Time to Take the Non-Science Out of Science


Scientists typically claim they must rely on methodological naturalism to do their science. It’s the principle that treats everything as if it were strictly natural, as if there is no supernatural reality.

Several years ago I wrote on this blog about how that was no need at all, and in fact it brings a host of non-scientific assumptions into science with it. Two years ago my theory was formally published in this volume of conference proceedings.

Today the Discovery Institute published a shorter version on its Evolution News website. Here’s part of the lead-up to the conclusion:

So am I actually proposing everyone adopt methodological theism as their scientific operating guideline? Obviously not. It could be the stronger theory in all kinds of ways, and in fact I think it is. But in a pluralistic world it would certainly never fly — much less in a secular-slanted world like academia today. No, I’ve brought it up here for a completely different reason: to expose the fact that there’s no scientific reason to reject it; nothing but that thorny issue of metaphysical bias. At the same time, though, it highlights the reality that there’s no scientific reason to insist on methodological naturalism; only the same problem of bias. Neither principle is fully scientific. Both principles are saturated with philosophical assumptions.

But I need to say that one more time. With emphasis — emphasis, that is, on the principle that’s held sway all these years. Methodological naturalism is saturated with non-scientific, philosophical assumptions. Therefore it has no business masquerading as a necessary principle for doing science. There’s no rational cause to think science benefits from that kind of needless bias imported into it.

The answer? Methodological regularism. But if you want to know about methodological theism — and how it really does make sense — you’ll need to read the links.

Image Credit(s): Max Saeling/Unsplash.

3 Responses

  1. jayman777 says:

    Personally, I find Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics convincing. If the naturalist claims science requires adopting methodological or metaphysical naturalism I counter by noting methodological or metaphysical Thomism works too. It has the added benefit, in my opinion, of explaining why science is possible.

  2. Tom Gilson says:

    Thanks for the comment!

    My paper on this takes a similar approach, though with a broader and more easily accessible methodological theism.

  3. Denver says:

    I’ve long had this controversy with my atheist acquaintances when they cavil at religiosity or metaphysics.

    Look, says I, if the statement “There is a God” is necessarily and essentially a religious statement then equally it is a necessary truth that the statement “There is no God” is necessarily and essentially a religious statement.

    The only way to get religion out of science, if that’s the aim and we all agree it is a right and proper one (!?) is to just admit that neither statement has anything to do with science. That we can in fact observe the rigidly logical and mathematical relationships between things, and describe them in increasing detail, without have a firm or unanimous opinion as to why they are so describable.

    So when various atheists like to proclaim how their scientific careers have been such stellar successes without ever having to mention God, they determinedly ignore that many theists have had remarkably stellar careers in science, without ever having to mention God in their research publications.

    God is not actually required in order for us to observe and describe.

    Now, when it comes to explaining … well, that’s where we get into metaphysics, and as you note, the essential nature of the belief is not changed merely by changing the sign from positive to negative, and hence the atheists are as guilty of metaphysics as anyone the like to point the bone at. Indeed, I argue that this universal guilt of practicing metaphysics is proof positive, and even moreso under atheistic assumptions about fitness-enhancing characteristics, that metaphysics are an essential element of human nature. To attempt to do way with them is to attempt to do away with humanity itself.

    And that doesn’t appear particularly rational to me.