Steve Sekula, a teacher, writes of The compulsion to tell tales of faith in his blog, The Adventures of My Pet Hamster:
This semester, I am teaching a course designed to educate students about critical thinking and the scientific method. There is an inherent risk in teaching this course. It deals with some difficult scientific questions about matters of spirituality or faith. For instance, what can be said of the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin? Are all psychics actually possessive of supernatural power, or are there more natural explanations for their abilities (such as cold reading or other forms of deceit)? Are faith healers, a kind of psychic or medium, actually performing miracles? (emphasis mine)
How do you avoid poisoning the well with paragraphs like this? This is a good article dealing with a tough problem.
Why do I mentioned all of this? When you confront students with the fraud – essentially, when you pull back the curtain and reveal the man who is behind the Great and Powerful Oz – they have many kinds of reactions. Some feel that their skepticism in the supernatural is confirmed by seeing how the fraud is committed. Others find this to be a challenge to their faith, a walk into uncomfortable territory that we as professors should not be allowed to take.
I hope when he discusses the shroud that he is open to possibilities.
Personally I think we all might have benefited from a semester or two in the Philosophy Dept, taking some lessons in Logic and Critical Thinking. If Steve Sekula does his job properly, then it can only be of benefit to his students. The absence of these two disciplines is only too manifest on this site from to time.
Young people no longer seem to be able to think logically, and it all seemed to go downhill when Euclid was dropped from the school syllabus.
Some social commentators, and even scientists seem to blame two French clowns, Jacques Derrida and Michael Foucault with their post-modernist philosophy, which can be summed up succinctly as “There’s no such thing as a truth statement”, essentially a nihilistic approach. Unfortunately their influence has been unduly pervasive throughout much of Western culture.
We saw many “Wizards of Oz” during the 20th c, Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini; Their kind is also only too evident even during these early years of the 21st c, Gadaffi, al-Assad etc, . However it takes a great deal of courage, bravery and heroism to pull aside the curtain and reveal that there’s nothing there at all.
Sekula could be stepping on tricky ground with the Shroud, but maybe the important thing here is that he covers the ground and evidence comprehensively. It is probably not the sort of topic that can lead to a definitive conclusion, but may demonstrate the distinction between definite knowledge and a reasonable belief. We can only ask for fairness of treatment.
Comments are closed.