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Origins + Science

Origins and Science

Signs of Intelligence

Go Citing inspiration from Quintilian's maxim, "Write not so that you can be understood but so that you cannot be misunderstood," Dembski and Kushiner have assembled a collection of judicious and eloquent essays representing the often-misunderstood intelligent design movement. Contributors include prominent Darwin-doubters Phillip Johnson, Michael Behe and Stephen Meyer, together with a stable of scientists and philosophers associated with the Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, which Meyer directs. Part I of the collection focuses on introducing intelligent design concepts and addressing general philosophical objections; Part II (composing about two-thirds of the book) includes more technical issues and examples of how design comes into play in scientific subfields such as cosmology, developmental biology and information theory. This collection reflects a maturing movement that is aware of its critics, more focused in its goals and mindful of the need to communicate its message to a nonspecialist audience even as it appeals for a hearing in the scientific community. ~ Publishers Weekly

Charles Taliaferro on Ultimate Explanations

Go 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.

Helen Gardner on Annihilating the Author

Go More disturbing than this wilful and self-indulgent use of language was the dismissal of the author as the creator of the work and the denial of objective status to the text. The author gave place to the reader, on the ground that the text has no existence as 'an object exterior to the psyche and history of the man who interprets it'. Since the reader may be any and every reader from now to the end of time, texts were to be regarded as susceptible of an infinite number of meanings, and, since no criteria were proposed by which any meaning could be rejected or accepted, were in fact meaningless. The critic, therefore, regarding it as impossible to fulfill what has always been regarded as his prime duty — to illuminate the author's meaning, now declared to be totally irrecoverable — created meanings within the void (le vide) of the text, or, to put it another way, imported meanings into a text that had no determinate meaning of its own.

Christianity and the Nature of Science

Go 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. ~ "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

The Universe Next Door

Go When The Universe Next Door was first introduced nearly thirty years ago, it set the standard for a clear, readable introduction to worldviews. In concise, easily understood prose, James W. Sire explained the basics of theism, deism, naturalism, nihilism, existentialism, Eastern monism and the new consciousness. The second edition was updated and expanded to include sections on Marxism and secular humanism, as well as a completely reworked chapter on what is now widely known as New Age philosophy rather than new consciousness. And the third edition offered further updating and revisions, including a thoroughly revised chapter on New Age philosophy and, perhaps most importantly, a new chapter on postmodernism. Now the fourth edition refines the definition of worldview itself, incorporating Sire's thinking and teaching during the past decade. The Universe Next Door has been translated into several languages and has been used as a text at over one hundred colleges and universities in courses ranging from apologetics and world religions to history and English literature. With the publication of the fourth edition, this book will continue to aid students, teachers and anyone who wants to understand the variety of worldviews that compete with Christianity for the allegiance of our minds and hearts. ~ Product Description

The Case for a Creator

Go Strobel, whose apologetics titles The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith have enjoyed strong popularity among evangelicals, approaches creation/evolution issues in the same simple and energetic style. The format will be familiar to readers of previous Case books: Strobel visits with scholars and researchers and works each interview into a topical outline. Although Strobel does not interview any "hostile" witnesses, he exposes readers to the work of some major origins researchers (including Jonathan Wells, Stephen Meyer and Michael Behe) and theistic philosophers (including William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland). Strobel claims no expertise in science or metaphysics, but as an interviewer he makes this an asset, prodding his sources to translate jargon and provide illustrations for their arguments. ~ Publishers Weekly

Richard Swinburne on Singularities

Go From time to time various writers have told us that we cannot reach any conclusions about the origin or development of the universe, since it is (whether by logic or just in fact) a unique object, the only one of its kind, and rational inquiry can only reach the conclusions about objects which belong to kinds, e.g. it can reach a conclusion about what will happen to this bit of iron, because there are other bits of iron, the behaviour of which can be studied. This objection of course has the surprising, and to most of these writers unwelcome, consequence, that physical cosmology cannot reach justified conclusions about such matters as the size, age, rate of expansion, and density of the universe as a whole (because it is a unique object); and also that physical anthropology cannot reach conclusions about the origin and development of the human race (because, as far as our knowledge goes, it is the only one of its kind). The implausibility of these consequences leads us to doubt the original objection, which is indeed misguided.

Nassim Taleb on the Unpredictability of History

Go The Levant has been something of a mass producer of consequential events nobody saw coming. Who predicted the rise of Christianity as a dominant religion in the Mediterranean basin, and later in the Western world? The Roman chroniclers of that period did not even take note of the new religion — historians of Christianity are baffled by the absence of contemporary mentions. Apparently, few of the big guns took the ideas of a seemingly heretical Jew seriously enough to think that he would leave traces for posterity. We only have a single contemporary reference to Jesus of Nazareth — in The Jewish Wars of Josephus — which itself may have been added later by a devout copyist. How about the competing religion that emerged seven centuries later; who forecast that a collection of horsemen would spread their empire and Islamic law from the Indian subcontinent to Spain in just a few years? Even more than the rise of Christianity, it was the spread of Islam (the third edition, so to speak) that carried full unpredictability; many historians looking at the record have been taken aback by the swiftness of the change. Gorges Duby, for one, expressed his amazement about how quickly close to ten centuries of Levantine Hellenism were blotted out "with a strike of a sword." A later holder of the same history chair at the Collège de France, Paul Veyne, aptly talked about religions spreading "like bestsellers" — a comparison that indicates unpredictability. These kinds of discontinuities in the chronology of events did not make the historian's profession too easy: the studios examination of the past in the greatest of detail does not teach you much about the mind of History; it only gives you the illusion of understanding it.

Virtue Ethics and Moral Knowledge

Go We live in a time of moral confusion: many believe there are no overarching moral norms and that we have lost an accepted body of moral knowledge. Alasdair MacIntyre addresses this problem in his restatement of Aristotelian and Thomistic virtue ethics; Stanley Hauerwas does so through his highly influential work in Christian ethics. Both recast virtue ethics in light of their interpretations of the later Wittgenstein's views of language. This book systematically assesses the underlying presuppositions of MacIntyre and Hauerwas, finding that their attempts to secure moral knowledge and restate virtue ethics, both philosophical and theological, fail. Scott Smith proposes alternative indications as to how we can secure moral knowledge, and how we should proceed in virtue ethics. ~ Product Description

Exclusive Premises

Go A standard form categorical syllogism has two negative premises (a negative premise is any premise of the form 'No S are P' or 'Some S is not P').

Illicit Major

Go The predicate term of the conclusion refers to all members of that category, but the same term in the premises refers only to some members of that category.

Francis A. Schaeffer on Science and the Unkown


At the same time one must avoid the opposite mistake of saying that because God has communicated truly concerning science, all scientific study is wasted. This is a false deduction. To say that God communicates truly does not mean that God communicates exhaustively. Even in our human relationships we never have exhaustive communication, though what we do have may be true. Thus, as far as our position in the universe is concerned, though the infinite God has said true things concerning the whole of what he has made, our knowledge is not thereby meant to be static. Created in his image, we are rational and, as such, we are able to, and intended to explore and discover further truth concerning creation.

George Gaylord Simpson on Being the Product of a Purposeless Natural Process


Although many details remain to be worked out, it is already evident that all the objective phenomena of the history of life can be explained by purely naturalistic or, in a proper sense of the sometimes abused word, materialistic factors. They are readily explicable on the basis of differential reproduction in populations (the main factor in the modern conception of natural selection) and of the mainly random interplay of the known processes of heredity. … Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind. He was not planned. He is a state of matter, a form of life, a sort of animal, and a species of the Order Primates, akin nearly or remotely to all of life and indeed to all that is material. It is, however, a gross representation to say that he is just an accident or nothing but an animal. Among all the myriad forms of matter and of life on the earth, or as far as we know in the universe, man is unique. He happens to present the highest form of organization of matter and energy that has ever appeared. Recognition of this kinship with the rest of the universe is necessary for understanding him, but his essential nature is defined by qualities found nowhere else, not by those he has in common with apes, fishes, trees, fire, or anything other than himself.

C.S. Lewis on Creation Myths


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.

Willard V. Quine on Objectivity


The philosopher’s task differs from the others’, then, in detail; but in no such drastic way as those suppose who imagine for the philosopher a vantage point outside the conceptual scheme that he takes in charge. There is no such cosmic exile. He cannot study and revise the fundamental conceptual scheme of science and common sense without having some conceptual scheme, whether the same or another no less in need of philosophical scrutiny, in which to work. He can scrutinize and improve the system from within, appealing to coherence and simplicity;but this is the theoretician’s method generally. He has recourse to semantic assent, but so has the scientist. And if the theoretical scientist in his remote way is bound to save the eventual connections with non-verbal stimulation, the philosopher in his remoter way is bound to save them too. True, no experiment may be expected to settle an ontological issue; but this is only because such issues are connected with surface irritations in such multifarious ways, through such a maze of intervening theory.

Bertrand Russel on Arguments for God’s Existence


It is true that the Scholastics invented what professed to be logical arguments proving the existence of God, and that these arguments, or others of a similar tenor, have been accepted by many eminent philosophers, but the logic to which these traditional arguments appealed is of an antiquated Aristotelian sort which is now rejected by practically all logicians except such as are Catholics. There is one of these arguments which is not purely logical. I mean the argument from design. This argument, however, was destroyed by Darwin.

Bertrand Russell on Unimpressive People


Do you think that, if you were granted omnipotence and omniscience and millions of years in which to perfect your world, you could produce nothing better than the Ku Klux Klan, the Fascist, and Mr. Winston Churchill? Really I am not much impressed with the people who say: “Look at me: I am such a splendid product that there must have been design in the universe.” I am not very impressed by the splendor of those people. Therefore I think that this argument of design is really a very poor argument indeed. Moreover, if you accept the ordinary laws of science, you have to suppose that human life and life in general on this planet will die out in due course: it is merely a flash in the pan; it is a stage in the decay of the solar system; at a certain stage of decay you get the sort of conditions of temperature and so forth which are suitable to protoplasm, and there is life for a short time in the life of the whole solar system. You see in the moon the sort of thing to which the earth is tending — something dead, cold, and lifeless.

The Abolition of Man


Lewis observes that man’s increasing power over nature is at the same time the unavoidable empowering of some men over other men, whether it be nation over nation, the majority over the minority, or this generation over the next. “Each new power won by man is a power over man as well. Each advance leaves him weaker as well as stronger.” Lewis imagines that day when science conquers the last domain of nature, human nature, and gains the power to determine even what it is to be human. Released thereby from the dictates of the Tao, an ultimate rule that guides behavior and law in conformity with the natural order, we will have recourse only to impulse, to emotion, to whim. “At the moment, then, of Man’s victory over Nature, we find the whole human race subjected to some individual men, and those individuals subjected to that in themselves which is purely ‘natural’ — to their irrational impulses. Nature, untrammelled by values, rules the Conditioners and, through them, all humanity. Man’s conquest of Nature turns out, in the moment of its consummation, to be Nature’s conquest of Man.” Our defeat by nature is the inevitable outcome of making ourselves mere constituents of nature. “Either we are rational spirit obliged forever to obey the absolute values of the Tao, or else we are mere nature to be kneaded and cut into new shapes for the pleasures of masters who must, by hypothesis, have no motive but their own ‘natural’ impulses.” Lewis’ Abolition of Man has been widely lauded as one of the great prophetic works of the twentieth century. ~ Afterall

Bertrand Russell on Science and Religion


Throughout the last 400 years, during which the growth of science had gradually shown men how to acquire knowledge of the ways of nature and mastery over natural forces, the clergy have fought a losing battle against science, in astronomy and geology, in anatomy and physiology,
in biology and psychology and sociology. Ousted from one position, they have taken up another. After being worsted in astronomy, they did their best to prevent the rise of geology; they fought against Darwin in biology, and at the present time they fight against scientific theories of psychology and education. At each stage, they try to make the public forget their earlier obscurantism, in order that their present obscurantism may not be recognized for what it is.

Edwin Hubble on Empiricism and Speculation


Research men attempt to satisfy their curiosity, and are accustomed to use any reasonable means that may assist them toward the receding goal. One of the few universal characteristics is a healthy skepticism toward unverified speculations. These are regarded as topics for conversation until tests can be devised. Only then do they attain the dignity of subjects for investigation. … With increasing distance our knowledge fades and fades rapidly. Eventually we reach the dim boundary, the utmost limits of our telescope. There we measure shadows, and we search among ghostly errors of measurements for landmarks that are scarcely more substantial. The search will continue. Not until the empirical resources are exhausted need we pass on to the dreamy realms of speculation.

Bertrand Russell on Religion and Medicine


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.