Re: Why methodological naturalism?

From: Loren Haarsma (
Date: Tue Feb 12 2002 - 19:05:12 EST

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    On Tue, 12 Feb 2002, Steve Bishop wrote:

    > I am doing some research into methodological naturalism. At the moment, I
    > am attempting to identify reasons for its popularity.
    > I wondered what reasons list members could identify for its adoption; either
    > personally or in the literature.

    I know that many people (in some circles) are using the term
    "methodological naturalism." In my opinion, the term "methodological
    naturalism" is a mistake. If I need a name for the methods which
    scientists use to understand how the universe functions, I prefer the
    term, "scientific method."

    The term "methodological naturalism" is misleading theologically,
    philosophically, and historically. Theologically, it implies God's
    absence from natural events, which is false. Philosophically, it implies
    that the scientific method follows more reasonably from the worldview of
    Naturalism than from other worldviews, which is false. Historically, it
    implies that the scientific method grew out of a worldview of Naturalism,
    which is false.

    (Historically, Christian theological beliefs about God and creation helped
    spur the development of the scientific method. If you want to examine
    this history, you could start with books on the topic by Colin Russel, J.
    Dillenberger, and R. Hooykaas.)

    The scientific method does not rely on one particular worldview. The
    scientific method relies on a subset of worldview beliefs which can be
    shared by many worldviews. (The subset of beliefs necessary for science
    would, for example, include: there is such a thing as objective knowledge
    about the natural world; there is regularity in patterns of cause an
    effect in the natural world; these patterns can be understood by us at
    least in part.) Christians and Naturalists might have different reasons
    for WHY they hold that particular subset of worldview beliefs. But
    because they do, if fact, share that subset of worldview beliefs, they can
    work side-by-side using essentially the same scientific method.

    Christians have excellent theological reasons for seeking (and expecting
    to find) regular patterns of cause and effect in the natural world. A
    Christian who uses the scientific method is NOT acting "as if there is no
    God;" rather, he or she is acting as if God exists -- not a capricious
    god, but the God of the Bible.

    (If you want more of my thoughts on this topic, you can read Part 1 of)


    Loren Haarsma Calvin College

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