For the past few days I have been working on a response to “Sex, Faith and Utter Confusion.” In truth I have enjoyed poring over my old philosophy texts and rereading the writing of thinkers I have not read since my seminars. However, in the drafting of my long discussion of metaphysics, ethics and moral theory, sighting fault after fault after fault in Mr. Tucker’s reasoning, I realized none of it will make a difference. Mr. Tucker by and large does not address things that the panel actually did or said, but used his misinterpretations as a launchpad for unrelated moral wanderings. Mr. Tucker in fact misleads the readers, ignores that the panelists differed in opinions, present thing that did not happen and sells a series of falsehoods as truth.
The selling of snake oil was a practice of using inflated claims with medical-like language to sell cure-all, first made with snake oil, to unknowing populations in cities and towns across the U.S. When these con artists presented near-magical promises of healing all woes, many were swept away by their pretty promises. Those who were educated knew better than to be duped by the hucksters’ claims, but some were less familiar with medical knowledge of the time.
This campus has incredible opportunities to learn real philosophy and be exposed to natural law theory, natural rights theory and dozens of other moral theories. Our religious studies department is staffed by incredible academics, versed in multiple areas of faith and theology, charged with present unbiased views of faiths and constructions of God. From Heather Gert to Eugene Rogers, we have some of the most talented philosophy and religious studies academics in the Southeast, teaching day in and day out on our campus. Two of our philosophy professors are in fact contributors to the Oxford Handbook of Metaphysics.
One might ask, why then does Ratio Christi exist in such an environment where real religious studies education, sound biblical history courses, wonderful classes in ethics, metaphysics and moral theory class are taught by PhD-holding experts in their area? I believe it is because they use philosophic-like language and arguments claiming rationality to sell the snake oil of evangelical fundamentalism. Paradigmatic Natural Law has not held wide sway in Philosophy for hundreds of years, and it is irresponsible to present it as though it does. And it is alarming to me that some cannot track the similarities between natural law arguments made in defense of slavery and Jim Crow, and today’s amazingly similar arguments brought to focus largely on gays, lesbians, intersexed, transgendered and women.
This is not a new trick. The Creation Museum and its director Ken Ham have for years been selling pseudo-science in place of actual science to those who do not know any better. Extreme fundamentalism has learned how to adapt language to be a cover for this broken world view that leaves so much damage in its wake.
Evangelical fundamentalism cloaked in the loose dress of philosophic language is still religious fundamentalism.
Mr. Tucker and his organization have no true interest in learning or having honest dialog or entering into an actual philosophic conversation any more than the street preacher in the library circle will be swayed by the arguments of students who stop to watch him as he screams. I will not dignify the snake oil claims with philosophic arguments because to do so is to give validation to smoke and mirrors as real philosophy.
But please don’t take my word for it. Take a few ethics classes, a biblical history course or a class in moral thinking. I am incredibly indebted to what I learned from lectures with Tom Donovan, Georgia Warnke, John Martin Ficsher, Judith Javis Thomson and many others. They gave me the tools to see a much larger world and understand my faith more deeply. I hope others have those same opportunities. And while not all of us will earn degrees in Philosophy, even a basic training will allow you to recognize philosophic snake oil for what it is.
I like Mr. Tucker personally. I have always found him to be personally kind, and I do not doubt his sincerity in purpose. I do however find his theoretical presentations destructive and harmful to students, misleading them at every turn.