Apologetics: December 2005 Archives

This is the the eighteenth post in my Theories of Knowledge and Reality series. Follow the link for more on the series and for links to other entries as they appear. I've posted an earlier version of this a while ago, but the comments degenerated into a discussion of things completely unrelated to the post. That time, it was a version of my notes on this that hadn't been altered since 2001. I've decided to expand it a bit based on further study of the subject, even though I haven't taught all these issues in the course that this series is based on. I should also say that my presentation depends heavily on William Rowe's work, most importantly the short article he wrote for introductory courses that appears in Reason and Responsibility, ed. Feinberg and Shafer-Landau, with one reference to one other text I have used in that course, Jan Cover and Rudy Garns's Theories of Knowledge and Reality (abbreviated TKR).

The cosmological argument for the existence of God is one of a number of classic arguments sometimes used in conjunction with each other to establish the existence of a being with some of the characteristics generally taken to be true of God. I'm going to look at three such arguments, each contributing something different to the overall picture The cosmological argument in particular occupies a very small role in any overall picture of how some have offered argumentation in support of theism.

In my last post on Intelligent Design, I argued that ID arguments are consistent with the standard evolutionary picture that most scientists accept, even if a number of its supporters disagree with that picture in terms of common descent. I wondered at the end why opponents of ID consistently misrepresent the ID argument, saying that I would leave that for a further post. I want to take that issue up now. There are two general possibilities. They understand what ID says and deliberately misrepresent it, or they simply don't understand that it's not saying what they present it as saying.

The principle of charity requires me to presume the second option. But why would smart scientists fail to see what seems to me to be so obvious? I have to think the main reason is that scientists aren't well-schooled in the metaphysical distinctions they assume regularly for their scientific work. I wonder how much of this is just ignorance of the metaphysical assumptions of science and the possible metaphysical positions consistent with our best science. I've certainly run across people who are profoundly ignorant on such matters, including some scientists whose work is widely respected. Some even assert that ID can't be science because it's philosophy, which is far closer to the truth than the ridiculous assertion that it's religion. But it's still at best misleading to make such a claim, because so much of science simply is philosophy, particularly metaphysics and epistemology. I think that's exactly the point that scientists don't seem to see.

I don't agree with all of Thomas Kuhn's conclusions, but one thing he demonstrated fairly clearly is that our metaphysical assumptions are part of our scientific theories, and the same is true of evolutionary theory. We arrived at much of our best science via philosophy, and much of our best science simply assumes metaphysical views that scientists tend to share. Some research that takes place in physics departments is almost pure philosophy, even though it usually takes its starting point from some empirical data, and many of these claims simply cannot be empirically verified or falsified. Consider:

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