Re: Answer to Eugenie Scott's views

William B. Provine (
Tue, 17 Mar 1998 11:37:09 +0000

David Campbell wrote:

> " Methodological naturalism applied to evolution yields the same picture as
> philosophical naturalism."
> The same physical picture; the metaphysical picture is not always the same.
> "A methodological naturalist believes that any deities or Intelligences not
> visible in nature (which can be approached by methodological naturalism)
> are unharmed."
> "Not visible in nature" assumes that God is only visible in miracles, which
> is not the view of many theists. I personally do not see how one can do
> science without methodological naturalism, since there is the underlying
> assumption of uniformitarianism and God's actions are not sufficiently
> constrained to make that assumption. However, it is possible to see God's
> hand in this predictability rather than simply accepting it as the way the
> universe happens to work.
> "But a methodological naturalist would analyse the birth of Jesus Christ
> the same way as a philosophical naturalist. The methodological naturalist
> would want to know what was the chromosome complement of Jesus, would want
> to conduct some paternity testing, etc. The methodological naturalist is
> just as great a menace to miracles that happen in the natural world. Or you
> would have to call it, "methodological naturalism" plus as many exceptions
> as your religion might require for miracles that occur in the natural
> world."
> Methodological naturalism, as its name implies, is a method. A miracle is
> not an exception to methodological naturalism. Rather, it is an exception
> to the assumption that methodological naturalism can explain the situation.
> Methodological naturalism is no menace to miracles in the natural world;
> instead, it may more fully document them. Given the limited equipment
> available, Thomas can be viewed as something of a methodological
> naturalist. He sought physical evidence as to what had happened, but was
> unable to find a natural explanation for the evidence he saw. In the
> example you cite, if unlimited resources were available, a methodologically
> natural paternity analysis might show that no one was Jesus' father. That
> is all that methodological naturalism could do in that case. Philosophical
> naturalism would then claim that someone must have been missed in the
> search for potential fathers, whereas other views would consider the
> possibility that something supernatural happened.
> David Campbell