Thursday, April 05, 2012


I believe that James is fond of John Polkinghorne, a Cambridge physics professor who is also a Chruch of England  (that would be "Anglican," or "Episcopalian," in America-speak) clergyman.  Here is his question-and-answer site.

Two samples: Evolutionary Psychology
Question: Hello. I was wondering if you could please go into more detail on the idea  of evolutionary psychology, or at least direct me to some readings regarding  the topic. I am troubled by the idea that basically all that makes us human  can be explained through our evolutionary process. Examples of this would be  our own sense of morality, the idea of God and some even claim our own free  will. This is a field that I know basically nothing about, so whenever I  hear a new hypothesis put forward by some atheist affiliated with these  ideas (I am thinking primarily of Daniel Dennett), then I assume that he  must have some basis for such a belief. Any reply would help; I would just  like to hear your response. Thank you
 Response: Clearly evolution has shaped the way we have developed - it is part of God's creation like gravity. However the fact that one can tell an "evolutionary just-so story" to "explain" the emergence of any trait or behaviour does not mean that evolution provides a complete explanation or "explains away" anything.
  The easiest proof is that one can give a "plausible" account through evolutionary psychology (and it's half-brother the "theory of memes") of how belief in evolutionary psychology ("or memes") developed. So if such accounts "explain away" the things they cover, then they explain away themselves.
The God Delusion
Question: I'm not sure if I am writing at the best time for you, but I have a question about a recent book published by the writer Richard Dawkins called 'The God delusion'. Are you aware, or informed of it? If so, do you have any opinions about it? I havent read it myself, but from reviews it seems to heavily discredit the idea of a personal God. A God of what is traditionally believed by religious people. I read (in the reviews) that his opinions are that God is a irrational (within science) concept, and that God is a very immoral idea. Especially the God of the Jewish Bible. Being a Scientist and a religious believer, I would be appreciated if you could share your views with me. I am not a religious believer myself, but believe in God. However I wouldnt quite call myself a Deist either.
Preliminary Response by Nicholas Beale: Dawkins has been ranting about God for many years, has never taken the trouble to understand the concepts and is a bit of a sad case.  Prof Alastair McGrath has debunked his nonsense in his book Dawkins’ God.  Interestingly in The God Delusion Dawkins refers to the book but does not engage with it at all.  I will not buy his books on principle.
  Of course God is not an Object on which one can do experiments – God inevitably transcends science.  It is easy to say that an idea is absurd when you don’t understand it.  But since we have no idea what constitutes the Dark Matter and Dark Energy that seem to make up over 90% of the Universe, the idea that “nothing can be true unless it is well-understood scientifically) is ludicrous. And the idea that “you should not believe anything unless it can be scientifically proven” is self-refuting. However if a Loving Ultimate Creator exists then God cannot be less than personal: one of the many reasons the doctrine of the Trinity makes so much sense is that it shows how God can be both Personal and more than Personal.
It is certainly true that you can find bits of the Old Testament which apparently advocate totally immoral behaviour. I do not know how my Jewish friends deal with this. But for Christians all scripture must be understood in the light of Christ, and we know that the “bloodthirsty” bits are not to be taken “literally”.
I hope this is some use – I’ll see what John has to add.
John adds: I have read The God Delusion  and I am afraid that Nicholas is right and it is simply an atheistic rant - a very disappointing book. Much of it is taken up with stories about religious people who have done terrible things or said foolish things. Of course, this has happened. but there is no honest recognition in the book of the many occasions on which religious people have done good deeds, of compassion, peacemaking and artistic creativity, or said wise and insightful things. Nor is there adequate recognition that many non-religious people have also done terrible things or said foolish things.
PS The enquirer asked me to elaborate on 'the idea that “you should not believe anything unless it can be scientifically proven” is self-refuting.'  It cannot be scientifically proven, so if it were true, you shouldn’t believe it.  Furthermore, Godel’s Theorem shows that even in pure mathematics there are things that are true but cannot be proven

1 comment:

Texan99 said...

I like the way he analogizes to gravity. I believe in natural selection as a force that results in gradual adaptive changes to environments. I also believe in gravity. How one gets from there to the belief that God has been disproven is beyond me.

Every time I pick up a work about the history or philosophy of science I find statements like "When this scientist figured out X mechanism, he removed God from the process and put the process firmly in the hands of the scientist or technician." How's that again? They're not showing their work. I'd be very impressed indeed by a scientist who could create a natural law.