Re: Methodological naturalism

Dick Fischer (
Thu, 26 Mar 1998 11:19:59 -0600

Comes now Phil Johnson and charges the scientific community with undue
negligence in its refusal to recognize the actions of the supernatural
as a valid element in the scientific process, and as being one causative
factor in the progression and speciation of life on earth.

He argues as follows:

>If you have a reliable special revelation from God (via Scripture or
>otherwise) then of course you know that theism is true regardless of any
>other evidence. But granted the unique superiority of methodological
>naturalism (MN) as a principle of scientific investigation (the premise of
>my original comment), how can you be confident that you have such a
>revelation? MN is not just applicable to evolution. It is also the
>scientific way to investigate purported divine revelations and miracles.
>By MN we know that natural selection has immense creative power, sufficient
>to make cells and complex organs, even though no one has ever seen this
>power demonstrated. By MN we know that there was a universe of ancestors
>and transitional forms in the preCambrian rocks, although they have
>mysteriously vanished. By MN Biblical scholars have discovered that the
>Pentateuch was stitched together from various sources (J, E, P, etc) and
>that the "historical Jesus" worked no miracles and was deified by his
>followers. Finally, by MN we know that Scriptural passages praising God
>give evidence only of the religious consciousness of whoever wrote them.

It might be noticed that the author's tongue is slowly inserted in cheek
as the second paragraph progresses. Since this author freely quotes from
his books, may I also quote from _The Origins Solution_:

"In addition to science consisting of a body of knowledge, it is also a
process. Science is a method or system by which we make observations, gather
data, formulate theories, arrive at conclusions, etc. A method can be labeled
"scientific" if it adheres to certain commonly accepted rules that have been
established to insure accuracy.

By their very nature, miracles cannot be proven. Thus miracles fall outside
the purview of the scientific method. In God's interaction with humans,
miracles go with the territory; that is part of what being God is all about.
He has set up a boundary condition for us, however, which He honors as well.

In all instances in Scripture when God stepped outside the boundaries of
scientific explanation, He did it primarily to demonstrate His capacity to so
act, or prove the authority of those acting on His behalf: Christ, the prophets,
the apostles, and the body of believers. Outside of miracles performed for
such a purpose, we can depend upon laws of physics to be in operation and
totally predictable all the time.

God did not give us an 'Alice in Wonderland' world that would keep us in
continual disarray. We can live without consternation in a predictable habitat,
and not have to worry on a minute by minute basis what some unpredictable,
capricious deity has in store for us. Miracles are still possible. In fact,
miracles are part of our belief structure, if we trust the Bible, and put our
faith in God. Miracles are just not part of the scientific process.

Neither are miracles the only point of departure between the opposing realms of
science and religion. Science involves a search for causes, it never
prescribes life values; religion is a quest for meaning, wherein life
values lie. Science is a "value-free enterprise, while religion is a
valuational one." Science explains, religion reveals, science informs,
but religion reforms.

Science involves careful observations, natural explanations, rational
inferences, and deductive reasoning. Good experiments, quantifiable results,
impartiality, and objectivity are desirable ingredients in good science.
Experiments must be repeatable and verifiable, results should be reliable, and
tests of validity are applied. And this entire process is called "science."

A widely held explanation for sickness was that God caused it as retribution
for sin, until Louis Pasteur discovered bacteria. The "God caused it"
explanation stops further inquiry. To scientists, creation will always be the
explanation of last resort, after all other natural explanations have failed.
Their attitude is: why invoke a miracle when it may not be justified, and go no
further searching for causes?

For believers, creation will always be the ultimate explanation, and it should
be, but this says nothing as to what processes were involved, or what amount of
time was used to bring about the creation. We might say that creation is true
because we know it to be true intuitively, or because the Bible tells us so.
There is nothing wrong with that, but call it intuition, or call it Bible
teaching. Don't call it science."

The woeful image creationists, newly armed with Johnsonian logic, have
established to the scientific and academic communities is one of being
"scientifically challenged." It is this misuse and lack of understanding of
scientific methods that muddies the waters honest evangelicals have to tread.

Creationist logic, ID theory included, has become a thorn in the side of
Christianity. We are not going to be effective witnesses to scientists
and educators carrying the Bible in one hand and telling them they don't
know what they are talking about. Our task in presenting the gospel of
Jesus Christ is hard enough as it is.

One last point. When certain scientists of national prominence venture into
our religious arena, maligning our religious beliefs, and spouting atheistic
philosophy in their teaching of science, I think we can rightly call "foul."
But only if we have given them the respect they deserve in their fields of
scientific or academic enterprise. How can we criticize scientists and
educators who cross the line when we Christians stupidly do the same thing?

Dick Fischer