[asa] RE: [asa] Natural Agents - Cause and Effect, Non-Natural Agents

From: wjp <wjp@swcp.com>
Date: Wed Apr 15 2009 - 15:41:23 EDT


I'll take you up on that one:
How do you define physical in an unambiguous way?


On Wed, 15 Apr 2009 12:07:04 -0400, "Alexanian, Moorad" <alexanian@uncw.edu> wrote:
> I have not followed all the nuances of this thread but something like "Is
> Nature all there is?" is quite equivocal unless one defines precisely
> what the word "Nature" means. I think are more meaningful statement, which
> may be what is involved, is "Is the physical all there is?" since I can
> precisely define what is the physical aspect of Nature.
> Moorad
> -----Original Message-----
> From: asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu [mailto:asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu] On
> Behalf Of Ted Davis
> Sent: Wednesday, April 15, 2009 11:18 AM
> To: Keith Miller; George Murphy; Bill Powers; gregoryarago@yahoo.ca
> Cc: AmericanScientificAffiliation Affiliation
> Subject: Re: [asa] Natural Agents - Cause and Effect, Non-Natural Agents
> I respond here to these two paragraphs from Gregory's post:
> The problem is not your history here, it is your philosophy. Robert
> Boyle's
> statement proves my point that "Those who claim MN has been used as a
> principle for hundreds or thousands of years are in love with
> retro-diction;
> they thrive on anachronism." The way MN is meant today would have been
> inconceivable to Boyle and his colleagues; they were mainly religious
> believers who did natural philosophy and 'science' and didn't divide them
> like we do today.
> Again Ted, you are supporting the negative definition of MN 'one ought not
> to invoke divine omnipotence in natural philosophy.' But there is nothing
> positive or helpful in that (except maybe for debates with creationists or
> IDists, which is not for the most part seriously academic)! The positive
> case for naturalism (MN or otherwise) seems often to slide too easily and
> directly into scientism. This is why Dawkins and Dennett and Harris are so
> pleased to see religious folks defending MN and TE; it supports their case
> more than it presents a responsible case for balancing 'science,
> philosophy
> and religion,' which is what, it seems to me, that you and Keith and
> George
> are ultimately seeking. But where are your non-natural agents...in
> silence?
> ****
> Gregory, Boyle's statement proves the narrow point I made: namely, that
> there is nothing modern about scientists looking for "natural" causes, in
> exclusion of "supernatural" ones. There was apparently something
> helpful
> in it, when Boyle responded to Line in the manner I indicated: he thought
> that Line, by invoking God's absolute power to account for the meniscus in
> the barometer, was simply evading the question. Line was not giving the
> kind of explanation that Boyle, arguably the leading Christian scientist
> of
> his generation and certainly one of the most genuinely pious, found to be
> consistent with good science. You have asked me to make a positive case
> *for* methodological naturalism, but IMO the whole history of science is
> just such a case. The explanatory success of looking for and (usually)
> finding "natural" causes for phenomena is hard to top. This need not mean
> that *all* events will *always* have natural causes, and it does not mean
> that "nature" is the ultimate explanatory entity -- indeed it is not (see
> below). But it does mean that you are asking for a positive case that you
> are overlooking.
> As for Dawkins and company, I would be pleased to debate any of them on
> the
> question, "Is Nature all there is?" If you or someone else can arrange
> the
> details, please be in touch. MN itself needs an explanation--*why* is it
> so
> successful? Under polytheistic religion it ought not be so, and under
> atheism it ought not be so, either. Only monotheism can give a clear and
> coherent account of why MN works so well. I don't give a hoot if Dawkins
> is
> happy to see theists defending MN, but I do care whether he can account
> for
> the success of his own science as well as theists can. I don't think he
> can.
> Finally, concerning Boyle and the division of knowledge, I have another
> surprise for you. In published catalogs that he approved, as well as in
> private catalogs for his own use, Boyle divided his own works into two
> main
> categories: natural philosophical and theological. There are numerous
> such
> examples, and some of the hitherto unpublished ones are found in vol. 14
> of
> the edition of his works that I did with Michael Hunter. Sometimes he did
> not make this distinction, simply listing all sorts of works-in-progress
> to
> keep track of them, but often enough he did make this distinction. When
> he
> made any sort of distinction, it was usually as described here. And, he
> did
> so at the height of his career in the 1670s as well as at the height of
> his
> fame at the end of his life in 1691. Furthermore, he typically published
> his "theological" works under a pseudonym such as "[Rober]T. [Boyl]E. a
> lay-man," or "A Fellow of the Royal Society," or even no name at all on
> the
> title page. This was in fact the norm for his theological works, further
> indicating that he accepted the kind of distinction that you claim he did
> not make. For more on this see the introduction to vol. 1 in the edition.
> Ted
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Received on Wed Apr 15 15:44:07 2009

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