Re: [asa] Empiricism, Faith and Science

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Thu Sep 14 2006 - 11:34:34 EDT

1st, I'm not sure what you mean by a "rigid" MN. Presumably this would mean something like a claim that all observable phenomena can be explained in terms of lawlike natural processes even though (to distinguish from metaphysical naturalism) God may work through those processes. But quite apart from theological considerations, Goedel's theorem makes such a claim doubtful.

In any case I wouldn't endorse such a maximal version of MN, though I think on theological grounds that the number of events which cannot be explained "naturally" is, in principle, very small.

2d, I think we'd need to ask what is meant by "empirical knowledge of religious truths." A good case can be made, as I suggested, for the truth of the claim that Jesus' tomb was found empty and that he appeared to people after his death. I.e., there can be empirical knowledge at least of the likelihood of that truth. But that in itself isn't empirical knowledge of the truth that he is the Son of God and that sins are forgiven for his sake, & it's these latter claims that are supposed to be the religious content
of the resurrection.

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: David Opderbeck
  Sent: Thursday, September 14, 2006 10:25 AM
  Subject: Re: [asa] Empiricism, Faith and Science

  Thank you George and Wayne for those comments. I agree with you both that this particular essay can be debunked on many fronts. For example, from my perspective as a legal scholar cum social scientist, this assertion seems absurd to me: " Science is nonsectarian: those who disagree on scientific issues do not blow each other up. Science encourages doubt; most religions quash it." Maybe scientists don't literally blow each other up, but one doesn't have to be a hard-line Kuhnian to observe that the community of science is as full of "sects" and power games as any other human endeavor. Just dare to question, say, multiregionalism among certain physical anthropologists and geneticists, or out of Africa among others, and observe how "nonsectarian" the community really is.

  But here is my biggest concern vis-a-vis TE. The author says: Scientific "truths" are empirically supported observations agreed on by different observers. Religious "truths," on the other hand, are personal, unverifiable and contested by those of different faiths. The epistemology behind this seems to me appallingly simplistic and wrong -- it's just old-school positivism. I can't see how anyone committed to an authentic Christianity can accept this epistemology. But isn't this epistemology implicit in a TE position that promotes a rigid methodological naturalism? Even though the TE's MN is couched in pragmatic terms, isn't the philosophical underpinning a belief that there really is no "empirical" knowledge of religious truths?

To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Thu Sep 14 11:35:45 2006

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Thu Sep 14 2006 - 11:35:46 EDT