Kevin Basil (signature)

Interlude: Article in Word

Next article: Rearview
Previous article: Creation, Part IV: Do Faith and Reason Conflict?

Written by Basil on 12/30/2004 6:14 PM. Filed under:

Share with your friends and followers:

I want to point out a wonderful article in the latest issue of the Antiochian archdiocese’s Word magazine: “Education: The End of Faith?” by John Newell, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Pittsburgh. He does an excellent job of analyzing many uncritical presuppositions in modern thinking, specifically what he calls a “scientific world view.” I would quibble that science does not actually present a world view; such a world view would better be described as “scientistic,” meaning, “the belief that the investigative methods of the physical sciences are applicable or justifiable in all fields of inquiry.” But that is a minor quibble with what is an excellent article. Props to Raphael, who unfortunately prooftexts the discussion, when it is clear that the author accepts, on some level, a scientific accout of our origins when he says, “astrophysicists can now prove that the universe began by extrapolating the expansion of the universe back to the moment when everything was in one very small place.” His statement,

It is better to see the problem of the origin of the universe as one that lies outside of science, because science has restricted itself through the principle that nothing comes into existence from nothingness. In other words, it is “against the rules� of doing science to raise such an issue, and the consequence of breaking the rules is that one has to sift through the resulting nonsense (namely, that the universe had no beginning, and so forth), at the risk of one’s immortal soul.

must be interpreted in his preceding discussion of science as being restricted to what Aristotle called efficient causality. In other words, he is not saying that scientists should not study beginnings (which would be inconsistent with his earlier statement about astrophysicists and the beginning of the cosmos); he is saying that the creation of the cosmos by God is beyond the scope of science.

This article is very good evidence that Orthodox America needs a liberal arts college for Orthodox students, where they can learn to integrate faith and reason. Sort of like Asbury, except Orthodox. Sort of like Hellenic College, except not just for Greeks.

And really, Raphael. Keeping people with different views from posting comments on your site? Are your “traditionalist views” so weak as not to stand argument? [OK. The “problem” appears to have disappeared. Sorry for the “libel,” Raphael. 😀 ]

Share with your friends and followers:


The URL to trackback this post is:

9 Responses to “Interlude: Article in Word”

  1. Victoria Says:

    It is theoretically possible for the universe to create itself. Dr. Richard Gott of Princeton Univ (a wonderful man with a lovely wife) showed this.

  2. basil Says:

    Victoria, that’s fascinating but difficult to fathom without some explanation. Could you point out a paper or at least a popular article or something?

  3. basil Says:

    Well, here’s something: “J. Richard Gott on Life, the Universe and Everything,” in Science and Spirit magazine.

    And here’s another something: “J. Richard Gott, III – Time Travel”

  4. Victoria Says:

    Dr. Gott’s book “Time Travel in Einstein’s Universe” is the most complete work. Suketu uses it for his freshmen classes, so it’s nice and readable. I also love the dedication Dr. Gott has used: “To my parents, my wife, and my daughter: my past, present, and future.” That shows you what kind of man he is.

  5. Mary Says:

    It is interesting that you mention the need for an Orthodox liberal arts college. There WAS one, in the 1990s. It was Rose Hill College (Aiken, SC), and it lasted just two years (at most). I attended only the first year (1996-1997). That year was worth it, to say the least.

  6. basil Says:

    Mary, thank you for sharing. I hear a lot of positives and negatives about Rose Hill. Students seem to be almost always positive. The negatives I’ve heard are mostly vague references to administrative mismanagement.

    One of the first things to do for anyone who wants to found an Orthodox liberal arts college is determine what happened at Rose Hill. And, once one determines what went wrong, resolve to not do that.

  7. sockmonk Says:

    I have a question about this sentence from your post: “In other words, he is not saying that scientists should not study beginnings (which would be inconsistent with his earlier statement about astrophysicists and the beginning of the cosmos); he is saying that the creation of the cosmos by God is beyond the scope of science.”

    Are you drawing a distinction between the “beginning of the cosmos” that astrophysicists talk about and the “creation of the cosmos” that theologians talk about? In other words, do these both refer to a time or span of time in history, or are they talking about different things entirely? If they are talking about the same thing, it honestly seems to me that the scientific methodology forces scientists to conclude that the cosmos came about without God (details will vary of course), which leads very naturally to an atheistic, naturalistic worldview. It could even be compatible with Hinduism or Buddhism or some thought system that discounts the important of the material stuff of this earth.

    On the other hand, if they’re talking about different things, then the whole religious thing suddenly starts to seem irrelevant to the world that I experience day by day, and we’re right back the philosophical Hell left us by Kant that the article describes.

  8. basil Says:

    I’m surprised no one has brought up this distinction before. I’m surprised that I didn’t mention it myself; I guess it’s become one of my world-view presuppositions.

    Logically, there is no necessary link between creation from nothing and a cosmic beginning in time. Creation ex nihilo means primarily that at each moment God is creating the world out of nothing. Were God to cease his creative activity in the world, it would cease to be. Were astrophysicists to believe that a beginning in time could be falsified, it would not, strictly speaking, have an impact on Christian belief in creation out of nothing.

    That is not to say that a cosmic beginning in time is entirely irrelevant; just that it is, logically, a slightly different question.

    Also, the distinction that I’m really making is between what scientists can demonstrate and falsify (knowledge of efficient causality in the article’s Aristotelian terminology) and what they can neither falsify nor demonstrate (knowledge of formal causes, and ultimately, knowledge of God). Essential here is dispensing with the misunderstanding that scientific knowledge is all that counts as knowledge (scientism).

    The Kantian hell of which the author speaks is epistemological, not metaphysical. Indeed, Kant and those who follow him believe that we cannot know the world as it really is. The author takes a commonsense approach similar to Thomas and Aristotle and holds that our knowledge is indeed of the real world. There are some interesting rehabilitations of Kant’s epistemology for commonsense realists, but that’s a discussion for another time, quite unrelated to the metaphysical question of creation. (You can see that I’m a realist, not a Kantian!)

    For now, you might consider how Kant’s epistemology philosophically undergirds all our current talk of world-view.

  9. Andy Holland Says:

    Excellent Article; I hope the author would provide positive reasonable scientific evidence for Jesus however.

    For example,

    -first textbook case of visual agnosia from long term blindness (Mark 8:22-28)

    -Psalm 22; the Roman mercenaries on crucifixon detail were most certainly from the land of Bashan bordering Herod’s Ceasaria Phillipi (tall spearmen).

    – The meek inherit the Earth is far more scientific and supported in the fossil record than “survival of the fittest” from “Origin of the Species” or ‘the weak die and strong survive’ as presented in Darwin’s “Descent of Man”. (St. Gregory of Nyssa beat Darwin by 1400 years in speaking of Man’s ascent in books curiously entitled, “On the Origin of Man” and “On the Soul and the Resurrection” – making crystal clear the distinction between scientific atheist death theory and Christianity’s positive affirmation of life).

    -Calming sea with voice as man – fluid mechanics equations and chaoutic theory (Poincare instability of equations) suggest that one could do so with minimal energy but requires infinite logic (Divine Logos combined with the voice of a man). From a creation of the Universe standpoint, a small quiet voice and Divine Logic makes allot of sense and the connection of the Word by St. John and this miracle seems perfect.