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Defining Methodological Naturalism

It’s been a while since we had a good discussion about Methodological Naturalism. This time around, I want to start out simple: I’m asking everyone, particularly those who believe methodological naturalism is essential to science (Matzke, I’m looking at you) to define it. More below.

I want to be clear here: my aim in this thread isn’t to argue against methodological naturalism, and certainly not for it. I do have an idea for a future post on the subject, of course. What I’m hoping for here are definitions – again, particularly definitions that its defenders accept. I’m likely going to ask any contributor here, particularly MN advocates, to further define some aspects of the definition. So if you tell me that methodological naturalism means limiting oneself to natural phenomena, I’m going to ask what makes a given phenomena natural.

Anyway, here’s hoping some MN advocates step up and provide what I’m asking for.

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122 Responses to Defining Methodological Naturalism

  1. 1

    http://www.pandasthumb.org/arc.....igins.html

    I can email you the article by DeVries if you email me at matzkeATberkeley.edu

  2. Hey Nick. I’d rather discuss these things in the thread, though thanks for showing up.

    Interesting link. I see some quotes by Numbers, but if you’d be kind enough, I’d like you to give me the full definition of methodological naturalism as you see it here in this thread. Otherwise I’m going to have to guess which, if any, of those quotes represent the view you’re putting forth – and frankly, I’d rather not miss.

  3. 3

    The three key works are De Vries’s article which coined the modern term, Numbers’s article which reviews the history of the concept, and Pennock’s article in Synthese. There’s not much point in having a scholarly discussion if these works are not addressed. At least, I won’t be participating without those in the mix.

    The De Vries article is really hard to get though, so here’s a quote of the key bit:

    Paul de Vries (1986). Naturalism in the Natural Sciences: A Christian Perspective. Christian Scholars Review, 15(4), 388-396.

    [p. 389]

    I let go of my pencil and it immediately falls to the floor. Why? It would not be scientifically enlightening to say, “God made it that way.” Similarly, scientists would not explain a particular rainstorm in terms of an Indian’s rain dance or a farmer’s prayers. Rainstorms are explained in terms of natural factors, such as air pressure and temperature — factors that themselves depend on other natural factors.

    In brief, explanations in the natural sciences are given in terms of contingent, non-personal factors within the creation. If I put two charged electrodes in water, the hydrogen and oxygen will begin to separate. If I were writing a lab report (even at a Christian College!), it would be unacceptable to write that God stepped in and made these elements separate. A “God Hypothesis” is both unnecessary and out of place within natural scientific explanations.

    The naturalistic focus of the natural sciences is simply a matter of disciplinary method. It is certainly not that some scientists have discovered that God did not make phenomena occur the way they do. The original causes or ultimate sources of the patterns of natural are not proper concerns within any of the natural sciences — though they remain a wholesome and legitimate concern of many natural scientists. The natural sciences are limited by method to naturalistic foci. By method they must seek answers to their questions within nature, within the non-personal and contingent created order, and not anywhere else. Thus, the natural sciences are limited by what I call methodological naturalism.

    Methodological naturalism is quite different from metaphysical naturalism. Metaphysical naturalism is a philosophical perspective that denies the existence of a transcendent God. Methodological naturalism does not deny the existence of God because this scientific methodology does not even raise the question of God’s existence. Unfortunately, these two kinds of naturalism have often been confused. As a result, it has seemed to the philosophically careless as if the natural sciences under the guidance of methodological naturalism have provided evidence for metaphysical naturalism. This confusion is regrettable and certainly inexcusable.

    [...]

    [p. 390]

    It is fascinating that at the present time there are two notable groups of people that seek to violate the natural sciences: the devotees of evolutionistic scientism on the one had and the devotees of creationistic biblicism on the other — groups represented by Carl Sagan and Henry Morris, respectively. To suit their own purposes, these groups seek to lead natural science away from its methodological naturalism, away from its commitment to systematic analysis of matter and energy. If we respect the proper role of the natural sciences, we will protest both the biblicists’ and evolutionists’ proposals. Whether they are conscious of this or not, both of these groups are exploiting the good name of the natural sciences for their own ideological purposes. In contrast, the success of methodological naturalism provides no threat to Christian truth.

    (italics original)

    De Vries’s definition is basically what people understand by the term, including me.

    Here’s the references to the other key works:

    1. Ronald L. Numbers (2003). “Science without God: Natural Laws and Christian Beliefs.” In: When Science and Christianity Meet, edited by David C. Lindberg, Ronald L. Numbers. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, pp. 265-285.

    Book link: http://books.google.com/books?.....38;f=false

    On the Origins of Methodological Naturalism
    http://www.pandasthumb.org/arc.....igins.html

    2. Robert T. Pennock (2009, 2011). Can’t philosophers tell the difference between science and religion?: Demarcation revisited. Synthese 178(2), 177-206. DOI: 10.1007/s11229-009-9547-3

    Everyone read the Pennock article in Synthese
    http://pandasthumb.org/archive.....ead-t.html

  4. Nick,

    First off, the article you cited, which has it’s good points, starts off the bat identifying ID as being ignorant of the origins of Methodological Naturalism. This would appear to be true except when you realize that as early as 2006 (and probably much earlier), William Dembski produced pretty much the same information (while much more condensed) as in the link.

    See here:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....aturalism/

    In fact, as “discussions” between opposing positions tend to occur around the same time, Dembski’s post occurred precisely 6 days after the Panda post.

    I’ll assume that Dembski either read that particular post, or that the information contained in the post was part of a larger “quasi” discussion between IDists and opponents at the time.

    Given that, I would assume that Dembski picked up on this little tidbit from the post or from subsequent discussions:

    “ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation.”

    While I disagree with the “invoking” part, I will grant the “permitting” part of that sentence.

    Furthermore, if that’s true, then none other than Paul deVries, who coined the term Methodological Naturalism is also guilty of violating the “centuries old rule.”

    See here:

    http://findarticles.com/p/arti.....n28451457/

    “De Vries goes on to warn us not to get caught up in ‘language games’ and reminds us that contradictions or semantics should not detract from the essence of the idea. He insists that Christians need to be ‘enthusiastic supporters of the naturalistic methodology of the natural sciences.’ (11) Through this methodology, we can uncover many of God’s mysteries and give him praise. However, de Vries cautions that while immersed in the natural sciences, we should not be distracted by ‘theological or philosophical speculation.’ (12) He emphasizes that, ‘a naturalism that is a matter of method still leaves all the philosophical and theological questions completely unanswered.’ (13) Methodological naturalism has its limits and will always fail to answer the big ‘Why?’ questions, while it more readily answers the ‘How?’ questions.”

    So if we’re going to discuss MN in any meaningful terms, we must try to identify just what “centuries old rule” is violated by permitting “supernatural” causation, while not necessarily invoking it. And I think Null introduces a very important point by asking “what makes a given phenomena natural?” – An issue discussed at length in the above linked article, and which appears to conclude that the very term “natural” is one that cannot be separated from its own metaphysical assumptions.

    For example – from the 2nd page we read:

    “Of course, Wittgenstein has taught us that the meaning of a word comes from how it is used rather than from how a dictionary may define it. The value of understanding how the word ‘nature’ came to be used by scientists and others when speaking of the physical realm comes in appreciating that it brings with it a subliminal connotation that tends to think and speak of nature as doing things. Nature as the physical world, however, does nothing. It just is. Things happen within the realm of nature, but nature takes no initiative. It just is.”

    However warranted, I would like to see this discussion lead to something other than the typical Darwinian invokation of nature as doing apparently purposeful things as opposed to just being whatever essence it is. What caused nature to produce whatever it produces in being what it is, is quite another issue. If that’s what we mean by MN, then I’m in. Just don’t invoke the scientific method as an explanation for the “why,” or as discounting the “why” altogether. I.e., don’t assume that since nature offers no answer to “why,” that there are no answers.

    If there is behind all of nature a “why;” then we cannot rule out that nature (and therefore science) itself touches on the “why,” while ultimately not answering it. That’s what I see as the basic objection among IDists to the use of MN among atheistic Darwinists.

    In all my understandings of how MN is used among atheistic Darwinists; while there seems to be a creed among them that one should never invoke one’s metaphysical assumptions into science, I always seem to be able to detect the invokation of metaphysical naturalism as being no different than Methodological Naturalism. And I think the above article has touched on just how the two become linked. It’s in the “subliminal connotation” of “nature.”

  5. 5

    Looks like the origin of the term was news to Dembski then, actually.

    Obviously everyone has known that the general idea has been around for centuries, it traces back to the theological distinction between primary and secondary causes.

  6. 6

    Better link to the Poe & Mytyk (2007) PCSF article:

    http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2007/PSCF9-07dyn.html

    Poe, at least, is pretty clearly just an ID fan who wants to include supernatural intervention within science. So of course I disagree with most of the points in the article.

  7. I wouldn’t guess that it was necessarily news to him at the time, but that due to contemporary discussion, it came to mind.

    But that’s beside the point. The post assumes that IDists are ignorant of its origin, and assumes furthermore that IDists believe it to be an invention of Darwinists.

    No, ID’s objection is not so much in the term or use itself, but in its use and connection to metaphysical naturalism among a select group.

  8. Nick,

    This seems to be deVries’ summary.

    The natural sciences are limited by method to naturalistic foci. By method they must seek answers to their questions within nature, within the non-personal and contingent created order, and not anywhere else. Thus, the natural sciences are limited by what I call methodological naturalism.

    As I said in the post, this leads me to ask some obvious followup questions.

    1) What is “within nature” or outside of nature? A better way to put this is: what makes something ‘natural’ and something else ‘not natural’? This seems essential to DeVries’ definition.

    2) What should we take “non-personal” to mean here? The SETI example comes to mind: can science infer that a given signal came from or likely came from a person? Or even use a more mundane example: can science determine that the Empire State Building was built by humans? Or is that known by a method other than science?

  9. Nick,

    Perhaps I’m getting a little ahead of where Null wishes to lead this discussion. I too am interested in how you define methodological naturalism and more importantly its metaphysical limits. Maybe from there we can discuss your objections to Poe & Mytyk?

  10. Nick, I had a atheist on another blog explain to me the reason why methodological naturalism is imposed a-priori onto the scientific method was to prevent this:

    ‘But notice that to do any of this (scientific reasoning) you must discount the possibility of miracles. Because if you don’t, then you cannot discount the possibility that a miracle happened to interfere with your experiments.’

    Yet there is a stunning, fatal, flaw in this reasoning for ‘naturalists’:

    Since atheistic naturalists presuppose randomness as the ‘miracle’ that created the whole universe, and even all life within it, how in blue blazes are they going to discount the possibility a ‘random’ miracle happening to interfere with their experiments?

    Let me flesh the fatal problem out for you;

    Godel has shown;

    THE GOD OF THE MATHEMATICIANS – DAVID P. GOLDMAN – August 2010
    Excerpt: we cannot construct an ontology that makes God dispensable. Secularists can dismiss this as a mere exercise within predefined rules of the game of mathematical logic, but that is sour grapes, for it was the secular side that hoped to substitute logic for God in the first place. Gödel’s critique of the continuum hypothesis has the same implication as his incompleteness theorems: Mathematics never will create the sort of closed system that sorts reality into neat boxes.
    http://www.firstthings.com/art.....ematicians

    Gödel’s Incompleteness: The #1 Mathematical Breakthrough of the 20th Century
    Excerpt: Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem says:
    “Anything you can draw a circle around cannot explain itself without referring to something outside the circle – something you have to assume to be true but cannot prove “mathematically” to be true.”
    http://www.cosmicfingerprints......pleteness/

    And please note ‘the circle’ formed by the Cosmic Background Radiation:

    Picture of CMBR
    https://webspace.utexas.edu/reyesr/SolarSystem/cmbr.jpg

    Proverbs 8:26-27
    While as yet He had not made the earth or the fields, or the primeval dust of the world. When He prepared the heavens, I was there, when He drew a circle on the face of the deep,

    Moreover, atheists assume that ‘randomness’ as true (outside the circle) for the ultimate explanation for the origination of the universe, whereas Christian Theists presuppose God as true (outside the circle) for the origination of the universe. Yet insisting on randomness as the ultimate explanation for why the universe came into being leads to the epistemological failure of science:

    The End Of Materialism? – Dr. Bruce Gordon
    * In the multiverse, anything can happen for no reason at all.
    * In other words, the materialist is forced to believe in random miracles as a explanatory principle.
    * In a Theistic universe, nothing happens without a reason. Miracles are therefore intelligently directed deviations from divinely maintained regularities, and are thus expressions of rational purpose.
    * Scientific materialism is (therefore) epistemically self defeating: it makes scientific rationality impossible.

    The Absurdity of Inflation, String Theory & The Multiverse – Dr. Bruce Gordon – video
    http://vimeo.com/34468027

    In fact, in a stunning twist of irony, presupposing ‘infinite randomness’, as atheists do with the multiverse, actually concedes the necessary premise to make the ontological argument, for God’s existence, complete;

    Ontological Argument For God From The Many Worlds/Multiverse Hypothesis – William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4784641

    God Is Not Dead Yet – William Lane Craig – Page 4
    The ontological argument. Anselm’s famous argument has been reformulated and defended by Alvin Plantinga, Robert Maydole, Brian Leftow, and others. God, Anselm observes, is by definition the greatest being conceivable. If you could conceive of anything greater than God, then that would be God. Thus, God is the greatest conceivable being, a maximally great being. So what would such a being be like? He would be all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good, and he would exist in every logically possible world. But then we can argue:

    1. It is possible that a maximally great being (God) exists.
    2. If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
    3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
    4. If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
    5. Therefore, a maximally great being exists in the actual world.
    6. Therefore, a maximally great being exists.
    7. Therefore, God exists.

    Now it might be a surprise to learn that steps 2–7 of this argument are relatively uncontroversial. Most philosophers would agree that if God’s existence is even possible, then he must exist. So the whole question is: Is God’s existence possible? The atheist has to maintain that it’s impossible that God exists. He has to say that the concept of God is incoherent, like the concept of a married bachelor or a round square. But the problem is that the concept of God just doesn’t appear to be incoherent in that way. The idea of a being which is all-powerful, all knowing, and all-good in every possible world seems perfectly coherent. And so long as God’s existence is even possible, it follows that God must exist.
    http://www.christianitytoday.c.....ml?start=4

    Moreover presupposing randomness, ‘random miracles’, as to the reason why humans exist, as Darwinism does, leads to epistemological failure of humans to have confidence in their reasoning:

    Should You Trust the Monkey Mind? – Joe Carter
    Excerpt: Evolutionary naturalism assumes that our noetic equipment developed as it did because it had some survival value or reproductive advantage. Unguided evolution does not select for belief except insofar as the belief improves the chances of survival. The truth of a belief is irrelevant, as long as it produces an evolutionary advantage. This equipment could have developed at least four different kinds of belief that are compatible with evolutionary naturalism, none of which necessarily produce true and trustworthy cognitive faculties.
    http://www.firstthings.com/ont.....onkey-mind

    The following interview is sadly comical as a evolutionary psychologist realizes that neo-Darwinism can offer no guarantee that our faculties of reasoning will correspond to the truth, not even for the truth that he is purporting to give in the interview, (which begs the question of how was he able to come to that particular truthful realization, in the first place, if neo-Darwinian evolution were actually true?);

    Evolutionary guru: Don’t believe everything you think – October 2011
    Interviewer: You could be deceiving yourself about that.(?)
    Evolutionary Psychologist: Absolutely.
    http://www.newscientist.com/ar.....think.html

    Further notes:

    Evolution and the Illusion of Randomness – Talbott – Fall 2011
    Excerpt: The situation calls to mind a widely circulated cartoon by Sidney Harris, which shows two scientists in front of a blackboard on which a body of theory has been traced out with the usual tangle of symbols, arrows, equations, and so on. But there’s a gap in the reasoning at one point, filled by the words, “Then a miracle occurs.” And the one scientist is saying to the other, “I think you should be more explicit here in step two.”
    In the case of evolution, I picture Dennett and Dawkins filling the blackboard with their vivid descriptions of living, highly regulated, coordinated, integrated, and intensely meaningful biological processes, and then inserting a small, mysterious gap in the middle, along with the words, “Here something random occurs.”
    This “something random” looks every bit as wishful as the appeal to a miracle. It is the central miracle in a gospel of meaninglessness, a “Randomness of the gaps,” demanding an extraordinarily blind faith. At the very least, we have a right to ask, “Can you be a little more explicit here?”
    http://www.thenewatlantis.com/.....randomness

    Nobel Prize-Winning Physicist Wolfgang Pauli on the Empirical Problems with Neo-Darwinism – Casey Luskin – February 27, 2012
    Excerpt: “In discussions with biologists I met large difficulties when they apply the concept of ‘natural selection’ in a rather wide field, without being able to estimate the probability of the occurrence in a empirically given time of just those events, which have been important for the biological evolution. Treating the empirical time scale of the evolution theoretically as infinity they have then an easy game, apparently to avoid the concept of purposesiveness. While they pretend to stay in this way completely ‘scientific’ and ‘rational,’ they become actually very irrational, particularly because they use the word ‘chance’, not any longer combined with estimations of a mathematically defined probability, in its application to very rare single events more or less synonymous with the old word ‘miracle.’” Wolfgang Pauli (pp. 27-28) -

  11. Moreover, the success of modern science itself, since it was born out of the presupposed (outside the circle; Godel) truthfulness of Christian Theism, and no other (outside the circle) presupposition, and that reality itself is found to conform to this Christian Theistic presupposition, is what further, and dramatically, testifies that the Christian presupposition is true;

    Why should the human mind be able to comprehend reality so deeply? – referenced article
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1qGvbg_212biTtvMschSGZ_9kYSqhooRN4OUW_Pw-w0E/edit

    Jerry Coyne on the Scientific Method and Religion – Michael Egnor – June 2011
    Excerpt: The scientific method — the empirical systematic theory-based study of nature — has nothing to so with some religious inspirations — Animism, Paganism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism, Islam, and, well, atheism. The scientific method has everything to do with Christian (and Jewish) inspiration. Judeo-Christian culture is the only culture that has given rise to organized theoretical science. Many cultures (e.g. China) have produced excellent technology and engineering, but only Christian culture has given rise to a conceptual understanding of nature.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....47431.html

    Moreover, many modern physicists seem to have forgotten the lesson that was clearly born out by Godel, that you can’t have a ‘complete’ mathematical theory of everything without assuming God as true, for they are vainly trying to unify Quantum Mechanics (QM) and General Relativity (GR), into a mathematical ‘theory of everything’. Yet when one allows God into the picture, then a very credible, empirically backed, reconciliation between QM and GR readily emerges:

    The God of the Mathematicians – Goldman
    Excerpt: As Gödel told Hao Wang, “Einstein’s religion [was] more abstract, like Spinoza and Indian philosophy. Spinoza’s god is less than a person; mine is more than a person; because God can play the role of a person.” – Kurt Gödel – (Gödel is considered by many to be the greatest mathematician of the 20th century)
    http://www.firstthings.com/art.....ematicians

    Centrality of Each Individual Observer In The Universe and Christ’s Very Credible Reconciliation Of General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/17SDgYPHPcrl1XX39EXhaQzk7M0zmANKdYIetpZ-WB5Y/edit?hl=en_US

    General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Entropy, and The Shroud Of Turin – updated video
    http://vimeo.com/34084462

    Of Related Note. This following proof came out a few days ago.

    Mathematics of Eternity Prove The Universe Must Have Had A Beginning – April 2012
    Excerpt: Cosmologists use the mathematical properties of eternity to show that although universe may last forever, it must have had a beginning.,,, They go on to show that cyclical universes and universes of eternal inflation both expand in this way. So they cannot be eternal in the past and must therefore have had a beginning. “Although inflation may be eternal in the future, it cannot be extended indefinitely to the past,” they say.
    They treat the emergent model of the universe differently, showing that although it may seem stable from a classical point of view, it is unstable from a quantum mechanical point of view. “A simple emergent universe model…cannot escape quantum collapse,” they say.
    The conclusion is inescapable. “None of these scenarios can actually be past-eternal,” say Mithani and Vilenkin.
    Since the observational evidence is that our universe is expanding, then it must also have been born in the past. A profound conclusion (albeit the same one that lead to the idea of the big bang in the first place).
    http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/27793/

    Verse and music:

    Psalm 119:89-91
    Your eternal word, O Lord, stands firm in heaven. Your faithfulness extends to every generation, as enduring as the earth you created. Your regulations remain true to this day, for everything serves your plans.

    Alter Bridge – Rise Today
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYG3BPvFOgs

  12. Nick, and everyone else,

    It appears that BA has touched on a very important point. Nick mentioned the theological distinction between primary and secondary causes as the beginning of what we now call methodological naturalism, or as some others call simply the scientific method.

    It seems that in all of this there is the “desire” in looking at nature, of discounting miracles. The “naturalist” defines the miracle as being in the realm of the “supernatural,” while the non-naturalist would define miracles in much broader terms; as that which either falls outside of secondary causes and into the realm of primary causes, or that which currently has no explanation within the realm of secondary causes. The non-naturalist does not rule out the realm of primary causes. Since the “naturalist” limits science to “secondary causes,” he/she leaves out the question of “primary causes.” But the “naturalist,” in so doing, does not address the issue of what appear to be miracles in the realm of secondary causes (i.e., “nature”); assuming that there is an explanation not currently known, which is itself a secondary cause or a series of secondary or contingent causes. There is nothing in the realm of nature that allows the “naturalist” to make that assumption; it is at best a guess. It is by all accounts, a pretty good guess – one that the non-naturalist is also likely to make, but it is no less a guess.

    The naturalist has thus made the assumption that all secondary causes must be intrinsically divorced from whatever may be their primary cause.

    The non-naturalist, while operating under some of the same assumptions as the naturalist, is not willing to intrinsically divorce whatever may be behind a secondary cause; be it another secondary cause, or ultimately a primary cause. The naturalist calls this “supernaturalism,” while the non-naturalist would call it a necessary metaphysical assumption if we’re going to talk about causes in any meaningful way, whether scientifically or otherwise. The naturalist assumes that we (the non-naturalists) are invoking the “supernatural,” while the non-naturalist looks at it in an entirely different way as in recognizing that at the end (or beginning) of the “rope” of causation there is a necessary primary cause, and that we don’t know how far down the rope we are at any given time in our examination of causes.

    Either of these requires certain metaphysical assumptions. The naturalist assumption is that while there may be primary causes, they are unimportant in examining secondary causes. The non-naturalist assumption is that if there are primary causes, they may be important in examining secondary causes, or they may not. I think the naturalist assumption goes much farther out of line with what can be reasonably allowed than the non-naturalist assumption.

  13. One further note, the randomness that naturalists presuppose as true for why all life came to be on earth actually can be traced to a source ‘within the circle’:

    Blackholes- The neo-Darwinists ultimate ‘god of entropic randomness’ which can create all life in the universe (according to them)
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1fxhJEGNeEQ_sn4ngQWmeBt1YuyOs8AQcUrzBRo7wISw/edit?hl=en_US

    But please note this ‘inside the circle’ source of entropic randomness, i.e. ‘natural randomness’, besides being shown to be the primary source for degenerative chaos in the universe, is also shown to be bounded by a transcendent universal constant. A transcendent universal constant governing the second law which originated ‘outside the circle’;

    The Austrian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann first linked entropy and probability in 1877. However, the equation as shown, involving a specific constant, was first written down by Max Planck, the father of quantum mechanics in 1900. In his 1918 Nobel Prize lecture, Planck said:This constant is often referred to as Boltzmann’s constant, although, to my knowledge, Boltzmann himself never introduced it – a peculiar state of affairs, which can be explained by the fact that Boltzmann, as appears from his occasional utterances, never gave thought to the possibility of carrying out an exact measurement of the constant. Nothing can better illustrate the positive and hectic pace of progress which the art of experimenters has made over the past twenty years, than the fact that since that time, not only one, but a great number of methods have been discovered for measuring the mass of a molecule with practically the same accuracy as that attained for a planet.
    http://www.daviddarling.info/e.....ation.html

    Thus the ‘naturalist’, according to ‘methodological naturalism’ itself, has no cause within the circle that he can appeal so as to explain life, and he is forced to be completely silent on the origination of its governing constant!!!

    Verse and Music:

    Romans 8:18-21
    I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

    Mandisa – Waiting for Tomorrow – (lyrics)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ezrFxWjyZQ

  14. bornagain77 – Gödel’s Incompleteness: The #1 Mathematical Breakthrough of the 20th Century
    Excerpt: Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem says:
    “Anything you can draw a circle around cannot explain itself without referring to something outside the circle – something you have to assume to be true but cannot prove “mathematically” to be true.”

    The IDvolution.org has a graphic you may like on the what is IDvolution page.

  15. I’d like to remind any onlooker here, btw, that I’d be glad to hear other definitions of methodological naturalism. I’m focusing on Nick because it’s a known favorite topic of his, and he’s a semi-regular here – so, he’s the obvious first choice.

    Anyone else is free to offer up MN as they understand it. I’m hoping particularly for advocates here, but I don’t mind other input as well (CY, BA, etc.)

  16. I’m not a philosopher of science, but I’ve always just understood MN to be, simply, something like: “we assume naturalism in our investigation of the natural world”. We do this just because it makes sense to do it that way – just as we need to assume supernaturalism to investigate the supernatural.

    But anyway, I’d also like to address some things that bornagain77 has said. First, Godel actually had *two* incompleteness theorems – and neither of them said anything about circles. His first is, “If P is ?-consistent, then there is a sentence which is neither provable nor refutable from P.”, and his second is, “If P is consistent, then Con(P) is not provable from P.” (you can check his proofs on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

    He’s also mistaken about the CMBR. Sure, the picture *looks* like a circle, but no more than a picture of a basketball does. Furthermore, his exegesis of Proverbs 8:26-27 is way off – it’s not a science lesson. Proverbs is what’s known as “wisdom literature”. There’s a constant theme of wisdom being contrasted with foolishness throughout the book, and here “Wisdom” is personified as a woman. If we take these verses to be a literal science lesson, then we’re also forced to conclude that “wisdom” actually has a female body. And that’s just silly.

    As for his mention of the ontological argument, I’ve addressed that on my blog: http://dubitodeus.wordpress.co.....ssarily-g/

  17. Null (et al):

    Let us not get too caught up in definitionitis and who used what words (or phrases) when.

    The key thing is the issue of the imposition of the ideas and agenda described by Lewontin all too revealingly in January 1997.

    Yes, Dr Matzke et al, I know I know, you all get hot under the collar — and often make fallacious and toxic dismissals about alleged quote mining [cf here on on that for this case, for I do continue the quote at length, just I explain where that part goes seriously off the rails as anyone familiar with the concepts that "God is a God of order" or that "in him we live and move and have our being" or that "in him all things consist" would know . . . ] — when this is exposed, but this is one of several linked examples here on so I think it is all too relevant context for what is really going on in and around the term “methodological naturalism”:

    . . . to put a correct view of the universe into people’s heads we must first get an incorrect view out . . . the problem is to get them to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations, and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth [[--> NB: this is a knowledge claim about knowledge and its possible sources, i.e. it is a claim in philosophy not science; it is thus self-refuting]. . . . To Sagan, as to all but a few other scientists, it is self-evident [[--> actually, science and its knowledge claims are plainly not immediately and necessarily true on pain of absurdity, to one who understands them; this is another logical error, begging the question , confused for real self-evidence; whereby a claim shows itself not just true but true on pain of patent absurdity if one tries to deny it . . ] that the practices of science provide the surest method of putting us in contact with physical reality, and that, in contrast, the demon-haunted world rests on a set of beliefs and behaviors that fail every reasonable test [[--> i.e. an assertion that tellingly reveals a hostile mindset, not a warranted claim] . . . .

    It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes [[--> another major begging of the question . . . ] to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute [[--> i.e. here we see the fallacious, indoctrinated, ideological, closed mind . . . ], for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door . . . [Billions and Billions of Demons, NYRB, Jan 1997]

    Similarly, the US NAS and NSTA are on record

    NAS: In science, explanations must be based on naturally occurring phenomena. Natural causes are, in principle, reproducible and therefore can be checked independently by others. If explanations are based on purported forces that are outside of nature, scientists have no way of either confirming or disproving those explanations. Any scientific explanation has to be testable — there must be possible observational consequences that could support the idea but also ones that could refute it. Unless a proposed explanation is framed in a way that some observational evidence could potentially count against it, that explanation cannot be subjected to scientific testing. [[Science, Evolution and Creationism, 2008, p. 10 Emphases added.]

    NSTA: The principal product of science is knowledge in the form of naturalistic concepts and the laws and theories related to those concepts . . . .

    [[S]cience, along with its methods, explanations and generalizations, must be the sole focus of instruction in science classes to the exclusion of all non-scientific or pseudoscientific methods, explanations, generalizations and products . . . .

    Although no single universal step-by-step scientific method captures the complexity of doing science, a number of shared values and perspectives characterize a scientific approach to understanding nature. Among these are a demand for naturalistic explanations supported by empirical evidence that are, at least in principle, testable against the natural world. Other shared elements include observations, rational argument, inference, skepticism, peer review and replicability of work . . . .

    Science, by definition, is limited to naturalistic methods and explanations and, as such, is precluded from using supernatural elements in the production of scientific knowledge. [[National Science teachers Association, Board of Directors, July 2000.]

    It should be obvious to all that a priori materialism and insisting on locking up the world and its explanations to “naturalISTIC” factors etc are philosophically loaded and biassing tothe point of being toxic and tendentious. Indeed, “skepticism,” in that context takes on ideological colouring, as opposed to being critically aware and responding to reasonable questions of warrant per empirical testing.

    If science is allowed to be held captive to an ideological magiesterium in the holy lab coat, it will self destruct. It will simply become yet another form of political power games and impositions. Indeed,t eh ongoing self destruction of the climate alarmism that was triggered by the whistleblower-leaked Climategate papers from UEA from 2009 on, is a sign of what may well happen in much wider areas of science.

    So, we must do our own policing, or the angry public will come to clean up, and when they do, they will not be much inclined to make fine distinctions. (That is why I am glad to see something like the Tennessee law initiative, as it is so mild that it gives me a glimmer of hope that things will not go to the point of explosion. But the utter irrationality and scapegoating shrillness of the attempted rebuttals from the materialists in lab coats and their publicists make me even more concerned. Pressure is building up and cracks are appearing.)

    To this sort of stuff, Phil Johnson rightly replied, in November that year:

    For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter. [[Emphasis original] We might more accurately term them “materialists employing science.” And if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence. That theory will necessarily be at least roughly like neo-Darwinism, in that it will have to involve some combination of random changes and law-like processes capable of producing complicated organisms that (in Dawkins’ words) “give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”

    . . . . The debate about creation and evolution is not deadlocked . . . Biblical literalism is not the issue. The issue is whether materialism and rationality are the same thing. Darwinism is based on an a priori commitment to materialism, not on a philosophically neutral assessment of the evidence. Separate the philosophy from the science, and the proud tower collapses. [[Emphasis added.] [[The Unraveling of Scientific Materialism, First Things, 77 (Nov. 1997), pp. 22 – 25.]

    For instance, in all of this the resort to demonising and scapegoating of “the supernatural” is a loaded and toxic side-tracking. As Nick knows or should know, right from the first ID technical book, TMLO (By Thaxton et al, 1984), the issue has been that intelligent, purposeful, knowledgeable and skillful causes are an empirical reality, and we have no good reason to infer that such must always be human (beavers exist and make dams adapted to the specifics of a given situation e.g. they go arch where that is needed but not always) or that they must even be embedded in bodies or material constructs.

    This last is linked to the point that the physics of our cosmos is suspiciously fine-tuned for C chemistry, aqueous medium molecular nanotech life. It also linked to the serious point that mind is not wholly explicable on — i.e. reducible to — matter, without self-referential absurdity.

    If we have the possibility of intelligent cause and we have characteristic signs of such causes at work that are subject to empirical investigation, then we have no epistemic right to insist that such causes be locked out when signs appear but an intelligent cause is inconvenient to the a priori materialists.

    Such Lewontinian a priori materialism is ideology, it is not sound science, it is not sound epistemology, it is not sound logic. And, the methods of science are inextricably rooted in precisely those major fields of philosophy, and so the onward connexions of the issues raised to ground science as methods, cannot be dismissed, if we are willing to retain the integrity of our thought life.

    Which of course, is exactly the problem with ideologues such as Lewontin has characerised (and, it seems, exemplified).

    GEM of TKI

    PS: I think it would be useful to look at the UD Weak Argument correctives 17 – 20 on this and related topics, here on.

  18. F/N: Following a suggestion by Plato in The Laws bk X we may be well advised to reflect on the contrast, natural vs ARTificial, rather than the ideologically loaded, natural vs supernatural. It should be patent that matters of art are subject to empirical investigation on characteristic traces. (Our court rooms, complete with scientists and engineers as expert witnesses, are more than enough proof for that. And, if someone looks at scientific investigation of phenomena in the cosmos as a forensic investigation writ large, does that undermine science? Or, did it — pace ever so many ideologue-in-a-lab-coat rewrites of the history involved — actually materially contribute to its founding?)

  19. kf,

    Let us not get too caught up in definitionitis and who used what words (or phrases) when.

    Well, actually… that’s exactly what I want to get caught up in. At least this time.

    I’d like to examine the claim that methodological naturalism is a commitment of science. The very first step is finding out just what methodological naturalism is, straight from the mouth (well, fingers) of an avid proponent.

    I’ve asked Nick for some clarifications, and I think what I’m asking of him is fair. Hopefully he’ll continue to respond. I’ll save greater concerns for when it looks like I’ve got a solid definition onhand.

  20. I won’t attempt a definition, but will comment on the apparent origins of MN in the “centuries-old distinction” between primary and secondary causes.

    In the first place, before a deterministic science developed, it wasn’t necessarily a case of tracing 2ry cause back to the primary cause, but within it. The dichotomy between natural causation and “Goddidit” was not made in that way, and the important question was “How God did it.”

    One could therefore view Newton’s idea of “divine tinkering” with planetary bodies as a completely proper scientific hypothesis on the limits of secondary causation, later corrected by maths, as science should be. Science was not stopped by it. It was no more God-of-the-Gaps thinking than an error in deciding that a piece of software is a primary program rather than a subroutine.

    Secondly, the inclusion of both primary and secondary causation becomes important again in science as physical determinism has been weakened by most expressions of quantum theory, in which every event has a primary cause, not just the first. The primary/secondary distinction also becomes important as soon as chaos and/or probability, distinct from determinism, are admitted to science.

    To the guys who started that “centuries-old division”, the statement “A causes B causes C” implies a primary cause at or before “A”. But the statement “A might cause B or C” requires invoking a primary cause after A to explain the different outcomes. “Chance” would not have been a cause in itself, but a recourse to primary causation – an Act of God (a view maintained in our insurance policies until recently).

    So it is necessary to argue why that approach has been rendered invalid in modern science – assuming a freedom from metaphysical priors like naturalism.

  21. Let it be said that Dembski in 1999 wrote:
    “Naturalism is the disease. Intelligent Design is the cure.”

    A couple of things to note: 1) He makes no distinction between MN & MN in his ‘disease-cure’ analogy, and 2) A Big ‘D’ is used on the second term.

    The second point speaks similarly to those who capitalise ‘N’ for ‘Nature’ (which sometimes still does happen).

    I’d like to ask: Is it possible for a (practising) ‘natural scientist’ to *not* be a ‘naturalist’? In other words, aren’t all ‘natural scientists’ properly called ‘naturalists’ of one variety or another? Thus, Behe is a ‘naturalist,’ Axe and Gauger are ‘naturalists,’ Wells and Minnich are ‘naturalists,’ are they not?

    There seems to be necessary a distinction between someone who studies ‘natural history’ and an ideologue, i.e. one who promotes ‘naturalism’ as a worldview, to the exclusion of anything ‘non-natural’.

  22. Gregory

    The distinction naturalist (the occupation) v naturalist (the ideologue) seems to go back to nullasalus’ question: what makes a natural phenomenon natural?

    Let’s try a provocative one based on Nick’s references to the origin of methodological naturalism: “a natural phenomenon is one whose primary cause does not exist within the physical order.”

    One problem with that is that if one belives the human mind is immaterial, that might render artificial things natural too – but one gets around that, perhaps, by dealing with humans as a unity acting within the physical order.

    The interesting question for the metaphysical naturalists would be that, to them, nature would have no primary cause at all – not sure if that’s philsophically robust (so the philosphy will have to go!)

  23. Null: Pardon miscommunication, but my main point is on the conceptual roots and worldview contexts of definition. In that context, issues of precising vs genus-difference, and of denotative vs ostensive take on significance, especially issues of key examples and even paradigms of Kuhnian sort. “Mine comes from vineyard X in year Y and is a better bottle than yours” so that locks up discussion on my terms is to be avoided. KF

  24. Hi Jon,

    There are other things to say about the primitive PoS known as MN vs. MN, of course (without getting too abstract, running off into philosophy of mind, philosophy of nature, etc.). But I wonder, are you willing to directly answer my question: “Is it possible for a (practising) ‘natural scientist’ to *not* be a ‘naturalist’?

    If you answer in the affirmative, could you please give an example or two using names (that is, without splitting the person and worker in half)?

    A trained medical doctor is not exactly a ‘natural scientist,’ but usually shares some overlapping educational background with what ‘naturalists’ study, does he or she not?

  25. Gregory:

    Pardon an interjection.

    Start from Newton et al, taking in the way he gave the generic sci method in Optics Query 31 [insofar as an inductive method can be identified], and work on down through the likes of a Kelvin or a Planck or a Pasteur down to men like Fritz Schaeffer (chemistry) today, and not a few Nobel Prize holders.

    At least one such eminent scientist in and around biology — inventor of the gene gun — is an explicit creationist.

    Philosophies like naturalism have no grounds for insisting that to be an effective or even eminent scientist, one must adhere to such a view.

    In addition, insofar as such views embrace or entail a priori materialism or evolutionary materialism, they end up in self referential incoherence on the credibility of a mind free to know on reasoned warrant and free to reason logically [as opposed to merely carrying forth whatever conditioning has been imposed].

    Indeed, as I linked earlier in 17 above, we typically have a major misunderstanding of the rise of modern science inculcated by enlightenment figures such as Voltaire et al.

    This misunderstanding of the history and nature of science is a material factor in debates over methodological naturalism. I think you will see from what I highlight in 16 above, where key points of concern on ideological warping by materialists and fellow travellers lie.

    KF

  26. LoL! Hey Nick, your methodological naturalism fails due to the fact that natural processes only exist in nature and therefor cannot account for its origin, which science says it had.

    It is a non-starter. Nice job, ace…

  27. Hi everyone,

    I’d just like to say that I’ll be putting up a post on methodological naturalism in the next few days. My post will have a lot to say about definitions, and also about the history of methodological naturalism. (Be prepared for a few eye-openers. If you think methodological naturalism has a long history, think again.)

    I’d also like to add that de Vries’ original definition of methodological naturalism isn’t tight enough to secure the autonomy of science as a discipline. To do that, a stronger definition is required, which stipulates that scientific explanations of natural phenomena are complete, thereby rendering them immune to supernatural interference. However, such a definition doesn’t entail metaphysical naturalism, as it says nothing about explanations of the being, or existence, of things. A religious person could consistently claim that God is required to explain the being of things, without violating methodological naturalism.

    In my post, I’ll be examining the arguments commonly put forward in defense of methodological naturalism, and I’ll explain exactly why I find them wanting.

    Nullasalus, thanks very much for putting up this post.

  28. So if you tell me that methodological naturalism means limiting oneself to natural phenomena, I’m going to ask what makes a given phenomena natural.

    I have never come across a need for methodological naturalism, and your question illustrates why. MN is vacuous unless one begins with an a priori characterization of what is natural.

    It has always seemed to me that science studies what science is able to study. Roughly speaking, it studies that for which there is evidence that is available and that can be reliably tested by independent investigators.

    If the science is successful, then the term “natural” will probably be applied to what the science showed.

  29. Gentlemen (Ladies?), I have nothing to add to a post I wrote at this site entitled, “Methodological Naturalism, Revisionist History, and Morphing Defitions, written on Jan 28, 2010.

    As we discovered by observing hundreds of responses, Methodological Naturalism cannot be defended because, among other things, it cannot be defined or articulated. Witness Nick’s current non-response to a simple request for a definition and the way he punts by alluding to another author, who is equally powerless to meet the challenge.

    Also, As VJ points out, Methodological Naturalism does not have a long history. Ronald Numbers’ account is provides no defense whatsoever for the proposition that earlier scientists embraced it.

    Anyone familiar with my take on the subject will know that I link my insistence on a definition of MN with two examples:

    Methodological naturalism characterizes all things that are not “supernatural” as natural, placing human cognition, human volition, earthquakes, and tornadoes in the same category. How, then, do we distinguish the humanly-produced cause of all the artifacts found in ancient Pompei from the cause of the volcano that buried them. The two kinds of causes are either substantially different or they are not. If they are different then those differences can be identified and the archeologist can declare that humans (one kind of cause) built the artifacts and a volcano (another kind of cause) buried them. If they are the same kind of cause (a natural cause as the MN proponents insist) then how does the archeologist detect human design? How does he know that wind, water, and erosion didn’t produce the “artifacts” that the volcano buried?

    Or, again, we know that at least two different kinds of causes can create disorder in a home–a tornado and a burglar. We can easily distinguish the chaotic activity of the former as one kind of cause with the intelligent activity of the latter as another kind of cause. Even so, MN characterizes both events as the same kind of cause, that is, “natural causes,” because they are not, as they put it, neither event was a “supernatural cause,” and because both can be said to have occurred “in nature.”

    So, after two years, I am still waiting to hear how methodological naturalists make sense out of these events? For ID, of course, there is no problem: A natural cause is defined as law and chance; an intelligent cause is defined as agency. Thus, an intelligent cause produced the artifacts; a natural cause buried them; an intelligent cause ransacked them room; an intelligent cause destroyed it.

  30. Gregory @ 23: I was trying to answer your question, but was maybe too oblique. Now I’m confused about what you mean.

    Define a naturalist as someone who studies the secondary causes of that whose primary cause is not within the physical order, and of course as soon as he does anything else he’s stopped being a naturalist.

    Everybody does that in the pub, but to what extent is it part of studying the natural world? It depends on whether the primary cause is open to any consideration, and whether one is prepared to consider it. At the very least, sans metaphysical priors, there is no scientific reason why one shouldn’t come to the end of secondary causes and have to cry off or else stop doing naturalism.

    Medicine is a prime example of a pursuit where the distinction is useless or impossible. Three years of Nat Sci at Cambridge uni, because bodies and bugs are “natural”. Yet surgery rearranges bodies artificially, as do artifical drugs, part of whose benefit is the placebo effect, which is psychological. Even the bugs have been modified by artificial antibiotics. Much disease is self-induced in one way or anther, so is artificial – as of course is much psychiatry. Overarching all is that dealing with patients is the main part of the job, and is purely non-natural – indeed it cannot but be spiritual in many situations.

    Does that make it comparable to biology, or an outlier?

  31. VJT,

    Nullasalus, thanks very much for putting up this post.

    Hey, looks like we’re accidentally on the same page then. Glad this will be useful.

    Or possibly useful, anyway. Since I’m still waiting on Nick to offer up some reasonable clarifications. We’ve barely started picking up on a proper definition here. Hopefully Nick, or someone else, will step up and provide a more thorough definition of MN.

  32. Well, this won’t be technical, let alone thorough; but I’ll propose a lay definition (& I probably qualify as one of those MN supporters):

    MN is a *working* assumption that observed phenomena have physical explanations.

    …where “physical” is my substitute for the word “natural”, and since since that cop out probably won’t be allowed, I’ll add that both of those words will invoke something of observational repeatability at least in principle. But sooner or later these definitions all have to circle back on themselves, and it will all become a tautology instead of anything prescriptively useful or provable. (courtesy of Godel!)

    But I don’t think of MN as prescriptive anyway, but rather as descriptive. (& probably still just a tautology in that it ends up amounting to “what is, is”.) Whenever a pedestrian puts one foot in front of the other, he’s functioning as an MN assuming that his next foot had better be in place or he’s going to fall forward. But his *working* MN assumption as he walks should in no way be construed as any kind of statement on his part that gravity will never fail or that God won’t or can’t suspend it or personally bear him up. His regular activity is just based on his regular experience, making him a generally successful walker. It does not require of him that he believe it never was otherwise or never could be otherwise; only that it ordinarily is.

    If one sees how this analogy extends to the scientific enterprise, then I would say they have a good understanding of MN.

    –Merv

  33. 33

    Neil:

    It has always seemed to me that science studies what science is able to study. Roughly speaking, it studies that for which there is evidence that is available and that can be reliably tested by independent investigators.

    I agree, Neil. I think the most helpful definition of “nature” in this case should be a reference to the scientific method. How about this:

    Nature is defined as that which can in principle be observed by human beings and upon which reproducible experiments can in principle be done.

  34. 34

    By the way, the obvious way to rule out miraculous influence in the data is the same way scientists routinely rule out outliers in their data: statistical analysis. Of course if God chose to make the same miracle recurring such that it could not be ruled out by statistical analysis, then we no longer have a miracle. We have a natural law.

  35. I’ve seen some suggestions for what would qualify as natural – but I’ll still hold out for Nick Matzke to return and offer his own. I’m going to privilege definitions of nature and methodological naturalism given by actual adherents to it and proponents of it, rather than ID proponents or critics of it. Doing my best to be fair here in the analysis.

  36. F/N: Sewell, in his ENV rebuttal, skewers the nasty game that has been playing out well:

    So the AML article was not worthy of publication, even after it was accepted, an article slamming the unpublished article is worth publishing, but not any response to that. Well, now you have an illustration of how the scientific “consensus” on certain controversial issues is maintained. And if you watch the video you will understand why, on this issue at least, suppression of all opposing viewpoints is so necessary to maintain the consensus.

    See why that Tennessee law on protecting teachers who discuss controversies and limitations of science is necessary?

    KF

  37. Sorry, wrong thread. KF

  38. F/N: Link to SB’s 2010 thread on MN and morphing definitions. Notice, 514 comments. KF

  39. Something I (and perhaps others here?) should read (although it’s pricey):

    http://www.amazon.com/World-wi.....038;sr=1-1

    Rae in ’05 wrote a rebuttal to a review of the book here…:

    http://nd.edu/~mrea/papers/Rep.....quette.pdf

    …in which he lays out his basic premises in outline form:

    “The Argument of World Without Design

    The main argument of World Without Design can be summed up as follows:

    (1)Naturalism is not a philosophical thesis, but a research program. The program consists of a disposition (or set of dispositions) to treat the methods of science and those methods alone as basic sources of evidence.
    (2)Research programs cannot be adopted on the basis of evidence; and what counts as evidence from the point of view of one research program might not count as evidence from the point of view of another.
    (C1) Therefore: There is no rational basis for declaring categorically that one particular research program is rationally to be preferred over every other-i.e., naturalism’s status as orthodoxy is without rational foundation.
    (3)Furthermore, the methods of science alone provide no justification for accepting realism about material objects (RMO)-the thesis that there exist material objects with intrinsic modal properties.
    (4)If premises (1) and (3) are true, then naturalists cannot rationally accept RMO.
    (5)If naturalists cannot rationally accept RMO, then they are committed to mind-body dualism and will have a hard time avoiding solipsism.
    (C2) Therefore: Naturalists cannot rationally accept RMO, they are committed to mind-body dualism, and they will have a hard time avoiding solipsism.”

    Rae does not distinguish between MN and MN. But I think he’s clearly talking about Methodological Naturalism.

    What I found interesting about this argument, which relates to our discussion on the term “nature” is premise 2: “Research programs cannot be adopted on the basis of evidence; and what counts as evidence from the point of view of one research program might not count as evidence from the point of view of another.”

    I.e., the naturalist discounts what is termed “supernatural” as evidence, as Barbara Forrest does here:

    “…the methodology of science is the only viable method of acquiring reliable knowledge about the cosmos. Given this fact, if there is no workable method for acquiring knowledge of the supernatural, then it is procedurally impossible to have knowledge of either a supernatural dimension or entity. In the absence of any alternative methodology, the metaphysical claims one is entitled to make are very strictly limited. The philosophical naturalist, without making any metaphysical claims over and above those warranted by science, can demand from supernaturalists the method that legitimizes their metaphysical claims. In the absence of such a method, philosophical naturalists can not only justifiably refuse assent to such claims, but can deny–tentatively, not categorically–the existence of the supernatural, and for the same reason they deny the existence of less exalted supernatural entities like fairies and ghosts: the absence of evidence.”

    http://www.infidels.org/librar.....alism.html

    So Forrest is in effect discounting evidence and calling it “absence of evidence,” simply because any methodology other than MN is presumed to be outside of scientific methodology.

    To clarify what Rae means by premise 2, a research program does not begin by gathering evidence, but by setting up a “disposition” for how to treat whatever evidence will be allowed. Evidence becomes meaningful once that “disposition” is in place. Therefore, to discount “supernatural” evidence in a research program prior to evaluating a methodology; or as in what Forrest does, to a priori discount “supernatural” may be a decision that is acceptable within a particular research program if you’re trying to answer specific questions, and provided that you are clear by what you mean by “supernatural.”

    However, to say that whatever evidence may prove to be “supernatural” cannot answer ANY scientific question, is to jump the gun on the formation of a legitimate research program. Researchers don’t begin by stating that they are going to arbitrarily discount a certain form of evidence without reason, and without having a clue as to what that discounted evidence might look like. Naturalism lacks a legitimate reason to discount “supernatural” evidence in instances where they are attempting to answer questions of ultimate importance, such as questions concerned with mind-body dualism.

    But Barbara Forrest further complicates the issue in that she doesn’t even seem to know what she means by “supernatural.” It would be difficult to discount certain evidence if you don’t even know what that evidence may look like.

  40. CY,

    But Barbara Forrest further complicates the issue in that she doesn’t even seem to know what she means by “supernatural.” It would be difficult to discount certain evidence if you don’t even know what that evidence may look like.

    This is part of why I’m trying to run through this project. This is supposed to be the simplest part of what I’d like to discuss: mere definitions. We hear about ‘methodological naturalism’, pro and con, ad nauseum in these discussions. So, step one: let’s hear what this is. Let’s hear what methodological naturalism is. Let’s hear what natural is. Let’s hear what supernatural is.

    And we can move on from there.

  41. Null,

    I think Nick has already done the best that he can or is willing to do in this discussion. He wants to push the discussion back to appeals to authority and while that might be insightful, he apparently won’t allow a reasonable critique of that authority coming from IDists:

    “The three key works are De Vries’s article which coined the modern term, Numbers’s article which reviews the history of the concept, and Pennock’s article in Synthese. There’s not much point in having a scholarly discussion if these works are not addressed. At least, I won’t be participating without those in the mix.”

    So you’re not going to get a satisfactory definition of MN from Nick for the simple reason that there is no satisfactory definition. Nick is a garment sewn from the same threads as Barbara Forrest and as such, he’s going to give you the same definition if he gets to that point; which is a non-definition because it presents as a premise “supernatural” vs. “natural” causes without defining just what a “supernatural” cause or “intervention” might be.

    See here:

    “Poe, at least, is pretty clearly just an ID fan who wants to include supernatural intervention within science. So of course I disagree with most of the points in the article.”

    This was in response to my posting this link:

    http://findarticles.com/p/arti.....n28451457/

    His recourse appears to be ad hominem and not argument.

    The best you really could do here; which is actually significant, is to pick apart his 3 authorities. Not for Nick, but the onlookers. I’m guessing that Dr. Torley is already at work on that task? And KF has already done some significant preparation on the issues above.

    But I think one thing we should keep in mind is not the significance of whatever definition there is for MN, but how the term MN is utilized by radical Darwinian materialists.

    I already cited this, but see here:

    “The value of understanding how the word ‘nature’ came to be used by scientists and others when speaking of the physical realm comes in appreciating that it brings with it a subliminal connotation that tends to think and speak of nature as doing things. Nature as the physical world, however, does nothing. It just is. Things happen within the realm of nature, but nature takes no initiative. It just is.”

    This I think captures the heart of the “natural” vs. “supernatural” problem. In that the naturalist sees nature as doing things, rather than simply being and “behaving” according to law, the obvious extrapolation then is that the “supernatural” , if we allow it to exist at all, also does things. And you cannot have two movers involved in the world of cause and effect; otherwise you can’t do science. And herein lies the assumption that nature is the entity doing the moving as opposed to a designer doing the only moving and nature falling in line. For the one who accepts “supernatural” events, the only mover is the designer. So one can still do science, because there is nothing that nature “does” that the designer is not doing. The reason nature does what we expect is because behind it all is a rational and necessary primary cause. It’s actually without a rational and necessary primary cause where nature gets out of whack, and we can have more than one mover. If nature itself does things, then all parts of nature do things as well. We can’t rule out that assumption. And as BA has already pointed out, what’s to distinguish a miracle of nature acting on it’s own and a miracle from a prime mover acting on it’s own apart from the “will of nature?”

  42. CY,

    So you’re not going to get a satisfactory definition of MN from Nick for the simple reason that there is no satisfactory definition. Nick is a garment sewn from the same threads as Barbara Forrest and as such, he’s going to give you the same definition if he gets to that point; which is a non-definition because it presents as a premise “supernatural” vs. “natural” causes without defining just what a “supernatural” cause or “intervention” might be.

    Hey, I’ve had my own experiences and discussions with Nick in the past. But I’m in no rush here. He’s a regular around here, and it’s the weekend I’m going to give him until mid next week before I decide, okay, he’s not coming back for whatever reason.

    For the record, I’m enjoying reading your thoughts and others’ on this subject. But I just want to hit a point where, if I move ahead on this, I can point out I made an honest attempt at letting advocates of MN state what it is and how to define it before I analyze it. If he or anyone else wants to come to me later and say ‘That’s not what MN says!’, I’ll point to this thread as evidence that I made a sincere effort to get the definition straight from them. And at that point they can start complaining about the definitions as I’ve seen it, if they so choose.

  43. Null,

    Fair enough; but I think many of us are so passionate about this issue that we are itching to get a word in here and there; or perhaps more than just a word. ;-)

  44. Fair enough; but I think many of us are so passionate about this issue that we are itching to get a word in here and there; or perhaps more than just a word.

    Or sure, by all means. I’m not saying ‘No one else discuss this/be in the thread!’, just explaining why those offering definitions who are ID proponents aren’t my target and why I’m passing by their own definitions.

    Really, argue away about whatever. I’ll wait on Nick, and I won’t miss his reply if it comes in among other conversations. His or any other MN proponents’.

  45. tragic mishap @31:

    How about this:

    Nature is defined as that which can in principle be observed by human beings and upon which reproducible experiments can in principle be done.

    That seems reasonable enough. But I wonder why we even need a definition of “nature.” It’s a common sense term from ordinary language, and we can use it as it is. I don’t think science needs to make it into a technical term. Sure, “natural selection” is used as a technical term, but it’s technical usage is well defined and does not depend on having a technical definition for “nature” or for “natural”.

    nullasalus @38 asks: “Let’s hear what supernatural is.”

    I don’t think we need a definition for supernatural, either. If a researcher wants to investigate the efficacy of prayer, then he should not be deterred by the fact that prayer is said to have supernatural dependencies. If such research had turned up strong evidence of high efficacy, that would have been something that would have interested many scientists.

    Natural vs. supernatural might come up a lot in philosophical discussions about science, but I don’t think it is anything that need concern the scientist designing an experiment for his research project.

  46. Neil,

    I don’t think we need a definition for supernatural, either.

    You may not, but you reject methodological naturalism and any talk of natural or supernatural, apparently. Matzke doesn’t. Many/most ID opponents don’t, and certainly many naturalists don’t.

    So if you reject those things, that’s fine. But then your argument isn’t with me – it’s with Matzke and crew.

  47. But then your argument isn’t with me – it’s with Matzke and crew.

    I agree that I don’t have an argument with you. But I don’t want to pick an argument with Matzke, either. If he and others want to believe that they need to assume MN, it isn’t up to me to tell them what to believe or how they should do their science. What really matters, is whether they do good science.

  48. Neil,

    But I don’t want to pick an argument with Matzke, either.

    Unfortunately, it’s not really up to you. If you say you reject methodological naturalism, you’ve got an argument with the people who accept it and regard it not only as essential to science, but who think it’s a litmus test exactly to determine what is or isn’t science at all, to say nothing of whether it’s good or bad science.

    It doesn’t mean you have to debate them. God knows I have no interest in talking to a lot of people I disagree with. But the difference – and the conflict – remains.

  49. 49

    So if I claim not to be an ID proponent, you’ll accept my definition? Uh, I am not an ID proponent.

    -_-

  50. Jon @ 29

    Well, perhaps my question was confusing (phrased negatively – ‘to not be a naturalist’), but you still haven’t addressed it. You broke it up into primary and secondary causes, following the generalisation made by Nick in #5:

    “Obviously everyone has known that the general idea [of MN] has been around for centuries, it traces back to the theological distinction between primary and secondary causes.”

    For the moment, I’m not so interested in this dualistic speculation, nor is it ‘obvious to everyone’. In fact, it is important on this topic not to retro-dict or speak anachronistically.

    What I asked was this:
    “Is it possible for a (practising) ‘natural scientist’ to *not* be a ‘naturalist’? In other words, aren’t all ‘natural scientists’ properly called ‘naturalists’ of one variety or another? Thus, Behe is a ‘naturalist,’ Axe and Gauger are ‘naturalists,’ Wells and Minnich are ‘naturalists,’ are they not?”

    What I’m looking for are examples of ‘natural scientists’ (e.g. biologists, ecologists, geologists, zoologists, etc.) who should *not* be called or labelled as ‘naturalists.’ I’m looking specifically for Names, please. Iow, don’t *all* people (i.e. natural scientists) who study ‘nature’ qualify as ‘naturalists?’

    That nobody in this thread has faced this question might indicate that it is an important one. Thus, distinguishing between ‘natural scientists,’ which nullasalus, StephenB, Cannuckian Yankee, BA77, tragic mishap, KF and others do not reject out of hand entirely (i.e. they welcome those ‘natural scientists’ Named above), and ‘naturalists’ generally, is a rather important feature of the basic theme of this thread in that it prepares the ground for the MN question to be asked.

    Or, to ask it another way: Are there *any* IDers, amongst the leaders of the IDM, who are ‘naturalists’?

  51. So if I claim not to be an ID proponent, you’ll accept my definition? Uh, I am not an ID proponent.

    Don’t make this personal, tragic. It’s as reasonable to ask an actual proponent of MN to give a definition as it is to ask an ID proponent, and not Barbara Forrest, to define ID before discussing it.

    I’m giving Matzke and company ample time on this one. He in particular can’t say he doesn’t have ample interest in or doesn’t consider himself well-informed about the topic.

  52. Gregory,

    That nobody in this thread has faced this question might indicate that it is an important one. Thus, distinguishing between ‘natural scientists,’ which nullasalus, StephenB, Cannuckian Yankee, BA77, tragic mishap, KF and others do not reject out of hand entirely (i.e. they welcome those ‘natural scientists’ Named above), and ‘naturalists’ generally, is a rather important feature of the basic theme of this thread in that it prepares the ground for the MN question to be asked.

    Sure, and Stephen Hawking is a philosopher. Because, remember, once upon a time scientists were called philosophers of nature, so if you use that definition then clearly Hawking – and all scientists – are actually philosophers.

  53. Sure (even without looking to ‘once upon a time…’ but rather staying in the present), Stephen Hawking, just like me, has a PhD, which makes him, and me, a ‘doctor of philosophy’ in a ‘science’ or scholarly field. Sometimes Hawking philosophises. Of course he does. So do I.

    Behe, Axe and Gauger, Wells and Minnich all have PhDs too. This doesn’t make them philosophers. It would seem to make them ‘natural scientists.’ Yet sometimes they too philosophise.

    The questions in #48 nevertheless remain; whether nullasalus authenticates them or not. They’re not going to be put much clearer than they already are (especially the bolded ones).

  54. Sure (even without looking to ‘once upon a time…’ but rather staying in the present), Stephen Hawking, just like me, has a PhD, which makes him, and me, a ‘doctor of philosophy’ in a ‘science’ or scholarly field.

    Right. All scientists are philosophers. Clearly, because they were originally called philosophers of nature.

    Behe, Axe and Gauger, Wells and Minnich all have PhDs too. This doesn’t make them philosophers.

    Of course not. It’s the fact that scientists were originally called philosophers of nature. That’s what makes them philosophers. Just like they’re all naturalists.

    Actually, I suppose since they are naturalists, and they have methods, Behe, Axe, Wells and the rest all engage in methodological naturalism.

    This neatly ties up a lot of controversial topics with Intelligent Design. For instance, we can’t say that ID is philosophy rather than science, because all science is philosophy anyway – after all, all scientists are philosophers, and philosophers produce philosophy. And since all scientists are also naturalists, and they all use methods, then clearly ID is part of methodological naturalism.

    Problem resolved. Thanks Gregory!

  55. 55

    Sorry, I didn’t see the question earlier amidst the numerous posts not-discussing-the-thorough-previous-scholarly-works-on-the-topic which I referenced.

    The thread title was “defining methodological naturalism”, that’s what I did. Now people are taking everyday words which have widely agreed upon dictionary definitions — “natural” and “supernatural”, and asking for definitions of those?

    1) What is “within nature” or outside of nature? A better way to put this is: what makes something ‘natural’ and something else ‘not natural’? This seems essential to DeVries’ definition.

    The distinction between “natural” and “supernatural” goes back to Christianity and probably even pre-Christian ancient times, it’s not like it was dreamed up recently. Supernatural events are events alleged to be due to the mysterious workings of God or occult powers, unconstrained by the otherwise universal normal rules all physical things follow.

    E.g., normally, 5 fishes + 5 fishes = 10 fishes, people don’t come back to life after being dead, objects don’t rise without a force on them that is stronger than gravity, and energy and mass are conserved (First law of thermodynamics, another statement of 5 fishes + 5 fishes = 10 fishes).

    But, in supernatural events, any or all of these rules are broken. A more specifically Christian way to say it is God set up the laws of nature, events which follow those laws are natural, but if those laws are broken/suspended, that’s supernatural.

    Or the dictionary definition works fine:

    su·per·nat·u·ral
    adjective
    1.
    of, pertaining to, or being above or beyond what is natural; unexplainable by natural law or phenomena; abnormal.

    2.
    of, pertaining to, characteristic of, or attributed to God or a deity.

    Moving on:

    2) What should we take “non-personal” to mean here? The SETI example comes to mind: can science infer that a given signal came from or likely came from a person? Or even use a more mundane example: can science determine that the Empire State Building was built by humans? Or is that known by a method other than science?

    This is why it is so tiresome when blog discussants can’t be bothered to read fundamental work on a topic. In context, De Vries’s discussion of “personal” causes is referring to “God did it” explanations. Humans or aliens who are constrained by conservation of mass and energy, gravity, etc, would be natural causes.

    Obviously, there are different sorts of natural causes (De Vries even lays out how we could hypothetically have both a complete electrochemical description of a person’s brain as an explanation of a person’s action, and a subjective description in terms of emotions and thoughts, and these could both be true simultaenously), so one could distinguish artificial and non-artificial within natural causes.

    There is no great mystery (except to ID advocates) about how science can infer that humans built the Empire State Building or could infer that human-like aliens send a radio signal. Humans have well-known motives, well-known means, well-known constraints and limitations (they can build a skyscraper but not suspend conservation of mass/energy). These produce a well-constrained hypothesis, where the constraints give us expectations about what data we should observe, if the hypothesis “humans did it” is correct.

    Even with SETI, basically the hypothesis is that “we hypothesize that aliens have similar motives, means, capabilities, constraints and limitations as we humans do. Limited by the laws of physics and available energy sources, if we humans wanted to communicate across interstellar distances, we’d use radio waves. Thus, we can listen for radio waves and test the hypothesis that aliens are broadcasting at us.” [In real life, SETI searches have all kinds of technical limits, I believe they only look at a certain number of nearby stars, so really all that is being tested is "is anyone broadcasting to us in our neighborhood?"]

    The SETI hypothesis thus makes all kinds of ambitious assumptions about aliens — humanlike technology, humanlike motives, constrained by mass/energy conservation, etc. We don’t know for sure that those are good assumptions. For all we know, humans are weird and the aliens don’t like talking, or if they do communicate interstellarly they don’t use radio waves, or whatever. If any of the assumptions of the hypothesis is violated, we won’t find ET even if ET exists.

    But without the assumptions, we don’t have a testable hypothesis. You aren’t given radiotelescope time to just sit around and wait for a UFO to fly up to you, or whatever you think is going to happen.

    So, anyway, humans and assumed-to-be-humanlike aliens are within science, because these entities are well-constrained and thus supply hypotheses that put constraints on the data, i.e. they are testable explanations.

    But GodDidIt? Not so much. When GodDidIt is the hypothesis, you aren’t even constrained by conservation of mass/energy. Not even math works in such a situation. Normally, 5 fishes + 5 fishes = 10 fishes, but (as we know from the loaves and fishes story in the NT), you can take logic and math and shove it once a miracle has been introduced into the explanation.

    Random late-night screed follows

    I make no argument that miracles are impossible. But if they happen, they are very rare, peculiar things that violate the usual fundamental structure of reality (e.g. conservation of mass/energy). It is thus very difficult to see how they could be included in science. It is vaguely imaginable that believing a miracle occurred is reasonable in some situations, e.g. based on eyewitness testimony which you trust. That’s for each person to decide for themselves. But I think even many believers would say that these should not be included within science. The whole point of invoking a miracle is to say that something amazing which ought-to-be-impossible has just happened. Science tells you why it ought-to-be-impossible.

    The situation for including miracles within science gets even worse when you get away from claimed eyewitness observation of miracles. When creationists/IDists invoke miracles to explain the vertebrate eye, or the origin of taxonomic families (and then allow genera and species to evolve “within the kind” of the taxonomic family), or the bacterial flagellum or whatever, they are trying to infer a miracle without even having eyewitnesses, or, even without any such event described in the Bible (I’m thinking of old-earth creationists here).

    It would be bad enough if they had a good argument “current science doesn’t explain this organism, therefore I’ll say a miracle happened” — but essentially universally, what creationists/IDists actually do is say “I personally, and my creationist buddies, have done an incredibly superficial investigation of the relevant science, we don’t even know enough to qualify as a graduate student in this area, and we misunderstand more than we understand about the organism and the relevant science, but nevertheless we are going to declare that current science has no explanation, that there never ever will be an explanation, and therefore we’ll invoke a miracle.”

    This isn’t just God-of-the-Gaps-in-human-knowledge, it’s God-of-the-Gaps-of-this-creationist’s-knowledge. One’s personal ignorance seems like particularly pitiful grounds for supposing that e.g. suspension of the conservation of mass/energy occurred.

  56. “All scientists are philosophers.” – nullasalus

    Does he really believe this or was it humour? It would be wrong if nullasalus was trying to put those words into my mouth. I didn’t say that “all scientists are philosophers” or that “all science is philosophy anyway.” My questions are more tightly specific than that.

    “It’s the fact that scientists were originally called philosophers of nature. That’s what makes them philosophers.” – nullasalus

    ‘Originally,’ but not today. Again, does he really believe this or is it humour or sarcasm or…? We are speaking about a Philosophy of Science (PoS) that is relevant or irrelevant, illuminating, clarifying or obscuring today (i.e. MN).

    The very specific questions in bold remain. Unless, was this a serious attempt to answer one of them: “they’re all naturalists,” i.e. referring to Behe, Axe and Gauger, Wells and Minnich?

    Is nullasalus thus affirming that some leaders of the IDM can and should be called (i.e. that they are) ‘naturalists’ or not?

  57. Is nullasalus thus affirming that some leaders of the IDM can and should be called (i.e. that they are) ‘naturalists’ or not?

    Clearly they are not only naturalists, but ID is adheres to methodological naturalism, since ID’s methods would just be the methods of naturalists. It’s also philosophy, and so is particle physics, because all scientists are philosophers, so science and philosophy are the same thing.

    Again, does he really believe this or is it humour or sarcasm or…?

    That’s a tough one! Better ask a philosopher/scientist.

  58. Well, nullasalus, if you’re not going to be serious, this likely won’t be a fruitful discussion. One cannot conclude from your remarks if you believe *any* ID leaders can and should be called ‘naturalists’ or not.

    If this thread wishes to speak of a qualifier (methodological), it should surely speak of the qualified (naturalism) first. IDers claim their methods are the methods of natural scientists and I’ve asked for a distinction between ‘natural scientists’ and ‘naturalists,’ since some ID leaders are ‘natural scientists’. This doesn’t seem unreasonable to ask.

    Tightly specified questions in #48 remain for those who might wish to take them seriously. As someone who has studied PoS at the PhD level, like Stephen C. Meyer among perhaps a few other ID leaders, I find these questions rather important as grounding upon which the MN discussion is or can be properly conducted.

  59. Nick,

    Now people are taking everyday words which have widely agreed upon dictionary definitions — “natural” and “supernatural”, and asking for definitions of those?

    First, they don’t have widely agreed upon dictionary definitions. Second, I’m just making sure that whatever the definition is, is one you agree with. Third, did you happen to notice that your ‘dictionary definition’ provided was just ‘If God did it’ or ‘if it’s not natural’, the former of which is A) pretty unhelpful, B) I asked you for your definition of natural, so saying ‘the supernatural is that which isn’t natural’ ain’t a freaking help, and C) your definition suggests that if God acts, so long as He doesn’t violate various laws (particularly the law of conservation of mass/energy), His acts are fair game.

    In context, De Vries’s discussion of “personal” causes is referring to “God did it” explanations. Humans or aliens who are constrained by conservation of mass and energy, gravity, etc, would be natural causes.

    See, this is precisely why I asked you to define these things: because ‘humans or aliens who are constrained by conservation of mass and energy, gravity, etc would be natural causes’, isn’t exactly part of any ‘dictionary definition’.

    I still have questions here. Brian Greene went over a variety of multiverse-related concepts in his latest book. To use a far out example, he suggested that various universes – even ours – could be simulations. Complete with programmers running said simulations.

    Natural hypothesis? Supernatural hypothesis? What say you, Nick?

    Let’s run in the opposite direction. The Mormon God is a material being, co-eternal alongside matter, which He is constituted of. He’s certainly limited by nature, even if tremendously powerful. Natural? Supernatural? Again, what’s your verdict according to the definitions you’re throwing around?

    You mention the conservation of mass/energy. Now, my understanding is that that was a pretty late development in terms of knowledge – centuries, even millenia after most major religions. So it’s not as if you had the greeks saying “Zeus violates the conservation laws!”. He just helped make the world and threw lightning around.

    And just for fun, is Sean Carroll making supernatural claims here?

    There is no great mystery (except to ID advocates) about how science can infer that humans built the Empire State Building or could infer that human-like aliens send a radio signal. Humans have well-known motives, well-known means, well-known constraints and limitations (they can build a skyscraper but not suspend conservation of mass/energy). These produce a well-constrained hypothesis, where the constraints give us expectations about what data we should observe, if the hypothesis “humans did it” is correct.

    First, I love how I’m being entirely polite and civil with you, but you’ve kicked into a whole lot of passive-aggressive antics just because I’ve asked you a question. Really, it’s adorable. ;)

    Second, you mention ‘well-known motives’ and ‘well-known means’. Are these ‘well-known’ due to science by your reckoning? You can’t really be telling me that science once upon a time revealed that humans have these things called “motives”, for example.

    The SETI hypothesis thus makes all kinds of ambitious assumptions about aliens — humanlike technology, humanlike motives, constrained by mass/energy conservation, etc. We don’t know for sure that those are good assumptions. For all we know, humans are weird and the aliens don’t like talking, or if they do communicate interstellarly they don’t use radio waves, or whatever. If any of the assumptions of the hypothesis is violated, we won’t find ET even if ET exists.

    Granted. But is SETI scientific? I didn’t see an answer out of you on that front. Because SETI, as you just described it, is playing pretty fast and loose – they’re making a whole lot of assumptions to do what they’re doing. I’d have trouble believing you’d take the position “You can make inferences about agents you’ve never even encountered before, so long as you make some real big assumptions about them, and it’s scientific”. But maybe you are.

    I make no argument that miracles are impossible. But if they happen, they are very rare, peculiar things that violate the usual fundamental structure of reality (e.g. conservation of mass/energy).

    That’s nice, but I haven’t defended miracles-as-science once here, and ID proponents insist they don’t defend miracles-as-science. Also, I have no idea why you’d suggest that miracles are very rare, peculiar things – that certainly isn’t a finding of science. It’s, at best, an assumption science requires – remember?

    It’s also a whole other topic. Right now I’ve got my hands full just trying to nail down a proper definition of MN and natural/supernatural out of you.

    I’d say you should drop the pissiness until I actually offend you, but what the hell, go for it if you like. Like I said, it’s amusing. :)

  60. Well, nullasalus, if you’re not going to be serious, this likely won’t be a fruitful discussion.

    :D

  61. Yeah, it was starting to look like you didn’t want a serious or rigorous conversation. That’s for verifying that! :P

  62. Gregory@48:

    What are you talking about? You have a list of names given at 24 above in answer to your question. That is in addition to addressing the problem of imposition of naturalism as ideology. Design thinkers by definition are not going to be a priori Lewontinian materialists. But we do have design thinkers who are agnostics at minimum, e.g. –IIRC — Berlinski. Hoyle is next door to that, too.

    KF

  63. KF,

    The list of names (Newton, Kelvin, Planck, Pasteur, Schaeffer, et al.) you give is not answer to these two questions:
    1) “Is it possible for a (practising) ‘natural scientist’ to *not* be a ‘naturalist’?
    2) Are there *any* IDers, amongst the leaders of the IDM, who are ‘naturalists’?

    If naturalists just means ‘natural scientists’ who study nature, then all of those people you mention are ‘naturalists’. You’ll have to be much more specific about what you call ‘the philosophy of naturalism,’ which I call ‘naturalistic ideology,’ to distinguish it from what natural scientists do today.

    You speak about creationists, materialists, Voltaire, the Enlightenment, agnostics, etc. It just convolutes a much simpler/easier topic. Try to stay on topic; just ‘naturalism’ and ‘naturalists’ first, o.k.?

    Are you suggesting that David Berlinski considers himself a ‘naturalist’? If so, please make available a reference from Berlinski himself indicating this. Are you suggesting the other ID leaders I mentioned cannot and should not be called (i.e. are not) ‘naturalists,’ even though they are ‘natural scientists’?

  64. @ Jon #21

    I wrote: “There seems to be necessary a distinction between someone who studies ‘natural history’ and an ideologue, i.e. one who promotes ‘naturalism’ as a worldview, to the exclusion of anything ‘non-natural’.”

    You replied: “The distinction naturalist (the occupation) v naturalist (the ideologue) seems to go back to nullasalus’ question: what makes a natural phenomenon natural?”

    In case it appeared I was dismissive or disagreeing with you…Yes, I agree with both you and nullasalus that the semantics of ‘natural’ and ‘nature’ are at the root of the discussion. Another is whether or not the term ‘methodological naturalism’ is even valid in the context of PoS, the ‘home’ discipline for this topic.

    For example, you seem to speak of ‘metaphysical naturalist’ as if it is a valid and meaningful category. It seems others on this list (including myself) reject the MN vs MN schematic entirely (or they call it philosophical naturalist, while yet others use evolutionary naturalist, etc.). Thus, it makes a big difference as to how one uses ‘MN,’ whether they accept it as valid and wish to increase/expand its usage communicatively or not.

    I guess we’ll have to wait for nullasalus’ attempts at providing definitions of ‘nature,’ ‘natural’ and ‘methodological naturalism’ after Nick gives his “proper definition of MN and natural/supernatural” to nullasalus, whatever that might mean.

    For the record, I consider myself a ‘scientist/scholar who is not a naturalist,’ qualifiers to ‘naturalist’ are not needed. I would guess, Jon, that you are a (retired) medical doctor, who also does not consider himself a ‘naturalist.’ But we would both agree that a ‘naturalist’ (the occupation if not the ideologue) can be a ‘theist,’ and even an IDer would we not?

  65. 65

    Don’t make this personal, tragic.

    Was totally joking. Sorry.

  66. Was totally joking. Sorry.

    No, I didn’t see the joke. My bad, I apologize.

  67. 67

    Nick

    Normally, 5 fishes + 5 fishes = 10 fishes

    I submit it is possible that Jesus did not break conservation of mass to perform the feeding of the five thousand. He could have simply re-arranged existing matter. This is relevant because it’s exactly the sort of thing ID is talking about.

    Science tells you why [a miracle] ought-to-be-impossible.

    Of course it does. Therefore science can properly comment on miracles. Without reference to science we wouldn’t know the difference between a miracle and necessity. Thus if someone wished to proclaim a miracle, they would have to reference science and explain why science makes the event normally impossible. You have given away the farm here Nick. Perhaps you would like to rephrase this?

  68. 68

    I submit it is possible that Jesus did not break conservation of mass to perform the feeding of the five thousand. He could have simply re-arranged existing matter. This is relevant because it’s exactly the sort of thing ID is talking about.

    This would still take energy, which is also conserved. It’s the same problem if Jesus poofs the energy into existence.

    Of course it does. Therefore science can properly comment on miracles. Without reference to science we wouldn’t know the difference between a miracle and necessity. Thus if someone wished to proclaim a miracle, they would have to reference science and explain why science makes the event normally impossible. You have given away the farm here Nick. Perhaps you would like to rephrase this?

    No, I still like my phrasing. Like you say, science can “comment” on miracles, but only to say “that ought to be impossible, because massive observational evidence and the logic of our understanding of natural laws rules say that that miracle thing can’t happen”. If you decide to believe in a miracle anyway, well that’s your choice, and hypothetically it might even be a good one. It’s just taking a step outside of science when you make that move.

  69. 69

    null,

    I’ve done all the work in this thread, I’m not interested in discussing further with someone who won’t even acknowledge that natural/supernatural are longstanding, ancient concepts that go back thousands of years and everyone has a pretty good basic common understanding of what is natural vs. supernatural. This is what I feared from the beginning, based on past experience at UD. If you can’t even come this far with me, well then, I can’t help you, and I’m done.

  70. 70
    Alastair F. Paisley

    Wikipedia defines “methodological naturalism” and “metaphysical naturalism” respectively as follows:

    Methodological naturalism is concerned not with claims about what exists but with methods of learning what is nature. It is strictly the idea that all scientific endeavors—all hypotheses and events—are to be explained and tested by reference to natural causes and events.

    (source: Wikipedia: Methodological Naturalism)

    Metaphysical naturalism, also called ontological naturalism and philosophical naturalism is a strong belief in naturalism, a worldview with a philosophical aspect which holds that there is nothing but natural elements, principles, and relations of the kind studied by the natural sciences, i.e., those required to understand our physical environment by mathematical modeling.

    (source: Wikipedia: Metaphysical Naturalism)

    It seems to me that there are two basic points to be extracted from these definitions:

    1) A naturalistic explanation is a physical explanation.

    2) A physical explanation is one that can be predicted or determined by mathematical modeling.

  71. –Nick: “I’ve done all the work in this thread, I’m not interested in discussing further with someone who won’t even acknowledge that natural/supernatural are longstanding, ancient concepts that go back thousands of years and everyone has a pretty good basic common understanding of what is natural vs. supernatural.”

    I think I have a pretty good idea of the common understanding of those terms.

    Natural = matter and energy, dealing with contingent realities

    Supernatural = transcendent intelligence, dealing with those matters which are not contingent

    Based on that common understanding, science does not address anything that could be interpreted as being the result of a transcendent cause (God did it). It must be contingent realities acting on other contingent realities (courtesy of Paul Devries).

    Right Nick?

    So, what do we do with the archeologist who declares, in the name of science, that an ancient hunter’s spear was likely crafted by an intelligent agent and was not the result of wind, air, and erosion (matter and energy)

    A DESIGN INFERENCE. HIDE THE KIDS.

    By definition, the ancient hunter’s “production” was a “supernatural event” (it isn’t natural by the common definition.)

    Yes, that’s true, says the methodological naturalist, but I would like to change the definition of “natural” as anything that occurs “in nature.”

    What the hell does that mean? Is wind, air, and erosion now the same kind of cause as a human intelligent agent? If so, why is the archeologist, by virtue of his design inference, saying they are different kinds of causes. Where are we at this point in the discussion? Well, by the lights of the new revised methodological naturalism, the ancient hunter is a “supernatural” cause insofar his production is not the product of matter and energy, but he is also natural cause insofar as his activity occurred “in nature.”

    So which is it? What’s the deal?

    The deal is that they will never answer the question for this reason. They are in the business of excluding intelligent design at all costs, even if it means remaining incoherent.

    If they were to provide an honest answer, they would either have to offer an expansive inclusionary definition of methodological naturalism or a restrictive exclusionary definition. If they are PRECISE, EXPANSIVE, and INCLUSIONARY, they will include intelligent design, archeology, SETI, Big Bang theory, OR if they are PRECISE, RESTRICTIVE, and EXCLUSIONARY, they will rule out Big Bang theory, SETI, archeology, forensic science and all the rest, looking like idiots.

    So, they simply refuse to answer the question. It is a waste of time to ask them. Trust me.

  72. “I would guess, Jon, that you are a (retired) medical doctor, who also does not consider himself a ‘naturalist.’”

    Well, I’m so old-fashioned that I consider myself a naturalist if I look at a badger through binoculars. Newts in jam-jars is naturalism to me!

  73. as to this:

    “that ought to be impossible, because massive observational evidence and the logic of our understanding of natural laws rules say that that miracle thing can’t happen”.

    Please someone tell me exactly what is ‘natural’ about universal transcendent constants (natural laws) that have not changed one iota since the universes creation, and which are exceedingly finely tuned for life to exist.

    further notes:

    In these following videos, Alvin Plantinga reveals just how arbitrary this artificial imposition of materialism onto science is;

    Alvin Plantinga: Divine Action – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5DPneR-Rtc

    Does Science Show That Miracles Can’t Happen? (Alvin Plantinga) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcvSSQGYIu8

    Here is What the artificial imposition of methodological naturalism on origins science really means:

    Treasure Island
    http://bevets.com/ti.htm

    As well please note that atheists have no problem with ‘random miracles’ defying natural law when it suits their atheistic agenda:

    The Absurdity of Inflation, String Theory & The Multiverse – Dr. Bruce Gordon – video
    http://vimeo.com/34468027

    Here is the last power-point of the preceding video:

    The End Of Materialism?
    * In the multiverse, anything can happen for no reason at all.
    * In other words, the materialist is forced to believe in random miracles as a explanatory principle.
    * In a Theistic universe, nothing happens without a reason. Miracles are therefore intelligently directed deviations from divinely maintained regularities, and are thus expressions of rational purpose.
    * Scientific materialism is (therefore) epistemically self defeating: it makes scientific rationality impossible.

  74. 74

    This would still take energy, which is also conserved. It’s the same problem if Jesus poofs the energy into existence.

    And Jesus could do with energy just as he did with mass: use the available energy and arrange it to his purpose. It would not after all be against any law. It would merely be highly improbable, a data point that a scientist would reject statistically as outside the realm of necessity or law.

    If you decide to believe in a miracle anyway, well that’s your choice, and hypothetically it might even be a good one. It’s just taking a step outside of science when you make that move.

    Unless of course someone observed the miracle and recorded it.

  75. John Lennox – Science And Miracles – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dB71Vzw71eo

  76. Dr Matzke, 66:

    massive observational evidence and the logic of our understanding of natural laws rules say that that miracle thing can’t happen.

    This is little more than a crude form of Hume’s question-begging blunder. We simply cannot know laws of nature to certainty, given the nature of induction. Laws of nature by the very nature of the case (as provisional inductive generalisations subject to adjustment on further evidence and reason) cannot decree that miracles CANNOT happen.

    What we can reasonably say on general empirical observation, is that miracles as a class — taken as events that transcend the usual course of the world in so striking a way as to point beyond it — will at most be quite rare. (Which BTW would include the beginning of the world, which sets up the natural order we observe. No natural order, no possibility of natural laws to forbid what goes beyond the norm.)

    But that is just what theologians tell us: we do not live in a chaos but a cosmos, so there will be a general pattern of events that will be orderly, and which traces to a beginning; indeed the implications raised by a beginning were a big part of resistance to the Big Bang view, and that Lemaitre was a Catholic Priest did not exactly help matters; BTW, yet another one of those pesky theists making a significant contribution to science.

    That frame is connected to the Judaeo Christian view that God is a God of order and upholds all things by his powerful word. Indeed, that is the root of why we speak of laws of nature.

    And of course an accurate understanding of the actual root of science as a self sustaining enterprise, will trace it to impacts of that worldview. The myth of an eternal war of science and reason against that dangerous superstition we call religion is just that — an enlightenment era rationalist myth.

    In that context, the very nature of miracles as signs pointing beyond the usual order REQUIRES that there be just such an order. In a chaos, nothing could be miraculous, because literally anything could and would routinely happen, anytime.

    So, the point of the miraculous is that it is an initiative from beyond the usual order of the world, for a reason tracing to a being capable of so acting. (And, BTW, across time, there are literally millions of witnesses to miracles [starting with answers to prayer and miracles of life transformation -- just check out Alcoholics Anonymous as a starter], far too many and enough of good quality that crude circular argument dismissals as just cited are blatantly circular, ill advised and perhaps even arrogant.)

    But also, the clip above shows plainly that the root issue is not science at all.

    In the name of science, and stretching the logic of scientific induction until it shatters in an absurdity, what is being imposed is philosophical naturalism, and probably philosophical materialism. Science, here is being seized under false pretences and used to advance the cause of secularist ideology.

    And, surprise — not — yet again methodological naturalism turns out to be a stalking horse for metaphysical naturalism. Collins English dict:

    4. (Philosophy) Philosophy
    a. a scientific account of the world in terms of causes and natural forces that rejects all spiritual, supernatural, or teleological explanations

    b. the meta-ethical thesis that moral properties are reducible to natural ones, or that ethical judgments are derivable from nonethical ones See naturalistic fallacy Compare descriptivism

    It would help instead to hear Newton on basic limits of scientific methods, as we would now call them, from Opticks, Query 31:

    As in Mathematicks, so in Natural Philosophy, the Investigation of difficult Things by the Method of Analysis, ought ever to precede the Method of Composition. This Analysis consists in making Experiments and Observations, and in drawing general Conclusions from them by Induction, and admitting of no Objections against the Conclusions, but such as are taken from Experiments, or other certain Truths. For Hypotheses are not to be regarded in experimental Philosophy. And although the arguing from Experiments and Observations by Induction be no Demonstration of general Conclusions; yet it is the best way of arguing which the Nature of Things admits of, and may be looked upon as so much the stronger, by how much the Induction is more general. And if no Exception occur from Phaenomena, the Conclusion may be pronounced generally. But if at any time afterwards any Exception shall occur from Experiments, it may then begin to be pronounced with such Exceptions as occur. By this way of Analysis we may proceed from Compounds to Ingredients, and from Motions to the Forces producing them; and in general, from Effects to their Causes, and from particular Causes to more general ones, till the Argument end in the most general. This is the Method of Analysis: And the Synthesis consists in assuming the Causes discover’d, and establish’d as Principles, and by them explaining the Phaenomena proceeding from them, and proving the Explanations.

    Wise, humble words we need to heed.

    GEM of TKI

  77. ———nullasalus: “I submit it is possible that Jesus did not break conservation of mass to perform the feeding of the five thousand. He could have simply re-arranged existing matter. This is relevant because it’s exactly the sort of thing ID is talking about.”

    As you know, investigating that act of re-arranging matter would still violate the principle of methodological naturalism because such an event would still be a miracle. By the MN standard, a miraculous event may not be interpreted as a miracle, that is, the non miraculous interpretation must always be preferred. Thus, the methodological naturalist can say, “I don’t deny the possibility of miracles, I just can’t take that possibility seriously when I wear my scientist’s hat.”

    ———-”Of course it does. Therefore science can properly comment on miracles. Without reference to science we wouldn’t know the difference between a miracle and necessity.”

    Yes, science may, but methodological naturalism may not.

    ——–”Thus if someone wished to proclaim a miracle, they would have to reference science and explain why science makes the event normally impossible.”

    That’s right. In studying the alleged miraculous cures at Lourdes, the Bishops summon the aid of scientists, who violate the principle of methodological naturalism by participating and by venturing their opinion about the possible limits of nature. According to methodological naturalism, nature must be understood to have no limits–the scientist must study nature “as if nature is all there is.”

    ———Nick: “No, I still like my phrasing. Like you say, science can “comment” on miracles, but only to say “that ought to be impossible, because massive observational evidence and the logic of our understanding of natural laws rules say that that miracle thing can’t happen”. If you decide to believe in a miracle anyway, well that’s your choice, and hypothetically it might even be a good one. It’s just taking a step outside of science when you make that move.”

    Not exactly. Methodolological naturalism cannot even be half-way reasonable. It may not, for example, say, “because observational evidence and the logic of our understanding tells us that miracles “ought to be impossible.” It is committed to saying that miracles must be ruled out as an apriori principle [no Divine foot can be allowed in the door]. It forbids the scientist to interpret evidence in light of the possibility that nature might not be all there is.

  78. Nick,

    I’ve done all the work in this thread, I’m not interested in discussing further with someone who won’t even acknowledge that natural/supernatural are longstanding, ancient concepts that go back thousands of years and everyone has a pretty good basic common understanding of what is natural vs. supernatural.

    Alright, I knew this would happen. So, time out here – I want everyone to have a look at what’s going on.

    I’ve been polite here, and I’ve been patient. I have tried my damndest to give Nick every opportunity to engage on this topic. When others were essentially saying “Nick’s not going to reply further, because it will just hurt his position if he does”, I said no – give him time. Let’s give him until the middle of next week. I’m in no rush here, and I’d really like to hammer out an understanding of MN with a guy who is, frankly, a very big proponent of methodological naturalism.

    So I ask Nick to do something simple. I ask him, with regards to methodological naturalism and modern science, to define ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’ for me – pretty freaking important when you tell me that methodological naturalism restricts itself to the study of nature. He huffs tremendously at merely being asked this, gives me a dictionary definition of supernatural (which basically says, ‘What God does, and also anything that isn’t natural’ – not exactly helpful), waves his arms and insists that the supernatural would involve breaking a law of nature (for instance, conservation of energy), and acts pretty petulant that I’m even trying to define these terms.

    I press him on a few things. He says science is what shows us the Empire State Building was built by humans because humans have “well-known motives, well-known means, well-known constraints and limitations”. I mention that I’m pretty sure science isn’t what showed that humans have well-known motives, for example. I point out that in his reply about SETI, he didn’t tell me that it was or wasn’t scientific – and that his at least implies that making massive assumptions about the motives and capabilities of your subject (aliens, in that case) can patch up the endeavor. I mention physicist Briane Greene’s multiverse speculation, particularly with regard to simulations and simulated universes, and ask whether those qualify as natural or supernatural. I point out the Mormon God is a material being, co-eternal with matter, and as such is limited by nature – again, natural or supernatural?

    Just for fun, since he made a big deal about the conservation of mass/energy specifically, I point to a Sean Carroll post with Carroll saying that the conservation of energy is violated. Check the previous link for more details.

    The point of me rehashing this is to illustrate something: these are fair questions. Nick huffs that the difference between natural and supernatural are well known and have been for thousands of years and that that’s why he’s not going to respond to any of my questions and is done talking to me. But you know what? I’m pretty sure you won’t find ‘We know Christ did supernatural works, because we’re pretty sure the water into wine thing violated the conservation of energy’ in the bible, what with that very idea not coming up until centuries later (to say nothing of universal physical laws, specifically and generally.)

    But let me go further and hit the wikipedia entry for supernatural.

    “With neoplatonic and medieval scholastic origins, the metaphysical considerations can be difficult to approach as an exercise in philosophy or theology because any dependencies on its antithesis, the natural, will ultimately have to be inverted or rejected.”

    Oh, and my favorite part:

    One complicating factor is that there is no universal agreement about what the definition of “natural” is, and what the limits of naturalism might be.

    So much for Nick’s ‘well everyone knows what natural and supernatural is’. I’m sure that everyone has ideas of what they’d call natural and supernatural – but those definitions would also vary, or they would be vague rather than very precise, and precision is what I’m after here. There are problem cases, such as the ones I outlined. And so, I ask questions.

    And by the way, you guys will notice that despite being polite, despite asking fair questions, Nick bailed. He didn’t stick around to answer some pretty reasonable questions, he certainly didn’t stick around to shoot down any argument I was making – because I didn’t make an argument. Just asking Nick some reasonable questions about a concept he, personally, practically enshrines as a central concept of science is enough to make him cut and run.

    You’d almost get the impression that Nick didn’t want to answer these questions, because Methodological Naturalism wouldn’t hold up under scrutiny.

    But hey – let Nick run if he wants. I gave him every opportunity to help clarify these terms, to deal with some reasonable questions, and he’s decided to haul ass out of here. Unfortunate, but the discussion about MN can continue without him.

    But man, the fact that he ran the moment some questions got asked is telling.

  79. 79

    And, surprise — not — yet again methodological naturalism turns out to be a stalking horse for metaphysical naturalism.

    This is hilarious. (A) Christians came up with both the centuries-old concept and the recent word. (B) The New Atheists don’t like methodological naturalism, precisely because it isn’t metaphysical naturalism. Google methodological naturalism and Moran, Boudry, Coyne, etc.

    It would help instead to hear Newton on basic limits of scientific methods, as we would now call them, from Opticks, Query 31:

    Citing Newton would be more impressive if it wasn’t the case that his most famous mistake was to jump to the conclusion that God was miraculously tweaking the orbits of planets to keep them in place, just because no one had figured out the relevant math of orbital perturbations yet.

    In that context, the very nature of miracles as signs pointing beyond the usual order REQUIRES that there be just such an order. In a chaos, nothing could be miraculous, because literally anything could and would routinely happen, anytime.

    Agreed. So why can’t we just say that science studies “the usual order”, and something else like theology studies the miracles? This is what Christians who are scientists have been doing for centuries.

    I think the reason you guys are resisting this is the same reason that the New Atheists don’t like methodological naturalism. Both creationists and New Atheists tend to be committed to scientism, i.e. the idea that science, correctly done, should cover everything. For creationists, this goes back quite a ways. According to historians like Mark Noll, the theological ancestors of modern Christian fundamentalism/evangelicalism almost literally thought of theology as a science, with the data being the Bible, and with questions resolved by adding up the verses on each side of a question. (This is a bit of an exaggeration, but not much.)

  80. “I think the reason you guys are resisting this is the same reason that the New Atheists don’t like methodological naturalism. Both creationists and New Atheists tend to be committed to scientism, i.e. the idea that science, correctly done, should cover everything.”

    I’ve always understood that the new atheists don’t like the concept of NOMA (which is essentially another wording of MN); simply because they believe that there are no magistrates other than nature’s itself.

    How one defines “nature” is a huge issue here. If we view “nature” as actually doing things as opposed to behaving according to law, then to the Christian doing science, nature itself is not a magistrate (as in a realm where it does something) at all. It does nothing. “There can be only one mover (nature) or we couldn’t do science consistently – that’s the view of the new atheist, but not necessarily the view of the Christian doing science. But to view nature itself (or in the case of Stephen Hawking, the laws of nature) as a mover, one of course must discount any other mover in order to do science. If you view nature as not a mover, but acting according to law, then you allow that there could (or must) be a mover or movers beyond nature, dictating the laws and operations of nature; and that such a mover or movers CAN act in ways that are not common to nature.

    Nick, your contention that miracles are examples of what is beyond the natural order, can only be so (or make any rational sense at all) if there is a prime mover or movers and thus, only if nature itself is not a mover. The new atheists are inconsistent in their attempt to be consistent, because they of course state that nature follows law, but they are not willing to admit that in order for nature to “do” so, it can have no will of it’s own, and therefore cannot be itself a mover. Thus, the new atheists personify nature as some sort of prime mover; which is inconsistent with the notion that nature follows law. If the new atheists were consistent, what’s to stop natural things from acting on their own without law, if “nature” itself is personified (i.e., has a will)? And of course, we who reject Darwinian mechanisms as an explanation for how evolution works, reject it along those lines; Darwinian mechanisms personify or give will to something that cannot have will. Darwinian RM + NS is a miracle; which can only be so if nature does something of its own volition and apart from a prime mover.

    So this issue here places some doubt on the validity of defining “supernatural” as outside of what nature “does.” The Christian doing science sees a prime mover as necessary for nature to do anything. The very fact that nature “acts” according to law is indicative of a prime mover. The “naturalist” defines this as “supernatural,” and includes in the definition any mythical entity that can presumably do things apart from law, and thus rejects it. But the Christian doing science is careful to identify just what is necessary in order for nature to act according to law. Mythical entities are irrelevant, while a prime mover is necessary. Otherwise nature can do what it wills to do, and there’s no stopping it from doing all sorts of things that can have no scientific explanation.

  81. Dr Matzke:

    Pardon, but lost in the distractive or dismissive laugh is a fallacy. And you seem to have just fallen into it.

    It seems that your problem is that you think philosophical naturalism is scientific rather than philosophical, and it further seems that your methodological naturalism is tantamount to the same.

    In particular, it is a gross error to imagine that laws of nature — being inductive and provisional generalisations — can forbid miracle in the sense that is meant when theologians speak of such. (It is you who have used forbidding language in 66 above.)

    What seems to be going on, then, is a have your cake and eat it game.

    As for the new atheists, their quarrel is that they are young Turks who want to make direct assaults and generally gent their spleens, as I know from direct experience. They are impatient with that which is tantamount but not explicit.

    But, the statement you have made in 66 above removes the fuzziness pretty well.

    And as for Newton, whose cited remark is the obvious foundation of the usual school type definition of science and discussion of its methods and their limitations, the point is that he has openly acknowledged the provisionality of inductive methods and generalisations — laws — in science.

    Last I checked, his logic and his admission of the limitations on inductive methods was still quire proper.

    And, that is exactly the grounds under which no inductive scientific generalisations, AKA laws of nature, can forbid rare exceptions, or can even claim to be absolutely true.

    Just about 300 years later, Newton is still quite right.

    G’night

    GEM of TKI

    PS: I have taken liberty to put up your remark and BA77′s link to the Lennox vid. Have fun watching.

  82. CY,

    I’ve always understood that the new atheists don’t like the concept of NOMA (which is essentially another wording of MN); simply because they believe that there are no magistrates other than nature’s itself.

    While Nick continues to duck my questions, let me throw in this additional comment.

    One’s commitment to methodological naturalism absolutely doesn’t determine whether or not one believes that there’s ‘knowledge outside of science’. Dembski and company reject MN, but show me where they think that all knowledge is scientific knowledge. I reject MN, and I absolutely don’t think that science is the only source of knowledge. (Really, one of my points with asking Nick about the Empire State Building is that it’s tough to argue our knowledge in that case is scientific.)

    But here’s the flipside: New Atheists absolutely love MN, at times. Specifically, they love it when it’s used to deride ID and other claims as non-scientific. They love it when it keeps ID and creationism out of schools. Because the New Atheists don’t really care about science, or even scientism – they just dislike Christianity, and will use whatever arguments are in reach to argue against it or what they see as proxies for it, even if they abandon those tools later.

    Nick won’t actually have a conversation about what constitutes ‘natural’ or ‘supernatural’ other than to say, basically, “Everyone knows, we can tell when we see it, quit asking.”

    By the way, the ironic thing about that? That’s how critics accuse ID proponents of defining ‘intelligence’. Except in Nick’s case, he’s actually making this move explicitly regarding natural and supernatural. ;)

  83. —-Nick: “So why can’t we just say that science studies “the usual order”, and something else like theology studies the miracles?”

    That doesn’t help. ID studies the “usual order.” Since it is the “rule” of methodological naturalism (and the language that defines it) that disqualifies ID, it is the rule that must be evaluated.

    —–”I think the reason you guys are resisting this is the same reason that the New Atheists don’t like methodological naturalism.”

    I, for one, am not resisting anything. You have not yet presented me with a definition of nature, natural, or methodological naturalism that I can resist.

    I am simply asking questions:

    Was the volcano the buried the artifacts at Pompei the same kind of cause as the human agents that created them? Were they, in other words, both natural causes? If so, then how does the archeologist differentiate between them in order to make a design inference.

    If more than one cause was involved, then what other cause can we identify. If the persons that created the artifacts were not natural causes, were they supernatural causes? Or is there another category of cause that has not yet been articulated?

    Since the rule is being used to disqualify ID, and since the claim is being made that it has been with us for a long time (of course it hasn’t), shouldn’t it be precise and meaningful so we can evaluate it it or, as you would like, enforce it?

    These are not abstruse questions. They are basic considerations and the proponents of methodological naturalism cannot answer them. That is a problem.

  84. PPS: I forgot. It is the Christian founders of science who, centuries ago saw scientific work as thinking God’s creative and sustaining thoughts after him. So, to suggest that Christians doing science or discussing it object to that is a strawman fallacy. Similarly, we note the slippery slope to insinuating that design thought is equal to creationism, which you have been repeatedly adequately corrected on. Theologians have pointed out, and philosophers too, that for miracles to be possible there MUST be a usual order of nature, indeed that is what I summarised above and earlier in reply to those who imagined that I quote mined Lewontin. The point is, on strict logic, since scientific laws are inductions they by themselves cannot forbid rare exceptions, and are discussing the usual course of the world. There is no way such “laws” by themselves can rule out that say God for good reason may choose to act in a different than usual way from time to time. But of course if your underlying assumptions are that anything beyond matter, energy, space and time is suspect, e.g. starting with mind and intelligence, then of course you look for and demand explanation on naturalistic causes, tracing to forces of chance and necessity acting on such. But in fact that sort of materialism fatally undermines the minds we need to practice science and reasoning, and in addition seriously begs the question. What is needed is metaphysical neutralism and elimination of implicit and dubious a prioris. That points to a reasonable discussion of the limitations of scientific and inductive reasoning, and to comparative difficulties analysis on worldviews, acknowledging that people from various worldviews do objectively good science, even including the much despised creationists. KF

  85. PPPS: Kindly name a major scientist who did not make mistakes. And if Newton got the question of the perturbations of the planets wrong [what is usually dismissed as God of the gaps], and was not able to solve long term orbital instability — which BTW is still open! — that has nothing to do with the logic and limitations of inductive inference. But of course it is handy to try to knock Newton the man and dismiss his argument without addressing it on the merits. That is a propagandist’s ad hominem tactic, not a serious discussion of a serious issue on its merits. KF

  86. “One’s commitment to methodological naturalism absolutely doesn’t determine whether or not one believes that there’s ‘knowledge outside of science’. Dembski and company reject MN, but show me where they think that all knowledge is scientific knowledge. I reject MN, and I absolutely don’t think that science is the only source of knowledge. (Really, one of my points with asking Nick about the Empire State Building is that it’s tough to argue our knowledge in that case is scientific.)”

    Exactly!!! Nick lumps the new atheists together with all “creationists” (including IDists) as being committed to scientism. Some “creationists” are, not doubt; and that the difference between the two is that “creationists” allow God as part of their scientism, while the new atheists do not.

    This is simply not so. I detect that most, if not all IDists are definitely not committed to scientism. IDists recognize that in order to do science consistently one must begin with proper (and rational) metaphysical assumptions, which are outside of science.

    Methodological naturalism is an attempt to discount metaphysical assumptions from science altogether. The problem is that MN begins itself with a metaphysical assumption, so it is entirely self-defeating right from the start.

  87. “Nick won’t actually have a conversation about what constitutes ‘natural’ or ‘supernatural’ other than to say, basically, ‘Everyone knows, we can tell when we see it, quit asking.’”

    Another “Exactly!!!!” In other words, everyone knows what supernatural is when he/she sees it. This assumes that there IS indeed something “supernatural,” that one can experience.

    This is why I mentioned Michael C. Rea’s book, “World Without Design,” which I haven’t yet read, but understand the basic premise that Methodological naturalism, (or simply put: “naturalism”) is a research project; which discounts certain evidence. And what is the evidence it discounts? The supernatural. Well, it couldn’t very well discount the supernatural as evidence if it has no experience with just what is supernatural; and I think that is a very fair, valid and obvious point to make.

  88. CY,

    Another “Exactly!!!!” In other words, everyone knows what supernatural is when he/she sees it. This assumes that there IS indeed something “supernatural,” that one can experience.

    Except there’s another problem here. By not defining it, anything that Nick dislikes – in this case, ID – can be arbitrarily excluded. And anything he likes, can be arbitrarily included. The moment he starts defining it, however, complications are going to set in.

    Another commenter – tragic I think – pointed out that you don’t need to violate the conservation of energy to perform various miracles, such as the multiplication of loaves and fishes. And I’d point out that “violating the law of conservation of energy” clearly wasn’t part of the description of the miracle, because conservation laws didn’t come into play until what… the 18th century? That’s far after the fact of the multiplication miracles, so there’s no way that was the standard unless Nick thinks Saint Peter and company were aware of these things.

    That’s the funny thing. One of the routine complaints we see Nick and others give of ID is that they fail to be precise with their terms, and trade on a lot of vagueness. Now, I don’t think that’s true. But it’s exactly the game Nick is using here. And it’s also exactly why he’s not willing to define his terms – because the moment he does, we have a fixed instead of a moving target. And he doesn’t have any confidence that MN, given an actual fixed definition, can stand up to scrutiny.

  89. “Another commenter – tragic I think – pointed out that you don’t need to violate the conservation of energy to perform various miracles, such as the multiplication of loaves and fishes.”

    I attended an EV Free church when I was in my early 20s. In fact it was a church who’s pastor was at the time Chuck Swindoll. I didn’t often attend the actual services, because as you can imagine, people were lining up around the block to get into them.

    So I attended the College Sunday school group on a regular basis. Unbeknownst to the church’s leadership, there was a leader of that Sunday school group who was a closet naturalist, who believed that all of the miracles of the Old and New Testaments could be explained in terms of natural occurrences. For example, the parting of the Red Sea could be explained by the fact that the “Sea of Reeds” was rather shallow, combined with the fact that there are many natural sand bars along its depths. All it would take to “part” it would be a swift wind from the East; which of course Moses would have known about. I assume now that this “teacher” was attempting to make the miracles of the OT relevant to students who were at the time being indoctrinated into “Godless naturalism,” and that miracles can still make sense from that perspective.

    I hardly see any point in this, because Moses’ knowledge of such naturalistic dynamics at the time would have been somewhat miraculous itself without any explanation for how he could have known apart from divine revelation. And if God can reveal, why can’t he act?

    So I have a tendency to refrain from trying to explain the miraculous purely in terms of what occurs, or what can occur naturally. It’s their miraculousness that makes them miraculous. :-)

    And I don’t think those kinds of arguments help us any with the underlying issues. I think you started out with the right questions; what is “nature?’ And if we can define nature as something specific, we should be able to also define “supernatural,” as something specific. But the naturalists fail to do so. In fact we all fail to do so for one very good reason; it’s meaningless. Supernatural is simply that which we can’t explain by what we can see, feel, detect, measure or speak of in rational terms. It is for all intents and purposes, nonexistent. If there IS something in existence that we currently define as “supernatural,” it CAN in fact either be seen, felt, detected measured, or spoken of in rational terms in some way. Otherwise, it does not exist, and to speak of its existence is entirely meaningless. So when those committed to methodological naturalism speak of discounting the supernatural, they really mean that they are discounting whatever is meaningless. But God and the existence of a necessary prime mover, however, are entities that are not meaningless. Don’t misconstrue God as being “supernatural” when you don’t know what or who God is. That’s my main point.

    Nick Matzkii’s vagueness is such because he really hasn’t done the work to define these terms adequately; even though he believes he has. He’s no different than the “Christian naturalist” I mentioned above, who can’t be really very consistent with his stated beliefs. The “Christian naturalist” makes that error because he either has no experience with the miraculous, or because he has no experience in detecting events that are miraculous. He has experience only with what he has been indoctrinated into in an academic culture that is predominantly “naturalistic,” defined specifically as denying God’s relevance in science. In the same way, If you have no experience with what you define as “supernatural,” you can’t very well discount whatever you believe it is. That’s Matzki’s error, and the error of all who are committed to meth nat.

  90. “I’d really like to hammer out an understanding of MN with a guy who is, frankly, a very big proponent of methodological naturalism.” – nullasalus

    This is provocative, but boring. Nick gave you definitions by Paul de Vries, who coined the term, provided links and quotes from several others including R. Numbers, gave names of people who’ve written on MN (presumably so you could learn something!).

    Nullasalus said in #82 that he rejects MN, so none of this can be good enough for his ‘understanding’, not even de Vries’ Christian-MN position! He rejects it out of hand already, so his request is nonsense before it is even asked. MN = bad, ID = good, ID = ‘against MN’?

    “The methodological naturalism of natural science need not be offensive to Christians.” – Paul de Vries (1986: 396)

    1) Can you show us where Nick contends he is a “very big proponent of MN,” and,

    2) Why doesn’t someone contact Paul de Vries directly and ask him to clarify himself at UD?! [email protected], or, [email protected]

    “We should be enthusiastic supporters of the naturalistic methodology of the natural sciences” – de Vries (1986: 394)

    Is all you’re looking for a ‘distinct’ definition, a personal definition from Nick? Or would you be satisfied if he said, I agree with definition ‘X’ provided by person ‘Y’? I’m afraid you simply pay no respect to and have little understanding of scholarly thought (or human development!), if you’re asking for every single person to offer their own personal definition for everything!

    New Atheists absolutely love MN, at times.” – nullasalus

    “I think the reason you guys are resisting this is the same reason that the New Atheists don’t like methodological naturalism. Both creationists and New Atheists tend to be committed to scientism, i.e. the idea that science, correctly done, should cover everything.” – Nick

    So, who’s right, Nick or nullasalus about new atheists and MN? I reject nullasalus’ ‘at times’ because he immediately returns it into ID, as if the meaning of MN were necessarily intertwined with ID, when, given that MN was coined in 1986 and de Vries, like most of us, had most likely not heard of ID at that time. Thus, who here would protest that ‘MN’ in de Vries’ meaning has *anything* directly to do with ID (or creationism)?

    The paper is much more concerned with psychological behaviorism than it is with creationism.

    So, no, please don’t make MN *all about ID* or *all about creationism* unless you expect to be ridiculed for it (or contact de Vries and ask him yourself!). Yes, making MN all about ID or creationism does seem to be something that IDers, creationists and new atheists share. And Steve Fuller is the greater expert and teacher on this than anyone in the North American IDM (and he rejects MN too)!

    “Dembski and company reject MN, but show me where they think that all knowledge is scientific knowledge.” – nullasalus

    Do Dembski and co. reject naturalism, and if so, how? I’ve read flip-flopping over the years by IDers re: ‘naturalism’. Maybe it’s bad (Johnson’s initial wedge), maybe it isn’t (adjustments in Behe’s position). Some ID leaders have even said the design could have happened ‘naturalistically,’ entirely by ‘natural processes’ (read: immanent design vs. transcendent design), e.g. ‘front loading’. Is the latter not an example of a ‘naturalistic’ ID hypothesis?

    KF: from #63: Are you suggesting that David Berlinski considers himself a ‘naturalist’?

    To everyone in the thread: Are there *any* IDers, amongst the leaders of the IDM, who are ‘naturalists’?

  91. Gregory,

    This is provocative, but boring. Nick gave you definitions by Paul de Vries, who coined the term, provided links and quotes from several others including R. Numbers, gave names of people who’ve written on MN (presumably so you could learn something!).

    I’m not fresh to the concept, Greg. The point was that this was to be an active discussion – which is why I happily read Nick’s sources, then immediately followed up with questions. At which point, Nick fled the scene. Chances are he won’t be coming back, because the questions spook him.

    Nullasalus said in #82 that he rejects MN, so none of this can be good enough for his ‘understanding’, not even de Vries’ Christian-MN position! He rejects it out of hand already, so his request is nonsense before it is even asked. MN = bad, ID = good, ID = ‘against MN’?

    Considering I – man, how many times do I have to say this – conditionally do not think ID is science, and certainly don’t think all design ‘inferences’ are science (did you miss my expressing skepticism at Nick for suggesting that inferring the Empire State Building was designed was itself ‘science’? You’d find I probably agree with you on a lot of things, if you’d cut your social sciences obsession), “ID = good” is a weird thing to attribute to me. Are you at all aware that I’m the resident theistic evolutionist here? I’ve argued with kf and StephenB and others at length about the proper limits and scope of science.

    Likewise, the fact that I reject MN as I understand it does not make my request ‘nonsense’. What I asked for, simply, was for Nick to define MN and the relevant terms (natural, supernatural, etc) and to answer some reasonable, pertinent questions about them all. Nick punted wildly on this. Asking Nick to define MN as he understands it, and the relevant terms, so I can analyze it and offer criticisms is not some kind of dirty trick. It’s how a rational conversation is had.

    1) Can you show us where Nick contends he is a “very big proponent of MN,” and,

    How about you do what I did, and try talking to him for a decade and consult his own writings regarding the topic, even in this very thread?

    Really Greg, when you try to pull crap like this, it doesn’t look like a debating masterstroke. It just makes you look pig-ignorant.

    Is all you’re looking for a ‘distinct’ definition, a personal definition from Nick? Or would you be satisfied if he said, I agree with definition ‘X’ provided by person ‘Y’? I’m afraid you simply pay no respect to and have little understanding of scholarly thought (or human development!),

    Blah, blah, blah. Have you missed my asking Nick questions, Gregory? He’s given me his definition of MN. I’ve asked further questions based on that. Again, this is how rational conversation is had, and how a reasonable inquiry proceeds into an idea.

    So, no, please don’t make MN *all about ID* or *all about creationism* unless you expect to be ridiculed for it (or contact de Vries and ask him yourself!).

    I didn’t make MN “all about ID” or “all about creationism”. I pointed out that New Atheists don’t hate MN. They love it when it’s useful. They hate it when it’s not. Inconsistent? Maybe, but it’s par for the course for them.

    Nowhere did I say or imply that MN was proposed as some kind of concept specifically to fight ID or creationism. I know you’re pissed off because I’m tired of your antics and I show it, but don’t try to put words in my mouth. I’ll correct you, fast.

    Do Dembski and co. reject naturalism, and if so, how?

    Right, clearly Dembski’s a naturalist. Back to the ‘all scientists are actually philosophers’ thing.

    Can you just get where you’re going with that? Because so far all it seems to be is “The word naturalist can mean more than one thing. Cool, huh?”

  92. Null,

    I think an interesting and fruitful post would be on the commonly accepted definition of methodological naturalism and how Darwinists and others misuse the term, or use it inconsistently in order to reject as science what they dislike. This post of course is a beginning in that direction.

    I don’t accept MN, but it clearly was intended to have certain metaphysical limits, and as such, it is misused by those wishing to deny a place at the table to certain scientific proposals that are deemed unacceptable. I realize that you don’t count ID as science, but you have (or seem to have) expressed elsewhere that you believe ID deserves a place at the table. What are the dynamics? What are the clear contradictions utilized by Darwinists and others to deny ID that place?

    I think it would be very interesting to include multiple examples from clear researchable (linkable) references in such a post. I’m aware that they exist, but for reference purposes, cataloguing them in one place would be helpful. We’ve done something of that nature in the past, but not (to my knowledge at least) to the extent of having an exhaustive enough reference to go back to. Maybe that’s something that Dr. Torley will include in his promised and upcoming post on MN. If not, I’m sure it would make an excellent follow-up. Our discussion of Methodological naturalism seems to have piqued some interest, given the number of replies. I think it’s a discussion that should continue in other subsequent threads, and I thank KF for beginning that expansion.

  93. Gregory: Pardon, but the reports I have seen, without contradiction, are that Berlinski is an agnostic or the like, who of course is of Jewish rather than Christian etc background. He challenges the theses of Darwinism (I particularly liked his debate on TV with Ms Scott of NCSE) and raises the issue that design is a viable explanation, in context of say what it takes to transform a cow or the like into a whale; as in his 50,000+ changes count. Notice also Sternberg’s pointing to the same example, all int eh context where this has been trumpeted since the 1990′s as a major example of macroevolution on presumed Darwinian mechanisms of chance variation and differential reproductive success. I note the recent headline that there is a claimed whale fossil that is 4 MY past the usually asserted beginning of the sequence, raising the question of adequacy of time, but actually I think the scope and span of the observed universe are obviously not enough for that mechanism to do a whale from a cow, given the many deeply isolated configurational changes involved and the penalty for failure for many of them. It would help to contrast whales, seals etc and otters; all of which latter are plainly viable marine or aquatic organisms. It sure looks to me that what is happening is that an a priori evolutionary materialism a la Lewontin is implicitly imposed and is forcing the acceptance of the implausible on grounds that the only known, observed source of FSCO/I is not acceptable. It is time that we took a long hard look at our reasoning in light of Newton’s rules for reasoning in experimental philosophy, in Principia. KF

  94. KF, Is there something wrong with my English language?

    You wrote: “It sure looks to me that what is happening is that an a priori evolutionary materialism a la Lewontin…”

    All I asked was: “Are you suggesting that David Berlinski considers himself a ‘naturalist’?”

    Please, just keep it simple and answer the question without adding diversions to Sternburg, cows, whales, seals, Newton, etc. This is not as difficult as you are making it.

    Does David Berlinski in your view, KF, consider himself a ‘naturalist’ or not? It seems this a question that ‘spooks’ you, as nullasalus has said of Nick Matzke.

    Are there *any* IDers, amongst the leaders of the IDM, who are ‘naturalists’? Again, this is a very simple, clear and direct question.

  95. Partly a reply to Merv @32 whose first post got held up in moderation.

    Here’s a thought experiment. Supposing special creation were true, and that each organism was found to be genetically and morphologically quite different and without any plausible mechanism for its descent from others, other than at the level of trivial variation..

    That would mean one could formulate some law to the effect that no organism above, say, species level will be found to share characteristics that are not purely coincidental.

    Assuming God’s ongoing miraculous activity, that would be an entirely reliable predictive principle from observation. Would it then be compliant to the principle of methodological naturalism, and if so would it explain anything at all?

  96. It is indeed pitiful to see people who position themselves as naturalists proper, trying to extrapolate their limited knowledge onto this-is-impossible kind of statements. Impossible? Says who? It is not even undergraduate logic: now I know that 2 + 2 makes 4, don’t tell me about miracles. It is simply myopic.

    The smartest thinkers in the entire history of humanity recognised they knew nothing really. And yet our naturalists are 100% sure they know what’s possible and what’s not.

    I am not suggesting that miracles are subject to scientific scrutiny. I am just saying that:

    1. miracles are possible as there is in fact nothing whatsoever that can disallow them in principle;
    2. it is therefore ungrounded logically to rule out miracles as impossible; consequently, the acceptance of the possibility of miracles does not go against science.

    The new naturalists, without noticing it, are painting themselves into a corner by argueing that something is impossible. To prove impossibility is extremely hard at least, if not impossible.

    It is characteristic that as soon as the discussion is about something written in the Bible, they vehemently deny it. However, their hyperskepticism does not stop them from proposing nonsensical hypothesis a la abiogenesis, that something out of the blue started assembling itself without an external impetus and that purpose appeared for no purpose. Where is their naturalistic logic?

    Chesterton was right in saying that people believe in anything if it is not written in the Bible.

  97. Gregory: Pardon, but your demands are looking more and more like rhetorical entrapment attempts and a pretence that what I have had to say already is irrelevant, even though the matter is not a simplistic yes/no, and sorry but usually when someone in a debate-tinged context insists on such a simplisic answer the reasons are not good. I cannot truthfully say more than I know, which is as described. The question may not be answerable on the record as yes/no, and it certainly is the case that Berlinski has been described as agnostic or the like, with pointed questions on the Darwinian mechanism; that is he rejects the principal naturalistic method held to account for the origin of major body plans, with specific cases and issues in point, on public record. What is certainly credible is that one needs not be a theist or a creationist to be a design thinker or even general supporter [perhaps with reservations on the worldview claims of those who are theistic advocates of design thought], and Berlinski is an example of why that is so. KF

  98. Iow, KF, re: Berlinski, you don’t know or aren’t sure if he considers himself as a ‘naturalist’ or not.

    That’s fine, and a fair answer in my books. There is no ‘rhetorical entrapment’ involved. He’s a slippery fellow as far as I see it (in writing & video, since I haven’t met him). Agnostic, yet apparently believing in some kind of ‘ambiguous design’ without a Creator. He likely won’t give a positive statement about ‘design,’ precisely because of his agnosticism. Understood. We’re on the same page.

    Now a shift – Personally, I don’t think one can accept ‘Design’ (Big D, in my meaning, which in this rare case is consonant with TE/EC meanings), without being an Abrahamic theist. Berlinski is not a religious Jew, but rather a cultural anti-Darwinist. Not a big deal, o.k., so to me, that means he’s not an IDer.

    Wrt the second straightforward and simple question, do you offer an answer or none, KF?

    Are there *any* IDers, amongst the leaders of the IDM, who are ‘naturalists’?

  99. 99

    CY:

    So I have a tendency to refrain from trying to explain the miraculous purely in terms of what occurs, or what can occur naturally. It’s their miraculousness that makes them miraculous.

    I am not one to argue as your friend at Swindoll’s church did. I was merely making an observation. Even if the feeding of the five thousand did not break the laws of conservation I’m sure it would still require supernatural power to perform, and thus it’s still a miracle.

    For example, the parting of the Red Sea could be explained by the fact that the “Sea of Reeds” was rather shallow, combined with the fact that there are many natural sand bars along its depths. All it would take to “part” it would be a swift wind from the East; which of course Moses would have known about.

    I’m from Nebraska. We have a river there called the Platte River. “Platte” is a Native American word for “flat water.” In most places the river is 100-200 meters wide. Also in most places, one can walk across the entire river without getting their knees wet. Nebraska can be a fairly windy place, being mostly plains, but I have never, EVER heard anything about any wind, even a tornado which we get often enough, stopping the entire river and exposing the bottom of it all the way across. In fact I’ve never seen nor heard of any wind even making a dent.

  100. Gregory: Last I checked, Berlinski was a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute Center for Science and Culture [the ID side of DI, not the libertarian and Cascadia policy side] and is plainly one of the go to folks on design theory issues. You are still not addressing the import of what he has said on the record, and what it implies concerning design thought and design friendly thought. For that matter, Hoyle in his later years — though an agnostic [trending Deist?] — was making some pretty impressive design points [think: monkeying with the physics of the cosmos], including being one of the first modern users of the term intelligent design or its near cognates, with particular reference to cosmological design. the fundamental point is that one does not need to be a theist or a pantheist or a panentheist to support design theory, and that there are and have been eminent cases in point. I do not cite here Flew as he was an explicit Deist in the end. KF

  101. KF, for the record, I don’t consider this to be a conversation. You keep going on in tangents, unable or unwilling to address simple, clear, direct questions. Yours is a (‘design theory’) monologue, not an attempt at dialogue.

    It seems you equate ‘naturalist’ with ‘agnostic’, having brought in Hoyle and now Flew, in response to questions about ‘naturalism’.

    For the umpteenth time:
    Are there *any* IDers, amongst the leaders of the IDM, who are ‘naturalists’?

    Yes or No and Names would suffice. Don’t let it spook you. Just answer calmly and without pretense or diversion. Can no one at UD clearly and directly answer this question?

  102. Copy/paste: It seems you equate ‘naturalist’ with ‘agnostic’, having brought in Hoyle and now Flew, in response to questions about ‘naturalism’. Have you ever thought possibly there could be ‘gnostic’ or even Abrahamic theists (Berlinski being not one of them/us) who are (legitimate) ‘naturalists?’

  103. Gregory:

    Pardon some straight talk.

    I find it now quite annoying that when I have to provide a bit of context, or balance you are very condescending or subtly dismissive.

    Please stop it.

    For all of this, we have gone out on tangents and the context is looking suspiciously like red herrings led out to strawmen laced with subtle ad hominems and set off with little rhetorical sparks. The end effect of polarisation and clouding of issues with distraction, has the same effect as the more blatant incendiary firebrand rhetoric that is more commonly used. And is seems that every point raised will become another excuse for yet another tangent.

    So, kindly stop.

    I have said enough for those who wish to deal with serious matters and will refrain myself from your further label and dismiss games. I have pointed out that Berlinski (evidently an agnostic) critiques the pivotal claimed mechanism that allegedly accounts for the appearance of design in body plans and shows its inadequacy, as a senior fellow of the DI Sci-Culture centre. Hoyle, a Nobel-equivalent prize holding astrophysicist, as I pointed out, came to argue for the monkeying with the physics of the cosmos by the turn of the 80′s. And Flew — after a lifetime of being the leading philosphical atheist of the anglophone world — became a deist because of the strength of the design inference on evidence we have in hand.

    These are all facts, easily ascertained. Face them, and their implications.

    The main issue for this thread has been the issue that methodological naturalism does the work of being a shibboleth, and the onward pattern of behaviour has amply confirmed it.

    Plainly, no clear and clean definition of the key terms can be used, and the reason for that is that obviously they are all toxic partyline talk, used to manipulate the unwary into accepting assumptions or at least yielding default and power to the materialist ideologues in the holy lab coat and their fellow travellers, assumptions and assertions that cannot bear the plain cold light of day. As we can now plainly see with what happened when Dr Nick Matzke laid out in 66 how MN implies that the laws of nature forbid the miraculous as a possibility.

    That is nonsense, on the known limitations of inductive reasoning, much less the definition of a miracle, which last requires that there be a usual order to the cosmos, which is amenable to reasonable scientific inquiry. And, as Newton long ago pointed out, inductive investigations and generalisations cannot say anything the BLOCK the possibility of qualification based on rare events.

    We are back to the Lord Russell story of the inductive turkey who showed up every morning 9 am like clockwork for a good solid feed.

    Then, one day, it was Christmas Eve.

    What happens 364 days of the year cannot rule out what might happen for good reason come Christmas Eve.

    And that is before we actually address the deeper point.

    Because design theory is not about the dichotomy natural vs supernatural, but nature vs art and empirically reliable tested signs of art. Which was put on the table by Plato in The Laws Bk X 2350 years ago.

    In short, there is yet another level of distractive, ad hominem laced strawman exercise here all along.

    So, let us face plain facts and issues plainly.

    Good day

    GEM of TKI

  104. —Gregory to Nullasalus: “Nick gave you definitions by Paul de Vries, who coined the term, provided links and quotes from several others including R. Numbers, gave names of people who’ve written on MN (presumably so you could learn something!).”

    As I pointed out at 29, 71, and 83, the arbitrarily established and incoherently conceived rule of methodological naturalism was strategically calculated to rule out ID in principle and, because it has not been sufficiently thought out, cannot suffice to answer even the simplest questions about archeology, forensic science, and other brances of science.

    By Devries definition, for example, an ancient hunter who crafts a spear is the same kind of cause as the wind, air, and erosion that forms rocks; the citizens of Pompei who designed artifacts were the same kind of cause as the volcano that buried them; a burglar who ransacks a house is the same kind of cause as a tornado that destroys it.

    Let’s zero in on just one element. Was the volcano that buried the artifacts at Pompei really the same kind of cause as the human agents that created them? Were they, as Devries and his followers would have it, both natural causes? If so, then how does the archeologist differentiate between them in order to make a design inference?

    If more than one cause was involved, what kind of cause was it? If the persons that created the artifacts were not natural causes, were they “supernatural” causes? Or is there another category of cause that has not yet been articulated?

    None of the anti-ID parisans will answer these questions for the simple reason that they cannot provide an intellectual defense for their position. Those who would try to enforce a rule that they cannot defend are intellectually dishonest and need to be called out.

  105. StephenB – As of 30 April, 2012, have you read the entire article by Paul de Vries (note the proper spelling of his Name): “Naturalism in the Natural Sciences: A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE”? Yes or No?

    “methodological naturalism was strategically calculated to rule out ID in principle” – StephenB

    ‘Intelligent design’ wasn’t even invented then. de Vries obviously didn’t aim to oppose something that didn’t exist!

    If you’ve got proof that de Vries was reacting to Thaxton, Bradley & Olson, then please reveal it. Otherwise, you’re just faking it and can’t be taken seriously.

    KF – Are there *any* IDers, amongst the leaders of the IDM, who are ‘naturalists’?

    One might wonder why there is no use of the word ‘naturalist’ in #103, when that is the non-tangential term of contention. Then again, one just might wonder what KF means by ‘straight talk’.

  106. Jon (@ 95), thanks for noticing my earlier (first) post.

    You wrote: “Here’s a thought experiment. Supposing special creation were true, and that each organism was found to be genetically and morphologically quite different and without any plausible mechanism for its descent from others, other than at the level of trivial variation..”

    …and then you speculated that this might lead to a different prediction/law that no species are found to have significant commonalities; and would it fall within MN or explain anything.

    Let me respond with another thought experiment that may run parallel to yours with the additional advantage of possibly –probably– being true. We’ve heard it said that “no two snow flakes are alike.” If we put aside difficulties like “how close would they have to be before being considered ‘identical’” that end up rendering it a meaningless assertion — aside from that, could it be properly formulated as a scientific law to say “Every snow flake is unique”? It seems that science is more about commonalities (i.e. gravity works *every* day, all snow flakes have crystals of six-sided structure, all known living organisms are carbon-based, etc.) than about dis-commonalities (or ‘anomalies’ paradoxically as norm.)

    If the world consisted of nothing but one miracle or anomaly after another then there would be no science. Can we all agree to that? Since we observe so many orderly things that do conform to apparent laws we can formulate, we have science. Science sees anomaly as challenge, as it always has. How is science (or anyone else) to be expected to predict which of those still persistent anomalies are permanently (inherently) part of that category vs. which are going to prove part of a future discovered pattern?

    We may argue that the Bible declares to us which past events are miracles. But even there we end up begging the same question as we can argue about whether it was God as a primary mover or mediating through secondary causes (i.e. wind blowing over sea of reeds and drying it up.) If theologians can’t even put this in scientifically demarcated categories using special revelation, how could anybody else be expected to authoritatively define all this? MN can’t either. So it just plows ahead and says: “we as scientists see this large body of apparent anomaly –maybe it contains miracles — maybe it doesn’t; but all we can do is … dive in with the tools we have!” That is what I see as the classic MN attitude.

    –Merv

  107. StevenB:

    Well said.

    KF

    PS: Re Gregory, it should be obvious by now that philosophical naturalism is by and large antithetical to design thought, and that its adherents will frequently use an imposed flawed rule to try to a priori assign an inference to design on signs to inference to the supernatural — horrors! shudder! — and dismiss. What can be pointed out is that there are serious thinkers who are agnostic or possibly even atheist, who see that there is a serious point to the design inference in light of basic principles of experimental science and reasoning by logic of induction. If they address cosmological design in particular that tends strongly to move them to Deism or even full orbed theism (though not necessarily towards a specific religious tradition that is monotheistic).

  108. Hello again Merv,

    Glad to see you here in the case of BioLogos folks coming to visit or contribute at UD. Before we spoke at BioLogos. Please excuse the following comment, perhaps attributable to the fact that I was once an English language teacher.

    You wrote: “How is science (or anyone else) to be expected…”

    ‘Science’ is not a personal pronoun, it is a thing, a social construction, a process, a subject, a discipline or a field. There is no such thing as ‘Science chooses’ just like there is no such thing as ‘Society chooses.’ Look up sociological ‘reification’ and Emile Durkheim if you doubt this. It is curious to me why you chose this expression.

    I notice you support Nick Matzke’s contention that primary and secondary causes are the basis for MN discourse, which Jon has also supported linguistically.

    I’m curious then; as a BioLogos-TE/EC supporter, do you promote the language of ‘methodological naturalism’ or would you rather abolish it completely (i.e. into a linguistic ‘dustbin of history’)?

  109. Hi, Greg — my wrong use of pronouns was an artifact of fast typing and forgoing any proofreading so I could join my family for lunch. Of course ‘science’ isn’t a person.

    You asked if I think MN should be relegated to the ‘dustbin of history’. My short answer is ‘no’. Don’t get me wrong, though; I can understand how many think this particular well has been too poisoned (by atheists or anti-design reactionaries, etc.) to be considered safe. But I think the label still makes a useful handle for us to grab and use.

    I might get myself into trouble with you (as a former language arts teacher) for saying this. But even if you make an unwanted label go away, it doesn’t make the thing so labeled disappear. Since I see MN as being more properly descriptive than prescriptive, the object of its description (the way science has worked) would still be there. Another phrase would take its place.

    –Merv

  110. –Gregory: “‘Intelligent design’ wasn’t even invented then. de Vries obviously didn’t aim to oppose something that didn’t exist!”

    I cannot speak to de Vries’ motives since I cannot read minds, but I can speak to the fact that “methodological naturalism,” as he conceived it, was later institutionalized to rule out the science of intelligent design. No such “rule” for scientists existed prior to that time. Begin with Roger Pennock and Eugenie Scott then work your way forward. I can prove the point in other ways by pointing to state-sponsored attempts to make methodological naturalism the rule for science and the dishonest attempt to link it with “creationism.” This is a fact whether you like it or not. Get with the program.

    Also, as I have demonstrated, the concept is incoherent and no one should presume to enforce it in the name of science. If you are capable of providing a defense for it, this would be a good time to step forward. Of course, I know you will not because you cannot. You like to blow a lot of smoke, but you obviously cannot deliver the goods when called upon to do so.

    In keeping with that point, you would do well to dispense with your irrelevant side stories about ID and “naturalism.” I realize that you have a fetish for obsessing over peripheral issues while ignoring the main topic, but those kinds of distractions do not work here.

  111. “I cannot read minds”

    O.k. but can you read texts? Paul de Vries’ paper, had you read it before Nick cited it or not? Have you read it yet?

    You’ve misspelled his name enough times to indicate you haven’t a clue what the man’s position or the term’s original meaning is.

    This is one of the reasons why it is so difficult to speak with some lay IDers; they are often unwilling to admit what they do not know or have not read. It just must be true; no reasoning or consideration of evidence needed.

    If ‘naturalism’ is deemed a ‘side story’ for a thread about ‘methodological naturalism’ then it’s no wonder lack of understanding lurks everywhere.

  112. —Gregory: “O.k. but can you read texts? Paul de Vries’ paper, had you read it before Nick cited it or not? Have you read it yet?”

    As I recall, I received my information about de Vries definition of methodological naturalism in quote form from from Ronald Numbers as part of my research when I wrote my piece on Methodological Naturalism two years ago. If I misspelled his name recently, it was because I was going from memory. Even so, I didn’t forget the main arguments, as should be evident. Where do you think I picked up the association between naturalism and “contingent realities” or “contingent realities acting on contingent realities” as expressed in my comments @71. I gleaned it from de Vries direct quotes as passed on by Numbers.

    After reading Nick’s introductory comments on this thread, I followed up so I could get the information straight from the horse’s mouth. That you missed my earlier allusions to de Vries abbreviated definition of MN makes me wonder if you have read his article yourself. Do you understand what he is (was) talking about? If so, then you can speak to my point about its incoherence. Of course, if you haven’t read it, or if you don’t understand it, or if you cannot grasp my objections, then I suppose there is little that you can comment on.

    Now, I have a couple of follow up questions for you. Have you read our FAQ yet on the subject of methodological naturalism? Did you read my article entitled Methodological Naturalism, Revisionist History, and Morphing Definitions? Have you read our FAQ on the difference between creation science and ID? No one had to prompt me to follow up on Nick’s gracious offering. How many times do you have to be prompted to acquaint yourself with the subject matter of ID that is right under your nose?

    —”If ‘naturalism’ is deemed a ‘side story’ for a thread about ‘methodological naturalism’ then it’s no wonder lack of understanding lurks everywhere.”

    Your side story of asking which, and whether, ID scientists can be identified as naturalists does not, in any way, address the question about the definition of a natural cause or a supernatural cause, which is at the heart of our criticism of methodological naturalism. If only you would respond to challenges with the same enthusiasm that you issue them.

  113. Tragic M,

    “Nebraska can be a fairly windy place, being mostly plains, but I have never, EVER heard anything about any wind, even a tornado which we get often enough, stopping the entire river and exposing the bottom of it all the way across. In fact I’ve never seen nor heard of any wind even making a dent.”

    Haha!! Yup. I didn’t say it was reasonable, just an explanation. ;-)

  114. —Gregory: “Are there *any* IDers, amongst the leaders of the IDM, who are ‘naturalists’?”

    Well, let’s probe that persistent, penetrating question of yours.

    Definition:

    nat·u·ral·ist (nchr–lst, nchr-)
    n.
    1. One versed in natural history, especially in zoology or botany.
    2. One who believes in and follows the tenets of naturalism.

    Now it should be evident that the orientation of most ID scientists could be reconciled with the first definition and could not be reconciled with the second definition. So, unless you tell us which meaning you have in mind, or unless you share with us the meaning hidden away in your imagination, we cannot answer that question with a simple Yes or No. So asking it over and over again does not help. See how that works?

  115. merv @106

    My example was a poor one in the sense that clearly no scientific law would be likely to conclude that “the norm is that there is no norm.” But it would still be the norm, notwithstanding, so science would not be able to describe what predominated in the natural world. “species just are” would be the extent of the discussion.

    You remind me that if everything in the world were an anomaly, science would be impossible – which one could extend to say that normal life would be impossible: not only science depends on reproducability. But that’s a trivial truth.

    In fact, before Darwin, my scenario was believed almost universally to be true – as you know, Darwin directs his fire almost entirely against “special creation”, because that was the prevailing belief and theory. There is, we now find, a good deal of evidence (with apologies to Creationists here) that the situation is more complex than that, and involves natural law to whatever degree. Even YECs posit variation within kinds, which is a post-Darwin development.

    But my point is that neither the science community then, nor the theology or philosophy communities, had ever seen a problem with universal special creation in the sense of its destabilising the Universe and making rational enquiry impossible. No theologians in 2 millennia had said, “Genesis must be allegorical and God must have used some unknown secondary means to create the species, or miracles would be multiplied unduly.” Likewise philosophy conceived no problem with the prevailing assumption. Scientists toyed with spontaneous generation, but only because they were by then looking for “natural” mechanisms, not because life would become chaotic without them.

    So the whole idea that admitting supernatural causes confounds science is an justification after the event, and seems to have involved scientists, philosophers and theologians in creating a bogeyman they lived happily with before.

    I suggest that the reasons for that are sociological, rather than arising inevitably from the science.

  116. Hi Merv,

    First, thanks for clarifying re: pronouns. Don’t worry, my problem with MN is not mainly semantic. And I won’t grade you on it ; )

    You wrote: “I think the label still makes a useful handle for us to grab and use.”

    Unfortunately, I don’t think MN made sense in the first place, once one understands that de Vries was speaking about *only* natural sciences, and not about ‘science’ per se. From a philosophy of science (PoS) perspective, de Vries coinage was a primitive and backwards move. It astonishes me how many people, on *all* sides of this conversation, in the USA and other Anglo-American discourses, have latched onto it and see it as ‘progressive’!

    Very few people in the Russian-German tradition (in which I’m schooled), would accept MN as having been a legitimate distinction in the first place. Only if one conflates ‘science’ with ‘natural science’ could it even be thought to be acceptable. As it is, that may be one of the biggest gaps in Anglo-American (analytic-style) PoS – it holds a disturbingly narrow view of ‘science.’ (This may also partly explain the resistance demonstrated in this thread as to why none would answer that an IDer can be a ‘naturalist’ too!)

    Please excuse that on-line we all make assumptions, merv, I’m assuming that you’re raised and educated in the Anglo-American tradition wrt your views of PoS, are you not?

    “even if you make an unwanted label go away, it doesn’t make the thing so labeled disappear…Another phrase would take its place.”

    This is a common confusion that has been denuded by ‘science studies’ (naukovedeniye), founded in Russia and developed in Poland, long before it came to the UK and USA. Even reading Feyerabend nowadays helps to get the point across; there are multiple methods of ‘doing science;’ a single method (naturalistic) is nothing more than a convenient myth. Thus, to conclude “the way science has worked” based on a single methodology is simply wrong.

    Do I recall correctly, merv, that you are (or were) a natural scientist? If so, did you really restrict yourself to a ‘single methodological’ framework?

    “Methodological Naturalism: The physical world, for purposes of scientific inquiry, may be assumed to operate by unbroken natural law.” – William Dembski (at BioLogos)

    Dembski seems to follow the same program regarding ‘how many sciences’ count as ‘scientific.’ This is why he and I have a serious disagreement about ‘which science’ is the rightful home for ‘intelligent design.’ Who will end up with the more convincing story after history takes its toll?

  117. Response to Jon first, then Gregory.

    I see your points, Jon. You wrote: “So the whole idea that admitting supernatural causes confounds science is an justification after the event, and seems to have involved scientists, philosophers and theologians in creating a bogeyman they lived happily with before.”

    Without my having qualified (and I should have) –perhaps my points would apply better to what how been called modern science? We’ve learned (and probably need to unlearn) to think of the science of the last few centuries as being different in kind than any sort of natural philosophy of preceding ages. The current age in which we still bask in the glow of discovering things like the universality of gravity now has us delighting in the discovery of commonality. If that has now become a bogeyman to guard the gates of “scientific respectability” then you are probably right and I don’t have a good answer. Which leads into what Greg wrote.

    Greg –you are correct I am steeped thoroughly in western (American) thought on this; and so I guess my biases show through pretty heavily especially to those who aren’t. But beyond that I already have pretty healthy sympathy –no, agreement, actually with those who think science is being too narrow, too exclusively reductionistic, too elitist (in terms of so-called ‘harder science’ vs. so-called ‘softer sciences’.) If that is where you’re at, then I think I’m already there except that I still make the distinction between various disciplines by the difficulty of what they study. Mathematicians and physicists followed by chemists have the ‘easiest’ job (I say that tongue-in-cheek because I know how truly mind-boggling their challenges are; far above my comprehension level as a mere high-school math & science teacher) But I mean ‘easiest’ in the sense that while their objects of study may be inscrutable (dizzying arrays of sub-atomic particles) they are nevertheless simpler. Once you master a mathematical theorem or capture and study a particle, it isn’t going to change properties or morph or move in the way a biological organism (let alone a human being) is going to. Their are myriads more variables involved in what psychologists, sociologists, and biologists all study –so they have what seems to me the impossibly more difficult job (and that’s saying a lot!) It probably says something about all our (only western?) biases that all the various sciences are trying to mimic the simpler sciences of physics or chemistry by attempting to subject organism behavior into cleanly controlled experimental study. We think that jets and computers are the fruits mainly of these physical sciences whereas its more difficult for a biologist or sociologist to point to a tangible ‘thing’ that blossomed as undisputed success from their studies. (Please correct my ignorance on this –I’m ready to view all such things that could be pointed at.) Knowledge of our past (especially when it is disputed) doesn’t invoke the same level of admiration that conquering technologies command. Not saying this is all as it should be –just that here in the west, right or wrong, physics & co. are held in high esteem among the sciences. I am happy to learn from others what other useful tools a scientist has or ought to have to help apprehend a wider reality. My own definitions (MN style) on what science does isn’t meant to be a discredit to other disciplines so much as an acknowledged limit (in the humility) sense of what physical sciences are useful for. Our academic scope is severely crippled if MN style science were seen to be the only legitimate approach to gaining knowledge. Does that come closer to your own view?

  118. 118
    Alastair F. Paisley

    Do we have a definition for what constitutes a “naturalistic” cause or event?

  119. 119

    Do we have a definition for what constitutes a “naturalistic” cause or event?

    I tried to get that, and Matzke didn’t take kindly to it.

    I’ll keep trying.

  120. 120
    Alastair F. Paisley

    What about the “demarcation problem?” It would appear that the boundaries between what constitutes science and non-science, physics and metaphysics are not as clearly defined as many would have us believe.

  121. Hi merv:

    I hear your irenic spirit. That is good.

    Unfortunately, the problem is that methodological Naturalism is deeply and inextricably intertwined with both scientism and metaphysical naturalism, and even a priori materialism.

    It has been falsely presented by its champions as a centuries long settled methodological principle and premise of science [severely distorting the actual record of history on the roots, principles and limitations of modern science and its methods . . . cf. here the problem of the inductive turkey], and is being pushed as the basis for public policy to the point where those who question it or its cognates are branded (in progressive degree of branding) as not- or un- or anti-scientific.

    In short, methodological naturalism is a stalking horse for highly questionable philosophical and worldview agendas and ideologies, and has been used to take institutional science, science-related policy and in particular educational policy and practice captive. As just one illustrative case in point, here (read the US NAS first hen read on) is the not sufficiently well known July 2000 declaration of the US National Science Teachers Association [NSTA] Board:

    The principal product of science is knowledge in the form of natural-ISTIC concepts and the laws and theories related to those concepts . . . .

    [[S]cience, along with its methods, explanations and generalizations, must be the sole focus of instruction in science classes to the exclusion of all non-scientific or pseudoscientific methods, explanations, generalizations and products [--> Notice, our naturalistic ideology, good, anything that contradicts or questions or challenges, bad, and to be excluded, thus science EDUCATION becomes INDOCTRINATION IN NATURALISM, a PHILOSOPHY] . . . .

    Although no single universal step-by-step scientific method captures the complexity of doing science, a number of shared values and perspectives characterize a scientific approach to understanding nature. Among these are a demand for naturalistic explanations supported by empirical evidence [--> but of course, since anything that questions naturalism is a priori censored out, the contest is between naturalistic ideas, i.e. the serious questions of the limitations of the logic of induction and the related issues that on origins science deals with an unobserved, unobservable deep past reconstructed in light of inference to best explanation is censored at the outset, and prejudicial, stereotyping, scapegoating labels are used to brand any who beg to differ] that are, at least in principle, testable against the natural world. Other shared elements include observations, rational argument, inference, skepticism [--> contrary to popular opinion in today's world, skepticism is not an intellectual virtue. We should insist on adequate warrant for conclusions, but especially on empirical matters we must be open to the possibility of error and correction, thus recognise the unstated but obvious: inductive knowledge is a faith venture not unquestionable truth] , peer review and replicability of work . . . .

    Science, by definition, is limited to naturalistic methods and explanations and, as such, is precluded from using supernatural elements [[--> loaded and strawmannish term: in fact the issue in design inference since Plato in The Laws Bk X, has been nature [= chance +/or necessity] vs ART, i.e. the ARTificial or intelligent, which can be studied in light of replicable, empirical signs, which show that inference to design per such sign is inductively well warranted] in the production of scientific knowledge. [[NSTA, Board of Directors, July 2000. Emphases added.]

    Begin to see the magnitude of the problem, and the damage that has been done by those who know or should have known better?

    KF

  122. Hi, KF. I haven’t yet read through all the material you link to, but if the first links are any indicator, I already substantially agree with you. Meanwhile I do have a question for you: Do you think science (in the modern or empirical sense) is the only way to acquire legitimate knowledge?

    If there was one phrase I could change about my prior post, it would be where I referred to the bogeyman guarding the gates of *scientific* respectability. I should have said *intellectual* or *academic* respectability since I do think the field of knowledge is much wider than science. But I’m curious if you agree.

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