Re: Methodological Naturalism

From: george murphy (
Date: Thu Feb 21 2002 - 10:08:18 EST

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    Loren Haarsma wrote:

    > On Wed, 20 Feb 2002, D. F. Siemens, Jr. wrote:
    > > 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.
    > > ...
    > > In contrast, methodological naturalism is
    > > a choice of technique within the sciences.
    > I substantially agree with the point you are making.
    > Yes, we want to distinguish the worldview of Naturalism from the
    > scientific method. I simply propose that, when we talk about the methods
    > which scientists use to study nature, we go back to calling it "scientific
    > methods." The term "methodological naturalism" is misleading, for reasons
    > I outlined earlier.
    > (If you were a life-long committed member of the Democratic party, would
    > you be happy if people started calling Patriotism "methodological
    > conservatism"? If you were a life-long committed member of the Republican
    > party, would you be happy if people started calling Universal Access to
    > Education "methodological liberalism"?)

            A few years ago a pop astronomy magazine ran a contest to find a
    replacement for the phrase "big bang". I neither know nor much care what the
    results were because I'm pretty sure what this class of cosmological models
    will be called 10 years from now: big bang models! The term isn't ideal but
    it isn't positively misleading & is established & little is to be gained by
    quixotic attempts to try to change it. (A little like one physicist's attempt
    some years ago to get colleagues to refer to "a Green function" rather than "a
    Green's function." He was correct grammatically but guess how many physicists
    paid attention.)
            Similarly, "methodological naturalism" isn't ideal but it's pretty
    well established, & the only thing that will be gained by scholastic attempts
    to find a better term is proliferation of jargon.
            & in fact "methodological naturalism" is a pretty accurate description
    of the way science actually proceeds - i.e., by trying to explain what goes on
    in the world in terms of entities & processes in the world. The only thing to
    be gained - if it can be called that - by questioning the term is admission of
    "It's a miracle" as a legitimate scientific explanation.



    George L. Murphy
    "The Science-Theology Interface"

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