Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Defense of Classical Theism #1: Foundational Questions

This post will be the first in a series taking the reader through classical theism. This is the view that there is an all-knowing, all-powerful God who is the creator and sustainer of everything that exists, and that human beings have immortal souls. No particular religion is argued for, although Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all try to claim it as their own.

This is quite a complicated theory, and my blog is aimed at brevity. So the topic will have to be chopped into smaller parts than normal in order to keep them each very short and digestible.

The foundational question we start with is:

  • What would have to be true of any world that is scientifically discoverable?  

Alternatively:

  • What are the necessary preconditions that make science possible in the first place?

What we are not talking about is what the specific scientific facts of the universe turn out to be. That is the job of science. We are operating on a much more fundamental and general level in this theory.

The answers:
  1. Causal regularity: In order to have a science of, say, photons, photons must have some specific effects they produce by their very nature. If they had a different effect every time, then experiments could never reliably be extrapolated to every photon in the universe. When we do the double slit experiment on photons, we need to be able to say "this is what ALL photons would do under similar conditions." As a result, we can then have knowledge of the nature of photons.
  2. Change: Change must occur. An experiment consists of something changing from state X to state Y, and afterwards reasoning from premises to conclusion. So the mere act of observing, testing, and concluding about one's environment presupposes that change occurs.
  3. Structure: There must be structure that is in common to all of a single group of objects. For example, in order to have a science of volcanoes, there must be some features that are common and essential to all volcanoes, apart from knowledge of any particular volcano. If every volcano had a completely different feature set, then once you had knowledge of one particular volcano located somewhere, you would not have knowledge of any others. So there must be structure that is common to all objects (or animals) of a set, so that knowledge of a type, and not just an individual, is possible.
In the next post, we will expand on these three properties.

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