The full text of this book is now online, at http://www.beginningtheisticscience.com/book/index.html
I believe in God. I am a nuclear physicist. Those two things do not conflict in my mind, but instead they enhance each other.
Most of us have some idea about God and about how there might be such a being rather different from those we see every day. The concept of God has varied widely among religions over centuries, and it still varies among religions today. I subscribe to ‘theism’, in which God is seen as having created and as now sustaining the world. In the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition–the ‘religions of the book’–this God is an eternal, omnipotent and benevolent being who transcends the temporality and limits of the world, but who still seeks a relation with the persons within it.
Theism has been continually supported by the religious traditions, and it was often used as a reference point in discussions between religions and the sciences. The early scientists such as Newton and Leibniz started from theistic frameworks, but science now presents purely naturalistic explanations that make no reference to God. Science now does not even assume any dualist distinctions between mind and nature.
The intellectual support for theism has thus been crumbling over the last two centuries. It is under a concerted attack today from many quarters. Newton and Leibniz thought that further scientific developments would support theism, but in fact many later scientists have turned actively against it. Sam Harris (2004), for example, claims that religious ideas are “mere motivated credulity” that should be subjected to “sustained criticism” for their lack of connection with evidence. Richard Dawkins (2006) argues that the God of religion cannot be simple but must be of enormous complexity. Since God’s existence can never be supported by finite scientific evidence, Dawkins claims that believing in his existence would be “a total abdication of the responsibility to find an explanation”. Robert Pennock (1997) concludes that any explanation of nature that appeals to supernatural causes is invoking causes that are inherently mysterious, immune from disconfirmation, and that give no grounds for judgment in specific cases. Without the binding assumption of uninterruptible natural law, he claims, there would be absolute chaos in the scientific worldview. These are the challenges to be addressed in this book.
Outside of theology, theistic beliefs are typically professed, if at all, only in private or only on Sundays. Dualist or non-materialist understandings of the nature of mind are not valued. In most academic and intellectual activities, there is no public discussion of theism. Cosmology and evolution theories are formed without theistic considerations. Little public mention of dualism is allowed in biology or neuropsychology.
There is a place, therefore, for a robust statement of the foundations of theism in which logical and clear connections can be made with the sciences. That is my goal. I use the framework of a realist ontology where only things with causal effects are taken as really existing. Such an ontological approach follows the path started by Aristotle and further explored by Aquinas. Existing things constitute substances, and thus mere Platonic forms, idealistic consciousness, mathematics or information are not claimed to be that out of which things are made.
Scientists have various religious beliefs. Many scientists are happy with the great simplification of the world that can be achieved once non-physical things are excluded, whereas many others have feelings or intuitions that there is more to the world than the purely physical. One result of this tension has been the progressive simplification of religious beliefs, especially concerning their ontological claims, in order to shoehorn them into the restricted framework apparently allowed by science. I hope that this book will allow many of these simplifications to be reversed.
Starting science from God is a reasonable way to proceed.