Re: Lakatos and the hard core

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Sun Sep 12 2004 - 17:53:37 EDT

----- Original Message -----
From: "Glenn Morton" <>
To: "'George Murphy'" <>; <>
Sent: Friday, September 10, 2004 6:19 PM
Subject: RE: Lakatos and the hard core

A general statement should help to clarify some of the discussion below. I
have cut out a chunk in the middle of the last post because I think - or
hope - that this will deal with some of the issues raised there.

The death and resurrection of Jesus are central to Christian faith. There
is little disagreement with the historical claim that Jesus was crucified
under Pontius Pilate. There is of course much more controversy about claims
that he was raised from the dead and about just what constitutes that claim.
But there is, let's say, "respectable" historical support for the belief
that Jesus was seen alive by some people after his death and that his tomb
was empty.

OK, those facts are extremely important but they are not in themselves what
constitute the hard core of my research program. They could hardly be such
a hard core without some theological interpretation, for the "hard core"
isn't just one or more facts that are claimed to be true. I summed up the
theological significance of the cross with Luther's statement, ""true
theology and recognition of God are in the crucified Christ." I.e., we know
who God is, & what _kind_ of a God God is, first of all & most importantly
from the cross. As Fee puts it in his commentary on Philippians, "In
'pouring himself out' and 'humbling himself to death on the cross' Christ
Jesus has revealed the character of God himself."

That is a claim that 1st of all provides a principle for the interpretation
of all of scripture. God's activity in the world throughout the biblical
story has a cruciform character. (Cf. Chapter 3 of _The Cosmos in the Light
of the Cross_.) & this is what I appealed to in my discussion on the
"Accomodation" thread.

The point of particular interest for questions about science and technology
is the further claim that the God who is present and active in the world, &
who is the
_creator_ of the world, is the one revealed in the cross. I.e., God's
presence and activity in the world has a cruciform character.

Cross and resurrection cannot really be separated but the cross must be
spoken of 1st, for the resurrection loses much of its meaning if it was not
the resurrection _of the Crucified_ (cf. Mk.16:6). Paul certainly didn't
downplay the resurrection, devoting the whole long Ch.15 of I Cor. to it.
But before that he dealt at length with the cross in Chs 1&2 & emphasizes
that when he 1st came to Corinth his message was "Jesus Christ and him
crucified." The fact that Jesus is risen doesn't do away with the scandal
of the cross & in fact intensifies it because it means that the one present
in the church, & in the universe, as Lord is the Crucified.

But then belief that Jesus _is_ risen means that he _is_ alive & active in
the universe. & the fact that the creator is identified in this way then
has the kinds of implications I've sketched here & in other places - the
hiddenness of God in creation &c. & this also means (though one could
debate whether it counts as a novel fact) that we can make theological sense
that God creates through the process of natural selection, something that
traditional theologies have trouble with.

> > But this brings up a larger issue. We're dealing 1st of
> > all with issues of science & religion & I've tried to focus
> > on those concerns in the brief statement of my program. But
> > we would really miss the boat if we didn't remember that an
> > evaluation of the truth of Christianity has to give attention
> > to other issues. It can't even be limited to "theology" in
> > the sense of formal reflection on the faith. People believe
> > in Christ, and have since the beginning, because they think
> > they have reason to believe that he is the solution to
> > problems of death and corruption, guilt, alienation and
> > meaninglessness. People claim to "know" that their sins are
> > forgiven and that they are justified in God's sight because
> > Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead. The theology
> > of the cross as Luther stated it was a way of saying that the
> > cross of Christ is an answer to the problem of sin. Most
> > Christians would say that the success of Christianity in
> > dealing with these existential issues is a strong argument in
> > favor of its truth. But this is not the kind of truth that
> > can be tested very well by scientific means, Lakatosian or otherwise.
> Agreed. But the same thing can be said of Mormons. Yet their entire
> tale is a fraud from start to finish, imo. Thus, to me, the testable
> parts of religion are important.

Religious claims need to make sense both of our experience of the world &
our self-experience. "Testability" in your sense has to do with the 1st.
It's important but isn't the whole story. (& contrary to extreme
existentialist theologies, the 2d isn't the whole story either.)

> > Then there's the question of historical truth. One
> > argument that has sometimes been made for the resurrection of
> > Christ as an objective event is the post-Easter behavior of
> > Jesus' disciples & the rise of the Christian church. A form
> > of that argument has been used recently by N.T. Wright in
> > _The Resurrection of the Son of God_ & I think that there's a
> > good deal of merit to it. But it's at best a strong
> > plausibility argument, even when combined with other
> > evidence, & not the sort of proof that a physicist (as
> > physicist!) would accept.
> No, but it is a test to see if the story is consistent with the
> evidence. And if we can test that part of history, why is it verboten
> to seek to test earth history against the story. Mormonism is false
> based upon the history given us by archaeology. The techniques of
> archaeology are not that different from the techniques of geology. It
> seems to me that if one can test history in one part of the story, one
> should do the same for other parts.

Testing earth history against the story allowed, but one needs to be open to
the possibility that such a test will suggest that the story isn't history.

> >
> > 1st, I have never, _never_ said that "Creation isn't
> > important." Creation is a very important theological claim
> > that the world is ultimately dependent upon God alone and -
> > existentially - that God is the creator and sustainer of my
> > life. I also agree with the main current of the Christian
> > tradition that this doctrine is best understood as including
> > the claim that the universe had a beginning _of_ (not in)
> > time, though that's not essential to the basic doctrine. But
> > I have said that Gen. 1 & 2 are not to be read as historical
> > narratives, and that it's not helpful to try to make them
> > historically or scientifically concordant with modern
> > accounts of the big bang, evolution &c. It isn't accurate to
> > equate that view with thinking that creation itself isn't
> > important. Creation is a theological, not a scientific, concept.
> But creation can't remain merely a theological concept. That removes it
> from history. To me, it is inconsistent to say it is ok to test the
> behavior of the disciples against the resurrection (a psychological
> testing of history) and then remove the only thing which can really be
> tested scientifically, the creation. To me this looks like a case of
> placing off limits to avoid the possible conclusion that the story is
> false.

Creation is a theological concept. The way we understand creation may have
implications with observable consequences. The YEC view does & it's wrong.
Bultmann's existential view doesn't. Mine does - the negative implication
that scientific investigation of natural processes won't find God's
fingerprints. The fact that it's a negative prediction doesn't make it
trivial, just as special relativity's prediction of a negative result for
the Michelson-Morley experiment is non-trivial.

> > 3d, I think your approach, which seems to make Christ's
> > divine sonship dependent upon a particular view of creation,
> > is exactly backwards. Theological statements about creation
> > should begin from the standpoint of the cross & resurrection
> > of Christ & the claim that this event reveals the creator.
> > That's how I proceed in arguing that God's activity should be
> > hidden in creation - i.e., in everyday events _and_ in origins.
> But, why wouldn't I apply that approach, say to the Bab of the Bahai?
> The miracle at the prison, where he was translated out from in front of
> a firing squad (it has been many years since I read this) could be used
> as the 'hardcore' of another view that their god created the universe.
> If the claim of a miracle leads to the claim of creation, why doesn't it
> work for other religions? Especially if they too claim that creation is
> a theology

Well, what are the implications of Bahai claims for the way we understand
ourselves and the world? The proof of the pudding & all that.

> > 4th, since one of my conclusions is that God _doesn't_
> > "leave his fingerprints all over the evidence," success of
> > the ID program would raise serious questions about my own
> > approach. So that's a way in which my program is
> > theoretically vulnerable.
> I don't think you have much to worry about that. I think it is
> absolutely impossible in principle to prove design. I have a very
> positivist view of the reason for their failure.

But do you have any theological rationale for the fact that God's activity
apparently can't be observed scientifically in natural processes?


> > > 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
> > > either.
> >
> > This is a misuse of the term "fideism." That means believing
> > something with no evidence at all, not just believing things
> > for which there isn't analytic proof. If we were to misuse
> > the term fideism in your sense virtually everything we do in
> > the world, including my belief that this message I'm typing
> > will get through the internet to you, would have to be called fideism.
> According to the Catholic Encyclopedia definition of fideism, that is
> one form of it.
> "Fideism has divers degrees and takes divers forms, according to the
> field of truth to which it is extended, and the various elements which
> are affirmed as constituting the authority. For some fideists, human
> reason cannot of itself reach certitude in regard to any truth
> whatever;"
> It is a hard term to misuse, George. Go read all the diverse forms.

Yeah, I know, & I was using the term in it's popular sense - "God said, I
believe it, that settles it." Saying that the word "has divers degrees and
takes divers forms" makes it sound like more of a technical term than it
really is. Scholastic theologians want to think that because they imagine
that they can define just how much faith & how much reason is appropriate in
different situations. In reality, one person's fideist is another person's
> >
> > Furthermore, Jn.20:29 is a strong criticism of your view. In
> > your terms, Jesus is commending fidesim. I remember in an
> > exchange several years ago you argued that Thomas was being
> > _commended_ for his refusal to believe without seeing, but
> > that is in glaring contradiction with what the text actually says.
> I looked up the word Blessed, used in that verse where Jesus talks to
> doubting Thomas. By saying Blessed are those who have not seen but
> still believe, what do you think Jesus is saying? One of the
> definitions is joyful, or happy. I will freely confess when I was a
> YEC, and didn't have all these nagging doubts I was probably happier.
> Ignorance is bliss as they say. But when I found out all the problems
> geology presented to my view, then yes, I probably became less blessed.
> But I don't view that as a condemnation as you do. Maybe you have a
> different definition of blessed.

So you think Jesus was saying, "Those people who will believe without seeing
are ignorant & happy?"

/Makarios/, "blessed" can mean "happy" in a certain sense but Jesus is not
just making a declarative statement about the emotional state of certain
believers. He is instead saying that they will receive God's favor. I
quote from the Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, q.v. "Blessedness."
"When 'blessed' is used of men ('sri, makarios), the meaning is very
different [from when it's applied to God]: men are 'fortunate,' 'happy' (in
the original sense of the latter word in English [N.B.]), because they are
assured of the blessing of God. ... Bot in the OT and in the NT,
therefore, the only constant connotation of 'blessed' is well-being,
prosperity, which is the gift of God to me; the nature of this well-being is
very variously conceived, and can be determined only from the context."

But the bottom line is, we aren't going to "see" the risen Christ as Thomas
did. So if Jesus were somehow commending Thomas for his skepticism he would
be saying implicitly to the rest of us that we're out of luck.

> > > And that is why my program.
> >
> > You still haven't told me what the hard core of your
> > program is! You say above that " My protective belt IS the
> > flood and creation." But what is the protective belt
> > protecting. The protective belt is supposed to consist of
> > theories that can be modified as needed to protect the hard
> > core. It sounds to me more as if the flood and creation (in
> > your sense) _are_ the hard core.

> I thought I did. I would agree that the hard core is the resurrection
> (not the crucifiction).

This is obviously a quite important difference. I refer again to my opening
statement. But I'll point out agaisn that just belief in a particular
fact - e.g., that Jesus was raised from the dead - in itself can't be the
core of a research program. What does it contribute to making theological
sense of science & technology.

Received on Sun Sep 12 18:18:07 2004

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