Re: Science: working in the flesh?

David Campbell (
Thu, 20 Feb 1997 19:23:41 -0500

>I think this would work, except it seems that science (both community
>and method) would NEVER give up its quest for a naturalistic explanation.
>I don't know that I can object to that attitude, either. How many natural
>causes must be ruled out before we decide that a supernatural cause is
>the explanation? And supposing we have an answer, haven't we then somehow
>turned science from a method of falsification into a method of
>verification? Would what we then have still be science?
>Your thoughts?
Determining whether a miracle has occurred requires a historical
rather than scientific investigation. (Of course, science also depends on
historical investigation-you must believe the evidence that something
happened in order to try to study or replicate it.) Science can provide
possible explanations for an event, but cannot rule out (or in)
supernatural involvement. An example is Elijah's altar: one commentator I
read mentioned an obscure theory that he was actually pouring lighter fliud
or the equivalent and not water over the wood to get a "miraculous" flame.
Historical evidence shows that Elijah had no possible source for refined
hydrocarbons, making this "scientific" explanation less credible than the
alternative of actual water, followed by a miraculous combustion (possibly
lightning, in which case the timing (especially without clouds) and aim are
the miraculous aspects). Conversely, a purported image of Mary featured in
a handy newspaper article is easily explained as interference patterns plus
imagination-if God wanted to make an image of Mary appear, I think it would
be better.
The nature of God's involvement in running the universe in accord
with natural law is entirely outside the domain of science-it's a
presupposition brought to it. The fact that we can derive natural laws and
that they continue to work is in accord with their being maintained by a
God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, but is apparently just
accepted or assumed by atheists.
There is one sort of claims of miracles or other supernatural
activity that is subject to scientific investigation-if it is claimed to be
regularly repeatable. Science cannot test whether some mysterious force
is exerted by the stars and planets on us, but it can test whether such a
force has measurable effects. People born about the same time do not have
more similar experiences than others, so this claim of astrology is
scientifically falsifiable.

David Campbell