From: Alexanian, Moorad (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Wed Jun 18 2003 - 17:05:11 EDT
It is best to define the physical operationally ---as that detected by purely physical devices (non-living) ---and all else nonphysical. No matter how rudimentary this definition is, it allows for a clear definition of what science is and limits endless, non-fruitful discussions. The subject matter of science is data collected, in principle, by purely physical devices. This definition of science can be refined if need be. Note that humans have elements of both the physical and nonphysical.
No doubt, that humans and their functioning have an underlying physical aspect that can be studied by the methods of science, as defined above. However, such studies will never exhaust whom we are leaving out of such studies the main nature of man/woman.
I do not advocate that knowledge comes from mere sitting down under trees and muse. However, much of what we discuss in this list is of that nature. Objectivity in science is essential and that is readily achieved if defined by its subject matter and how data is collected.
I never said anything about souls. I refer to human consciousness or self, something that a person knows he/she has even though no purely physical device can detect it.
From: Lucien Carroll [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Wed 6/18/2003 4:13 PM
Subject: RE: the fall and the story of evil in a progressive/evolutionary creation (minor correction)
> I think is best to think in terms of physical and nonphysical rather than theism vs. atheism. The former allows us to define science as the study of the purely physical. The obvious existence of the nonphysical—human self, reasoning, etc.—gives the limitations of science and the need to suppose the basis for the study of the nonphysical aspect of Nature. Clearly, the assumption of a Creator is the logical end of sound, honest, human reasoning regarding the fundamental question of origins. Therein begins the basis for the study of the whole of reality.
I don't think the existence of the non-physical (self, mind, thought etc) defines a clear boundary for science. It is possible that the non-physical is indeed another realm of existence, but the experience that we (selves) can interact with our bodies and a look at the conceptual layering in science suggests that our intuitions of mind and self are conceptual simplifications of whatever it is that goes on in our heads, just as Newtonian mechanics are for quantum. We can indeed conduct investigations by reasoning alone, regarding souls, reasoning itself, hypothetical geometries, or quantum, classical or Aristotelian dynamics. But at some point our conceptual framework breaks down, and diverges from reality.
If I understand you correctly, you are saying study of the origin of souls implies a Creator. In a way that makes sense, but our understanding of souls is pretty weak. It's close enough to our experience to warrant serious consideration, but not enough to make it a formal basis for studying reality.
Ted Davis said:
> I understand Lucien's difficulties with understanding the fall. IMO, the
> problem of evil cannot be fully resolved within theism. Let me add,
> however, that nontheists don't get off the hook: if there is no God, no
> ultimate good, then there really is no category of evil. Thus, we can't
> really claim honestly or even coherently that the holocaust (for example)
> was evil--and that does seem to be a very large problem indeed. Nor can
> nontheists fully resolve what we might call the problem of design--how it is
> that the universe itself, and its contents appear so strongly to have been
> purposefully made. Why, to cite a famous paper by Eugene Wigner,
> mathematics is so unreasonably fruitful in explaining nature. We do seem to
> have something like a "draw" between design and theodicy.
The problem of good is real but not insoluble. The atheist is left without an authority on good and evil, but that does not invalidate the concepts. Within theism, good and evil are declared such because they are respectively beneficial or detrimental to us, constructive or destructive. Even if there is no God and no eternal souls, those things which are constructive or destructive to our systems are still much the same.
> As for the fall, I like what John Polkinghorne writes in Belief in God in
> an Age of Science, p. 89. "There was death in the world long before there
> were our human precursors. After all, it was the extinction of the
> dinosaurs that gave us mammals our evolutionary chance. But the Fall, as I
> have described it, turned death into mortality. Self-consciousness made us
> aware of our transience--we could foresee our deaths--and alienation from
> the God who is the eternal ground of hope, turned that recognition into
> sadness and bitterness. In a similar way, the problems of living,
> symbolised by thorns and thistles, became causes of frustration and the
> expense of spirit."
Thanks. I may have to go read more Polkinghorne.
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