An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Saturday, 31 December 2005

Philosophy of technology: a new website

Macht has started a new website dealing with the philosophy of technology. At present there is a list of on-line resources. It is well worth checking out. It includes links to articles by reformational thinkers such as Schuurman and Charles Adams.

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Egbert Schuurman: a Christian philosopher of technology


Professor Egbert Schuurman (1937 - ) is a professor of Reformational philosophy at the Universities of Delft and Eindhoven and at the Agricultural University of Waneningen in the Netherlands. He is also a member of the Senate of the Dutch parliament. He studied under Dooyeweerd and Van Riessen at the Free University in Amsterdam.


He is the author of :
He also contributed to the Calvin Center for Scholarship book Responsible Technology edited by Steven V. Monsma - sadly now out of print.

An audio tape of Egbert speaking on the ethics of technology is available from WYSOCS.

On-line articles include:
There is a Wiki article on him here.

Update
Another on-line article is available here [HT Macht]
Update 2
Another on the ethics of responsibility is here

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Science and religion quotes

Also, we should not forget that the bible is pre-scientific, not only in the sense that it historically pre-dates the rise of modern science, but also in the sense that it adrresses us prior to or scientific and scholarly theorising. It is not irreleveant to such things. It is foundational to such things by addressing us first and formoest as men and women created by God as his image bearers on earth, and born to enjoy conscious communion with him. Accordingly the bible was not written by and for scientists as scientists, or by and for theoreticians as theoreticians. It was inspired for the instruction of people as people.

Friday, 30 December 2005

All of Life Redeemed website update

There are two more paper by the historian Keith Sewell on line: The Eclipse of History and the Crisis in the Humanities and The Bible, Science and Scholarship.
Both these papers were presentations to The Reformed Post-Graduate Students Conference in Australia. The later paper discusses the relationship between the Bible and our tasks as scientists and scholars. He sees the Bible as being 'religiously directive' rather than 'scientifically encyclopaedic', which sounds about right to me!

I have also updated the Abraham Kuyper pages - there are new links and the old links have been updated. Included are links to chapters from his important book Lectures on Calvinism and a bibliography of books and on-line articles on Kuyper.

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Thursday, 29 December 2005

Adolfo Garcia de la Sienra

Bruce Wearne has published an interview with Adolfo Garcia de la Sienra in the Fiji Daily Post on the 7th and 8th of December. Bruce has kindly agreed for it to be posted to the All of Life Redeemed website. It is available here as a pdf.

Adolfo is a Mexican economist and philosopher.

He is the editor of The Rationality of Theism and a contributor to Bob Goudzwaard's Globalization and the Kingdom of God, Contemporary Reflections on the Philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd, Idealization VI: Idealization in Economics and the author of The Logical Foundations of the Marxian Theory of Value


On-line by Adolfo: a review of Thick as a Brick
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Wednesday, 28 December 2005

Galileo, Darwin, and Hawking: chapter 8

In the eight and final chapter Dowe pulls things together. He maintains that the best way to view science and religion is in terms not of conflict but of harmony. He rejects the strong indepedence view and sees 'considerable interaction' between the two.

Suprisingly he advocates an evidentialist position: 'if there is no evidence for the existence of God then it is not rational to believe in it'. He also believes that the designer argument is useful: 'the designer revealed by science is perfectly compatible with the God of the Bible...' (p. 195). He goes on '... it is true that the anthropic argument will not settle, for example, whether Christianity or Islam is correct, but if correct it does show that one of these or something similar is right, and that atheism is not (p. 195).

Dowe has, I think, shown that the conflict view of science and religion is erroneous. Galileo, Darwin and Hawking is one of the best science and religion books of 2005 - it is much better than most of those on the Science and Theology website list.

When I first started to blog my way through this book I wondered how effective historical case studies would be to tell us how science and religion should relate? I am still left with this unanswered question.

Friday, 23 December 2005

Ethics: Person, Practices and Society

The Association for Reformational Philosophy in the Netherlands organised a conference on ethics during the summer of 2005. Some of the papers from the conference are now available for download (HT Paul Robinson).

These include papers from the panels: ethical relevant connections and practices and the workshops. There are papers by Andrew Basden, Doug Blomberg, Rudi Hayward (it's about time he started to blog - how about it Rudi?), Danie Strauss, Henk Stoker, Harry Cook, John Van Dyk, Uko Zylstra and many others.
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Thursday, 22 December 2005

Galileo, Darwin, and Hawking chapter 7

Dowe next examine what he calls the ‘chance worldview’ – the existence of chance refutes the classical theist doctrine of divine providence. It maintains that:

our universe is intrinsically chaotic in the sense that its development from moment to moment is sometimes a matter of chance. In other words, the world does not know in full detail where it is going next. (p170-1).

It is an unpredictable world and is to some extent uncontrollable and purposeless. Chance limits our capacity to steward nature. It also challenges the sovereignty of God.

God’s providence means that:

(i) every event and every aspect of every event is directed by God (p 173) – no event would happen if it weren’t for God

(ii) God is a sufficient cause of every event and every aspect of every event

(iii) God provides the complete reason – God has a special purpose for everything.

Dowe outlines three models of absolute providence: occasionalism, concurrence and Leibnizian.

In Nicholas Malabranche’s occasionalism God does everything directly. When a billiard ball hits another it is God making it happen – everything is due to God. Causes are the occasions of God’s action.

Concurrence – associated with the Scholastics and more recently with Louis Berkhof – is the position that every event has two concurrent direct causes: God and a natural cause.

In Leibniz’s view God created the world complete with all its causal powers and laws of nature. The world has its own power given and sustained by God, although God doesn’t directly make event happen. God is the indirect rather than the direct cause of all that happens. Before the creation God considered all that could happen and created the world so that it would be the best of all possible worlds.

Chance and determinism are linked. If determinism is true then there can be no chance; conversely if there is chance then there determinism cannot be true.

Bell’s theorem suggests that at the quantum level there is genuine chance – it seems to rule out hidden variable theories.

To illustrate Bell’s theorem Dowe utilises an analogy using identical twins.

What then are the implications for providence? (R C Sproul in his Not a Chance maintains that quantum mechanics (QM) itself is not correct.)

Could God bring about quantum effects that QM regards as chance events? If a chance event is uncaused by God, then the no hidden variables proof refutes God’s providence. However, it could be that God produces what we think of as chance events.

Polkinghorne maintains that chance is ‘God’s steering wheel’ – God acts creatively in the quantum gaps (information but no energy is transferred). If God controls chance then there is no problem with providence.

In Bell’s theorem there is an assumption of locality, but this wouldn’t apply to God; God is not subject to a local restriction – he is not located in space. Dowe suggests that God might allow the ‘strange correlations’ uncovered by Bell in order to ‘leave a trace’ of his existence. He even (perhaps tongue-in-cheek) proposes a quantum cosmological argument, where Bell’s theorem proves God! Though as Dooyeweerd has rightly said, ‘Whatever can be proven would not thereby be God.’ There are no knock-down arguments for God.

If there is no divine cause to chance what are the theological implications? According to Peter van Inwagen God could control his purposes by controlling less than everything. God sets up the world to ensure that certain things will happen; this is a limited rather than an absolute providence.


Dowe concludes:

Should the theist be bothered by the chance worldview? Does chance refute providence? No. If chance exists then either it is caused by god (and that is allowed by Bell’s theorem) and this is no problem for providence and there’s no conflict with science; or chance is not caused by God, in which case it’s compatible with strong Calvinist providence providing it doesn’t lead to meaningful consequences. Insofar as chance does lead to meaningful consequences, strong providence entails that God causes that chance. (pp. 189-90)


This can be summarised in the following diagram:


Wednesday, 21 December 2005

Total Truth Study Guide

Those of us who bought the first edition of Nancey Pearcey's excellent Total Truth can now get the study guide that accompanied the second edition; it is available from the Pearcey Report in a 31-page pdf format.

Tuesday, 20 December 2005

WYSOCS Radio

WYSOCS have now introduced 'radio' . Guy Donegan-Cross's lecture on 'Culture and ultimate destiny' can be heard in three different formats. Guy, and Anglican vicar, affirms good reformational eschatology. [HT MJHB on thinknet]

Monday, 19 December 2005

Remember the Milk

Taking a leaf (?) out of Maggi Dawn's blog I've signed up for 'Remember the milk' an on-line to do list manager. You never know it might organise my life for me.

Kakuro - the new Sudoku

A new craze has hit the UK: Kakuro. It is a mathematical crossword, similar to Sudoku - except you have to be able to add as well! They are a form of linear programming problem - though they are much more fun when solved using a pen and pencil! The Guardian was the first newspaper to introduce it to Britain - though it remains to be seen if it will replace Sudoku. I got hooked on Sudoku over the summer while we were away camping and I'll be trying Kakuro over the Christmas holiday. Some games are available here, here ,here and here. There's even a tutorial here.

An on-line version is available here; and a list of valid digit combinations are here.

Sunday, 18 December 2005

Weblog awards

Congratulations to the Evangelical Outpost for winning the best religious blog in the Weblog awards 2005. The full result are here

Sunday, 11 December 2005

Interview with Bob Goudzwaard a Christian economist

The Christian sociologist Bruce Wearne interviews the Christian economist Bob Goudzwaard: part 1 and part 2 in Sight magazine.

Goudzwaard is professor emeritus, at the Free University in Amsterdam. He was elected to the Dutch Parliament in the 1970s and served for a time in a Christian policy research institute in The Hague.






Works by Goudzwaard on-line include:
Some reviews of Goudzwaard's books:
Goudzwaard is also the author of the seminal book Capitalism and Progress.

Saturday, 10 December 2005

All of life redeemed update: Christianity and the University

There have been some important articles uploaded to the All of life redeemed website. Keith Sewell has edited and revised a paper by Jan Dengerink 'The necessity of Christian universities' as well as a book by Hendrik Van Riessen, The University and its Basis. The original book is available from Colin Lanfer. Also new to the site is a paper by Keith called 'A high challenge for tough times'.

Friday, 9 December 2005

Dooyewerd's last interview

Glenn Friesen has translated and put on-line Dooyeweerd's last interview.

Glenn writes:
This interview is important for understanding Dooyeweerd, not only with respect to his view of law, but with respect to his social and political views. Dooyeweerd also gives information about the development of his philosophy, his many lecture tours, and his relation to institutions abroad such as the Institute for Christian Studies. Some readers will also be surprised by the view of Scripture and theology expressed in this interview, and by his objections to certain ideas of Abraham Kuyper and Groen van Prinsterer. And it also appears from this interview that the current translation of Dooyeweerd’s Encyclopedia of Legal Science is based on the wrong edition.

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Wednesday, 7 December 2005

Dooyeweerd on the days of Genesis

I refer, for example, to the question concerning the sense of the six days of creation. By disregarding the faith-aspect of the temporal order and by utilizing astronomical and geological concepts of time, theology was entangled in the following dilemma: if these days are not to be understood in the sense of astronomical days of twenty-four hours, they are to be interpreted as geological periods. A curious dilemma indeed. For it has not occurred to any theologian to apply this alternative to the seventh day, the day on which God rests from all his work which he had made. This would be rightly considered blasphemous. But why was it overlooked that the same blasphemy presents itself if God's creative deeds are conceived of in natural scientific time-concepts? The reason is that the theologians who posed the dilemma mentioned did not realize the fundamental difference between the divine creative deeds and the genetical process occurring within the created temporal order as a result of God's work of creation. Here the influence of Greek philosophy clearly manifested itself. For because of its pagan religious basic motive, this philosophy excluded any idea of creation. It merely accepted a temporal genesis, at the utmost conceived as the result of a formative activity of a divine mind which presuppoes a given material. The scholastic accommodation of the biblical revelation of creation to this Greek idea of becoming gave rise to the false view that creation itself was a temporal process.
God's creative deeds surpass the temporal order because they are not subjected to it. But as a truth of faith of God has revealed these creative deeds in the faith-aspect of this temporal order which points beyond itself to what is supra-temporal. It was God's will that the believing Jew should refer his six work days to the six divine creative works and the sabbath day to the eternal sabbathic rest of God, the Creator. This is the biblical exegesis given by the Decalogue. And it eliminates the scholastic dilemma concerning the exegesis of the six days of creation, which originated from a fundamental disregard of the faith-aspect of the temporal order. This disregard is also to be observed in the Augustinian interpretation of the six days as a literary form or framework of representation which lacks any temporal sense, through this conception is, no doubt, preferable by far to the astronomical or geological interpretation.

Herman Dooyewerd In the Twilight of Western Thought (Craig Press, 1960; pp 149-151)
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Saturday, 26 November 2005

Zygon December 2005 issue

The December issue of Zygon: Journal of Science and Religion is now out.
The contents are available here.

Sunday, 20 November 2005

Great free software

Mozilla firefox - the best web browser

Pdf995 for creating pdfs.

Freemind for creating mind maps

Easy cleaner for keeping the PC clean

Graph paper printer for producing any kind of graph paper

Mindman personal for more mind maps

AVG antivirus

Zone alarm firewall

Yahoo desktop search

Wisdom-soft screen hunter

Adaware for getting rid of spyware

Spybot for also getting rid of spyware

Picassa for sorting out the pictures

Irfan view for viewing and resizing pictures.

Any other suggestions?

Odds and sods

There is an interesting article on Vollenhoven's method by Glenn Friesen here. (HT )

Two new interesting blogs I've spotted Celal's Icarus Redeemed (HT Paul Robinson) and Doug Johnson's though i can't find the link at the moment (sorry!)

An interesting thing: enter failure in the Google search box and click on I feel lucky.

Sunday, 6 November 2005

Galileo, Darwin, and Hawking: chapter 6

In this helpful chapter on ‘Big bang cosmology and God’ Dowe looks at the kalam cosmological argument, big bang cosmology, the anthropic principle and the many world’s explanation.

The kalam (literally ‘speech’) argument was largely developed by Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali (1058-1111). It looks something like this:

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause of its existence.

2. The universe began to exist.

3. Therefore the universe has a cause of its existence. That cause we may call ‘God’. (p. 144)

Statement 1 was taken to be self-evident; statement 2 was defended on the grounds that there cannot be an infinite sequence of temporal events. That the universe had a beginning in time fitted well with Genesis and the Qu’ran.

However, if the universe is infinitely old then the kalam argument is flawed. The mid-twentieth century many cosmologists favoured an infinite steady-state model of the universe. Though towards the end of that century there was mounting evidence for the big bang theory – though some like Fred Hoyle (1915-2001) opposed it on metaphysical grounds.

The big bang model is now the scientific consensus. William Lane Craig has used the big bang to resuscitate the kalam argument. Stephen Hawking in his A Brief History of Time offers a no-boundary proposal to get around the idea that something outside the universe is needed to start things off. Dowe makes the wry observation:

…one gets the impression that the whole rationale for the no-boundary model is to avoid the conclusion that there is a God. (p 147)

Dowe then moves on to look at the anthropic—human-centred—principle (AP). He does so in a clear and useful way. He defines AP thus:

The term ‘anthropic principle’ refers to the remarkable connection between the initial conditions and constants of the universe, and the fact that life has arisen in the universe. (p. 148)

He then goes on to describe three possible responses as to why our universe is apparently fine-tuned for life: intelligent design, pantheism and multiple universes.

It was the atheist Hoyle who first used anthropic reasoning to explain how enough carbon was produce in stars to sustain human life. John Barrow and Frank Tipler’s The Anthropic Cosmological Principle did much to popularise the idea.

There are numerous forms of the principle: weak, strong, participatory final (or WAP, SAP, PAP and FAP; Martin Gardener has even suggested CRAP – completely ridiculous anthropic principle). All but the first are highly controversial.

Does the anthropic principle explain all the remarkable occurrences? SAP – the universe must have the properties that allow life to develop – and FAP – intelligent life must come into existence – need no further explanation. But why should we accept them in the beginning?

The AP is an argument to the best explanation – our existence (US) explains fine-tuning (F).


P(F) = negligible

P(F|US) = 1

therefore P(F|US) >> P(F)


But what is wrong with this reasoning? It uses the future to explain the past – a latter event is used to explain earlier events.

Retrodiction – predicting states of affairs that must have occurred given the present state – is acceptable though. We are here now, implies that the universe must be fine-tuned (as in WAP). SAP, FAP and PAP offer an explanation but not prediction.

The next question Dowe goes on to examine is: Is a theistic or pantheistic God an explanation of the AP? He suggests that the way God is used as an explanation is a version of the design argument. One objection is that this is open to the ‘god of the gaps’ problem as it may be superseded by scientific development.

Pantheism doesn’t offer a familiar model of explanation – it retains the word God, but removes any personal aspect to God, so it is not clear how this god could explain fine-tuning.

One argument that might provide an alternative to the design argument is that there is nothing to explain – the universe is a brute fact. Another is the multi-universe or worlds hypothesis, M.

In M there are a large finite number of universes – hence the chance that one is fine-tuned for life is very high. Other versions include Wheeler worlds (Mw) and Carter worlds (Mc). Mws are connected like sausages but are independent; Mcs are a string of infinitely many worlds where every possibility is substantiated.

Dowe then looks at Ian Hacking’s objection to M – they commit the inverse gambler’s fallacy (IGF). The gambler’s fallacy is that she reasons that we have been unlucky so far, so next time we will be lucky. If two dice has been thrown 35 times without getting a double six then she would be willing to bet that the next throw a double six would come up. The inverse gambler’s fallacy is to reason that good luck must have been preceded by bad luck. If she saw someone throw a double six, she would infer that the thrower must have thrown the dice many times before the double six was thrown.

An illustration shows how this relates to the multi-universe idea. There is a casino with an infinite number of rooms and in all the rooms coins are being flipped. The chance that someone has ten heads all in a row is high. This would be an example of the IGF – it is fallacious to think the chance that I’m in a room where ten heads are flipped in a row is greater given the multi-room theory.

Hacking maintains that M and Mw commit the IGF and he thinks that Mc might escape the IGF; however, Dowe does not.

The argument is not that some world is fine-tuned but rather this world is fine-tuned.

Does this mean that the existence of the universe needs no explanation? How do we decide which improbable events require explanation? Dowe’s concluding comment is apt:

There is something unsatisfactory about putting a world like ours down to chance. According to this view there is something special about our universe that sets it apart from other universes. Design explains this. (p.169)

Sunday, 30 October 2005

Another relational diagram

Here's an attempt to put on neocalvinism and Kuyperianism on the relational diagram. I've usually thought of these as being the same - though I'm sure that there will be someone who is Kuyperian and not call themselves a neocalvinist; hence the large overlap. I know of at least one Dooyeweerdian who doesn't like the label neocalvinist.

Anyway, here's something to help discussion:

Evangelical and Reformed

In the comments to my last post Greory Baus and Paul Otto (here) disputed the positioning of evangelical and Reformed in the relational diagram.

For me evangelicalism implies a high regard of and commitment to scripture this I would see as being compatible with the Reformed view. Evangelical literally means ‘of the gospel’.

David Bebbington in his Evangelicalism in Modern Britain (Unwin Hyman, 1989) describes four ‘qualities’ that are ‘the special marks’ of evangelicalism:

conversionism, the belief that lives need to be changed; activism, the expression of the gospel in effort; biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible; and what may be termed crucicentrism, a stress on the sacrifice of Christ at the cross. (p. 3)


It seems to me that there is much overlap between this and the Reformed tradition. According to Bebbington, Thomas More in 1531 refers to advocates of the Reformation as ‘Evangelicalles’ (p. 1)

Unlike Gregory I don’t think evangelicalism has any commitment to any particular form of worship, view of sacrament or church order. There are Baptist, Presbyterian, Congregationalists, Methodist, Catholic, Orthodox, Calvinsist … evangelicals.

One misconception that often occurs particularly in the media, paticulalrly in the UK, is that evangelical and evangelism (preaching the gospel with the aim of conversion) are confused and used synonymously.

Friday, 28 October 2005

Evangelical, Reformed, reformational etc.

Paul Otto in a comment on a previous post wanted to know where I'd put evangelical and Vollenhovian onto my relational diagram. Here's my initial attempt:


The question is: where should neocalvinism go on the diagram? I suspect that it should cover reformational, Vollenhovenian and Dooyeweerdian - but can a neocalvinist not be reformed? And what about reformed epistemologists - where would they go? Presumably a subset of neocalvinism (though Alston might not like that!)?

Thursday, 27 October 2005

Neocalvinist distinctives

What are the key emphases of neocalvinism? Earlier today I started a Wiki entry on Neo-Calvinism. It is in skeletal form at the moment and is in desperate need of being filled out. In it I list the following emphases:
  • Jesus is lord over all of creation
  • The idea that all of life is to be redeemed
  • Cultural mandate
  • Creation, fall and redemption
  • Sphere sovereignty
  • A rejection of dualism
  • Structure and direction
  • Common grace
  • The antithesis
  • Worldviews
  • The role of law

Are these accurate? Are there any others?

Another neocalvinist blog

I have just come across another neocalvinist blog: Epignoskin . The latest blogs include one on Gordon Spykman's excellent Reformational Theology and a few on Wash and Kesmat's Colossians Remixed. Well worth checking out.

The Pearcey Report

Nancy Pearcey and her husband Rick have started The Pearcey Report: 'a website of news, comment, information, and worldview'.

News: The News section connects readers with breaking stories of the day from around the world -- in politics, international affairs, the arts, science, health, books, film, people, the odd tidbit, and more.
Comment: The Comment section features insight and opinion from a variety of observers and news outlets.
Articles: The Articles section offers a strategic and humane analysis of contemporary life, thought, and action. Expect to encounter the work of seminal Judeo-Christian worldview thinkers such as Francis Schaeffer, C.S. Lewis, Udo Middelmann, Os Guinness, and Nancy Pearcey.
Information: The information component opens the door to the wider world of U.S. and international media -- and to a life beyond the crisis of the moment. Thus, in addition to websites for columnists, think tanks, and activist groups, also available are resources for further study, travel, world cities, and more.

Reformed, reformational and Dooyeweerdian

Following on from Reformational blogger's survey question, I have attempted to show how I think the terms Reformed, reformational and Dooyeweedian relate in a relational diagram:

All of life redeemed update

I have now added a new set of pages to the All of Life Redeemed website: The Sewell pages. Keith Sewell is a historian at Dordt College. There are details of his book on Herbert Butterfield, links to some of his Pro Rege articles and an article entitled: 'The idea of a Free Christian University'.

Also added is a new article by Danie Strauss on Dooyeweerd's modal theory , which he desribes as the 'best known but least understood part of Dooyeweerd's theory'. It is to be published in the Journal for Christian Scholarship.

Wednesday, 26 October 2005

A new reformational blog

Paul Otto, a history lecturer at George Fox University, has started a new blog, Reformational blogger, 'with the intention of providing a clearinghouse of information related to reformational thinking'.

In his latest blog he's conducting a survey:
Here's my survey:
1) What does "reformational" mean or to what does it refer? (And I invite you to consider it with reference to the terms "reformed" and "neo-calvinist.")
2) Should it (and the other two terms) be capitalized or not?

Sunday, 16 October 2005

A history of the reformational movement

Theodore Plantinga (a third cousin to Alvin Plantinga) has started a history of the reformational movement. Plantinga's history has a narrative stream and a document stream. At present the narrative stream contains an essay on 'The reformational movement: does it need a history?'. The documents on-line include:
He also lists a number of individuals (suprisingly Clouser is missing!) and institutions related to the movement.

Saturday, 15 October 2005

New edition of the Vollenhoven newsletter

A second edition of the Vollenhoven Newsletter is out - the first came out in 2003. This one details some recent publications, an update of John Kok's forthcoming reader of Vollenhoven, news of a Master's thesis by Eric J. Kamphof (ICS) and news of the CPHM study group. It concludes with an obituary of the South African philosopher N. T. van der Merwe (1932-2004), who was a close associate of Vollenhoven.
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Friday, 14 October 2005

Galileo, Darwin, and Hawking: chapter 5 (part 2)

Before 1859 mechanical explanations were the norm in the physical sciences but not in biology. The publication of Charles Darwin’s (1809-1882)The Origin of Species in 1859 changed that. Here was a mechanism – natural selection - that provided a natural explanation for design.

Darwin believed his book to be ‘one long argument’ (p. 114): the argument takes the form of an argument to the best explanation. He compared two rival hypotheses and examined how well they account for the available evidence.

The similarity of organs across species, the existence of transitional forms, disused characteristics all suggest that natural selection is the best explanation. On the other hand, Darwin admitted that, the complexity of the eye, hybridism and the fossil record were problematical for his theory. Nevertheless, Darwin maintains that natural selection provides a better fit than special creation to the evidence.

The Calvinist Asa Gray (1810-1888), a professor at Harvard University, was a friend of Darwin. They corresponded many times and Gray became Darwin’s defender in the USA (see, for example his Darwiniana). Gray maintained that there was no conflict between natural selection and design. He maintained that it was by faith that we see the natural order as designed.

Dowe then briefly examines the debate between Huxley and Bishop Wilberforce and the 1925 Scopes ‘monkey trial’ before looking at the anti-Darwinian views of Charles Hodge (1797-1878). According to Dowe, Hodge holds to an Augustinian principle of hermeneutics. Hodge held that the days in Genesis 1 were undefined periods of time and maintains that this harmonises with geology.

Dowe writes:

The idea that the opposition to Darwinianism was based on literal interpretations of Genesis is a Whiggish reading of later creation science themes back into the nineteenth century.

This was not only true in the States, but also in the UK. Several prominent evangelicals on both sides of the Atlantic accepted evolution; for example, James McCosh (1811-1894) and B. B. Warfield (1851-1921).

Dowe then examines creation science and Henry Morris’s ICR in particular. He prevents an even-handed overview, but makes few evaluative statements, other than creation science present a conflict view – but that is not how they themselves see it. They see themselves as presenting a harmony of religion and true science.

Thursday, 6 October 2005

Genesis and God's accommodation

In an earlier blog I mentioned I would outline an accommodationist view of Genesis. The advantage of this view is that it takes Genesis and its cultural context seriously.

Paul H Seely has shown that the ancient near eastern views of the world were portrayed in Genesis. In a series of papers [‘The firmament and the waters above. Part I: the meaning of raqia‘ in Gen 1: 6-8’, WTJ 53 (2) (Fall 1991); ‘The firmament above. Part II: The meaning of “the water above the firmament” in Gen 1: 6-8’, WTJ 54 (Spring 1992); ‘The geographical meaning of "earth" and "seas" in Genesis 1:10’, WTJ 59 (1997), 231-55; ‘The date of the Tower of Babel and some theological implications’, WTJ 63 (2001), 15-38] he has shown that the firmament (raqia), was conceived of as solid, the waters above earth means, not clouds or water vapour, but rather a large body of water above the solid roof of the universe, and that the conception of the ‘earth’ in Genesis 1 is most probably that of a single continent in the shape of a flat circular disc – all these ideas conform to the cosmology of the times. This then leaves us with a number of options: we acknowledge that Genesis contains scientific errors; we can claim that the language of Genesis is equivocal; or with Calvin we see that God has lisped (Calvin Institutes 1.13.1) in his scriptures.

For who is so devoid of intellect as not to understand that God, in so speaking, lisps with us as nurses are wont to do with little children? Such modes of expression, therefore, do not so much express what kind of a being God is, as accommodate the knowledge of him to our feebleness. In doing so, he must, of course, stoop far below his proper height.

The second approach is one that is most popular. However, a close examination of the term firmament shows that it can only be understood as being solid; therefore, the case for understanding it within a present-day scientific worldview fails. (On the failure of concordist attempts, see Paul H. Seely ‘The first four days of Genesis in concordist theory and in biblical context’ PSCF 49 (1997), 85-95 ). This then leaves us with the third approach: this is the approach of Seely and he follows to the logical conclusion Calvin’s accommodation principle. God has graciously accommodated his revelation to the limited scientific knowledge of the day. A. H. Strong, Charles Hodge, B B Warfield as well as Calvin (See, for example, his commentaries on Gn 1:16 and Ps 136:7) and, more recently, Sidney Greidanus, who writes:

Does the Bible make use, here and there, of ancient “scientific” concepts? The answer would be affirmative since language, culture, and thought forms are all intertwined … the language appears to reflect (not teach) the ancient cosmology of the three-storied universe’, in ‘The use of the Bible in Christian scholarship’, Christian Scholar’s Review 11 (1982), 141-2

all recognised that there is some accommodation in the scriptures to the science of the times (for example, hares chewing the cud (Lev 11:6)): hence, it seems the world picture of Genesis is that of the ancients, but at the same time its polemical thrust is to subvert the contemporary worldview.

Saturday, 1 October 2005

Galileo, Darwin, and Hawking: chapter 5 (part 1)

The sceptre of creation and evolution will haunt every book on science and religion; so, it is inevitable that Dowe deals with it in this the longest chapter of the book.

In this chapter Dowe looks at the nature of teleological explanations, Paley’s design argument, Darwin’s natural selection and his views about God, Asa Gray and the modern creation science movement.

He starts by looking at Aristotle and Aquinas’s notion of teleology. Aquinas takes Aristotle’s view of teleology – everything has a purpose – and turns it into a design argument: things have purpose because they are designed by God. Aquinas’s design argument differed from earlier versions such as Sextus Empiricus (AD 160-210) Cicero (106-43 BC) because it appealed directly to the notion of purpose.

The scientific revolution in the 16th and 17th centuries rejected teleological explanation in terms of mechanical explanations. Nevertheless, Isaac Newton, the master of mechanical explanation, still had room for design. For Newton the mechanical operation of the universe was so intricate that it could not have been the product of design, it must have been the product of a cosmic designer.Mechanical explanations were not so successful in biology: ‘physics makes appeal only to efficient causes, whereas biology appeals to function and purpose’ (p. 109).

William Paley’s (1740- 1805) Natural Theology or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity Collected from the Appearances of Nature (first published in 1802) made much use of biological examples. The book had much impact of Charles Darwin (1809-1882), he wrote ‘…Natural Theology gave me much delight’.

Paley’s argument rested on analogical reasoning, an important aspect of inductive reasoning. Dowe provides a helpful diagrammatic representation of Paley’s argument.

Sunday, 25 September 2005

A typology of science and religion

Many models of the relationship between science and religion have been proposed. Notably, Ian Barbour's: conflcit, independence, dialogue and independence. A more fruitful approach, which has the advantage of exhaustion(!), is illustrated below:


A. Science replaces religion
B. Religion replaces science
C. Science shapes religion
D. Religion shapes science
E. Science and religion are independent
F. Science and religion in dialogue.

I will look at each of these in more detail in later blogs.

Saturday, 24 September 2005

Is evolution really the central theory for all of biology?

Philip Skell recently published an interesting article in The Scientist (29 August, p. 10): "Why Do We Invoke Darwin?" (The full text of the article is available here). It promoted a healthy discussion and debate on the ASA Mailing list. Cornelius Hunter, Ted Davis, George Murphy, Terry Gray, Michael Roberts and others debate the issues. The comments can be seen here.

Wednesday, 14 September 2005

Christian thinker's toolkit

There are to be a series of lectures Christianity and Culture in Muswell Hill, London during October

Thurs 6 October
Mark Roques Eyes Wide Open: Enjoying and Understanding Hollywood Films

Thurs 13 October
Gareth Owen Jones An introduction to Christian philosophy

Thurs 20 October
Guy Donergan Cross Culture and ultimate destiny: your labour is not in vain

More deatils are available here.

Tuesday, 13 September 2005

New articles on Glenn Friesen's website

Glenn Friesen has translated an article by Dooyeweerd on time "The problem of time in the philosophy of the Law-Idea." Glenn writes:

I think that this article can serve as a good introduction to his thought, especially Part 1. But the article is worth reading by those who think they are familiar with his thought, because Dooyeweerd's ideas seem to be more clearly and succinctly expressed in this article than in his other writings. In particular, it clearly expresses Dooyeweerd’s emphasis of the importance of the experience of our supratemporal selfhood, and the relation of that experience to theoretical thought.
Glenn has also made available his translations of Dooyeweerd's and Vollenhoven's responses to the Curators of the VU:

In 1937, both Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven were asked by the Curators of the Vrije Universiteit to respond to accusations about their philosophy which had been made by the theologian Valentin Hepp in a series of brochures he published entitled Dreigende Deformatie [Threatening Deformation]. The Responses by Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven are essential to understanding their respective philosophies, and their views on how they fit into the Reformed tradition. In view of the fact that the church expelled Geelkerken in 1926 for denying the literal account of the fall, it is surprising that Hepp accuses Vollenhoven and Dooyeweerd of being "Biblicistic."

It is interesting to compare their Responses. Vollenhoven is much more exegetical. Dooyeweerd emphasizes the importance of our supratemporal heart, as distinct from how our faith is temporally expressed. He says he is not bound by the words "rational soul" or "substance" where they appear in the Westminster Confesson or in the Confessio Helvetica Posterior. He says that he is bound only by the Dutch Confessions of Faith. Even more surprisingly, he says that even if these words were in the Dutch Confessions, he would not regard himself as being bound by them. He takes this anti-exegetical approach to his reading of Scripture, where he says that the issue of the existence of the supratemporal heart and even the meaning of 'sin' are not to be decided on exegetical grounds. This is as theological as Dooyeweerd gets. See Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven: Responses to the Curators (1937-38).

Twilight blog

I have started a new blog. I'm putting on my (as yet incomplete) Study Guide to Dooyeweerd's In the Twilight of Western Thought. Any comments, criticisms, suggestions ... etc. are warmly welcomed!

Saturday, 10 September 2005

Science and miracles

Miracle is a slippery concept. The popular conception of a miracle is threefold: it is a violation of a natural law, it is a divine intervention and it is a supernatural event. All are inadequate.

Many philosophers of religion define a miracle as a violation or transgression of a law of nature. This notion is a left-over from the 18th century when deism was at its peak. Walther Eichrodt (1890-1978) points out that it certainly would not

occur to the devout Old Testament believer to make a breach of the Laws of Nature a condicio sine qua non of the miraculous character of an event. (Theology of the Old Testament, vol. 2, London: SCM, p.163)

God does not violate his own laws, but works with and through them; he is faithful to the creation order, which had its origin in him. This is not to say that God is subject to his laws. Perhaps Augustine (354- 430) was near to the truth when he described a portent (miracle) as an event that ‘happens not contrary to nature, but contrary to what we know as nature’ (De Civitate Dei XII.8). Many scientists would objects to such a definition because it may mean, scientific advances permitting, that we will know so much about nature that there will be no place for miracle. The objection is ill-founded.

It is likewise a mistake to describe miracles as divine interventions. An intervention implies that the intervener is absent prior to the intervention. God is present in all of creation, it therefore illogical to describe his action in the creation as an intervention.

Can we describe miracles as a supernatural phenomenon? The idea that miracles are supernatural events has its origin in rationalism, not in the scriptures. God is the God of the laws of nature: he does not violate his own principles to work a miracle Miracles are natural events. Eichrodt, again, points out that ‘ever the course of Nature itself counts as a miracle’ (p. 162). Nature is not autonomous: all things are held together by Christ. He is both the source and sustainer of all things. Fallen nature is not normal, as rationalism assumes, and supernaturalism, with its nature/ supernature dualism, need not be invoked to explain that which rationalism cannot. As J. H. Diemer puts it:

The fundamental fault of supernaturalism is that it begins with a rationalistic and deistic theory of nature in which only a nature torn loose from its moorings and impoverished is reckoned with... . As long as rationalism exists, supernaturalism will not disappear. Supernaturalism fills the vacuum that rationalism creates. (‘Miracles happen: toward a biblical view of nature’, Toronto: ICS (mimeo) nd, p. 17.)

How then are we to explain miracles? John Polkinghorne suggests that the fundamental problem of miracles is

how these strange events can be set within a consistent overall pattern of God’s reliable activity; how can we accept them without subscribing to a capricious interventionist God, who is a concept of paganism rather than Christianity. (Science and Providence, London: SPCK, 1989 p. 51.)

To this we might add: ‘and without subscribing to an unbiblical supernaturalism’.

Miracles are part of the created order. In performing miraculous events Jesus was restoring the creation to its original order. They are glimpses of the consummated kingdom of God, signposts to the kingdom, or, as Polkinghorne has it, ‘transparent moments in which the Kingdom is found to be manifestly present’; they are restoring humans and the creation to their proper relationships.

Aspects of the fall are temporarily halted: sickness and death are robbed of their dominion. The ultimate example, of course, is of Jesus’ resurrection: he is the firstfruits of what it will be to have a transformed resurrection body; we like him will be raised to immortality.

This means that scientific descriptions of miracles are permissible but they are not the whole truth. They may be able to explain them in certain cases, but as has often been said, ‘explanation is not explaining away’. Hence, scientific explanations will not mean that there will be no place for miracles.

Katrina: Acts of God or sins of humanity?

Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, general secretary of the Reformed Church in America, poses this question in a recent edition of Sojourners magazine regarding Katrina.

He writes:

I celebrate the tides of compassion flowing in the wake of Katrina. Organizations such as Church World Service and the Salvation Army bear the compassion of Christ to the desolate, homeless, and hopeless. And I still don't fully understand why, in the providence of a loving and all-powerful God of creation, things like hurricanes and earthquakes happen.

But I do know this. When I see the devastating effects of Katrina, I don't simply regard these as an inexplicable "act of God." I also focus on the sins of humanity. We've disobeyed God's clear biblical instructions to preserve the integrity of God's good creation, and to overcome the scourge of poverty. In the aftermath of Katrina, we desperately need not only compassion, but also repentance.

Amen and Amen!

Friday, 9 September 2005

Galileo, Darwin, and Hawking: chapter 4

Dowe starts the discussion of miracles with David Hume (1711-1776) and chapter 10 of his Enquiries Concerning Human Understanding. Dowe identifies two steps in Hume’s approach: (i) the probability of miracles – according to Hume it is never rational to believe, on the testimony of others, a miracle has occurred; (ii) miracles, if they do occur, can’t be used as testimony for God as they could be a ‘as-yet unexplained natural’ event.

According to Hume rational belief is proportioning ‘our belief to the available evidence’ (p. 83). This is obviously a controversial claim!

For Hume, complete agreement in evidence is a ‘proof’. If in our experience every time metal is heated it expands, and every one else agrees, then this is a ‘proof’ and it justifies calling it ‘a law of nature’. If an event happens a certain proportion of the time then Hume calls it a ‘probability’. As Dowe points out, ‘establishing the truth of a law of nature is not as straightforward as Hume apparently imagines’ (p. 85).

Testimonial evidence is evidence obtained from the statements of others; this may come from a number of different sources: for example, from someone’s CV; from witnesses in a court of law; or from findings published in a scientific journal.

Hume argues that evaluating testimony involves: (i) how probable the event itself is; and (ii) the reliability of the witness. To this we might add (iii) the number of independent witnesses.

How we define a miracle is important. Is it a ‘very unlikely event’ or ‘an impossible event’, then obviously if we accept the former there will be many more miracles than if we accept the latter! Hume defines it as a ‘violation of the laws of nature’; a violation of uniform regularities. The question remains, is this a coherent concept of a miracle? If one metal when heated does not expand, then we question the law of nature, it is not a universal regularity, rather than claiming that it is a miracle.

Hume in his first argument against miracles argues that we cannot rationally believe that a miracle has occurred. If such evidence that amounted to a proof did exist that a violation of a law of nature had occurred, then we would have two full proofs, one for the miracle and one for the law of nature it is supposed to transgress. What are we then to do? Hume’s theory is that these two proofs will balance each other out and we should remain agnostic about the miracle occurring.

Hume’s second argument is that even if miracles did occur it wouldn’t necessarily be evidence for any religious claim. It may be that there is no explanation for it or that there will be some natural explanation that has not yet been found. Thus for Hume the burden of proof is upon the theist, she must prove that a miracle has occurred and that it is from God and has no natural explanation.

Dowe then turns to George Schlesinger’s defence of miracles. Schelsinger in his Religion and the Scientific Method (1977) uses the principle to best explanation, an argument often used in science, to defend the rationality of miracles: Schlesinger applies the methodology of science to religion.

Dowe concludes that if religion can use the methods of science then there is a common rationality shared by ‘science and religion’.

Zygon published

Zygon Sept 2005 has been published. The table of contents are available here. It contains articles by Pannenberg, Wm Drees, Alan Padgett and a dialogue with Karl E. Peters.

Sunday, 4 September 2005

Galileo, Darwin, and Hawking: chapter 3 (part 2)

Bacon’s vision is motivated by Genesis 1:26-27, the cultural mandate. For Bacon this means that human’s rule the rest of creation and to do that they need to understand it better. The fall affected humanity’s ability to rule over creation, but science can help regain this dominion over creation. His view of the image of God is humanity as hands-on rulers over nature, bringing it under control. As Dowe notes:

… the cultural mandate and related religious ideas are the motivating ideological notions behind Bacon’s vision of a scientifically-driven society. (p 72)

The question in my mind is, is this not an idolisation of science by Bacon? Isn’t his a view of science as a saviour: science will undo the fall derived from a misreading of the cultural mandate?

The end of the twentieth century saw a reaction to this ideology from environmentalists and feminists.

Lynn White Jr, in his famous 1967 article, blamed the ‘ecologic’ crisis on Christianity with its Baconian emphasis on dominion and rulership. (I have dealt with some of White’s objections in an article published in Themelios and available here.)

Carolyn Merchant in her Death of Nature asserts that how we think of women is linked to how we treat nature.

For Bacon nature was metaphorically female – and Merchant argues that so-called harmless metaphors can have a profound influence on practice and attitudes.

It should be remembered that White and Merchant are arguing against this Baconian view of dominion. Genesis itself sees: dominion in terms of careful and responsible stewardship; and nature not necessarily in terms of being female. The problem is not so much Genesis and the cultural mandate but with the exploitative views of women.

The seventeenth century thinkers tended to have a harmony view of science and religion and utilised the two books metaphor: the two books – Scripture and nature – have a common author and so must be in harmony.

Friday, 2 September 2005

A SuDoku blank

Here is a blank Sudoku grid for all those Sudoku addicts! (Click on the image to enlarge it.)

Thursday, 1 September 2005

Dooyeweerd article on the web

An English translation of Dooyeweerd's first article in Philosophia Reformata, 'The dilemma for Christian philosophical thought and the critical character ofthe Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee' has been published by Paul Robinson on the net here. It is translated by Chris van Haeften. (HT: thinknet)

Update: Unfortunately, there is a problem with the translation rights and copyright, so the article has had to be removed.

Wednesday, 31 August 2005

Most scientific papers are probably wrong!

According to a report in the New Scientist:

John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist at the University of Ioannina School of Medicine in Greece, says that small sample sizes, poor study design, researcher bias, and selective reporting and other problems combine to make most research findings false. But even large, well-designed studies are not always right, meaning that scientists and the public have to be wary of reported findings.
The question is, is Ioannidis's paper wrong?

Update: Ioannidis's paper is available here.

Tuesday, 30 August 2005

Technology is Not Necessarily Neutral

Carl Hausman, in a guest commentary for Institute of Global Ethics, rightly observes:

There's really nothing inherently neutral about most technologies because their very existence shapes how we interact with others and creates new dimensions to moral dilemmas, especially in the workplace, where technology becomes a de facto instrument of control.

Saturday, 27 August 2005

Vollenhoven's Introduction to Philosophy


I have previously mentioned that some new books on and by Vollenhoven are due out soon. Vollenhoven's newly translated Introduction to Philosophy is now available from amazon UK and US as well as from Dordt College.

Galileo, Darwin, and Hawking: chapter 3 (part 1)

In this chapter Dowe examines some seventeenth century figures, Descartes, Galileo and Bacon to see how religious ideas have influenced their science.

Prior to the seventeenth century Aristotelian deductivism – epitomised in Euclid’s Elements – dominated European thought.

The concept of the image of God was taken as axiomatic in the seventeenth century – it played a fundamental role in an optimistic view of science for Descartes, Galileo and Bacon.

René Descartes’ (1596-1650) Meditations on First Philosophy attempted to do for knowledge what Euclid’s Elements did for geometry in his Elements – place it on a deductive edifice derived from certain truths.

For Descartes the ‘book of nature’ was written in the language of mathematics and ‘we rational souls have a truth-reaching capacity for reading that book.’ (Dowe, p. 63) Nature is readily readable.

Galileo took this even further than Descartes – mathematics ‘reaches a standard of infallibility that mirrors God’s understanding’. (Dowe, p. 65)

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) has been described as the father of modern science. His New Organon developed with the intention of replacing Aristotle’s Organon. Bacon rejected Aristotelian scholasticism, he wanted to synthesise practice (experiment) with discourse (theory). He had three requirements for obtaining new knowledge: discard all personal feelings and biases; observe a large sample of relevant data; deduce from the facts generalisations about nature.

So, from sufficient observations we can draw conclusions; this is an inductive rather than deductive process.

Bacon believed that true knowledge would lead to practical application: knowledge is power. Knowledge gives us power over nature. Eighty years after Bacon’s death the Royal Society took up his vision of the scientific method.

John Kok receives Dooyeweerd award

John Kok, author of Vollenhoven: His Early Development ( 1992); Patterns of the Western Mind: A Reformed Christian Perspective (1996); and Celebrating the Vision: The Reformed Perspective of Dordt College (ed., 2004) as well as the editor of a forthcoming Vollehoven Reader and professor of philosophy at Dordt College, has received the prestigious Herman Dooyeweerd Award.

Friday, 26 August 2005

Galileo Redux

An interesting article on Galileo: Galieo Redux by Steve Kellemeyer, draws a parallel between the way Galileo was treated and how the proponents of ID are treated today.

Tom Wright lectures

The Bishop of Durham, N. T[om] Wright, has some excellent lectures given at Seattle Pacific University available on-line:

The Christian Challenge in the Postmodern World

Decoding The Da Vinci Code

The Bible and Christian Imagination

God, 9/11, the Tsunami, and the New Problem of Evil


There is also a
A Conversation With N.T. Wright

Roy Clouser article

I have just added another article by Roy Clouser to the Clouser pages of the All of Life Redeemed website: "Religious Language: A New Look at an Old Problem" it was originally published in Rationality in the Calvinian Tradition , Ed. Hart, Van derHoeven, & Wolterstorff. (Lanham: University Press of America, 1983).

Thursday, 25 August 2005

Dooyeweerd's New Critique

Two bloggers are independently going through Dooyeweerd's magnum opus The New Critique of Theoretical Thought. Elbert Bass will be reading through the original Dutch translation (here) and Paul Robinson will start on the English translation (here and here). There are differences between the two versions and it will be interesting to see if this comes out in their blogging.

Saturday, 13 August 2005

Latin squares (aka Sudoku)

Sudoku (aka Su Doko, Sudoko, Soduko), is the latest craze to hit the UK. I first came across it about six months ago in a Times newspaper. The six out of the top 40 best sellers in The Guardian's bestseller's list are all Sudoko books! The concept is fiendishly simple: there is a 9 × 9 grid which is split up into nine smaller 3 × 3 grids, all the 3 × 3 grids, rows and columns must contain all nine numbers.


Sudoko apparently came to the
UK via Japan. However, it was first invented by the Swiss Leonard Euler around 1798, though he called it Latin squares. Euler was an extraordinary and prolific mathematican, see the Euler archive. He was also a committed Christian. Dan Graves in his Scientists of Faith has this to say of Euler:

Euler retained his firm Calvinist beliefs throughout life, holding daily prayer and worship in his home and sometimes preaching.

cited here.

It rather ironic that The Independent newspaper boasts that no mathematics is needed to solve it! I think they are getting confused with maths and arithmetic; there is a lot of maths going on! See here for example.

There are a number of Sudoko solvers on the web; books on how to solve them by, for example, Robin Wilson and Carol Voderman; as well as books of them; and there is no shortage Sudoko puzzles on-line to have a go at.