[asa] The Defeat of Keith Miller's View of MN = Science - 2

From: Gregory Arago <gregoryarago@yahoo.ca>
Date: Sat May 23 2009 - 15:50:34 EDT

Keith continued in the thread:
<This equation of human and divine action is crucial for their [IDs] argument that supernatural intelligence can be detected empirically.>
 
Neither ID nor TE or EC have distinguished successfully between human and divine action, Keith. In America, the debate is often between natural science and religion/theology. Yet human action is professionally discussed in the human-social sciences. Why do you neglect this truth and then tend to cover it with your view that science=MN?
 
<The whole point of Nelson's argument is that science must be free to investigate the non-natural and supernatural. He is arguing for the expansion of science to the investigation of the supernatural.> - Keith Miller
 
In response to this statement, I noted the following in a p.s. remark to Keith. First, he says <non-natural *and* supernatural> and then he says just <supernatural.> What’s the difference? Or are they synonyms in your vocabulary, Keith? This question simply needs to be answered before we can move forward.
 
Bill Powers then wrote: <The MN position appears to be something of a gentlemen's agreement to speak only of Nature, permitting some, under their breath, to think of Nature as God's creation, even the manifestation of His Will.>
 
This is the elephant in the room, of course. Bill makes a good point. Instead of openly recognizing and admitting this, however, MN advocates (including, on this list, those natural scientists who are Christians) instead suggest that their philosophical assumption is just what is meant by <doing science> and that it is the way <science has been done in modern times.> Is there any surprise that they are not widely believed (other than by methodological and metaphysical atheists and anti-theists) based on their usually weak background in philosophy of science (note that I didn’t say history of science here, Ted)?
 
It would appear that MN was invented mainly as a stick to hit <creationism> and now ID with, but with little real discussion by natural scientists who are atheistic or anti-theistic. The latter just take MN for granted *because* they are natural scientists. ID advocates even suggest that MN was a concept duo invented by Darwinists (cf. naturalists), instead of by a Calvin College philosopher in the 1980’s. The main issue here, however, to repeat, is the responsibility of Keith to back-up his claim to <non-natural agents>.
 
George wrote: <I am also not deeply committed to the term <natural>.>
 
It was here that I accused both Keith and George of defining MN as <anti-supernaturalism.> In other words, they are both unwilling to properly draw boundaries around what is and what is not <natural.> Their visions, as a geologist/paleontologist and a physicist/theologian, respectively, are limited at this point. Because of this, they cannot offer a responsible definition of MN, *as if* that is what <doing science> is all about. Their definition of MN is limited to being anti-supernatural. But it is without any attempt to address what is <non-natural but not supernatural>. Of course, George didn’t use the words <natural> and <supernatural> so he is excused once again from answering.
 
Later Ted Davis jumped in to suggest that Robert Boyle would have considered himself a <methodological naturalist>.
 
Ted wrote: <As for Dawkins and company, I would be pleased to debate any of them on the question, "Is Nature all there is?" If you or someone else can arrange the details, please be in touch. MN itself needs an explanation--*why* is it so successful? Under polytheistic religion it ought not be so, and under atheism it ought not be so, either. Only monotheism can give a clear and coherent account of why MN works so well.>
 
This demonstrates no willingness to engage with the argument, but rather to return one’s head to the sand to re-cry <MN works so well.> But really, Ted, if you think there indeed is <more than Nature>, then why won’t you say what it is without referring to the <supernatural>? And it is not MN that is successful; it is Science that is successful. The fact that science often studies natural things is a separate point and you are again retro-defining MN to fit with what science has done and is still doing. Monotheism, indeed, gives an account of why science works well, I agree with you. But this does not in any way show either how or why science is restricted to studying *nature only.* Do you see the difference here Ted?
 
Granted, Ted, you did say this: <my point to Gregory stands: MN was to a very significant degree something that Christian scientists themselves helped to create, even a great Christian scientist like Boyle who was also a great ID advocate.>
 
And later this: <humans are non-natural agents in the sense meant by advocates of ID, when they ask people to identify such agents.>
 
Unfortunately, Ted, you stopped short of speaking in your own voice. You just said <ID advocates think this> and didn’t involve your own position. Are human beings a type of <non-natural agent> and/or are we <more than *just* natural> in your perspective, Ted, or not? Please answer clearly and directly to this.
 
Keith Miller then went even further, finally responding to one of my questions, saying <natural science is unable to investigate anything that is not material.> But isn’t this the same as saying that <natural science is materialistic> and not <just naturalistic>? I can only imagine that Keith, a respected figure in science and religion discussions in America, a professional field geologist from Kansas, editor of Perspectives of an Evolving Creation, one of if not the main TE text, knows what he has admitted in saying this. He is suggesting that natural science is materialistic (matter and energy, as he says) and not just naturalistic!
 
Here he’s beginning to sound a bit like Ken Miller, wrt materialism.
 
Del Ratzsch (a figure that many of you respect, as do I) writes: “Methodological naturalism is, roughly, the principle that regardless of whether or not there are non-natural or supernatural dimensions to reality, science must as a matter of methodological policy restrict itself to the natural realm—natural phenomena, natural concepts, natural methods, and natural explanations.” He continues: “if the truth of the specific matter in question is non-natural, and if science is restricted to natural conceptual resources, even the most excruciatingly proper naturalistic scientific deliverances on that matter may be wide of the mark. Indeed, they will typically be mistaken in exactly the way a science built on philosophical naturalism would be.” – Del Ratzsch (Review of “Design Theory and Its Critics” - http://www.calvin.edu/academic/philosophy/virtual_library/articles/ratzsch_del/design_theory_and_its_critics.pdf)
 
Notice that Ratzsch also distinguishes <non-natural> OR <supernatural dimensions to reality>. They are apparently not the same thing to Ratzsch.
 
ASA spokesperson Craig Rusbult writes the following:
“In science — when we're using evidence-and-logic to search for truth about nature — is rigid methodological naturalism a useful strategy?  MN will probably be useful IF its assumption about history (that it included only natural events) matches the reality of history, since rigid-MN will help scientists avoid being distracted by false theories about non-natural events.  But IF non-natural events really did occur in history, so the premise of MN is false, rigid-MN will force scientists to reach some false conclusions, and this doesn't seem useful.
 
“Since we don't know whether MN matches the reality of history, what is our best scientific strategy?  Should we search with a humble attitude by refusing to assume that we already know — with certainty, beyond any doubt — what kind of world we live in?  Should we assume answers, or investigate questions?” – Craig Rusbult (Section 7C) (http://www.asa3.org/ASA/education/origins/evolution.htm#d)
 
Again, we have a figure respected by ASA, indeed, a person who writes educational materials for ASA, speaking forthrightly of <non-natural> events. At least Rusbult is asking questions about the limitations of MN instead of assuming that MN is what <doing science> means and that <science> is limited to studying <nature>. I don’t find the same humility in Keith’s definition of science=MN.
 
I’ll offer something now, as a conclusion, in addition the above respected persons’ views of <science>: MN is suitable *only* for <natural sciences> qua <natural> sciences and not qua <sciences>. Other sciences require alternative methods, theories and paradigms to investigate their non-natural categories. Thus, when studying human beings qua human beings, ideas that exceed the naturalistic realm should be expected and are required. (But not always!!!)
 
Some of you will think this is a weak or unimportant conclusion to reach at the end of a long argument that MN is a flawed ideology when it is viewed as a universal description of <science.> What you continue not to see, if you hold such a view, is that the Academy today is dying for meaning under the ideology of scientism, the idea that science holds all of the answers to human existence. Religious believers who are also natural scientists here at ASA will protest that there is indeed meaning to be found outside of the natural sciences and that they repeat themselves ad nauseam about this extra-scientific meaning. And I have and will continue to applaud you for thinking this. Will you also now protest just as strongly that meaning is to be found in human-social sciences, in philosophy and in theology and that it is *not* found in the natural-physical sciences? That is what is required to strike a balance in our imbalanced and unequal contemporary
 Academy.
 
But hold on! Near the end of the thread, on April 20th, Ted Davis responded directly to my question as follows: <Humans are <non-natural> agents in the sense meant by your question.>
 
O.k. now this is in your own voice, Ted. So, then do you think human beings can be studied scientifically? If yes, you admit that human beings, who are in your own words <non-natural agents,> are approachable with scientific methods. Thus, MN is not a comprehensive definition of <science>. If you will accept this Ted, that is all that is required to prove my very small point and thus to expose the fragmenting flaw of the MN ideology.
 
Further, to admit this is to suggest that <the actions of non-natural agents [can be incorporated] into a scientific research program,> which is in contradistinction to Keith Miller’s words to which I originally responded. This is precisely, yes, though without the detail, the entire point I wished to make! Thank you, Ted!
 
I suspect only with a humble inclusion of human-social sciences within a triadic approach to a new discourse, called <sciences, philosophy and theology> will both the human-social scientists and the natural-physical scientists be able to accept their limitations respectively and to seek new knowledge, in an interdisciplinary fashion, that enables cooperation and integration rather than fragmentation and disunity.
 
What am I contending in this long e-message? <Science> (as one type of knowledge, in many forms) is about more than just the natural. The pretensions to universalism of MN as a definition of <doing science> are exposed as ultimately flawed. If Keith Miller can come up with a <non-natural agent> that is not at the same time <supernatural> then we’ll have something to discuss.
 
If he comes up with a <non-natural agent that is not supernatural> that cannot be studied by science, then he’ll have found a way to push back against my argument to him in this thread. Otherwise, the case is won by those opposed to the pseudo-universalistic ideology of MN and Keith Miller’s version of MN has been defeated: it simply cannot stand as a definition of <doing science>.
 
Let me end with what Schwarzwald just wrote about MN and that he doesn’t <think science must be naturalistic,> as I think it does well to focus on communication:
<A better phrase for the limits of science [i.e. than MN] is important, but removing misunderstanding and confusion is paramount.>
 
Gregory Arago
 
“People believe in eternal life because they believe that life’s beginning is spiritual, and therefore eternal.” – Lev N. Tolstoy
 
p.s. please excuse the change in formatting – I was told that my posts sometimes come to the list with strange characters attached, probably due to the fact that they’re being sent from Russia with foreign computer rules. So I substituted quotation marks for these brackets <>, hoping the message will come through more clearly. If not, I will try to re-post another way...
 
p.p.s. even just today, Keith Miller finally responded to this thread, but to Cameron, including the following line: <You cannot claim ignorance of the nature, capabilities and limitations of an agent and then at the same time infer that agent's action.> The same thing is demanded of Keith: what are those <non-natural agents> he was referring to that will show he is not ignorant of them? This message and Keith’s outdated defence of <science> in such monolithic-sounding, nature-centric terms, shows he still doesn’t get what’s at stake.
 
p.p.p.s. here's the link to the original thread on Calvin server: http://www.calvin.edu/archive/asa/200904/0204.html __________________________________________________________________ Make your browsing faster, safer, and easier with the new Internet Explorer® 8. Optimized for Yahoo! Get it Now for Free! at http://downloads.yahoo.com/ca/internetexplorer/

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Received on Sat May 23 15:50:57 2009

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