Here are the final five posts that should have been in 2013.
5. Neuroscience and the Soul. This year I mentioned a peer-reviewed philosophical journal put out out by the Evangelical Philosophical Society, Philosophia Christi. If you have ever felt uneasy about the certitude with which neuroscientists, naturalist philosophers, and science populizers have pronounced the nonexistence of the soul, the irrelevance of essences, or the fully deterministic nature of human behavior, then the Summer 2013 issue of Philosophia Christi is for you. It features ten or so excellent articles, by contributors who take time to interact with the work of prominent philosophers of science and mind, including Jaegwon Kim, John Searle and Daniel Dennett.
Mouse neurons, or Piers Morgan’s? (Wikimedia)
Eric La Rock draws deeply from scientific facts to propose a fuller account of consciousness called “emergent subject dualism.” J.P. Moreland undermines the foundation of naturalistic top-down causation, and commends interactionist-dualism. Daniel Robinson situates the stakes of neuroscience well within contemporary culture. Be warned though, this is heavy reading! If you proceed, it will acquaint you with the top Christian thinkers who are addressing metaphysical naturalism, materialism, and all those ideas which have subjected people alternately to despotism, decadence, or despair.
4. Two posts from 13.7: Cosmos and Culture. This NPR-hosted forum is my favorite popular science blog to “pick on,” so to speak. I discovered it this spring while googling in the aftermath of the epic William Lane Craig versus Alex Rosenberg debate. Any references to substantive Christian metaphysics or perspectives on science are pretty scarce. Some contributors are self-professed atheists, but all I think are at least deeply committed to keeping science divorced from traditional theism, even if they flirt all the time with spirituality.
Adam Frank wrote a post called, “Let’s Get Creative And Redefine The Meaning Of Religion.” Reflecting on it, I realized that Thomistic ontology can be overlaid onto anyone’s worldview. If one thinks that “science,” Captain Crunch, the material world, or any other thing is the maximally greatest being (MGB) in all possible worlds, then I would suggest that that is their conception of “God.” Then, I would commend adding the quality of agency, that is the capacity for intentionality, to that MGB. Then we’re having a discussion about theology.
Digging back to 2012, I discovered that Alva Noe reviewed Alvin Plantinga’s book Where the Conflict Really Lies. And while I haven’t read the book, I have a sense enough from other reviews and interviews to say that Noe didn’t engage it adequately. Particularly, he offered an illustration comparing the necessity of an epistemic warrant for science to the need to justify improbable theories as to why a “check engine” light is on. Basically he’s saying there is no need. This dodge falls flat. The facts that the mechanic exists, that the car exists, and that the mechanic knows how to go about fixing the care are in need of explanation! The dismissal seems to be another instance of equivocating “I don’t need God to do X,” where it’s not clear whether Noe intends the need to be epistemic or ontological.
Despite the disappointment, writers like Frank and Noe offer provocative reflections on the nature and limits of science. I’m still hoping they will one day successfully engage with thoughtful theism.
3. Francis Beckwith’s Politics for Christians: Statecraft as Soulcraft. I read this book in the first half of the year, and writer and apologist Kurt Jaros has reviewed it chapter by chapter at Values and Capitalism. The big take away for me comes from Beckwith’s brief discourse on moral ecology, the idea that a citizen of a democracy has a vested interest in policy that shapes her surrounding culture’s morality. This is because even if she is able to model good morals to her children, an overwhelming presence of moral degeneracy among her neighbors will still adversely impact her and her children. It’s the kind of rousing call like in The Lord of the Rings film, where Merry and Pippin convince the apathetic Ents to go to war, because their fate is tied to the world around them.
One chapter provides an invaluable reference on the origin of the idea of the separation of church and state. That phrase itself is not explicitly in the Constitution; rather it comes from a private correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and the Danbury Baptists, that was conscripted for jurisprudence in the 1940s. Every proponent of religious freedom should learn the facts contained therein, given that groups like Freedom From Religion Foundation use the wall of separation to intimidate and silence public exercise of religious freedom.
Another chapter, detailing the history of religious freedom in America, draws heavily on the Catholic experience. There is an analogy between Catholics in the past and evangelicals, broadly defined, today. Each have been persecuted minorities in their respective times. Lovers of freedom would be wise to learn from the relevant history Beckwith provides.
2. Ryan T Anderson withstands Pierce Morgan and Susie Orman’s bigotry.
From Merriam Webster:
Bigot : a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance
I discovered this phenomenal YouTube video months after it first aired in the spring. For an extended segment of The Piers Morgan Show, Ryan Anderson, editor of The Public Discourse and co-author of an academic and a popular work defending traditional marriage, endures lame challenge after lame challenge, and booing from the audience to boot. Susie Orman serves as an unfortunate prop to make the same sex marriage issue personal.
Toward the end, Morgan accuses Anderson of being on the wrong side of his age demographic. At the tender age of 31, he is in the minority among his peers in his opposition to government recognition of same sex marriage. All told, Anderson’s appearance is a perfect study in composure and sticking to the facts in the face of ad hominems and vitriol. Mr. Anderson, you are the real deal. I salute you!
1. William Lane Craig featured in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Dr. Craig garnered unprecedented attention in the world of academia when he was highlighted in a major story in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The piece opened by introducing him as the man who at the mere mention of his name makes New Atheists like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, snarly and defensive. “Why are you publicizing him?” Dawkins demands. The story goes on to detail, in a fairly balanced way, the ambitious long range intellectual project first undertaken at Biola University to disseminate scores of thoughtful, committed, first-rate Christian scholars into the ranks of universities around the world. The author notes that this kind of effort is simply unparalleled by other communities.
And so it is with great excitement, as we head into 2014, that I myself will be partaking in some of that Biola goodness as I start earning a Master of Arts in Christian Apologetics. I’ll be busier come January, and I can’t say for sure what things will look like at this blog. Dear reader, God bless you in the new year!