[asa] Re: Ontology determines epistemology (was Re: [asa] Re: Coyne vs Collins)

From: wjp <wjp@swcp.com>
Date: Fri May 01 2009 - 09:04:54 EDT

Science presupposes an ordered world that is rational and yet contingent.
This entails that it is a world like us, but not so like us that we
mustn't look. It supports a way be Cartesian science and any naive

Such a science is metaphysically supported by monotheism, as opposed to a
polytheism. The rationality and unity of the world is supported by a
rational Creator. The very notion of Truth may be a distinctly theistic
concept. Man, being the product of a rational creator, is rational
in some way like its Creator, allowing support for a human science.
But man is not God (and esp. if there is a notion of fallenness) and
so cannot expect to be able to know the mind of God wholly. This is
why a human science cannot be deductive, but must be humbled by looking
and bowing to what it sees outside himself and in the world.

The blind evolutionary creation story does not support the kind of science
that has grown up in the West. Such a creation story would not support
truth, but some form of pragmatism and instrumentalism. It would not
support a mathematical science, but perhaps more so a Ptolomeic science.

I could easily be wrong about the details of what I say here. My point
is to ask a transcendental question: what kind of metaphysics is required
for science? I am suggesting that God, even a Christian God, in both
our presupposed understanding of Him and in the support we find in our
investigations of the world science and its hopes are encouraged.

Is this a Natural Theology? Is it that we find our theology echoed
in the natural world? Is it that our theology encourages certain
activities, including a science? I don't know so much that we find
this kind of ordered, rational God in the creation. I suspect that
we (and following Romans) do find something like it. But I also think
that more is required than what we intuit from nature for modern science.
A polytheistic culture still sees the regular motions of the stars and
seasons, but I think undermines the kind of rational unity expected
by science. Can a atheistic culture support science at all?
This is a question that intrigues me. Before his death I had a ongoing
discussion with Stanley Jaki about this. He believes that once science
is kick started by Theism (actually he would say Christianity), science
no longer requires the metaphysical support. I disagree and this is
why I sense a move to Platonism in modern science. Is a Aristotleian
embedding of the forms sufficient for science, or do we require a

I have talked to many about this. Apparently many, including at least one
Christian, believe that it is possible to bootstrap itself, i.e., it
requires no metaphysics, no form into which its knowledge fits and is
expected to fit. They suggest that science throws out a net and either
finds support or not. I suggest that such blind throwing will come
up empty. Still once a happy form is found, even if derived from a
now rejected metaphysics (i.e., Christianity), can science endure?
Or will it only last so long as the inertia of the now dead will
carry it? Without a metaphysics science becomes, I suggest, pure
engineering, little interested in "divine" theoretical unification
and explanation.


On Thu, 30 Apr 2009 20:20:54 -0400, "George Murphy" <GMURPHY10@neo.rr.com> wrote:
> Here the point that I made in my earlier post about a distinctively
> Christian understanding of God, as distinguished from mere philosophical
> theism, is crucial. Such a distinctively Christian understanding must be
> informed by the event of the cross. As Luther puts it, "True theology and
> the recognition of God are in the crucified Christ." If the kenosis
> involved in this event (and the Incarnation generally) was not just a
> temporary tactic but revelatory of the divine MO generally then we should
> indeed "come up with 'methodological naturalism'." That may not be
> "spontaneous" - our natural desire to have a God who shows off and "leaves
> his fingerprints all over the evidence" (because that's the kind of God we
> would be if we could be God) struggles against it. Ultimately it depends
> on whether we get our understanding of God from God's self-revelation or
> from our own philosophizing.
> Shalom
> George
> http://home.roadrunner.com/~scitheologyglm
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Cameron Wybrow" <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>
> To: "asa" <asa@calvin.edu>
> Sent: Thursday, April 30, 2009 6:04 PM
> Subject: Re: Ontology determines epistemology (was Re: [asa] Re: Coyne vs
> Collins)
>> Murray:
>> I agree with your analysis entirely.
>> I was, however, putting the emphasis in a different place than you seem
> to
>> think that I was. My point was that Coyne begins from his metaphysics,
>> which *demands* pure naturalism, with no exceptions, and from that he
>> derives his epistemology. He unifies them by putting the metaphysics
>> (ontology) in the driver's seat.
>> A Christian who put orthodox Christian metaphysics in the driver's seat,
> and
>> derived his (or her) epistemology of nature from it (without
> deliberately
>> contriving that epistemology to make it friendly to modern science),
> would
>> not spontaneously come up with "methodological naturalism". A
> Christian,
>> basing his epistemology upon the Bible and traditional Church teaching,
>> would come up with something like: "Things generally seem to run in
> accord
>> with something akin to "laws", and they do this so often that we can
> treat
>> these "laws" as for most practical purposes unbreakable; however, there
> is
>> no reason why God has to sustain those laws all the time, and he may in
> fact
>> intervene to suspend or break them (in the case of healings or visions,
> for
>> example) even now, as he appears to have done, at least in some cases,
> in
>> Biblical times; further, there may have been a more ancient period of
> time
>> (the period of creation) when such laws were not in force, as he was
> giving
>> shape to the world and the life forms in it." That would be a Christian
>> epistemology regarding nature, but that is not what is usually meant by
>> "methodological naturalism" in the culture-war environment we are in.
>> Usually it means that we are pressured to acquiesce in the view that all
>> things originated wholly naturalistically, by means of the same natural
>> forces and processes that we observe today. Failure to give such
>> acquiescence exposes one to the charge of being "unscientific".
>> And the rub is, that precisely if chance and necessity are *not* capable
> of
>> producing all the life forms we see, or the special character of man, or
>> life itself, methodological naturalism (understood not as a useful
> practical
>> rule of thumb, but as an absolutely binding rule for all inquiry into
> the
>> causes of natural things) will *hide* that truth from us. So the
> question
>> is which is more important: following methodological naturalism
> wherever it
>> leads, at the risk of possibly missing some important truths about
> nature,
>> or leaving matters more open than that, in order not to rule out any
>> possibilties in advance. Christian theology suggests that the latter is
> the
>> wiser course. That does *not* rule out wholly naturalistic inquiries
> even
>> into questions of origins (God may have employed such means); but it
> does
>> take away the untouchable status that wholly naturalistic inquiries into
>> origins have in neo-Darwinian theory. Understandably, Coyne and Dawkins
> are
>> unwilling to live with such openness regarding origins questions.
> However,
>> there is no reason why Collins or Miller, given their theological
>> confessions, should find such openness problematic. There is no reason
> why
>> they should believe, a priori, that the naturalistic mechanisms thus far
>> proposed by neo-Darwinism are sufficient to explain the origin of life
> and
>> of species. There is no reason that they should not demand proof of the
>> power of chance and necessity to deliver such amazing results. And this
>> raises the question why they do not join the ID people in demanding such
>> proof.
>> Cameron.
>> ----- Original Message --

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Received on Fri May 1 09:05:35 2009

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