Re: [asa] on science and meta-science

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Thu Nov 05 2009 - 03:01:33 EST

Heya David,

I'm not sure I'd call it Christian naturalism (if it were proper to call it
that once upon a time, I question if it is now - the word's just become a
more academic term for atheism and related denials in my experience), but
all the same I think it's a helpful illustration of a possible way to view

One of the problems with defining metaphysical naturalism as the claim that
"nature is all there is, and all basic truths are truths of nature" is that
you then have to define "nature" as well as "supernatural". I think that
many times this comes across as pretty easy, in part because it's common to
think "naturalism is just materialism" and "materialism just means
everything is ultimately made of atoms (which are little colorless,
odorless, mindless/intentionless pebbles that bounce off each other
according to regular laws), and anything that isn't is supernatural and
doesn't exist".

But if that definition of naturalism were ever true in the past, it isn't
true anymore. Not when Chalmers can call himself a 'naturalist dualist', or
Strawson, Skrbina and others can advocate panpsychism and still regard
themselves as naturalists, etc, to the objection of seemingly no one. Not
when the given definition of materialism died a long time ago due to
discoveries in physics, and now has been replaced by "physicalism" - with
the caveat that current physics is incomplete, may never be complete, and
future additions may make mental properties fundamental to the universe (by
panpsychism, neutral monism, property dualism, brute emergentism, or who
knows what else.) And certainly not when suppositions that previously would
have been thought of as supernatural claims (the idea that there exists
something which 'gave rise' to our universe and is outside of it, the idea
that our universe - or any of a number of universes that actually exist -
may have or likely are creations of an intelligent being(s), along with the
aforementioned claims of there existing non-material but really existing
entities) are now suggested by supposed naturalists, even supposed
materialists, without addressing that particular problem.

That's the other side of the problem I have with naturalism. It's not just
that Christians do not need naturalism (metaphysical or methodological) to
do science properly, but that naturalism has little real content to it - and
what content it does have is ultimately negative (in the sense of denying
various things, such as God, or teleology, etc) anyway. And I half suspect
that a philosopher who really wants to cause trouble could argue affirm the
existence of a personal God, of the immortal soul, of the resurrection and
the last judgment, argue that all these things are natural rather than
supernatural and that he's therefore a naturalist. And naturalists who
disagree would find themselves facing a surprising amount of trouble if they
wanted to insist "no, you're not a naturalist".

On Wed, Nov 4, 2009 at 10:43 PM, David Clounch <>wrote:

> All,
> 1)I was confusing metaphysical context and metaphysical interpretation as
> meaning the same thing. Now I have to go back and read through all the posts
> and think about this.
> 2) Meanwhile, Schwarzwald has me thinking about naturalism:
> "Naturalism", in *The Encyclopedia of Philosophy*, Macmillan, 1996
> Supplement, 372-373.
> *Metaphysical naturalism<>
> *, (or *ontological <> naturalism*or
> *philosophical naturalism*) which focuses on ontology<>:
> This stance is concerned with existence: what does exist and what does not
> exist? Naturalism is the metaphysical<>position that "
> nature <> is all there is, and all
> basic truths are truths of nature."[2]<>
> Well, thats only part of the story. Let me offer my own suggestions as to
> what naturalism means.
> CHRISTIAN NATURALISM is a metaphysical framework, ie, the belief the
> universe obeys regular laws all on its own, the laws having been set in
> place by the creator. These laws operate until they are modified at the whim
> of the lawgiver. because we dont know all the laws it is possible many
> actions of the lawgiver are via laws we dont know about and thus what may
> look like a set-aside of a law is just some other law purposely in use for a
> limited time by the lawgiver. CHRISTIAN NATURALISM thus handles the
> situation mentioned by ??? (I believe it was Dave Wallace) with respect to
> superstitious and pagan cultures. This is why naturalism was invented - to
> refute the beliefs of pagan cultures and to re-inforce belief in the
> lawgiver. This type of naturalism has never been incompatible with
> Christianity.
> HUMANIST NATURALISM is a metaphysical framework beleived in by secular
> humanists and others of like presuasions, such as materialists and
> atheists. As a metaphysical framework it's main tenet is the belief that
> the universe operates according to laws, and does so all on its own, but
> does so without purpose. There is no lawgiver. There is no modification of
> law possible. This also handles the aforfementioned situation of pagan
> cultures. But it is not compatible with the historical CHRISTIAN
> NATURALISM. It is a modern version of naturalism. [An aside - was there
> an ancient version of this that has been brought back? I'd argue no. Why?
> because it took Christianity and Christian Naturalism to produce science,
> and this modern naturalism emerged post-science, in modern times, starting
> in the enlightenment. I'd argue it is post-Christian]
> I don't mean for these definitions of naturalism to be comprehensive.
> They are starting points. I mentioned these because various reference
> materials out there tend to ignore Christian Naturalism and its having been
> morphed into a modern (post-Christian) version.
> There are, in addition, at least these, having to do with epistemology
> rather than metaphysics.
> Replacement Naturalism
> Cooperative Naturalism
> Substantive Nauturalism
> Most writers one can find tend to be quite modern. For example, Plantinga:
> 1994 Alvin Plantinga
> Reproduction on other websites is expressly prohibited.
> Links to this site are permitted.
> Naturalism Defeated
> In the last chapter of Warrant and Proper Function1 I proposed an
> "evolutionary
> argument against naturalism". Take philosophical naturalism to be the
> belief that there aren't any
> supernatural beings--no such person as God, for example, but also no other
> supernatural entities.2
> My claim was that naturalism and contemporary evolutionary theory are at
> serious odds with one
> another--and this despite the fact that the latter is ordinarily thought to
> be one of the main
> supporting beams in the edifice of the former.3
> Naturalism and evolution as opponents? Wow, thats different!!!!!
> For sake clarity: When we are talking about questions of ultimate and
> final causes we are talking about metaphysical type of naturalism, not the
> epistemological types of naturalism.
> Consequently, let me propose the following. Moorad pointed out something
> important: phenomena are statistical. We cannot observe miracles. He is
> making an epistemological argument here. What's important is the statement's
> implication(s) for the metaphysical frameworks. One can (perhaps) rule out
> what he says via epistemological forms of naturalism. But what one cannot
> legitimately do is start with a metaphysical form of naturalism and use that
> to rule out Moorad's statement.
> Enough for now.
> Thanks,
> Dave C
> On Thu, Nov 5, 2009 at 12:52 PM, Douglas Hayworth <
>> wrote:
>> On Wed, Nov 4, 2009 at 8:29 AM, Ted Davis <> wrote:
>>> The fact that I said this 22 years ago, combined with the fact that
>>> nothing along these lines has transpired subsequently in public education,
>>> is not exactly encouraging. Suffice it to say that I certainly agree with
>>> Cameron and Keith, whose ideas are much more practical than mine while not
>>> inconsistent with mine. Still, I doubt that most colleges and universities
>>> will start mandating that science majors, even future teachers of science,
>>> take a full course in HPS.
>> Well, here's one area where we have the opportunity to do better. The
>> Christian school curriculum initiatives by the BioLogos Foundation and our
>> own ASA homeschool resources project have the potential to do what public
>> schools are not likely to be able to do: create materials that teach science
>> in light of general and biblical history.
>> Doug

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Received on Thu Nov 5 03:02:17 2009

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