b and i will be back in c-bus this weekend for matt & quenetta's wedding. if anyone wants to get together to talk or catch up or whatever, i'll probably be parked at cup o joe on high street most of the time. for better or worse, i have a ton of grading to do and have to finish a grant proposal by monday. if you want to get in touch with me, see if you can email me at my elementville address (i think that's what happens when you hit the little email icon at the bottom of every post). And now for the serious part of this post. I'm finding it harder and harder to find any reason to disagree with the empiricist stance. Let me be really careful in explaining what I mean and what I don't mean: 1. I don't mean the same thing as metaphysical naturalism, which necessarily implies atheism. Metaphysical naturalism suggests that all-that-is--this is an ontological claim for those who care--is natural. There can be no non-natural things. Since God is by definition a non-natural thing (extra-natural at least), God cannot be said to "exist" in any sense. 2. Neither do I mean agnosticism is the way to go. Agnosticism suggests that there is no way that one can know anything about the metaphysical realm, about God. 3. I don't want to say that I buy agnosticism-lite either--the sort of "whateverism" that lets us take no stance on these issues. If anything, I would prefer the "coldness" of atheism or active agnosticism or the "hotness" of fundamentalism to the "lukewarmness" of ignoring these issues altogether. 4. An "empirical stance," as Bas van Fraasen has laid it out, seems profoundly Christian. His position takes science and scientific discoveries very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that he would like to table all metaphysical discussions as inaccessible. In other words, he says that--through science at least--we cannot adjudicate between various metaphysical arguments and entities (even electrons, for which we have no direct "proof" with or without instruments that are themselves incapable of "seeing" electrons). Therefore, we should give up metaphysics as something that we can know about with the kinds of security of knowledge that we have in science. 5. Instead of metaphysics (this is why his claim is Christian), van Fraasen wants us to invest in empirical ways of knowing, things that can be tested--though not necessarily quantified. That doesn't mean that metaphysics is bunk...just that it can only be something studied as "less certain" knowledge. In my discussions with Randy on Hydra (and on Uncle Screwtape), I tried to make the argument that metaphysical naturalism (atheistic naturalism) is a faith-claim of the same type as religious faith-claims. I'm not sure he bought what I was trying to lay out there; it was a clumsy species of this same argument. If metaphysics in general should not be trusted, then we cannot say for certain that there are metaphysical reasons to believe the material world is all that there is and that God does not exist. 6. Making metaphysics less certain opens up lots of room for faith. It reinvigorates theology. It makes the Church a place wherein analytic thinking about how we go about believing and acting on our beliefs should take a more active role. So here's what I'm thinking. Anyone want to comment? Do you see obvious problems with this empirical stance (obviously I can't give it any detail, so give me the benefit of the doubt here)?


Blogger e said...

Sorry, I guess pushing the little email icon at the bottom of the post does not get you in contact with me.

If you want to email, type the address like this:

my first name (spelled correctly) @ element ville . com (but take out the spaces).


9/29/2005 3:54 PM  
Anonymous Ray Grieselhuber said...

I basically agree. For a long time, I have wondered why Christians are so threatened by knowledge gained empirically and also by the impossibility of proving metaphysical knowledge by the same empiricism we (as a whole) seem to be so afraid of.

It's two different ways of looking at the world but it doesn't mean they are incompatible within one person.

This is why I am so sceptical of the ID movement, et al. because it fails to recognize that the scientific process was never designed to investigate the spiritual world. Even worse, it tries to force this failure to understand on the rest of the scientific community that does get it.

10/03/2005 11:17 AM  

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