Consider all. Test All. Hold on to the good.

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Human Persons as a Test Case for Integrative Methodologies

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No one can reasonably deny that the recent Intelligent Design movement has gathered considerable momentum in the last five years. And in spite of one’s overall assessment of that movement, it remains clear that its clarion call to critique contemporary philosophical naturalism is one that must be received warmly by Christian intellectuals. In this regard, William Dembski has reminded us that the Intelligent Design movement has a four–pronged approach for defeating naturalism: (1) A scientific/philosophical critique of naturalism; (2) A positive scientific research program (intelligent design) for investigating the effects of intelligent causes; (3) rethinking every field of inquiry infected by naturalism and reconceptualizing it in terms of design; (4) development of a theology of nature by relating the intelligence inferred by intelligent design to the God of Scripture.1

Truth: Can We Do Without It?

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Dallas Willard offers a fresh appeal for the benificence and salience of truth, arguing that it has largely fallen into disrepute because of misunderstanding. The meaning of truth, Willard suggests, is both simple and obvious: "An idea or statement or belief is true if what it is about is as it is presented." Among its benefits, truth is what helps us deal with reality and it serves as the basis for tolerance. Willard goes on to suggest that Jesus Christ is the ultimate exemplar of a truthful life and he can serve as the basis for the redemption of truth in our culture.

Academic Integration and the Christian Scholar

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Thoughtful Christians are agreed that an important component of Christian scholarship is the integration of faith and learning, as it is sometimes called. Because Christians are interested in the truth for its own sake and because they are called to proclaim and defend their views to an unbelieving world and to seek to live consistently with those views, it is important for members of the believing community to think carefully about how to integrate their carefully formed theological beliefs with prominent claims in other fields of study. As St. Augustine wisely asserted, "We must show our Scriptures not to be in conflict with whatever [our critics] can demonstrate about the nature of things from reliable sources."1 However, the task of integration is hard work and there is no widespread agreement about how it is to be done generally or about what its results should look like in specific cases. In what follows, I shall do three things to contribute to the integrative enterprise: 1) describe the relation between integration and spiritual formation; 2) discuss current integrative priorities for the Christian scholar; 3) analyze the epistemic tasks for and models employed in integration.

Does the Many-Universes Hypothesis Really Explain the Fine-Tuning?

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The last thirty years have witnessed a major revival in the philosophical, theological, scientific, and popular literature of the traditional design argument for theism. Probably the most convincing and widely discussed of these arguments is based on the so-called “fine-tuning” of the cosmos, which refers the fact that the parameters of physics and the initial conditions of the universe are balanced on a razor’s edge for life to occur. For example, calculations by Brandon Carter indicate that if the force of gravity had been stronger or weaker by one part in 1040, then life-sustaining stars could not exist (Davies, 1984, p. 242); similarly, calculations indicate that if the strong nuclear force, the force that binds protons and neutrons together in an atom, had been stronger or weaker by as little as 5%, life would be impossible. ( Barrow and Tipler, p. 322.) As the eminent Princeton physicist Freeman Dyson notes, “There are many . . . lucky accidents in physics. Without such accidents, water could not exist as liquid, chains of carbon atoms could not form complex organic molecules, and hydrogen atoms could not form breakable bridges between molecules” (1979, p. 251) — in short, life as we know it would be impossible.

The Fine-Tuning Design Argument

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Suppose we went on a mission to Mars, and found a domed structure in which everything was set up just right for life to exist. The temperature, for example, was set around 70o F and the humidity was at 50%; moreover, there was an oxygen recycling system, an energy gathering system, and a whole system for the production of food. Put simply, the domed structure appeared to be a fully functioning biosphere. What conclusion would we draw from finding this structure? Would we draw the conclusion that it just happened to form by chance? Certainly not. Instead, we would unanimously conclude that it was designed by some intelligent being. Why would we draw this conclusion? Because an intelligent designer appears to be the only plausible explanation for the existence of the structure. That is, the only alternative explanation we can think of — that the structure was formed by some natural process — seems extremely unlikely. Of course, it is possible that, for example, through some volcanic eruption various metals and other compounds could have formed, and then separated out in just the right way to produce the “biosphere,” but such a scenario strikes us as extraordinarily unlikely, thus making this alternative explanation unbelievable.

The Incompatibility of Naturalism  and Scientific Realism

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Whenever philosophers bother to offer a defense for philosophical naturalism, they typically appeal to the authority of natural science. Science is supposed to provide us with a picture of the world so much more reliable and well-supported than that provided by any non-scientific source of information that we are entitled, perhaps even obliged, to withhold belief in anything that is not an intrinsic part of our our best scientific picture of the world. This scientism is taken to support philosophical naturalism, since, at present, our best scientific picture of the world is an essentially materialistic one, with no reference to causal agencies other than those that can be located within space and time. This defense of naturalism presupposes a version of scientific realism: unless science provides us with objective truth about reality, it has no authority to dictate to us the form which our philosophical ontology and metaphysics must take. Science construed as a mere instrument for manipulating experience, or merely as an autonomous construction of our society, without reference to our reality, tells us nothing about what kinds of things really exist and act. In this essay, I will argue, somewhat paradoxically, that scientific realism can provide no support to philosophical naturalism. In fact, the situation is precisely the reverse: naturalism and scientific realism are incompatible.

Theories of Individuation

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The metaphysical problem of individuation requires an answer to two different but intimately related questions: 1) How are we to characterize individuality ontologically? To what ontological category or logical type does individuality belong? 2) What sort of distinction is there between the individuality and nature of an individual, e.g. a real distinction, a modal distinction, a distinction of reason, or some other distinction. My purpose in this article is to clarify a bare particular account of individuation and respond to objections that have been raised against bare particulars as individuators. ~ Abstract

Fides et Ratio: On Faith and Reason

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Encyclical letter from Pontiff John Paul II to the bishops of the Catholic church on the relationship between faith and reason. Faith and reason, teaches John Paul, are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth — in a word, to know himself — so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.

The Place of Religiously Informed Scholarship in the Contemporary Academy

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My presentation today has its origins in some conversations that George Write [Professor of Political Science, University of Wisconsin–Superior] and I have had about the potential role of faith-based perspectives in philosophical theorizing and in academic research programs generally. Our conversations began as a discussion about the emergence of what is regarded as distinctively Christian philosophy within the philosophical mainstream in the late 20th century. While those outside of philosophy are often surprised, shocked (horrified?) to hear of such developments, it is truly old news for those in philosophy.

Searle’s Biological Naturalism and the Argument from Consciousness

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In recent years Robert Adams and Richard Swinburne have developed an argument for Gods existence from the reality of mental phenomena. Call this the argument from consciousness (AC). My purpose is to develop and defend AC and to use it as a rival paradigm to critique John Searle’s biological naturalism. The article is developed in three steps. First, two issues relevant to the epistemic task of adjudicating between rival scientific paradigms (basicality and naturalness) are clarified and illustrated. Second, I present a general version of AC and identify the premises most likely to come under attack by philosophical naturalists. Third, I use the insights gained in steps one and two to criticize Searle’s claim that he has developed an adequate naturalistic theory of the emergence of mental entities. I conclude that AC is superior to Searle’s biological naturalism.