Time to turn to theology

Having shown that Boudry at al.’s attempt to provide a new and improved version of MN is just the god-of-the-gaps approach in a new Trojan Horse, let’s turn to their more “theological” arguments.  For example, they write:

After all, a complete disregard for possible supernatural causes makes sense only if we already have airtight a priori reasons that the supernatural does not exist, or that if it does, it never interferes with our material universe. Advocates of IMN do not provide such reasons, precisely because they do not want to commit themselves to metaphysical naturalism. However, in the absence of a sound rationale for disqualifying the supernatural, the dictum of IMN to proceed “as if” only natural causes are operative looks quite arbitrary.

Here the authors offer up a false dichotomy purely as a function of not taking Christian theology seriously.  For the Christian, it is obvious there is a third possibility that exists as a consequence of classic, traditional Christian theology – God is a personal being.  Thus, whether or not God interferes with our material universe is a matter of His will.  Now, unless Boudry at al. can come up with a strongly supported hypothesis about when, where, and how God would choose to interfere with our material universe, they have no testable hypothesis.  Since they have no testable hypothesis, they are not doing science.  Science has no authority over the “God hypothesis” because God is not in the class of things that science can study.  His actions flow from His will, not some laws or contingency. He is not a member of some population with shared characteristics; He is unique.  And any human who thinks the human brain can grasp the will of God well enough to make scientific predictions about when, where, and how God would choose to  interfere with our material universe is building their fantasy on a straw man version of God.

The authors then try to support their false dichotomy by actually citing Dawkins (reminiscent of the way of Christian fundamentalist might quote a Bible verse):

This becomes clear as soon as we imagine what would happen if supernatural forces were really operative in our universe. In such a world, IMN would be a very bad methodological device indeed, because it would exclude a real and tangible factor governing the universe from scientific consideration. As Richard Dawkins wrote (see also Edis 1998; Edis 2002):

A universe with a supernatural presence would be a fundamentally and qualitatively different kind of universe from one without. The difference is, inescapably, a scientific difference. (Dawkins 1997, p. 399)

Huh?  Just how in the world does Dawkins know that a universe with a supernatural presence would be a fundamentally and qualitatively different kind of universe from one without?  Does he have independent knowledge of what the two different universes look like?  No.  So it just seems that way according to his own personal intuition, right?  And just how, pray tell, would they look different?  According to Dawkins, that is.

The only thing clear is that Boudry et al. and Dawkins personally believe that a universe with a supernatural presence would be a fundamentally and qualitatively different kind of universe from one without.  They are describing themselves, not any universe.  They are entitled to opinions about this matter, but this type of vague squish cannot support the conclusion they wish us all to share.

Okay, so Boudry at al. want to use science to test theology without giving theology serious consideration.  They vaguely imagine a world where supernatural interventions to have occurred to be fundamentally different from ours.  Then, to make things even more obscure, now is the time to exploit the multiple meanings of “science” (recall they made zero effort to define the terms):

But as we have shown in our other article on MN (XXX), if the supernatural were knowable at all, there is no reason why science would in principle be incapable of telling us anything about it. If supernatural forces were to intervene in our material universe, as IDC proponents and other theists maintain, they would have empirically detectable consequences, and these are in principle open to scientific investigation.

Just because science entails empirical detection does not mean empirical detection is science.  Just because something was empirically detected does not mean it is now open to scientific investigation.  Just because all crows are black does not mean anything that is black is a crow.  Get it?  The simple fact is the empirical detection most commonly takes place outside of science and there is no reason to think that anytime an event has empirically detectable consequences, these are open to scientific investigation.   Maybe it’s the case; maybe it’s not.

At this point it would help to read two previous essays that are quote relevant:

Coyne and the nine-hundred-foot-tall Jesus – let’s make it clear – empirical detection does not equal science

Science does not contradict the Resurrection of Christ – an example where science cannot investigate a claim which has empirically detectable consequences.

Look at it this way.  The authors insist:

If supernatural forces were to intervene in our material universe, as IDC proponents and other theists maintain, they would have empirically detectable consequences,

Okay so far.  In fact, from a theological perspective, such supernatural intervention would be a miracle or sign.  From the scientific perspective, it would be a gap.

 and these are in principle open to scientific investigation

Bzzt.  Wrong.  A miracle or gap is something science cannot explain and is thus not open to scientific investigation.  To be open to scientific investigation, the miracle, at the very least, would have to be reproducible.  But miracles are not reproducible in any scientific sense, as they depend on the context that is only known by God and will of God.   Boudry et al. are simply trying to make the nonsensical point that miracles can be part of science.

 

Boudry et al. being gently corrected by a scientist

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10 Responses to Time to turn to theology

  1. Random says:

    Since you think that we cannot know anything about the mind of God I assume you reject fine tuning arguments and Richard Swinburne’s Bayesian approach to justifying theism since both of these require knowledge of God’s intentions. I also assume you do not believe that God loves us since that would require knowledge of God’s mind which you just said was impossible. If you believe that we can’t know anything about God’s mind except that He loves us I’d like to know how you know this. In particular I’d like to know what you think of the effects the ‘God is mysterious’ move has on the problem of evil, ordinary morality and revelation in light of these two papers:

    http://philosophy.acadiau.ca/tl_files/sites/philosophy/resources/documents/Maitzen_MSO.pdf

    http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayFulltext?type=1&fid=7914575&jid=RES&volumeId=46&issueId=04&aid=7914573&fromPage=cupadmin&pdftype=6316268&repository=authInst

  2. Michael says:

    Since you think that we cannot know anything about the mind of God

    You misrepresent me again. Deal with the argument I made:

    Now, unless Boudry at al. can come up with a strongly supported hypothesis about when, where, and how God would choose to interfere with our material universe, they have no testable hypothesis.

  3. Random says:

    “And any human “”who thinks the human brain can grasp the will of God well enough to”” make scientific predictions about when, where, and how God would choose to  interfere with our material universe is building their fantasy on a straw man version of God.”

    So what are we to infer from this statement? That understanding the will of God is irrelevant to knowing when, where and how God would do X?

  4. Michael says:

    So what are we to infer from this statement?

    An intellectually honest person would not infer I was saying “we cannot know anything about the mind of God.”

  5. Random says:

    But that it is not what I said. It should be clear from my post that I claimed that you believe that either that we had access to some of God’s intentions or to none of them.

    I quoted you asserting that we would need to know something about the mind of God in order to make scientific predictions but that the human brain is incapable of knowing things like that. I pointed out that this claim could easily be used to undermine a number of theistic arguments and suggested that unless you can explain why your brain can know some of God’s intentions and not others you are committed to complete mysticism about God’s intentions. You are now claiming that these extrapolations are not merely mistaken but a sign of active intellectual dishonesty. In fact I only assumed that you were intelligent enough to be aware of the logical consequences of your position. Unfortunately, it seems I assumed too much.

  6. Michael says:

    Me: An intellectually honest person would not infer I was saying “we cannot know anything about the mind of God.”

    Random: But that it is not what I said. It should be clear from my post that I claimed that you believe that either that we had access to some of God’s intentions or to none of them.

    It’s clear from the first sentence of the first reply that you did say this. As all can see this for themselves, futile attempts at denial only undercut your own credibility.

    I quoted you asserting that we would need to know something about the mind of God in order to make scientific predictions but that the human brain is incapable of knowing things like that.

    Bad paraphrase. I didn’t say we need to know “something.” I said one would need to come up with a strongly supported hypothesis about when, where, and how God would choose to interfere with our material universe. Since you can know something about the mind of God without knowing when, where, and how God would choose to interfere with our material universe, your objection is refuted.

    I pointed out that this claim could easily be used to undermine a number of theistic arguments and suggested that unless you can explain why your brain can know some of God’s intentions and not others you are committed to complete mysticism about God’s intentions. You are now claiming that these extrapolations are not merely mistaken but a sign of active intellectual dishonesty. In fact I only assumed that you were intelligent enough to be aware of the logical consequences of your position.

    I assumed you were intelligent enough to recognize that knowing something about the mind of God, for example, He loves us, is not sufficient for predicting if, when, where, and how God would choose to interfere with our material universe.

  7. Random says:

    Michael: “It’s clear from the first sentence of the first reply that you did say this.”

    To repeat: It should be clear from my post that I claimed you believe we have access either to some of God’s intentions or none of them. This means I allowed for both possibilties. I clarified this in my previous post. If you are incapable of seeing this I really don’t know what to say to you.

    “Since you can know something about the mind of God without knowing when, where, and how God would choose to interfere with our material universe, your objection is refuted.”

    You misunderstand the objection. The objection is this: How do you anything about the mind of God? What is your warrant for saying that He loves you and doesn’t hate you or that He raised Jesus from the dead for such and such reason but that we could never understand his reasons for, say, permitting evil in the world? Many philosophers have argued that once you say ‘God’s intentions in this area are mysterious’ we should be committed to skepticism about God’s intentions in any other area. I linked to some of their papers in my first post. What are your thoughts on these?

    ”I assumed you were intelligent enough to recognize that knowing something about the mind of God…is not sufficient for predicting…how God would choose to interfere with our material universe.”

    Since I did not assert this anywhere in my post we can assume it is either intentional misrepresentation (dishonesty) or a herculean feat of misreading (extreme stupidity).

  8. Crude says:

    Many philosophers have argued that once you say ‘God’s intentions in this area are mysterious’ we should be committed to skepticism about God’s intentions in any other area.

    I think you’re confusing “many” for “Maitzen”.

    Likewise, you don’t seem to understand Maitzen’s actual arguments. His claim is not some general “if God’s intentions are mysterious in one area then God’s intentions are mysterious in all areas” claim – that would be incredibly stupid, like saying that a man’s intentions being mysterious in one area means we should regard all of his intentions as mysterious. Instead, he’s taking aim at a very specific issue that has to do with beliefs about God’s moral character and moral commands.

    As Mike said, deal with the argument he made. Do you even understand that argument? And do you understand that Mike is not advocating a position of complete skepticism with regards to design in nature – but he is arguing that such views are A) subjective, B) not “science”?

  9. Random says:

    Crude: “I think you’re confusing “many” for “Maitzen”.”

    Nope. A much more likely explanation is that you are confusing your ignorance with reality. It is simply a fact that many philosophers have advanced such criticisms. Indeed the IEP entry on skeptical theism states that a common objection to the ‘God is mysterious move’ is that it destroys our ability to form any beliefs about God’s intentions and thus undercuts the arguments for His existence.

    “Likewise, you don’t seem to understand Maitzen’s actual arguments.”

    I really wish you would take the time to understand what I wrote instead of attacking imaginary opponents. First, I didn’t say I was talking about Maitzen. In my first post I linked to the Weilenberg/Maitzen papers and asked Michael what implications he thought the “God is mysterious move” has for ethics and revelation. I did not say that Maitzen believes we cannot know God’s intentions here therefore we cannot know them there. Second, I have already pointed out that numerous philosophers have advanced arguments of this vein.

    For example, Herman Philipse and Scott Sehon both argue that skeptical theism undermines our ability to make judgements about God’s intentions in other areas which prevent theists running certain arguments (e.g. fine tuning arguments and Bayesian arguments). Erik Weilenberg argues that it prevents theists from assuming that religious experience and revelation are reliable sources of truth. How do they know God isn’t lyong to them? (Trent Dougherty goes further and argues that it undermines all common sense epistemology.) Wes Morriston argues that ‘God is mysterious’ undermines our ability to make any judgement whatsoever about God’s moral character. And as you note Maitzen argues that skeptical theism undercuts our ability to make moral judgements. However you are incorrect in suggesting that he is only one to raise this criticism. Graham Oppy, Michael Almeida, Michael Tooley and Mark Piper (to name only a few) have raised similar objections. So here’s some advice: if you don’t know what you’re talking about…shut up.

    “And do you understand that Mike is not advocating a position of complete skepticism with regards to design in nature – but he is arguing that such views are A) subjective, B) not “science”?”

    Again, I really wish you would take the time to read what people write before responding to them. You would look a lot less foolish. As I clarified in my last post, no one is disputing what Mike believes. It’s just that Mike claimed that the human brain cannot grasp God’s intentions well enough to do science. Yet he claims to know that God loves him. So I’m asking him once again: What is his basis for drawing inferences about God’s character and intentions in the first place? And what does he think of the implications skeptical theism has (if it has any) for ethical truths and revelation?

  10. Michael says:

    To repeat: It should be clear from my post that I claimed you believe we have access either to some of God’s intentions or none of them. This means I allowed for both possibilties. I clarified this in my previous post. If you are incapable of seeing this I really don’t know what to say to you.

    To repeat: This is what you wrote in the first reply of this thread–

    Since you think that we cannot know anything about the mind of God

    and

    that would require knowledge of God’s mind which you just said was impossible

    If you are incapable of seeing and acknowledging what you wrote, I really don’t know what to say to you.

    You misunderstand the objection. The objection is this: How do you anything about the mind of God?

    I understand both the objection and the fact that it fails because it is off topic. When I point out that the attempt to use science to detect divine intervention would require that scientists can effectively read God’s mind (enough to predict when, where, and how God would choose to interfere with our material universe), you try to change the topic by asking how I would know anything about the mind of God. All you have done is to weaken your already refuted position further. For can you explain how being skeptical about God’s intentions in any area enables scientists to better predict when, where, and how God would choose to interfere with our material universe?

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