Re: Methodological Naturalism

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. (
Date: Wed Feb 20 2002 - 16:13:13 EST

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    On Tue, 19 Feb 2002 16:33:29 -0700 John W Burgeson <>
    > Hi Loren:
    > Your second argument, that MN implies no God in ordinary events, it
    > is
    > apparent that some, Sagan & Dawkins among them, seem to endorse
    > this. The
    > recent articles (last year) in PERSPECTIVES appear to me to answer
    > that
    > issue, although your argument is strong and very well put.
    > I don't really follow your third argument, "credit where credit is
    > due."
    > I don't agree with your fourth argument, "MN implies science must
    > deny
    > miracles." Implications are funny animals; they depend as much --
    > perhaps
    > more -- on the hearer's worldview(s) as on the expressed language.
    > Cordially,
    > John Burgeson (Burgy)
    Hi, Burgy and Loren,
    There is confusion here between methodological and metaphysical
    naturalisms. Metaphysical naturalism must deny the existence of a deity,
    for it claims that there is nothing except physical nature. But even
    there there is a variety that allows for meaningful religion, even though
    the God-concept does not refer to an existent. It is incompatible with
    the Judeo-Christian commitment. In contrast, methodological naturalism is
    a choice of technique within the sciences. Every Christian in the
    sciences uses it, although some claim to go further (ID claims to detect
    non-natural interventions, and YEC vacillates). These latter are not
    doing science, but are engaged in naive philosophical speculation.
    Consider an embryologist observing the complex happenings as an embryo
    develops. Where he knows the controlling factors, he can declare that a
    certain gradient controls a specific developmental pattern. Or he may
    note that, in the absence of a specific functional gene, development is
    not ideal, though he doesn't know why. But he cannot, as a scientist,
    declare that something is God's direct intervention because he doesn't
    understand how it can happen. The Christian embryologist pursuing his
    specialty using methodological naturalism is not denying his faith, nor
    is he rejecting Providence. He simply recognizes that "miracle" cannot be
    part of a scientific explanation.

    Note that "that's just the way things are" and "that's the way God
    ordains things" produce identical scientific practices. They are not the
    same philosophically.

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