Re: Fw: [asa] Expelled and ID

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Wed Apr 23 2008 - 20:06:34 EDT

I didn't mean to say that there is nothing objective about methodological
naturalism. What I meant to say is that the choice of limiting the
investigation of the physical universe by the criterion of methodological
naturalism is not simply an "objective" choice. The foundations of the
scientific method, contra both the empiricists and the rationalists,
ultimately can't be demonstrated empirically or rationally. The supposed
foundations hang in mid-air, and we base research programs on them mostly
for pragmatic reasons. We can't really know, based on the scientific method
*alone*, whether the scientific method is disclosing truth.

I also didn't intend to imply that ID should be considered "science." I
don't think ID should be considered "science," but then demarcation games
are yawn-inducing. Who cares if it's "science?" The question ought to be,
"is it true?" (I'm also not implying that the claims of ID are true, or not
true. But I think "is it true" is a much better question than "is it

On Wed, Apr 23, 2008 at 5:45 PM, D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>

> Why is there not objectivity to methodological naturalism? What is
> demanded is an empirical test, something which is in principle repeatable. I
> will grant that there is no a priori demarcation that can determine what can
> be tested. The fact is that physical measurements were first made and
> testable theories presented. Galileo and Kepler used geometry, which was
> changed to the calculus by Newton to allow more subtle measurement and
> prediction. Later various individuals found ways to work out other
> relationships. What was once deemed the sole ability of living things was
> shown to occur within test tubes. I note that there are still individuals
> who refuse to recognize string theory as science because it has not been
> possible to perform certain empirical tests. Others claim that there are
> tests, just not the supertests requiring galaxy size cyclotrons.
> To prevent one response, I note that there is no such thing at
> unconditional objectivity. It is subjects that observe.
> Now, if someone can produce an empirical test for design that has not been
> produced by human agency, one that is not question-begging, ID can claim a
> place among the sciences. As it is, it's sole claim to testability has been
> that the writer has not been able to figure out how something came to be.
> But other individuals keep coming up with at least steps that explain part
> of the gap in understanding.
> Empirical testing is not the only approach to understanding. Indeed,
> almost the whole realm of philosophy is immune from such tests. The one
> philosophical theory I think of that fails on empirical grounds is
> Schopenhauer's pessimism. It requires that negatives mount up without limit
> during life, whereas the fact of human existence is that bad things tend to
> be forgotten more than good things. But that the usual sole test for
> philosophical theories is consistency means that there are several that
> stand, and such things as solipsism that cannot be disproved even though
> nobody who will communicate with us is a solipsist. I note additionally that
> one of the common failures of fiction is internal inconsistency, though we
> do not demand that all fiction match the observed world.
> Dave (ASA)
> On Wed, 23 Apr 2008 17:07:07 -0400 "David Opderbeck" <>
> writes:
> George C. said: Science is a realm to itself, one that is based on
> objectivity.
> I respond: This is surely overstated. The criterion of methodological
> naturalism, for example, is not an "objective" one. It represents,
> rather, a human judgment about the pragmatic bounds of the human enterprise
> our culture labels "science." It may or may not be a reasonable demarcation
> line for its own purposes, but it isn't an "objective" line. Which means
> arguments over whether ID is "science" ultimately are meaningless. Who
> cares, except for the culture warriors who want to fight about public school
> curricula? The interesting question is whether anything ID says is "true."

David W. Opderbeck
Associate Professor of Law
Seton Hall University Law School
Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology
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Received on Wed Apr 23 20:07:29 2008

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