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How not to understand the problem with methodological naturalism (MN)

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Sometimes, people discussing the topic try to explain the difficulty by proposing that it should be called “methodological atheism.” This is unhelpful.

True, MN promotes atheism. Unfortunately, then the discussion begins to revolve around atheism vs. theism.

But that isn’t what makes it a problem. Atheism could be true, after all. Then the fact that MN promotes atheism would be of no special consequence. The problem is that there is no way to test MN, as one commenter noted; it is merely an assumption. That is what makes it so attractive to crackpots. They thrive in areas where the basic assumptions cannot be tested.

It is why we have crackpot cosmology, for example, because fine tuning becomes a “problem,” rather than a research area.

As a rule, science thrives only when basic assumptions can be tested.

5 Replies to “How not to understand the problem with methodological naturalism (MN)

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    This brings up what I call the basic conflation problem. Anti-theists and anti-ID advocates conflate “science” with the materialist/atheist narrative that uses science to push its agenda. They often say that theists are afraid of science or are against science, when what theists object to is not the science, but rather the ideological interpretation of available information masquerading as scientific fact.

    When faced with any phenomena, the way to proceed in investigation is whatever line of investigative assumptions appear to be best suited for the task, and which ultimately produce results. One would not look to find natural explanations for the existence of an airplane, but would instead look to reverse engineer it, see if there are any designs that can be used, figure out its purpose, maybe glean some info about the designer in order to make useful predictions about other design features.

    This is the great failure of current evolutionary theory; some evolutionary biologists are so consumed with anti-theism that they will simply deny the obvious need for design and purpose in biological phenomena, and will go to extraordinarily silly lengths to preserve the “natural phenomena” research mode.

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    Mapou says:

    It is why we have crackpot cosmology, for example, because fine tuning becomes a “problem,” rather than a research area.

    You make an excellent point. This is also why we have crackpot origin of life theories and, of course, Darwinian evolution. The crackpottery is deep and pervasive and borders on superstition. It’s now a way of life for many, more like a culture, if not a bona fide cult. It’s kind of scary but it will come crumbling down soon enough. BS has a limited shelf life.

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    Mung says:

    But perhaps the most paranoid appeal to a scientific consensus to defend against an impending Dark Age has been the promotion of the historically spurious idea that a specific metaphysical doctrine is embedded in the code of scientific conduct. …This worldview goes by the name of “methodological naturalism…

    – Steve Fuller

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    Love that quote from Fuller.

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