Paradigms & Metanarrative
Phillip E. Johnson on Naturalism said...
The Wedge of Truth (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p. 149.
By any realistic definition naturalism is a religion, and an extremely dogmatic one. It rests on a basic conviction about ultimate reality that is held by a kind of faith, and it incorporates its own definitions of "knowledge" and "reason." It says that knowledge comes ultimately from our senses and that the more complex forms of knowledge come from scientific investigation. By naturalistic definition there can be no such thing as knowledge of the supernatural. Statements about God are either nonrational (if frankly presented as mere subjective belief) or irrational (if they purport to make objective factual claims).
The Engine of Reason, The Seat of the Soul (MIT Press: 1999), pp. 18-9.
The religious hypothesis of mind-body dualism has been in trouble with evolutionary biology, and with several other sciences as well, for more than a century. It didn't need any special input from artificial intelligence or neuroscience to make it scientifically implausible. I bring it up here only because it is a clear example of a popular and important belief currently under siege by modern information. And because its example may be repeated. The fact is, there is a much more intriguing area of current conceptual commitment, one more likely to be affected by emerging cognitive theory in particular. It lies even closer to home and is even more widespread, if that is possible, than mind-body dualism. It is our current self-conception: our shared portrait of ourselves as self-conscious creatures with beliefs, desires, emotions, and the power of reason.
Paul M. Churchland on the Brain said...
The Engine of Reason, The Seat of the Soul (MIT Press: 1999), pp. 3-4.
Your brain is far too complex and mercurial for its behavior to be predicted in any but the broadest outlines or for any but the shortest distances in the future. Faced with the extraordinary dynamical features of a functioning brain, no device constructible in this universe could ever predict your behavior, or your thoughts, with anything more than merely statistical success. ¶ So one need not fear being reduced to a clanking robot or an empty machine. Quite to the contrary, we are now in a position to explain how our vivid sensory experience arises in the sensory cortex of our brains: how the smell of baking bread, the sound of an oboe, the taste of a peach, and the color of a sunrise are embodied in a vast chorus of neural activity. We now have the resources to explain how the motor cortex, the cerebellum, and the spinal cord conduct an orchestra of muscles to perform the cheetah's dash, the falcon's strike, or the ballerina's dying swan. ... On this matter of conceptual development there is especial cause for wonder. For the human brain, with a volume of roughly a quart, encompasses a space of conceptual and cognitive possibilities that is larger, by one measure at least, than the entire astronomical universe. It has this striking feature because it exploits the combinatorics of its 100 billion neurons and their 100 trillion synaptic connections with each other.
Dallas Willard on God and Space said...
The Divine Conspiracy (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1998), p. 74.
Confusing God with his historical manifestations in space may have caused some to think that God is a Wizard-of-Oz or Sistine-Chapel kind of being sitting at a location very remote from us. The universe is then presented as, chiefly, a vast empty space with a humanoid God and a few angels rattling around in it, while several billion human beings crawl through the tiny cosmic interval of human history on an oversized clod of dirt circling an insignificant star. ¶ But the response to this mistake has led many to say that God is not in space at all, not that "old man in the sky," but instead is "in" the human heart. And that sounds nice, but it really does not help. In fact, it just makes matters worse. "In my heart" easily becomes "in my imagination." And, in any case, the question of God's relation to space and the physical world remains unresolved. If he is not in space at all, he is not in human life, which is lived in space. Those vast oceans of "empty space" just sit there glowering at the human "heart" realm where God has, supposedly, taken refuge from science and the real world.
Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (Knopf: 1998), 266.
...the Central Idea of the consilience worldview is that all tangible phenomena, from the birth of the stars to the workings of social institutions, are based on material processes that are ultimately reducible, however long and torturous the sequences, to the laws of physics.
Thomas Nagel on Cosmic Authority said...
The Last Word (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 130-1.
My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time. One of the tendencies it supports is the ludicrous overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about life, including everything about the human mind. Darwin enable modern secular culture to heave a great collective sigh of relief, by apparently providing a way to eliminate purpose, meaning, and desiring as fundamental features of the world. Instead they become epiphenomena, generated incidentally by a process that can be entirely explained by the operation of the nonteleogical laws of physics on the material of which we and our environments are all composed. There might still be thought to be a religious threat in the existence of the laws of physics themselves, and indeed the existence of anything at all, but it seems to be less alarming to most atheists.
"Billions and Billions of Demons", New York Review of Books, (January 9, 1997), p. 28.
Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.
J.P. Moreland on Scientism said...
Love God With All Your Mind (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997), p. 33-34.
I have no bone to pick with legitimate science. Indeed, it has been argued repeatedly that science was born in Christian Europe precisely because Christian theology helped provide worldview justification for its assumptions. What I do reject is the idea that science and science alone can claim to give us knowledge. This assertion — known as scientism — is patently false and, in fact, not even a claim of science, but rather, a philosophical view about science. Nevertheless, once this view of knowledge was widely embraced in the culture, the immediate effect was to marginalize and privatize religion by relegating it to the back of the intellectual bus. To verify this, one need only compare the number of times scientists, as opposed to pastors or theologians, are called upon as experts on the evening news.
J.P. Moreland on Relativism said...
Love God With All Your Mind (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997), p. 151.
[M]oral relativism suffers from a problem known as the reformer's dilemma. If normative relativism is true, then it is logically impossible for a society to have a virtuous, moral reformer like Jesus Christ, Gandhi, or Martin Luther King, Jr. Why? Moral reformers are members of a society who stand outside that society's code and pronounce a need for reform and change in the code. However, if an act is right if and only if it is in keeping with a given society's code, then the moral reformer himself is by definition an immoral person, for his views are at odds with those of his society. But any view that implies that moral reformers are impossible is defective because we all know that moral reformers have actually existed!