Modern Natural Science and the Doctrine of Creation: An Evaluation of the Thesis of Michael B. Foster Open Access

Gerth, Joseph Michael (2016)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/z890rv01p?locale=en
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Abstract

My work considers Michael Foster. Considering the ancient science of Greece, Foster notes that their work was essentially a priori science on eternal forms. Their eternality avoided the problem of science on an ever-changing nature. Foster seeks to answer: Where does the empirical component of modern science come from? His answer: Christian religion, specifically Creation.
Foster believes a religion necessitates a certain philosophy, which in turn entails a certain science. Foster proposes Christianity depends on a voluntaristic theology; this means that God's creating the world is arbitrary. Final cause must thus be rejected. Reason, then, cannot seek to find this final cause to understand the world. The modern scientist must look to his experience. This embodies the turn of modern science.
I analyze Foster on both logical and historical grounds. Early on, Foster criticizes Leibniz for holding both a voluntarist theology and a rational epistemology. Later, Foster pivots to hold precisely the same 'incompatible' union. Leibniz also represents a thinker who held to a voluntarist theology and a notion of final cause. I set up the distinction that either Leibniz is a hack philosopher, or his work is logically possible. Supposing the latter, the logical necessity between theology and philosophy and science is not as clear as Foster believes.
Historically, Foster claims that the Scholastics have not understood creation philosophically. Instead, they continued to perform ancient science. I argue that Foster's problematic relationship between modern and ancient/medieval science stems from his focus on Descartes. Descartes' ambiguity in terms of freedom and determination leads to a troubling account of science in general.
Ultimately, I argue that Foster is convincing regarding relationship between the Christianity and the rejection of final cause. This seems to be the impetus of modern science. I do not believe that Christianity must do this, however. Foster's troubling account of the progression of science precludes me from accepting his thesis completely. Instead, I propose R.G. Collingwood as a better alternative to Foster. The recasting of Foster's work into a larger historical project allows for future work in the examination of the most contemporary of sciences.

Table of Contents

Introduction Page 1
The Life of Foster Page 4
Part One: Foster's Thesis: Creation & the Origin of Modern Science
Theology Precedes Philosophy of Nature, and Philosophy of Nature Precedes Science of Nature Page 6
Rationalism and Christianity at Odds - "The Opposition between Hegel and Empiricism." Page 10
A Familiar Question: "Christian Doctrine of Creation and the Rise of Modern Natural Science." Page 14
On the Rejection of Paganism: "Christian Theology and Modern Science of Nature (I)." Page 23
On the Transformation of Rationalism: "Christian Theology (II)." Page 28
Part Two: A Critical Analysis and Evaluation of Foster's Thesis
Overview of Part Two Page 35
Logical Analysis of Foster Page 37
Historical Analysis of Foster Page 48
Foster and Collingwood Page 58
Bibliography
Works Cited Page 66
Works Consulted Page 67

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