History and Method
The Mysterious Flame: Conscious Minds in a Material World (Basic Books: 2000), p. 56.
Can we gain any deeper insight into what makes the problem of consciousness run against the grain of our thinking? Are our modes of theorizing about the world of the wrong shape to extend to the nature of the mind? I think we can discern a characteristic structure possessed by successful theories, a structure that is unsuitable for explaining consciousness. ... It there a "grammar" to science that fits the physical world but becomes shaky when applied to the mental world? ¶ Perhaps the most basic aspect of thought is the operation of combination. This is the way in which we think of complex entities as resulting from the arrangement of simpler parts. There are three aspects to this basic idea: the atoms we start with, the laws we use to combine them, and the resulting complexes ... I think it is clear that this mode of understanding is central to what we think of as scientific theory; our scientific faculty involves representing the world in this combinatorial style.
"An Ideal of Service to Our Fellow Man" in This I Believe (1950).
The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious — the knowledge of the existence of something unfathomable to us, the manifestation of the most profound reason coupled with the most brilliant beauty. I cannot imagine a god who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, or who has a will of the kind we experience in ourselves. I am satisfied with the mystery of life's eternity and with the awareness of — and glimpse into — the marvelous construction of the existing world together with the steadfast determination to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature. This is the basis of cosmic religiosity, and it appears to me that the most important function of art and science is to awaken this feeling among the receptive and keep it alive.
Gregory W. Dawes (Taylor & Francis, Inc.: Jun 2009), 212 pages.
In this timely study, Dawes defends the methodological naturalism of the sciences. Though religions offer what appear to be explanations of various facts about the world, the scientist, as scientist, will not take such proposed explanations seriously. Even if no natural explanation were available, she will assume that one exists. Is this merely a sign of atheistic prejudice, as some critics suggest? Or are there good reasons to exclude from science explanations that invoke a supernatural agent? On the one hand, Dawes concedes the bare possibility that talk of divine action could constitute a potential explanation of some state of affairs, while noting that the conditions under which this would be true are unlikely ever to be fulfilled. On the other hand, he argues that a proposed explanation of this kind would rate poorly, when measured against our usual standards of explanatory virtue.
Is God a Delusion? A Reply to Religion's Cultured Despisers (Wiley-Blackwell: Dec. 3, 2008), p. 45.
And, if as most theists would agree, God transcends our finite understanding, wouldn't it be better to define "God" in a way that makes our understanding of the divine susceptible to development in the light of critical reflection? What we need is a definition that points us to something without presuming to describe every key detail; a definition that gets all of us "looking in the same direction" so that we can have a debate about the properties of what we're looking at. ¶ Of course, any definition of this sort will make it difficult to test the God Hypothesis scientifically, even if it were theoretically possible to do so. And so the new atheists may view such a definition as a deliberate evasion of their efforts at falsification (I can almost hear the indignation). ¶ My initial response to such views is simply this: Get over it. Since the God Hypothesis concerns a reality that transcends the world investigated by science, it can't be investigated scientifically anyway, and so such indignation is irrelevant. Theologians and philosophers of religion should not be forced, out of deference to those scientists who want to subject everything to their methodology, to adopt a definition of God unsuitable to its subject matter.
John G. West on Scientism said...
"Louisiana Confounds the Science Thought Police" in National Review Online (July 8, 2008).
[T]he idea that the current scientific consensus on any topic deserves slavish deference betrays stunning ignorance of the history of science. Time and again, scientists have shown themselves just as capable of being blinded by fanaticism, prejudice, and error as anyone else. Perhaps the most egregious example in American history was the eugenics movement, the ill-considered crusade to breed better human beings. During the first decades of the 20th century, the nation’s leading biologists at Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, and Stanford, as well by members of America’s leading scientific organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences, the American Museum of Natural History, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science were all devoted eugenicists. By the time the crusade had run its course, some 60,000 Americans had been sterilized against their will in an effort to keep us from sinning against Darwin’s law of natural selection, which Princeton biologist Edwin Conklin dubbed “the great law of evolution and progress.” Today, science is typically portrayed as self-correcting, but it took decades for most evolutionary biologists to disassociate themselves from the junk science of eugenics. For years, the most consistent critics of eugenics were traditionalist Roman Catholics, who were denounced by scientists for letting their religion stand in the way of scientific progress. The implication was that religious people had no right to speak out on public issues involving science.
Nathan Jacobson » Reflections on Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion.
In the second chapter of The God Delusion, Dawkins argues that the "God Hypothesis" is a scientific question, susceptible to the weight of scientific evidence, both for and against. He strongly rejects the approach of those like Eugenie Scott and Stephen Jay Gould who would relegate the question of God to its own category, immune from the methods of scientific inquiry. Science and religion just aren't talking about the same thing, they say. But in Dawkins' view, "God's existence or non-existence is a scientific fact about the universe, discoverable in principle if not in practice." (p. 73) Dawkins argues that, "the moment religion steps on science's turf and starts to meddle in the real world" (p. 84, emphasis mine), any supposed demarcation between questions of science and questions of theology is erased. I agree, provided that we deal with Dawkins' strong, implicit scientism. The Judeo-Christian religions are historical religions whose scriptures make countless claims about history in particular, but also to some extent about biology, cosmology, psychology, anthropology, and even God's supposed interventions in the natural world. As such, this "God Hypothesis" is indeed open to critical inquiry, including scientific inquiry, and many Christian thinkers through the centuries have welcomed it and pursued it. The problem is Dawkins' view that the answer to the God Hypothesis will be a "strictly scientific answer. The methods we should use to settle the matter [...] would be purely and entirely scientific methods." (pp. 82-83, emphasis mine) Here Dawkins is voicing a problematic epistemology that has been called "strong scientism".
Knowledge of God, Alvin Plantinga and Michael Tooley (Blackwell: May 2, 2008), pp. 4-5.
God has created the world, but he also sustains it in existence; without this sustenance, the world would disappear like a candle flame in a high wind. Further, God governs the world in such a way that it displays a certain constancy and regularity. These regularities are everywhere: heavier-than-air objects dropped near the surface of the earth fall down rather than up; bread is nourishing but mud is not; there is breathable air near the surface of the earth, though not at 35,000 feet or under water. Unlike rocks, seeds planted in soil sprout and take root; heavy steel beams will hold a lot of weight for a long time; a confined explosion will exert pressure on the wall of its container. It is by virtue of these regularities that human beings can act in the world, can learn about it, and act on what they have learned.
David Berlinski (Crown Forum : April 1, 2008), 256 pages.
Militant atheism is on the rise. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens have dominated bestseller lists with books denigrating religious belief as dangerous foolishness. And these authors are merely the leading edge of a far larger movement–one that now includes much of the scientific community. “The attack on traditional religious thought,” writes David Berlinski in The Devil’s Delusion, “marks the consolidation in our time of science as the single system of belief in which rational men and women might place their faith, and if not their faith, then certainly their devotion.” A secular Jew, Berlinski nonetheless delivers a biting defense of religious thought. An acclaimed author who has spent his career writing about mathematics and the sciences, he turns the scientific community’s cherished skepticism back on itself, daring to ask and answer some rather embarrassing questions. ~ Product Description
"The Contemporary Argument for Design: An Overview" in Passionate Conviction, eds. Paul Copan and William Lane Craig (B&H Publishing: Oct 1, 2007), 72.
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, we look out at an utterly different world from that envisioned by the science of the late nineteenth century. It is a world charged with design, a cosmos that points beyond itself to a transcendent and intelligent cause. But the word is not out! On the contrary, the materialistic definition of science inherited from the nineteenth century still prevents us from considering this new evidence. The problem is so acute that some scientists are willing to posit an infinite panoply of unobservable universes, just to explain away the fine tuning in our universe... ¶ The materialistic definition of science is no mere philosophical trifle. It dictates what may be discussed, funded and published, at least within official circles. This cultural and institutional power makes materialistic science look like an unyielding structure, extending invincibly into the clouds like Jack's Beanstalk. But if the evidence is as I have described it, then that monolith must surely have its weak spots. So it must and does, just where it doesn't fit the natural world.
William Sweet and Richard Feist, eds. (Ashgate: Aug 30, 2007), 235 pages.
Does science pose a challenge to religion and religious belief? This question has been a matter of long-standing debate - and it continues to concern not only scholars in philosophy, theology, and the sciences, but also those involved in public educational policy. This volume provides background to the current 'science and religion' debate, yet focuses as well on themes where recent discussion of the relation between science and religion has been particularly concentrated.The first theme deals with the history of the interrelation of science and religion. The second and third themes deal with the implications of recent work in cosmology, biology and so-called intelligent design for religion and religious belief. The fourth theme is concerned with 'conceptual issues' underlying, or implied, in the current debates, such as: Are scientific naturalism and religion compatible? Are science and religion bodies of knowledge or practices or both? And, do religion and science offer conflicting truth claims?By illuminating contemporary discussion in the science-religion debate and by outlining the options available in describing the relation between the two, this volume will be of interest to scholars and to members of the educated public alike. ~ Product Description
The Language of God (Free Press: 2006), pp. 1-3.
The human genome consists of all the DNA of our species, the hereditary code of life. This newly revealed text was 3 billion letters long, and written in a strange and cryptographic four-letter code. Such is the amazing complexity of the information carried within each cell of the human body, that a live reading of that code at a rate of one letter per second would take thirty-one years, even if reading continued day and night. Printing these letters out in regular font size on normal bond paper and binding them all together would result in a tower the height of the Washington Monument. For the first time on that summer morning this amazing script, carrying within it all of the instructions for building a human being, was available to the world.
Owen Gingerich (Belknap Press : September 30, 2006)
In God’s Universe, Owen Gingerich, a Harvard University astronomer and science historian, tells how in the 1980s he was part of an effort to produce a kind of anti-Cosmos, a television series called Space, Time, and God that was to counter Sagan’s "conspicuously materialist approach to the universe." The program never got off the ground, but its premise survives: that there are two ways to think about science. You can be a theist, believing that behind the veil of randomness lurks an active, loving, manipulative God, or you can be a materialist, for whom everything is matter and energy interacting within space and time. Whichever metaphysical club you belong to, the science comes out the same. In the hands of as fine a writer as Gingerich, the idea almost sounds convincing. "One can believe that some of the evolutionary pathways are so intricate and so complex as to be hopelessly improbable by the rules of random chance," he writes, "but if you do not believe in divine action, then you will simply have to say that random chance was extremely lucky, because the outcome is there to see. Either way, the scientist with theistic metaphysics will approach laboratory problems in much the same way as his atheistic colleague across the hall." ~ Scientific American
Evidence and Faith (Cambridge University Press: 2005), p. 3.
I kept thinking of the ancient Roman pictures of the keeper of doorways, Janus, the god of beginnings. He has two faces, one looking to the past, the other to the future... The Cambridge Platonists occupy an important middle ground in the history of ideas. They understood the power of modern science... and yet they worked in allegiance with an important Platonic philosophical and religious heritage spanning ancient, medieval, and Renaissance philosophy. They forged an extraordinary synthesis designed to incorporate modern science while retaining what they believed to be the best of Greek and Hebrew wisdom. Like Janus, the Cambridge Platonists invite us to adopt that double vision of looking both to the past and to the future... Some artists, scientists, and religious practitioners complain that philosophy of art, science, and religion utilize misleading pictures of the way art, science, and religion are actually practiced. For better or for worse, the Cambridge Platonists were philosophers of religion and, at the same time, committed to the practice of religion. They practiced the very thing they were studying and philosophically reflecting on, and in that respect the Cambridge Platonists were like artists or scientists working out a philosophy of art or science. They also thereby raise questions about the roles of detachment and religious commitment in the course of philosophical inquiry.
Scientific Explanation and Religious Belief Science and Religion in Philosophical and Public Discourse
Michael G. Parker and Thomas M. Schmidt (Paul Mohr Verlag: October 2005), 170 pages.
The science-and-religion dialogue has become an established part of the wider cultural conversation about the respective roles of science and religion within democratic societies. By reflecting on the matrix of science, religion and politics, this volume constitutes a major contribution to the science-and-religion dialogue. It is not only required reading for philosophers, scientists and theologians, but will be of interest to all those engaged in the larger cultural conversation about the relationship between science and religion. ~ Product Description
Email correspondence with Salvador Cordova, at IDEA (May 18, 2005).
My position is to distinguish between philosophical and methodological naturalism, but of course, the leaders of the ID movement reject this distinction and conflate the two. I think the distinction is real, it should be appreciated, and it is one of the keys to solving the problem of the rejection of evolution. And a lot of scientists agree with me, even those who are nonbelievers. But it's much easier for the leaders of the ID movement to keep flogging Dawkins and Provine than to reflect the philosophical reality out there. ¶ I think much of the antievolution sentiment in the public is because anti-evolutionists have sold the public a bill of goods that because science CAN explain through natural cause, it means that science is saying that therefore "God had nothing to do with it." Evolution, like all science, explains through natural cause. It tells you what happened, and nothing about ultimate cause. If a religious position makes a fact claim, like special creation of living things in their present form, at one time (the YEC view), science can propose that there are no data to support this view, and much against it. But if God wanted to create that way, but make it look like living things appeared sequentially through time, science of course could not refute the claim. The claim — like all claims about God's action in the natural world — would in fact not be testable (and therefore not scientific) because ANY result is compatible with God's action (assuming God is omnipotent.) ¶ The blame lies partly with science professors and partly with the public. In defense of science professors, students rarely challenge them for making atheistic comments when discussing, say, cell division ("Prof. Jones, you just said that 'enzymes A & B make chromosomes line up on the equator.' Are you saying that therefore God had nothing to do with it?") When they are discussing evolution, scientists treat it the same way as they treat cell division: here are the natural processes that result in the splitting of a lineage, or whatever. Students are more likely to read philosophical naturalism into methodological naturalism when the topic is evolution than when the topic is cell division — and we can't blame that on professors. It would help if students would be a little more reflective on this issue! But professors can be more sensitive to this issue, certainly. And I find that once the difference between philosophical and methodological naturalism is pointed out, they "get it", and few argue that this isn't a good idea.
"Was Darwin Wrong?" in National Geographic Magazine (November 2004).
Evolution by natural selection, the central concept of the life's work of Charles Darwin, is a theory. It's a theory about the origin of adaptation, complexity, and diversity among Earth's living creatures. If you are skeptical by nature, unfamiliar with the terminology of science, and unaware of the overwhelming evidence, you might even be tempted to say that it's "just" a theory. In the same sense, relativity as described by Albert Einstein is "just" a theory. The notion that Earth orbits around the sun rather than vice versa, offered by Copernicus in 1543, is a theory. Continental drift is a theory. The existence, structure, and dynamics of atoms? Atomic theory. Even electricity is a theoretical construct, involving electrons, which are tiny units of charged mass that no one has ever seen. Each of these theories is an explanation that has been confirmed to such a degree, by observation and experiment, that knowledgeable experts accept it as fact. That's what scientists mean when they talk about a theory: not a dreamy and unreliable speculation, but an explanatory statement that fits the evidence. They embrace such an explanation confidently but provisionally—taking it as their best available view of reality, at least until some severely conflicting data or some better explanation might come along.
Michael C. Rea (Oxford University Press: Jun 2004), 256 pages.
Philosophical naturalism, according to which philosophy is continuous with the natural sciences, has dominated the Western academy for well over a century, but Michael Rea claims that it is without rational foundation. Rea argues compellingly to the surprising conclusion that naturalists are committed to rejecting realism about material objects, materialism, and perhaps realism about other minds. "World Without Design is filled with excellent summaries of positions and philosophers and enough provocative argumentation to incite even the most naturalistically minded. It was a pleasure to read! ~ Christian Scholar's Review • "Rea's is a dense and closely argued book, illustrating the convergence of philosophy of religion and sophisticated metaphysics and representative of the best of Christian philosophy today." ~ Philosophia Christi
The Soul of Science (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1994), p. 157-8.
At the time of the scientific revolution the reliability of human knowledge was grounded in the belief that God had created humanity in His image, to reflect His rationality. But the success of the mathematical approach to science was so intoxicating that Western intellectuals no longer felt that the need for any external guarantee of knowledge. They regarded mathematics itself and the axiomatic method derived from it as an independent means of gaining indubitable, infallible knowledge. They set human reason up as an autonomous power, capable of penetrating to ultimate truth. Mathematics, as the crown of human reason, was essentially worshiped as an idol. ¶ But then something unexpected happened. With no grounding in divine creation, human knowledge was cut adrift. If the universe is the product of blind, mechanistic forces, how do we know it has any intelligible structure at all? If there is no Designer, how can we be confident there is a design? If human beings are not created in the image of God, how can we be sure the design we think we detect is really there? Where is the guarantee that the concepts in our minds bear any relation to the world outside?
Religion and Science (New York: Oxford University Press), pp. 108-09.
Theology still tries to interfere in medicine where moral issues are supposed to be specially involved, yet over most of the field the battle for the scientific independence of medicine has been won. No one now thinks it impious to avoid pestilences and epidemics by sanitation and hygiene; and though some still maintain that diseases are sent by God, they do not argue that it is therefore impious to try to avoid them. The consequent improvement in health and increase of longevity is one of the most remarkable and admirable characteristics of our age. Even if science had done nothing else for human happiness, it would deserve our gratitude on this account. Those who believe in the utility of theological creeds would have difficulty in pointing to any comparable advantage that they have conferred upon the human race.
Stephen Jay Gould on Creationism said...
"Creationism: Genesis vs. Geology" in Science and Creationism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984), p. 130.
In candid moments, leading creationists will admit that the miraculous character of origin and destruction precludes a scientific understanding. Morris writes (and Judge Overton quotes): 'God was there when it happened. We were not there... Therefore, we are completely limited to what God has seen fit to tell us, and this information is in His written Word.'