Quantcast John W. Robbins review of Gordon Clark, "The Philosophy of Science and Belief in God"


Panentheism.  Revisionism.  Anarchocapitalism.


John W. Robbins



Essays by Me

Essays by Others



From Libertarian Review, Vol. 4, No. 10, October 1975, pp. 1-2.  This is one of two reviews that piqued my interest in Clark's thought and led to correspondence of several years' duration with Robbins, Clark's protégé, whose review diverged rather sharply from George  H. Smith's in the same issue.  (For evidence of my previous incarnation as a quasi-Clarkian, go here.)

Anthony Flood

October 26, 2010



Review of Gordon Clark, The Philosophy of Science and Belief in God

John W. Robbins

Gordon Clark is easily one of the most brilliant phi-losophers of the twentieth century.  One of his best known works is, of course, his philosophy textbook Thales to Dewey.  His other works are less well known, but more important than Thales to Dewey, for they outline a philosophy so radically at odds with the thought of this or any other recent century that Clark demands a hearing.

Clark is a Christian, to be specific, a Calvinist.  He is as thorough-going and as consistent a Christian as this writer has ever read.  Those who are apt to dismiss Christian thinkers with a smirk as “mystics” or “whim-worshippers” or any other of a number of emotive words currently in vogue, commit what Ayn Rand has called the “argument from intimidation.” That argument, as Rand explains it, consists in saying that only those who are morally evil (or altruists, mystics, or Attilas) can fail to see that X’s work is nonsense or evil.  Of course, the fact that Rand continually commits this fallacy is no reflection upon the astuteness of her observation that it is a fallacy.

The Philosophy of Science and Belief in God is a short and devastating book, devastating, that is, if one has placed one’s faith in science, not God.  It consists of three chapters: “Antiquity and Motion,” “Newtonian Science,” and ‘‘The Twentieth Century.” In the first, Clark begins with Zeno’s paradoxes and discusses the various solutions attempted.  The chapter concludes with Aristotle’s attempted solutions of the problems of motion in Physics (III, 1) and Metaphysics (Delta and Theta), all of which Clark exposes as circular.  The failure of the best scientist of antiquity to explain motion does not encourage one trying to understand science, which deals primarily with motion.

Chapter two begins with Aristotle and teleology and quickly moves to a consideration of the mechanists.  Quoting A. J. Carlson, inter alia, Clark establishes the position which he deftly demolishes:

What is the method of science?  In essence it is this—the rejection in toto of all non-observational and non-experimental authority in the field of experience. . . . When no evidence is produced [in favor of a pronouncement] other than personal dicta, past and present “revelations” in dreams, or the “voice of God,” the scientist can pay no attention whatsoever except to ask, How do they get that way? . . . The scientist tries to rid himself of all faiths and beliefs.  He either knows or he does not know.  If he knows, there is no room for faith or belief.  If he does not know, he has no right to faith or belief.

I shall not take the reader through Clark’s brilliant demolition of the claim of science to discover and possess truth; let the reader, with all honesty and courage, read the arguments for himself.

Clark’s third chapter on twentieth century science neatly completes his attack on science as an epistemological and cognitive enterprise.  He points out that all experimentation and the “facts” or “laws” induced therefrom involve the logical fallacy of asserting the consequent.  He reminds us of the self-contradictory state of science, e. g., the theories of light.  “Only by denying that science is cognitive can one justify the use of contradictory theories.” The famous “warfare” between science and the Bible has ended in a rout: scientific “truths” do not and cannot contradict the Bible because there are no scientific truths; there are only scientific theories. Scientific triumphs are not cognitive, but techno-logical; science is not true, it is useful. Christianity as a coherent system of revealed propositions has nothing to fear from the activities of scientists, for they are ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of truth.

Clark’s book is must reading for anyone who claims to be an intellectual.  I recommend it unreservedly. [(Libertarian Review) Ed. note: This review was written in early 1974.]