Re: Why methodological naturalism?

From: Jan de Koning (
Date: Wed Feb 13 2002 - 10:38:10 EST

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    At 09:51 PM 12/02/02 -0500, george murphy wrote:
    >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.
    > 1st, speaking of the "popularity" of methodological naturalism is an
    >understatement. The vast majority of working scientists use it in
    >practice. To
    >test that claim one may try to find scientists who are content to explain a
    >puzzling result of an experiment or theoretical inconsistency by saying
    >"God did
    > Of course some are committed to methodological naturalism because
    > they
    >are committed to _metaphysical_ naturalism. If there is no God, gods &c then
    >methodological naturalism is the only game in town.
    > A rejection of methodological naturalism means that "Stop" signs are
    >erected to block scientific research at certain points. Even scientists who
    >believe that God is active in the world are generally uncomfortable with that.
    > Personally I would argue that there are strong theological reasons,
    >based on the character of God as revealed in Christ, for accepting
    >methodological naturalism. I set out this argument in an article "Chiasmic
    >Cosmology and Creation's Functional Integrity" in _Perspectives on Science and
    >Christian Faith_ 53.1, March 2001, 7-13.
    > Finally, I don't think it's very profitable to argue about the _name_
    >methodological naturalism.
    >It isn't ideal but it is reasonably accurate, especially when the contrast
    >metaphysical or ontological naturalism is emphasized. & like it or not, we're
    >stuck with it - like "Big Bang".

    Rather than talking about naturalism when we talk about philosophical
    backgrounds, we should directly talk about philosophy. All science
    (Wissenschaft in German) is done against a philosophical background,
    whether we know it or not. For that reason the Free University in
    Amsterdam required (in my time, 60 years ago) that all first year students
    took a year long course in (Calvinist) Philosophy. It formed my life,
    though as a mathematics student I first thought "why?"
    The course made clear to me that all of our life is either directed toward
    God (through Jesus Christ) or away from God. Our original tendency to go
    away from God in everything is turned around by, and through the cross of
    Jesus, to God. That happens in our innermost being, the heart. The result
    is that we in all we do (should) ask for God's will. God reveals Himself
    to us through Jesus in His Creation, so that no one is excused, and He
    reveals Himself in His Word. That Word has gone through many stages, but
    it still is the only way to salvation.
    However, before the Word came, God was already creating through His
    Word. Thus "creation" was revealing God to our original parents. Original
    sin came before the Bible was. God's salvation came before anything was
    written down. And God is still working in His creation. We still see many
    plants etc. coming through "evolution", but "evolution" is God's work as
    well as any other good thing God is working in us. We still become "new"
    when we accept Jesus as our Saviour. Then our "innermost being" (what is
    often called "soul", a word that Vollenhoven avoided because of translation
    and philosophic problems, based on bible translations) will be turned from
    "away from God" to "towards God."
    Vollenhoven, my teacher, then went on to describe 14 fields of knowledge
    from "theology" (study of religion) to the lowliest subject "mathematics",
    my subject. These 14 fields are irreducible. Theology is not Ethics,
    Ethics is not Law, etc., Mathematics is not Physics. Actually, he split
    math. in two parts, space and number.
    These distinguishing marks I found very helpful at the university, and
    still anywhere else. It avoids mixing up all kinds of irrelevant things
    with the real important things.
    Vollenhoven worked partly together with his brother-in-law, Dooyeweerd,
    whose work has been translated into English. Vollenhoven's background was
    Theology, Dooyeweerd's Law. In many points they agree, for example on the
    14 basic fields of knowledge.
    Following Vollenhoven's lectures was a joy, since he showed us the
    relevance of God's Word to our work,. and telling us that God still spoke
    to us in creation, His creation. He taught us, poor people, who could not
    read Hebrew or Greek, how to look for words, and not just trust any
    translation, but to look the word up in the original. The he spent three
    hours on comparing biblical words for "soul', which then appeared to be
    translated in with very different words, because, he said, the
    philosophical Greek influence on translators.
    Relevant for our discussion is, that these different disciplines may use
    some tools from other disciplines, but thaat they are basically on their
    own. The only thing that all disciplines have in common is, that you are
    either working towards God or away from God, and that you need the saving
    grace of Jesus to see that.

    I understand that some one is trying to translate his lectures. From
    experience I know how difficult it is, because the words he is using can
    hardly ever be translated literally. I tried it and gave up.

    Jan de K.

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