Copy of: NTSE #8

John W. Burgeson (
Sun, 2 Mar 1997 09:43:06 -0500

---------- Forwarded Message ----------

From: John W. Burgeson, 73531,1501
TO: EVOLUTION Reflector,
DATE: 2/27/97 12:30 PM

RE: Copy of: NTSE #8

I come now to one of the most interesting (IMO) and provocative papers
presented at the NTSE conference, Steven Schafersman's NATURALISM IS TODAY

Steven wrote one chapter in Laura Godfrey;s SCIENTISTS CONFRONT
CREATIONISM, which was published inthe late 80s. He said he'd "been out of
the conflict" for the past five years or so.

Following is the abstract from his paper. I quote it in its entirety; the
paper is about 28 pages long and very well written; well worth reading. I
had several dialogs with Steven at the NTSE, as did many others; I found
him to be a gentleman whom I could like although disagree with; such
disagreements were amicable:
Steven D. Schafersman,
Department of Geology
Miami University

Science is a way of knowing, a method that discovers reliable knowledge
about nature. There are many ways of knowing, they compete with each other
to provide knowledge about nature, and humans choose which knowledge claims
to believe from among the many available. Ways of knowing necessarily rely
on philosophies to comprehend reality and justify their beliefs and
methods. Science is the way of knowing that uses empiricism, rationalism,
and skepticism to discover and corroborate its knowledge claims; for these
philosophies to be coherent and true, naturalism must also be true. Other
ways of knowing use revelation, authoritarianism, subjectivism, mysticism,
obscurantism, spiritualism, psychicism, transcendentalism, emotionalism,
and sophism; for many of these philosophies to be true, supernaturalism
must also be true.

Naturalism, the idea that reality is formed solely by natural processes,
consists solely of natural beings and objects, and governed solely by
natural laws, is a philosophy that developed as science developed. Modern
science did not, at first, rely upon naturalism. Galileo fully believed
that the physical laws he discovered were created by God as part of the
universe, and Isaac Newton could ascribe physical phenomena to supernatural
control if a natural explanation was not known and could not be conceived.
The origin and functioning of the universe, solar system, Earth, plant and
animal species, and humans were routinely ascribed to supernatural
processes by legitimate scientists well into the nineteenth century, as the
histories of catastrophism and creationism clearly reveal. Following the
examples of Galileo and Newton, however, scientists such as Laplace,
Hutton, Lyell, Darwin, and Huxley slowly and sequentially attempted to
explain the origin and functioning of these real objects and beings solely
by natural explanations. Naturalism as a necessary part of science thus
developed gradually as science developed gradually with the practice and
understanding of scientists; appreciation of the hypothetico-deductive
method and empirical testing of hypotheses requires naturalism, since
supernatural claims cannot be tested. Holdout scientists who persisted in
supernatural explanations were gradually abandoned intellectually by their
students and colleagues, and they eventually died with no successors. There
was never a single moment or event when supernaturalism was evicted from
the structure of science and naturalism locked in. However, by the
twentieth century, supernaturalism had been methodologically eliminated and
science came to be identified with naturalism; the philosophy of naturalism
then became formalized in the 1930s and 1940s, chiefly in the United

Naturalism, however, is not merely a methodological strategy in science; it
is part and parcel of empiricism, rationalism, and skepticism, and thus is
an ontological necessity in the understanding and practice of science. The
alternative to naturalism is supernaturalism; unless naturalism is true and
supernaturalism false, empiricism--comprehending reality solely by sensory
experience--is not sufficient to comprehend reality; rationalism--the use
of logic in reasoning--is not sufficient to understand reality; and
skepticism--the questioning and evaluation of one's knowledge system and
beliefs--is not sufficient to arrive at reliable knowledge. Naturalism
implies a unity and regularity to nature, that nature's reality can be
objectively understood, without which the pursuit of scientific knowledge
would be absurd. But naturalism is not an assumption or presupposition on
the part of scientists, a common claim by critics; it is, instead, a
hypothesis that has been tested and repeatedly corroborated, and so become
reliable knowledge.

(Note in particular the claim of the last sentence. Burgy)

The scientific enterprise fails without naturalism, which is why naturalism
is attacked by proponents of anti-science. Defenders of science who hold
the idea that methodological naturalism is decoupled from ontological
(``philosophical'') naturalism in the day-to-day practice of
scientists--and that this is the real reason that scientists ignore the
supernatural, so there is really no reason for supernaturalists (and by
implication, theists) to object to science--are mistaken. Their mistake is
made because they confound naturalism and materialism; while the former is
absolutely essential for science to work, the latter is indeed sometimes
decoupled into methodological and ontological materialism, especially by
scientists who are theists. Science can be conducted without belief in
materialism, but not without belief in naturalism. Theist scientists, who
believe in the supernatural if their deity is a supernatural one, must
engage in tremendous logical contortions to practice science, but they may
not be aware of that fact, such is the nature of the human mind and its
capacity for self-deception.

(In the paper, Steven develops the argument that, therefore,
on a moral basis, theists ought not "do science." Burgy)

Pseudoscientists recognize this in their heart of hearts. In their zealous
attempts to legitimitize their political and religious ideologies by
parodying science, they explicitly parade the many "evidences" for their
doctrines; they use specious arguments and out-of-context quotations to
rationalize their beliefs; they believe that by attacking their scientific
opponents they are manifesting skepticism. They explicitly omit
supernatural explanations in materials meant for a general readership that
expects scientific explanations. Just as science has philosophers of
science, pseudoscience has philosophers of pseudoscience. Creationists have
attempted to support "intelligent design" and "sudden appearance"
explanations for the origin of species as naturalistic and scientific
alternatives to evolution. The philosophers of pseudoscience know, as do
most informed observers, that such descriptions are euphemisms for
``creationism,'' a supernatural and religious explanation, so these
philosophers have vainly attempted to construct a science in which
naturalism is not a requirement. They have attacked naturalism as a
``dogma,'' and have insisted that the supernatural be allowed as an
explanation. Their writings justifying this argument are filled with the
same misunderstandings, mistakes, and sophistry as their pseudoscientist
colleagues, so the success of their enterprise depends on the scientific
illiteracy and emotional sentiment--that is, by exploiting the lack of
critical thinking--of their current and anticipated followers.
Pseudoscience is a political movement designed to gain power, influence,
and money to support the personal religious and political ideologies of its
proponents by confusing the public and subverting the truth, and thus is
not only anti-scientific, but immoral