Thursday, May 11, 2006

Swinish science

After having washed his hands of the “creationist” crowd, Danny has evidently had a change of heart.

“First, note that far down in the post, I said I was going to quote from authorities. I didn't pretend that I was going to write from my own.”

I don’t have any particular problem with Danny speaking outside his field of expertise. I just want to make it clear to all that Danny is, indeed, speaking outside his field of expertise.

And the field in question is a highly specialized and interdisciplinary field—cosmology.

This simply means that Danny doesn’t know whether what he’s saying is true or false. All he’s giving us is an argument from authority—and from selected authorities, at that.

This is important to keep in mind when Danny assumes an oracular tone about how Gen 1 is falsified by the scientific evidence.

Danny is in no position to know that. He’s just a popularizer of a popularizer—regurgitating what Tanner Edis and others spoon-feed him.

There’s nothing wrong with that. But he doesn’t speak with any authority. He lacks the technical equipment to judge for himself. And he picks and chooses which authorities he puts his faith in.

For example, he’s apparently a firm believer in string theory. But, of course, there are scientific authorities who oppose string theory. So what’s an amateur to do when the experts disagree?

“If he doesn't have credentials, does he marshal out his big thoughts on whatever strikes his fancy, especially concerning that last post, in which he attempts to address science?”

What I did in my last post was not to make any scientific pronouncements, but to pose some questions for Danny.

“Then why would we want to get our information on "creation science" from him, rather than a bona fide credentialled creationist? Enter AiG and ICR.”

This is yet another example of Danny’s chronic reading incomprehension. In the various posting I’ve done on this thread, I never made a case for creation science, or proposed an alternative cosmological theory proffered by some representative of the creationist community.

All I did was to discuss the exegesis and implications of Gen 1,on the one hand, while citing a number of scientific authorities or philosophers in which they discuss various difficulties besetting cosmology, the philosophy of science, or theories of perception, on the other.

So the only scientists I cited were scientists who do not belong to the creationist camp—scientists who represent mainstream physics and cosmology.

In other words, I wasn’t making a case by citing any conservative Christian physicists or cosmologists. Rather, I made by case by citing the opposition.

Pity that Danny is still too dim to see that.

“I suppose I don't really care to hear Steve's refutation of Ryle's Regress any more than he cares to hear the materialist explanation of stellar evolution, then.”

The link takes us to a Wikipedia article. How is this article supposed to disprove indirect realism?

As long as Danny chooses to use Wikipedia as his gold standard, let’s follow the links. Here’s some of what a related article has to say:

“A problem with representationalism is that if it assumes that something in the brain, described as a homunculus, is viewing the perception, this suggests that some physical effect or phenomenon other than simple data flow and information processing must be involved in perception. This was not an issue for the rationalist philosophers such as Descartes, since dualism held that there is indeed a 'homunculus' in the form of the mind.”

But since, as I say in my profile, which Danny read, that I’m a Cartesian dualist, this gives me an automatic exemption from Ryle’s regress.

This is reinforced by yet another article:

“The succession of data transfers that are involved in perception suggests that somewhere in the brain there is a final set of activity, called sense data, that is the substrate of the percept. Perception would then be some form of brain activity and somehow the brain would be able to perceive itself. This concept is known as indirect realism. In Indirect Realism it is held that we can only be aware of external objects by being aware of representations of objects. This idea was held by John Locke and Immanuel Kant. The common argument against indirect realism, used by Gilbert Ryle amongst others, is that it implies a homunculus or Ryle's regress where it appears as if the mind is seeing the mind in an endless loop. This argument assumes that perception is entirely due to data transfer and classical information processing. This assumption is highly contentious (see strong AI) and the argument can be avoided by proposing that the percept is a phenomenon that does not depend wholly upon the transfer and rearrangement of data.”

I’d add that even if my own position were flawed, that is not an argument for his position. He needs to mount an independent argument for his own position—if he even knows what it is.

Speaking of which—this is what the last named article has to say about the science of sensation:

“The science of perception is concerned with how events are observed and interpreted. An event may be the occurrence of an object at some distance from an observer. According to the scientific account this object will reflect light from the sun in all directions. Some of this reflected light from a particular, unique point on the object will fall all over the corneas of the eyes and the combined cornea/lens system of the eyes will divert the light to two points, one on each retina. The pattern of points of light on each retina forms an image. This process also occurs in the case of silouettes where the pattern of absence of points of light forms an image. The overall effect is to encode position data on a stream of photons and to transfer this encoding onto a pattern on the retinas. The patterns on the retinas are the only optical images found in perception, prior to the retinas light is arranged as a fog of photons going in all directions.”

So, as I said before, the human mind lacks direct access to the observable. What we perceive is encoded information—information which has run through several permutations to reach our consciousness.

And this is a scientific analysis of perception. So the veil of perception is not merely a philosophical doctrine, but is a problem internal to science as well.

Surely this is highly germane when we ask about the relation between theory and reality.


“One question, though:
Steve, the ‘perception’ of divine revelation is different than the perception of "non-divine observation"”

I never spoke of the “perception” of divine revelation. Rather, I spoke of revelation as a partial way around the veil of perception.

God knows the world without perceiving the world. So there’s no gap between appearance and reality in God’s knowledge of the world.

And God can reveal his knowledge to us.

True, the Bible is an empirical object. But our knowledge of the propositions of Scripture doesn’t depend any resemblance between the abstract concepts and the linguistic tokens which encode those concepts.

Moving along:

“I've yet to take the first course in philosophy. I've read only sparsely in the field of philosophy.”

That’s not necessarily a problem. The question at issue is not your knowledge, or lack thereof, of philosophy in general, but the philosophy of science.

I don’t think it’s asking too much that a doctoral candidate in science have some grounding in the philosophy of science.

And even if that were asking too much, if you’re going to say that science disproves the Bible, then, even before you can appeal to the scientific “evidence,” you have to espouse and defend some version of scientific realism which would be sufficiently robust to make such a disproof even possible.

Instead of mousing over to Wikipedia, you might begin by reading relevant entries (along with the referenced literature) in, say, the Blackwell Companion to the Philosophy of Science (Blackwell 2001), viz. “Berkeley,” “Confirmation, Paradoxes of,” “Convention, Role of,” “Evidence & Confirmation,” “Explanation,” “Feyerabend,” “Idealization,” “Induction & the Uniformity of Nature,” “Kuhn,” “Lakatos,” “Laws of Nature,” “Locke,” “Logical Empiricism,” “Mach,” Mathematics, Role in Science,” “Metaphor in Science,” “Metaphysics, Role in Science,” “Models & Analogies,” “Observation & Theory,” “Popper,” “Quine,” Realism & Instrumentalism,” “Russell,” “Theoretical Terms: Meaning & Reference,” and “Underdetermination of Theory by Data,” to name a few.


“I take visual perception to be the combination of light entering your eye, your brain receiving and interpreting the signal, and another part of your brain using the combination of the signal and memory/experience to make sense of it.”

Fine. Let’s assume that this simplistic analysis is roughly correct. Notice that on this view the information which reaches the mind is already preinterpreted by the black box of our sensory processing system. What you end up with is a cryptogram.

So, my question, based on your own stated position, is how a cosmological theory can disprove the Biblical description of the world when your theory is so many steps removed from the sensory data. How do you compare appearance and reality? On your view, they are clearly distinct.

Notice, again, that I’m not relying on creation science to make my case. I’m pulling my material from the opposition to my own position.

“Perhaps you should ask me what I think rather than telling me what a wild animal I am for thinking it.”

Oh, dear! “Animal faith” is a coinage of George Santayana. I have to remind myself to assume as little as possible about Danny’s knowledge of the history of ideas.

Moving along:


Steve, it appears you have changed your mind. You said originally,
ME: Which also record lots of other goodies, like that the earth was created before the stars, that the plants were created before the sun, that the "days" were present before the sun,”

Steve: And the problem with all this is what, exactly?

Okay. So you admit now that there was a problem, if the sun was not in place before the earth. Fine. So I suppose we should focus on the new problem that this brings up, now that you've changed your mind from saying that there was no problem with plants existing before the sun. Now, your new problem is, you admit that the Hebrew Creation Myth is in dispute--the traditional interpretation is not one that you hold.


There’s a certain morbid fascination in tracking such an illogical reasoning process.

i) As I’ve said more than once, if the traditional interpretation is correct, that does not present a problem, and if my interpretation is correct, that does not present a problem either.

On the traditional reading, it would not be a problem since there would still be a solar equivalent in place on day 1.

On my reading, it would not be a problem since the sun was already in place on day 1.

The problematic rendering of Gen 1:14 is not a problem in relation to modern cosmology, for however you render it, you either have a sun or else a solar equivalent before the plants came on the scene.

BTW, we’re talking about just one verse—not the whole chapter.

Once again, how many Morgans does it take to change a light bulb?

However often I explain something to him, however often I paraphrase my explanation, it still bounces off his noggin.

“Besides, creationists have worked pretty hard on elucidating the differences in the sequences between modern science and the myth.”

i) Yet another inexhaustible example of Danny’s reading incomprehension. I never denied a difference between the sequence of Gen 1 and the sequence of modern science.

What I denied is that such a difference invalidates Gen 1. Danny has done nothing to show otherwise.

ii) And on any of the proposed readings, we still have a sequence of six consecutive calendar days—as I said before.

“Okay, so you admitted that yours is not the traditional reading, but you argued previously that even in the traditional reading it didn't matter.”

Yes, for purposes of scientific disproof, it matters not one way or the other, for either way, science is in no position to prove it wrong.

“I was arguing against the traditional and straightforward reading. This is where I pointed out to Steve that more than light is needed -- or else the planet's temperature would be lower than that of Pluto (which is warmed slightly by the distant sun). There would be no "waters" on the earth -- only ice.”

Everyone knows that sunlight is a source of heat as well as light—including the ancient Israelites. Try living in the Sinai desert for forty years.

“Steve's position evolved...just like stars, and life on earth.”

i) Only on Danny’s typical misreading of what was said.

ii) Let us also remember that Danny has been raising new objections which he didn’t invoke the first time around.

No, I didn’t respond to an objection that didn’t come up at the time of writing.

I address different answers to different objections. This doesn’t represent an evolution in my position. Rather, it represents an evolution in his critique. My replies go wherever his objections go. That’s what makes a response responsive. New arguments invite new counterarguments.

But I haven’t retracted my original position one inch.

“Nooooo...I believe I pointed out that more than light is needed -- heat it.”

Yes, Danny, everyone understands that a solar light source (or functional equivalent) is a heat source.

“Steve seems to want to have his cake and eat it too. If the lights [plural] in the expanse of the sky here, which mark seasons, days, and years, and govern the day and the night...are not the sun and moon...what in the hell are they?”

As I’ve explained several times now, they are the sun and moon.

And that’s consistent with my interpretation, with Wiseman’s (who renders the verb differently), and with Sailhammer’s (who renders the syntax differently).

Once again, this bounced right off Danny’s bulletproof noggin.

“An ad hoc is when the interpretation of Genesis is "tweaked" a bit.”

The so-called “tweaking” is a case of how to render the Hebrew wording in v14. That isn’t “tweaking.” That’s a preliminary to doing exegesis. It’s written in Hebrew. So you have to ask what the Hebrew nouns and verbs mean (semantics)—and they may mean more than one thing—as well as how they go together (syntax).

This isn’t “tweaking” the text. This is just the nuts-and-bolts of grammar and lexicography, without which you can’t do exegesis on the original text.

The identification of intertextual parallels between the creation account and the flood account isn’t “tweaking” the text. Rather, that’s a stock observation in the standard line of commentaries, viz. Currid, Hamilton, Hartley, Kidner, Ross, Sailhamer, Waltke, Wenham. If need be, I can give page numbers. It’s only an arm-length away.

The identification of certain architectural metaphors is not a case of “tweaking” the text, but being sensitive to the demonstrable presence of such metaphors. As one scholar observes:


The OT frequently uses a building motif to describe the universe. It figuratively represents the cosmos as a three-storied building composed of the heavens above, the earth beneath, and the sector below the earth (e.g. Exod 20:4)…Architectural imagery is also found in the creation account of Gen 1. The world is divided into compartments or “rooms” for habitation by the various creatures. The sky is a canopy-like covering (“the firmament”) serving as a roof for the earth. Lights are installed in the roof in order to provide illumination.

J. Currid, Ancient Egypt & the Old Testament (Baker 1997), 43.


“And miracles are invoked (plants without a sun) to explain difficulties in the traditional interpretation of the myth.”

The entire narrative is miraculous. This is, after all, a divine creation account.

Miracles like having plants without a sun are not grafted on after the fact. Rather, that would be a structural feature of the account on the traditional reading.

Danny is a man who used to consider himself a Christian. In all his years as a nominal Christian, did it never occur to him that the creative fiats in Gen 1 are intended to be supernatural?

Did he really think the creation week was ever meant to be understood in terms of purely naturalistic processes? And supernatural intervention was only smuggled in by Christian apologetes to stave off the encroachments of modern cosmology and historical geology?

Does Danny not know the first thing about the history of Judeo-Christian exegesis?

“You tailor-made a solution to retain (in your own mind) the characteristic of inerrancy, but, to your credit, you are acquiescing to common sense and scientific reason on some levels: at first, you saw "no problem" with plants before the sun.”

i) You’re the one who sees a problem. I’m merely responding to you.

If a child says there’s a monster in the closet, and I assuage his fears by opening the closet door to show him that there is no monster, I’m not acquiescing to the problem of the monster in the closet—as if there really is a monster in the closet, albeit well-hidden from view. I’m merely answering the child on his own level.

ii) There’s also a basic difference between an exegetical problem and a scientific problem. There are certain exegetical questions regarding the meaning of Gen 1:14. That’s internal to the text. And that’s quite distinct from extraneous scientific objections.

But if someone is going to raise extraneous scientific objections to v14, then that naturally requires us to investigate the original meaning of v14.

“Okay, so do the creationists who have already done this qualify? Do I need to go to a seminary to figure out if Genesis is an unscientific creation myth?”

This is another one of Danny’s many confusions. To believe in special creation doesn’t commit one to creation science.

Jews and Christians took Gen 1 literally long before the rise of creation science. Taking Gen 1 literally is a prerequisite of creation science, but that alone doesn’t commit you to creation science, a la Walt Brown or Kurt Wise.

A creation scientist believes it’s possible to defend the literally interpretation of Gen 1 (as well as Gen 7) on scientific grounds. He believes that the preponderance of the scientific evidence supports special creation. He believes that it’s possible to devise scientific models, consistent with Gen 1 (and Gen 7), which are empirically adequate and equivalent, if not superior, to naturalistic theories.

In sum, he shares, in common with the secular scientist, a belief that it’s possible to reconstruct the distant past. Natural history—even to the point of origins.

I do not. I don’t believe that scientific theories enjoy that degree of truth-value. I regard scientific theories as useful fictions.

Well, not entirely. Some scientific theories (e.g. Darwinism) are useless fictions.

My position is closer to Hawking’s, or—if you prefer a Christian counterpart—John Byl.

“Okay. The implication of an earth before a sun, aside from "which orbits which?" include problems with plant life or water being above -180C, or so. It's pretty simple.”

It’s pretty simple for a simple-minded disputant who, no matter however often you remind him, can never absorb the oft-stated point that, on a traditional reading of the text, there is already a luminary in place on day one which is responsible for the diurnal cycle. And where there’s light, there’s heat—as in radiant energy.

“I don't believe I said it was. I said your ad hoc way of reading "light source" from Gen 1 still doesn't solve the real problem of heat energy, which you at first appear to not even realize.”

I respond to objections as they arise. Since you didn’t raise that objection on the first round, there was nothing to respond to.

So we might as well say that you didn’t realize the problem until I said what I did and you reacted accordingly.

“It is an ad hoc solution because the plain reading of 1.14-16 is clearly referring to the creation of the sun, moon, and other stars, as hundreds of scholars who aren't "intellectual charlatans" like me and have done the "spade work" agree.”

This is not a factual refutation of the evidence I brought forward. It is no evidence at all.

Let’s see Danny back up his claim. Let’s see Danny produce a bibliography of his “hundreds” of scholars, by name, title, and pagination, who disagree with me.

“Quite clearly, the text is asserting that the sun and moon were made on day four.”

Quite clearly, Danny has never read Donald Wiseman’s article in which he discusses the semantic range and domain of the verb. Cf. D. J. Wiseman, (1991), “Creation Time—What does Genesis Say?,” Science & Christian Belief, 3/1 (1991), 25-34.

Quite clearly, Danny has never read Sailhammer’s commentary on the syntax of Gen 1:14. Cf. EBC 2:34.

Quite clearly, and unlike me, Danny never ran Sailhammer’s rendering by three other Hebraists, only to receive three different answers from Bruce Waltke (coauthor of the standard Hebrew grammar), David Clines (editor of the standard Hebrew lexicon), and John Currid, who received his doctorate from the Oriental Institute of Chicago.

So, yes, I withhold judgment.

Quite clearly, Danny has never consulted the standard commentators on Genesis (whom I cited above) regarding intertextual parallels between the creation account and the flood account.

Quite clearly, Danny has never consulted commentaries and monographs on the use of architectural imagery in Gen 1 to foreshadow the tabernacle. Cf. G. Beale, The Temple & the Church’s Mission (IVP 2004); P. Enns, Exodus (Zondervan 2000); M. Kline, Kingdom Prologue (; J. Levenson, Creation & the Persistence of Evil: The Jewish Drama of Omnipotence (Harper & Row 1988).

“Quite clearly, the text is asserting that days even existed before the sun and moon were made.”

True, which quite clearly means that on Danny’s own interpretation, the problem is a pseudoproblem given the existence of a solar stand-in on day 1.

“Quite clearly, this reflects an unscientific and ignorant appraisal of the cosmos, by a people who I don't hold at fault for their ignorance.”

Quite clearly, prescientific Jews knew about the normal relationship between the sun and the diurnal cycle, as well as the normal relationship between sunshine and heat.

“That there is some way to get around the plain and obvious issue that the creation myth is quite unscientific in its sequence of events and general setup (days before sun/moon)?”

Coming from an apostate, when did the plain and obvious issue become plain and obvious to you? As a nominal Christian, when did you make this sudden and stunning discovery?

If it’s really all that plain and obvious, it doesn’t say much about your IQ that it took so long for something so plain and obvious to dawn on you.

And if it’s so plain and obvious to you, it would be even more obvious to an ancient Israelite who was much more attuned to the cycles of nature than a contemporary urbanite and technocrat.

“When this very philosophical position (ex nihilo) renders my attempts futile?”

Ex nihilo is a theological position, not a philosophical position. A philosophical position would be indirect realism or instrumentalism or positivism.


And, no matter how many times I bounce "matter and energy are not created nor destroyed, they transform" off your head, you don't seem to get it either. Matter and energy require no a priori explanation of origin. The universe itself doesn't either. Science has given us a way to see that time is a feature of this universe and that this universe originated from a singularity which itself was not created. Yet again, we see a transformation from one form of energy into another, but no need to say "God poofed" at any step of the process. That very step is what I "oppose", old chap.


What’s missing from this claim? Let’s see. He has no theory of perception to underwrite his claim. He has no philosophy of science to underwrite this claim. And since he’s not an astrophysicist or cosmologist by training, this is nothing more than a blind appeal to authority. What is more, there is nothing approaching a scientific consensus on this question.

“Assumes what it needs to prove? The law is based on every bit of the knowledge we have of physics,”

Earth-bound knowledge of the physical laws governing the observable regions or our particular universe. Not a knowledge of physical laws prior to the big bang.

“And the concept of "something cannot come from nothing" in philosophy.”

A silly equivocation, since the Creator of the world is far from nothing.

“I can't argue with someone who invokes a miracle whenever they are confronted with a difficulty in their text.”

This is, as I’ve demonstrated on more than one occasion now, a straw man argument.

“Ockham would dictate that we look for the most reasonable explanations, and we can argue about what constitutes ‘reasonable.’"

The explanation should be no simpler than the explandans.

“By your philosophical bent, it is more reasonable to think ‘poof’ while by my own, ‘poof’ doesn't exist.

You’ve become very attached to this word (“poof”), as a multipurpose retort. Hiding behind a cutesy word is a substitute for reason.

“So something from nothing is scientific?”

You continue to reiterate the same misrepresentation of ex nihilo. If you cannot honestly represent the opposing position, then you don’t have an honest argument for your own position.

Why bother being a college student if you’re so incurious and anti-intellectual that you constantly take refuge in these intellectual short cuts: “poof,” “something from nothing”?

Does our little debate leave you that mentally maxed out?

“Science is based on the assumption of naturalism.”

This is dogma, not science. For a former “Christian,” you don’t know the difference between providence and naturalism.

The subject-matter of science is ordinary providence.

“Is there anything in science you can point me to which claims matter can be "poofed" from nothing?”

You’re assuming, without benefit of argument, that all knowledge is scientific knowledge.

“This is hardly surprising, and it means very little. If you have ever solved a differential equation (which I already know the answer to, as your display of hubris over this quote is revealing) you'd know the solutions are often pages long. In my differential equations classes at VT, I regularly had homework assignments whose solutions were 4 pages. Perhaps you could relate, but competence in mathematics isn't proven by being able to crunch through DiffEq. Building a model and solving an equation are entirely different skill set levels.”

Which begs the question of whether mathematical and theoretical physics operate at entirely different skill set levels. What about Roger Penrose or Ed Witten? Or, from another era, Leibniz and Newton?

“Steve goes on to try to pit the empiricists (Hawking) against the [implied useless] theorists (Witten).”

No, I didn’t pit Hawking against Witten.

As I already explained—something that always trips up Danny—I quoted Hawking as an example of a leading cosmologist who’s also an antirealist in his philosophy of science.

If, as Hawking would have it, a theory doesn’t have to represent reality, then the lack of correspondence between modern cosmology and Gen 1 is irrelevant to the veracity of Gen 1.

Sorry if Danny is too slow to trace out the connection, even when I already connected the dots for him.

Now, someone is free to disagree with Hawking’s positivism. But you need to have an argument for why he’s wrong, and you also need to mount an argument for your alternative. Danny does neither.

I brought up Witten to ask how a fourth-order abstraction can be true of the world when it is four steps removed from the observational data.

Once again, Danny has no answer.

Turtle-like, Danny withdraws his head into a shell, hoping the big bad T-blogger will go away. Poof!

“Thankfully, believers like yourself and Steve don't bother going after the "big guns" like Bart…”

If Danny were paying attention to the debate, he’d realize that a number of scholars have already taken Bart Ehrman to task. I can send him some links.

“Sadly, it appears that your ranks among published and recognized philosophers has steadily dwindled for generations, and the trend shows no signs of reversal.”

Is that a fact?


Greetings and Farewell
Editorial by Keith M. Parsons

My experience editing Philo was bittersweet. Philo was born out of discussions between myself and Timothy J. Madigan, Executive Director of the Society of Humanist Philosophers. I was concerned that recent work in the philosophy of religion had been dominated by theists, with few replies and critiques by atheist or humanist philosophers. Worse, a very conservative strain of apologetic, heretofore relegated to the periphery of academic discussion, had begun to enter the mainstream. I was, and am, convinced that the vast majority of professional philosophers are nontheists who endorse secular aims and values, yet, while theist philosophers energetically pursued their agenda, the secular voice was mute.

Philo was founded to provide the forum for the best and most sophisticated expression of atheist and humanist philosophy, while still being open to the publication of articles by theists. With much trepidation, I agreed to edit Philo, a job for which I had no experience. While I have been proud to serve as the founding editor, I have been disappointed by the response of the philosophical community. For any journal to thrive, it must have a generous number of high-quality submissions from top scholars. While I feel that the pieces we did publish were generally very good, we often had to make issues slimmer than I would have liked because we had too few top-notch submissions. I do sincerely hope that humanist philosophers will support Philo by submitting some of their best work and not leave the field to an increasingly strident and aggressive religious apologetic.

The Metaphilosophy of Naturalism
by Quentin Smith

Naturalists passively watched as realist versions of theism, most influenced by Plantinga’s writings, began to sweep through the philosophical community, until today perhaps one-quarter or one-third of philosophy professors are theists, with most being orthodox Christians. Although many theists do not work in the area of the philosophy of religion, so many of them do work in this area that there are now over five philosophy journals devoted to theism or the philosophy of religion, such as Faith and Philosophy, Religious Studies, International Journal of the Philosophy of Religion, Sophia, Philosophia Christi, etc. Philosophia Christi began in the late 1990s and already is overflowing with submissions from leading philosophers. Can you imagine a sizeable portion of the articles in contemporary physics journals suddenly presenting arguments that space and time are God’s sensorium (Newton’s view) or biology journals becoming filled with theories defending élan vital or a guiding intelligence? Of course, some professors in these other, non-philosophical, fields are theists; for example, a recent study indicated that seven percent of the top scientists are theists.1 However, theists in other fields tend to compartmentalize their theistic beliefs from their scholarly work; they rarely assume and never argue for theism in their scholarly work. If they did, they would be committing academic suicide or, more exactly, their articles would quickly be rejected, requiring them to write secular articles if they wanted to be published. If a scientist did argue for theism in professional academic journals, such as Michael Behe in biology, the arguments are not published in scholarly journals in his field (e.g., biology), but in philosophy journals (e.g., Philosophy of Science and Philo, in Behe’s case). But in philosophy, it became, almost overnight, “academically respectable” to argue for theism, making philosophy a favored field of entry for the most intelligent and talented theists entering academia today. A count would show that in Oxford University Press’ 2000–2001 catalogue, there are 96 recently published books on the philosophy of religion (94 advancing theism and 2 presenting “both sides”). By contrast, there are 28 books in this catalogue on the philosophy of language, 23 on epistemology (including religious epistemology, such as Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief), 14 on metaphysics, 61 books on the philosophy of mind, and 51 books on the philosophy of science.

And how have naturalist philosophers reacted to what some committed naturalists might consider as “the embarrassment” of belonging to the only academic field that has allowed itself to lose the secularization it once had? Some naturalists wish to leave the field, considering themselves as no longer doing “philosophy of mind,” for example, but instead “cognitive science.” But the great majority of naturalist philosophers react by publicly ignoring the increasing desecularizing of philosophy (while privately disparaging theism, without really knowing anything about contemporary analytic philosophy of religion) and proceeding to work in their own area of specialization as if theism, the view of approximately one-quarter or one-third of their field, did not exist. (The numbers “one-quarter” and “one-third” are not the result of any poll, but rather are the exceptionless, educated guesses of every atheist and theist philosophy professor I have asked [the answers varied between “one-quarter” and “one-third”]). Quickly, naturalists found themselves a mere bare majority, with many of the leading thinkers in the various disciplines of philosophy, ranging from philosophy of science (e.g., Van Fraassen) to epistemology (e.g., Moser), being theists. The predicament of naturalist philosophers is not just due to the influx of talented theists, but is due to the lack of counter-activity of naturalist philosophers themselves. God is not “dead” in academia; he returned to life in the late 1960s and is now alive and well in his last academic stronghold, philosophy departments.

The current practice, ignoring theism, has proven to be a disastrous failure. More fully, naturalist philosophers’ pursuit of the cultural goal of mainstream secularization in a philosophically governed way has failed both philosophically (in regards to the philosophical aspects of this philosophically governed pursuit of the cultural goal) and culturally. The philosophical failure has led to a cultural failure. We have the following situation: A hand waving dismissal of theism, such as is manifested in the following passage from Searle’s The Rediscovery of the Mind, has been like trying to halt a tidal wave with a hand-held sieve. Searle responds to about one-third of contemporary philosophers with this brush-off: Talking about the scientific and naturalist world-view, he writes: “this world view is not an option. It is not simply up for grabs along with a lot of competing worldviews. Our problem is not that somehow we have failed to come up with a convincing proof of the existence of God or that the hypothesis of afterlife remains in serious doubt, it is rather than in our deepest reflections we cannot take such opinions seriously. When we encounter people who claim to believe such things, we may envy them the comfort and security they claim to derive from these beliefs, but at bottom we remained convinced that either they have not heard the news or they are in the grip of faith.”2 Searle does not have an area of specialization in the philosophy of religion and, if he did, he might, in the face of the erudite brilliance of theistic philosophizing today, say something more similar to the non-theist Richard Gale (who does have an area of specialization in the philosophy of religion), whose conclusion of a 422 page book criticizing contemporary philosophical arguments for God’s existence (as well as dealing with other matters in the philosophy of religion), reads “no definite conclusion can be drawn regarding the rationality of faith”3 (if only for the reason, Gale says, that his book does not examine the inductive arguments for God’s existence). If each naturalist who does not specialize in the philosophy of religion (i.e., over ninety-nine percent of naturalists) were locked in a room with theists who do specialize in the philosophy of religion, and if the ensuing debates were refereed by a naturalist who had a specialization in the philosophy of religion, the naturalist referee could at most hope the outcome would be that “no definite conclusion can be drawn regarding the rationality of faith,” although I expect the most probable outcome is that the naturalist, wanting to be a fair and objective referee, would have to conclude that the theists definitely had the upper hand in every single argument or debate.

Due to the typical attitude of the contemporary naturalist, which is similar to the attitude expressed by Searle in the previous quote, the vast majority of naturalist philosophers have come to hold (since the late 1960s) an unjustified belief in naturalism. Their justifications have been defeated by arguments developed by theistic philosophers, and now naturalist philosophers, for the most part, live in darkness about the justification for naturalism. They may have a true belief in naturalism, but they have no knowledge that naturalism is true since they do not have an undefeated justification for their belief. If naturalism is true, then their belief in naturalism is accidentally true. This philosophical failure (ignoring theism and thereby allowing themselves to become unjustified naturalists) has led to a cultural failure since theists, witnessing this failure, have increasingly become motivated to assume or argue for supernaturalism in their academic work, to an extent that academia has now lost its mainstream secularization.



  1. I just want to make it clear to all that Danny is, indeed, speaking outside his field of expertise.

    At least Danny has a field of expertise.

  2. Wow - that's all Ted can say!!

  3. Yeah, he's pretty good at coming in here and dropping extremely relevant and penetrating one-liners. And boy, wasn't that one a hum-dinger?

    I think a momma joke might be a sufficient response.

  4. Two quick things:
    1) The irony is that I’m more sceptical than he is. Danny is welcome to his animal faith in naïve realism, but thinking people turned the corner on that many centuries ago.
    -You're right, the reference to Santayana sailed over my head. Oddly, upon reading a review of his book, I found this--
    If idealism is taken to its logical extreme, we would all find ourselves trapped in a solipsism of the passing moment, unable to understand the significance of any idea, image, or feeling experienced by the mind. The reason why human beings generally do not lapse into this state of idealist stupidity is because biological urges prompt them to assume that their ideas refer to things existing in an external, natural world. This biological urge Santayana calls "animal faith." It is a faith that is rewarded and justified in every moment of our waking existence; and even those who deny it speculatively assume its validity in action and intent.
    In the context the reviewer used it, versus your own, it appears that the two of you are at loggerheads. He seems to imply that "animal faith" refers to something that we really need not question, at the peril of doing so and losing all coherence, and that Santayana argued along these lines. Is this true? Or am I missing something? I don't have time to go into a lengthy debate here, I am just asking whether you were implying that "animal faith" is an argument used by realists to support realism, as it seemed you do think, and if so, why then that "thinking people turned the corner..."? Was Santayana non-thinking? Do you disagree with him?

    2) [me] “Sadly, it appears that your ranks among published and recognized philosophers has steadily dwindled for generations, and the trend shows no signs of reversal.”
    [Steve] Is that a fact?

    I certainly cannot say without some sort of survey data as to whether the estimates asserted in your source article are true. I know that here at UF, in our philosophy department, my advisor knows of only one theist in the entire faculty. I also read things like this editorial description:
    Today the majority of philosophers in the English-speaking world adhere to the "naturalist" credos that philosophy is continuous with science, and that the natural sciences provide a complete account of all that exists--whether human or nonhuman. The new faith says science, not man, is the measure of all things. However, there is a growing skepticism about the adequacy of this complacent orthodoxy. This volume presents a group of leading thinkers who criticize scientific naturalism not in the name of some form of supernaturalism, but in order to defend a more inclusive or liberal naturalism.

    The many prominent Anglo-American philosophers appearing in this book--Akeel Bilgrami, Stanley Cavell, Donald Davidson, John Dupré, Jennifer Hornsby, Erin Kelly, John McDowell, Huw Price, Hilary Putnam, Carol Rovane, Barry Stroud, and Stephen White--do not march in lockstep, yet their contributions demonstrate mutual affinities and various unifying themes. Instead of attempting to force human nature into a restricted scientific image of the world, these papers represent an attempt to place human nature at the center of renewed--but still scientifically respectful--conceptions of philosophy and nature.

    And see both confirmation that the "trend" may be, as you said, reversing in your direction, and confirmation that my assertion about the raw number of naturalists [versus theists] was well-founded. Is there survey data available? I hate speculating. If I'm wrong, I'm wrong, but I'd love to see a statistical study of the composition of religions by profession (Ph.D. philosophers). I know that in my own field, the "best and brightest" (the NAS) are 7% theist. Oh well, unrelated but noteworthy. If you're aware of study data, please point me to it.