RE: Lakatos and the hard core

From: Glenn Morton <>
Date: Wed Sep 08 2004 - 20:36:27 EDT

-----Original Message-----
From: George Murphy []
Sent: Wednesday, September 08, 2004 4:25 PM
To: Glenn Morton;
Subject: Re: Lakatos and the hard core

>>> & that has to be my 1st response to your post. The Lakatosian
hard core isn't invulnerable? I know dat. I've known dat for a long
time, & I see no justification for the suggestion that I'm using his
description of the scientific process "in a slightly wrong manner."<<<<

Well, my comment came from what I viewed as a begging the question in
the previous note.

You had written:
>>>>> & I should add that your supposed parallel between Lenin
> & Christ doesn't work. Among other things, the idea that in
> any sense Lenin still lives is inconsistent with who Lenin
> was.<<<<<<

If Jesus isn't already presumed to be the son of god, then having a
relationship with christ is also inconsistent with who Jesus is. It was
at that point you mentioned Lakatos. So if the misunderstanding was
mine, then I apologize.

>>>> But of course its vulnerability is indirect: It's not a matter
of "verifying" or "falsifying" the hard core by some single "crucial
experiment." It comes instead from judging whether or not the research
program in question is progressive or degenerating: Does it predict or
explain novel facts without significant changes in the theories of its
protective belt or is it necessary to keep changing those theories to
accomodate new discoveries - as, e.g., with the steady state theory? &
one can really only judge between competing research programs. <<<<

Sure, that that indirectness is why I think creation IS important. As I
have said many times, If God didn't create the world, then his son,
isn't really his son. That is an indirect falsification of the sonship
of Jesus. So, given that you often tell me that Creation isn't
important, but now are telling me that the resurrection and who jesus is
is the hard core, what are the supports for this view in your mind?
What are the supports, which if disproven would crumble the center in
your Lakatosian view?

>>> I think Lakatos provides a good description of the way science
works & that there's a good deal of value (cf. Nancey Murphy) of
applying it to scientific method. <<<<

I agree. I think Lakatos is the best description of the workings of
science. It is a shame I didn't run into him until after I left
philosophy grad school.

>>>>> But I've never tried to formalize my "chiasmic cosmology" research
program in strict Lakatosian fashion: It isn't a recipe for doing
either science or theology. Considered as a theological program, I'd
sketch my approach this way.

    Hard core: "True theology and the recognition of God are in the
crucified Christ." (A quote from Luther.)
Of course this has to be fleshed out both from the Bible and from
"secular" history &c. To keep it brief, "Christ" means Jesus of
Nazareth as he was
proclaimed by the apostles. & lest there be any question about this,
"the crucified Christ" means "really nailed to a cross & died outside
Jerusalem under Pontius Pilate." & "as proclaimed by the apostles"
includes the resurrection of the crucified.

    & I think I have to add: Of course people can develop all kinds of
"religion-science" programs. But if something's going to be presented
as a distinctively Christian program it seems to me that its hard core
ought to have something to do with Christ.<<<<<

I agree with you. But in my view the only really verifiable or
disprovable support is the flood or creation. There is absolutely no way
we can, from this day in age, demonstrate that Jesus was actually
crucified, must less resurrected. We have verified that there were
romans, there were jews, there was crucifiction. But we can't verify
that that particular man was a jew who was crucified by the Romans.
That is beyond the evidence

My protective belt IS the flood and creation. I know of no other. I
can't prove a theological statement is true or false. How do I prove
that God says "Love your neighbor" without previously begging the
question by believing that God told us to Love our neighbor?

>>>> Protective belt: The main theological flexibility here is
provided by the possibilities of biblical interpretation. That
flexibility is not infinite though because such interpretation
can't conflict with the hard core or clear knowledge of the way the
world is. (The latter point would take some development but it would
derive from the understanding of creation noted below.)

    Novel fact: The statement of the hard core implies that the creator
and sustainer of the universe (i.e., God) is recognized in the event of
the cross, so we may expect that God's method of operation in creation
is also recognizable here. Those who've read stuff of mine previously
will know how the argument's going to go. It leads to the claim that
God's activity in the world is hidden and that the world can be
understood "though God were not given," a claim that scientific progress
has given a lot of support to.

I have read some of your stuff. The problem I have is that proving that
the world is understandable without a god doesn't seem very protective
of the hard core. In some sense your view is similar to Bohm's hidden
variables form of quantum.

>>> Of course that's pretty obvious now - though some theologies still
struggle with it - but it was hardly obvious when Luther made his
statement in 1518. Nor was it something I had in mind when I first
started this program over 20 years ago. (In fact I remember arguing
rather vehemently against Bonhoeffer's "though God were not given"
statement.) So this can reasonably count as a novel fact for the
program. ("Novel facts" in this sense are not limited to things that
weren't known when a theory was developed, but includes those that may
have been known but weren't used in the development of the theory.
E.g., the prediction of the precession of Mercury's orbit counts as a
novel fact for general relativity because Einstein didn't use it in
developing the theory.)<<<<

I must confess, I am not very familiar with Bonhoeffer or his statement.
For all I know I may very well have repeated it. But it just doesn't
seem to me very useful to learn that God's works are hidden from view
and that is a reason therefore to believe the hardcore of the cross.

>>> There's a lot more to say about this & you may be inclined to
weigh in with criticisms at this point. But as I said earlier, one can
really only judge between competing research programs by seeing which is
more progressive or more degenerating. So I think it's fair to ask at
this point what the hard core of your theology-science program is.
What's in your wallet?<<<<<

Money is in my wallet. In my research program I look around for what is
objectively verifiable (or at least objectively supportable) from the
claims of christianity. As I said, the resurrection is not objectively
verifiable from this late date. Subjective relationships with deities
are not objectively verifiable. We have verified that the Romans, the
Jews existed but that doesn't help us with the hard core--of the cross.
I agree with you here that the cross is central. But it is also totally

Knowing that the general history of the Jews is approximately correct,
doesn't help with the cross either. A good historical novelist can
weave interesting false tales and make them look real. That means that
only some unique claim is verifiable. That then points one to something
in the physical world. We can't, as I said earlier, verify that Jesus
loves me or any other theological statement. They are accepted or
rejected by assumption. But a global flood, or a claim of creation that
can be verified, or made to fit within modern views is such a
verification. That is why creation is so important to me. It isn't per
se, that I am resting my belief on it (although you and others may
disagree), it is that all else is fideism! I can believe in Jesus untill
the bunnies come home but that won't be any support for the hard core.
I can believe in drinking arsenic until the bunnies come home but that
won't save me if I drink it. Belief alone is simply not sufficient for
trust. There must be some contact with reality.

The disciples had that contact in what they saw at the empty tomb. I
don't. I can either believe their claims or reject them, but either way
it is fideism. And just because 12 men can claim the same wild tale
doesn't support it either. There were 12 men, I believe you all
testified to Joseph Smith's veracity. Doesn't make it so, though. And
if we make God tell us fibs about eating pork and divorce, then we may
need 12 guys to testify for his veracity. But that won't make it so

And that is why my program.
Received on Wed Sep 8 20:58:07 2004

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