Posted by: gcarkner | September 24, 2013

Where the Conflict Really Lies, Chapter 9

Where the Conflict Really Lies: Concord Between Science & Theism (Imago Dei) Summary of Chapter 9.

Below are some summary thoughts by Alvin Plantinga  from his book Where the Conflict Really Lies, Chapter 9. We encourage you to read the whole chapter, in fact the whole book to get the full impact of this brilliant philosopher. Specifically he is using an argument from coherence in this chapter. Plantinga speaks to graduate students and faculty at UBC, Scarfe Building Room 100 at 4:00 pm on Wednesday, October 2nd on this topic. Sponsored by Graduate & Faculty Christian Forum (with assistance from the Murrin Fund)

Thesis: God created both us and our world in such a way that there is a certain fit or match between the world and our cognitive faculties: adequatio intellectus ad rem (the adequation of the intellect to reality). For science to be successful, there must be a match between our cognitive faculties and the world. These are his main points.

1. Reliability & Regularity: For science to be successful, the world must display a high degree of regularity and predictability. It is an essential part of Christian theism to think of God as providentially governing the world in such a way as to provide that kind of stability and regularity. The world is due to a creative intelligence.

2. Law & Constancy: Albert Einstein “Every one who is seriously engaged in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that the laws of nature manifest the existence of a spirit vastly superior to that of men.” Theism offers important resources here: we can think of the necessity of natural law both as a consequence and also a sort of measure of divine power.

3. Three ways in which theism is hospitable to science and its success:

a. Science requires regularity, predictability and constancy; it requires that our world conforms to the laws of nature.

b. Scientists and other people must believe that it manifests this regularity (i.e there exists an ‘Order of Things’).

c. Theism enables us to understand the necessity or inviolability of natural law; this necessity can be understood in terms of the difference between divine power and the power of finite creatures.

4. Mathematical Fitness: The fact of the complexity, simplicity & accessibility of mathematics is just simply astounding. Paul Dirac: “God is a mathematician of a very high order and He used advanced mathematics in constructing the universe.”

5. Learning from Experience: Science requires a certain habit, a certain practice—the habit of making inductive inferences. We humans are actually addicted to inductive reasoning. For theism, God has created the world is such a way, that we reason in an inductive fashion and that it is successful. This is a very interesting phenomenon.

6. Theoretical Virtues: simplicity, parsimony, elegance or beauty, consilience, and fruitfulness are the key ones relevant to good science. Simplicity is a crucially important part of our intellectual or cognitive architecture—i.e. the actual preference for simplicity in science. That the world be relevantly simple is also required for the success of science. With theism, it is reasonable to expect our intellectual preferences resemble God’s. We value simplicity, elegance and beauty; God prefers this simplicity; the world is relevantly simple.

7. Contingency:  Creation is a free act of God. The contingency of divine creation both underlies and underwrites the empirical character of modern Western science.  This is the domain of a posteriori knowledge, which requires experience, knowledge produced by perception, memory, exactly the sort of knowledge produced by empirical science—through observation and experience.

Conclusion: Theistic religion gives us reason to expect our cognitive capacities (part of the imago dei) to match the world in such a way as to make modern science possible. Naturalism gives us no such reason to expect this sort of match. In his final chapter, he goes further to demonstrate provocatively the incompatibility of science and naturalism.

Fact: Modern Western empirical science originated and flourished in the bosom of Christian theism and originated nowhere else.

~Gord Carkner (We learned much from this book during fall semester 2012; Plantinga will be visiting UBC October 2, 2013 @ 4:00 pm Scarfe 100) CSCA Statement Arnold Sikkema, Physics TWU

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