Re: [asa] MN and Falsifiability

From: Dave Wallace <>
Date: Mon May 11 2009 - 11:47:26 EDT

Tandy wrote:
> 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.
Punctuated equilibrium does not mean instantaneously but that the
changes occurred in a relatively short geological period of time and
that on both sides of the events there was little organic change in the
species involved.

Schwarzwald wrote:
> ...
> I think the term "methodological naturalism" is a mistake - it gives
> more credit to metaphysical naturalism than it deserves. Perhaps
> "methodological pragmatism".
Good post, I agree that the name is ill chosen as it probably drags too
much baggage from
philosophical naturalism but trying to tilt at linguistic windmills does
not seem profitable. George's post where he gave a simple definition of
MN is appropriate: "Attribute nothing to the gods."

I picked up a few comments from the net.

>From on philosophical naturalism

> Nothing about us escapes being included in the physical universe, or
> escapes being shaped by the various processes physical, biological,
> psychological, and social that science describes.
> */The causal view:/* From a naturalistic perspective, there are no
> /causally privileged/ agents, nothing that causes without being caused
> in turn. Human beings act the way they do because of the various
> influences that shape them, whether these be biological or social,
> genetic or environmental. We do not have the capacity to act outside
> the causal connections that link us in every respect to the rest of
> the world. This means we do not have what many people think of as
> /free will/, being able to cause our behavior without our being fully
> caused in turn.
> naturalism does call into question the basis for retributive
> attitudes, namely the idea that individuals could have done otherwise
> in the situation in which their behavior arose and so deeply deserve
> punishment.
I think, at least, that most of us assume some measure of free will and
responsibility for evil that we commit.

>From wikapedia
> Currently, proponents of intelligent design
> <> argue that the
> naturalist conception of reality is not needed in order to do science
> <>. Their general criticism is
> that insisting that the natural world is a closed system of inviolable
> laws independent of theism <> or
> supernatural intervention will cause science to come to incorrect
> conclusions and inappropriately exclude research that claims to
> include such ideas.^
> <>
I think this is far beyond what we claim for MN. We do not think that
the laws of nature are in effect "totally inviolable" as George pointed
out in his discussion of God cooperating with nature. However such
"violations" are rare in comparison with the usual law like operation.
This is also not to say that much/most of what the author of the
wikapedia article might term "violations" are in fact "violations", such
as actions through quantum indeterminacy.
> Naturalism
> As defined by philosopher Paul Draper, naturalism is "the hypothesis
> that the natural world is a closed system" in the sense that "nothing
> that is not a part of the natural world affects it." More simply, it
> is the denial of the existence of supernatural causes. In rejecting
> the reality of supernatural events, forces, or entities, naturalism is
> the antithesis of supernaturalism.
> As a substantial view about the nature of reality, it is often called
> /*metaphysical naturalism*/
> <>,
> /philosophical naturalism/, or /ontological naturalism/ to distinguish
> it from a related methodological principle. *Methodological
> naturalism*
> <>,
> by contrast, is the principle that science and history should presume
> that all causes are natural causes solely /for the purpose of
> promoting successful investigation/. The idea behind this principle is
> that natural causes can be investigated directly through scientific
> method, whereas supernatural causes cannot, and hence presuming that
> an event has a supernatural cause for methodological purposes halts
> further investigation. For instance, if a disease is caused by
> microbes, we can learn more about how microbes interact with the body
> and how the immune system can be activated to destroy them, or how the
> transmission of microbes can be contained. But if a disease is caused
> by demons, we can learn nothing more about how to stop it, as demons
> are said to be supernatural beings unconstrained by the laws of nature
> (unlike natural causes).
> In utilizing methodological naturalism, science and history do not
> assume /a priori/ that, as a matter of fact, supernatural causes don't
> really exist. There is no conceptual conflict between practicing
> science or history and believing in the supernatural. However, as
> several of our authors argue below (e.g., Augustine, Forrest, and
> Oppy), methodological naturalism would not be as stunningly successful
> as it has in fact been if metaphysical naturalism were false. Thus the
> /de facto/ success of methodological naturalism provides strong
> empirical evidence that metaphysical naturalism is probably true.

This certainly does not apply as to how I see MN as implying
metaphysical naturalism.

I would be surprised if any on the list considered their Christian
ethics as irrelevant to the kind and types of science they practice. We
differ on where to draw the line but some experiments are completely
beyond what is acceptable. For example a number of years ago the company
I was working for at the time was involved in developing terminals for
electronic gambling. Because I see a lot of social ills from gambling, I
was not comfortable with such and simply worked on other projects even
though the work might have been interesting and others might make a
different decision.

As someone with a reformed perspective I see that God is involved in all
that we do not just the explicitly sacred or religious and that
therefore all should be done to his honor. MN certainly does not
contradict this. I expect others have a similar perspective.

With regard to the social sciences it seems to me that there must be
some impact from a Christian's view on evil and mankind's propensity
towards sin and I am not sure if this gets involved with MN or not.
Maybe someone on the list has thought more about this from a theological
(or other) perspective or could provide some references?

Dave W


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Received on Mon May 11 11:48:00 2009

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