Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Ivory Cubicle | The God Hypothesis

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the Pensmore Dialogue on Science and Faith at Patrick Henry College. The theme was “The Return of the God Hypothesis.” I thought the title apt, considering some of the recent developments in academia over the past couple of decades – the intelligence design resurgence of the '90s, atheist Antony Flew's dramatic conversion to theism in 2004, or, more recently, atheist Thomas Nagel's 2012 book Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False. The times are changing, as Oxford professor Vince Vitale's recent video pointed out, and talk of God is steadily gaining wider acceptance in university halls.

A Return to Intelligence

But back to the dialogues. The talks covered a variety of topics, and featuring both old-earth and young-earth lecturers. I've noticed a lot of commonality between both schools of thought, however. A lot of the intelligent design arguments on both sides break down into two major categories – scientific and philosophical.

The first may seem a bit intimidating to those not versed in the literature, especially when there's the weight of scientific consensus bearing down on you. These arguments can cover a lot of ground – whether discussing the fine-tuning of the universe, difficulties with cellular development under an evolutionary paradigm, the suitability of our location in the universe for observation and scientific experimentation, etc – and are usually used to make an inferential argument for the existence of God: “given these arguments, it is likely that God exists” (or, in softer variants, “it is likely that the universe was made by a creative intelligence”). They are subject to observation, testing, and the scientific method.

The second category of arguments, the philosophical, are a bit more enjoyable, for me, at anyrate, as they're a bit more accessible and open to spirited debate and abstract reasoning (as opposed to citing volumes of scientific studies). These arguments at times involve putting limits on scientific observation, shutting down any overly audacious scientist every time he makes the leap in logic from his observations to the conclusion “therefore, there is no God.” This is a perpetual leap in logic made by materialists committed to an empirical worldview – the more they understand about the universe, the less they need God, as if figuring out the blueprints for a building negates the need for a builder – and many an intelligent design philosopher is happy to smack them down every time they make the leap.

Perhaps even more fascinating are the philosophy of science arguments. The classical model of science, prior to the modern understanding which developed during the enlightenment, was based on a fuller, Aristotelian understanding of science, one which included a concept of purpose and form in its analysis, rather than the reductionistic way in which scientists after the Enlightenment frequently conduct their analysis. Many have touted the successes of the modern way of doing science, but it seems that scientific observation stands a lot to gain by allowing for an intelligent creator with a purpose for everything he created.

Anyways, this column has, essentially, been a big pitch to get you to check it out for yourself. Here's the website, the lectures will be coming out on DVD soon, until then, check out keynote speaker John Lennox's debate with famed atheist Richard Dawkins.

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