God in the Age of Science?

Today, 31 March 2018, is the day of Stephen Hawking’s funeral. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-43582950). It says something about our culture and its deep religious heritage that the funeral should take place in Great St. Mary’s Church, Cambridge. It is conducted by churchmen of the Anglican fold. This in full acknowledgement of Hawking’s atheism (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2018/03/14/im-not-afraid-what-stephen-hawking-said-about-god-his-atheism-and-his-own-death/?utm_term=.1945c64ab9d0) Hawking’s ashes are to be interred next to the remains of Isaac Newton in another great place of religious veneration – Westminster Abbey. It seems our collective consciousness can’t bear to divest itself of the old consoling superstitions. So what is the latest state of play concerning religious belief today?

This book by Dutch philosopher Herman Philipse (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herman_Philipse) is a critical examination of the philosophical strategies for defending religious belief. The author says the main strategies may be presented as conforming to the end nodes of a decision tree for a believer. The faithful can interpret a credal statement (e.g. ‘God exists’) either as a factual claim, or as metaphorical. If it is a factual claim, they can either be warranted to endorse it without evidence, etc., or not. Finally, should religious belief require evidential support, then ought that support be assessed by the same criteria that we use in evaluating evidence in science, or not? Each of these options has been defended by prominent analytic philosophers of religion.

In Part I, Philipse assesses the tenability of each of these strategies and argues that the most promising option for believers who want to be justified in their creed is the Bayesian cumulative case strategy developed by Richard Swinburne. Parts II and III are devoted to an in-depth analysis of this case for theism. Using a ‘strategy of subsidiary arguments’, Philipse concludes (1) that theism cannot be stated meaningfully; (2) that if theism were meaningful, it would have no predictive power concerning existing evidence, so that Bayesian arguments cannot get started; and (3) that if the Bayesian cumulative case strategy did work, one should conclude that atheism is more probable than theism.

Check if this recent book on the philosophy of religion is in stock at your local library by consulting the online catalogue at https://www.sllclibrary.co.uk/cgi-bin/spydus.exe/MSGTRN/OPAC/BSEARCH

390 pages in Oxford University Press

First published  2012

ISBN  978-0198701521

Herman Philipse

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