science and religion

This tag is associated with 8 posts

Sunday Quote!- Questioning Exegesis Through Discovery?

brt-youngstearley

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!

Questioning Exegesis Through Discovery?

One area that evangelical theologians must weigh is the notion that exegesis should line up with reality. Thus, how might one balance an interpretation between some apparent readings and the findings of certain scientific discoveries? Must they even be balanced at all? Davis Young and Ralph Stearley’s magisterial work on the age of the Earth, The Bible, Rocks and Time, provides an interesting historical background for how discoveries led to the questioning of exegesis of certain texts:

 [In the 17th Century…] foundations were gradually being laid for questioning the accepted opinion about the age of the Earth [that being a few thousand years]. Advances in the study of fossils and rock strata were both necessary before such questioning would come about… (47, cited below)

Thus, historically, there has been an interplay between scientific discovery and exegesis of key texts of Scripture. Without certain scientific advances, received opinion on certain features of the natural world remain unquestioned. However, once scientific advances made it possible, these opinions were challenged and often abandoned in the face of extrabiblical evidence. The book provides a great overview for how the interplay between discovery and exegesis played out.

What are your thoughts? Should new discoveries be allowed to challenge received interpretations? How might we best deal with discoveries in the natural world which apparently clash with our reading of the text?

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

Source

Davis A. Young and Ralph F. Stearley, The Bible, Rocks and Time (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008).

Really Recommended Posts 8/1/14- Marriage, Biblical Songs, Confucius, and More!

postHere’s another go-round of great posts for your perusal, dear readers! As always, let me know what you thought, and be sure to drop a comment on those you enjoyed!

Co-Leadership in Marriage: Who’s in Authority?– A question which often comes up in discussions about egalitarianism–the view that men and women have equal authority in the church and home–is how one is supposed to determine who’s in charge in marriage. Here’s a solid post answering that question.

Man’s Fallible Ideas vs. God’s Infallible Word– It is often said that we should harbor some sort of distrust towards “Man’s Fallible Ideas.” Here, Luke Nix examines this claim and sees how it may be applied to issues like creationism.

The Two Most Overlooked Apologetics Verses in the Bible– There are many verses in the Bible which are commonly referenced when it comes to apologetics. Here, Tom Gilson brings up two which are not often referenced in terms of apologetics. I originally found this over at The Poached Egg, which is a site well worth you following!

All the Songs in the Bible [Infographic]– Here, there is an outline and explanation of every single song in the Bible. It’s pretty interesting to see them all written out and explained. Frankly, I find this to be one of the more interesting and helpful sites on the web related to general Bible knowledge. Be sure to follow it for some more excellent general Bible knowledge posts.

How Confucius proves Jesus– Did Jesus exist? How we approach this question should be consistent. How do we explore other historical questions? Check out this post, which explores the question.

Sunday Quote!- The War Between Science and Religion

ia-adEvery 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!

The War Between Science and Religion

I recently finished reading Imaginative Apologetics: Theology, Philosophy, and the Catholic Tradition. I have a review of the book coming in some time, but for now I’ll say it was an uneven experience. Lots of high points; many low points. One high point was Alister McGrath’s discussion of science and religion and the alleged war between the two:

This conflict is often expressed more generally in terms of the phrase ‘science and religion’, which unhelpfully reifies both notions, attributing concrete identity to abstractions. Science and religion are not well-delimited entities, whose essence can be defined; they are shaped by the interaction of social, cultural and intellectual factors, so that both notions are shaped by factors that vary from one cultural location to another… the historical evidence suggests that it was actually [two 19th century works not by Darwin] which crystallized a growing public perception of tension and hostility between science and religion. (144, 145)

I think this quote is particularly thought-provoking due to its two pronged approach to the “science vs. religion” mentality. First, I think McGrath is certainly correct to note that the reification of the terms is unhelpful, to say the least. People often say things like “science says ___” or “religion says ___.” Such statements turn either science or religion into separately existing, distinct entities which somehow make proclamations. In other words, they remove either concept from the people putting for the concepts under the umbrella terms “science” or “religion.” I find this unhelpful, and as McGrath later notes, only use the terms out of convention.

Second, exploring the historical origins of an idea like the “war” thesis between science and religion often has astonishing results. One finds, often, that one’s assumptions are challenged and even overthrown by the evidence.

What do you think? What other concepts might we unintentionally reify through our use of terms? How might we seek to avoid doing this?

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Source

Alister McGrath, “The Natural Sciences and Apologetics” in Imaginative Apologetics: Theology, Philosophy, and the Catholic Tradition edited by Andrew Davison (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2011).

A Solar System and Cosmos Filled With Life? – A reflection upon Ben Bova’s “Farside” and “New Earth”

bb-farside

Ben Bova’s contributions to science fiction are monumental. A six-tme Hugo Award winner (!!), he is established as one of the most successful and entertaining authors of our time. I have quite enjoyed a number of his works, though I have at times been critical of his portrayal of religion. Bova’s major series, the “Grand Tour,” follows human exploration of the solar system (and at some points, beyond). The series is constructed in such a way as to not require readers to follow it chronologically. They are interlinked and interrelated, but not interdependent. Here, we’ll look at two recent books in this series which look at the discovery of an Earth-like planet. There will, of course, be major plot SPOILERS for both books in what follows.

Farside

After telescopes on Earth discover an Earth-sized planet relatively local to our own Solar System (ten light years away), the race is on to learn more about this planet. Farside portrays the struggles of a number of people in their efforts to build an observation base on the dark side of the moon. Jason Uhlrich seeks his Nobel Prize in his attempts to be the first to observe and chart the planet.

Life has already been found within the Solar System, and now two rivals rush to be the first to discover it in the great beyond of the stars. What is interesting is to note some of the assumptions that go into Bova’s characterization of life beyond Earth. First, one primary assumption seems to be that where there is water, there must be life. Second, life should be expected in all corners of the universe.

These assumptions are the subjects of much debate within the scientific community around the possibility of life on other planets and the origin of life. Regarding the former, there are those who do believe that life will be found in abundance throughout the universe. After all, given that we exist, life cannot be all that improbable, right? The other primary way of thinking is to argue that life is, in fact, quite rare in the universe and our own existence is a wonderfully improbable jackpot win.

bb-neNew Earth

New Earth picks up some time after the events of Farside. Humanity has sent an expedition to “New Earth.” Upon arrival, there is a great mystery: “New Earth” is eerily like Earth itself. It turns out that a machine known as a “predecessor” has created the planet and grown these human-like aliens as a way to break it to humanity that there is, in fact, more intelligent life “out there.” Moreover, there is a catastrophic event coming towards the whole arm of the Milky Way which will wipe out these intelligent species, and humanity needs to help preserve themselves and the other species.

Though skeptical, ultimately all the members of the expedition are convinced, and the book ends with the message reaching Earth and the gearing up to proceed on this mission given by the Predecessor.

Reflection

There are, of course, any number of things that one could nitpick regarding the plausibility of the scenarios Bova envisions (one would be the rewiring of Uhlrich’s brain to “see” via hearing and touch… how does that work?), but here we’ll focus on two aspects of the work: the plausibility of life outside Earth and the mythos of the benevolent alien.

In Farside, readers who haven’t surveyed the body of Bova’s work discover that the Solar System itself teems with life: life once flourished on Mars, and its vestiges remain; on Jupiter, creatures soar in the skies; life is found elsewhere throughout the System. Bova’s vision of the origin of life seems to be that if there’s water, there may be life. Yet one has to wonder about the plausibility of life forming on a planet like Jupiter. How might biochemical interactions with delicate balances of material be maintained for long? What of the distance to the sun? The origin of life requires all kinds of factors to be “just right” and it simply is not enough to fudge the numbers by saying “It could have happened this way.” To develop a hypothesis around ad hoc assumptions is faulty.

Intelligent life, as explicated in New Earth, is even more problematic. It is easier to have single celled organisms than to have the complexity needed for intelligence. Even granting a naturalistic scenario, the conditions must be even more tuned for life and allow for the nurturing of that life for extremely long periods of time. The universe is indeed huge beyond belief but one has to wonder if even that immensity is enough to repeat the conditions which occur on Earth.

Of course, in the end, one must acknowledge that these are tales of science fiction, not proposals about how science fact might be. There is a certain sense of awe and wonder involved in considering whether life could exist all over the Solar System. It seems to me, however, that if that is the case, it probably got there by means of Earth–blown off the surface of our planet by an asteroid and traveled through space to Mars and possibly beyond.

Another major theme found in both books is what I dubbed the “Myth of the Benevolent Alien.” There is a kind of pervasive battle in science fiction between the notions that aliens want us dead or that aliens are going to be ultimately some kind of saviors of humankind. New Earth brings this benevolence front and center: some unknown life form created these “Predecessors” to find and aid intelligent life. It’s a scenario filled with wonder and hope. But it’s also a scenario which I’ve found time and again in materialistic literature.

The way this story goes: wherever possible, life is certain. It’s a kind of appeal to a fantasy of a godless universe wherein it may be possible to find hope and meaning in the stars. As one character (I believe it is Grant) said in Farside: Ad astra! (To the stars!). Second, the actual inherent implausibility of life both leads to this longing (we don’t want to be alone) and to a search for meaning (how did we get here?). My own answer is that theism provides a more plausible explanation of both the longing for meaning, meaning itself, and the way in which life arose. Interestingly, however, the atheistic accusation that theists are engaged in wishful thinking is perhaps mirrored through various declarations made by naturalists themselves (see the post linked above and in the links below).

Bova’s novels thus serve as a way forward in this discussion. By illustrating our longing and loneliness through the fulfillment of our desires (the discovery of life and the notion that we are not alone), Bova grants readers their wishes. However, we ultimately come to realize that these are indeed just wishes. Perhaps, one day, a “New Earth” will be discovered. But even if that happens, it will not be enough to satisfy our loneliness, nor will it answer our ultimate questions. Theism is the ultimate antidote to loneliness, the ultimate answer for our questions.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Materialists: Where is hope? Look to the stars!– I analyze one aspect of materialism: the way that some look to hope in the “beyond” of the outer limits of the universe. Hope, for materialists, may come from the stars. Our salvation may lay beyond our solar system, in benevolent aliens who will bring great change and advances to us.

Our Spooky Universe: Fine-Tuning and God- The incredible circumstances which allow for life to exist and thrive on Earth are the cause for not merely fictional speculation, but actual reflection upon our place in the universe and how it might relate to the transcendent. Check out this post which surveys the evidence for the existence of God found in “fine-tuning.”

Sources

Ben Bova, Farside (New York: Tor, 2013).

Ben Bova, New Earth (New York: Tor, 2013).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Really Recommended Posts 3/28/14- Nature and Scripture, Tolkien’s Beowulf, oneness in Christ, and more!

postI have a nice range of posts set up for you. First, we look at the “God’s Not Dead” flick. Then, Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf! From there we survey the interrelationship between nature and Scripture, men and women as images of God, and young earth creationism and animal mimicry. I hope you enjoy them. As always, drop a comment here to let me know what you thought!

An Apologist Reviews “God’s Not Dead”– The movie “God’s Not Dead” is drawing a lot of interest from Christians. How does it hold up with it’s seeming purpose: to show that God is not dead? Check out this review by Nick Peters, a Christian apologist.

JRR Tolkien’s Translation of Beowulf: Bring on the Monsters– A translation from Tolkien of Beowulf may seem pretty ho-hum. After all, there are already English translations! But the book is going to be published not only with the translation, but also Tolkien’s notes and a couple essays. This is, of course, not to mention Tolkien is a renowned scholar of linguistics and so his translation is undoubtedly fantastic. I wait with barely contained glee for this one. Check out this post for reasons to get excited about the book!

Are Nature and Scripture Compatible?– Here, Luke Nix analyzes a number of ways to evaluate nature and Scripture alongside each other. The post has helpful flow charts to visualize this reasoning throughout. I highly recommend the read.

Male and Female: One Image, One Purpose– Men and women are both made in the image of God. What does that mean? How does it play out in our view of men and women? Check out this post by Mimi Haddad on the topic.

The “Good Creation” – Mimicry, Design, and Young Earth Creationism– How do creatures which mimic others (or the environment) reflect upon God’s creation? Check out this post which analyzes the question against the backdrop of young earth creationism.

Cosmos: Episode I Recap and Review

cosmos-foxThe Cosmos is all there is or was or ever will be. – Carl Sagan

I will be watching the “Cosmos” TV series and providing recaps and responses as we go. I’ll evaluate the ideas presented for accuracy and give critical responses where I see necessary. Future “Recaps” will likely be shorter, with more length dedicated to the response.*

Episode I: Recap

The episode started off with the above quote from Sagan. Then, we took a trip in a spaceship with the “imagination” to see what the Earth looked like millions of years ago, followed by a picture of what it might look like in the future (apparently like the Borg invasion in “Star Trek: First Contact,” so watch out!).

Then, we got a pretty sweet CG-heavy tour of the solar system via fake spaceship that looks like Eve from Wall-E. I mean it, it was awesome! I was reminded of the majesty of a Ben Bova novel (if you haven’t read him, I would recommend it, but be aware of some rather simplistic discussion of religion). Finally, we zoomed in on Voyager I which had sound travelling from it in vacuum. I’m pretty sure that can’t happen, but I could easily be mistaken about that, so I’d be happy to be corrected.

An unimanginably awesome picture of the Milky Way through infrared really put us in perspective: there are seemingly infinite stars to be seen merely in our galaxy, which is one of an untold panoply of galaxies. As we zoomed out through the gigantic extremes of the universe (the Supercluster), we find that that supercluster is but one among untold billions of galaxies and the observable universe.

But what is meant by “observable universe”? The universe is actually so huge that we can’t actually observe the entire thing because there is more beyond what we can see. But “many… suspect” that our universe is but one in an extremely huge number of actual individual universes (here shown as little bubbles spreading out continually over the screen).

Let’s also not forget the church is a big destroyer and persecutor of science. Galileo proves that science and religion are forever enemies, right? Galileo’s story is preceded by Giordano Bruno, who is portrayed as a kind of anime graphic novel hero maverick because he went along with Copernicus. I’ll just narrate along. He “dared to read the books banned by the church… and that was his undoing.” No really, that’s what they said about him. Interestingly, they also say that Bruno reasoned that because God was infinite, creation couldn’t be anything less. But the evil church threw him out into the cold and he had to sleep on the ground and freeze at night! Then, he had a vision of science dreamland wherein he broke the universe with his finger and lifted the veil of knowledge that the idiots surrounding him had put in place. He floated around the universe and was the first person to figure out that there was vacuum and also the first person to fly in space and land on the moon and sun. (Again, I’m not making this up: this is what he does in the animated sequence in the dream.)

If Bruno was right, according to “Cosmos,” then not only is church authority overthrown, but the Bible can be brought into question *cue religious people gasping in shock.* Bruno was condemned by the church and burned at the stake but magically had powers to float throughout the universe so that’s pretty cool: throw off the chains of church oppression and what you’ll get is genius and the ability to fly in space.

The episode then walked through the history of the universe by paralleling a single year. The Big Bang: we are all made of “star stuff” which was produced through various processes during and after the Big Bang. Earth formed through a number of collisions with various asteroids and the like. The origin of life “evolved” through biochemical evolution. These “pioneering microbes” invented sex, so that’s pretty cool. December 30th (in the cosmic year) brought about the desolation of the dinosaurs with an asteroid. Humans only evolved “the last hour of the last day of the cosmic year.”

Dark_matter_halo2Evaluation

I love space. I love astronomy–my wife can attest to this as I randomly bought an astronomy textbook to read when I was in college. Yeah… I’m a nerd. I don’t claim to have science training or be a scientist, but there is something I can spot: unfounded metaphysical statements. That’s something I honestly expect to see quite a bit of when it comes to this TV series. It actually began with one from Carl Sagan: “The cosmos is all there is or was or ever will be.” Is that a scientific fact about the cosmos? Could you demonstrate that one for me? No. In short, the show begins with an ungrounded metaphysical statement.

Another issue I have is the personification and reification of science. “Science” does x; “Science” gives us y. I’m not at all convinced that “science” is a clearly dilineated entity such that we may speak of it as though it were a reified, ontologically extant entity. What does it mean to say that “science” does something? Don’t we mean that scientists are really the ones who do this? And are not scientists just as much people as anyone else?

The episode’s portrayal of history was very unbalanced. They depicted Giordano Bruno as a kind of hero against the church full of blundering idiots. When he was finally excommunicated, the quotes they put into the church’s mouth were interesting because they portrayed some of the actual issues happening, such as a strict adherence to Aristotelian science. At the time academia really was fully behind Aristotle, and it helped that the church had bought into his cosmology as well. However, for every minimal effort they made at showing some of the historical background, there was some significant effort made to show that the stupid church and its evil Inquisition had a “sole purpose to… torment anyone” who disagreed with the views of the Church. Bruno thought God was infinite so the universe could be infinite as well. Interesting thoughts, but these are juxtaposed against a depiction of everyone else as a bunch of religious idiots who couldn’t transcend space like Bruno could.

Moreover, what banned books that Bruno read are they referencing? Copernicus’ works weren’t put on the list of banned books until 1616 (thanks to Tim McGrew for this information). Just for reference, Bruno died in 1600. I’m curious as to what this depiction was supposed to suggest. I think they mentioned someone else earlier but the ties to Copernicus were evident throughout this section, and given that it was really the rejection of Aristotelianism which was condemning, there was some historical accuracy to be desired here.

Tim McGrew also points out a number of other historical errors, such as the notion that Bruno was burned at the stake for his astronomical views; the notion that everyone at the time thought the Earth was the center of the universe; the notion that being the “center” of the universe meant Earth had a privileged place; and several more major difficulties. I highly recommend surveying them.

The depiction of the multiverse with little-to-no qualification was alarming, for there is much debate over whether there even is such a multiverse, and if there is, to what extent it may be called a multiverse. The portrayal within this episode was essentially a fictitious account being passed off without qualification as something a lot of people believe. The wording used was that “many… suspect” there is such a universe. Well yes, that may be true, but to what extent can we test for these other universes? What models predict them and why? I am uninterested in how many people hold to a belief; I am interested in whether that belief is true.

The survey of the history of the universe was interesting, but there were some major glosses. As an apologist, let me admit my bias here: I would have loved to see some discussion of the fine-tuning involved for life. But that aside, I have to say that the brief snippet used to explore the origin of life: “biochemical evolution” was astonishingly insufficient. I’m sure we’ll get into that in the next episode, but the origin of life is one of the great unsolved mysteries within science and to just hand wave and say “biochemical evolution” is, well, notable to say the least.

Overall, I have to say I was unimpressed by this episode. The historical difficulties were great, but the metaphysical claims throughout passed off as scientific fact were more disturbing.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Cosmos, Giordano Bruno, and Getting it Right– A brief but incisive critique of a number of major historical errors made throughout the first episode.

Cosmos with Neil deGrasse Tyson: Same Old Product, Bright New Packaging-  In this post, Casey Luskin takes on the notion that science and religion are at war alongside some other errors in the episode.

Is there any science in the new “Cosmos” series, or is it all naturalistic religion?– Wintery Knight takes on the episode for making a bunch of claims without evidence.

Notes

*I may miss an episode or two if I have to work.

The image with the text “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” is from Fox and belongs to them. It came from promotional material and I use it under fair use and make no claims to ownership.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Lawrence Krauss vs. John Lennox on science and faith

153734main_image_feature_626_ys_4I’ve been catching up on my podcasts and I recently listened to a dialogue between an atheist, Lawrence Krauss, and a theist, John Lennox on questions about science and faith. It was on the Unbelievable? program (something I strongly suggest you listen to weekly) [listen here]. Thus, it was less a debate than it was a moderated discussion. Here, I’ll only focus on a couple questions that came up in their dialogue.

How and Why

According to Lawrence Krauss, science cannot answer “Why” questions but only “how” questions. Lennox brought up the example of a Ford motor car sitting on a driveway [I added this last bit for clarity]. He argued that one can explain the “how” it got there but there still remains the question of “why” it was made. Thus, the “why” questions remain “real” questions whether or not science is capable of investigating them. Interestingly, Krauss took a different tact than I expected in his rebuttal: he argued that the “why” question (at least in the Lennox case) is reducible to a “how” question. That is, one could explain how Henry Ford designed it, had it built, and then someone bought it and drove it to where it is sitting.

But of course redefining terms does little to address the actual questions at hand. Lennox was keen to show that questions about “why” are indeed meaningful. It seems that Krauss’ only response is to either say “no they’re not” or redefine actual “why” questions into “how” questions and argue there still are no “why” questions. The move is not very subtle, nor is it successful.

Purpose in the Universe?

Krauss made several comments regarding purpose in the universe. First, he seemed to suggest that in order to assert the universe has purpose, one must know what that purpose is. Second, he argued that the universe is indeed quite wasteful if it were intelligent designed with purpose. Third–in response to Lennox’s statement that Krauss and other cosmologists admit that for life to exist there would have had to be several generations of stars (to produce enough carbon for carbon-based life)–he alleged that there could be all sorts of other life forms we don’t know about. I’ll address these each briefly in turn.

First, it seems clear that if one wants to suggest the universe has a purpose, one does not have to know what the purpose is. We can see this all the time in our own interactions with the world. Suppose I see a pile of blocks on the floor in an office building stacked in piles of various heights and arranged by color. I can immediately recognize that there must have been some purpose behind it–for the arrangement by color is quite telling–but I may not be able to pinpoint the exact reason. Perhaps some five-year-old was amusing herself by stacking blocks by color. Perhaps an adult was making art by stacking them in that way–a kind of reminiscence on childhood. There could be any number of other reasons. But the fact that I don’t know the reason doesn’t mean there is no reason. Similarly, I may claim the universe has a purpose even without claiming to know what said purpose is.

Second, Krauss seems to make the error that if the universe were designed for humans, that would have to be the only purpose involved in the entire universe. I’ve addressed this claim in some detail elsewhere, so for now I’ll just say that Krauss’ mistake lies in assuming that if there is a purpose behind the universe it must be the only purpose.

Third, Krauss missed the point of Lennox’s rebuttal. For the life we are dealing with is clearly carbon based. For Krauss to stretch the question to possible scenarios of non-carbon based life is to miss the thrust of his own argument. He was asking for purpose in this universe; he was not asking for purpose in any possible universe. Thus, his statement is off base. Moreover, I tend to agree with scientists like Iris Fry and the like who agree that it is implausible to suggest life could be based on silicon or other things apart from carbon. That is a debate that would take us far afield, so I’ll leave it at that.

Science Doesn’t Care About Philosophy

Lennox, towards the end of the discussion, pointed out that Krauss’ claim to define nothing as something is nonsense. Krauss’ response? He jettisoned philosophy immediately: “Science doesn’t care about philosophy,” he said [he may have said “Scientists don’t…” but after listening to it a few times, I couldn’t tell which he said]. If you don’t see a problem with this, you should. First, the statement itself is philosophical. Second, any number of claims he made throughout his discussion with Lennox were philosophically grounded. Third, science depends upon philosophy to operate. Fourth, as I’ve demonstrated elsewhere, Krauss’ own work is directly dependent upon philosophy.

Documents Aren’t Evidence

Krauss said that documents don’t count as evidence. His assertion was based upon the notion that a book like The Great Gatsby is a document, but it is not taken as factually true. Apart from purely begging the question regarding the genre of the Bible alongside The Great Gatsby, Krauss is also severely mistaken in his claim that documents aren’t evidence. According to Krauss’ claim, we should essentially dissolve our government, because our system of government is based upon a document: the Constitution. But the Constitution cannot count as evidence for anything! So this begs the question: why should we go to it to see whether or not Lawrence Krauss should have freedom to express his vitriol against religious people?

The problem is that Krauss is just wrong here. Documents do count as evidence. One needs to acknowledge the genre, intent, etc. regarding a document, but for Krauss to utterly dismiss documents as evidence is absurd. One may ask whether Krauss wrote any books. He could, presumably, produce documents to show that he did indeed write books. But on his own standard of proof, he hasn’t presented any evidence whatsoever. Thus, on Krauss’ definition of evidence, I conclude that Krauss has never written anything.

Conclusion

There is much more that I could interact with in regards to this conversation between Krauss and Lennox, but I’ll leave it for now with the comments I have. I suggest readers go listen to the dialogue themselves. It seems to me clear that Krauss continues to flounder in areas outside his expertise. He misused the notion of an “appeal to authority” when he applied it regarding Lennox’s citation of Nagel, he continued to make errors regarding non sequitors, he dismissed his own books as evidence that he wrote anything, and his comments on purpose betray a lack of reflection on the topic. Krauss continues to show that he is basically ignorant of even the implications of his own claims.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Shoulders of Giants? -Philosophy and Science in Context, or “Krauss Jumps off!”– I argue that Krauss is mistaken to claim that philosophers know nothing. I further argue that Krauss’ own work is dependent upon philosophy, so he ironically (ignorantly?) dismisses the very basis for his work.

William Lane Craig vs. Lawrence Krauss- Thoughts and links– I summarize and analyze a debate between Lawrence Krauss and the Christian philosopher and theologian William Lane Craig. I think this debate was devastating to Krauss’ positions regarding his atheism.

Follow this link to access the audio for the dialogue between Lennox and Krauss.

SDG.

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Book Review: “Where the Conflict Really Lies” by Alvin Plantinga

There are few names bigger than Alvin Plantinga when it comes to philosophy of religion and there are few topics more hotly debated than science and religion. Plantinga’s latest book, Where the Conflict Really Lies (hereafter WCRL) has therefore generated much interest as it has one of the foremost philosophers of religion taking on this highly contentious topic.
Plantinga minces no words. The very first line of the book outlines his central claim: “there is superficial conflict but deep concord between science and theistic religion, and superficial concord and deep conflict between science and naturalism.”1

The first part of the book is dedicated to the superficial conflict between science and religious belief. The reason this alleged conflict is important is due, largely, to the success of the scientific enterprise. Because science has shown itself to be a reliable way to come to know the world, if religion is in direct conflict with science, then it would seem to discredit religion. Not only that, but, Plantinga argues, Christians should have a “particularly high regard” for science due to the foundations of the scientific enterprise on a study of the world.2

In order to examine this alleged conflict, Plantinga first takes on the article of science most often taken to discredit religion: evolution. Here, readers may be surprised to find that Plantinga does not try to argue against evolution itself. Rather, Plantinga draws a distinction between the notion of evolution and Darwinism. The former, argues Plantinga, is consistent with Christian belief, whether or not it is the way the variety of life came to be, while the latter is not consistent with Christianity because central to its account is the notion that the process of evolution is unguided.3

WCRL then turns to Richard Dawkins. Plantinga argues that “A Darwinist will think there is a complete Darwinian history for every contemporary species, and indeed for every contemporary organism.”4  Here again there is nothing which puts such a theory in conflict with Christian belief. Writes Plantinga, “[The process of evolution] could have been superintended and orchestrated by God.”5 But Dawkins (and others) claim that evolution “reveals a universe without design.” But what argument is provided towards this conclusion? Plantinga draws out Dawkins reasoning and shows that the only logic given is that evolution could have happened by way of unguided evolution. But then:

What [Dawkins] actually argues… is that there is a Darwinian series of contemporary life forms… but [this series] wouldn’t show, of course, that the living world, let alone the entire universe, is without design. At best it would show, given a couple of assumptions, that it is not astronomically improbable that the living world was produced by unguided evolution and hence without design. But the argument form ‘p is not astronomically improbable’ therefore ‘p’ is a bit unprepossessing… What [Dawkins] shows, at best, is that it’s epistemically possible that it’s biologically possible that life came to be without design. But that’s a little short of what he claims to show.6

Plantinga then moves on to argue that Daniel Dennett’s argument is similarly flawed.7 Paul Draper’s argument that evolution is more likely on naturalism than theism is more interesting, but assumes that “everything else is equal.”8 But then, everything is not equal. Theism provides a number of relevant probabilities which weigh the argument in favor of theism instead.9

The arguments against theism from evolution are therefore largely dispensed. What of the possibility of divine action? Some argue that God doesn’t actually act in the world—in fact, the argument is made that even most theologians don’t believe this, despite writing that God does act in various ways. The argument is made that because of natural laws, God cannot or does not intervene.10  However, one can simply argue that the correct view of a natural law is that “When the universe is causally closed (when God is not acting specially in the world), P.”11

Plantinga does acknowledge that there are some fields in science which do provide at least superficial conflict with theism. These include evolutionary psychology and (some) historical critical scholarship.12 Evolutionary psychology generally doesn’t challenge religious belief. “Describing the origin of religious belief and the cognitive mechanisms involved does nothing… to impugn its truth.”13 Now some suggest that religious beliefs are due to devices not aimed at truth, and this would provide a reason to doubt religious belief.14 However, the way that most do this is by conjoining atheism with psychology or operating under other assumptions which undermine religious belief a priori. While this may mean that specific conclusions in psychology are in conflict with theism, these conclusions only follow from the anti-theistic assumptions at the bottom. Thus, while some accounts of evolutionary psychology are in conflict with theism, they don’t provide a solid basis for rejecting it.15 Similarly, varied methods of historical concept may draw some conclusions which are in conflict with Christian theism, but these methods are themselves undergirded by assumptions that theism is, at best, not to be entered into historical discussion.16

There are, Plantinga argues, significant reasons to think that theism is in concord with science. First, the argument from cosmological fine-tuning, he argues, gives “some slight support” for theism.17 The section on fine-tuning has responses to some serious criticisms of such arguments. Most interesting are his responses to Tim and Lydia McGrew and Eric Vestrup—in which Plantinga argues that we can indeed get to the point where we can assess the fine-tuning argument;18 Plantinga’s discussion of the multiverse;19 and his discussion of relevant probabilities regarding fine-tuning.20

Michael Behe’s design theory is discussed at length in WCRL.21 Plantinga offers some additional insights into the Intelligent Design debate. He argues that one can view design not so much as a probabilistic argument but instead as simple perception.22 He reads both Behe and William Paley in this light and argues that they are offering design discourses as opposed to arguments.23 This, in turn, allows him to argue that design is a kind of “properly basic belief” and he offers a robust discussion of epistemology to support this intuition.24

Further, there is deep concord between Christian Theism and Science when one looks at the very roots of the scientific endeavor. Here, rather than simply listing various theists who helped build the empirical method, Plantinga argues that science relies upon various theistic assumptions in order for its methods to succeed. These include the “divine image” in which humans are capable of rational thought;25 God’s order as providing regularity for the universe;26 natural laws;27 mathematics;28 induction;29 and simplicity and “other theoretical virtues” (like beauty).30

Finally, Plantinga turns to naturalism: does it really resonate so well with science? Plantinga grants for the sake of argument that there is at least superficial concord between naturalism on science, if only because so many naturalists trumpet this “fact.”31 Yet there is, he argues, a deep conflict between science and naturalism: namely, that if evolution is true and naturalism is true, there is no reason to trust our cognitive abilities.32 “Suppose you are a naturalist,” he writes, “you think there is no such person as God, and that we and our cognitive faculties have been cobbled together by natural selection. Can you then sensibly think that our cognitive faculties are for the most part reliable?”33

Plantinga argues you cannot. The reason is because we have no way to suppose that evolution is truth aimed, but rather it is merely survival aimed (if indeed it is aimed at all!). He also argues that because naturalists are almost all materialists, there is no way to adequately ground beliefs.34 Finally, because naturalism and evolution conjoin to give a low probability that our rational abilities are reliable, we have received a defeater for every belief we have, including naturalism and evolution.35 Thus, the conflict “is not between science and theistic religion: it is between science and naturalism. That’s where the conflict really lies.”36

WCRL covers an extremely broad range of topics, and will likely be critiqued on each topic outlined above and more. The book touches on issues that are at the core of the debate between naturalists and theists, and as such it will be highly contentious. That said, the book is basically required reading for anyone interested in this discourse. Plantinga provides extremely valuable insights into every topic he touches. His discussion of biological design, for example, provides unique insight into the topic by locating it within epistemology as opposed to biology alone. Further, his “evolutionary argument against naturalism” continues to live despite endless criticism. The list of important topics Plantinga illumines in WCRL is extensive.

Where the Conflict Really Lies will resonate deeply with those who are involved in the science and religion discourse. Theists will find much to think about and perhaps new life for some arguments they have tended to set aside. Naturalists will discover a significant challenge to their own paradigm. Those on either side will benefit from reading this work.

——


1 Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies (New York, NY: Oxford, 2011), ix.
2 Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies, 3-4. (Unless otherwise noted, all references are to this work.)
3 12 (emphasis his).
4 15 (emphasis his).
5 16.
6 24-25.
7 33ff, esp. 40-41.
8 53.
9 53ff.
10 69ff.
11 86, see the arguments there and following.
12 129ff.
13 140.
14 141ff.
15 143ff.
16 152ff.
17 224.
18 205-211.
19 212ff.
20 219ff.
21 225-264.
22 236ff.
23 240-248.
24 248ff; see esp. 253-258, 262-264.
25 266ff.
26 271ff.
27 274ff.
28 284ff.
29 292ff.
30 296ff.
31 307ff.
32 311ff.
33 313.
34 318ff.
35 339ff.
36 350.

This review was originally posted at Apologetics315 here: http://www.apologetics315.com/2012/02/book-review-where-conflict-really-lies.html

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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