Re: [asa] on science and meta-science

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Tue Nov 03 2009 - 05:48:22 EST

Heya Murray,

Some comments below.

 * There's nothing about the methods commonly associated with
>> "methodological naturalism" that makes its findings or methods exclusively
>> compatible with naturalism anyway. Claiming that, say, "Water = H2O" is a
>> naturalistic discovery is an empty statement, since nothing in the discovery
>> or description is necessarily incompatible with a non-naturalistic
>> perspective.
> I feel I must have entirely missed the point here - for the simple reason
> that I don't believe anybody is arguing that MN is "exclusively" compatible
> with naturalism. Rather the point has been that MN is compatible with a
> metaphysic of a particularly Christian theistic sort.

Part of my difficulty with MN is that it's simply a misnomer on a number of
levels. I think I expanded on that in the post, but to put it another way:
If the 'methods' in MN are not exclusive to MN - if they're entirely
compatible with (perhaps more compatible with) a theistic, or other
non-naturalist (certainly non-materialist-monist) worldview - then why make
reference to naturalism whatsoever? Again, to use an example I made in the
post - I've seen some Christians point out that they are not, say, 'theistic
meteorologists'. The argument being that the qualification 'theistic' just
isn't doing much. In which case - assuming there's no objection to what I've
pointed out here - why "use methodological naturalism"?

> So, taking the "Water = H2O" example: I wonder whatever gave you the idea -
> which you seem to me to be taking as your point of departure - that this
> claim is regarded as "incompatible with a non-naturalistic perspective".
> Isn't the entire point of the theist's defence of MN precisely that an
> explanation like "Water = H20" can be arrived at according to the
> assumptions of MN whilst also being perfectly compatible with the theistic
> (non-natural) perspective?

That's certainly the belief I had previously, and I think some of the
assumed particulars of MN (An emphasis on directly observable phenomena, on
repeatable experiments, etc) are entirely fine. It just happens to be the
case that "naturalism" isn't necessary whatsoever to rely on those
particulars, and that "naturalism" itself is a term which has shockingly
little utility other than negative stances besides (Rejection of purpose,
rejection of "God" - with the latter put in quotes because, frankly,
naturalism can now supposedly accept the existence of beings that would be
called deities or supernatural previously).

But I'll try to explain myself better here. I think everyone on this list,
and in conversation in general, tends to bring a typically particular
emphasis to the table. Gregory's point often relates to HSS. You've often
talked about aboriginal perspectives and different approaches to
understanding ancient origins (put loosely). Ted tends to bring a historical
perspective to the table. For myself, I suppose what I commonly focus on is
language - I point out what 'moral' means coming from one worldview versus
another. That the opposite of 'naturalism' is not just 'theism', nor is the
only choice between 'materialism' and 'cartesian dualism'. And that
'methodological naturalism' is a functionally rather useless, and
practically rather deceptive, term.

We simply do not need any commitment to naturalism, even merely
"methodological", to do science - and good science at that. Nor do we need
naturalism to define certain methods, standards, and limitations for a
fruitful science. Some greater appreciation for philosophy of science, and
metaphysics in general, could well be useful.

Hopefully this better explains where I'm coming from on the MN subject.

> As I say, I'm sure I must have missed the point, so I'll await
> clarification before responding further.
> Blessings,
> Murray
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Received on Tue Nov 3 05:49:03 2009

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