RFEP/methodological naturalism

Christopher Morbey (cmorbey@vanisle.net)
Sat, 28 Mar 1998 20:57:56 -0800

William B. Provine wrote: [talking about RFEP]

> This view suggests that my interpretation of the universe is logically
> consistent. We differ in BASIC ASSUMPTIONS about how physical structures and
> life forms evolve over time. You can, however, state with confidence that God
> created the universe, and I along with most astrophysicists, feel ignorant.

Somebody (a pagan -- no disrespect here) has finally said it! It's the BASIC
ASSUMPTIONS one makes. One can invent all the terms he or she likes, define them
meticulously (with or without loaded meanings) but, in the end, it always comes
down to basic assumptions. It's even in the definition of argumentation itself!
Often there are hidden premises or loaded meanings in arguments.

William says, for example, "I along with most astrophysicists". Whether intended or
not that phrase could carry some hidden authority for those not acquainted with
most astrophysicists. Does what most astrophysicists think *really* add weight to
any argument? In fact they, like many others, have a documented history of getting
things quite wrong.

Howard comes up with this term, RFEP, which he has defined well enough but does it
really say all that much? Does he hide in the word "economy" its theological
meaning? What about "robust" and "formational" and "principle"? Sounds like some
intelligence and design has been at work here. Also, how is RFEP any different from
the generic Anthropic Principle?

Most of us are acquainted with the psycho-babble of pop-psychology. Christians need
to get themselves above this sort of thing and not try to woo the "opposition" by
weak proofs or woolly jargon.

Nobody is going to convince William to change his basic assumptions by means of
simple arguments about this or that any more than he is going to convince them to
change. Basic assumptions come about by the conviction of an overall view, the
consilience of all things, attitudes, histories, evidences, and the treatment one
receives. It's like a conversion experience. Everything falls into place.
Christianity or Atheism, same thing; it's a simple choice, assume it as basic or

Another thing. The other day I caught myself using the term "intelligent design"
again since I happen to be one that finds such backward thinking better than other
possibilities. But why say "intelligent"? Can any design NOT not be intelligent?

Christopher Morbey