My friend Mike has become involved in a new co-op blog entitled Clashing Culture. It is an interesting concept, as the authors consist of 2 people who identify themselves as atheists, and 2 people who identify as Christians. Their logo is especially catchy, featuring both the new Atheist scarlet “A” in Clashing and a cross for the “t” in Culture.
However, as I read through some of the posts and the authors’ bios, it seems that they may have more culture in common – and therefore less “clash” – than they think. Certainly the question of God is a big issue; however, in this case it may simply be a disagreement within a culture than the clash of different cultures. Before I explain what I mean, let me say that there are some very interesting posts so far, and I don’t in any way mean to speak negatively about any of the authors or the blog. If you’ll notice, I’ve even added it to my blogroll and (possibly to their dismay) will likely be a regular reader and commenter. It will indeed be interesting to see where this blog goes, and I wish them well as it is a very clever concept.
So, here’s what I mean by “culture in common:” Two of the authors, my friend Mike and Anastasia (whose own blog is Genetic Maize) are by their own admission atheists (not that they need to be ashamed of this, it’s just that I want to clarify that I’m not putting words in their mouths); both were raised Catholic, and down the road decided that there was no empirical evidence of God and the supernatural. I presume they would both be okay with the descriptor “philosophical materialist,” meaning someone who has a worldview where all that exists is the material world, which can be seen, tested, prodded, and so on. Both are rationalists and committed to the scientific approach to knowledge. Both of them are also modernists, the predominant worldview of the 20th Century Western world.
The other 2 individuals are perhaps harder to categorize (and I do apologize, I am being very modernist in my analysis, but it’s just a tool, albeit a flawed one). Thomas Robey is a well-known blogger at Hope For Pandora and a MD/PhD student at the U of Washington. He is a professing Christian of the Presbyterian persuasion, who says he believes in the “basics of Christianity” but admits having trouble with the concepts of eternal life and miracles. He is an evolutionist, not believing in either young Earth creationism or intelligent design. He states, “When it comes to interpreting the Bible, I see scientific understanding as trumping metaphorical stories – particularly in the Old Testament.”
Steve Matheson is a developmental cell biologist who blogs at Quintessence of Dust. He teaches at Calvin College, attends a Reformed church, which I presume makes him a Calvinist. From his own blog, I gather that he is an evolutionist who believes in common descent. I haven’t read enough of him to know where he stands with regard to Intelligent Design except that he’s critical of some aspects of at least some aspects of it. (I have to say that I have a hard time seeing how a Calvinist could not believe in ID!) In any event, his states that the main theme of his blog is scientific explanation.
My intent is not to misrepresent or even criticize anyone, and if I have misunderstood anyone’s position, I apologize. My point here is this: While the 4 authors are split 50/50 on belief in God, they are all modernists. That’s not such a big surprise, as most Americans are, including most evangelical Christians. In looking at the blogs of Matheson and Robey, it appears that in keeping with modernist philosophy they are rationalists, approaching things – even religion – from a scientific culture and viewpoint (if anyone, Matheson would seem the most likely to clash with the others). This now places all four authors within a smaller subculture (which at least borders on scientism), as a large percentage of Western Christians – especially among evangelicals, Pentecostals and fundamentalists – would part ways in holding science to that level of authority (which tends to result in fractured worldviews on both sides of that fence). So, it would seem that at best, what we have is a clash between sub-cultures, if not sub-sub-cultures.
Again (and I want to make this abundantly clear), it is not my intention to be critical of the Clashing Culture site or its intent. As I mentioned recently I’ve been thinking lately about epistemology and worldview so this site just prompted more thinking. Congratulations to the CC crew on a great-looking blog. I have high hopes for you, so don’t disappoint me!
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Your comments and critique are excellent and most welcome. No need to tiptoe. I’ve been worrying a little, too, about the non-clashing we’ve done so far, and it’s true that if one were to seek a polar opposite from Mike or from Anastasia, I wouldn’t be an obvious candidate. Additional participants that come from, say, more charismatic or biblicist angles than mine or Thomas’, would definitely increase our diversity and (potentially) enhance the experience. But it’s also true that I am a wholly orthodox Christian, and a Calvinist of a sort, and so there are topics on which the four of us (so far) can offer very different perspectives.
And you are correct to note that a Calvinist should have some interesting things to say about design. I’ll bring the topic up occasionally.
Anyway, your observations are indeed interesting and helpful. I’m looking forward to your comments.
I did? I’m sorry… 😉
It was probably because I wrote it in shifts, and each time I started writing, I felt like what I was saying could be seen as negative when that wasn’t my intent.
One of my apologies was for using a modernist approach to criticize modernism; I’m still having a hard time with that… 😉
Interesting and helpful overview. But in it you apologize at least four (and maybe five) times. Why the egg shells?
I don’t think you have it too far off. Stephen is definitely scornful of ID because of its explanatory weaknesses.
I just want to make sure that people understand that Thomas has sent invitations to more bloggers and you may see an enlargement of the subculture.
I am glad to see you are interested in the blog. It is still in its experimental stage, and I hope that it develops into something even more interesting.