Re: [asa] on science and meta-science

From: Merv Bitikofer <>
Date: Tue Nov 03 2009 - 08:24:27 EST

At the risk of appearing to be one of the weeds you think needs tending
(or pulling :->) I haven't given up my attachment to MN and so want to
respond to some of this discussion --if especially just to agree with
much of it. I'm solidly with Gregory in wanting PoS to be taken more
seriously over here and in fact, think it more ideologically dangerous
to attempt avoiding that than to embrace it.

But in regard to MN let me get at least one super-quick response off to
Schwarzwald this morning: I think you are correct that the term
'Naturalism' has become much less useful --perhaps even dangerous. But
it is in exactly that historical respect that MN is itself a reaction
--and legitimately so I tentatively continue to claim here. If people
had been calling themselves atheistic meteorologists then we probably
would get a 'Theistic meteorologists" counter-movement, and eventually a
'MN' meteorologist movement to counter all the nonsense. And the MN in
that sense is precisely to remind the original atheistic sort that their
is nothing imcompatible about the phenomena they investigate and
theism. gotta run, family is already in the car!


Schwarzwald wrote:
> 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 08:25:04 2009

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