Saturday, August 1, 2009

Put Up Your Dukes II

A Poem:

My argument is this: there is no argument.

My speech is this: the words carry too much, they are too heavy to use and must be emptied.

My thought is this: if you look for more than what your neurons put together can give you, you will not find it by putting neurons together.

A Revelation (please see the last entry for part one of this discussion):

I have been studying the book of Proverbs over the last couple of months. In doing so, I have discovered a concept that had not previously sunk in. I think it applies to this discussion (or this boxing match, if you prefer). The concept I think requires exploring some of Proverbs, so please take the time to do this with me, trying to put aside preformed opinions about the book. I would LOVE to have feedback, so send it if you can-treatise or grunt or anywhere in between.

When I think: “Who is a very smart person?” I think of Solomon. So what does he have to say about science, so much that science is in one definition the objective accumulation of knowledge?

First and foremost, Solomon gives us a picture of what he calls “Wisdom.” He personifies the concept of Wisdom, calling Wisdom a woman:

“Does not Wisdom cry, and understanding raise her voice? On the top of high places by the way, Where the paths meet, she stands. “O you simple, understand prudence; and O fools, understand wisdom”

Solomon develops the character of this woman over several chapters. In chapter 9, the woman calls out, calling to the smart, and specifically to the not-so-smart, the “fools”. She is visible to all, not invisible (not some secret-knowledge thing here). But what is it that she says? What does she teach that is so simple that the “fools” can get it?

Actually, the concept is fascinating and provocative. She says things like:
“I, Wisdom, dwell with prudence”
“All the words of my mouth are righteousness.”
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom.”

OK, now wait a minute. Wisdom, understanding, knowledge. I know a few things about these. I have been to a lot of school. I know the scientific method. And this does not sound like that. What is she talking about? Prudence? Righteousness?

The idea is that wisdom actually has more to do with choices than fact accumulation. And the first and most important of these choices is the fear and knowledge of God.
OK, OK, give me a second to continue. I know the faith and God at the beginning of this conversation is hard to swallow. But I cannot see this any other way: Solomon I think is saying this. For many an atheist, the accumulation of knowledge is what makes him “come out of the closet” as Peter said in his response to the last entry. First the tooth fairy, then God, evaporated under the clear light of science. So putting God at the beginning of a conversation about knowledge must seem ridiculous. And for the believer, we tend to think that when discussing with the atheist, we should gather up knowledge and facts and then show the world how they explain and prove our beliefs. We can thereby come to God’s rescue.

But Solomon says that knowing God actually IS knowing. And the problem is not getting the right facts in the right order, but human beings with bad choices.

Knowledge has a moral component. It cannot be gathered completely “objectively,” in a moral vacuum. Before Solomon starts giving specific “proverbs,” he spends several chapters encouraging the reader to get wisdom, and in that way and because of it, avoid the many evil traps that men are susceptible to. Moral traps. Foolish traps. Solomon does not divide the knowledge available and the moral choices. It makes it difficult to really understand what he is saying. For in our “modern” thinking, “cold, hard, facts” have nothing to do with right and wrong. They just are. So we must contemplate this call, and decide. To accept what Solomon says, to understand God, we must be willing to think “outside of the box.”

Wisdom calls: “Listen, for I have worthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right. My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness.”

What is the opposite of truth? In our scientific theorizing, we would say: ignorance, misunderstanding, imprecise measurements. But Solomon says the opposite of truth is wickedness. A moral component to facts. No facts can be gathered in a moral vacuum.

Contemplate these ideas for a moment:

Facts and knowledge have a moral component
Science is the measuring of things
Knowing God IS knowing
The choices we make are what divide wisdom from foolishness, not the amount and number of facts we have accumulated.

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