- Secularism, autonomy and the loss of self 21/03/2017
- How I became a societal misfit 18/03/2017
- The distinguishing marks of the impossible 15/03/2017
- Minor Theological Footnote to a Good Series on BioLogos from Snobelen and Davis 12/03/2017
- Why robot? 11/03/2017
Category Archives: Science
The excellent Preston Garrison, apart from alerting me to the review of a new book on Babylonian science that led me to a whole series of posts on the ANE and Hebrew pictures of the world, recommended an old and little-read book by C S Lewis. Studies in Words, published in 1960 just three years before his death, is a philology text for students, so not the most obviously relevant book for thinking about either “biblical science” or modern science. But it actually has some useful light to cast on both.
2016 was a good year for British archaeology, as it became clear that a Neolithic settlement at Ness of Brodgar on the far-flung Orkney Islands (dating to c.3500BC) had been a major “capital” and, in all likelihood, the fountainhead of the “stone circle ” culture that spread south through Britain over a thousand years and culminated in the mighty monuments at Stonehenge, Avebury and elsewhere.
Larry Moran is a prolific blogger on evolution, and is respected enough to have big scientific names commenting in his threads. He’s also militantly anti-creationist and anti-ID, though he’s gained some respect from the latter group for being willing to engage in discussion with them, despite persisting in contemptuously labelling them “ID-creationists”.
Herbert McCabe, and other philosophers for whom I have a lot of respect overall, suggest from time to time that according to classical theology à la Thomas Aquinas we shouldn’t expect to see any signs of God’s handiwork in creation, even though it is all utterly dependent on him ontologically. This is because he creates secondary causes to be sufficient explanations in themselves – there are no gaps for God to fill. This argument is used by them and, derivatively, by Evolutionary Creationists to dismiss not only ID but all natural theology (and, strictly speaking, an active theology of nature too) on principle.
Having had my mind drawn back to “Genesis cosmology” in the last post (which showed that cosmology is actually culturally impossible in Genesis!) I might spend a few posts boring you all with some further observations seeking to undermine the detail of what, as far as I can see, is an entirely spurious idea of “ancient science”, which I call the “goldfish bowl cosmos”.
Preston Garrison recently sent me (courtesy of Ted Davis) an interesting review (limited access – sorry) for a forthcoming academic tome on Babylonian science, knowing I’d be interested both because of my musings on what science is, and what it isn’t, and also because it has implications for interpreting the early chapters of Genesis. I’m tempted to buy it when it comes out, despite the price and having to learn cuneiform(!), but meanwhile some thoughts.
In the last post I showed how “probablistic chance” fares no better than “Epicurean chance” as a true cause of physical events. Half of Monod’s materialistic “chance and necessity” explanation for evolution thereby falls to the ground. What is left is what appears to be the safer concept of nature obeying the “laws of nature” (ie the natural truths behind the formulations scientists make). This necessity, we assume, is a commonplace foundation of science which fits well into the theistic framework: God writes the laws of nature, and so achieves his purposes in the world.
In the batch of articles I’ve done on “chance” over the last month or so, my main target has been the only kind of “chance” that makes much sense in an atheistic framework, and that is what I have called “Epicurean chance”. The basic concept of this is that totally undirected events can lead to order that, otherwise, would demand the designing intention of a purposeful being. Epicureanism has been a philosophically dubious claim ever since Democritus suggested it four centuries before Christ.
Visitor Richard Wright was kind enough to interact with Eddie’s most recent post, and the comments of some there, in defence of his “autonomous nature” position, in which nature is “closed” not in the “democratic liberty” sense of Howard Van Till et al., but in the sense of being finely set up at the beginning so that its laws accomplish all that God desires from nature throughout time. His idea seems a lot closer to the old deterministic (semi)-deism than some, in that his view of nature appears relatively constrained by law and initial conditions rather than spontaneity blind chance, but he has promised to come back on some of … Continue reading
This is one of the common Christmas readings in carol services: Εν αρχή ην ο Λόγος, και ο Λόγος ην προς τον Θεόν, και Θεός ην ο Λόγος. Ούτος ην εν αρχή προς τον Θεόν. πάντα δι’ αυτού εγένετο, και χωρίς αυτού εγένετο ουδέ εν ό γέγονεν. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (Jn. 1.1-3)