Re: History and ASA

From: Gregory Arago <>
Date: Thu Nov 17 2005 - 17:36:28 EST

Hello ASA Members,
  As a relative newcomer here, I assume that my opinion will have less weight than those who have been coming here for some time, and for those who are involved in the institution which has become the ASA. Nevertheless, since I was encouraged to promote the history and philosophy of science (HPS) and its place in the recent discussions at ASA, perhaps another perspective will be welcome. My background education comes from outside 'natural science' proper, though it still supposedly belongs as scholarly/scientific.
  If Ted is questioning whether 'history' is suitable for membership priviledges, it is hard to read this as anything short of questioning what science itself 'is' and 'isn't.' If it is not meant to indicate the split between natural sciences, social sciences and humanities, then it reaches out to what constitutes scientific and scholarly work in the name that the ASA has claimed for Christian academia. The quality of historians in all areas of science and humanities are thus being called to account, which in terms of managing accountability is probably not an outrageous or unanswerable request.
  "The cutting edge discussion of science/faith questions has largely
moved away from the chemists, engineers, biologists and physicists of
the early ASA to those with double degrees that include
history, theology, philosophy and sociology as well as one in science." - Jack Haas

  Yes, indeed! Clearly there is nowadays (i.e. that is now studied) a 'history' to virtually every discipline; scientific, naturalistic, materialistic, theistic, humanitarian or otherwise. It therefore doesn't make sense that 'history' should be isolated as unscientific (or merely humanitarian), since there is also literally a 'science' of each discipline, to one degree of systematic rigiour or another. The analytic tradition itself has reached more deeply into certain fields than others, but that doesn't negate the fact that analyses, including historical ones, take place in all fields of the current academy. Try escaping from this and someone will situate you (put you in your place) in a heartbeat! This is said merely to be (in being) reflexive.
  From the number of ASA participants on this list who readily admit that they 'believe' in 'intelligent design' (ID) and an 'Intelligent Designer' it appears that there is something of a crisis emerging about just what science is capable of justifying within its own domain(s) and what consitutes pseudo-science or non-science. At least, this is how it appears from outside of the obsessive preoccupation with evolutionism in America.
  Scholarship certainly continues outside of the realms of 'pure science,' but then again who ever said that naturalists or natural scientists should have the last say on what defines the boundaries of scientific inquiry as far as it dictates what is socially acceptable and authoritative knowledge. Social sciences have been speaking for their legitimacy ever since August Comte coined the term 'sociology' and since scientific methods have been applied to societies, cultures, peoples, languages, traditions, nations, etc. The lack of veritable law-like generalizations among social scientists doesn't negate the deep penetration of sociological concepts in contemporary society.
  It seems that if the ASA can provide a place for dialogue and a common voice which promotes science, philosophy and theology, then it will carve a muc-needed niche for exciting encounters among inquisitive and educated minds, hearts and souls. Anything less would pidgeon-hole either of those three areas into their own self-satisfying domains of research, to the detriment of interdisciplinary collaboration. Ironically, this is actually where the IDM has thus far apparently topped the potentially greater reaching power ASA holds through institutional credibility and stability.
  At least one thing is quite sure, that journalism and literature do not count as valid disciplines under the banner of Scientific. Thus, a person promoting propoganda in the name of 'newsworthiness' does not and should not qualify as a 'scientist' or 'academic' strictly speaking. A person interested in the history and philosophy of (the science of) journalism, however, would present an interesting potential exception to the rule, a voice seeking objectivity and not ideological-promotion.
  Please note in defense of balance that I am not a 'hard core' humanties person. Nevertheless, I believe in people, in human beings and not just in atoms, quarks, molecules, bacteria, craniums and other physically-created things. I believe in gravity. I believe in God's spirit in the lives of women and men! Especially that certain persons who have lived and who live on this earth, that have promoted, represented and exhibited the Christian life and their purpose in revealing the life of Christ to humankind will find their place in public respectability. If scientific disciplines and academia can help promote this, then more power to the voices that influence the history and philosophy of science and the science itself that is practised by individuals.

Ted Davis <> wrote:
>>> "George Murphy" 11/16/05 8:34 PM >>>writes:
"Since this is an ASA list it's relevant to point out that the constitution
of the ASA (Article III, Section 2, c.) includes "history" in its broad
definition of science for purposes of membership."

I do not see history per se as part of the ASA umbrella, despite the fact that "history" is there. History of science clearly is part of the
umbrella, however--indeed, I would argue (no surprise) that HSC is either the single most important discipline for the modern religion/science conversation...or at least one of the 2 or 3 most important disciplines.
Philosophy of science likewise, but philosophy per se is IMO more relevant to the ASA than history per se.

On a larger issue, however, I really do wonder why we bother to indicate which disciplines belong and which don't. Isn't the real issue simply one's own interest in participating in the ASA?


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Received on Thu Nov 17 17:38:32 2005

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