Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Western Heritage of Faith and Reason

That was the title of a textbook my wife used in college, back when dinosaurs ruled the Earth.  By that, it referred to the fact that Western Civilization was based on both the Judeo-Christian tradition of faith, and the Greek tradition of reason and logic.  It has been apparent for some time that the faith half of the heritage is vast vanishing, but now it appears that the scientific part of Western Civ is going away, too.  From February 15, 2014 Telegraph:
One in four Americans are completely unfamiliar with Nicolaus Copernicus's 1543 theory that the Earth circles the Sun, according to a study by the National Science Foundation.
The survey, released on Friday at an annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, asked 2,200 people nine factual questions about physical and biological science, with the average score being just 5.8 correct answers.
Now, I understand why the questions about evolution and the Big Bang gave answers the NSF found abhorrent -- because the faith half of Western Civilization is not completely dead.  But some of the other answers make me wonder what's left of the scientific tradition:
A total of 42 per cent of Americans said that astrology is either "very scientific" or "sort of scientific".

Belief in astrology over science seems to be growing. In 2004, 66 per cent of Americans thought astrology was nonsense. "Fewer Americans rejected astrology in 2012 than in recent years," the 2014 Science and Engineering Indicators report said.

"The comparable percentage has not been this low since 1983."
I am beginning to think that Mad Max world could be here in another thirty or forty years, as Christianity dies, the secular-scientific tradition fades away, and Islam becomes the dominant religion.


  1. Given the state of public education, it is possible a not insignificant chunk of those surveyed simply confused "astrology" for "astronomy."

  2. Whenever the discussion turns to faith and reason, or faith vs reason, I think of a short story by G.K. Chesterton in the Father Brown Mysteries series. I forget the name of the story but it involves Father Brown meeting the "master criminal" Flammonde, who is attempting to elude capture by disguising himself as a priest. After a brief theological discussion, Father Brown is able to identify him as the criminal, saying later, "I knew you were an imposter when you criticized reason."