Thursday, 21 November 2013

Two Influences Of Christianity?

In different works, Poul Anderson suggests two possible influences of Christianity on science. First, in Is There Life On Other Worlds?, he suggests that the close reasoning applied to supernatural entities in theology was later re-applied to natural processes and technology because simultaneous social developments made that re-application possible. If so, then the simultaneity of theological disputes and technological developments was coincidental.

Secondly, he suggests, in "Delenda Est", that the belief that a single deity had created an ordered cosmos encouraged the scientific search for cosmic order. If so, then I suggest that the idea of such a creator can now be regarded as a discarded scientific theory. Organisms look as if they have been designed to survive and to procreate but natural selection is an alternative explanation. The Solar System has been compared to a clockwork mechanism which, of course, would have had to be designed. However, the laws of motion account for planetary orbits with reference to natural forces operating independently of consciousness. Scientific cosmogony describes gravitational and nuclear forces transforming the simplest of the elements into complicated galaxies of stars and planets.

There is more to a religious tradition than a discarded scientific theory. However, I argue that, if any meaning or value is to be found in such traditions, then it has to be differentiated from their earlier role in explaining cosmic origins. That latter task is now performed by scientists discovering pre-conscious forces and processes. Creation stories are valuable myths and we are now the heirs of all the traditions: Torah, Veda, Edda, Koran (YHWH, Indra, Odin, Allah) etc.

4 comments:

  1. Hi, Paul!

    To paraphase what Cardinal Bellarmine said in a moment of impatience with exegetes arguing over, I think, either the Genesis creation accounts or Joshua "stopping" the Sun: "The Bible is about how to get to heaven, not how heaven was made."

    The crucial points Genesis teaches is that God created the cosmos and started the process leading to the evolution of mankind. As a Catholic I feel no need to believe the crudely literal interpretations some evangelical Protestants insist on.

    Sean

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  2. Sean,
    Yes, I think that the editors of Genesis knew that the six days creation one day rest was a story but its point was God's creation of the universe. However, I still think that scientific cosmogony and natural selection give us an account of origins that does not involve any conscious creativity or design.
    Paul.

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    Replies
    1. Hi, Paul!

      But I don't think scientific cosmogony can ever go deeper than the HOW or the WHAT of how the universe began. I have my doubts that it can ever go beyond the first moment of the universe. That is, it can't answer the quesion: did a God exist before the moment of the Big Bang?

      For answers to questions like the ones I gave above, you have to turn to philosophy, metaphysics, or even theology/divine revelation.

      Sean

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  3. Sean,
    Yes, 2 questions here. I think it is wrong to place limits on what scientific cosmogony can do. It has already done far more than was expected and there are theories about universes before and outside ours. The God of the gaps always retreats as the gaps are filled.
    But philosophy does have a distinct, although complementary, role. My philosophical reflections, which are not just abstract but related to meditative practice, give me a conception of an impersonal eternal or absolute rather than a personal creator.
    Paul.

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