Re: Answer to Eugenie Scott's views

Keith B Miller (
Fri, 27 Mar 1998 14:19:19 -0600

Will Provine wrote:

>I have said the same thing to others. A god that merely works through all of
>nature all of the time is hardly worth it. My church telling me this about God
>is precisely why I left. A god who starts off the world is a paper-tiger god
>(good word). A god that is intimately involved with every single thing is a
>paper-tiger god, unless the god really gets into the act and does something
>that can be detected, like making some genuine miracles or answering prayers
>and telling us what is right and wrong. But if what the god does can be
>detected, then methodological naturalism can be applied.

Why do you equate "really gets into the act" with breaking chains of cause
and effect? God does perform miracles, but they need not break chains of
cause and effect to be so. Many miraculous events in scripture are seen as
signs and wonders only because they have occurred in response to a
prophetic word or inresponse to the prayer of God's people. To give one
simple example, the calming of the sea by Jesus would not have appeared
extraordinary if Jesus had not first commanded it.

Are you saying that, if someone prays for healing from cancer, and
subsequently has complete remission of the cancer, that God could not have
answered their prayer? Of course you will deny that God acted, but that is
only consistent with your atheistic metaphysics. What gives you the
theological authority to declare that God does not answer prayers unless He
does so in a way that -you- prescribe? Recognizing God's hand is a matter
of faith.

>History is material cause-and-effect, or so the historians in my department
>believe. Except for quantum level phenomena, chance events in human affairs are
>not really "chance." They are deterministic results of previous circumstances.
>Modern deterministic chaos theory might be applicable. The casting of lots is
>never a true random number generator. I think you are simply invoking the Bible
>and saying that history happens as if by itself but God has described the

Who ever said that? I specifically said that scripture itself recognizes
that history is a series of cause-and-effect actions, but that God works in
that history to accomplish His purpose. History remains contingent.

My point with mentioning lots is that, God is seen in scripture as active
even in those events and processes which most people perceive as least

>I am like one of those students in my evolution class who learns a lot about
>evolution but rejects it. I tried to be convinced, but could not. I am indeed
>an atheist, but I only argue that accepting modern evolutionary biology means
>your gods are all paper-tigers.

Yours is, not mine. Why do you preceive a God who acts within and behind
His creation to be weak and worthless? The God of scripture is a much more
awesome God than a god who is relegated to act as a divine magician to
please the whims of those he created.

>> Methodological naturalism places boundaries around what science can and
>> cannot say, or what explanations or descriptions can be accepted as part of
>> the scientific enterprise.
>Here we really disagree. Methodological naturalism can be applied everywhere.
>But it might give disappointing results.
>> Science is self-limiting, and that is its
>> strength and power as a methodology. But, to say that this limitation
>> applies to the totality of reality itself is nonsense. You are basically
>> saying that no reality exists that science cannot explore. You are free to
>> say that as a philosophical assumption, but it has no support from science.
>> In fact, it runs comnpletely contrary to the spirit of science.
>Would you give me an example in which no elements of methodological naturalism
>can be applied?

You misunderstand me. Any event or process can be approached using MN. If
there is at present no cause-and-effect description of an event or process,
then that is all that science can say. Future research may or may not
provide one - science remains mute. Conversely, if science does provide a
cause-and-effect description of an event or process, that in itself can say
nothing about the possible involvement of God (unless assumptions are made
concerning His character - which are outside of science). Science is
simply mute on such religous issues.

Furthermore, science cannot declare that a complete cause-and-effect
description encompasses the totality of reality. Science is only one way
of percieving and understanding reality. The poet or artist or theologian
are seeking truths beyond simple material description. You believe there
is nothing else but material description. We believe otherwise.

>> Conflating methodology with a philosophy will do, and has done, more damage
>> to science than just about anything I can imagine.
>Oh, I doubt that. Methodology is often conflated with philosophical views all
>through the history of science up to and including the present. You would have
>to throw out Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Boyle, and vast numbers of other great
>scientists. I don't think their science was too damaged.

But, you are basically saying that only an atheist can do good science
without acting contrary to his/her worldview. In other words, you seem to
be saying that one cannot -consistently- be both a theist (with a
creator/redeemer God) and a scientist. Yet those you list above took their
faith very seriously.

By supporting the original wording of the statement on evolution, you are
denying the possibility that an evolutionary scientist can hold to a
purposeful and guided universe in which moral truth exists without being
intellectually muddleheaded. I take personal offense at that assumption.
By welding MN with philosophical naturalism you have disenfranchised a
substantial part of the scientific community.


Keith B. Miller
Department of Geology
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS 66506