Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Methodological Naturalism

Just over a year ago Paul Nelson posed this question here

"Ask oneself a simple question. Suppose life actually were designed by a nonhuman intelligence -- would methodological naturalism allow us to discover that? If the answer is no, then methodological naturalism hinders scientific discovery and dictates the shape of reality as thoroughly as philosophical naturalism. If the answer is yes, then methodological naturalism is superfluous and says nothing more than that science should be empirical and testable."


Do you agree?

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7 Comments:

Blogger Hawks said...

Suppose life actually were designed by a nonhuman intelligence -- would anything allow us to discover that?

Suppose the Grand Canyon actually was designed by a nonhuman intelligence -- would anything allow us to discover that?

10:44 pm  
Blogger Chris Hyland said...

I don't see why methodological naturalism would hinder the discovery. The only thing that MN prevents us from doing is attributing an event to a supernatural cause, simply because this is currently impossible scientifically.

12:00 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

hawks,

Are you implying that there is a strict parrallel between the origin of the Gran Canyon and the origin of life?

6:24 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Chris Hyland,

1. How does MN distinguish between supernatural and natural?

2. You gave as a reason "simply because this is currently impossible scientifically."
I am not sure I understand what you mean.
Can you amplify?

6:26 am  
Blogger Chris Hyland said...

"How does MN distinguish between supernatural and natural?"

MN says we can't distinguish between supernatural and natural.

"You gave as a reason "simply because this is currently impossible scientifically."
I am not sure I understand what you mean.
Can you amplify?"

When investigating a phenomena it is currently impossible to empirically or objectively attribute it to a supernatural cause. If a supernatural intelligence was responsible for designing life we may be able to detect the fact that life was designed but we could still not attribute it to a supernatural cause. We dont nessecarily have to attribute it to a natural cause either we can say we don't know. It's basically an extension of Clarke's third law: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarke's_three_laws

My point basically is that MN does not stop us attributing a phenomenon to a nonhuman intelligence, and it is not the reason scientists reject the ID arguments.

2:08 pm  
Blogger Hawks said...

andrew wrote: "Are you implying that there is a strict parrallel between the origin of the Gran Canyon and the origin of life?"

I was wondering out loud if there actually might be some form of methodology whereby we might "discover" if any of these things were "intelligently designed". I can't think of any. In any event, the answer to your question "would methodological naturalism allow us to discover that? " is not no.

1:10 am  
Blogger Rob O'Cop said...

I find this a fascinating question.

If we begin with the assumption that God created the world and designed life, WOULD we be able to detect the design?

I think the answer is not necessarily -- the designer could have hidden the fact and made it appear non-designed.

On the other hand, the designer may not have hidden the fact, and therefore left evidence for design in nature itself.

Most Christians (for example) begin with the presupposition that God created the world and life, and understand from the book of Romans in the Bible that the design is evident and obvious to everyone who is willing to see it. If correct, design therefore should be detectable.

If we could just prove that God does not exist, we could rule out the possibility of design. But this would seem rather hard to do.

Thus it seems to me that we are back at the beginning and dealing really with each person's presuppositions that they bring to the argument.

Fun eh :-)

5:17 am  

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