Monday, June 14, 2010

Martin Luther King Jr. on Science and Religion

"Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge which is power; religion gives man wisdom which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals. They are complementary. Science keeps religion from sinking into the valley of crippling irrationalism and paralyzing obscurantism. Religion prevents science from falling into the marsh of obsolete materialism and moral nihilism."

20 comments:

Dr. V said...

Hello Kane,

Regarding the claim that science deals mainly with facts whereas religion deals mainly with values, I think that it’s helpful to remind ourselves that science doesn’t deal only with facts and religion only with values. (It’s helpful to remind ourselves of this because some people—probably many people—tend to think that science does deal only with facts and religion only with values.)

Science deals with moral values and epistemic values. Good science requires the moral virtues of honesty (in reporting findings/ truths accurately) and diligence (in searching out nature’s secrets). Good theory construction involves epistemic virtues such as simplicity, breadth of empirical scope, fruitfulness, self-consistency, consistency with other theories.

Religion (especially Christianity) involves facts such as the following: that Jesus lived, died, and physically resurrected; that the universe is not eternal (i.e., that the universe began); that the universe was caused to begin by God; that the universe displays traces of the creator’s intelligence; that people have real moral worth (the last one is a case where fact and value overlap).

Keeping in mind the above clarification/ reminder, I think Martin Luther King Jr.’s comments on science and religion are insightful and important.

Best regards,
Hendrik

Imogen said...

I would be interested in some evidence of science being beneficially mitigated by the claims of religion.

That science has been essential to the mitigation of many wild claims of religion is historically very well documented (examples from the earth sciences and biology abound among many others).

One cannot reasonably claim that without religion, science would,"[fall] into the marsh of obsolete materialism and moral nihilism." That is, without claiming some other sort of faith-claim-based, non-evidence-producing system of determining such a thing- maybe like extra-sensory perception that doesn't yield empirical data.

The idea that science needs religion is patently absurd. The accepted disciplines of social sciences already addresses this by being in the position to observe and draw conclusions about religion and its impact and role in human societies. In other words, social sciences encompass religion and by contrast, religon cannot reciprocate this relationship.

So far, the only religion that even tries (at least publicly) to use science to prove its claims is Christianity, which is likely why many Christians seem fine with using the word 'fact' so loosely as Dr. V has above.

Since facts are supposed to be observably evident universally, and the truth claims of Christianity are not observably evident universally, the only proper place and use of the word 'fact' to describe what Christians believe is to qualify it with the presupposition that we have already acceptd the parameteres of the discussion, such as that we are referring to a specific story that does exist in reality, for which there is evidence (it's been published a number of times and people have read it) and these are the 'facts' related within it.

It is not reasonable to use the word 'fact' without such a qualifier when referring to religious truth claims that have no cognates to observable phenomena within the context of a discussion about its distinction from science.

It is a fact within the story that Jesus died and was raised again. It is not an observable, universally evident fact of the sort that expresses the observations and subsequent evidence that my goose died and that except for its bones, its body has decomposed in its gravesite since last year when I buried it.

It is confusing to me that religious people want to remove the faith-only element from their religion and pretend that such beliefs belong in the category of 'fact' outside of the specific sort of discussion that presumes the parameters of the story being referred to. This is strange to me.

Either you believe it because you have faith granted by the Holy Spirit (as in Judeo-Christian faith), or you know it because it is a self-evident, observable fact. If it is the former, fine, but if it is the latter, some scientific methodology would go a long way to making sure we all have the 'facts', so that "none should perish," no?

There are two sides to the fence and here is where you must choose one and not pretend that you can occupy both sides simultaneously as it suits your agenda.

This, because, it is outside the observably evident realm of science is reasonably a dichotomy, I think. If it isn't, and we can both believe by faith and also know by observable reality the very same phenomena that do not produce simultaneously faith and observable knowledge, then we cannot even continue to discuss such matters because our words have become completely meaningless.

cont'd...

Imogen said...

cont'd...

I do not see any reason to think that science and religion are complementary except in how they may fulfill an individual's needs. As disciplines, they are complementary the way that good, nutritious food and comfortable slippers are complementary in my life, personally. But it would be a difficult argument to make that in order for me gain benefit from my nutritious food, I need to have comfortable slippers, although it is a light case that can be made that I might derive more personal pleasure and enjoyment if I were to wear them while eating.

The link between the two elements of my personal experience is ME, and likewise, my experience of science and religion is linked and complementary only in that I experience the two personally, not that they are reliant or complementary as entities outside my experience of them.

Dr. V said...

Hi Imogen,

Your comments seem directed (at least partially) to me, so I would like to respond. I will agree with you on one of your points (which is a very important point), and I will disagree with you on three of your other points (the first of which is important, the second and third not so important). Hopefully, my response will help the conversation move in a positive direction.

IMPORTANT POINT OF AGREEMENT

I agree with you that I should have qualified the sentence of my third paragraph. For the sake of convenience and clarity, I will repeat here what I wrote previously: “Religion (especially Christianity) involves facts such as the following: that Jesus lived, died, and physically resurrected; that the universe is not eternal; that the universe began; that the universe was caused to begin by God; that universe displays traces of the creator’s intelligence; that people have real moral worth (the last one is a case where fact and value overlap).” Near the beginning of the sentence, I should have added the word “putative” or “alleged” parenthetically, immediately prior to the word “facts”, so the sentence should have begun as follows: “Religion (especially Christianity) involves (putative) facts such as….”

In my defence, when I wrote the comment I was actually thinking of adding “putative” or “alleged” parenthetically, but then dropped the idea because I thought that maybe I would be misunderstood as thinking that the items on my list are not facts, or at least not reasonable to believe to be facts. So I made a poor decision, and I appreciate your correction.

My point merely was (and is) this: Religion (especially Christianity) doesn’t deal merely in ethics, it (especially Christianity) purports to deal with factual reality.

I was thinking of the late Stephen Jay Gould who is quite famous for his NOMA (non-overlapping magisteria), whereby he claims that the proper domain of religion consists of ethics and meaning only whereas the proper domain of science is the actual physical world. It seems to me that Gould is mistaken. When Christianity alleges that a man called Jesus really lived 2000 years ago in and around Jerusalem, actually died by crucifixion, and was actually seen later alive and well, then this religion is making claims to fact, not merely claims about value. I would also argue (and have argued) that Christianity makes other factual claims about the universe: i.e., that it in fact began, that it was in fact caused, and that it in fact displays evidence of mind. Again, my point is merely this: Christianity doesn’t deal merely in ethics, it also purports to deal with factual reality. We might not believe the claims, but the claims, if true, would have to do with some physical facts of reality.

In view of the qualification you recommend, I think that we are in agreement up to this point, which is great.

Continued…

Dr. V said...

Okay, now I’m going to disagree with you on three points (in descending order of importance).

POINT OF DISAGREEMENT #1

I disagree with you that the above-mentioned purported facts can be known or reasonably believed solely in a “faith-only” or fideistic way.

I am not a fideist with respect to all knowledge (though I do believe that salvation is by faith only, i.e., by trust in Christ only, but that is another issue, and would be a Red Herring if we were to pursue it here). I believe that we can have knowledge (a.k.a. reasonable belief) of a non-fideisitc sort (this knowledge would be fallible and non-exhaustive). For example, we can have knowledge of historical occurrences, we can have knowledge of various features of the universe, we can have knowledge gleaned from philosophical argument. (I think that there are also other sources of knowledge—e.g., properly basic beliefs, direct revelation from God—but such sources of knowledge don’t preclude historical, scientific, and philosophical knowledge.)

Okay, what about the putative or alleged facts that I listed above (the ones about Jesus, the beginning of the universe, etc.)? Is there some non-faith-only way of coming to knowledge about them? I think that there is. On the basis of historical investigation we can infer (as I and others have argued) that Jesus really did live, die, and resurrect. Also, on the basis of scientific investigation and philosophical reasoning therefrom we can infer (as I and others have argued) that the universe really did begin, that its beginning was actually caused, and that some salient features of the universe’s small-scale and large-scale fine-tuning in fact strongly resemble features of what we know minds (and only minds) can do.

So, your claim—that “Either you believe it because you have faith granted by the Holy Spirit (as in Judeo-Christian faith), or you know it is a self-evident, observable fact”—commits the fallacy of false dichotomy (which is, incidentally, the topic of my next Apologia column). This fallacy, according to philosopher Trudy Govier, is “An either/or split that omits alternatives.” Your claim mistakenly limits the alternatives to (a) faith-only and (b) self-evident observable facts. You neglect option (c): non-self-evident observable facts that can be reasonably inferred on the basis of evidence.

To your credit, you attempt to argue that your alleged dichotomy must be the case (i.e., that it’s not a false dichotomy). You write: “If it isn't, and we can both believe by faith and also know by observable reality the very same phenomena that do not produce simultaneously faith and observable knowledge, then we cannot even continue to discuss such matters because our words have become completely meaningless.” I think this is false. Let’s say the Holy Spirit reveals to you directly via faith-only [option (a)] that your comfortable slippers are at your grandmother’s house, and let’s say that at the time of this revelation you also receive a letter [option (c)] from your grandmother (who is trustworthy) telling you that your comfortable slippers are at your grandmother’s house. These are not meaningless words, surely. So the fallacy-of-false-dichotomy charge sticks.

The third epistemic option remains: We can know non-self-evident observable facts that can be reasonably inferred on the basis of evidence—i.e., we can have knowledge, albeit indirectly obtained knowledge, of some facts that are not self-evident to us.

In science, history, philosophy, and other academic disciplines, the above-described type of knowledge is often obtained via an argument form known as Inference to Best Explanation.

Continued…

Dr. V said...

POINT OF DISAGREEMENT #2

You wrote: “The idea that science needs religion is patently absurd.” In response, it should be noted that to say that something is “patently absurd” is a terribly strong claim. Moreover, it should be noted that to support such a strong claim requires really strong argumentation, especially argumentation which demonstrates that the claim is internally contradictory. But I think that you fail to do this. You claim that social sciences investigate religion and its impact and role in human societies. And you claim that “social sciences encompass religion and by contrast, religion cannot reciprocate this relationship.” These claims are true, but they don’t show that the idea is question is patently absurd. It remains that if, say, religion is a source of ethics, and if, say, science requires an ethical frame to work, then the “patently absurd” charge could be sidestepped. Also, if, as some (many) historians of science have argued, the scientific revolution got started because of the help of religious assumptions (more on this below), then this could weaken the “patently absurd” charge too. Moreover, if, say, a religion is true and could be known to be true—i.e., it actually reveals knowledge from an all-knowing mind—then it would seem that this religion could “reciprocate” the relationship that you mention, i.e., God might have some insights that “encompass” the social sciences. The aforementioned are food for thought—and would need to be addressed to make the “patently absurd” charge stick.

Continued…

Dr. V said...

POINT OF DISAGREEMENT #3

You wrote that you “do not see any reason to think science and religion are complementary except in how they fulfill an individual’s needs.” I disagree with you in the sense that I see a philosophical reason for thinking science and Christianity are complementary. It turns out that science makes philosophical assumptions which can be underwritten by the metaphysics of Christianity and in fact were so underwritten historically in the worldviews of Galileo, Kepler, Faraday, Newton, etc.

What are these philosophical assumptions? Here is a partial list (coupled with brief parenthetical philosophical explanations coupled with brief square-bracketed theological explanations):

• that there is a theory-independent world (i.e., the world is real and exists independently of us [because it was created as such]);

• that the world can be known (i.e., it isn’t wholly illusory [because our minds were created to know what’s outside of them, at least to some extent]);

• that the universe is law-governed (i.e., the universe is a cosmos not a chaos, so induction is reliable [because God is a lawful being]);

• that the future resembles the past (i.e., again, induction is reliable [because God is a lawful being]);

• that language applies to the world (i.e., scientific findings can be accurately communicated [because God is the Logos, and because we are made in God’s image we can discern the imprint of the logos in the world and communicate it]);

• that it is not impious to investigate the world [because the world isn’t God], etc.


Continued…

Dr. V said...

The End

Well, Imogen, my response to your comment has become much too long! I hope that what I’ve written is at least a wee bit helpful.

With best regards to you and yours,
Hendrik

P.S. Here are some suggestions for readings:

A readable book on the relationship between science and Christianity (a book that’s historically and philosophically astute) is Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton’s The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy.

A couple of good books on the evidence for Christianity are William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith and On Guard.

Imogen Skye said...

Hello Dr V.,
I very much appreciate your response and while most of what I wrote was directed generally, I enjoy the opportunity to mete some of this out with a specific person with a specific perspective. I tend to write in a way that seems harsh, especially contrasted with your tone, which is very kind, but be assured that I have no hostility or intention to cause hurt to you or others at all. I just love the opportunity to discuss heady things like this every once in a while. :)
I agree on our point of agreement, though we may differ on which items of knowledge we would label 'facts' and with what justification; however, principally, I think your perspective on how to consider/examine and express what you believe is consistent and have no issue now with the clarification. Thank you for that. :)
I am amused that my descending order of importance is quite unlike yours as regards our disagreements. But for sake of ease of reference, I will stick with your order and express that mine would be in ascending order of importance, lol.

Re: POINT OF DISAGREEMENT #1
Like you, I also believe and see reasonable (yet not necessarily immediately apparent, non-exhaustive, fallibly interpreted) evidence for various means by which knowledge can be obtained; being a highly intuitive thinker and also a mother, I would never disparage instinctual and intuitive routes to knowledge amongst many others, some of which you noted and that I would not disagree with based either on my personal ignorance/lack of experience or based on my own interpretations of observations and personal experiences as well.
I don't mean to suggest subjectivism as a philosophical platform here at all, just to be clear and to make sure that isn't an issue. I do think that there is an actual reality independent of my interpretations, just that it is difficult to discuss it from any other perspective than my own, even when discussing it from the perspective of someone else...

So prefacing aside for now, you wrote:
Okay, what about the putative or alleged facts that I listed above (the ones about Jesus, the beginning of the universe, etc.)? Is there some non-faith-only way of coming to knowledge about them? I think that there is. On the basis of historical investigation we can infer (as I and others have argued) that Jesus really did live, die, and resurrect. Also, on the basis of scientific investigation and philosophical reasoning therefrom we can infer (as I and others have argued) that the universe really did begin, that its beginning was actually caused, and that some salient features of the universe’s small-scale and large-scale fine-tuning in fact strongly resemble features of what we know minds (and only minds) can do.
This is admittedly a hot button issue for me personally. I call it the "fallacy of the 'mountains and mountains of evidence'." This is because I have been studying Christianity for 9 years and for the first eight of those years, assumed that the mountains and mountains of historical "evidence" (with no qualifier, and for me, no understanding that there needed to be one at that point) would eventually be presented and accessible to me. I genuinely assumed that in my studies, I was embarking on a journey that would incidentally tie all of the claims of Christianity together with the alleged "evidence" once I had attained to a high enough scholarly understanding of the information I'd been ingesting by the book/lecture/debate-full for so long. I am still waiting. I am beginning to wonder if there ever was any such evidence that meanders outside of inference, because if inference is the litmus test for what Christianity or any other religion claims as historically known and true, then again, we have a problem of vocabulary at best, and a dissonance of realities at worst.

cont'd

Imogen Skye said...

I haven't heard a new argument for the historicity of Jesus for a while, and every one that I have held out hope for (including Craig) leaves me wondering if anyone actually has anything truly reasoned to offer; I have not seen a case that I could not (being genuinely expecting to be relieved of the pressure that has been mounting for quite some time to discover a well argued historical position) pull from its foundation with reason and evidence and even experience, even believing the precipitating/correlating claims faithfully.
I appreciate your perspective, though.
Moving on...
If I agree that the universe had a beginning, it doesn't necessarily follow logically that it began because of a divine being's behaviour and choice, or that therefore religion has something to offer in this case, assuming a loose definition that religion is an expression from human beings toward God and not the same thing as God or belief in God's existence. It may actually be the case, but I really don't see how a case can be reasonably built apart from a faith-only argument for this. There isn't anything substantial or material to which to refer and the inferences are loose at best- such as that our minds work this way, therefore the universe was created by a mind that works this way.
A reasonable argument could counter that our minds work this way because they are composed of the stuff that composes the universe, as in that the universe is inclusive and we are a component of it, and thereby naturally and materially composed of its constituents, thereby bearing the characteristics of sets of constituents that are otherwise also apparent and existent. It simply isn't necessary to go an extra step to include an outside source to complete the circle, even if it is true; it isn't reasonable at least with what we already know verifiably, and this is why I think that beliefs that include and credit the creation of the universe to God are best understood as faith claims, and not as facts in the same sense as those which we can observe and verify.
Again, I am not arguing against it being true that the universe was created by God, just that attempts to use the methodology of science to 'prove' it either by redefining 'fact' or inference fall short, even for a believer, from my perspective.

***You wrote:(c): non-self-evident observable facts that can be reasonably inferred on the basis of evidence.
Are you presupposing that I wouldn't actually observe the slippers, but just trust my grandmother that they were at her house? I ask because that is the only context that I see this working in reference to the next part of your response. I had gone ahead and hypothetically obtained said slippers and finished the evidence loop, being the pro-active gal that I am, lol. I only just recognised this now and have interjected this paragraph after writing the rest, so I apologise if my response now seems disjointed. I'm leaving my further response as is though and awaiting your reply to this question before moving on. :)***

cont'd

Imogen Skye said...

You wrote: Let’s say the Holy Spirit reveals to you directly via faith-only [option (a)] that your comfortable slippers are at your grandmother’s house, and let’s say that at the time of this revelation you also receive a letter [option (c)] from your grandmother (who is trustworthy) telling you that your comfortable slippers are at your grandmother’s house. These are not meaningless words, surely. So the fallacy-of-false-dichotomy charge sticks.

The third epistemic option remains: We can know non-self-evident observable facts that can be reasonably inferred on the basis of evidence—i.e., we can have knowledge, albeit indirectly obtained knowledge, of some facts that are not self-evident to us.

In science, history, philosophy, and other academic disciplines, the above-described type of knowledge is often obtained via an argument form known as Inference to Best Explanation.

I see your point, but I am concerned about it not following through to the conclusion here, which is that in the analogy, there is material evidence, observed and verified by an observer (even a living one who possesses the evidence for me to examine!) that the slippers are in fact (the way I define it) at my grandmother's house.
I am not left with inferences from stories told about my slippers and their alleged stay at my grandmother's house decades later or longer, or fifty-eight generations of my progeny simply believing that there must have been slippers at my grandmothers house that belonged to me or "why would I have believed it to be so otherwise?" I don't have to have faith that they are there; their material presence is all that is required for me to conclude that this is a fact, in a material, verifiable, observable way.
There is no need to take a step further to inferences of future generations' stories about the slippers and their whereabouts, no need to use inferences to make a cumulative case argument for the veracity of the story- no need whatsoever to defer to Inference to the Best Explanation. That the facts of the story in the absence of the material evidence would also confirm through inference that the material facts are true is neither here nor there and and doesn't address a charge of false dichotomy.



***The following addresses my views on our Point of Disagreement #2, but does diverge a bit as well. I had written this as part of my response to #1 and realised that I had diverged from the first point, so I am including it here where I think it answers for my initial point a bit better.
Again, I am not challenging the truth claims of Christianity, just how they are treated and how conclusions about them are argued and expressed. I agree with you that Gould's non-overlapping magisteria idea does not work either: not because I think there isn't a dichotomy between religion and science, but rather because I think the relationship that does exist between them is meted out in a much more personal and individual way than apologetics for Christian claims suggests. I think that the manner in which Christianity attempts to 'prove' it's truth claims presently cheapens the potentials of the religion/faith, because as a human being who needs both what people label 'religious experience' and also to exercise my intellect through reason, it is only within myself that these spheres of experience have any voice, any expression, and they are for me an expression of being human, my very nature.

cont'd...

Imogen Skye said...

I hope you don't mind my use of a relatively accessible but potentially blush-inducing analogy to make my point: it's just so widely understood and appreciated that I'd rather use it than something more obscure.
To me, the religious experience is to sex as science is to the understanding of the physiological role sex has in human life. For the person who doesn't experience sex, though his/her need may still be apparent, making an apologetic for its physiological role and presenting all of the inferred evidence available does really nothing for that person, most especially if their whole experience with sex is its clinical explanations and proofs.
Fine to have these tucked away as information, but reeeeeally useless if said person does end up engaging in sex with someone else. Anyone who has enjoyed this aspect of human life knows that the more proofs, inferences and clinical physiological reasoning that goes on, the less potential the act has to fulfil the people engaged in it.
Sex as an intellectual pursuit seems only to resemble the real thing which is much more primal and evicts the intellect except as an aid as necessary, even though the motions are the same no matter what they believe about it- that it belongs as an aspect of the whole person and his/her human expression, or that it must be analysed, defended, and otherwise clinically oppressed.
So saying, and again, I hope my example doesn't offend, it's just so easily expressed that I prefer it over others, religious experience or faith can be picked apart, analyzed and given intellectual ascent through much debate and apologetics, but it isn't better for it; rather, it suffers the ravages of the methodologies employed to illuminate it.
Science is another thing in that it is rather impossible for a human being with the capacity to reason to somehow miss the necessity for observation and making conclusions, which has long been my criticism of its proponents who seem to think that such a natural human endeavour and pursuit as that of understanding can be sequestered into a school-subject-like box. There just isn't any part of my life that isn't somehow filtered through the natural mechanisms of what others would relegate to those belonging to 'science.'
BUT as in the above blush-inducing example, my intellect does have its limits of benefit, and while I don't shut off my intellect entirely ever, I do exercise it judiciously in matters that are better served with a bit less lab-work, such as sex and religion, not to mention the obvious oversight by many that we actually overcome the limitations of the numinous with the practice of science, which clearly we don't.
So because 'science' as I view it is an unduly limited label for what human beings do naturally, and religion isn't necessary to do those things that open us to understanding the material world (that of science), nor is it benefited in any direct way except through the expression of the individual, I stand by my assertion that science, as a wholistic enterprise of the human pursuit of understanding and not just a subject to be studied, does not need religion, but I'll add here that the individual's observations and conclusions are most certainly influenced by it.
In the microcosmic realm of media-drenched amputated so-called 'science', I don't see how religion offers anything to the data and conclusions its practitioners bring to the table, though. We don't understand observable realities better because religion has assisted us. That is, if the world and its constituents and reality exist as they are regardless of our observations and conclusions, then my case remains as stated.

cont'd

Imogen Skye said...

I am sorry that I have not been clearer with my definitions because I haven't given you the opportunity to know what I'm referring to when I write, such as that my view of 'science' is not what is expressed in mainstream media, that in this oppressed, shrivelled and amputated-from-life form, it ceases to be what it really is, and when it is what it really is- the culmination of human wholistic methodologies for obtaining understanding of the material world- it doesn't need religion, but the individual will benefit from whatever furthers his/her abilities and understanding in order to draw conclusions that may not even properly fit into one category or the other (science or religion).

So, I will retract my initial admittedly strong claim because it requires, as you wrote and I agree, a strong argument for it to be held, and in order for me to make my whole case clear, I would have to distinguish my more macrocosmic definitions of 'science' and 'reliogion' than is generally intended, and that Martin Luther King Jr. no doubt didn't intend when he expressed the quotation we are discussing. I don't want to inadvertently build a strawman argument that is so poor that it can be toppled just by pointing out that I'm arguing against someone else, lol.
I think that your view as you've expressed it more clearly addresses the intent of MLKJ, so I'll concede your points there.

cont'd

Imogen Skye said...

Re: POINT OF DISAGREEMENT #3
I would counter here first by prefacing with an early admission that I have been operating with a hidden card: my alternate definitions that I had not yet expressed, though it was genuinely unintentional. Sometimes living in the bush and being such an extreme introvert, I forget just how far I've diverged in my thought life from what others intend by what they express...
I did omit a rather obvious reality that there are philosophical reasons for thinking that religion and science are complementary. I operate under the presumption of philosophical under-girding to one's thoughts and conclusions- another bush-living oversight, lol. I agree with you on this, but I don't agree as regards the necessity for the corollaries -or even on some of the corollaries themselves- that you've used to demonstrate the relationship between science and religion.
I'm beginning to think that we really disagree on just one point- but in various ways- but I'll carry on anyway because I'm enjoying the discussion. :)
You wrote:
• that there is a theory-independent world (i.e., the world is real and exists independently of us [because it was created as such]);
I agree with a, but take exception to b, which to me is sort of like sticking bubble gum to the bottom of a desk- an unnecessary add-on to the already functional furniture.
It may be true that b, but it is only one of many possible corollaries to a, at best. It doesn't further the philosophical argument for a at all, and doesn't make science and religion complementary either since the reality of a Creator doesn't actually necessitate religion. It is too many steps to get to the religion part of the explanation from the science one. It could in those steps just as easily end up involving alien spacecraft seeding or accidental explosions of particulate matter for proposition b.

that the world can be known (i.e., it isn’t wholly illusory [because our minds were created to know what’s outside of them, at least to some extent]);
I agree with proposition a and again I am not sure why the necessity for b. If the world can be known, this fact is only knowable by knowing minds and whether or not they were created is an extra, unnecessary convolution, followed again by an even further convolution: from the belief in a Creator to religion and its alleged complement to science.

that the universe is law-governed (i.e., the universe is a cosmos not a chaos, so induction is reliable [because God is a lawful being]);
I agree with proposition a, but again, b seems like bubble gum on the bottom of a desk. It may be true that God is a lawful being (let's hope this is the case! As long as God's laws are just of course), but it isn't a necessary corollary again because of it is true, it doesn't need religion or even an argument for the existence of God since the first proposition can be demonstrated materially (though I acknowledge that this could be contested, but not without taking some weight away from proposition a).

that the future resembles the past (i.e., again, induction is reliable [because God is a lawful being]);
I would apply the same reasoning as above to this.

cont'd...

Imogen Skye said...

that language applies to the world (i.e., scientific findings can be accurately communicated [because God is the Logos, and because we are made in God’s image we can discern the imprint of the logos in the world and communicate it]);

I agree with proposition a, and b is a rather large wad of sticky gum under the desk. Maybe even a wad of gum with a few others of different colours and flavours having been added on and gone stale.

There are so many simpler and more cohesive material explanations for our ability to communicate through language than that we are made in God's image, which is a religious doctrine, and while that also may be true, it isn't necessary to explain or support proposition a (which is readily observable with limitations, some related to differences in languages), and it is at best one of many options for a corollary, and maybe not even the most reasonable.

that it is not impious to investigate the world [because the world isn’t God], etc.

I agree with both a and b here, but if I agree with a, then believing b isn't necessary and it doesn't support the argument for science and religion being complementary.

To be clear, Dr. V, I am not seeking to remove one's faith and belief that God is in control and the Creator as described in the corollaries you have included above. That is not at all my intention. It is my intention to point out that in constructing an unnecessary set of corollaries to support one's faith with material evidence, that faith is actually weakened, not strengthened, and cannot function to its potential in the individual in that state of impoverishment.

The convolutions one has to go through to make sense of so much of Christian doctrine -especially if by materially-based common science- are enough for most people to completely disregard not only Christianity, but also their own innate need for religious experience altogether. And this is the more reasonable conclusion given the story as told by apologetics, in my opinion.

I also appreciate your book recommendations. Thank you. I will admit though that I would not subject any friend to the torture of William Lane Craig, lol, but that is perhaps a different subject, though somewhat related. At the moment, I am chewing religious cud (years of it wadded up, you understand) and instead reading Eats, Shoots and Leaves, a few other rather pragmatic books and a re-read of The Lord of the Flies. :)

I had a peek at your list of favourite books on your blog and intend to have a look at those when I've had sufficient theological rest. I'm always up for a good story couched in an interesting philosophical bent though. :)

Also best regards to you and yours. Also an apology for the length of response.

Kane has expressed that perhaps I should expand my response to write a book (my writing tends to become too concise and fiddly to be read easily because I am trying to pack too much into too little space). I am provoked; I just may do it.

Thank you for the discussion!
Imogen

p.s. I have just noticed that some of my spacing has come through in copying from Open Office and some has not; I don't know why. I hope it isn't too cumbersome to read. I am sorry that happened.

Hendrik van der Breggen said...

Hi Imogen,

Thanks for your thoughtful, lengthy reply to my previous comments. It would be good fun (and interesting) to discuss each of your points in detail, but probably that sort of discussion would be better done in person rather than via a blog (so misunderstandings or mistakes could be more readily addressed when they occur). I will respond to your comments merely by setting out a few points of what I hope will be helpful as clarification (and I will apologize in advance if in so doing I’m not doing justice to your larger arguments).

1. Evidence and inference.

The two work together. In the study of history, various evidences—letters, reports, pottery pieces, ruins, etc.—provide grounds upon which inferences about what actually occurred are made. In the sciences, various evidences—e.g., light from stars showing a red shift, cosmic microwave background radiation, etc.—also provide grounds upon which inference about what actually occurred are made. In law, various evidences—e.g., eye witness testimony, confessions, C.S.I. findings, etc.—provide grounds upon which inferences about what actually happened are made. Inference/ argument to best explanation is the general argument form that characterizes much of the reasoning that occurs in history (the discipline), the sciences, legal argumentation, philosophy, textual interpretation, etc.

The overall IBE argument form is as follows:

a. D, a collection of data, exists.
b. H1, if true, would explain D.
c. H1 would offer the best available explanation of D (i.e., H1 is better than main contenders H2, H3, etc.)
Therefore, probably,
d. H1 is true.

Comments on IBE:

Re: a. D is what’s puzzling us; D consists of clues which suggest hypothesis H1.
Re: b. D is expected on H1; H1 renders D not puzzling; if H1 satisfies the conditions of plausibility (relative to background knowledge) and falsifiability, H1 is allowed into the pool of contenders.
Re: c. H1 is the strongest contender; H1 handles background knowledge and D better than H2, etc.; compared to contenders H1 is more plausible, has greater scope, is simpler (i.e., H1 shows greater consilience).
Re: d. H1 makes good sense and is reasonable to believe to be true; nevertheless, it’s possible for H1 to be overthrown by discovery of additional relevant information.


2. Vulnerability to objections of arguments for historicity of Jesus.

It may be helpful to keep in mind that in balance-of-considerations arguments (pro-versus-con arguments used in IBEs), when one judges that the pros outweigh the cons, the cons don’t cease existing and don’t stop counting against the pros. A person may have a reasonable belief (or what Craig calls reasonable faith) even though there are considerations that tug or pull at the foundations. I suspect (as you seem to agree) that your expectation “to be relieved of the pressure” of finding “mountains and mountains of evidence” is too high. With my students, I find that sometimes expectations for what constitutes knowledge per se are philosophically unfounded or too stringent; e.g., logical possibility of error is sometimes mistaken for sufficient grounds for error, and so sometimes students mistakenly think that knowledge requires ruling out all logical possibility of error.

Continued…

Hendrik van der Breggen said...

3. Universe’s beginning and its cause.

I agree with you that if the universe had a beginning “it doesn’t necessarily follow logically that it began because of a divine being’s behaviour and choice” (your italics). However, as a criticism in the present context of argument, I should add that pointing to this lack of logical necessity may be to miss (and misrepresent) the logical structure of the argument. If the universe had a beginning, then it would be better (more reasonable) to say something like the following: It strongly points in the direction of a divine cause. Why is this better? Because (I would argue) a strong case—i.e., a cumulative case argument/ inference to best explanation—can be set out for thinking this. I don’t have the space or time to set out such a case here, but it would hinge on a defence of (a) the philosophical thesis that whatever begins to exist has a cause and (b) the transcendent nature of the cause that can be reasonably inferred. (For more on this, take a look at chapters three and four of my PhD dissertation, which is available online.) My point: Your appeal to logical necessity as a criticism of the argument concerning the cause of the universe’s beginning is out of place if we’re looking at a cumulative case argument or IBE.

As I mentioned above (in point 2), sometimes expectations for what constitutes knowledge (or reasonable inference to obtain knowledge) are philosophically unfounded or too stringent. It seems to me that your emphasis on logical necessity may be a case of this.

Continued…

Hendrik van der Breggen said...

4. Philosophical assumptions of science.

My point in listing the philosophical assumptions of science along with a Christian metaphysical account was merely to provide some grounds for the religion-science complementarity thesis. I was not setting out the assumptions and the metaphysical explanations as (what you called) “necessary corollaries.” To describe them this way and to count this lack of logical necessity against them is to misrepresent my views and (again) to appeal to logical necessity when a less stringent standard would be appropriate.

Concerning your penchant for logical necessity, maybe the following will be helpful: Valid deductive logic (which involves logical necessity) does not exhaust the whole of good reasoning. Don’t get me wrong: Valid deductive arguments can be excellent arguments (especially when their premises are also true); however, there are more types of arguments available in the critical thinking tool kit. Philosopher Trudy Govier, in her fine critical thinking textbook A Practical Study of Argument, discusses deductive arguments, conductive arguments, inductive generalizations, inference to best explanation, and analogical arguments. (I use Govier’s book in my Critical Thinking courses; her book is used in many colleges and universities, and is highly regarded in the academic world.)

Maybe the following will be helpful too, as an illustration of an argument that isn’t a deductively valid argument, i.e., doesn't involve logical necessity, yet is a good argument. (Note: An argument is deductively valid if and only if the truth of the premises provides a 100% guarantee of the truth of the conclusion, i.e., there is logical necessity such that if the premises are true then the conclusion must be true too, i.e., it’s not possible for the premises to be true and the conclusion false.) Here is a cumulative case argument/IBE for reasonably believing that it’s raining outside, even though each individual argument is not deductively valid (i.e., doesn’t logically necessitate the conclusion) and even though the arguments as a group aren’t deductively valid (i.e., don’t logically necessitate the conclusion). Background assumptions (for fun and to make the illustration work better): We’re in a windowless room, we can’t look outside to check to see if it’s raining, and we can’t talk to anyone (besides each other).

Okay, here—finally—is the argument. (a) There is a pitter-patter sound on the roof, which suggests rain (though the pitter-patter could be due to somebody with a sprinkler); (b) we hear thunder and wind, which suggest a rain storm (though dry electrical storms are possible); (c) we hear the swooshing sound of car tires on a wet street, which suggests rain (though a street cleaner could be the cause of the water on the streets); (d) there is an increase in humidity according to my hygrometer, which suggests rain (though my hygrometer could be broken); (e) we hear a weather forecast for rain in our area, which suggests rain (though weather forecasters are often mistaken); (f) my joints ache, which often suggests rain (though the aches could be due to my having cut the lawn yesterday); (g) a friend steps into the room and we notice that he is carrying a wet jacket, which suggests rain (though the wetness could be due to his having just washed the jacket). In view of arguments (a) through (b) it would be reasonable to conclude/ believe that it’s raining outside. Although the arguments are not deductively valid as individual arguments nor deductively valid as a group of arguments (i.e., the arguments do not logically necessitate the conclusion), each argument does count to some extent in favour of the conclusion, the favourable force of the arguments is cumulative, plus the arguments converge onto the conclusion (a convergence that also counts favourably), and so the conclusion is strongly supported and reasonable to believe.

My point: Logical necessity, though important, isn’t the whole enchilada.

Continued…

Hendrik van der Breggen said...

5. Religious experience is to sex as science is to the understanding of the physiology of sex.

Thanks for your blush alert! New blush alert: I agree with your analogy! Also, I agree that too much emphasis on science/ history/ apologetics can be detrimental to, or at least distracting from, religious experience itself (i.e., where religious experience is one’s deeply personal relationship with God, i.e., knowing God). However—more blush alerts!—if someone (someone perverse) doubts the veracity of my sexual experience (with my wife), it’s helpful that I can provide independent evidence that my wife exists! Maybe, according to our doubter (let’s call him Richard Dawkins), I am deluded because I was merely dreaming. Okay, so now at least I should be blushing for sure!

Blush or no blush, it may be helpful to note that philosophers often make a distinction between three types of knowledge: knowledge by acquaintance, propositional knowledge, and know-how (skill knowledge). What is relevant here are the first two types of knowledge: knowledge by acquaintance and propositional knowledge.

Knowledge by acquaintance includes our direct awarenesses: e.g., simply seeing (a brown furry object with a wagging tail), introspection (of my emotions, thoughts), rational insight (that if a=b and b=c, then a=c), knowing God (religious experience).

Propositional knowledge consists of beliefs that are taken to be true and are based on an adequate/reasonable justification for thinking the belief is true: e.g., that it’s raining outside, given our cumulative case argument for thinking it’s raining; e.g., that God exists, given a good cumulative case argument for thinking God exists.

The experience of having sex would be knowledge by acquaintance, whereas the physiology of sex would be propositional knowledge. The experience of knowing God would be knowledge by acquaintance, whereas a cumulative case argument for God’s existence would be propositional knowledge.

It seems to me that if one wishes to love God with all of one’s mind and heart and strength (i.e., a holistic sort of love which involves all of one’s being), then such a love relationship would include not just knowledge by acquaintance (religious experience) but also propositional knowledge (intellectual knowledge about God) and know-how knowledge (which would involve somehing like living obediently and wisely). I could be mistaken in this, of course. Nevertheless, this is where my journey of life (admittedly one with an academic, intellectual emphasis) has taken me.

(For more on the topic of the above-mentioned types of knowledge, see J. P. Moreland’s “The Recovery of Knowledge,” which is chapter 5 of his 2007 book Kingdom Triangle.)

6. Now that I’ve crossed all sorts of lines concerning inappropriate blush-inducing behaviour, I might as well continue the downward spiral. Here’s an argument that I saw (a long time ago) on the T-shirts of students who belonged to the University of Windsor’s philosophy undergraduate society:

• Philosophy is better than nothing.
• Nothing is better than sex.
• Therefore, philosophy is better than sex. (lol)

I find that my students at Providence College enjoy the above argument when I set it out as an illustration of the fallacy of equivocation.

Continued...

Hendrik van der Breggen said...

Finis.

Imogen, I will now stop. I wrote much more than I initially intended! I hope that the above comments are helpful (and I hope that I haven’t been offensive or inappropriate in any way).

Best regards to you and Kane and family,

Hendrik

P.S. I must turn my attention to other matters, so I probably won’t be back to this blog for a few weeks. Thanks for the fine discussion.

P.P.S. In case you and Kane are interested, a very nice philosophy textbook is Steven Cowan and James Spiegel’s 2009 The Love of Wisdom: A Christian Introduction to Philosophy.