UPDATE: This post no longer reflects my opinion on this subject. I now believe that science is not bound by methodological naturalism. Science as a way of knowing is free to investigate claims of the supernatural. [Is Science Restricted to Methodologial Naturalism?] [Accommodationism in Dover] [Methodological Naturalism].In a comment on The Neville Chamberlain Atheists thread "slc" repeats a claim that he/she has been making for several months. I started to reply on that thread but the comment grew too long so I'm making it into a separate posting.
As I have commented on this and other blogs, Prof. Morans' position, along with Myers and Dawkins is that philosophical naturalism is science and therefore science == atheism.Indeed, I've seen you make that claim several dozen times. I'm glad it makes you happy.
For the record, I am an atheist so naturally I'm a philosophical naturalist. (Duh!) But I do not claim that good science requires philosophical naturalism. I claim that methodological naturalism is a requirement.
Most of my arguments [e.g. Theistic Evolution: The Fallacy of the Middle Ground] are based on the idea that methodological naturalism is the foundation of science and that, therefore, science is effectively atheistic in practice. I've been trying to show that methodological naturalism all by itself is capable of highlighting all of the important conflicts between science and religion. In my opinion, it's simply not true that the only conflicts that arise are when you make the leap to philosophical naturalism.
In this sense—and this sense only—I'm defending the concept of non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) promoted by Stephen Jay Gould. As long as religion sticks to it's proper domain (magisterium) and stays out of science then it's okay (e.g., I have no problem with Deism and most versions of Buddhism). The problem is that most believers want to violate the rules of methodological naturalism and still be praised for being good scientists. One of the ways they rationalize this obvious conflict is to try and equate methodological naturalism with philosophical naturalism. They claim that it's okay to allow a little bit of religion into science because science is not the same as atheism. We see an example of that in "slc"'s attempt to dismiss what many of us are saying about the conflict between science and religion.
This concept of methodological naturalism has been around for some years and I often quote experts like Eugenie Scott and Michael Ruse who make the same point I'm making. For example, here's what Eugenie Scott said about methodological naturalism/materialism in 1999,
Science is a way of knowing about the natural world. As practiced in the 20th and likely in the 21st centuries, science restricts itself to explaining the natural world using natural causes. This restriction of evolution to explanation through natural cause is referred to as "methodological materialism", materialism in this context referring to matter, energy, and their interaction. Methodological materialism is one of the main differences between science and religion. Religion may use natural explanations for worldly phenomena, but reserves the right to explain through divine intervention; science has no such option. Whether or not miracles occur, they cannot be part of a scientific explanation.I then go on to discuss religious claims that conflict with the methodology of science. Claims that insert God in natural phenomena, for example. Since these are violations of methodological naturalism then they cannot be scientific. Theistic versions of evolution that require guidance by God fall into this category.
"slc," I'm sorry if this argument is too difficult for you to follow. I can see that you would prefer to dismiss it by assuming that it's based on my atheism and not on a proper definition of science. That's an easy way to avoid the ramifications. In your comment you continue by saying,
Of course the good professors are certainly entitled to make such claims, there being freedom of speech, even in the US, Canada, and Great Britain. However, the problem with this claim is that it is the identical to claim made by the enemy.The "enemy" is Phillip Johnson and his pals like Alvin Plantinga and Paul Nelson. They fully recognize that there's a conflict between methodological naturalism and most claims of religion. Here's what Plantinga has to say about that in his essay When Faith and Reason Clash: Evolution and the Bible, reprinted in Intelligent Design and Its Critics (edited by Robert Pennock),
Returning to methodological naturalism, if indeed natural science is restricted in this way, if such a restriction is a part of the very essence of science, then what we need here, of course, is not natural science but a broader inquiry that can include all that we know, including the truths that God has created life on earth and could have done it in many different ways. "Unnatural Science," "Creation Science," "Theistic Science"—call it what you will: what we need when we want to know how to think about the origin and development of contemporary life is what is most plausible from a Christian point of view. What we need is a scientific account of life that isn't restricted by that methodological naturalism.Plantiga recognizes the problem, namely that it's methodological naturalism that excludes his religion from science (he is a Calvinist who teaches at Notre Dame).
Philip Johnson, an evangelical Christian, also recognizes the conflict between proper science and his religious beliefs. In his essay Evolution as Dogma: The Establishment of Naturalism, also reprinted n Pennocks book, he says,
Naturalistic evolution is consistent with the existence of "God" only if by that term we mean no more than a first cause which retires from further activity after establishing the laws of nature and setting the natural mechanism in motion. [e.g., Deism LAM] Persons who say they believe in evolution, but who have in mind a process guided by an active God who purposely intervenes or controls the process to accomplish some end, are using the same term that Darwinists use, but they mean something very different by it.We've seen that Plantinga proposes to redefine science so that it is not restricted by methodological naturalism. Johnson agrees, but he also introduces another point. According to Johnson, the fact that science relies on methodological naturalism means that scientists tend to adopt scientism (philosophical naturalism) as a philosophy. This is atheism and it's bad. Paul Nelson, another Intelligent Dsesign Creationist (and Young Earth Creationist as well) adopts the same strategy.
The implication is that for scientists there's no difference between believing in methodological naturalism and atheism. Since the creationist flock knows for a fact that atheism is evil, it follows that methodological naturalism must be the wrong way to do science. In other words, Johnson wants everyone to believe that methodological naturalism and philosophical naturalism are just two sides of the same coin. If this sort of propaganda is successful then the distinction between methodological naturalism, which greatly restricts religion, and philosophical naturalism, which forbids it, is erased. What this means is that the creationists won't have to defend the conflict between religion and science because the essence of science is discredited by being linked to atheism.
I'm not buying it. That's why I focus my attention on methodological naturalism and it's implications for religion. What it means, however, is that the science of the Theistic Evolutionists has to be examined using the same rules that we apply to Intelligent Design Creationism.
There's a well-anticipated, spin-off, advantage to the rhetoric of Phillip Johnson, Paul Nelson, and their creationist pals. Their attempt to equate methodological naturalism and philosophical naturalism in the minds of believers plays right into the hands of the Theistic Evolutionists and the accommodationist atheists. It gives them an easy cop-out to dismiss any "attack" on the milder forms of conflict between religion and science.
"Slc" has fallen hook, line, and sinker for this line of argument. The irony here is that he accuses me of conflating methodological naturalism and philosophical naturalism in spite of the fact that I try very hard to keep the distinction clear. In fact, the whole point of my essay was to point out that Theistic Evolution is not a middle ground between extreme forms of creationism and atheism. The point was that the claims of Theistic Evolutionists violate the essence of science (i.e., methodological naturalism) in the same way that the claims of Intelligent Design Creationists do. It's why I state that Deism is acceptable to science even though it's not acceptable to an atheist.
So, what the "irony?" Here's how "slc" puts it.
Thus, the good professors are choosing to fight on the enemys' chosen ground and on the latters' terms. Anyone who has ever studied military history, particularly military strategy, will recognize that this is a bad idea. The object of a good military campaign is to make the enemy fight on our chosen ground and on our terms.It's "slc" who has bought into the argument that methodological naturalism is the same as philosophical naturalism. Thus, the creationists can just sit back and watch the fireworks because there will be plenty of deluded evolutionists who will defend their basic premise. These deluded evolutionists will advance the cause of creationism by fighting fiercely to allow some forms of religious superstition into science in order to appease the Theistic Evolutionists.