Science at the Bar—Cause for Concern by Larry Laudan
"In the wake of the decision in the Arkansas Creationism trial (McLean v Arkansas), the friends of science are apt to be relishing the outcome. The creationists quite clearly made a botch of their case and there can be little doubt that the Arkansas decision may, at least for a time, blunt legislative pressure to enact similar laws in other states. Once the dust has settled, however, the trial in general and Judge William R. Overton's ruling in particular may come back to haunt us; for, although the verdict itself is probably to be commended, it was reached for all the wrong reasons and by a chain of argument which is hopelessly suspect. Indeed, the ruling rests on a host of misrepresentations of what science is and how it works."IS INTELLIGENT DESIGN SCIENCE? DISSECTING THE DOVER DECISION by Bradley Monton, Jan. 3, 2006
"In the case of Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al., Judge Jones ruled that a pro-intelligent design disclaimer cannot be read to public school students. In his decision, he gave demarcation criteria for what counts as science, ruling that intelligent design fails these criteria. I argue that these criteria are flawed, with most of my focus on the criterion of methodological naturalism. The way to refute intelligent design is not by declaring it unscientific, but by showing that the empirical evidence for design is not there."Public Education and Intelligent Design by Thomas Nagel in Philosophy & Public Affairs 36:187-207 (2008)
"The 2005 decision by Judge John E. Jones in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District was celebrated by all red-blooded American liberals as a victory over the forces of darkness. The result was probably inevitable, in view of the reckless expression by some members of the Dover School Board of their desire to put religion into the classroom, and the clumsiness of their prescribed statement in trying to dissimulate that aim. But the conflicts aired in this trial-over the status of evolutionary theory, the arguments for intelligent design, and the nature of science—reveal an intellectually unhealthy situation. The political urge to defend science education against the threats of religious orthodoxy, understandable though it is, has resulted in a counterorthodoxy, supported by bad arguments, and a tendency to overstate the legitimate scientific claims of evolutionary theory. Skeptics about the theory are seen as so dangerous, and so disreputably motivated, that they must be denied any shred of legitimate interest. Most importantly, the campaign of the scientific establishment to rule out intelligent design as beyond discussion because it is not science results in the avoidance of significant questions about the relation between evolutionary theory and religious belief, questions that must be faced in order to understand the theory and evaluate the scientific evidence for it."How not to attack intelligent design creationism: philosophical misconceptions about methodological naturalism by Maarten Boudry, Stefaan Blancke, and Johan Braeckman in Foundations of Science 15:227-244 (2010)
"In recent controversies about Intelligent Design Creationism (IDC), the principle of methodological naturalism (MN) has played an important role. In this paper, an often neglected distinction is made between two different conceptions of MN, each with its respective rationale and with a different view on the proper role of MN in science. According to one popular conception, MN is a self-imposed or intrinsic limitation of science, which means that science is simply not equipped to deal with claims of the supernatural (Intrinsic MN or IMN). Alternatively, we will defend MN as a provisory and empirically grounded attitude of scientists, which is justified in virtue of the consistent success of naturalistic explanations and the lack of success of supernatural explanations in the history of science (Provisory MN or PMN). Science does have a bearing on supernatural hypotheses, and its verdict is uniformly negative. We will discuss five arguments that have been proposed in support of IMN: the argument from the definition of science, the argument from lawful regularity, the science stopper argument, the argument from procedural necessity, and the testability argument. We conclude that IMN, because of its philosophical flaws, proves to be an ill-advised strategy to counter the claims of IDC. Evolutionary scientists are on firmer ground if they discard supernatural explanations on purely evidential grounds, instead of ruling them out by philosophical fiat."Grist to the Mill of Anti-evolutionism: The Failed Strategy of Ruling the Supernatural Out of Science by Philosophical Fiat Maarten Boudry, Stefaan Blancke, and Johan Braeckman in Science & Education 21:1151-1165 (2012)
"According to a widespread philosophical opinion, science is strictly limited to investigating natural causes and putting forth natural explanations. Lacking the tools to evaluate supernatural claims, science must remain studiously neutral on questions of metaphysics. This (self-imposed) stricture, which goes under the name of ‘methodological naturalism’, allows science to be divorced from metaphysical naturalism or atheism, which many people tend to associate with it. However, ruling the supernatural out of science by fiat is not only philosophically untenable, it actually provides grist to the mill of anti-evolutionism. The philosophical flaws in this conception of methodological naturalism have been gratefully exploited by advocates of intelligent design creationism to bolster their false accusations of naturalistic bias and dogmatism on the part of modern science. We argue that it promotes a misleading view of the scientific endeavor and is at odds with the foremost arguments for evolution by natural selection. Reconciling science and religion on the basis of such methodological strictures is therefore misguided."Can Science Test Supernatural Worldviews? by Yonastan I. Fishman in Science, Worldviews and Education (2009) pp. 165-189.
"Several prominent scientists, philosophers, and scientific institutions have argued that science cannot test supernatural worldviews on the grounds that (1) science presupposes a naturalistic worldview (Naturalism) or that (2) claims involving supernatural phenomena are inherently beyond the scope of scientific investigation. The present paper argues that these assumptions are questionable and that indeed science can test supernatural claims. While scientific evidence may ultimately support a naturalistic worldview, science does not presuppose Naturalism as an a priori commitment, and supernatural claims are amenable to scientific evaluation. This conclusion challenges the rationale behind a recent judicial ruling in the United States concerning the teaching of “Intelligent Design” in public schools as an alternative to evolution and the official statements of two major scientific institutions that exert a substantial influence on science educational policies in the United States. Given that science does have implications concerning the probable truth of supernatural worldviews, claims should not be excluded a priori from science education simply because they might be characterized as supernatural, paranormal, or religious. Rather, claims should be excluded from science education when the evidence does not support them, regardless of whether they are designated as ‘natural’ or ‘supernatural’."Religion and Science Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Alvin Plantinga)
"Still others claim that science is constrained by ‘methodological naturalism’ (MN)—the idea that neither the data for a scientific investigation nor a scientific theory can properly refer to supernatural beings (God, angels, demons); thus one couldn't properly propose (as part of science) a theory according to which the recent outbreak of weird and irrational behavior in Washington D.C. is to be accounted for in terms of increased demonic behavior in that neighborhood. How do we know that MN really is an essential constraint on science? Some claim that it is simply a matter of definition; thus Nancey Murphy: “… there is what we might call methodological atheism, which is by definition common to all natural science” (Murphy 2001, 464). She continues: “This is simply the principle that scientific explanations are to be in terms of natural (not supernatural) entities and processes”. Similarly for Michael Ruse: “The Creationists believe that the world started miraculously. But miracles lie outside of science, which by definition deals only with the natural, the repeatable, that which is governed by law” (Ruse 1982, 322). By definition of what? By definition of the term ‘science’ one supposes. But others then ask: what about the Big Bang: if it turns out to be unrepeatable, must we conclude that it can't be studied scientifically? And consider the claim that science, by definition, deals only with that which is governed by law—natural law, one supposes. Some empiricists (in particular, Bas van Fraassen) argue that there aren't any natural laws (but only regularities): if they are right, would it follow that there is nothing at all for science to study? Still further, while some people argue that MN is an essential constraint on science, others dispute this: but can a serious dispute be settled just by citing a definition?"NATURALISM IS AN ESSENTIAL PART OF SCIENCE AND CRITICAL INQUIRY by Steven D. Schafersman a paper originally presented at the Conference on Naturalism, Theism and the Scientific Enterprise, sponsored by the Department of Philosophy, The University of Texas, Austin, Texas, February 20-23, 1997
"Scientists and others who believe in science, however, are humans, and their beliefs are another story. How convincing is the argument made by theistic methodological naturalists, individuals who believe in both science and the supernatural, that evolution--or any statement of science--is firmly established by a naturalistic method in which they don't really believe? Not very convincing. I find difficulty with [Eugenie] Scott's insistence that methodological and ontological naturalism are "logically and practically decoupled." I maintain that the practice or adoption of methodological naturalism entails both a logical and moral belief in ontological naturalism, so they are not logically decoupled (but could remain practically or pragmatically decoupled for those who wish or must for personal reasons). Most scientists presumably practice naturalism in science because they believe in naturalism as an ontology. Theistic scientists, on the other hand, only assume--do not really believe--methodological naturalism, because they are actually supernaturalists (this argument also applies to the much larger group of non-scientists who believe in both theism and the conclusions of science, such as evolution).Can’t philosophers tell the difference between science and religion?: Demarcation revisited by Robert T. Pennock Synthese 176:177-206 (2011)
Do theistic scientists think they are playing a game, in which they do science during the day with naturalistic methods, but at night go home and leave naturalism behind in the laboratory, since they don't really believe it describes a true picture of reality? How can an individual scientist not believe that the work he or she is doing actually discovers true and reliable knowledge about reality and still be motivated to perform that work? One might reply that his or her work does indeed discover such reliable knowledge about a part of reality, the natural part, and the other, supernatural, part is unknowable by science but presumably knowable by some other method (revelation, faith, authority, etc.). But this distinction is based solely on a definition, not on any real knowledge of reality. In effect, it involves the identification of the supernatural in a description of the realm of the natural, and thereby justifies one's adoption of methodological naturalism by ignoring methodological naturalism. I think theistic/supernaturalistic methodological naturalists are being illogical in this instance.
Theistic naturalists must believe somewhat in naturalism to methodologically assume or adopt it in science, and they cannot logically maintain a belief in supernaturalism at the same time unless they maintain that there is absolutely no connection at all between the natural and supernatural worlds. But this is something no supernaturalist maintains. Even the most naturalistic theistic naturalist--a deist who claims that God is the ultimate Creator of the universe, but that everything after that singular event is natural and operates by natural causes--believes in a supernatural origin of the universe. But ontological naturalism makes no exception for the origin of the universe. It must have been natural, too. For supernaturalists who believe in miracles or the dogmas of Christianity, the hurdle is even higher. It is not logically possible for them to describe nature naturalistically when, in fact, they believe in supernatural violations of natural law, i.e. the manifestation of miracles. These arguments suggest to me that methodological naturalism, itself alone required by science, is logically untenable for humans unless one is simultaneously an ontological naturalist."
"In the 2005 Kitzmiller v Dover Area School Board case, a federal district court ruled that Intelligent Design creationism was not science, but a disguised religious view and that teaching it in public schools is unconstitutional. But creationists contend that it is illegitimate to distinguish science and religion, citing philosophers Quinn and especially Laudan, who had criticized a similar ruling in the 1981 McLean v. Arkansas creation-science case on the grounds that no necessary and sufficient demarcation criterion was possible and that demarcation was a dead pseudo-problem. This article discusses problems with those conclusions and their application to the quite different reasoning between these two cases. Laudan focused too narrowly on the problem of demarcation as Popper defined it. Distinguishing science from religion was and remains an important conceptual issue with significant practical import, and philosophers who say there is no difference have lost touch with reality in a profound and perverse way. The Kitzmiller case did not rely on a strict demarcation criterion, but appealed only to a “ballpark” demarcation that identifies methodological naturalism (MN) as a “ground rule” of science. MN is shown to be a distinguishing feature of science both in explicit statements from scientific organizations and in actual practice. There is good reason to think that MN is shared as a tacit assumption among philosophers who emphasize other demarcation criteria and even by Laudan himself."Demarcation’s revisited demise posted on The Kindly Ones by Paul Newall on Dec. 21, 2010.
"This is why Laudan’s caution is often pointed to by those who wish to remark that attacking ID on the philosophical grounds of the demarcation problem instead of in terms of confirmation or as a research programme is ill-advised. No doubt it is a source of some annoyance to opponents of ID that Laudan’s comments have been seized upon by its advocates, but this approach only succeeds insofar as the debate remains fixated on the question of whether or not Creationism and/or ID are scientific. Perhaps the correct response to such disagreements is to point out that, if we read the entirety of Laudan’s The demise of the demarcation problem, we find that there is no safe place in it for Creationism or ID: Laudan states repeatedly that ideas should not be disallowed via an initial demarcation but should be assessed in terms of how well-founded they are, on which grounds Creationism and ID fail. It can thus be conceded that the demarcation problem may be intractable without allowing that this makes life any easier for Creationism and ID. If this proves difficult in terms of what should be allowed in a science classroom then perhaps it requires that we frame that debate differently; those who attempted to settle the question via demarcation, or who allowed Creationism and ID advocates to do so, are responsible for this situation, not Laudan."But Is It Science? by Massimo Pigliucci in Nonsense on Stilts p. 176
"While we learned much about creationism and intelligent design from a careful analysis of the Dover proceedings, the crucial question as far as this book is concerned is rather more direct: is ID science, under any reasonable definition of the term? Just because an idea has strong religious underpinnings, it doesn't necessarily [mean] it is scientifically unsound, and one ought to pursue the two questions (infringement of state-church separation and the scientific nature of the claim) separately. This is, in a sense, what Judge Jones did, and the central part of his decision, entitled "Whether ID is science," should be a must-read in any discussion of science and religion. Interestingly, Judge Jones relied not only on the expert testimony of ID proponents and of their scientific critics, but also on a usually neglected category of experts: philosophers of science. His account is an enduring testimony to how a person with no technical background, a religious believer, and a political conservative, can form a solid opinion—based on considerate understanding of expert testimony—of matters that are both intellectually sophisticated and full of emotional and political implications."