => Is There A Right To An Education?

30 thoughts on “WHAT ARE THE SUPPOSED BENEFITS OF A SECULAR EDUCATION?

  1. Interesting and thoughtful piece.

    Indoctrination is a very powerful component. Atheists tend to fear any Christian indoctrination, but many of them are completely unable to see how the very nature of public school is set up to indoctrinate children. Many mistakenly see the word “secular” and assume that means free of all bias, reason based, no brainwashing, everyone encouraged to think for themselves. Not at all. That is a huge misconception.

    As you have pointed out, secular means not of religion, so secularism must always exist in opposition to something. Every single thing you see in public school is designed with the purpose of opposing something else. You start to see this very clearly when they bring in mandatory recycling programs, anti-global warming, anti bullying campaigns, anti-racism, anti- sexism, anti-pregnancy, anti-junk food, etc etc. On the surface those are all good things, but so much as even attempt to question exactly what is being taught or the ideas being presented and you are toast. Kids are toast, I mean. Forget free thought or unbiased programs, this is pure and simple indoctrination and it is comply or else.

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    1. Thank you for that astute comment.

      There is a certain irony in your observation. When someone is successfully indoctrinated by hostile agents, they don’t realize they have been indoctrinated. Instead, they think what they believe comes from their own great wisdom. That’s like being taken to the cleaners by a good salesman and still thinking we got a good deal.

      Nevertheless, we probably should add a qualification and an observation..

      Qualification: The word “indoctrination” is actually innocuous. All education involves indoctrination.

      Observation: Is the American public education system part of a big conspiracy to take over America? Not really, but there is a problem with politicians running the public school system. Politicians have agendas. That includes indoctrinating other people’s children. Thus, with politicians in charge, it is almost inevitable that a secular education will produce secularists (i.e., Atheists).

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  2. Parents have a responsibility to bring up their children so that their children know how to use their God-given gifts and how to live as God would have us live.

    It would be nice if were God… rather than parents trying to decipher which one and in what way and to what extent and by which rules. But I’m almost sure you’re got the right one. I mean, you couldn’t possibly be wrong.

    I could paint the same negative focus of theism to be anti-secular, anti-enlightenment, anti-scientific, anti-rational, anti-modern, yada yada yada. But my brushstrokes don’t make this assertion true any more than your brush strokes paint secularism to be a negative response to religion.

    All of us would be better served to take secularism to mean neutral in regards to religion. Not anti-religious, not anti-theistic, not an oppositional stance but simply neutral. Without such public neutrality, you couldn’t enjoy your religious freedom. To suggest otherwise is a gross and negligent misrepresentation. You can’t indoctrinate neutrality; all you can do is offer an education that neither privileges religious belief nor condemns it. And most people in all levels of education taught under the public domain understand why this neutrality is important yet hold private religious beliefs. One does not preclude the other. So to suggest these theists are actually indoctrinating children against what they themselves believe – as IB22 assures us is the case – is a rather remarkable perspective.

    The purpose of education is always under debate and review. I happen to think it’s training how to think well, to make meaning, and embark on gaining wisdom. In addition, it’s about working with others and learning to appreciate why differences are enriching. It’s about disciplining the mind to critically and creatively think, to identify, define, and solve problems utilizing the input from others yet being able to take full responsibility and ownership of one’s self. Education is what you have left after you’ve forgotten everything you’ve ever learned. None of this precludes religious beliefs or vilifies it. It’s purely secular.

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    1. Well, I think we can skip your obvious misrepresentations and focus on a few salient points.

      Is secularism neutral? The word may be neutral, but people are not. Are you neutral? Isn’t the mere suggestion funny?

      Did I suggest theists are indoctrinating children against what they themselves believe? No. The public school system is an education “system.” That “system” is run by politicians. Politician execute their policies by choosing the personnel who run the public school system. These choices affect educational content and presentation. When that is the point of making such choices, it is naive to pretend otherwise. Because they know what the rules are and that they have to obey them, that’s why it is not uncommon for public school teachers to educate their own children outside of the public school system.

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      1. You have a rather distorted view of public education. Core curriculum is not based on the view of temporary politicians but what we in the profession call ‘best practices’. That’s why creationist bill after creationist bill after ‘academic freedom’ creationist bill is defeated; you can’t just alter subject content and fill it with whatever nonsense you want and call it ‘education’ in a public system. You can certainly do that in a private system and we see the results in comparative studies.

        Religious neutrality is the curriculum standard in most public school systems. Many teachers, administrators, and students attempt to thwart this neutrality all the time (and for what they believe are excellent religious reasons of high moral considerations) and have to be corrected time and time again… if not by effective and stepped professional disciplinary measures, then by law suits (an extreme measure). The problem is that far too many religious folk both within and outside of public education see any attempt to thwart their religious preferences and privileging to be an ‘attack’ against their freedom of expression and freedom of religion… neither of which is true. The point remains that to have religious freedom means public agencies and agents must remain neutral. As soon as the well-intentioned teacher, administrator, or student crosses this boundary (or any public official for that matter), promoters of religious preferences and privileges are legally inhibiting the religious freedom of the public generally and the teachers, administrators, and students in the educational example. To drive the point home, imagine if your efforts yielded power to legitimize certain religious preferences and privileging in the classroom that you yourself found to be antithetical to your own. Would you still support this ‘right’ to be imposed on your children in the public system?

        Look, the US public school system as a whole is pockmarked by dysfunctional for a bunch of perfectly well known reasons having everything to do with gutting it of public support and money in many places while other places are well supported and produce excellent results. Blaming the ‘system’ is misguided.

        Many public systems in dozens of other OECD countries (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) show significantly better aggregate results attaining skill levels most people think are important… skills such as reading, writing, mathematics, problem solving, scientific and technological literacy, and so on. Most of these are ‘secular’ systems so this fact undermines the notion that the US public system is somehow degraded by being religiously neutral. What is very well documented is that for-profit religious schools produce graduate students who rank very poorly in any fair and honest comparison… some so poorly, in fact, that many post secondary institutions refuse to recognize any equivalency with public systems and require additional equivalency testing and further upgrading before these students match other incoming public school graduates.

        If you want systemic results better than they currently are, the very first step is to get religious preferences and privileging out of education entirely and then fund the system properly. That’s why Finland produces students who graduate speaking at least 3 languages fluently, universal literacy rates, mathematical comprehension second to none, and enviable scientific knowledge. That’s a public system available to all. By the way, the teachers – who must undergo not just significant training but attain very high levels of education – are paid substantially above the median income. And we don’t see the sky falling and moral depravity running amok. We see a peaceful, prosperous, law abiding and tolerant multicultural population with very low rates of teen pregnancy, abortion, violent crime, assaults, and so on… exactly those public problems that increasing religion in schools is supposed to ensure.

        Something to think about.

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        1. Best practices? The government? Public education?
          😆

          With the people we have in charge, we can hardly even tell who is in charge. If a foreign power had tried to foist the monstrosity we call public education on us, we would be lining up to wring necks of our enemy.

          Consider that management best practices require that we give whoever is in charge clearly defined responsibilities and the authority to carry out those responsibilities. So what do we do with public education? We put four committees in charge. The Federal Government, state governments, local governments, and school boards all have responsibility for screwing up public education. And you think this people care about “best practices”?

          Because of temporary politicians, we just keep throwing more money at public education and to no apparent purpose, but the politicians don’t matter. “Best practices” do. Hence, we need to throw more money at the problem.
          🙄

          What you call religious neutrality is a farce. Just consider Multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is a belief system about religion, and it is a system of belief that causes children to reject the traditional values of this nation. It is absurd to say that any system that encourages children to reject the traditional values of this nation is neutral, but Multiculturalism is no doubt protect as a “best practice.”

          I won’t even deign to discuss the education of teachers. An education major has become just become too much of a joke.

          The public education system is fundamentally flawed. The first problem is that it represents a usurpation of parental authority. Parents, not government bureaucrats appointed by scheming politicians should be deciding who educates children, how those children are educated, what those children learn, and where those children learn. The second problem is competition. Parents should be allowed to choose in a free market. It idiotic and evil to argue otherwise.

          Listen to yourself trying to defend “Religious neutrality.” Christians created the environment which recognized your right to be an atheist, not “best practices.” It is your right, not “Religious neutrality.” Yet you respond by this defending this hypocritical thing we call public education as religiously neutral? I fear you have been successfully indoctrinated. I wish I could help, but if you cannot see this “religious neutrality” for the nonsense it is……

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        2. tildeb
          Do you remember saying this?

          Tom, I have no problem you believing whatever you want about answering those four questions to your satisfaction. As I carefully explained in my comment, there is a very real problem if you represent those beliefs to children as if they were knowledge. That is the lie, and that lie causes harm. That lie – misrepresenting what you believe on the strength of your conviction and not the reality we share is at the heart of what we call religious indoctrination. Indoctrination is not synonymous with religious freedom. You are harming the very principle of the freedom to indoctrinate children… which I think is not a very good lesson to teach kids.

          What you believe is Truth, and you have the right in the name of “religious neutrality” to impose your beliefs upon the children of others. And, my oh my, you don’t even call it indoctrination. Yep! You are just presenting the Truth, and those parents speak lies, but you will fix ’em.

          Anyway, as Harry Truman use to say: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” So if don’t want to visit and defend your views, so be it. I understand.

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        3. Oh, I don;t mind defending my views at all. What I mind is wasting my time writing a cogent comment and you just wave it away while continuing on the very points I’ve already covered. You simply don’t give a flying fig about anything contrary and in conflict with your assumptions, assertions, and faith-based beliefs even when those contrary points are fully backed by compelling evidence from reality. You simply don’t care. That’s why I accuse you of posting soliloquies.

          For example, you presume because I’m an atheist I ‘push’ my agenda in class and insist that no critical thought be applied because I’m so busy indoctrinating my ‘other kind of religion’ in vulnerable students. Complete and utter horseshit but because you presume it must be so, it becomes so in your mind regardless of anything I may say in my defense. So – like most hypocrites, you say one thing (you want me to defend my views) but mean the opposite: you don’t in practice allow them to have even the slightest import on your beliefs not because they aren’t true but because you don’t care if they are. You only care about your beliefs and reality can go take hike.

          I don’t cared what you believe. You’re already embarked on your trip to Crazytown and reason isn’t going to derail you. I care about how you act spreading falsehoods and misrepresentations and bigotry. Again, like most hypocrites, you don’t even care that your scripture actually commands you not to do this… so enraptured are you in your beliefs about your own certitude and piety and the desperate need you have to inflict your beliefs on your children. Ironic, n’est pas? Of course, you’ve tried to argue here that secularism made you do it in defense of your faith (I’m not sure if you even grasp this what you’ve meant about education) … an excuse quite popular these days used by the soldiers of ISIS and Boko Haram. Lovely company you with.

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        4. tilb-
          You would be better served to stick to your non-God points of view, for when you appeal to scripture, your hypocrisy is loud and clear, since we all know you think it to be a book of myths and nonsense. There is nothing worse than an unbeliever pretending to lecture a believer, such as you are doing here with CT. You embarrass yourself to people who actually try to live by the precepts, and who find the book precious.

          Now then, you are also being disingenuous if you think you are not influencing students or whoever without ‘intentionalyl’ pushing atheism. When I am out and about, I consciously or subconsciously make decisions on what is part of my being. My speech is tempered because I have been given a new tongue. My eyes indict me if I see something untoward. My ears are on alert when I hear things ungodly.

          You? Is your atheism something that you can turn on and off? You see, Christianity is 24/7. Is your atheism PART of your life? If it is, then it is not very precious now is it. If it is precious, and it is a REAL part of your bone and marrow, then you are mistaken when you say your interactions with people are not influenced by your views, ‘Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.’

          All men are evangelists of something, whether we believe it or not. Your track record on WP proves this. You as a proud card carrying atheist in fact do speak your words of your life, without even knowing.. Its not an insult, but an observation.

          .

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        5. CS, once again you’ve fallen in love with what you believe rather than have any regard for finding out what’s true. And what’s true is that I don’t work for a public board, you fool. I work for a religious one and can be fired if my atheism is discovered. So don’t think for one second that you are magically more aware of scripture than I or that somehow you’re more educated in what the bible says. I know the differences between versions because I have had to compare and contrast how versions change over time. My thesis was on the book of Job in particular and why there were (at least) two very different authors from very different times for the version you know today. But you seem to know nothing about this and similar problems throughout both old and new testaments so you fail to consider which version, which parts of the versions, are really god directed and which ones have been filled in by earnest transcribers and bumbled in translation! More importantly, you don’t care about any of this because what’s true doesn’t matter to you. You care only for what you believe is true and will lie, cheat, and steal to make sure nothing alters that power you feel when speaking as if directed by god to do so. This is not a compliment to your character or intellectual integrity but an indictment against both.

          When you assume your beliefs are true, you make a fool of yourself time and time again. You fill your writing with passionate appeals to scriptural piety without ever realizing for one second just how ludicrously silly your pronouncements about its god-soaked truth really are… to those who academically study it. You’re just another dime-a-dozen frothing at the mouth evangelical fundamentalist thinking god speaks through your mouthing of scripture and can be felt through your words and you seek petting from those who don’t study this stuff but who wish to be seen as equivalently pious as thee. And you stroke them. Again, not a compliment to your either your character or motives.

          So let me be perfectly clear: I do not indoctrinate children. I do the opposite. I do what the religious portion of their schooling fails to do: I teach critical and creative thinking that connects all subjects to one another. I teach priests how to do this. I teach parents how to do this. I teach teens how to do this. I teach children how to this. I can do it in a religious context just as easily as I can in a purely secular context. And if people utilize this thinking to reinforce their religious beliefs or lack of any, so be it. It’s not my job to think for others; it’s my job to teach them various ways to think critically and creatively… for themselves.

          So put aside your towering arrogance for just a minute and listen: stop telling me who and what I am, what I do, what I think, what I say, what I believe. Assume you are wrong on all accounts about what you believe about those who disagree with you and you’ll finally start to strengthen rather than weaken your grip on reality. They probably have cause for their differences of opinion and the effort they undertake to tell you about it indicates at least some small measure of integrity to counter balance your one-sided faith-based beliefs. Trust that the intention, at least, is towards the good. And presume that what’s true may actually matter more to other people than offering you faux-respect for the supposed love you shower on your belief-god.

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        6. tildeb-

          Where did I use the word ‘public school?’ You assume things.

          It must trouble you immensely that people can have supreme confidence in God’s word, apart from board reviews.

          Your paper on Job? You think its all myth anyway. Did you read the part where a question was asked: ‘Where where you when the foundations of heaven were laid?’
          Did that question put you in your place?

          Sure, simple meaningless poetry.

          I’ll say it again, if 5 thousand people say Nazareth did not exist, I’ll show you five thousand liars. Confident? Yes, in God’s word.

          .

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        7. tildeb — If you had written a cogent comment, it would not have been a waste. As it is, someone will benefit when they see the ugly foolishness of your bad example.

          Do I care about opposing opinions? Yes. I would like to have my beliefs founded upon the best ideas. Unfortunately, “best ideas” does not describe what you believe. You can’t defend what you believe. That’s why when you encounter just a little bit of opposition you must switch from arguing your case to flinging insults.

          When I suggested I would understand if did not care to defend your beliefs, what did you do? You complained I did not I did not agree with you, and you insulted me. You did consider my arguments at all.

          It seems to me that you project upon others the exact things you yourself happen to be guilty of doing.

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  3. The word “education” derives from the Latin educatio, which means to bring up or to train. In the classical sense, children were brought up or trained in the trivium or quadrivium, foreign language (e.g., Latin, Greek, and/or Hebrew), civics, and elementary theology. No one can deny, even secularists acknowledge, that Christianity played a huge role in Western inquiry, progress, and enlightenment. The West soared past it neighbors owing to Christianity.

    Sadly, the West is degenerating and regressing. This is unfortunate because the West was looked up to by its neighbors. I blame the decline of the West on our present education system, namely, the Prussian model of education, which gained popularity among Western nations in the 19th century. Our education system is not educating our youth and young adults; instead, it is conditioning or programming our children and young adults to be a cog in the machine–an obedient slave. (A criticism of and drawback with the Prussian model.) Put differently, our education system is producing 9-to-5 robots. Inquiry and progress are a bygone era.

    Reviewing history, the West has not made a major contribution to the world in the past 200 or so years, I would argue. Granted, nuances here and there but nothing of significance. I taught in higher academia for decades. What I taught was nothing more than rehashed thoughts from the past 200 or so years. That is not original thought, inquiry, and enlightenment. The West has become an embarrassment. Just my observations and experiences.

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    1. You say the West has not made a major contribution in the past 200 or so years? That is probably worth an explanation. I think I would would only go back a hundred years.

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      1. I suppose I should explain. In 1865, the Civil War ended. That was a bloody mess, but people fought over something they cared about. They ended slavery, if not racism. Even the Civil Rights marches in the sixties represented something of value.

        Instead of teaching children how to provide order and structure to their thoughts, the problem is that more and more our education system seek regimentation along certain politically correct lines. Hence, we have turned the definition of Liberalism upside down. What use to be a word that proclaimed freedom of conscience is now a call for the suppression of human rights.

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      2. I shall clarify. The West has not made a major contribution to the world in knowledge (or science), visual and performing arts, theology, medicine, education, politics, and so on. Indeed, as I acknowledged, the West has made delicate gradation in each discipline, but nothing of high significance. The West has become stagnant and mediocre in inquiry, progress, and enlightenment. The West is simply rehashing itself, which is an embarrassment. I blame this trouble on our education system, namely, the Prussian model.

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        1. Your assertion seems counterintuitive to me, but I recognize the first problem: A common definitions of terms is a crucial component of good communication, and I don’t think we have it. That may be fixable.

          You seem as though you’ve thought about your statements. Can you provide what you identify as the last major contribution to science (which would be c. 19th century or earlier in your formulation)?

          If you have time, and if the information is readily available to you, the similar last contribution to the other categories would also help me understand your thinking.

          ==============/ Keith DeHavelle

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        2. Good afternoon, Keith. When I say major contribution, I am talking about someone or something that has an instantaneous and worldwide impact. Call it cliché, Galileo Galilei changed how we view science. His approach changed science from a philosophical understanding to an experimental (or research) understanding. Historians concur, if it were not for Galilei, then science would have remained in its Aristotelian foundation. Galilei sparked the “scientific revolution” and thus influencing others that followed. In my estimation, that is a profound and noteworthy contribution. A close second is Sir Francis Bacon, who influenced our modern day “scientific research method.” Researchers of yesterday and today can thank these two gentlemen. Do I deny the minor contributions–or any discovery for that matter–the West has made throughout the centuries? Of course not. That is silly. I suppose the question in my mind is, “When will the next ‘big thing’ occur?” Am I making sense? Or see from where I come? Perhaps I am not articulating my thought well enough. Old age I assume.

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  4. I find it quite electrifying to hear someone opine that the West has not made a major contribution to “Knowledge (or science), visual and performing arts, theology, medicine, education, politics. . . .” etc. in the past two or three centuries (as Matthew says) or even in the past 100 years (as Tom seems to feel). It seems to me that I can think of a few examples without too much brow-furrowing. But, then again, I am a product of a public school education (at least up to the university level), so I may be quite mistaken.

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    1. Matthew argues that the West has not made a major contribution to “Knowledge (or science), visual and performing arts, theology, medicine, education, politics. . . .” etc. in the past two or three centuries. I think the past 100 years is probably more accurate.

      You are a product of the public school system. Hmmmmmm….. Since you can’t be over 100, I am probably more correct than Matthew.

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  5. I’m not sure why I can’t be over 100, my father lived to within a couple of months of that landmark. But I wasn’t arguing that I am one of the West’s major contributions to “knowledge, science, visual or performing arts, theology, medicine, education, politics” etc. I therefore can’t follow your point.

    I take it that you slammed your window shut to put Darwin and Einstein (at least the latter’s thinking on relativity) to the far side of the century point. Tricky, that. But I sense that in the last 100 years we have pushed out significantly the boundaries of knowledge on cell mechanics, genetics, electrical storage and management of data, neurophysiology, aviation, astronomy, computer science, to name a smattering of examples that leap to mind within a few seconds. Visual and performing arts are fairly subjective fields, but I imagine that in a hundred years or so, people will still value creations of either the last two or three centuries (Matt’s line in the sand – I think we might slip in Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, the Impressionists, if no others) or since the start of the Great War (your No-Go Zone – surely you are forgetting Animal House). I also suspect that Matt, and probably you, would be very alarmed over any major shifts in theological thinking or theories, so I hardly think it fair for either of you to fault modernity for not having come up with anything radically new post-Nicaea (my off-the-cuff candidates would be Mormonism, Baha’i and Scientology, one just outside your line of demarcation, one teetering on the fence and the last one well within it).

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    1. I think the point of Matthew’s assertion is the significance of the accomplishment, not just the quantity.

      Think about what Isaac Newton did, for example. He discovered the fundamental laws of motion, and he invented Calculus. What we are doing is primarily making advances in applied science, not pure science. Moreover, we hardly know what to do with our inventions. Nuclear technology scares us. Fossil fuel technologies scare us for different reasons. The social structure of our society is fragmenting. Even iphones distract us from each other. So each of us is becoming a little island unto our self.

      Instead of helping to give us peace, our accomplishments, such as they are, are doing the opposite. We just don’t seem to have the wisdom to make use of the knowledge we have obtained. Hence, we have less reason to seek knowledge.

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  6. I acknowledge (as anyone must) there are, at times in human history, individuals and ideas that are quantitatively and qualitatively enormous leaps forward from the baseline general increase in knowledge. Your example of Newton (and Matthew’s of Galileo) are good examples, as are Darwin and Einstein. As for humanity’s lack of wisdom in applying knowledge constructively, my guess is that has been a constant over human history, and is not something confined to the present time.

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    1. As for humanity’s lack of wisdom in applying knowledge constructively, my guess is that has been a constant over human history, and is not something confined to the present time.

      The revolution Europeans experienced in science and technology during The Renaissance flouted any historical norm. That’s why we call it The Renaissance. Because our lives are short, we tend to see constant progress in science and technology as normal, but the Roman Empire, for example, existed for centuries with few changes in technology. An Chinese civilization? Egyptian?

      Many theories exist to explain the Renaissance, but I personally think Protestant Reformation and Enlightenment and the application of a simple invention, the printing press, catalyzed the Renaissance; these things turned that period into something far more significant than otherwise would have been the case.

      Invention and innovation are social activities. Without a supportive social structure, significant technical invention and innovation will not take place, and such a structure did not exist prior to the Renaissance. Hence, when religious giants Martin Luther, John Calvin, Huldrych Zwingli fought for their religious beliefs, they had no notion they would eventually kick off an industrial revolution. When religious reformers such John Wesley fought for freedom of conscience, an end to slavery and public literacy, he and his cohorts might have anticipated the spread of the ideas of Adam Smith, Thomas Paine, and John Locke, an examination the nature of society itself. What are each man’s natural rights? Yet it is doubtful those men realized they were promoting a wave technical invention and innovation.

      Progress does not occur in a vacuum. We the People decide what it is we call progress, and we damn or praise the tinkers accordingly. Thus, we have experienced for a time a period when men felt encouraged to take a risk and tinker.

      Tinkers consider how work and play has been done for generations. They experiment and propose changes, and sometimes those changes proliferate. Any yet there is no guarantee and little reason to believe we will always encourage tinkers to tinker. In truth, we really don’t like change.

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      1. The Renaissance and Enlightenment came about by killing metaphysics.

        This death by a million cuts came about by changing the method used to investigate how reality actually worked. Galileo – the giant upon whose shoulders Newton claims to have stood – removed its cornerstone – the idea that things had ‘natures’ that caused effect upon reality – and used evidence from reality to inform claims made about it. This was the birth of the scientific revolution and it was to challenge religious authority directly and fracture it into thousands of pieces.

        Of course, it didn’t hurt his reputation to know ahead of all others which ships were about to arrive in port… thus demonstrating the economic benefit to befall those who dared to use products from this method. It didn’t hurt his reputation to vastly improve the accuracy for artillery by understanding how trajectories actually worked. It didn’t hurt clock making and time pieces essential for navigation to better refine how pendulums were actually affected by a rotating earth. Each of these cuts to the metaphysical nonsense that produced a millennium of widespread ignorance and stupidity about how reality worked contrary to and incompatible with the products Galileo effectively used demonstrated that this new method might have unlimited potential for creating all kinds of applications, therapies, and technologies that would from that point on hammer home the coffin nails into realty-immune metaphysics.

        But because religion relied on this methodological nonsense for its claims to temporal authority and supposed knowledge about how reality worked, we still have to this day the heavy reliance on metaphysics for religious thought. That’s why religious thought today is fundamentally anti-enlightenment, anti-scientific thinking that yields to knowledge only grudgingly while continuing to tilt at windmills and claiming to do this necessary battle on behalf of all.

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