Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Chalmers and Theology

Long-time readers of this blog know that I've written a paper and posts about David Chalmers' work, specifically driving it towards theism and then sitting back to watch the collision. It wasn't a spectacular crash, so don't go reading it expecting Michael Bay to show up.

However, now I see that Chalmers is being drawn, against his will, into another theological argument - Intelligent Design. His response is admirable, and one with which I would generally agree. Chalmers' work is about challenging materialism, for sure, but it is not about arguing for the existence or non-existence of God. If anything, Chalmers is non-theistic but to his credit is always open to the conceivable and possible. Nevertheless, if Propositions A and B are both contrary to Proposition C, there is no guarantee that A and B will agree with each other. Making that claim is poor argumentation. This is what the Intelligent Design proponents appear to have attempted, attempting to make alliances with the opponent of their opponent.

Also, I don't think that Chalmers is trying to destroy the achievements of materialism. I think that he sees it as an important step in eventually understanding consciousness and that it should be refined and developed to make a better model. That doesn't mean he wants a return to Cartesian Dualism, but to something else. It is an Hegelian negation of the negation, so to speak, and is worth pursuing. By his own account, he doesn't claim to have yet solved the hard problem, but wants to explore the possibilities so as to either eliminate them or find opportunities in them for further exploration. I think this is the right approach to research.

Lastly, from the perspective of theology and intelligent design, let me reiterate what I've written before.
It is not that the Christian philosopher is ill-equipped to tackle those problems – that has nothing to do with being a Christian – but rather the case is the opposite. Christian theology has not been excluded from metaphysics, but metaphysics has been excluded from Christian theology. There is little reason to pursue it as an explicitly Christian activity. Theology will only be distracted by it. Rather, theology is closer to its home when concerned with the consequences of the resurrection rather than any back-filled metaphysical explanation for the resurrection.
Intelligent Design is a waste of theological neurons. I estimate that more than 95% of the New Testament is about the ethics of how we live now and that the remainder is little more than speculation about the cosmos. Theologians ought to leave metaphysics to the metaphysicians (or even the physicists) and get on with the business of writing about what it means to be Christian.
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