Writer’s block: figuring out what to say about philosophy and science as they relate to religion

So, next on the agenda is to rework my half-completed drafts of chapters six, seven, and eight of the book, which deal with philosophy and science. But I’m feeling a bit stuck.

For one thing, I’m seriously considering cutting the philosophy chapter (chapter six) and spreading its contents out over other chapters. I’ve already moved the discussion of Plantinga’s free will defense to chapter five. The stuff about philosophy vs. science can be bundled in with the chapters on science. And while I was initially planning on adding this, I don’t think a discussion of the pathologies of philosophy as an academic discipline are really needed in this book.

Futhermore, I’m not sure I have three chapters worth of stuff to say about all this. But the question then is how to reorganize three chapters into two. Which leads to the reason why writing a book is vastly more difficult than writing an equal word count worth of blog posts: you don’t just need to write the material, you need to make the material all fit together somehow into a cohesive whole.

Originally, the chapters were going to be on philosophy, scientific investigation of the supernatural, and evolution. My thought is to combine the first two of those into a chapter titled something like “Science, part 1: How we know what the world is really like.” But as I sit down to make those revisions, it’s just not feeling right.

Does anyone feel inspired to read all three half-complete chapters, and give suggestions for where to go with this?

  • http://shelter.nu/ Alexander

    Could I suggest that you don’t talk about science as a subject (or especially not in the title), but just start talking about the definition of knowledge, and then venture down the path of epistemology (without, perhaps, using that word). That way science emerge as a natural thing that it makes sense for us all to do rather than this “thing” that is the bane to religion?

    I find it very refreshing (ie. helpful) in discussions about religion to talk about knowledge, and how we define “truth”. People are very open to empirical testing in their every-day life (“How do you find your car keys?” “What to do about that rash?” “What would you do if fire breaks out in your house?”), and little by little inch towards the more serious questions in life. I think that by starting at the smaller end, with a progression towards the big, puts people into a mode where they have to admit to limitations in their knowledge and force them to see that choosing a threshold on a gradient is, well, problematic.

  • MNb

    An important point of writing a book, so I have read, is cutting the weed – ie removing everything that’s superfluous. The subjects of chapter 7 and 8 are so close to each other that I think you should combine them. After all scientific skepticism towards miracles seriously affects certain kinds of religion. The three broad categories are basically four of them. A few suggestions:

    1. trim chapter 7 and bring it over to chapter 8 (which will become chapter 7, but whatever). Miracles will become the first category.
    2. remove the comment on Gould. It doesn’t belong in this chapter, especially if you’re right on this: “he must have meant it as a statement about what religion should be like.” It’s a good comment, so you might use it in another chapter.
    3. trim the part on methodological naturalism and combine it with the section on miracles.
    4. trim the part on Plantinga.
    5. discuss the four categories in four separate sections and give in each of them one example, two at the absolute max. In the category disproven doctrines I like the bits on original sin and afterlife best – YEC is so generic and has been perfectly addressed by Coyne’s WEIT and the likes. A short remark should suffice.

    Hope this helps.

    • Chris Hallquist

      Maybe, after combining chapters 7 and 8, I should then switch the order of 6 and 7? Like, first, here’s the arguments against religion, now here’s the rebuttal from the philosophers and my counter rebuttal?

  • MNb

    Haven’t thought about that option, sorry … but my first impression is that it makes sense indeed.