The Fifth Voice

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #1

Originally published at:

Where does Peaceful Science sit in the current moment? What is our model? We considered the eclectic range of things we are doing, wondering what it means to “seek peace.” That is not quite it. There is something more coherent growing here. Something larger than the pieces of the whole. Let us start by building up some common…

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #2

So this is how things shaped up as I contemplated The @Swamidass Model. What is “seeking peace”? I’ve been wondering for a while, what are The Next Step for Peaceful Science?

There is in the blog post that goes beyond this. For example, following on from a conversation with @Revealed_Cosmology about the meaning of Evangelicalism, and with a student today about post-evangelicalism (see The Five Bands in the American Church). It ties into larger questions about who we are and were we are going.

I’m curious your thoughts. I do not know for sure what the future holds. The summary snippet for the post seemed salient:

Are we the fifth view or a new way forward? Whatever the case, pull up a chair. Without all the answers, we a really curious about your questions.

(Guy Coe) #3

Like science, theology proceeds best on the basis of really, really good questions, whether we know there are answers yet articulated for them, or not. The difference is, in theology, we view what’s “novel” with inherent suspicion, figuring that with such a long history, the rocks have already all been turned, and nothing truly novel has yet to be discovered… while again and again, that proves to be false. While in science we have learned to investigate the novel, and are more inclined towards it, with a view towards building better and better models. It’s our interpretations which can be colored in ways that lead us to too early adoptions of the novel, or of a model arising therefrom, just as much as too late. We’re about trying to sort out the science AND the theology here, with the expectation that they will cohere to some reasonable degree.

(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #4

I think that the depth and range of science discussions here are better than the others. The science is discussed as science and then the theological implications are discussed, not the other way around as on other sites, For example, I am learning a lot from the Alice’s Biblical Anthropology. I think this site is getting to be a place for discussions that is more open and more scientific than most on any social issue or scientific findings.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #5

High praise @Patrick thanks. I am still hoping you’ll write a post for me about why, as an Atheist, you are part of our community. Sit down sometime soon and pull something together.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #6

3 posts were split to a new topic: Atheist Goes Native

(Mark M Moore) #9

What Peaceful Science is becoming in practice, especially as we welcome unbelievers, is sort of neo-Aeropagus as described in Acts 17:21 " Now all the Athenians and foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing more than hearing and articulating new ideas."

As a side note, all I need is an annuity to feed my family and I could pursue those better angels. In the mean time I am out cutting deals. I can’t figure out how the Athenians got away with it, but I want the details!

For the Christian side, it is sort of like a “Think-tank” for discussing the interactions, and the limits of interactions, between Natural Science and Theology. Discoveries from the natural universe have invalidated some ideas about what scripture is saying, and we are exploring what scripture might actually be saying there. In other cases we are pointing out that there are limits to what science can say about the claims of scripture, and vice versa. I don’t like the language against advocacy, one because I advocate and #2 because its not true. We are advocating for honest boundaries. We are advocating for civil and even charitable treatment of persons who hold ideas we disagree with even while we scrutinize, test and even criticize those ideas closely. We advocate going the exact opposite direction that our political culture as gone where the other brand is the “enemy” and one never has to address the substance of their arguments because there are few to none- its all devolved into personal acrimony.

So we are in fact advocating for something around here and we should come right out and say so IMHO. We are advocating for the honest discourse of scientific and theological ideas. We may each have our own thoughts on what those are. A population outside the garden is a big one around here for example, but what seems most important is that the evidence, from both scripture and the natural universe, is discussed openly and honestly with a distinction between the idea we disagree with and the person holding it.

When you write the things you write against “advocacy” I think you are talking about professionals who make a living to promote a certain view who are unwilling to address the contrary evidence in an honest way yet go right on advocating. I think you are talking about the person Upton Sinclair was talking about when he said “it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” Am I far off?

Now my better half got a few minutes away from the little monsters to read your article. She had a lot to say about how your categories could use some changes. The Emergent Church for example is the farthest from “Mainline” yet your description of mainline fits them well.

She lets me have it worse. For example she insists that I am no fundamentalist even though I see myself as a neo-fundamentalist. She says that in America fundamentalism was basically populism disguised as religion. That they didn’t really have a high view of scripture so much as they were in the business of using a distortion of it to confirm their own cultural biases. Part of that was a rejection of experts and that the “common man” could understand the scriptures without the help of ecclesiastical experts and that the plainest reading was all God was trying to say.

I share their distrust of experts, as you may have noticed, but think they took the “plain reading” thing way too far, and used it as an excuse to avoid the hard work of digging into the text and really finding out what it says- because you love it. They want to believe it’s “simple” because it let’s them off the hook of having to love it like that, and they will do a lot of other work to avoid coming to the conclusion that they have to do that work. The scripture itself says that some things are hard to understand.

“Unity” is a terrible goal IMHO. All my life people who have stressed “unity” have tended to suppress truth in order to try and preserve it. And all my life I have been fleeing those places and going to the next, hoping to find one where the “unity” is not in conformity of thought, but in dedication to pursuing truth and unity of goodwill towards others who are honestly seeking it.

I have to get back to work, but I did want you to get another idea of what you think you have here, and how it may differ from what you think you have and how it is the same as what you think you have, which I see as a very good thing.

(Retired Professor & Minister.) #10

Add the Dunning-Kruger Effect, and it can be a very difficult reality to overcome.

I’ve somehow never before come upon that excellent Upton Sinclair quotation.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #11

Really helpful everyone, especially @jongarvey and @Revealed_Cosmology. I’m gonna be rewriting this post.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #12

So I condensed it down, and removed the band imagery. I think the key message is pretty easy to follow now.

(Brad Cooper) #13

Hi @swamidass. Just to clarify, you say this this article that there are four main voices, but then list six of them?

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #14

I will be revising that article soon.

The four voices are YEC, OEC, TE, and ID. The main organizations associated with these voices are Answers in Genesis, Reasons to Believe, BioLogos and Discovery.

(Guy Coe) #15

It actually might be more accurate to say The Center for Science and Culture, which is a sub-branch of the Discovery Institute. The distinction is relevant in pointing out that, although all kinds of transportation and other advocacy work goes on there at the larger DI effort, ID itself is, by contrast, an advocacy based more on the public perception of its blogs and events. Yes, behind the scenes academic freedom and other work proceeds, but an awful lot of it is media-based, with research work proceeding quietly in the background. My two cents.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #16

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #17

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #18

After much contemplation I decided to take the main post down. The label I used created a great deal of controversy, more than I expected. The issues I’m dealing with here are real, but we cannot yet agree on terminology. For now, I want steer clear of the controversy with this organization. Let us see how things develop.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #19

Some have noted that I withdrew the original post on the blog. I explained this here:

For example, I created an unintentional mess last week with a blog post here. In attempt to publicly workout who we are at Peaceful Science, I proposed the term “post-evangelical” in reference to another organization. Big mistake. Whatever real dynamics I might have referenced, that term was not received well. In the interest of comity, I withdrew the post and am genuinely sorry for the conflict it stirred up. I am still looking for a good term to describe the differences in our approach, but that was clearly the wrong way to explain it. I am genuinely sorry for the conflict that stirred up.

I wonder if this sort contentious misunderstanding might be more likely where the line blurs between official and unofficial positions, between settled and unsettled thoughts. Going forward I do hope to be good at retracting this quickly, and clarifying where I have made mistakes, I have done in the past and am doing right here. No matter what, public online communication is going to be an ongoing risk for everyone.

Seeing this risk, some will withdraw from meaningful digital dialogue all together, but that would be a tragedy. Some of the best examples of real progress and dialogue are taking place in online conversations right now. Instead of withdrawing, I hope we can be a community of grace , that will tolerate and forgive missteps in public. Everyone takes a risk when they communicate in public, but it might be the only way we can all move forward in such a fragmented and interdisciplinary context.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #21