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winter shaker

Alan Jacobs - What Became of the Christian Intellectuals?

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On 02/09/2016 at 11:14 AM, Attica said:

The have fellows like William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland, both of who were recently considered two of the most influential modern philosophers.  One of those philosophers, Thomas Nagel, has defended the Discovery Institute as being unfairly marginalized in his book Mind and Cosmos.

J.P. Moreland over Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff? All right...I mean, that list seems quite diverse and is impressive in that way, but I would've thought Plantinga and Wolterstorff had more influence. Plantinga, of course, has been featured on the news...

 

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Attica wrote:
: If you don't agree with everything all of these guys are saying, that's fine, but it strikes me as kind of unfair to say that they aren't intellectuals in light of what is going on . . .

C.S. Lewis was not an ancient historian, ergo, he was speaking outside of his area of expertise when he commented on questions of ancient history -- and it showed.

How many of these guys are actual biologists? I know the ID movement has its share of mathematicians, lawyers, philosophers, astronomers and so on, but how many of them actually know biology? Even Michael Behe, a *biochemist*, isn't necessarily as learned in the field of evolutionary science as you might think.

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Attica   

 

On 9/3/2016 at 4:12 PM, Peter T Chattaway said:

How many of these guys are actual biologists? I know the ID movement has its share of mathematicians, lawyers, philosophers, astronomers and so on, but how many of them actually know biology? Even Michael Behe, a *biochemist*, isn't necessarily as learned in the field of evolutionary science as you might think.

Well, first off, I've kind of shown that we can't limit the Discovery Institute to the ID movement.  I was talking about the Discovery Institute in general and not just about the ID movement which is a subset of it, and there are also scientists speaking about fields outside of biology  It is the most known aspect of the Discovery Institute, and probably the central aspect of it, but it is not the only aspect of it.

So in regards to "public intellectuals" the Discovery Institute should not be bound to just biology.

-

So far as actual biologists.   There's also Paul Chien.

 

Here are some from their Biologic Institute.

 

I had already mentioned Ann Gauger.  -  She received a BS in biology from MIT, and a PhD in developmental biology from the University of Washington, where she studied cell adhesion molecules involved in Drosophila embryogenesis. As a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard she cloned and characterized the Drosophila kinesin light chain. Her research has been published in NatureDevelopment, and the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

 

Then there is Richard Sternberg - With expertise in evolutionary biology and bioinformatics, he studies the organization of genomic information and how it relates to organismal form. Holding PhDs in molecular evolution and in systems science, he has been a staff scientist at the National Center for Biotechnology Information and a Research Associate at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, where he served as editor of theProceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. More information is available at his website: http://www.richardsternberg.org/.

 

Jonathan Wells

is a cell and developmental biologist with a PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology from UC Berkeley.

 

 

Lisanne Winslow

is a professor of biology at Northwestern College. Her research focuses on the cellular biology of sea urchin immune cells. She received her BS, MS, and PhD from Rutgers University.

 

Mariclair Reeves

is a research scientist at Biologic Institute. Her research uses molecular cloning and genetic mutation to test the evolutionary feasibility of recruiting enzymes to new functions. She holds a BS in Animal Science from the University of Delaware and a PhD in cell and molecular biology from the University of Hawaii Mānoa in Honolulu. 

 

-

 

They are also connected to ID people from around the world, such as this group in Brazil.   If you scroll through the list you'll find at least ten biologists (I didn't take the time to count out every one).

Then they are connected to biologists such as Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig     CurriculumVitae here.

 

Then there are a variety of others who speak on their evolution news and views page from time to time.

 

-

 

And again, look through the list of people and their credentials over at the Third Way of Evolution Website.  There are biologists there whom are in agreement with the ID people that Darwinism is a bust, even if they aren't in agreement (or quite in agreement) as to what the solution, or new way forward, is.

Also, the ID movement isn't just built on biology, it also includes Information Theory etc, and there have been books published in these regards.

 

They also have several people trained in Philosophy of Science, and are connected to Evolutionary Biologists/Paleontologists such as J.Y Chen who take issue with the Darwinian view of evolution (see here at the 4:20 mark  ).  

 

Chen Jun-Yuan  - (born 1939.11) is an evolutionary biologist at the University of Nanjing and a Paleontologist at Nanjing Institute of Paleontology and Geology of Chinese Academy of Sciences. As a graduate of Northwest University, he was educated as a petroleum geologist (1956.09-1960.09), and then held appointment at Nanjing Inst. of Geology & Paleontology, Chinese Academy of Sciences since 1960. He also hold appointment of many oversea guest senior scholarships including at Univ. of Rochester, NY (1981.05-1982.10); at Royal Ontario Museum, Canada (1982.10-1993.05) ; at Univ. of Stockholm, Sweden (1988.08-1989.07); and at California Institute of California .

He is best known for his work in Cambrian Cephalopods and Early Animals (especially Early Cambrian Chengjiang fossil fauna and Early Ediacaran Weng’an fauna).  He currently has devoted a major part of his professional career to developing novel understanding in evolutionary origins of vertebrates and arthropods.

 

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Attica   
On 9/3/2016 at 1:31 PM, winter shaker said:

that list seems quite diverse and is impressive in that way, but I would've thought Plantinga and Wolterstorff had more influence.

I think Plantinga would have definitely had more influence overall.  He was an influence on many current Christian philosophers to follow that craft, and is held as one of the fathers of the recent resurgence of Christian philosophy.  I would think that the others are on a current list simply because they have published widely regarded books of late.

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On 8/31/2016 at 5:08 PM, Attica said:

There are Christian intellectuals today.  There's actually been an increase of Christians involved with philosophy and teaching it in the universities since Lewis' time, and this probably at least partially influenced by the likes of Plantiga. Coming from this are renowned Protestant philosophers/scholars/apologists like Alvin Plantiga, J.P Moreland, William Lane Craig, Nancy Pearcy etc ...

It don't think the problem is the lack of Christian intellectuals, there are arguably more than there have ever been, and from what I can tell there are Christians who are reading them.  I think the problem is that we are living in a society that has, in general, fallen farther away from Christ than in C.S. Lewis' time and is just simply often more inclined to mock or ignore these thinkers than to consider what they are saying.

While I understand the urge to ask "what about so-and-so?," this is partly missing the point that Jacobs was trying to make.  It's not an insult to deny that the Discovery Institute/Intelligent Design/Christian Apologist crowd are not "public intellectuals" as Jacobs defines the term.  It's just that Jacobs is focused on a more specific role that public intellectuals used to fill - that of being able to interpret our underlying cultural assumptions to a wide audience.  When Jacobs didn't include Martin Luther King, Jr. in his list, for example, it was not because he thought that King was not "intellectual."  Rather, it was because King served in more of an activist role and was not preoccupied in the kind of interpretative role that a "public intellectual" would fill.

While I would not deny that the Discovery Institute folks are perfectly willing to "interpret" culture, they are not attempting to do so from the position that Reinhold Niebuhr was able to.  In deciding to fight the creation/evolution battle, or more generally to fight against "secular humanism", they have taken on activist roles - resulting in controversy, culture war battles over state legislation and the politicized debates.  By going the culture war route, they have intentionally limited themselves.  This is not necessarily bad, but it rules out the ability to speak to a much broader audience.

To formulate the problem as being that our society has fallen farther away from Christ is ... well, for certain purposes outside the pulpit, not productive.  The argument that we need a more "Christian" society is perhaps an argument for the preacher, the culture warrior, the social justice warrior or for certain types of Christian apologists.  But the culture war battles over evolution and materialism have just not helped us, and a vast majority of those currently in the church have grown tired of listening to them.

I've been in more kinds of churches in more parts of the country than I ever should have been, and, as one who actually enjoys reading Alvin Plantinga and J.P. Moreland, I can say that almost no one is reading them.  Someone like Plantinga has nowhere near the kind of voice and audience that Lewis or Niebuhr did.  Additionally, even though I may find it interesting, a Richard Dawkins/John Lennox debate on "Has science buried God?" is not filling the public intellectual vacuum that Jacobs is pointing out.  And, such a debate today receives far less attention than the Clarence Darrow/William Jennings Bryant debates of almost a century ago received.  Existence of God or creation/evolution debates still have their place, but they are also something of a niche.

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NBooth   
2 hours ago, J.A.A. Purves said:

 Existence of God or creation/evolution debates still have their place, but they are also something of a niche.

This. I'm not one to go on "kids these day" rants--actually, I went on a mild sort of anti-"kids these days" rant today--but the truth is that fundamental existential questions--beyond the (illusory) debate over evolution or the (existentially necessary) debate over God (however one defines "God")--aren't really gripping the public in the way they did even thirty years ago (think The Day After--can you imagine that tv movie being made in this environment?). Part of me is still inclined to put these sorts of complaints down to nostalgia, but another part really wonders why fundamental existential threats don't engage the public more. I mean, the threat of total nuclear annihilation got people talking about Big Questions, but the corresponding existential threat posed by the degradation of our environment doesn't raise more than a shrug. A look at the pop culture should bear this out: compare the number of post-nuclear-war movies to the number of post-global-warming movies. 

It could be that, with the end of the Cold War, we've grown tired of existential dread. OTOH, Jacobs puts the decline of Christian Intellectuals as occurring far before that point, at around the end of WWII and the Cold War consensus stateside. 

I do think that the division between Public Intellectual and Activist is a false one, though. RN was hardly a detached intellectual--he and Tillich founded a political organization between the Wars and he was himself an ardent Cold Warrior. The weakness here is that "providing an interpretation of the world" is somehow seen as different from activism/political action. Which, y'know, it isn't because the "detachment" of RN et al only seems to be detached from this perspective. I somehow doubt that the man who wrote The Irony of American History saw himself as "detached."

Moreover, it's a problem that "detachment" is always attached to male-ness and white-ness. If a black RN had written The Irony of American History, I doubt he would be seen as "detached." Then again, a black RN wouldn't have the luxury of being detached.

EDIT: Looking over Jacobs' post--which, I swear, I did read, as my unconscious replication of the word "luxury" probably indicates--I see that he makes the same point:

Quote

 Boston’s critique causes me to reflect more on a point that probably should have made its way into the essay: Not everyone has the luxury of being an intellectual as I define it. “Detachment” is a kind of privilege. Perhaps in a different and less grossly unjust world Dr. King — and for that matter Dorothy Day, who is a similar figure in these respects — could have devoted a whole career to the “special task” of providing “an interpretation of the world.” But that wasn’t an option for him. Being a Christian intellectual, then, is a pretty cushy job, and I needed to be reminded of that.

So there's that.

Edited by NBooth

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NBooth wrote:
: Part of me is still inclined to put these sorts of complaints down to nostalgia, but another part really wonders why fundamental existential threats don't engage the public more. I mean, the threat of total nuclear annihilation got people talking about Big Questions, but the corresponding existential threat posed by the degradation of our environment doesn't raise more than a shrug. A look at the pop culture should bear this out: compare the number of post-nuclear-war movies to the number of post-global-warming movies. 

I vaguely recall that environmental threats were a major factor in Cold War pop culture, too, sometimes due to radioactive poisoning from nuclear tests, and sometimes not (e.g. the overpopulation theme in Soylent Green). The hole in the ozone layer got a lot of press in the '80s, and inspired this bit from RoboCop 2:

 

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NBooth   
2 minutes ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

NBooth wrote:
: Part of me is still inclined to put these sorts of complaints down to nostalgia, but another part really wonders why fundamental existential threats don't engage the public more. I mean, the threat of total nuclear annihilation got people talking about Big Questions, but the corresponding existential threat posed by the degradation of our environment doesn't raise more than a shrug. A look at the pop culture should bear this out: compare the number of post-nuclear-war movies to the number of post-global-warming movies. 

I vaguely recall that environmental threats were a major factor in Cold War pop culture, too, sometimes due to radioactive poisoning from nuclear tests, and sometimes not (e.g. the overpopulation theme in Soylent Green). The hole in the ozone layer got a lot of press in the '80s, and inspired this bit from RoboCop 2:

 

Now, that's interesting. My own area of--let's say study instead of expertise--is significantly prior to the 'Eighties, so I hadn't thought to look into that. So, then, the question gets put into another sort of frame: why does environmental degradation, which did get significant airtime a scant thirty years ago, receive so little attention now? Is it, perhaps, a variety of "empathy weariness"--that is, have people, millennial and not, just gotten tired of caring? Because that would speak to the problem of where the public intellectual, Christian and non-, is today.

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jfutral   
2 hours ago, J.A.A. Purves said:

But the culture war battles over [fill in the blank] have just not helped us, and a vast majority of those currently in the church have grown tired of listening to them.

This certainly drove me from church.

Joe

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NBooth   
2 minutes ago, jfutral said:

This certainly drove me from church.

Joe

I've not quite been driven from church, exactly, but I'm certainly much less enthusiastic about being associated with Christian Intellectuals [tm] because of these sorts of debates. It might be why I've started describing myself as a "generic Christian."

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Attica   
11 hours ago, J.A.A. Purves said:

While I would not deny that the Discovery Institute folks are perfectly willing to "interpret" culture, they are not attempting to do so from the position that Reinhold Niebuhr was able to.  In deciding to fight the creation/evolution battle, or more generally to fight against "secular humanism", they have taken on activist roles - resulting in controversy, culture war battles over state legislation and the politicized debates.  By going the culture war route, they have intentionally limited themselves.  This is not necessarily bad, but it rules out the ability to speak to a much broader audience.

Okay, I can live with that.

 

11 hours ago, J.A.A. Purves said:

To formulate the problem as being that our society has fallen farther away from Christ is ... well, for certain purposes outside the pulpit, not productive.

Yes, I completely agree that with at least certain people outside of the pulpit it isn't productive.  Some people are also too *far* to really even comprehend the argument I would be making.  I had written that here with the understanding that many, or most, at Artsandfaith could be considered to be at least somewhere "within the pulpit".

 I still do think it's noteworthy.  Some people are not interested in what Christians have to say and feel that it has little answers for the culture.  In C.S. Lewis' time, people who were not Christians would be more likely to listen to a Christian voice.  IMO.  

 

11 hours ago, J.A.A. Purves said:

But the culture war battles over evolution and materialism have just not helped us, and a vast majority of those currently in the church have grown tired of listening to them.

 

Yeah, to much of an emphasis on these with a neglect of probably more important aspects of the Christian life have not helped us.  I agree on that.  I still think that the dialogue is important.

I run in some online groups (which include several philosophers) where this kind of thing is often being discussed (and it usually starts with someone slinging mud at the "stupid scientifically illiterate Theists").  I used to respond to the mudslinging and point a few things out to them, but in the last year or so I've been trying not to get involved, unless someone calls me into it.  It's terribly frustrating and a guy can feel like he's rehashing the same old problems and issues, questions and answers, just with another person (or even worse sometimes with the same person who has conveniently forgotten what has been said before).  Round and around it goes.

So I can certainly understand why the majority of people in the church have grown tired of listening to them.  

But I still want to defend the Discovery Institute for what they are doing.  If I find it all frustrating, I can only imaging how it must feel to them.  They also get beaten up quite a bit by people who obviously don't really understand what they are saying.

 

11 hours ago, J.A.A. Purves said:

I've been in more kinds of churches in more parts of the country than I ever should have been, and, as one who actually enjoys reading Alvin Plantinga and J.P. Moreland, I can say that almost no one is reading them.  Someone like Plantinga has nowhere near the kind of voice and audience that Lewis or Niebuhr did.  

Yes most people are not interested in the more heavy type of philosophy that one would find in Plantinga or Moreland.  I get that.  Some of the people I interact with just wouldn't find books like those from C.S. Lewis as sufficient arguments for the faith.  That's not to diss Lewis of course.  The fact that he reached out to such a broad number was almost certainly because he had an accessibility that those others don't have.  But it's always been that way, the general person has a limited interest in truly deep philosophical works.  To be honest I find the ideas of philosophy interesting, but can get bored with the nit pickiness of it all.  I mean sometimes it can get REALLY nit picky.

FWIW.  I found this to be an excellent recent philosophical work, looking at the various philosophical arguments for God, their strengths and weaknesses, and then pointing out an underlying truth that they all rely on.

I think it shows that the debate can help us grow in theological reflection.

 

11 hours ago, J.A.A. Purves said:

Existence of God or creation/evolution debates still have their place, but they are also something of a niche.

I guess I've had the poor fortune to have fallen within that niche in the last couple of years.  I would much rather be reading novels and watching film, and have been trying to move away from those debates, as touched on above.

One of the reasons why I know a little bit about the Discovery Institute is because they are one of the main groups to come up in these kinds of debates, and they have stuff which *does* strongly challenge certain people, and which they *haven't* been able to properly respond to.  Hence one of the reasons I thought they should be included as public intellectuals.

 

10 hours ago, NBooth said:

I do think that the division between Public Intellectual and Activist is a false one,

In a strict sense, yes.  But I can see his point.

 

 

Edited by Attica

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jfutral   
12 hours ago, NBooth said:

I've not quite been driven from church, exactly, but I'm certainly much less enthusiastic about being associated with Christian Intellectuals [tm] because of these sorts of debates. It might be why I've started describing myself as a "generic Christian."

Not to drift off topic, or at least not too far, I was drawn to, at one time, and am sympathetic to Mako's Culture Care movement. But even with this I find a certain exclusiveness in the approach. The voices seem to have to be particular voices with a particular bent, almost click-ish. I can't put my finger on it.

With regard to arts advocacy and culture, and maybe to the point of this discussion, I don't think the Church realizes how much we are influenced by culture at large, no matter how much we try to espouse "in the world, but not of it". Maybe both the Church and the non-Church are tired of the debates. I tried to read Nancy Pearcy's book, _Saving Leonardo_. So many presuppositions in a book denouncing contemporary presuppositions. Never once asked, much less answered, _why_ the shift from Christian presuppositions or even whether those presuppositions _should_ have been abandoned.

Joe

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Attica   
10 hours ago, jfutral said:

I don't think the Church realizes how much we are influenced by culture at large, no matter how much we try to espouse "in the world, but not of it". Maybe both the Church and the non-Church are tired of the debates.

Our interaction with "the world" really is a tricky thing.  I happen to think that some things in the world and secular culture can be of benefit and can speak to us, and even correct us, but other things.... not so much.  I've always been a big advocate of engaging culture with intentional discernment, but it seems that some people have more of an ability to be discerning than others.  I can also see why, at least a times, some would want to quit worrying about discerning things all of the time, to just give it a rest.

To be honest, last night when I read through the thread I was a little baffled with the idea of being driven out of the church because of the cultural wars.  This just hasn't been my experience.  I mean I've been plenty annoyed by the lack of understanding often found in regards to the arts, but I think that is a slightly different thing (although this lack of understanding could have roots in the cultural wars).  Then upon further reflection I came to thinking that what is going on is probably coming from a difference between the American church and the Canadian church, where the "cultural wars" don't seem to be as prominent or intense.  Over the years I just haven't heard as much of a squabble about these things.  Maybe Peter or other Canadians here are more aware of something that I may have missed????

Edited by Attica

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jfutral   
3 hours ago, Attica said:

 I happen to think that some things in the world and secular culture can be of benefit and can speak to us, and even correct us, but other things.... not so much.

Don't get me wrong. I don't actually think the influence is, in and of itself, bad or wrong. It is just largely unrecognized or denied, whether it is a Benthamite view of art (music in particular) or even just a poor understanding of art and culture overall. The problems of art in the Church are pretty much the same problems outside the Church. And, ironically, a lot of the problems the Church has outside the Church are the same problems of art, or at lest philosophically.

Joe

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Attica wrote:
: Then upon further reflection I came to thinking that what is going on is probably coming from a difference between the American church and the Canadian church, where the "cultural wars" don't seem to be as prominent or intense.  Over the years I just haven't heard as much of a squabble about these things.  Maybe Peter or other Canadians here are more aware of something that I may have missed????

It's certainly different here, partly because the binary political system in the U.S. has led social conservatives to identify with the Republicans no matter what, whereas we have *three* national parties in Canada (and five parties in Parliament, including the Greens and the Bloc Quebecois), and until very recently it was possible for social conservatives to identify with two of those parties (though Justin Trudeau is doing everything he can to purge his party of socons now). So the energy has been somewhat diffused here.

There is also the fact that Canada has had a much more pronounced Catholic presence historically, thanks to Quebec, so we have been less prone to assuming religious uniformity across the board the way that certain Protestants in America might have been. (And this lack of uniformity was only reinforced by the rapid secularization of Quebec half a century ago. Indeed, for Canada one of the largest questions of the '70s, '80s and '90s was whether Quebec would even stay in the country; "culture war" questions just didn't enter into that, even though Quebec was in many ways leading the way in the liberalization and secularization of the country.)

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