Drees, Willem B. A Case Against Temporal Critical Realism? Consequences of Quantum Cosmology for Theology."
It is Wim Drees argument
that, unlike other topics in science, Big Bang and quantum cosmology are
equally compatible with a timeless, static view of the universe and a temporal,
dynamic view. Critical realists must
face this ambiguity squarely. If they
want to make the ontological claim that nature is temporal they must relinquish
the epistemological claim for the hierarchical unity of the sciences by leaving
out relativity and cosmology (due to this ambiguity). Yet this is problematic to realists, for where both ontological
and hierarchical claims are pivotal.
Drees himself sees the timeless character of cosmology as more
compatible with a Platonizing tendency in theology, in which God is timelessly
related to the world rather than temporally related via specific divine acts in
Drees begins by defining temporal
critical realism as the combination of critical realism with an evolutionary
view of the world and a temporal understanding of God. The Big Bang appears at first to offer just
such a highly dynamic worldview consistent with temporal critical realism. However its underlying theories (special
relativity and general relativity) undercut this dynamic perspective,
challenging universal simultaneity and re-interpreting time as an internal,
rather than an external, parameter.
Quantum cosmology, and its underlying theory, quantum gravity, further
challenge the dynamic view of nature.
Although they overcome the problem of the singularity at t=0, quantum
cosmology and quantum gravity offer an even less temporal view of nature than
does relativity, since they move from a four-dimensional spacetime perspective
into a three-dimensional, spatial perspective in which time plays a minimal
role at best.
Critical realists such as
Barbour, Peacocke and Polkinghorne have been careful to avoid theological
speculations about t=0, recognizing that its status is controversial and
subject to the shift in theories.
However, they have not been equally attentive to the challenge to
temporality per se by special
relativity and general relativity, let alone by quantum cosmology and quantum
gravity. Moreover, Drees claims the
latter ought not be dismissed merely because they are speculative. Such a strategy to insulate temporal
critical realism is ad hoc, since
temporal critical realists are already committed epistemologically to a
hierarchical unity of the sciences, and thus changes - even if only potential
ones - at the fundamental level of the hierarchy carry enormous epistemic
leverage. For its part, the timeless
character of physics and cosmology leads us to view God in more Platonic
terms. Drees explores this option in
some detail, including the problem of divine action, the arguments for viewing
God as an explanation of the universe, and the constructivist view of science
as myth. He concludes by suggesting
that axiology may be a more apt focus for theology than cosmology, and this in
turn would lessen the impact science has on theology.
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