RE: [asa] MN and Falsifiability (was: Multiverse and ID)

From: Jon Tandy <>
Date: Mon May 11 2009 - 10:41:59 EDT



Just a short response to your comments (clipped below).


My point about science's potential ability to "detect" areas where "divine
action was obvious" could have been an overstatement to make the point, but
could have been rephrased in more modest terms. If science had found that
species literally appeared roughly 6000 years ago, with no history of fossil
record or geological column; then current naturalistic explanations might
never have taken hold. Divine action, as implied in a literal reading of
Genesis, might still be maintained in some form. And based on your
comments, I could even soften the term "divine action" to "non-naturalistic
action". If the anti-Biblical hypothesis was magic or demons instead of the
God of the Bible, that would still have been a non-naturalistic supposition.
My point was that the evidence showed that what at least *appear* to be
purely natural cause and effect relationships have actually existed and
occurred over vast periods of time, and this is the reason science has taken
naturalistic presumptions as the operating principle. If the evidence had
shown otherwise, then some other philosophy might easily have prevailed.


But even that is not guaranteed, because some other so-called "natural"
explanation might have been formulated, based on things popping into
existence spontaneously rather than developing over time. Oh but wait,
that's the situation as we have it today - scientists still maintain that
life can spontaneously generate, even though the evidence has so far
confirmed that it can't. Scientists have maintained that species can make
radical macroevolutionary changes spontaneously (naturally; i.e. punctuated
equilibrium), even though very little evidence can be given to show how
those jumps occurred.


Part of my questioning on whether (and how) the philosophy of MN could ever
be overturned or modified is with this in mind. What sort of evidence could
ever be offered to those committed to MN to make them reconsider the
philosophy? I would assert that there is none. They will always resort to
the past success of MN as grounds to hope that naturalistic explanations
will eventually be able to explain 100%, no matter how unlikely or how much
lack of evidence or failed experiments (such as the failure of experiments
to generate life spontaneously in test tubes).


Jon Tandy


From: [] On
Behalf Of Schwarzwald
Sent: Monday, May 11, 2009 3:42 AM
Subject: Re: [asa] MN and Falsifiability (was: Multiverse and ID)


However, I want to go a different direction with this. Why did we come to
think that methodological naturalism had any merit in the first place? It's
because as we investigated the universe, we found more and more things that
operated by natural (or at least apparently natural) and regular laws and
cause/effect relationships. It was the success of science, not a prior
commitment to naturalism, that led to naturalism's dominance. The "prior
commitment" before naturalism was to divine action of some kind or another.
So what would have happened if scientific investigation had instead revealed
more and more ways in which divine action was obvious? Methodological
naturalism might never have gained ground. Thus, in this sense I think Bill
is wrong -- MN could potentially have been falsifiable, if the evidence to
rule out natural cause and effect had been clearly present. However, that
hasn't been the case.

Sorry, but I couldn't disagree more with this. Because there is no way to
make 'divine action' obvious. Perform a miracle and you have not
demonstrated that naturalism is wrong. There can be naturalistic
explanations for such - alien intelligences (either within or outside our
world), grand deception, etc. Recall that early into Christianity, one
preferred method for 'explaining' the resurrection was not to deny it, but
call it the work of a magician or demons.

The success of "naturalism" in the sciences is, in my opinion, built vastly
more on publicity and spin than actual historical results. Every discovery
of science that can fit with "naturalism" can fit with theism, or
panpsychism, or idealism, or otherwise - because science itself is
dramatically limited, and can't settle metaphysical questions.


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Received on Mon May 11 10:42:29 2009

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