even when all the experts agree…

EmPulse for Week of March 22, 2010

even when all the experts agree…

Renowned philosopher/logician Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) was born to wealth and position. Grandson of Sir John Russell, former Prime Minister to Queen Victoria, and son of Viscount Amberley, a well-known atheist of the times (who actually consented to his wife’s affair with their children’s tutor, biologist Douglas Spaulding). Russell dedicated his life to the study of philosophy & mathematics (read- “On Denoting”), logic, pacifism, and social action. A true 20th century man.

Yet, despite his awards (Nobel Prize for Literature, 1950) and titles (Third Earl Russell), he was always somewhat of a rogue. The influence of his colleague, Alfred North Whitehead, encouraged his interest in mathematics and logic. In his PRINCIPLES OF MATHEMATICS (co-authored with Whitehead) he laid the foundation for his philosophic approach to what we now call analytic philosophy. He was a particularly prolific writer in the fields of metaphysics, the logic and the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of language, ethics, and epistomology. During World War I he was one of a handful of British intellectuals who considered themselves pacifist activists (for which he was jailed). Yet following WWII, he proposed a preemptive strike on the Soviet Union should tensions escalate between the UK and the USSR. These shifts in convenient life-philosophy were reflected, as well, in his personal life in numerous divorces, affairs, and questionable social mores & habits.

Russell was oft found to be cutting or sarcastic, intentionally oppositional. Yet one of his remarks must be given some regard—  “Even when the experts all agree, they may well be mistaken.” The earth is flat. The earth is the center of the universe. All religions are alike. All men are alike. Evolution is fact: creationism is a myth. The speed of light (c= 299,792,458 meters/second) is a constant. There is no evidence for god (as Russell believed). December 21, 2012 in the Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar (Mayan culture) is the end-date of a 5,125-year-long cycle which will see the end of the world.

We’ve become a people who accept what we are told. To question is to go against the flow of public opinion and risk being labeled different, rebellious, not a team player. To question the powers that BE is to be a trouble-maker, a dissident, an insurrectionist. As a culture, we have arrived at a point where anyone who challenges the status quo is seen as a suspicious person. Are we so afraid of a dissenting voice, a dissimilar perspective, or a personal opinion that we turn a deaf-ear to a reconsideration of our own foundational values and presuppositions about life!?! It has been more than twenty years since Alan Bloom published The Closing of the American Mind, and we seemed to have learned little from his treatise.

Opposition to the Christian faith, a truly dissenting perspective in the early 21st century, has reached a new height of subtle antagonism. Disdain for anything or anyone “Christian” in our society is freely accepted and touted as most acceptable and appropriate. The Christian Church, which railed against the sins of the world in the previous century, has fallen into disarray in the revelations of this century—  clergy abuse, financial fiascos, and moral failures have all come to light.

But this is not true of all genuine followers of Christ. There is a large set of true Christians whose integrity is intact, whose contributions to both church & society are noteworthy, and whose weltanschauung (world & life view) has been carefully and tediously considered. They are proactive participants in the flow of their society, school districts, health-care movements (pro AND con), missions to Haiti and elsewhere, and in meeting the needs of the war-injured and the poor. To turn a deaf ear to these people is a crime against humanity— an arrogant, intentional exhibition of prejudice, of intolerant bigoted people whose minds are made up, who refuse to consider the beliefs of astute, critical thinking people who just happen to be followers of Jesus Christ.  Judgmental discrimination at its nastiest!

If you are opposed to the Christian perspective on, well, everything and anything, make sure you understand both the presuppositional basis and the specific arguments of their position. To glibly toss them aside is intellectually indefensible, haughtily conceited, and smacks of Hollywood cynicism.  Condescension leaves such a bitter after-taste.

If you own the name of Christ as one of your definers please have a faith with some substance to it; intellectually thought-through, culturally appropriate and specific, grounded in the primary Christian documents—the Bible, and personally applicable to every aspect of your life, from faith expression to political positioning to serving the poor. And do not resist the Spirit of God (Holy Spirit) as He molds your life and takes it down paths that seem very, very odd. A cerebral faith with little heart is of little use: a spirited faith with little foundation offers little explanation in any society (I Peter 3:15, Christian Bible).

Even when all the experts agree, they may STILL be mistaken. “Omnia quaerite ac dubitate.” [Question everything!]

Have a nice week.


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