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modernism and post-modernism: a reason for some pessimism on the pro-life front

Monday, March 6, 2017 17:09
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The strengths and weaknesses of modernism and post-modernism have long been an issue of interest to me. 

Modernism is strong on logic and facts. Ideally, modernism takes you to reasonable conclusions, but reasoning can be subjective and blind– and worse yet, it can fool us pridefully into incorrect but confident (and even dogmatic) inferences. Dickens’ Gradgrind character is a terrific satire on this and Chesterton’s “madman” is an excellent description of the potential for trouble. The irony in all of this is that “smart” people can really be “too smart” for their own good (and others)– in a narrow, blinkered sense– and really, thus, stuck ironically in a form of fundamentalism.

Post-modernism is strong on story and emotion. Post-modernism can be strong on empathy, if it avoids narcissism. It can be more personal and more “real”, but it can devolve into relativism. It has more room for metaphysics, but those metaphysics can be subjective and even incoherent. 

Generalizing, Modernism is the approach of Baby-Boomers, while Post-modernism is the approach of Millennials. What are some implications? Let me give you two– an old favorite of mine and a new insight from today.

1.) For a while, I’ve noted that an excellent C.S. Lewis apologetic for modernism is Mere Christianity, while an excellent C.S. Lewis apologetic for post-modernism is The Great Divorce. (Reasonably-educated Christians should be familiar with both.) All things equal, if you’re sharing the Gospel and the goodness of God’s Kingdom with older folks, go with MC; if younger folks, go with GD. Or better yet, figure out how they think– and go with what fits.

2.) Today, I was thinking about how this pairing relates to the abortion debate. In particular, why are people pro-abortion/pro-choice? (Pro-abortion folks are often not “pro-choice” on any other major policy view, so we should distinguish between these two groups.) I now see two camps in that crowd. 

First, some are “modernists” in their approach. But ironically, they’re stuck with archaic science (e.g., on biological life) and/or economics (e.g, on concerns about over-population). I keep thinking that people will update their views on at least science. But it’s tough to teach an old dog new tricks, especially intellectually. And it’s a lot of hard work: people are busy, not willing to put in the work, relying on intellectual and political inertia in maintaining their blinkered views. 

Second, some are “post-modernists” in their approach. If they’re younger, they’re certainly in a stronger position to understand the science/logic. But that’s not as important to them. So, they rely on feelings and metaphysics, both of which are often fuzzy. While some may be drawn to the metaphysics of the pro-life position (e.g., the beauty of defending the vulnerable), others go with freedom for the mother, not willing to “judge”, and so son.

I had been more optimistic that the public would (relatively rapidly) “grow” or mature out of pro-abortion/”choice” views. But maybe it’s going to be a lot tougher than I thought. The logic, facts and science are there, but post-moderns aren’t going to be converted by reason and many moderns aren’t as reasonable as they imagine.


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