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The Rationality of Theism 4: Science and Theism

01/03/2012

Koons’ thesis seems to be that science is a result of Christian Theism, and that only Christian theism can provide a justification for the assumptions of science.

As he says:

Materialism, therefore, can draw no support whatsoever from modern science, since scientific realism entails that materialism is false, and, if scientific theories are treated as mere useful fictions, science would have no bearing on the truth or falsity of materialism at all. Materialists must find support for their position elsewhere. By contrast, theists can point to the success of science as the confirmation of their metaphysical position, the verification of a daring prediction made by theists hundreds of years ago (86)

I think that Carrier’s chapter in the Christian Delusion is among the best responses, although he looks more at the historical claim than the philosophical one. Christianity existed for a thousand years before science came about. This is serious evidence against the idea of Christianity being the cause of science. There was also plenty of scientific thought and progress in the pagan world before Christianity, none of it halted by their philosophical assumptions. If Christianity was so conducive and inspirational to the scientific pursuit of knowledge, then that progress would have continued, instead of halting for a thousand years.

The philosophical claims are still worth thinking about. Now, thanks to Dawes Theism and Explanation, I can see that the existence of God really is not a good explanation for the world as we see it, including the physical laws. It is like the phlogiston or ether of explanations. Looking at the universe, and then saying that God explains it because God wanted it that way is really just labeling our ignorance with the word God, in a non-parsimonious way.

The question still remains, how do naturalists explain the regularity or comprehensibility of nature? Is it a brute fact? Maybe, but theism does not appear to provide a reasonable alternative.

Kindle Notes:

The country in which the institutions of science are most developed and well entrenched, the United States, is also one of the world’s most religious countries – and a country whose religious life is overwhelmingly theistic (1935).

Note: He left out the fact that scientists are much less religious than the rest of the country.

As W. V. O. Quine has observed, the difference between science and commonsense is a matter of degree, not kind (1971).

Philosophically, theistic materialism is a more coherent position than atheistic materialism, for the theist has an explanation for the three central facts that atheistic materialists must accept as brute facts, in fact, as extraordinary coincidences inexplicable by their principles (2119).

First, the atheist has no explanation for the unity of the physical universe: (2121).

Second, the atheist has no explanation for the amazing consistency, across space and time, of the relatively small number of natural kinds we observe (2122).

Finally, as I will discuss in greater length in the next section, the atheist has no explanation of how human beings come equipped to understand the physical world’s fundamental principles (2124).

Far from undermining the credibility of theism, the remarkable success of science in modern times is a remarkable confirmation of the truth of theism. It was from the perspective of Judeo-Christian theism – and from that perspective alone – that it was predictable that science would have succeeded as it has (2141).

Materialism, therefore, can draw no support whatsoever from modern science, since scientific realism entails that materialism is false, and, if scientific theories are treated as mere useful fictions, science would have no bearing on the truth or falsity of materialism at all. Materialists must find support for their position elsewhere. By contrast, theists can point to the success of science as the confirmation of their metaphysical position, the verification of a daring prediction made by theists hundreds of years ago (2232).

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