Re: [asa] on science and meta-science

From: David Clounch <>
Date: Mon Nov 02 2009 - 11:25:14 EST

Ted Said
"for it tacitly
assumes that one *can, in fact* take the metaphysics out of the science
without gutting the science"

I wanted to ask if it is possible to teach science without any metaphysical
context, but Ted seems to (almost) have asked this question in his text.

If the answer is no, then how much science can you teach without any
metaphysical context?

Let me phrase it differently. Can you teach science without any metaphysical
interpretation at all?

Dave C

On Tue, Nov 3, 2009 at 8:28 AM, Ted Davis <> wrote:

> >>> Schwarzwald <> 11/1/2009 6:42 PM >>> writes,
> among
> other things:
> Or, put another way: For TEs, just as with ID proponents, it's not going
> to
> be enough to accept the science and the data. Rejecting that
> extra-scientific narrative means that the spot that (rightly or wrongly)
> Behe and Dembski occupy today, will be occupied tomorrow by Ken Miller,
> Conway Morris, and others (and, at least with the more rabid wing - whose
> influence even I think is on the wane - 'tomorrow' is 'today'.)
> ***
> Ted comments:
> Most TEs have understood all along that the contested territory involves
> the larger interpretations put on the science -- the metaphysical framework
> into which science fits, whether we describe it as metaphysical,
> philosophical, or theological. This has been the case for some leading ASA
> members, for example, since at least the 1960s if not even earlier. A
> contemporary example of a TE who stresses this would be Polkinghorne. He
> talks about this often, but his most recent book ("Theology in the Context
> of Science") keeps hitting this very point. I'll borrow a paragraph from a
> review I did this summer
> (
> ):
> <The overall message Polkinghorne brings is a crucial one: Science cannot
> provide its own metaphysical interpretation. As he says with typical
> precision, “Physics constrains metaphysics, but it no more determines it
> than the foundations of a house determine the precise form of the building
> erected on them.” This is especially true in a post-Newtonian world
> characterized by greater epistemological humility. “The twentieth-century
> demise of mere mechanism,” he says, provides “a salutary reminder that
> there is nothing absolute or incorrigible about the context of science.”
> Some questions lie “outside the scientific domain,” and here “theology
> has a right to contribute to the subsequent metascientific discourse.”
> Anyone familiar with the writings of such preachers of scientific atheism
> as
> Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, or Christopher Hitchins will immediately
> appreciate the very different world in which Polkinghorne dwells. “The
> tendency among atheist writers to identify reason exclusively with
> scientific modes of thought,” he notes pointedly, “is a disastrous
> diminishment of our human powers of truth-seeking inquiry.”>
> The distinction that ASA members and others have repeatedly made, between
> "evolution" and "evolutionism," to which I alluded recently in an exchange
> with Gregory, is another specific example.
> I've long held that the main dividing line between those who identify with
> ID and those who identify with TE has to do with this very issue: where to
> draw the line and call the bluff on materialistic science? Should one
> contest the details of the science itself (ID), or should one contest the
> metaphysical framework into which a given scientist places the science
> (TE)?
> A comparison of the views and attitudes of (say) Bill Dembski or Jon Wells
> or Cameron Wybrow, on the one hand, with those of (say) Steven Barr or
> Polkinghorne or Conway Morris on the other hand, will bear this out.
> Furthermore, for ID advocates, the way I just stated this difference
> (between ID and TE) is part of the problem (as they see it), for it tacitly
> assumes that one *can, in fact* take the metaphysics out of the science
> without gutting the science. ID advocates believe that "Darwinian"
> evolution is really nothing but metaphysics, down deep, and the whole tree
> must be uprooted if we are ever to get to the truth. TE advocates, on the
> other hand, are content to accept "Darwinism" as good science, but to limit
> the scope of "randomness" to our own ignorance of subtle divine activity
> and
> to emphasize the (very good and proper point) that the larger picture
> (contingent rationality in nature, comprehended by creatures created in the
> image of God) makes more sense within a theistic framework than outside of
> that (to put it mildly). ID advocates can also lay claim to this latter
> point, but it doesn't seem to be sufficient for them. My instincts keep
> telling me that this is at least partly b/c ID advocates want to retain a
> very traditional understanding of natural theology, to use as a weapon in
> culture wars; whereas TE advocates have a more modest view of what natural
> theology is, and what it can do.
> Ted
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Received on Mon Nov 2 11:25:46 2009

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