Everyone wants science to explain phenomena in natural, not supernatural, terms whenever possible. Historically, there were big problems with investigators invoking the supernatural whenever it suited them. I believe it was simply easier for Christians to join Enlightenment philosophers in cutting God out of the picture than to obtain some disciplined approach to admitting the supernatural at times and excluding it at other times.
Okay, but how come they don’t see the hook sticking right out of the bait?
First, while it is true that everyone wants science to explain phenomena in natural, not supernatural terms, … how do we know what is natural and what is supernatural? This becomes a serious question where mental phenomena are concerned.
Mario Beauregard and I discuss this in The Spiritual Brain, in connection with laboratory experiments in telekinesis:
To say that an event is “supernatural” is to say that it comes from above or outside nature.
Perhaps we should … ask, what is the nature of nature? Can it include events that are not supernatural in the sense given above, but are also not easily accommodated by materialism?
Regarding psi, we can assume one of two things: (1) every single instance of psi is a direct interference in nature, presumably by a divine power from outside the universe; or (2) the universe permits more entanglement than the materialist paradigm does. The second assumption creates many fewer problems than the first. We do not need to assume that every time a middle-aged bus driver beats the odds in a psi experiment, the universe has been invaded from the outside, let alone that, as unidirectional skeptics have often insisted, “science” is in danger or that “religion is invading science,” or that “a new dark age” is upon us.
Research can determine the circumstances under which entanglement can occur above the quantum level, resulting in apparent action at a distance. (P. 177)
But if, of course, we “know” that materialism is true, then telekinesis is supernatural and the supernatural does not occur, therefore telekinesis does not occur – and anyone whose research shows otherwise threatens science.
The “rules of the game” are constructed primarily to defend materialism from disconfirmation!
I would be interested to hear more about the big problems with investigators who invoked the supernatural whenever it suited them. I’m more familiar with big problems when investigators leave out the reality of the mind whenever that suits them. Just one more excerpt from The Spiritual Brain:
Indeed, by the 1960s, materialism was so pervasive in medicine that Benson had a hard time persuading his colleagues that mental stress could contribute to high blood pressure. Mentors warned that he was risking his career when he began to study the physiology of meditation in an effort to understand how the mind influences the body. (233-34)
Get that? Risking his career. Where have we heard that kind of thing before?
Fortunately, the early researchers persisted, and today we have a much better understanding of the influence of mental states on health (see The Spiritual Brain Chapter 8). Nonetheless many today are busy trying to disconfirm the reality of the mind.
Semiotic 007 adds,
I am not at all saying this is the way science should be. I’m simply trying to state why many Christian researchers in fact restrict themselves to natural causation in their explanations of empirical observations.
What they have in fact chosen to do is help the materialist avoid disconfirmation by identifying as “God” or “supernatural” whatever the materialist disapproves of or fears. That includes evidence of design in nature.
I have often had frustrating conversations with Christian scientists who say things like, “Well, when you say design, you really mean God, don’t you, and you can’t prove God, so it’s not science by definition … ” (This is usually spoken rapid fire, like a flight attendant reciting the safety exits, so I would guess it isn’t a new thought that has just occurred to him.)
The Christian Darwinist (hereafter St. Darwin) may be absolutely convinced in the privacy of his emotional life that if it looks like design it must be God (but it can’t be God and therefore it must be an illusion). But I just don’t know. If we have only just begun to consider that design is definitely a part of nature, we are in no position to say things like that.
George Hunter tells me I am an empiricist, and therefore willing to live with uncertainty. (I join the other commenters from that thread in recommending Hunter’s Science’s Blind Spot, which I reviewed here, as indispensable for understanding St. Darwin.
Because, no sooner has St. Darwin finished reciting the litany above than he starts in with, “Look at all the evil and suffering in the world! What kind of God would be responsible for that? Evolution did that, not God!”
(At this point, I get nostalgic. I still clearly remember my five year old daughter explaining to me, thirty years ago, “I didn’t do that, Mommy. My hands did it.”)
Well, I would be happy to leave God out of it, but St. Darwin won’t let me. He doesn’t want to let me because his purpose is to prevent evidence from ever being relevant to his claims for Darwinism or for other forms of materialism. If that’s playing by the rules, we need to change the rules.
Here’s one rule that I want, but St. Darwin does not want: I won’t mention God and neither does he.
Here is one project he doesn’t want: We just look at the accumulated evidence for the history of life on this planet and ask a simple question: If Darwin’s theory did not exist and was not now the subject of a huge academic industry, would anyone suppose that it explained the Cambrian explosion? The subsequent punctuated history of life? The rise of consciousness?
Darwin’s theory is supported in order to prop up materialism, and otherwise has very little use.