Modern Biology and Natural Theology

By Alan Olding | Go to book overview

Chapter 7

Biology and cosmology

‘THE FITNESS OF THE ENVIRONMENT’

Not all is metaphysically rosy in the garden of biological theory. As we have seen, the impetus given to reductionist theories by Darwinism can be turned back on the latter view. There is no such thing as a force of natural selection—even though biologists often speak as if there is one—and the only real forces are those between the fundamental particles, no matter in what complex configurations they participate. We have also observed that, even in taking the theory of natural selection at face-value, problems emerge concerning the possibility of knowledge and these, when connected with the obvious fact of the consciousness of human beings, are an embarrassment for both Darwinism and reductive materialism.

The possibility of a natural theology, which we thought we had firmly disposed of in our first chapter, re-emerges. There are here splendid opportunities for those seekers after watery mysteries who eagerly seize upon the bare fact of logical tensions within science in order to assail us with their various ill-thought-out views. But it is the case that the fact of human consciousness cries out for an explanation and does not receive it within the main body of biological science—unless, indeed, vague gestures towards ideas of emergence count as such. One can, then, have some sympathy for those thinkers who invoke the special actions of a god to explain the coming into existence of consciousness within the course of evolution or of embryonic development; 1 and on their behalf we might answer to the sneer that on this hypothesis we have to do with a mere ‘god of the gaps’ that we have here not a mere crack to be papered over but a yawning chasm. Recent times, however, have seen the attempt to revive a full-blown version of the argument from design and it is to this attempt, which brings together both biological and the most

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Modern Biology and Natural Theology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction x
  • Part I - Biology 1
  • Chapter 1 - The Decline of Purposive Explanations 3
  • Chapter 2 - Biology and Metaphysics 25
  • Chapter 3 - The Stuff We Are Made of 47
  • Part II - Problems 69
  • Chapter 4 - Reductionism or Darwinism 71
  • Chapter 5 - Biology and Knowledge 75
  • Chapter 6 - Consciousness and Its Objects 94
  • Part III - Natural Theology 115
  • Chapter 7 - Biology and Cosmology 117
  • Chapter 8 - From World to God 124
  • Chapter 9 - And Back Again 141
  • Notes 165
  • Bibliography 170
  • Index 177
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