Friday, August 05, 2005

Philosophical Naturalism dialogue on The Panda's Thumb

Someone at the Darwinist website The Panda's Thumb responded to me:

John Piippo wrote:
Having been a professor of logic for many years I must say that Philip Johnson’s quote does not serve as a premise leading to the conclusion that “ID is just creationism in a postmodern, relativist tuxedo.” Johnson’s quote addresses his concern (and Plantinga’s, et. al.) that Neo-Darwinism is inextricably rooted in methodological naturalism.

Can Piippo name a currently accepted scientific theory, in any discipline from physics to biology, that is not “rooted in methodological naturalism”? That is, does Piippo know of a currently accepted theory that invokes causal/explanatory variables not normally deemed to be ‘naturalistic’, or whose support does not in the end depend on systematic observations of the natural world? Though I’ve worked in science and technology for over 40 years, in both industry and academics, I have not to my knowledge encountered even one such.

Here is my response:

The very fact that nearly all (if not entirely all) current scientific theories are grounded in Philosophical Naturalism (PN) supports what I (and Plantinga et. al.) are saying. PN holds that there is nothing outside of nature. Everything in our experience can be accounted for by pure natural forces.
But PN is not itself a scientific truth. Rather, PN defines the parameters of scientific inquiry. As such, PN functions as a definition. But it itself is not a scientific truth.
PN is something like a philosophical position. PN is often also referred to as Metaphysical Naturalism. That is, PN is a metaphysical claim. As a metaphysical claim the truth or non-truth of PN needs to be established philosophically, not scientifically.
Plantinga explains this: The idea that “human beings and other living creatures have come about by chance, rather than by God’s design, is… not a proper part of empirical science. How could science show that God has not intentionally designed and created human beings and other creatures? How could it show that they have arisen merely by chance? That’s not empirical science. That’s metaphysics, or maybe theology. It’s a theological add-on, not part of science itself. And, since it is a theological add-on, it shouldn’t, of course, be taught in public schools.” (
If, therefore, most current scientific theories are grounded in PN this does not imply that ID is to be dismissed as “science.” It only means that much contemporary science is grounded in a certain non-scientific metaphysical claim. Some, like Plantinga and Johnson, wish to question the validity of that claim.