Science, religion and the “hidden God”

This is an article I wrote for the December issue of British Lutheran, the ELCE’s monthly magazine. Long-time readers of this blog may find the themes (and indeed much of the content!) familiar from previous posts on this subject.

Science, religion and the “hidden God”

2009 has been a year of significant anniversaries for science: the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first use of the telescope in astronomy and both the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species and the 200th anniversary of the birth of its author, Charles Darwin. Such scientific commemorations provide a good opportunity to reflect on the often controversial question of how “religion” and “science” relate to one another.

Religion and science are often presented as being in irreconcilable conflict. However the roots of western science can be found in the Christian worldview, in which a God of order presides over a creation that is regular and predictable in its workings. Christians can be found working in all areas of mainstream science – in astronomy, biology, physics, geology and many more – without believing that their vocations are in conflict with their faith. Some of these are highly respected as scientists and communicators on science and religion: the likes of Kenneth Miller, Owen Gingerich and John Polkinghorne. Even scientists who are not Christians often have a far more nuanced and sympathetic view towards religion than familiar and strident voices such as Richard Dawkins.

It seems to me that the conflict between science and religion has frequently been exaggerated by people on both “sides”. Rather than going over the familiar areas of conflict in this article, I want to consider whether there are any distinctively Lutheran perspectives that can help us understand the relationship between science and religion; and in particular, between the findings of science and biblical teachings that appear to contradict them.

1. The “hidden God”

The “theology of the cross” is central to Luther’s thought. In his Heidelberg Disputation, Luther contrasted the “theologian of glory” with the “theologian of the cross”. The theologian of glory seeks “the revealed God”: the God whose nature and will can be discerned from visible things and events. As Luther writes, the theologian of glory “looks upon the “invisible” things of God as though they were clearly “perceptible in those things which have actually happened” (Heidelberg Disputation, Thesis 19).

By contrast, the “theologian of the cross” recognises God as the God who is hidden under suffering and the cross and who can be known only through the church’s proclamation of the crucified Christ. As Luther puts it, “true theology and recognition of God are in the crucified Christ” (Heidelberg Disputation, Proof 20).

Both Christians and scientists can fall into the trap of thinking that God’s existence and nature should be visible from “those things which have actually happened”. This leads some to conclude that God does not exist, since they see no evidence for him in the findings of science. It leads others to reject those findings and look for alternative “scientific” models in which God’s handiwork is more plainly evident.

However, the theology of the cross suggests another approach: one in which God’s work in creation is hidden beneath the visible things that are the concern of science – “in, with and under” them, we might say – and discernible only by faith, not by sight. As the writer to the Hebrews observes:

    By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

Hence there is no need for us to insist that evidence of God’s work in creation should be discernible in the findings of science – and attempts to do so usually end up as both bad science and bad theology.

2. Vocation

The doctrine of vocation is another of Luther’s distinctive contributions to the life of the church. He broke down the medieval barrier between “sacred” and “secular” callings and taught that the roles of ordinary life – as spouse, parent, employee – are themselves “masks of God” through which God works to serve our neighbour.

The work of a scientist is one vocation through which God can work in this way; and a highly valuable one. Christians who have an aptitude and interest in science should be encouraged to see this as a way in which they can live out their faith in service to others – not as something which is in conflict with their faith.

The doctrine of vocation can also be valuable in telling us what not to do. I have no aptitude for car maintenance, so it would be a denial of both my calling and that of the car mechanic to attempt to service our car for myself. Richard Dawkins is an engaging and persuasive writer on science but when he attempts to write about religion or theology he becomes shrill and ignorant, to the embarrassment of many more thoughtful atheists. Equally, pastors should be cautious when engaging with scientific arguments that lie outside their vocation.

But there is another, deeper way in which the doctrine of vocation can provide an insight into the relationship between science and religion. That is to see the whole of creation as a vocational universe, in which natural processes are themselves “masks of God” through which God works. This is shown by Psalm 104, in which God is revealed to be intimately involved in processes which everyone agrees are capable of scientific description without reference to the Bible: the rising of rivers, the growth of plants, the rising and setting of the sun, the activities of predators, and so on.

Many Christians are concerned that science leaves “no room for God to work”. But God does not need “room to work”, fitting himself into the gaps around natural processes. Rather, he hides himself within those natural processes and uses them to accomplish his purposes, in a manner beyond scientific observation.

Conclusion

Lutherans, like Christians of all traditions, will no doubt continue to disagree on how to relate the findings of science to the teachings of Scripture. I have suggested a couple of ways in which distinctively Lutheran perspectives can provide a way of looking at science and religion and the relationship between them. Whatever conclusions we reach on scientific questions, however, what remains of first importance is our confession, with Luther and the whole church throughout the ages, that “God has made me and all creatures”, and that “for all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him” (SC III). This is most certainly true!

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18 Responses to Science, religion and the “hidden God”

  1. The Scylding says:

    John,

    This is really an excellent piece. I have often wondered about a more Lutheran view of the interaction, if you will, of Faith and Science, as opposed to the vanilla evangelical view one comes across so often. This post/article of yours is excellnet, and might prove fertile for further development of this topic. Were you inspired by anthing else specifically, or are these thoughts completely your own?

    Of course, this coming from a lawyer is even more extraordinary! 🙂

  2. Ralph says:

    As a Lutheran, I am disappointed by this self-defeating position on science and religion. I offer these comments on the article:

    1. The “hidden God”

    “Hence there is no need for us to insist that evidence of God’s work in creation should be discernible in the findings of science – and attempts to do so usually end up as both bad science and bad theology.”

    This is an extreme position that borders on gnosticism — the idea that all knowledge is hidden. Luther criticized the opposite extreme that sought to derive all knowledge from reason and rightly maintained that the Cross was not known by reason alone. That does not mean that theology is unknowable except via revelation. The Christian basis for modern science is built on the character of God and the knowability of His creation.

    We should affirm an intermediate position in which a few key doctrines are knowable only via revelation but much of the history and nature of creation can be known by reason and investigation.

    2. Vocation

    “[God] hides himself within those natural processes and uses them to accomplish his purposes, in a manner beyond scientific observation.”

    Psalm 104 does not say that God is hidden — quite the contrary, it proclaims the many ways that God’s glory is shown in things observed. It presents a continuity between God’s work in creating and maintaining the world. Naturalism has no place.

    Since the findings of the mainstream science community are explicitly within naturalistic limits, they should be vetted by the wider society which is under no such restriction. But theistic evolutionists accord such science the final say on “nature”. That is also the position of scientism, in which there is no other authority but science.

    But if a community of scientists is accorded the final say on “nature”, then theistic evolutionists are left in a religious ghetto to speak to themselves and be ignored by the rest of society. This is fine with the leaders of mainstream science who are predominately materialistic and atheistic.

    The fact that some scientists don’t see anything in their science that conflicts with their faith, says little unless scientists are accorded special theological authority or competence. They do not have such authority or competence. Scientists are not especially knowledgeable about matters outside their specialty, much less about theology.

    There is now a worldwide movement of credentialed scientists and others who reject the naturalistic science paradigm, which became ascendant in the 19th century, and return to the older paradigm in which the possibility is acknowledged that there may be non-naturalistic action such as design in the natural world. Lutherans should welcome this movement.

  3. The Scylding says:

    Ralph,

    I can’t speak for John, but you are ignoring the central point of his “hiddeness” thesis, namely the Theology of the Cross. Sin obscures reality, sin obscures knowledge (Note : Not eliminate). The scientific process is one of digging through the hubris in finding the desgin, so-to-speak. This is never foolproof, and never guaranteed.

    In contrast to this, where we to posit a world where knowledge was completely open, the scientific process would be superfluous, and we could indeed know God by reason alone. It is precisely because of the obscuredness (is that a word) of the world that Faith is needed. It is precisley because of that affect of sin that the Cross exists. In the Cross, all is revealed, NOT in nature. If one were a Pelagian, one could believe that all were to be discovered by reason alone. If one were to be a Pelagian, one could trust science implicitly. As a scientist, I do not trust science implicitly, precisely because of the hubris. One digs, and one finds partly. The one theory rises, another theory falls. To imagine that one could prove God from nature is pelagianism. If he does not reveal Himself, all the digging is in vain.

    On vocation, I would comment the following: Raionalism, as we saw above, can only work partly. This why Dawkins is such an idiot (and I say this as a scientist), because he imagines that he can grasp and understand All, completely ignoring the very real limits of his own epistemology. But, that epistemological boundaries are also set on Creationists, who want to build a Theistic equivalent of Dawkin’s world view – let’s call it Theistic Rationalism. Neither options would suffice (and here I often quote Godel, but I won’t 😉 ).

    That is why I like John’s appoach, as I understand it, which acknowledges the both the hiddenness, as per the first point, as well as the apparent (not real) separation between what we know (by revelation), and what we see and understand (through the scientific enterprise). Some might say that this diminishes the vocation of scientist, in that I acknowledge that I “see through a glass darkly”, but I would contend with that, in that this is the only approach fitting for my vocation, because it acknowledges what I already know, namely that my knowledge, and indeed, humanity’s collective knowledge will be limited, and obscured, and even incoherent/unsynchronised at times.

    Acknowledging non-natural interaction solves an epistemological problem, but does not contribute to the scientific process. It is like an emperical law – there is is not much to discover beyond that law. Of course, there are boundaries to knowledge, as I highlighted above – Godel’s Incompleteness Theorems springs to mind, but I’m not going to mention him 🙂 .

    Does this create a situation where there will be a certain amount of intelectual tension between the scientific enterprise and Theology. Quite likely, but a critical tension is very often a good thing.

    Just to re-iterate, the drive to unify all knowledge is a rationalist prject, and Rationalism’s counterpart in the Church is Pelagianism, which is Charles Finney’s pet project.

  4. joel hunter says:

    @Ralph:

    This is an extreme position that borders on gnosticism — the idea that all knowledge is hidden.

    The article neither says nor implies anything about gnosticism. What is hidden is the will and activity of God in guiding and sustaining creation. That is why John quoted Hebrews 11:3 and underlined the salient phrase “by faith.” A viable natural theology is a project only for the organ of faith; it does not possess the explanatory power to satisfy the dictates of natural reason (Aquinas knew this). The kind of creator accessible to our natural faculties unaided by faith is a demiurge, not the Creator God of the Scriptures. The God of the Bible sustains all things, from the entire cosmos, to the stability of every atom, to the falling of a sparrow to the number of hairs on your head. And all of these also have “natural explanations” according to the evidence provided by the eye of flesh, none of which diminish the reality of God’s sustaining power as only the eye of faith can see. The salient question in this article is how the two “eyes” may and should relate to one another, especially in the same person.

    The fact that some scientists don’t see anything in their science that conflicts with their faith, says little unless scientists are accorded special theological authority or competence. They do not have such authority or competence. Scientists are not especially knowledgeable about matters outside their specialty, much less about theology.

    I can think of several co-vocational scientist-theologians who are competent to speak to both fields of inquiry. Would you be less dismissive of their views on the matter? But this complaint is missing the point anyway, which doesn’t have anything to do with who is or isn’t authorized to speak about both science and theology.

    There is now a worldwide movement of credentialed scientists and others who reject the naturalistic science paradigm, which became ascendant in the 19th century, and return to the older paradigm in which the possibility is acknowledged that there may be non-naturalistic action such as design in the natural world.

    Hmm, is it possible that evolution is the offender here? What you seem to be advocating is a return to Paley-style natural theology. But why do you describe design as a “non-naturalistic action?” One of the remarkable consequences of the theory of evolution is that some design is a result of natural processes; namely, the mechanisms which account for the design of living organisms and biological diversity. Do you mean the design of artifacts, i.e., designs executed by an artificer? Can you give an example of what you mean by design as a non-naturalistic action?

    Is it fair to conclude that you believe that the theory of evolution (one which includes, for example, the theory of universal common descent) is false? Do you have or know of evidence that falsifies it? Or do you think it is false for some other reason (e.g., philosophical, theological)?

  5. Ralph says:

    I see that two comments refer to mine. Let me take them one at a time.

    Re: The Scyldingon 18 Jan 2010 at 8:54 pm

    That’s an interesting phrase, “digging through the hubris in finding the design”. If you explain it further, we might agree.

    “To imagine that one could prove God from nature is pelagianism.”

    The word “prove” always needs to be defined. Otherwise, we should affirm that “nature” (that is, creation) does provide sufficient evidence to affirm the existence of the Creator.

    “Theistic Rationalism” – I’m not aware of anyone I might call a theistic rationalist since the 18th century, so I need to know more about what you mean.

    “the apparent (not real) separation between what we know (by revelation), and what we see and understand (through the scientific enterprise)” – The separation is only “apparent”? Then it is possible to see beyond it.

    “Many Christians are concerned that science leaves ‘no room for God to work’. But God does not need ‘room to work’, fitting himself into the gaps around natural processes. Rather, he hides himself within those natural processes and uses them to accomplish his purposes, in a manner beyond scientific observation.”

    The main problem with this is that mainstream science subscribes to naturalism, in which God is excluded from any hint of any involvement with “nature” — hidden or not. So you are left trying to attach God in some way, and propose a strongly anti-empirical way.

    Since you are a scientist, let me ask a simple question: Do you subscribe to naturalism? Warning: if you answer yes, you may compromise your faith; if you answer no, you may jeopardize your job.

    “the drive to unify all knowledge is a rationalist prject” – I do not agree that unity of knowledge necessarily entails rationalism. If I did agree, I might be another post-modernist, lost somewhere between relativism and scepticism.

  6. Ralph says:

    Re: joel hunteron 19 Jan 2010 at 5:47 am

    Joel,

    “What is hidden is the will and activity of God in guiding and sustaining creation. That is why John quoted Hebrews 11:3 and underlined the salient phrase “by faith.” ”

    Heb. 11:3 does not negate other scriptures such as Rom. 1:20, “For [God’s] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” So the “natural man” is without excuse (and the scientist, too).

    “The God of the Bible sustains all things, from the entire cosmos, to the stability of every atom, to the falling of a sparrow to the number of hairs on your head. And all of these also have “natural explanations” according to the evidence provided by the eye of flesh, none of which diminish the reality of God’s sustaining power as only the eye of faith can see.”

    The “natural explanations” you reference refer to the explanations of mainstream science, right? Then they are naturalistic explanations, that is, explanations derived from reasoning that explicitly exludes any iota of non-naturalistic “mechanisms.” Yes, everything can be “explained” by such means if we set the bar low enough. Set it lower and everything can be explained by classical mythology.

    Yes, my remark about the authority of scientist about theology was not the main point. But the desire to ask scientists about their faith is emblematic of the decline of theological authority. And there are theologians today who deny every tenet of the faith. So we should affirm the authority of scripture, creed, and confession.

    “Hmm, is it possible that evolution is the offender here? What you seem to be advocating is a return to Paley-style natural theology. But why do you describe design as a “non-naturalistic action?” One of the remarkable consequences of the theory of evolution is that some design is a result of natural processes; namely, the mechanisms which account for the design of living organisms and biological diversity. Do you mean the design of artifacts, i.e., designs executed by an artificer? Can you give an example of what you mean by design as a non-naturalistic action?”

    Without a naturalistic foundation, evolutionary theories would be very different. The intelligent design movement has made this point and received an extremely hostile response. So much for free inquiry.

    It has been pointed out that the natural theology debates of the 19th century led to standard scientific arguments about what God would or would not do (strange how naturalistic science can’t quite shake the God-talk). Should we discuss natural theology by excluding God from any interaction with nature?

  7. John H says:

    Thanks for the responses and the good discussion.

    Ralph, to come back on one point:

    mainstream science subscribes to naturalism, in which God is excluded from any hint of any involvement with “nature”…

    It’s critical to maintain a clear distinction between methodological naturalism and philosophical naturalism. Indeed, not to do so is to play into the hands of people like Richard Dawkins, who are keen to conflate the two.

    Mainstream science is based on methodological naturalism: that is, it is an exercise in seeing how much we can understand about how the world works without reference to God’s involvement. That leaves open the question as to the extent to which God interferes with the natural processes described by science.

    Philosophical naturalism extrapolates from this to say that there is in fact no God external to nature, so that science is (in principle) capable of saying everything there is to know about reality. Prof Dawkins and others tend to claim (or at least imply) that philosophical naturalism is both the basis for, and implied by, science. Hence we’re playing into their hands if we allow this conflating of method and philosophy to go unchallenged.

    The reason for invoking Psalm 104 was that this refers to processes which few Christians would deny are capable of description by mainstream, methodologically-naturalist science. Meteorology, for example, makes the assumption that the weather is random and undirected, without Christians finding that a threat to their faith in God’s ultimate control over the weather.

    To quote Nick Matzke (see this post) I would invite you to:

    consider the possibility that evolution is “random” and “undirected” in the very same way that the weather is considered “random” and “undirected.”

    To put it another way: science tells a coherent and compelling story about the universe. As Christians, we can either spend our lives trying to say science’s story is wrong and that those telling it are evil or deluded – or we can insist that it is not the only story that can, or needs to, be told. I prefer the latter approach.

  8. The Scylding says:

    Ralph:

    Regarding your question about naturalism – I believe John answered that one in his comment. I practice methodological naturalism – sure. I don’t believe it to be absolute, but I find that it works. But the simple choice you wanted to set before me is in itself a product of rationalism – a choice of either/or, a program set in stone.

    Also your very last comment – if it is not rationalism, then what is it? And why would it be post-modernist – if anything, it ain’t.

    Theistic Rationalism – the term might be out of favour, but the practice is not. I refer you, for instance, to the Bible and me only school, especially prevalent amongst fundamentalist baptists. That is rational theism – the idea that I, by myself, can discover everything by reasoning from the Text alone. What else is that but rationalism? Rationalism demands the symbolic explanation of Holy Communion, and denies the Real Presence – that’s another example.

    I fully agree with John in his response here. And look up Godel – and think about what that means for science, INCLUDING creationist “science”.

  9. Ralph says:

    Re: John H on 19 Jan 2010 at 6:45 pm

    John,

    I recommend you check out philosopher Alvin Plantinga’s writings on the problems of methogological naturalism. But let me put it this way: Suppose someone said, “I’m going investigate how much I can explain with the assumption that the moon landings have been faked.” Then they investigate and come up with explanations and interpretations of the evidence consistent with their assumption. Would we be convinced? No, we would say that their assumption had biased their interpretations and explanations. And we would insist that the assumption itself be investigated.

    Compare naturalistic science: Someone says, “Let’s assume naturalism and see how much we can explain.” They come up with explanations and then say, “I’ve explained all these phenomena. Now that is science.” Should we not say, “What if your assumption biased your interpretation of evidence? What if your assumption is false? You are not done.” But this part is ignored by the science community. In fact, they resent the suggestion that science is not self-complete.

    So methological naturalism is functionally equivalent to philosophical naturalism.

    Christians should be the first to question such naturalistic epistemology. What you have proposed instead is to say, “We accept everything you say. We also accept something completely undetectable that has been left out.” That is sure to bring chuckles in the halls of science. “Those religious folk make up the strangest things. As long as they leave us alone, we can safely ignore them.”

    We should not leave them alone. We should challenge falsehood wherever it exists.

    The Wells-Matzke debate concerns the quality of science textbooks. The right response would be to improve the textbooks. Regarding the quote about random, undirected weather: “random” is one of those words that needs to be defined every time it is used outside of statistics or algorithmic complexity theory. Similarly for “undirected” — for example, does it mean there is no cause? In any case, there has been a swing from one extreme — the gods control nature — to the other extreme — nature is self-existent, self-controlled, and self-complete. Both extremes are wrong.

    The “coherent and compelling story” of science since the 19th century is wedded to a false philosophy. It will take some doing, but science needs to be reformed. Some have begun the task. Should we not at least cheer them on?

  10. Ralph says:

    Re: The Scylding on 20 Jan 2010 at 1:22 am

    The post-modernists deny any unifying narrative exists. What I’m seeing here is something like the “non-overlapping magisteria” of Stephen Jay Gould. That leads to dualism or a schizophrenic worldview.

    I’ve read about Godel’s incompleteness theorems in the past. I agree that science is incomplete, if that’s what you mean. Science is incomplete not only because it doesn’t address certain questions (fewer and fewer it seems), but because any methodology is limiting. Tell that to Peter Medawar — in his book on the limits of science he says there are no limits.

  11. John H says:

    Ralph: the moon landings analogy is flawed because in that case you would be assuming the conclusion itself.

    Intelligent design – to take its stated aims at face value – is precisely an exercise in using “methodological naturalist” science to challenge “philosophical naturalism”. The claim is that evidence for design can be detected through ordinary scientific investigation – and that it is only mainstream scientists’ unacknowledged prior commitment to philosophical naturalism that leads them to deny this in favour of evolution.

    But to put it bluntly, when IDers and creationists talk about mainstream scientists’ philosophical presuppositions blinding them to the evidence, as far as I’m concerned that’s just psychological projection.

    As for “reforming” science: again, let’s step away from the contentious area of evolution and concentrate on meteorology. In what respects do you consider meteorology as a science to be harmed by its naturalistic epistemology? What conclusions of mainstream meteorology do you consider to be flawed or incorrect as a consequence of the assumption of methodological naturalism? What alternative theories or other reforms do you propose in order to correct these damaging consequences?

  12. Ralph says:

    Re: John H on 20 Jan 2010 at 11:19 am

    John,

    The moon landing analogy illustrates the unquestioned acceptance of something that affects the way evidence is interpreted. Naturalism is both an unquestioned premise and conclusion of naturalistic science. Try questioning naturalism and you’ll find out.

    Sometimes the message is that naturalism is merely useful, which it may be in a qualified way. But the question is whether naturalism is true or not, without qualification.

    The intelligent design movement rejects naturalism. See http://www.arn.org/docs/dembski/wd_idmovement.htm, etc.

    Naturalistic meteorology goes something like this: Although describing and predicting weather is an inexact science because of the intractability of following all the interactions, weather is the result of forces that are in principle completely and consistently defined by invariant, deterministic, purposeless, and self-existent laws.

    False conclusions: it is wrong to believe that the weather has any purpose, that God is involved in the weather, that it is reasonable to pray to God about the weather, that the weather was ever changed after someone spoke to it, etc.

    Meteorology is a rather hard science. In softer sciences naturalism has greater impact.

    There are also larger matters of the foundations of science and ethical consequences: naturalism undermines both.

  13. The Scylding says:

    Ralph,

    Scientific Creationism (as in AIG etc) ID, AS WELL AS philosophical naturalism are all efforts to solve the epistemological gap in science, as illustrated by Godel’s incompleteness theorems (I love to use him as an example, because it is fairly simple one to follow). That is why I reject all of those, simply because I am willing to live with paradoxes, or multiple stories as per John’s statement:

    “or we can insist that it is not the only story that can, or needs to, be told.”

    The desire to unify all knowledge in a coherent worldview is a project of the rationalist modernist – it started with Kant, and has continued since then. The postmodernist has the honesty to admit the problem, but then, in my understanding, tries to circumvent it by sophistry.

    I am a geologist. No matter which way we look at the evidence, it is apparent that we cannot support a 6000 year earth, for instance, from a gelogical standpoint. So, we seem to be left with re-interpreting the text, or by denying the text, or by denying the evidence.

    I would however submit that we can also simply allow the paradox to stand. We know that science is not “complete”, in the sense that some facts are simply to be accepted – Godel is again a good example – we have to accept arithmetic, because it works, although we cannot establish its foundational axioms, contradicting the mathematical enterprise (I’m aware of other answers, but within the rationalist universe, this one is the one that sinks the ship. In my understanding, other approaches do the same to one extent or the other). At the same time, we should aslo accept that our textual comprehension is not complete either. So – we accept by faith. It is interesting to note that the major problems with evolution, for instance, erupted after the evangelicals brought their Solo Rationalism approach to Scripture. Earlier generations did not seem to have that problem.

    It is for these very same reasons that I tend to place Dawkins and Ham in the same boat. From a pure (not naturalist) rationalist perspective, actually, one could be an agnostic, since epistemological limitations cannot be ignored. Atheism would do away with those limitations, and is thus a faith.

    I’m rambling here, but these are important subjects, and ones very dear to my heart. You have to realise that what you are attempting is a Grand Unification Exercise, given your statement that

    “What I’m seeing here is something like the “non-overlapping magisteria” of Stephen Jay Gould. That leads to dualism or a schizophrenic worldview.”

    And the foundation of that exercise is rooted in Kant and those that followed. The end result of that line of thought is Nietzcshe’s Ubermensch, however evangelical he sounds. If you doubt me, read the writings of those that have done this exercise – like Wilson’s crowd over in Idaho. “We need to this, we need to that ….”

  14. John H says:

    Ralph:

    False conclusions: it is wrong to believe that the weather has any purpose, that God is involved in the weather, that it is reasonable to pray to God about the weather, that the weather was ever changed after someone spoke to it, etc.

    But none of those are conclusions drawn by meteorology as a science. (Put it this way: find me a peer-reviewed meteorological research paper which concerns itself with those questions.) Some meteorologists will conclude those things, some won’t – but in each case that will lie outside their activities as meteorologists, just as my opinions about what the law should be are distinct from the advice I provide to clients on what the law is, whether I like it or not.

    Indeed, the example you give here amounts to exactly what I was saying: the conclusions of mainstream meteorology are not the whole story. Other stories are there to be told about the weather.

    As for Dembski’s article, I’ve not read this in detail. I note Dembski’s denial of methodological naturalism, but setting terminology aside this is what I had in mind:

    What has emerged is a new program for scientific research known as Intelligent Design. Within biology, Intelligent Design is a theory of biological origins and development. Its fundamental claim is that intelligent causes are necessary to explain the complex, information-rich structures of biology, and that these causes are empirically detectable.

    To say intelligent causes are empirically detectable is to say there exist well-defined methods that, on the basis of observational features of the world, are capable of reliably distinguishing intelligent causes from undirected natural causes.

    That’s what I was getting at: that ID is concerned with using the methods of mainstream, conventional science, in order to reach conclusions that challenge the philosophy of rationalists such as Richard Dawkins.

  15. Ralph says:

    Re: The Scylding on 20 Jan 2010 at 6:36 pm

    “The desire to unify all knowledge in a coherent worldview is a project of the rationalist modernist…”

    So you are proposing an incoherent worldview? You want disjointed knowledge? You are losing me here.

    “I am a geologist. No matter which way we look at the evidence, it is apparent that we cannot support a 6000 year earth, for instance, from a gelogical standpoint.”

    There exist other geologists who disagree with the latter statement. Why don’t you debate them?

    “I’m rambling here, but these are important subjects, and ones very dear to my heart. You have to realise that what you are attempting is a Grand Unification Exercise, …”

    I’m not a monist, if that’s what you mean. (Naturalism is monistic.)

    “like Wilson’s crowd over in Idaho.”

    I don’t know which Wilson this is. There are probably many Wilsons in Idaho.

  16. Ralph says:

    Re: John H on 20 Jan 2010 at 7:39 pm

    John,

    “But none of those are conclusions drawn by meteorology as a science.”

    It would be gauche to put these into science journals — and also jeopardize popular support for science. But they are being said more and more, on the Internet, in science classrooms, in the media, etc.

    “Indeed, the example you give here amounts to exactly what I was saying: the conclusions of mainstream meteorology are not the whole story. Other stories are there to be told about the weather.”

    But you insist that these other stories are completely undetectable. That is what I object to.

    “That’s what I was getting at: that ID is concerned with using the methods of mainstream, conventional science, in order to reach conclusions that challenge the philosophy of rationalists such as Richard Dawkins.”

    Yes. They are also challenging theistic evolutionists.

  17. Pingback: Confessing Evangelical » Science and the Supper

  18. The Scylding says:

    Wilson is a big man in the small world of Reformed theology in the US.

    Regarding those other geologists:

    For some interaction with Creationist geology, you can read Kevin a geologist at http://geochristian.wordpress.com/ .

    I prefer writtten discussions – I’m not good at public debate. Also, my field is not sedimentology, which most of these Creationists concentrate on. However, I do have some background in geochronology, and have been a co-author on some papers. I also have a strong background in igneous petrology / volcanology. Let me tell you straight out, on any subject that I’m well versed in, I haven’t seen a single effort that is even worth taking seriously. These so-called scientists are simply out to lunch, and are an embarrasement to the faith. Not that everybody else is always perfect, mind you.

    Regarding worldview: I do not want to be boxed into worldviews (as you might have guessed, from my previous comments), but you do seem to miss the point: Paradox, which I’m perfectly fine with, entails incoherence. Coherence demand unification, ie Monism.

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