INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY
DALLAS M. ROARK
The reader may feel a little uncomfortable about the linking together of these three disciplines. One may feel that there is little in common between the three. Moreover, there are prejudices that divide adherents of each community of study. The prejudices may be linked to the myths that opponents help perpetuate about rival disciplines. A common myth about religion is that it fosters a closed mind to new ideas, intolerance toward those who disagree, and authoritarianism (accepting beliefs for which no reasons are offered).
A famed example that illustrates the myth about religion is the church's treatment of Galileo. The church was wrong about Galileo and there have been other instances of wrongs. However, the church needs to be credited with its contributions also. It preserved manuscripts when no one else seemed interested. These manuscripts have been a veritable repository of learning which would have been lost without the monastic library. At the same time, the church spawned the university which has been a benefactor of mankind. In spite of this, the church has gained the image of opposition to new learning, particularly in the realm of science.
The myth about the church is well known. But less has been said about the myth associated with science and often perpetuated by scientists. The myth about science is that it is always open to any new idea, asks no presuppositions or first truths or principles, and has no personal motivations in the on-going of science. Two brief examples may illustrate the contradiction of the myth. These relate to persecution of people within the scientific community by scientists. In Germany in the l880s mathematics was dominated by a Professor Kroeneker who was able to bar a Professor Canter from promotion in all German universities as well as preventing him from publishing in German mathematical journals.1 A near contemporary example is seen in the reaction of the scientific community to the work of Immanuel Velikovsky. Velikovsky published Worlds in Collision in 1950. His book was denounced by prominent scientists who never bothered to read it. Pressure was brought from the scientific community on the publisher to cease publishing it. Another publisher was found that did not succumb to the academic pressure. Velikovsky has not been proven wrong in his predictions. Many of his predictions have been accepted by astronomers and other scientists, but little credit has been given to him.2 Science, like religion, does have its skeletons in the closet.
Philosophy does not emerge much better off. Philosophers are among the most narrowly opinionated, biased people in the world, but their myth is that of openness, rationality, and reserve on passing judgements until all the evidence is in. The unofficial rumors indicate that a man would not even be considered seriously as a professorial candidate if he were not of the "right philosophical school." For, after all, what has positivism to do with idealism? Or, idealism with existentialism?, etc.
Our goal in this chapter involves three aims: (l) to treat some of the unfortunate fictions or myths that exist about these disciplines, (2) to set forth presuppositions that are basic to some of the disciplines, and (3) to treat the methods involved, particularly in science and religion. As usual, an assessment will be made in summary with criticisms.
l. What is the scientific method?
Science is a word derived from the Latin scire, meaning "to know." This gives us no meaningful use of the term as far as the modern scientific community is concerned. We commonly attribute the term "science" to many diverse disciplines ranging from physics to psychology. But our interest here is not in the disciplines that are called scientific, nor the body of information commonly pigeon-holed as sciences, but the method or methods whereby information is gathered in the various disciplines. Some writers insist that there is no single method for science, but several methods. They speak of one method or a single method more applicable to a discipline, but this would not bar the use of other methods in a minor way.
What, then, is the scientific method. David H. Killeffer3 describes two different approaches to research in answering this question. The first model is that of Bacon-Edison in which one makes large numbers of "experiments or observations from which one draws conclusions and a theory." The other model of the scientific method is called "the Aristotle-Bancroft approach, based on forming a theory first and then seeking to prove or disprove it by experiment."4 The two models or methods may be used alternately or in hybrid mixture of the two methods.
The scientific method may also be described as a way of going about research. Killeffer lists two sets of steps one may follow in dealing with a problem.
l. Consciousness of a problem;
The other set of steps are:
John Dewey called this the method of reflective thinking and his analysis involved five steps.
A simple illustration will indicate its application. Suppose my car will
not start. That is my problem. Asking why is my second step. Posing
alternate hypotheses: (l) the battery is dead, (2) the battery cable is
corroded, (3) the starter is broken. Reasoning and reflecting on these
alternatives leads me to reject (l) because the battery is new, and the
lights work, and other things work, while (3) is rejected because it has not
given any trouble, and (2) is accepted because upon looking under the hood I
discover the acid buildup on the battery. The hypothesis is tested when the
cable is removed, cleaned, replaced, and I can now start the car.
In attempting to answer what is the scientific method? other writers assert that there is no single method employed by all sciences alike. "There is no such thing as the scientific method."7 Agreeing with Conant, Harold Titus lists four other approaches that he designates scientific methods: (l) Observation. Related to astronomy, botany, one observes with the senses and draws conclusions or relationships. (2) Trial and Error. Edison's search for filament for the light bulb involved over 6000 different "tries" until he was successful. (3) Experimentation. Physics has expanded its body of knowledge through controlled circumstances in which many factors of investigation can be manipulated. (4) Statistics. The collection of "sample" opinion, or sample "data" is used for making inferences that serve as the basis of making general conclusions.8
One may develop more detailed procedures within the four categories above. But each of them is designated as a scientific method by some authors.
The sciences have grown in volume of information related to the fruitfulness of the scientific method. Life today is better because of this growth. There is no question about the benefits of science. We must pause, however, to focus on the problems as they relate to science and its method.
l) Science as science, and the scientific method are a-moral. In an important little work on science,9 Norman Campbell declared that "though science helps us in controlling the external world, it does not give us the smallest indication in what direction that control should be exercised." The choice of ends or goals must come from outside the scientific discipline. In the presidential address before the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in 1959, herbert Feigel said that "once we have decided what we ought to do, science may be able to tell us what means will be the most effective and with the least interference with other morally authenticated purposes enable us to do it." Then he asks,
How could science demonstrate that mankind ought to perpetuate its existence rather than terminate it? That wars of defense are justifiable, that parents ought to feel responsible for their infants?10
There are many other moral issues but the basic point remains: how can science or its methods tell us what ought to be done in each case?
Putting all of this together, an a-moral method of research and discovery has produced a system so efficient that it demands a certain uniformity of the society for the efficiency of the "system" to continue. This efficiency cannot tolerate deviation, and all of life appears oriented to continuing this efficiency. Education is geared to passing on scientific knowledge and culture so that in turn more scientific knowledge may be gained. Can man survive in freedom and individuality amidst the surge for conformity?
Lundberg's book, Can Science Save Us? appeared to regard as insignificant the question of a normative look at man's existence. For him, what people are doing is what they want. He dismisses the normative element--what people should do--as a semantic trick to get people to do what someone else wants.11 Such a process of thought can be used to devastating ends. Welfare, impersonal factory work, ghettos, and many other things are what people do. Following Lundberg's reasoning we can conclude that this is what they want. Acquiescing in what people do holds little promise for reforming society. If we lose sight of a meaningful existence for man, we have lost all but the hollow machinery. We abolish man as man.12
2) Science has had a terrible temptation to be reductionistic. In many instances, it has succumbed. Reductionism is the tendency to interpret complex data from the vantage point of a single item, or idea. A reductionistic view of the world is eventually applied to man's existence and nature. We can say that matter is atomic in nature. But is man only a conglomerate of atoms? Reductionism plays loose and easy with man's existential life in considering man as a total being. A chemical view of man's nature leaves man's personhood without meaning. It is man's personhood that is the most significant part of his existence.
3) Scientists should be guarded in their public disclosure on the popular level. Less use of "it has been proven" and more of "it appears to be" statement should be made in journals and newspapers. Science offers probable evidence. Each generation comes to see that some of the things it regarded as "proven" are rejected in light of better evidence. One grows weary of all the "provenness" in science as it is given to the public media.
A few years back, the anthropologist Leakey was featured in the National Geographic concerning one of his finds which was regarded as the oldest man fossil in existence. Dated in l.75 million years ago, this "man" was a sensational find. A few months later, Time magazine had a half-inch blurb stating that Leakey's find was not a man, but a gibbon. This is not only misleading to the general public but it is also careless scholarship.
4) Science is limited by its method and instruments. You do not transcend your instruments. When Gregorian, the Russian Cosmonaut declared that he didn't see God out in space he was only propagandizing, not acting as a responsible scientist within the bounds of his method. It had no relation to scientific technique. He did not have the method nor the instruments to see if God were out there.
Our methods and instruments are frequently limited. We can measure the heartbeat, but there is no device for measuring love. We can measure bodies, but not persons. We can measure intelligence, but no instruments have been devised for measuring God, the essence of love, and other intangibles. We should not conclude that because they cannot be measured, they do not exist. We can admit that the scientific method is limited and affirm the existence of love, persons, God, and other intangibles on some other basis.
One of the implications of the problem expressed here in this context is that much bullying has been associated with the scientific methods. People have been brow-beaten toward atheism because science cannot prove the existence of God. A true perspective on the scientific methods is that they are not capable of doing this positively or negatively. It may be possible that eventually some technique may be originated for answering the question in a scientific fashion on whether God exists or not. It may also be that nothing will ever appear to solve the question scientifically.
5) Summary. These problems are evident when the scientific methods are misused, or when the claims for the methods are too extreme. The scientific methods have a valuable role in knowledge and will continue to play a significant role.
2. Scientific Fictions (special issues in science)
l) Verification. Scientific verification means (l) that a theory can be proven by some means, and (2) that this means can be repeated by other scientists. The last point is related to objectivity. Verification is vital to science and has kept science on a fairly down-to-earth basis. This discussion is not intended to bring a new definition of verification or to discard it. However, there are misleading claims about verification. In his attempt to downgrade popular fallacies on why people believe as they do, Norman Campbell wrote concerning scientists:
If they are really men of science, intimately acquainted with their study by the actual practice of it, they cannot have failed to learn how dangerous it is to believe any statement, however, firmly asserted by a high authority, unless they have tested it for themselves.13
However, as a matter of experience scientists everywhere accept all kinds of information and data that they never test for themselves. They do not have the time, resources, or the desire to test everything for themselves. In many matters scientists must trust the honesty, integrity, and correctness of the journals they read.
Another statement, this one from Kemeny, also relates to verification:
The scientists holds his theories, tentatively, always prepared to abandon them if facts do not bear out the predictions. If a series of observations, designed to verify certain predictions, force us to abandon our theory, then we look for a new or improved theory.14
Kemeny states it as it ought to be. But in actuality theories are not abandoned when a few stubborn facts do not fit. Rather, a theory may be held in faith that the contrary facts will be cleared up, be irrelevant, or eventually go away and be ignored. There may be good justification for this stubbornness and it may be vindicated. But it is contrary to the easy abandonment suggested by Kemeny. Michael Polanyi wrote that "Quantum theory of light was first proposed by Einstein--and that upheld subsequently for twenty years--in spite of its being in sharp conflict with the evidence of optical defraction."15
An implication arising out of this discussion is that verification is not as simple as it sounds on the surface. Put together the powerful criteria of verification, reproducibility of results, agreement reached by independent methods of determination, and yet there are instances of things appearing to be verified, but later turn up to be false.16
Verification as a criteria of science is yet limited by Kemeny when he noted: "the key to the verification of theories is that you never verify them. What you do verify are logical consequences of the theory."17 Concerning conceptual schemes on a large scale as they relate to science, Conant admits that "few if any hypotheses on a grand scale are conceptual schemes that can be directly tested."18
Other people have raised questions about the requirement of verification. Bertrand Russell rejected the positivistic form which asserted that "what cannot be verified or falsified is meaningless."19 If science insists on everything being verified, it stands in the awkward position of accepting a proposition that cannot be verified--namely, the verification principle. In sum, science that is bent on rejecting unverified truths accepts one as the basic ingredient of its position.
The requirement of verification in science may be inapplicable to certain areas. Scientists speak of electrons in a meaningful way, but it is questionable whether one can ever really know what an electron will do because an electron is so small that even light cannot illuminate it. It is smaller than the smallest wave length. "It is obviously impossible to see a body that is smaller than the wavelength of the light by which it is illuminated."20
One last question concerning verification relates to the subjective response of the scientists. This is like asking: when is something verified? In whose eyes is it verified? Why have Marxist scientists usually rejected the theory of relativity while western scientists have usually accepted it? What would it take to convince a Marxist of his error? When would verification be?
Verification has had a large role in science and will continue to do so, but it must be understood as more subjective than the fiction about it suggests.
Empirical and rational supports are objective in the sense that they are in principle susceptible of being weighted and controlled in accordance with definite and statable standards.21
Israel Scheffler wrote concerning objectivity:
A fundamental feature of science is its ideal of objectivity, an ideal that subjects all scientific statements to the test of independent and impartial criteria, recognizing no authority of persons in the realm of cognition.22
He further elaborates the standard view concerning science:
It (the standard view) understands science to be a systematic public enterprise, controlled by logic and by empirical fact, whose purpose it is to formulate the truth about the natural world. The truth primarily sought is general, expressed in laws of nature, which tell us what is always and everywhere the case. Observation, however, supplies the particular empirical facts, the hard phenomenal data which our lawlike hypotheses strive to encompass, and for which it is the ultimate purpose of such hypotheses to account.23
These comments lend support to the popular notion that science is concerned with the "facts" out there, those facts which are seen by everyone and held in common agreement. Scientific facts are said to be known by minds, but not shaped by minds. Hence, science is objective.
This view of science, here labeled as a fiction, has come under increasing criticism in the last two decades. Two of the leading critics are Michael Polanyi and T.S. Kuhn. Kuhn's work will serve as the model of criticism of this view labeled "scientific fiction."
Kuhn sees science as beginning when a paradigm comes into being. A paradigm is a model or pattern. A paradigm means also an understanding of a particular set of events, facts, or problems. Before a paradigm begins or is completed, only a set of unrelated problems or questions are in existence. Gradually an understanding of these problems emerges around a particular viewpoint and a paradigm is born.
The paradigm gains its status because it is successful in solving problems that the researchers are regarding as acute. It may not solve all the problems, but a paradigm does at least three things: (l) it dictates what the real facts of the problems are, (2) it dictates what future research will be carried out within the parameters of the discipline, and (3) it brings into being new instruments for testing the research based on the paradigm. Many instruments of science would not exist if a different paradigm had been held.
Once a paradigm comes into being, people are recognized by their adherence to it. Those who cling to older or different paradigms are "simply read out of the profession, which thereafter ignores their work . . . . Those unwilling or unable to accommodate their work to it must proceed in isolation or attach themselves to some other group."24
Once a paradigm is accepted, scientific work goes on within the paradigm's definition. Normal science is resolving problems within the paradigm, not creating new paradigms. New paradigms only arise when increasing dissatisfaction arises over the old paradigm's inability to solve certain problems. Science is puzzle-solving within the paradigm. Kuhn notes, "Once a first paradigm through which to view nature has been found, there is no such thing as research in the absence of any paradigm. To reject one paradigm without simultaneously substituting another is to reject science itself."25 But the paradigm is so important for directing the course of research that where scientists have different paradigms they engage in different laboratory manipulations.
Since a paradigm is a certain way of looking at the world, a paradigm will enable one to see things he would not otherwise see. A layman looks at a chair without the paradigm of science and sees a hard piece of metal or wood. A physicist may look at the chair and through the help of the paradigm "see" the atomic structure of the chair involving a lot of empty space of the atomic nature of the chair. Without the paradigm the physicists could not reach that viewpoint.
The crucial implications of this change of paradigm, or no paradigm, is seen in Kuhn's statement:
As a result, the reception of a new paradigm often necessitates a redefinition of the corresponding science. Some old problems may be relegated to another science, or declared entirely unscientific. Others that were previously non-existent or trivial may, with a new paradigm become the very archetypes of significant scientific achievement. And as the problems change, so, often, does the standard that distinguishes a real scientific solution from a mere metaphysical speculation, word games, or mathematical play.26
Kuhn's interpretation of science may be seen to stress the priority of the rational over the empirical. The empirical becomes important within the paradigm, and in establishing the paradigm once the rationality of the paradigm is conceived.
One other charge of Kuhn is that science known for its insistence on the facts, actually goes out of its way to twist the facts. This is noted on the use of textbooks as a method of teaching the profession of science. Kuhn noted
The depreciation of historical fact is deeply, and probably functionally, ingrained in the ideology of the scientific profession, the same profession that places the highest of all values upon factual details of others sorts.27
The reason for the re-writing and twisting of the history of science in textbooks used by students is to give the impression that scientists of the present are working on the same problems as scientists of the past. This creates the impression that science is a cumulative effort, rather than one related to revolutionary changes in paradigms, which is the actual historical fact. The cumulative appearance is wrong, argues Kuhn, for many of the "puzzles of contemporary normal science did not exist until after the most recent scientific revolution. Very few of them can be traced back to the historic beginning of the science within which they now occur."28
Changing paradigms, therefore, make for changing ways of viewing the same
events, facts, and things. Hence there is a problem of objectivity. A better
substitute term is probably inter-subjectivity in which one person follows
another person's thinking, agreeing or disagreeing because their views make
more sense in interpreting the present problems, puzzles, and questions
about the world. But a new paradigm may be in the making to bring about a
different and presumably better understanding.
Science has maintained for itself the image that it has no presuppositions, that it begins with work on the raw materials of nature and the universe. In contrast to other studies, particularly religion, science has viewed itself as asking no sacred beginning points. This is a fiction, or a myth. It is false and misleading. Instead, science requires--as does all disciplines--presuppositions.
What is a presupposition? There are different words used by different thinkers. Some speak of presuppositions, others of assumptions, still others of principles or premises. We draw no lines of distinction between these terms for our purpose here. There are different kinds of suppositions and some of them are more debated than others. It is important to know that if presuppositions are changed, the interpretation of the data studied will also be changed.
Survey the brief list that Conant describes as "common-sense assumptions."
l. We assume the existence of other persons.
In many works on the philosophy of science not much is said about any of the above assumptions except for number five. The assumption of the uniformity of nature is debated in contemporary literature. Philosophers from the time of Mill to Bertrand Russell in his book, Human Knowledge, have answered that there is uniformity in nature. Many others argue against the premise of the uniformity of nature. But even when it is rejected something else is put in its place. Stephen Toulmin rejected the principle and declared, "So it is not Nature that is Uniform, but scientific procedure; and it is uniform only in this, that it is methodical and self-correcting."30
Presuppositions vary in different world views, or one may say that world views vary and change as time moves on. During Galileo's time it was assumed that the universe could be understood in mass-in-motion terms "governed by laws of mathematical dynamics."31 With Newton it was assumed that all phenomena could be reduced to "mechanics of some ultimate constituent particles." The twentieth century has been influenced by Farraday and Maxwell to assume a universe of electrical properties. No one knows what the future may bring in new world-view presuppositions.
Having talked about the importance and place of presuppositions let us turn to examine some types of presuppositions.
Type I. Presuppositions basic to knowledge.
1. I exist
Type II. Additudinal presuppositions necessary for continuing development of science.
1. The desire to observe, organize,
measure, and experiment is vital to science.
Type III. Presuppositions concerning nature and methodology.
1. Nature is real, not an illusion.
Type IV. I-Believe Statements.
1. Space is infinite or finite.
The four types of presuppositions listed above bear some comment. Types I-III can be accepted without much difficulty though one may find people who have questioned and rejected some of them. Type IV relates to the theoretical dimensions of science. The I-Believe statements relate to views that are not established firmly in science. As an example, George Gamow advocated a "big bang" theory of the origin of the universe. Fred Hoyle advocates a "steady-state" view. Each bases his views on data, reasoning, and each has his supporters. Their conclusions are not irrational, although they oppose one another. Their conclusions are probability conclusions. But their views are categorized as an I-believe position because they are not firm as an accepted law in science. A fifth category might be listed in terms of generally accepted laws of science.
The first three types of presuppositions seldom receive much consideration from men of science. Philosophers of science are often interested in category III. The fourth type relates to that dimension of science that is yet up for grabs, as it were, or always open to question. It is an area that lacks finality.
There are two basic conclusions to be drawn from the list of presuppositions. First, the myth or fiction that science has no presuppositions is false. Science, as well as any other study, has many presuppositions. Second, changing presuppositions makes a change in the treatment of data. The change of presuppositions affects the conclusions drawn from the same data. There is a small controversy that will illustrate the significance of presuppositions. Critics of evolution argue that present biological theory is based on slow, small, almost imperceptible views of change. If life changes so slowly in its development it requires up to 2 billion years to explain. These critics of evolution suggest that another model be used, a paradigm of catastrophism, or great cataclysmic changes that require little time to explain. One paradigm makes the world billions of years old, the other paradigm makes it quite young. Each paradigm attempts to use the same data as the other, but the presupposition, or model, or paradigm used to interpret the data leads to different consequences.
Consequently, presuppositions are important to know. Different kinds of history are written on different types of presuppositions. Different kinds of psychology arise out of different presuppositions. Presuppositions are important and should not be avoided. Man must order his life (another presupposition) and make sense out of the universe. Life becomes easier if we are aware of the presuppositions from which we and other people operate. The real clashes in disagreement in many disciplines are clashes based on presuppositions that differ. Then some presuppositions are better than others. Some are too reductionistic. Others ignore part of men's existence as a total being. Resolution of differences have to take place in the larger setting of man's rationality.
In summary, we have looked at the methods of science, some fictions associated with science, and presuppositions needed for the progress of science, as well as criticisms related to these topics. We are now turning to the second heading of our chapter, Philosophy.
The second part of our chapter title, Philosophy, may appear to be short-treated. The brief treatment may give the impression that philosophy is not important. The reader must keep in mind that the total book is related to philosophy, its problems, issues, and answers. With this in mind we can turn to the two relationships.
l. Philosophy and Science.
The early philosophers were the first scientists. Thales seems to have been one of the first to combine an interest in science and philosophy. He predicted eclipses, determined distances from ships to shore, and coined the word cosmos which refers to an ordered, rational understanding of the world. Other philosophers, Anaximander, Anaximens, and others, followed in their attempt to understand the world. Eventually philosophy was baptized into the Christian tradition and one of the earliest to synthesize these studies was Clement of Alexander, and later Origen. Yet later a close relationship existed in which theology was regarded as the "queen" of the sciences and philosophy as a subordinate step-child. With the coming of the enlightenment, philosophy separated itself from its close relationship with theology and eventually committed itself to the new science that was emerging from its domain. So today we can say that philosophy secures much of its intellectual building material from the sciences. For better or worse, some philosophers will not speak on certain issues until science has spoken. Others will not speak unless there is a precedent for verifying their remarks by means of some scientific method.
But the influence of science on philosophy has not brought unanimity by any means to philosophy or science. Some may argue whether psychology is a science, but it serves as an example of a discipline appealing to the methods of science. However, psychology has within its fold a number of competing schools. In the more traditional sciences, the "hard sciences," there are sufficient "I-believe" statements that affect world-views. Examples of this would be accepting or rejecting the indeterminacy principle, or the second law of thermodynamics. Here a philosopher can pick and choose according to his mind set.
Just as there are myths or fictions in science and religion, it is true in philosophy. Most philosophers would like to be thought of as even-minded, open, tolerant people. Unfortunately, there are no completely objective philosophers, who arrive at the ungarnished truth without biased beginnings. The philosopher is a bundle of attitudes, rebellions, sensitivities, biases, moral failures, and criticism by the time he arrives at philosophy and begins to formulate his own views. Rather than starting from "scratch" in discussing the limitations of philosophy, its lack of method, the problems with the scientific methods, or alternative world views, he may seek material to support his own intellectual idiosyncracies. In many cases he may regard his view as the "objective" one while opposing views are nothing more than sentimental nonsense.
There may appear a strong urge on the part of a philosopher to appeal to scientific beliefs as a basis of undergirding his own philosophical viewpoint. An example of this is Corliss Lamont who appeals uncritically to evolutionary theory and writes that science has proven that God did not create the world. Because evolution is proven by science, therefore, humanism--Lamont's philosophy, is a proven philosophy. Philosophy may appeal to science both for facts and a "snow-job."
While philosophy draws upon scientific data, the scope of philosophy is, by definition, broader than science. Academic disciplines are often narrow with such divisions as biology, physics, chemistry, psychology, and others. It is only in recent times that cross-disciplines research has been stressed. We can now speak of a bio-chemist, or an astro-physicist. Philosophy is interested in all of these areas at those points which information relates to a comprehensive view of reality. Unless philosophy is geared to a rejection of metaphysics, or the study of reality, philosophy seeks information from the sciences to be the building blocks of its world-view.
Philosophy and science differ in another regard. We have seen that science, as science, is a-moral. As a scientific endeavor, a scientist is only interested in building a better hydrogen bomb. His role as a scientist cannot dictate how this product is to be used. He may violently oppose war as a private citizen, but he does it on other than scientific grounds. Thus many types of philosophies take up where science has to stop, namely the area of people and values. Philosophy is concerned, in many ways, with values, and values are not generally related to scientific methods.
Philosophy and science also part company regarding a method. Science prides itself on its method of investigation. Philosophy has no method of its own. Some philosophers have smarted under this lack and have renounced the traditional interest of philosophy and metaphysics for the advocacy of a method for philosophy, namely, language analysis. Not only does this limit philosophy greatly, but the interest attached to the traditional philosophical questions is transferred to other disciplines, religion, psychology, or psychiatry.
As for science, it pays little attention to philosophy. Since the days of Hume, "the fashionable scientific philosophy has been such as to deny the rationality of science."33 Alfred N. Whitehead quotes Hume:
In a word, then, every effect is a distinct event from its cause. It could not, therefore, be discovered in the cause; and the first invention or conceptions of it, a priori, must be entirely arbitrary.34
Whitehead concludes that if the cause is the invention which is entirely arbitrary, then,
it follows that science is impossible except in the sense of establishing entirely arbitrary connections which are not warranted by anything intrinsic to the natures either of causes or effects. Some variant of Hume's philosophy has generally prevailed among men of science. But scientific faith has risen to the occasion, and has tacitly removed the philosophic mountain.35
concludes by saying that science has been a predominately:
anti-rationalistic movement, based upon a naive faith. What reasoning it has wanted, has been borrowed from mathematics which is a surviving relic of Greek rationalism, following the deductive method. Science repudiates philosophy. In other words it has never cared to justify its faith or to explain its meaning; and has remained blandly indifferent to its refutation by Hume.36
Strangely enough, while philosophy is ignored by science, Whitehead maintains that science has arisen in western Europe as opposed to Asia or India where long histories of civilization have flourished, because in Europe there has been the medieval insistence on the rationality of God, "conceived as with the personal energy of Jehovah, and with the rationality of a Greek philosopher."37
The strange paradox arises in the midst of science as surveyed by Whitehead--anti-rational in its technique but admitting the rational nature of nature. The religious matrix for the birth of science is especially significant in spite of the traditional warfare of science and religion. The enmity of blood brothers is often serious and deep, but the two need each other.
2. Philosophy and Religion.
Some philosophers are sympathetic to the issues in religion. But the present climate is perhaps one in which religion is regarded by many philosophers as a bag of pseudo-questions and answers. Religion often looks upon philosophy as a prodigal son at best and an atheistic antagonist at worst. Nevertheless, both disciplines have much to offer each other when dialogue is taken seriously.
This is particularly true in the area of metaphysics, or the nature of
reality. Philosophy, building upon knowledge of reality drawn from science,
is directed to the conclusion that reality is physical, atomic, chemical, or
electric, etc. While this is meaningful knowledge, it is a restricted type
of knowledge. Suppose that the basic fact of reality were person or spirit.
Philosophy directed by science would have no method now of coming to that
knowledge. If the whole of man is more important than his components, we
have to think in terms of persons rather than electrons, chemicals, etc.
Philosophy and religion have something in common in the matter of a method. Philosophy has no method, and religion has no method of searching out God. Philosophy professes to receive information from science, and religion professes to receive in terms of God's self-revelation.
Philosophy may reject a relationship to religion. It may accept either atheism or a rationalistic theism, or some hybrid. Yet in a positive way, philosophy and religion may be regarded as complementary. Paul Tillich wrote of this:
Philosophy is that cognitive endeavor in which the question of being is asked . . . The question of being is not the question of any special being, its existence and nature, but it is the question of what it means to be."38
Tillich poses a correlation between philosophy and religion. Philosophy asks the questions about the meaning of being, and religion, depending on the realm of the question, gives a transcendent answer. This would appear only possible when religion is admitted as having the revelation of God.
In summary, the relationships between philosophy and science, philosophy and religion, have been changing through the centuries. There is no reason to believe that things will be different in the future. We must not be deceived by these relationships. Philosophy is not science, nor religion. Religion is not science nor philosophy. Each has its own way of looking at the world. Philosophy is concerned with criticism, questioning, doubting, examining, and Socrates is the prime example in this area. Philosophy makes its case primarily on the ground of reason. Philosophy, unlike religion which takes its source in authority of Scripture, takes its case to the high court of reason. All questions, even unanswerable ones, are treated from the standpoint of reason.
1. What is Religion?
Religion in this context of science, philosophy, and religion is predominantly a relation of western thought. Consequently, we are thinking primarily of the Judaeo-Christian influences rather than dealing with all religions. There is no single definition of religion that will fit all religions. What must be undertaken is the definition of a particular religion. Even this is not without its critics. Our example in this context reflects biblical theism rather than institutional organizations, denominational biases, or rituals. What we aim for is Biblical religion without the trappings of cultural conformity or innovation through different periods of its history. Beneath the veneer of present Christianity, there yet stands the Bible, often ignored, demythologized, or relativized. No defense is made of many practices, failures, or distortions of various Christian movements. One should frankly admit that religion in general and Christianity in particular has a history, at times, that is morally shameful. Moreover, religion has been and will yet be used by men who are unscrupulous, greedy, and selfish. Pascal noted that "men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious convictions."39 But these bad elements are all alien to the nature of Biblical faith.
The Christian claim or view of religion is that God has spoken of
Himself, revealing himself as a person in many ways to many people, but in a
pre-eminent way in Incarnation. Christians claim that they have an answer to
some problems or shortcomings of science and philosophy when it comes to a
certain type of knowing about the nature of reality. Some religions speak
about the nature of reality but their claim of knowledge is based on
intuition, or inner meditation. Christian faith involves the claim of a
different approach--God's self-revelation. Without the event of
self-revelation, there can be no meaningful knowledge of God. A purely
rational approach to ultimate reality gains little. Intuition or inner
meditation does not get beyond man's psyche.
2. Religious Fictions.
There are some fictions or myths perpetuated about religion that need some measure of exposing.
l) All religions arose out of fear.
It is imagined that primitive man was frightened by some phenomena of nature, perhaps lightning, and came to attribute the forces of nature as some form of punishment by an angry god. Religion thus began with fear, or in the attempt to placate the anger of the displeased god. One must consider two beginnings of religion. The first beginning relates to prehistoric man. How primitive or prehistoric man began to be religious is unknown. There are no written records of that beginning. One may just as well conclude that his religion began because he knew God directly, or because he had a sore toe, or whatever. Without records, anybody's theory is as good as anyone else's. As long as evidence is not possible the myth cannot be disproven, nor can it be proven.
The second beginning of religion that is more important concerns the historic religions. Certainly Christian faith did not begin in fear, nor did Islam or Judaism.
There is another wrinkle in the statement worth pursuing. Grant for the
sake of argument that religion did arise from fear. Does this mean that it
is nothing more than a projection of man's psyche? Is religion therefore not
related to a transcendental reality? Even on these grounds, one might draw
an analogy from mathematics in which case mathematics is a pure creation of
the mind, but it corresponds to the reality outside of one's mind. It might
be argued that man had an adequate cause for postulating a deity. Instead of
projection of purpose on the world about him, man recognizes rather the
purpose and design of the world. This kind of argument could probably be
held equally as well as the "all-religions-arose-from-fear-idea" but it too
lacks pre-history documentation.
2) Religion is rationalistic and not empirical.
This fiction implies that religion uses reasoning for its proof rather than turning to "things" that can be manipulated, and in the case of experiments, reproduced. It is true that religion does not deal in things. But one may argue for a reproducibility of experiences. The missionary enterprise of Christianity and other religions is based on it. A Christian enters a new culture, encounters complete strangers, declares the Gospel of what God has done, and what they should do, and when they respond in faith their lives are changed; they become new people having a sense of peace and forgiveness within themselves and toward one another. They in turn go to others and a chain reaction takes place. Reproducibility of experience occurs again and again. In this way, Christianity is existential, not rationalistic merely; it is experiential, not empirical. As long as we limit verification and empiricism to the lab, then religion has neither of these. But for the man whose life has been changed then the results are the verification.
We are not arguing here in a closed system. One may document people who have "tried" Christianity and failure crowned their hopes. One may glibly say that failures were not sincere in their trying. We don't intend that at all. Rather, there are many deep uncoverable reasons why some people can't make a commitment to have the same reproducible results in their lives. But in all kinds of data like this, the variations are small compared to the myriads who have proven the rule. The variations are not sufficient to break down the reasoning. This relates to credibility and probability and is unlike the laws of physics in which one failure voids the law.
As far as rationalism goes, we have seen that there is more rationalism in scientific verification than the fiction admits. The Christian religion says something about reason and its role in the world-view of man. We have seen that relativity was accepted, not because of its verification at that time, but because it was more reasonable, and made more sense than did the older Newtonian world-view. It was more compelling, more appropriate, and more reasonable.
In the same way, Christian faith argues that the human mind sees the Eternal God as the Creator and sees this as a more appropriate, compelling explanation of the origin of life and man, than a fortuitous explanation that life comes from non-life. Mind as an explanation for creativity is acceptable to mind in a way that chance is not acceptable to explain the appearance of mind.
3) Religion is subjective.
This means merely that spiritual reality cannot be measured by traditional scientific methods. This is like saying that ideas that cannot be empirically verified are subjective. Ideals, however, are compelling although they cannot be measured. Sometimes the statement that religion is subjective is intended to mean that nothing objective about it exists. Thus religion is nothing more than a mental fiction, a self-deception. How can one prove such a statement? It is obviously made by the non-religious. The burden of proof has been cast upon the religious. The non-religious is asking for an objective proof along scientific lines, and this religion has never professed to be possible. But it is also not possible to prove on scientific grounds that it is purely subjective. What must be recognized is the limitation of science concerning that which relates to religion, values, art, aesthetics, and the whole area of the intangibles.
3. Presuppositions of Religion.
Like science, there are a number of presuppositions that religion accepts. The types parallel those discussed above in science.
Type I. Presuppositions basic to all knowledge. This type remains the same and the reader can refer back to that section on the presuppositions of science.
Type II. Attitudinal presuppositions necessary for the continuing development of religion.
1. The desire to observe, organize, and
conceptualize are also vital to religion.
Type III. Presuppositions about the
nature of spirit.
Type IV. "I-Believe" statements.
Following the model of Schilling, we can use the Apostle's Creed as an example of "I-believe" statements. The first part of the creed may be used, not for its authoritativeness, but because it reflects in a nutshell many Biblical statements.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ His only begotten Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary . . . .
The Apostle's Creed sets forth in summary fashion what is said in many places in the Biblical record.
The Biblical record, however, points up the recorded account of what certain men had experienced. That record declares in a very natural way,
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life--the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us . . . . (l John l:l-2)
And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; and we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. (John 1:14)
The disciples of Jesus had a unique experience. They saw unusual events of men being healed of blindness, deafness, and being raised from death; they heard his teaching, they saw his crucifixion but most important, his resurrection. He was seen alive on numerous occasions by numerous disciples under differing circumstances. To all of this they bore witness, and the Apostle's Creed is nothing less than a summary of their experience as recorded in the Biblical record. It does not represent dogmatic pronouncements borne of mere imagination. It represents their experience.
No historical record can be repeated as scientists can repeat experiments in physics. Historical documents are judged in two areas: (l) the integrity and reliability of the documents in terms of the authors and other contemporary or near contemporary witnesses; (2) our scientific or philosophical bias. The latter is important here. The documents can be regarded as reliable, integral, honest accounts in which no motives of fraud, deception, or dishonesty can be seen. One may question the resurrection, the central issue, on the basis of whether one believes that a resurrection is possible or not. Naturally, one does not see this kind of event occurring now, and it is concluded by some that all stories of resurrections are regarded as fables. If this were a mere man, this tendency would be justified. But Jesus admitted himself to be the Messiah, the Son of God, and thus one may be surprised if the resurrection did not happen.
We must not stray too far away at this point. We have spoken of "I-Believe" statements comparable to scientific creeds in the first section. Not everybody accepted the Gospel. There were those who regarded Jesus as an apostate Jew. No amount of argument, miracle, or otherwise, would convince them differently. One can only present the evidence as it stands. One cannot proceed further. The same was true for the scientific dimension. Using the previous example of George Gamow, he makes a strong case for the "big-bang" theory of the origin of our planetary system, but it is not absolutely convincing. There are those who dispute it, but he makes a good case. What is evidence for one, may not be good evidence for another. At this point we reach an impasse. The answer may lie in the existential realm. Kierkegaard noted his experience in objections against Christianity were not due to intellectual doubt, but in and to rebellion. This is not an ad hominen argument, but a serious area to consider.
We may summarize that science and religion have creedal statements. Both
are offered out of experience. Both may be impressive, but not universally
Christian faith has no methodology for investigation that is peculiarly Christian. It recognizes that knowledge about God is impossible unless God reveals himself. This fact is not something a group of churchmen got together and voted on. This fact is what started the movement called Christianity. It means that God, who is hidden from physical eyes of men, has now come near, indwelled (incarnated), a specific body that he commanded to be named Jesus. In Jesus, mankind can see what God is. The summary verses of John 3:16 designates what God in Jesus, the Christ, is all about. God is holy love seeking to make a new covenant with man, forgiving man's sin, restoring him to a right relation with himself, giving him eternal life which begins in a faith commitment to God in Christ.
The lack of methodology comparable to science, and the stress on the analogy of person has been given currency by Martin Buber in a little book, I and Thou. Persons are thous but they may be reduced to an it. But where persons are admitted as person, they are known only through grace, permission. The thou, "is not found by seeking. The Thou meets me. But I step into direct relation with it."41
God is not reached by our seeking, but we encounter Him as persons encounter other persons, by grace, permission. There are many other biblical assertions that could be pondered, but that would go beyond our purpose here. Unless people speak we know nothing meaningful of them. Unless God has spoken, we know little of value about Him. If the biblical record is true, then we may organize the material recorded there, deal with it systematically, and use it in fashioning a philosophical world-view.
If the record is true, we have the only reliable account of what ultimate reality is like. It is a seeking Person who reaches out to mankind, and in love, commands mankind to reach out to others. Anything less than Person is not worthy of man's worship. Anything less than Person would be less than man and would be the beginning of idolatry. The problem of man without God is that he commits himself to the most subtle idolatry: the worship of himself.
Religion in general, and Christian faith in particular have limitations. The Bible has many different subjects that it touches on, but it was not to be a textbook on every facet of knowledge. While there are certain ideas about man's nature, his selfishness, etc., that would relate to an economic system, there is no Christian economics per se. It gives no information on the kind of house people should live in, nor how the city streets should be laid out, or the appropriate number of pupils in a kindergarten class, and a host of others. The Bible only offers a record of God's self-revelation so that man may be renewed in his relationship to God. In light of this there is no specifically Christian mathematics, physics, or botany, etc.
Religion has the tendency to be overly simplistic. Sometimes it is said, "If one would only believe in Christ, then all his troubles would end." This is incorrect. Jesus never promised that his followers would have an easy time. He did indicate that his followers would be persecuted, and for some, trouble begins when they become Christians. The statement above is meant to say that if one commits his life to Christ, he can gain a new perspective on his problems, to see himself, as he really is, and find help from God to go through his problems.
Another problem for religion is that many are as unguarded in their statements as their scientific counterparts have been, and probably more so. There is a false image that floats around concerning Christians. They are not pious, holier-than-thou creatures who never make mistakes, or he who makes them, doesn't admit them. Rather the Biblical Christian is one who knows how far he has fallen from God, recognizes that he is fully human, and above all needs God's help and grace.
We have seen a number of parallels and contrasts between the three disciplines, science, philosophy, and religion. We have tried to speak of the nature of science, philosophy, and religion, methods involved were relevant, misconceptions or fictions about the disciplines, and finally, the place and role of presuppositions.
The acceptance of presuppositions, or paradigms, involves an acceptance of the community. A particular set of presuppositions will dictate where one goes in research and what problems can or cannot be dealt with. No one has a private faith of their own unless they are seeking to bring about a new revolution in their areas. One is generally related to a community that is quite objective though not perfect.
One might well adapt the saying of Anselm to the modern era, "I believe, that I might understand" because one does this with a particular set of presuppositions. Given the model or paradigm, a view of reality emerges and a certain understanding comes forth from it. Given another paradigm and another view comes forth. Some of life's great choices involve which paradigms or presuppositions that one will accept or reject. One has to set about this making of choices on the basis of the aesthetic rationality of the paradigms.
In any case, the set of presuppositions are often related to the view of the world, or metaphysics. It is to this subject that we now turn in our next chapter.
For Further Study
Berger, Peter L. A Rumor of Angels. Garden City: Doubleday, 1970.
Polanyi, Michael. Personal Knowledge. Chicago: Uuniversity of Chicago Press, 1958.
Polanyi, Michael. Science, Faith, and Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964.
Polanyi, Michael. The Study of Man. Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1959.
1Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958, p. 190.
2Alfred DeGrazia, ed., The Velikovsky Affair, New Hyde Park: University Books, l966.
3David H. Killeffer, How Did You Think of That?, Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Co., l969, p. 24.
4Ibid., p. 24.
5Ibid., p. 6.
6Ibid., p. 6.
7James B. Conant, Science and Common Sense, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1951, p. 45.
8Statistics has its problems and critics. A new word has been coined: statisticulation--the art of lying with statistics. Some of the problems inherent in sampling has led some humorist to note that "if all statisticians were laid end to end, it would be a good thing."
9Norman Campbell, What is Science?, New York: Dover Publications, 1952, pp. 160-61.
10Herbert Feigl and Grover Maxwell (ed.), Current Issues in the Philosophy of Science, New York: Holt, Reinhart and Winston, 1961, p. 16.
11George A. Lundberg, Can Science Save Us?, New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1961, p. 70.
12Cf. C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, New York: The Macmillan Co., 1947.
13Campbell, op. cit., p. 171.
14John G. Kemeny, A Philosopher Looks at Science, New York: Van Nostrand Co., 1959, p. 86.
15Michael Polanyi, Science, Faith, and Society, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964, p. 29.
16Ibid., p. 30.
17Kemney, op. cit., p. 96.
18Conant, op. cit., p. 74.
19Bertrand Russell, Human Knowledge, New York: Simon and Shuster, 1948, p. 447, cf. 448.
20Susan Stebbings, Philosophy and Physicists, New York: Dover, 1958, p. 179.
21Mario Bunge, Metascientific Queries, Springfield, Illinois: Charles C. Thomas, 1959, p. 81.
22Israel Scheffler, Science and Subjectivity, Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1967, p. 1. For a contrary view to this fiction, see Scheffler, pp. 91-124.
23Ibid., p. 8.
24Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, International Encyclopedia of Unified Science, Vol. I-II, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970, ed., p. 19.
25Ibid., p. 79.
26Ibid., p. 103.
27Ibid., p. 138.
28Ibid., p. 140-141.
29Conant, op. cit., p. 33.
30Stephen Toulmin, The Philosophy of Science, New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1960, p. 148.
31Polanyi, Science, Faith and Society, p. 85.
32Harold K. Schilling, Concerning the Nature of Science and Religion, Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1958, p. 53.
33Alfred N. Whitehead, Science and the Modern World, New York: The Macmillan Co., 1925, p. 11.
35Ibid., p. 12.
36Ibid., p. 22.
37Ibid., p. 19.
38Paul Tillich, Biblical Religion and the Search for Ultimate Reality, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1956, pp. 5-6.
39Blaise Pascal, Pensees, New York: The Modern Library, 1941, p. 314.
40Schilling, op. cit.
41Martin Buber, I and Thou, Edinburg: T. and T. Clark, 1937, p. 11.
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