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Larson&Ruse Chapter 1--Looking Up to God or the Cosmos

Posted By Randall D. Isaac, Friday, October 27, 2017

Michael Ruse wrote this first chapter to give the background of how ancient philosophers considered the cosmos.

“The ancient Greeks were not so much interested in origins. This is more a Jewish and, later, Christian and Muslim way of thinking. For the Greeks, the great ideal was mathematics, and no one asked when 2+2=4 started to become true.”(p. 26).

“One of the most interesting things about science…is the extent to which it is metaphorical.”(p. 28)

“Plato was quite explicit in thinking of the earth---the whole universe, indeed---as an organism. Aristotle was a little more circumspect, but certainly he thought of the physical as well as the biological world organically.” (p. 30) He goes on to show how this perspective leads to “final causes” since reproducing organisms have the capability of reproducing which is a future event. In this way, effects can precede causes. These are “final causes” instead of “efficient causes.”

“At this fundamental level—perhaps the most fundamental of all in the Scientific Revolution—the root metaphor changed from the organism toward the machine. What was happening was that people were no longer thinking of the world in terms of vegetables or animals but beginning to think of it in terms of contrivances, of human-made systems designed to perform certain functions perpetually..” (p. 41)

“It was not atheism or deism that drove the Scientific Revolution. Virtually all of the key figures in the Scientific Revolution were Catholic or Protestant Christians who saw their work as glorifying God and defending the faith. This is not to say Christianity necessarily leads to science…” (p. 43)

“But before long, and despite Newton’s protests to the contrary, increasingly God was being pushed out of science, and naturalistic explanations became the sole object of those doing science. There was a stampede to atheism, deism, or agnosticism but no further compulsion to keep thinking about spiritual (or even final) causation in nature. In the words of the historian of science D. J. Dijksterhuis, increasingly God became a ‘retired engineer.’” (p. 44)

“…the machine metaphor dominated in physics generally, and in astronomy and its causal discussions, cosmology, specifically. The world works according to unbroken law and, for most modern astronomers and physicists, God stays out of it. All is efficient cause.”(p. 45)

Ruse goes on to point out how the mechanistic universe crumbled under the weight of relativity, quantum physics, and the Big Bang theory, with its inflationary theory and possible multiverses. For some, these new concepts keep the door open to a spiritual, divine presence.

Tags:  cosmos  Larson  On Faith and Science  Ruse 

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