Forum on Public Policy 1 The Fallacy of Misplaced Temporality in Western Philosophy, Natural Science, and Theistic Religion Isidoro Talavera, Philosophy Professor and Lead Faculty, Department of Humanities & Communication Arts, Franklin University Abstract The whole of Western philosophy and (derivatively) natural science have been haunted by a contradictory conception of time: time has been thought of and articulated as essentially transitory, while at the same time (and in the same sense) assumed to stand still (apart from the world of temporal items and happenings). In the extreme, this bifurcation of time (and/or corresponding bifurcation of knowledge) has led some to commit the fallacy of misplaced temporality, which privileges one aspect of time (i.e., the static or dynamic) over another. In its most damaging form, the fallacy dismisses essential aspects of true time by quietly disposing of constancy (labeling it as timeless) and/or quietly disposing of change (labeling it as lower/subjective or unreal). This problem arises in force when the context is shifted from philosophy to theistic religion. A case in point is the Judeo-Christian tradition that sees God as active within the historical process which, in consequence, represents not only a causal but also a purposive order, but locates God outside of time — entirely external to the perishable (or lower ) realm of change and process. Accordingly, variations of the Fallacy of Misplaced Temporality arise in efforts to derive creaturely time from divine eternity — to establish a rational relation between God and the world. But, to sustain that God is either in time or out, given that an infinite and immutable God is over and above all created things, strongly suggests that there is no rational relation between the static nature of divine eternity and the dynamic character of the physical universe. As a result, when we factor in the aspects of true time there cannot be a rational relation between God and the world. Introduction On the Sistine Chapel ceiling in Rome, Michelangelo (1475 – 1564) painted his famous The Creation of Adam. This is his interpretation of the scene of the Creator, Lord God, giving life to Adam. Focusing on the hands of Adam and God, however, we may note that God’s index finger is fixed and firm (a mode or identification of constancy) about to touch Adam’s fingers that are bending and unsteady — reaching to the heavens (a mode or identification of change) so that they almost touch God’s index finger . As if moving away on purpose from the literal depiction of the scene described in the Bible, 1 Michelangelo suggests both figures reach to the other in different ways. But, can Adam (emblematic of all creation) ever receive God’s transcending and immutable touch? Is there a rational relation between God’s transcending immutability and the dynamic character of the physical universe? This is one of the most challenging and important questions in the dialogue between Western philosophy (and, derivatively, natural science) and theistic religion.
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