[asa] Re: Is Philosophical Naturalism replacing Methodological Naturalism

From: <philtill@aol.com>
Date: Sun May 27 2007 - 00:05:19 EDT

Pim wrote,

> You still have not explained how it was flawed. I have read the 
> statement and found it quite straight forward, they even mention 
> clearly methodological naturalism.

Pim, I did explain it last week.  At the bottom you will find what I posted, copied in italics.  Let me emphasize that we are talking about a statement that was supposedly defining science in order to protect the integrity of science.  There is no excuse, in that context, for faculty professors who should know better, to write a definition of Philosophical Naturalism (PN) and call it a definition of Methodological Naturalism (MN).  This blatantly ignores the whole purpose of inventing the terminology "MN".  It was invented specifically to distinguish science from PN, because non-Naturalists can be scientists. 

I am quite sure that many faculty signed it for various reasons and did not think carefully what it was saying.  But the author(s) themselves have little excuse for being so sloppy in this context.  And it seems to me that it wasn't mere sloppiness, considered in context.

I don't agree with the claims or methods of the ID movement.  I think that an appeal to infinite universes (or the like) and the weak anthropic principle is enough to undo almost all their arguments, and therefore they fail to prove "intelligence" is behind the fine tuning in the planet or the complexity in the biosphere, etc.  Although I DO believe that is IS intelligence (God) ultimately behind these things, I don't see how the methods of ID could ever prove it.  In fact, I believe that God has told us that He hides from the wise and reveals Himself to babes, and hence any attempt to mathematically or scientifically prove God must end up a failure, or God Himself must have not told us the truth about His hiding (or else He is just a poor hider).  I believe that, because He does hide, only when we engage our entire souls in repentance and faith in response to His revelation can we find Him.  Since ID tries to be a branch of science and thereby omits the identity of the designer and His historical and verbal revelations, as well as the direct spiritual influence of God upon our souls, they omit the only true way that God has given us to discover Him.  So I think ID is wrong through and through.  It fails both scientifically to prove "intelligence" rather than mere cosmological improbability, and it fails theologically to be a method to find God.  Whether science or religion, it is wrong either way.  I do believe that seeing the world scientifically along WITH repentance and faith does enhance our faith, and we can indeed see the hand of God in nature.  But I do not believe that the emasculated epistemology represented in ID is capable of describing it.

However, I think that the effort among scientists to close ranks against ID has gone overboard and is resulting in a virtual re-definition of science.  For example, nobody is willing to accept the IDer's claims at face value that they are investigating "intelligence" without naming it as God.  Well, why can't they do that?  There is no scientific reason that they cannot investigate an unnamed intelligence.  But everybody says "well, we know that you really mean 'God' and hence you are being dishonest by pretending that it is not 'God'."  In making this claim, the anti-IDers are saying that if you hold a silent belief that God is behind something, then your efforts to use MN to investigate that something are irrelevant and invalid.  They say that you cannot believe that God is really behind anything if you want to do science.  See how this is a movement away from MN and a virtual adoption of PN?


Here is what I wrote:

I generally agree with Rich and I would not sign it. It says,
"Methodological naturalism [is] the view that natural phenomena can be explained without reference to supernatural beings or events."
By saying this is a "view", and by positively affirming that in this view everything observable in nature "CAN be explained," this is defining a belief-system rather than a method. It fails to allow that a scientist can participate in methodological naturalism without subscribing to the view that it will always be successful in every extreme.
In other words, this definition confuses methodological naturalism with philosophical naturalism. The philosophical worldview represented in this statement is not really needed to serve as a foundation for science for any individual scientist or for the endeavor as a whole. 

And later that week I posted this:

Note that the way this statement is written it is either (A) incompatible with Christianity, or (B) meaningless. We must pick one and only one of these two options:
A. If we consider everything that happens in nature to be a natural phenomenon then the statement's definition of methodological naturalism would exclude the Resurrection of Christ from being caused by a supernatural being. Hence, it is incompatible with Christianity.
B. But if we appeal to the modifier "natural" (as Rich pointed out) and claim that the method does not apply to the Resurrection because that is not a natural phenomenon, then the statement becomes nothing but a tautology saying "everything that is natural is natural." Hence, it is meaningless.
Unless we can apply the method to investigate everything (including the Resurrection) then the method serves no purpose. But unless we allow that the method will not always be successful then it is incompatible with the Resurrection. So methodological naturalism must be a method, not a worldview.
To correct the statement, it should say something like this, "Methodological naturalism [is] a procedure that works from the assumption that observable phenomena may be explained without reference to supernatural beings or events in order to search for natural explanations." 

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Received on Sun May 27 00:06:05 2007

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