Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Herschel's "The Study of Natural Philosophy"

Herschel, John. "The Study of Natural Philosophy", 1830. In Darwin: A Norton Critical Edition, 3rd ed., edited by Philip Appleman, 49-57. New York: W.W Norton & Company, Inc., 2001.

This piece seems to refer back to Hume's Problem of Induction but allows for observation and inference as long as it does not conflict with the Bible. Here are the main points:

1. Humans are speculative beings. We contemplate the world and objects around us not with passive indifference but as a system of order and design.
2. No natural object unimportant or trifling to the natural philosopher.
3. The natural philosopher seeks to determine the operation of general causes to describe general laws.
4. Principles not phenomena, laws not insulated facts, are the object and inquiry of the natural philosopher.
5. All human discoveries seem to be made only for the purpose of confirming more strongly the truths contained in sacred writings such as the Bible.

Vera causa, induction, and presuppositions again resurface as issues of science. Herschel agreed with Darwin that observations support Darwin's Principle of Divergence but he disagreed with Darwin conclusions because the implications so clearly departed from the Bible, especially in regards to humans. I think Herschel was looking for naturalistic answers to scientific inquiry that fit with God's word.

Herschel sought one truth, not two possible truths. For many people today, it is a choice between two dichotomies, not a quest to find the truth of two worldviews. We will explore this more as we go but one question I will continue to explore is why does evolution preclude design, intelligence, or God as prima causa? Why does the Book of Genesis have to be interpreted as a statement of biology versus a statement of our spirit, soul, or immaterial self as being in the image of God? After all, black people and white people look prima facie distinct, as do men and women. So, what image of God is the correct image or does Genesis simply imply a dualistic human nature of body and soul?

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