Thursday, June 08, 2006

Article: "In God's hands: On Mental Illness and the Soul"

At the request of a collegue, I recently read an article titled, "In God's hands: On Mental Illness and the Soul" by Kathryn Greene-McCreight in (Christian Century 5/2/06). I assure you, I would have stopped reading after the first page, probably even after the third paragraph, had it simply been an article I'd run across on my own. Yet since he requested it, I finished it.

It is a fine study in bad argumentation. It uses metaphors as premisses, draws logically unfounded conclusions, and often conflates, equivocates, and outright confuses different terms for mental states. It also appears to me that its biblical exegesis on the soul is highly suspect, but I'm not going to take the time to show this, since the biblical writers, living as they do in a pre-scientific culture, have little to nothing to offer us about the operations of the brain and/or/as a function of/not=/etc. the mind.

About the only statement in the article I agreed with is where the author notes that a human "does not have a soul; he is soul, an ensouled body and an embodied soul." (And this is not original to Greene-McCreight. Lots of people rightly quote this mantra, including me.)

Theologians often like to take subjects we know least about (in this contemporary case, mind-brain issues) and say lots and lots about them. This makes theologians appear deep and wise to otherwise ignorant laypeople. They did this about the heavens in Plato's time; they stopped after the rise of astronomy. They did this about medicine and alchemy in medieval times; they stopped after the appearance chemistry. Same for creation, but not after biology. (only creationist fundies continue to do so.) And now they do it with cosmology and cognitive science. It's no surprise. Other theologians simply bail on science, and thus game play the continental philosophy version of post-modernism.

In sum, and for this particular case, what I see here is very typical of what happens when professional feminist theologians try to think about scientific matters. Also, though the article claims she is "a professor at Albertus Magnus College," she is not on faculty there. Probably at best an occasional adjunct.


Post a Comment

<< Home