Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor

Moreland's Response

J. P. Moreland
Talbot School of Theology
Biola University
13800 Biola Ave.

From: PSCF 49 (June 1997): 139.

I want to respond to the three issues raised by David J. Krause in connection with my article in PSCF ("Complementarity, Agency Theory, and the God-of-the-Gaps" March 1997). I shall address his concerns in the order in which they were presented:

1. Krause claims that my case rests on the assumption that libertarian agency is the correct account of the free will vs. determinism debate and, thus, my approach will not be acceptable for, e.g., a Reformed thinker. I offer two responses to this argument: (1) Krause's claim is false, since a Reformed thinker could accept my characterization of the difference between libertarian and compatibilist freedom, deny that humans have libertarian freedom, but accept this account for Divine acts. In fact, historically, some Reformed thinkers have done just this. Since my article contends for the scientific relevance of Divine libertarian acts, compatibilist accounts of human freedom are not directly relevant. (2) Even if Krause is correct, his claim reduces to the obvious assertion that if someone does not accept libertarian agency, then he or she will not think that such agency can be appropriated to explore or explain various phenomena. But who would deny such a thing? If someone does not believe in phlogiston, he will not appeal to it to explain something. But how is that relevant? It certainly does not follow from this that phlogiston chemistry was not science. In my article I make two claims quite clear. First, Divine libertarian acts do not exhaust the features that constitute theistic science, so that even if someone denies such acts, it does not follow that theistic science is illegitimate. Second, I state explicitly that, due to space considerations, I argue for the following condition and not for the truth of the antecedent: if libertarian agency is a good model for Divine primary causal miracles in "natural" history and if God has exercised such agency, then the ensuing gaps could figure into scientific practice in certain specified ways.

2. Krause's second point is actually a patchwork quilt of not altogether related assertions. For example, he seems to use a sort of guilt by association, discrediting me by associating my views with those of Henry Morris and we all are supposed to know that Morris's views are egregious. Again, he straps me with the view that every act attributed to God's will leaves a gap in the natural world, but this is just false. Only those primary causal acts of God leave gaps and not his employment of secondary causes, or so I have argued. Krause seems to think that I believe primary causal miracles are all over the place, perhaps so frequent as to place regular, lawlike connections in the world in the minority. Nothing could be further from the truth and I make clear that God's use of secondary causes is far more frequent than his primary causal activity. Finally, Krause opines that my position implies that contradictory theistic scientific theories (Morris's and Ross's views) have equal validity. I am not even certain what this is supposed to mean, but I ask Krause to find one statement in my article that implies the outrageous thesis that contradictory theories can be equally valid! I am simply claiming that Divine libertarian acts leave gaps that can figure into scientific practice, but I am not arguing that any view which merely asserts such activity by God is to be accepted willy nilly. We should decide what views to accept based on an overall assessment of the entire set of epistemically relevant factors. C.S. Lewis once said that he was suspicious of critics who claimed to be able to read between the lines when they showed no evidence of being able to read the lines themselves. After reading Krause's letter to the editor, I found myself wondering time and time again whether he had actually read my article.

3. Krause's final point is the familiar bromide that, if correct, my views open up the doors for Hindu science or for any other "ism" to invent an agent to fill gaps. Now this assertion is just incredible. I make clear that one ought to have good reasons (philosophical, theological, and scientific) for claiming that a gap exists and is to be explained by the primary causal activity of God. If some religious view contains a depiction of some phenomenon or its origin in a way that could directly interact with scientific methodology, then that religious view should have the right to be evaluated on solid epistemic grounds and not be excluded from the party just because it has a religious association. After all, truth and reason should prevail. Krause seems to be conflating two issues: (a) Does some paradigm (religious or otherwise) depict an act of God in libertarian terms? (b) Is there any good reason to think that the paradigm and its depiction are true? In my article, I address question one, not question two. I argue that the gaps which result from a primary causal Divine action could factor into scientific practice in certain ways I indicate. It does not follow from this that any bald assertion that this has happened should be taken as true or epistemically justified simply because it is asserted. In short, (b) does not follow from (a) and Krause is wrong if he thinks otherwise. Just because scientific theories regularly employ naturalistic mechanisms, it does not follow that we should accept an explanation of the moon's luminescence by claiming that it is made of cheese and all objects composed of cheese are luminescent! Accepting naturalistic mechanisms does not require us to embrace every conceivable assertion that some phenomenon is to be explained by any silly mechanism someone invents. Likewise, accepting the scientific relevance of Divine libertarian actions that leave gaps in the natural causal fabric does not require us to embrace every "ism" that offers a "non-naturalistic influence and power" to explain something.