Proceedings of the Science and religion Forum Conference, 2014
By Neil Spurway
Published by Cambridge Scholars, 2014
Up until the time of Newton, scientists regarded the understandings of the physical world, at which they were arriving, as glimpses of the working of the Creator’s mind. Thus, the generalisations being formulated about the behaviour of matter – the “Laws of Nature” – were seen as the Creator's injunctions, to created matter, as to how it was to act.
They were “laws” in the same sense as laws, Divine or human, about how people should behave: that is why the same word was used for both. And even now, scientific laws are occasionally spoken of as being “obeyed”.
However, it is doubtful whether any practising scientist, religious believer or not, now thinks of laws in the way that the word literally implies. How, instead, scientists do or should view scientific laws has been debated since the time of Hume and Kant, and it is a vigorous field of investigation among current philosophers of science.
In this book, scientists (physical and biological), historians and students of ideas, all of them theologically informed, tackle this topic from many angles. They do so in relation to the lead public lecture at the conference from which the book stems, given by the eminent and iconoclastic philosopher of science, Professor Nancy Cartwright. She asked the question, “How could laws make things happen?”, and her answer was “They couldn’t!”
In Section II: Offered Contributions, Fraser Watts examines Lawfulness, Biological Contextuality and a Theology of Interdependence.
Fraser Watts says: “In my own chapter in this book I argued that the concept of laws of nature is closely associated with the physical sciences, but sits much more uneasily with biology. This is becoming a more significant issue as biology edges away from a simplistic mono-causal reductionism towards recognizing the systemic inter-connectedness of living systems. I developed these ideas further in an article published in Zygon in June 2017.”
The Science and Religion Forum vii
Introduction 1 Neil Spurway
Section I: Invited Contributions
1. A Scientist’s View of the Laws of Nature, Laws of God
2. From Ancient Nature Wisdom to a Theology of Science: A Scientist Joins Job’s Comforters
3. The Theological Origins of the Concept of Laws of Nature and Its Subsequent Secularisation
4. Religion in an Age of Science: The Laws of Nature and Christian Piety in the Bridgewater Treatises
5. How Could Laws Make Things Happen?
Section II: Offered Contributions
6. Lawfulness, Biological Contextuality and a Theology of Interdependence
7. Laws of Mathematics: Nature and Origins
8. The Link between the Concepts of Law of Nature and Continuous Creation
9. On the Compatibility of Intelligent Design and Methodological Naturalism
10. Fine-tuning Arguments for the Existence of God: A Shot in the Foot?