Every Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!
Explanation as a Zero-Sum Game?
God and the Cosmos by Harry Lee Poe and Jimmy H. Davis offers a deep look at the problem of divine activity in a created world. The authors explore the question from a number of perspectives, providing much insight into an intriguing question. One aspect they address is the notion that explanation is a kind of zero-sum game:
To those who hold the view of scientific naturalism, our explanations of natural events are a zero-sum game. To them a 100 percent natural explanation means a 0 percent divine involvement. (17, cited below)
Thus, the authors argue that many who hold to a non-theistic worldview allege that explanation is a numbers game. If one can fully explain a phenomenon through natural means, that must mean that theism has nothing to say about it. Intriguingly, though the authors don’t note this, a similar view is espoused by many Christians who tacitly grant this premise, arguing against natural explanations due to a fear of deism or other non-Christian beliefs. Yet when we look at the statement on its face, it seems absurd. We know explanations are not zero-sum. My belief that it is raining might lead me to bring an umbrella with when I go outside, but one might also be able to construct a series of physical explanations of the same event (i.e. describe all the neurons fired, muscles moved, etc.).
God and the Cosmos is the kind of book that keeps readers thinking well after reading the content. I’m still working through it, but so far I recommend it. As an interesting aside, Harry Lee Poe is related to Edgar Allan Poe (yes, that one), and also wrote a fascinating book on his relation: “Evermore: Edgar Allan Poe and the Mystery of the Universe.”
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Harry Lee Poe and Jimmy H. Davis, God and the Cosmos (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2012).
Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging and commented:
Looking forward to reading this volume!
You will enjoy the rest of the book too. Thanks for the reminder of how good it is.
Thanks for reading and stopping by. I’ve been pretty thrilled by the whole book thus far.
Hi! This book seems really interesting, I’ll have to add it to my list. Does the book happen to go into any detail concerning Classical Theism and the arguments of the scholastic philosopher such as Thomas Aquinas which show that God–far from having just created the universe at one point in time–actually must be sustaining the universe in being at every moment, and is the ultimate cause of all motion in the universe? If the scholastics were right (and I think they were) this would mean that even naturalistic, scientific explanations would ultimately metaphysically require God, so that any natural explanation even in principle still would not remove the need for God. (PS, I read on your “about” page that you got your MA at Biola. I will be a freshman at Biola next year!)
I have not finished the book so I can’t say with 100% certainty one way or another. The book is less about arguments of the form you’re referencing than it is specifically about the problem of a transcendent being acting in the world.
Also congrats at starting at Biola. Sorry I didn’t mention that before. I’ve been ill and scatterbrained because of it.
It’s all good! I am very excited to be starting at Biola, I plan to double major in theology and philosophy and can’t wait to see where God leads me!