Biology Textbooks and the “God-Talk” Problem
“Another school year is around the corner. Undergraduate biology students will once again take up their textbooks on a quest to explore the intricacies of life. Of course, these students are rarely exposed to a balanced assessment of evolutionary theory, including its empirical challenges.
But that’s not all: biology students will likely use a textbook that incoherently presents the case for evolution. Surprisingly, this muddle emerges from textbooks’ unprincipled use of theology, of all things. In a recent journal article, “Damned if You Do and Damned if You Don’t: The Problem of God-talk in Biology Textbooks,” Stephen Dilley and Nicholas Tafacory argue that textbooks falls prey to an intractable dilemma.
This is the second part of a five-part essay comparing and contrasting the moral systems of the Dalai Lama, Andre Comte-Sponville, and Viktor Frankl with regard to how well (or poorly) their respective moral systems fare against morally complex situations.
The Dalai Lama’s Moral System (based on Tibetan Buddhism)
We can categorize the Dalai Lama’s moral system as one that is deontological in nature. Deontological ethics, recall, has two key interpretations. One interpretation defines deontological ethics as a method that helps us to understand what is morally required, forbidden, and permissible in a particular situation or event. Morally required actions, insofar as they are completed, are morally good; these are often referred to as obligations or duties. Morally forbidden actions, however, ought to be avoided and are morally bad. Morally permissible actions, then, are neither morally good nor morally bad; they are either morally void or morally neutral actions.
A second interpretation defines deontological ethics as a method that focuses on whether or not specific and explicit moral rules or principles were followed in completing a particular action or set of actions. Deontological ethics then uses these specific and explicit moral rules and principles to determine the moral worth of an action or set of actions (henceforth referred to as ‘set’). If the specific moral rule or principle is observed during the action or ‘set,’ then the action or ‘set’ can be said to be morally good. If the specific moral rule or principle is not observed during the action or ‘set,’ however, then the action or ‘set’ is morally bad.
In what follows, I will lay out some of the more problematic aspects of Christianity’s relationship with its members who are disabled. This will involve an exploration of Christian theology and a comparison with another, similarly harmful, approach to/worldview of disability known as the medical model.
NOTE: I realize that what is about to be said does not apply universally to all of Christianity or its denominations or its beliefs. But there are still people and denominations who hold to some of these beliefs or views, either directly or indirectly, and who propagate this mistreatment of people with disabilities, either purposefully or inadvertently. It it to these particular Christian individuals and groups that this article is predominantly addressed.
Recently I had the urge to read up on some terms and concepts from the philosophy of religion, for clarification purposes. The work I chose (because I had online access to it) was “The Dictionary of Philosophy of Religion” written by Charles Taliaferro. Most of the terms I already knew by description or experience but I didn’t know them by their proper names. So, I figured that I would share some of the more interesting finds.
Though many things can be (and have been) said about Nietzsche’s polemic work, The Antichrist, this post is merely about some of the more coherent quotes, explanations, and thoughts contained within the work. As is commonly known, Nietzsche’s writing style was not crisp, clean, and precise like the styles of various analytical philosophers in contemporary times. Rather, Nietzsche wrote like he thought: like a madman.
“What is good? All that enhances the feeling of power, the Will to Power, and power itself in man. What is bad? All that proceeds from weakness. What is happiness? The feeling that power is increasing, that resistance has been overcome. Not contentment, but more power; not peace at any price, but war; not virtue, but efficiency. The weak and the botched shall perish; first principle of our humanity. And they ought even to be helped to perish. What is more harmful than any vice? Practical sympathy with all the botched and the weak – Christianity.” -Section 2
“Mankind does not represent a development towards a better, stronger or higher type, in the sense in which this is supposed to occur today. “Progress” is merely a modern idea – that is to say, a false idea…The process of evolution does not by any means imply elevation, enhancement and increasing strength.” -Section 4