Re: [asa] on science and meta-science

From: David Clounch <>
Date: Sat Nov 07 2009 - 00:23:53 EST

Topic #1.

I think it was Ted who said:

where to draw the line and call the bluff on materialistic science? Should
contest the details of the science itself (ID), or should one contest the
metaphysical framework into which a given scientist places the science (TE)?
 A comparison of the views and attitudes of (say) Bill Dembski or Jon Wells
or Cameron Wybrow, on the one hand, with those of (say) Steven Barr or
Polkinghorne or Conway Morris on the other hand, will bear this out.

I'm not sure I see this dichotomy. To me ID advocates should challenge
the metaphysical framework just as much as any TE should do so. In fact,
more so.
But...if Ted is right, maybe I have always tended more to TE than to ID
But just didn't realize it?

Topic #2: Barr and Naturalism.

I want to clarify something about Barr. Barr does not mention the term
"Christian Naturalism". Indeed, in his book, he does not mention
naturalism as a term at all. Instead, he presents an overall concept. I
labled that concept.

Barr focuses a great deal on materialism. He does talk about
how the bible/church desacralized and depersonified nature. The
bible/church put a focus on the supernatural being outside the universe.
But Christianity is not a religion of nature
and the bible does not examine details of how nature works. He then
mentions many church scholars who invented science based on these ideas.
I'll mention just one. Experimental physical science began with Robert
Groseeteste (1168-1253), bishop of Lincoln, founder of "Oxford School".

I have labeled Barr's theory of "bible/church with respect to science" as
Christian Naturalism just to give the concept a label.

This is in contrast to modern ideas of naturalism which are more in tune
with Barr's description of materialism. I called the latter " Humanist
Naturalism" for lack of a better term. The important part is its a
naturalistic metaphysics and it isnt the age old Christian metaphysics.


Dave Wallace said:


> David
> No you can't teach any science without any metaphysical context. Of course
> the metaphysical context may be implicit and not stated or even thought
> about very much.
> In Ethiopia my parents as teachers had to combat the idea that the
> supernatural directly caused events. Similarly our nurses had to teach that
> a child had stomach problems because of water impurities... and not because
> a dead ancestor was offended. Teaching science just does not work if the
> pupils think that events, especially bad events are largely caused by the
> supernatural which must be placated.
> This is one of the reasons that I affirm "MN" ie. as if Naturalism. In
> science God and the supernatural may not be allowed to appear in scientific
> explanations. Of course in metaphysics or theology one might well have
> conclusions supported by scientific methods and mathematics.
> Of course none of this should be taken as inferring that I deny that
> occasionally demonic activity does certainly seem to occur.
> Dave W

Barr's description of church teaching on desacralization and
depersonification of nature already completely handles DW's concern over
Ethiopian invocation of supernatural causes of disease. MN isn't needed
here , (unless one is trying to get away from a Christian metaphysic and
choose another metaphysic). Standard Christian doctrine already says that
the supernatural is outside the universe, not operating in the details of
the universe. One doesn't need MN to separate standard Christian doctrine
nor the supernatural from natural processes. In Barr's description the
supernatural is already separated from natural processes. According to
Barr, this *is* Christianity's original concept of science.

Now, I called it a form of naturalism (I called it Christian naturalism) in
my posts. I hope I am not terribly mistaken. Does someone want to say it
isn't naturalism? But, lets keep in mind that none of the Christians who
were creators of science saw any reason that God wasn't the creator, nor
did they see any reason that God didn't intervene in history.

So what part **isn't** Christianity's original concept of science? Well,
I suspect it's the idea that the supernatural is disallowed from acting in
the universe at all. I'd say this is really part of the new naturalism,
the non-Christian naturalism. But it may actually be just part of
materialism and the materialist mythology about Christianity. Barr writes
page after page about that materialist spin.

So is MN really part of the non-Christian naturalism? Or is it part of the
age-old Christian naturalism?

Now, given that Christianity's original concept of science is a metaphysic,
and given that non-Christian naturalism is a competing metaphysic, is it
possible that MN is a misnomer? Perhaps it isn't naturalism (or a
metaphysic) at all. Perhaps its entirely about epistemology and none about
metaphysics? If that is the case, how can it possibly rule out
Christianity's original concept of science? As such, it might legitimately
say we are ignorant of the actions of God, but it wouldnt say that God
cannot act or that the supernatural cannot act.

Let me summarize that idea:

Principle: If MN is just about epistemology, it might legitimately say we
are ignorant of the actions of God, but it wouldnt say that God cannot act
or that the supernatural cannot act.

Where Some Things Go Horribly Wrong
What if school officals, instead of claiming MN limits knowledge, instead
claim it rules out supernatural acts altogether, thus making it a
metaphysics that is contrary to Christianity's original concept of
science? Does the latter have an effect of denigrating rational belief in
religion? Many would say the mistake has just such an effect.

Please note, I think the claim that MN is neutral to all metaphysical
systems is most likely a claim that MN really is itself just
epistemology. But how do we know it is used that way? To make sure its
used that way it seems like a school district has to explain all the above
relationships. Bad idea. It seems easy to see how if even slightly
mis-applied this might raise various issues of excessive entanglement.
This is the exact reason that national NGO's (non-governmental
organizations) removed language about evolution being due to undirected
causes from science standards. That language causes lawsuits because it
isn't metaphysically neutral.

If you think being metaphysically neutral is silly, how do you answer the
following? Do we really want a government agency teaching kids that
science says that God can act but science can't tell?

Many would say no, and they would sue to enforce no.

Or do we want the government saying the opposite, that God cannot act?

Again, many would say no, and they would sue to enforce no.

OK, do we want government saying God can act, and science can know it?

That has caused lots of lawsuits.

Dave C

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Received on Sat Nov 7 00:24:28 2009

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