Recently Jon Garvey, who often offers helpful comments here, alerted me to two posts he had written but a year ago at Hump of the Camel on theistic evolution, and I commend them to your attention (here and here).
One comment set me thinking:
Methodological naturalism simply says that science cannot study the supernatural.
Okay, but wait a minute. In practice, that means far more than we usually suppose.
As I have asked earlier, why is the space alien science, but Bigfoot non- or anti-science? Neither clearly involves the supernatural. There is no reliable evidence for either. But one is grandfathered by methodological naturalism and the other isn’t.
If Earth isn’t unique, as methodological naturalism’s Copernican Principle states, then the space alien is highly likely to exist. Bigfoot isn’t so lucky. Nothing much is at stake whether he exists or not.
Methodological naturalism does far more than not “study the supernatural.” It stands in for evidence in a variety of science settings. In so doing, it alters the direction of science in perceptible ways.
Vince Torley pointed recently to Kelvin, Maxwell, or Joule as scientists who were Christians, who did not think that science is done by ignoring God. True, but much is lost by treating this matter defensively.
They need not invoke the existence of God against these concepts. The concepts are consistent with God. They would likely invoke the standard that evidence rules, under God. If there is no evidence for these entities, we cannot invoke them in accordance with a principle that assumes a God-free cosmos. Which, as we shall see, also means in practice an “order-free” cosmos.
To understand the role of methodological naturalism, we need to see the full picture. Not only what it forbids, but what it permits and encourages. And what the evidence status of the permitted and encouraged stuff is.
Note: Theistic evolution and I go back a long way. I first learned it when I started writing science news for a Christian paper, and soon found myself in the company of pleasant, well-meaning Christians in science who introduced me to methodological naturalism. That, they claimed, enabled them to do science without conflict or persecution.
I would have thought the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was responsible for that state of affairs. But that just showed how little I knew. I had yet to encounter the Darwin lobby, and similar bands of intellectual thugs. Or their apologists in Christian circles. Once I encountered them, I knew something was badly wrong. It didn’t help that most Christians who were writers just avoided the whole area. It wasn’t until recently that I knew enough to start asking questions, and I mean to continue.