Origins & 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".
William Dembski, Various Publishers
With yet another volume bearing his name, Debating Design (422 p.), one has to wonder if William Dembski ever sleeps. His recent publications also include Uncommon Descent (366 p.), Signs of Intelligence (224 p.), and The Design Revolution (330 p.). But, especially in light of Antony Flew's recent comments about the force of arguments from Design, his latest project may win an audience his previous works missed. Bearing the weighty imprint of Cambridge University Press and co-edited with Michael Ruse, Debating Design hosts a discussion between leading advocates and critics of Intelligent Design. William, nice work. And get some sleep.
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
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
Antony Flew (HarperOne: October 2007), 256 pages.
A wave of modern atheists have taken center stage and brought the long standing debate about the existence of God back into headlines. Spearheaded by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, this "new atheism" has found a powerful place in today's culture wars. Although this movement has been billed as "new" the foundation of its argument is indebted to philosopher Anthony Flew and his groundbreaking paper "Theology and Falsification," the most widely reprinted philosophical publication of the last half century. Flew built his highly acclaimed academic career publicly debunking the existence of God. But now the renowned philosopher has arrived at the opposite conclusion and officially joined the other side. ~ From the Publisher
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
J.P. Moreland, ed. (InterVarsity Press: 1994), 335 pages.
Is there evidence from natural science for an intelligent creator of the universe? For a century the reigning scientific view has been that God is not necessary to account for the existence of the world and of life. Evolutionary theory is said to be all that is needed to explain how we got here. In addition, many theistic evolutionists contend that God likely used many of the mechanisms of evolution to achieve his will. In this book J. P. Moreland and a panel of scholars assert that there is actually substantial evidence pointing in a different direction. First, they consider philosophical arguments about whether it is possible for us to know if an intelligent designer had a hand in creation. Then they look directly at four different areas of science: the origin of life, the origin of major groups of organisms, the origin of human language and the origin and formation of the universe. The team of experts for this work includes a philosopher, a mathematician, a physicist, a linguist, a theologian, a biophysicist, an astronomer, a chemist and a paleontologist. Their data and their conclusions challenge the assumptions of many and offer the foundation for a new paradigm of scientific thinking.
Alvin Plantinga (Oxford University Press: Dec 9, 2011), 376 pages.
This book is a long-awaited major statement by a pre-eminent analytic philosopher, Alvin Plantinga, on one of our biggest debates — the compatibility of science and religion. The last twenty years has seen a cottage industry of books on this divide, but with little consensus emerging. Plantinga, as a top philosopher but also a proponent of the rationality of religious belief, has a unique contribution to make. His theme in this short book is that the conflict between science and theistic religion is actually superficial, and that at a deeper level they are in concord. Plantinga examines where this conflict is supposed to exist — evolution, evolutionary psychology, analysis of scripture, scientific study of religion — as well as claims by Dan Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Philip Kitcher that evolution and theistic belief cannot co-exist. Plantinga makes a case that their arguments are not only inconclusive but that the supposed conflicts themselves are superficial, due to the methodological naturalism used by science. On the other hand, science can actually offer support to theistic doctrines, and Plantinga uses the notion of biological and cosmological "fine-tuning" in support of this idea. Plantinga argues that we might think about arguments in science and religion in a new way — as different forms of discourse that try to persuade people to look at questions from a perspective such that they can see that something is true. In this way, there is a deep and massive consonance between theism and the scientific enterprise. ~ Book Description
William A. Dembski, Michael Ruse, eds. (Cambridge University Press: Dec 2004>
William Dembski, Michael Ruse, and other prominent philosophers provide here a comprehensive balanced overview of the debate concerning biological origins--a controversial dialectic since Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859. Invariably, the source of controversy has been "design." Is the appearance of design in organisms (as exhibited in their functional complexity) the result of purely natural forces acting without prevision or teleology? Or, does the appearance of design signify genuine prevision and teleology, and, if so, is that design empirically detectable and thus open to scientific inquiry?
Jerry A. Coyne (Viking Adult: Jan 22, 2009), 304 pages.
In all the current highly publicized debates about creationism and its descendant “intelligent design,” there is an element of the controversy that is rarely mentioned—the evidence, the empirical truth of evolution by natural selection. Even Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould, while extolling the beauty of evolution and examining case studies, have not focused on the evidence itself. Yet the proof is vast, varied, and magnificent, drawn from many different fields of science. Scientists are observing species splitting into two and are finding more and more fossils capturing change in the past—dinosaurs that have sprouted feathers, fish that have grown limbs. Why Evolution Is True weaves together the many threads of modern work in genetics, paleontology, geology, molecular biology, and anatomy that demonstrate the “indelible stamp” of the processes first proposed by Darwin. In crisp, lucid prose accessible to a wide audience, Why Evolution Is True dispels common misunderstandings and fears about evolution and clearly confirms that this amazing process of change has been firmly established as a scientific truth. ~ Synopsis