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"Rational Scientific Theories from Theism"


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... Lightman1.1
(Lightman 2011)
Most often divine attributes will not be capitalized, except (as here) sometimes for emphasis, or for marking some important distinctions.
This is already explicit in the foundation of physics and in psychological modeling. Basic physics, for example, considers strings or spin foams or deformed space as alternative possible ontologies. Psychology can consider symbols or functions or network connections in alternative possible ontologies. There is no principle of science that forever forbids such ontological pluralisms.
... theism1.4
Some religious believers are reluctant to expose the foundations of theism to possible scientific investigations for fear that theism may be refuted. In reply, I would quote Socrates on the ‘unexamined life’ and furthermore note that many refutations are even now being attempted, for example by (Stenger 2008) or (Coyne 2009). Ignorance hardly makes a good defense. Also, if I am wrong (whether in science or in religion), I want to know about it since I do not believe religious belief is only for other people.
This is to be contrasted with a ‘positive bias’, whereby anything proposed is provisionally accepted to see whether it is true. Those with a negative bias provisionally reject something new, even before considering whether it is true.
One consequence of adopting a pragmatic methodological naturalism, however, is what we already see: there are animated debates about what kind of evidence should be allowed in science, and what methods should be used to investigate the fringes of science such as parapsychology, near-death experiences, etc. Many scientists may, if pressed, admit that, if the same standard of evidence were to concern natural processes, then the already-existing evidence would be sufficient to prove the case. But still there is opposition.
All capitalized here to emphasize their leading roles in Thomist metaphysics and theology.
If God had potentiality, Aquinas argued, then he could change and therefore would not be immutable. Or he could improve, in which case he would not previously have been perfect. And God certainly cannot change for the worse.
It is probable, in retrospect, that in a metaphysics where ‘thought’ and ‘extension’ are the only two essential principles no bridge between them can be found apart from a simple declaration (unexplained) that such a connection exists.
... derision.2.4
As, for example, (Paley) discusses: “There is, of course, a small paradox in all of this. If the hostility to Descartes has been so widespread for so long, in what sense has he been influential? How can it be said that Cartesianism permeates the modern world if virtually no one has had a good word to say about it? To take one obvious example, mind/body dualism never caught on, and for three centuries it has been dismissed by the vast majority of philosophers who have considered it. So why is it routinely assumed to be the ‘traditional’ view? Is it possible that Descartes could somehow have influenced ‘the common man’ (a familiar figure, once upon a time, in analytic philosophy), even though ‘intellectuals’ were queuing up to refute him? Did the idea that there were two forms of substance, one material and the other immaterial, somehow seep into western culture, like a disease poisoning the water supply, while philosophers, physicists and biologists were all looking the other way? How exactly is that supposed to have happened?"
See (Snobelen 1999).
... anonymous2.6
Kant cannot have expected complete anonymity, since, for example, he lists the names of his friends whose queries prompted him to write the book.
By ‘true appearance’, I mean not a ‘mere appearance’ which has no effect, but something which has real effects, at least in our minds and bodies.
“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good”, Matt. 5:45
As argued in (Thompson 1993).
Note that the word substance has two useful meanings here. The first, as Aristotle’s ousia, refers to specific objects, as in ‘this substance’ and ‘that substance’. The second, as in hyle, refers to the underlying stuff, as in the underlying substance of which objects are formed. In this chapter, the word ‘substance’ will usually have this second meaning. I also avoid using the term ‘matter’ since it has too many unwanted connotations and is difficult to generalize beyond the physical.
As an example of non-spatial structures, we could take the ‘internal spins’ of elementary particles or their internal group identity. These in general have no uniform projection onto physical space, if only for not having the correct number of coordinates to map onto three dimensions.
This exclusion of ‘causality’ from within ‘form’ implies a different approach to that of Aquinas, as will be discussed in Section 4.5.
Dispositional essentialism does not assert that all dispositions of an object are held essentially, since that, for example, would not allow water to lose its liquidity when it froze or evaporated. Rather, every object has some dispositions which are essential to that object.
... spatial4.5
Spatial relations are assumed here, since (after Kant) they appear to be the prerequisites for any possibility of interaction.
... world.4.6
I would doubt that vases are eternal. I not believe that electrons or nuclei are necessarily eternal either.
(Psillos 2006) also makes this mistake, when he argues that “fundamental properties [..] flow from some fundamental symmetries," for symmetries, as purely mathematical structures, can never physically ‘flow’, and can never produce physical objects. Rather, in our Aristotelian framework, they describe the properties of objects and, here, relations between those properties. It cannot be that “elementary particles are the irreducible representations (irreps) of a group," again because groups (or even their representations) have no causal powers.
Neither can exist by itself. No dispositions can exist except in a form, and no forms can exist except as forms of dispositions.
(Ellis 2010) has recently written in support of this view of forms as being both categorical and necessary for the operation of powers.
... influences.4.10
A hammer and a vase must have powers to interact with each other if fragility is to be manifested this way.
... Heisenberg,4.11
W. Heisenberg, ‘Planck’s discovery and the philosophical problems of atomic physics’, pp. 3-20 in Heisenberg (1961).
... subject.4.12
Heisenberg, for example, brings into his thought on quantum physics the Kantian phenomena/noumena distinction as well as some of Bohr’s ideas on ‘complementarity’ in experimental arrangements.
... 195)4.13
Note that he here uses Ryle 1949’s account of dispositions as ‘inference tickets.’
We are talking still of ordinary quantum mechanics, not yet of quantum field theory (for which, see Chapter 24). By ‘field’ here, I simply mean a realistic interpretation of the wave function that is the solution of Schrödinger’s equation: it is extended in space as a field and carries energy and momentum.
... substance.4.15
This was Boscovich’s conception, and it slowly percolated into physics, resulting in the ‘dynamic matter’ of the mid-nineteenth century. This view was popularly summarized by the aphorism “No matter without force, no force without matter”.
(Feser 2009) takes this dispositional indication of a future effects to be an Aristotelean ‘final cause’.
(Riva 2011) has reviewed these and similar ideas from several psychological theorists.
How many times have we seen people, seeming to themselves to be rational, being driven by desires which they hardly acknowledge existing?
Not everyone may be willing to make such assumptions. The a-theist, for example, assumes that God does not exist. He or she is free to do that, to make that hypothesis, to see what further ideas follow, and to see what explanations may be produced. In our investigation, however, we begin with the theistic postulates above. May the best explanation win.
Those religions often make further additional assumptions that are not shared by all. Sometimes I may append brief mentions of the content of those additional ideas, but I do not have the space in this book to explore all their separate consequences.
There are many philosophical issues that I do not deal with here, such as those about the nature of universals, the nature of truth-makers in the world, and all questions of epistemology and justification. These questions have to be reconsidered in the light of theism. This book is just a beginning.
... meaning7.4
Aristotle, Physics 192$^{\rm b}$13-15
Aristotle, Physics 192$^{\rm b}$30-31
It is indeed common to view the world as an artificial tool or instrument of God, like a musical instrument which God plays to make music (us). I do not take this view, however, since I do not believe that anything artificial can love and return love reciprocally.
... philosophers7.7
Most recently (Brown 2010).
Such things could be called ‘supernatural’, but that word comes with so many associations that I will try to avoid using it.
Exodus 3:14
John 8:58
It is often observed that a-theists still adhere to Postulate 3, and effectively declare to be divine whatever it is that they think exists unconditionally or with being in itself. They find a new Absolute Principle to order their world, and this often functions as a new ‘divinity’ that takes the intellectual place of God by virtue of its unconditional nature.
... you"8.4
Luke 17:21
The “I am Brahman" of Sankara (Sankaracharya).
... matters.9.1
You may think they are obvious and that everyone knows these things, but in my experience intellectuals frequently make mistakes on such simple points. So this book begins at the very beginning.
... actions.9.2
To find out what that is for ourselves, imagine that we are completely free to do whatever we like with no repercussions or oversight by others: what would our imagination show us then? We would see where the underlying loves lead us if they were unconstrained. See Section 11.3 for further discussion.
Note that the qualifications ‘as much and as long as possible’ mean that considerable wisdom is needed to know how to love like God does. Ideally, we should take an eternal perspective, whereby we can anticipate possible future effects even when making decisions now.
Even more of us call it good for others to be unselfish, but that is not quite the same thing.
To what exact extent such people have seen God, who in himself is infinite, remains to be determined. Religions with an incarnate deity do make it easier to see God, as then such differences are moderated.
... likeness.’10.1
Genesis 1:26
Note that I am not asserting that Genesis chapters 1-11 are literally true, only that they portray true theistic principles if the meanings of those chapters can be properly understood.
We will later find a non-reductive account of humanity in which all of these things can exist simultaneously, in their own manner, without any being reduced to another.
We should also note that the ‘image and likeness’ comes at the end of a creation story, and hence that such similarities are more like the culmination than the starting point of our religious and spiritual life. It may therefore be that the creation story describes, by images and likenesses, the stages of spiritual regeneration in religious life, rather than of stars, planets, plants and animals.
To be discussed in Section 15.4.
Similar conclusions are indicated by Matt. 5:45: “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous”.
... God.10.7
There is here a similarity also to the principle of ‘As above, so below’, that is advocated in certain non-theistic groups. It could be true in pantheism, since then ‘the above’ = ‘the below’, as all is divine. It is still proclaimed in nondualism, but there it can not actually be true, since ‘the above’ is the infinite eternal godhead, and ‘the below’ is illusory and transient appearances, and no things more different could be imagined.
Notably in 1 John 4:16
... beings.11.2
You may perhaps feel qualms at using the same logic for all cases including that of God, but this is justified when we follow from the previous chapter that we are an image of God and hence have some functional and structural similarities. More of this later.
We are not deducing this a priori but assembling it from what God has been telling us over the centuries. The processes of intellection will be discussed in more detail in Chapter 14.
I call them non-destructive (an engineering term) because no human or living being need be harmed in the investigations. They could be called ‘thought experiments’ but not in the common meaning, because they are experiments we carry out in the thoughts of our own minds.
This is claimed by Christianity in John 5:26: “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself."
Qu’ran 50:16.
Kant also has an ‘as if’ in his philosophy (als ob), but its role is different. According to Kant, we may not be sure there is a God, but we should behave ‘as if’ there is. For this reason, he says, we should follow universal moral laws. With theism, however, we know (or assume) that there is an objective God, but we should behave ‘as if’ there is not. For this reason, we appear to have our life as from ourselves and do not simply wait in silence to God to act for us.
... drinking.12.4
Or even, ‘buy without money and without cost.’ (Isaiah 55:1)
Perhaps some love in us is fixed and could be the basis for defining our identity? This will be discussed in later chapters; here we just note that, if there are some fixed loves, then those loves must have been received only once in our lifetime and then never changed.
This emphasis on the individuating nature of our own actions is reminiscent of Existentialism. Sartre (2007) says that we are the ‘ensemble of our acts.” He says also we are “nothing more than this”, but I do not agree.
We will examine later the method of this ‘embedding’ and ‘deriving’.
... called12.8
Thompson (1993)
... Others13.1
For example, Day (2008).
Doubt in us is still advisable, of course, about our own comprehension of that wisdom.
We name such a beam ‘white light’, though it is not actually white. It just enables us to see things which are white, because it is not missing anything in the spectrum or showing any bias.
If they were not so distinguishable, there would not be any point of having them.
This is not a deduction, but it fits in with everything that has been stated so far concerning core theism. What is certain, is that God has (or, is) both Love and Wisdom united together within himself. This, moreover, does not imply that this Love equals Wisdom, as we have above explained the distinct manners in which God is Love and in which God is Wisdom, united without confusion.
There are extensive Greek traditions, adopted also by Christianity, that say wisdom is the Logos within God. According to John 1:1-3, the Logos was with God at the beginning, and through him all things came to be, and no single thing was created without him.
Luke 1:37: “For God nothing will be impossible”.
Cf John 15:5.
This is the old requirement about wanting to change.
See Chapter 29 for further discussion.
... causation15.5
See Section 5.5.1 for the philosophical definition of principal and instrumental causation.
... nature.15.6
This argument leads the Thomists to assert that God consists of Pure Act, as excluding all potentiality. Whatever that may mean, however, it should never exclude that God can be constituted in his eternity by Love. More precisely, by Love itself, which is almost in the category of pure potentiality!
... exist.16.1
This has been called ‘weak omniscience’.
... happen.16.2
This has been called ‘strong omniscience’.
... come.16.3
Revelation 1:8.
To allow such direct changes in the past and future is to open all the paradoxes associated with time travel. In a theistic universe, time travel remains a science fiction rather than a science fact. It also implies that, if Einstein’s general relativity is correct, there are no closed time-like curves as Godel (1949) hypothesized.
... world.16.5
These features of God are not emphasized in classical theism which states that God is immutable or changeless and is impassible: He cannot be affected by anything in the created order. However, classical theorists still conceive that God can make free Actions in time, even though their cause is eternal and immutable.
... telling.16.6
In religious histories, it is well known that much prophecy has precisely this structure. On its face it is a prediction of our future, but in reality it is often a means that may enable us to escape that future.
... changes!16.7
The question of whether God’s Wisdom can eternally and immutably foresee all his interactions with the world and its consequent changes, is left as an exercise for the reader. Related questions are: can God tell our future to us, such that the prophecy remains true? Would that prophecy be only accidentally true, or can it be necessarily true? And can (or should) God tell our future to us, such that the prophecy becomes true when it was false beforehand?
We will see in later chapters some of the other components of that freedom.
This small dependence in physical spaces is gravitation, according to general relativity.
The fact that God sustains all beings by such ‘influx’ can be the meaning of Matthew 5:45: “He ... sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." Alternative imagery in the same verse refers to light rather than liquid flow: “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good."
This is the view of Aquinas, who also starts from an Aristotelean natural point of view in trying to understand theism. However, he takes God as the limit of ‘pure act’ and ‘pure form’. This unfortunately deprives his theology of taking loves as the substance of minds, spirits and God, but (strangely) insists that these are purely form and also purely act.
What is surprising to me is how much longer is needed (over 1010 years).
Plato, Phaedrus. According to Plato, our soul is the source of all our motion. However, within theism a soul is not actually self-moving, since only God is strictly self-moving. Only God is life itself.
This is a combination of Aristotelean perception (the mind accepting the forms of objects) and a representational view (the mind containing ideas or percepts which represent external objects). Here the representation occurs between ideas and objects which have some forms in common. The object has that form for its own substance, and the mind has that form to make up an idea.
The logical possibility of something does not mean that we should not neutrally (and perhaps skeptically) examine the evidence for an alleged occurrence.
I suspect that most of the miracles of the New Testament in Christianity, for example, are representations by correspondences of the processes of spiritual regeneration appearing much more quickly than we would ever expect in normal life.
... follow.21.1
As was pointed out in Chapter 17, the identification of spiritual, mental and physical degrees should, strictly speaking, be part of the theistic science here and not part of the previous deductive theism.
If you want an image of this mental body, you could think of cells in the biological body or neurons in the brain. These are contained by an overall membrane to make a more lasting structure. Another possible image is that of the multiple alveoli, the small air sacs within the lungs. In this case, the various ideas could be imaged as the different air masses and the different sounds as we speak.
This activation level is a kind of ‘energy’. In Chapter 24, however, we will see that this is not physical energy but only something similar to physical energy. It is therefore better to keep the idea of loves as the underlying substances.
For an early discussion of a possible multilevel network structure, see Thompson (1990).
As advocated, for example, in Feldman (2004).
This is a repetition of the reasoning which also led up to formulating all the degrees as shown in Table 19.3.
... mountains23.1
Matthew 17:20--“Because you have so little faith I tell you the truth. if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
I am referring here to the normal scientific view that all the properties of an aggregate are determined by its structure of parts and their individual properties and dispositional natures. This touches on all the current philosophical discussions concerning reductionism, supervenience and emergence.
... degrees’.23.3
Even on the cover of this book!
Matthew 15:11 and 18: “What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean’, but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’ ...But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart."
For these reasons, spiritual development often requires the manifestation of unpleasant or selfish loves, as only then are they seen. In an extremely strict social or religious regime, some of our spiritual loves may never have had the opportunity to manifest themselves and may hence never become known even to ourselves.
... bodies23.6
Such a view is common in Christianity: “There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body" (1 Cor. 15.44).
As first argued in Section 20.6.
We will learn more about that prediction when we get to its its sub-sub-degrees later in the chapter.
There are only, we will see, something like ‘shadows’ or ‘correspondences’ or ‘remnants’ of those psychological meanings.
There is of course also selection working in the other direction: the effects of changing principles in sub-degree 3.1 will be selected by what happens in the quasi-deterministic sub-degree 3.2.
We may think of this informally: when there are gaps in time between events, we may infer that there is necessarily wriggle-room between events.
Strictly speaking, investigating the ‘internal group structure’ of a sub-sub-degree would require considering the sub-sub-sub-degrees within it.
The quantum theory of ‘decoherent histories’ shows that almost-decoherent histories are easily generated according to quantum mechanics. Theism and common sense both only ask that histories become in fact decoherent, not just approximately.
For more discussion, see (Peacock 2009) and (Gisin 2010).
As argued by (Rietdijk 1966) and (Rietdijk 1973).
As (Gisin 2010) remarks, “quantum events must enjoy some sort of “freedom”, and so “are not merely the realization of usual probability distributions, but must be thought of as true acts of creations (true becoming) ...The probability distributions of possible future [events] is time-order invariant, i.e. covariant. But the set of actual past [events] are not (and couldn’t be).”
Theistic science would claim that these qualities come from the multiple sub-degrees within physics.
As described by (Dalai-Lama 2005, p. 82).
(Harris 2004), in fact, claims to draw on “new evidence from neuroscience and insights from philosophy to explore spirituality as a biological, brain-based need, and invokes that need in taking a secular humanistic approach to solving the problems of this world.” Whether he is a physicalist, humanist or spiritual-atheist will depend on the precise meaning of ‘brain-based.’
I am sure that Descartes would have been very happy to hear of such a theory of interactive dualism, as he was often pressed to explain how souls and bodies could interact according to his theory. The best he could say was that to interact was their intrinsic nature, without making a detailed hypothesis.
The historical lack of detailed answers has led many people to despair of dualism, as they wonder how minds and bodies--things so different--could possibly interact with each other. This bizarrely led them to deny even the possibility and evidence of interaction: the very thing that is so immediately obvious to us in almost every minute of our daily lives!
... constant25.6
The fine-structure constant is $\alpha = e^2/\hbar c$, where e is the unit electric charge, $\hbar$ is Planck’s constant, and c is the speed of light. It has been measured to be $\alpha = 1/137.035999 $, at least outside living organisms. Every atomic and molecular structure and reaction rate depends critically on the value of the fine-structure constant.
Physicists, especially cosmologists such as (Sandvik 2002) and (Bekenstein 2009), are already considering the possibility of the fine-structure constant varying on a universe-wide scale, maybe depending, for example, on the age of the universe. Of course, it would not then be a constant, but a ‘constant’. (Murphy 2003) discuss astronomical evidences for such a variation. Theistic science considers local variations of the same kind. Re-imagining global symmetries or variations in a local form is a well-known technique in physics for suggesting new theories.
This principle, that ‘we only see what we want to see’, might be considered already well known. One consequence is that we do not see what we are not expecting or attending to see. This is the well-studied phenomenon of ‘inattentional blindness’.
The elucidation of the details here and clarification of exactly how the analogies fail or prevail in the new applications is left as an exercise for the reader (or a later edition of this book).
They remind us of Galileo’s phrase, “Scripture teaches us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.”
Genesis 3:5.
Such superficial conclusions are those reached on the basis of only appearance and external knowledge and not on understanding or wisdom. To conclude on the basis of only appearance is to have eyes not looking up but only at ground level, like a snake.
Most people in similar situations are only too well aware of the conflicts between the old and the new loves. This conflict (and the resulting temptations) is often painful and never very quickly resolved. That is because, since our being is our deepest love, it is ultimately a question of identity: of who we are. Are we our old or our new loves? We never change instantaneously from one to another, but only by means of bridges.
2 Corinthians 12:2 and Galatians 1:2.
That common use of the term ‘theistic evolution’ should more precisely be called ‘deistic evolution’, since deism is the view that, once God created the world, the universe developed in time according to purely natural laws and without any so-called ‘interference’ from God.
... epigenetic26.7
In the cell, but not part of the genome.
... level27.1
That is, love and wisdom, or whatever corresponds to them at the level being considered.
See (Riva 2011) for further discussion of consciousness and presence within series of several derivative intentions and also when external technologies are used.
Of course, talking of a ‘sheet’ is talk of a two-dimensional surface, but, at some level we are mental functionalists, and hence we know that all we need is that kind of functional structure, not an actual two-dimensional arrangement of neurons, of ideas, or of minds.
See Section 18.2 for the argument here.
That is, outside our spiritual and mental ‘skin’ as well. We can think of this as speaking (or shouting) in spiritual space to others existing outside our spiritual body.
Note that I am not addressing here the question of whether or how it is possible to change our spiritual life once it is already permanently formed according to the above scheme. That question involves issues of repentance, temptations and salvation which are beyond the scope of this book.
See, for example, Matt. 15:17-20.
... cases29.1
I admit that the reasons B5 and B6 are not yet fully argued within this book.
We have already considered the question of possible biological ‘bad design’.
Only God is perfect.
(Whitehead 1929) has that God “is the great fellow-sufferer who understands".
We remember here the discussion at the end of Section 14.2, concerning how a proper wisdom, as distinct from ‘mere’ understanding of causes, requires our thinking to be fully linked with love. From Section 23.5, we note that it may be some time before we obtain in ourselves this linking in its fullest form.
Indeed, I would insist that everyone needs some kind of rational and consistent understanding as the basis for religion. A person’s faith, for example, should be based on what is true and consistent, even if the understanding of those truths is slow in coming. Faith based on what can never be comprehended is hardly useful.
... G. W.30.4
Quoted in (Brooke 1991, p. 149).
From Letter 1 to Samuel Clarke, November 1715.
Abel then notes that “a single exception of non trivial, unaided spontaneous optimization of formal function by truly natural process would falsify this null hypothesis”, and that no putative demonstrations are yet close to demonstrating formal controls.
This issue relates to the discussions about the definition of ‘physical’ in Chapter 7. I once entertained the definition of physical as everything that exists and changes, in which case minds and souls would be physical. Or, following Aristotle, we could define the physical as that which has its source of change inside itself, and then even God is physical (and, depending on what you mean by ‘inside’, perhaps only God is physical!).
The religions claim that heavenly states are particularly accessible during separation from the physical body, but (with more work) are also available without such a separation.
... body32.3
1 Cor 15:44.
If you have more penetrating objections or think my responses are not adequate, please email me at, and I can revise this chapter.

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