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.

Wednesday, 20 July 2005

Why blog?

Take the survey here.

All of life redeemed update

I have just finished adding three new papers to the All of life redeemed website. These are:
Roy Clouser's 'A sketch of Dooyeweerd's view of science' and Chris Gousmett's 'The Christ of the Spirit in Athanasius and Kuyper' and 'Dooyeweerd on faith and apostasy'.

Recently I have also added a list of philosophy and theology books that Colin Lanfear has for sale; they are exceptional value!

Tuesday, 19 July 2005

Current reading

Current listening

Odds and sod

For an Islamic view of Intelligent Design: The Non-Science of Intelligent Design by Ahmed K. Sultan Salem.

For a Dooyeweerdian view of science: A New Look at Scientific Enquiry by Magnus Verbrugge (HT Prosthesis).

Byron Borger's new blog (HT Gideon Strauss)

Paul Robinson has a neat way of giving an historical perspective on philosophy.

I've previously blogged on Dan Brown's erroneous conflict view of science and religion; here are some sites sites that identify other errors in his book Demons and Angels (HT Wikipedia).


Saturday, 16 July 2005

How to find your position on Genesis and science. Click on the image to see it enlarged.

Genesis and science

There are a number of ways that Christians have attempted to reconcile science and the early chapters of Genesis. Two questions are crucial to the position Christians take on science and Genesis:

1. Is the earth old?

2. Do we have a common ancestor?

(i) Extreme creationists reject the scientific evidence and hold onto a literal six-day creation, they claim that the earth is young and we don’t have a common ancestor e.g Henry Morris (ed.) Scientific Creationism (1974).

(ii) Progressive creationists adopt some sort of age-day or revelatory-day view of Genesis 1 and thus accept an old earth but reject a common ancestor, e.g. Pattle P. T. Pun Evolution (1982).

(iii) Theistic evolutionists would accept that while God created matter and natural laws, life evolved, the earth is old and we do have a common ancestor e.g R. J. Berry (1988).

The nineteenth and early twentieth century saw a number of ways of relating the early chapters of Genesis with science.





Flood geology/ creation science

E.G. White

Spiritual Gifts


George McReady Price

The New Geology


Byron Nelson

The Deluge Story in Stone


A.M. Rehwinkel

The Flood in the Light of the Bible


H.W. Clark

The New Diluvialism


Henry M. Morris & John C. Whitcomb

The Genesis Flood


Local creation

John Pye Smith

On the Relation Between the Holy Scriptures and Certain parts of Geological Science


Ideal time view

Philip Henry Grosse



Gap theory


Bridgewater Treatises VI


Adam Sedgwick

Discourses on the Studies of the University of Cambridge

Robert Chalmers

The evidence and authority of the Christian Revelation


John H. Pratt

Scripture and Science not at variance


J.H. Kurtz

Bible and astronomy


G.H. Pember

Earth’s Earliest Ages


C.I. Scofield

Scofield Bible


Harry Rimmer

Modern Science and the Genesis Record



G. S. Faber

Genius and object



Epoques de la Nature


James Dana

Manual of Geology


J.W. Dawson

Origin of the World According to Revelation and Science


Edwin K. Gedeney

in Modern Science and Christian Faith


Pictorial day

J.H. Kurtz

Bible and Astronomy


Hugh Miller

Testimony of the Rocks


A.H. Strong

Systematic Theology


Canon Dorlodot

Darwinism & Catholic Thought


L.F. Gruber

The Six Creative Days

J. Pohle

God: The Author of Nature and the Supernatural


P.J. Wiseman

Creation Revealed in Six Days


Flood geology or creationism, subsumes science with a literal six-day creation reading of scripture.

Local creation. The special act of creation by God was limited to a small area of the ancient near East.

Ideal time view. How old was Adam when God created him? He was apparently created with the appearance of age. The earth could likewise be created with the appearance of age, so this view purports.

Gap theory. In order to reconcile the geologists’ old earth view with the prima facie young earth view of Genesis a gap was inserted in Gen 1:2. God created in Genesis 1:1, this was followed by a catastrophe in Gen 1:2, and was followed by a re-creation in 1:3; 1:2 could provide the geologists with as much time as they required!

Age day. This view holds that the days of creation were periods of time representing the development of the earth.

Pictorial day. The days of creation in Genesis 1 are the days of revelation by God to 'Moses' of the successive acts of creation.

Adapted from Steve Bishop ‘A typology for science and religion’ Evangelical Quarterly 72 (1) (2000) 35-56. When I get time I'll put on some links.

Friday, 15 July 2005

Science and religion quotes 8

The fact is that the doctrine of Evolution does not affect the substance of Paley's argument at all. The marks of design which he had pointed out remain marks of design still even if we accept the doctrine of Evolution to the full. What is touched by this doctrine is not the evidence of design but the mode in which the design was executed. ... He [God] did not make the things, we may say; no, but He made them make themselves.
Frederick Temple, Lord Bishop of Exeter, The Relations Between Religion and Science
(London: MacMillan, 1884) pp. 113-5.

Galileo, Darwin, and Hawking: chapter 2

In Chapter 1 Dowe looked at the hermeneutics of Scripture, in Chapter 2 he examines the hermeneutics of science and religion.

He starts by defining realism and antirealism (aka instrumentalism or fictionalism). He then goes on to looks at Osiander, the preface writer of Copernicus’ On the Revolution of the Celestial Spheres, Pierre Duhem and Bas van Fraassen as advocates of antirealism in science and then Feuerbach, Tillich and Wittgenstein as examples of those who take an antirealist view of religion.

Andreas Osiander (1498–1552) in the controversial preface to Copernicus’ work maintained that the book should be read as mathematical devices for accommodating the astronomical data. Dowe writes: ‘In this case it is science, rather than religion, that gives way in order that the two can be held together’ (p. 42).

Pierre Duhem (1861-1916) maintained that the fault in the ‘Galileo affair’ was Galileo’s inadequate philosphy of science. If Galileo has held to an antirealist view it would have avoided a clash with the papal authorities. For Duhem it is religion- he was a conservative Thomist Catholic - that provides us with ultimate truth, not science.

Bas van Fraassen advocates constructive empiricism: science provides us with empirically adequate theories - i.e. they fit with current data. A theory can be accepted without necessarily believing it literally.

Dowe isn’t impressed with antirealism - and neither are most practising scientists - despite the fact that it circumvents a conflict between science and religion. Antirealism provides us with an independence model of the relationship between science and religion. I felt that here Dowe could have expanded more on why antirealism is unsatisfactory.

He then moves on to answer the question, ‘Can antirealism about religion secure harmony between science and religion?’ To do this he examines the views of Feueurbach, Tillich and the later Wittgenstein.

For Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872) the answer is no, his is a conflict view as science shows that earlier forms of religion were false.

Paul Tillich (1886-1965) takes a harmony approach, but neither his approach or Feuerbach’s are as antirealist as Osiander, Duhem or van Fraassen. This though is not the case with the later Wittgenstein (1889-1951). For Wittgenstein ‘religion [unlike science] is not a fact-stating domain' (p 56). Hence science and religion are independent, they belong to different domains. Whereas Osiander has a blanket antirealism for science, Wittegnstien has a blanket antirealism for science; both views enabled a harmony to exist between science and religion. However, Dowe – rightly in my opinion – notes that Wittgenstein’s approach is not satisfactory, his religion is unrecognisable as far as orthodox theism is concerned.

Thursday, 14 July 2005

Recent Catholic views on evolution

Several prominent Catholics have been in the news recently talking about evolution.

The Catholic News wrote:

The influential Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna has suggested that belief in evolution as accepted by science today may be incompatible with Catholic faith.

In the New York Times op-ed the Cardinal wrote:

Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not. Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science.

Now at the beginning of the 21st century, faced with scientific claims like neo-Darwinism and the multiverse hypothesis in cosmology invented to avoid the overwhelming evidence for purpose and design found in modern science, the Catholic Church will again defend human reason by proclaiming that the immanent design evident in nature is real. Scientific theories that try to explain away the appearance of design as the result of "chance and necessity" are not scientific at all, but, as John Paul put it, an abdication of human intelligence.

New York Times 7th July 2005

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, said that Catholics can believe in evolution - as long as it's understood to have been guided by God rather than chance.

Two prominent Catholic scientists Kenneth Miller, author of Finding Darwin's God and former Dominican Francis Ayala have now written to Pope Bededict XVI to ask him clarify the situation.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, some journalists have resuscitated the conflict model and trotted out the Galileo myth:

In closing, we should note that it is not just Darwin with which the church has difficulty. The church still can’t make up its mind about Galileo. Here is a quote from Benedict XVI when he was still just Cardinal Ratzinger and the head of the Inquisition: “At the time of Galileo the Church remained much more faithful to reason than Galileo himself. The process against Galileo was reasonable and just.” And the Sun goes around the Earth.

Thomas Riggans

Saturday, 9 July 2005

Galileo, Darwin, and Hawking: chapter 1

In 31 pages we are taken on a whirlwind tour of cosmology and Scripture. The breathless tour takes in a brief history of cosmology from Aristotle to Newton, via Copernicus and Galileo, before looking at Genesis and hermeneutics and then going on to examine Augustine and Calvin’s take on Genesis. It concludes by looking at Galileo and Ballarmino’s approach to scripture. We are treated to broad brush strokes and inevitably some of the arguments are over simplified, nevertheless it is a well written and stimulating read.

He raises the important question: When we read Genesis should we read it metaphorically or literally? The issue of hermeneutics is unavoidable. Two interpretation of Genesis are considered the cosmological approach which takes Genesis at face value and the theological which takes the text to be revealed by God but reads it metaphorically.

Augustine’s view of creation is that God created everything in one instantaneous act; the six day structure is a topically ordered revelation to angels. Thus his view, according to Dowe, is theological. He summaries Augustine’s view as “... accept Scripture over against science, if that science has not been proved conclusively. But if the science has been proved, we must show that Scripture is not opposed to it by reading that Scripture metaphorically rather than literally.” This Dowe dubs the ‘relevance principle’. This approach raises the question, whose science? And when is science ever beyond doubt?

Dowe next turns to Calvin’s hermeneutics. Calvin’s approach is one of accommodation. For Calvin the scriptures are written in accommodation to the common people so that they may be understood by all; hence, we have a ‘deaf’ adder (Ps. 58:4). This approach Dowe calls the ‘neutrality principle’; Scripture is concerned with spirituality and salvation rather than cosmology. I like Calvin’s accommodation approach. This view of accommodation has been developed by Paul Seeley – I’ll blog on his approach another time. Though I don’t like the term ‘neutrality principle’, and Dowe’s description of it sounds rather dualistic.

Dowe writes:

Both [Calvin and Augustine] agree that Aristotelian cosmology is true and that scripture should not be taken literally as denying what is proven by Aristotelian cosmology. But Augustine maintains that the Bible can teach the learned about cosmology and metaphysics, whereas Calvin claims that the Bible does not teach us about cosmology. Calvin holds that the whole message of scripture is accessible to all people, a view that is not shared by Augustine. (p. 29)

1543 saw the beginning of a paradigm shift in cosmology – the year Copernicus’ On the Revolution of the Celestial Spheres. Galileo’s Starry Messenger was published in 1610 it purported to show that the heavens are imperfect: the Aristotelian worldview was being challenged. In 1615 Galileo wrote to the Grand Duchess, in it Galileo adopts the ‘neutrality principle’. The ‘neutrality principle seems to fit Galileo more so than Calvin; see for example this quote.

Dowe concludes that Galileo had an assumption of unity between the God of scripture and the God of nature, this led him to a harmony view of properly proved science and correctly interpreted Scripture. The neutrality principle guarantees harmony as scripture is insulated from scientific advances; it holds to an independence model of science and religion. The relevance principle leads to an interactionist view. Dowe concludes:

On either approach – the interactionist, piecemeal relevance principle, or the independence/ global neutrality principle – harmony is ultimately guaranteed by the premise of unity. This premise was never questioned in the sixteenth century.

Friday, 8 July 2005

Thursday, 7 July 2005

Bombs in London

It appears that the bombings in London were the result of Islamic terrorism. My concern is that innocent Muslims will be scapegoated.

Arthur Jones has written a brilliant paper on Understanding Islamic Terrorism - Arthur knows his stuff, he has been a missionary in the Ismaic world and among Muslims in the UK. It is well worth checking out.

He concludes:

We will not destroy Islamic terrorism by destroying Islamic countries. For the world to be freed from Islamic terrorism it must be freed from false beliefs. For us, the call is to pray for our Muslim colleagues and neighbours, and to offer them unconditional friendship and hospitality. On the wider canvas the call is to radical mission and community, not to missiles and mayhem.

The world must also be freed from our culture’s false beliefs. For many Westerners it is also a time of confusion and disillusionment. They are repulsed by the naked greed and materialism of our Western societies and perplexed by the naturalism of Western science. They long for a secure place in the moral void. For us, the second call is to repentance and faith, and to the vibrant life of the community of Christ.

The bush of human knowledge

The diagram below, the bush of human knowledge, was devised by Arthur Jones and Richard Russell. It has appeared in Mark (Fields of God) Roques' first book Curriculum Unmasked and subsequently in Science in Faith edited by Arthur Jones on behalf of the Christian Schools' Trust.

The diagram shows how religion and philosophy relate to the special sciences, such as theology, physics, chemistry, history and so on.

The Bush of Human Knowledge (c) Arthur Jones and Richard Russell. Taken from Christian Schools' Trust Science Curriculum Working Group, Science in Faith, CST 1998.

Top 125 unanswered scientific questions

Science magazine as part of its 125th anniversary lists 125 unanswered questions.

The top 25 questions are:

  • What Is the Universe Made Of?
  • What is the Biological Basis of Consciousness?
  • Why Do Humans Have So Few Genes?
  • To What Extent Are Genetic Variation and Personal Health Linked?
  • Can the Laws of Physics Be Unified?
  • How Much Can Human Life Span Be Extended?
  • What Controls Organ Regeneration?
  • How Can a Skin Cell Become a Nerve Cell?
  • How Does a Single Somatic Cell Become a Whole Plant?
  • How Does Earth's Interior Work?
  • Are We Alone in the Universe?
  • How and Where Did Life on Earth Arise?
  • What Determines Species Diversity?
  • What Genetic Changes Made Us Uniquely Human?
  • How Are Memories Stored and Retrieved?
  • How Did Cooperative Behavior Evolve?
  • How Will Big Pictures Emerge from a Sea of Biological Data?
  • How Far Can We Push Chemical Self-Assembly?
  • What Are the Limits of Conventional Computing?
  • Can We Selectively Shut Off Immune Responses?
  • Do Deeper Principles Underlie Quantum Uncertainty and Nonlocality?
  • Is an Effective HIV Vaccine Feasible?
  • How Hot Will the Greenhouse World Be?
  • What Can Replace Cheap Oil -- and When?
  • Will Malthus Continue to Be Wrong?

Wednesday, 6 July 2005

Science and religion quotes 7

I would say here something that was heard from an ecclesiastic of the most eminent degree: "That the intention of the Holy Ghost is to teach us how one goes to heaven. not how heaven goes."

Galileo, Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina of Tuscany(1615)

Monday, 4 July 2005

Galileo, Darwin, and Hawking: Introduction

In his introduction (pp. 1-8) Dowe poses the question: Harmony or Conflict?

He identifies, largely following Barbour's well-known typology, four (or five?) ways that science and religion can relate: the two conflict models are naturalism ["nature is all there is"] -espoused by James Frazer in his Golden Bough, Hume, Thomas Huxley, Bertrand Russell, John Mackie and, Dowe claims, Stephen Hawking 'fits this camp' (p.3) - and religious science -exponents of this position would be Cardinal Bellarmino (a key figure in Galileo's trial) and the six-day creationist Henry Morris. The two harmony models are: independence (Wittgenstein) and interaction. Interactionists include Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, William Paley and Einstein. He also identifies a sub-division of the interaction category: dependence; in this model science and religion are not only compatible they are dependent upon one another.

This typology has the strength of being simple and straightforward, though I do wonder whether a category that contains Bacon, Newton, Paley and Einstein is rather too large to be of use.

Dowe then asks a pertinent question: 'How are we to decide which (if any) of these [relationships] is correct? ... What method can we use to determine a resolution to such controversies?'

In an attempt to answer this question he proposes to examine some case studies: primarily - and here the title is a dead give-away! - Galileo, Darwin and Stephen Hawking. The problem that I have with case studes is that they can tell us how science and religion have related, but can they tell us how science and religion should relate? Dowe seems aware of this problem and so it will be interesting to see how he proceeds.

He closes with this:

I will defend the view that religious belief as given in western traditions ... is neither incompatible with nor a hinderance to science: there is no philosophical conflict.
(p. 8)

Philosophy family tree

Josh Dever of University of Texas has compiled a philosophy family tree here. At present there are 700 individuals; it is available in a list format (40 page pdf) and a tree format (78 page pdf file).

Galileo, Darwin and Hawking

I have just bought Phil Dowe's new book Galileo, Darwin, and Hawking (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 2005). It looks very interesting, so I shall be blogging my way through it; probably at the rate of a chapter a week.

Phil Dowe is a philosophy lecturer at the University of Queensland and has also written Physical Causation as well as a number of philosophical papers, including this one on 'Chance and providence' Science & Christian Belief Vol. 9, No 1, April 1997, pp.3-20. Here he concludes:

So, should Christians 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 is no conflict with science, or chance is not caused by God, in which case it is compatible with strong Calvinist providence providing it does not lead to meaningful consequences. Insofar as chance does lead to meaningful consequences, strong providence entails that God causes that chance.

Sunday, 3 July 2005

I've been tagged...

... by Gideon Strauss. There is a book meme that is making the rounds: bloggers have to answer four questions:

(i) How many books do I own?
(ii) What's the latest book that I bought?
(iii) What's the last book I read?
(iv) What are the five books that mean the most to me?

Here goes:

(i) How many books do I own?

Well, I have recently had to get rid of about a 100 books to make room on my bookshelves - several shelves had two thicknesess of books on them. I probably own around 2-3000.

(ii) What's the latest book that I bought?

That would have been a secondhand edition of Faith and Rationality edited by Plantinga and Wolterstorff. I got it via the Internet from Gowan Books.

(iii) What's the last book I read?

That is a difficult question as I read several at the same time! Recent books I have finished reading are: Ian Rankin's Fleshmarket Close; Doyeweerd's In the Twilight of Western Thought (for about the third or fourth time); Brian McLaren's A Generous Orthodoxy; and Tony Campolo's Speaking My Mind. I've almost finished Henning Mankell's Fifth Woman and Rodney Holder's God, The Multiverse and Everything; as well as dipping into the the Calvin Seerveld reader In the Field's of the Lord.

(iv) What are the five books that mean the most to me?

The first and most important would be the Bible - 'nuff said!

Others would include Brian Walsh and Richard Middelton's Transforming Vision and Al Wolter's Creation Regained. These two books helped me to escape from dualism and started me on the road to develop a Christian worldview.

Roy Clouser's Myth of Religious Neutrality has perhaps more than any other book helped to shape my thinking. It took me further along the road that Walsh, Middleton and Wolters started me. I can't speak highly enough of it.

Dooyeweerd's Twilight has also been influential - I'm still getting to grips with it; there is so much in it.

Thanks for the tag Gideon. I'll tag Paul Robinson, Macht, Regeneration and Maggi Dawn.

Saturday, 2 July 2005

Anthroposophy, Waldorf and Camphill again

I have recently been getting a number of hits from Waldof-critics list. Dan Duggan kindly posted a comment noting my piece on the anthroposophical worldview.

The Waldorf Critics list is part of PLANS. PLANS describe themselves as:

People for Legal and Non-Sectarian Schools (PLANS) is a world-wide network of former Waldorf parents, teachers, students, administrators and trustees who come from a variety of backgrounds with a common goal: to educate the public about the reality behind Waldorf's facade of progressive, arts-based education. Waldorf is the most visible activity of Anthroposophy, an occultist sect founded by Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925).

Together, we have performed exhaustive research on Waldorf schools and Anthroposophy, the esoteric, occult religion that both guides and inspires Waldorf teachers. PLANS affirms the right of all religious groups to practice and to teach their beliefs. But we expect those groups -- including Anthroposophy -- to tell the truth about their missionary efforts.

There are many resources posted there on Steiner and Waldorf education in particular.

Friday, 1 July 2005

Macht on technology

The Evangelical Outpost has an excellent 'expert witness' article by Macht - who blogs at Prosthesis - on Technology; he quotes from one of my favourite books on technology Responsible Technology. It's a great piece and well worth reading.

Love God with all your mind...

There is no dichotomy between thinking and doing! Thinking is doing

Pete Steen

If God had meant us to think, he'd have given us brains.

Paul Marshall