Methodological Naturalism, Science and God

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Kurieuo
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Methodological Naturalism, Science and God

Postby Kurieuo » Mon Jan 16, 2017 4:23 am

This post is a new thread to discuss Methodological Naturalism, a breakaway discussion in another thread to do with evolution.

Audacity wrote:
Kurieuo wrote:
Audacity wrote:
Kurieuo wrote:
Audacity wrote:I think this is a bit misleading. Contemporary evolutionary and scientific thinking does indeed regard evolution as unplanned and unguided without any intelligent plan or design because there's to reason to assume it is intelligently planed or designed. These are aspects beyond science's ability to evaluate or confirm, so they're left out of consideration. But if someone wants to believe evolution is planed or designed science couldn't care less. Just don't bother bringing them into any hypothesis that attempts to explain some facet of evolution.

Actually, they're not left out of evolutionary science at all, but concepts are full of them, and such perhaps must be that way if one is to faithfully apply methodological naturalism as commonly understood.

If you're going to quote Plantinga is Ken Ham far behind? Not that their targets are the same or are they anywhere close to being intellectual equals--- Ham should be so lucky as to have a quarter of Plantinga's intellect and integrity---but in their use of evolution both of their positions have gathered considerable and justifiable criticism. In short, I don't buy Plantinga's evolutionary argument against naturalism.

I respect Plantinga, and he is well respected in philosophical circles as a Christian theist. I doubt you've read him, more than read about him from people who probably don't understand logical arguments. PS. I didn't quote him, however what is wrong with this definition of methodological naturalism and the way in which people often consider "science"?
The philosophical doctrine of methodological naturalism holds that, for any study of the world to qualify as "scientific," it cannot refer to God's creative activity (or any sort of divine activity). The methods of science, it is claimed, "give us no purchase" on theological propositions--even if the latter are true--and theology therefore cannot influence scientific explanation or theory justification. Thus, science is said to be religiously neutral, if only because science and religion are, by their very natures, epistemically distinct.

His argument however, in that paper linked to is this:
However, the actual practice and content of science challenge this claim. In many areas, science is anything but religiously neutral; moreover, the standard arguments for methodological naturalism suffer from various grave shortcomings.

A new thread should be opened up, however to discuss such. I linked to it, in case some wanted extended reading. ;)


EDIT: His definition of methodological naturalism is just fine. And maybe a separate thread would be interesting


Re: Discussing "methodological naturalism", I've done so in the past with an older poster, Morny I believe. When I first read Plantinga's thoughts on MN (like in that paper), it didn't sit right with me. For I saw MN as neutral and his understanding of it as something wrong.

But then, having discussions with various people online carrying of a strong persuasion in the scientific method, including Morny, it became apparent to me MN actually appears to be more philosophical (ontological) naturalism joined with science. This is by no means neutral, and I believe ought to be rejected in science as I see it.

So we might actually find some agreement there, since from what I gather, you appear to believe science is actually neutral and has no (or ought not have) bearing upon questions of God's existence and the like. Yet, sadly, science isn't conducted that way, I think Plantinga is right in that respect. Perhaps, such is in large part due to strong biases and opinions over questions of religion and God, but I'm happy to explore such.

Perhaps my coming at it from a philosophy of religion angle, initially clouded my own judgements in seeing MN as more neutral, as this entry in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes:

    In what follows, “methodological naturalism” will be understood as a view about philosophical practice. Methodological naturalists see philosophy and science as engaged in essentially the same enterprise, pursuing similar ends and using similar methods.

    In some philosophy of religion circles, “methodological naturalism” is understood differently, as a thesis about natural scientific method itself, not about philosophical method. In this sense, “methodological naturalism” asserts that religious commitments have no relevance within science: natural science itself requires no specific attitude to religion, and can be practised just as well by adherents of religious faiths as by atheists or agnostics (Draper 2005). This thesis is of interest to philosophers of religion because many of them want to deny that methodological naturalism in this sense entails “philosophical naturalism”, understood as atheism or agnosticism. You can practice natural science in just the same way as non-believers, so this line of thought goes, yet remain a believer when it comes to religious questions.

    Not all defenders of religious belief endorse this kind of “methodological naturalism”. Some think that religious doctrines do make a difference to scientific practice, yet are defensible for all that (Plantinga 1996). In any case, this kind of “methodological naturalism” will not be discussed further here. Our focus will be on the relation between philosophy and science, not between religion and science.
"Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:13)

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Re: Methodological Naturalism, Science and God

Postby Kurieuo » Mon Jan 16, 2017 6:08 pm

An additional post, taken from here:
hughfarey wrote:Now what's this 'methodological naturalism'? A philosophical doctrine which "holds that, for any study of the world to qualify as "scientific," it cannot refer to God's creative activity (or any sort of divine activity)." This is a rather airy dismissal of several thousand years of 'scientific study', whose sole purpose was to identify the workings of the creative activity of God, and I think assumes that any consideration of God by scientists will necessarily upset the rationality upon which science is based. The axiom is that Science is rational, but God is irrational, and the two are irreconcilable. But that ignores the entire basis of early scientific endeavour, which assumed that science was rational because God was rational. Methodological Naturalism is founded upon a "self-evident truth" which turns out not to be self-evident at all. Wrong, in fact.


The definition of Methodological Naturalism is actually debated. Some wish to truly make it non-loaded, it says nothing of God, about God, God's non-existence, God just simply doesn't come into the equation. The premise of Methodological Naturalism for such is that one merely should not look for explanations of intelligent intervention, as we're looking for natural methods. To use an example of Mt Rushmore. one should not draw "intelligence" as the cause, we must only look for natural explanations -- we're after all using the tool that is both "Methodological" and "Natural".

Some will respond no, but we know "humans" are a part of nature -- damn straight! Only a stupid person would believe Mt Rushmore happened via natural process. Which says to me MN is more of a epistemic tool, rather than the be-all and end-all adjudicator of truth. Yet then, who is to say a supreme being (aka God) also isn't part of nature? Especially when we see things so finely turned, nonetheless many attempt to continue using Methodological Naturalism to try explain such away. Good luck to them, I hope they get far. It all eventually leads to the same point where theologians have been sitting for millennia. ;)

Yet, we really start to see that what is embedded in MN is actually a more philosophical Ontological Naturalism that says God doesn't exist, what is real is the physical world and natural laws within. There would be no such complaint or bias of a certain types of intelligence being the conclusion (Mt Rushmore). In practice, MN is not neutral at all, as it turns out -- while it is an admirable epistemic endeavour and has lead to a lot of knowledge, it can't always be used to get at truth, may even go straight past it, it is merely a method and tool.
"Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:13)

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