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Belgian philosopher Maarten Boudry thinks methodological naturalism doesn’t achieve its goals

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Like killing off “anti-evolutionism.” By that, he seems to mean doubt about Darwinian theory.

See: Maarten Boudry et al., Grist to the mill of anti-evolutionism: the failed strategy of ruling the supernatural out of science by philosophical fiat

Abstract According to a widespread philosophical opinion, science is strictly limited to investigating natural causes and putting forth natural explanations. Lacking the tools to evaluate supernatural claims, science must remain studiously neutral on questions of metaphysics. This (self-imposed) stricture, which goes under the name of ‘methodological naturalism’, allows science to be divorced from metaphysical naturalism or atheism, which many people tend to associate with it. However, ruling the supernatural out of science by fiat is not only philosophically untenable, it actually provides grist to the mill of anti-evolutionism. The philosophical flaws in this conception of methodological naturalism have been gratefully exploited by advocates of Intelligent Design Creationism to bolster their false accusations of naturalistic bias and dogmatism on the part of modern science. We argue that it promotes a misleading view of the scientific endeavor and is at odds with the foremost arguments for evolution by natural selection. Reconciling science and religion on the basis of such methodological strictures is therefore misguided. (Open source)

Spoken like a true Eurocrat. From his conclusion:

In a way reminiscent of Hume‟s Dialogues, theist and non-theist defenders of science have advocated IMN as a way of dissociating science from atheism and consolidating a truce between (evolutionary) science and religion. The received idea seems to be that, as Pennock writes, confronting supernatural claims with science “inadvertently help[s] the ID cause” (Pennock 2003, p. 156), because it links evolution with atheism. By contrast, relegating the supernatural to a different domain provides reassurance to religious believers and allows science educators to retain the support of theistic evolutionists and religious liberals in the battle against anti-evolutionist forces. Understandable as this may be in the context of the ongoing efforts of IDC advocates to sneak their pseudoscience into the classroom, it is seriously misguided. First, excluding the supernatural by fiat fuels the old accusations of metaphysical bias, and allows IDC proponents to cast themselves in the role of open-minded truth-lovers. Second, the letter of IMN conflicts with actual scientific arguments against supernatural design, a discrepancy which IDC proponents have been quick to point out. Third, IMN does a disservice to the epistemic status of science, inviting the view that it is just one way of knowing among other, presumably deeper ones. Fourth, it fails to appreciate the threat that the naturalization of science poses to religion. Pennock‟s concern about the perceived conflict between science and religion is a legitimate one, but muddled philosophical reasoning will do little to avert that conflict. Science educators should not equate evolution with atheism, but neither should they pretend that the conflict between science and religion is wholly imaginary. Most religious believers would find out for themselves in any case.

Whatever he suggests as an alternative will probably happen later when the right to dissent is more sharply limited. Then no one will dare point out the transparent contradictions in the above material.

Note: Boudry fronted a Sokal-style hoax on a theology conference in 2012. We’ll let the UK’s new humanists tell it:

As Boudry, who is a a research fellow in the Department of Philosophy and Moral Sciences at Ghent University, explained in an email to [Jerry] Coyne, he “wrote a spoof abstract full of theological gibberish (Sokal-style) and submitted it to two theology conferences, both of which accepted it right away”.

His abstract, entitled “The Paradoxes of Darwinian Disorder. Towards an Ontological Reaffirmation of Order and Transcendence” and published under the pseudonym Robert A. Maundy, was even published in the program for the Reformational Philosophy conference held at VU University in Amsterdam last year. And to cap it all off, the fake Dr Maundy hailed from the non-existent College of the Holy Cross in Reno, Nevada.

One hardly envies the distinctions of the scholars Boudry could so easily fool.

He may be coming up against a more astute and hardened lot in the ID community.

By the way, for what it is worth, methodological naturalism is either methodological atheism or else nothing. To he extent that it constrains what one is permitted to observe or discuss, it is a dead hand on the scale.

Hat tip: Pos-Darwinista

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2 Replies to “Belgian philosopher Maarten Boudry thinks methodological naturalism doesn’t achieve its goals

  1. 1
    awstar says:

    Science educators should not equate evolution with atheism, but neither should they pretend that the conflict between science and religion is wholly imaginary.

    To be logically consistent (i.e. honest), shouldn’t he point out that “Science educators should not equate Intelligent Design with theism, much less, creationism” as well?

  2. 2

    The “Sokal affair” has been replicated with some scientific conferences and in other contexts (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sokal_affair#Similar_incidents). So any inferences based on the Boudry study that religious academics are more gullible than average is unwarranted. Also consider the number of scientific papers that have been retracted recently, as well as cases of outright fraud being found. Not to mention the volume of scientific findings that have been found not to be replicable (http://www.economist.com/news/.....physicians).

    Romans 2:1 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.

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