Symbols: Bishop Wilberforce

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: & / Teaching / Scholarship / K. Symbols /
@ K. 2005 07 05

I want to handle this well, carefully. For the moment I merely mention that Bishop Wilberforce represented the Church of England in a haughty stance of ignorance against Darwin, science, discovery. But ignorance doesn’t always win: in this case Huxley embarrassed Wilberforce and the Church.

New paradigms aren’t necessarily right; but old paradigms need regular jiggles and inspections. The map will never be the territory, but any map needs to be reviewed (by reviewing the territory!) (and the map-making!)

In general, religions (mis-)represent themselves as telling “the truth.” In general, science represents itself as making maps and constantly upgrading them.

Anyone who says that “Darwin” is “true,” as though the problems were simple or solved, is himself a “Wilberforce.” God help us where science becomes a religion (just as: God help us where politics — whether democracy or Communism — becomes a religion. Just the religions we’ve known are problematical enough.

I look forward to a brief telling of the Darwin-Wilberforce-Huxley story. It [was] mentioned [already] a few places around Find more through the library. And I’ll place a few links that deal with it:Wilberforce and Huxley: A Legendary Encounter

Summary of the case for Bishop Wilberforce at a Conversazione held at the British Academy on November 6th, 2003
The first link by the way challenges the now familiar story as largely untrue. BUT: we’re dealing with symbols here. What “Jesus” means to persons C, D, E … is distinct from whatever the truth may be about Jesus.

Better to be bravely wrong than safely silent
JR Lucas

Remember: these are culture wars we are waging: propaganda wars. There’s little purity in them on any “side.”

At my first-ever faculty meeting, Colby College, 1967 I got a quick introduction to administrations’ ways of pulling fast-ones before the supposedly-in-charge faculty could blink. The college had a policy of protecting wet lands, especially the bog used by the biology department for field work; but the college growth plans wanted a parking lot (or some such) there. So the president of the college opened the meeting by saying that the parking lot would be built, the decision was made, had nothing to do with the faculty, that he was merely informing the faculty (that we had been by-passed!), And now, on to our actual businessUh, what? wondered the faculty out-loud.The following minutes were devoted to faculty friends of the administration ridiculing the faculty friends of established policy, law, sense … the environment. “I too am on the side of the angels,” said one old guardsman.

I wanted so badly to stand up and point out that except for the word “too,” this professor was quoting Bishop Wilberforce: that is, he was standing squarely on the side of ignorance and superstition against reason and science. But I was brand new: newbies should remain silent and watch. I did.

Damn coward. (I’ve gained more than a bit of courage since then, as my recent jail stint testifies.)

K. Symbols

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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