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Origins + Science

Philosophy of Science: The Central Issues

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Gathering 49 readings on a variety of topics — science and pseudoscience; rationality, objectivity, and values in science; laws of nature; models of explanation, among others — this anthology introduces students to the often challenging problems examined by major thinkers in the field. Combine this with thoughtful and thorough apparatus, and Philosophy of Science: The Central Issues is the most flexible and comprehensive collection ever created for undergraduate courses. ~ Product Description

Dallas Willard on the Life of God

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We should, to begin with, think that God leads a very interesting life, and that he is full of joy. ¶ We pay a lot of money to get a tank with a few tropical fish in it and never tire of looking at their brilliant iridescence and marvelous forms and movements. But God has seas full of them, which he constantly enjoys. ¶ Human beings can lose themselves in card games or electric trains and think they are fortunate. But to God there is available, in the language of one reporter, "Towering clouds of gases trillions of miles high, backlit by nuclear fires in newly forming stars, galaxies cart wheeling into collision and sending explosive shock waves boiling through millions of light-years of time and space." These things are all before him, along with numberless unfolding rosebuds, souls, and songs, and immeasurably more of which we know nothing.

J.P. Moreland on the Presuppositions of Science

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[T]he philosophical presuppositions of science [include]: the existence of a theory independent, external world; the knowability of the external world; the existence of truth; the laws of logic; the reliability of our cognitive and sensory faculties to serve as truth gatherers and as a source of justified beliefs in our intellectual environment; the adequacy of language to describe the world; the existence of values used in science; the uniformity of nature and induction; and, the existence of numbers and mathematical truths.

J.P. Moreland on Strong Scientism

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Strong scientism is the view that some proposition or theory is true or rational if and only if it is a scientific proposition or theory. That is, if and only if it is a well-established scientific proposition or theory that, in turn, depends upon its having been successfully formed, tested, and used according to appropriate scientific methodology. There are no truths apart from scientific truths, and even if there were, there would be no reason whatever to believe them… [W]eak scientism allows for the existence of truth apart form science and are even willing to grant that they can have some minimal, positive rationality status without the support of science. But, science is the most valuable, most serious, and most authoritative sector of human learning. If strong scientism is true, then theology is not a rational enterprise at all and there is no such thing as theological knowledge. If weak scientism is true, then the conversation between theology and science will be a monologue with theology listening to science and waiting for science to give it support. For thinking Christians, neither of these alternatives is acceptable.

Religion and Science

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Religion and Science is a definitive contemporary discussion of the many issues surrounding our understanding of God and religious truth and experience in our understanding of God and religious truth and experience in our scientific age. This is a significantly expanded and feshly revised version of Religion in an Age of Science, winner of the American Academy of Religion Award for Excellence and the Templeton Book Award. Ian G. Barbour — the premier scholar in the field — has added three crucial historical chapters on physics and metaphysics in the seventeenth century, nature and God in the eighteenth century, and biology and theology in the nineteenth century. He has also added new sections on developments in nature-centered spirituality, information theory, and chaos and complexity theories. ~ Synopsis

Inherit the Wind

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People who only want unbiased, honest science education that sticks to the evidence are bewildered by the reception they get when they try to make their case. Their specific points are brushed aside, and they are dismissed out of hand as religious fanatics. The newspapers report that “creationists” are once again trying to censor science education because it offends their religious beliefs. Why is it so hard for reasoned criticism of biased teaching to get a hearing? The answer to that question begins with a Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee play called Inherit the Wind, which was made into a movie in 1960 starring Spencer Tracy, Gene Kelly and Frederic March. You can rent the movie at any video store with a “classics” section, and I urge you to do so and watch it carefully… The play is a fictionalized treatment of the “Scopes Trial” of 1925, the legendary courtroom confrontation in Tennessee over the teaching of evolution. Inherit the Wind is a masterpiece of propaganda, promoting a stereotype of the public debate about creation and evolution that gives all virtue and intelligence to the Darwinists. The play did not create the stereotype, but it presented it in the form of a powerful story that sticks in the minds of journalists, scientists and intellectuals generally…

Richard Lewontin on Scientific Naturalism

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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.

Judith Hayes on Science Education

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If we are going to teach ‘creation science’ as an alternative to evolution, then we should also teach the stork theory as an alternative to biological reproduction.

Phillip E. Johnson on Scientific Naturalism

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Philosophical naturalism is not merely a gratuitous conclusion that neo-Darwinists draw from their scientific theory; rather, it is the powerful metaphysical basis of the theory itself. How do Darwinists know that natural selection, in combination with random mutations, can produce such apparent wonders of design as the wing, the eye, and the brain? How do they know that preexisting intelligence was not required to produce life in the first place, to guide unicellular life in its progress to more complex forms, and to develop eventually the human mind? In fact Darwinists do not know these things by experiment, or by any other form of scientific investigation. They know them by philosophical presupposition, because their naturalism tells them that nature cannot be affected by anything outside nature. Darwinism is not merely a support for naturalistic philosophy: it is a product of naturalistic philosophy.

Phillip E. Johnson on What We Know About Natural Selection

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If the matter were considered open to question, there would be plenty of reason to doubt that natural selection has the vast creative powers Darwinists attribute to it. What we actually know from scientific investigation is information like the following: artificial selection can produce diverse varieties of dogs and monstrous fruitfly variants; the relative frequency of dark and light peppered moths in a population was observed to vary as the trees became lighter and darker; differential survival causes bacterial populations to develop resistance to antibiotics; living forms share a common biochemical basis and genetic code; new body plans tend to appear in the fossil record fully formed with no record of the transitional intermediates that should connect them to presumed ancestors; and finally, the prevailing pattern of fossil species is stasis, meaning that observed evolutionary change is limited and directionless.

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

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There’s a "Frank & Ernest" comic strip showing a chick breaking out of its shell, looking around, and saying, "Oh, wow! Paradigm shift!" Blame the late Thomas Kuhn. Few indeed are the philosophers or historians influential enough to make it into the funny papers, but Kuhn is one. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is indeed a paradigmatic work in the history of science. Kuhn’s use of terms such as "paradigm shift" and "normal science," his ideas of how scientists move from disdain through doubt to acceptance of a new theory, his stress on social and psychological factors in science — all have had profound effects on historians, scientists, philosophers, critics, writers, business gurus, and even the cartoonist in the street. Some scientists (such as Steven Weinberg and Ernst Mayr) are profoundly irritated by Kuhn, especially by the doubts he casts — or the way his work has been used to cast doubt–on the idea of scientific progress. Yet it has been said that the acceptance of plate tectonics in the 1960s, for instance, was sped by geologists’ reluctance to be on the downside of a paradigm shift. Even Weinberg has said that "Structure has had a wider influence than any other book on the history of science." As one of Kuhn’s obituaries noted, "We all live in a post-Kuhnian age." ~ Mary Ellen Curtin of Amazon.com

Realism and Truth

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In this provocative and wide-ranging book, Michael Devitt argues for a thoroughgoing realism about the common-sense and scientific physical world, and for a correspondence notion of truth. Furthermore, he argues that, contrary to received opinion, the metaphysical question of realism is distinct from, and prior to, any semantic question about truth. The book makes incisive responses to Putnam, Dummett, van Fraassen, and other major anti-realists. The new afterword includes an extensive discussion of the metaphysics of nonfactualism, and new thoughts on the need for truth and on the determination of reference. ~ Product Description

The Blind Watchmaker

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Oxford zoologist Dawkins (The Selfish Gene, The Extended Phenotype) trumpets his thesis in his subtitle almost guarantee enough that his book will stir controversy. Simply put, he has responded head-on to the argument-by-design most notably made by the 18th century theologian William Paley that the universe, like a watch in its complexity, needed, in effect, a watchmaker to design it. Hewing to Darwin’s fundamental (his opponents might say fundamentalist) message, Dawkins sums up: “The theory of evolution by cumulative natural selection is the only theory we know of that is in principle capable of explaining the evolution of organized complexity.” Avoiding an arrogant tone despite his up-front convictions, he takes pains to explain carefully, from various sides, why even such esteemed scientists as Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould, with their “punctuated equilibrium” thesis, are actually gradualists like Darwin himself in their evolutionary views. Dawkins is difficult reading as he describes his computer models of evolutionary possibilities. But, as he draws on his zoological background, emphasizing recent genetic techniques, he can be as engrossing as he is cogent and convincing. His concept of “taming chance” by breaking down the “very improbable into less improbable small components” is daring neo-Darwinism. ~ Publishers Weekly

David James Duncan on Christianity and Darwin

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Much as she dislikes baseball, Grandawma likes the Bible even less. This is because her hero, Charles Darwin, discovered evolution before God even mentioned it, proved scientifically that men are just apes at heart, and got the Christians all worked up because none of this was in the Bible. That’s what Everett and Peter say anyway. Late one night when we were sitting around yapping, Peter said to Everett that if the Christian had any horse sense they’d just sit down and write themselves a new Bible, sticking some evolution in there this time. He said the biblical creation story was a dud anyhow, especially if you were a girl, since God made everything in the Universe, claimed He saw it was good, and then when the First Lady went out naked for a walk to enjoy all this so-called goodness, a completely evil Devil in snake’s clothing came down out of a tree, lied his head off to her, got her thrown out of Paradise and cursed into having it hurt like hell to have babies, and she was still such a nice person that she didn’t go back with a stick and kill that damned snake. Whose fault was all this? Peter wanted to know. Who claimed it was “good” in spite of the snake, then tried to cover Their tracks with a lot of cockamamie hoodoo about Forbidden Fruit and Trees of Knowledge and Eve’s wicked curiosity? And what harm could a little Darwinian evolution possibly do to a mess of a story like that?

Darwin’s Dangerous Idea

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Darwin’s idea is very very simple; it goes like this. 1) Organisms pass their characteristics on to their descendants, which are mostly but not completely identical to their parent organisms. 2) Organisms breed more descendants than can possibly survive. 3) Descendants with beneficial variations have a better chance of surviving and reproducing, however slight, than those with non-beneficial variations. 4) These slightly modified descendants are themselves organisms, so repeat from step 1. (There is no stopping condition.) That’s it. That’s all there is to Natural Selection: a simple four step loop; a mindless algorithm that displays no intent, no design, no purpose, no goal, no deeper meaning. This simple algorithm has been running on Earth for four billion years to produce every living thing, and everything made by every living thing, from the oxygen atmosphere generated by plants to the skyscrapers and music created by man. Dennett writes that it is the algoritm’s complete mindlessness that makes Darwin’s idea so dangerous. Dennett devotes the major portion of his book to aggressively arguing the above. He reviews how the algorithm could have “primed life’s pump” eons ago and spends some time on describing evolution and biology. He argues that biology is engineering and thus reducible to algorithms. He also explains how simple algorithms can lead to computers that play brilliant chess and here he makes an important distinction: brilliant chess doesn’t have to be perfect chess. ~ Vincent Poirier at Amazon.com

Scientific Naturalism and the Unfalsifiable Myth of Evolution

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Scientific Naturalism is a worldview that is powerfully influencing our culture today. So much so that even believers in one and the same God struggle with conflicting views. J.P. Moreland begins the first of his four part series with a clear examination of its belief system and the role theistic evolution plays to perpetuate its ends. Here are parts II, III, IV.

Del Ratzsch on a New Creationism

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But there is barely beginning to emerge a new generation of creationists with legitimate and relevant credentials who are undertaking to actually do some of the painstaking, detailed drudgery that underlies any genuinely live scientific program. This emergence has begun to produce a separation in the creationist movement — an upper and lower tier, so to speak. I think that what ultimately separates the two tiers is different levels of respect for accuracy and completeness of detail, and different levels of awareness that a theory’s looking good in vague and general form is an enormously unreliable predictor of whether in the long run the theory will be disemboweled by recalcitrant technical details. That appreciation is something that typically comes only with a legitimate scientific education, which some of the creationist popularizers and many in their audiences lack…The newly emerging upper tier of the creationist movement, however, seems to have little patience with the vague popularized treatments and is, again, undertaking to do the meticulous detail work that a genuinely scientific creationism requires. As yet, this upper tier is not associated with any particular organization.

Robin Le Poidevin on Theistic Arguments

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The probabilistic teleological argument exploits the idea that it is extremely improbable that the laws of the universe should be so balanced as to permit the development of life unless we adopt the hypothesis that these laws were fixed by a creator who desired the development of life. The argument, however, faces the same kind of objection as the one we brought against the cosmological argument in the previous chapter: it takes a certain concept out of a context in which it is obviously applicable, and applies it to a context in which that concept is not applicable. In the case of the cosmological argument, the crucial concept is that of causation; in the case of the teleological argument, it is statistical probability. Neither argument carries conviction because we can plausibly deny that the concept in question can be extended to cover extraordinary contexts.

Willard V. Quine on Naturalism, Science, and Testability

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In science itself I certainly want to include the farthest flights of physics and cosmology, as well as experimental psychology, history, and the social sciences. Also, mathematics, insofar at least as it is applied, for it is indispensable to natural science. What then am I excluding as “some prior philosophy,” and why? Descartes’ dualism between mind and body is called metaphysics, but it could as well be reckoned as science, however false. He even had a causal theory of the interaction of mind and body through the pineal gland. If I saw indirect explanatory benefit in positing sensibilia, possibilia, spirits, a Creator, I would joyfully accord them scientific status too, on a par with such avowedly scientific positions as quarks and black holes. What then have I banned under the name of prior philosophy? ¶ Demarcation is not my purpose. My point in the characterization of naturalism … is just that the most we can reasonably seek in support of an inventory and description of reality is testability of it observable consequences in the time-honored hypothetico-deductive way — whereof more anon. Naturalism need not cast aspersion on irresponsible metaphysics, however deserved, much less on soft sciences or on the speculative reaches of the hard ones, except insofar as a firmer basis is claimed for them than the experimental method itself.

Niles Eldredge on Paleontology

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No wonder paleontologists shied away from evolution for so long. It never seemed to happen. Assiduous collecting up cliff faces yields zigzags, minor oscillations, and the very occasional slight accumulation of change — over millions of years, at a rate too slow to account for all the prodigious change that has occurred in evolutionary history. When we do see the introduction of evolutionary novelty, it usually shows up with a bang, and often with no firm evidence that the fossils did not evolve elsewhere! Evolution cannot forever be going on somewhere else. Yet that’s how the fossil record has struck many a forlorn paleontologist looking to learn something about evolution.

The Creation Hypothesis

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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.

William Lane Craig on the Meaning of Life

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Other animals have instincts to guide them, but man has learned to ask questions. “Who am I?” man asks. “Why am I here? Where am I going?” Since the Enlightenment, when he threw off the shackles of religion, man has tried to answer these questions without reference to God. But the answers that came back were not exhilarating, but dark and terrible. “You are the accidental by-product of nature, a result of matter plus time plus chance. There is no reason for your existence. All you face is death.” Modern man thought that when he had gotten rid of God, he had freed himself from all that repressed and stifled him. Instead, he discovered that in killing God, he had also killed himself.

Smoke and Mirrors

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Realism is an enlightening story, a tale which enriches our experience and makes it more intelligible. Yet this wonderful picture of humanity’s best efforts at knowledge has been badly bruised by numerous critics. James Robert Brown in Smoke and Mirrors fights back against figures such as Richard Rorty, Bruno Latour, Michael Ruse and Hilary Putnam who have attacked realist accounts of science. But this volume is not wholly devoted to combating Rorty and others who blow smoke in our eyes, the second half is concerned with arguing that there are some amazing ways in which science mirrors the world. The role of abstraction, abstract objects and a priori ways of getting at reality are all explored in showing how science reflects reality. Smoke and Mirrors is a defence of science and knowledge in general as well as a defence of a particular way of understanding science. It is of interest to all those who wish or need to know how science works. ~ Product Description

Conceptual Problems and the Scientific Status of Creation Science

Go My intention here is not merely to raise another round of controversy about creation and evolution. Rather, I would argue that the nature of creation science provides an occasion for examining the much broader and more far-reaching issue of whether and how our Christian theism should affect our view of the world. As Thomas Morris has pointed out, for some time now there has been an attitude of theological anti-realism among many theologians. They believe that it is intellectually futile to bring their Christian theism to bear on questions of the nature, origin, investigation, and development of the world.