Tuesday, July 24, 2007

An Exercise in Perspective Taking

Most of this blog’s current readers are conservative Jewish or Christian supporters of Zionism and the state of Israel’s policies including the policies relevant to the occupied territories. I would like to offer a unique challenge to these readers—a challenge that will likely result in a broadening of horizons and possibly even encourage humanity and benevolence toward suppressed peoples.

It has often been said that one cannot fully understand one’s own position until having taken on an alternative. Or, as a question, “How can we appreciate the micro and macro implications and reaches of our perspectives unless we also can explain and even defend polar points of view?” In the exercise that follows, I am asking for Zionists to attempt to think like a Palestinian in the Occupied Territories. Take on the perspective of one who considers Palestine a homeland and Israel a non-democratic oppressor.

At the risk of stating too much in favor of one position, I am refraining from describing a Palestinian perspective. Naturally, there are many micro perspectives within a broader ideology. And, this is very important; this is an exercise, an attempt to take on a perspective that is very new to many readers. I ask for sincerity not perfection in the posts.

Be prepared for me (and possibly others) to offer soft criticism of your post. Feelings run high in these matters, and many do not realize the sociological and humanitarian implications of a given perspective. Yet, if you dignify yourself to attempt this exercise with appropriateness, you will receive an appropriate response. I will erase inappropriate replies.

As thought fodder, I will quote a combination of two passages by the Jewish linguist and political analyst Chomsky. In these passages he presents the Israeli-Zionist perspective in a nutshell. Consider his approach a model. One does not need to justify every point—just give a paragraph or two.

Israelis may content that one cannot balance the simple desire to live in peace in the state established by decision of the United Nations against the demands of those who resort to violence and terror and who threaten the very existence of Israeli society (11).

The Zionist case relies on the aspirations of a people who suffered two millennia of exile and savage persecution culminating in the most fantastic outburst of collective insanity in human history, on the natural belief that a normal human existence will be possible only in a national home in the land to which they had never lost their ties, and on the extraordinary creativity and courage of those who made the desert bloom (46).

Chomsky, Noam. Middle east illusions. Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group: Maryland, 2003.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Palestine: The Effects of Israeli Occupation on the Environment in the West Bank and Gaza

by Sara B.

The least common denominator to humanity is the Earth--the sensitive biosphere on which we are all dependent. The foundational fact is: "we all need a fitted space for the basics--the one great element of 'democracy' in life, a kind of first equality" (Rasmussen 91). All of us that make-up the human entity hold the rights to productive land, a hospitable atmosphere, and safe water (Rasmussen 91). When these boundaries are crossed, and earth inhabitants are denied one or more of these rights, the consequences can be lethal. Because these vital elements comprise what is needed for human survival, to threaten one or more of these elements can cause a nation or community to collapse. Sadly, when oppression or colonization is committed by one sector of humanity against another, the confiscation of these basic needs is one of the main tools used to dominate. The lack of environmental justice in such arenas mirrors environmental apartheid and still is prevalent in our world today. One such example of this is Israel/Palestine. In the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), the West Bank and Gaza, Israel has systematized an agenda for environmental control in effort to stifle the growth and development of a first nation people, the Arabs. The illegal Occupation of these areas has resulted in an extensive eco-crisis. Israeli occupied policy has resulted in water mis-allocation, agricultural degradation, and the fractured regime of solid waste management in the OPT.

Water can be described as Earth's lifeblood, a material good and a spiritual good that provides life and sustenance for all creatures, and enriches the landscapes of our Earth community (Hart 79). Therefore, when a government removes water from the common domain or reserves water for a specific people or it's own purposes, and allocates or withholds water to control people they are preventing part of God's world from fulfilling its purpose in the web of creation (Hart 80). For more than 55 years, this has been a great source of conflict between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors. Although the region does possess naturally arid conditions, it's water crisis is primarily due to maldistribution of water imposed by Israel. Presently, Israel consumes more than 80 percent of Palestinian ground water and denies Palestinian access to the water resources of the Jordan river (Isaac). A brief analysis into the situation can shed further light onto the crisis.

The Levant region shares two main water sources: the first is the Mountain Aquifer in the south. This aquifer extends from the Dead Sea and the Jordan Valley on the east to the eastern border of the coastal strip on the west (B'Tselem "The Water Crisis"). This source is fed by ground water from rain and flows eastward where it is drawn by wells. This source supplies approximately "one-quarter of the water needs of Israel and Israel settlements and almost all the running water that Palestinians in the West bank receive" (B'Tselem "The Water Crisis"). The second source of water is the upper Jordan River. The Jordan river runs along the west border of Palestine, and supplies roughly one-third of Israel's water needs, as well as Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Palestinians do not receive any water from this source. This is the only source of surface water in the region, and yet Palestinians have been denied this resource which occurs on their own land. This leaves the Mountain Aquifer as the only water resource for the West Bank Palestinians.

The brute facts ubiquitously state that Israel takes 80 percent of the water extracted from the West Bank. This arrangement of conditions first began in 1967, after the Six Day-June War when Israel determined all water to be property of Israel. To the present day, according to Israeli military order, it is forbidden for people to fix wells , or to build new ones without receiving Israeli permission. Obtaining this permit entails a lengthy and complicated bureaucratic process which often yields little positive result. B'Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, notes that the vast majority of applications submitted under occupation are denied. The few well permits that were granted were solely for domestic use, and "were less than the number of wells that, after 1967, had ceased to be used to improper maintenance or because they dried up" ("The Water Crisis"). On the other side of the fence, Israelis are living in seemingly tropical paradises. Their subdivision- type illegal settlements are luxuriously supplied with lush gardens and refreshing swimming pools. There is little to no concern about water use or preservation. American-Jewish settlers can be enjoying a watered lawn while Palestinians a few kilometers away wait up to weeks for piped water during the dry summer months. The skyline in the OPT is laden with homes are a-mast with water collection and storage devises to capture and preserve the scarce Middle Eastern rain water. This blatant lack of Eco-justice is not only de-humanizing, but also against international law (see Hague Regulations {1907}, and Forth Geneva Convention {1949}on the natural resources and occupied territories).

During the Oslo accords, water was mentioned as a "major issue", and was brought up again in September of 1995 at the Taba Agreements (also known as Oslo II) as one of the issues to be addressed in "final status" negotiations. As to date, these "negotiations" have not yet taken place. Meanwhile, Israel continues to use four times as much water as the average Palestinian, and the Israeli settler consumes 7 times as much water as a Arab OPT resident (Isaac "Water and Palestine-Israeli Peace Negotiations"). The allocations for water that were stated in Oslo II were not to be permanent, as they did not take into consideration population growth, or make allowances for industrial and agricultural development. The water that Palestinians are allocated are often times far from the World Health Organization standards. In fact, only 10% of the drinking water meets these standards. This is especially true in the Gaza Strip.

Much of the water in the Levant has recently become under corporate management and distribution and allocation. Mekorot, an Israeli company, has privatized much of the water from the two primary sources. Mekorot has severely reduced the supply of water to the Gaza Strip since the year 2000, and in doing so has breached the stipulations of the Oslo agreements. Also in Gaza, as recently as the summer of 2006, several major drinking water and sewage pipelines were hit by the Israel Defense Forces in clashes in Gaza, leaving Gaza residents and Palestinians in the West Bank the most water-deprived people in the entire region; indeed one of the most deprived in the world" (Chomsky 174). In further robbery, Israel plans to take the West Bank's largest quarry to dispose of trash acquired in Israel, depriving Palestinians of its use and jeopardizing the remaining Palestinian water resources (Chomsky 174). Such an approach on behalf of Israel is neither acceptable nor sustainable.

Another severing aspect of the occupation against the environment and population of the OPT is that of solid waste management, or the lack thereof. The Mediterranean Environmental Technical Assistance Program has estimated that in 2001 approximately 1.1 million tons of solid waste were generated in Palestine ("Solid Waste Management Centre-Palestine Authority"). The average Palestinian produces around .4-1.2 kg/day of solid waste (PCBS 2006). This is in stark contrast to individuals living in Israel, who average 2.04 kg/day of solid waste. Those Israeli's who inhabit the illegal settlements scattered throughout the West Bank and Gaza average 2.21 kg/day/person of solid waste (United Nations Environmental Program, 2003). To make matters worse, around 80% of the solid waste generated by Israeli settlements is dumped in sites throughout the West Bank.

It is estimated that the waste management systems have left large areas of towns and villages without disposal services for their solid waste (roughly 25% of the population). In 2005, 166 localities within the West Bank alone had no solid waste collection services at all (Palestine Central Bureau of Statics {PCBS} 2005). The waste that is collected is managed through land disposal, or trash dumps. In central Gaza, there has been some donor funded landfills which contain synthetic liner and leachate collection system to help prevent the potential pollution to ground water. Much of the time, however, in both the West Bank and Gaza, the solid waste disposal program is left unattended to. The streets of Palestine are heavily littered with trash. Many of their parks have lost their pristine appeal as they are littered with garage. Many residents burn their trash; producing unsafe amounts of acidifying and greenhouse gases. This type of air pollution is associated with various health issues in Palestine, including respiratory diseases and mortality ("Solid Waste Managament").

The cause for the lack of proper solid waste management can be attributed to many factors. The following list was composed by the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem (ARIJ):

....the continuing fiscal crisis, due to Israel's withholding of Palestinian tax revenues and the boycott on international aid; the lack of infrastructure for solid waste disposal, including sanitary landfills and recycling facilities; the physical damage caused to infrastructure and equipment by armed conflict; the lack of public awareness on how to properly dispose of solid waste and the need for doing so; the weak and under funded environmental institutions on the national level; and the continual interruption of public civil services, by the Israeli Occupation, especially with respect to the constant military incursions, the Segregation Wall, and Israeli settlements ("Solid Waste Management" 1).
As population levels increase in the OPT these methods will be a continuing threat to the public health of the region and the environmental status. Furthermore, this method is ultimately unsustainable. Efforts from various foreign governments, local and foreign NGO's, various organs of the United Nations etc have attempted to improve the civil infrastructure and educate the population on waste control and management. However, the realities of the Israeli Occupation have stifled these efforts by preventing any prospect of steady, across-the-board improvement ("Solid Waste Management"-ARIJ).

The Palestinian agricultural sector also suffers from destruction and distortion resulting from Israeli systematic policies. In its agenda to fully control all economic resources in Palestine, the agricultural sector has been targeted the hardest of all by these policies. Agriculturel contributed to 45% of the GDP in the 1970's, but since the occupation as declined to a mere 7% in 2006 (PARC 2007). This is equivalent to 1.4 billion US dollars in net loss. Proved to be the most appropriate sector for dealing with emergencies that erupt in light of the political situation, the unemployment, poverty, and lack of access to food as a result of the Israeli Occupation practices have emerged as priority problems for the OPT societies ("Palestinian Agricultural Sector" ARIJ).

The most contributing factor to the instability of the agricultural livelihood in the OPT is the building of the Separation Barrier in the West Bank. As the building of this enormous wall continues, farmers are denied access to their lands and markets because of checkpoints and Israeli controls roadblocks. This steep increase in travel times makes the transportation of good s much more arduous, frequently resulting in spoiled produce. In addition to the restriction of movement, the Israeli Segregation Wall and networks of Israeli-only "by-pass" roads has effectively annexed important agricultural as well as water resource areas ("Palestine Agricultural Sector "ARIJ). The Separation Wall cuts in and out of farmers land, systematically designed to leave farmers hopeless, landless, crop less, and left to the scruples of Israeli legislation. Much of the land confiscated by the Wall is used to build illegal Israeli settlements, to dispose of sewage, dispose of solid waste and claim more "Jewish" land. In addition, thousands of essential olive trees (quite possibly the staple component to Palestinian agricultural society and economy) have been, and continue to be uprooted to clear space for the 9 meter high concrete wall. The cultivation of olive trees comprises 25% of the total value of agricultural production, but Israeli restrictions on water consumptions, land use, and export "force farmers to limit their produce to the crops which bear a high return, destined for the international market, such as strawberries and flowers" (Palestine and Palestinians 55). Of the 277 olives presses in the OPT, only 215 are operating; as a result of the declining economic situation, 62 olive presses are temporarily closed (Palestine and Palestinians 19). Also, since the election of Hamas in 2006, the international community has decreased the level of funding for developmental projects in the OPT, and accordingly, the agricultural sector continues to severely suffer ("Palestinian Agricultural Sector"-ARIJ).

The distribution of water as mentioned above also heavily effects the agriculture of Palestine. Agriculture in both Gaza and the West Bank is irrigated and extensively rain-fed. In the West Bank, rain-fed farming is the agricultural norm, as there is not adequate water to irrigate. However, the occupiers on the other side of the Wall irrigate over 10 times the area as Palestinians. Rain-fed farming in the West Bank has nearly collapsed in recent years by the mal-distribution of water, as well as the recent years droughts (Isaac "The Palestinian Water Crisis" 1999). The millions of dollars in net loss have been devastating to the Palestinian agricultural economy.

This brief assessment into the environmental crisis in Palestine can in no way do justice to the stark reality of the Israeli Occupation to Palestine life, economy and sustainability. however, despite Israel's consistent development of policies and systems to maintain complete control of the region, efforts can be made to help revive the earth commons of the Palestinian territories. Organizations such as the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem, the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee, Palestinian Fair-Trade Organization, Palestinian Wildlife Society, and other domestic and international NPO's are making slow progress in helping implement systems of sustainability. What is truly needed is autonomy for Palestine, as most of it's current environmental concerns arise from attempting to operate between the jaws of an aggressive oppressing state. The Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem states: "Environmental sovereignty will be a significant aspect regarding the OPT's capacity for sustainable development" ("Sustainable Development in the OPT"). Therefore, sufficient natural resources are a right not only to all human beings, but also vital to the future of Palestine and it's inhabitants. In denying first nation people's of these rights, Israel is disrupting the life blood flow through the universe, and proving to view the Palestinians and their environment as a collection of objects (to be manipulated and controlled to benefit the Jewish people) rather than a communion of subjects (whose traditions, purposes, and beings must be respected and admired) (Berry 17). An alteration of ego and mentality must take place in the minds and lives on those who are perpetuating the polices of Israel, those both in and outside the country. As spiritual beings, and environmentally concerned earth inhabitants, persons of the West can speak up against this brand of oppression and plead for their own governments to view the community of Earth as a comprehensive community in which all living and nonliving components of the planet should be intimate with one another (Berry 141). By stressing the oikos of the planet, and seeking out the organic and communitarian nature of all beings, the living and nonliving OPT dwellers can be liberated. (Rasmussen 91).

Works Cited

Attaya, Nitham. Agriculture is a Key Pillar in the Palestinian Economy. Palestinian Agricultural Relief Commttee. Beit Hanina, 2007. 17 July 2007, http://www.grassrootonline.org/node/477.


Berry, Thomas. Evening Thoughts: Reflecting on Earth as Sacred Community. San Fransisco: Sierra Club Books, 2006.

"Capacity for Sustainable Development." The Status of the Environment in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. 02 May 2007. Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem. 12 July 2007, http://www.arij.org/pdf/chapter17.pdf.

Chomsky, Noam. Failed States: the Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy. New York: Owl Books, 2006.

Geopolitical Conditions in Bethlehem Governorate. Applied Research Institute- Jerusalem. Jerusalem: Applied Research Institute, 2005.

Hart, John. Sacramental Commons. New York: Rowman & Littlefield, Inc., 2006.

Impact of Occupation and Globalization on the Agricultural Sector in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Palestinian Agricultural Association. Ramallah, Palestine, 2007. 17 July 2007, http://www.parc.ps/media/press38.html.

Isaac, Jad. "The Palestinian Water Crisis." Information Brief 18 Aug. 1999. 12 July 2007, http://www.palestinecenter.org/cpap/pubs/19990818ib.html.

Isaac, Jad. "Water and Palestinian-Israeli Peace Negotiations." Information Brief 18 Aug. 1999.14 July 2007, http://www.palestinecenter.org/cpap/pubs/19990819pb.html.

"Palestinian Agricultural Sector." The Status of the Environment in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. 02 Mar. 2007. Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem. 12 July 2007, http://www.arij.org/pdf/chapter4.pdf.

Palestine and Palestinians. Beit Sahour, Palestine: Alternative Tourism Group, 2005.

Palestinian Central Bureau of Statics (PCBS). 15 July 2007, http://www.pcbs.gov.ps/.

Rasmussen, Larry L. Earth Community Earth Ethics. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis, 1996.

"Solid Waste Management." The Status of the Environment in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. 02 May 2007. Applied Research Institute-Jerusalem. 12 July 2007, http://www.arij.org/pdf/chapter8.pdf.

"Solid Waste Management Centre-Palestine Authority." Mediterranean Environmental Technical Assistance Program. 19 Jan. 2007. 14 July 2007, http://www.metap- solidwaste.org/index.php?id=50.

"The Water Crisis." International Law on Water. 10 July 2007, http:www.btselem.org/enlgish/Water/International_Law.asp.

United Nations Environmental Programme. 15 July 2007, http://www.unep.org/.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Biblical Cosmologies, Part 5: Pentateuchal Portraits – Genesis 1d

In Genesis 1:6-7 the function of the firmament-rakia is identified as to separate “the waters from the waters.” This separation of the waters alludes to the ancient Near Eastern perception of a vast ocean beyond the dome of the heavens. Etiologically, this dome was created through the combat-derived hegemony of the hero-architect (e.g, Marduk in Enuma Elish and Elohim in Genesis 1) and represented the victory of order over chaos. The firmament-rakia of Genesis 1 also functions to separate the watery chaos from created order. Further, rather than beginning with the Judeo-Christian teaching of creation ex nihilio, Genesis 1 begins with the assumption of primordial chaos.

Marks (1971) defines the firmament-rakia of Genesis 1 as follows:

"A translucent dome, like an inverted basin, placed 'in the midst of the waters'
[defining] the spatial boundaries of God's work...The solid 'hammered-out'
firmament restrains 'the waters' of chaos from above and receives its blue color
from them. 'Heaven' is therefore the upper protected limit of created
order."

As indicated in the above statement, the firmament-rakia is a solid dome. It restrains the outside chaos and is positioned “in the midst of the waters.” Unique to Marks is the suggestion that the firmament-rakia receives its blue color from the heavenly ocean. This point is not essential to the Genesis 1 model of the firmament-rakia, but does appear to be consistent with what will be observed in passages drawn later from Ezekiel and Revelation.

In an Evangelical commentary produced by the publishing arm of the Navigators, the following insights are given:

“…the expanse (sometimes called “the firmament”) set up in day two is the
regulator of climate. The ancient Near Eastern cultures viewed the cosmos
as featuring a three-tiered structure consisting of the heavens, the earth and
the underworld. Climate originated from the heavens, and the
[firmament-rakia] was seen as the mechanism that regulated moisture and
sunlight. Though in the ancient world the [firmament-rakia] was generally
viewed as more solid than we would understand it today, it is not the physical
composition that is important but the function. In the Babylonian creation
epic, Enuma Elish, the goddess representing this cosmic ocean, Tiamat, is
divided in half by Marduk to make the waters above and the waters below”
(Walton, Matthews, & Chavalas, 2000).

The Navigators generally support a concordist view of Genesis 1. Condordist models attempt to make Genesis 1 agree with science through such mechanism as day-age creationism. Out of step with the conventional Navigator condordism, the approach exhibited in this commentary is refreshingly scholarly and honest as it seeks to set the pericope against the ancient Near Eastern context.

Though slightly obfuscating the significance of the Genesis 1 model of the cosmos, the commentators do note that the firmament-rakia was viewed as “more solid than we would understand it today.” The commentators also note the cultural dependency of the narrative on Enuma Elish and other such mythological cosmologies.

The final reference to firmament-rakia in Genesis 1 is found in verse twenty. This verse has been used in its English translation as evidence that the firmament-rakia is an “expanse” or a non-solid construct such as the atmosphere or space itself. This verse reads:

וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים--יִשְׁרְצוּ הַמַּיִם, שֶׁרֶץ נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה; וְעוֹף
יְעוֹפֵף עַל-הָאָרֶץ, עַל-פְּנֵי רְקִיעַ הַשָּׁמָיִם.

And spoke
Elohim, Let swarm the waters, swarming [with] living souls, and flier let lfy
above the land, upon the face of the firmament-rakia of the heavens
.

My translation above differs slightly from that found in several common versions. Most modern English versions read, “…in the open expanse of the heavens.” This translation has been used to justify the reading that the firmament-rakia is not a solid but rather the atmosphere. Hugh Ross and Norman Geisler both argue for such a reading.

The Hebrew literally reads, “…upon the face of the firmament of the heavens.” The picture created is that of a firmament that stands outside of the venue that fowl fly in. This venue is obviously the atmosphere. By implication then one concludes that beyond the atmosphere stands the firmament. The word translated “open” by many modern versions is Hebrew “panay” which literally means “face.” Hence, the passages reads, “upon the face of the firmament-rakia of the heavens.”

This post concludes the Genesis 1 creation narrative. Following posts will address allusions to the firmament-rakia in the Deluge narratives and in other Pentateuchal pericopes.

Marks, J. "The Book of Genesis." Part of Charles Laymon, Ed., "The Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary on the Bible," Abingdon Press: 1971.

Walton, J., Matthews, V., Chavalas, M. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament. Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove: 2000.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Methodological Naturalism

Methodological Naturalism


by Sara B.
December, 2005

In coming to understand the world which surrounds and encompasses us as human beings, we have been able to test certain occurrences within the physical universe and come to understand them in their predictability and testability. In its original denotations this study is known as “science” and consists of testing hypotheses and organizing the data's results to understand regularities and laws within the physical universe. Science, in it's connotation however, has come to contain a wide range of meanings and substructures, including those things which cannot be empirically verified. Of these include studies such as theology and philosophy. Scientist claim that such studies are outside the range of empirically verifiable evidence and therefore should not be considered “science”. However many philosophers, and more prominently theologians, have tackled this argument and asserted that their worldviews are compatible with science studies and should be allowed within the frameworks of science. They reject the notion of methodological naturalism (MN) and the limitations they feel it holds.


MN's basic tenets assume that the methodology of natural science can only be based on evidence to which is empirically verifiable. The goal of science is to explain “the contingent natural phenomena strictly in forms of other contingent natural phenomena” (Moreland, Reynolds “On Creation and Evolution” 19). The scientific item in question must be empirically qualified or falsified by reference to natural law and employ measurable factors by which predictions prove to be repeatable and fruitful in guiding future research. This is not to say that one must be atheistic to do science, but rather that they cannot infer into their hypotheses an element of supernatural force. This method of conducting science must not be confused with metaphysical naturalism, which states that natural forces are all that exist. The theist then may conduct science within the methods ascribed by MN as long as he or she realizes this tool provides only partial truths (Haarsma, 78). They believe that all authentic science corresponds to God's activity in the world without embracing metaphysical naturalism. One can take scientific methodology without its naturalistic philosophies and call it “MN”. Michael Ruses' definition of MN states: “The methodological naturalist is the person who assumes that the world runs according to unbroken law; that humans can understand the world in terms of this law; and that science involves just such understanding without any reference to extra or supernatural forces like God. Whether there are such forces or beings is another matter and entirely and simply not addressed by methodological naturalism”(Ruse, 364.)


MN is not able to explain (yet) all physical events in the world and this is where theists believe this method of conducting science falls short. Because there are such phenomena (such as origins of the universe) which may never be explained by science theists believe it is scientifically okay to assume God's miraculous activity. Paul Nelson and J.M Reynolds state that “to the practicing Christian scientist the limitation of scientific descriptively to natural categories is not at all the necessary result of an atheistic worldview by simply a choice to make it possible for science to be a well-defied and reliable albeit limited activity” (Nelson, Reynolds, 262).


Opponents to MN must plead their case and supply support in order to gain credibility within the scientific world. Alvin Plantinga, possibly Americas most prominent philosopher of religion, in comparing creationism with evolution suggests that if theists adapt an attitude such that an acceptable hypothesis consists only of the laws of science, than by far the most probable of the scientific hypotheses for the make up of the universe is evolution (Plantinga, 137). The theists' use of MN leads to this conclusions for two basic reasons: 1) we don't know how it all happened and 2) it involves confusions between claim that all this “scientific acceptable hypotheses leave common ancestry as the most probable explanation” (Plantinga 138). Although it would be best if a proposition in question proves to be empirically verifiable, we cannot limit ourselves to it simply because some developed standpoint of naturalism assumes it so. Theists must choose the hypothesis which is best overall. Plantinga continues his argument in asserting that the Christian theist is not limited to that which has some scientific evidence, unlike the naturalist. We know the creation is from the Lord, and we aren't held down to a priori dogmas as to how the Lord did it (Plantinga, 138-139). Accordingly, Plantinga suggests scientists and other academics need to utilize both cultural criticism and Christian science (Plantinga, 141). Further, Plantinga even seems to question of whether natural laws even exists. Consider the following statement: “There are regularities, of course, but a regularity is not yet a law; a law is what is supposed to explain and ground a regularity. Furthermore, a law is supposed to hold with some kinds of necessity typically thought to be less stringent than broadly logical necessity, but necessity nonetheless.” (Plantinga, 146). Whether conventional science is satisfactory or not, the study should be open to something broader. Something which allows for the intervention of God, as we might call “miraculous”. To limit theistic science to theories of MN makes the theist seem as if he is moving in a path of desperation. He does, however, criticize the use of the God-of-the-Gaps theory, since he believes God is consistently involved in creation and in complete governance of it. God does not need to intervene now and then, but rather has a constant presence within it. Therefore, “...the right way for the Christian community to attain scientific understanding” includes that which we know by way of faith (Plantinga, 341).


Michael Ruse is one of Plantinga's main opposer's. His article in I.D. Creationist and it's Critics entitled “Methodological Naturalism under Attack”is a rebuttal to many of the criticisms of Plantinga. For starters, Ruse provides the following definitions to science: “...what we mean by the word 'science' in general usage is something that does not make reference to God and so forth, but which is marked by methodological naturalism. To associate evolution, for example, to an atheistic philosophy is a mistake of many theistic scientists. He believes in order for something to be truly scientific it must follow these guidelines (Ruse, 296-301 {1996}):


  1. Scientific explanation “relies exclusively on blind, undirected natural laws and naturalistic process.”

  2. “A scientific explanation may try to explain how one phenomenon follows in a right and definite way, as a result of the working of natural law.”

  3. Conclusions of science must be testable

  4. Conclusions of science must be tentative.


Ruse does not propose the there isn't presuppositions within the realms of scientific study, he does hold firm to the belief that we should do our best to work outside of our presuppositions, whether they be atheistic or theistically grounded. He states “...the scientist may or may not have very strong theological views, which one may or may not share. But inasmuch as one is going to the scientist for science, theology can and must be ruled out as irrelevant (Ruse, 366 {2001}). Plantinga does make reference to the what he believes are inadequacies of the evolutionary theory. But he obviously, as Ruse believes, has made up his mind of the issue prior to starting the investigation. Plantinga might use arguments against the atheistic scientist claiming they begin with a presupposition which effects the outcome, however he himself is guilty of the same accusation. Ruse claims that Plantinga uses a similar type of attack to MN in areas of study such as paleontology, systematics, animal instinct, and embryology. However, his argumentation against the scientific outcomes of such things are very similar to his own.


Some may claim, as does Plantinga, that not all science appears to be “repeatable” and therefore cannot be considered a “law” or “regularity”. Therefore, MN should be abandoned as an adequate form of testing hypotheses. However, in using the example of the extinction of dinosaurs, Ruse admits that it may not be a repeatable phenomena, but the various components involved in the extinction may be brought beneath regularity. Things such as the death of plants (Ruse, 368, {2001}).


In conclusion of Ruse's claims and propositions of MN we must note that he does admit that “methodological naturalism does not succeed in doing everything that it sets out to do. It may be that it never will. But to assume that there are going to be 'science stoppers', and that this should lead one to pull back from a commitment of methodological naturalism is to reveal that one has another agenda” (Ruse, 381 {2001}). Plantinga is committed to a tight and extreme literal interpretation of the Bible, and refuses to allow scientific evidences to challenge his interpretations of such things. It is made obvious that Plantinga's agenda is that of Christianity, and unfortunately this may have caused him to be ignorant to current works of science . Although proved right by empirically scientific theories Plantinga does not give these scientists and their conclusions the credit they deserve (Ruse, 382 {2001}).


Loren Haarsma in his article “Does Science Exclude God?” states that although God can and does intervene in nature, it usually works in consistent ways. However, since the factors which brought on the scientific revolution are still debated “neither atheists nor Christians should claim to 'own' the scientific method” (Haarsma, 80). People of various faiths may disagree in regards to philosophical beliefs about God and nature however by working side-by-side they can reach some consensus on scientific questions.


Haarsma, again referring to the usual consistency within nature, asks how then should the Christian conduct science outside the boundaries of MN? In regards to an unusual event, science cannot seem to either prove nor disprove the superseding of the law effected (Haarsma, 84). Science, although not able to scientifically explain a cause for some events, puts the situation into one of two categories: “unexplained” or “partially explained”. Yet, events which fall into these categories are able to change as new empirical methods are developed. However, there are some events which are known to have happened and have no scientific explanation. The Christian theist then can reasonably assume that God is able to supersede natural laws, and does in fact do so, which results in a certain event to be “unexplained” within the framework of scientific empiricalism. However, Haarsma does not believe a lack of evidence necessarily means the Christian should embrace it as a potential cause for a miracle but opens the possibility of it being so. Scientific proofs can be just as glorifying as, and more helpful theologically, as assuming God's supernatural intervention (Haarsma, 94).


In Science Held Hostage Howard Van Till, Young, and Menninga provide two main questions lying outside the realm of MN. First, although science can account for the various structures of the physical world it is not able to deal with the question of origins (Van Till “Science Held Hostage” 20). We are able to deal with events which occur within time, but natural science is unable to account for those things which concern the very existence of time. Those who adapt MN are left with no choice but to remain silent on the issue. Secondly, although natural science can investigate the behavior of physical things, it cannot answer the question concerning its governance. “The question of governance cannot be answered by describing patterns of behavior” (Van Till, “Science Held Hostage” 23). Following a MN approach to science would inhibit the naturalist from making a distinction between an autonomous or a theonomous perspective on the governance of physical behavior. Therefore the authors suggest that MN is intelligible with resident inside of the physical universe but unintelligible to describe the relationship between the physical universe and the transcendent realm (Van Till “Science Held Hostage” 25). Van Till attempts to make an appropriate balance between Christian faithfulness and intellectual integrity. He states that “neither natural science nor Christian theology can claim to deal comprehensively with all aspects of reality, and neither can claim that their theories capture the fullness of the reality they seek to represent.” (Van Till, 173 {1999}). He admits that theology is concerned with God and His relation to creation, contemporary natural science focuses on the natural world and how its developed properties and capabilities behave over time. Likewise, to force science to explain questions about divine action is exaggerating the competence of natural science. He feels, like Ruse, that for theology to assume its competence to speak on different properties and systems within formational history is an inaccuracy (Van Till, 174 {1999}). To summarize his views on MN, Van Till suggests that the theist should ask questions about the natural sciences and slowly move into questions which force a person to look outside of science for the answer. Therefore, science is not forced to assume any sort of presuppositions, neither is theology impeding on scientific facts nor pressing on the walls of it's structure.


J.P Moreland also acts as a strong critic against MN and the claims that it is necessary for a study of natural science (NS). Some claim that NS limits science to physics, chemistry, geology, astronomy and related fields. Theistic science is than considered faulty and seen as an unfruitful research program. Moreland believes that any view of science which is limited in this way should be abandoned. He seeks to undercut the advocates of this “hands-off” view of science which is proposed be individuals, such as Van Till, and wishes attack their arguments (Moreland, 42 {1994}). He believes that such claims to “science reduce physical object statements about actual or possible sense data which turn out to be private metal entities” (Moreland, 50 {1994}). If this is true, the study of the existence of matter is not a necessity for the study of natural science. Likewise, Moreland attests that NS has a number of goals for scientific theory formulation: simplicity of theories, empirical accuracy, predictive successfulness, clarity and consistency, fruitfulness in future research and avoidance of certain explanatory devices. It is not limited to one goal which insists on MN. A realist and anti-realist may have different interpretations of these goals. The realists sees these epistemic virtues as true, whereas the anti-realist believes these virtues merely show the rationality and preservation of the phenomena. If the goal of NS is stated in realist terms then anti-realist statements of science become impossible. He believes that anti realist treatments of the goals are philosophies of science (Moreland, 49 {1994}).


Moreland concludes that trying to discredit theistic science based on the demarcation of criteria is not successful. Although these claims are not primarily scientific, they act as a philosophical left-hand giving input into science of which the scientist is not qualified (Moreland, 43 {1994}). Moreland agrees that the physical universe is an important study, but admits that not all of its aspects or qualities are within the realm of scientific inquiry. Questions regarding transcendent issues (such as origins) are outside the domain of MN and NS. For thinkers such as Van Till than to abandon this fact is to deny the history of science.


What, than, does Moreland believe theology provides for the study of natural science? He believes it sheds light on scientific conclusions for the following four reasons:


  1. by providing rationally justified background beliefs against which rational assessment of a specific scientific theory can be made,

  2. yielding positive and negative result that can be tested,

  3. by recommending certain methodological rules over others, and

  4. by providing extrinsic goals of science and helping to justify intrinsic goals for science (Moreland, 56 {1994}).

In an assessment of these views proposed by creditable scholars, philosophers and scientists we can safely conclude that there consists an extreme plurality of thought about the proper methodologies as to which science must be subject to. Some believe, as we have seen that the limitations that science conducted strictly within MN. They hold that the natural scientists' assumption that theist science is fundamentally misguided is an improper attitude towards the integration of science and theology (Moreland, 42). An appropriate conclusions to their thoughts are provided in the words of John Stek:

Theology must take account of all that humanity comes to know about the world, and science must equally take account of all that we come to know about God. In fact, we cannot, without denying our being and vocation as stewards, pursue theology without brining to study all that we know about the world, nor can we, without denying our being and vocation as stewards, pursue science without brining to that study all that we know about God (Stek, 260-1).


On the other side of the spectrum are the theistic adherers to MN, namely that of Michael Ruse. His views, and those theistic scientists who follow MN as well, may be summarized in this following statement:


“...I am not prepared to accept that methodological naturalism is a philosophy opposed to theism. I see no reason at all to den the Christian access to methodological naturalism, saying that it is untenable for the Christian to insist that in our understanding of the natural world one employ only the methodologically naturalistic approach (Ruse, 383 {2001}).


The theistic scientists must decide where he or she stands on such issues, and be prepared to offer rebuttals to the opposing arguments. Ultimately, we should seek to find a balance between the two, without forsaking the goals of the other. Maybe Van Tills suggestions to science and theology contributing to the other is a proper goal to attempt to achieve. In any case, we should realize that the debate between the two will not cease until either science or God proves to be unmistakingly ungrounded and falls into utter ruin. We must wait to see which falls first.




Works Cited



Haarsma, Loren. “Does Science Exclude God? Natural Law, Chance, Miracles, and

Scientific Practice.” Perspectives on an Evolving Creation. Ed. Keith B Miller.

Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 2003.

Moreland, J.P. “Theistic Science and Methodological Naturalism.” The Creation Hypothesis. Ed. J.P Moreland. Downer's Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994.

Moreland, J.P, John Mark Reynolds. Introduction. Three Views On Creation and Evolution. Ed. J.P Moreland, John Mark Reynolds. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999.

Nelson, Paul, John Mark Reynolds. “Young Earth Creationism.” Three Views on Creation and Evolution. Ed. J.P Moreland and John Mark Reynolds. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999.

Plantinga, Alvin. “When Faith and Reason Clash: Evolution and the Bible.” I.D Creationism and It's Critics. Ed. Robert T. Pennock. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001.

Plantinga, Alvin. Methodological naturalism. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 49, no. 3, 1997.

Ruse, Michael. “Methodological Naturalism under Attack.” I.D. Creationism and It's Critics. Ed. Robert T. Pennock. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001.

Ruse, Michael. But is it Science? The Philosophical Question in the Creation/Evolution Controversy. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, 1996.

Stek, John, “What Says the Scriptures?” in Portraits of Creation: Biblical and Scientific Perspectives on the Worlds Formation. Ed. H.J Van Till, R.E Snow, J.H Stek, and D.A Young. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1999.

Van Till, Howard. “Theistic Evolution.” Three Views on Creation and Evolution. Ed. J.P Moreland, John Mark Reynolds. Grands Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999.

Van Till, Howard, David A. Young, Clarence Menninga. Science Held Hostage: What's Wrong with Creation Science and Evolutionism. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988.