RE: [asa] Critical review of Dawkins' Book by the "Liberal Media"

From: Janice Matchett <>
Date: Tue Dec 26 2006 - 17:33:31 EST

At 04:47 PM 12/26/2006, Alexanian, Moorad wrote:

>"...However, the notion of a designer is not as fundamental as that
>of a Creator. I have always said and will continue to emphasize that
>there is no way a human can do away with the notion of a Creator.
>Note that an eternal universe would not include the notion of
>evolution except by considering a cyclical universe. Otherwise, the
>universe must have a beginning and thus be created."

@ I agree. ~ Janice ... so would this guy:

"...From a theistic or Christian perspective, however, things are
much less frantic. The theist knows that God created the heavens and
the earth and all that they contain; she knows, therefore, that in
one way or another God has created all the vast diversity of
contemporary plant and animal life. But of course she isn't thereby
committed to any particular way in which God did this. He could have
done it by broadly evolutionary means; but on the other hand he could
have done it in some totally different way. ......he could have done
it the way Augustine suggests.....

A Christian therefore has a certain freedom denied her naturalist
counterpart: she can follow the evidence14 where it leads. ....
Perhaps the point here can be put like this: The epistemic
probability of the whole grand evolutionary story is quite different
for the theist and for the naturalist. .....

... Prominent writers in the scientific community--for example,
Dawkins, Futuyma, Gould, Provine, Simpson, and others--unite in
declaring that evolutionary biology shows that there is a substantial
element of randomness or chance involved in the origin and
development of the human species...

....These writers, therefore, unite in declaring that modern
evolutionary thought has shown or given us reason to believe that
human beings are, in an important way, merely accidental; there
wasn't any plan, any foresight, any mind, any mind's eye involved in
their coming into being. But of course no Christian theist could take
that seriously for a moment. Human beings have been created, and
created in the image of God. No doubt God could have created us via
evolutionary processes; if he did it that way, however, then he must
have guided, orchestrated, directed the processes by which he brought
about his designs.

.....we might say that strictly speaking, when these people make such
declarations, they are neither speaking as scientists nor doing
science. They are instead commenting on science, drawing conclusions
from scientific results--conclusions that don't follow from the
scientific results themselves, requiring extra and extra-scientific
(perhaps philosophical) premises.

Perhaps this is true, although it has become increasingly difficult
to draw a sharp line between science and such other activities as
philosophical reflection on science.

Whether or not what we have here is science strictly so-called,
however, isn't really the important question for my present purposes.
Whether or not what we have here is science or only parascience, we
have deep involvement with the spiritual struggle Augustine points
out. In either case that involvement must be noted and dealt with by
the Christian intellectual community, and in particular by the part
of the Christian intellectual community involved in the science in
question. ...

...What the Christian community really needs is a science that takes
into account what we know as Christians. Indeed, this seems the
rational thing in any event; surely the rational thing is to use all
that you know in trying to understand a given phenomenon. But then in
coming to a scientific understanding of hostility, or aggression, for
example, shouldn't Christian psychologists make use of the notion of
sin? In trying to achieve scientific understanding of love in its
many and protean manifestations, for example, or play, or music, or
humor, or our sense of adventure, shouldn't we also use what we know
about human beings being created in the image of God, who is himself
the very source of love, beauty and the like? And the same for
morality? Consider that enormous, impressive, and disastrous
Bolshevik experiment of the twentieth century, perhaps the
outstanding feature of the twentieth century political landscape: in
coming to a scientific understanding of it, shouldn't Christians use
all that they know about human beings, including what they know by faith?

True: there could be practical obstacles standing in the way of doing
this; but in principle, and abstracting from these practical
difficulties (which in any event may be more bark than bite), the
right way for the Christian community to attain scientific
understanding of, say, the way human beings are and behave, would be
to start from what we know about human beings, including what we know
by way of faith. Hence the sorts of hypotheses we investigate might
very well involve such facts (as the Christian thinks) as that we
human beings have been created by God in his image, and have fallen
into sin. These 'religious' ideas might take a place in our science
by way of explicitly entering various hypotheses. They might also
play other roles: for example, they might be part of the background
information with respect to which we evaluate the various scientific
hypotheses and myths that come our way.

I say this is the natural thing to think; oddly enough, however, the
denial of this claim is widely taken for granted. As a matter of
fact, it has achieved the status of philosophical orthodoxy. Among
those who object to this claim are Christian thinkers with impressive
credentials. Thus Ernan McMullin:

"But, of course, methodological naturalism does not restrict our
study of nature; it just lays down which sort of study qualifies as
scientific. If someone wants to pursue another approach to
nature--and there are many others--the methodological naturalist has
no reason to object. Scientists have to proceed in this way; the
methodology of natural science gives no purchase on the claim that a
particular event or type of event is to be explained by invoking
God's creative action directly."

Part of the problem, of course, is to see more clearly what this
methodological naturalism is. Precisely what does it come to? Does it
involve an embargo only on such claims as that a particular event is
to be explained by invoking God's creative action directly, without
the employment of 'secondary causes'? Does it also proscribe invoking
God's indirect creative action in explaining something
scientifically? Does it pertain only to scientific explanations, but
not to other scientific assertions and claims? Does it also preclude
using claims about God's creative action, or other religious claims
as part of the background information with respect to which one tries
to assess the probability of a proposed scientific explanation or account?

We shall have to look into these matters later. At the moment
however, I want to look into a different question: what reason is
there for accepting the claim that science does indeed involve such a
methodological naturalism, however exactly we construe the latter? I
shall examine some proposed reasons for this claim and find them
wanting. In Part III, I shall then argue that, nevertheless, a couple
of very sensible reasons lie behind at least part of this claim.
These reasons, however, do not support the suggestion that science is
religiously neutral.

Well then, what underlies the idea that science in some way
necessarily involves this principle of methodological naturalism?
First, and perhaps most important: this conception of science is an
integral and venerable part of the whole conception of faith and
reason we have inherited from the Enlightenment. I don't have the
space to treat this topic with anything like the fullness it
deserves; but the central idea, here, is that science is objective,
public, sharable, publicly verifiable, and equally available to
anyone, whatever their religious or metaphysical proclivities.

We may be Buddhist, Hindu, Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Jew, Bahai,
none of the above--the findings of science hold equally for all of
us. This is because proper science, as seen by the Enlightenment, is
restricted to the deliverances of reason and sense (perception) which
are the same for all people.

Religion, on the other hand, is private, subjective, and obviously
subject to considerable individual differences.

But then if science is indeed public and sharable by all, then of
course one can't properly pursue it by starting from some bit of
religious belief or dogma.

One root of this way of thinking about science is a consequence of
the modern foundationalism stemming from Descartes and perhaps even
more importantly, Locke. Modern classical foundationalism has come in
for a lot of criticism lately, and I do not propose to add my voice
to the howling mob.36 And since the classical foundationalism upon
which methodological naturalism is based has run aground, I shall
instead consider some more local, less grand and cosmic reasons for
accepting methodological naturalism. ..." Alvin Plantinga

Philosophical Analysis Origins & Design 18:1
Methodological Naturalism? Alvin Plantinga

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Received on Tue Dec 26 17:34:06 2006

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