There are some philosophers who see through this house of cards but they are few and far between. It’s mostly scientists—and those who think like scientists—who say "What the heck are they talking about?"
Maarten Boudry, Stefaan Blancke, and Johan Braeckman from the Department of Philosphy at the University of Gent (Belgium) represent the heretics and dissenters among philosophers. If you want a summary of posts on this topic go to: Is Science Restricted to Methodologial Naturalism?. Here’s an excerpt from Grist to the Mill of Anti-evolutionism: The Failed Strategy of Ruling the Supernatural Out of Science by Philosophical Fiat (Boudry et al. 2012).
A widespread philosophical opinion conceives of methodological naturalism as an intrinsic and self-imposed limitation of science, as part and parcel of the scientific enterprise by definition. According to this view (Intrinsic Methodological Naturalism or IMN) – which is the official position of both the National Center for Science Education and the National Academy of Sciences and has been adopted in the ruling of Judge John E. Jones III in the Kitzmiller vs. Dover case – science is simply not equipped to deal with the supernatural and hence has no authority on the issue.I agree with this view. So far, the scientific way of knowing has uncovered no evidence of anything that exists outside of the natural world in spite of the fact that people who use that way of knowing have investigated thousands of claims of the supernatural. The fact that the scientific way of knowing hasn’t discovered god(s) or the Flying Spaghetti Monster does not mean that it is forbidden to look. It is quite possible, at some time in the future, that we will find evidence of something outside of the natural world.
In our view, however, methodological naturalism is a provisory and empirically anchored commitment to naturalistic causes and explanations, which is in principle revocable in light of extraordinary evidence (Provisory or Pragmatic Methodological Naturalism – PMN). Methodological naturalism thus conceived derives its rationale from the impressive dividends of naturalistic explanations and the consistent failure of supernatural explanations throughout the history of science.
The idea that we aren’t allowed a scientific investigation of claims of the paranormal or religion conflicts with the actual behavior of those who use the scientific way of knowing. In other words, it’s another example of philosophers just making up something while ignoring relevant evidence.
Does philosophy generate knowledge?]
Finally, because I have some work to get done that I am not paid for, methodological naturalism. Larry thinks, and I quote, “As far as I can tell, philosophers just made this up without ever thinking seriously about the evidence of how scientific thinking actually works outside in the real world.” Really? Methodological naturalism has been the ruling view of science since Thales of Miletus in the 6th century BCE. It is the view that we cannot investigate through natural means what does not follow rules. It is the idea that the sensible world, at any rate, is ruled by laws and regularities. It is the invention of "nature" as an idea.The fact that an idea is 2600 years old does not prove that it is correct and it does not address my claim that is “made up” without relying on evidence. I suspect John knows this.
To reject methodological naturalism is to in effect reject science as a possibility. It is not the claim that there is nothing else, nor is it the claim that science must be restricted to the physical world (at various times scientists have thought the paranormal, the spiritual, and even the theological were amenable to scientific investigation). If Larry thinks that he can scientifically investigate something that has no empirical evidence, I invite him to demonstrate that. In the meantime, any claim that is, as I have often called it, "empirically inoculated" is beyond the scope of science to investigate.
I certainly don’t claim that I can decide on the truth of something in the absence of evidence. I never said that. I said that, according to the scientific way of knowing it is silly and illogical to believe in something that is not supported by evidence. That’s why I don’t believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster. But if anyone wants to make a claim on behalf of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I feel perfectly comfortable using the scientific way of knowing to investigate that claim. I do not feel guilty because I violating some arbitrary philosophical rule.
John refers to a natural world that is ruled by laws and regularities. So it is. That doesn’t mean that everything is predictable and it doesn’t rule out extraordinary unusual events. Imagine that I’m a historian using the scientific way of knowing to investigate whether the stories in the Bible are true and whether Jesus actually performed miracles. None of this research can be ruled out of order a priori just because it postulates the existence of the supernatural or because the events are unique.
The historian could, in theory, discover that there’s a high probability that Jesus really did live in 30AD and that he performed miracles—miracles that cannot be explained by known natural laws. That would be very exciting.
John is right about one thing, however. There are, indeed, some claims that are “empirically inoculated.” These are claims that cannot possibly be “contaminated” by anything as crass as “evidence.” The Ontological Argument for the existence of God falls into this category and so does the argument that a deceptive and powerful Flying Spaghetti Monster could be stealing meatballs without us ever being aware of it.
Can we investigate these arguments using the scientific way of knowing. You bet we can. We conclude that they cannot be true using the scientific way of knowing because there’s no evidence to support them. If you believe that the Flying Spaghetti Monster steals meatballs then that belief conflicts with the scientific way of knowing. The belief is "empirically inoculated," and stupid.
The question before us is whether there’s another way of knowing that works. There are many philosophers who think that there is another valid way of knowing. By limiting the domain of science they claim that metaphysics is the exclusive domain of theologians and philosophers. (Implicit in this argument is that there is knowledge to gained by a non-scientific way of knowing, although John Wilkins rejects this view.) Here’s how Massimo Pigliucci puts it in Nonsense on Stilts (page 185).
... let us remember once again that science does not and cannot pronounce itself on the truth of a metaphysical idea (such as the existence of God), something best left to philosophers and theologians; there lies the true distinction between science and religion.And why can’t the scientific way of knowing draw conclusions about the possible existence of
My position is that the scientific way of knowing requires evidence. There is no evidence of gods or Flying Spaghetti Monsters, therefore they don’t exist if you adopt the scientific way of knowing as the only valid way of knowing. The burden of proof is on philosophers like Pigliucci to show us that metaphysics produces truth. If he can't do that then the distinction between methodological naturalism and metaphysical naturalism is a farce.
The methodological naturalism hammer can be used in strange ways to protect religion. Any person who strays from methodological naturalism is guilty of metaphysical naturalism and we all know how bad that is, don’t we? Imagine that someone thinking scientifically says, "There’s no evidence that evolution is guided or purposeful. Therefore, evolution is unguided and purposeless according to everything we know about biology." This seems like a perfectly legitimate thing to say if you’re employing the scientific way of thinking.
What are the relationships among religion, science, and philosophical naturalism? Everyone recognizes that there are differences, but there are similarities as well. All three of these terms refer to ways of knowing: a field of study that philosophers call "epistemology." The epistemology we call science is primarily a methodology that attempts to explain the natural world using natural causes. Although individual scientists may be concerned with moral and ethical issues, or rules of conduct, science as a way of knowing is not. The methodology of testing natural exclamations against the natural world will not tell us whether it is immoral for coyotes to kill rabbits, or whether members of one sex over another should keep their keep their heads covered in public, or whether marrying your father's brother's child is immoral but marrying your father's sister's child is not. Science is actually a quite limited way of knowing, with limited goals and a limited set of tools to accomplish those goals.According to Genie, there are three ways of knowing and some of the "knowledge" produced by one of those ways includes whether you can marry your father's sister's child. I think John Wilkins would disagree.
Philosophical naturalism relies upon science and is inspired by science, but it differs from science and being concerned with rules of conduct, ethics, and morals. When a scientist makes a statement like "Man is the result of purposeless natural process that did not have him in mind" (Simpson 1967:344), it is clear that he or she is speaking from the perspective of philosophical naturalism rather than from the methodology of science itself. As anthropologist Matt Cartmill has observed, "Many scientists are atheists or agnostics who want to believe that the natural world the study is all there is, and being only human, they try to persuade themselves that science gives them grounds for that belief. It's an honorable leader, but it isn't a research finding (Cartmell 1998:83).
According to Genie, a scientist can't say that evolution is unguided because that's a nonscientific statement. Only philosophers and theologians can say things like that!
Now do you see why some scientists are questioning the value of philosophy?