Saturday, 31 December 2005
Technorati Tags: philosophy, 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 :
- Technology and the Future: A Philosophical Challenge (Wedge, 1980)
- Perspectives on Technique and Culture
- Faith and Hope in Technology (Clements, 2003)
- The Technological World picture and an Ethics of responsibility: Strugles in the Ethics of Technology (Dordt, 2005)
An audio tape of Egbert speaking on the ethics of technology is available from WYSOCS.
On-line articles include:
- Beyond the empirical turn
- The ethics of technology
- Philosophical and technological problems of technicism and genetic engineering
Another on-line article is available here [HT Macht]
Another on the ethics of responsibility is here
Technorati Tags: Schuurman, philosophy of technology,
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
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.
Technorati Tags: neocalvinism,
Thursday, 29 December 2005
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
Technorati Tags: neocalvinism
Wednesday, 28 December 2005
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.
Saturday, 24 December 2005
Friday, 23 December 2005
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.
Technorati Tags: neocalvinism
Thursday, 22 December 2005
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.
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.
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.
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)
Wednesday, 21 December 2005
Tuesday, 20 December 2005
Monday, 19 December 2005
An on-line version is available here; and a list of valid digit combinations are here.
Sunday, 18 December 2005
Sunday, 11 December 2005
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:
- Christianity and economics
- And now ... the north?
- Globalization, exclusion, enslavement
- We need a fruit tree not a tunnel
- Globalization and Christian Hope with Leo Andringa
- Beyond Poverty and Affluence reviewed by Bruce Wearne
- Beyond Poverty and Affluence in the Mission Bulletin
- Globalization and the Kingdom of God
- Globalization and the Kingdom of God by Peter Hill
Saturday, 10 December 2005
Friday, 9 December 2005
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.
Technorati Tags: Dooyeweerd
Wednesday, 7 December 2005
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)
Technorati Tags: Dooyeweerd
Friday, 2 December 2005
Thursday, 1 December 2005
Saturday, 26 November 2005
Sunday, 20 November 2005
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
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?
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
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:
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 (
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
Anyway, here's something to help discussion:
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)
One misconception that often occurs particularly in the media, paticulalrly in the
Friday, 28 October 2005
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
- 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
- The role of law
Are these accurate? Are there any others?
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.
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
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
- Runner on the Groen club
- Runner's introduction to philosophy
- Hellinga and Sikkema on Christian higher eductaion
Saturday, 15 October 2005
Technorati Tags: Vollenhoven
Friday, 14 October 2005
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,
The Calvinist Asa Gray (1810-1888), a professor at
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.
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
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
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 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
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,
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
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’.
Sunday, 25 September 2005
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
Thursday, 15 September 2005
Wednesday, 14 September 2005
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
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).
Saturday, 10 September 2005
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,
: SCM, p.163) London
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’,
: ICS (mimeo) nd, p. 17.) Toronto
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
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.
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
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’.
Sunday, 4 September 2005
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 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 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.)
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.
Friday, 2 September 2005
Thursday, 1 September 2005
Update: Unfortunately, there is a problem with the translation rights and copyright, so the article has had to be removed.
Wednesday, 31 August 2005
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
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
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.
Friday, 26 August 2005
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
Thursday, 25 August 2005
Saturday, 13 August 2005
Sudoku (aka Su Doko, Sudoko, Soduko), is the latest craze to hit the
Sudoko apparently came to the
Euler retained his firm Calvinist beliefs throughout life, holding daily prayer and worship in his home and sometimes preaching.
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;