The “god” of Knowledge

30 10 2009

As a youngster, I would often have random thought processes. I would ponder whether the existence of dinosaurs was historical, think of the possibility of extraterrestrial life, or a step further, ponder the logical coherence of assuming that the existence of aliens and Christianity were both true (as an aside, I think I concluded that both cannot be true and to say otherwise is logically incoherent). Maybe I had a lot of time on my hands, but I used to ponder on useless topics quite often (although, more accurately, I liked to try to prove things rather than aimlessly think). I would have made a great Socrates, jobless thinker…

I mentioned this in one of my older post, but one of the most angering moments in my academic life was in my Doctrine of God class when my professor said that I’m not allowed to ask every question, especially pertaining to God. In college, I satiated my curiosity by studying Evolutionary Biology while thinking that I was helping God through educating myself on His enemy. Gaining intel like a spy, so to speak (please do not conclude my current stance on evolution based on this statement, it is more nuanced now and cannot be explained adequately here).  But there I was, in seminary now, trying to gain knowledge about God, and my prof tells me that there are certain questions I should not ask. I was angry, and as anger is never purely intellectual and more so a reaction to a personal offense, it felt like an attack on me, not just on an intellectual proposition. It was appropriate to feel thus, as my professor was trying to get at the motive behind such free uncontained curiosity.

Stanley Fish in his NY Times blog entry “Does Curiosity Kill More Than the Cat?“, he compares this free uncontained curiosity to the curiosity of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Curiosity was not the offense, it was the motive to become like God the true offense. Fish goes so far as to call this curiosity sometimes positively name other things like research, unfettered inquiry, progress, academic freedom as a god that we worship, and he does so rightly. As I hope to take a step into the academic world, to forget the limitations of man in relation to God is a capital offense. Us, modern, cultured, metropolitan people would say how to think so is primitive and undeveloped. Well, I’d like to say that that anger you feel when I make such a primitive suggestion is the same anger that I felt in my Doctrine of God class. Such anger is not about logically acknowledging our limitations but more about being personally offended. And such personal offense is felt only in the presence of pride. Pride in the god of curiosity, of unfettered inquiry, of progress, of academic freedom. Pride in the capacity of mankind. I am not saying that we should not try to answer questions that life raises, nor do I want to propose that we think of our intellect and emotions as separate entities, for such a dualistic view does more harm than good to our ability to pursue and answer questions. But the issue here, as mentioned before, is the “true offense.” Fish enlightens us that in our act of upholding curiosity, we partake in an act of worship, not of the real God but of a counterfeit. Where this will take us, we have only to continue in our ways of curiosity that lack self-control, and then we will be able to see, indeed as Fish asks, if curiosity kills more than the cat.

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