by Chaplain LT. Benjamin Warner, USN
Twitter is a mystifying phenomenon to me. I don’t understand how we’ve come to such a de-evolution of human communication that we throw out “fire and forget” communication 140 characters (or whatever it is) at a time. Not only that, but we line up in order to hear this truncated wisdom from celebrities, athletes, and people who are solely famous for being famous. It seems we’ve lost the ability to have discussion, disagreement, and debate. Instead, we opt for pithy sayings thrown at one another without opportunity for logic or reasonably thought-out responses. I’m really digressing at this point, because I don’t want to go on a rant about Twitter. I’m pretty sure it could have some sort of redeeming function. I actually want to point out one particular “tweet” from a comedian that read: “Dear Religion, This week I safely dropped a man from space while you shot a child in the head for wanting to go to school. Yours, Science.”
Anyone who watched that jump from space realizes it was pretty awesome. Anyone who read about what happened to Malala Yousufzai, a little girl who was shot for vocally opposing the Taliban, realizes that this was a tragedy that should never be allowed to happen. But I object to the proposition that one of these is based on a worldview of science and the other based on a worldview of religion. We’ve come to a point in American culture where we view science as the world of “facts,” but religion as the world of “values.” One is provable, the other is relative. There is an underlying assumption to this worldview. It says we can stand back from both of these things, science and religion, and evaluate them without any biases to determine which one is knowable and which one is opinion. This is fundamentally flawed. It presumes the knowing that it seeks to prove. This is not a new event, though. Over a century ago the philosopher Bertrand Russell said similar things about religion in his 1902 essay, “A Free Man’s Worship.” One of my favorite responses to Russell was a critic who said he’d like to see Russell get hospitals built without the religious people.
Now, this is not meant to be a diatribe against science. I like science—it’s one of my favorite things to study. I had no greater awareness of God’s magnificent creation than watching over the shoulder of that amazing skydiver last week. My frustration is more about our assumptions about what we can and can’t know—and how we go about determining those things. Take whether or not hospitals get built out of the equation for a moment (even though it is important). How do we decide what we can know about our world? To suggest we can step outside our world and evaluate as knowable one way of gaining knowledge over another is entirely presumptuous.
Maybe our problem with knowing is related to our problem with communicating—we lack humility. That humility would caution us when we seek to promote one way of knowing above another. That humility would give a moment of pause before we hit “send” on that inflammatory comment, e-mail, or other communication vehicle. When we have humility, we don’t despair our ability to know, but we do recognize that knowledge doesn’t always come from where we think it does. Nor do we assume we have a market on getting knowledge.