NTSE #12

John W. Burgeson (burgy@compuserve.com)
Tue, 4 Mar 1997 15:35:08 -0500

NTSE #12

One of the papers at NTSE was "Scientific Method and Appeal to Supernatural
Agency; a Christian Case for Modest Methodological Naturalism," by Dr.
Kenneth Kemp, Dept of Philosophy at the University of St. Thomas in St.
Paul, Minn. I rode with Kenneth out on the geological field trip on Sunday
afternoon; he is an interesting guy.

Kemp's thesis is that "both the scientific method and the appeal to
supernatural agency are generically similar (in that both are instances of
the same legitimate pattern of reasonong--appeal to the best explanation)
but specifically different (in that there are significant differences in
the method by which and in the extent to which each can improve early,
reasonably good, explanations).

He asserts, I believe, that human beings, because they have the power of
free choice, have therefore the power to act in ways not determined by the
laws of nature. I think he subsumes such actions as still being "natural,"
reserving non-natural causation only for supernatural agents; here, I would
argue that human beings, acting through free choices, are also
"non-natural" in that respect.

He argues for a "weak" form on methodological naturalism, one which grants
only a strong presumption in favor of appeal to natural causation; a
"strong" form would say a natural explanation is ALWAYS to be preferred and
an appeal to the supernatural is never satisfactory.

Much of Kemp's paper describes some events in history which represent
problems for strong ontological naturalists. The paper is well worth