Category Archives: Philosophy
I’ve commented before on “reading serendipity” – how things one happens to read consecutively bring together disparate ideas one would not have associated otherwise. In this case it started with a C S Lewis essay to which I was pointed by reading a quotation in an article. The essay in question is Bluspels and Flalansferes, which like the excellent book Studies in Words arises from Lewis’s professional life as a philologist.
For some reason, Bilbo started a thread on BioLogos directed at me, in which (as far as I can tell) he argues basically, “If God can create free wills that make decisons without reference to him, why could he not create random processes that similarly cause things without reference to him?” Many cans of worms open because of that, which you can read about on that thread. Here I just want to deal in more depth than is possible there on the question of whether the comparison between free-will and randomness is actually a valid one. I suspect it isn’t, except at the most superficial level.
This is by way of being an appendix to the main conclusions I’ve drawn in previous posts about the possible implications for human origins of seeing Adam, in the context of Genesis, as proto-Israel, yet also as a real and historical (not fictional) archetype. I’ve suggested that we should distinguish the whole race of mankind, created in Genesis 1, from Adam as one member of that race, chosen to become the forerunner of a new kind of relationship with God as Yahweh, analogous to the calling from the generality of humanity of Abraham, or of Israel the nation, or of those born again into Christ. But someone may ask if … Continue reading
I want today to take another tilt at the question just how theory-laden our view of the world is, following a frustrating conversation with an atheist at BioLogos (whose posts were “liked” by a good number of non-atheists there). He just couldn’t see why his naturalist view of a “Nature” containing only the “material” governed by “laws” and “chance” (metaphysical concepts all) is not simply self-evident truth, into which one might somehow be able to fit a God if there were enough evidence. The “evidence”, of course, would have to be investigated using the methodological naturalism that excludes God a priori, and in the extraordinarily unlikely situation that it jumped … Continue reading
I see Joshua Swamidass posted a link to my Martin Luther King piece on the BioLogos Home School forum (now it can be told – it was he who sent me the link to MLK’s sermon). One of the first responses on his thread there, from a BioLogos moderator, challenged my point that, since Dr King attributes sin to the higher, “spiritual” aspect of man’s nature that includes his will, both the attribution of human sin to evolution, and the presence of evil in non-volitional Nature, cannot be valid. There is indeed, she said, another kind of evil apart from sin, “natural evil”.
In the article linked from my last post, about animal suffering and therefore, by extension, about “natural evil” and theodicy in general, one sentence might have given careful readers pause for thought: It is debatable whether Aquinas understood God’s goodness to entail that He perfectly meets a certain set of moral obligations.
Ian Thompson has kindly pointed me to a brand new paper, happily accessible online, about animal suffering in particular and the perishability of the world in general – a subject that regularly forms the basis of attempts, from deism to atheism, to distance God from nature on the grounds of the latter’s “immorality”. It’s actually an exposition of the thought of Thomas Aquinas on this subject – accurate, as far as my limited knowledge goes – which shows how our modern mindset is simply looking at the problem wrong. Since it is pretty clear and readable, I’ll simply recommend it to your attention without further comment.
My attention has recently been drawn to the work of Olivier Rieppel, a distinguished palaeontologist based at the Field Museum in Chicago, whose writings appear to show a mixture of scientific rigour with the historical and philosophical awareness so rare in scientific writing now. In other words he has the wit and courage to question received wisdom and go where the evidence leads, and moreover to know why he has done so. His latest book is on turtle evolution, provocatively entitled Turtles as Hopeful Monsters, which intrigues me a great deal, but finding its price is above my current budget at Amazon, I browsed some of his other books there … Continue reading
Last time I touched on the problems Thomistic philosophy has with evolutionary theory’s lack of any way of dealing adequately with the concept of form (formal causation, in Aquinas-speak). I mentioned that Darwin was only able to introduce his theory on “The Origin of the Species” by spending many pages seeking to demonstrate that the concept of a species, meaning a class of “natural substances” sharing a single essential nature, was meaningless anyway. To all subsequent evolutionary theory, this philosophical nominalism has been axiomatic. If evolution is a constant flux of changeable characteristics, then there can be no real genera or species embodying tiger-ness, or hors-itude, or even, come to … Continue reading
Over the seven years of The Hump I’ve dabbled in Aristotelian and Thomistic philosophy, mainly for the reason that it deals with intuitively obvious matters such as purpose, and form, to which conventional science (and therefore most theistic evolution) is completely blind. It also deals with divine action, providence, chance and so on in a way that makes the discussions of many Evolutionary Creationists seem frankly half-baked.