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

From: Jon Tandy <>
Date: Mon Apr 20 2009 - 10:38:34 EDT

I can't answer for him, Ted, but I think it's clear that Gregory isn't
asking about ID, but rather about the nature of science itself. What if
there is truly a "non-natural, but non-supernatural" component to humanity?
(I've asked Gregory to clarify his position on this, and what it means in
real practice, particularly scientifically.) For now, I'll assume for sake
of argument that there is such a thing -- what difference would that make to
our scientific study of human life? Can science study the "non-natural"
part of humanity? And what does non-natural really mean in this case, if
not supernatural?

Here the question is for psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists,
historians, etc., NOT for physicists, chemists, and biologists. Those in
the latter disciplines can work just fine with a simple natural/supernatural
dichotomy, and it won't make any difference to their scientific work. But
what if there is a middle category when it comes to humanity? Should
physicists, chemists, and biologists have the right to exclusively define
what science "is" and "is not", and by implication define the other named
disciplines as being "outside of true science"? I have studied enough
psychology and sociology to know that they *are* scientific in many regards.

I believe this is what Gregory has been driving at for a long time, and may
possibly have a good point, although I'm not certain about the practical
application of the presumed scientific disciplines employed in regard to the
presumed "middle category". I also suspect that the definition of the
"non-natural, non-supernatural" aspect may turn out to be equivocal when it
comes down to real application of scientific practice. That's why I think
Gregory may have a valuable contribution, but wish he would elaborate with a
substantive contribution instead of provoking with leading questions and
generalities on the subject. Perhaps he can inform and specifically
identify how the human sciences can truly act "scientifically" in ways that
are not natural, and investigate the "non-natural" if it exists, and thus
expand the scientific insight of those of us more comfortable in the
so-called "hard sciences."

Jon Tandy

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On
Behalf Of Ted Davis
Sent: Monday, April 20, 2009 7:59 AM
To:; Jon Tandy;;
Subject: RE: [asa] Natural Agents - Cause and Effect, Non-Natural Agents


I have been helping my daughter move all weekend, and with another daughter
finishing college soon I have virtually no time to spend on email unrelated
to my day job.

I will however refer you to my previous answer. Humans are "non-natural"
agents in the sense meant by your question. It's common for ID proponents
to stress the distinction between "natural" and "intelligent," and there is
plenty of justification for this. My comments earlier were neither
tongue-in-cheek nor soft-peddled. This is a very fair distinction to make,
and we do it all the time outside of science and sometimes within science.
If opponents of ID don't agree, then I do not take their objections
seriously and chalk them up to the politics of the issue.

At the same time, it's evident that when we are talking about design in the
universe, anyone and everyone knows that the relevant distinction is
"natural" vs "supernatural," since as Dembski has pointed out numerous
times, the specified complexity of natural objects must be the result of an
"unevolved intelligence" or "unembodied mind." (He has used both terms in
this context.) Anyone and everyone knows that this is God, but that simple
three-letter word is sometimes scrupulously avoided in the conversation.
Inferences to God go well beyond science, so ID opponents are well justified
to sense that supernaturalism is the elephant in the room. If ID proponents
don't agree, then I do not take their objections seriously and chalk them up
to the politics of the issue.

Is this a sufficient reply, for your purposes, Gregory? I have made every
effort to answer directly and to the point.


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Received on Mon Apr 20 10:38:46 2009

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