Archive for June 13th, 2012

June 13th, 2012

Problems with Efficient Causality

by Max Andrews

Any type of efficient causality is typically associated with being an unscientific explanation—explanations nonetheless but unscientific.  It is believed that if biology, chemistry, physics, etc. rested explanations in final causation then it would be a science stopper.  This is where the distinction between Duhemian science and Augustinian science must be made. I would deny the use of Duhemian science.  This method, or philosophy, has a goal of stripping science from all metaphysical imports.  Augustinian science is open to metaphysical presuppositions with science.  Francis Bacon and Descartes used and allowed for formal and final causation in scientific explanation.  Newton entered science and postulated that the universe was entirely mechanistic, which was a denial of Baconian and Cartesian science (at least their versions of scientific explanation) but offered no explanation for the appearance of final causation and efficient causation.  Darwin came along and provided a plausible material mechanism for the appearance of final and efficient causation (at least for the special science of biology).  In the mid 1800’s William Whewell was the first to restrict science to only mean natural science.  Pierre Duhem followed this idea and constructed a methodology, which barred explanations to material causes.  For instance, agent causation is completely compatible with Augustinian science but is prohibited as a scientific explanation in Duhemian science.  Agent causation is something that can be observed but isn’t necessarily reductionistic in the material sense as with material causation because agent causation has metaphysical import.

June 13th, 2012

A Response to Alvin Plantinga’s “The Reformed Objection to Natural Theology”

by Max Andrews

In this article Plantinga uses the Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck as an outline for the reformed objection to natural theology.  The first aspect of the objection is that arguments or proofs are not, in general, the source of the believer’s confidence in God.  Secondly, argument is not needed for rational justification; the believer is entirely within his epistemic right to believing that God has created the world, even if he has no argument at all for that conclusion.

There are three further points made.  We cannot come to knowledge of God on the basis of argument; the arguments of natural theology just don’t work.  Secondly, Scripture ‘proceeds from God as the starting point,’ and so should the believer.  Finally, Bavinck points out that belief in God relevantly resembles belief in the existence of the self and of the external world. Furthermore, the Christian ought not believe on the basis of argument; if he does, his faith is likely to be unstable and wavering.

To criticize someone as irrational is to criticize them for failing to fulfill duties and responsibilities, or for failing to conform to the relevant norms or standards ethically.  Plantinga rejects the doxastic system of internalism and foundationalism and advocates an externalist reliabilism.  The reformed objection to natural theology, or reformed epistemology, is primarily an objection to foundationalism.

June 13th, 2012

Forum Scientiarum: Einstein’s Philosophy of Science

by Max Andrews

This summer from 30 July to 3 August Don Howard, Professor at Notre Dame, will be delivering lectures at a seminar on Einstein’s Philosophy of Science.  The seminar is in Germany at the Universität Tübingen. 

Don Howard is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame (USA) and Director and director of the Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Values. Co-editor of the Einstein-Studies and assistant editor on The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, Howard has made seminal contributions to the history of physics and an to the history of philosophy of science. The success of his lectures series “Albert Einstein: Physicist, Philosopher, Humanitarian” testifies his ability to brilliantly reconcile didactic accessibility and scientific rigor.

The application deadline is next week, 20 June 2012.  I’m very interested in this seminar and just submitted my application and I thought I’d share it with as many people that may be interested.

June 13th, 2012

Where the Conflict Really Lies between Alvin Plantinga, Jay Richards, and William Lane Craig

by Max Andrews

For a greater context and understanding of the current discussion please be sure to read Alvin Plantinga’s most recent book, Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion and Naturalism. It was published in December of 2009 but I qualified for an early release, I don’t know how, and received my copy November 1st of that year.  I finished reading it within a week.

Within the last week or so there has been a lot of discussion between Plantinga, Jay Richards, and William Lane Craig.  I recently did a post sharing Plantinga’s response to Jay Richards. The heart of the conflict is defining the terms, primarily ‘Darwinism.’  I don’t really disagree with what everyone is saying on their own terms but I would agree with Jay, that Plantinga and Craig are not using Darwinism in the correct sense.  Plantinga uses the randomness in Darwinism, in a theistic context, to me compatible with guidance.

Jay also sent a Question of the Week to Craig concerning the same thing.  Be sure to read Jay’s full question but here’s Craig’s response:

Thanks for these trenchant comments, Jay! Lest distressed readers miss the forest for the trees, we agree on the central point: that insofar as a person claims that the evidence of evolutionary biology has shown that the evolutionary process, based as it is on genetic mutations and natural selection, is undirected, purposeless, or non-teleological, he is making a claim that hopelessly outstrips the scientific evidence and so is unjustified.

June 13th, 2012

Word of the Week Wednesday: Kinetic Thinking

by Max Andrews

Word of the Week: Kinetic Thinking

Definition: That step forward in which one allows his reason to move along with the movement of the Truth in order to acquire the mode of rationality for apprehending the Truth that moves and lives and acts upon us in history.

More about the term: The Reformation opened up the historical perspective of understanding and initiated a historical mode of thinking, due as much as anything else to the Old Testament studies.  However, the Reformation did not have the philosophical or intellectual tools with which to consolidate that insight and elaborate the change in method, and so Protestant theology soon fell back upon the old Aristotelian tools of thought.  Consequently the development of historical thinking was severely retarded.  When it did finally break out, however, it developed in two ways, each involving a fundamental error at the root, i.e. the historical thinking of the Enlightenment on the one hand and of Romanticism on the other hand.  It is this duality that is ultimately responsible for the false problem in which the Dilthey-Troeltsch-Herrmann-Bultmann line of thought is entangled in their distinction between Historie and Geschichte.

June 13th, 2012

Immanuel Kant’s Use of Newtonian Mechanics

by Max Andrews

Newtonian physics treated space and time as absolute inertial reference frames. Space and time was independent of all that it embraced and in that sense, absolute.  Space and time was isomorphic, and together with the particle theory of nature formed a mechanistic universe and static concepts that go along with it. Kant used Newtonian physics of space and time as intuitions.  The sensorium (reference frame) was transferred from space and time itself (or even God) to the mind of the subject.  Thus, the intellect imposes its laws upon nature and not nature upon the intellect.  Kant believed our thought imposes Newtonian concepts on our experiences.  Independent of experience our minds are organized to think about the world in the Newtonian framework.  Scientific knowledge was considered a priori knowledge of synthetic truths.[1]

This is what accounted for deductive methodology—using fixed premises and drawing one’s conclusions from these premises.  Kant believed that one could not know the Ding an Sich by pure reason.  The subject is limited to the fixed categories of the mind and one shapes the apprehensions through these categories.  Kant used these space and time intuitions as necessary. It proved inept for scientists to follow Kant’s use of Newton’s ideas as permanent features of the intellectual landscape having based their philosophy on his model of the universe.[2]

In 1865 James Clerk Maxwell had unified electricity and magnetism by developing his equations of electromagnetism.[3]  It was soon realized that these equations supported wave-like solutions in a region free of electrical charges or currents, otherwise known as vacuums.[4]  Later experiments identified light as having electromagnetic properties and Maxwell’s equations predicted that light waves should propagate at a finite speed c (about 300,000 km/s).  With his Newtonian ideas of absolute space and time firmly entrenched, most physicists thought that this speed was correct only in one special frame, absolute rest, and it was thought that electromagnetic waves were supported by an unseen medium called the ether, which is at rest in this frame.[5]