The Predicament of Belief: Science, Philosophy and Faith by Philip Clayton and Steven Knapp

The somewhat young, not entirely mild mannered, and yet wildly attractive lads over at Homebrewed Christianity were gracious enough to invite me to participate in their blog-tour for Philip Clayton’s new book The Predicament of Belief. This is my post for the blog tour and if you’d like to hear the conversation that insued at Clayton’s house afterwards look no further than right here.

If your unfamiliar with Clayton’s work his introduction to emergent evolution and spirituality found here is worth a watch, or you can just read the review of his and Knapp’s book below. It is my hope that it inspires you to read the book in its entirety.

Paul Ricoeur famously said that his Christianity was a, “contingency transformed into destiny through continued choice.” The fact that he was born into a social location that bequeathed to him his Christianity was a contingent event of history. He could have just as easily been born in India and thus have been a Hindu. However, he made a choice, a decision to live into and live out of his tradition and in doing so it became a part of him and he a part of it. For Ricoeur we lack a criterion by which we can definitively ascertain whether our contingent religious choices are correct or not. This doesn’t mean that there is no investigation into the plausibility of them, but rather that any investigation will necessarily start from and in important ways remain within the throwness of our particular, contingent existence. Ultimately, for Ricoeur, the religious decision comes down to a wager, even if an informed one. I agree with Ricoeur, but I am always curious as to how informed this wager can be.

If you’ve ever found yourself curious in a similar fashion then Philip Clayton and Steven Knapp’s wonderful, accessible, and insightful book The Predicament of Belief: Science, Philosophy and Faith is a great place to start. Continue reading

Further notes towards the Dissolution of Scientific Realism

It has been argued that epistemological realism is the best, if not the only, way to make sense of the success of science. Larry Laudan is skeptical and seeks to question, “whether the realist’s assertions about the interrelations between truth, reference and success are sound.” (22) To do this Laudan sets up an overarching and flexible umbrella that he terms convergent epistemological realism (CER for short). CER is based on five claims that Laudan believes most realist hold, implicitly or explicitly, in some form: Continue reading

Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (5)

Thomas Kuhn suggests that the problem that Darwin presented to the modern mind was not evolution as such. The idea that man had evolved from preceding forms of more and more primitive life had been present for some time in various modes. In all of these forms, however, there was always a goal, a telos, to the process. Whether an idea in the mind of God or a plan inherent in nature the process of evolution was being directed to a specific end. (171) The novelty of Darwin’s position was that evolution took place through the process of natural selection. That is, Darwin removed teleology from the equation. (172) One could say that Darwin moved evolution into pure immanence. Continue reading

Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (4)

Thomas Kuhn writes that: “In so far as (scientists) only recourse to (the) world (of their research) is through what they see and do, we may want to say that after a revolution scientists are responding to a different world.” (SSR, 111) The question becomes: in what way does Kuhn mean this statement, as purely factual or merely metaphorical? To begin with one must take note of a statement he makes later in the same section, “… the scientist after a revolution is still looking at the same world.” (129) So, it is safe to say that Kuhn is a realist of some sort. Continue reading

Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (3)

Scientific revolutions are those moments in the history of science in which one paradigm is replaced by another. In order to clarify further, Kuhn compares scientific revolutions to political revolutions. In political revolutions there is a growing sense of dissatisfaction with the governing institutions that eventually reaches a threshold: similarly, in scientific revolutions the paradigm—it’s methodology, tools, theories and ontology—has ceased to facilitate exploration in an arena in which it had previously led the way and thus dissatisfaction grows. (92) Another, and what Kuhn refers to as a more profound parallel is that of incommensurability. Continue reading

Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (2)

Kuhn is intent on showing that normal science takes place only within paradigms. Paradigms provide the procedures, applications (standard tests and instruments), laws and theories that allow normal science to carry out investigation. (60) In short, they provide scientists with a picture of the way the world is and what kind of phenomenon can be expected. Yet, this picture shows itself to be problematic at times when phenomenon arise that the paradigm has not prepared investigators for. (57) Continue reading