“What we should think of current science can quite properly depend, in part, on theology”

“What we should think of current science can quite properly depend, in part, on theology” July 28, 2019


This is a beautiful place.
The Bow River, near Canmore, Alberta  (Wikimedia Commons public domain photo)


From the research of a professor at Brigham Young University:


“There are 57 billion nematodes for every human on earth; Understanding them will help address climate change: Study details first global analysis of world’s most abundant creatures”




“How today’s global warming is unlike the last 2,000 years of climate shifts: Previous cooldowns and warm-ups were regional, driven by natural forces, paleoclimate data show”


“Is a mini ICE AGE on the way? Scientists warn the sun will ‘go to sleep’ in 2030 and could cause temperatures to plummet”




I read a few more pages today in Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).  I’m finding it an exceptionally good read.  Here’s one of the passages that struck me this morning:


[I]n case of conflict between Christian belief and current science, it isn’t automatically current science that has more warrant or positive epistemic status; perhaps the warrant enjoyed by Christian belief is greater than that enjoyed by the conflicting scientific belief.  Of course there could be defeaters for these Christian beliefs; but as we’ve seen, current science (at least as far as we’ve explored the matter) provides no such defeaters. . . .

Indeed, what we should think of current science can quite properly depend, in part, on theology.  For example, science has not spoken with a single voice about the question whether the universe has a beginning: first the idea was that it did, but then the steady state theory triumphed, but then big bang cosmology achieved ascendency, but now there are straws in the wind suggesting a reversion to the thought that the universe is without a beginning.  The sensible religious believer is not obliged to trim her sails to the current scientific breeze on this topic, revising her belief on the topic every time science changes its mind; if the most satisfactory Christian (or theistic) theology endorses the idea that the universe did indeed have a beginning, the believer has a perfect right to accept that thought. . . .

But where Christian or theistic belief and current science can fit nicely together . . . so much the better; and if one of the current versions of QM [quantum mechanics, the specific scientific area that Plantinga has been discussing] fits better with such belief than the others, that’s a perfectly proper reason to accept that version.  True, this version may not win out in the long run (and the same goes for QM itself); so the acceptance in question (as of QM itself) must be provisional.  Who knows what the future will bring?  But we can say at least the following: at this point, given this evidence, this is how things look.  And that’s as much as can be said for any scientific theory.  (120-121)


I can already imagine the visceral response of some of my readers to this provocative passage.  But Professor Plantinga is a very fine thinker and a subtle one, a deeply learned man, and not an easily-dismissed know-nothing or fundamentalist.  Before they presume to declare him wrong, they should probably read his book and familiarize themselves with his actual argument.


Posted from Canmore, Alberta, Canada



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