Joel wrote: "It is mildly troubling that Steve Schafersma thinks this way
concerning evidence. Schafersma, Dawkins, etc.'s real problem is the
belief that one can meaningfully discuss the reality of God apart from
Jesus and the history of Israel. Schafersma only believes on the
basis of evidence. What is the evidence that Schafersma's evidence is
appropriate for "detecting" God?
What is truly troubling is that Dembski affirms Schafersma's belief
that Jesus does not constitute meaningful evidence for the reality of
God (evidenced in the quote, which would have no place in Dembski's
book if he did not agree with it---it is stated more explicitly
elsewhere). For both, the only evidence for God is evidence for
interruption of the cause-effect laws (miracle?) that God himself
created. They disagree only on interpreting fossils, DNA, and genetics.
Dembski seeks to justify and Schafersma seeks to condemn Christianity
without reference to anything Christian."
I had written, about Schafersman, that
> He said he would
> probably not choose to hire, or even work with, a scientist if he were
> theist, anymore than he would hire a plumber who approached his job
> looking for supernatural causes to why the toilet was stopped up. He
> genuinely could not understand how a person could be, at one time, a
> theist and a scientist.
Joel added: "You had the conversation, but I think your recollection of
object may not be accurate. It was, I believe, a statement regarding
intelligent design's attitude of proclaiming gaps to be the action of
God rather than continuing to find reasons to eliminate the gaps. As I
understand him, he would (tongue in cheek) be worried that the plumber
would not continue to look for natural causes for the toilets
Again, Schafersman, being a gentleman, uttered no barb.
My recollection of those conversations is, of course, may well have faded
in the four years since they occurred. This is what I wrote about them in
the ARN article, which was partially composed during the NTSE meetings,
and completed in April 1997, two months following the events:
The following article appeared in the Fall, 1997, issue of ORIGINS &
DESIGN, Volume 18, Number 2. ISSN 0748-9919.
NTSE: AN INTELLECTUAL FEAST
John W. Burgeson
On February 20-23, 1997, a conference was held in Austin, Texas,
discussing the "Theistic Science" proposals of Phillip Johnson and others
and whether these ought to be allowed as part of "science." Proponents of
all sides (it is not a two-choice problem) were on hand for the debate.
The conference title describes the subject: "Naturalism, Theism and the
(snip a bunch)
The sessions were marked by a mutual respect between people with widely
diverse viewpoints. Compared with most internet LISTSERVs, and the
Compuserve RELIGIOUS ISSUES forum, where I serve as sysop, the lack of ad
hominems was refreshing.
(Snip a lot)
A few general comments which may be of interest:
1. I heard no one at the conference defend the writings of Richard
Dawkins. There were several instances when these were disparaged; no one
rose in opposition. Many of the attacks came from people who
self-described themselves as metaphysical naturalists.
Ruse spoke about the writings of Richard Dawkins at some length, being
less pleased with him than with many Christian theists. The Paley eye was
disproved by Darwin, he said, but this does not disprove God. Dawkins
says the world is "pitiless." Ruse: "You have not showed this."
6. I come now to one of the most interesting and provocative papers
presented at the conference, Steven Schafersman's NATURALISM IS TODAY --
BY HISTORY, PHILOSOPHY, AND PURPOSE -- AN ESSENTIAL PART OF SCIENCE.
(Snip) In his paper, Schafersman develops the argument that, on a moral
basis, theists ought not "do science." Specifically, he asserts: "I
believe assuming the truth of naturalism only for the purpose of
conducting or believing science is a logical and moral mistake." Later,
he expands on this, by writing, "The moral entailment of ontological
naturalism by methodological naturalism does not create an ethical lapse
among those supernaturalists who assume methodological naturalism (for
the purposes of science), but something similar to an insincerity or want
of courage. . . .."
He also writes, "Supernaturalism (is) the antithesis of naturalism. .
.Since everyone agrees that the natural exists, it is the responsibility
of the supernaturalist to demonstrate the existence of the supernatural.
This they have not done." This, of course, was a primary argument of the
philosopher Bertrand Russell.
Schafersman is easy to read; among other skills he has a good sense of
humor. For instance, he writes, "Naturalistic explanations do an
excellent job of explaining a great deal about nature, including the
presence in our bodies of a sewage disposal pipeline in the middle of a
major recreational area." On a more sober note, he writes "Science is a
truth-seeking, problem-solving, method of inquiry. The reliability of its
scientific method depends on the correctness of three ancient
philosophies. . .empiricism, rationalism and skepticism. . .these three
epistomologies are taught in schools as 'critical thinking,' a
methodology indistinguishable, in my opinion, from scientific thinking."
Schafersman also turned to philosophy, with "Metaphysical naturalism
makes no moral or normative statements, and it advances no social
concerns, both of which seem to me to be essential elements of any
religion." He discussed "scientism," stating he does not hold to it. He
talked of the "three philosophical worlds," material/physical,
immaterial, such as ideas, mind, and values and the transcendent, such as
gods and souls. Belief in only world #1 constitutes materialism, belief
in worlds #1 and #2 constitutes naturalism, and belief in all three
constitutes supernaturalism. He holds that supernaturalists "harbor their
beliefs without empirical evidence." I think this claim turns on a
specific definition of "empirical." My own belief in God rests, at least
in part, on my own experiences, which are "empirical" to me, for I
experienced them, but not to anyone else.
Eugenie Scott writes in CREATIONISM, IDEOLOGY, AND SCIENCE, on page 519,
"Saying 'there is no purpose in life' is not a scientific statement."
Schafersman disagrees with this. You'll have to read his paper to see
I had several discussions with Dr. Schafersman during the conference and
observed him in others. I found him to be very likeable, polite and
gentlemanly, yet forceful in defending his beliefs. It is possible, you
see, to disagree sharply on issues of considerable importance without
transforming one's opponent into an "enemy."
(Snip a lot)
In summary, NTSE was a watershed event. Because it still "exists," both
as most of the presented papers on the web site (snip), it is still
possible to "attend" it. I invite readers of this journal to do so.
John W. Burgeson
April 25, 1997
Note in particular what I wrote about Schafersman's paper: "In his paper,
Schafersman develops the argument that, on a moral basis, theists ought
not "do science." Specifically, he asserts: "I believe assuming the truth
of naturalism only for the purpose of conducting or believing science is
a logical and moral mistake." Later, he expands on this, by writing, "The
moral entailment of ontological naturalism by methodological naturalism
does not create an ethical lapse among those supernaturalists who assume
methodological naturalism (for the purposes of science), but something
similar to an insincerity or want of courage. . . .." " Again, I reviewed
this paper with Schafersman BEFORE sending it off for publication -- he
agreed that I had fairly represented him. I think his paper still exists
on the NTSE site.
The entire paper can be found on my own web site at
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