‘”Frankly, I don’t confront many students who are postmodernists … For all the faddish talk I think it’s a myth. Students are not generally relativistic and pluralistic except when it comes to ethics and religion.”‘* In short their postmodernism is selective.’

‘The reality is that modernism remains firmly entrenched in the fact realm—the hard sciences, finance and industry. No one designs an airplane by postmodern principles. Postmodernism is typically held only in the values realm: theology, morality and aesthetics. Think of it this way: We are often exhorted not to impose our values on others but we never hear people say, “Don’t impose your facts on me.” Why not? Because facts are assumed to be objective and universal.’

Interestingly the word ‘objective’ means ‘something that is capable of being true or false’ and has been hijacked by those who hold to the doctrine of ’empiricism’, which is the idea that ‘all knowledge is derived from the senses: what we see, hear, hold, weigh and measure. ‘Obviously moral truths cannot be stuffed into a test ube or studied under a microscope. As a result moral statements were no longer considered truths at all, but merely expressions of emotion.’

The outcome of such thinking has lead philosophers to ludicrous conclusions as, ‘If it can’t be measured it doesn’t exist.’ And if you want to see how this works out in our public life, one good example is the fact that Australian school curriculums will only assess what is regarded as ‘measureable’. So, unless you can measure the force of the punch with which the student hits the teacher, then nothing happened. Hate does not exist until it can be measured in a bomb blast or a bullet.

This great train wreck of western thinking got going in earnest via the work of the empiricist philosopher David Hume who argued that if knowledge is based ultimately on sensations, then morality too must derive from sensations—pain or pleasure. We call things good when they give us a certain kind of pleasure. We call them bad when they cause pain. As Hume put it, morality is a matter of ‘taste and sentiment.’

‘In reducing morality to personal taste, Hume took a step that altered the course of western thought. He split traditional philosophy into two opposing categories. Traditionally, truth had been conceived as a comprehensive whole, covering both the natural order and the moral order. But Hume tore those two things apart. The natural order is something we perceive through the senses, so according to empiricism that qualified as genuine knowledge. But the moral order is not perceived through the senses, so that was reduced to subjective feelings. The great moral truths that people thought were transcendent truths were not truths after all but only preferences.’**

Going back to the ‘selective postmodernism’ of university students I would suspect that few of them realise that their double-standard way of thinking has been conditioned into them by our society, which has allowed empiricism to assert that there is only One Way of knowing. But knowing—as in knowing deeply on such things as faith and worldview—has always been regarded as too serious to be left to the ‘shopkeepers and makers of things’. It makes so much more sense to cultivate a Way of Knowing that involves the whole person: mind, body and soul; community, family and neighbourhood. And—fascinatingly—this is exactly what is happening to this great secular dream right at this moment: it’s once-were-great advocates are broken-heartedly acknowledging that they have lost their way and there is a crisis of meaning. Surprise! Surprise!

* Wiliam Lane Craig (as quoted in Saving Leonardo by Nancy Pearcy p. 28)

** Nancy Pearcey. Saving Leonardo pp: 24-29

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