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No God, No Science (Illuminations: Theory & Religion) Hardcover – 26 Apr 2013
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Space does not allow me to parse in fine detail the massive erudition that Hanby has brought to bear on this topic or the very precise and exhaustive manner in which he details his metaphysical and theological case. (Modern Theology, 27 April 2015)
You can know "what" without knowing "how", but you can′t know "how" without knowing "what" – my short summary of this wonderful book. (Every Good Path, 27 July 2014)
Summing Up: Recommended. Upper–level undergraduates through researchers/faculty. ( Choice, 1 December 2013)
A truce is sometimes called between science and theology, by thinkers on both sides. Michael Hanby, however, shows a way forward more profitable than truce, found in the common ground between theology and science that is metaphysics. Here is theology offering its most to the discussion by being most theological. For decades we have heard that science can lend clarity to theology. With No God, No Science, we have the metaphysical fluency of theology helping science be better science. Andrew Davison, Westcott House and the University of Cambridge
In an era in which it is widely assumed, both popularly and among many professional scientists and philosophers, that the arrival of the Darwinian pronounces the final it is finished upon every metaphysical account of reality, theology often appears increasingly pressured by the need to defend its existence against this verdict at the court of scientific rationality. Michael Hanby s eagerly–anticipated and monumental new book radically inverts this standard order with a bold and simple thesis: without God, there is no science; that no scientific account of the world can justify itself apart from God, without whom there is no world . A work of stunning erudition and insight that is not only a devastating critique of scientific and theological un–seriousness but a constructive argument for what difference this metaphysical vision makes to the way we live in the world. A profound and profoundly human book. Peter M. Candler Jr., Baylor UniversitySee all Product description
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Dr. Hanby approaches the topics of God and Science precisely from metaphysics by addressing what things are in their being. The axiomatic question of metaphysics - "Why is there something rather than nothing?" - is the first place to start when discussing the interrelationship between God and the world. We cannot know what things are, "scientifically," without first knowing that things are in the first place!
This work conveys the vast expertise that Hanby holds on his subject. He seamlessly weaves his thesis while citing and engaging authors from all sides and epochs. His citations are myriad. His fluency allows readers to follow his trains of thought through complex texts. The intended audience for the book seems to be readers who share Hanby’s field and passion for the subject. A considerable amount of knowledge and awareness on the subjects is assumed by the author and may be required to properly understand much of the points. I admit that I fell short in many areas of the book due to a lack of familiarity with the concepts, conflicts and arena being addressed. I imagine this book being for a high level of graduate students and peers of Hanby's who operate on his level of understanding in these areas.
The book returns often to a main assertion that the relation between science to metaphysics and theology is fundamentally a theological rather than a scientific question. Hanby asserts that science does not function apart from metaphysics and theology, and all empirical observation is philosophically mediated.
Hanby strives to expose the flaws and presuppositions of Darwinism and evolutionary biology. He boldly and precisely confronts the blind fealty demanded by Darwinists to their patron. In making the claim, he writes, “Current scientific practice is upheld by a political, economic, educational and cultural citadel that is virtually impregnable and that bears only an incidental relation to the search for truth.” To Hanby, Darwinism is a “living affront to the conviction that the desire for truth lies deep within us and plays an active role in extinguishing it.”
This book serves as a battering ram against that citadel and clarion call for the priority of truth.
Hanby shines a light on the disregard for reason and truth among many advocates of Darwinism, even as he reveals the reasonableness and superiority of the doctrine of creation by a loving God. When he makes such assertions, he provides a plethora of text to support the case.
He challenges the complete ignorance and disregard for theology exhibited by many scientists claiming to be atheists. To him, they lack the theological literacy to recognize that what they disbelieve in is not in fact God; sadly, they also lack the incentive or curiosity to discover otherwise. A great many more Darwinian biologists apparently regard theology as simply having no real meaning. These judgments grant Darwinians license for the most galling theological illiteracy and most absurd theological pronouncements, evincing an ignorance that would be intolerable in any other sphere of life. Hanby calls out such theorists and their ilk. He takes quite a few swipes at Dawkins in the book.
An important argument that Hanby makes is the contradictions among Darwinists and those in the field claiming to be atheists. He writes of the “deep element of false humility in modern man’s modesty about his place in the cosmos,” especially among those who reject human exceptionalism yet glory in their presumed intellectual conquest of all things natural. These are the people celebrating the supposed meaninglessness of all things except their own opinions of all things.
He identifies that Darwinists describe natural selection as a “creative force” that is no less powerful than a deity itself that is ontologically prior to its effects and subjects. Yet, it is a force acting as agent and subject of its own action supposedly without goal or design. Darwinism attempts to lay meaning and intelligence upon a foundation of meaninglessness and nothingness. Hanby identifies this principle of contradiction for Darwinists: “if it is impossible to live as if your theory were true, it probably is not.”
Hanby confronts the “death of the organism” among Darwinism. He argues for a return of the organism and the unity of being among all things created and existing.
In doing this, he returns the soul to creation. He writes, “The unity of the universe is most fundamentally a unity of being.” He continues, “The very possibility of cosmological truth depends upon reality being intelligible”; otherwise, there would be nothing to know. At the heart of the mystery of being is the mystery of God. “It presents itself to us in each human face, and analogously in the life of every organism.” Hanby’s concern is to show a proper understanding of creation as an element in the larger doctrine of God.
He concludes that “The doctrine of creation can accommodate the inexhaustible truth of the actual world, including the truth of Darwinism, whereas Darwinism can finally accommodate neither.” Without God there is no science, because ultimately without God there is no world.
He writes, “The doctrine of creation requires us to integrate beauty, the manifestation in external and intelligible form of an interior depth of incommunicable being, into the truth of the world as something other than the accidental and epiphenomenal by-product of meaningless and thus ultimately nonsensical functionality.”
Readers are left to face the challenge of examining not only their beliefs but their existence in light of the dilemmas and assertions Hanby brings forth.
I think this citation sums up Hanby’s theme well: “Only a philosophy of freedom and love can account for our existence.” Hans Urs von Balthasar
Hanby further shows how the metaphysics required to identify things - the "what" - requires not a vague spirituality, but the trinitarian God described in the Bible. He catalogs the impasse the ancient Greeks encountered in trying to determine the essence of objects and shows how the biblical doctrines of creation and the incarnation of Christ are required to solve the puzzles that ultimately stumped Plato, Aristotle, and Plotinus. Relying heavily on classical sources, Hanby summarizes the principle doctrines the church fashioned throughout the Middle Ages. From here, he begins a self-described "theological speculation" into the very nature of reality including the tensions between unity and diversity, past and future, being and action. Having no formal training in philosophy, this was very slow going for me but was my favorite part of the book. I look forward to re-reading these sections and mining the insight here and within several of the sources he quotes.
Hanby defines creation as "the ontological identity of the world", not simply the sequence described in the early chapters of the Bible. My very short summary of his description of "what the world is" would go something like this: Creation is gift, an unnecessary overflow of God's life, reflecting His nature as three persons in eternal relationship. God is all, yet creation is "not God" strictly. The world is a tension of being and action, each of which exists through the other in an intrinsic relation of polarity rather than an extrinsic relation of mutual exclusion.
If creation is gift, our proper response is grateful wonder. From this posture, scientific investigation has a secure foothold. Hanby encourages experimentation, investigation, measurement, and all elements commonly associated with the scientific method. He urges modern science to turn back from its irrational reductionism that seeks in vain to empty the world of metaphysical assumptions. He describes many of the "dangerous fantasies" that such irrationality has unleashed in our day where technology has triumphed over relationship.
I find Hanby's thesis convincing. He offers not merely biblical texts as evidence but develops his position with intense philosophical rigor drawn from a wide variety of respected sources. He is also familiar with current Darwinian attempts to get around the roadblocks that even committed Darwinists are beginning to acknowledge. He is aware that his "theological speculation" may be more than his intended audience of thoughtful Darwinists can bear. However, I believe he will succeed in holding their attention as he speculates only after proving his depth of experience in philosophical concepts classic and modern.
Parts of the book have an almost meditative character. Many biblical concepts came to mind as I read and pondered. I'd like to see Hanby attempt a future work of further speculation from a devotional perspective. The many biblical texts of thanksgiving; the various Psalms that describe creation as allowing creatures to be: "Let the sea roar, and all it contains; Let the field exult, and all that is in it." and many others would be welcome sources for the authors speculations. I also kept thinking about the non-material parts of creation - angels and the "principalities and powers" described in the Bible - and what place the author might find for these.
The writings of others also leapt to mind as I pondered the book. The writings of Chesterton and Wendell Berry fit well within these speculations. Berry has written prolifically of the confusion and destruction our modern practice of fragmentation has wrought, reminding us that "the context of everything is everything else". G. K. Chesterton's characteristic tone of wonder and gratitude venture into speculations akin to Hanby's with brilliant insights such as: "Until we realize that things might not be we cannot realize that things are. Until we see the background of darkness we cannot admire the light as a single and created thing. As soon as we have seen that darkness, all light is lightening, sudden, blinding, and divine. Until we picture nonentity we underrate the victory of God, and can realize none of the trophies of His ancient war. It is one of the million wild jests of truth that we know nothing until we know nothing."
I highly recommend the book and look forward to more from the author. He mentions that this book was 20 years in the making. I will be waiting for his future work, only hoping I do not have to wait another 20 years. I appreciate the publisher sending me a free copy of this book to review and will be early in line for the next.
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