Re: [asa] MN and Falsifiability

From: Gregory Arago <>
Date: Mon May 11 2009 - 14:15:45 EDT

Hi Dave,
I'm sorry for the brevity of this, but you continue to widely and blatantly miss the point.
For example, you write:
"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."
How can you be 'not sure'? There simply *is* no MN in human-social thought! You have turned this simplistic North American philosophical assumption into something far greater than it actually is. 'Bloated' seems to be a fair description. And MN does *not* apply to human-social sciences.

Dave writes:
"George's post where he gave a simple definition of MN is appropriate: "Attribute nothing to the gods."

What does this mean: 'is appropriate'? Does 'is' mean 'true'? And who says what 'appropriate' is?
Such a definition is not even 'MN' in a positive sense. What it shows instead is that 'science is anti-supernatural' or 'anti-extra-natural' - it is a purely negative definition. A definition to be positive must say what 'natural' is and isn't. And I doubt that George is going to say on this list what he thinks the limitations, borders or boundaries are for what is 'natural' and what isn't 'natural.' The idea of 'non-natural' itself is outside even the realm of possibility for most natural scientists (excluding of course, those who are also theists or deists - yet a non-naturalistic natural scientist still seems contradictory too!).
Are you going to give a definition of 'natural' and propose consensus, Dave?
Not long ago on this list a significant defender of MN was challenged on the topic of 'non-natural things that are not at the same time super-natural.' He failed to come up with *anything* as an answer. Why was this? When I have time I'll address this topic on the ASA list.
Would Dave offer an answer to this question? He's not a natural scientist or a social scientist. Yet he 'designs' things nonetheless. How can he defend MN?
MN is a contradiction in itself based on a weak philosophy. One needs to have some training in philosophy, in other words, to get outside of 'science' in order to approach this topic.
Is MN falsifiable? I suppose we'll have to wait for someone (a Christian theist-scientist or philosopher) to 'defend' MN and offer a falsifiability proposal. A prediction: 2009 will continue ticking for quite a while before a suggestion comes.

--- On Mon, 5/11/09, Dave Wallace <> wrote:

From: Dave Wallace <>
Subject: Re: [asa] MN and Falsifiability
Received: Monday, May 11, 2009, 7:47 PM

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
> 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

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 __________________________________________________________________ Yahoo! Canada Toolbar: Search from anywhere on the web, and bookmark your favourite sites. Download it now

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Received on Mon May 11 14:16:05 2009

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