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

From: Gregory Arago <>
Date: Sun Apr 19 2009 - 11:30:04 EDT

Hi Jon,
You raise some good questions in your recent post, which I will be glad to answer in due time. However, given that the thread began with a question to Keith Miller, which Ted then joined in defensively against, I'd rather wait to answer you until Tuesday at the earliest. Tomorrow is Orthodox Easter Monday.
As you may have read, a couple of days ago I wrote the following:
"If neither you, nor George, nor Keith can come up with a ‘non-natural agent’ that is not at the same time a ‘supernatural agent,’ Ted, then I am left with little choice but to claim a minor victory in this discussion on this list. I’ll give you until Orthodox Easter Monday to state your position on this question, otherwise I’m done with this thread and you can return or choose to ignore my challenge."
George has rightfully declined to speak of ‘non-natural agents’ on the basis that he didn't use the terms 'natural agents' and 'non-natural agents' in the first place.  It was Keith, the editor of “Perspectives of an Evolving Creation,” who spoke about 'non-natural agents,' apparently conflating them with 'supernatural agents' as part of his 'explanation' of MN. This was done in an excerpt that he self-quoted from an article “The misguided attack on methodological naturalism” in the edited volume “For the Rock Record: Geologists on
Intelligent Design”. (
I have repeatedly asked him to distinguish these two categories – non-natural and supernatural – and to say if he acknowledges 'non-natural agents that are not supernatural agents.' He has yet to reply. One might wonder – why not?
This is what started the row: “There simply is no way to incorporate the actions of non-natural agents into a scientific research program.” - Keith Miller
What would happen to the ideology of MN if Keith’s assertion was not consistent with reality? My attack on MN is an accurately guided one, indeed.
Keith himself says: “The nature of science and the meaning and significance of methodological naturalism is a topic of significant importance for me. It figures very prominently in my effort at public science literacy, and defusing the public ‘creation/evolution’ debate.”
If Keith wants to try to ‘defuse public debate’ (read: in America) with a false conception of ‘science’ based on a philosophical assumption (Keith himself calls MN a ‘philosophical assumption’) that disqualifies (or simply refuses to speak about, thus silencing) all ‘non-natural agents’ that are not ‘supernatural agents,’ then this is a significant issue for folks at ASA to address. I hope you’ll thus be patient Jon and accept my reasons for waiting for a reply or lack thereof from Keith or Ted. Not to reply (unless it is for some reason not possible to reply at this time) would result in an on-line victory against MN as an incoherent ideology rather than simply as ‘the way since is (and supposedly always has been) done’.
Orthodox Easter Sunday Regards,


--- On Sat, 4/18/09, Jon Tandy <> wrote:

From: Jon Tandy <>
Subject: RE: [asa] Natural Agents - Cause and Effect, Non-Natural Agents
Received: Saturday, April 18, 2009, 7:57 AM

You've been asking leading questions on this subject for quite a long time to elicit a response from others.  I want to ask you to provide some simple, direct answers to a few questions, if you can.  Maybe you have described your views and I missed it; if so, I apologize.
Do you consider humans to be natural or supernatural, or something different?  Or some combination of natural, supernatural, and/or some other non-natural aspect (if so, what is it, and what combination)?
Do you consider sociology and psychology to be superior to other sciences, because it has moved beyond the simple dichotomy of natural vs. supernatural?  And/or (as I understand it) do you consider the problem in modern sociology to be that they are engaging in reductionism to reduce all the non-natural aspects of humanity to purely natural cause and effect?
If there is a natural component of human behavior, can those aspects be studied by scientists using naturalistic means?
If there is are non-natural components to humanity, can those aspects be studied by scientists using naturalistic means?  If not, why not, and how would you propose that science could study them?
If "methodological naturalism" is too simplistic for studying human activity, and if purely theological/spiritual mechanisms are inappropriate for a scientific field of study, what other category of scientific research would you offer instead?  You mention philosophy and theology – do you consider these to be scientific means of investigating either the natural, supernatural, or other non-natural aspect of humanity?
Jon Tandy
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Received on Sun Apr 19 11:30:44 2009

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