Monday, October 03, 2005

Stepping on egg shells

I've talked here and here about how God has been handled in my philosophy class. Today, I got definite evidence past treatment was a matter of not offending anyone: he said he doesn't think the arguments for God we'll be looking at are convinging, though he quickly added they might be fixed, or there might be other arguments, or their might be reasons that don't fall under what he called "natural theism" (rational proof of God). He specifically said, "I don't want to cause any personal crisis."

Such a practice of stepping on egg shells is weird. Sure, it makes sense to point out that we don't have the time to cover every angle of the issue. The subtext, though, is that students can't take a serious evaluation of their religious beliefs. This is not a general fear of taking a stand. Friday, he wrapped up our epistemology unit by declaring foundationalism a failure. When I sat in on one of his classes when I was a prospective student, he had boldly written on the board, "If determinism, no free will, if indeterminism, no free will, therefore, no free will." (His lecture consisted of looking at ways around this problem, I don't know what he concluded at the end of the unit.)

You know what? He's right, at least in the case of some students. If not for his repeated insistence that he doesn't want to cause any personal crisis or convince anyone God doesn't exist, he might end up with a complaint about indoctrination by an "atheist wacko" (to quote the basis for one complaint posted on line).

A better introduction to this unit would be, "We are going to be looking at some arguments for the existence of God. These two aren't the only basis people have for believing in God, but they do come up in modern discussions of religion, and it's important to be able to evaluate such claims. Also, I do hope this motivates you to look at other reasons people have for believing."

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