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Clouser's response to Alexanian.

If I understand Alexanian's letter correctly, he agrees with me that the way belief in God should impact theories is neither the fundamentalist program of finding theory content in Scripture nor the idea that biblical teaching is largely walled off from theory-making. He says: "... I do not know how to use ... revealed knowledge to do science except to require a metaphysics that is regulative of it that is consistent with ... biblical verses [about creation ex nihilo]." That was precisely my proposal, so it is the outworking of such a metaphysics he objects to rather than the program itself.

The metaphysics I proposed as consonant with the doctrine of creation is a systematically non-reductionist one (in the senses of "reduction" I defined). I argued for a theory of reality that eschews the traditional approach to metaphysics, namely, positing something in creation as exclusively X, where X is a basic kind of properties-and-laws. Alexanian rejects my non-reductionist proposal but neither offers an argument for his rejection of my view nor a critique of the argument I gave for it. He merely says that physics studies the physical aspect of things, which is surely right. But from that it does not follow that things have only that aspect. Just as we abstract the physical properties of things for study, we may also abstract their quantitative, spatial, biotic, sensory, logical, etc., properties-and-laws. And I see no reason why the studies conducted of those aspects of things are any the less sciences than physics is.

The pluralistic ontology I advocate recognizes a distinction in the way a thing may possess its properties: actively or passively. A rock, e.g., possesses quantitative, spatial, and physical properties actively which means its having them does not depend on its relations to other things. But it does not actively possess biotic properties as it is not alive. It can, however, have passive biological properties in relation to things that are alive. For example, a small rock can be swallowed by a bird and take part in its digestive processes, or a larger rock may be the wall of an animal's den. Similarly, a rock does not perceive. It has no sensory capacities and no active sensory properties. But did it not have sensory properties passively, it could not be perceived in relation to creatures who do have active sensory functions. Just so, a rock does not think; it possesses no logical properties actively. But, once again, were the rock not subject to logical laws and in possession of passive logical properties, we could form no concept of it. In this sense, I contend, everything in creation has some properties of every basic kind and is subject to the laws of every kind. And as we cannot so much as frame the idea of any kind apart from the rest, none are plausible candidates for divine status.

The argument I gave for this view still stands: try to form an idea of anything with only X kind of properties and you will see that you cannot do it. Alexanian claims that a book has only physical properties but does not meet the challenge of that argument. What, pray tell, is the idea of a book that is exclusively physical? A book that has no quantity, has no shape and is not in space, has no sensory appearance and is not logically distinguishable from anything else, is no book.

Roy Clouser

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Title Annotation:Letters
Author:Clouser, Roy
Publication:Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
Article Type:Viewpoint essay
Date:Mar 1, 2007
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