Friday, April 13, 2007

An Immanent Danger


A friend of mine who is a campus rabbi tells me that the big looming threat on college campuses is militant atheism. Yes, it has been on colleges for a long time. But it seems to be rising in prominence and viciousness. Witness the spectacles of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. My friend tells me that he is scared because he knows that Jewish kids will get swept up in this new wave of atheism. For that reason, people like Dawkins and Harris need to be rebutted and not merely ignored. They will not simply go away and leave us alone.

The latest issue of Azure has an article by Dr. David Novak in which he responds to Richard Dawkin's latest anti-religious book (link). I think I must be too philosophically unsophisticated to understand Dr. Novak's point.

He states that both Intelligent Design and Dawkins' anti-religious arguments from evolution assume an immanent God. Such a deity is present in this world and His existence can be proven or disproven from nature and science. "[Intelligent Design] seems to be an argument for the existence of a cause who shows himself, or at least shows his specific operations, within the world of human experience, which is the world natural science attempts to accurately describe and whose causal workings it attempts to explain."

A transcendent God, however, is only known to us through revelation and not through nature or science. He is beyond this world; He preceded it and created it. What about miracles? Miracles can always be explained by natural laws, or by reexamining and extending them. Miracles are only "wonders" based on when and where they occurred, not on any supernatural event. "Anything we can cogently say about God can only be based on a revelation of God we have either experienced firsthand or heard from people whose accounts of what they did experience we have no reason to distrust."

Therefore, God is not a hypothesis that can be proven or disproven through nature.

OK, I think I understood that much. But we are not discussing nature in general but creation, which even believers in an immanent God agree He was involved in. Can we not discuss God's involvement or non-involvement in creation, and attempt to prove that from nature?

A somewhat sidepoint, but later in the article Novak adds a great point. Darwinian biology adds an element of chance in the development of the world, thereby eliminating the causal theory. Nature is now understood to not be causal, which allows for more freedom both from God and from people.

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