Splashing around in theology.

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I read lots. I have a cat. I drink coffee. Therefore, I am.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Scale of Doubt

As most readers will know, I have been reading the book, shown here.
It is called Doubt: A History. The sub-sub-title is The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson.
The author is Jennifer Michael Hecht.
The thing is just absolutely fascinating. I am only on chapter 3 [of 10].
[I read a lot, but nothing quickly]!
Early on in the book, the author suggests that readers complete the following quiz.
It’s very easy. [I have posted this quiz before, on bookpuddle… some of you may remember it from there].
But I encourage you to get a paper and pen, and do the thing. It is real neat. The assessment will come later.
For now, all you need to know is that you can answer each question YESNO – or NOT SURE.

The Scale of Doubt Quiz

1. Do you believe that a particular religious tradition holds accurate knowledge of the ultimate nature of reality and the purpose of human life?

2. Do you believe that some thinking being consciously made the universe?

3. Is there an identifiable force coursing through the universe, holding it together, or uniting all life-forms?

4. Could prayer be in any way effective, that is, do you believe that such a being or force (as posited above) could ever be responsive to your thoughts or words?

5. Do you believe this being or force can think or speak?

6. Do you believe this being has a memory or can make plans?

7. Does this force sometimes take a human form?

8. Do you believe that the thinking part or animating force of a human being continues to exist after the body has died?

9. Do you believe that any part of a human being survives death, elsewhere or here on earth?

10. Do you believe that feelings about things should be admitted as evidence in establishing reality?

11. Do you believe that love and inner feelings of morality suggest that there is a world beyond that of biology, social patterns, and accident – i.e., a realm of higher meaning?

12. Do you believe that the world is not completely knowable by science?

13. If someone were to say, “The universe is nothing but an accidental pile of stuff, jostling around with no rhyme nor reason, and all life on earth is but a tiny, utterly inconsequential speck of nothing, in a corner of space, existing in the blink of an eye never to be judged, noticed, or remembered,” would you say, “Now that’s going a bit far, that’s a bit wrongheaded?”

And so, I hope you have answered these questions for yourself, otherwise, reading on will be fairly useless to you. The author explains:
“If you answered No to all these questions, you’re a hard-core atheist and of a certain variety: a rational materialist. If you said No to the first seven, but then had a few Yes answers, you’re still an atheist, but you may have what I call a pious relationship to the universe. If your answers to the first seven questions contained at least two Not Sure answers, you’re an agnostic. If you answered Yes to some of the questions, you still might be an atheist or agnostic, though not of the materialist variety. If you answered Yes to nine or more, you are a believer. But more than providing titles for various states of mind, the questions above may serve to demonstrate common clusters of opinion."
- Jennifer Michael Hecht, Doubt: A History. HarperSanFrancisco, 2003. –

I think that the last statement is important. The Quiz is not meant to label or definitively brand anyone. For one thing, there may be discrepancies in how the questions themselves are understood by various readers. However, generally speaking, it can serve to identify “common clusters of opinion.”
Perhaps you would like to submit in the Comments section what you “are” according to Hecht’s criteria.

Incidentally, my own results are that I have slipped from “Believer” into the “Agnostic” category.



Anonymous Cleo said...

Hmm, how did I miss this on the other puddle...I am a pious universe atheist. This is a very strange feeling-I have never thought of myself as an atheist-agnostic perhaps, but hoping I'll somehow find proof I'm wrong.

3/28/2006 9:56 PM  
Blogger RantandRoar said...

I remember this test from the other puddle and I don't think I have changed much. I had no yes answers, 6 no's and the rest not sure. So as a fellow agnostic (although there are times I feel more atheist than agnostic)I would be interested to know your answers to the first 7 questions.

3/29/2006 9:08 PM  
Blogger cipriano said...

My answers to the first seven are like this [currently]:

1. No.

2. Yes, but of the word "thinking" I would put the proviso, "not like we think".

3. No. But my real issue is with the word "identifiable."

4. Not sure.

5. Yes. However, not communicable to humans.

6. Yes, in a sense.

7. No.

3/29/2006 9:24 PM  
Blogger RantandRoar said...

I see you lean more towards a "beliver" agnostic while I a "atheist" agnostic. Of course a couple of years ago you would have been in the believer category as would I. The times they are a changin'.

While you say yes too #2, I said "Not sure" but like you said not sure because the def of "thinking" puts me off.

As for #4, maybe if you pray for something that already happened

#5. If not to humans than who?

If you say yes to #2, then it is only logical that yes would be answered for other questions.

Thanks for the answers, it will be interesting to revisit in 6 months or a year. So for postierities sake:


3/29/2006 9:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find some of the questions rather difficult to answer with a simple yes/no not sure. A lot of them are "yes, but..." or something along those lines. I've always considered myself a "beleiver" but a beleiver in what? I have a hard time defining it as a beleif in God, as in THE God... I guess that makes me agnostic, because I'm not really sure what it is thats out there...

3/30/2006 8:03 PM  

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