Science in Christian Perspective
Notes on the Predispositions of Scientific Thought and Practice
T. H. LEITH
York University Toronto,
From; JASA 24 (June 1972): 51-57.
These comments grew out of thoughts presented at a seminar on the ideas of Herman Dooyeweerd held in December of 1969 at Whcaton College and at a meeting of the Western New York Chapter of the ASA at Roberts Wesleyan College early in April of 1970.T. H.
This paper first explores some early sources of the three major positions regarding the epistemological status of scientific theories. It comes down on the side of fallibilism, the thesis that the theories of science can tell us what nature is not like but remain quite tentative as to what it is like. All three theses are alike, however, in entailing a variety of prior epistemic, ontological, and practical commitments. These in turn raise a number of interesting issues, commonly given too little attention. This paper does little more than point them out with one exception, the relationship of scientific work to religious presuppositions.
It is argued that all scientific endeavor is carried on within either a creationistic or a naturalistic framework and that one or the other of these choices is unavoidable, though there may be differences in detail within each alternative, in this context, the role of apologetics is discussed and a number of related questions worthy of further study are mentioned. Certain challenges to those making a theistic commitment are also presented.
An Appendix deals with a few aspects of the Dooyeweerdian attempt at a creationistic thesis in the light of earlier comments in the paper.
The basic issues as to the relationship of scientific propositions about the world to the real character of that world were first explored in a coherent and developed fashion in ancient Greek philosophy. One point of view appears some twenty-four centuries ago in the thought of Parmenides, the Eleatic. His thought is characterized by the rationalistic presumption, destined to appear again and again in the history of Western thought, that if a thing can be thought through with out contradiction then that thing must exist and that whatever cannot be thought about consistently cannot exist. On this basis Parmenides concluded that reality was eternal and unchanging, continuous and homo geneous; the alternative demanded, he believed, the illogical acceptance of a beginning and an end to things, of change, and of discontinuity and discreteness in nature. Only in the sensory realm can we accept both the contrary ideas that a thing is and that it is not. For reason, only the former is intelligible. Science is then reasonable, that is coherent, thought and is certainly not a body of reports about nature achieved through the senses.
Among those who accepted aspects of this infallibilistic theory of knowledge about the world Plato at once comes to mind. For him, the true ideas or patterns or forms of things are eternal and unchanging while the physical world revealed to our senses is merely an imperfect imitation. In order to suggest how the transient things which we experience can come to copy the timeless and changeless patterns which alone are truly real, Plato introduced the Dcmiurge or Artificer who, contemplating the patterns as one would a set of blueprints and driven by the supreme idea of the Good, proceeds to mold Space or Chaos into the image of those ideas capable of having sensible copies. It is widely agreed that Plato, almost certainly, intended this speculative scheme to be taken in the form of a myth, a story aimed at helping us to see that the cosmos reveals rational design and action rather than appearing as the product of aimless accident. The Demiurge was very likely then only a useful device intended to aid us in grasping the necessity of some causal agency which gives the world its order and purpose. Likewise, Space or Chaos was quite probably intended to represent the continual presence of some recalcitrant factor in nature, a disorder which resists rational control.
Beginning with this mythical framework, Plato proceeded to show how the world might have been given its order. To ensure that the myth was not some wild fiction he had, of course, to develop it in consonance with whatever regularity and lawfulness nature might reveal to the senses of any reasonably careful observer of his day. However, convinced as he was that the changing world of our experience can only be crudely modelled after the eternal and nnchanging ideas, Plato could not give us a coherent and exact revelation of the plan and rationale which lies behind it. Instead, he felt that he needed only to account intelligibly for the presence of regularities in the world which man experiences; his speculations were not to be derived inductively from these regularities. In addition, if the world can never reveal fully the eternal principles behind it, Plato could not consider his system to he an approximation to some final truth about nature which continued observation would reveal: what he strove for instead was a framework which presented as clearly as possible the fact that there is planning and design behind the world of experience. I am reminded here of the comment of the contemporary English philosopher Broad who somewhere stated that there is but one plausible argument for supporting traditional religion by science: the existence of scientific laws whicls are 'simple' compared with the vast multitude of 'facts' that can be derived from them. A priori he felt that it was not self-evident, or even plausible, that such laws should exist though science has found that they do.
I need not go into any of the detail of Plato's further discussions of the varied features of the universe, fascinating though they are. What is important is that we remind ourselves that Plato here provides one of the great watersheds in the history of Western thought. On the one hand, his view that speculation cannot provide any insight as to the true nature of the regularities of the world was to lead to the widespread assumption that the development of convenient fictions capable of predicting future events is the sole attainable ambition of the scientist. On the other, his sharp dichotomy between the realm of truth and the hurlyburly world of sensory experience was to call for some seemingly more appropriate synthesis by other philosophers.
Each of these alternatives (essentialism and instrumentalism) has serious difficulties for the development of science... Neither fits the lessons of the history of science.
First, let us turn to the latter of these diverse tendencies. It may he useful if we look here at Aristotle. Perhaps we recall that, in his view, the Platonic scheme was a failure because it attempted to explain the world in terms of speculative ideas which are only suggested and scarcely understood, namely the Demiurge and Space. He was convinced that it was preferable to place emphasis upon what is easiest to analyze, the careful description and classification of things. Thus Aristotle recommended that, in studying the world, we should determine first the various substances which comprise it and that we ought then to attempt to comprehend their nature. From here, we might move to an intelligent understanding of the processes of change in the world, seeing it as the consequence of the character of substance and not, pace Plato, as something unintelligible which must remain at the level of opinion.
Aristotle's ambition was nothing less than a systematic and coherent presentation of the entire spectrum of scientific knowledge, the whole to be as faithful an account of the nature of the cosmos as was possible. To this end he mustered his unique view of the foundations of true understanding, the mind capable of intuitive insight into the distinctions obtaining in the world and the mind capable of grasping what such essential differences entail through logical demonstration. We simply must understand the world just as it is ordered, he claims, if we grasp what sense perception and a systematized analysis of these perceptions teach us. Intuition enables us to apprehend the categories of nature as present in the individual things which we perceive. The world is potentially intelligible and our minds are inherently capable of actualizing that intelligibility. Demonstrative knowledge in science now rests merely in correct logical deduction from these first principles, in an exact and detailed unfolding of what they entail.
We might characterize Aristotle's scientific method as a recipe for the writing of encyclopedia articles, outlines of what is entailed in the acceptance of certain premises respecting nature. Indeed, it implies the writ ing of articles containing final truth on many subjects to whatever extent our minds have grasped fully the essential attributes of some aspects of the world. Thus Aristotle's scheme is presumed to he an account which mirrors precisely the way that things really are at least insofar as one has the necessary information available from experience. It embraces final truths about the world capable only of supplementation, and not of revision, as our observations are carried out more widely. The technique clearly does not include the invention of artificial circumstances, simplifications, and abstractions which focus on a few factors within the complexity of nature so that we may examine how these factors are related experimentally and quantitatively. It is not, then, a presentation of either scientific method or scientific knowledge as these are widely understood in our day.
The scientist commonly no longer believes that nature is readily intelligible and that its intelligibility lies in the things of the world having essential attributes recognized by our mind. Rather, we consider understanding to be far more difficult and we believe that science progresses by inductive generalizations of varied sorts, or hypotheses, which see the world in relationships and from perspectives which are quite unlike the Aristotelian direct apprehension of where a thing fits, of necessity, into the order of nature. We believe that Aristotle simply distorts and over-simplifies the process of scientific discovery and that to follow him is to leave science much as he left it, an encyclopedia of information with occasional supplements but without any revisions.
If Aristotle's thesis as to the nature of science is what Karl Popper in varied writings has called csscntialistic, that is if it claims to have grasped the essential character of certain of nature's regularities and patterns, the opposite tendency springing from Plato's dichotomy may be called i.stromenta1i.srn. Here the Platonic model of the world, which we say was probably no more than an attempt to draw our attention to just how rationally this realm of nature can be analyzed, results in the view that science may be satisfied with any device which 'saves the appearances', that is with any mathematical scheme which results in events occurring as they are observed to occur, and with descriptions of such matters as the sizes and shapes of objects. In astronomy,
All methodological questions and all interpretations of our experience and its ground are assessed within but one of two perspectives, a theistic creationism or a humanistic naturalism.
this emphasis upon the kinematics of objects and upon measurement is
by the work of Eudoxus and Callipus, by Heraclides and Hipparchus,
by Ptolemy. The astronomer becomes a mathematician and observer, uninformed by
theory and interested only in estimating sizes and distances or in
devices which move the heavenly bodies in a manner consonant with
and adequate for making reasonably precise predictions as to their
motion at some given and future time.
Two Views of Science
Here, then, we find introduced in Aristotle and in the Hellenistic-Roman astronomers, two theses which were to divide scientists through history. On the one hand, there is the scientist who is convinced of the finality of his knowledge claims, who believes that some theory about what is going on in the world is not only the latest but the last word. Here one thinks not only of the rationalist philosophers of nature like Descartes, Leibniz, or Spinoza, but of Kepler, of facets of Newton, and even Einstein or Niels Bohr. On the other side, there is the scientist who in the face of this, what he takes to be, presumptuous arrogance refuses to do more than measure and predict and who must therefore see his theories only as useful eolligative structures for description rather than as possible explanations of what is going on. Pearson and Mach, or Percy Bridgman in our time, are but a few who have presented science in this light. I expect that none of us is unaware that each of these alternatives has serious difficulties for the development of science. Surely the former tends to authoritarian stagnation while the latter denies the common scientific desire for understanding; neither fosters criticizability nor serious testing. Neither fits the lessons of the history of science.
A Fallibilistic View
As a consequence, many scientists have accepted a fallibili.stic stance (but not one which is instrumentalistie) on the nature of theory, i.e., they have concluded that our hypotheses regarding nature are tentative suggestions as to what might be going on in the world. To the degree that they survive severe challenge in the crucible of experience they will be taken as corroborated and therefore as unfolding part of the mystery of nature, like chipping off a fragment of one layer of an onion of indefinite size. If, instead, they should be falsified by observation or experiment they may be taken as sloughing off one more erroneous speculation, as indicating against the vastness of nature's complexity at least one manner in which it does not behave. It is not my purpose to develop these points further although I accept this view of the role of scientific theories and though I am quite aware of many detailed problems (not, I think, serious) when it is analyzed carefully.' Instead, I wish to point not that this and the first two theories about theories are broadly illustrative of the fact that no scientist is without presuppositions. Sorely it is apparent that each of these creeds manifests a different epistemology, that each is a representation of a different ambition for scientific work, and that each is capable of strongly biasing the development of science in distinctive directions. But the important point is what they have in common: each has an epistemology, each has a set of purposes for scientific work, none is without prejudice. All scientists work within one of these three frameworks: all scientists thus exhibit such presuppositions as inform their specific creed.
Let us look for a moment at these commitments. For one thing, all three philosophies of science make certain assumptions in their methodology. Each accepts the public character of observation and experimentation in studying the world, i.e., each calls for a belief in the existence of other persons like ourselves capable of experiencing what we do in much the same way under the same circumstances and capable of reasoning according to the same rules. Again, each accepts the reliability of the scientist's memory, for, without this assumption corroboration or falsification of theories by experimental test would be impossible. Or again, each of the three assumes that events in the world are causally related for in the absence of this assumption prediction or postdiction become untrustworthy. (I should remark, however, that this belief is grounded in the problem of probabilistic inference rather than in the scientist's past experience of events which are regularly conjoined, a foundation which met Flume's wrath.)
I think it can be argued that each of these three stances regarding the nature of theory also make certain presuppositions regarding what theories imply. Even instrumentalism, which sees theories as human constructs descriptive of events but as non-empirical (in that knowledge, in the sense of understanding, of reality cannot arise from experience) rests on such a pretheoretic base. Its theory of knowledge and its accompanying ontology provide this foundation and result in this agnosticism. When we turn to essentialism and fallibilism we recognize here too a particular epistemology in each, though the one is radically different from the other. However, we also notice a similarity in ontology, a belief that reality involves a series of aspects not reducible into one another and that each exhibits regularities, or what one might call lawful relationships.2
At this point a host of interesting problems arise. For one thing, there is the problem of discerning how far epistemology and metaphysical speculation arise from experience, to what extent they are a priori, and to what extent they may be adjusted by further experience. For another, there is the matter of defining an epistemology and a metaphysic coherent with both our theories and our theories about these theories.3 For the supernaturalist there is also the challenge of relating the above difficult considerations to general and special revelation. For the non-supernaturalist there is the opposite problem: how to explain the origin of the world, its processes, its lawful character, and the foundations of value judgment of various kinds.
I must also speak about theories themselves in the natural sciences. It is my belief that they do not stand autonomous and value-free either. As remarked above, they are conditioned by our attitudes regarding the methodology of science and its intentions and by connected decisions which we make as to what indeed theories in science are. They are also limited by the character of reality itself and by the relationship of knower to known, even if we claim to understand such matters only imperfectly, just as they are also affected by how we do in fact understand these things. In addition, theories are at times controlled by esthetic judgment (such as simplicity, symmetry, and elegance), by economic and political judgments, and certainly by religious predilections.4
Thus far I have reported, in a fragmentary way, some foundational attitudes found in scientific work and in the statements about this work made by its practitioners. This sort of diagnosis should be suggestive of interesting lines of analysis which I hope will receive rather more attention on the part of our more philosophical readers than has been the case in the past. One might hope ton that such attention will lead to vigorous debate by those who choose differing options among the attitudes which we have mentioned.5
One consequence of our commitment is the task of interpreting special revelation and even general revelation adequately from within the inhibiting context of the scientific world view of our time.
Theistic Creationism vs. Humanistic Naturalism
For the remainder of these notes, however, I am going to deal in a little more detail, but still in outline, with only one subject calling for analysis among these many, but I take it to be critical and more fundamental than the others which have been hinted at above. Let me state it fairly clearly: it is my conviction that all methodological questions and all interpretations of our experience and its ground are assessed within but one of two perspectives, a theistic creationism or a humanistic naturalism. By this I mean that either the existence, purpose, and plan of our universe require explanation having a large component beyond itself or they do not. Either the parts of the universe are creatures of some creative activity not wholly explainable from the natural events in their past and their context within space and time or naturalistic understanding is (potentially at least) exhaustive. Either nature calls for transcendent analysis or understanding need not seek beyond the immanent.
I am, of course, aware that there are varieties of theism (even deism, for our purposes, is one) and thus nuances in creationism. I am equally sensitive to the spectrum of naturalistic opinion called to mind by Epicurus or \Vhitehead or Spinoza, by Bergson and Einstein, by Hoyle or a Hindu or Dewey or an Augustinian, or by Teilbard de Chardin and Altizer. Yet with the expenditure of sufficient energy I think the case could be made that the diverse creationistic schemes differ only in the sense in which the universe is seen as dependent in whole and in part on something other than itself, while naturalistic schemes must all rest on the autonomy of the world and leave the question of existence shrouded in mystery. I also realize that what counts heavily in practice is a man's belief about a state of affairs rather than what is actually true of it; certainly the world may be considered to be the domain of some transcendent creative activity when in fact it might he proper to rest our explanation on an imminent level. But this does not alter either the fact that men do believe one thing as against the other or the fact that the existence of the world is or is not contingent regardless of what they believe.
Again, I am aware that to assess problems of scientific method and ideas of science within one of the two perspectives mentioned above does not mean that in practice the conclusions are always the same. There are more premises involved in drawing deductions on these matters than the acceptance of one world view or the other. Certainly there are both theists and naturalists who are essentialists, for example, just as Gordon Clark is a theistic instrumentalist and certain other theists are fallibilists in science. Each camp has wide variations in epistemic and ontological belief, broad internal differences on methodological details in a given area of study or on the credibility of theories within that area, and considerable variety in matters axiological. These are distinctives worthy, in my estimation, of much more scrutiny than they have been given but once more I will move on for only the creationistic-naturalistic dichotomy interests me here.
Choice of a Starting Point
Perhaps the first issue to which I should turn briefly centers around the choice of a crcalionistic or a naturalistic starting point. There is a real problem here because a fundamental level of understanding is just that; being fundamental it conditions, and is not conditioned by, other judgments. Does one then accept it on raw faith? In one sense the reply is 'yes'; if I can make all assessments of the evidences properly only from a stance which is neither a part of the evidence nor a position resting on that evidence then I have already committed myself. If I am logical, my conclusion as to the thrust of the evidences must rest already implicit in my premises. I take it that this takes care of the widespread, presumably objective, agnostic attitudes on this matter. There is certainly lots of room for tentativeness in life and I have indicated earlier my sympathy vith scientific fallihilism. What I cannot see is that there is room for either here; the agnostic must commit himself even though he may be in error in his judgment. There is leeway for error but there is no space for tentativeness. A theist may be wrong in his theism not only in details, which is almost a truism if we are human, but in his choice of perspective. The naturalist, the humanist, may also err. But at any given time both must, as I think even the professed agnostic has, come down for one stance or the other. There is no middle way.
Yet one reads and hears extensive and detailed arguments on each side, theist trying to convert naturalist and vice versa, and one also reads and hears of agnostic suspensions of judgment. Why do people try to argue someone out of one ultimate commitment and
Does general revelation entail some hierarchical structure, such as the living being irreducible to the non-living, the psychic being more than the organic, and even energy being indefinable in terms of more primitive physical aspects?
into another? Why do philosophy textbooks claim that the sign of intellectual
maturity is agnosticism on the basic issues of life? Commonly it is
forget that the truly empirical approach to life, asking for evidence
make decisions, cannot apply to ultimate matters where the evidence is given an
pretation and does not lead to it.6 There is a place, however, for apologetic
argument from both the theist and the naturalist as long as the
character of the
argument does not involve one in a devious circularity. For example, a theist
may argue for the historical, and other sorts of credibility, of some purported
special revelation of the supernatural. What he is doing is assessing
that its message as revelation may be taken seriously though it is
not being tested
directly; only its context is being evaluated.7 Personal experience, internal
witness if you will, may also be used but the argument is really only that if
it carries conviction and satisfaction for him perhaps others might
care to make
the same commitment of faith themselves. On any other level, one must recognize
that another's experiences, as one's own, are evaluated as they are
already believes something about them and one is limited to trying to
other's convictions differently in one's own context of commitment.
There is, however, another important type of argument used in the creationist-naturalist dialogue. It is basically negative. Here the creationist asks the naturalist, and vice versa, whether he finds it easy to rest his beliefs on the ground which he does. For example, the creationist may argue that the purported autonomy of the claims of science is not subject to corroboration from within science itself. lIe may point out that all facts are theory-laden, being selected and interpreted. In both cases he asks the naturalist, if he is a scientist, to think about his suppositions.' Does he find his non-scientific reasons for doing science satisfying and are his assumptions about nature able to gratify? Is he not concerned that the presumed fina±ity and autonomy of the scientific outlook may lead to scientism with its technocratic control of society by the expert and its totalitarian possibilities for suppressing other ideas on the grounds that they are unscientific and therefore valueless?
In reply, the naturalist may ask whether resting one's values and one's understanding ultimately upon the decisions and under the control of some supernatural entity is not risky and perhaps unnecessary. He may also point to the historic presumptions of religion to finality and autonomy and its all-too-common autocratic and inquisitorial proclivities. At the very least One may hope that the debate may remain open in spite of the tendencies in every human institution to close it on one side or the other or at least to gain the propaganda advantage. The inquisitorial idea that one has truth and that this means that all else is error, any resting in which is evil and must be prevented for the safety of others and for the good of the sinner, will always be with us in formal religious, or in scientific, garb. It needs restraint by a large measure of humility, a freedom to wager with or against Pascal, the understanding that only decisions freely made are decisions at all, that the history of totalitarian systems has certain lessons to teach, and that if there are errors on matters supernatural they must he left to the supernatural (if there is such a thing) for judgment. Need I point out what this means for jurisprudence or the hiring and firing of faculty in the open university? Ideological dangers and biases beset free debate on such issues, and even the behaviour resulting from choices made on one side or the other, all around us today.
Let us turn now to some matters which remain after one has chosen one of the two ultimate alternatives as to world view. I choose the theistic and crcationistie one for scrutiny because it is my own. How does one control, for example, the tendency for theistic creationism to appear as a speculative metaphysic with all the evils which contemporary philosophy sees in such systembuilding? On the one hand I would suggest that systematic theology affords us with certain suggestive controls beyond which we go at our peril. Too much metaphysics is an attempt to find answers to questions which are essentially religious.9 Even here there are internal problems but I will ignore these at present)10 On the other hand, I am not opposed to dangerous journeys if they prove useful, so that I am willing to use analogies to help me think that I understand ideas like 'creation' for example and I am willing to use other speculations if, as metaphysical ideas often have in the past, they help the scientist with his work, e.g., in his choice of new directions for scientific theorizing.
Another problem has to do with the outworking of our theistic choice in our scientific work. Does the decision carry with it some distinction in our behavior as scientists from that of our colleagues? Surely it calls for certain ethical commitments in what we do with our work and determining within what limits we will carry it on. Surely it calls for us to think more about science as we see it practiced. Surely it calls us to emphasize the strong subjective elements which occur all through the processes of theory-formation and decisions about the credibility of these theories, And surely it calls us all to think more, as some of our restless students plead, about the application of science for the betterment of the human condition.
Lastly, we must work out certain consequences of our commitment. One which must exercise us is the convoluted task of interpreting special revelation and even general revelation adequately from within the inhibiting context of the scientific world view of our time. Then there is the task of developing a theistic philosophy of science based, in fundamentals at least, upon these hcrmeneutical and exegetical endeavors. Clearly at these points our philosopher of science seems to be an essentialist; he believes that he has certain truths about reality. Where then does he become a fallibilist, for as I have mentioned I think he should when dealing with contemporary theories in science? (I cannot see instrumentalism as a viable option, for what does scientific knowledge point toward if it does not point toward nature as we experience it?)
Probably, for the Christian theist, this is at the point where the meaning of a Biblical text involves decisions, on incomplete evidence, as to its intention in Hebrew or Creek and certainly by the time one is building theories (i.e. interpreting, selecting, and organizing) in the construction of a systematic theology. In nature, seen as a general revelation of the supernatural, it comes when we seek to say what precisely the revelation entails. We have seen that nature appears to be lawful else science and much, if not all, of life would be irrational and incoherent. Perhaps that is a major part of its revelatory character. Does it also show up in some hierarchical structure, such as the living being irreducible to the non-living, the psychic being more than the organic, and even energy being indefinable in terms of more primitive physical aspects? These are, I believe, open scientific questions and I would venture to say that they are most exciting. I would certainly hope that theistic philosophers and theistic scientists will work on these various issues for all represent borderlines in our present knowledge. At the very least the effort should help foster scientific study, help clarify the problems which are entailed in and the dangers of a precipitous reductionism, and help show how the investigation of a given aspect of nature calls for a consideration of its coherence with all other aspects and even with other disciplines. It is my firm belief that such study will go a long way toward restoring the lost community of learning, so prevalent in our universities, but found also among Christian scholars where the lack is both absurd and tragic.
The real issue is whether any modal structure of reality will carry convincing weight in converting the naturalist to a theist.
Appendix: Dooyeweerd on Creationism
I have spoken above both of the necessity to be self-conscious of our own beliefs and to call others to awareness of theirs as well. I have also mentioned general revelation and have suggested that even the theist, who believes that the created world must somehow speak of a Creator, should be tentative in giving definition to the signs of nature's createdness. In combination, these two points immediately raise the question of how then nature may act as a revelatory medium to the nontheist and whether his own commitments regarding the world could ever be found wanting in his own eyes when held against nature's own witness to its proper character. There can be little doubt that the thinker who has been most sensitive to these matters in our time is Herman Dooyeweerd, a Dutch phil osopher best known on our continent through his mag nificent work, A New Critique of Theoretical Thought and his more recent and more popular book In the Twilight of Western Thought.
On the hortatory side of his writing, i.e., the portion intended to make us aware of our ultimate commitments, Dooyeweerd's position is akin to that of these notes. He argues that the vaunted claim, by those of scientistic persuasion, of the autonomy of science is merely a statement of an ambition to brook no bounds to scientific study; an ambition, however, which may not he sustained by the nature of a particular problem. Again, the claim that all truth is founded upon objective facts, he sees as incapable of sustaining ethical conduct or judgments of purpose both in nature and in human life. Nor is there any purely scientific experience; what we have is experience controlled by some scientific interest which may give us scientific knowledge. Such knowledge is partial, however, because the investigation of any aspect of the world requires that we consider its coherence with other aspects. Surely it calls for our taking a position (selfconscious or not) on such matters as the origin of things, the place of man in the world, and the foundation and character of the order of the cosmos for these control in part the way we theorize. But it also calls for relating physics, for example, to questions of biology, to social or economic or esthetic concerns, and to ethical matters.
When he turns diagnostic in describing the fundamental character of nature, Duoycweerd claims that this coherence demanded in practice is rooted in a fundamental integration within reality. All things in the cosmos point to all others thercby indicating, at least in part, the plan and purpose of the whole. While he sees the world as exhibiting various modes of being (his translator's term is "modalities") which are irreducible to one another (number, space, motion, energy, the biotic, the psychic, the historical, the lingual, the social, the economic, the esthetic, the juridic, the ethical, and the mode of faith), be interprets these aspects as bound in a coherent and lawful structure. Thus the individual sciences can deal only with particular modalities, abstracted from the whole though each thing in the world exists in all modes. Because each mode is sovereign in its proper place, each science (e.g., physics, biology, economics, law) has a unique, though restricted, role to play in helping us to understand nature. On the other hand, just because the modes direct our attention elsewhere as well as inwards, the particular sciences treated individually impoverish our insight into the whole. Certainly, if any science is treated as being one to which others can be reduced, the process is a confusion of the meaning proper to one modal sphere with that of another and the product is the sort of antinomy so well-known in Kant.
I have mentioned earlier that the question of irreducible levels of discourse is a fascinating one worthy of careful scrutiny. It is one for which there is considerable affirmative evidence, though whether there are as many meaning-levels as Dooyeweerd suggests is quite another matter and may he left open here. There is some indication, however, that because the reductionism problem is far from settled in at least certain areas of knowledge, the evidential character which Dooyeweerd sees it affording for creationism is diminished, perhaps unjustly hot considerably, in the opinion of many naturalists. The real issue, however, is whether any modal structure of reality will carry convincing weight in converting the naturalist to a theist. This has little to do with the modalities themselves; it is the old problem of clear evidence for something being interpreted erroneously in another manner. Cannot a naturalist interpret a modal world in his own fashion? Cannot he do the same for an even simpler world, one which exhibits merely a lawful character?
The answer to both questions is, I think, affirmative. He can even be consistent but (I think) wrong. Dooycweerd is really saying that if the world is a created world it must speak of its ereatedness and any other interpretation given to it most be false. It has, if you like, a general revelatory character. The lawfulness of nature (this has little to do with whether we have got the laws correctly or folly) and at least convincing evidence for a modal structure of some sort (which has little to do with whether Dooyeweerd has it all correct) are for many, and should he for all, a revelation of the Creator. But the man who chooses not to see, whose premises give him what Van Til used to call his "colored spectacles", will not see. There are issues he just won't raise with his own position. He is a true humanist; a Creator which cannot be fitted to his egocentrism and a world which is not in accord with his anthropomorphic blueprints will be rejected out of hand.
As I said earlier, and as Dnoyeweerd also recognizes, the task of the theist is both to keep the shoe pinching and to develop further his own insights. The latter makes general revelation meaningful to him and the former asks the naturalist to keep thinking. Eventually, if the naturalist embraces enough of nature in his considerations, the coherence of the world and the consistency of his own system must come into conflict. That, in turn, raises the great crisis, a crisis in ultimate presupposition.
1See Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery and Con jectures and Refutations. See also my paper, "Modern Scientific Cosmngonies", Journal ASA, September, 1964.
2Compare my "Some Presuppositions in the Philosophy of Science". Journal ASA, March, 1965.
31t is striking how little self-consciousness most writers exhibit in these matters. The origins of epistemological theories and of metaphysical ideas have received comparatively little study considering the vast literature presenting the theories and ideas themselves. The writer has, however, collated some materials and he will be happy to pass his references on to any interested reader. Among philosophers of science there has been rather more at tention to epistemic issues related to matters of theory and metatheory but metaphysical suppositions have received very inadequate analysis. This failure to deal properly with ontological issues dates from Comte and Mach (if not from Kant) but, in our center) it has arisen largely from antagonism to metaphysical system building, as in Bradley, on the part of those influenced by both logical empiricism and linguistic analysis.
4See my papers under References 1 and 2 above.
5Sec my "What is the Philosophy of Science?", Gordon Review, Summer, 1967 for some further comments on these matters.
6For example, there are places where Bertrand Russell came on strung for agnosticism as an option, but I think most of his writings illustrate that his judgment was not really suspended on the matter. He was a naturalist in practice. An examination of textbooks calling for a similar tentativeness likewise reveal, on careful reading, that they are hardly neutral either. On occasion one meets agnostic claims which are really theistic hot this is much less common.
7The same applies to miracle. An unusual, and at the time inexplicable, event calls for its own assessment. Its interpretation as carrying revelational import in a unique way is logically different.
8Compare Richard Rodner in Philipp Frank, Validation of Scientific Theories, pp. 24-28. "Because of a strong reaction to the restrictions of historical religions, many scientists consciously or (worse) unconsciously claim an objectivity in their analyses which places value judgments, not clearly where they can be analyzed, but into the realm of the intuitive, unrecognized, or hap-hazard."
9Too much systematic theology has also been speculative metaphysics; at least it has not been self-conscious in moving from the one to the other. What is important is that we become aware of our speculations and careful to explain how we propose that they be tested. I have discussed some matters here in my papers under references 2 and 5 above.
10Very little has been done, to my knowledge, by conservative writers on metatheological problems. Montgomery and Knudsen have done something within the ASA, however, to initiate discussion.