Re: [asa] on science and meta-science

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Tue Nov 03 2009 - 23:42:38 EST

Heya Murray,

Some replies below.

On Tue, Nov 3, 2009 at 10:03 AM, Murray Hogg <>wrote:

> Hi Schwarzwald,
> Okay, so your fundamental point would be that if Christians were to enter
> into the lab and practice "methodological Christian theism" (MCT) then their
> descriptions of physical reality would be the same?

In essence, yes. I'd probably put it such that Christians (and others -
again, non-naturalism in the broader category) can walk into the laboratory
or field and make observations, develop theories, descriptions,
explanations, etc, that is in all relevant ways identical to how science is
practiced now. Naturalism offers nothing - the metaphysics aren't needed,
and the methods aren't exclusive to naturalism. So why pretend it's useful,
much less necessary?

> Theologically speaking I think I could cope with this. After all, I don't
> see that a Christian theology of nature demands that we invoke God at the
> drop of the hat just because we run across some explanatory difficulty.
> Which is to acknowledge the point that the Christian theist can be quite
> responsible in the practice of science without even so much as paying lip
> service to naturalism by invoking MN as a practical maxim.
> Interesting...

I'm glad you think there's something to agree with here - and I think your
description is apt. After all, the entire idea of nature as a rational order
open to investigation (as well as there being 'secondary causes' to
investigate and understand) is very at home with a Christian/theistic
metaphysic and worldview. What's more, it not only acknowledges the point
you make re: naturalism, but also stresses that science is not this 'other
thing' that does not fit with a Christian or theistic worldview. In fact,
it's rather right at home with it - sure, it's subject to certain
limitations and methods. But that there are particular spheres or areas of
concern within a singular worldview is hardly novel, much less an issue

> Blessings,
> Murray
> 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 23:42:49 2009

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