Naturalism and science are incompatible

Well, that’s what the Christian apologist philosopher Alvin Plantinga claims. And he has written a book to “prove” it – Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism. Apparently its required reading for students of theology and the philosophy of religion. Probably because he declares there is a “deep concord between science and theistic belief,  . . . .  and deep conflict between science and naturalism.” The book concludes with:

“there is indeed a science/religion conflict, all right, but it is not between science and theistic religion: it is between science and naturalism. That’s where the conflict really lies”

Personally, I think Plantinga uses motivated reasoning, logical possibilities, cherry-picked “science” (he quotes Michael Behe for example) and a naive understanding of adaptive selection to come to his conclusions. On top of that he usually acknowledges that each step is only logically “possible” – he preserves deniability all the way through. But nevertheless comes to firm conclusions! This must be very satisfying for him and some of his mates but I don’t think many scientists have even noticed his book.

I certainly haven’t noticed a sudden change in the way we do science, or the scientific theories we formulate.

I won’t review or comment further on his book here (although I have sort of promised to discuss one or two of Plantinga’s arguments in future articles). I recommend that anyone interested should read Maarten Boudry’s excellent review -Where the Conflict Lies, Really: Are Science and Theism Best Friends?  (I commented briefly on this in The paradoxes of theological gullibility). And I certainly don’t support Plantinga’s conclusions.

But I do agree with the statement that “Naturalism and science are incompatible.”

Before you go and quote me out of context I also agree with statements like “Theism and science are incompatible,” “atheism and science are incompatible,” “Marxism-Leninism and science are incompatible,” “Maoism and science are incompatible,” etc. You get the picture. I am saying that all philosophies or ideologies are incompatible with science in the sense that science does not, and should not, a priori, include any of these ideological/philosophical presumptions.

The conflict is not just between science and religion, but between science and all ideologies.

What about “methodological naturalism?”

OK, some people may now be revising their knee jerk reaction that the long-expected senility had finally struck. But what about “methodological naturalism” some would say – isn’t that a normal part of the scientific process. In fact, in a recent discussion a student assured me that “methodological naturalism” . .  is an assumption of science!”

Bloody hell, is this a new part of science training? I was never told during my university years that I should make such assumptions in my research. And I never went into any of my research projects with that or any other similar “assumption.” No colleagues mentioned such assumptions to me either. That claim may be coming from theology and philosophy of religion professors, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be coming from working scientists.

In fact, I have always been told, and always accepted, that we should make as few assumptions as possible in research. OK, perhaps reality exists, and perhaps we can assume that it is possible to investigate and understand at least part of that reality. But that is all. (Well, perhaps there was a strong preference for accepting the laws of thermodynamics – but even then there was a realisation that a Nobel Prize awaited anyone who disproved them.) But, on the whole, an open mind is essential for creative research.

Who is promoting this story?

So what’s all this palava about “naturalism” – and especially this “methodological naturalism” we are all supposed to assume? While such terms are not bandied about by scientists day-to-day they are used by a few philosophers and politicians. In fact this student could well have been mislead by a body no less august than the US National Academy of Sciences. In their booklet “Teaching about evolution and the nature of science” they say:

“Because science is limited to explaining the natural world by means of natural processes, it cannot use supernatural causation in its explanations. Similarly, science is precluded from making statements about supernatural forces because these are outside its provenance.”

This view was endorsed by philosopher of religion John Haught (“By its very nature, science is obliged to leave out any appeal to the supernatural, and so its explanations will always sound naturalistic and purely physicalist”) and  Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, who is also an atheist (“Science is a way of knowing that attempts to explain the natural world using natural causes. It is agnostic toward the supernatural – it neither confirms nor rejects it.”).

There are no shortage of atheist philosophers of science like Michael Ruse and Barbara Forrest who also provide quotes for the enthusiastic Christian apologist to cherry pick and throw at me when I discuss the subject with them. Of course these same apologists ignore philosophers and scientists, like Victor Stenger, who reject this characterisation of how we do science.

Accommodation in science

There are scientists and philosophers who argue the characterisation presented by the US National Academy of Sciences is just political opportunism. That the Academy is trying to placate religious critics by retaining a place for religion. By declaring that science had not found their god because of its own (science’s) limitations. Science is not capable of finding gods or other “supernatural” things – “Your god is safe from us.” A similar motivation is behind  similar comments from scientists and philosophers. Effectively that approach is a tactic which tries to neutralise attacks on science, and particularly evolutionary science, by ring-fencing certain issues. Making them out-of-bounds for science.

Some scientists describe the approach as “accommodation” and firmly criticise it. They see this political tactic as placing the defence of evolutionary science above science itself. The independence of science, the true lack of ideological assumptions within science, and the scientific ethos of searching for truth, are sacrificed just to get those troublesome theists off the backs of evolutionary scientists. And the political tactic fails because it allows theists to place, or attempt to place, arbitrary limitations on science, agrees to the ring-fencing of aspects of reality to exclude science, etc., just to appease the enemies of science.

This tactic also hands juicy quotes to religious apologists who cherry pick them to tell scientists how they should really do research. They can also use these quotes as an excuse for the continued lack of credible evidence for their preferred stories about life and the universe. Even, as Plantinga attempts, to try to discredit science and or leading scientists.

The philosopher Maarten Boudry has an interesting paper explaining the problems with the accomodationist approach of the US Academy of Science – How not to attack intelligent design creationism : philosophical misconceptions about methodological naturalism. I guess as a philosopher he must use the terms used by those he critiques. But he explains the problems and inadequacies of terms like “methodological naturalism,” and attempts to introduce amendments to make them more realistic.

Personally, as a scientist and not a philosopher, I feel we should just declare these terms irrelevant. They don’t describe how we do research and do encourage misunderstanding by non-scientists.

What the hell is “supernatural”?

People use this word a lot but no-one bothers with a tight definition – perhaps because that is not really possible. My dictionary describes the adjective as attributing a phenomenon or event to “some force beyond scientific understanding, or the laws of nature.” So, was lightning and thunder “supernatural” several centuries ago but not now? Is some phenomena we have recorded and do not understand “supernatural” now – even though it may become “natural” tomorrow when we do understand it? If this really means forever beyond potential understanding – how could we possibly know? Isn’t this whole thing circular? Theologians tend to define “natural” as “relating to earthly human or physical nature as distinct from the spiritual or supernatural realm.”

Surely it’s just simpler to say “I don’t know”  when we come across something we do not understand, that seems to conflict with the current state of knowledge (which the “laws of nature” represent). If we must give it a name call it something like “dark matter” or “dark energy” – place-holders acknowledging we are trumped for the moment but not preventing us from investigating the phenomenon. To call it “supernatural” has unfortunate consequences – it is usually interpreted to mean beyond scientific understanding. Such labels are of no help because they are science stoppers, preventing the progress of understanding.

I have discussed “natural” and “supernatural” before in Science and the “supernatural”, Can the “supernatural” be of any use?, The “supernatural” and dogmatism in science, Scientific method and the “supernatural”, Defining natural and supernatural and elsewhere.

And I should also make the usual qualifier here. I am by no means claiming that everything is understandable by the human mind, or even that we can detect everything. Nor am I suggesting that our mental and technological abilities are potentially unlimited. We may just not be able to ever investigate some things or understand them when we do. That doesn’t stop us from being a very curious species which will continue to investigate things far into the future.

We shouldn’t be setting “limits” to science or ring-fencing parts of reality to place them out-of-bounds for science – just to satisfy adherents of ancient mythical beliefs.

Scientific knowledge is counter-intuitive

And that’s a strong reason to expel any idea that scientists should make assumptions before the undertake research. For example, exclusion of ideas considered “supernatural” would have prevented progress in our understanding of gravity (action at a distance was considered as introducing an occult force in Newton’s time), relativity (how counter-intuitive is that?), quantum mechanics (“spooky action at a distance), and field theories of matter. Excluding the “supernatural” when it is used to mean something we don’t understand or don’t think possible) would just prevent scientific progress. And we don’t.

Of course, those who advocate most strongly for inclusion of the supernatural in science don’t really mean that. They mean the automatic inclusion of their god into scientific theories, as an explanation of observed facts, without any evidence. When these people criticise “naturalism” they are really criticising the requirements for evidence, testing and validation in science. But remove those and we no longer have science.

The god hypothesis

However, on the question of gods and similar beings – science does not exclude these, providing the requirements of evidence and testing are fulfilled. In fact scientists, whatever their personal beliefs, should not exclude such beings. After all there could well be a god, or gods. We might well find evidence for that. A god hypothesis may well survive testing and be incorporated into our scientific theories. That may sound mad to some – but personally I think a few hundred years ago gravitational forces, relativity and time dilation, quantum indeterminacy entanglement would have been considered a lot weirder than a god hypothesis

Personally I don’t believe there are gods, but as one grows older one gets used to having to adjust beliefs as we learn more about reality. One thing I am pretty sure of though – if a god or gods do exist they won’t be anything like the gods humanity has invented over the years.

A last point on god hypotheses. As science has progressed we have found less and less room for gods. Scientific theories these days don’t include gods. Not through any presumptions by science or biases in scientists beliefs but because we just don’t have any supporting evidence. Another problem is that there is no agreed, clear, structured god hypothesis that can be tested. In fact, as our knowledge has progressed and the lack of evidence has become obvious theologians and philosophers of religion have progressively redefined their gods to be less and less testable. I think they have effectively redefined their gods out of existence. Or maybe in the process of making their god undetectable they have also made it impossible for her to interact with reality. Impossible to have an influence. Which is basically the same as non-existent.

Being open-minded

I said before than an open mind is essential for creative scientific research. Some critics assert science is not open-minded because it doesn’t automatically include their (the critics) gods in scientific theories. That concept of an open mind means inclusion of any old idea, without evidence and validation, and no matter how vague. That is not science – it’s silliness.

The explanatory power of science comes from its interaction with reality. Creative research must be open to new ideas and speculations but they don’t throw away evidence and validation against reality. They are not so open-minded that their brains fall out.

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33 responses to “Naturalism and science are incompatible

  1. Continuing from the previous thread:

    Wade – substitute T for N and you get exactly the same result but it applies to theism instead of “naturalism”.

    Except that both premises being true aren’t quite as well justified. Think of it this way: would the existence of a perfectly good, maximally powerful, omniscient being, really make “our cognitive faculties are reliable” any less likely? It doesn’t seem like it would. In contrast, there seems to be good reason to believe that Pr(R|N&E) is low. If you want to see the reasoning behind that, see here, but borrowing a bit from that is the issue of naturalism entailing semantic epiphenomenalism, as I had already explained. To recap, semantic epiphenomenalism says that the semantic content of our belief (the belief that p for some proposition p, e.g. the belief that snow is white) is not causally relevant to our behavior; that semantic content is instead a useless byproduct, like smoke is to fire. If that’s true, our beliefs could be unrelated to the external world, as in dreams, and it wouldn’t matter as far as our behavior is concerned. If that’s true, then Pr(R|N&E) is low indeed. In contrast, theism does not imply semantic epiphenomenalism, and so it doesn’t have the same problem that naturalism has.

    And why use the term “naturalism” instead of atheism?

    I think because the argument doesn’t work so well on atheism.

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  2. I have always been told, and always accepted, that we should make as few assumptions as possible in research. OK, perhaps reality exists, and perhaps we can assume that it is possible to investigate and understand at least part of that reality.

    You’ve just described “Methodological Naturalism” in action and admitted you were taught it.

    The rest of the business about “accommodation,” “the supernatural,” how we should socially treat religion are all interesting questions worth debating. But they are not scientific questions. By all means assert you and everyone else are free to express their philosophical/theological/religious beliefs but wrapping those in the mantle of science is as bad as when the “Creation Scientists” or “Intelligent Design Scientists” do it. That’s the point of “accommodationists.”

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  3. Thanks, Wade. That is a breakthrough. You have to have a premise/evidence to start up your logical reasoning. Till now whenever I ask for that premise I am pointed to the naive probability argument or even the initials AEEN – as if that is all that is required!

    So clearly your justification, starting point is not science or evolutionary science but theology. You have dragged something into this justification which has no part in science, no scientific evidence.

    So then, how can you say this proves science is friendly with theism but not atheism?

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  4. “To call it “supernatural” has unfortunate consequences – it is usually interpreted to mean beyond scientific understanding. Such labels are of no help because they are science stoppers, preventing the progress of understanding.”

    Ok we shouldn’t use the term supernatural

    BUt on the other hand

    “But I do agree with the statement that “Naturalism and science are incompatible.”

    hmmm, so should we use something in between? Do you think naturalism and supernaturalism are symetrical?

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  5. OK John, if you want to define “methodological materialism” that way but you must admit many don’t. Particularly among the theologically inclined and philosophers of religion. I believe in my day, both education and research, where the words were not used and we instead talked of open mindedness, evidence, etc and set about attempting to understand reality in practice we were able to express the situation much more clearly.

    Given the ideological loading of these words now, and the different meanings different people have for them we must always understand things by looking at context. The other day when Victor described science as naturalist in his HuffPo article I knew what he mean – something similar to what you expresst. But when Plantinga uses the word “naturalism” I know it means something different.

    The issues you raise may not be scientific questions but the ideological loading of words in describing the science process is certainly an issue which concerns scientists, or should do. Especially as it promotes misunderstanding amongst the public of what science actually is.

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  6. Cornell I think “naturalism” and “supernatural” are circular as each is defined by the other.

    Best not to use the terms and just call a spade a spade.

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  7. Wade, I am sorry, I missed part of your comment (confusion with the changeover I guess).

    You claim “ the argument doesn’t work so well on atheism.” Can you explain why. Is there something beyond someone’s disbelief in a god that Plantinga brings into his argument – if so what is it and how?
    I don’t find anything in my reading of him.

    I am concentrating on basic premises and evidence Plantinga relies on because I personally feel he hasn’t anything justified by science to lead him to the conclusion that science is theist friendly and atheist hostile. I agree with Boudry’s comment that he in fact relies on logical possibilities. Glenn denied that but refused for a very long time to produce the basic premises.

    And really, what does the fact that a person today might have a belief have to do with the blind processes of evolution? We didn’t determine our evolution in the past, let alone project our beliefs back from the present.

    Now the way I see it both you and Plantinga are claiming that evolution cannot lead to a species capable of forming reliable beliefs. I dispute that (strongly) and think Plantinga uses this as a trick to insert his god into evolution, despite denying so.

    There is nothing in modern cognitive science suggesting that guided evolution is necessary to produce species like ours – capable of obtaining reliable knowledge about our environment and the universe. Nor is there anything in evolutionary science suggesting any guidance (of the sort Plantinga wants) in evolutionary variation or selection. Cognitive science has no such problem with understanding that we have a cognitive system capable of coming to some model of our environment using our organs of perception and processes in the brain. When this is actually combined with interaction with reality our models can be very good, sufficient to create computers, put rovers on Mars, etc. That specific key premise of Plantinga is completely false.

    So, its really does come back to Plantinga using just logical possibility, plus distortion of evolutionary science (inserting guidance). Without evidence, reliable premises, the logic is immaterial. Its like trying to build a house without any foundations (or land to put it on).

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  8. “Now the way I see it both you and Plantinga are claiming that evolution cannot lead to a species capable of forming reliable beliefs”

    Quick correction: Plantinga claims the opposite of this. he says that in fact evolution DID lead to a species capable of reliably forming true beliefs (in general at least). You’re confusing this with what Plantinga says about the combination of evolution and naturalism. And there’s no “cannot.” he says the probability of such a formation process arising, given naturalism combined with evolution, is low or inscrutable.

    Just thought I’d pop in to point out how much easier this would be for you if you had read and familiarised yourself with Plantinga’s argument.

    Cheers.

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  9. But that is the point Glenn. Plantinga claims that unguided evolution cannot lead to a species such as ours (and many others logically). He spends a lot of his book trying to make the case for guided evolution.

    But that is in complete contrast to current evolutionary science. There is just no evidence for guided evolution (of the sort Plantiga agues for) and no need to introduce it. Plantinga is making an assumption that evolution as currently understood (unguided) cannot produce our sort of species therefore evolution is guided, by his god of course. He is wrong.

    He is trying to sneak in his god to a situation where no such entity is required. There is no requirement for guidance to produce a species capable of obtaining a reliable model of its surroundings or of the universe in general.

    That’s why I keep asking for Plantinga’s starting points, his premises. His premise that unguided evolution cannot produce a species like ours may be justified theologically (anything can be) but it isn’t scientifically. That’s a fact you have to confront.

    And “naturalism” has nothing to do with it. It is, if anything, an ideological position of a member of our species. It has no role in evolution. An ideology cannot go back in time to guide the variation and selection.

    In essence Plantiga’s argument is that evolution of our species required guidance (he is wrong) therefore evolutionary science must conflict with disbelief in his god.

    His premise is completely wrong.

    Rubbish in – rubbish out.

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  10. Angels guide the orbit of planets around the Sun. Theologians are unclear whether they physically use their hands (invisible hands, of course) or if they just concentrate very hard from a distance to keep things going.
    Newton’s got some ‘splaining to do.

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  11. Another way to look at this is to equate Plantinga’s evolution/naturalism with unguided evolution – evolution without a guiding agent and his theism/evolution with guided evolution – evolution with his god as the guiding agent.

    There are a couple of tricks here:

    He implies that his theism/evolution is equivalent to current evolutionary science. That is dishonest. Evolutionary science does not include or require his god or any similar guiding agent.

    He considers evolution/naturalism – without his god, unguided – to be random. It’s not.

    His naive statistical misrepresentation assumes randomness, a large number of false beliefs vs one reality. So how can a random process produce a reliable belief?

    But while most sources of variation may be random, selection is not. Adaptive pressure selects organisms with perception systems and cognitive processes which tend to be reliable. A random “belief” would not help survival. True, a reliable “belief” does not necessarily accord with reality completely. But that, together with our interaction with reality, the feedback via our perceptions, and use of intelligent reasoning processes has produced a situation where our “beliefs”, although not completely “true,” are accurate enough, reliable enough, to put Curiosity on Mars and enable us to hold this discussion using computers and the Internet.

    No god required for that. No guidance of evolution.

    Plantinga is using logical possibility and misrepresentation of evolutionary science to reach a preconceived conclusion.

    To teach this to theological and philosophy of religion students as appears to be happening is disgusting.

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  12. Glenn, here’s a little exercise in clarification. You use the term “naturalism combined with evolution”.

    What does that mean?

    If “naturalism” is a personal belief how could it possibly influence evolution? Especially as the vast majority of evolution has involved beings which probably haven’t got “belief” in anything like the sense we understand the word. Evolution is evolution and it’s ability to lead to a species like us has nothing to do with what individuals believe.

    Now if you mean that the concept of evolution held by a person with a “naturalist” belief does not include a key feature of evolutionary science – please say so and state this key feature?

    On the other hand if you are claiming that a god, and her guidance, is essential for evolution then isn’t that just a personal belief? Evolutionary science doesn’t require gods, or find evidence for gods, so such a belief is quite external to the science. It is not honest to claim that acceptance of evolutionary science requires belief in gods, goblins, or similar agents. It doesn’t. So there is no justification for claiming a conflict between evolutionary science, or science in general and “naturalism.”

    You said previously you had only read one part of Plantinga’s book. If you read the rest you will in fact see that Plantinga is claiming that his god is essential to science – in several tired old theological ways. He specifically argues that evolution is guided by his god (a complete break with the science). And further specifically manufactures “evidence” that without such guidance we could not have “true” or reliable beliefs. Again in conflict with the actual science.

    When you talk of “naturalism combined with evolution” surely you mean just evolutionary science? Because the opposite (which I guess he would describe as evolution combined with theism) would mean altering the science by injecting is god. A specific claim which is not required by, or shown by, the evidence and its theory.

    We have a silly situation where people claim that they accept calculus and evolutionary science and that neither of these requires gods to operate. They will accept, as you do, that evolution has produced a species like ours which can form reliable beliefs. So you accept that the science is accepting our evolution was possible without a god being required.

    So why then say someone who doesn’t believe in a god has a conflict with science or specifically evolutionary science? It just doesn’t follow. The logic is completely wrong.

    Plantinga’s case for his argument does not rest with the naive probability he presents. It rests with his claim that “divine guidance” is essential for the evolution of intelligence, the ability to form reliable beliefs. It is a theological “argument” not a scientific one and it is in conflict with evolutionary science.

    That’s where the conflict real lies.

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  13. “If “naturalism” is a personal belief how could it possibly influence evolution?”

    OK, OK, one last bit of help. yes naturalism is a belief, but it’s a claim about reality. That claim is either true, or it’s not true.

    All clear so far?

    So what Plantinga is claiming is: If you believe that naturalism is true, and if you also affirm the standard evolutionary biology, then you’ve got a defeater for all your beliefs.

    So for future reference, Plantinga never claims that a person’s belief in naturalism itself influences evolution.

    But that’s the last one. For the rest you’ve have to actually read Plantinga’s argument.

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  14. Glenn, clearly you can’t, or won’t answer, my questions. So I guess I will repeat (bloody hell, trying to rationally discuss their scientific claims with religious apologists is like getting blood out of a stone):

    “Now if you mean that the concept of evolution held by a person with a “naturalist” belief does not include a key feature of evolutionary science – please say so and state this key feature?”

    In what way is evolutionary science a “defeater” for a belief in “naturalism” or vice versa? (Something is missing if you can’t answer that – or won’t. It’s the bloody elephant in the room).

    I imagine its got something to do with your god. But evolutionary science (or any other science last time I checked) has no requirement for, or evidence of, your god. Believers in “naturalism” do not believe in your god. Your god doesn’t come into the issue.

    Unless you are trying to sneak your god into science?

    Why avoid the question?


    PS: It’s not a matter of help, Glenn, as you well know. It’s a matter of getting you to be honest about Plantinga’s argument. Every time you avoid the question in this way you confirm awareness of how bad the argument is, while showing loyalty to a dishonest argument. You dig your hole even deeper. No skin off my nose but embarrassment for you surely.

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  15. “Cornell I think “naturalism” and “supernatural” are circular as each is defined by the other.

    Best not to use the terms and just call a spade a spade.”

    So you are saying something (let’s call it X) cannot be supernatural and natural at the same time correct?

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  16. “To call it “supernatural” has unfortunate consequences – it is usually interpreted to mean beyond scientific understanding. Such labels are of no help because they are science stoppers, preventing the progress of understanding.”

    So can we take this statement and say:

    To call it ‘natural’ does not have unfortunate consequences – as this label is of help because it is not a science stopper?

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  17. Cornell, you should carefully define your terms when you ask these questions or make such claims.

    I have made it very clear that the working scientific researcher doesn’t use the terms. They don’t start by asking if a phenomenon is “natural” or “supernatural.” So I always get suspicious of those who wish to introduce these terms into science – they have agendas.
    Now John Pieret above considers the term naturalism to mean open-mindedness and considering it is possible to investigate and understand at least part of reality.

    And I think those scientist who do use the term actually mean this.

    But like everything one can find all sorts of assumptions and agendas behind use of words one doesn’t define.

    Now is “open-mindedness and considering it is possible to investigate and understand at least part of reality.” a science stopper – of course not. It’s vital for science.

    Don’t you agree?

    Hey, Cornell, what about answering those question I put to Glenn – he seems to have fled from the scene because he finds them too hard. I am not giving up on my analyses of Plantinga’s fallacies – are you?

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  18. “Now John Pieret above considers the term naturalism to mean open-mindedness and considering it is possible to investigate and understand at least part of reality.”

    So if God exists, then we can’t understand part of reality?

    That seems kinda strange….

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  19. I guess when Newton, who was a Theist made all those discoveries years ago, he didn’t understand anything about reality, yes?

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  20. Cornell, to say “So if God exists, then we can’t understand part of reality” is as silly as saying “So if God exists we can’t be open-minded”.

    No part of current scientific knowledge includes a god, fairies, spaghetti monsters or goblins. Not does it require any. Nor does it exclude any.

    Currently science has nothing to do with such entities – we have moved a long way since Isaac’s day when he attributed to his god things he could not explain. And contrary to your implication he mentioned his god as an explanation at the very points he could not understand reality. Instead of saying “I don’t know” as honest scientists say today he said ” my god did it!”

    I guess you are also running away from the questions I put to Glenn!

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  21. “But how accurate is the ID whining that science unfairly rules out, a priori, supernatural or non-material explanations? As with everything else in ID “theory”, this claim is based solely on deception and hand-waving.
    The scientific method is very simple, and consists of five basic steps. They are:
    1. Observe some aspect of the universe
    2. Form a hypothesis that potentially explains what you have observed
    3. Make testible predictions from that hypothesis
    4. Make observations or experiments that can test those predictions
    5. Modify your hypothesis until it is in accord with all observations and predictions

    NOTHING in any of those five steps excludes on principle, a priori, any “supernatural cause”. Using this method, one is entirely free to invoke as many non-material pixies, ghosts, goddesses, demons, devils, djinis, and/or the Great Pumpkin, as many times as you like, in any or all of your hypotheses. And science won’t (and doesn’t) object to that in the slightest. Indeed, scientific experiments have been proposed (and carried out and published) on such “supernatural causes” as the effects of prayer on healing, as well as such “non-materialistic” or “non-natural” causes as ESP, telekinesis, precognition and “remote viewing”. So ID’s claim that science unfairly rejects supernatural or non-material causes out of hand on principle, is demonstrably quite wrong.

    However, what science DOES require is that any supernatural or non-material hypothesis, whatever it might be, then be subjected to steps 3, 4 and 5. And HERE is where ID fails miserably.

    To demonstate this, let’s pick a particular example of an ID hypothesis and see how the scientific method can be applied to it: One claim made by many ID creationists explains the genetic similarity between humans and chimps by asserting that God — uh, I mean, An Unknown Intelligent Designer — created both but used common features in a common design.

    Let’s take this hypothesis and put it through the scientific method:

    1. Observe some aspect of the universe.
    OK, so we observe that humans and chimps share unique genetic markers, including a broken vitamin C gene and, in humans, a fused chromosome that is identical to two of the chimp chromosomes (with all the appropriate doubled centromeres and telomeres).

    2. Invent a tentative description, called a hypothesis, that is consistent with what you have observed.
    OK, the proposed ID hypothesis is “an intelligent designer used a common design to produce both chimps and humans, and that common design included placing the signs of a fused chromosome and a broken vitamin C gene in both products.”

    3. Use the hypothesis to make predictions.
    Well, here is ID supernaturalistic methodology’s chance to shine. What predictions can we make from ID’s hypothesis? If an Intelligent Designer used a common design to produce both chimps and humans, then we would also expect to see . . . ?

    IDers, please fill in the blank.
    And, to better help us test ID’s hypothesis, it is most useful to point out some negative predictions — things which, if found, would FALSIFY the hypothesis and demonstrate conclusively that the hypothesis is wrong. So, then — if we find (fill in the blank here), then the “common design” hypothesis would have to be rejected.

    4. Test those predictions by experiments or further observations and modify the hypothesis in the light of your results.

    5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until there are no discrepancies between theory and experiment and/or observation.

    Well, the IDers seem to be sort of stuck on step 3. Despite all their voluminous writings and arguments, IDers have never yet given ANY testible predictions from their ID hypothesis that can be verified through experiment.
    Take note here — contrary to the IDers whining about the “unfair exclusion of supernatural causes”, there are in fact NO limits imposed by the scientific method on the nature of their predictions, other than the simple ones indicated by steps 3, 4 and 5 (whatever predictions they make must be testible by experiments or further observations.) They are entirely free to invoke whatever supernatural causes they like, in whatever number they like, so long as they follow along to steps 3,4 and 5 and tell us how we can test these deities or causes using experiment or further observation. Want to tell us that the Good Witch Glenda used her magic non-naturalistic staff to POP these genetic sequences into both chimps and humans? Fine —- just tell us what experiment or observation we can perform to test that. Want to tell us that God — er, I mean The Unknown Intelligent Designer — didn’t like humans very much and therefore decided to design us with broken vitamin C genes? Hey, works for me — just as soon as you tell us what experiment or observation we can perform to test it. Feel entirely and totally free to use all the supernaturalistic causes that you like. Just tell us what experiment or observation we can perform to test your predictions.”

    http://www.huecotanks.com/debunk/design.htm

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  22. “Instead of saying “I don’t know” as honest scientists say today he said ” my god did it!”

    It appears that you are not saying “I don’t know’, you are actually saying “I Don’t know, BUT I KNOW IT’s NOT GOD”, right?

    So now we are to say “Naturedidit”?

    Oh and I don’t think we’ve come a long way, it appears space travel is pretty bleak, after all there are billions of stars in the universe and yet our species has failed to travel to ONE. I’m sorry, but I raise the bar a bit higher

    ty

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  23. “No part of current scientific knowledge includes a god, fairies, spaghetti monsters or goblins. Not does it require any. Nor does it exclude any.

    Currently science has nothing to do with such entities ”

    Well that’s why Philosophy > Science

    Your epistemic definition of scientific knowledge is indeed a philosophical criteria that looks to be nothing more than an theoretical addon to what science is in the 21st century, a century that will look primitive in thousands of years might I add. All and all you are making an epistemic claim here, not a scientific one. Also it’s worth asking what the point of consensus is as well? I mean, in science there is consensus on a lot of matters but there is still a good chance of science changing where there is consensus in the future. Therefore consensus does not, in itself, actually grant that we’re any nearer the truth of a matter and I think that’s worth keeping in mind.

    Cosmology is a science, not a philosophy. It merely tells us (if accurate) about what happened. The conclusions one draws from science are often not scientific conclusions, but philosophical ones. It is naturalism that says things, and a prior commitment to naturalism would be completely OK with not knowing because naturalists put their faith in the power of human achievement. ‘Someday we will know…’ is an appeal to the nature of the gaps. This is nothing more than faith tbh

    Either way I do not find ANYTHING, in modern Big Bang cosmology or evolutionary theory which causes my theistic beliefs any problems at all. I embrace these scientific theories as wonderful ways of explaining HOW God created the incredible universe we live in. The question of WHO is behind all such how’s is not a scientific question and therefore I don’t expect science to answer a question it cannot concern itself with. But science does not contradict my theism.

    If you want to think that a purposeless, unconscious, unintelligent, impersonal, meaningless, valueless natural origin is a better explanation for the nature of reality than God by all means, keep to your faith.

    ty

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  24. I don’t think most people are in any way concerned at how high you raise the bar for science and how low you place it for mythical religious beliefs, Cornell. They make their own judgements.

    As a scientists when I say “I don’t know” – I usually add “but let’s find out.” No, I never bother saying I know its not god (why should I?) or “Nat5ure did it”. Why should I?

    I agree – in a thousand years our knowledge will look primitive – just as the knowledge humanity had one or two thousand years ago now looks primitive to us.

    If we want to know the nature of reality we must get our hands dirty, interact with reality. This was the point Galileo made 400 years ago – we should draw our knowledge of reality from reality itself – not from mythology.

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  25. If you want to think that a purposeless, unconscious, unintelligent, impersonal, meaningless, valueless natural origin is a better explanation for the nature of reality than God by all means, keep to your faith.

    How dare you call the World Turtle “unconscious, unintelligent, impersonal, meaningless, valueless”.

    That sounds more like your Yahwe except that it omits “violent, vengeful and cruel”

    Like

  26. @Richard

    “That sounds more like your Yahwe except that it omits “violent, vengeful and cruel”

    This is just silly Richard, even if this was true your ‘subjective’ opinion on this matter would just be that. Even if he was vengeful and cruel that still entails purpose and meaning…lol

    The creation (you) =/= foundation of moral facts
    Creator = foundation of moral facts

    Your opinion does not entail the sum of morality, so your complaint is just as a credible as one’s subjective taste in ice cream. (by the way my favorite is vanilla)

    This is no different from me thinking that if I get angry at my bank account, it will suddenly turn me into a millionare.

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  27. “If we want to know the nature of reality we must get our hands dirty, interact with reality. This was the point Galileo made 400 years ago – we should draw our knowledge of reality from reality itself – not from mythology.”

    But that’s my point!

    GALILEO WAS A DEVOUT BELIEVER IN GOD, so this is my whole point. You can still be a Theist and have the DRIVE to search for truth. I’ll choose Galileo’s way of thinking over a Bible-Belt Fundies way of thinking. So I don’t see a problem here

    Theists just look at things in a different way, we want to know “HOW” God created the universe.

    And, we do have a have track record of BIG NAMES that helped get us to where we are.

    Roger Bacon, William of Ockham, Nicolaus Copernicus, Ignazio Danti, Johannes Kepler, Galileo, Rene’ Descartes, Blaise Pascal, Robert Boyle, Isaac Newton, John Wallis, *My favorite who is on my profile pic* Gottfried Leibniz, Thomas Bayes, Emanuel Swedenborg, Carolus Linnaeus, Michael Faraday, Robert Main, James Clerk Maxwell, Gregor Mendel, Asa Gray, Louis Pasteur, Lord Kelvin, Georg Cantor, Henrietta Swan Leavitt, Max Planck, Georges Lemaître, Werner Heisenberg, Carlos Chagas Filho, Sir Robert Boyd, C.F Von Weizsacker

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_thinkers_in_science

    This next statement goes a bit too far, but it does have SOME truth to it.

    C.F Von Weizsacker states “In this sense, I call modern science a legacy of Christianity”

    ‘The Relevance of Science (New York: Harper, 1964), pg 163.

    Perhaps you can take a look at these papers, as these are MODERN scientists (though it would have been nice to see something from Freeman Dyson lol)

    http://www.st-edmunds.cam.ac.uk/faraday/Papers.php

    When it comes to science these are the type of Christians I follow, I can’t see why these great minds cause any problems.

    ty

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  28. Cornell – have a look at what Georges Lemaître advised the Pope at the time when the pope tried draw theological support from Lemaître’s science.

    No one suggests that there is a problem with the people you mentioned having both a belief in your god (or something similar) which is hardly surprising for their times, and doing good science. The problem is the ignorant claim of Plantinga and his supporters that I and most scientists today cannot do good science because we don’t share your belief in a mythological creature. That is silly.

    It’s a stupid claim and neither Planting nor you can support it. You just continue to ignore the fact that his premise has no evidential support.

    Rubbish in – rubbish out.

    Like

  29. It appears that you are not saying “I don’t know’, you are actually saying “I Don’t know, BUT I KNOW IT’s NOT GOD”, right?

    Wrong.
    (What is it with religious nutters and their appalling desire to create endless varieties of strawmen?)
    Just read what people write without trying to weasel in your own spin.
    Read plain English. It’s the honest thing to do.
    If you want to talk about what people are “actually saying” then pay attention to what they are, um, ACTUALLY SAYING.
    Lash out and…quote them.

    It appears that you are not saying “I don’t know’, you are actually saying “I Don’t know, BUT I KNOW IT’s NOT VISHNU”, right?
    It appears that you are not saying “I don’t know’, you are actually saying “I Don’t know, BUT I KNOW IT’s NOT BAAL”, right?
    It appears that you are not saying “I don’t know’, you are actually saying “I Don’t know, BUT I KNOW IT’s NOT A MAGIC SWEATY FOOTBALL SOCK”, right?
    (giggle)

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  30. I embrace these scientific theories as wonderful ways of explaining HOW The Flying Spaghetti Monster created the incredible universe we live in. The question of WHO is behind all such how’s is not a scientific question and therefore I don’t expect science to answer a question it cannot concern itself with. But science does not contradict my theism.

    If you want to think that a purposeless, unconscious, unintelligent, impersonal, meaningless, valueless natural origin is a better explanation for the nature of reality than the Flying Spaghetti Monster by all means, keep to your faith.

    If you want to think that a purposeless, unconscious, unintelligent, impersonal, meaningless, valueless natural origin is a better explanation…

    Argument from consequences.
    You might as well grunt “I didn’t cum frum no monkee” and get it over with.

    The question of WHO…

    Why load the question with a “WHO”?
    Start of with a plain ol’ “what” first.

    Who created the universe? | Atheist Experience

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  31. Pingback: Review of Where the Conflict Really Lies « Extraordinary Words

  32. Pingback: Does religion blur understanding of evolution? | Open Parachute

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