Re: The naturalist Philosophy

From: Dr. Blake Nelson (
Date: Fri Aug 30 2002 - 14:33:11 EDT

  • Next message: Dr. Blake Nelson: "RE: The naturalist Philosophy"

    Not having much time to do more than make a summary
    point or two based on a cursory glance of this
    exchange, I think Walt implicitly (perhaps explicitly)
    makes a very good point about what the agenda is here
    and how things are often portrayed by the
    pro-evolution folks.

    Let me first state that I have no problem with
    evolution being taught, or methodological naturalism
    taught as the scientific method, which it is.

    What seems to be missing from science courses is a
    basic understanding of the philosophy of science and
    the nature of and limits of scientific knowledge.
    This is different than having an entire philosophy
    course for students, but is essential, it seems, to
    distinguish between methodological and metaphysical

    Quite frankly, the strongest advocates for teaching
    evolution want to teach a particular kind of
    evolution, that is one that is at best impliedly and
    at worst directly "proving" metaphysical naturalism.

    I tend to agree that ID or other notions are not, at
    least at this point, anywhere near well-developed
    enough to offer as part of a curriculum.

    What is more than well developed enough to be part of
    the science curriculum is a philosophy of science
    component, which is almost always missing (I don't
    know of any curriculum that includes this component).
    Without an understanding of what science is, its
    assumptions, and limits, there is often an implicit
    (if not explicit) metaphysical naturalism being

    By the same token, it would be easy enough and more
    than beneficial to people generally to include an
    ethics component of every science course... such
    things are at best infrequently touched upon in
    curricula, to the detriment of students.

    I was browsing through the ASA website a few days ago
    and read an interesting article Ferngren, Gary B. &
    Numbers, Ronald L., C. S. Lewis on Creation and
    The Acworth Letters, 1944-1960 PSCF 48.1 28-33
    In a letter dated 9/13/51 Lewis states, "What inclines
    me now to think that you may be right in regarding it
    as the central and radical lie in the whole web of
    falsehood that now governs our lives is not so much
    your arguments against it as the fanatical and twisted
    attitudes of its defenders."

    I find that statement about the defenders or I would
    perhaps substitute defenders with the phrase "its most
    zealous proponents" is absolutely right. Sadly, when
    I read anything by Dawkins, Dennett, or Provine (the
    list could go on), I see almost no evidence of
    judgment, or weighing of things in anything
    approaching an objective manner, even from an
    epistemic perspective, wherein I can respect someone
    like Dawkins saying here is my epistemic position and
    this is why I think other epistemic positions are
    misguided. I don't ever see that, I just see
    fanatical and twisted attitudes amounting too all
    other epistemic views of the world are fairy tales or
    imbecilic ramblings. Now, the fanaticism of Dawkins,
    et al. doesn't mean evolution is false, and I
    certainly don't think it is. But, I also don't think
    it is theologically very important (if at all). The
    zealous advocates of evolution, however, do think it
    is theologically important (in a negative sense) and
    no part of a science curriculum usually tries to
    differentiate between methodological and metaphysical
    naturalism, leaving it up to an ill-equipped
    (completely unequipped) student to try to put together
    some sort of context into which to incorporate
    science. Unfortunately, their parents aren't likely
    to do so either.

    It seems to me that having a philosophy of science
    component in science curricula may vitiate the
    misunderstandings that both fundamentalists and the
    atheist zealous advocates of metaphysical naturalism
    both foster. Without that context, as long as
    evolution is taught in science curriculum (which I
    think it should be), the atheist proponents win,
    because there is nothing in school curriculum to
    counter the argument that methodological naturalism
    implies metaphysical naturalism. In fact, I would
    think that without any further reflection it would
    naturally follow in a plurality of people, especially
    when a Dawkins, Dennett, Provine, etc. comes along and
    says something like, "Evolution, which we all know to
    be a fact, proves there is no God." Not only do you
    have the imprimatur of the system that evolution is a
    fact, without any context as to what constitutes a
    "fact", but you have these arguments from scientific
    authorities making pronouncements about things not
    within the purview of science without someone knowing
    what the purview of science is. That is troublesome
    from a purely classical liberal, pluralist position.

    So, has anybody tried fighting to get a little
    philosophy of science into school board curricula?
    Why not?

    --- Walter Hicks <> wrote:
    > george murphy wrote:
    > > What I pointed out is that the primary "idea"
    > being
    > > presented - is negative -
    > > i.e., naturalism is wrong (with disregard of the
    > distinction
    > >between methodological &
    > > metaphysical naturalism) rather than positive.
    > And I think that is a valid viewpoint. One does not
    > need to make
    > whatever distinctions you
    > want to impose in order to take the position that
    > science works
    > strictly on the unproved
    > assumption that the universe obeys a series of
    > physical laws without
    > any interaction with
    > anything external to this universe. (Take this as my
    > definition)
    > >
    > >
    > > > I think that is precisely the point that many
    > anti-science folks
    > >are trying to
    > > > raise. Science is neat ,but it really rests on
    > pure faith in naturalism.
    > > > Scientists point to the many times it has
    > worked in the past and
    > >then extrapolate
    > > > that it should be accepted as a universal truth
    > (ignoring all
    > >current problems, I
    > > > might add). That is indeed philosophy, not
    > science. Science
    > >itself only rests upon
    > > > this philosophy lest it crumble. Why is it
    > necessary to believe
    > >that science is
    > > > some magical approach that can figure out
    > everything about God's
    > >universe while God
    > > > never interacts with His creation? That is
    > surely theology.
    > >
    > > Again you are failing to distinguish
    > between types of naturalism.
    > The naturalism I stated above -- the basic
    > assumption upon which all
    > of science rests.-
    > >
    > >
    > > > I think that the suggestion that this be
    > discussed in public schools in a
    > > > philosophy class is a fine one. Why would a
    > theologian ever
    > >disagree with it?
    > >
    > > Few schools below the college level offer
    > classes in philosophy.
    > Sure they do. Check out the textbooks in your local
    > school. The
    > "philosophy" is taught
    > within the subjects at the discretion of the
    > teachers and by the
    > selection of the
    > textbooks. For an example of textbooks that teach
    > the "theory", check out
    > It is
    > evolutionary
    > theory that is taught in
    > these books.
    > > Maybe they
    > > should but they don't. In any case, I certainly
    > wouldn't object to
    > >"the controversy"
    > > being taught in public schools under the rubric
    > of comparative
    > >religion, sociology, or
    > > political science. But the opponents of
    > evolution want it taught
    > >as science, which it
    > > isn't. Of course there is scientific controversy
    > about how
    > >evolution has taken place
    > > but not about whether it has taken place.
    > Then why do public school textbooks introduce Darwin
    > and his
    > theories? Are you saying that
    > Darwin was establishing the "fact" of evolution
    > rather than his
    > theory? Evolution is
    > taught in schools just like Dawkins says. It is "the
    > only game in
    > town". Where no solid
    > evidence exists, the theory takes over. How can
    > their be any other
    > game if you are to
    > insist that scientific naturalism (defined above) is
    > not open for
    > discussion within the
    > science class itself?
    > Speaking of what is not customarily taught in
    > schools: I was never
    > taught evolution as a
    > subject pre college. Why is it such a necessity now?
    > (And I have
    > always lived in the
    > ultra-liberal Northeast.) I'm certain that those who
    > have introduced
    > it so strongly into
    > the pre college curriculum have nothing but best
    > scientific motives.
    > No humanist/atheistic
    > motives could possibly exist ;-)
    > I think that it is naive in the extreme to believe
    > that humanists do
    > not consciously push
    > evolutionary theory in pre college as a means to
    > promote their
    > atheistic notions.
    > BTW I do believe in evolution. I just disagree that
    > any theory of
    > evolution should be
    > taught in public schools if alternatives to
    > scientific naturalism (as
    > defined above) are
    > not allowed.
    > Walt

    Do You Yahoo!?
    Yahoo! Finance - Get real-time stock quotes

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Fri Aug 30 2002 - 17:27:12 EDT