Sunday, August 30, 2009

Philosophies of men

Not infrequently at church, the "philosophies of men" I think get a bad rap. I can't count how many times I've heard someone say we will be led astray by the philosophies of men, either implying or directly connecting the philosophies of men with science. Which is a little hard to take, especially as a scientist.

The scientific method--the trying to disprove theories instead of proving them--is really an attempt to avoid succumbing to the philosophies of men. Not that it always works, but that requirement, that we ask what would prove a theory wrong, not what would prove it right, is the antithesis of the way most human philosophies are formed. People are not naturally critical of their beliefs (which is why even the scientific method doesn't always prevent acceptance of theories that are later proven incorrect).

Religion encourages faith, the belief in things that are not seen, but are real, but also un-provable. It's rather difficult to prove, or even disprove, something that can't be tested (like faith, religion, God), which means, whether you like it or not, faith leaves you far more open to blind acceptance of what turn out to be philosophies of men than a more critical mindset would. Probably because I'm a scientist and, I suspect, possess a viewpoint more characteristic of an outsider than an insider, but I hear a fair amount preached over the pulpit that sounds like a philosophy of men--like something that depends strongly on the culture or background or age or gender of the one doing the preaching.

Which leaves a predicament: I know there is good in religion, and not just in my own, but in all religion focused on improving the individual and the community in which it acts. How does one critically decide which beliefs, philosophies, and paradigms are truly eternal in nature? I do believe eternal truths exist, and I believe my particular religion is privy to many that are cast aside by others, but I don't really know that. I don't really know what I'm taught, and what I'm teaching my child are really things of God, or if they're just a set of successful memes that somehow produce some reproductive or cultural advantage.

But I suppose that is the point of faith.

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