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Sunday Quote!- Explanation as a Zero-Sum Game?

gc-poedavisEvery 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).



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