-/- The term “natural religion” is sometimes taken to refer to a pantheistic doctrine according to which nature itself is divine. “Natural theology”, by contrast, originally referred to (and still sometimes refers to) the project of arguing for the existence of God on the basis of observed natural facts. -/- In contemporary philosophy, however, both “natural religion” and “natural theology” typically refer to the project of using all of the cognitive faculties that are “natural” to human beings—reason, sense-perception, introspection—to investigate (...) religious or theological matters. Natural religion or theology, on the present understanding, is not limited to empirical inquiry into nature, and it is not wedded to a pantheistic result. It does, however, avoid appeals to special non-natural faculties (ESP, telepathy, mystical experience) or supernatural sources of information (sacred texts, revealed theology, creedal authorities, direct supernatural communication). In general, natural religion or theology (hereafter “natural theology”) aims to adhere to the same standards of rational investigation as other philosophical and scientific enterprises, and is subject to the same methods of evaluation and critique. Natural theology is typically contrasted with “revealed theology”, where the latter explicitly appeals to special revelations such as miracles, scriptures, and divinely-superintended commentaries and creedal formulations. (See DeCruz and DeSmedt 2015) -/- Philosophers and religious thinkers across almost every epoch and tradition (Near Eastern, African, Asian, and European) have engaged the project of natural theology, either as proponents or critics. The question of whether natural theology is a viable project is at the root of some of the deepest religious divisions: Shi’ite thinkers are optimistic about reason’s ability to prove various theological and ethical truths, for instance, while Sunnis are not; Roman Catholic theologians typically think that reason provides demonstrations of the existence of God, while many Protestant theologians do not. Unlike most of the topics discussed in an encyclopedia of philosophy, this is one over which wars have been fought and throats have been cut. -/- The most active discussions of natural theology in the West occurred during the high medieval period (roughly 1100–1400 C.E.) and the early modern period (1600–1800 C.E.). The past few decades have witnessed a revival of natural theological debate in the public sphere: there are now institutes promoting “Intelligent Design Theory”, popular apologetics courses, campus debates between believers and agnostics, a “New Atheist” movement, Youtube debates between apologists and atheists regarding new books in natural theology (such as the one between Nathan Lewis and Bernie Dehler on the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology), and TED talks by famous atheists on how to resist natural religion (such as the one by Richard Dawkins in February 2002). -/- Among professional philosophers (who aren’t typically part of these more popular debates), arguments over our ability to justify positive or negative answers to religious questions have become fairly technical, often employing sophisticated logical techniques in an effort to advance the discussion instead of retreading the same old ground. The prestigious Gifford Lectures series hosted by a consortium of Scottish universities, however, has tried to feature new but still accessible work in natural theology for over 100 years (it too has a Youtube channel!) -/- In this article, we aim to avoid most the more recent complexities but also explain their origins by focusing on some central developments in the early modern period that helped to frame contemporary natural theological debates. We are focused here only on theoretical arguments (both a priori and a posteriori or empirical ones). It is controversial whether moral arguments are also part of natural theology, but we set them aside here (see also the entry on God, arguments for the existence of: moral arguments). (shrink)
In the replies to my critics that follow I offer a more detailed account of the specific papers that they discuss or examine. The papers that they are especially concerned with are: “The Material World and Natural Religion in Hume’s Treatise” (Ryan) [Essay 3], “Hume’s Skepticism and the Problem of Atheism” (Fosl) [Essay 12], and “Hume’s Philosophy of Irreligion and the Myth of British Empiricism (Gautier) [Essay 16].
Our universe features a harmonious match between laws and states: applying its laws to its states generates other states. This is a striking fact. Matters might have been otherwise. The universe might have been stillborn in a state unengaged by its laws. The problem of nomological harmony is that of explaining the noted striking fact. After introducing and developing this problem, we canvass candidate solutions and identify some of their virtues and vices. Candidate solutions invoke the likes of a designer, (...) axiarchic meta-laws, multiverses, essential causal powers, and Humean laws. (shrink)
This paper explores the apologetic nature of Augustine’s Confessions. It first takes a brief look at Augustine’s intricate view of the relationship between faith and reason, in order to provide a background to his employment of apologetic elements throughout Confessions. Both positive and negative apologetic elements are examined throughout the paper. Some positive apologetic elements include Augustine’s presentation of the implied ontological argument, the cosmological argument, the teleological argument, the argument from the experience of beauty, and the demonstration of the (...) coherence of the Christian conception of God (including his explorations with time and creation). His negative apologetic elements include dealing with detractors from the Christian faith such as the Manichees and their objections. Although studies in recent years have focused on the autobiographical and religious experiential dimensions of Confessions, this paper seeks to demonstrate that the apologetic dimension is also foundational to Augustine’s text. It is important to realize that the apologetic nature of Confessions does not detract from its other natures (autobiographical and religious-experiential) since objects, ideas and persons can have more than one nature – as is true with the case of Christ and a number line. It is my hope to revive a forgotten aspect of Confessions that is quite pertinent to the Church today. (shrink)
According to the Nomological Argument, observed regularities in nature are best explained by an appeal to a supernatural being. A successful explanation must avoid two perils. Some explanations provide too little structure, predicting a universe without regularities. Others provide too much structure, thereby precluding an explanation of certain types of lawlike regularities featured in modern scientific theories. We argue that an explanation based in the creative, intentional action of a supernatural being avoids these two perils whereas leading competitors do not. (...) Although our argument falls short of a full defense, it does suggest that the Nomological Argument is worthy of philosophical attention. (shrink)
An analysis of Scripture uncovers a new model of God’s election and predestination of souls, which fits under the umbrella of the Calvinist theologies, but where this model involves an answer to the long-standing question of why God chose some, rather than all. It will be explored how before souls were elected (or condemned), God looked at them and knew them in a pre-election state, which God used to predestine each soul in physical reality. This analysis reveals why it could (...) be no other way but where God only would choose some, rather than all souls during the physical embodiment stage of the soul, and the vexing centuries-old Calvinist question of why God elected some not all has an answer. (shrink)
Atheism Considered is a systematic presentation of challenges to the existence of a higher power. Rather than engage in polemic against a religious worldview, C.M. Lorkowski charitably refutes the classical arguments for the existence of god, pointing out flaws in their underlying reasoning and highlighting difficulties inherent to revealed sources. In place of a theistic worldview, he argues for adopting a naturalistic one, highlighting naturalism’s capacity to explain world phenomena and contribute to the sciences. Lorkowski demonstrates that replacing theism with (...) naturalism, contra popular assumptions, sacrifices nothing in terms of ethics or meaning. Instead, morality ultimately proves more important than religion and does not rely on it. Appropriate for classroom use, this book is meant to cultivate understanding, tolerance, and fruitful dialogue between believers and nonbelievers. (shrink)
This paper seeks to demonstrate why the existence of suboptimal design in biology does not offer a reason for Christians to reject the biological case for Intelligent Design. In it, I argue that Christians who critique ID based upon alleged deficiencies within biology fail to imagine the various ways in which a divine designer might bring about certain biological effects. That is, such critics presumably envision a simplistic notion of divine causation—where God either directly brings about every biological effect, or (...) is not involved in any biological effect. Such either or thinking, I maintain, is theologically unnecessary. (shrink)
Murray and Churchill argue correctly that theistic evolution as they define it is theologically compatible with orthodox Christian doctrines concerning divine providence, natural theology, miracles, and immaterial souls. I close with some reflections on mutual misunderstandings of Intelligent Design proponents and theistic evolutionists that arise because each sees the other as a distorted mirror image of himself.
Christians who are theistic evolutionists and Christians who are proponents of intelligent design very frequently criticize one another on the basis that the other’s position is theologically suspect. Ironically, both camps have accused the other of being deistic and thus sub-Christian in their understanding of God’s relation to creation. In this paper, I consider the merit of these charges. I conclude that, although each position has both deistic and nondeistic forms, theistic evolution in its treatment of life’s history is typically (...) deistic, whereas intelligent design typically is not. (shrink)
Blaise Pascal argued abductively for Christianity by presenting Christian anthropology as the best explanation for the existential paradoxes of human greatness and wretchedness. Surprisingly, however, the doctrine of the imago Dei never surfaces in his Pensées. I argue that considerations arising from the doctrine of the imago Dei strengthen Pascal’s abductive argument by providing more details for and encompassing more instances of humans’ paradoxical duality. Specifically, the imago Dei helps explain the existential paradoxes of happiness and misery, certainty and uncertainty, (...) and human greatness and smallness within the cosmos. Further, its explanatory scope encompasses perplexing behavior and beliefs, including Freud’s Todestriebe, false altruism, conflicting beliefs about the divine, and our search for self-knowledge. (shrink)
Panentheism, a frequently discussed view in recent theological debate, claims that the world is ‘in God’ but that God is ‘more than’ the world. Different theories of the structure of the world produce distinct panentheist views. According to the hunky structure, the world is composed of an infinite number of layers and lacks an ungrounded level. To depict this model, I employ the concepts of ‘grounding’ and ‘emergence.’ The outcome is that if the world is hunky and material reality emerges (...) from such a structure, the world can be in God, but the model of God the Creator is dismissed. (shrink)
It is often assumed that there is a hard line between theistic evolution (TE) and intelligent design (ID). Many theistic evolutionists subscribe to the idea that God only acts through natural processes, as opposed to the ID assertion that God, at certain points in natural history, has acted in a direct manner; directly causing particular features of the world. In this article, I argue that theistic evolutionists subscribe to what might be called Natural Divine Causation (NDC). NDC does not merely (...) provide a nonsupernaturalist and noninterventionist model of divine action, it provides a line of demarcation between TE and ID. I make the critique that NDC is philosophically untenable and argue, consequently, that the line between TE and ID is blurred. (shrink)
Robin Collins argues that three facts implicate a designer of the universe--that life depends upon the precise tuning of physical constants, that the laws of physics show evidence of beauty, and that the universe is intelligible. But Collins' case is pervaded by vague arguments which shift between defending theism specifically and defending a more generic design hypothesis. This provides the appearance of having all of the advantages of the generic design hypothesis, such as greater initial plausibility, while masking the implication (...) that intelligent life is just as unlikely given design with unspecified motives as it is given "chance." If design is to provide us with any expectations at all about what the world would be like, Collins has to defend theism in particular throughout. Moreover, while on single-universe naturalism the existence of anything as impressive as human beings may be very unlikely, on theism the existence of intelligent beings as unimpressive and flawed as humans is also very unlikely. And given that human beings do exist, single-universe naturalism, but not theism, entails that they exist in this particular universe. (shrink)
In Who’s Afraid of the Unmoved Mover? Postmodernism and Natural Theology, I defend natural theology against its postmodern evangelical detractors, including Myron Bradley Penner. Penner rejects natural theology because it attempts to ground knowledge of God in human reason, and he claims that my treatment of Acts 17:16–34 is fatal to my argument. However, Penner does not engage my explication of the doctrine of general revelation. The catastrophic effects that Penner perceives turn out to be only against a straw man (...) of the version of natural theology that I defend. (shrink)
I argue that moral goodness is necessarily self-predicating. That is to say, the property of being morally good is morally good. I then argue that reductions of moral goodness to natural properties, particularly utilitarian specifications, are not necessarily self-predicating. Therefore, such reductions are not successful. Finally, I consider the possibility of defining the good as “fulfilling God’s design plan.” I show that, under an Aristotelian construal of property existence this property is provably self-predicating.
For well over a century the dominant narrative covering the major thinkers and themes of early modern British philosophy has been that of “British Empiricism”, within which the great triumvirate of Locke-Berkeley-Hume are taken to be the dominant figures. Although it is now common to question this schema as a way of analyzing and understanding the period in question, it continues to command considerable authority and acceptance. (One likely reason for this is that no credible or plausible alternatives structures or (...) schemas of analysis have suggested themselves.) Be this as it may, the analysis of the rival systems of Clarke, Berkeley and Hume makes clear that this narrative, however deeply entrenched it may be, is wholly misleading and both distorts and obscures key themes and figures in the period in question. (shrink)
Usually, natural theology is understood as the project of providing arguments for the existence of God. This project is endorsed by Moreland and Craig. McGrath, on the other hand, says that this project fails. In the first part of this article, I show how McGrath’s dismissal of arguments for the existence of God follows from his view of natural theology. In the second part, I argue that McGrath’s natural theology contains an accurate critique of Moreland and Craig’s way of doing (...) natural theology, a critique that exposes two major problems in their treatment of the moral argument for the existence of God. In the third part, I propose a way of providing arguments for the existence of God that avoids the problems pointed out by McGrath, namely a way of arguing that seek to show how theology may improve a certain non-theistic understanding of a natural phenomenon. (shrink)
As every philosopher knows, “the design argument” concludes that God exists from premisses that cite the adaptive complexity of organisms or the lawfulness and orderliness of the whole universe. Since 1859, it has formed the intellectual heart of creationist opposition to the Darwinian hypothesis that organisms evolved their adaptive features by the mindless process of natural selection. Although the design argument developed as a defense of theism, the logic of the argument in fact encompasses a larger set of issues. William (...) Paley saw clearly that we sometimes have an excellent reason to postulate the existence of an intelligent designer. If we find a watch on the heath, we reasonably infer that it was produced by an intelligent watchmaker. This design argument makes perfect sense. Why is it any different to claim that the eye was produced by an intelligent designer? Both critics and defenders of the design argument need to understand what the ground rules are for inferring that an intelligent designer is the unseen cause of an observed effect. (shrink)
Design experiences can provide valuable opportunities for learners to improve their understanding of both science content and scientific practices. However, the implementation of design-based science learning in classrooms presents a number of significant challenges. In this article we present two significant challenges, bridging the design-science gap and overcoming time and material constraints, and a strategy for addressing them through software design in which explanation-construction scaffolding integrates with modeling and simulation. We present two software systems developed based on our strategy and (...) guidelines for integrating them into DBSL practices. We present a pilot study, the findings of which support the potential of our technology for responding to the identified challenges. A follow up study is presented which shows the affordances of our technology for improving the quality of classroom discourse, suggesting the potential of our strategy to enhance collaborative understanding and social construction of knowledge in DBSL environments. (shrink)
In his article ‘God and Probability’, 1 Hugh Mellor introduced the notion of the ‘bridge-hand fallacy’, allegedly committed by those who think they can appeal to probabilities in arguments for design. I should like to give this notion another airing, partly because of its recent criticism in two interesting books - R. G. Swinburne' The Existence of God and D. J. Bartholomew's God of Chance - and partly because it seems worth asking how it fares in relation to the most (...) recent examples of design argument, namely those which appeal to the so-called ‘anthropic principle’ in cosmology. (shrink)
By the middle of the nineteenth century, the opinion of science, as well as of philosophy and even religion, was, at least in Britain, firmly in the camp of the plurality of worlds, the view that intelligent life exists on other celestial bodies. William Whewell, considered an expert on science, philosophy and religion, would have been expected to support this position. Yet he surprised everyone in 1853 by publishing a work arguing strongly against the plurality view. This was even stranger (...) given that he had endorsed pluralism twenty years earlier in his contribution to the Bridgewater Treatises. In this paper I show that the shift in Whewell’s view was motivated by three factors: the influence of Richard Owen’s theory of archetypes on Whewell’s view of the argument from design, and Whewell’s perception of the need to strengthen such arguments in light of evolutionary accounts of human origins; important developments in his view of philosophy and his role as a scientific expert; and new findings in astronomy. An examination of the development of Whewell’s position provides a lens through which we can view the interplay of theology, philosophy and science in the plurality of worlds debate.Keywords: William Whewell; Plurality of worlds; Natural theology; Analogies; Archetypes; Conjectures; Evolution. (shrink)
Matthew D. Eddy and David Knight’s new edition of William Paley’s Natural Theology deserves to become the standard scholarly edition of what is a historically, theologically, and philosophically important work, despite a certain neglect of philosophical issues on the part of the editors.
The “God of the gaps” critique is one of the most common arguments against design arguments in biology, but is also increasingly used as a critique of other natural theological arguments. In this paper, I analyze four different critiques of God of the gaps arguments and explore the relationship between gaps arguments and similar limit arguments. I conclude that the critique of the God of the gaps is substantially weaker than is commonly assumed, and dismissing ID´s biological arguments should rather (...) be based on criticizing the premises of these arguments. (shrink)
The design inference uncovers intelligent causes by isolating their key trademark: specified events of small probability. Just about anything that happens is highly improbable, but when a highly improbable event is also specified undirected natural causes lose their explanatory power. Design inferences can be found in a range of scientific pursuits from forensic science to research into the origins of life to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. This challenging and provocative 1998 book shows how incomplete undirected causes are for science (...) and breathes new life into classical design arguments. It will be read with particular interest by philosophers of science and religion, other philosophers concerned with epistemology and logic, probability and complexity theorists, and statisticians. (shrink)
Science, then, may never replace religion in the lives of most people and in any society that hopes to survive for very long. But neither can religion replace science if humankind hopes to unlock nature's material secrets. And parodies of science, like the so-called "theory" of intelligent design, only cripple science education.
Much of Alvin Plantinga’s Where the Conflict Really Lies will contain few surprises for those who have been following his work over the past decades. This —I hasten to add — is nothing against the book. The fact alone that his ideas on various topics, which have appeared scattered throughout the literature, are now actualized, applied to the debate about the conflict between science and religion, and organized into an overarching argument with a single focus makes this book worthwhile. Moreover, (...) I see this book making significant progress on two opposite ends of the spectrum of views about science and religion. On the one end, we find the so-called new atheists and other conflict-mongers. Compared to the overheated rhetoric that oozes from their writings, this book is a breath of fresh air. Plantinga cuts right to the chase and soberly exposes the bare bones of the new atheists’ arguments. It immediately becomes clear how embarrassingly bare these bones really are. On the other end of the spectrum are theologians and scientists who envisage harmony and concord between science and religion. (shrink)
Amsterdam University Press is a leading publisher of academic books, journals and textbooks in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Our aim is to make current research available to scholars, students, innovators, and the general public. AUP stands for scholarly excellence, global presence, and engagement with the international academic community.
What we mean when we use the word ‘nature’ critically affects design culture. Since nature has many different interpretations, the following lexicon is not intended to be an exhaustive exploration of the word’s etymology or usage by designers. Instead, I offer ten archetypical perspectives of nature that can help designers and non-designers alike clarify the different, sometimes overlapping, sometimes conflicting ways in which we understand the fundamental relationships between humans and our environment.