Re: [asa] Anti-Creationist Psychobabble On the Web - non-natural agents?

From: Merv Bitikofer <>
Date: Sat Apr 11 2009 - 09:18:37 EDT

My responses are interspersed below. Though I hate to be yet further
cause for you to be dabbling in this at the expense of your dissertation!

Gregory Arago wrote:
> The subtitle of this thread added the terms 'non-natural agents' in
> reaction to the text Keith Miller wrote about MN, "There simply is no
> way to incorporate the actions of non-natural agents into a scientific
> research program."
> I think Keith is missing something because I see 'non-natural agents'
> all the time, i.e. on a daily basis, incorporated into scientific
> research programs. The onus is on him to show or explain otherwise. He
> has chosen not to name the 'non-natural agents' as anything other than
> 'supernatural.' Why? Is there no other option?
Can you list some of the non-natural agents you refer to above? (I take
it that you aren't trying to deny their existence --quite the opposite,
and that you just want Keith to give acknowledgment that such things are
part of our experiential world.) I certainly don't deny their
existence, Greg, and if all you need is for some of us to give
affirmative nods to the wider sciences (& even --especially
--humanities) then consider me as being (always have been) an ally. I
don't dwell more heavily on the 'natural sciences' because I think them
the only valid programs of inquiry, I dwell more on them because my
electrical engineering background makes me slightly more knowledgeable
and confident in those 'so-called' hard sciences. That may be the case
for others here too who have may more expertise in physics than
sociology, and so will be understandably 'guilty' of dwelling more on
those. When all you have is a hammer... So; I can probably guess at
some of what you are calling 'non-natural' agents, but I would still
like to hear you lay out what you have in mind in a positive (& not so
defensively reactionary) way. We hammer-toting folks could (should) use
a few more tools!

> An easy exit would be for him to clarify: "a natural scientific
> research program." But then that would spin us back into the meanings
> of 'nature' and 'naturalism,' which is what the general controversy is
> about. Is it the character of science to be about nature and not about
> character, even though scientists have character and not only nature?
> 'Reduce yourselves philosophically to MN,' that's the answer for
> honest Christians at Easter time?
> George Murphy persisted with the line: 'attribute nothing to the
> God/gods' as if it defines MN, for *him & everybody else* at ASA. If
> his personal definition is 'appropriate' I fear for the future of ASA
> as being 'irrelevant' in science and religion dialogue on a global
> scale. MN is an inferior philosophy of science on the global stage,
> reminiscient of schismatic American Protestantism and not coherent
> around the world. George's definition is also straight out of the
> 1960s or 70s (educated by Kuhn and Popper, not Lakatos or Feyerabend)
> and is certainly not consistent with what is happening today in
> history and philosophy of science.
> In George's own words: "In practice that is the meaning of MN - God
> cannot be part of a scientific explanation or theory."
> First, this is a negative definition, not a positive one. Second,
> there is no mention of 'method' or 'nature' in the definition. Rather,
> what is described would better be called methodological
> anti-supernaturalism (MAS) or methodological atheism (MA) - in
> George's words *God cannot* - than methodological naturalism (MN). Or
> that science 'methodically excludes the supernatural' (MES), which is
> a mess indeed! As it turns out, George simply cannot rebute this, so
> he resorts to character attacks, saying I have an inferiority complex
> about human-social science. Nothing is further from the truth!
> Third, whoever defined science as 'God is part of a scientific
> explanation or theory'? MN is no improvement; it is an attempt at
> philosophical sophistication. Unfortunately, the USA is not renowned
> for its philosophy, while its science is a leader in the world. Why
> trust an American philosophy of science wrt MN when better
> alternatives exist?
Speaking of negative definitions ... I would like to hear you explain
more about the better alternatives (to MN) you mention above. What are
they? (And I'm not asking that in a deprecating tone --- I'm really
curious!) What is *your* proposed philosophy of science?

> What is problematic, and which is often assumed by people, is that
> 'science only deals with nature.' This is not true and not provable
> and not consistent with the knowledge produced in history and
> philosophy of science over the past 30 years. 'Science' is about more
> than just 'nature.' Who would contend with this (Moorad)?
> What is evident regularly on the ASA is a fear of YEC - e.g. the
> recent thread suggesting that 'YECs are still winning.' YEC is
> George's 'inferiority complex.' Glenn Morton recently accented this
> fear among you. The defensiveness towards YEC, which is a particular
> feature unique in American society and much less so in other
> societies, drives the opposition to those who woud critique MN. It
> would seem that MN is the 'philosophical assumption' offered by
> Christians who are also scientists to defend their scientific practise
> against...what?
Strictly speaking, I'm not sure that it is science that is being
defended since it is religion that is being attacked (with science being
used as a primary weapon). Others seem eager to hear an admission that
'MN' is 'only' a religious response that wasn't needed until we
Christians started feeling defensive. While I don't agree with that
historical assessment (I'm still not sure why the 'ascribe nothing to
the gods' history sets you off so --sorry if I haven't been attentive in
your other posts) --even so, if 'MN' is seen as nothing more than a
modern religiously motivated philosophy; it doesn't suffer in concept
from that. So be it.

If science is being defended, then perhaps it is being defended from its
own most enthusiastic practitioners who would inflate it beyond its
methods or tools and turn from practitioner to priest, thus creating
'Scientism' with its attempted annexation of (all-encompassing)
conclusions for which it has no foundation.

> I remember Ted Davis commenting after the ID-Dover trial that the core
> discipline involved was his - history and philosophy of science. Would
> you folks say that HPS is well represented in American education or
> that it is underrepresented? To me it is quite obviously
> underrepresented if a respected scholar and theologian would argue
> that MN is merely 'attribute nothing to the God/gods.' Such a view is
> redundant at best and dogmatic at worst; it is not salvageable as
> being significant in contemporary discourse. And yet nobody at ASA
> except for this message challenged it!
I think it is definitely under-represented here in the U.S. --and I
think most others here agree on that; Ted may have even said as much in
one of his posts. But to use your negative assessment on George's
position as evidence of that is unwarranted. I wish my students,
neighbors, etc. had *that good* an understanding of it. Then they
wouldn't be so susceptible to the ill-conceived "science shows there
isn't any God" types of fallacies. I fear I'm still trying to grasp
what it is about 'MN' that so provokes your scorn. But I can wait
until after your dissertation work is done. Take a break, and come
back in your own good time. I return your warm regards from this side
of the puddle.


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Received on Sat Apr 11 09:18:44 2009

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