On the absurdity of “naturalism” (and the equal absurdity of its censorship of science and education)
A little while ago, UD’s News noted on the tenth anniversary of Louisiana’s science education law, and an exchange has developed on the significance of “methodological” and “philosophical” “naturalism” in science, education — and by implication society.
A crucial issue is the July 2000 statement of the US National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) on science education and how it must be confined to naturalistic concepts and explanations. For cause, I have long marked up that statement as follows:
>>PREAMBLE: All those involved with science teaching and learning should have a common, accurate view of the nature of science. Science is characterized by the systematic gathering of information through various forms of direct and indirect observations and the testing of this information by methods including, but not limited to, experimentation. The principal product of science is knowledge in the form of naturalistic concepts and the laws and theories related to those concepts [–> ideological imposition of a priori evolutionary materialistic scientism, aka natural-ISM; this is of course self-falsifying at the outset] . . . .
[S]cience, along with its methods, explanations and generalizations, must be the sole focus of instruction in science classes to the exclusion of all non-scientific or pseudoscientific [–> loaded word that cannot be properly backed up due to failure of demarcation arguments] methods, explanations [–> declaration of intent to censor instructional content], generalizations and products [–> declaration of intent to ideologically censor education materials] . . . .
Although no single universal step-by-step scientific method captures the complexity of doing science, a number of shared values and perspectives characterize a scientific approach to understanding nature. Among these are a demand for naturalistic explanations supported by empirical evidence that are, at least in principle, testable against the natural world. Other shared elements include observations, rational argument, inference, skepticism, peer review and replicability of work [–> undermined by the question-begging ideological imposition and associated censorship] . . . .
Science, by definition, is limited to naturalistic methods and explanations [–> ideological imposition of a loaded definition] and, as such, is precluded from using supernatural elements [–> question-begging false dichotomy, the proper contrast for empirical investigations is the natural (chance and/or necessity) vs the ART-ificial, through design . . . cf UD’s weak argument correctives 17 – 19, here] in the production of scientific knowledge.>>
This statement and the like have been made to seem plausible to many by way of the supposed distinction between “methodological” and “metaphysical” naturalism. However, it seems that the distinction is questionable. So, after an exchange that has been ongoing since July 2 – 3, I have now added the following, which I believe is worth headlining and amplifying by including images:
KF, 92:>>JDK (& attn Sev),
your argument points simply fail to address the significance of the worldview commitments and how ideas — including terrible ones such as evolutionary materialism — have consequences. Including, awful ones.
I again point to the core issue as I marked up from SEP:
The self-proclaimed “naturalists” [of early-mid C20] . . . urged that reality is exhausted by nature [= the physical], containing nothing “supernatural”, and that the scientific method should be used to investigate all areas of reality [–> i.e. if all that is is ultimately physical, the point of knowledge is to understand how that matrix gave rise to all things we see], including the “human spirit” (Krikorian 1944; Kim 2003) [–> this of course runs into the challenge of reducing mindedness to a GIGO-limited computational substrate, thus becomes self-refuting as I and many others note. This is the historical context of Haldane’s sawing off the branch remark] . . . . The great majority of contemporary philosophers would happily accept naturalism as just characterized—that is, they would both reject “supernatural” entities, and allow that science is a possible route (if not necessarily the only one) to important truths about the “human spirit” [–> so, naturalism, i.e. evolutionary materialistic scientism, has ruled the roost for the past century or so, and has of course had consequences] . . .
It is this expansive view of naturalism, so called, which led me to observe as follows at 80 above:
if for argument “nature” is broadened to imply reality in toto, whatever it may contain [say, including God], then “nature” loses meaning, and “the supernatural” would then by definition be a term for non-being.
So, we can safely hold that the term natural in praxis implies physical and quasi-physical as the substratum of reality. All else that is, comes from ultimately blind interactions of said substratum. And, as it is the sciences which give knowledge of that substratum and how it may act (through blind mechanical necessity and/or chance/stochastic processes) then indeed we see where science becomes the framework of reliable and grounded knowledge.
Once one swallows the frame, in whatever vague form, the above consequences become self-reinforcing. One may speak of even religious naturalism or of “merely” methodological naturalism as a reliable and successful way to learn about the world, even stipulating that there are other ways to acquire knowledge but the end result is the same. So soon as “science” so redefined comes knocking, it takes over.
The point is, leaving the underlying worldview commitments, logic and epistemology un-examined does not remove their impact.
And, we see further that science has become little more than applied atheism: the best evolutionary materialistic account of the world from hydrogen to humans.
Such an all-encompassing cultural agenda can seem as irresistible as the proverbial juggernaut. Especially when the alleged centuries long track record of success of such science, the squeezing out of god from gaps, the follies of pseudoscience and the over-running of domains once thought beyond science are trotted out.
But the whole turns on question-begging tendentious redefinitions, half truths on scientific methods and progress [multiplied by outright falsities] and on failure to adequately assess the challenge of the gap between a GIGO-limited mechanical and/or stochastic computational substrate and insightful, meaning based contemplation and responsible, rational, free mind.
That is why methodological naturalism, so called cannot be disentangled from the logic of being [= ontology] of naturalism. Its natural sense is, the physical and/or quasi-physical (branes, multiverses and whatnot) constitute and bound reality at root and evolve through blind mechanical necessity and equally blind chance, to form all of the world that we experience. So, logically, all true and more or less reliable knowledge comes from studying how that substratum unfolds blindly from hydrogen to humans, locking out consideration of the fever-demons that haunt the deluded minds of hoi polloi. That is the direct and proper understanding of what Lewontin noted as a longstanding member of the guild making a tribute on the passing of his fellow member, Sagan, through reviewing Sagan’s last book: The Demon-Haunted World.
It is thus utterly unsurprising to see that lesser lights would distill such thoughts into the sort of imposition on science education that we see in the July 2000 NSTA statement, just six months later.
The logic is quite plain, and we must thank Lewontin for his frankness.
The name of the game is: indoctrination through institutional domination and that is exactly what for telling example played out in Kansas across seven years.
When so historically, epistemologically and logically well warranted a view as that cited in 17 above:
“Science is a systematic method of continuing investigation, that uses observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building, to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena.”
. . . becomes targetted for manufactured outrage, branding, scapegoating and holding the education of the children of Kansas hostage in order to impose the radical agenda of evolutionary materialistic scientism, that is a sobering warning as to the game that is afoot in our civilisation.
Yes, science addresses the natural lawlike regularities and it addresses chance circumstances and stochastic phenomena, often with great success. But that is not at all that science, properly, can and does address. For we know that intelligently directed configuration is a significant feature of the world, e.g. the text in posts in this thread.
Whole sciences exist to study such phenomena, starting with communication and information theory.
At the heart of that theory as pioneered by Shannon, Nyquist and others lies a key concept: signal to noise [power] ratio, often expressed in decibels. That is, by empirically observable characteristics we can routinely distinguish intelligent signal from natural noise due to mechanical necessity and/or chance processes. We may then use instruments and scientific processes to measure the two, and take their power ratio, defining S/N as a figure of merit. Onward we define for example the noise figure/factor or noise temperature, etc. We may distinguish diverse kinds of noise and identify source phenomena: white or pink noise, Johnson noise due to statistical properties of a resistance, flicker noise, shot noise etc.
So, already, in a major scientific discipline, information-bearing artificially produced signals are distinguished from natural noise due to mechanical necessity and/or chance. The design inference is there, and the per aspect form explanatory filter that allows attribution of effects across mechanical necessity, chance and/or intelligently directed configuration is there. We routinely quantify, calculate and measure resulting values. In an Internet era, all of this is central to the global economy and society.
That was already evident c 2000, so we must ask pointed questions about imposed definitions of science that lock out things that are so well-established.
And, not just established for technological fields.
For, coded, alphanumerical, algorithmically functional information, since 1953, has been known to lie in the heart of the living cell, to be the key to the assembly of proteins, and thus to be the key to understanding cell based life.
That is, information theory is directly and inextricably intertwined with the heart of life. Where, beyond doubt, the signal characteristics of DNA plainly assign it to the signal side of the signal vs noise threshold.
Now, the only empirically observed and analytically plausible cause of such complex, alphanumerically coded — thus, linguistic — signals is intelligently directed configuration. Newton’s rules of scientific inference are plain on such a matter: the only causes now in operation adequate to and actually observed to create digital, complex, functionally specific, information bearing signals are causes tracing to intelligently directed configuration. Design, in one word.
Where, too, search challenge in implied configuration spaces (backed up by say patterns of protein folds in AA sequence space) presents a needle in haystack search challenge that easily overwhelms the atomic and temporal resources of the observed sol system or the observed — the only actually observed — cosmos, once we exceed 500 – 1,000 bits. At a nominal 4.32 bits per AA for proteins, that kicks in at 116 – 232 AA’s. The average protein is 250 – 300 bases, and there are thousands of them in any functional, cell based life form.
The signal-noise verdict of information theory is plain: the genetic information in the living cell points to intelligently directed configuration — the ART-ificial and intelligent — as its most reasonable causal explanation.
But, once we impose the censorship in the NSTA’s July 2000 edict, we may only explain on or use naturalistic concepts in science and in science education. So no, we may not tell students about the import of information theory for cell based life and its origin. Or, for the origin of major body plans. (Plausibly, first cell based life needs 100 – 1,000 kbases of genetic information, and main body plans 10 – 100+ million, well beyond the threshold where blind chance and/or mechanical necessity could be even remotely plausible.)
The result is a patent absurdity and instantly reduces clever arguments that try to make such censorship seem reasonable to the status of agit prop fallacies.
And that is before we face the stinging, saw off the branch on which we must sit force of Haldane’s challenge to such evolutionary materialistic scientism:
“It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” [“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays , Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209. (NB: DI Fellow, Nancy Pearcey brings this right up to date (HT: ENV) in a current book, Finding Truth.)]
It is time to face the reality of the sad pass that our civilisation has been reduced to.>>
Nor is this just a matter of some random bloggist. Here, for example, is Yockey:
Where, we may envision and summarise protein synthesis:
and embed it in the wider cellular metabolism network (top, left below):
So, it is clearly time to re-think the imposition, agit prop in support and censorship. END
PS: It is perhaps helpful to post here p. 5 from Crick’s letter to his son, March 19, 1953, as a reminder: