Naturalism Philosophy Science Video

Philosophical Foundations of Methodological Naturalism

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In the next video from the Alternatives to Methodological Naturalism conference, Jonathan Bartlett describes the philosophical underpinnings of methodological naturalism and why they fall short.

For more information about the Alternatives to Methodological Naturalism (AM-Nat) conference series, see the website. We have two more conferences coming in the next year!

14 Replies to “Philosophical Foundations of Methodological Naturalism

  1. 1
    Larry Moran says:

    A majority of modern philosophers and a majority of scientists do not believe that science is limited by methodological naturalism.

    We believe that the methods of science can easily be used to investigate supernatural claims. For example, some people believe that gods created a world-wide deluge that killed almost everything on Earth.

    Science has investigated that claim and shown it to be false.

  2. 2
    johnnyb says:

    Side note – this is my own video – posting in the third person to match all the others.

  3. 3
    johnnyb says:

    Larry –

    I’m glad you agree with the video! However, I think you are mischaracterizing the majority viewpoint. Methodological naturalism is still front-and-center in a lot of institutions, such as the National Academy of Sciences, the National Science Teachers Association, many aspects of law, and many individual scientists and philosophers of science.

    I hope that you continue to let people know that methodological naturalism is not an appropriate requirement for science!

  4. 4


    Why use an example that has nothing whatsoever to do with ID? Perhaps you’ve used the “ID creationism” line one time too many, and misplaced the simple fact that they are not the same thing?

  5. 5
    Otangelo Grasso says:

    Larry, How about you show one, just ONE scientific mainstream paper, that elaborates ID predictions based on something observed in nature, and tries to falsify it ? Why is it , that almost ALL papers that deal with origins, begin with evolution as if it would be a granted fact, and end with evolution, no matter how small the evidence is, that points to that direction ?

    If intelligent design theorists do manage to publish in a peer-reviewed science journal, Darwinists will make sure the editor suffers grievously for it.


  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    Although, as was pointed out, this has nothing to do with detecting Intelligent Design in biology or in cosmology, etc.., as to Moran’s claim that there is no evidence of catastrophic worldwide flood(s), I would like to set the record straight. That claim is simply a statement of ignorance of the science we now have in hand.

    Scientific evidence for catastrophic megafloods, across the globe, approx. 13 to 14 thousand years before the present has now become compelling:
    Excerpt: Worldwide, we know that the period of 14,000 to 13,000 years ago, which coincides with the peak of abundant monsoonal rains over India, was marked by violent oceanic flooding – in fact, the first of the three great episodes of global superfloods that dominated the meltdown of the Ice Age. The flooding was fed not merely by rain but by the cataclysmic synchronous collapse of large ice-masses on several different continents and by gigantic inundations of meltwater pouring down river systems into the oceans. (124)
    What happened, at around 13,000 years ago, was that the long period of uninterrupted warming that the world had just passed through (and that had greatly intensified, according to some studies, between 15,000 years ago and 13,000 years ago) was instantly brought to a halt – all at once, everywhere – by a global cold event known to palaeo climatologists as the ‘Younger Dryas’ or ‘Dryas III’. In many ways mysterious and unexplained, this was an almost unbelievably fast climatic reversion – from conditions that are calculated to have been warmer and wetter than today’s 13,000 years ago, to conditions that were colder and drier than those at the Last Glacial Maximum, not much more than a thousand years later. From that moment, around 12,800 years ago, it was as though an enchantment of ice had gripped the earth. In many areas that had been approaching terminal meltdown full glacial conditions were restored with breathtaking rapidity and all the gains that had been made since the LGM were simply stripped away…(124)
    A great, sudden extinction took place on the planet, perhaps as recently as 11,500 years ago (usually attributed to the end of that last ice age), in which hundreds of mammal and plant species disappeared from the face of the earth, driven into deep caverns and charred muck piles the world over. Modern science, with all its powers and prejudices, has been unable to adequately explain this event. (83)

    Missoula Floods
    “between 15,000 and 13,000 years ago”

    Catastrophic Flooding from Ancient Lake May Have Triggered Cold Period
    Excerpt: Imagine a lake three times the size of the present-day Lake Ontario breaking through a dam and flooding down the Hudson River Valley past New York City and into the North Atlantic. The results would be catastrophic if it happened today, but it did happen some 13,400 years ago during the retreat of glaciers over North America;ct=162

    Moreover, Charles Darwin himself was shown to be wrong about a geological formation that he predicted to have been formed gradually. Yet, it is now known to have been formed by a catastrophic megaflood,,,

    Where Darwin Went Wrong – Argentina Megaflood

    A few more notes:

    South America
    Excerpt: Ironically, the site with perhaps the best claim to a pre-12,000 BP date in the Americas is among the farthest south, Monte Verde, in south central Chile. Here Tom Dillehay and his crew have excavated a camp site that has been radiocarbon-dated to about 13,000 years ago, and below the levels of that age are layers of tools and debris that may be much older, perhaps up to 33,000 years old.(26),,, Dozens and dozens of hulking blocks lay scattered in all directions, tossed like matchsticks, Posnansky argued, in the terrible natural disaster that had overtaken Tiahuanaco during the eleventh millennium BC: This catastrophe was caused by seismic movements which resulted in an overflow of the waters of Lake Titicaca and in volcanic eruptions… In addition, fragments of human and animal skeletons had been found lying in chaotic disorder among wrought stones, utensils, tools and an endless variety of other things. All of this has been moved, broken and accumulated in a confused heap. Anyone who would dig a trench here two metres deep could not deny that the destructive force of water, in combination with brusque movements of the earth, must have accumulated those different kinds of bones, mixing them with pottery, jewels, tools and utensils…(152)

    Sea Level Rise, After the Ice Melted and Today – By Vivien Gornitz — January 2007
    Excerpt: Massive ice sheets covered parts of North America, northern Europe, and several other regions during the last ice age. This huge volume of ice lowered global sea level by around 120 meters as compared to today.,,, A more clearly-defined accelerated phase of sea level rise occurred between 14,600 to 13,500 years before present (termed “meltwater pulse 1A” or “MWP-1A” by Fairbanks in 1989), when sea level increased by some 16 to 24 m (see Figure 1).

    Ancient mega floods in the monsoon tropics of Australia coincide with climatic instability
    (approx. 15, 000 years ago)

    etc.., etc..

    Thus, whether you believe the Bible account of a worldwide flood that covered the whole earth or not, the scientific evidence itself shows us that worldwide catastrophic Megafloods were indeed happening approx 13,000 years before the present.

    Moreover, the dating of the first ‘advanced’ human civilization is approx. 12,000 years before the present:

    Stone Age Temple May Be Birthplace of Civilization
    Excerpt: The elaborate temple at Gobelki Tepe in southeastern Turkey, near the Syrian border, is staggeringly ancient: 11,500 years old, from a time just before humans learned to farm grains and domesticate animals. According to the German archaeologist in charge of excavations at the site, it might be the birthplace of agriculture, of organized religion — of civilization itself.

    Interestingly, southeastern Turkey is close to where Noah’s Ark is said to have come to rest on a mountaintop:

    Supplemental notes:

    Noah’s Ark would have floated…even with 70,000 animals – 03 Apr 2014
    Noah’s Ark would have floated even with two of every animal in the world packed inside, scientists have calculated.
    Although researchers are unsure if all the creatures could have squeezed into the huge boat, they are confident it would have handled the weight of 70,000 creatures without sinking.
    A group of master’s students from the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Leicester University studied the exact dimensions of the Ark, set out in Genesis 6:13-22.
    According to The Bible, God instructed Noah to build a boat which was 300 cubits long 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high – recommending gopher wood for the enormous lifeboat.
    The students averaged out the Egyptian and Hebrew cubit measurement to come up with 48.2cm, making the Ark around 144 metres long – about 100 metres shorter than Ark Royal.
    Using the dimensions, the Archimedes principal of buoyancy and approximate animal wrights they were astonished to find out that the Ark would have floated.
    Student Thomas Morris, 22, from Chelmsford, said: “You don’t think of the Bible necessarily as a scientifically accurate source of information, so I guess we were quite surprised when we discovered it would work. We’re not proving that it’s true, but the concept would definitely work.”…even-with-70000-animals.html

    Study: Deep beneath the earth, more water than in all the oceans combined – June 16, 2014
    Excerpt: And its a good thing, too, Jacobsen told New Scientist: “We should be grateful for this deep reservoir. If it wasn’t there, it would be on the surface of the Earth, and mountain tops would be the only land poking out.”


    Genesis 7:11
    In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened.

  7. 7
    J-Mac says:

    It looks like Larry Moran changed his tactic. Instead of his usual bs called “most knowledgeable scientists” which poor Larry means PZ. Myers, Coyne if he is at his best, Joe F if the issue can be squeezed into population genetics and his unnamed bloggers including and Nick M and Jeff Shellit.

  8. 8
    Mung says:

    Larry is confused, at best.

  9. 9
    Seversky says:

    Larry Moran @ 1

    A majority of modern philosophers and a majority of scientists do not believe that science is limited by methodological naturalism.

    That would turn on what you understand by “natural”, “supernatural” and “methodological naturalism”. Would you care to elaborate?

  10. 10
    Larry Moran says:

    johnnyb says,

    I hope that you continue to let people know that methodological naturalism is not an appropriate requirement for science!

    I’m doing my best. After talking to many philosophers, I sand by my statement that most reject methodological naturalism as a limitation of science.

    It’s true that several prominent American organizations adopt this false notion but we understand their motives. It’s because it allows them to accommodate religion and that’s a political advantage in America.

    Jerry Coyne on Lewontin and methodological naturalism

    Can Science Test Supernatural Worldviews?

    John Wilkins Revisits Methodological Naturalism

    Note that I have changed my mind on this issue. Back in 2007 I believed that science was, in fact, restricted by methodological naturalism.

  11. 11
    bill cole says:


    Per Coyne:

    We can in principle allow a Divine Foot in the door; it’s just that we’ve never seen the Foot.e

    We have not seen higgs bosons either nor gravity but we have seen evidence of both. Do you really want to pull science into this debate?

  12. 12
    Origenes says:

    Larry Moran: After talking to many philosophers, I sand by my statement that most reject methodological naturalism as a limitation of science.

    Here is philosopher you apparently didn’t talk to, Bill Vallicella:

    … there is really no chance that natural science operating under the constraints of methodological naturalism … will ever explain in a satisfactory non-question-begging way:

    The very existence of the physical universe
    How life arose from abiotic matter
    How sentience arose from the merely alive
    How self-consciousness — the ability to deploy thoughtfully the first-person singular pronoun — arose from the merely alive or from mere sentience
    How intentionality arose from the merely alive
    How something like a first-person perspective is possible, a “view from nowhere,” a perspective without which no third-person perspective would be possible and with it the objectivity presupposed by scientific inquiry
    The intrinsic intelligibility of the world which is a presupposition of scientific inquiry
    Where the laws of nature come from
    Why the physical constants have precisely the values they have
    The normativity of reason and how it governs our mental processes
    The applicability of mathematics to natural phenomena: no mathematics, no physics!
    The existence of mathematical objects and the truth of mathematical propositions.

  13. 13
    Mung says:

    Mung quotes Mung:

    Larry is confused, at best.

    Larry just doesn’t seem to care though.

  14. 14
    Mung says:

    Sad, really.

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