Origins & Science
C.S. Lewis on Creation Myths said...
Reflections on the Psalms (Harvest Books: 1964), p. 171.
I suspect that many people assume that some clear doctrine of creation underlies all religions: that in Paganism the gods, or one of the gods, usually created the world; even that religions normally begin by answering the question, "Who made the world?" In reality, creation, in any unambiguous sense, seems to be a surprisingly rare doctrine; and when stories about it occur in paganism they are often religiously unimportant, not in the least central to the religions in which we find them. They are on the fringe where religion tails off into what was perhaps felt, even at the time, to be more like fairy-tale.
Michael Ruse (Cambridge University Press: Sep 6, 2004)
The author, a professor of philosophy and zoology at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, writes with bracing candor ("Let me be open," he begins. "I think that evolution is a fact and that Darwinism rules triumphant.") and sophisticated sympathy to Christian doctrine ("if one's understanding of Darwinism does include a natural evolution of life from nonlife, there is no reason to think that this now makes Christian belief impossible."). Writing this book, he also clearly had a hell of a lot of fun (disarming skeptical Christian readers at the beginning, he asks, "Why should the devil have all the good tunes?"). Can a Darwinian Be a Christian? answers its title question with heady confidence - "Absolutely!" - but the book journeys towards that answer with circumspect integrity. Covering territory from the Scopes "Monkey Trial" to contemporary theories of social Darwinism to the question of extraterrestrial life, Ruse applies an impressive wealth of knowledge that encompasses many disciplines. Readers may or may not be swayed, but they can't help but be challenged and edified by this excellent book ~ Michael Joseph Gross
Cosmos (Random House, Inc.: 1985), pp. 198-9.
We are, in the most profound sense, children of the Cosmos. Think of the Sun's heat on your upturned face on a cloudless summer's day; think how dangerous it is to gaze at the Sun directly. From 150 million kilometers away, we recognize its power. What would we feel on its seething self-luminous surface, or immersed in its hear of nuclear fire. The sun warms us and feeds us and permits us to see. It fecundated the Earth. It is powerful beyond human experience. Birds greet the sunrise with and audible ecstasy. Even some one-celled organisms know to swim to the light. Our ancestors worshiped the Sun, and they were far from foolish. And yet the Sun is an ordinary, even a mediocre star. If we must worship a power greater than ourselves, does it not make sense to revere the Sun and stars? Hidden within every astronomical investigation, sometimes so deeply buried that the researcher himself is unaware of its presence, lies a kernel of awe.
The Origin of Species (Avenel Books, Crown Publishers, New York, 1979 [November, 1859]), p. 219.
If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous successive slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.
The Origin of Species (November, 1859).
In considering the Origin of Species, it is quite conceivable that a naturalist, reflecting on the mutual affinities of organic beings, on their embryological relations, their geographical distribution, geological succession, and such other facts, might come to the conclusion that each species had not been independently created, but had descended, like varieties, from other species. Nevertheless, such a conclusion, even if well founded, would be unsatisfactory, until it could be shown how the innumerable species inhabiting this world have been modified, so as to acquire that perfection of structure and coadaptation which most justly excites our admiration.
The Origin of Species (November, 1859).
The number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed on the earth, (must) be truly enormous. Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory.
Charles S. Pierce on Science said...
Reasoning and the Logic of Things (Harvard University Press, 1992), pp. 112,177.
We believe the proposition we are ready to act upon. Full belief is willingness to act upon the proposition in vital crises, opinion is willingness to act upon it in relatively insignificant affairs. But pure science has nothing at all to do with action. The propositions it accepts, it merely writes in the list of premises it proposes to use... Belief is the willingness to risk a great deal upon a proposition. But this belief is no concern of science, which has nothing at stake on any temporal venture, but in pursuit of eternal verities, not semblance to truth, and looks upon this pursuit, not as the work of one man's life, but as that of generation after generation indefinitely... The only end of science, as such, is to learn the lesson that the universe has to teach it. In Induction it simply surrenders itself to the force of facts. But it finds that this is not enough. It is driven in desperation to call upon it inward sympathy with nature... and nature is something great, and beautiful, and sacred, and eternal and real, the object of its worship and its aspiration.
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.
"The Project of Natural Theology" in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (Blackwell: 2009), p. 12.
In contemporary particle physics, objects without mass are posited with primitive charges or spins, which are presumed to be the basic foundations for explaining more complex events. Positing a basic power, terrestrial or divine, is not, ipso facto, explanatorily empty. ... In the sciences, we may well claim that with respect to any explanation, further questions can be asked of it, but this is not the same thing as claiming that science does not or cannot posit basic powers and accounts that are not themselves explained by further powers or scientific accounts. If the sciences can allow that subatomic particles have basic powers, it is hard to see how we can rule out that intentional agents have basic powers.
J.P. Moreland (Baker : 2nd edition, 1999), 270 pages.
Anyone who is interested in science should be well aware of its philosophical underpinnings. Moreland's book is an excellent place to find such understanding. Though this title is out of print, it is well worth tracking down a used copy. ~ Afterall.net "Moreland has undertaken to give Christians a clear-eyed conception of science that does its legitimate authority full justice but is sharply resistant to contemporary tendencies to take that authority as ultimate, global, and autonomous.... Christianity and the Nature of Science is a nice piece of work.... I can recommend the book very highly." ~ Del Ratzsch
"Evolution Wars" in Time (Aug 07, 2005)
Darwin's theory has been a hard sell to Americans ever since it was unveiled nearly 150 years ago in The Origin of Species. The intelligent-design movement is just the latest and most sophisticated attempt to discredit the famous theory, which many Americans believe leaves insufficient room for the influence of God. Early efforts to thwart Darwin were pretty crude. Tennessee famously banned the teaching of evolution and convicted schoolteacher John Scopes of violating that ban in the "monkey trial" of 1925. At the time, two other states — Florida and Oklahoma — had laws that interfered with teaching evolution. When such laws were struck down by a Supreme Court decision in 1968, some states shifted gears and instead required that "creation science" be taught alongside evolution. Supreme Court rulings in 1982 and 1987 put an end to that. Offering creationism in public schools, even as a side dish to evolution, the high court held, violated the First Amendment's separation of church and state. ¶ But some anti-Darwinists seized upon Justice Antonin Scalia's dissenting opinion in the 1987 case. Christian fundamentalists, he wrote, "are quite entitled, as a secular matter, to have whatever scientific evidence there may be against evolution presented in their schools." That line of argument — an emphasis on weaknesses and gaps in evolution — is at the heart of the intelligent-design movement, which has as its motto "Teach the controversy." "You have to hand it to the creationists. They have evolved," jokes Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, Calif., which monitors attacks on the teaching of evolution.
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.
A Clarification in Response to Luke Muehlhauser's "Who Designed the Designer?"
Luke, the wunderkind over at Common Sense Atheism, continues to be a tremendously salutary voice in the online conversation about God. Recently, Luke set out to kill a sacred cow, "one of atheism's most popular and resilient retorts", namely: "Who designed the designer?". This, he argues, simply is not a defeater to theistic arguments. I should add, what he offers with one hand, he takes with the other. "The problem with offering 'God did it' as an explanation is that such an explanation has low plausibility, is not testable, has poor consistency with background knowledge, comes from a tradition (supernaturalism) with extreme explanatory failure, lacks simplicity, offers no predictive novelty, and has poor explanatory scope." But returning to the more common objection, Luke points out 1) that we accept unexplained explanations in science, and 2) that if every explanation must be explained to count as an explanation, we end in an infinite regress and nothing is ever explained. It is the nature of the case that some explanations must be ultimate explanations. Both of Luke's points are well taken, and echo the responses offered by William Lane Craig and other theists to this common rejoinder. However, throughout, Luke characterizes the supposed conclusions to the natural theologian's premises as simply: "God did it". Luke undoubtedly knows that this is an oversimplification of such arguments when they are carefully articulated, that much like postulates in physics, their conclusions are of the form: some entity x exists with property p. We'll give it the name y. I do not mean to nitpick, and I understand the use of shorthand, but this distinction is critical in evaluating the appropriateness of a given explanation, the very subject matter of the post. My attempt at a constructive response follows.
J.P. Moreland in Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 46 (March, 1994): 2-13.
There has been a growing debate about the proper way to integrate science and theology. On the one side are those who accept a complementarity view of integration and claim that science must presuppose methodological naturalism. On the other side are those who accept some form of theistic science. Central to this debate is the nature of divine and human action and the existence of gaps in the natural causal fabric due to such action that could, in principle, enter into the use of scientific methodology. In this article, I side with the second group. To justify this position, I first state the complementarity view and its implications for the nature of human personhood, second, explain libertarian agency in contrast to compatibilist models of action, and third, show why "gaps" are part of divine and human agency and illustrate ways that such a model of agency for certain divine acts could be relevant to the practice of science.
E.O. Wilson (Vintage: Mar. 30, 1999), 384 pages.
The biologist Edward O. Wilson is a rare scientist: having over a long career made signal contributions to population genetics, evolutionary biology, entomology, and ethology, he has also steeped himself in philosophy, the humanities, and the social sciences. The result of his lifelong, wide-ranging investigations is Consilience (the word means "a jumping together," in this case of the many branches of human knowledge), a wonderfully broad study that encourages scholars to bridge the many gaps that yawn between and within the cultures of science and the arts. No such gaps should exist, Wilson maintains, for the sciences, humanities, and arts have a common goal: to give understanding a purpose, to lend to us all "a conviction, far deeper than a mere working proposition, that the world is orderly and can be explained by a small number of natural laws." In making his synthetic argument, Wilson examines the ways (rightly and wrongly) in which science is done, puzzles over the postmodernist debates now sweeping academia, and proposes thought-provoking ideas about religion and human nature. He turns to the great evolutionary biologists and the scholars of the Enlightenment for case studies of science properly conducted, considers the life cycles of ants and mountain lions, and presses, again and again, for rigor and vigor to be brought to bear on our search for meaning. The time is right, he suggests, for us to understand more fully that quest for knowledge, for "Homo sapiens, the first truly free species, is about to decommission natural selection, the force that made us.... Soon we must look deep within ourselves and decide what we wish to become." Wilson's wisdom, eloquently expressed in the pages of this grand and lively summing-up, will be of much help in that search. ~ Amazon.com