31 may. 2011

Bullshit Fields (2)

The second bullshit field I'd like to examine is theology, a field whose main aim is to define the object of its study and sometimes even to prove its very existence. The fact that a whole branch of theology deals with the question of whether God actually exists should give you pause. Theology as a field of study is sheer confirmation bias, inventing its object of study according to an agenda. Of course you can read and explicate texts of other theologians without necessarily making it all up, but any attempt to be an actual theologian is absurd. The object of study is one about which there is no actual knowledge, so it is a little like doing literary criticism without a text, as I've argued before, or judging a figure-skating contest in which there are no actual skaters. I know as much about the object of study as the most accomplished theologian, which is to say, absolutely nothing. Nobody knows a thing. If I am having a theological argument with you, there is no basis on which any claim can be sustained, except what some other text, written by someone who also knew nothing, happened to write.

7 comentarios:

Spanish prof dijo...

Working in a religious institution, they only thing I will say in defense of that field is that the Theology department is the most progressive and socially engaged in the whole campus. It might not be what academia is about, but I respect it.

Izgad dijo...

The theology departments that I am familiar with at secular colleges are essentially history of theology. What have people in the past said about God? Nothing to do with advocating religion. This is different from women, gender and minority studies programs, which exist to promote a specific political agenda. Thus making their existence at a publicly funded university the equivalent of an established church.

Thomas dijo...

Okay, I'll get into this one too. What gives us the idea that poetics has an "object of study"? Sure, there are a bunch of words on pages, but what tells us they are "poems"? The answer, of course, is a tradition of interpretation. Can't the theologian make the same claim? A theologian is someone who has read a great many statements that have been attributed to God.

What evidence is there that Shakespeare scholars have an "object of study"?

Perhaps an easier analogy would be philosophy: suppose its "object of study" is "the mind"? A whole branch of philosophy deals with the question of whether the mind actually exists. I suppose this should also give us pause. But it doesn't mean that philosophy is bullshit.

Vance Maverick dijo...

Do university theologians generally work within a specific faith tradition, that is, under the assumption that certain texts are more than just texts? If so, I can see that that might disqualify their work for Jonathan, but looked at in another way, it opens the possibility of intellectual rigor in pursuing what to him look like non-questions.

Jonathan dijo...

Yes, aesthetics or poetics always is the last refuge of people trying to defend theology. I have you right where I want you for the next post.

Thomas dijo...

Bring it on, you godless heathen!

Barry dijo...

"This is different from women, gender and minority studies programs, which exist to promote a specific political agenda. Thus making their existence at a publicly funded university the equivalent of an established church. "

Well, there were econ departments and business schools there already......