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

From: Gregory Arago <>
Date: Mon Apr 20 2009 - 11:03:05 EDT

Hi Jon,
Yes, this is great stuff! But it's the 'character of science' and not the 'nature of science' that I am interested in. What I mean is that 'science' shouldn't be called merely 'natural.' Personalities are involved; people 'make' science. One shouldn't say "wow - isn't it 'natural' of us to have invented a discipline we call 'biology'?" or "yes, engineering is a 'natural' field within the academy because human beings are creators, designers and builders." Or "hey, it was a 'natural' result that Darwin and Newton altered the history of science." Such a 'nature of science' (NoS) view is illogical when one puts on their 'other' hat.
Science itself involves human character as much as it involves 'nature.' And this is why the question I've put to Keith is such a difficult one for almost all natural scientists (Keith is a geologist) to respond to. Natural scientists don't study 'character.'
I'm glad to see your use of the term 'non-supernatural' because perhaps this will help Keith Miller with his answer. There are several things in your two most recent posts to assist him.

Let me just answer one of your questions, which may also make it easier for Keith. You ask: "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"?"
The answer is NO! They don't have that right.

--- On Mon, 4/20/09, Jon Tandy <> wrote:

From: Jon Tandy <>
Subject: RE: [asa] Natural Agents - Cause and Effect, Non-Natural Agents
Received: Monday, April 20, 2009, 6:38 PM

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 __________________________________________________________________ Be smarter than spam. See how smart SpamGuard is at giving junk email the boot with the All-new Yahoo! Mail. Click on Options in Mail and switch to New Mail today or register for free at

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Received on Mon Apr 20 11:03:46 2009

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