Ruse: Christianity and Science (4) the limits of science

Picking up on the last post about Michael Ruse’s book, Science and Spirituality: making room for faith in an Age of Science

Ruse contends that the machine metaphor, even though it has great explanatory power scientifically, does not, and cannot, answer or explain at least four significant questions of life.

1) In terms of origins, life as mechanism does not speak to the question of ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’ (Ruse includes a detailed philosophical discussion on the legitimacy of this question).

2) In terms of morality, the way things are cannot tell us about the way things should be or why should I be good? Despite machine-metaphor scientific explanations for how we think and act morally, Ruse points out that science cannot give any grounding for morality – why should I be good? – since morality ‘cannot be derived from the physical facts of the matter.’ 133.

3) In asking ‘What is consciousness?, he has a pop at Daniel Dennet’s contention that once you have identified the functions that the various parts of the brain play in consciousness then you have explained things.

‘Even a friendly reader might wonder if this is an argument, and if it is an argument, how is it making its case.’ 137. The whole point is that ‘the brain firing away in certain ways is not the same as feeling lovesick or delighting at the beauty of a Haydn quartet.’

4) In regard to purpose, (‘What is the point of it all?’) Ruse concludes that there is no place in science for ‘end talk’. Science does not address these sorts of questions. 147

What Ruse is saying here is nothing new. He’s a lover of science – he’s just pointing out that ‘scientism’ is a move beyond science to a faith system that claims all questions of life can be explained by understanding of the physical world.

Comments, as ever, welcome

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