Re: Methodological Naturalism

George Murphy (
Wed, 25 Mar 1998 17:37:20 -0500

Paul A. Nelson wrote:
> Allan Harvey wrote, responding to Phil Johnson:
> >"By MN we know that gravity keeps the planets in their orbits."
> Really? Methodological naturalism (MN) is conspicuously absent
> from Newton's _Principia_, and I couldn't find any mention of it in
> the physics textbooks on my office shelves.

Of course. Physicists don't keep saying "We are going to invoke
MN." They just do it - for many not as a fundamental world view (see my
earlier response to PJ) but as a working hypothesis. & it does work.

> Allan also wrote:
> >"By MN we know that the Sun condensed gravitationally billions of years
> >ago from nebulous material and eventually began to burn by nuclear fusion."
> This is more interesting as a counterexample to Phil's thesis.
> But consider the following.
> Suppose a scientist doubted the standard theory of stellar evolution.
> Perhaps he decides that, for instance, the so-called "collapse problem"
> (Larson 1978) is unlikely to be solved by any natural mechanism.
> So he proposes that, on the grounds of the available evidence, stars
> are intelligently-designed, or created, objects.
> What do you suppose his chances are for publication at any of the
> major astrophysics or astronomy journals?
> I'd say his chances are nil.

Again, of course. Because such a statement is either
a. a mere conversation stopper ("God did it, that settles it"), or
b. vacuous, because it still leaves scientists open to investigate how
the design was carried out.

George L. Murphy