Monday, September 25, 2006

Faith, reason and the university

By now every cartoonist and columnist on the planet has taken note of Pope Benedict's ill-considered quote regarding Islamic violence -- and the violent Islamic reaction.

No one seems to have noticed that Benedict's remarks on Islam were just a few paragraphs of a long speech that mostly took Western science and philosophy to task for an excessive reliance on reason. Scientists must overcome their "self-imposed limitation of reason to the empirically verifiable," said the pope. It is clear he would hope to restore theology to its former place as Queen of the Sciences, reversing empiricism's hard-won independence from those who claim to possess absolute truths of faith. In particular, the pope rejected any attempt to ground moral behavior in the biological or human sciences. Secular humanism, he implied, is a bust.

The secular humanist response was notable for its lack of violence.

You would have thought that at least a few of us would have stood in St. Peter's Square waving our library cards in protest.