Science in Christian Perspective
Richard H. Bube*
Professor Emeritus of Materials Science and
Stanford, CA 94305-2205
FACETS OF FAITH & SCIENCE, ed. Jitse M. van der Meer. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1996.
Vol. I . Historiography and Modes of Interaction
Vol. II. The Role of Beliefs in Mathematics and the Natural Sciences: An Augustinian Perspective
Vol. III. The Role of Beliefs in the Natural Sciences
Vol. IV. Interpreting God's Action in the World
From: PSCF 50 (March 1998): 46-57.
This major undertaking, involving four volumes of 60 papers written by 44 different authors for a total of 1475 pages, together with bibliographies and indices, presents the papers from a five-day research conference in 1992, the First International Pascal Centre Conference on Science. The Pascal Centre for Advanced Studies in Faith and Science was established in 1988 by Redeemer College, Ontario, Canada, and specializes in studies of the relationships between faith and science from a biblical perspective, principally in the Dutch Reformed tradition. The objectives were to review the current state of scholarship on the nature of the interactions between the natural sciences and belief, and to identify research that promises new insights. Biomedical and environmental issues were not included.
About three-fourths of the papers are written from the perspective of philosophy, theology, humanities, or history. The authors come primarily from academic positions in the United States or Canada. Those from other countries include two from England (Brooke and Cantor), one from Scotland (Torrance), one from the Republic of South Africa (Strauss), and two from the Netherlands (Strijbos and Geertsema).
It is desirable for the participants in such a discussion to have an experiential knowledge of what it means to actually "do science," rather than merely to speculate about its historical and philosophical implications. It is especially critical to make a distinction between what "science is" and what "scientists say." If a perceptive analysis is to be made of the relationship between science and faith, it is critical that each of these terms be clearly defined; an even more appropriate pair of categories to compare would be "science" and "theology."
To refer to a particular paper, a Roman numeral is used to indicate the volume number, an arabic numeral to indicate the section number, and a second arabic numeral to indicate the paper number, e.g., III.2.12 refers to the twelfth paper in Volume III, found in Section 2 of that volume.
I.1 Topics from the history of science and religion
Emphasizing the potential complexity of the interaction between religious belief and the natural sciences, J. H. Brooke (I.1.1) undertakes a history of the interaction between religion and science in terms of a three-dimensional map. He proposes six different roles for religious beliefs in relation to science: a presupposition of science, a sanction for science, a motive for science, support for the aesthetic dimension in scientific work, regulative principles, and source of primitive explanatory modes of science; five different roles for scientific argument in interactions with religion, corresponding to the scientist as investigator, reporter, popularizer, philosopher, and preacher; and six different roles for theological argument in relation to science, corresponding to the theologian as exegete and evangelist, systematist and apologist, and pastor and preacher.
S. J. Wykstra (I.1.5) seeks to shift Brooke's emphasis on historiography to an emphasis on the integration of religious outlooks into scientific theorizing by giving such outlooks a role in evaluating particular theories. He argues against the conclusion that worldview commitments have been mere veneer on the direction of scientific theorizing, and urges further investigation of interaction between worldviews and science that might lead to an integrationist conception of science.
Other papers in Volume I deal with the contributions of several historically significant thinkers: Oliver Lodge, J. H. Jeans, A. S. Eddington, Michael Faraday, Immanuel Kant, Thomas Aquinas, Blaise Pascal, Augustine, and Michael Polanyi.
D. Wilson (I.1.2) argues that the terms science and religion are best not used at all. He points out that to Lodge, "science" was more than an empirical knowledge of nature and "religion" was more than a biblical knowledge of God and Christ, whereas to Jeans "science" did come close to meaning an empirical understanding of nature, but "religion" was not a biblical understanding of God, and to Eddington "science" was more than an empirical study of nature, and "religion" was something primarily different from a biblical knowledge of God.
I.2. Modes of interaction between science and faith
T. F. Torrance (I.2.8) calls for a distinction between fundamental beliefs and their normative function in affecting our ongoing scientific inquiries. He suggests a distinction between ultimate beliefs, for which there are no alternatives, and penultimate beliefs, for which we are faced with alternatives. The existence of penultimate beliefs leads to the condition of contingent intelligibility upon which empirical science depends, which is definitely of Christian origin. Key areas of regulative beliefs affected by these considerations are the dualist vs. the nondualist character of the universe, the singularity vs. the uniqueness of the created universe, the primacy of the visible and tangible over the invisible and intangible, and the problem of order and disorder.
A paper by Alvin Plantinga (I.2.9) is titled with words that have become a battle-cry in many recent science vs. faith debates: "Methodological Naturalism." Plantinga offers the following general statement:
According to an idea widely popular ever since the Enlightenment, however, science (at least when properly pursued) is a cool, reasoned, wholly dispassionate attempt to figure out the truth about ourselves and our world, entirely independent of ideology, or moral convictions, or religious or theological commitments.
Plantinga describes three examples of the religious non-neutrality of scientific claims or hypotheses, argues that a Christian academic and scientific community ought to pursue science in its own way starting from and taking for granted what we know as Christians, and explores the claim that science, properly so-called, cannot involve religious belief or commitment. Plantinga concludes by saying, "Methodological naturalism, however, though widely accepted and indeed exalted, has little to be said for it; when examined in the cool light of day, the arguments of it seem weak indeed. We should therefore reject it, taken in its full generality."
There are, however, some basic problems with this approach. "Naturalism" may properly be understood to represent a worldview that eliminates God and is therefore atheistic by definiton. To the representative practicing scientist, however, methodological naturalism does not describe a worldview, but a method of approach within the limited domain of science. Methodological naturalism simply means that when one does science, one limits oneself by choice to interpreting observations and empirical data in terms of theories involving natural mechanisms. This choice is not made because of the atheistic or anti-religious sentiments of the scientist, but because this approach makes it possible to have science be a well-defined and reliable, although deliberately limited, activity. Nor does it mean that no supernatural or metaphysical inputs or influences are allowed in the formulation of possible theories to describe the empirical observations. What it does insist is that the work is not considered to be science until it is tested and shown to be consistent with observable reality (i.e., to indicate accurately what that reality is like). It is admittedCat least by Christian scientistsCthat there may be phenomena where no such natural description is possible, e.g., an actual miracle; this does not mean that such phenomena are impossible, but simply that in such a case its description should not be called science. Many Christian apologists, however, have interpreted the term "methodological naturalism" to be synonymous with atheistic "naturalism," the deliberate rejection of any activity of God in the natural world.
C. B. Kaiser (I.2.10) proposes a "theology of science," by which he means the formulation and analysis of themes in the history and current practice of science that bring us into the realm of theological discourse. "Theological discourse includes all assertions and assumptions concerning the nature and order of reality as a whole. It implies the supraindividual and the metahistorical, as well as the metaphysical; yet it is often present in discourse about mundane subjects." This proposed "theology of science" is similar in some ways to traditional "natural theology," but differs in that it is based on the character of scientific work rather than on particular characteristics of nature described by science. It deals with the beliefs and ideals that function in the work of scientists, and might also be treated as a branch of the philosophy of science.
The occurrence and significance of conflicts between science and Christian theology are considered by K. W. Kemp (I.2.11). Four major causes for such conflict are suggested: (1) the interpretation of a particular biblical passage, as in the case of scientific creationism; (2) competing worldviews, as when doing science is identified with "naturalism" that includes the anti-Christian theses of materialism, determinism, and mechanism; (3) differences between scientific and theological methods of validating knowledge about the world; and (4) two attitudes toward the world, disagreeing on the meaning of natural and supernatural, or sacred and profane. Examples of existing conflicts are the static world, young universe, and sudden creation theses of creationists; or the Roman Catholic Church's theological commitment to a monogenetic origin for the human race. The author argues that such issues may force a choice between a scientific answer to a question and a theological answer, but this does not force a choice between the two activities. He concludes with a plea for humility and modesty in areas where we can know very little with certainty. " similar theme is discussed by M. Goheen (IV.2.19) as summarized below.
This view is questioned by F. Suppe (I.2.12), who desires to protect Christianity from metaphysical assaults based on science by removing metaphysical beliefs both from science and from theology. He argues that reality is found in observational experience, not in theory.
T. Settle (I.2.13) in turn disagrees with Suppe, and objects to bridging gaps between belief and knowledge by leaps of faith, by communal consent alone, or by "properly basic beliefs" as in Reformed epistemology, because each omits reason at the critical point. Settle advocates a realism that is qualified so as to avoid a God-of-the-gaps position: (1) one can be a scientific realist and argue that one's metaphysics cannot be inferred from science, thus making room for religious belief; (2) Settle's realism includes the original paradigm of causality as an unmediated sense of effort by an agent, making God's action all pervasive in the world and avoiding a God-of-the-gaps; (3) Settle's realism involves divine causes to fill legitimate explanatory gaps.
II.1. Beliefs in the philosophy of science, with specific reference to Kuyper, Bavinck, and Dooyeweerd
The second volume contains papers based on the writings of three distinguished philosophers: Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920), Herman Bavinck (1854-1921), and Herman Dooyeweerd (1894-1977). According to D. Ratzsch (II.1.1), Kuyper accepted a role for subjective beliefs at all levels of science, but saw no reason why Christian and unbelieving scientists could not work side by side on data collection, uncovering empirical regularities, and at least some theoretical matters. But as we move out to the more global theoretical perspectives of each of the individual disciplines, according to Kuyper, we enter areas where unbelieving subjectivity can make a major impact. The believer must reject anything in the unbeliever's science affected by subjectivity, and the effects of those beliefs encompassing unbelief and its products, materialism, mechanism, and so forth.
A distinguishing feature of Bavinck's Calvinism, as summarized by A. Wolters (II.1.2), is that it conceives of the relationship between nature and grace in an integral rather than a dualistic way, as normally held in other traditions in historic Christianity, such as Anabaptism, Lutheranism, and Roman Catholicism. His basic theme was "grace restores nature." Consistent with this theme was his insistence that Scripture has authority over the nontheological sciences, but this authority is qualified by relating scriptural authority in these sciences primarily to matters of history and worldview. In these ways, he avoided both a dualism that separates religion and science, and a naive biblicism that confuses the language of Scripture with that of science.
In two papers, R. A. Clouser (II.1.3; II.1.4) considers the general relationship among religion, metaphysics, and science, and invokes the philosophy of Dooyeweerd as insight into the answer, thus preparing the way for the discussions in other papers in this volume. After briefly considering three common views of this relationship, rationalism, scholasticism, and insulationism, he advocates an answer given by John Calvin in the sixteenth century and developed and defended by Dooyeweerd and Kuyper: a nonreductionistic metaphysics in which having the right God is a necessary but insufficient condition for having truth and knowledge, including theoretical truth and scientific knowledge.
Then, in the following paper, Clouser gives a brief sketch of Dooyeweerd's cosmonomic philosophy of science.
Dooyeweerd argues that belief in God requires the elimination of reductive theories in favor of a metaphysics in which all the aspects of creation are regarded as equally dependent on God and therefore equally real, mutually irreducible and simultaneously true of all creatures. It is this program-the systematic elimination of all reductionism-which is one of the guiding principles of all the other concepts and hypotheses of Dooyeweerd's philosophy.
Rocks, for example, may be said to have biological, sensory, or logical properties, when it is taken into account that such properties can be exhibited either actively or passively. This aspect of Dooyeweerd's thought is summarized in the final sentence of the paper: "Dooyeweerd provides a set of principles whose impact on the entire scientific enterprise is internal to the constructing and reforming of theories to provide systematically nonreductionist explanations of every aspect of creation."
Director of the Dooyeweerd Center at Redeemer College, D. F. M. Strauss (II.1.5) uses the perspective developed by Dooyeweerd and Dirk Vollenhoven (1892-1978) on eliminating reductionism. He sees rationalism, irrationalism, and semanticism as forms of reductionism, which replace God with a creature. Nominalism transposes the universal order for entities from God into the human mind, denying entities their universal side. Examples of the regulative role of nominalism in sociology, biology, and mathematics are given.
S. J. Wykstra (II.1.6) argues specifically for an integrating role that allows religious outlooks a legitimate role in shaping scientific theorizing in its specifics. He describes how the theism of Newton led him to understand matter in terms of God's action. Arguing that worldviews produce dispositions toward certain types of theories, and that the effects of worldviews extend from the selection to the constitution of theories, Wykstra contests the charge that this approach leads to a God-of-the-Gaps. He offers a tentative, "Yes," to the question about whether worldviews should shape scientific theorizing, awaiting future needed clarification.
D. Ratzsch (II.1.7) considers the prospects for a Christian natural science, especially in view of the claims of some Christians that it would be desirable to have such a distinctively Christian science. He is not convinced that the content of scientific theory differs depending on whether the theorists are Christians or non-Christians. Ratzsch notes that nature can teach us some things about how to do science, and that science has been described with some validity as "organized common sense," which is consistent with viewing such common sense extra-empirical factors as fairly rigorous limitations on what might be meant by a "unique Christian science." He summarizes the extra-empirical factors under the headings of common sense, scientific sense, secular worldview fallout, and theology. There is also the question about whether scientifically relevant data can be obtained from the Scriptures. Finally, he claims that Scripture itself contains some themes that point in the exact reverse direction to a Christian science. Ratzsch's conclusion is that it may be possible for there to be a uniquely Christian science, but that this would be an uncertain and very difficult undertaking.
II.2. Beliefs in mathematics, physics and biology
G. B. Chase (II.2.8) describes examples from the Middle Ages and the nineteenth century in which Christian theology potentially provided specific insights and motivations for the development of new branches of mathematics, in contrast to Blaise Pascal, Leonhard Euler, or August-Louis Cauchy, whose Christianity did not shape their mathematics.
The work of William of Ockham (1285-1347) led to the change in which mathematics today deals with abstract ideas, with attributes independent of substance. His work was an effort to be faithful to the doctrine of transubstantiation in the Eucharist, while still being consistent with observation.
In the Middle Ages, Christian theology clarified the mathematical notions of infinity and of continuity, basing the concept of infinity in mathematics initially on God's infinite nature rather than on his creation.
William Hamilton (1805-1865) freed algebra from being about numbers based on his belief that the subjective and the objective cohere in God.
In nineteenth-century London, George Boole developed Boolean algebra in which the symbols no longer stand for numbers (but for True and False, or On and Off), through the inspiration of his commitment to the unity of the Godhead and of his understanding of the opposition of God and Satan.
According to Clerk Maxwell in the late nineteenth century, the universe can be described mathematically because the universe is contingent and actively upheld by God. Maxwell proposed an alternative to the materialistic approach toward the physics of his day through his electromagnetic field theory.
Georg Cantor (1845-1918) was the first mathematician to give rules for manipulating numbers that are beyond the finite-transfinite numbers. He established the definition of mathematical infinities, proving that there are many infinities, all of different sizes. Cantor rejected an absolute mathematical infinity, while admitting mathematical infinities each larger than the other, on the grounds that God's infinity is the necessary source of a coherent view of mathematical infinities.
In the following two papers, D. F. M. Strauss (II.2.9; II.2.10) argues that metaphysical beliefs affect the content of mathematics, bringing about a reduction to number (discreteness) and a reduction to space (continuity), and that the idea of infinity embodies this relationship between number and space. He (II.2.10) concludes that "God has established an order...within creation" and that "mathematicians disclose existing mathematical order rather than create this order." Strauss introduces the idea of the mutual coherence and irreducibility of number and space suggested by the cosmonomic philosophy of Dooyeweerd, and develops a proposal to avoid antinomies based on two fundamental beliefs originating in the doctrine of creation: mathematics deals with a reality existing independent of the mind of mathematicians, and this reality displays a diversity of irreducible and coherent aspects.
D. N. Petcher (II.2.11) considers a case study in modern physics to illustrate the interplay between science and belief. Recognizing that one of the first tasks in speaking about a Christian view of science is to clearly define what is meant by "natural law," Petcher makes the helpful statement that "the laws of nature are not to be taken as blind mechanisms which are set in motion to function autonomously from God; rather, the laws actively express God's very workings in history by his powerful wordChis handiwork, or if you will, his artwork." The central purpose of the paper is to consider a specific case of inconsistency between two fundamental physical theories, general relativity and quantum field theory, which involve a fundamental difference in beliefs about the nature of physical reality. The evaluation of these two theories by Einstein and by Dooyeweerd, two men with quite different philosophical orientations, is considered. Einstein believed that his theory of general relativity was the more fundamental because for him a theory must describe actual events themselves and not just a statistical description; he believed in a deterministic universe for which "the ideal of mathematical simplicity was actualized in nature." Dooyeweerd, on the other hand, held that the diversity of creation is seen, in part, in an irreducibility of various aspects of creation to one another. He concluded that if discontinuity is seen in matter-energy (as in quantum mechanics), then physical space must exhibit such discontinuity, i.e., physical space must be "quantized" following the quantum theory. Although most physicists today would agree in general with Dooyeweerd's perspective on this issue, it would be for quite different reasons, more clearly set forth in the debates between Niels Bohr and Einstein early in this century.
The last two papers of this second volume deal with the question of "emergent properties" as the result of a hierarchy structure: reality consists of matter, and this matter is organized in levels of complexity. The editor of the series, J M. van der Meer (II.2.12) considers the implications for sociobiology in the thought of E. O. Wilson and C J. Lumsden, and U. Zylstra (II.2.13) considers hierarchy models in evolution. At issue is how we can account for the complexity of structure and function in organisms, and how religious and metaphysical beliefs affect the choice of hierarchy structure. The viewpoint being criticized here is that of "emergent materialism" which claims that qualitatively different higher-level phenomena emerge when lower-level entities enter into relationship with each other. The reduction is expressed as a relationship between parts and wholes (ontological reduction) and among theories at different levels of organization (theory reduction). It is argued that Wilson and Lumsden exclude reference to higher-level causes (downward causation). Thus van der Meer charges them with allowing philosophical materialism to shape the relationships among theories.
Although materialism can lead to a specific perspective on the subject of "emergent properties," it is not at all clear that it is a necessary approach. A fundamental question appears to be whether mental, sociocultural, and religious phenomena are reduced to the implications of a materialistic ontology, if it is believed that these phenomena arise as genuine realities from material interactions with appropriate boundary conditions that express the activity of God. Must the reality of creation be described in terms of brain-mind and body-spirit dualism? Does a person have a body, a soul, and a spirit? Or is it a more accurate description of God's activity to propose that he has brought human beings into existence as bodily, soulful, and spiritual creatures, in whom the relationship among the mind, soul, and spirit, and the patterned interactions of the material hierarchy, are a marvelous wonder of God's work? There is no reason why such a view cannot see the effect of the "wholes" on the "parts," as well as of the "parts" on the "wholes."
Zylstra argues that the theory of evolution cannot be supported by empirical evidence and that its universal acceptance has led to the proposal of hierarchy theories without ontological foundation. Evolutionary selection is assumed to begin with these hierarchy theories, and this strongly influences the consequent thinking. The author indicates that Dooyeweerd's "encaptic" theory is his own preference for understanding relationships between levels of organization. As discussed earlier by R. A. Clouser (II.1.4), this term refers to a situation "in which a subwhole exists and acts within the internal organization of a larger whole which has a different qualifying function from the subwhole, while the qualifying function of the subwhole is overridden by that of the larger whole, for example, the relationship between atoms included in a bird and the bird as a whole."
III.1. Beliefs in the physical sciences, including ancient to modern astronomy, Newton and his beliefs, the shroud of Turin, and seventeenth century science
L. Taub (III.1.1) deals with "Astral Piety: Astronomy and Ethics in the Ancient Mediterranean World," and explores the interaction among astral religion (the veneration of the heavenly bodies as divine or eternal), ethics, and astronomy in Greek antiquity, in particular in Plato and Ptolemy. In a second paper (III.1.2), Taub deals specifically with Chinese culture of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. During this time, various European missionaries in China attempted to win converts to Christianity, and Jesuit missionaries in particular sought first to interest the Chinese in astronomy and Western science, and then to convert them to Roman Catholicism.
B. Lightman (III.1.3) explores the role of religious and metaphysical beliefs in the popular science of the Victorian astronomer R. A. Proctor (1837-1888). Proctor's scientific theories and ideological position derived their authority from his religious thought. He used the analogy between the heavens and the earth to uphold the idea of extraterrestrial life and a naturalistic social ethics. "Proctor's lively astronomical imagination projects onto the skies a universe composed of planets, inhabited by aliens organized into industrial societies blessed by God."
Starting with the observation that cosmological knowledge is more difficult to obtain than knowledge in other sciences, J. Byl (III.1.4) emphasizes the need for fundamental assumptions derived from philosophical and religious convictions to guide cosmological theories, and gives some examples of how this has been done in the assumption of the validity of the principle of induction and the uniformity of nature throughout the universe. He concludes with the statement, "Christians must not permit modern cosmology to unduly modify their beliefs. On the contrary, they should hold on to the faith, construct a cosmology consistent with it, and look forward with confidence to the return of Christ."
The next two papers are concerned with the theological views of Isaac Newton. R. S. Westfall (III.1.5) argues that Newton was a deist, but E. B. Davis (III.1.6) contends that Newton believed that God is intimately involved in all phenomena and did not in fact embrace deism. Westfall does not doubt the influence of Newton's religion on his science, but can find no valid influence of his theology (Arianism) on his science. Instead he describes the effect of the basic stands of the scientific revolution on Newton's religion: "the central thrust of his lifelong religious quest was the effort to save Christianity by purging it of irrationalities." Davis on the other hand writes of "Newton's rejection of the `Newtonian worldview,'" and contends that Newton's understanding of God's activity in the universe shaped both his theological perspective and the content of his science. He argues that Newton rejected both the metaphor of a clockwork universe and the kind of cold mechanical universe involved in such a description, and contended instead for the constant activity of God in a way unlike the rationalistic approach of Descartes and Leibniz. Thus Davis contends that "Theology and science were inextricably intertwined during the crucial years when the modern scientific worldview was being formed....theology exerted a subtle but significant influence on seventeenth-century science."
C. I. J. M. Stuart and T. Settle are coauthors of "Physical Laws as Knowledge and Belief" (III.1.7). They start with the fundamental assertion that "Science implies the existence of a primitive reality deeper than the empirical reality scientists regularly encounter in their work," and conclude with the important perspective so often overlooked in discussions of science and faith, "Physical theories and the laws of physics are purely human constructions...The laws and theories of physics do not...describe reality. They advance what we believe about it in the light of current thought." This perspective must be coupled with the equally significant one that an independent reality is the source for the kinds of observed empirical regularities that physical laws and theories describe.
T. J. Trenn (III.1.8) considers the radiocarbon dating of the Shroud of Turin and proposes that a predisposition to disbelieve in the resurrection of Christ could have caused investigators to ignore possibilities that obscured the true age of the garment. While insisting that the Shroud itself must not become an object of faith, he argues that "it may for some who already believe unconditionally, even reinforce and further validate the earthly claims of Jesus Christ."
The relationship of religion to science in the seventeenth century is the subject of a paper by E B. Davis (III.1.9), who considers the theology of creation of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), Rene Descartes (1596-1650), and Robert Boyle (1627-1691) to answer three major questions, "How was God's relationship to the human mind understood? How was God's relationship to nature understood? What overall view of the nature of scientific knowledge was proclaimed?" He agrees with M. B. Foster (1903-1959) that theological assumptions are closely associated with conceptions of scientific knowledge, but disagrees with Foster's belief that Christian theology caused the rise of modern science.
III.2. Beliefs in the biological sciences involving evolution, belief and neuroscience, and the concept of hierarchies
S. Strijbos (III.2.10) compares two basic models or metaphors for the organism: the classical machine metaphor, and the chemical open-system metaphor advanced by Ludwig von Bertalanffy. Life is, in von Bertalanffy's view, a dynamical flow of matter and energy through open systems, a chemical model that replaced earlier models of the machine (in mechanism) and of the vital force (in vitalism). Although this model of a dynamical flow through open systems was advanced to free one from mechanistic thinking in biology, Strijbos argues that it merely substitutes one kind of machine model for another, an approach that is inadequate for the types of open systems manifested in organisms.
P. A. Nelson (III.2.11) considers the bearing of theology on evolutionary explanation, and has much to say as well about the concept of "methodological naturalism." Nelson concludes that the use of arguments from divine perfection and freedom in evolutionary reasoning is inconsistent with the principle of methodological materialism; this is certainly true if such arguments are regarded as science, but such an approach does violence to the very nature of science itself. It is important to realize that science itself, properly understood, does not tell the whole story. And it is equally important to realize that the finding of natural mechanisms for evolutionary processes (a scientific description) is in no way inconsistent with the recognition of these processes as our perception of God's activity (a theological description). Nelson considers specifically the argument from divine perfection, which appears to be contradicted by the argument from imperfect design shown in vestigial organs and suboptimal design, and the argument from divine freedom, which appears to be contradicted by similarity (homology). The conclusion of the paper is:
Science will have to deal with theological problems if science is a truth-seeking enterprise; theology must confront the patterns of scientific experience if it hopes to speak to all of reality.
What this essay helps to show, I think, is how very easy it will be to do both theology and science badly.
M. J. McDonald (III.2.12) compares the perspectives of Donald M. MacKay and Roger W. Sperry in terms of their theories of mind-brain relationships, their philosophies of science, and their models of science-belief relationships. MacKay and Sperry share a theory of consciousness that is emergentist with a mutual causal determination of mental and neural events, but their resulting interpretation differs considerably. In relation to the question of life-after-death, for example, MacKay concludes that having a scientific understanding of the embodiment of consciousness in brains tells us nothing specific about the possibility of conscious life after death, whereas Sperry maintains that the inseparability of consciousness and brain function makes after-life notions untenable.
Hierarchy theory, that perspective which sees reality in terms of levels of organization, is explored further by D. L. Wilcox (III.2.13). In simple language, hierarchy theory sees reality as composed of a series of parts and wholes, any particular entity being a part of more complex entities at higher levels of organization, and a whole for less complex entities at lower levels of organization. New properties of the whole emerge because of a particular patterned interaction of the parts. In this paper, Wilcox examines four different models of hierarchy: (1) hierarchies of classification which express their users' metaphysical convictions, but have no ability to explain emergence of new properties; (2) hierarchies of material composition which are unable to explain the emergence of complexity and information; (3) hierarchies of information which cannot decode themselves or follow their own instructions; and (4) control hierarchies, which are composed of entities that read and follow the genetic instructions, and are able to fulfill the tasks of the organism as a whole. This holistic control perspective is advanced as fully consistent with a theistic perspective on the world.
Another paper dealing with the concept of hierarchy by S. Strijbos (III.2.14) again raises the question of whether hierarchy theory is the key to overcoming reductionism. There is considerable debate about this issue; for example, von Bertalanffy considers hierarchy theory as the way to combat reductionism in science, whereas Herbert Simon develops a general theory of hierarchical systems precisely because he is a reductionist. After considering the strengths and weaknesses of these two approaches, Strijbos concludes that "current systems-theoretical conceptions of a hierarchical order of reality are inadequate for purposes of overcoming reductionism," and advocates development along the line of the "multi-modal view" developed by Dooyeweerd.
IV.1. Theistic interpretations of God's actions in the world, including divine agency,transcendent causes, approaches to natural theology, evolution, the laws of nature, and design
The fourth volume faces the following issues: "Renewed interest in intelligent design is raising many old questions of natural theology. Can God's action in nature be used as an explanatory strategy in science and as an argument for his existence? How can Christians claim to be able to understand material nature by acting as if God does not act in nature while also believing that God acts providentially in nature, history, and in their personal lives?"
O. C. Thomas (IV.1.1) proposes that the best way to approach the general problem of God's activity in the world is to consider the model of double agency, i.e., that in one event both the divine and creaturely agents are fully active. Double agency has not received an intelligible solution in spite of the fact that central Christian beliefs include, for example: (1) obedient living as the result of God living in the person without taking away the person's freedom of action, (2) that God can act in nature and history, (3) that the Bible can have a human and a divine dimension, and (4) that Jesus' actions can be God's actions. After considering the suggestions of several authors, Thomas concludes that there are only two possible solutions to the problem: (1) follow the lead of process theology in which neither the divine nor the human agent is a sufficient cause of the event, or (2) affirm double agency but assert that it is mysterious by nature, that the actual connection lies outside our knowledge, similar to the mind-body problem.
Issues related to "double agency" are pursued further by T. Settle (IV.1.2) and D. B. Austin (IV.1.3). Settle argues that the concept of double agency is intelligible, possible, and not self-contradictory. He suggests that a better metaphysics for treating the issue when dealing with nonhuman creatures can be found in a metaphysics "that keeps faith with insights and principles drawn from Whitehead's philosophy of organism, though not orthodox process thought," but that this cannot be applied straightforwardly to human life with God. He proposes that insight from process theology offers some interesting suggestions, that it unifies God's activity, and that it gives a new interpretation of the biblical view that lawful behavior is a manifestation of creaturely obedience.
Austin tackles the same issues with a proposed redefinition of God's omniscience, informed by present-day knowledge about uncertainties at the quantum level, "as the knowledge of all things knowable (roughly in parallel with the idea that omnipotence is the ability to do all things do-able), including the actual as actual, the possible as possible and the probable as probable...God can still be said to know all things that can be known...to have perfect knowledge of the probability that attends each future possibility." Perhaps both of these process-theology-related views is more limiting of God and his activity in the world than is necessary or biblically defensible.
W. A. Dembski (IV.1.4) states that his aim is to answer the question, in a primarily philosophical investigation of narrow scope: Can we "have knowledge of a transcendent cause if certain contingent facts about the world happen to turn out in certain specified ways?" His answer calls for imagining that a pulsar exists such that its emissions in Morse code can provide the answers to intractable computational problems beyond the computational resources of the material universe, but easily checkable for accuracy once received. Then we would be justified in concluding that the pulsar's computational ability warrants our belief in a transcendent cause. Whether evidence of such transcendent causes of this compelling nature actually exist is a question postponed by Dembski for future discussion.
. Byl (IV.1.5) considers the "Kalam Cosmological Argument" for the existence of God: "the finite past of the universe implies its ex nihilo creation by a personal creator," specifically as advanced by W. L. Craig in his 1979 book by that name. He concludes that all scientific arguments for a finite age of the physical universe involve a Big Bang singularity, which leads only to a "prime mover," not to the living God of the Bible. If it is to lead to conversions to Christianity, Big Bang cosmology must be replaced by a biblical cosmology involving a transcendent God, supernatural causes, and an immortal soul. Byl argues that "once the supernatural has been accepted as real, naturalistic explanation must be rejected in favor of divine intervention," and favors a view in which God created the entire universe ex nihilo in the more recent past. It isn't clear that an equally viableCand possibly preferableCapproach might not call for a scientific description of the Big Bang in natural terms as the human description of God's free creative activity.
S C. Meyer (IV.1.6) considers the use of "intelligent design" in scientific explanation, as "methodological naturalism" in science once again comes under attack. He questions whether distinction between "design" and "descent" in biological science, for example, is legitimate, and questions the use of naturalistic criteria to discriminate between them. This leads him to consider the basic question, "Must all scientific hypotheses be entirely naturalistic?" He accepts that the historical answer to this in science has been "Yes," but offers reasons for overturning the prohibition against nonnaturalistic explanations in science. There appears to be a confusion based on identifying a naturalistic description with the exclusion of a theological description. It is appropriate to limit the term "science" to descriptions involving natural categories only, when it is recognized that such "science" is not the only form of meaningful description. By tacitly accepting the premise that "science" and "scientism" are identical, the appropriate desire to make clear the role of nonscientific descriptions leads to the inappropriate conclusion that every kind of description should be included in the category of "scientific description." Meyer concludes with a key question, "Does a strictly materialistic evolutionary scenario, or one involving intelligent agency, or some other, best explain the origin of biological complexity, given all relevant evidence?" The answer is open to exploration, but what is neither helpful nor faithful to the activity of authentic science itself, is the conclusion that a nonnaturalistic theory should be included as part of a scientific description. Rather it should be recognized that a "naturalistic evolutionary scenario " may provide "the most adequate explanation of biological complexity" in terms that science can provide, but that nonscientific insights may be essential for a complete and adequate holistic perspective. This is the type of approach that a complementary description for science and theology attempts to provide, upholding the position that "descent" is the scientific description of mechanisms appropriate in biological science, which provides us with information about the pattern of God's "intelligent design."
Two Lutheran approaches to natural theology are discussed by G. L. Murphy (IV.1.7). He considers the question, "Can science proceed from knowledge of the world to tell us anything about the existence or nonexistence of God, who God is, or God's purpose for the world?" In response he considers the classic and the dependent views within the Lutheran tradition. The classic view argues that man may know certain fundamental but limited truths from his knowledge of nature, such as the existence of a supreme Divinity, his control over the whole universe, and that he has brought all things into being, but such knowledge of God is not adequate to secure redemption or everlasting life. The dependent view starts with the theology of the cross, with God as the crucified One, to be known in the crosslike events, revealed in the crucified and risen Christ, whose work is then to be discerned in the universe. Thus Murphy combines methodological naturalism in science with theistic interpretation of natural phenomena, grounding both in Luther's theology of the cross. The physical world can be understood "with no reference to God." In the event that it should become possible to explain the origin of the universe entirely in mechanisms that are scientifically describable, we will be brought to "the end of a theology of glory which expects God to reveal himself in an irresistible way. The theology of the cross does not look for such a God. Rather, it seeks the God of whom Second Isaiah speaks: `Truly, thou art a God who hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Savior.'"
D. H. Wacombe (IV.1.8) asks whether the Grand Evolutionary Story, including a naturalistic account of human origins, is basically improbable given the truth of Christian theism. His discussion is deliberately prior both to an examination of scientific evidence and to an examination of specific biblical accounts of human origins. He concludes that there can be compatibility between divine purpose and indeterminism, and between God's action in the world and the use of naturalistic explanation in science. "To accept the Grand Evolutionary Story with its naturalistic explanations is not necessarily to accept these explanations as naturalistic in any deeper sense. The possibility remains open that the basic laws they invoke are themselves explicable only as manifestations of God's free and rational creative activity." Thus Wacombe endorses a primarily complementary perspective. He argues that the realization that the laws of nature are not the result of inexplicable brute fact but are finely tuned for the production of intelligent life, and that they appear to be contingent rather than logically necessary, points in the direction of a distinctively Christian theism.
The subject of "design" vs. "descent" is considered again by K. W. Hermann (IV.1.9) who uses the historical interaction between "sa Gray's advocacy of "design" and Charles Darwin's insistence on "descent" without design. Gray undertook a defense of the position that "Darwin's views could be effectively harmonized with the natural theological claim that the world was the product of God's design." Unfortunately for the specific interaction between these two men (and for countless debates in more recent years), "Darwin rejected Gray's harmonizing efforts totally and completely as a misunderstanding of his philosophical and scientific position." This paper spells out some of the details of the debate between these two men that effectively destroyed the personal friendship between them except for what they could agree on: their mutual love of flowers.
The editorial remarks by J. van der Meer in the Introduction to Volume IV seek to shed a little further light on this topic. He believes that there is a fundamental reason for the differences on this subject to be found historically between Reformed theology and evangelical theology. "Reformed scholars tend to assume that the explanatory ideal is a logical entailment of the existence of God by observation of cases of design with suspension of faith in God." "Most evangelical design theorists know that faith is much more than logic and that conversion requires a divine act rather than logical coercion." Some of these characteristics are evident in modern-day attempts to argue that scientific results alone demand the truth of the biblical God, rather than recognizing the complementary nature between scientific descriptions of how God acts and the theological recognition that it is indeed God acting.
The discussion of natural theology continues in a paper by R. Maatman (IV.1.10). He gives two definitions of "natural theology": (1) the derivation of knowledge of God from creation, even to the extent of attempting to use observed design in creation to prove the existence of a Designer; and (2) the use of the wonders of creation to attract unbelievers so that they may be open to hearing the Gospel message. He argues against the first of these on the grounds that "Scripture teaches us to start with God rather than attempt to prove his existence from his works." He finds the second more desirable, provided that it is not limited to "attracting unbelievers." Thus Maatman asks for a "testimony from design" rather than "proof from design." He presents examples from both chemistry and physics, and especially emphasizes the need to praise God for giving us minds that can use design to make successful predictions about aspects of creation.
Natural theology is further investigated by C. B. Kaiser (IV.1.11) who considers the relationship between the "laws of nature" and the "nature of God." He poses a Atheistic dilemma": "either God is redundant, and the biblical portrayal of divine action in the world is only figurative; or there are severe limits to science and the laws of nature it discovers." It would seem that there is also a third option, namely that our scientific descriptions of the world and our perception of the "laws of nature," are our limited descriptions of God's free activity. Kaiser considers three responses to the dilemma he has described, one focusing on science, one on history, and one on theology. His conclusion is that all three are needed for an adequate response to the dilemma. One helpful comment he makes is "Whatever takes place in creation as the result of God-given laws is the work of God in the biblical view. The work of God and the laws of nature are not mutually exclusive but mutually inclusive or even `complementary.'"
G. W. Shields (IV.1.12) discusses the logico-philosophical difficulties found in the positions of several writers on physical cosmology (Brandon Carter, S. W. Hawking, John Barrow, and Frank Tipler) and biology (Richard Dawkins and John A. Wheeler), positions which their holders regard as being clearly preferable to any theistic interpretation. He suggests that the reasons for the strong nontheistic preferences have perhaps more to do with a cultural ethos of naturalism than with any genuine intellectual merit in their preferences. He argues that a theistic philosophy is capable of avoiding the extremes of necessitarianism and contingentism, both of which have logical difficulties. And he points out that naturalistic proposals by natural scientists effectively amount to a claim that their theoretical projects enable them to answer questions once thought to be the sole province of metaphysicians and theologians.
J. H. Brooke (IV.1.13) explores the role of chemistry, as opposed to biology or physics, in the interaction between science and theology. He points out that chemistry has found a place within natural theology, and that it has been used both to attack and to defend materialism. To explore the diversity of some of these views, Brooke turns to the chemico-theologies of Joseph Priestley, Humphry Davy and William Prout from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The unitarian Priestly removed the distinction between matter and spirit in his thought, Davy spoke about the divine purpose expressed in the laws of nature and argued against French materialism, and Prout was the author of a text on natural theology, one of the Bridgewater Treatises, and in the new science of organic chemistry he integrated vitalism and scientific research.
Editor J. M. van der Meer makes some insightful comments as he summarizes the various inputs of the papers in (IV.1.1B13) "A Christian context...removes the need to identify divine action by local inference from observation which is the assumption behind both the God-of-the-gaps attitude and reactions to it, such as locating God's action at the quantum level. One can locate his action at the macrolevel and view natural causation and divine providence as mutually complementary ways of understanding nature."
IV.2. The role of Scripture in science, including Galileo, Copernicus, human responsibility, and creational revelation
"The question that defines the field of biblical hermeneutics as it relates to science is to understand how a message of absolute and eternal truth can be characterized by the limitations of human understanding, culture and history."
C. Pinnock (IV.2.14) starts with the recognition of two extreme responses to the question, "What does science have to do with Scripture?": "Nothing," as expressed by Karl Barth, or "Everything," as expressed by Wolfhart Pannenberg. Since both science and Scripture speak to one created reality, Pinnock argues that they should not be isolated into two noninteracting compartments, but allowed to interact for the good of both. Pinnock's "historic unified interactive model" calls for recognizing that (1) both general and special revelation are God-given sources of truth, (2) the utilization of science and Scripture each requires human interpretation that is not infallible, (3) the interaction between science and Scripture is a two-way street, with science sometimes indicating the preferred direction of interpretation of Scripture, and Scripture sometimes indicating the preferred direction of interpretation of the meaning of scientific descriptions, (4) the exercise of modesty on both sides is often required to prevent conflict, and (5) there must be freedom in carrying out the interaction of science and theology.
K. J. Howell (IV.2.15) considers the interaction between science and theology in the historic case of Galileo. Galileo adapted the hermeneutical principle of accommodation that was believed to be reflected in Scripture by Augustine and the church fathers. Concerning whether Scripture taught physical science, Augustine argued that the purpose of Scripture was to lead to salvation, and that misinterpretations of the Bible are often caused by not understanding this purpose. Galileo was convinced that physical propositions and the Bible must always agree as discussed by the church fathers. "To use the Bible to argue against a specific scientific theory is as much an abuse of the Bible as it is an abuse of science."
The following paper by K. J. Howell (IV.2.16) deals with the problem of biblical interpretation in the debates on Copernicanism in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The dominant metaphor was that of God's two books: the book of nature, and the Book of Scripture. Both books served to increase the knowledge of God; they could never contradict one another. As a result of a consideration of specific issues, Howell draws two guiding principles: (1)"the clear commitment to truth that must be held in balance with a respect for the distinctive methods and procedures of individual disciplines, and (2) the recognition of the tradition-based character of the resolution of conceptual conflicts."
H. G. Geertsema (IV.2.17) undertakes a detailed fundamental analysis of the nature and interaction of faith and science. He starts with a consideration of human vocation and responsibility according to the Bible, and then of the implications of this view for the evaluation of scientific research. A useful summary of his major points are given in van der Meer's introductory remarks. "
Although faith and science have their independent grounds, they interact primarily by limiting each other. First, Christian faith prohibits competing religious interpretations of nature and keeps science from assuming a religious role. For instance, naturalistic science is criticized not by proposing a creationistic science, but by rejecting its religious pretensions manifest in its naturalism which is seen as foreign to science. Second there are norms for knowledge implicit in creation. These norms prohibit attributing absolute certainty and generality to scientific knowledge. That is, they rule out a religious status for rationality as a dimension of creation."
Geertsema argues that the Christian tradition has been strongly influenced by the Greek concept of absolute knowledge linked to absolute truth, and of knowledge as a single rationally cohesive system. This Greek philosophical view of truth has affected the understanding of the authority of the Bible in two main ways: (1) the Bible comes to be regarded as a source of knowledge of unchanging truths, rather than as a call to respond to God's love with our whole self, and (2) all of the knowledge contained in the Bible comes to be regarded as being of equal value, with the loss of appropriate distinctions between the religious significance and the historical information given there. One consequence is that scientific knowledge should be judged by its own standards, not by the models and understanding of the human authors of the Bible. At the same time, Geertsema is careful to point out that he is not suggesting the adjustment of theology to fit with science, and that science cannot be totally separated from religious understanding since science functions in a total worldview that is guided by faith. While emphasizing that "naturalism" (in the sense of a worldview eliminating God) is actually a faith and should be challenged as such, he also concludes that "in its explanations science cannot refer to God."
M. Goheen considers the neo-Calvinist tradition of Reformed theology involving the metaphor of "the organism of revelation," (IV.2.18), and reviews the relation between Scripture and creational revelation as developed in the continental Dutch Reformed tradition, contrasting this with natural and Barthian theology (IV.2.19). His use of the term "organism" emphasizes the unity in diversity of God's revelation, in which there are many different parts that work together for the same purpose. The unique authority of Scripture is related to the Spirit's witness, its redemptive function, and its theological and christological focus. Recognition of the difference between the discourse of science and of Scripture leads one not to expect that Scripture will provide data for science. When the Bible speaks of "the sun going down," this is not an unscientific nor a primitive statement, but a non-scientific statement. Also the author indicates that he would expect fewer themes and norms in Scripture that are immediately applicable to scientific theorizing in the natural sciences than in the human sciences.
In his second paper, Goheen addresses the question of how we should respond when we find that the findings of natural science conflict with an interpretation of Scripture. His purpose is to describe the relationship between creational revelation, scriptural revelation, and science. If science conflicts with an established Scriptural interpretation, it must be remembered that both are human responses to divine revelation. Goheen gives a useful definition of scientific law: "a human endeavor to theoretically formulate a description of that (creational) revelation." This leads to the conclusion that "All scientific formulations are partial, historical, human endeavors and therefore fallible. God's word in creation is divinely authoritative, but our human reception and articulation of it is not." Ultimately "there can be no conflict between creational revelation and scriptural revelation." Or again, "scriptural and creational revelation function on entirely different levels...They presuppose and complete each other. They function and contribute in unique and complementary ways." With this perspective in mind, it follows that conflicts between science and Scripture "must result from a clash between interpretations." Two extremes must be contested: the attempt to read from Scripture the details of the creational revelation appropriately investigated through science, and the attempt to rewrite the Scriptures into a modern scientific worldview.
The final paper in this lengthy work is by A. Wolters (IV.2.20) who proposes that consideration of creation as "separation" offers a link between the Bible and scientific theory. He echoes some of the suggestions of Goheen when he says, "There seems to be a perennial pull which draws Christians to one of two poles in reflecting on this issue: either to adopt the position which takes Scripture to be directly answering scientific questions (which we may call biblicism), or to espouse the position that the Bible and science must be kept strictly separate (which we may call dualism)." Emphasizing the frequent use of the concept of separation in the biblical creation narrative, Wolters suggests that a fundamental characteristic of a scriptural worldview would be the "conception of creation as God-ordained differentiation." The concept of separation can then be linked to "a pre-scientific worldview that emphasizes the discreteness and irreducibility of various kinds of created reality" and can serve as a "biblical antidote to the kind of historicism according to which any kind of thing can, over time, turn into any other kind of thing."
This four-volume set is clearly a rich resource for those who are interested in exploring perspectives on the relationship of faith and science, particularly from the worldview of the Dutch Reformed position, which is dominant in many of the papers. It is probably not suitable for informal reading, since the scholarly involvement of the authors makes a detailed understanding of the text a time-consuming occupation. Hopefully this review will at least pinpoint the papers and discussions of primary interest to any prospective reader so that a beginning could be made with them.