Re: [asa] Europe's Scientific Search for God

From: gordon brown <Gordon.Brown@Colorado.EDU>
Date: Mon Mar 24 2008 - 21:50:02 EDT

On Mon, 24 Mar 2008, Ted Davis wrote:

> Evolution by natural selection in the classical sense--unguided, with no
> transcendent agent to direct mutations along "certain beneficial lines," as
> Asa Gray put it, hasn't a clue about how to explain religion--or
> mathematics, or philosophy, or our ability to do science, for that matter.
> Evolution might or might not be able to account for the complexity of our
> brains, per se, but it's mute and powerless to "explain" the higher products
> of our brains, which are of course by far the most complex objects yet known
> to us anywhere in the universe. Many agnostic and atheist philosophers,
> mathematicians, and scientists have stated this much in frank terms. Our
> ability to do higher mathematics, for example, was utterly irrelevant to our
> survival in evolutionary terms--our ancestors needed to know absolutely
> nothing about topology or fractals, manifolds or tensors, even differential
> calculus, in order to outwit mammoths and saber-tooth tigers. Nor did they
> need to know the profoundly shocking fact (from the point of view of
> naturalism) that mathematics of the kinds just mentioned is incredibly
> powerful for understanding the external world--a fact that just cries out
> for a deeper explanation. Pinker, Dawkins, Dennett and company are flying
> into the face of the facts on this one. We can not only do mathematics, but
> our mathematics actually matches the subtlest details of the external world.
> How does this make any sense at all, if we aren't in a very real sense
> created in the image of God, the divine mathematician (as Kepler, Galileo,
> and Copernicus regarded God) who also created the external world?

I encountered a discussion of this question in a chapter of a book I was
given to review for PSCF. The book was "Toward a Theology of Scientific
Endeavour: The Descent of Science" by Christopher Kaiser. The solution
that he discusses is attributed to David Lewis-Williams and relates to
religion (shamanism) in the Paleolithic. Cave paintings have been
interpreted as giving evidence of soul journey, travel to and from the
spirit world. It is suggested that the mental processes involved in such
religious practices are those involved in scientific research.

I am only reporting this, not advocating it. In fact, I found this to be
the least convincing part of the book.

Gordon Brown (ASA member)

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Received on Mon Mar 24 21:51:57 2008

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