Chapter

The Immunization of Theism

Herman Philipse

in God in the Age of Science?

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780199697533
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191738470 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199697533.003.0010
The Immunization of Theism

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Natural theologians who aim at confirming the theistic hypothesis by adducing empirical evidence are confronted by the dilemma of God-of-the-gaps. Either theism predicts no specific phenomena at all, or these phenomena may be accounted for in the future by superior scientific explanations, so that theism will be disconfirmed. A pessimistic induction concerning the history of science and natural theology will convince sophisticated natural theologians that they should avoid this risk of God-of-the-gaps. Richard Swinburne uses the following immunizing strategy: theism should purport to explain only phenomena that are either ‘too big’ or ‘too odd’ for science to explain. But this strategy fails with regard to miracles (too odd), as is argued by a detailed examination of the case of Christ’s bodily resurrection, and it is problematic with regard to instances of ‘too big’, such as fine-tuning, or the explanation of the universe as a whole.

Keywords: Dilemma of God-of-the-gaps; Pseudo-theory; Immunization; Design arguments; Newton; Pierre Simon Laplace; William Paley; Henry Drummond; Primary causes; Secondary causes; Too odd or too big for science to explain; Miracles; Christ’s bodily resurrection; David Hume; Testimony; Gospels; Paul; Mark; Empty tomb; Incarnation; Atonement; Koran; Cognitive dissonance; Leon Festinger; Collaborative storytelling; Source amnesia; Principle of collective causality; Big Bang theory; Fine-tuning arguments

Chapter.  17324 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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