Re: Strange Bedfellows, Atheism and Naturaistic Theism

From: Steve Petermann (
Date: Mon Sep 15 2003 - 14:47:22 EDT

  • Next message: Steve Petermann: "Re: Strange Bedfellows, Atheism and Naturaistic Theism"

    I'm afraid I've create a bit of confusion in this thread by trying to
    portrait two positions at once, namely maximal and minimal naturalism. Your
    comments about scientism I believe arose from my attempt to portray a
    maximal naturalism. I'll try to be more specific.

    Howard wrote:
    > Sure. I use the term to distinguish genuine contingency (things that
    > could have gone differently; individual events that could not be predicted
    > with certainty, not even by God)

    But what is the causal agency where these things could have gone
    differently? Personal agency, random chance?

    > I was reading you to mean "deterministic" or "fully repeatable at every
    > level of detail."

    Determinism was not my meaning. I understand that <fully repeatable at
    every level of detail> is not possible because of variations in initial
    conditions as well as epistemic difficulties and anomalies arising from
    quantum indeterminism. The point I'm trying to make is that a maximal
    naturalism says that the unrepeatablity is not part of some guided or telic
    process. This position(max nat) can only lead to a view of the cosmos like
    that of a machine with no freedom. However, when this view swings to the
    human psyche the max nats can't seems to accept the consequences. They
    inevitably look to quantum indeterminism as a solution. At least that's what
    most of the max nats I know do. To Dennett's credit in _Freedom Evolves_ he
    rejects the indeterminism as a source of freedom. His challenge then is to
    somehow shift the notion of freedom from "could have done otherwise" to
    "ability to way options and choose the best one" even if that choice is

    > I'm inclined to divide the question in this way: Human freedom is not
    > independent of divine relationship or of divine persuasion, but is
    > independent of divine coercion.

    This, of course, begs two big questions from the S/R standpoint. 1) What is
    the causal joint through which God persuades? and 2) If humans have some
    form of independence(from divine coercion) and yet live in space-time like
    the max naturalists, how are they not subject to the same mechanistic,
    inevitable structure, governed by chance and necessity? As I see it, since
    humans cannot supernaturally manipulate a nature, there is only one possible
    position, a magical mind/body dualism where the mind is not bound by the
    mechanism of the cosmos. This is what Descartes opted for as a solution,
    but it creates a whole set of difficulties for science, namely that the
    mind is not accessible to science and what is the causal mechanism between
    the two?

    I would propose instead the following: Human freedom should not be granted
    any sort of ontological independence. Instead it should be viewed as an
    expression of divine freedom inherent in the lives of individuals. My view
    of the incarnation metaphor is that God lives and that the divine life is a
    communion of all living things. Only God can truly be free because God
    transcends space-time and all its constraints. If only God can be free and
    all living things are part of the divine life, then all living things share
    in the divine freedom. I realize this may not sound Christian but it does
    have its roots in Christian symbolism and metaphor as well as other
    traditions. In my view if Christianity is serious about embracing science
    then it must be will to reshape itself. Otherwise the relationship with
    science is one of critique and not partnership.

    Steve Petermann

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