Re: [asa] on science and meta-science

From: Bill Powers <>
Date: Thu Nov 05 2009 - 09:39:57 EST


Two short comments.

1) Plantinga claims that naturalistic evolution is at odds with
epistemology, i.e., a science of truth. He argues that there is no
reason to believe that our minds could have evolved to know the truth.

2) (I know you didn't say this) Why can't we observe miracles? He seems
to me that is easy. I could observe the risen Jesus. I don't think
that's what Moorad said (or intended to say). What we can't do is to
make a science of miracles. But it isn't merely miracles of which we
cannot make a science. It is unique events. Science or any knowledge
relies upon the creation of classes and universals. Of particulars, no
science can be constructed. This is why history is problematic (time
for Gregory to comment). History, it seems, can only become a
"science," that is, comprehensive knowledge, because we presume to
understand the people and events of the time. We presume we are able to
do this because they are human, as we are human. We apply our
"knowledge" (categories, ideas, universals) of ourselves and our times
as a net to catch the history of times and places different from our
own. In some sense, we do the same with "miracles." No one could tell
whether people rising from the dead is a "miracle" without applying our
"knowledge" (i.e., ideas, understandings, categories, and universals) to
the particular event observed and at hand. We call something a
"miracle" when the event (all events are unique and particular) does not
fit into our pre-established template of the possible (a pseudo
metaphysical construct intended only to convey the structure of our
ideas and categories of the world).

So to say that we cannot "study" or make a science of "miracles" is to
say that we are unable to "elevate" the particular to the "class" or
"universal." It remains unique and therefore, to our way of thinking,
irrational and incomprehensible. Nonetheless, we are able to class it
as a "miracle." This entails that the event is partially
comprehensible. We can place parts of it in our pre-established classes
(e.g., person, body, dead, alive). Why is this any different from
someone returning from a coma, or even being healed of a cold? Perhaps
today we think we can speak of underlying processes. How is it we can
supposedly make sense of these and not a resurrection? They are (at
least for most of us) equally mysterious and invisible. The only
feature appears to be the degree of rarity. Resurrection "never"
happens. People do come out of long comas. For a very long time there
was, and perhaps still is, no science of comas. They do or they don't
come out, when and whenever they do. But we think we can make a science
of it because we have an extended opportunity to study the class of
events called comas. The same cannot be said of resurrections. It is
unique in number, a class with one (maybe a few more) members.

So it isn't that it cannot be observed. It is that we have so few
members of the class that they remain unique and isolated from the reach
of our study.


On Thu, 5 Nov 2009, 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 09:40:53 2009

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