Sunday’s Sermon: on Faith/faith

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Please excuse me if I use the “F” word often. I realize that many people are afraid of that word and are disgusted by its frequent use in contemporary letters. Even tough-minded scientists like Jerry Coyne are quick to correct themselves if the “F” word sneaks out. In a recent Point of Inquiry podcast, Coyne, in talking about his book Why Evolution is True, says “most evolutionists take it [the evidence for evolution] on faith … well, not faith…”. He immediately corrects himself and restructures the sentence. It was as if he had used the other “f” word in a church or mosque.

Faith is the “F” word that people either love or hate.

Much of the problem with the “f” word comes about because of a built in ambiguity between capital F and small case faith. Faith/faith: Faith = belief without compelling evidence; while faith = trust, or beliefs that are knowable in principle. For example when my Catholic acquaintance eats the wafer he has Faith that it will transubstantiate; when I go to start my car in the morning I have faith that it will start. If my car does not start it is possible in principle for me or a mechanic to determine what’s wrong. If the wafer does not change to the flesh of Christ conversion is the only solution.

In science, William James notes, we can afford to await the outcome of investigation before coming to a belief, but in other cases we are “forced,” in that we must come to some belief even if all the relevant evidence is not in. If I am on a isolated mountain trail, faced with an icy ledge to cross, and do not know whether I can make it, I may be forced to consider the question whether I can or should believe that I can cross the ledge. This question is not only forced, it is “momentous”: if I am wrong I may fall to my death, and if I believe rightly that I can cross the ledge, my holding of the belief may itself contribute to my success. In such a case, James asserts, I have the “right to believe” — precisely because such a belief may help bring about the fact believed in. This is a case “where a fact cannot come at all unless a preliminary faith exists in its coming”.

Faith is required for religious belief. Faith is the way of knowing for the religious believer. Faith is, in this religious sense, more like hope.

Remember 9/11 was a Faith based enterprise.

For the scientific minded Faith is merely an emotion, a state of mind. It is to believe without any evidence. Tertullian’s “I believe because it is absurd” catches this sense. I’ll let Nietzsche have the last word:
“’Faith’ means not wanting to know what is true.”

Recently we talked about truth using the same notion of capital T/ small t to unpack the ambiguity that abounds in the use of the term. As you can see faith works in much the same way. Just think for a minute of all the Catholic parents who had FAITH that their children were safe with the friendly parish priest. Those parents would never do anything to put their children in danger. They were certain that all was well in the safety of the church.

But as we learned here certainty is demonic.

From Yale

This week at Yale Environment 360, Canadian journalist and author Ed Struzik writes about a little-known impact of the steadily increasing number of wildfires around the globe: the threat to drinking water supplies and freshwater ecosystems. Struzik explains that as wildfires become more frequent and destructive in a warming world, they are leaving in their wake debris and toxic runoff that can do significant damage to watersheds. Some municipalities, Struzik writes, are even having to upgrade their water treatment methods to counter the new danger.

Edward Struzik

Edward Struzik has been writing about scientific and environmental issues for more than 30 years. A fellow at the Institute for Energy and Environmental Policy at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada, his numerous accolades include the prestigious Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy and the Sir Sandford Fleming Medal, awarded for outstanding contributions to the understanding of science. In 1996 he was awarded the Knight Science Journalism Fellowship and spent a year at Harvard and MIT researching environment, evolutionary biology, and politics with E.O. Wilson, Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin. His 2015 book, Future Arctic, focuses on the effects of climate change in the Canadian Arctic and the impacts they will have on rest of the world. His other books include Arctic Icons, The Big Thaw, and Northwest Passage.is His He is an active speaker and lecturer, and his work as a regular contributor to Yale Environment 360 covers topics such as the effects of climate change and fossil fuel extraction on northern ecosystems and their inhabitants. He is on the Board of Directors for the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee, a citizens’ organization dedicated to the long-term environmental and social well-being of northern Canada and its peoples. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta.

Read his report.

ART

Art Battle Nanaimo
University Edition
Art Battle Nanaimo is stoked to be heading to VIU for a special University Edition!

Come watch the paint fly before your eyes and help vote to determine the Champion as 16 incredible artists battle the clock & each other in a live painting competition!

4 Universities / 16 Painters / 3 Rounds / 1 Winner!
Students and faculty, past and present, of VIU, UVIC, Camosun, and NIC! What is Art Battle?
Art Battle is live competitive painting event. Painters create the best work they can in 20 minutes. As they work, patrons move around the easels, closely watching the creative process.

The medium is acrylic paint and the tools allowed are brushes, palette knives or any non-mechanical implements. At the end of the round, the audience votes democratically for their favourite painting and bids in silent auction to take the work home.
 
Our VIU art students have been confirmed and meeting refining their skills for the upcoming event. Buy your ticket soon and come out to support them!
 
When:  Friday, October 12, 2018, 6:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.
Where:  Malaspina Theatre Foyer, Bldg. 310, Nanaimo Campus

Tickets for the event:
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/art-battle-nanaimo-october-12-2018-tickets-50424740757
 
$20 General Admission ( ends October 12th )
$15 Early Bird ( ends October 5th )
$15 Students (with ID) ( ends October 12th )
$15 Seniors ( ends October 12th )
 
Please note that the theatre foyer has a capacity of 150 people. Art Battle held downtown Nanaimo last year sold out fast.
 
This event will have a live DJ, host bar, and snacks.
Art Battle Nanaimo is a 19+ event.

 
* Follow Art Battle on Instagram @ArtBattleNanaimo or https://www.facebook.com/events/972170806306236/
 
If you have further question please contact Susanne Grundison at: susanne.grundison@shaw.ca

Consider . . .


John Dominic Crossan

“”Just because the Bible says “Jesus is the Lamb of God,” it doesn’t follow that Mary had a little lamb.”

“…The classical mind says, that’s only a story, but the modern mind says, there’s only story.”

: “The ultimate limit is that human beings cannot get outside of story; we can get outside of particular stories, or particular forms of stories, but not outside of story as such. The world in which we live is a narrative world, created by and in our stories.”

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Get the book free here.
The truth about stories is – that’s all we are. – Thomas King Massey Lectures 2003    

History lesson

Back in the day . . .from my colleague, Ian Johnston:

Ian in our kitchen after a discussion of Shakespeare – in the olden days.


In 1969 it was Malaspina College, then Malaspina University-College, and now Vancouver Island University – the name has changed over time and the place has grown bigger and bigger. What else has changed? I leave that to those still there to discuss.

Ian on education ( a few years ago):

The Rant [A Section Specially Designed for Letting off Some Serious Steam]

Ask Not What the University-College Can Do For You . . . and so on
by Ian Johnston

Qui s’excuse, s’accuse.

Last semester Ken Lyall was hauled out of his recent retirement and commissioned to conduct some sort of enquiry into research, scholarly activity, and so on at Malaspina. Dr. Lyall dutifully did the rounds talking to faculty and eventually, towards the end of his interviews, arrived at my door. We had a very pleasant conversation, near the conclusion of which he asked me the following question: “What do you say to faculty members who complain that the college does not provide them enough support for scholarship?” At the time the question struck me as a bit odd, but I muttered something in reply, and we finished our agreeable chat. Well, I’ve been thinking about that question for a while, and I think I may have arrived at a more complete answer than the one I was able to provide on the spur of the moment.

First of all, I’d ask them what they meant by “the college.” Aren’t they an integral part of this institution? Are they wondering why they don’t give themselves sufficient support? The question, thus posed, seems silly. If they are so keen to support scholarship, surely the best way to demonstrate their support for scholarly activity is to stop the endemic whining and, as the slogan says, just do it, by actually carrying out some project or encouraging and assisting their immediate colleagues in their endeavours.

But, of course, some might answer that by “the college” the question really means the college administration, those in charge of the money. The issue is that such executives don’t allocate sufficient money to what faculty want or need to do by way of scholarship. The obvious answer to this interpretation of the question is to ask those making the complaint where the money is to come from, with the proviso that they should immediately abandon any notion that there is a huge pot of money somewhere which is being withheld.

For some time around here there has existed a perception in academic circles that far too much money is squandered on useless things like physical plant, maintenance, Adult Basic Education, Vocational Education, and (on occasion) Liberal Studies. If this money went where it most properly belongs, into promoting scholarly activities, then all might be well.

This perception, although common enough, is excessively stupid for obvious reasons. Quite apart from the arrogance in the claim that other activities are useless or less important than the generally valueless work of university academics, the funds for many of these activities are often ear marked, so that if the activity were removed, the money would disappear. Moreover, there are provincial standards in most support areas (like Advising, for example), which Malaspina is expected to meet (and with respect to which, in some cases, we have been seriously deficient in comparison to other university-colleges).

Before those who expect more support from the college for their research launch into their next plangent chorus of lachrymose distress, they should be prepared to answer the following question: “Which specific area of your own department’s offerings would you recommend curtailing in order to obtain the support you are so desperate about.” Until they can answer that question, they, like pit bulls paraded in public in Nanaimo, should be muzzled.

For the largest wasteful squandering of money in this institution by far is the transfer of hundreds of thousands of dollars annually of instructional money into faculty scholarship, or rather, to put the matter more precisely, into release time for such purposes (how much scholarship, trivial or otherwise, is actually done is a moot point). Such scholarship has no pedagogical benefits whatsoever (other than projects directly linked to student activity, in which case the issue is one of workload), and the release time we provide for it is a major factor contributing to the financial plight we are in, with a series of degree programs we cannot afford to maintain.

We established this gravy train to win approval from the University of Victoria for the upper-division courses we offered in their name here, and we have maintained the transfer of funds (and expanded it slightly) in order to win accreditation. It was the price of joining the club. Now that we have accreditation, let us hope that the administration puts a firm stop to any further robbery from student Peter in order to pander to the interests of some faculty Paul.

I’m sick of the complaint that we are expected to carry on scholarly activity and yet not given sufficient support. This statement is far more a confession of the inadequacy of the complainer than a significant critique of the institution. For over twenty-five years, with financial perquisites far less generous than those presently in place, Malaspina faculty carried out all sorts of scholarly activities (however that term is to be defined precisely), publishing academic books, scholarly articles, plays, poems, novels, textbooks and carrying out a number of important practical projects. The notion that scholarly work simply cannot be done at the present level of support is a self-serving lie or excuse or confession of failure or all of the above. [emphasis added]

To make this claim is not to say that all forms of scholarship are equally easy to pursue in Nanaimo. We are a long way from the nearest nuclear generator, Sumerian archeological site, sub-Saharan mosquito (in situ), or expert in regional dialects of the medieval Serbo-Croats. But the challenge of scholarship at the university-college, for those who feel they must do it, is to adjust the nature of the project to the resources at hand, not to whinge constantly about the lack of funds for some single project requiring very specialized resources.

In my own case, coming to work in the BC college system meant I had to give up a scholarly interest in the history of modern Shakespeare productions. My PD money did not permit regular flights to Stratford-upon-Avon (the real one). So what? I shifted my attention to what could be undertaken here. Those who protest that this is not possible in their case are just indicating their own lack of imaginative initiative.

It’s true that research training often is excessively narrow, a very poor preparation for a situation demanding imaginative intellectual flexibility (I recall one application for a job here which indicated that the candidate had spent the last fifteen years or so studying full-time the mating habits of a particularly exotic insect species). To wish to perpetuate that narrow specialization is all very well (I suppose), but to ask for more instructional money (i.e., student spaces) to promote it seems entirely antithetical to what this particular institution is here to achieve.

Thus, to return to the question Dr. Lyall posed in my office: now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I’d tell those making the complaint to shut up and get some sort of (intellectual) life here within the present arrangements (something like, say, teaching) or seek employment elsewhere.

Source.