Saturday, February 8, 2014

Can Reason be Unreasonable?

As some of you also may have tuned in to the debate on the origins of the world between Ken Ham and Bill Nye online the other night, you may be aware of hundreds upon hundreds of responses in favor of (or opposed to) one man or the other. And regardless of your personal opinions of either one, you will most likely find yourself in the Ham camp or the Nye camp.

With this atmosphere in place, I read through the first portion of Charlotte Mason's School Education (Chapter XI, Volume 3): Some Unconsidered Aspects of Intellectual Training

So I venture to ponder the power of reasoning...

Wouldn't you suppose that, as scientists, both Ham and Nye have a very powerful reasoning capacity? Isn't that a lot of what science is? The ability to study, observe, deduce...reason

And wouldn't you suppose that this power is a conscious effort put forth?

Wouldn't you also suppose that much of this power is a gift put into hours and hours of practice?


Miss Mason proposes that this power is actually quite limited in nature and function.

We all know how often we go to bed with a difficult question to settle. We say we will sleep upon it, and, in the morning, behold, the whole question has worked itself into shape: we see all its bearings and know just how to act.

Children should be taught to know that much of our reasoning and so-called thinking is involuntary, --is as much a natural function as is the circulation of our blood, and that this very fact points to the limitations of reason. -Vol 3, p. 115

And regarding the apparent and marked ability of those we label as "gifted", Mason merely states that these people have employed and practiced intellectual habits.

They make a man able to do that which he desires to do with his mental powers. -Vol 3, p. 118

The habits in question are acquired through training and are not bestowed as a gift. Genius an infinite capacity for taking pains. -Vol 3, p. 119


I do agree that scientists such as Ham and Nye have a great power to reason and think things through. But are any of their reasoned viewpoints unreasonable?

I read in Volume 3, p. 116 the reasoning power, acting in a more or less mechanical and involuntary manner, does not necessarily work towards the morally right conclusion. 

Couldn't this also be true regarding arriving at the scientifically or ethically or spiritually right conclusion?

All that reason does for us is to prove, logically, any idea we choose to entertain. 

We all know that, entertain a notion that a servant is dishonest, that a friend is false, that a dress is unbecoming, and some power within us, unconsciously to us, sets to work to collect evidence and bring irrefragable proof of the position we have chosen to take up.

How necessary then that a child should be instructed to understand the limitations of his own reason, so that he will not confound logical demonstration with eternal truth.

Vol 3, p. 116


Could your reasoned conclusions of any particular point be unreasonable?

How do we know if they are? 

And how do we change, if so?

I propose we look to the One Who has no limitations and Who never changes.
Let's take a peek through His lens. 


  1. Wow! Kristyn! We must have heard the same whisper from God. My contribution to the blog carnival also focused on reason and the debate! I suspect Nye would find us both unreasonable for being suspicious of reason.

    1. Thanks, Tammy :-) Isn't that interesting that we both found the same perfect example of this topic through the Nye v. Ham debate?
      Thanks for visiting!

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  3. i might think it uncanny, if it were not for the very realness (though perhaps *unreasonable* idea) of whisperings! thanks for the thoughtful questions as well, kristyn!

  4. It is striking. Two bloggers focused on a rather meaty chapter who've not had any conversation about the connections to the debate both use it as a springboard for the Charlotte Mason blog carnival. I'm betting that the One Who has no limitations and Who never changes might have whispered something.