Monday, May 11, 2015

Wisdom and Learning

I’ve been thinking about education lately—mainly because we’ve been celebrating so many graduations. Daughter Social Sphere and her husband graduated from college the last weekend of April, and the following weekend son Political Sphere earned his juris doctorate. Yay!

So, clearly, we approve. We’re proud of their efforts and accomplishments, and we trust the learning will put them in a good place for enjoyable ways to support themselves and their families in the decades to come.
But, while the degrees are good mileposts in their lives, I’m more concerned with their virtues than their knowledge. Learning is good, when combined with faithful following of God’s laws. It can make you better able to serve, and to be a happier person.
So I was attuned to thinking about higher education as I came across a few things recently.
I read an interview with Dennis Prager, about why the Ten Commandments are still the best moral code. Since that’s an assertion I make in the Civilization portion of the Spherical Model, I was interested in what he said. One of his discoveries, during college years, was that if there is no God, there is no wisdom.  He said,
Without God, there are no moral truths. There are only moral opinions. There are good atheists, there are bad religious people. Everyone who has eyes to see and ears to hear knows that. If an atheist has similar opinions to the Ten Commandments, I breathe a sigh of relief. But that’s irrelevant to the question of whether there is moral truth if there is no moral God. When I debated at Oxford, I debated an atheist professor of philosophy on this very issue. The first thing he said was, “Dennis Prager is right, if there is no God, ethics are subjective.”
Prager added this comparison:
It is as if a man or a woman who has been trained their whole life in medicine sees some unbelievably obvious sign of skin cancer and just says, “This person has this lesion on his skin” and then describes every cancer symptom but not once mentions cancer. Nor does the oncologist note that the patient had been a lifeguard for 15 years, standing under the sun with their skin exposed to the sun all that time. And that’s not even as absurd as this professor not mentioning the absence of God and religion. It shows you how deep the rejection of God is in academia that you could see all the symptoms of absence of God and not mention God.
Prager and the interviewer go through the Ten Commandments in turn. When dealing with “Thou shalt have no other Gods before me,” he mentions education as a substitute for God:
Take education, for example. Education is magnificent. That’s the reason it’s a false God—because it is so wonderful and so valuable. But education as an end in and of itself produces well-educated barbarians. I’ll give you a very dramatic example. In 1941, there was a conference at Wannsee, outside of Berlin. The Wannsee Conference was where the Nazis decided to exterminate the Jews of Europe. There were 14 high-ranking Nazis there, deciding on the genocide of the Jews. Of the 14, seven had Ph.D.’s. That should be sobering.
Similarly, overwhelmingly the only people in the West who supported Stalin were intellectuals. The record of intellectuals, secular intellectuals, is a moral disaster.
That brought to mind the scripture at the top of this post. Connect learning with counsel from God, and you’re a better servant to God. But learn while ignoring God’s counsel, and you’re proud but miserably stuck in the savagery zone.
During the past two weeks I’ve been looking over the oral arguments before the Supreme Court regarding marriage. It puzzles me when very well educated people miss some basics, such as the importance of a mother and a father to a child, the importance of family as the basic unit of civilization, and the difference between a right to marry a person of the opposite sex according to law and millennia of practice and the “right to marry” anyone one chooses.
Enough of that for today, but I was reminded of a conversation I had a decade or so ago with Richard Wilkins, a constitutional law professor who valiantly fought to defend marriage. We were discussing some of the chain of SCOTUS decisions leading to where we are now, and I, with my mere bachelor’s degree, said, “That doesn’t make any sense at all,” not because I couldn’t understand, but because I could see clearly. He said (I’m paraphrasing, because of inexact memory), “It takes years of advanced education to come to a conclusion that wrong.”
Another story I came across this week was about a professor at the University of Warwick, England, who makes the claim that reading bedtime stories to your children puts unfairly disadvantages children who don’t have parents who read to them. There’s a simple solution: encourage parents to read to their children. But that’s not what this PhD elite suggests: the good parents should withhold reading from their children in their own home, to even things out—or, at the very least, those good parents ought to feel guilty about it. And he thinks any kind of alternative to public schooling “cannot be justified.” He even toyed with the idea that we ought to do away with families, except that he couldn’t, unfortunately, get around the natural benefits to children from caring parents.
I would logically conclude this man is an idiot—except for his obvious ability to read, study, gather information. He simply lacks the ability to draw reasonable conclusions from obvious information. He lacks wisdom. Because, “when they are learned they think they are wise…wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not.”
You know the story of the Emperor's New Clothes? The hero of the story is the young boy who told the truth—thus freeing everyone else to admit they saw the truth too. We need more of those hero children.
As Gordon B. Hinckley said, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” [This quote is attributed to many people, possibly earliest to Alexander Hamilton. But I first heard it from President Hinckley.] Stand with God, and you stand on a firm foundation that will last through rain wind, and earthquakes. Stand firm no matter what the madding crowd may say.

Captain America instructs Spiderman
in Amazing Spider-Man #537

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