Modern arrogance

It would seem that some cultures have in their very essence an arrogance that permeates whatever they say or do. It’s not always overt, but it’s there. The United States is probably a good example (as we hear this often from oversees), although we’re not alone by any means. It could be argued that we inherited our sense of arrogance from some of our ancestral cultures, although the U.S. has, perhaps, perfected it.

I have occasionally accused the American evangelical movement of arrogance in how they have addressed theology, and in how they have addressed the mainline and historic church. The evangelical movement has generally displayed an anti-historical attitude, presuming that modern scholarship and thought is necessarily superior to that of the old world. This is not unlike the attitude of scientism, that mix of science and materialism that currently runs rampant in Western culture. Scientism sees scientific knowledge as the highest form of knowledge, that science should always be the last word.

A common factor – perhaps the common factor – in these conflicting subcultures is modernism, which (in spite of the champions of post-modernism) is still the prevailing worldview in operation in the West. At the core of modernism is the quasi-Darwinian belief in progress, a variant of Emile Coue’s famous statement, “Every day, and in every way, I am becoming better and better.” This parallels the anti-historical bias found in evangelicalism and elsewhere. Another tenet of of modernism is the elevation of reason, logic and the scientific method above all other forms of knowledge, which we see is another form of arrogance. Here as well, evangelicalism’s scientific, reasoned approach to theology puts it in the same column as scientism, at least in this respect.

It would seem that the flip-side of arrogance is extreme naivete, which is obvious to those on the outside of the particular culture. This would perhaps explain the oft-repeated arguments between science and religion, each of whom can see the glaring faults of the other, all the while not realizing that the fault is one that is shared (equal, but different…). We are, of course, often blind to our own naivete (otherwise, it wouldn’t be naivete); it seems that the only remedy is to try to back away from the issue as far as we possibly can, to attempt to see it in context. This holistic approach, however, essentially an anti-modern one. This, I think, is perhaps an explanation – as well as a justification – for at least some post-modern thought.

What got me thinking about this is an interview with Steven Weinberg that showed up this week on Newsweek’s site, entitled In Search of the God Particle. The interviewer, rather unwisely, in my opinion, decided that since Weinburg’s work involved tracking down the Higgs boson, aka “The God Particle,” to hopefully lead to the “grand theory of everything,” they would focus on how developing such a theory would impact religion. The result is an interview with a scientist pontificating about religion. My presumption is that most people with a materialistic mindset would read this and think, “my, what a brilliant guy!” However, to someone who actually knows something about religion and doesn’t share a materialistic mindset, Weingerg comes off as arrogant about his “superior” worldview and incredibly naive – perhaps even foolish – about religion.

I think many Christians who would read an interview such as this would cry “Preposterous!” then throw back a Ray Comfort quote showing why Weinberg is an idiot, all the time thinking that the problem lies in the arrogance of science. Certainly there exists such an arrogance, but perhaps science, or even materialism, is not to blame. Perhaps it’s an underlying problem with modernism, that presumes that whatever belief we have just has to be superior to all others.

I believe, of course, that there is one superior worldview; but it’s one that comes without arrogance.

3 thoughts on “Modern arrogance”

  1. I agree with both of you on that. It seems to me that particle physicists are especially guilty of make religious conclusions out of such fascinating discoveries.

    I admit to focusing quite a bit of my life around atheism issues. Why deny it?

  2. I read the Weinberg interview a couple of days ago. What annoyed me most was this quote:

    I don’t believe in God, but I don’t make a religion out of not believing in God. I don’t organize my life around that.

    I really don’t believe that has a way of working out in practice. One’s life is, by necessity, organized around that which one acknowledges as being bigger than oneself (or around oneself if there is no bigger thing). Believing God doesn’t exist is still a belief, and it is still an organizing principle of one’s worldview, admitted or not.

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