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Ask a Theologian II

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Plotinus, May 9, 2008.

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  1. Naskra

    Naskra Chieftain

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    Genesis does not imply (much less infer) that man has mastery over animals. It says so directly and unmistakably.
     
  2. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    No. Why would you think I am?

    I don't think it's quite that simple. It's a controversial matter what the word normally translated "dominion" in Gen. 1:28 actually means. Many (including proper Old Testament scholars, not just evangelical apologists) argue that it means something like "stewardship" and has no "mastery" overtones. However, I am no expert on this area.
     
  3. Atticus

    Atticus Chieftain Retired Moderator

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    It seems to be related to important moral questions, as most of the people who defend human's right to use animals as food, furs or (cruel) entertainment use as an argument human's superiority over animals. And as they usually don't approve eating for example human infants, that superiority can not be only about intelligence: it seems to be some kind of "ontological" superiority.

    I'll have to add, since this usually starts terrible trolling war, that I'm not trying to preach animal rights here, but to have a civilized conversation about it.
     
  4. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Yes, I suppose you're right, it's relevant to ethical debates (or perhaps, more accurately, ethical debates are relevant to it). I always forget about ethics. There are potential criteria of moral worth other than intelligence, of course - in fact I'd be inclined to think that intelligence isn't very relevant to moral worth at all - such as the ability to suffer or to make moral choices. I think it was Bentham who said that, when considering how to treat animals, intelligence is neither here nor there, and the only question is whether they can suffer. And as usual he was probably basically right.

    You're also right that people do seem, typically, to think that being human itself confers moral status, in its own right, irrespective of whatever other qualities being human might involve. Thus we find that when people argue about abortion, for example, it often seems to revolve around whether a foetus counts as "a human being". The unspoken assumption is that it is wrong to kill "a human being", simply because it is "a human being", and not wrong to kill other things (or at least, less wrong). I must admit that I find this sort of thing very hard to empathise with - it's difficult to see it as anything other than simple speciesism, as Peter Singer calls it.
     
  5. Naskra

    Naskra Chieftain

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    I should have known that nothing was unmistakable around here. The green-inspired stewardship school has no textual support. The Hebrew root "radah" used is literally 'step on' and figuratively rule, subjugate, etc. No stewardship about it.
     
  6. Atticus

    Atticus Chieftain Retired Moderator

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    Well, I agree that the intelligence isn't relevant to moral, what I was trying to say was that those who say it aren't very conistent with it when they judge eating babies. (I've heard the ability to suffer thing attributed to Kropotkin or Bakunin).

    Some religion related questions:

    1. If christians (or say, catholics) think that Jesus was born without Mary having a sexual intecourse, and they think that Jesus was fully human, where were half of his genes from? They couln't be all from Mary, since they were of different sex.

    I suppose this kind of questions weren't foreign to earlier theologians either: Depending on what "fully human" means, it could for example include that one has biological father.

    2. Is the idea that you can perform sins by thinking particular to Judaic/Christian culture?

    3. In this thread there have been mention of two biblical women who are commonly thought to be prostitutes even though there's no evidence for it. There's also Mary who gave birth to children normal way too, and she is thought to be virgin in spite of that. Also the story about how Noah's daughters seduced him seems very odd. I have a hunch this tells something about christianity and perhaps about the underlying Judaic culture. It seems female sexuality was particulary problematic for them. Do you know of any analysis about this thing?
     
  7. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    A) It was Lot's daughters, not Noah's daughters, I think.

    B) It is possible to be a biological father without having intercourse with the biological mother, easier I suppose if you are God.
     
  8. Atticus

    Atticus Chieftain Retired Moderator

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    A) Sorry, my Bible is very rusty. I've actually read that part, but it's about twenty years ago, and I recalled it very different than it really is. (I remembered they did it out of pure lust without practical reasoning).

    B) I must admit that I didn't think that thing through properly: of course God could have performed in vitro fertilisiation with any man's semen, and then the question of fatherhood, though interesting, doesn't exactly contradict the doctrines.
     
  9. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    As I say, I'm no expert. But I do remember listening to a long and very dull talk on this subject by the provost of my college when I was an undergraduate, and he's an important Old Testament scholar, and he argued for the "stewardship" interpretation. So I think I'm justified in regarding the issue as, at the very least, unresolved.

    Simple: God gave Mary the ability, miraculously, to conceive a child and provide it with all of its genes herself. That's not to say that the child's genes would all be a copy of hers, obviously, because then it would be a clone. Another way of thinking of it is to suppose that God miraculously causes Mary's child to have a certain set of genes. God doesn't have to "get" the genes from somewhere or copy them from any human being. He could just dictate them, as it were.

    It could, but obviously orthodox Christians would reject this idea since it would preclude Jesus from being fully human. It would also preclude Adam from being fully human, and indeed Adam is the example that would traditionally be given to indicate that having a "normal" origin is not essential to human nature. I would say that this is actually a pretty good argument whether you believe Adam really existed or not. Just imagine Adam and try to think whether you'd regard him as really human or not. I'd say it would be reasonable to think that you would. Or suppose that scientists find a way to construct a set of genes by putting together bits of DNA from all over the place, and then "grow" a child in a very complex laboratory. The resulting child would have no parents as we understand them, but surely we would still regard it as human. It would be indistinguishable from any "normal" human being. Apart from the crippling psychological trauma, of course.

    I'm not sure about that. The idea that sin lies in the will is a distinctively Christian idea that goes back to Augustine. In fact the notion of the will, as a mental faculty, at all is a very Christian one. But I'm not sure what other traditions would have to say on this. I suppose that the notion of "sin" itself is a pretty Judeo-Christian one in the first place.

    Well, the supposedly rather weird attitude of Christians to sex is a very old and well-trodden subject. But it's not one I know much about. Certainly traditional Christian attitudes to women, and to women's sexuality, have been much re-evaluated in recent years, as one might expect with the rise of feminist theology and associated disciplines. But again it's not something I know much about. Far too recent for my tastes! So I'm sorry but I can't help much with that.
     
  10. Naskra

    Naskra Chieftain

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    The heresiarch Nicholson?
     
  11. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    I couldn't possibly comment!
     
  12. Mowque

    Mowque Hypermodernist

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    What do you think would happen to the 'faithful' if they knew a detailed and objective history of their faith/religion/ Church or whatever?
     
  13. Erik Mesoy

    Erik Mesoy Core Tester / Intern

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    I get the feeling that you're sneaking in a hidden assumption about the "detailed and objective history" here. Surely the answer depends far too much on what that history actually is.

    Plotinus:
    Reality check, please?
     
  14. Mowque

    Mowque Hypermodernist

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    :mischief:


    Ok, one not TOO biased, but somewhat going for reality.
     
  15. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    That depends on who is doing it. I am of the view that a rigorously academic study of any history cannot include the influence of the divine - and that that is true whether there is or isn't a divine at all.
     
  16. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Entangled Retired Moderator Supporter

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    So Joan of Arc should be excluded from history?
     
  17. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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  18. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Entangled Retired Moderator Supporter

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    How, though, should history present her story? You could sanitize out all references to her passion and belief or at the other end, present it as if she was the "hand of God". A historian does not have to argue her case, but presenting it will tend to show bias or ambivilence.
     
  19. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    You could simply describe what she thought, and what her contemporaries thought, of her visions without attempting to give a verdict on whether or not it was true. "According to Joan, God spoke to her and . . ."
     
  20. Perfection

    Perfection The Great Head.

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    Why should that be a forbidden topic?
     
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