Archives For cultural apologetics

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For those of you interested in the intersection between religion and pop culture, I have been posting a series of worldview analysis based on The Walking Dead and Philosophy, a book that looks at the deeper questions in AMC’s wildly popular series.

From “How Do You Solve A Problem Like A Zombie?”

“Even before The Walking Dead and Jersey Shore became popular, the world had been introduced to the notion of philosophical zombies, theoretical creatures identical to human beings with one tiny distinction – they have no consciousness, qualia, or sentience. Imagine a twin who is identical to you in every possible material way but lacks any type of inner subjective experience.  Clearly something is different between the two of you, but how and why?”

From “Much Undead Ado About Nothing”:

“Daniel Dennett says that ‘…mechanistic theories of consciousness…do, in fact, explain everything about consciousness that needs explanation.’   We may think we are conscious people with subjective experiences of rationality, self-awareness, thoughts, ideas, and emotions, but we aren’t. If Dennett is correct, then at some level ‘machines,’ ‘conscious beings,’ and ‘humans’ must have at least compatible, if not interchangeable, natures.  But do we have compelling reason to believe that our subjective experiences can be reduced to emergent qualities of complex biological and chemical machinery?”

From “Leviathans and Zombies: Social Contracts and the Walking Dead”:

“Beneath this story line lurk several serious questions:  Do people have rights?  If so, where do we get them?  Are they innate or contrived? And even if they exist and are codified, how are they best enforced?”

From “Absurd Heroism: Camus and the Real Walking Dead”:

“If Camus and his disciples are correct, we have always lived in a post-apocalyptic world. Which is worse, I wonder – a world in which human are wiped out, or one in which human have always roamed an earth devoid of meaning, hope, morality and truth?”

From “Deconstructing Humans”:

“The subhuman zombies of AMC’s The Walking Dead have reanimated a hot philosophical topic: What does it mean to be human?  It’s one thing to identify deviations from the norm. Clarifying the standard from which we are deviating is a bit more difficult.”

     It is easy to see howMaggie Stiefvater’s popular YA series, The Wolves of Mercy Falls, resonates with today’s YA audience.  In the midst of familial dysfunction and teenage angst, true love lurks just out of sight – until it shows up on your back deck. Literally.  Mrs. Stiefvater uses some great imagery to craft a morally murky morality tale about life, family, identity and love.  In the end, she offers hope that, for at least some of us, our history is not our destiny.
     This series offers a thought provoking (and sometimes disturbing) story that can at least start a conversation about mercy, grace, forgiveness and redemption. I say “at least start” because, from a Christian perspective, there are some important truths missing from the story that shouldn’t be, and a number of situations that aren’t missing from the story that should.
      For those of you interested in how entertainment both reflects and forms us, here is an excerpt of my review: 
As far as literary devices go, the metaphor of the wolf is a great way to explore a dark side of human nature that we are inclined to desire or indulge. 
         As Grace gets closer to changing, she sees that “there was something invisible and dangerous lurking inside me, and I was done being good.”  Wolves have no sense of boundaries, which is why they are in trouble.  They keep leaving Boundary Woods and ravaging the neighborhood pets – and sometimes people. This is a problem in itself.  But the book introduces a philosophical rabbit hole that may go much deeper than just physical transformation. 
     “In the end, we’re wolves. I can read him (Sam) German poetry and Paul can teach him about participles and you can play Mozart for him, but in the end, it’s a long, cold night and those woods for all of us.” So says one werewolf in a speech that sounds a lot like Dawkin’s view of the universe, or Cormac McCarthys’ view of life in Sunset Unlimited.  Are we all just animals in the end? If this is true, no wonder “Hope hurt more than cold,” as Sam says in Shiver.
    However, that’s not the final word in the story.  Sam believes that “It doesn’t make you a monster.  It just takes away your inhibitions…if you are naturally angry or violent, it gets worse.”  In other words, the wolf reveals us for who we really are – it supersizes us.  In this series, the wolf is not automatically evil; it is a way in which to see what the primal “you” is really like when stabilizing societal influences disappear.

To help us better understand the stories, worldviews, and messages shaping today’s youth, here is a review of a trending book series effecting a primarily YA audience.  The fact that they are trending does not necessarily make them good, but it does make them important.

Plot Summary

The highly acclaimed stories  of Kristin Cashore (Fire, Graceling, and Bitterblue) unfold in a world where certain people are born with Graces, gifts that give them a supernatural power. Every Grace is a mixed blessing; the recipients ‘unique strength becomes their undoing. The kings claim those with the greatest Graces and forces them into servitude. Those whose Graces are too ordinary to be of use are sent back home to live on the margins of society.  Graceling, the first book in the series, chronicles the life of Katsa, who is gifted with a fighting Grace.  Fire, the second book, is a sort-of prequel that fills in the history behind Graceling. In the third book, Bitterblue tries to fix a kingdom previous ruled by  her father, a cruel and evil man with the Grace of deception.

Awards

Among other awards, Fire won the ALA Best Book for Young Adults 2010, Publishers Weekly Best Continue Reading…

May 10,2012 marked our kickoff meeting, and it went great!

Following is video from our second section which was a panel discussion about The Hunger Games and other dystopian tales that are popular in young adult literature today. Like it or not, this story is part of the conversation happening in culture today. What are we to do with that? Our panel discusses the good and the bad of the genre, and explores ways in which both may be used to illustrate the truth of Christianity.

Continue Reading…

 

Luc Ferry’s a Brief History of Thought recently caught my eye as I wandered through a local bookstore.  Not only did it promise an entire history of the human ability to think, it promised to do it briefly.  How is that not a win/win?  It’s a bold endeavor, claiming to give perspective on the effectiveness and impact of 5 key philosophical eras in human history, beginning with the Greeks.  The strength of the book is Mr. Ferry’s ability to summarize complicated worldviews in a way that is accessible and interesting.  The weakness is perhaps inseparable, as a philosophical overview for a mass audience is a tough venue to accurately capture philosophies that have transformed the world.

I will do my best to summarize both his claims and my reasons why I think that, while insightful, Mr. Ferry’s conclusions fall short of being convincing, particularly when it comes to his view of Christianity. Continue Reading…