Re: [asa] on science and meta-science

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Tue Nov 03 2009 - 23:59:37 EST

Heya Merv,

Zeroing in on one point you made - you describe MN, and the Christian
scientist acceptance of MN, as there "to remind the original atheistic sort
that their is nothing imcompatible about the phenomena they investigate and
theism". One problem I have is that MN simply isn't necessary to do that. As
I said with Murray, naturalism as a metaphysic offers nothing we need to "do
science", and none of the 'methods' of MN are exclusive to naturalism
anyway. Non-naturalists have metaphysics, philosophy, and methods which will
work just fine without the lip service.

And I have to admit another qualm I have, saying this mostly as an observer
to these disputes. Sometimes a message of MN seems to be, "I promise to keep
my theism/Christianity utterly divorced from my scientific work, even
outside of the laboratory". Which I think is a terrible mistake. Not only
because it's unnecessary (again, because science fits just fine even in a
non-naturalist perspective - despite 'naturalism' meaning so little nowadays
anyway), but because few atheists really respect that rule themselves.

So, oddly enough, I don't think we disagree on much here (at least based on
this exchange.)

On Tue, Nov 3, 2009 at 8:24 AM, Merv Bitikofer <> wrote:

> 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!
> --Merv
> 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 23:59:50 2009

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