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Theism and Explanation (Routledge Studies in the Philosophy of Religion) Hardcover – April 2, 2009
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Gregory Dawes' Theism and Explanation is a competent, nuanced look at the nature and scope of theistic explanations. Dawes argues that theistic explanations can in principle be good explanations, but he also argues that they have to meet a high bar to count as good explanations. ... The result is an interesting and insightful look at what it takes to be a successful theistic explanation.
-Bradley Monton, University of Colorado at Boulder, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
About the Author
Gregory W. Dawes is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Otago. He is the author of The Historical Jesus Question: The Challenge of History to Religious Authority.
Top Customer Reviews
Dawes begins by carefully defending his controversial stance that there are no in principle objections to positing God as an explanation. In doing so, he directly confronts the idea that supernatural explanations in general, and theistic explanations specifically, are outside of the scope of science. Instead, Dawes argues, if we take it that God will act rationally to create an optimally good world, we have a hypothesis that is testable and falsifiable in principle, well within the scope of science, and thus worthy of consideration as a possible explanation.
Now it seems at first that Dawes, in his defense of God as a potential explanation, would be very sympathetic to God as a successful explanation. Instead, Dawes points out that even if God might potentially explain things, in every criteria we use to evaluate a successful explanation, God does very poorly.
When examined in light of "testability", whenever theists do posit testable accounts of God, theism tends to fail those tests. In light of "background knowledge," a disembodied, timeless being goes against our established knowledge of humans as embodied, finite, and temporally limited. In light of "past success", naturalistic explanations have been wildly successful, with supernatural explanations never reaching any success whatsoever. The theistic hypothesis similarly fails in light of explanatory virtues like simplicity, ontological economy, and informativeness.
Unlike many philosophy books, Theism and Explanation is very readable and not prohibitively long, with only 166 pages of text outside of the index, bibliography, and notes.Read more ›
Gregory Dawes writes:
"Pace Dawkins, it is not a necessary condition of a successful explanation that it can explain its explanans. If we follow my earlier suggestion and assume that explanations are arguments, then an explanation is an argument which has the explanandum as its conclusion. To explain an explosion, for instance, all we need is a description of a leak of gas, coupled with a description of its causal field, and some low-level laws regarding the behaviour of gases. One might argue that a complete explanation would need to cite further laws, which would explain the lower-level laws. Of course, this leads to a regress of explanations, which may or may not have an end. But that doesn't matter, since it is not obligatory. We do not need to have a complete explanation in order to have an explanation."---------- from p. 58 "Theism and Explanation"
(Routledge Studies in the Philosophy of Religion) by Gregory w. Dawes, hardcover Edition (Gregor Dawes has Ph. D. in "Biblical Studies" and another in "The Philosophy of Religion"
"Similar questions may be raised about the 'in principle' objection made by Dawkins: the idea that religious explanations are unacceptable because they leave unexplained the existence of their explanans (God). Dawkins apparently assumes that every successful explanation should also explain its own explanans. But this is an unreasonable demand. Many of our most successful explanations raise new puzzles and present us with new questions to be answered.Read more ›