Metaphysics, science, and religion: a response to Hud Hudson
Deng (Natalja)
Source: Penultimate draft – forthcoming in the Journal of Analytic Theology
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. I found this book (Hud Hudson. 2014. The Fall and Hypertime. Oxford.) interesting and rewarding, as well as a real pleasure to read. It’s a sustained defense of a rather provocative thesis, using original arguments in metaphysics, epistemology, the philosophy of time, space, personal identity, and the philosophy of religion.
  2. The rather provocative thesis (let’s call it PT) can be put as follows. Everything science (including astronomy, physics, geology, paleoanthropology, genetics, and evolutionary biology) has found out can be reconciled with an extreme literalism about the religious doctrines of the Fall and Original Sin. The Genesis story of creation, human rebellion, and expulsion from paradise, understood as concerning a primal sin committed by Adam and Eve a few thousand years ago, can be held to be literally true. For all we’ve found out, this first human couple lived a carefree life in a garden a few thousand years ago, shortly after creation, and through their disobedience brought disease, suffering, and death onto humanity.
  3. There’s also a more general aim that’s closely related. This is to show that many supposed conflicts between science and religion are, at root, conflicts between rival metaphysical views. Combined with the further claim that ‘metaphysics is a crazy business’, because all metaphysical views contain ‘seemingly bizarre commitments’, this implies that clear-cut refutation of religious doctrine by science is extremely rare. In our efforts to make sense of the world, we have to choose between equally unpalatable options – or at least, between options of which none is completely free of ‘seemingly bizarre commitments’. To adjudicate apparent conflicts between religion and science, we’re forced to make sense of the world in one of these ways. There can therefore be no clear victories.
  4. Hudson rightly asks that a dismissal of PT be backed up by genuine engagement with the case made for it. In what follows, I describe what I take the case for PT to be, and lay out my reasons for being unpersuaded by it; I also touch on the more general aim. My discussion is a partial response to the book, focusing on the case for PT.

Author’s Conclusion
  1. I’ve described why I remain unpersuaded by the case for PT.
  2. As mentioned, the book is full of interesting material, a lot of which I haven’t discussed. In spite of – or perhaps because of – points of substantial disagreement, I’ve benefitted greatly from engaging with it. Relatedly, we are united in thinking of analytic philosophy as a valuable and often under-appreciated conversation partner in the science-religion dialogue.

Comment:

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