Hierarchy of the Sciences
and Divine Action
James A. Van Slyke
Understanding the Hierarchy of the
Sciences
• As in past periods, the sciences can be
placed on a hierarchy
• As one goes up the hierarchy, more
complex systems are studied by different
sciences
• The lower-level sciences study the basic
building blocks of the universe
Theology & Religion
Literature & Philosophy
Integrative
Disciplines
Sociology
Complex
Systems
Psychology
Biology
Basic
Chemistry
Sciences
Physics
Building
Blocks
World View Questions
• #3 Causation – From the Bottom up;
reversal of Ancient view
Sociology
Psychology
Biology
Chemistry
Physics
Reduction in the Sciences
• Causal Reductionism
– The behavior of the parts of the system
(ultimately subatomic physics) exhaustively
explains the behavior of the higher-level
entities
– Causation is bottom up on the hierarchy of
the sciences
– Higher level sciences are just larger
collections of parts
Emergence
• Emergence implies that upper levels are
partially autonomous
• they include new laws, processes and
properties which cannot be fully reduced
to, explained away by, or derived from
those of the lower levels.
Emergence
• Hierarchy of sciences corresponds to the
rise of complex physical and biological
systems
• History of the universe
– Galactic, stellar and planetary development,
and
– molecular and evolutionary biology
Top-down (downward) causation
• Complex wholes are able to exert
constraint on the component parts
– “Whole is more than the sum of its parts”
– Particular systemic arrangements are able to
use component pieces for activities that none
of the components could perform on their
own
Top-down Causation
• Higher-level sciences describe processes
that are not reducible to explanations from
the lower-level sciences
– Snowflake example
– Campbell example
Theology & Religion
Top-down
causation
Literature & Philosophy
Integrative
Disciplines
Sociology
Complex
Systems
Psychology
Biology
Basic
Chemistry
Sciences
Building
Blocks
Physics
Bottom-up
causation
Hierarchical Organization
• Sciences exist within an interacting
hierarchy with theology (or metaphysics)
at the top
– Christian theology at the top for theists –
naturalist philosophy for atheists
– Each level of science is its own web
Hierarchical Organization
• A variety of connections among the
sciences
– Each science explains behavior of entities at
its own level
– But no one level can provide a comprehensive
explanation
– Each level requires explanations from other
levels – boundary questions
Hierarchical Organization
• Example – psychology – addiction
– Psychological level – explains behavior in
terms of person’s drives, motives, beliefs, etc.
– Physiological level – changes in the body,
withdrawal, physiological effects on brain, etc.
– Sociological level – Family dynamics, social
treatment, homelessness, etc.
Boundary Questions for theology
• Cosmology – questions it can’t answer
without going to upper level
– What caused the Big Bang?
– Where did the whole universe come from?
– What accounts for the apparent fine tuning?
• Physics
– Why are there laws of nature?
• i.e. What makes nature behave in regular ways?
Questions for theology
• Evolutionary biology
– Is there a purpose for human life?
• Social Sciences
– Supposed to be value-free but attempts to
describe what is “normal” human behavior
– Ethics – how are we to live?
– Doctrine of the church – Gives a different
view on human life
Questions for theology
• Psychology
– What is health? Human flourishing?
– Can all of human behavior be explained
without religion?
• Other connections that you see?
Divine Action
• Arthur Peacocke
– Theology is at the top because it studies the
most complex system – God
– God acts through top-down causation
– A type of constraint on the overall processes
of the world
Divine Action
• Murphy
– God acts at the quantum level
– God acts ‘bottom-up’ in the arrangement of
atomic particles
– Quantum Indeterminacy
• Certain aspects of atomic interaction are not
predictable
Download

Hierarchy of the Sciences and Divine Action