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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Science and society: Methodological naturalism as the religious link between science and government-sponsored atheism

Recently, some friends and I were discussing methodological naturalism (MN),
The philosophical doctrine of methodological naturalism holds that, for any study of the world to qualify as "scientific," it cannot refer to God's creative activity (or any sort of divine activity). The methods of science, it is claimed, "give us no purchase" on theological propositions--even if the latter are true--and theology therefore cannot influence scientific explanation or theory justification. Thus, science is said to be religiously neutral, if only because science and religion are, by their very natures, epistemically distinct. However, the actual practice and content of science challenge this claim. In many areas, science is anything but religiously neutral; moreover, the standard arguments for methodological naturalism suffer from various grave shortcomings
MN is a useful idea in its place. That is, if your dog dies, you might better look to natural causes than supernatural ones for an explanation. Dogs are natural creatures, subject to diseases and other misfortunes. If that was all MN meant, no reasonable person would doubt it.

But that is not all it means. It means that

1. "Naturalistic" explanations must be insisted on, no matter how ridiculous or unsatisfactory.

Once it hits the popular culture, MN also means that any methodological naturalist (MN) explanation is by definition better than any other one, no matter how stupid or useless.

For example, the three-ring circus of “evolutionary psychology” is a direct outgrowth of MN.

No matter how stupid, unnatural, counterfactual, or counterintuitive an evo psycho explanation is, it must be treated with respect because it supposedly ties in to “evolution” – which is doctrinaire MN – even if the explanation is at the level of Ooga! Ooga! or the Big Bazooms theory of evolution. Go here
or here, if you want to know about more current nut moments in this supposed discipline.

The fact that a given evo psycho theory is stupid and unlikely, and unsupported by serious evidence, is not a detraction, provided that it invokes the sacred name of "evolution." The key reason is that "evolution" is believed to support MN.

Otherwise, people would say, "Look, evolution happened, but all this stupidity is just plain stupidity."

But they can't – not because of evolution but because of MN. That is precisely the stranglehold MN has on our culture. It forces people to believe stupid things, as a matter of moral and intellectual obligation, because believing smarter and more obvious things would violate the principle.

That's why people feel wounded when someone like me tells them
But your Big Bazooms theory is just plain stoopid! There is an easier explanation for why men prefer stacked women to skinny ones. How about this: It's not about having kids, it's about having fun. Kids arrive, sure, but that guy didn’t organize his life around kids at first … that came later, when he was appalled at how loud a newborn can shriek, and how hard it is to ignore that shrieking kid … and it's his kid anyway, so ...
2. MN also means, among other things, that useless supposed science projects (like trying to discover exactly how life originated) continue to attract funding and can never be evaluated in a rational way. That is, there is probably no way of determining exactly how life originated, whether life's origin was entirely by chance events or not. Indeed, if life originated purely by chance events, it is less likely that we can know exactly how it happened.

3. A third disadvantage of MN is that speculation comes to sound like science - as long as it agrees with MN. For example, take the view that we are not unusual - and therefore, there must be just tons of alien civilizations out there. How do we know? We don't. We certainly haven't heard from any of them.

4. A fourth disadvantage - and in my view, the biggest one - is that it forces people to decide that they cannot accept bodies of evidence that don't coincide with materialist atheism (MN's true sponsor, of course, however many Bible college profs may have embraced it). So there is this ridiculous dance around the "hard problem" of human consciousness., Why is it a hard problem? Because consciousness is not a material entity. That would suggest studying it as a non-material entity. Oh, but wait. MN says no, because that might open the door to the idea of divine action.

Therefore, there are no non-material entities.

Remember, You can't study consciousness the way it really is, so you must study it the way it really isn't, and come up with gimcrack theories that convince no one. Talk about a "science stopper ... "

So, the trick with MN is to see that it's not about science. It's a way of making decisions.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

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