Editorial, God, Science and Freedom: Where Next?
How Free is Free? Reflections on the Neuropsychology of Thought and Action
It is widely recognised that some of the implications of rapid developments in neuroscience raise with a fresh urgency questions of human freedom and responsibility. These are issues for humanists and atheists as much as for Christians since all claim that their often deeply held beliefs were rationally considered and freely embraced. However, the evidence from bottom-up neuro-scientific research points to the ever-tightening links between brain processes and mental processes and have been interpreted by some as pointing to a reductionist view of human nature. At the same time, with the use of new brain imaging techniques the evidence for the efficacy of top-down processes also accumulates at an accelerating pace. This paper argues that there is an irreducible interdependence between cognitive and neural processes calling for a duality of description but without necessitating belief in a dualism of substances.
Developments in Neuroscience and Human Freedom: Some Theological and Philosophical Questions
Christianity suggests that human beings are free and responsible agents. Developments in neuroscience challenge this when wedded with two ‘fideisms’: ‘naturalism’ and ‘nomological monism’ (causality applies exclusively to basic particles). The wedding of Galen Strawson’s denial that anything can be a cause of itself with a physicalist account of brain states highlights the problem neuroscience poses for human freedom. If physicalism is inherently reductionistic (Kim) and dualism struggles to make sense of developments in neuroscience, Cartwright’s pluralist account of causality may offer a way forward. It integrates with thinking about the person from a Christian epistemic base and facilitates response to Strawson.
Neuroscientific Determinism and the Problem of Evil
This article examines Christian responses to the threat of physical determinism from neuroscience. Some have argued that elements of physical indeterminism, such as quantum theory, provide a basis for libertarian freedom and responsibility and a way of exculpating God. Others have argued that such theories are problematic and at best speculative and have proposed a view of freedom compatible with determinism. However, they have offered little defence against the problems of sin and evil that arise without libertarianism. I proceed to argue that libertarianism does not enhance responsibility or distance God from sin as far as one might think. I then outline possible strategies for justifying the punishment of predetermined wrongdoing and God’s acceptance of sin that remain open to the compatibilist.
Beyond Materialism: from the Medieval Scholars to Quantum Physics
Peter J Bussey
A traditional anti-metaphysical goal has been the materialist assimilation of human mental and personal qualities into the physical nature of the brain. However, consciousness notably resists explanation in such a way. In an attempt to deal with this problem, a firmly realist view of the laws of nature is argued here. Aspects of consciousness are examined, showing that consciousness does not lie within the remit of physics. A survey of the thinking of Descartes, Aquinas and Duns Scotus is given to illustrate the nature of the mind-matter and mind-body problem, with further reference to the position of Kant. By emphasising that physical objects comprise form and matter, the medieval philosophers provide a starting-point for a perspective that can incorporate modern developments in physics. It is proposed that the concept of the ‘mental’ be broadened to encompass the laws of nature, taken as mathematical ideas which determine the behaviour and properties of physical things. The identification of what ‘matter’ is raises significant questions, but may involve quantum fields. Eddington postulated what can be called a ‘mental dimension’, and this may provide a promising framework for uniting the laws of physics and our own mental nature. The main question is no longer the relationship between ‘mind’ and ‘matter’, for this is now at the heart of physics. It is more to do with human consciousness within this broader mental dimension.
Obituary - Sir Robert Boyd
Oliver R Barclay and Sir John Houghton
Glimpses of the Wonderful – the Life of Philip Henry Gosse 1810-1888
Ann Thwaite (Denis Alexander)
The History of Science & Religion in the Western Tradition: An Encyclopedia
G.B. Ferngren (ed.) (Richard Dimery)
Carl Sagan’s Cosmic Connection: an extraterrestrial perspective
Carl Sagan and others (Bennet McInnes)
Observing God: Thomas Dick, Evangelicalism, and Popular Science in Victorian Britain and America
William J. Astore (Michael B. Roberts)
Origin of the Human Species
Dennis Bonette (Derek Burke)
The Message of Creation
David Wilkinson (Stuart Lucas)
God, Life, Intelligence & the Universe
T. Kelly & H. Regan (eds.) (Peter McCarthy)
The Great Instauration: science, medicine and reform 1626-1660
Charles Webster (Colin A. Russell)
Blood and Justice: the 17th century Parisian doctor who made blood transfusion history.
Peter Moore (John Wilkinson)