Re: [asa] on science and meta-science

From: David Clounch <>
Date: Thu Nov 05 2009 - 12:00:00 EST


None of that on epistemology has to do with whether naturalism is
metaphysics. Schwarzwald raised the point of lack of clarity on
naturalism. I was trying to address it, but at the same time be complete.

I just think we need clarity that naturalism is metaphysics and is an a
priori assumption. If people cannot agree on clear definitions then there
is no basis for dialog.

So, is anybody denying that naturalism is metaphysics?

Well, Bill, it seems to me you might be arguing that naturalism is ALL in
the realm of metaphysics. I was willing to allow an epistemological type
of naturalism to put its toe in the door. But if you want to slam the door
I have no objections. Maybe thats not what you are doing, but none of that
addresses the main issue of how Christianity is in any way compatible with
any form of naturalism. Barr's claim that the church invented naturalism
implies two different types of naturalism. What the church originally
invented, and what is believed in today by deists, secular humanists, and
perhaps even by materialists and atheists. Again, is anybody denying that
both types are anything but metaphysics?


On Fri, Nov 6, 2009 at 8:39 AM, Bill Powers <> wrote:

> David:
> 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.
> bill
> 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 12:00:26 2009

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