Re: [asa] Empiricism, Faith and Science

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Wed Sep 13 2006 - 20:31:23 EDT

Comments in red.

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: David Opderbeck
  Sent: Wednesday, September 13, 2006 7:18 PM
  Subject: [asa] Empiricism, Faith and Science

  I'm wondering how the TE's here respond to reasoning like this, from a book review in the Times Literary Supplement (,,25347-2345445,00.html ). Why doesn't the TE acceptance of a "strong" methodological naturalism lead to this:

           Regardless of what they say to placate the faithful, most scientists probably know in their hearts that science and religion are incompatible ways of viewing the world.
    I.e., we can discount anything any argument that any scientist presents for consonance of religion & science. Pure assertion.

    Supernatural forces and events, essential aspects of most religions, play no role in science, not because we exclude them deliberately, but because they have never been a useful way to understand nature.

    They may not have been excluded deliberately in the 16th century but they are today.

    Scientific "truths" are empirically supported observations agreed on by different observers. Religious "truths," on the other hand, are personal, unverifiable and contested by those of different faiths. Science is nonsectarian: those who disagree on scientific issues do not blow each other up. Science encourages doubt; most religions quash it.

    "those who disagree on scientific issues do not blow each other up" has nothing to do with methodological naturalism or, for that matter, with the
    the question of scientific truth. If Bohr had blown up Einstein because of their different views on quantum theory it wouldn't have affected the
    value of the truth claims of either one.

    But religion is not completely separable from science. Virtually all religions make improbable claims that are in principle empirically testable, and thus within the domain of science: Mary, in Catholic teaching, was bodily taken to heaven, while Muhammad rode up on a white horse; and Jesus (born of a virgin) came back from the dead.

    Claims about the resurrection are testable in the same sense that other putative historical events are. In principle the Assumption of Mary & ascension of Muhammed might be said to be as well but since there are no purported witnesses of these events (as there are for the empty tomb and resurrection
    appearances) they're in a different category.

    None of these claims has been corroborated, and while science would never accept them as true without evidence, religion does. A mind that accepts both science and religion is thus a mind in conflict

    The evidence that can be demanded for single contingent events differs from that which should be expected for lawlike regularities.

    This actually presents no challenge to methodological naturalism, which emphasizes God's action "in, with and under" the phenomena with which science
    deals. If this selection is representative, the essay is just another rehash of the warfare hypothesis.

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Received on Wed Sep 13 20:32:05 2006

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