[asa] Re: Is Philosophical Naturalism replacing Methodological Naturalism

From: PvM <pvm.pandas@gmail.com>
Date: Sun May 27 2007 - 14:28:33 EDT

In this context an old letter to the editor by GG seems of interest

GG appeals to the concept of 'fairness', freedom of scientific
inquiry, following where the evidence leads and other vague concepts.

Two comments stand out

<quote>Despite claims to the contrary, methodological naturalism is
neither grounded in the origins of modern science nor consistent with
the principle of free scientific inquiry.

For example, Isaac Newton had no trouble offering a design argument,
based on scientific evidence, in his greatest scientific publication,
Principia. </quote>

Neil deGrasse Tyson shows how Newton indeed introduced design when his
math did not add up and he felt compelled to introduce the helping
hand of God (only temporarily as history has shown).


<quote>Newton feared that all this pulling would render the orbits in
the solar system unstable. His equations indicated that the planets
should long ago have either fallen into the Sun or flown the
coop-leaving the Sun, in either case, devoid of planets. Yet the solar
system, as well as the larger cosmos, appeared to be the very model of
order and durability. So Newton, in his greatest work, the Principia,
concludes that God must occasionally step in and make things right:

The six primary Planets are revolved about the Sun, in circles
concentric with the Sun, and with motions directed towards the same
parts, and almost in the same plane. . . . But it is not to be
conceived that mere mechanical causes could give birth to so many
regular motions. . . . This most beautiful System of the Sun, Planets,
and Comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an
intelligent and powerful Being.

In the Principia, Newton distinguishes between hypotheses and
experimental philosophy, and declares, "Hypotheses, whether
metaphysical or physical, whether of occult qualities or mechanical,
have no place in experimental philosophy." What he wants is data,
"inferr'd from the ph¾nomena." But in the absence of data, at the
border between what he could explain and what he could only honor-the
causes he could identify and those he could not-Newton rapturously
invokes God:

Eternal and Infinite, Omnipotent and Omniscient; . . . he governs all
things, and knows all things that are or can be done. . . . We know
him only by his most wise and excellent contrivances of things, and
final causes; we admire him for his perfections; but we reverence and
adore him on account of his dominion.

A century later, the French astronomer and mathematician Pierre-Simon
de Laplace confronted Newton's dilemma of unstable orbits head-on.
Rather than view the mysterious stability of the solar system as the
unknowable work of God, Laplace declared it a scientific challenge.

Should we really be impressed by using Newton as an example of the
'benefits of design' in science?

Back to GG: Methodological naturalism is a philosophical assumption
that some want to impose on science.

It seems to me that GG is using the same flawed logic of Johnson and
others by conflating methodological and philosophical naturalism.

GG ends 'hopeful'

<quote>The genie is already out of the bottle -- there are prominent
scientists around the world engaged in Intelligent Design research in
their disciplines. Science does not progress by imposing doctrinal
edicts, but by following the evidence of nature wherever it happens to

So far however there is NO evidence that ID has contributed in a
non-begging manner to scientific inquiry. At best it can be argued to
be stiffling, like in Newton's case, at worst, it is an approach of
ignorance and hope that our God can be detected in the ever decreasing
gaps of our Knowledge rather than admire His presence in that which we
do understand.

On Postdarwinist, Denyse O'Leary shows a similar confusion about MN

<quote>If you have evidence, you must be a materialist, for your own
safety. If you are not a materialist, you cannot have evidence. That
rule is called methodological naturalism, if you must know the fancy
terminology. It is a popular way for Christians and other theists to
sell out quietly to materialism.)</quote>

A popular way for Christians and other theists to sell out quietly to

Perhaps educating out fellow Christians about science would avoid that
which St Augustine so wisely pointed out?
Certainly, Dick Fisher has pointed out how the creation museum
provides Christians with a poor resource for science.

Or to put the issue in a question: Are we ready to abandon reason ?

All these issues in the end come together as some have referred to as
'the scandal of the evangelical mind'

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Received on Sun May 27 14:29:06 2007

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