Re: [asa] Empiricism, Faith and Science

From: Gregory Arago <>
Date: Fri Sep 15 2006 - 06:38:54 EDT

"For me, MN is the basis of science, but science is limited -- it can only give us an approximation of the truth." - Don

  Hello again Don. I was not sent the original article so can only speak to the commentary. Though I would not be quick to ascribe a positivstic epistemology to TE positions, I do have a difficulty when evolutionary theory is elevated into a 'theory of everything,' which obviously cannot be sustained. Such a view I would indeed call positivistic or absolutistic.
  When a theory is 'verified' empirically (as with evolutionary biology), and then terminology for that theory is transferred into another field of study or discipline, then different rules seem to apply, especially the further apart the disciplines or fields. The notion of 'universal science' has been deconstructed in our current epoch and it appears to me that many natural scientists do not like it.
  So, a partial solution has been to try to salvage a singular definition of 'science' (most Christians use a small 's' for science instead of a neo-Englightenment big 'S' for Science) by applying philosophy of science to the demarcation problem. The philosophy called 'methodological naturalism' is the partial solution. Yet, there are many places where 'science' can be practised that do not fit into the box constructed by MN, which is an ideology. I would think that engineering (Don's field) and juriprudence (David's field) count among two such fields.
  Don argues that "MN is the basis of science, but science is limited" - would it then also make sense to say that MN is limited? Likewise, is it possible to 'do science' without methodological naturalism (or naturalistic methodology)?
  This is where the discussion of naturalism as ideology and naturalism as science become most problematic, and sometimes confusing, as several people on this list have noted. It seems to me that involving philosophy is a helpful addition to the traditional 'science and religion' discourse in this case. It was the reformational Dutch philosophical tradition that helped me to see the importance of a trilogy approach instead of pitting science and religion side by side and confronting one another.
Don Nield <> wrote:
  David Opderbeck wrote:

> But here is my biggest concern vis-a-vis TE. The author says:
> /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.
> /The epistemology behind this seems to me appallingly simplistic and
> wrong -- it's just old-school positivism. I can't see how anyone
> committed to an authentic Christianity can accept this epistemology.
> But isn't this epistemology implicit in a TE position that promotes a
> rigid methodological naturalism? Even though the TE's MN is couched
> in pragmatic terms, isn't the philosophical underpinning a belief that
> there really is no "empirical" knowledge of religious truths?

I agree that the author's statement in italics is based on an
positivistic epistemology that is simplistic and wrong. But implying
that the same goes for a TE plus MN position is not warranted. Rather,
MN is compatible with a critical realism position . For me, MN is the
basis of science, but science is limited -- it can only give us an
approximation of the truth.

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Received on Fri Sep 15 06:39:32 2006

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