Re: methodological naturalism (hereafter MN) (was Read what I said again (was "Stephen:...))

Stephen Jones (
Fri, 05 Jun 1998 06:45:05 +0800


On Tue, 2 Jun 1998 13:05:13 -0600, John W. Burgeson wrote:

>SJ>"Read what I said again! ;-) My definition was of *Metaphysical*
>Naturalism. Metaphysical naturalists don't say "even if there is a God". They
>deny outright that there is a God.
>You are getting mixed up with Metaphysical Naturalism and Methodological

JWB>Sorry -- you are right. I understand the difference quite clearly; I did
>not read your post clearly and I apologize.

Thanks, but there is no need to apologise.

JWB>You went on to cite two authors:

SJ>"Why do the leading voices of official science teach that science and
>naturalism are inseparable? The reason is that they assume that the
>scientific method is inherently characterized by a thoroughgoing methodological
>naturalism (hereafter MN)..." (Johnson P.E., "Reason in the Balance",
>1995, pp207-208)."


SJ>"Interestingly, a significant number of Christian scholars have made
>similar claims. For example, philosopher Paul de Vries and scientist Howard J.
>Van Till have argued that natural science, by its very nature, presupposes
>and is constituted by methodological naturalism (hereafter MN)..." (Moreland
>J.P., "The Creation Hypothesis," 1994, p42)"

JWB>I find myself in complete agreement with de Vries & Van Till on this
>issue. The answer I give to Johnson's "Why... ?" is that the principle

First, the claiim that MN is true because it "works" is really pragmatism. But
pragmatism makes no claims to be truth. Truth *is* what works in pragmatism.

Second, this is too grandiose a claim. MN works well in the ongoing operations
of the universe, but only because of TR, ie. because there is a God ruling the
universe by natural laws, MN has no explanation *why* MN works. TR has
an explanation why MN works (in some spheres and not in others).

Third, MN fails dismally in the area of *origins*. MN cannot explain the
origin of the universe, the origin of life, the origin of life's designs, the
origin of human consciousness.

For the above reasons, MN is just a subset of the more inclusive theory/model

JWB>And I have seen no indication the Johnson's TR (Theological
>Realism) works, at least not in a scientific sense.

See above. You can't even get the name right - it is *Theistic* Realism! That
does not inspire confidence in your understanding of TR.

Also, if you claim to be a theist who believes that God exists, you have a
basic problem of explaining why assuming there is no God is the key to
understanding reality:

"The problem, very briefly stated, is this: if employing MN is the
only way to reach true conclusions about the history of the universe,
and if the attempt to provide a naturalistic history of the universe
has continually gone from success to success, and if even theists
concede that trying to do science on theistic premises always leads
nowhere or into error (the embarrassing "God of the gaps"), then the
likely explanation for this state of affairs is that naturalism is
true and theism is false." (Johnson P.E., "Reason in the Balance,"
1995, p211)

JWB>The oldest definition of science" I've been able to find is attributed to
>Aristotle -- "science is the description of causes." (sorry -- no source
>here but my elderly memory). Along with this was the admonition to
>"attribute nothing to the gods." This is MN, Methodological Naturalism.
>Yes, I've seen people use the term "Metaphysical Naturalism == MN" but it
>seems to me that using "Philosophical Naturalism == PN" is a better
>choice; at least PN and MN are not going to get mixed up!

Well TR would agree that we should "attribute nothing to the gods", ie. Aristotle's
capricious, immoral Greek gods.

Surely you are not equating Aristotle's "gods" with the real, Christian God? But
if not, then what is your point? You surely do not *really* mean "attribute nothing
to" the Christian God?


"Evolution is the greatest engine of atheism ever invented."
--- Dr. William Provine, Professor of History and Biology, Cornell University.

Stephen E (Steve) Jones ,--_|\
3 Hawker Avenue / Oz \
Warwick 6024 ->*_,--\_/ Phone +61 8 9448 7439
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