Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chapter Synopsis of the new book "Starting Science From God"

 Brief outline of the structure of the book and its arguments:

    The status of theism, and current debates

I. Preliminaries

    General discussion about the possibility of scientific theism today.

    2. History
    Brief(!) discussions of historical philosophical treatments of theism, and of theories of connection between God and the world, and between mind and nature.

    3. A Way Forward
    Describing the 'minor' changes necessary for science for science and for religion, in order to form together a way forward.

II. Ontology

    4. Power and Substance
    We must distinguish between form, substance and potentiality (like Aristotle), in order to make a realist ontology based on process logic. I give a general introduction to the realist ontology that will be used throughout this book. The ontology of form and substance, united in nature and distinguishable only by the mind, is one that dates from Aristotle and was still held by Descartes and Leibniz.

    5. Multiple Generative Levels
    Exposition concerning multiple generative levels, based on the asymmetric processes of generation from cause to effect, and selection from previous effects to future causes. Simple examples from classical & quantum physics and psychology.

    6. A Dynamic Ontology
    Summary of philosophical viewpoint of Part II, where substances are defined in terms of underlying dispositions, and also exist and operate within a generative structure of levels.

III. A Scientific Theism

    7. Plan of Approach
    Start from specific postulates of theism (just as physics theories start from their own a-theistic postulates), and see what can be deduced concerning minds and nature that is consistent with those postulates, as listed within Chapters 8-19.

    8. The ‘I am’
    That God exists, and that God is One, are the basic starting postulates of any theism.

    9. God is Not Us
    Nor are we part of God. To be loved, we must be other from God. The most distinctive feature of theism is that God is distinct from the world, in particular that there is something essential to humans that is distinct from God. The reason for this is that God’s love is unselfish, and unselfish love cannot love itself.

    10. Images of God
    In the Genesis story, man was made ‘in his image, according to his likeness’. The creation story leading up to this suggests that plants and animals were partial contributions to this making, and from biology we know that there are a great many internal similarities of plants and animals with humans. Although somewhat controversial, this implies that plants and animals are also in the image and likeness of God, but to a lesser extent.

    11. God is Love
    That God is love, as asserted by most traditional and modern theisms, has rarely been understood properly from the philosophical point of view. The nature of love is to want and then to achieve more than what is already obtained. God as Love wants to share its own with all of creation for the longest time possible, so all objects in creation are given the capacity to make something different in their future. Since God is Love, according to theism, divine love is the substance or being of which God is formed. Then, because created objects are a kind of image of God, we can conclude that something like love is the substance of all things in the world.

    12. God is Life Itself
    All our life is provided by God, and there is no life apart from God. If we could use the principle that ‘one is at least where one acts’, God would be immanent in His creation. Being eternal Life Itself, He is also transcendent of His creation.

    13. God is both Simple and Complex
    God is a unity in which there is no limit to the infinity of what may be intellectually distinguished, but what is not in fact separated.

    14. God is Wisdom, and Action
    That God is also Wisdom itself, and proceeding Action, so we have triad within God. This wisdom is the source of our own wisdom, understanding & knowledge.

    15. God is Transcendent and Immanent
    The distinction between the transcendent God and the finite creation depends on the distinction between the actual forms of created things and their received life. Thus we have neither pantheism nor deism, but what is a thorough-going theism: ‘God in everything, but distinct from everything’. Note that the ‘in’ here is not that of constitution, but of being hidden from the outside.

    16. We Act Sequentially
    That, in us, love and wisdom choose when to act. God may have foreknowledge of our free decisions, but time exists for us, and we still must will our own actions according to our understanding: with our own freedom.

    17. We are Composite, as Spiritual, Mental and Physical
    That God is Love, is Wisdom, and is also Life or Action in himself are what we can intellectually distinguish. Because what is unified and continuous in God is imaged in creation with what are distributed discretely, and these distributions function similarly by images of the God-world relation, we conclude that creation must have three realms, the first a reduced and distributed image of divine love, the second a reduced and distributed image of divine wisdom, and the third a reduced and distributed image of divine power and action.
    The spiritual realm contains the separate loves in creation, including desires, loves, affections, motivations, purposes, dispositions, etc. The mental realm contains the separate carriers of wisdom, namely thoughts, ideas, understandings, rationality, plans, ideologies, beliefs, etc. The physical realm deals with all the separate final actions and effects, including the entire sets of things we know from external observations and physics.

    18. We are Sustained by Influx From God, Directly and Indirectly
    The traditional view of God creating the world is by fiat, taking literally the commands ‘fiat lux: let there be light’ and so on. The creation of substantial objects, still, involves God giving them their being (since he is being itself). Furthermore, in process logic, there is no power without substance. Or without (some kind) of presence.

    19. God is Equally Present in All Subparts
    Thus God must be immanent in every part of creation, and in every part of that part. And in every realm that influences each part and each sub-part. God must therefore be imaged (in some way) in each thing of love, and each thing of thought, and each physical thing, as well as in the interior realms of all of these.

    Taking an overall view of the universe from the above theistic principles. 

IV. Theistic Science

    21. Methods
    The previous Part III outlined an abstract structure of degrees and sub-degrees. Now in Part IV is the time to work out what these are in terms of the language and sciences that we already know, if possible. I call this the process of ‘identification.’ This is now longer deduction from theistic premises, not the least because now I call on meanings in ordinary languages and in the sciences, and these will have historical and contemporary overtones that certainly cannot be called deductive conclusions!

    22. Discrete Degrees in the Mind
    Discuss generic operation of sub-degrees in the mind, namely thought of loves, thought about thoughts, and thought about sensations & actions. These are identified as ‘higher rational’, ‘scientific rational’ and ‘external mind’ respectively. The sub-sub-degrees within these, and relation to the levels of cognition and affection discussed by Piaget, Gowan and Erikson.

    23. Spiritual Discrete Degrees
    When identifying the three main degrees of spiritual, mental and physical, I deliberately placed a spiritual degree above that of our normal mental life. That is because I read a great many reports of ‘peak experiences’, including those called visionary, mystical, out-of-body, near-death and spiritual, and I am convinced that there does indeed exist a realm about which we are normally unaware. I claim that this is the spiritual realm, and I have therefore identified this as ‘love’, the principal degree 1 of the three degrees. These must constitute some kind of heavenly states. An extensive discussion of misconceptions concerning the nature of the spiritual.

    24. Discrete Degrees in Nature
    The divine source does not produce all physical effects directly, but it produces via spiritual and natural stages what we see as natural dispositions or natural propensities. It is these dispositions or propensities, also known as causes, forces, potentials, quantum propensities) which lead to the ultimate physical interactions and events. The physical dispositions are a very limited ‘remnant' of Divine Power, and they operate in a way which corresponds to the characteristic operation of the Divine.
    The stages and substages are directly related to problems in pregeometric gravity, quantum field theory, and in ordinary quantum mechanics. Prediction that there exists some actual selection processes in nature, in order to solve the (generalized) measurement problem.

    25. Mind-body Connections
    We derive a theory of mind and brain connection that establishes in intimate relation between them. It is not a relation of identity, or a relation of aspects or points of view. It is more a relation of inner and outer, or cause and effect: propensities in the brain are the causal product of mental actions. The mind and brain fit together by approximate analogy with hand and glove, or, better, with tissue and skin. The analogy is most precisely with thefunctions of tissue & skin, and not so much with their material shape. The mind provides all the directed activity of the brain, just as the tissue of the hand provides all the directed activity of the skin of the hand.
    There are continual relations between minds generating brain dispositions, and brain events selecting which mental powers can act. This reciprocity means that the longest-lasting psychophysical structures have similar functional patterns in the mind and they body, and these similar functions we call 'correspondences’.

V. Applications

    26. Evolution
    That God cannot create self-sustaining organisms immediately, and neither can God instantaneously create robust receivers of divine love, since they need a history of their own actions in order to live as if from themselves. This implies that God needs evolution: descent by modification. Argue that this essentially the same as for mental and for spiritual (re)generation. That is, God has to manage external and internal changes in a gradualist manner: ab initio creationism is impossible. There is ‘theistic selection’ in addition to Darwinist natural selection.

    27. Consciousness
    In this framework, we are conscious of our actions when love and wisdom come together to make those actions. We are not directly conscious of our loves, and we are conscious of our thoughts only by reflective awareness at some upstream level.

    28. Spiritual Growth
    That we want permanent spiritual growth, and that this does not come quickly, but by cumulative joint actions of our own loves and wisdom. Not from one by itself, or from suffering alone, or from ‘elevated consciousness’. Look at stages of spiritual growth that starts in our higher rational, and continues in with our spiritual loves, especially in relation the sequence described in Genesis chap. 1.

    29. Errors and Evils
What can we say about the problem of evil? Only some preliminaries: that Divine omnipotence is not absolute (since persons have love as their being, so cannot be arbitrarily remade): love always overrules omnipotence. That God can indeed create a stone he cannot (in practice) lift: that stone is us! Preliminary discussion of the real questions concerning freedom and evil.

VI. Discussion

    30. Metaphysics
    Responses, in the light of this book, to the philosophers and their queries as discussed in Chapter 2. Discussing in particular relations to ideas of Aquinas, Descartes and Whitehead (the leading ontologists who include mind and God in their theories).

    31. Formal Modeling
    The possibility of formal modeling of physical structures, and of limited modeling of mental structures. Dispositions can be partially modeled as procedures or functions, but not every aspect of them.

    32. Possible Objections
    Collection of frequently asked objections, and my responses.

    33. Conclusions
    Brief summary.

    A. Theistic Postulates
    A convenient summary

    B. Further Resources
      Some relevant websites.


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