Why Science Doesn’t Need Methodological Naturalism (2)

(Update 3/29: Please regard this series as a first draft with important revisions yet to come.)

Two days ago I wrote about the theology implicit in one justification of Methodological Naturalism’s (MN’s) being a requirement for science. I was responding then to the second of the three Justifications for MN I had listed in the first post in this series:

  1. The supernatural is not testable.
  2. Admitting the supernatural into science would undermine scientific rationality.
  3. MN works.

(I am still open to adding to that list. If you know of further reasons to regard MN as necessary for the conduct of science, please let us know by way of a comment here.)

Today I will extend the same line of thinking I followed for Justification 2 as I respond to Justifications 1 and 3, and I will show that all three of them are shot through with disputable and needless theological assumptions.

The Argument In Outline Form
Before I proceed with that it will be helpful to lay out the entire outline of my argument. (Maybe I should have done that last time; better late than never.) It goes like this:

  1. The assumptions underlying MN’s being a requirement for science are theological in nature (to be argued).
  2. These assumptions are substantively theological, not just nominally so (to be argued).
  3. These assumptions could conceivably be wrong (to be argued).
  4. It is impossible for MN-based science to investigate these assumptions’ accuracy: it would be a circular undertaking, using MN’s assumptions to test MN’s accuracy (logical deduction on the basis of circularity).
  5. Therefore (4) these assumptions are not within the competence of MN-based science to investigate.
  6. Therefore (1 and 5) MN’s assumptions are a matter of theology, not of science.
  7. MN is not essential to the progress of science (to be argued).
  8. Therefore (3, 4, 6, and 7) to make MN a condition for science is to commit needlessly to a disputable theological position which science is not in a position to adjudicate.
  9. There exists a more appropriate condition for science which does the work MN was intended to do, yet without making that needless, disputable commitment (to be argued).
  10. Therefore (9) MN should be discarded in favor of that more appropriate condition for practicing science.

Step 2 in this argument relates to a point Nick Matzke raised in a comment. I will paraphrase it this way: Suppose it’s true that science doesn’t need MN. So what? It’s a harmless term (it was even coined by a theist). It doesn’t imply any real theological position at all; it’s a matter of methodology and nothing more. I am saving my defense of Step 2 for later, simply to keep this post from growing to an unreasonable length for a blog entry. For now I will ask you to accept Step 2 provisionally, and evaluate today’s argument accordingly. I know that if it gets defeated in my next post, all this may turn out to be a waste of time. I’m willing to take that risk. My argument for Step 9 will also come later.

Otherwise I believe the argument presented here is valid and sound, provided that I can show that each of the three major justifications can be found to meet the descriptions in Steps 1, 3, and 7. I did so with respect to Justification 2 in my last post in this series. Today I will show the same for Justifications 1 and 3.

Justification 1
“The supernatural is not testable; therefore we must conduct science as if the supernatural is not involved.” So goes the argument. Robert Pennock has argued (p. 740 here) that if the supernatural were testable, it would in fact be natural instead of supernatural. Intelligent Design theorists argue, in contrast, that we can detect signs within nature of something that is beyond what we ordinarily regard as natural. Bradley Monton has argued (decisively, I think) that Pennock is wrong in this respect. The debate rages on, and I don’t expect to resolve it here.

Nor do I need to resolve it for present purposes. Let’s grant that the supernatural is not testable by scientific means. Why would that entail a naturalistic approach to science? The arguments for that position focus on treating the supernatural as an immediate and non-infrequent cause for natural phenomena, such that there is no reliable regularity within nature for science to study, and/or that there are some relatively frequent cases in which effects in nature have no cause but some unmediated supernatural action. If we were to take that as a serious possibility, it could lead to us saying “God did it, so we can end our natural investigations right here”—which would be a tragic science-stopper. That concern has been raised so often I hardly know where to begin documenting it, but here at least is one such reference from Eugenie Scott, which I have also quoted below.

But there are theological assumptions buried in there: that if we admit supernatural activity into our conception of the natural world, we must admit it as the kind of force that acts immediately and apart from natural cause-effect relations, and does so frequently enough that it derails the scientific enterprise. Those assumptions are disputable. Most theists believe that God is in fact immediately involved in the natural world, that he is not distant as the deists suppose; but most theists also take it that normally God effects his actions in the world by way of what we see as natural causes and effects. In saying this I am re-stating what I said yesterday and argued for earlier. If this is true, and arguably it is, then Methodological Theism is a better assumption to take for science than Methodological Naturalism.

For present purposes I do not need to show that this is indeed true of God and of reality in general. My argument requires only that it be conceivably be true, so that (Step 2) MN’s assumptions are conceivably false. Obviously (Step 1) the question is a matter of theology. As for Step 7, if this conception of theism is correct, it supports science at least as well as naturalism does (arguably better, but I won’t go into that); for it takes it that virtually every effect has a cause within the sphere we recognize as nature. Theism allows for miracles, but miracles are by definition very exceptional: infrequent enough that science can get along just fine in spite of them. In one sense they are nothing new: researchers know what to do with statistical outliers.

Justification 3


Once Justifications 1 and 2 have been dealt with, there’s really nothing left of Justification 3. Recall what Eugenie Scott said, which I quoted in the first post in this series:

[MN] works. By continuing to seek natural explanations for how the world works, we have been able to find them. If supernatural explanations are allowed, they will discourage – or at least delay – the discovery of natural explanations, and we will understand less about the universe.

By “supernatural,” obviously she means something separable from nature and the normal course of cause and effect. I have just shown that to regard the supernatural in that way is to make a disputable theological assumption (Steps 1 and 3), and that there is a theistic alternative to MN that supports the progress of science (Step 7).

The Argument So Far


I believe this demonstrates that all of the major justifications for MN fall to the objection that they are disputable, needless, and not part of science. If so, then it only remains to show that this is a substantive problem and not merely a nominal one (Step 2), and that there is a better alternative to MN (Step 9) that does the work MN was meant to do, but without MN’s fatal weaknesses.

Series Navigation (Science Doesn't Need MN):

<<< Science Doesn’t Need Methodological NaturalismWhy Scientists Should Reject Methodological Naturalism >>>


  1. Nick (Matzke)

    Even given your eminently-disputable premises, point 4 doesn’t work in the argument. It is fairly possible that the assumptions that go into scientific practice are not themselves testable in a scientific way, and instead receive justification on the basis of philosophy, practicality, going with the bare minimum of what diverse people around the world can agree upon, historical and modern experience indicating the productiveness of searching out natural causes, and the opposite result when supernatural causes are assumed, etc.

    The idea that you will defeat MN by catching it in a logical box is pretty unlikely. If you really want to defeat MN:

    1. Give us a way to objectively test for supernatural intervention, so that we may confirm or deny it, just as we would confirm or deny the efficacy of a drug, the statistical support of DNA data for a particular phylogenetic tree, the influence of CO2 on global climate, etc.

    2. Actually, #1 is just about it. Basically to put miracles into science you need to develop an objective methodology that will apply fairly to everyone’s miracle claims, and not do things like (a) assume that there were actually miracles behind every culture’s ancient legends, (b) assume that there are miracles behind every unexplained phenomenon known to science (and there are lots of those!), or (c) turn science journals into forums for entirely theoretical theological debates like whether or not the perhaps-theologically-real, but chemically undetectable, transubstantiation of the bread and wine during Catholic mass counts as a miracle.

  2. Post
    Tom Gilson

    No, Nick. I’m sorry, but you really missed a lot here. You did not notice that my argument does not depend on all theologies being true, but on one view being possibly true. You did not notice that I was explicitly not putting miracles into science. You did not notice that I was arguing to keep science out of the business of doing theology. You did not notice that I was not arguing for science being able to test for supernatural intervention; in fact I formulated my argument so as to be valid without any such test. (Some of this was in the prior post in this series, but I think I can fairly hold you responsible for that: you commented on it, so you ought to have read it.)

    Not long ago I submitted a comment on Jerry Coyne’s blog, in which I was guilty of missing one major thing he had said in his original post. You remember it; you responded to it. It was embarrassing, I’ll admit, but there is a right way to recover: by owning up to it. I suggest you go back there and see whether that’s a good example to follow. (I only missed one major point, by the way; not four, as you have done here.)

    As for Step 4, the argument survives without it. Here’s why I put it in there. Science is in the business of (among other things) checking assumptions. If a certain set of assumptions is unsupportable on one perspective, it might be supportable nevertheless from a scientific perspective. But MN has no scientific support, as I think you would agree.

    In my next (final?) post in this series I will finish my argument that MN’s support is lacking from philosophical and pragmatic perspectives. It does not meet your “bare minimum” criterion. There is no reason to regard it as a necessary/sufficient condition for scientific productiveness. And (Step 4) there is also no scientific basis for requiring it as a condition for science.

  3. Holopupenko

    Even given your eminently-disputable premises, point 4 doesn’t work in the argument. It is fairly possible that the assumptions that go into scientific practice are not themselves testable in a scientific way, and instead receive justification on the basis of philosophy, practicality, going with the bare minimum of what diverse people around the world can agree upon, historical and modern experience indicating the productiveness of searching out natural causes, and the opposite result when supernatural causes are assumed, etc.

    “Fairly possible”? Really?

    This is just another example why it appears Nick is out of his depth in dealing with things outside his field, why he’s not a logical thinker, and why he doesn’t listen to Tom but deflects to some vague references to philosophy, practicality, yadda-yadda. It’s easy for Nick to assert (with little if any justification) that point 4 “doesn’t work,” but he’ll readily utilize that point when needed.

    For example: if anyone said “flying spaghetti monsters exist because my methodology leads me to that conclusion; my methodology leads me to that conclusion because there are flying spaghetti monsters,” then Nick would have a cow. But, “science works because its methodology works, and its methodology works because science works,” then that’s acceptable.

    Let’s see, how did David Klinghoffer put it in the book “Signature of Controversy”? “Pygmy,” I believe it was. I would modify that with the adjective “logical”.

  4. Post
    Tom Gilson

    Yes, fairly possible indeed that a methodology that assumes x cannot prove x. The probability attached to that possibility might even approach 1. It’s fairly possible it does, at any rate.

  5. Post
    Tom Gilson

    One more thing, Nick.

    You say that the only way to defeat MN is to devise some scientific test that could detect the supernatural. But (maybe you failed to notice this fifth thing as well) what I am contesting is MN as a requirement for the practice of science. I succeed in that if I can just prove that MN is not required for the practice of science, and that there is a better condition to put in its place that does the same positive work for science that MN is intended to do, without MN’s failings. I don’t have to show that there is a way to detect the supernatural. I only have to show that science does not require anyone to assume the non-existence of the supernatural, even methodologically.

  6. Holopupenko


    Be careful: for it’s own work, the physical sciences cannot assume the existence of God, fairies, or hobbits exist. Why? Because then there would be no possible regularity in the real world, and hence science could never do its job.

    Science “works” because we KNOW God created a real world that operates consistently and which we can know. However, that constraining factor in no way argues against God.

    That’s the irony: the Church “imposed” the notion that nature must act in a regular consistent way because (put crudely) God is Rationality Itself. THAT “imposition” is NOT an MES question, but a philosophical and theological question. The Church “imposed” those pre-science notions and principles, why? Horror of horrors: to support science in the good work it does. It’s today’s atheists that twist that good scientific mission into pseudo-philosophical, unscientific, self-serving nonsense.

    That’s why Nick and the usual anti-faith denizens get it so drastically wrong: the sciences can’t “prove” their own principles because, as you correctly note, such a position is viscously circular… and we all know Nick likes to walk in circles on these issues. Moreover, all good “proofs” for the existence of God DON’T do so by the means of the MESs but by explaining why God is needed to explain ORDER.

    And, since I’m an equal opportunity gadfly, this is another reason why ID fails: it’s trying to use the MESs directly to prove the existence of the “Designer” (who we all know is God).

  7. JAD

    It seems to me that Tom is making this issue a lot more complicated than it needs to be. Because sciences like physics, chemistry and biology try to understand the underlying processes in some kind of mechanistic physical system, it has developed an empirical methodology or methodologies for studying those systems. In my mind that is unequivocal meaning of the term methodological naturalism, or whatever you wish to call it. The problem is that people who find either creationism or ID threatening have co-opted the term and have smuggled in some of their own metaphysical meaning. In other words, they’re using MN equivocally. However, in my opinion, as long as a scientist does her research according to a certain established methodology, what business is it to anyone else what she believes and thinks?

    For example, when Haldane writes that when he sets up “an experiment [he assumes] that no god, angel or devil is going to interfere with its course,” that’s fine for him. However, it is not a conscious assumption that a religious scientist needs to make because making that kind of metaphysical assumption is not empirically necessary to carry out an experiment. Indeed a theist may believe that because God is the creator of a natural process, it is going proceed in a predictable or regular way because God set it up in a way that does not require Him to interfere. So methodologically theism can work just as well as atheism because neither perspective is required to do objective empirical research. In other words, neither assumption is required methodologically.

  8. Post
    Tom Gilson

    JAD, You’re headed in the same direction I am, except I think that the “whatever you wish to call it” is a big issue. The equivocation you speak of has spilled out beyond what the scientist believes and thinks in the lab and the field. That’s not very clear, probably, but it should be after I finish the series.

    Bryan, I got my copy yesterday. Somehow I thought it was a shorter book than 900 pages!

    Holopupenko, I’m having a bit of trouble parsing your first full paragraph, unless you meant it ironically.

  9. Holopupenko


    I’m dead serious: the MESs don’t “see” God–never have, never will. It would be no god, but another object among objects if such a god were “seen” by the MESs. But, just because they can’t “see” God doesn’t mean God can’t be “seen” by other means. Are you beginning to see why ID is such a bad idea?

  10. Post
    Tom Gilson

    I’ve studied this from other sources at great length, Holopupenko, and I keep coming back to Psalm 19 and Romans 1:18-20. God is revealed in nature.

    The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
    Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.

    For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

    It is a partial seeing of God, but it is still God who is seen—in and through nature.

  11. Post
    Tom Gilson

    And it is almost as if you’re saying that if God’s actions are apparent in this world, then he must be an object in the world. That doesn’t follow at all, not even one bit. You must mean something else, but I don’t know what it is.

  12. Rick


    I just found your blog and like what I see!

    – Quantum mechanics has truly become a monkey wrench in Methodological Naturalism.

    I’m not trained in philosophy, but, so far none of the atheist bloggers I’ve challenged (Debunking Christianity, Incinerating Presuppositionalism and more) have been able to contest this article:

    “How Identity, Logic and Physics Prove God’s Existence”


  13. Holopupenko

    Hi Tom:

    These two passages are often cited to illicitly extended the “view” of the MESs to “see” what they cannot.

    First, I offer to you C.S. Lewis’ example from Mere Christianity: one “sees” the architect in a house he’s designed, even though that architect likely never picked up a hammer to build the house. But that is NOT empirical “seeing,” which is what the ID movement is pushing in its occasionalist-reductionist vision of God, as if God needs to tinker with his creatures. The MESs can “see” the properties (accidents) of the stairs of the house (like the color, material composition, size, etc.). But only a human can “see” that they are stairs. We, rational creatures, reason to substance/essence (the “what it is”) from the accidents. But note from what we “see” as properties, we reason to a real extra-mental object—the stairs.

    God is not just another object among objects, so the “seeing” is actually a “negative” seeing: God is NOT this, He’s NOT that, etc. That’s why we cannot correctly state God is omnipotent or wise or whatever: He is all these and much more, but in an unbounded sense: He is Love Itself; He is Wisdom Itself, etc. ID is WAY off track in this regard.

    I’m sorry, but I have to say this: it is the Protestant Reformers who decried anything but a literalist reading of the Scriptures—they read the Scriptures as a book with no allusions, allegories, analogies, or symbols that pointed to underlying natures… and then they transferred this hermeneutic to the Book of Nature! The result? Objective and essential meanings were eviscerated of clear Scriptural references that witness to the existence of God and invisible spiritual verities through allusions beyond the immediately visible objects of nature, for which Romans I:19-20 is a good example. In this passage St. Paul was not speaking of empirical knowledge obtained through the MESs. Yet, if that error is absorbed, then radical empiricism is violently latched onto—which is what Dembski and crew are about: reducing God and his “invisible attributes” through the MESs. The irony is bittersweet. I offer to you Thomas Kuhn’s correct assessment:

    “the Bible [was viewed] as the single fundamental source of Christian knowledge… [the Reformers] abhorred the elaborate metaphorical and allegorical interpretation of Scripture, and their literal adherence to the Bible in matters of cosmology had no parallel…

    Aristotle and St. Thomas were empiricists of the highest order: they opened their senses very wide indeed to learn of God’s creation. But they would have found intellectually repugnant the notion that empiricism really “counts” only for those things that are directly observable to the senses or merely quantifiable (Dembski!), for this would have jettisoned a central principle of science writ large: while all knowledge comes through the senses, not all knowledge is sensory knowledge. And, no, they cannot hide behind “inference” to design, for design is not an object like a neutrino: it is the final and formal causes, which are not directly accessible to the MESs.

    Intelligent Design is flawed at its very core: the MES criticism of it, while usually correct (stupid atheistic criticisms notwithstanding), are chump change compared to the philosophical criticisms. ID fails because its view of reality is a failure. And, by the way, now that I’m almost through a full semester of an upper-level undergraduate course on evolution, I’m more and more understanding why people like Nick are exasperated: one has to be out of one’s mind to reject evidence for some form of Darwinian evolution. Moreover, it’s not the occasionalist “guidance of evolution” of Alvin Plantinga that saves the day: it’s the order and consistency of nature that needs a non-MESs explanation, while at the same time drawing upon MES data. Leave the motion of billiard balls to physicists and evolution to biologists: don’t go against St. Augustine’s wise admonitions.

  14. Post
    Tom Gilson


    First, I don’t know what “occasionalist-reductionist” means in this context, but I do know that ID does not presume that God “needs to tinker with his creatures.” That’s a straw man. Most obviously from a theological perspective, whether God “tinkers with his creatures” or not, either way it’s not because he needs to but because he chooses to. Your “needs to” is your own reductionism being illegitimately applied to ID, as far as I can tell.

    Second, C.S. Lewis knew the difference between empirical seeing and rational seeing. Cf. the first few chapters of Miracles. It appears to me you are accusing him falsely of a naivete he did not express.

    Can you point to a specific example in which, according to your third paragraph, “ID is WAY off track in this regard”?

    Your accusations toward Protestantism are overblown, inaccurate, and unfair. No allusions? No allegories? Come on. Sure, the reformers eschewed the most “elaborate metaphorical and allegorical interpretations,” but that was because the text doesn’t support them, and to depart from what the text supports is to make it mean what it was never intended to mean, or at least to run an unacceptably high risk of that.

    Of course St. Paul was not speaking of “empirical knowledge gained through the [Modern Empirical Sciences].” They weren’t invented yet. He was speaking of our experience of “what has been made.” The MESs are the same thing, only amplified: our experience of what has been made. Some followers of the MESs are radical empiricists, but not because of the MESs, for radical empiricism in no way follows from practicing science. You know that.

    I don’t know why you think ID holds that all knowledge is sensory knowledge. I don’t understand why you think the inference to design cannot be made, for I guarantee you make that same inference daily. Does your same complaint transfer, by the way, to Meyer’s inference to intelligence behind information in nature?

    Do you think that ID, in claiming to be a scientific projects, claims also to be science-and-nothing-but-science, empiricism-and-nothing-but-empiricism? If so you misunderstand it.

    I assume by “some form of Darwinian evolution” you do not mean unguided, in Ken Miller’s sense that if it were replayed again we might have intelligent dinosaurs carrying the image of God, or in some other writers’ sense (Giberson, I think, though I could be wrong; my source on this is out of reach at the office this morning) that God really didn’t know when he started the process where it would end up.

  15. Holopupenko

    Hi Tom:

    First, by “occassionalism” I mean the error of thinking that God, to one extent or another, needs to intervene into workings of his Creation. (It was partly what influenced Ockham’s (a Catholic Franciscan monk’s) terrible error of nominalism by which extra-mental universals are rejected.) By “intervene” I’m not referring to miracles, nor am I decrying them: they are real manifestations of God’s Providence in the world to, crudely put, project an important message, i.e., it’s not the walking on water or healing that’s important, it’s God’s glory manifested through these. To reject miracles would be, frankly, heretical and brain-dead. What I’m talking about is intervention into the natures He created. For example: one could posit that God is behind the motion of billiard balls, but that would be silly and, frankly, would stop science dead in its tracks. It’s one of the very principles upon which the MESs rest: the world is orderly (and therefore accessible to us to study through the MESs) because He, as Rationality Itself, created the world that way. I repeat, it’s the orderliness (telos), change writ large, perfection, etc. that need explanation, but that explanation is beyond (and always will be beyond) the reach of the MESs. Billiard balls act like billiard balls because it’s in their nature, but it’s not the natures of billiard balls that physics studies: natures are left to philosophy, although the MESs provide solid data.

    Regarding C.S. Lewis, you missed my point. I used his example precisely because he’s correct. I used his point regarding your criticisms of methodological naturalism. For heaven’s sake, Tom, it’s a methodology, and methodologies shouldn’t threaten anyone.

    Regarding the Protestant Reformers: (1) it’s a protestant scholar who celebrates exactly what I criticize (Peter Harrison, The Bible, Protestantism, and the Rise of Natural Science). I’m not the only one who has criticized him: it’s weak scholarship because he sets out to “prove” a preconceived historical and hermeneutic notion (he’s blatant about it: the MESs arose directly and largely because of the Protestant Reformation and because of the plain reading Scriptural hermeneutic—oh dear…); (2) it’s not just “the most elaborate metaphorical and allegorical interpretations”: read the scholarly criticisms and re-read the Kuhn quote; (3) when you claim “the text doesn’t support them,” of course that is itself a particular interpretive matrix you are applying—largely a “plain meaning Scriptural” hermeneutic—and the problem there is you have no authority to do so, nor is it accepted except by those who espouse such a narrow interpretation. Whether you understand it or not, the early Protestant Reformers rejected natures; the early Protestant Reformers accepted nominalism (consider Luther’s views of Ockham); the early Protestant Reformers viewed God as operating directly in the world as an external law giver rather than the author of all that is and the maintainer of all that is through every instant. That’s echoed in ID: God intervenes to create species because science and mathematics (per their interpretation) say so. And THAT is the reductionism (aimed at God) to which I referred. It’s a reductionism that’s nicely echoed in Craig’s and Moreland’s univocity of being: an terrible error (adopted from Muslim Scholar Avincenna and Catholic theologian and monk St. Bonaventure) that holds all extra-mental existents have the same claim to existence, which is precisely at the base of naturalism. The irony is too bitter.

    I didn’t say ID holds all knowledge is sensory knowledge. What I hold to is that (among other things) the above errors support a mindset that can easily succumb to this error: it sneaks in. I again, as before, ask a straightforward question: do the MESs by themselves infer to the existence of other material existents (say, the neutrino) or to immaterial existents (like, design)? That’s why (pardon my saying this) there is such a hang-up about methodological naturalism: the MESs work well with MN, it’s only the ID folks who are trying to burden the MESs with inferring the existence of immaterial entities. The other option they have is to squeeze the findings of the MESs through a particular interpretative matrix convenient to their preconceived end. But then, ID is not just about science, is it? (Your own words make that claim: Do you think that ID, in claiming to be a scientific projects, claims also to be science-and-nothing-but-science, empiricism-and-nothing-but-empiricism? If so you misunderstand it. But if that admission is made, then they can’t very well introduce it into the biology classroom, can they? Don’t get me wrong: atheists impose their own preconceived notions and try to squeeze the findings of the MESs through their own interpretive matrix. You get the picture: it’s science that suffers.

    Finally, yes, I DO mean “unguided” in the sense of the image that comes of mind of God intervening in an occasionalist manner (see above) to make species come about. Species come about as explained by Darwinian theor(ies), i.e., species are NOT “guided” into being by God. BUT, all creatures have natures that actualize their perfections because God created them that way: His glory is NOT manifested by Him pushing around genes, but by Him having created biological creatures with real natures that are acted out—including the ability to “descend with modification.” Real creatures are not passive puppets that He plays with: for heaven’s sake, why do you think (for among other reasons) we have free wills—something, by the way, certain Protestant reformers rejected. If Miller holds God didn’t know how the process ended up, then he’s speaking unscientific nonsense: God doesn’t “know” like we know, as if God “knows” linearly back in time and forward into the future. For God all of time is an ever-present now. Miller should keep the unscientific side of his mouth shut: it’s already way bigger than the size of his foot.

    One final point regarding “guidance” as it refers to God intervening into the natures He created: just how exactly are the MES supposed to detect such “guidance”? Just how are the MESs supposed to “see” the operation of an immaterial entity upon material objects and physical phenomena? What possible MES test is there for “guidance”? And, again, upon what justification does ID rest to infer an immaterial thing (design) as opposed to a material thing (like a neutrino)?

  16. Holopupenko


    Here’s an example that provides a sobering historical perspective.

    It is no mere accolade that Darwin was called the “Newton of biology.” In Newton’s day, after he proposed the three laws, which included action at a distance (if an apple is falling, isn’t the moon also falling?), Newton was decried as practice witchcraft. Why? Because (among other reasons) a lot of people couldn’t imagine the moon wasn’t propelled by the Hand of God. Newton “mechanized” physics to all bodies throughout the universe–an amazing synthesizing stroke of genius. (Maxwell was no less of a synthesizing genius.) In doing so, Newton in no way got rid of God. The unfortunate thing is he provided the momentum for certain theists to believe the silly notion that God was the “watchmaker” who wound the universe up and let it go. Newton himself, to a certain extent, succumbed to such a nonsensical view of God.

    Now, today, ask anyone who hasn’t got a Mel Gibson tinfoil helmet on their heads: isn’t God behind the motion of the moon? Well, apart from some queer looks you may get, the question is ambiguous. If you mean by “guiding the moon” God is actually pushing the moon, and that therefore this can be detected by science (the ID position), then you’d be rightly chastised. If, on the other hand, you mean by “guiding the moon” that all contingent beings–including the moon–were created with natures that actualize their ends through immanent final and formal causes (design) that cannot be “seen” by the MESs, then you’re thinking seriously and soberly.

    So, is there any way Darwinian evolution somehow lends credence to the notion that God doesn’t exist? No way… except, perhaps, for those who wear atheistic tinfoil hats on their heads to “prove” their a priori emotional commitments. I’ve seen Dawkins’, Dennett’s, Hitchens’, DL’s, and Nick’s tinfoil hats: they’re very, ummm… pretty.

    I think you get my point.

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