Monday, August 29, 2011


After inputting some information into an online joke generator a while back, I received back the following joke:

"What is Peter Abelard's favorite film?"

"It's a Sic et Nonderful Life."

At the time, I only chuckled mildly. Only later did I spot a hidden profundity in this mindless spawn of the Internet. The world is full of complication. While faith and science both proclaim the veracity or accuracy of their sometimes competing methodologies and conclusions, my existential position as an embodied and limited reasoner renders difficult the answers to seemingly simple questions. In the midst of attempting to embrace both the teachings of Catholicism and the findings of modern science, I am often placed at a crossroads with no signpost: questions of legitimacy, meaning, authority, and empiricism. I seem forced to respond to many of these questions, in the manner of Abelard himself: "sic et non." Yes and no.

Why does the world need yet another Catholic blogger who deals with issues of religion and science? And what qualifications could an engineering student with a background in philosophy, theology, and literature possibly bring to bear on a debate filled with the voices of Popes, Nobel Prize winners, Ph. D.'s, and a host of far more educated authorities from both sides of the perennial dispute over whence comes our most important understanding of ourselves and our world?

I can only hope I find an answer to these questions. The most important thing I can offer are two guiding principles to the discussion, principles I have often found missing from the blogs and web pages of Catholic and atheist alike: charity and true engagement.

Charity. The most immediate temptations in any discussion over meaningful issues are partisanship and willful disregard or manipulation of others' ideas and arguments. I feel obliged to find the strongest and most compelling reasons in anyone's argument, and even strengthen it if I can. Many, though not all, blogs, even Catholic blogs, are tainted to greater or lesser degrees with a lack of charity. Dissenters amongst commentators are often ridiculed, proclaimed "troublemakers," while their arguments, questions, doubts, and concerns are either wholly ignored or given only the most superfluous treatment.

Which leads to a lack of true engagement. Any question of sufficient complexity will have numerous apparent answers, not all of which are complementary and some of which will even appear contradictory. Even though I know a stick remains straight when I place it halfway into water, it still appears bent. There is a great deal of refusal to deal with contradictory appearances, and although in the case of the stick and the water it is a simple matter of a lesson in refraction in more complicated matters the different and sometimes contradictory appearances are cause not for the easy and insular retreat of dogmatism or the hazy and indistinct intellectual cowardice of hard relativism but for the long and arduous task of dialectic.

To some extent, a blog seems hardly the place to do this. Meaningful debate requires time, reiteration, revision, and focus; blogging is a genre which favors brevity. But on the other hand, the virtual medium, with its open forum for comment and counter comment, is ideal for discourse.

I invite anyone, then, to read and comment on the issues I will be presenting. Most of the posts will focus on issues of religion and science, although I reserve the right to post on just about anything I want. A few ground rules:

1) No unnecessary profanity or obscenity. I will be the final judge of what counts as "unnecessary profanity or obscenity."

2) No taking the Lord's name in vain.

3) Excessive ad hominem will be deleted.

Beyond that, most everything is fair game. In the end, if I accomplish nothing else, I hope that my commentators will help guide me toward more definitive answers, and, what's more important, more definitive questions. I hope at least that any readers bold and interested enough to go on this intellectual journey will agree with me that, to the thoughtful person, there is a degree to which it really is "a Sic et Nonderful Life."

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