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Fales, Evan. Divine Intervention: Metaphysical and Epistemological Puzzles.

FALES, Evan. Divine Intervention: Metaphysical and Epistemological Puzzles. New York: Routledge, 2010. xiii + 189 pp. Cloth, $125.00--The author describes his project as an examination of the problems that arise when we think about the possibility of God interacting in space-time in the world in which we live. Since the question concerns the possibility of God interacting in the world, as David Lewis has observed, we need some clues about how this investigation resolves the vagueness of "possible." We might expect a philosophical inquiry into whether there are any possible worlds at all in which God exists and interacts, perhaps causally, perhaps otherwise, but the main discussion focuses on a narrower range of worlds that share much of the (more or less established) scientific features of the actual world. So, the work aspires to a more scientifically informed look at how divine intervention occurs (or does not occur) in worlds very much like ours.

In the introduction, the author wonders why there has not been more scientific investigation of theological claims of divine causal interactions. He deflects four reasons that might be advanced against such an inquiry, including the restriction of science to natural objects, the restriction of science to spatially located objects, and the restriction of science to events that are consistent with natural laws. These are all plausibly rebutted, and the discussion moves to a scientifically committed investigation of the central questions.

In chapter 2, the focus is on the role of omnipotence in the explanation of how God might causally interact with the world. The author notes that on the "fiat lux account of divine action, whatever God wills comes into being." But the focus of the book, it is reemphasized, is to "examine some of the puzzles that arise concerning divine influence from the side of the world, as it were." Old worries, from the hypothesis of a closed universe and conservation laws, are raised for the possibility of miracles, and well-known replies are noted from the hypothesis of an open universe. It is regrettable that the best work on the possibility of miracles in, for instance, David Johnson's Hume, Holism and Miracles and John Earman's, Hume's Abject Failure are not engaged.

In chapter 3, there is a discussion of whether God institutes the laws of nature. There is some examination of competing theories of laws of nature and competing analyses of causation. The author discusses, among others, regularity theories of law and counterfactual theories of causation. It is noted that, on one picture of God's instituting laws of nature, God wills the occurrence of every lawfully governed event, and so it is a law of nature that (W) whenever God wills that it be the case that X, X occurs. But it is worth noting that (W) is an unlikely law of nature. For one thing, (W) is a priori necessary. Natural laws are not. It is an important theme throughout the book that, were God interacting with the world, God's relation to the world would be a causal one. Theists might respond that the assumption overlooks the fact that it is broadly logically impossible that God utters, say, "let there be light" and there is no light. There being light does not depend on what causal laws happen to obtain any more than does 2 + 2 = 4. So God's interaction need not be causal.

In chapter 4, we find an interesting discussion on problems for divine interaction under the alternative assumptions that God is timeless and that God is temporal. Worries are adduced for divine timing from (at least) some interpretations of time in special relativity (SR). There are brief, but clear, explanations of the Minkowski interpretation of SR, and the interpretations of early and late Einstein. There is also a very interesting discussion of the compatibility of SR with absolute space and time, and with a privileged reference frame--God's reference frame.

Let me approach the remaining chapters summarily. In chapter 5, the concern is how anything that is not in space could have causal potency. This raises again the natural rejoinder from theists that if space and time emerged from the big bang, as a common picture has it, and if nothing could have causal potency that is not in space, then nothing could have been the cause of the big bang. That is a fairly important conclusion to reach a priori. In chapter 6, worries turn epistemological. The main thesis of the chapter is that God is not omniscient, supposing that he is impassable. There is regrettably no discussion of the theistic position that every member P in the class of true propositions is such that, for God, P is either a priori necessary or a priori contingent. Unlike human belief and knowledge, divine belief and knowledge is extensional (and non-hyperintensional). God's impassability, possible demons, and fallibility, would presumably not challenge what he knows, if he knows everything a priori. Chapter 7 raises interesting questions about God's ability to produce revelatory changes in the minds of persons. In chapter 8, the problem is the veridicality of mystical experience. Interesting questions are raised about an epistemic double standard for mystical experience. The author finds the complaints unfounded. In chapter 9, scientific explanations are adduced which purport to better explain the phenomena of mystical experience. The author takes an unfortunately broad view of what counts as a mystical experience (everything from voodoo possession to soul projection) and the hodgepodge makes the argument against veridicality a bit of a straw man. It would have been better to focus on mystical experiences that have a better chance of being genuine. It would be interesting to see a sustained and evenhanded attempt to show such important figures as St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Avila, or St. Therese of Lisieux to be radically deluded or badly ignorant or perhaps just power-hungry frauds. It would also have been a much steeper climb.--Michael Almeida, University of Texas at San Antonio.
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Author:Almeida, Michael
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 1, 2012
Words:994
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