The University of Oxford intends to appoint to the Andreas Idreos Professorship of Science and Religion from 1 January 2013 or as soon as possible thereafter. The successful candidate will hold a non-stipendiary fellowship at Harris Manchester College. The chair, which is based in the Faculty of Theology, was created by means of a benefaction from Dr Andreas Idreos. In making this donation, Dr Idreos had a particular concern for the relation of science to Christian Theology, and he was also interested in the relation of science to religion more widely. The professorship is an interdisciplinary chair devoted to research and teaching in (i) questions raised for Theology by the natural and human and social sciences (including moral and social questions), and (ii) the impact of Theology on the natural, human and social sciences. The post was held previously by John Brooke and, most recently, Peter Harrison.
More details here (PDF)
I’ve just returned from a wonderful 2-day philosophy of religion workshop at Glasgow organized by Victoria Harrison, who put together a diverse and high-quality program. One of these exciting papers was by Joshua Rollins’ (U of Oklahoma) on the common consent argument.
Roughly speaking, in its crudest form, the Common Consent argument (CCA) goes as follows:
- Most people believe in God
- Therefore, God exists
This argument, traditionally widely endorsed, has fallen on hard times. Not only does it seem problematic to infer the truth of a belief from its mere popularity, declining religiosity in the western world have challenged premise (1). However, the recent shift in epistemology to social epistemology has rekindled an interest in the CCA. As Joshua indicated, social epistemologists have convincingly demonstrated that we do (and ought) take other people’s opinion into account as evidence. We do this in the case of testimony – where we acquire a vast amount of knowledge through other people – and in the case of peer disagreement, where disagreement with others is a fact we need to take into consideration in many cases. In what follows, I’ll reflect on some ideas offered by Thomas Kelly, who wrote a recent paper on CCA, and implications of cognitive science of religion for CCA.
I’d like to thank Matthew Mullins for inviting me to post at Prosblogion. My first entry is going to be a request for help. I would be very grateful if Prosblogion readers could fill out the following, very brief survey: https://surveys.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_6XKYbWbsP5SBsBS
It will take only about three minutes of your time. The survey is part of my current project on cognitive science and natural theology. The aim is to get a better idea of how philosophers today evaluate natural theological arguments for or against the existence of God. Note that you do not need to be a philosopher of religion or a faculty member to complete this survey. I will post a digest of the results in a few weeks. The survey will be active until I have gathered a predetermined number of responses that would allow for statistically robust results or until two weeks have elapsed.
Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism, Oxford University Press, 2011, 376 pp., $27.95 (hbk), ISBN 9780199812097
Reviewed by James R. Beebe (University at Buffalo)
Alvin Plantinga, philosophy of religion’s most distinguished contemporary statesman, has once again produced a carefully crafted book that raises compelling challenges to widely held doubts about the cogency of belief in God. Where the Conflict Really Lies began as Plantinga’s 2005 Gifford Lectures, and pieces of it have appeared in Science and Religion: Are They Compatible (Oxford, 2011, co-authored with Daniel Dennett), and in a handful of articles. It is filled with the kind of careful analysis, philosophical rigor and understated humor that have become hallmarks of Plantinga’s notable career.
The central claims of Where the Conflict Really Lies are the following:
- There is no conflict between theistic religion and the scientific theory of evolution.
- There is no conflict between science and the common theistic belief that there have been miracles.
- There are superficial conflicts between Christian belief and evolutionary psychology, on the one hand, and scientific scripture scholarship, on the other, but these conflicts don’t provide defeaters for Christian belief.
- There is deep concord between science and theistic religion.
- There is deep conflict between science and naturalism.
Plantinga’s case for (v) is a restatement of his well-known evolutionary argument against naturalism, which first appeared almost twenty years ago in Warrant and Proper Function (Oxford, 1993). Because this argument will be familiar to many and because I found the 300 pages that preceded Plantinga’s most recent statement of it to be more thought-provoking, I will say nothing further about (v) in this review.
As part of its spring open submission cycle, the John Templeton Foundation welcomes online funding inquiries in the areas of philosophy and theology. The submission window is February 1 to April 16, 2012. Proposed philosophical projects need not have religion or theology as a focus. To submit an online funding inquiry, please visit http://www.templeton.org/what-we-fund/our-grantmaking-process.
Please note that the Templeton Foundation does not normally provide dissertation fellowships through this open submission process. For more information on the kinds of projects that the Foundation can support, visit http://www.templeton.org/what-we-fund/core-funding-areas/science-and-the-big-questions.
A list of Foundation grants in the areas of philosophy and theology can be found here: http://www.templeton.org/what-we-fund/grant-search/results/taxonomy%3A5
We presuppose something like the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR) in daily life and science. So there is very good reason to accept something like PSR. But suppose you don’t want to accept PSR, maybe because you think it implies the existence of God or maybe because you just think it has counterexamples. What can you do? Here is an option:
- The probability that a particular ordinary event, like the coming into existence of a brick or the death of a person, occurs without an explanation is non-zero but very low.
Here are some problems for this. Consider an infinite series of possible events: a brick of weight 2.5kg coming into existence in front of me now, a brick of weight 2.25kg coming into existence in front of me now, a brick of weight 2.125kg coming into existence in front of me now, …. By (1), each of these is very unlikely to happen without an explanation, but there is a non-zero probability for each. Moreover, plausibly, these non-zero probabilities are approximately the same.[note 1] So, we have an infinite number of possible events, each of which has approximately the same non-zero probability. Barring some further dependence story, we should conclude that very likely at least one of these events will happen. But none of these events in fact happened. Repeat the argument with mugs, rocks, etc. None of the analogues there happened. The theory, thus, stands refuted.
If we grant that two bricks can’t come into existence in the same place at the same time, the argument can be made stronger. Specify in each event the same location L for the brick. Then we have an infinite number of mutually exclusive events, each of which has approximately the same non-zero probability. And that not only is contrary to observation, but violates the conjunction of the total probability axiom and the finite additivity of probabilities (at least on the right understanding of “approximately the same” that ensures that if an infinite sequence of positive numbers is “approximately the same”, their mutual ratios are all moderately close to 1, say between 0.5 and 2).
Sahotra Sarkar lives just down the road from me in Austin, a grand town I visit often, and is in some way affiliated with the philosophy department there–I don’t know if it’s a courtesy appointment or what because I couldn’t locate his CV–and I’m a BIG fan of the UT philosophy department (though, of course, not the football team :-)–so I don’t want to cause trouble. BUT Sarkar is mean, and he attacked my friend Bradley Monton in a screedish review for NDPR. I’m honestly surprised–and dissapointed–that NDPR saw fit to publish this review at all. It’s not Sarkar’s first such one-sided rant. His review of Steve Fuller’s book showed his inability to review fairly (I didn’t like the book either, but it’s just not the case–as it rarely is–that the book had not a single redeeming feature).
His suggestion that Brad’s book is “one philosopher’s attempt to cash in” is insulting and demeaning. Worse, it’s false. I have been talking with Brad about philosophy of religion for about eight years now, and he is completely honest in his investigations, sincere in his affirmations and denials. And I am at a loss to understand the force of the following statement.
“Monton’s self-portrayal as an atheist who thinks that some Intelligent Design (ID) arguments have enough force to make him less certain of his atheism, though not eschew it altogether.”
“Self-portrayal”? Does he think Brad is lying about being an atheist or lying about thinking some ID arguments have *some* force? Is it now some kind of “weakness” to admit that arguments which contradict one’s views have *some* force? I have been unable to come up with some non-weasily understanding of these claims.
International Conference, 16 – 19 August 2011, VU University Amsterdam
People of all times have experienced the world of nature as expressing an overwhelming beauty, coherence and order. In the great monotheistic traditions this beauty, coherence and order have been related to the will or nature of a Creator. This idea has come under considerable pressure from different directions: evolutionary theory with its emphasis on the deep contingency of the living world, social science and in particular historicist and postmodernist strands in it, and philosophical critiques inspired by Marxism, Nietzschean perspectivism, existentialism, critical theory, social constructivism, and postmodernism have all served to subvert traditional conceptions of order.
The challenge for this ecumenical, interdisciplinary, and international conference is to explore whether there is room, still, for a distinction between something like an ontological affirmation of pre-given norms and ordering principles in various domains, while also acknowledging the particularity and ‘locatedness’ of our access to those norms and principles. Key ideas in this dialogue will be order, law, structure, principle, system, necessity, chance, change and emergence. The goal of the conference is to delve deeper into the current condition of the philosophical concept of (creation) order, and to assess its future trajectories and prospects.
Keynote speakers include:
- Nicholas Wolterstorff (Yale)
- Eleonore Stump (St. Louis)
- C. Stephen Evans (Baylor)
- Gordon Graham (Princeton Theological Seminary)
- Denis Alexander (Cambridge)
- William Desmond (Leuven)
- Roy Clouser (College of New Jersey)
- Lambert Zuidervaart (ICS Toronto)
- Jonathan Chaplin (Cambridge)
- RenÃ© van Woudenberg (VU)
- Gerrit Glas (VU)
- Henk Geertsema (VU)
Call for papers
In addition to the plenary sessions, there will be further parallel workshop sessions for contributed papers. We cordially invite thinkers from all different philosophical and scientific traditions to submit a 500 word abstract on any topic relevant to the conference theme. Please prepare your abstract for anonymous review. Abstracts may be submitted by e-mail (as plain text, MS Word, Pages, or pdf files) to email@example.com or by regular mail (consult http://www.cpc2011.org for the address).
Abstracts should be submitted to the conference organizers by March 31st, 2011. Notification of acceptance / rejection: April 15th, 2011.
Session length for contributed papers will be 30 minutes including question time. We encourage authors to prepare papers that take no longer than 20 minutes to present so as to leave suitable time for questions and discussion afterwards.
Further information and registration
For all further details, online registration, and payment, please visit http://www.cpc2011.org. Feel free to contact us with questions about the conference at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Azusa Pacific University, Azusa California
This forum aims at promoting the project of Christian philosophy and recognizing those who have substantially contributed to that project.
This year recognizes the work of Dr. Alvin Plantinga. He will be presenting two lectures:
“Science and Religion: Where the Conflict Really Lies”
Is there a conflict between Christian belief and evolution or is the conflict between Christian belief and naturalism? What is the proper framework for Christians to think about these issues?
“Evolutionary Psychology and Scripture Scholarship: More Alike Than you Might Have Thought”.
Given that Christians ought to be enthusiastic about science, how should Christians think about some theories of evolutionary psychology and some types of scripture scholarship? Should Christian beliefs that conflict with such scientific theories be given up?
For details go to:
God created the world to exemplify certain values. Someone who propounds
a design argument for the existence of God probably needs to have something
to say about these values.
Scientists often propound particular models that instantiate a more
general theory. These models are sometimes intended to be more realistic
and sometimes less, but the hope is that by studying them and by noting the
divergence, if any, between model and reality we will learn something
about the relevant phenomenon. Some realistic models will be empirically testable and others will not, and scientists of course have a preference for testable models. Thus, an evolutionary scientist might offer a
more or less realistic model of the evolution of wings. The model may well predict what kinds of fossils we will find. If the model’s predictions are not borne out, this does not in any significant way affect the probability of
evolution in general, but studying the model is helpful, and if the model’s
predictions–assuming it makes some–match observations, so much the better
for the underlying theory.