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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 1: Thu Oct 03, 2019 3:34 pm
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Alister McGrath's, "The Science of God"

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Alister McGrath’s scientific theology project, “The Science of God,” seems to be an attempt to pacify the cognitive dissonance created by his dogmatic Christian beliefs and his admiration of the scientific method’s reliability. He acknowledges the achievements made possible by the scientific method and seeks to incorporate it into theology. However, while McGrath seems to recognize where a priori dogmas inhibit scientific advancement, he grounds his scientific theology in the a priori dogma of Christian Orthodoxy. In fact, he explicitly asserts that Christian orthodoxy is affirmed rather than questioned. Because Christian orthodoxy prohibits its own introspection in this way, it lacks an objective method by which to determine if it is mistaken about anything. The natural sciences, on the other hand, have a built-in mechanism for self-correction and for the mitigation of confirmation bias. McGrath either fails to articulate this essential distinction or deliberately ignores it.

McGrath intends for the incorporation of the scientific method to produce a posteriori theological conclusions, but his project fails on the outset by demanding it be grounded on the a priori theological belief in divine creation and special revelation as specifically dictated by orthodox Christianity. His somewhat incoherent and pandering defense of elevating Christianity above all other unfalsifiable and logically consistent metaphysical models is never clearly demonstrated. Regardless, obedience to the presupposition that the Christian God exists and has communicated his word through the Holy Scriptures is an a priori influence that will corrupt the reliability of any a posteriori conclusion determined by McGrath’s scientific theology. As such, his epistemology strips the scientific method of its ability to mitigate for confirmation bias and renders the entire enterprise unscientific.

McGrath adopts a critical realist approach which presumes the existence of a “stratified reality.” He insists, “…we must recognize that there are many equally valid way of conceiving the world.” Naturalism is given as a competing example, but his criticism of it as a single methodology fails to distinguish between Philosophical Naturalism and Methodological Naturalism. Despite McGrath’s sleight of hand here, a separate methodology for each individual stratum of reality is not required as long as the stratum are identified as follows: metaphysical truth, conceptual truth, and empirical truth. Such a model establishes logical boundaries where a single methodology such as Methodological Naturalism may be pragmatically applied to produce a conceptual and empirical knowledge base that functions to accurately inform any decision we could make in the reality we perceive. Beyond the metaphysical knowledge of our own existence, inaccessible metaphysical knowledge has no practical value and is justifiably ignored.

Meanwhile, McGrath has constructed a scientific theology in which he argues for orthodox Christianity as a compatible explanation for everything. What McGrath fails to realize, though, is that God’s compatibility with all scientific evidence makes all such evidence irrelevant. This outcome defeats his entire purpose for incorporating science into theology. The metaphysical notion of a God which interacts with our perceived reality in a way that is indistinguishable from the effects caused by natural forces or random chance has no explanatory power. If there is no way to know if an event was caused by God or some unknown natural cause, then the claim “God did it” is completely useless as an explanation for that observation even if it is metaphysically true. Science does not require a natural hypothesis to have more explanatory power in order to ignore an unfalsifiable metaphysical claim for this reason.

McGrath conceives of metaphysical truths as being interpreted rather than objectively verified and attempts to capitalize on that limitation to put his scientific theology on equal footing with other perspectives regarding the metaphysical truth of nature. However, the reasoning given in support of his scientific theology conflates metaphysical truth with conceptual truth. His strategic and unapologetic substitution of the word “creation” in place of “nature” is an obvious example of this classic equivocation fallacy. McGrath states, “The ability of creation to display the creator is a direct consequence of its created status.” This statement doesn’t work if we replace the term “creation” with “nature.” Nature hasn’t been conclusively demonstrated to possess a created status which requires a creator.

While a scientific theology may be no more or less valid than other philosophical positions with regards to its perspective on metaphysical truths, it is not at all equal to Methodological Naturalism with regards to conceptual and empirical truths. The plausibility of Methodological Naturalism does not first require the nonexistence of God either. This is because Methodological Naturalism succeeds by producing objectively verifiable results independent of whether or not God exists. Nevertheless, McGrath eagerly emphasizes the inability of science to account for the order and structure it presupposes to exist in “creation” and desperately wants his scientific theology to fill that gap. He indicates, “The traditional Christian idea of creation …allows us to infer that the created order stands in a direct relationship to its creator.” This is a fallacy of composition in that it arbitrarily presumes the order observed in nature is prescriptive rather than descriptive. It is also a questionable cause fallacy in that the natural order is presumed to originate from an ordered God when it is equally plausible that the human concept of an ordered God was derived as a consequence of human’s naturally evolving from the natural order.

McGrath explains that Thomas Aquinas grounded his theological approach on God’s creation of the natural order instead of human reason’s capacity to uncover God. However, it was Aquinas’s human reasoning that convinced him the natural order was created by God. Therefore, Aquinas was also grounding his approach on human reason’s capacity to uncover God. As such, the understanding of human rationality as the mirror upon which the image of God can be seen is another questionable cause fallacy. Are humans rational because God created them with that capability or did humans create their concept of a rational God because they naturally evolved a rational faculty as an emergent property of the natural order? This concept of God as a human construct for the purpose of satisfying the internal needs of humanity, as proposed by Ludwig Feuerbach, is not falsified by any of the Christian alternatives referenced by McGrath. In fact, Christianity is just one of an infinite number of metaphysical alternatives to Feuerbach’s account. Until Feuerbach’s account is falsified, there is no logical reason to assume any Christian alternative is superior.

If knowledge of God is affirmed through the natural order and some self-described word of God, then such an epistemology will affirm knowledge of an infinite number of competing and incompatible metaphysical claims about other Gods. For instance, we could substitute the theology of Naturalistic Pantheism in place of orthodox Christian theology where it is applied by McGrath in one of his statements to demonstrate this equivalence: Christians, without necessarily realizing that they have done so, may thus base their conception of rationality upon an attenuated yet real perception of the natural properties of a Naturalistic Pantheism, based upon a predisposition of the evolved brain to quest for such a higher power, and the proclivity of nature in bearing witness to that same higher power, in however nuanced and indirect a fashion.

McGrath also turns to the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics to support his scientific theology but ignores the reason math exists in the first place. Mathematics is an abstract representation of the descriptive properties we observe in the universe. The reason math works is because the observed properties of the universe work. Why do the observed properties of the universe work the way they do as opposed to working in some other way? If ever we are able to study hundreds of other universes, we’ll get a sense of what they look like to compare with our own. Until then, we have no grounds upon which to formulate reasonable expectations for the properties of our universe or the mathematical representations of it.

Unsurprisingly, McGrath asserts arbitrary acceptance of yet another unverifiable claim, that divine revelation is somehow a reliable foundation for concluding the natural order was created. If so, by what objective method are we supposed to determine if divine revelation actually occurs let alone determine which claims of divine revelation are reliable? How does a posteriori reflection on an alleged divine revelation qualify as “responsible” when it requires the specified revelation to be arbitrarily accepted as actually coming from God? The a posteriori reflection on divine revelation requires an a priori presupposition that God exists and reveals himself. McGrath’s reasoning here is inescapably circular.

Since claims of divine revelation are unfalsifiable, the possibility that God has not revealed himself cannot be ruled out. Therefore, if the metaphysical truth turns out to be that divine revelation has not occurred, then every claim of divine revelation including those of Christianity will be a subjective attempt to construct a notion of God. McGrath’s almost laughable solution to this dilemma is to assert, “Knowledge of God is presupposed, not established or determined, by a responsible natural theology.” How is it responsible to presuppose knowledge of anything? Could someone presuppose knowledge that God does not exist in a responsible natural atheology? If a scientific theology is not intended to prove the existence of God but presupposes God’s existence, then it cannot objectively evaluate the claim that God exists.

While science does presume some degree of regularity in the universe, it is not a dogmatic presumption. Science seeks to discover if the observed order and structure in the universe is uniform but will abandon the presumption if it discovers evidence to the contrary. In other words, the uniformity of nature discovered through the scientific process is a descriptive account of empirical observations. Meanwhile, the type of natural theology McGrath draws from presupposes the natural order is prescriptive in that it necessarily reflects the perfect order of a divine creator. However, McGrath conveniently neglects to point out that the same logical restrictions which limit the natural sciences to presupposing a uniform natural order are also a limitation for McGrath’s scientific theology. The laws of logic apply equally to both science and theology. All of this confusion should have led McGrath to ask why his omnibenevolent God goes through such great lengths to mislead people engaged in an honest pursuit of knowledge. Then again, according to McGrath, “The approach is designed to safeguard… Christian theology…” which is clearly antithetical to honest inquiry.

The process of science is not intended to deliberately support dogmatic metaphysical beliefs in the way McGrath attempts to use it in his scientific theology. As a result, the dogmatism inherent to McGrath’s scientific theology precludes its integration with the natural sciences. Regardless, McGrath is free to creatively develop a theology which can be intelligently designed to accommodate any existing and future scientific advancements. On the other hand, given his belief in divine revelation, it is a mystery as to why he bothers with appealing to science at all. In any case, as long as orthodox Christianity forbids objectivity in scientific investigations, there will never be any independent confirmation of God’s existence through the application of McGrath’s scientific theology. Ultimately, this analysis of McGrath’s proposal for a scientific theology has determined it to be nothing more than a glorified product of confirmation bias cloaked in intellectual jargon supported by fallacious arguments.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 2: Tue Oct 08, 2019 12:54 pm
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Interesting read. While I do not have time to comment on the entire article I will make comments on some specific point. One of the points that you make in the second to last paragraph of your article is the following.

While science does presume some degree of regularity in the universe, it is not a dogmatic presumption.

This is a totally inaccurate statement. Science has to be dogmatic about the regularity of the laws and constants of nature in universe. If the laws of nature were not consistent throughout the universe and time then it would be impossible to glean any knowledge of the rest of the universe through astronomy.

In fact you have already indicated previously in your article on the regularity of the laws of nature.

[color=green]McGrath also turns to the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics to support his scientific theology but ignores the reason math exists in the first place. Mathematics is an abstract representation of the descriptive properties we observe in the universe. The reason math works is because the observed properties of the universe work.

Science is very dogmatic about the laws of nature in this universe.

And then you provide some metaphysical examples in support of your point.

Why do the observed properties of the universe work the way they do as opposed to working in some other way? If ever we are able to study hundreds of other universes, we’ll get a sense of what they look like to compare with our own. Until then, we have no grounds upon which to formulate reasonable expectations for the properties of our universe or the mathematical representations of it.[/color]

In these examples that you are citing in support of your theory does show lack of knowledge about the theory your are trying to express. The multiverse theory does not propose hundreds of galaxies but an infinite number of galaxies. It is quite humorous that you would choose this example because the whole reason why the multiverse theory ever gained acceptance in the science community was because of string theory and the totally unexpected value of dark energy. String theory is a quest to describe where the laws of nature come from and dark energy is a crazy wrong prediction from theory which cannot be explained.

Every experiment ever done and ever will be done is on the predication that the universe is not nonsensical and that there is order in the cosmos.

The whole idea of a multiverse is a metaphysical belief by some scientist to have some reason why there is order in the universe. Without this metaphysical belief, an intelligent being is the only other alternative.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 3: Tue Oct 08, 2019 1:19 pm
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EarthScienceguy wrote:

Interesting read. While I do not have time to comment on the entire article I will make comments on some specific point. One of the points that you make in the second to last paragraph of your article is the following.

While science does presume some degree of regularity in the universe, it is not a dogmatic presumption.

This is a totally inaccurate statement. Science has to be dogmatic about the regularity of the laws and constants of nature in universe. If the laws of nature were not consistent throughout the universe and time then it would be impossible to glean any knowledge of the rest of the universe through astronomy.

In fact you have already indicated previously in your article on the regularity of the laws of nature.

[color=green]McGrath also turns to the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics to support his scientific theology but ignores the reason math exists in the first place. Mathematics is an abstract representation of the descriptive properties we observe in the universe. The reason math works is because the observed properties of the universe work.

Science is very dogmatic about the laws of nature in this universe.


To clarify, science operates under the presumption that the regularity observed in nature is consistent throughout the universe but would be willing to abandon that presumption if non-regularity could be demonstrated. In other words, if we were to ever discover that gravity operates differently in another part of the universe, science wouldn't just dogmatically reject that observation. However, until such an observation is confirmed, science will continue to operate under the presumption that gravity operates the same way in every part of the universe.

Quote:
In these examples that you are citing in support of your theory does show lack of knowledge about the theory your are trying to express. The multiverse theory does not propose hundreds of galaxies but an infinite number of galaxies. It is quite humorous that you would choose this example because the whole reason why the multiverse theory ever gained acceptance in the science community was because of string theory and the totally unexpected value of dark energy. String theory is a quest to describe where the laws of nature come from and dark energy is a crazy wrong prediction from theory which cannot be explained.

Every experiment ever done and ever will be done is on the predication that the universe is not nonsensical and that there is order in the cosmos.

The whole idea of a multiverse is a metaphysical belief by some scientist to have some reason why there is order in the universe. Without this metaphysical belief, an intelligent being is the only other alternative.


My statement was not intending to reference the multi-verse theory from string theory or suggesting that multiple universe are known to exist. I was only trying to make a point about us having only our local universe to examine with no ability to compare its properties with the properties of other universes which may or may not exist.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 4: Wed Oct 09, 2019 11:45 am
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[Replying to post 3 by bluegreenearth]

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To clarify, science operates under the presumption that the regularity observed in nature is consistent throughout the universe but would be willing to abandon that presumption if non-regularity could be demonstrated. In other words, if we were to ever discover that gravity operates differently in another part of the universe, science wouldn't just dogmatically reject that observation. However, until such an observation is confirmed, science will continue to operate under the presumption that gravity operates the same way in every part of the universe.


Science already has had measurement problems with gravity. No one proposed that gravity might be a different value out in the cosmos than here on earth, instead they proposed unmeasurable matter. They called this matter dark matter.

The universe does would not make sense if the laws of physics were different in any other location in the universe. So yes, physicist are dogmatic about the laws of nature.

Quote:
My statement was not intending to reference the multi-verse theory from string theory or suggesting that multiple universe are known to exist. I was only trying to make a point about us having only our local universe to examine with no ability to compare its properties with the properties of other universes which may or may not exist.


You do not have the option not to believe that we live in a multiverse. If you believe that the universe was not made by an intelligent being Ex nihilo. That was my point.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 5: Wed Oct 09, 2019 1:15 pm
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EarthScienceguy wrote:

[Replying to post 3 by bluegreenearth]

Quote:
To clarify, science operates under the presumption that the regularity observed in nature is consistent throughout the universe but would be willing to abandon that presumption if non-regularity could be demonstrated. In other words, if we were to ever discover that gravity operates differently in another part of the universe, science wouldn't just dogmatically reject that observation. However, until such an observation is confirmed, science will continue to operate under the presumption that gravity operates the same way in every part of the universe.


Science already has had measurement problems with gravity. No one proposed that gravity might be a different value out in the cosmos than here on earth, instead they proposed unmeasurable matter. They called this matter dark matter.

The universe does would not make sense if the laws of physics were different in any other location in the universe. So yes, physicist are dogmatic about the laws of nature.


The dark matter hypothesis was proposed to account for the gravity mystery, but it is not yet testable. As such, science is not dogmatically insisting that the dark matter hypothesis be accepted.

Quote:
Quote:
My statement was not intending to reference the multi-verse theory from string theory or suggesting that multiple universe are known to exist. I was only trying to make a point about us having only our local universe to examine with no ability to compare its properties with the properties of other universes which may or may not exist.


You do not have the option not to believe that we live in a multiverse. If you believe that the universe was not made by an intelligent being Ex nihilo. That was my point.


Are you suggesting that the only two choices are multiverse theory or theism ex nihilo? Why is agnosticism excluded from your false dichotomy?

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 6: Wed Oct 09, 2019 3:10 pm
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[Replying to post 5 by bluegreenearth]

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Are you suggesting that the only two choices are multiverse theory or theism ex nihilo? Why is agnosticism excluded from your false dichotomy?


What theory does agnosticism offer?

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 7: Wed Oct 09, 2019 3:52 pm
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EarthScienceguy wrote:

[Replying to post 5 by bluegreenearth]

Quote:
Are you suggesting that the only two choices are multiverse theory or theism ex nihilo? Why is agnosticism excluded from your false dichotomy?


What theory does agnosticism offer?


The point was that there is no requirement to offer or defend any theory. The two claims from the dichotomy you presented can be neither proved nor disproved. Therefore, assuming an agnostic position is perfectly reasonable in this case.

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