Monday, August 29, 2005
Tim Gallant — Reform for the Sake of the Reformation
We have come from 1-0 down to lead in the Ashes. Has there ever been a more thrilling Test series? For a short while I had a feeling that Australia might be about to have their full revenge for Headingley 1981 and perform the same miracle on us. England may be winning Test matches with far more consistency, but they continue to do so in a nail-bitingly close fashion. We have yet to master the art of steam-rollering opponents as the great Australian teams of the last couple of decades did. Shane Warne still strikes fear into the stoutest English hearts. It seems unfair that he might end up on the losing side in this series when he doesn't seem to know how to lose.
Saturday, August 27, 2005
Thursday, August 25, 2005
I do not think much of IQ tests. It seems to me that, quite apart from the strange idea that IQ measures intelligence itself and not merely the score that someone has got for answering a number of questions, IQ tests tend to be weighted in favour of certain forms of thinking rather than others. For this reason this research does not surprise me in the slightest. However, the claim that such research proves that men are 'more intelligent' or 'cleverer' than women is simply unwarranted. Psuedo-scientific measurements of things such as 'intelligence' rely a lot on somewhat arbitrary assumptions about what 'intelligence' really is. Furthermore, both our definition of intelligence and our ability to perform well according to such a definition seems to me to be largely a matter of social construction. The disparities in IQ results between people of different ethnic and racial backgrounds should not surprise us. Nor should the differences in results from one generation to another. IQ tests seem to be weighted in favour of certain ways of thinking, rather than others. Within the structures of our societies — our language, our education, our family backgrounds, our technologies — we are trained to think in certain ways. Intelligence takes a radically different shape in oral societies, for example. People within oral societies do not think in the same ways as we do. As Walter Ong observes in Orality and Literacy: "Proponents of intelligence tests need to recognize that our ordinary intelligence test questions are tailored to a special kind of consciousness, one deeply conditioned by literacy and print, 'modern consciousness'" (p.55). "Oral folk assess intelligence not as extrapolated from contrived textbook quizzes but as situated in operational contexts." The oral mind 'totalizes'. It cannot easily detach the quiz question from the entire context in which the question is received. The oral mind is not well equipped for the art of analysis; breaking up thought is dangerous before the advent of the writing system. The oral mind is more inclined to work in terms of such things as riddles and proverbs and more analogical ways of thinking. Gender culture gives rise to different forms of conversation between men and women. The role of oral communication for women often seems to differ from the role that it is given among men. The differences in the way that we learn to communicate give rise to differences in the way that we are trained to think. Men may well be better equipped for the type of thinking that is privileged by IQ tests (and many of the sciences). I am unwilling to attribute the differences in the way in which men and women think wholly to biology. Many of these differences may not originate in our sexual differences, even though they follow from our sexual differences. The source and outworking of these differences can be explored by developmental psychology, sociolinguistics, sociology and other such disciplines. I am reluctant to collapse gender into sex. On the other hand, I do not believe that gender identities are anywhere remotely near as fluid as many feminists believe them to be. In many respects our gender identities follow from, and in other respects originate in, our sexual identities, even though they should not be collapsed together. [As an aside, I find it interesting to observe the differing ways in which essentialism fares in apologetics for homosexuality and in apologetics for feminism.] If we can gain anything positive from such research, it will not be the belief that men are cleverer than women. I do not believe that we should regard our different ways of thinking as commensurable, as advocates of IQ tests might want us to. Rather, such research should be regarded as further proof of deep-rooted differences between men and women, differences that we should celebrate. I do not doubt for a moment that, measured according to different criteria, women would score higher than men. I would not, however, advocate placing more of an emphasis on EQ tests (supposedly measuring emotional intelligence), alongside existing IQ tests. This would merely serve as a repetition of the original error. Much of the problem in this area lies in our assumption that human aptitudes, virtues and abilities can or should be measured according to a single norm. Whether this norm is a supposedly androgynous or, as often is the case, a masculine norm (as in modern feminist thought, where women were told to seek equality with men), such thinking is deeply unhelpful. Men should not be regarded as emotionally deficient because they do not seek or easily practice the sort of intimacy that women seek and practice. Men have different — masculine — ways of approaching intimacy. Nor should women be regarded as somehow less than men because they display different forms of intelligence. Feminine and masculine approaches to such things as intelligence and intimacy should not be regarded as commensurable, but as complementary.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Early this afternoon Elbert, Annewieke and I returned from our holiday in the Netherlands. The first five days of the holiday were spent in Hoeven, at a conference organized by the Association for Reformational Philosophy. The Association is Dooyeweerdian in its approach. My prior exposure to thinkers like Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven came about primarily as a result of my reading and appreciation of Cornelius Van Til. I later read Spier's An Introduction to Christian Philosophy and Wolfe's A Key to Dooyeweerd. I have only been able to read a very little of Dooyeweerd himself. I have also read some shorter books critical of Dooyeweerd's approach (I can't remember their names off the top of my head; it was some time ago). My feelings arising from my limited reading of Dooyeweerd and his interpreters are quite mixed. I want to explore a lot more, but my early impressions are that Dooyeweerdian thought could gain much from a deeper engagement with theology. In particular, the eschatology of many 'sphere sovereignty' approaches can leave much to be desired. On the other hand, Dooyeweerd and others within this strain of thought have a lot to bring to many contemporary discussions. It is a great shame that they are not more widely read. It is encouraging to see writers like James K.A. Smith (in Introducing Radical Orthodoxy) using Dooyeweerd. I have read a number of Dutch theologians — à Brakel, Berkouwer, Bavinck, Schilder, Kersten, Ridderbos, Kuyper, etc. (and many more Dutch-American theologians) — and forms of Dutch Christian thought greatly interest me. I imagine that I would feel far more at home in such a theological setting than I do in that which exists among Reformed people in the UK. It was great to be able to learn a bit more from people who live in the Reformed situation in the Netherlands and are more knowledgable of its history. The conference speakers may not be the ones that you would expect, given the fact that the conference was organized by the Association for Reformational Philosophy. Richard Mouw spoke on 'Virtue Ethics and the Public Calling of Reformational Thought', relating the thought of writers such as Hauerwas and Yoder to the thought of reformational thought. He presented some helpful criticisms of Hauerwas (not dissimilar from those of Peter Leithart in Against Christianity) and pointed out some areas in which Reformed thinkers can learn from Hauerwas and others. John Hare presented a paper in which he tried to argue for the manner in which believers and non-believers can agree in their identification of 'the good', even when they disagree concerning what constitutes 'the good'. Joan Lockwood O'Donovan presented a paper entitled 'A Reformation Ethics: Proclamation and Jurisdiction as Determinants of Moral Agency and Action', studying the position of the English Reformers and some of the implications for political ethics and the understanding of the relationship between the Church and the State. This was probably my favourite paper of the conference. In addition to these papers there were also numerous panels and workshops and much time in which to discuss and debate. I made a number of new friends and had some very stimulating conversations. After the conference, Annewieke picked us up and drove us back to Barneveld, where Elbert's family live. I spent the next few days there. On Sunday I attended a Vrijgemaakt church and witnessed my first two infant baptisms (believe it or not!). We then enjoyed a long walk, during which time I was initiated into the study of mushrooms. Yesterday we explored the beautiful city of Kampen.
Now that I have returned from the Netherlands I will respond to Andrew's tag. Amount of music on your computer? 6.79GB. Mostly classical. I am not a serious music listener. Most of the music I listen to serves primarily as background sound. My musical taste needs a lot of development. I would love to be able to understand music better. Currently listening to? REM, Best of 1988-2003. Five songs that mean a lot to you... I could spend all year over a question like this, so I will answer it quickly, off the top of my head. Ask me the same question tomorrow and you would probably get an entirely different answer. The following are in no particular order. 1. Nick Drake, Northern Sky. Although I generally prefer the edgy and claustraphobic melancholy of the Pink Moon album, this song from Bryter Layter is hauntingly beautiful and probably belongs in my top five. 2. The Byrds, Chestnut Mare. This song brings back memories of a very happy exam revision period of my life. Strange, but true. 3. Radiohead, High and Dry. I like Radiohead a lot (although I do need to be in a particular mood to get the most out of them). This is one of my favourite songs, from what is probably still my favourite album of theirs. 4. Handel, I Know that my Redeemer Liveth. Although I have not listened to The Messiah for some time, I still find myself humming this to myself in the shower on occasions. Such music does me a lot of good (more good, to be frank, than much of the music I generally listen to). 5. Neil Young, After the Goldrush. This brings back a lot of memories of learning the guitar with a good friend of mine. After the Goldrush was a song we played regularly. Top 5 albums? The following selection is no less random and tentative as the selection above. 1. Miles Davis, Kind of Blue. I don’t listen to much jazz at all, but I really, really love this album. It helps me to relax like nothing else. 2. U2, The Joshua Tree. I think that this is probably the best thing that U2 have done to date. I have enjoyed their latest album, but I doubt that I will revisit it as often as I have revisited The Joshua Tree. 3. Jeff Buckley, Grace. It still sends shivers down my spine. 4. The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses. I can’t stand the swagger and the pretentiousness, Ian Brown is a bit of a yob, and some of the lyrics trouble me as a Christian; nonetheless, this is still a stunning album. 5. The Beatles, Abbey Road. I haven’t listened to this album for over four years (I no longer even possess a copy). I was a huge fan once. Visiting The Beatles Story in Liverpool recently reminded just how good the Beatles actually were. I tag... 1. My brother Mark (who hardly ever posts) 2. Barb 3. Daniel
Saturday, August 13, 2005
Tomorrow I leave for the Netherlands for just over a week. Hopefully I will have something worthwhile to post when I return. My blogging activity over the last few weeks had been substandard, to say the least.
Friday, August 12, 2005
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
A British cow that died in an Oxfordshire field in 1937 has emerged as the source of Saddam Hussain’s “weapons of mass destruction” programme that led to the Iraq war. An ear from the cow was sent to an English laboratory, where scientists discovered anthrax spores that were later used in secret biological warfare tests by Winston Churchill. The culture was sent to the United States, which exported samples to Iraq during Saddam’s war against Iran in the 1980s. Inspectors have found that this batch of anthrax was the dictator’s choice in his attempts to create biological weapons.Read the whole article here.
Friday, August 05, 2005
Joel Garver reviews Peter Enns' Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament.