Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Critical Realism and Christian Realism: How to Move From Science to Theology

Below is a copy of the handout for my upcoming presentation  at the Univ. of Notre Dame on critical realism in science and religion. It is one of a number of papers at the New Conversations in Science and Religion: What Difference Might Critical Realist Philosophy Make? conference.

You can follow the thread of my exposition from the quotations below perhaps. From them, you will surmise that I am defending critical realism as a generalized cognitionally based epistemology that can describe how science and theology operate in a way in which they resemble one another. McMullin's theory of retroduction, which I described in my doctoral dissertation, is complemented by Lonergan's understanding of judgment. In both cases, against empiricist and idealist accounts of knowledge, judgment occurs as the result of two distinct processes. There is both a creative, imaginative and constructive process producing hypotheses and also a verification of these hypotheses through experimentation. Or, in the case of theology, there are insights that come from recognizing divine revelation at work in scripture and religious experience. The verification of these insights comes in the formulation of doctrines and the process of their evaluation in new linguistic and cultural contexts.

New Conversations in Science and Religion: What Difference Might Critical Realist Philosophy Make? University of Notre Dame. July 30-31, 2015

1. “Science must not impose any philosophy any more than the telephone must tell us what to say.” G.K. Chesterton

2. “What happens in philosophy of science reflects at the second level what happens in science itself. That is, it is empirically discovered in scientific practice that certain kinds of evaluative procedures or of epistemic demands… are effective in bringing about the broadly-stated goals of science.  Then a theory of a broadly philosophical sort is brought about to account for this.” Ernan McMullin, “The Goals of Natural Science” in Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association Vol. 58, No. 1 (Sep., 1984), pp. 37-64, 57.

3. “referring successfully to an entity, say an electron, can be achieved by affirming that one is referring to that which causes (say) this cloud chamber track to take such and such a path. And this can be achieved without knowing what electrons are ‘in themselves’. Given the parallel between the use of models and metaphors in scientific and theological language, it seems to me to be equally legitimate to affirm that God can be ‘that which causes this particular experience now (or in the past) in me (or others)” Arthur Peacocke, “Intimations of Reality: Critical realism in science and religion” in Religion and Intellectual Life 2 (4) Summer 1985, 7-26, 22

4. If there is such a thing as orthodoxy in the religion-and-science field, critical realism is one of its dogmas. This privileged position is undeserved. Critical realism suffers from at least two fundamental defects. First, its presupposed cognitive psychology entails that the cognitive value of both religious and scientific discourse is strictly indeterminable. Second, critical realism’s presupposed psychology forecloses future cognitive scientific inquiry in the name of a preconceived idea about the nature of human cognition.” Wesley Robbins, “Pragmatism, Critical Realism and the Cognitive Value of Religion and Science” Zygon: Journal of Science and Religion vol. 34, no. 4 (December 1999) 655-666, 656.

5. “Peirce was the first to say straightforwardly that to deduction and induction, we must add a third (which he variously named abduction, hypothesis, retroduction) if we are to categorize properly what it is that makes science. Abduction is the move from evidence to hypothesis; it is ‘the provisional adoption of a [testable] hypothesis’…(85) As a process of inference, it is not rule-governed as deduction is, nor regulated by technique as induction is. Its criteria, like coherence, empirical adequacy, fertility are more of an oblique sort. They leave room for disagreement, sometimes long-lasting disagreement. Yet they also allow controversies to be adjudicated and eventually resolved. (92) Let us agree to call the entire process retroduction. [It] is a continuing process that begins with the first regularity to be explained or anomaly to be explained away…The product of retroduction is theory or causal explanation. It is distinct from empirical law, the product of the simpler procedure of induction. (93) Ernan McMullin, The Inference that Makes Science (Marquette Univ. Press, 1992).

6. “Doctrines express judgments of fact and judgments of value. They are concerned, then, with the affirmations and negations not only of dogmatic theology but also of moral, ascetical, mystical, pastoral, and any similar branch. Such doctrines stand within the horizon of foundations. They have their precise definition from dialectic, their positive wealth of clarification and development from history, their grounds in the interpretation of the data proper to theology.” Bernard Lonergan, Method in Theology (Univ. of Toronto Press, 2003, 1971), 132