Re: [asa] Demarcation was Re: thinking was prosecutors and not that of the judge

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Mon May 07 2007 - 12:22:12 EDT

Rich said: *The reason you don't want to demarcate science differently is
removes much of the power of the method and more importantly causes
bad inferences for problems that are purely natural. These in turn
impoverish the entire human community.*

I'm not sure I can totally agree with this. The response would be
(particularly from certain Reformed perspectives) that any knowledge claim
that completely elides the supernatural ultimately will result precisely in
the bad inferences and impoverished thinking you fear. If we are trying to
explain reality, and God is the foundation of reality, our explanations
inevitably will become twisted unless they tie in to that foundation. I
think that's some of the gist of Clouser's argument (it's exactly what
Poythress argues from a Dooyeweerd-ian perspective in Redeeming Science).
It seems to me that there's some merit to that argument in terms of
historical theology concerning the interaction of faith and reason and the
role of natural theology.

Moreover, if God is the basis of reality, and God reveals himself to us at
least in part in scripture, then any account of reality that we offer must
be grounded in what God reveals in scripture. If God has in
scripture revealed something relating to what we today call "science," then
our "science" will not be grounded in reality unless we take note of that
revelation. That, of course, is a big "if" -- but that means we have to lay
some hermeneutical and ultimately theological groundwork before we can
demarcate "science" -- which means in turn that our notion of "science"
can't be based on simple a priori distinctions.

I might suggest, then, that your pragmatic issues concerning things like
junk medicine and irrational opposition to global warming science aren't so
much demarcation issues as they are hermeneutical and theological issues.
Some evangelicals take the right principles -- rooting all knowledge claims
in God and respecting scripture as normative concerning what it reveals --
and apply them the wrong way because they assume scripture speaks to some
things in ways that scripture doesn't intend. I'd suggest one reason they
do this is that they sometimes subject scripture to a prior epistemic
straightjacket ultimately rooted in human reason rather than in a theistic
realism, which paradoxically over-values human reason as applied to deriving
general principles from scripture and under-values human reason as applied
to "reading" the "text" of creation. But, then I might be channeling a bit
too much of the "progressive," "paleo-orthodox," "emergent," and/or
"not-hostile-to-everything-neoorthodox" evangelical theology I've been

On 5/5/07, Rich Blinne <> wrote:
> On May 5, 2007, at 12:16 PM, PvM wrote:
> > You may be missing the point, the judge merely addressed if ID was
> > science or not. While the demarcation problem is a much larger issue
> > about if there can be generic rules defined as to how to recognize if
> > something is science or not, this issue was much smaller, namely is ID
> > science (or scientifically relevant).
> >
> Terry and David O. have done us a great service in getting us to
> focus on the larger demarcation problem. I have been doing some
> thinking and have come to the conclusion that the re-definition of
> scientific theory by Behe et al damages science and specifically
> science education well beyond the question of origins and naturalism.
> First off, before I start I want to be clear that I relate with and
> sympathize with what Michael Behe and other ID proponents are trying
> to do. Namely, they desire to head off the ontological naturalists by
> not allowing the a priori dismissal of supernatural causation. This
> is an admirable goal and as Christians we are shoulder to shoulder
> with our ID brothers here. So, we do not assume before the fact
> that all effects only have natural causes. Nevertheless, our belief
> in a Creator that as the Apostle Paul noted in 1 Corinthians is also
> a God of order causes us to expect under most cases to find ordered,
> natural, causes. These natural causes are the basis for proper
> evaluation of supernatural causation. For example, natural causation
> causes us to conclude that death is permanent. This establishes the
> divine origin of the resurrection of Jesus. We don't presume that the
> resurrection is impossible but the natural order makes the
> supernatural stand out. ID rightly desires to argue from the natural
> to the supernatural in a similar fashion and for this they should be
> commended and I encourage them to continue to explore such arguments.
> So, as can plainly be seen, the goals of ID both generally and
> specifically are not what causes my opposition but rather the means.
> The problem with ID is the route chosen (irreducible and specified
> complexity) and the vehicle driven (science) won't get you from
> natural to supernatural causation and will -- and this the main point
> of my post -- break the vehicle. The modern definition of science
> does not include the arguments above. So, ID responds by rolling back
> the definition to an earlier one. The primary reason why modern
> science is demarcated to only consider natural causes is the use of
> falsification and other testability techniques post Popper won't work
> otherwise. You cannot falsify the supernatural. ID goes well isn't
> that arbitrary particularly given this gives aid and comfort to the
> ontological naturalists? Why can't we roll back the clock sixty
> years? These are both fair questions and I will try and answer them.
> The reason you don't want to demarcate science differently is this
> removes much of the power of the method and more importantly causes
> bad inferences for problems that are purely natural. These in turn
> impoverish the entire human community. We have already beaten the
> astrology horse well past dead and I don't think that it's a
> particularly good example anyway. A better example is the popularity
> of so-called alternative medicine amongst evangelicals. Here observed
> cause and effect is not verified so if a correlation between an herb
> and a positive effect is noted then there is no saying otherwise. The
> same is true of toxins and negative effects. In the latter case, the
> fixation on ethyl mercury preservatives in childhood vaccines was
> improperly correlated with autism. The National Academies showed all
> sorts of evidence that falsified this hypothesis. But, this was not
> enough because falsification was not a integral part of what it means
> to be science. So, we still have people doing chelation therapy that
> on occasion kills kids. We also have a large number of evangelicals
> that refuse vaccination not because of some Biblical reason but
> because they have a bad definition of science. This, in turn, puts
> their neighbors at risk -- not a very good witness for Jesus Christ.
> Another example is climate change. Here we have a different testing
> mechanism than falsification but still fits into the modern
> definition, prediction via models. If the models do not conform to
> reality then underlying theory is suspect. So, we have two different
> kinds of models one that matches the temperature record that confirms
> that theory. We have another that totally whiffs with respect to ice
> flows. The latter means that the theory behind that needs to be
> updated. The evangelical critiques of climate science see no use for
> either kinds of models and thus remove the power to accurately
> predict future climate change which is vitally important to good
> public policy. Finally, the lack of understanding of what scientific
> consensus is caused again by failing to understand that all modern
> scientific theories need to be testable. The process of peer review,
> testing, and repeating is completely alien to the popular concept of
> science. Somehow, they believe that consensus is merely scientists
> voting for their favorite theory.
> I started this post with a statement that ID's redefinition breaks
> science. That is somewhat of an overstatement. Science will survive
> just fine. Since secular scientists understand and appreciate
> testability and since they are the vast majority science will
> continue to progress. But, given the popularity of the re-definition
> with evangelicals it will continue to marginalize us in the
> scientific enterprise. Even this is a limited problem because those
> of us who are practicing scientists and engineers appreciate the
> importance of testing hypotheses. This is because even for those
> evangelical scientists who embrace ID's definition of science in
> theory, we deny it in practice. This leaves us with science education
> for lay people. This is where the damage done by the re-definition is
> most patent. Not only does this cause a misunderstanding of science
> in general this is also negatively effecting the future generation of
> voters who vote for school boards and thus the problem reinforces
> itself.
> So, what's a proponent of ID to do? First, be real. Admit that
> currently ID is not science. I know many ID proponents do this and
> have done this, but it needs to be communicated more patently to the
> evangelical audience. Admitting ID is not science is not the
> equivalent of being not true and don't let the atheists bully you
> into thinking that your arguments need to be "scientific". Second,
> continue to look for arguments that could fit into modern science
> without re-defining it. Just because the current arguments don't do
> this does not imply that there exists no such arguments that may be
> found in the future. As the resurrection example I gave earlier shows
> you can argue from the natural to the supernatural and thus a future
> "scientific" argument may be out there. I pray good success for you,
> brothers. Godspeed.
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Received on Mon May 7 12:22:39 2007

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