Re: Strange Bedfellows, Atheism and Naturaistic Theism

From: Steve Petermann (
Date: Sun Sep 14 2003 - 18:49:21 EDT

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    Howard wrote:
    > If repeatability is stressed out of proportion, the whole of historical
    > science gets written off as meaningless. That's an extreme that has got to
    > be rejected. Authentic contingency must be incorporated into the project
    > understanding "the workings of the cosmos."

    Could you explain what you mean by "authentic contigency"?

    > > However, this requirement also points to a view that the cosmos is
    > > mechanistic, controlled by the natural law. If the cosmos wasn't
    > > mechanistic science would not be able to make sense of what is sees. No
    > > repeatability, no science.
    > I see this an an unrealistic caricature of the natural sciences.

    How so? If there was no repeatability how would science validate its
    theories? Is your objection to the use of the term "mechanistic"? If so
    I'm open to some other term, like "unfree".

    > > But this also says that the cosmos has no
    > > freedom. It does what it does and cannot do otherwise. Even if one
    > > considers the indeterminism at the quantum level those events are
    > > random, not affording any freedom either.
    > Far too much extrapolation here. Non sequiturs lurk this territory.

    If the cosmos is described as unfolding using classical physics and quantum
    events that are random, I don't see how any sense of freedom can be
    associated with it. The definition I'm using for freedom here is "could
    have done otherwise". It's a different story if a minimal naturalism is the
    framework because that introduces the possibility of divine agency. Since
    God as ultimate reality is unconditioned then God *can* introduce an element
    of freedom in this reality.

    > Correct. A purely mechanistic concept of the universe is inadequate.
    > Treating the universe as mechanistic in character works well for some
    > questions, not well for others.

    How do you characterize the universe as anything other than mechanistic
    without the addition of divine action?

    The problem for science and religion is how to treat the universe in some
    way other than mechanistic. Theism offers a solution to that either with
    supernaturalism or naturalistic embedded divine action but for that approach
    the issue becomes one of a causal joint. If theism cannot provide a
    reasonable causal joint, how can it be taken seriously by science?

    > > The other strategy is where atheists and naturalistic theists have
    formed an
    > > unconscious partnership. Both want quantum indeterminacies to be the
    > > of freedom.
    > Show me a naturalistic theist who espouses quantum indeterminacy as the
    > SOURCE of freedom.

    Come to think of it you're probably right. The naturalistic theists I'm
    familiar with cling to the idea of an *independent* freedom of the
    individual. However, I have yet to hear a scientifically or logically
    plausible argument for such a freedom that does not resort to some sort of
    mind/body dualism. Human ontological freedom is, in my opinion, an example
    of the sin of pride. In my view human freedom is *not* independent of the
    divine but rather grounded in the freedom of the divine life. In my view
    the idea of independent human agency results in many of the intransigent
    problems in philosophy, theology and atheistic positions. Freedom depends
    on conditionedness. If actions or events are inevitable, can they be
    considered free? Not by the common definition of freedom.

    Steve Petermann

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