Continuing in the pattern of having speakers on Monday nights, we had a panel of Hmong students from CSP come and speak to us this week. We were able to hear each of their stories which were all quite different, and we had the chance to interact with them throughout the entire evening. We were very well prepared for this small group to come in and speak with us. We have had a lot of exposure to Hmong culture. As the weeks go by, we are learning what questions to ask and what things we would like to know. The sessions are filled with learning and keep us engaged the entire time.
I had been looking forward to the Hmong students coming in because
they are our generation. They are sharing the same experience in time, but the
subjective experience is very different. All three students were born outside
of the US. One of the students came to US eight days before Sept. 11. I
immediately thought of how I felt during that time, and I could not imagine how
scared I would be if I have been in a new country, that seemed to offer a new start,
and was going through similar problems that I had just left behind.
I also wanted to ask them about the movie Gran Torino. Since Christmas break, I have been dying to ask some Hmong students what they thought of the movie and how much was real or Hollywood. One of the students had seen it and she had much to say about the movie. What she said that struck me the most was that the rituals in the movie were not portrayed correctly. The calling of the spirits was done incorrectly and the cutting of the chicken was inaccurate as well. The Hmong do not chop the head of the chicken off, they simply bleed it out. The head has dome importance to the Hmong but I do not recall if she told us what that was.
I was surprised at how traditional the Hmong culture really is. The speakers we have had so far have focused on escaping Laos or giving history or the Vietnam War, which are very interesting topics. But being that these students are of our generation, we got a glimpse into aspects of their culture from a perspective that we as a class could understand. I was not aware of the traditional stance that the Hmong have toward roles of men and women. It was refreshing to hear students of my generation embracing ideals that are a core part of their culture, and expressing the desire to preserve that culture.
is not very often that students have the chance to do something that is a
weekend activity as homework. Well, in Honors, that's how it works sometimes. We
were asked to watch the movie, Gran Torino, as part of our unit on immigration.
I had seen the movie over Christmas break and opted not to go with the class,
but I still remember the movie very well. The basic plot of the story is about
and ex-military veteran, played by Clint Eastwood, and his neighborhood that is
"taken over" by Hmong immigrants. It is a story about loving, losing and how
even the most powerful of prejudices can be turned around to life sacrificing
If you dig back into my blog history toward the very start of my Honors career, you will find my first posts about my internship project with American Indians in Unity. Going into the project I had some very strong prejudices that I had set out to address. For the sake of being polite I did not state my feelings to the fullest extent. If I had to pick one film or person that embodied my thought prior to my internship, Gran Torino hit the nail on the head. I am not proud of my thoughts, but they were a reality. If I had seen this moving before my internship I would have received it in a much different fashion. What I did through working with my mentor, my on-site research and outside source research, Clint did through the school of hard knocks. The end result was the same, but I would choose my way again if I had to.
Watching the first part of the movie made me realize all over again why I chose the internship and project that I did. The way I defined marginalized in my project not only included those in need, but those like me who marginalize themselves by holding a negative attitude toward peoples of another race. Some may feel justified, like I did, because of encounters that did not leave a pleasant feeling behind. Labeling an entire race from the actions of a few is a gross injustice to those who are not represented in those actions. There is so much to be learned and realized from others that have not had the same upbringing and background as me. Like Clint's character, I have been reminded of the value that a diversified friendship base can be.
Dowe devotes a section of his book to the idea of miracles. Miracles are an aspect of religion that really pushes science, due to the fact that when kept separate, the existence of miracles still challenges principles of science. Dowe assesses an argument from an empirical approach that aims to debunk miracles as a basis for believing in God. He also looks to an apologist who seems to find the overlap of where science can be used in favor of religion.
David Hume is the philosopher Dowe looks to for the argument against rational belief in God. Hume offers the concept of proportioning belief to evidence. Laws of nature are seen as evidence to which result in a full proof. This can only happen when all the evidence is in agreement. When all evidence is not in agreement Hume refers to it as probability. Dowe does not concur with the argument for evidence and is inclined to agree with John Mackie. Mackie through deduction asserts that with the way Hume has defined proof and probability, laws can be asserted which do not turn out to be laws. Dowe suggests further that strong evidence for laws of nature which depend on uniform experience hinge on the extent and representative nature of the experiences (85). Hume also looks at the place of testimony as evidence. Hume's first argument is aptly summarized, "no human testimony can have such force as to prove a miracle" (96).
Hume's second argument (which he never really addressed) deals with the thinking in which the overlap of religion and science occurs. Dowe follows the argument out where Hume did not and plays it to the end. Dowe maintains that when faced with the occurrence of a miracle, Hume would infer to the idea of natural explanation which awaits discovery, over and above inferring to God (97). George Schlesinger provides defense using a scientific method called inference to the best explanation. The inference idea subscribes that which the evidence confirms above the other and to the least complex of two hypotheses. Dowe aligns with Schlesinger's proposition of inference to the best explanation. This seems to be a strong argument for religion.
Dowe's argument for Schlesinger's defensive appears to be well founded. The most compelling aspect of the argument is what Dowe states at the end of the chapter. Dowe insists adamantly that scientists use inference to the best explanation. Reading further in Dowe's book, it is easy to understand what he meant. The chapter on evolution shows that Darwin was really using the same inference to the best explanation with his observations. One of the best ways to find harmony between ideas is to take the method used to produce contrary support and show how it works in favor as well. This ability demonstrates the capacity in which overlap is able to take place. One method of looking at one issue with two answers does not seem logical. The ability to prove one side right over another is no longer available as a consequence. Dowe's point here is not to prove one side correct or incorrect. Dowe argues the harmonious interaction that is possible between religion and science. The interaction is seemingly forced on the issue of miracles. Suggesting that miracles happen creates a crossover into the scientific realm. Meeting the conflict with a thinking that relates to science creates a very sturdy position on which to stand.
The argument Dowe proposes also has implicit weakness. Hume intended to prove there exists no rational belief for the existence of God. While Dowe rises to the argument with the help of Schlesinger, Dowe does not meet Hume head on. The idea of inferring to the best explanation is used by both parties in the argument, but to seemingly different ends. Hume strives to show that there is no rationale for the belief in God through the apportioning of belief to evidence and inferring to the best explanation. The central idea to Hume's thinking is proof. Dowe is not on the path to find proof that God does exist, which places him in an entirely different world. Dowe's point of intersection decays once this is taken into account. The premise of Dowe's argument is harmony of interaction but the interaction is not on the same plane. Dowe looks to best explanation concerning miracles while Hume looks proof of miracles. Dowe does not place emphasis on Hume's being correct which is what Hume stresses most. This was Dowe's main idea, but for the sake of arguing on miracles the argument falls short. Hume has the advantage of setting the stage for the encounter.
Dowe's chapter on miracles is a very thought provoking and confusing chapter. The strength of the argument Dowe proposes seems to have a weakness that dwells within. The issue is not necessarily with the argument that he presents, but at the point that he finds the intersection of the areas of which he is referring, science and religion. Dowe's line of thought may be correct, but the point from which he starts does not coincide which where he ends up. Can the harmony still exist if the point of intersection shifts?
The time of the Enlightenment was a
time of great thinkers and reason. Great thinkers of this time were making
grand suggestions and pushing to move past the traditions that hindered
progress. Great thinkers made bold statements, and among those thinkers was
Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson authored a powerful document that changed the
history of thirteen little colonies into what is now known as the United States
of America. The intent of that document, The Declaration of Independence, is
clear in the opening line of this document and is a tribute to the thinking of
the Enlightenment. Jefferson states," When in the course of Human events, it
becomes necessary... to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with
another." How the previous sentence and
the document itself are a product of the Enlightenment movement will be
examined though out this essay.
In the 6th edition of A Short History of Western Civilization, the essence of the Enlightenment is captured in one sentence, "Enlightenment thinkers argued for reform and change" (469). Jefferson used a key word to open the Declaration of Independence that left no room for doubt: dissolve. Dissolve is a very direct word. There was to be no connection left behind concerning the ties with the British. The main drive in the Enlightenment, as stated earlier, was a desire for progress and a break with the tradition of the time. Jefferson spared no ink while listing the grievances the colonies held against the King of England. The actions of the King were a hindrance, being that the laws were unreasonable and his procedures were not in the best interest of the people. To cite only a few of the many grievances: the King refused to agree to laws that would have established a judicial system and denied what would later be declared a right, which is that of a trial by jury. Reason alone tells one that such actions are of no benefit but to a select few. The use of such reason was another crucial component of the Enlightenment.
Breaking with tradition was a way to allow progress, but also a means to usher in the use of reason. Tradition accepts the status quo and does not provide answers when new questions arise that are outside the traditional mold of thought. Harrison, Sullivan, and Sherman advise that reason employs the senses and assesses truth by what can be interpreted from those senses. When it is observed that the current system of government is no longer protecting its citizens but is a destructive force, reason denies tradition. When tradition is denied and reason begins to rely of the senses to establish truth, nature becomes the guiding light. Harrison, Sullivan, and Sherman state as such," Nature is ordered, functions reasonably, and constitutes a standard for judgment." Jefferson turns to nature as he lays the foundation for the Declaration of Independence.
Deism became popular in the time of the Enlightenment, as the drive to break with tradition flowed into the church. According to the Dictionary of Christianity in America, Deism believed "God revealed himself in nature and through reason." Jefferson talks about laws of nature and self-evident truths, and both ideas fall in line with a Deistic way of thinking. He states that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These rights prevail when one uses reason to interpret nature. Life begins in nature and is a process of nature. Without nature life does not exist. God created all life and it roams free. Why should that same liberty not be bestowed on humankind? This may not have been the thinking used when the Declaration of Independence was written. It is an attempt to understand how the thinking may have been used. Reason is the Deist's companion and mentor. Jefferson appears to have used Deism as guide when founding the principles upon which the United States would be built.
Three major concepts, reason, nature, and change and progress, were used when the Declaration of Independence was authored, and were embodied in the Enlightenment. These concepts are not to be exclusive of other influences or ideas that may have been considered. In his writing, Thomas Jefferson illustrates clear examples of all three concepts. Progress and change can be seen in many places. The idea of declaring independence, in itself, seeks a change from tradition and a want to move forward. Dissatisfaction with the status quo developed the need for progress away from a system that had failed the colonies. Reason was utilized in assessing the situation of oppression that had fallen upon the people and developed the need for change. The list of grievances against the King demonstrates the reason used in making the decision to become an independent nation. Nature was the foundation of the document Jefferson penned. Deism relied on nature to reveal the self-evident truths, the rights God bestowed upon his creation, which he desires for his creation to enjoy. The government Jefferson describes, and the Declaration of Independence as a whole is a product of the Enlightenment and the way of thinking that came out in that time.