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Questions for Proponents of Methodological Naturalism

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Earlier I posted some questions for critics of methodological by Dr. Joshua Swamidass. I plan on writing a response to Dr. Swamidass’s criticisms and questions, but for the moment I will offer my own questions to the proponents of Methodological Naturalism (update – my answers to these questions are here and here).

I often get the feeling that “methodological naturalism” is often raised in modern times for the simple reason of excluding specific groups of people from science rather than being a real position on the philosophy of science. The reason I think this is that (a) it relies on a definition of “natural” that seems to either be never stated, (b) it is asserted against groups of people for which it is only tangentially related, and (c) it is only used to curtail infractions in a single direction. For instance, most creationism is actually methodologically naturalistic, or, if it is not, it is trivially easy to make it so (every description of the actions of the flood I’ve seen are naturalistic – none talk about miracles during the flood). Yet creationists are usually the group pointed to by methodological naturalists when they are making their case.

I would say that, although the questions below are immediately obvious to me as questions one should ask about methodological naturalism (it took me about 10 minutes to come up with them), I have never seen any proponent of methodological naturalism take them up. These seem to be basic, fundamental questions that need answering if methodological naturalism is so important to science. The fact that they are not seems to me to indicate that, at least for many, the point of methodological naturalism is not to have a well-founded philosophy of science, but just to be able to exclude certain groups you don’t like and pretend to be doing it on principle.

Here are the questions:

  1. In methodological naturalism, what exactly is meant by naturalism? How does one determine if a proposed cause is “naturalistic” or not? Some people say, “unobservable,” but if that means it can’t be physically seen it is no different than other parts of physics and chemistry. If that means that it has no effects in the current world, then that is a definition that no supernaturalist would agree with (I certainly think the human soul exhibits effects – i.e., humans would be different without a soul). Other people have tried “testability,” but that is merely the flip side of “observable”. Therefore, what would really count as a demarcation between a proposed cause as being “naturalistic” vs. “non-naturalistic”? If a set of criteria cannot be deduced, then wouldn’t that make “methodological naturalism” equivalent to “special pleading against explanations I don’t like”?
  2. Many of the things that were essential to naturalism in the 1600s were overturned by Newton, and many of the things that were essential to naturalism in the 1800s were overturned by Quantum Mechanics. If naturalism is such a fuzzy concept as to be continually overturned by new physics, why is it important?
  3. If humans have a supernatural component (i.e., a soul), then is it problematic for biologists to not be allowed to probe the parts of human behavior dependent on it, and/or require them to give wrong explanations for behavior (i.e., use a naturalistic explanation when one is not appropriate)?
  4. Is there a way to determine whether or not a phenomena is understandable via naturalism when it is first investigated? If not, what should a scientist do if they are investigating a cause but later discover that it is not naturalistic? Should they abandon their research? What would the appropriate move be?
  5. Doesn’t methodological naturalism mean that scientists who are philosophically naturalistic can study more types of phenomena than those who disagree philosophically, because of the types of causes they believe responsible? Is it reasonable to exclude groups of people from scientific discussions based on whether or not they agree with philosophical naturalism?
  6. If there is a disagreement among scientists as to whether or not a particular phenomena is naturalistic or non-naturalistic, what is the appropriate place for such scientists to have a discussion? Should the results of this discussion influence scientific practice? Should science journals heed the results of such discussions? Should science textbooks heed the results of such discussions? If not, what is the point of having such discussions at all?
  7. If two scientists (A and B) agree that phenomena X with description Y are the cause of an event, but A believes that the phenomena is non-naturalistic, and B believes that the phenomena is naturalistic, does that mean that scientist B can investigate it but scientist A cannot?
  8. If a phenomena that has been studied in science journals for years is later found to be non-naturalistic (by whatever definition given), should that phenomena cease to be covered by the science journals? Should the prior papers be retracted?
  9. If a phenomena is currently under discussion in a philosophy journal as to whether or not the phenomena is naturalistic, what should the status of scientific research be? Should scientists stop doing research until a result is found by the philosophy journals? Should the science journals feel bound to the decision of the philosophy journals? If so, which ones would hold the definitive answers? If not, what would the point of methodological naturalism be except to enforce philosophical naturalism?
  10. The Big Bang was founded by a Priest who, in his unpublished work, said that it confirmed the Genesis account of creation. Today, many people (including some who do research on it) continue to hold to this idea, and say that the Big Bang shows that the universe has a supernatural origin. Does that mean that the Big Bang theory should be removed from science? Why or why not? How do those criteria affect other theories that involve divine origins?
  11. In many other academic areas with boundaries, the boundaries are informative rather than strict. I.e., if my studies are in Renaissance art, it would certainly be problematic if I spent my entire time talking about Hellenistic art or automobile designs. However, no one would object at all for including some ideas in a Renaissance art journal on how ideas from Hellenistic art studies can be used in Renaissance art studies, or how Renaissance art can influence modern automobile designs. However, the strict methodological naturalism being promoted is not simply informative, but normative, which actively prevents this type of crossover knowledge. Why are the sciences the only area where crossover knowledge is not important?
  12. Experience is not the same as naturalism. We have experience of the supernatural just in talking with other people (as consciousness and creativity – two aspects of humanity – are supernatural, not natural). Thus, one could ground the supernatural in experience just like the natural. Therefore, could one not use such experience scientifically as well?

Anyway, if you are a methodological naturalist, I would love to hear your answers to these questions.

105 Replies to “Questions for Proponents of Methodological Naturalism

  1. 1
    jdk says:

    johnny writes,

    We have experience of the supernatural just in talking with other people (as consciousness and creativity – two aspects of humanity – are supernatural, not natural).

    That’s a metaphysical belief that not everyone agrees with.

  2. 2
    Neil Rickert says:

    If I am giving a scientific report, then it will not explicitly mention God or anything supernatural. It will just report on what can be observed and what can be found by others who repeat the investigation.

    That does not mean that I am excluding God or the supernatural. Some might see them as implicit, though that will vary from person to person. I won’t explicitly mention them and I won’t explicitly exclude them.

    I’m not sure that has anything to do with methodoligical naturalism. It just has to do with good scientific practice.

    As for what is meant by “methodological naturalism”? I’m really not sure. Everybody who discusses it seems to be hopelessly vague. That’s one of the reasons that I don’t bother with it.

  3. 3
    jdk says:

    Also, consciousness and creativity (in the sense of novel ideas) can’t be studied scientifically because there is no common way to observe them: we are each of us the sole observer of our consciousness.

    We can study observable behavior, including our descriptions of our consciousness, and we can study physiological phenomena that appear to be correlated with consciousness, but can’t scientifically study consciousness itself.

  4. 4
    StephenB says:

    jdk

    Also, consciousness and creativity (in the sense of novel ideas) can’t be studied scientifically because there is no common way to observe them: we are each of us the sole observer of our consciousness.

    On the contrary. We can easily observe the effects of a creative act and identify it as a cause. Any SETI signal that qualifies as a communicative act also qualifies a creative act. Further, nature cannot produce a creative act in an art form. There is no logical pathway from matter in motion to Mozart’s fifth symphony–nothing in the cause could possibly produce the effect. Thus, no rational person can believe in materialism.

  5. 5
    johnnyb says:

    Just as an FYI – some of you might take a moment to watch the videos that we have up from the AM-Nat conference. The playlist for the videos is here (note – I have not yet gotten all of the videos edited/uploaded yet).

    There are videos on modeling non-naturalistic processes, how non-naturalism has helped science in the past, how non-naturalism can aid in machine learning, and how to manage the material/non-material divide in psychology.

    Anyway, I suggest anyone interested in the subject give the videos a watch.

  6. 6
    jdk says:

    My comment had nothing to do with materialism – what I am saying here is true even for theists..We can’t actually observe consciousness or the creation of creative ideas within consciousness. We can observe behavior and products that we deem creative, but we can’t observe anyone’s consciousness or ideas other than our own.

  7. 7
    jdk says:

    to johnnyb: I’ll note that I watched and responded to #6 when you first posted it. I later said I would be interested in a response from you, but unfortunately never got one.

  8. 8
    Erasmus Wiffball says:

    A philosopher says he came up with the term methodological naturalism in 1983. I would not bet on it, because he is bound to be an atheist (no objective moral reason not to tell lies and help his carreer). His name is Paul de Vries.

    About half of the article on naturalism in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is about methodological naturalism. I would not bother reading it though. You can tell right off the author is an atheist.

    Paul Nelson wrote about methodological naturalism at Evolution News and Views about 2 years ago. He is a good solid YEC. So I trust what he says.

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....89971.html

    They used to have a lot about methodological naturalism at the American Scientific Affiliation. I do not believe they are all real Christians though. So watch out.

    BioLogos says a lot about methodological naturalism. But I think they are all Democrats, like Frances Collins. Might as well be Muslims like Obama.

  9. 9
    Erasmus Wiffball says:

    johnnyb said,
    “In methodological naturalism, what exactly is meant by naturalism?”

    I’m sure they make up naturalism as they go. Naturalists change what they mean when science has new developments. They do not stick to their guns. Scientists discover new stuff, like conservation of energy in the 1800s, and naturalists change what their saying.

  10. 10
    Erasmus Wiffball says:

    johnnyb said:
    “Many of the things that were essential to naturalism in the 1600s were overturned by Newton, and many of the things that were essential to naturalism in the 1800s were overturned by Quantum Mechanics. If naturalism is such a fuzzy concept as to be continually overturned by new physics, why is it important?”

    Maybe because naturalism does not tell science what to do? Instead science tells naturalists what nature is? Just an idea.

  11. 11
    Erasmus Wiffball says:

    johnyb said
    “If humans have a supernatural component (i.e., a soul), then is it problematic for biologists to not be allowed to probe the parts of human behavior dependent on it, and/or require them to give wrong explanations for behavior (i.e., use a naturalistic explanation when one is not appropriate)?

    I think the problem is we let the United Nations take control of science. Now science is forced to work the same in America as they would do it in Tibet even though they they don’t do it in Tibet. Almost all the science papers in the world are written by Americans. But the dali lama is an atheist. So it is politically incorrect to say that God is the cause, no matter if 51 or more percent of Americans know that God is the cause. Dr. Axe is right. God made us to see design. You have to harden your heart to not see design. Most Americans see design. But they don’t see design in Tibet because then they would see God.

  12. 12
    Erasmus Wiffball says:

    johnnyb number 4
    “Is there a way to determine whether or not a phenomena is understandable via naturalism when it is first investigated? If not, what should a scientist do if they are investigating a cause but later discover that it is not naturalistic? Should they abandon their research? What would the appropriate move be?”

    Like I said, naturalists don’t control science. Scientists don’t think they really understand what they see unless they connect it to other things they can see. But you can’t see the supernatural God. They think that because people use to have a lot of superstitions about invisible stuff causing stuff they could see, and science got rid of the supersitions, then everything invisible causing stuff is just superstitious. the dali lama thinks that God is just a superstition. So the UN makes us sink to the lowest level, and hide the Truth. Just so we don’t offend anybody AT ALL in the World. No matter how piddly their country.

  13. 13
    Erasmus Wiffball says:

    johnyb number 5
    “Doesn’t methodological naturalism mean that scientists who are philosophically naturalistic can study more types of phenomena than those who disagree philosophically, because of the types of causes they believe responsible? Is it reasonable to exclude groups of people from scientific discussions based on whether or not they agree with philosophical naturalism?”

    A phenonmena is what you can see. A scientist can study anything he can see. (Don’t jump on me for not saying she.) If a phenomena has an invisible cause then the scientist will see the phenomena anyway. But he wont see that the true cause is not a phenomena because he thinks invisible causes are a superstition. He lumps God in with the wind god and the river god and the sea god and all that.

  14. 14
    StephenB says:

    jdk

    We can’t actually observe consciousness or the creation of creative ideas within consciousness.

    So what? It isn’t necessary to observe the creation of an idea in order to draw a scientific inference of its existence. SETI doesn’t have to observe ET sending a signal to know that a signal has been sent.

  15. 15
    Erasmus Wiffball says:

    johnnyb 6,
    “If there is a disagreement among scientists as to whether or not a particular phenomena is naturalistic or non-naturalistic, what is the appropriate place for such scientists to have a discussion?”

    A phenomena is just what you see (maybe not with your eyes, maybe with a microscope or telescope or gieger counter). Natural or supernatural is the cause. Even if something really is a miracle, scientists always keep trying to show that the miracle is a superstition, like a rain god causing the rain to fall or wind god causing the wind to blow. Because they did away with lots of old superstitions. Now they think that even God is a superstition. Except Christian scientists think there really are miracles. But they have to show miracles really don’t happen very much. Just every now and then when God has special relationship with his people. Maybe when people are healed by prayer and doctors can’t explain how.

  16. 16
    Erasmus Wiffball says:

    I think that miracles happen all the time. It is a miracle to create information out of thin air, like creative people do. Information is real. You can save it on a floppy disk.

  17. 17
    Erasmus Wiffball says:

    johnnyb 7
    “If two scientists (A and B) agree that phenomena X with description Y are the cause of an event, but A believes that the phenomena is non-naturalistic, and B believes that the phenomena is naturalistic, does that mean that scientist B can investigate it but scientist A cannot?”

    A has to convince B that B will never figure out how to show that A is super-natural-stitious. B knows that science killed lots of superstitions. If B is an atheist, B wants to kill God. If B believes in God, then B believes its better not to ever stop trying to show that a phenomena is really not a miracle.

  18. 18
    Erasmus Wiffball says:

    johnnyb 8
    “If a phenomena that has been studied in science journals for years is later found to be non-naturalistic (by whatever definition given), should that phenomena cease to be covered by the science journals? Should the prior papers be retracted?”

    I think you are getting mixed up by calling a phenomena non-naturalistic instead of the cause. Do you mean the science explanation turns out to be totally wrong? And all the scientists give up trying to show the miracle is not really a miracle. The scientists agree the phenomena has an invisible cause? They will NEVER EVER be able to see it?

  19. 19
    Erasmus Wiffball says:

    johnnyb 10
    “The Big Bang was founded by a Priest who, in his unpublished work, said that it confirmed the Genesis account of creation. Today, many people (including some who do research on it) continue to hold to this idea, and say that the Big Bang shows that the universe has a supernatural origin. Does that mean that the Big Bang theory should be removed from science? Why or why not? How do those criteria affect other theories that involve divine origins?”

    You make God and the Bible look weak by grasping at straws. A beginning is a begininng. Period. It is consistent with the Bible. It doesn’t confirm the Bible. Because we wouldn’t say the Bible was false if scientists said that the universe always existed. We would say that science was wrong.

    ADD: Also, time does NOT have a beginning in Big Bang. The singularity isn’t something that happens. Just like 0 is not in (0, t]. There is a time t. But no time 0. that is what the science says.

  20. 20
    Erasmus Wiffball says:

    johnnyb 11,
    “However, the strict methodological naturalism being promoted is not simply informative, but normative, which actively prevents this type of crossover knowledge. Why are the sciences the only area where crossover knowledge is not important?”

    It looks different to a scientist from how it looks to a lawyer. MN stands for “Miracle – NOT!” It means always trying to show that invisible cause is superstition. Because lots of invisible causes really did turn out to be superstition. Like I already said, you have to make scientists believe that they don’t have any chance of showing that a phenomena is not a miracle. Tht other phenomenas caused it, not something invisible. Ask yourself “Why should I stop trying to show that this is NOT a miracle?” You have to convince them that it is hopelss to continue. Even though scientists showed a lot of miracles to be superstition. Why is human free will not a superstition? A human act of will creates information. How do you convince a scientist it is not quantum undeterminism? With brain working deterministicly on innovation that the human did not create by will.

    Boiling it down, how do you convince scientists they hit a dead end. Stop trying. You can’t explain it like the wind, without a wind god making it blow. Like the rain, without a rain god making it fall. why won’t a human created in the image of God turn out to be a supersition like a rain god or a wind god?

  21. 21
    Erasmus Wiffball says:

    johnnyb 12
    “Experience is not the same as naturalism. We have experience of the supernatural just in talking with other people (as consciousness and creativity – two aspects of humanity – are supernatural, not natural). Thus, one could ground the supernatural in experience just like the natural. Therefore, could one not use such experience scientifically as well?”

    I think somebody else said something like I have to say. You can’t see my consciousness. It isn’t a phenomena.

    Why is my private experience, not a phenomena, supernatrual? How can scientists look at it publicly. They can’t. This is a really differnt issue from supernatural cause of phenomenas. Because a phenomena is public. That’s what scientists get together to explain. Private experience is not a phenomena.

  22. 22
    Erasmus Wiffball says:

    StephenB,

    (johnnyb’s Big Brother?)

    “It isn’t necessary to observe the creation of an idea in order to draw a scientific inference of its existence. SETI doesn’t have to observe ET sending a signal to know that a signal has been sent.”

    johnnyb was very careful to say phenomena. A signal is a phenomena. An idea is abstract. It is not a phenomena. We cant see it. No measurement of it.

  23. 23
    johnnyb says:

    jdk –

    Never saw your comments (they were posted over 5 days after everyone stopped commenting), but I just took a look. Chaos theory does sit on a fine line. First of all, however, just because scientists use X does not meant that it is methodologically naturalistic. As I said, I don’t believe it is a useful concept. Therefore, the fact that scientists do X right now doesn’t necessarily mean that it is naturalistic.

    However, in the case of chaos theory, it actually *is* calculable, just not practically so. That is, if I have all of the info for the present, and know all of the interactions, it is actually calculable. What makes it chaotic is that minor perturbations can cause massive swings. So, for instance, normally we would think about having a tiny measurement error in the setup leading to a tiny measurement differential in the result. However, for chaotic systems, tiny measurement errors in the setup can lead to massive measurement differentials in the result.

    This is not a problem of calculation, per se, but rather of measurement.

    Another group of systems (and usually these are the same systems) are those whose output cannot be generalized, but you must actually run the step-by-step calculation. For instance, I can generalize the action of gravity over a long distance, but a chaotic system, I may have to actually calculate it in plank-time increments to get a reliable calculation of the results. This is still a fixed-time, fixed-resource calculation.

    So, I don’t think chaos theory is really a counterexample.

    For some reason you thought my intuition function was discontinuous with the rest of the talk, but it actually directly arises from the halting function mentioned earlier. I probably didn’t make the connection clear, but the two are directly related.

  24. 24
    johnnyb says:

    By the way, I don’t get a notification or anything if someone comments on one of my posts, and I don’t spend as much time just hanging out on UD as I used to. However, you can send me an email anytime to jonathan@bartlettpublishing.com.

  25. 25
    Erasmus Wiffball says:

    johnnyb
    “However, in the case of chaos theory, it actually *is* calculable, just not practically so. That is, if I have all of the info for the present, and know all of the interactions, it is actually calculable.”

    What is “actually calculable” that is not “practically calculable”?

    Most numbers cannot be described. (Numbers, uncountable. Descriptions, countable.) Can you know what you cannot describe? If you cannot describe parameters and/or initial conditions, how can you calculate?

    The problem with predicting chaos is not just error in measuring initial conditions. The initial conditions may not even be describible. The true system may not even be describible.

  26. 26
    StephenB says:

    Erasmus Wiffball

    johnnyb was very careful to say phenomena. A signal is a phenomena. An idea is abstract. It is not a phenomena. We cant see it. No measurement of it.

    Context, context, context. I was responding to jdk and his restricted notions of science, not Johnnyb. When I repeat a quote, I always put a name to it.

    Meanwhile, an intelligent agent with a creative idea can be a cause and it can be detected through its phenomenal effects, which are signals. Hence, the phenomenon of a signal points to an intelligent cause with a creative message, ie. ET.

  27. 27
    Erasmus Wiffball says:

    StephenB,

    You know of “intelligence” and “creative ideas” by introspection? Any other way?

  28. 28
    StephenB says:

    EW

    You know of “intelligence” and “creative ideas” by introspection? Any other way?

    Yes, I know of intelligence and creative ideas by observing their effects.

  29. 29
    ellazimm says:

    If humans have a supernatural component (i.e., a soul), then is it problematic for biologists to not be allowed to probe the parts of human behavior dependent on it, and/or require them to give wrong explanations for behavior (i.e., use a naturalistic explanation when one is not appropriate)?

    No one is being told not to examine anything. But you have to be able to be able to create a testing environment and it helps if your results are based on firm methodology and are observer independent.

    Sadly, most explorations of the existence of human souls falls short of the scientific standard. That’s why most biologists and biological departments look askance when someone brings it up. After years and years and years of people trying to find a soul the evidence just doesn’t stack up.

    Is there a way to determine whether or not a phenomena is understandable via naturalism when it is first investigated? If not, what should a scientist do if they are investigating a cause but later discover that it is not naturalistic? Should they abandon their research? What would the appropriate move be?

    Umm . . . perhaps it would be better to give an example as I can’t think of one. If a phenomenon is repeatable and testable then we start looking for causes if one isn’t already known. No one jumps to the conclusion that it’s not naturalistic.

    Doesn’t methodological naturalism mean that scientists who are philosophically naturalistic can study more types of phenomena than those who disagree philosophically, because of the types of causes they believe responsible? Is it reasonable to exclude groups of people from scientific discussions based on whether or not they agree with philosophical naturalism?

    No one who uses good methodology is excluded. If a researcher has an agenda or exhibits a biased prior belief or uses poor technique then people are less inclined to take them seriously.

    If there is a disagreement among scientists as to whether or not a particular phenomena is naturalistic or non-naturalistic, what is the appropriate place for such scientists to have a discussion? Should the results of this discussion influence scientific practice? Should science journals heed the results of such discussions? Should science textbooks heed the results of such discussions? If not, what is the point of having such discussions at all?

    Look, either you have an explanation of the cause of a phenomenon or you don’t. You can’t just say: I think some undetected, undefined being or agent is responsible for this event. That’s not an explanation. Now if you have a known, defined, testable agent that you think is causing something then you can put that agent or cause under scrutiny.

    If a phenomena that has been studied in science journals for years is later found to be non-naturalistic (by whatever definition given), should that phenomena cease to be covered by the science journals? Should the prior papers be retracted?

    An example?

    If a phenomena is currently under discussion in a philosophy journal as to whether or not the phenomena is naturalistic, what should the status of scientific research be? Should scientists stop doing research until a result is found by the philosophy journals? Should the science journals feel bound to the decision of the philosophy journals? If so, which ones would hold the definitive answers? If not, what would the point of methodological naturalism be except to enforce philosophical naturalism?

    Sigh. No one is stopping anyone from examining whatever they want. Funding agencies and academic departments are more likely to fund work that is clearly based on a solid foundation of previous work, methodology and plausibility. Scientists never feel bound by philosophers. Philosophers have been wrong many, many times.

    The Big Bang was founded by a Priest who, in his unpublished work, said that it confirmed the Genesis account of creation. Today, many people (including some who do research on it) continue to hold to this idea, and say that the Big Bang shows that the universe has a supernatural origin. Does that mean that the Big Bang theory should be removed from science? Why or why not? How do those criteria affect other theories that involve divine origins?

    The scientific basis for the Big Bang event has nothing to do with theology so why would it be removed? Newton was a strong theist but his scientific work stands on evidence and experimentation.

    You ask some pretty odd questions.

    Experience is not the same as naturalism. We have experience of the supernatural just in talking with other people (as consciousness and creativity – two aspects of humanity – are supernatural, not natural). Thus, one could ground the supernatural in experience just like the natural. Therefore, could one not use such experience scientifically as well?

    Who says they’re supernatural? People study consciousness and creativity all the time. And they look for repeatable, testable, observer independent results. This is not that tricky.

  30. 30
    johnnyb says:

    No one is being told not to examine anything.

    Actually, they are. They are being kicked out of the academy right and left. Precisely because they were examining things that people thought that they shouldn’t.

    you have to be able to be able to create a testing environment and it helps if your results are based on firm methodology and are observer independent

    I agree generally, though there are subjects that are necessarily observer-dependent (such as psychology).

    That’s why most biologists and biological departments look askance when someone brings it up. After years and years and years of people trying to find a soul the evidence just doesn’t stack up.

    Well, then, on the question itself, we are actually agreeing. You don’t seem to be a proponent of methodological naturalism. I am not saying that everyone must agree that there is a soul. I am saying that it should not be an ironclad rule of science that it cannot, in principle, investigate it. You seem to agree with me. Thus, I would count you as a critic of MN, not a proponent of it.

    No one who uses good methodology is excluded. If a researcher has an agenda or exhibits a biased prior belief or uses poor technique then people are less inclined to take them seriously.

    If only that were true. But nonetheless, you seem to be a critic of MN, rather than a proponent of it.

    I could go on, but I think in general, you and I agree that Methodological Naturalism should not be an ironclad rule of science, which is all that I am really concerned about for this post.

    We disagree on whether or not there are any viable non-naturalistic options on the table, and about whether or not people proposing them are being kicked out of the academy for good or bad reason, but those are really topics for a different thread. We do, however, seem to be agreed that there should be no final rule that says that non-naturalistic options shouldn’t be considered within science. Thus, we are both critics of Methodological Naturalism.

  31. 31
    ellazimm says:

    Actually, they are. They are being kicked out of the academy right and left. Precisely because they were examining things that people thought that they shouldn’t.

    Like who for example? Someone with tenure?

    Well, then, on the question itself, we are actually agreeing. You don’t seem to be a proponent of methodological naturalism. I am not saying that everyone must agree that there is a soul. I am saying that it should not be an ironclad rule of science that it cannot, in principle, investigate it. You seem to agree with me. Thus, I would count you as a critic of MN, not a proponent of it.

    I’m not a critic or supporter of MN. I’m a supporter of science.

    If only that were true. But nonetheless, you seem to be a critic of MN, rather than a proponent of it.

    Maybe that’s because you’ve decided what it means.

    I could go on, but I think in general, you and I agree that Methodological Naturalism should not be an ironclad rule of science, which is all that I am really concerned about for this post.

    I don’t think we do agree actually. You are putting words in my mouth. You have an axe to grind and I am merely pointing out that doing good science requires being able to test and examine claims using rigorous and solid methodology.

    We disagree on whether or not there are any viable non-naturalistic options on the table, and about whether or not people proposing them are being kicked out of the academy for good or bad reason, but those are really topics for a different thread. We do, however, seem to be agreed that there should be no final rule that says that non-naturalistic options shouldn’t be considered within science. Thus, we are both critics of Methodological Naturalism.

    Sigh. You are missing the point. If a ‘scientist’ has a claim or question they want to examine they devise a repeatable methodology for testing that claim or question. Their procedure cannot assume that some cause is supernatural. They look for something that is predictable and repeatable. And if they don’t find that then they look harder.

    There never has been a rule that any questions or claims are off limits. What is off limits is bad methodology or making god-of-the-gaps arguments.

    I tell you what, give me an example of how you would scientifically check that some cause was supernatural as opposed to natural. Show me how you can pin down in a lab some cause that is beyond detection, definition or constraint. How can you get a supernatural cause to be repeatable?

  32. 32
    StephenB says:

    elazimm

    (Scientists) Their procedure cannot assume that some cause is supernatural.

    If you don’t mind, go ahead and articulate the ID method—step by step. Show me where it assumes that some cause is supernatural. Or is it the case that you really don’t know the ID method in spite of all your claims that it is unscientific?

    They look for something that is predictable and repeatable. And if they don’t find that then they look harder.

    Not necessarily. That is only true when studying how some feature of nature operates. It is not true when studying how some feature of nature comes to be. You appear not to understand the difference.

    There never has been a rule that any questions or claims are off limits. What is off limits is bad methodology or making god-of-the-gaps arguments.

    Methodological Naturalism is a rule that forbids a number of legitimate scientific questions even before the evidence is allowed to speak. Among other things, it rules out questions about non-materialistic causes for biodiversity. It has no historical precedent since it was conceived to protect the Neo-Darwinian paradigm from rational scrutiny. It serves no other function.

    I tell you what, give me an example of how you would scientifically check that some cause was supernatural as opposed to natural.

    It’s really quite basic. I would use a methodology which shows that natural causes are likely not the cause of an observed effect. The Lourdes Medical Commission, for example, uses such a methodology to provide evidence for miraculous cures. That same methodology can be used in various scientific contexts. If Moses came back and parted the Red Sea again, meteorologists on the scene could show that it was likely not a natural event.

    Indeed, did it ever occur to you that Big Bang Cosmology does not qualify as science by your standards? Not only is it not repeatable, it points to a supernatural Creator. Methodological Naturalism is anti-science on all counts. At the moment, science is primarily a search for natural causes; methodological naturalism is exclusively a search for natural causes. That is a big difference. However, even those priorities could change with new evidence. Our task is to get nature to reveal her secrets. It is not to instruct her on which ones she should reveal and which ones she should keep to herself.

  33. 33
    Erasmus Wiffball says:

    johnnyb
    “Actually, they are. They are being kicked out of the academy right and left. Precisely because they were examining things that people thought that they shouldn’t.”

    Yes. Expelled stunned me so hard. But I think hardly no one got expelled in America for working on religious beliefs. Because they can sue for getting fired. They got expelled for saying work on religious beliefs wasn’t religious. I never heard of creation scientists getting expelled. Except the ones who talk about intelligent design, not creation science.

    I talk about souls when talking about intelligences. I think you do too. It is American of course. More than 50 percent know they have souls. Even Muslims. Muslim science is the same as American science. (But not because Allah of Mohamed is the same as Elah of Jesus.) Burma science would be different. (I never heard of science in Burma.) Because Buddha did not believe in souls. (He was not consistent. Reincarnation can’t work if everything alive doesn’t have souls. Even a bacteria.)

    WE NEED A DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE FOR AMERICAN SCIENCE!!! Declare independence of the US from the UN.

    We need to stop judges from antireligious discrimination. (Maybe using 2nd amendment. We are in a war and about to loose big time. Time to get real. Time for “The gloves are coming off.” (Wish we had the Dick instead of the Donald.) We tried to use words. They did not work. Atheists are more and more in control of America. Not just through the UN. We have many enemies at home.) American scientists should say “I do the American kind of science, not the Burma kind of science.” More than 50% of Americans know their souls give them free will, to create information (think of creative ideas). That’s why Silicon Valley is in the US not Burma. All the creative ideas in Silicon Valley come from scientists that know intelligent design is true. More than 50% of research money should go to scientists who promise to do American Science. Then the academy would hire not fire scientists who know creative ideas come from souls. This is a unusual case where federal government can solve our problem. But it won’t if Hillary wins. Only Trump will replace anti religious judges with pro religious judges. “Value voters” need to get real. It’s about control, not values. Take control of America from atheists. Give it back to God. Hold your nose and vote.

  34. 34
    Erasmus Wiffball says:

    “StephenB
    I would use a methodology which shows that natural causes are likely not the cause of an observed effect. The Lourdes Medical Commission, for example, uses such a methodology to provide evidence for miraculous cures. That same methodology can be used in various scientific contexts.”

    It is not just similar. It is the same. Information is real. You can put it on a floppy disk. Human souls create information from nothing. IT IS A MIRACLE. It is a miracle just like creating matter from nothing. Information is real just like matter. Creating real things from nothing is a miracle. Humans can do some miracles because God created us in His Image.

  35. 35
    Erasmus Wiffball says:

    johnnyb,
    “there are subjects that are necessarily observer-dependent (such as psychology).”

    I never heard of that in psychology. I mean modern psychology. Psychologists used to use introspection. Then psychologists banned it. I think introspection is the only way to know of intelligence and free will and creative ideas. Now psychologists say intelligence is a construct, not something real. Because you can’t cut open a brain and see intelligence. It is not a phenomena. So they say it doesn’t really cause phenomenas. They say it must be defined operationally. Like the score you make on the SAT.

  36. 36
    Erasmus Wiffball says:

    I looked it up. Intelligence is a “hypothetical construct.”

    I am not sure it’s good to talk about intelligence. We have a perfect word. SOUL!!!

    The problem is not our talk about souls. It is judges that don’t let us talk about the truth if it is religious. If we talk about intelligences instead of souls, it’s like surrender. It’s like saying the judge is right. But the soul is the truth. More than 50% of Americans know it is the truth.

  37. 37
    johnnyb says:

    Eliza –

    Sigh. You are missing the point.

    Actually, I think you are, because I basically agree with 99% of what you are saying. MN says that, a priori, science cannot consider anything supernatural. Do you agree or disagree with this?

    If a ‘scientist’ has a claim or question they want to examine they devise a repeatable methodology for testing that claim or question.

    I agree 100%.

    Their procedure cannot assume that some cause is supernatural. They look for something that is predictable and repeatable. And if they don’t find that then they look harder.

    I also agree 100%.

    There never has been a rule that any questions or claims are off limits. What is off limits is bad methodology or making god-of-the-gaps arguments.

    Still agreeing 100% (however, actual God-of-the-gaps arguments are actually very rare, claims of such are usually just name-calling, not actual descriptions of the arguments).

    I tell you what, give me an example of how you would scientifically check that some cause was supernatural as opposed to natural.

    If you read my questions carefully, you would see that I am making exactly the same point! If there isn’t an objective demarcation, then how on earth can one say that MN is part of science.

    Show me how you can pin down in a lab some cause that is beyond detection, definition or constraint. How can you get a supernatural cause to be repeatable?

    Here is the part where I disagree with you. You suddenly took up a definition of “supernatural” which no supernaturalist I know of holds. You say that it is “beyond detection, definition or constraint”. Where did you get such a definition of supernatural? I certainly don’t hold to it. You also seem to think that supernatural things are non-repeatable. Why? Some supernatural things may be non-repeatable, but I hardly think that this is the definition. However, non-repeatability does not necessarily rule something out of the realm of science, as random sequences are also non-repeatable, yet nonetheless scientists claim that they have detected such sequences at the quantum level.

    The one defensible demarcation for natural/non-natural that I can think of is computability. This is the demarcation I use because it is clear and objective. However, being incomputable does not mean that it is not prone to scientific inquiry (again, see the randomness example).

    You should check out the AM-Nat videos. You might find at least some of them interesting.

  38. 38
    Erasmus Wiffball says:

    johnnyb,
    “MN says that, a priori, science cannot consider anything supernatural.”

    MN says, “Sire, I have no need for that hypothesis.”

    In secular science, there is no right to a hypothesis. You have to show a need for it. Scientists showed many times that a religious/superstitious hypothesis was not necessary. Now they say, “Never stop trying to show it is not necessary.” How do you convince them to stop? How do you convince them that a cause is invisible, not a phenomena they might see some day?

    But you have a constitutional right to do religious science. Science where the supernatural is a known fact not a hypothesis. Which more than 50% of Americans know is true. Tax money should go to religious scientists who know what tax payers know. Not just to secular scientists who refuse to know.

  39. 39
    ellazimm says:

    If you don’t mind, go ahead and articulate the ID method—step by step. Show me where it assumes that some cause is supernatural. Or is it the case that you really don’t know the ID method in spite of all your claims that it is unscientific?

    It’s not my position to present or defend the ID position. It is up to the ID proponents to prove their case based on methodology and data. And if their arguments isn’t accepted then I would say their argument isn’t strong enough.

    Not necessarily. That is only true when studying how some feature of nature operates. It is not true when studying how some feature of nature comes to be. You appear not to understand the difference.

    Give me an example.

    Methodological Naturalism is a rule that forbids a number of legitimate scientific questions even before the evidence is allowed to speak. Among other things, it rules out questions about non-materialistic causes for biodiversity. It has no historical precedent since it was conceived to protect the Neo-Darwinian paradigm from rational scrutiny. It serves no other function.

    Show me a documented example of when that has happened.

    t’s really quite basic. I would use a methodology which shows that natural causes are likely not the cause of an observed effect. The Lourdes Medical Commission, for example,

    Are you saying they are proving a negative?

    That same methodology can be used in various scientific contexts. If Moses came back and parted the Red Sea again, meteorologists on the scene could show that it was likely not a natural event.

    Well, if that happened I’d be glad to offer my opinion.

    Indeed, did it ever occur to you that Big Bang Cosmology does not qualify as science by your standards? Not only is it not repeatable, it points to a supernatural Creator.

    Except that parts of the Big Bang Theory imply other events and things which can be detected. If the universe came about because of some kind of divine intervention then what events or results would you predict as being required because of that cause?

    Methodological Naturalism is anti-science on all counts. At the moment, science is primarily a search for natural causes; methodological naturalism is exclusively a search for natural causes. That is a big difference. However, even those priorities could change with new evidence. Our task is to get nature to reveal her secrets. It is not to instruct her on which ones she should reveal and which ones she should keep to herself.

    I guess you’re not paying attention. I clearly stated that I am no defending or attacking methodological naturalism.

    Actually, I think you are, because I basically agree with 99% of what you are saying. MN says that, a priori, science cannot consider anything supernatural. Do you agree or disagree with this?

    I al ready answered that I think.

    Still agreeing 100% (however, actual God-of-the-gaps arguments are actually very rare, claims of such are usually just name-calling, not actual descriptions of the arguments).

    They are actually very common amongst many who have already decided what kind of answer they will accept.

    If you read my questions carefully, you would see that I am making exactly the same point! If there isn’t an objective demarcation, then how on earth can one say that MN is part of science.

    So you dodged the question: can you provide an example of how you would verify a cause to be supernatural. Can you do so, yes or no?

    Here is the part where I disagree with you. You suddenly took up a definition of “supernatural” which no supernaturalist I know of holds. You say that it is “beyond detection, definition or constraint”. Where did you get such a definition of supernatural? I certainly don’t hold to it. You also seem to think that supernatural things are non-repeatable. Why? Some supernatural things may be non-repeatable, but I hardly think that this is the definition.

    Fine, then you define what you mean by supernatural. Be specific. Be clear.

    However, non-repeatability does not necessarily rule something out of the realm of science, as random sequences are also non-repeatable, yet nonetheless scientists claim that they have detected such sequences at the quantum level.

    🙂 You clearly don’t really understand the mathematics behind the arguments. Theres’ no shame in that, most people don’t get it. But you shouldn’t pretend to have a point when the math is beyond you.

  40. 40
    johnnyb says:

    You clearly don’t really understand the mathematics behind the arguments.

    Actually, I do. But I’m not sure how that affects anything. Are the random sequence repeatable or not? If they are not, then that falls outside your definition.

    So you dodged the question: can you provide an example of how you would verify a cause to be supernatural. Can you do so, yes or no?

    I’m ambivalent on this. I’m fine with saying no. If the answer is no, then what use is Methodological Naturalism? Now, I also have a yes – computable results are naturalistic, non-computable results are non-naturalistic.

    Fine, then you define what you mean by supernatural. Be specific. Be clear.

    What wasn’t clear about the computability / incomputability divide? But, as I said, if the answer is that there is no good separation, then what does MN give us?

  41. 41
    Erasmus Wiffball says:

    johnnyb,

    You should google methodological naturalism. Then read what people outside your group said about it for many years. Going back to the middle ages actually (the concept, not the term MN). There is a whole lot to read. Your questions, I mean the way you word them, ARE misunderstandings. They are loaded. They will not help you understand. You need to find out how others say what they say. Work hard at it, to understand THEIR position. THEN ask THEM questions. (Not your own group.) THEN criticize. Its a oneway street. I think you started at the wrong end.

    Someone who puts on “alternatives to methodologiacl naturalism” conferences should do a lit review on methodological naturalism. Like a lit review in a PhD dissertation. I do not think you did anything like that.

    Better idea. Do a review of MN, middle ages to present. Publish it at a secular philosophy conference. Not your own conference. So you make sure you understand what you oppose. So people not in your group say “yeah, you understand us.” You do not understand them yet. If you rehearse your misunderstanding, it will turn into a habit. A bad habit, hard to break.

  42. 42
    Erasmus Wiffball says:

    johnnyb,
    “The one defensible demarcation for natural/non-natural that I can think of is computability. This is the demarcation I use because it is clear and objective. However, being incomputable does not mean that it is not prone to scientific inquiry (again, see the randomness example).”

    At risk seeming I gang with ellazimm… You understand something very very badly. Maybe not the math. Maybe you don’t know basic features of physics. Physicists say some aspects of nature is really continuous. Did you think QM says it isnt’t? You know there are uncountably many numbers in a continuum. I hope. You know there are only countably many computable numbers. I hope. Physics doesn’t limit nature to what is computable. Did you think that physics is supernaturalism? Seems you don’t.

    I looked over your videos. Did not watch them all. You’re not the only one thinking incomputable means supernatural. It’s like you guys are assuring each other that you’re right. Does nobody in your conferences tell you that you’re wrong? Am I wasting my breath? Are you open to hear that your conference (so important to you) leads people to believe something totally wrong?

  43. 43
    Erasmus Wiffball says:

    johnnyb,

    Simpler questions. More fundamental questions. Do you think you can tell naturalists what the “really” mean? Do you think naturalism requires a computable universe? But the naturalists just don’t think clear enough to know it?

    I never saw a naturalist say the universe MUST be computable. I saw physicists say it MIGHT be. Maybe you misunderstood MIGHT as MUST?

    Why do you think naturalists think incomputable means supernatural? I really want to know. Please answer this question. Even if you ignore the rest.

  44. 44
    StephenB says:

    ellazimm

    It’s not my position to present or defend the ID position.

    I am not asking you to defend ID. I am asking you to defend the implication that ID methodology assumes a supernatural cause. If that is not what you meant, then your comment makes no sense.

    Give me an example. (of two scientific categories)

    [a] An example of studying how a feature of nature operates would be chemical bonding. [b] An example of studying how a feature of nature comes to be would be the origin of life. Science can study either category.
    You had claimed that scientists “look for something that is predictable and repeatable.” I was simply refuting that claim by indicating that science also studies things that are not predictable and repeatable.

    Show me a documented example of when that has happened.

    I wasn’t reporting on events. I was explaining the definition of MN, which is an arbitrary rule that requires a scientist to “study nature as if nature is all there is” Accordingly, it rules out all non-material causes for biodiversity. To be more precise, it rules out all the evidence for design, however compelling that evidence might be. In other words, it isn’t real science. Real science doesn’t rule out evidence for anything.

    Meanwhile, ID’s critics simply claim that ID doesn’t use the scientific method without knowing ID’s methods or without defining the scientific method. You appear to do the same thing. At the same time, you know nothing about ID’s methods. Do you think this is rational?

    SB: It’s really quite basic. I would use a methodology which shows that natural causes are likely not the cause of an observed effect. The Lourdes Medical Commission, for example,

    Are you saying they are proving a negative?

    No. I am simply answering your question about a methodology for approaching supernatural causes. This would be an example of an inference to the best explanation. Do you deny that the 20 medical scientists who serve on that board are really scientists or that they are doing science when they assert that a medical healing was likely not the result of natural causes? If natural causes are ruled out, isn’t it reasonable to affirm a supernatural cause?

    SB: That same methodology can be used in various scientific contexts. If Moses came back and parted the Red Sea again, meteorologists on the scene could show that it was likely not a natural event.

    Well, if that happened I’d be glad to offer my opinion.

    By all means, do so. How would you explain a large body of water suddenly dividing into two mile long walls of water separated by a piece of dry land, parting at the exact moment Moses raises his arms, staying in place long enough to save the Israelites, and the suddenly crashing back to a single body of water the moment the prophet drops his arms, just in time to kill all the Egyptians.

    I guess you’re not paying attention. I clearly stated that I am no defending or attacking methodological naturalism.

    Yes, I was wondering about that. You remain vague at the very times when taking a position would be most helpful. Many of your arguments and questions appear to be grounded in MN, yet you refuse to make your position explicit. Is it because you support MN but cannot defend it? It appears so.

  45. 45
    johnnyb says:

    Erasmus –

    Did you think that physics is supernaturalism? Seems you don’t.

    Based on what? I have always been open to the idea that aspects of physics are non-materialistic. In fact, many physicists think so. What have I said that leads you to the conclusion that physics can’t include the supernatural?

    Do you think naturalism requires a computable universe? But the naturalists just don’t think clear enough to know it?

    What I have said is this – the only demarcation criteria that anyone has come up with that (a) has adherents on both sides, and (b) can be rationally evaluated is computability. Interestingly, it was developed by those on the materialist side (it has a long history going back at least to Hilbert, but more modern proponents include Stephen Wolfram and Iris von Rooij). You don’t have to agree with the definition, but if you disagree with the definition *and* you hold to methodological naturalism, you have to come up with *some* concrete definition of methodological naturalism. Right now, definitions of naturalism are all over the map, with some esteemed philosophers of science saying that angels should be considered naturalistic! If someone is going to say that methodological naturalism should be the rule, then they have to develop an appropriate, concrete boundary that can be both identified and defended as appropriate. Despite asking for an alternative, nothing reasonable has been presented.

    I never saw a naturalist say the universe MUST be computable. I saw physicists say it MIGHT be. Maybe you misunderstood MIGHT as MUST?

    Then you have been sleeping.

    Why do you think naturalists think incomputable means supernatural? I really want to know. Please answer this question. Even if you ignore the rest.

    Computability is based on finite, discrete logic. Thus, the logical power required to go from state A to state B is finite. Incomputable functions require greater logical power that is not based on simple, localized rules. Thus, the parts of reality that operate in this way (however few or many pieces that may be) should not be considered materialistic, as their operation is based on a more expansive logic.

    For instance, let’s say that being X can operate as a Turing oracle for the Halting function. That means that X is causally aligned, not to localized, finite causes, but to the logical structure of the halting function.

    As I have pointed out in my presentation, every other definition of materialism has been shoved by the wayside. So, if you are a materialist, and you think that has a real, defensible meaning, by all means share with us what you mean by it.

    Perhaps what you mean by material the rest of us include in what we consider supernatural. That is the case with, for instance, Holverson who includes angels in his definition of materialism. But if “methodological naturalism” is a rule in science, then we should all at least be granted to know what the word actually means and how that plays out in real life.

  46. 46
    Seversky says:

    Here are the questions:

    In methodological naturalism, what exactly is meant by naturalism? How does one determine if a proposed cause is “naturalistic” or not? Some people say, “unobservable,” but if that means it can’t be physically seen it is no different than other parts of physics and chemistry. If that means that it has no effects in the current world, then that is a definition that no supernaturalist would agree with (I certainly think the human soul exhibits effects – i.e., humans would be different without a soul). Other people have tried “testability,” but that is merely the flip side of “observable”. Therefore, what would really count as a demarcation between a proposed cause as being “naturalistic” vs. “non-naturalistic”? If a set of criteria cannot be deduced, then wouldn’t that make “methodological naturalism” equivalent to “special pleading against explanations I don’t like”?

    If you are saying that a common problem for all discussions about “naturalism” and, by extension, “methodological naturalism” lies in the lack of accepted operational definitions then I would agree. I think many of us are familiar with the opening paragraphs of the entry on “naturalism” in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

    The term “naturalism” has no very precise meaning in contemporary philosophy. Its current usage derives from debates in America in the first half of the last century. The self-proclaimed “naturalists” from that period included John Dewey, Ernest Nagel, Sidney Hook and Roy Wood Sellars. These philosophers aimed to ally philosophy more closely with science. They urged that reality is exhausted by nature, containing nothing “supernatural”, and that the scientific method should be used to investigate all areas of reality, including the “human spirit” (Krikorian 1944; Kim 2003).

    So understood, “naturalism” is not a particularly informative term as applied to contemporary philosophers. The great majority of contemporary philosophers would happily accept naturalism as just characterized—that is, they would both reject “supernatural” entities, and allow that science is a possible route (if not necessarily the only one) to important truths about the “human spirit”

    If you say that science is limited to the investigation of those phenomena that can be observed, however indirectly, or which can be inferred from such observation then I would agree. I would then ask, in what way is that a limitation? What else is there? Isn’t the “supernatural” an empty set?

    Ghosts, for example, are popularly thought to be a supernatural phenomenon. But if such entities exist in objective reality, if they have a nature which can be observed and described, however elusive they might be, then how are they not a natural phenomenon? The same would also be true of any putative deity.

    On the other hand, if you assume that the set of supernatural phenomena includes those that are forever inaccessible to scientific investigation, such that we cannot know if they even exist, then how does that provide any explanatory purchase in the natural world? Take, for example, the case of epileptic seizures. Two explanations are proposed. The first argues that they are the effect of misfiring brain cells, the second claims that they are a sign of demonic possession. In the first case, we can observe the physical brain and the neurons of which it is partially composed and look for any abnormal activity that might be associated with the seizures. In the second case, if we cannot have any knowledge of the existence of demons, of their nature, of how they might “possess” a human being and influence their behavior then of what possible use is it as an explanation, let alone a scientific explanation?

    Many of the things that were essential to naturalism in the 1600s were overturned by Newton, and many of the things that were essential to naturalism in the 1800s were overturned by Quantum Mechanics. If naturalism is such a fuzzy concept as to be continually overturned by new physics, why is it important?

    Can you think of a better way to investigate the natural world?

    If humans have a supernatural component (i.e., a soul), then is it problematic for biologists to not be allowed to probe the parts of human behavior dependent on it, and/or require them to give wrong explanations for behavior (i.e., use a naturalistic explanation when one is not appropriate)?

    Show science evidence of a “supernatural component” and it will investigate. Of course, if this “supernatural component” has observable properties which are susceptible to investigation then how is it not natural?

    Is there a way to determine whether or not a phenomena is understandable via naturalism when it is first investigated? If not, what should a scientist do if they are investigating a cause but later discover that it is not naturalistic? Should they abandon their research? What would the appropriate move be?

    If a phenomenon is observable as such, however indirectly, if it therefore has distinctive properties and attributes then it is a natural phenomenon. Now describe a phenomenon that cannot be observed, however indirectly, and has no distinctive properties and you may have your supernatural. Next, tell us of what use such concepts are.

    Doesn’t methodological naturalism mean that scientists who are philosophically naturalistic can study more types of phenomena than those who disagree philosophically, because of the types of causes they believe responsible? Is it reasonable to exclude groups of people from scientific discussions based on whether or not they agree with philosophical naturalism?

    Who’s being excluded? You can talk about them all you want. But the reality is that scientists are busy people. They have a hard enough time developing and testing their own theories. Why should they waste that time on ideas that have no obvious merit and whose supporters are unable to show any?

    If there is a disagreement among scientists as to whether or not a particular phenomena is naturalistic or non-naturalistic, what is the appropriate place for such scientists to have a discussion? Should the results of this discussion influence scientific practice? Should science journals heed the results of such discussions? Should science textbooks heed the results of such discussions? If not, what is the point of having such discussions at all?

    Should science textbooks be discussing The Force from Star Wars or “sub-space” from Star Trek?

    If two scientists (A and B) agree that phenomena X with description Y are the cause of an event, but A believes that the phenomena is non-naturalistic, and B believes that the phenomena is naturalistic, does that mean that scientist B can investigate it but scientist A cannot?

    No, but we’d all like to know what a non-naturalistic phenomenon is and scientist A had better have a good operational definition of it and a description of how he or she proposes to investigate it. BTW, just in passing, “phenomena” is the plural, “phenomenon” is the singular.

    If a phenomena that has been studied in science journals for years is later found to be non-naturalistic (by whatever definition given), should that phenomena cease to be covered by the science journals? Should the prior papers be retracted?

    No, why should they?

    If a phenomena is currently under discussion in a philosophy journal as to whether or not the phenomena is naturalistic, what should the status of scientific research be? Should scientists stop doing research until a result is found by the philosophy journals? Should the science journals feel bound to the decision of the philosophy journals? If so, which ones would hold the definitive answers? If not, what would the point of methodological naturalism be except to enforce philosophical naturalism?

    You do understand this is all moot until we can agree on what we mean by “supernatural” and what sort of evidence we would expect to see if it existed at all?

    The Big Bang was founded by a Priest who, in his unpublished work, said that it confirmed the Genesis account of creation. Today, many people (including some who do research on it) continue to hold to this idea, and say that the Big Bang shows that the universe has a supernatural origin. Does that mean that the Big Bang theory should be removed from science? Why or why not? How do those criteria affect other theories that involve divine origins?

    The Big Bang theory does not offer a reason why it went “bang” in the first place, supernatural or otherwise. It’s unknown. If you want to limit the supernatural to anything which is currently unknown – although not necessarily unknowable – then it’s as good a definition as any other.

    Why are the sciences the only area where crossover knowledge is not important?

    Why would you think “crossover knowledge” is not valuable to science?

  47. 47
    ellazimm says:

    Actually, I do. But I’m not sure how that affects anything. Are the random sequence repeatable or not? If they are not, then that falls outside your definition.

    Sigh. You will predictably get random sequences. If the particular sequences were predictable then they wouldn’t be random. But there is an overall statistically defined pattern.

    I’m ambivalent on this. I’m fine with saying no. If the answer is no, then what use is Methodological Naturalism? Now, I also have a yes – computable results are naturalistic, non-computable results are non-naturalistic.

    I told you: I’m not defending or attacking methodological naturalism. Give me an example of a non-computable result that you consider non-naturalistic. So I’m sure what kind of thing you are talking about.

    What wasn’t clear about the computability / incomputability divide? But, as I said, if the answer is that there is no good separation, then what does MN give us?

    Give me some examples so I know what you’re thinking.

    I am not asking you to defend ID. I am asking you to defend the implication that ID methodology assumes a supernatural cause. If that is not what you meant, then your comment makes no sense.

    I was not discussing ID. If you’re reading into my comments then that’s your interpretation.

    [a] An example of studying how a feature of nature operates would be chemical bonding. [b] An example of studying how a feature of nature comes to be would be the origin of life. Science can study either category.
    You had claimed that scientists “look for something that is predictable and repeatable.” I was simply refuting that claim by indicating that science also studies things that are not predictable and repeatable.

    Science can study aspects of a model of the origin of life. If a certain process was surmised to have occurred then the conditions under which it would reliably occur can be studied and tested. Evidence of past occurrences can also be discovered.

    Meanwhile, ID’s critics simply claim that ID doesn’t use the scientific method without knowing ID’s methods or without defining the scientific method. You appear to do the same thing. At the same time, you know nothing about ID’s methods. Do you think this is rational?

    I’m not attempted to defend or attack ID or its methodology.

    No. I am simply answering your question about a methodology for approaching supernatural causes. This would be an example of an inference to the best explanation. Do you deny that the 20 medical scientists who serve on that board are really scientists or that they are doing science when they assert that a medical healing was likely not the result of natural causes? If natural causes are ruled out, isn’t it reasonable to affirm a supernatural cause?

    Logically, how can you say that something didn’t happen? How can you absolutely claim that natural causes could not possibly be responsible? “Likely” is not the same as “Definite”. And I would say that it makes more sense to say: we don’t know rather than to say that some undefined, undetected and untested agent was responsible.

    By all means, do so. How would you explain a large body of water suddenly dividing into two mile long walls of water separated by a piece of dry land, parting at the exact moment Moses raises his arms, staying in place long enough to save the Israelites, and the suddenly crashing back to a single body of water the moment the prophet drops his arms, just in time to kill all the Egyptians.

    I don’t feel the need to explain myths and legends. If such a thing occurs again and is irrefutably documented then we can talk.

    Yes, I was wondering about that. You remain vague at the very times when taking a position would be most helpful. Many of your arguments and questions appear to be grounded in MN, yet you refuse to make your position explicit. Is it because you support MN but cannot defend it? It appears so.

    Most helpful to whom? To those who want to label everyone as materialist or non-materialist?

  48. 48
    gpuccio says:

    johnnyb:

    I think I agree with your points, but I will try to just summarize briefly my views, that I have expressed many times.

    1) “Nature”, “natural” and “naturalism” have no real meaning. They are ambiguous concepts. “Reality” and “realism” are simple and reliable concepts.

    2) The purpose of science is to investigate what is real, not what is “natural”.

    3) The definition of “nature” which is implicit in most cases where “methodological naturalism” is invoked is:

    “anything that can be explained by essentially sticking to my current understanding of what is real”

    IOWs, methodological naturalism is simply used as a cognitive bias to exclude explanations that would require some basic remodeling of the current configuration of scientific thought. IOWs, the ambiguous concept of “methodological naturalism” is simply a science stopper.

    4) There is, however, a good epistemological principle that should be applied to science, but it has nothing to do with “methodological naturalism”, and it is the following:

    5) While the purpose of science is to investigate what is real, there are epistemological constraints that can be applied to science versus other forms of cognition, like philosophy and religion. While I don’t believe in the existence of a final “scientific method”, I do believe that science can be broadly conceived as an investigation of reality based on the observation of facts and on reasonable inferences to the best explanation from those observed facts.

    6) Another important point is that both the observed facts and the related inferences should be vastly shareable. The inferences, however, need not be accepted by all, indeed as a rule they will not.

    7) Therefore, the simple constraint that must be put on science is: if you do science, you must not use your personal worldviews to support your science. IOWs, scientists are “peers”, whatever their worldview, and the only confrontation in science must be based on facts and reasonable inferences, not on worldviews.

    8) Therefore, philosophy, religion and methodological naturalism (which is simply a philosophical worldview, and a very bad one indeed!) have no role in scientific discussion. Of course, philosophies can influence scientific thought, and vice versa, but the important point is that scientific thought, however inspired or influenced by personal worldviews (which will always happen, because the basic cognitive bias cannot be eradicated from human activities), must be developed and shared only by reference to observed facts and reasonable inferences derived from those facts.

  49. 49
    johnnyb says:

    Eliza –

    For an example, see my paper Using Turing Oracles in Cognitive Models of Problem-Solving.

    Gpuccio –

    I mostly agree, except for #7. The fact is that you actually can’t get away from your worldview altogether. What to do about this is a difficult question. My choice would be to allow multiple worldview viewpoints, knowing that the fewest assumptions you bring with you will generate the widest sharability of your ideas. If your endeavor leaves the world of observation and only lives in the world of worldviews, then you should consider yourself a philosopher instead of a scientist, but there is not a strong distinct line, just a fuzzy area to pass through.

  50. 50
    gpuccio says:

    johnnyb:

    “I mostly agree, except for #7.”

    I think we probably agree on that point too.

    Indeed, if you look at point #8, I say:

    “scientific thought, however inspired or influenced by personal worldviews (which will always happen, because the basic cognitive bias cannot be eradicated from human activities), must be developed and shared only by reference to observed facts and reasonable inferences derived from those facts”

    It seems that it is not so different from what you say:

    “The fact is that you actually can’t get away from your worldview altogether. ”

    I think that the “basic cognitive bias” derives from the simple fact that we believe what we believe, and it’s impossible, for anyone, not to be influenced by what one believes.

    That’s why I say:

    “if you do science, you must not use your personal worldviews to support your science.”

    And not:

    “if you do science, you must not use your personal worldviews to inspire your science.”

    Even science has an important component that, IMO, cannot be shared, because it is personal and intuitive. I suppose that I am, on that respect, a Polanyiite. 🙂

    Our personal worldview will always inspire and motivate our scientific reasoning. My point is that, while retaining that inspiration and motivation, we must support it with scientific reasoning: good inferences from observed facts, and we must try to do that honestly, with a conscious effort to compensate for our original bias to our personal worldview. I am convinced that that can be done, to a satisfying degree, if one remains honest and motivated by a deep desire for truth.

    And, of course, we have to “allow multiple worldview viewpoints”! That is possible only if we respect those worldviews even if we don’t agree with them, and if the confrontation takes place, honestly, at the level of what can be share even between people with different worldviews: observed facts and reasonable inferences derived from them.

    And I absolutely agree that “there is not a strong distinct line, just a fuzzy area to pass through”. 🙂

    By the way, my sincere compliments for your paper quoted in #49: it is really interesting, even if certainly very technical for my poor understanding. I will try to read it in depth, and maybe ask you something about it.

  51. 51
    StephenB says:

    SB: That same methodology (for approaching miracles) can be used in various scientific contexts. If Moses came back and parted the Red Sea again, meteorologists on the scene could show that it was likely not a natural event.

    ellizamm

    Well, if that happened I’d be glad to offer my opinion.

    SB: By all means, do so. How would you explain a large body of water suddenly dividing into two mile long walls of water separated by a piece of dry land, parting at the exact moment Moses raises his arms, staying in place long enough to save the Israelites, and the suddenly crashing back to a single body of water the moment the prophet drops his arms, just in time to kill all the Egyptians.

    I don’t feel the need to explain myths and legends. If such a thing occurs again and is irrefutably documented then we can talk.

    You seem to have forgotten your own earlier statement. Would you care to read it again? “Well, if that happened I’d be glad to offer my opinion.” Now you have changed you tune by saying that it simply can’t happen and you refuse to comment on or even consider the hypothetical example. Did you think I would not call your bluff?

    It appears that your mind is closed to the possibility of miracles and you would not open your mind even in the teeth of scientific evidence. Since you will not answer my question, I will answer it for you: If a group of meteorologists witnessed Moses parting the waters at will, they would, by virtue of their specialized scientific knowledge, rule out nature as the likely cause and characterize the event as a probable miracle.

    Science can study aspects of a model of the origin of life. If a certain process was surmised to have occurred then the conditions under which it would reliably occur can be studied and tested. Evidence of past occurrences can also be discovered.

    Again, you are missing the point. Science studies not only the means by which certain features in nature operate (the process) it also studies the means by which certain features in nature come to exist. I put the relevant terms in italics so that you would not evade the issue, which you decided to do anyway. In other words, your claim that science studies only repeatable events is false. Science also studies non-repeatable events such as the origin of life and the origin of the universe.

    SB: You remain vague at the very times when taking a position would be most helpful. Many of your arguments and questions appear to be grounded in MN, yet you refuse to make your position explicit. Is it because you support MN but cannot defend it? It appears so.

    Most helpful to whom? To those who want to label everyone as materialist or non-materialist?

    Most helpful to those who wonder why you continue to evade questions similar to the one I just asked.

    Logically, how can you say that something didn’t happen (natural cure)? How can you absolutely claim that natural causes could not possibly be responsible?

    You didn’t answer my question? Do you think the scientists at the Lourdes Commission are scientists doing real science with real evidence?

    Meanwhile, you have changed the subject to logical certainty, which no one has proposed. In other words, you avoided answering my question and substituted a strawman argument.

    Even so, I will answer your question: You can’t logically say that a natural cure didn’t happen with apodictic certainty. Nothing in science is certain. What you can say is that a cure is medically inexplicable and that there is no known natural explanation. It takes a scientist to make that determination.

    Thus, for any non-biased person, it is reasonable to accept an alternative conclusion: A miraculous cure seems more likely than a natural cure if 20 scientists conclude, as a single body of investigators, that there is no known natural cure after having considered literally millions of combinations and permutations as natural possibilities. It is not up to the scientist to say that a cure was miraculous. It is his task to show that nature cannot explain it.

  52. 52
    kairosfocus says:

    JB & GP,

    Serious thoughts.

    My frame of thought is shaped in part by Plato’s remark on the order of nature. And, the order of art.

    So, I first think the distinction natural vs supernatural is irrelevant. The relevant contrast is what is ART-ificial vs what is natural in the sense of credibly coming from blind chance an/or mechanical necessity acting on initial conditions and boundary circumstances. This leads to empirically credible, reliable signs of design that are observable, testable and repeatable. This of course includes digital codes and functionally specific complex functional organisation with implicit information content.

    Such FSCO/I is not credibly computable per a random walk search in the relevant config space from arbitrary start point. Because search resources are swamped by the scope of configs for 500 – 1000+ bits of descriptive or coded info. (And setting up next to an isolated island of function leads to exponentially harder searches for golden searches.)

    However, we have entities that are credibly non algorithmic, free and creative, who routinely produce such entities, including of course programs.

    The real problem is that of research paradigms and their protected cores.

    As I recently argued here at UD:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....s-evo-mat/

    The next “logical” question is how inductive reasoning (modern sense) applies to scientific theories and — HT Lakatos and Kuhn, Feyerabend and Putnam — research programmes.

    First, we need to examine the structure of scientific predictions, where:

    we have theory T + auxiliary hypotheses (and “calibration”) about observation and required instruments etc AI + auxiliary statements framing and modelling initial, intervening and boundary conditions [in a world model], AM, to yield predicted or explained observations, P/E:

    T + AI + AM –> P/E

    We compare observations, O (with AI again acting), to yield explanatory gap, G:

    P/E – (O + AI) –> G = g

    In an ideally successful or “progressive” theory or paradigm, G will be 0 [zero], but in almost all cases there will be anomalies; scientific theories generally live with an explanatory/predictive deficit, g for convenience. This gives meat to the bones of Lakatos’ pithy observation that theories are born, live and die refuted.

    However, when a new theory better explains persistent anomalies and has some significant success with otherwise unexplained phenomena, and this occurs for some time, this allows its champions to advance. {Let us insert an infographic:}

    sci_abduction

    We then see dominant and perhaps minor schools of thought, with research programmes that coalesce about the key successes. Where also scope of explanation counts, i.e. a theory T1 may have wider scope of generally regarded success, but has its deficit g1 greater than g2, that of a theory T2 of narrower scope.

    Where investigatory methods are more linked by family resemblance than by any global, one size fits all and only Science method.

    This picture instantly means that Popper’s criterion of falsification is very hard to test, as, first, observations are themselves coloured by instrumental issues (including eyeball, mark 1 etc). Second, key theoretical claims of a given theory Tk, are usually not directly predictive/ explanatory of observations, they are associated with a world state model AMk, that is generally far less tightly held than Tk. In Lakatos’ terms, we have an armour-belt that protects the core theory.

    The problem of persistent explanatory deficits leads to a problem that imposing methodological naturalism and the like locks out a realistic chance of a degenerative research programme being abandoned.

    Once it has enough institutional clout to impose such a rule. Where, Meyer in Darwin’s Doubt as adjusted summarises:

    scientists should accept as a working assumption that all features of the natural world can [in the end] be explained by material causes without recourse to purposive intelligence, mind, or conscious agency [–> typically equated to “the supernatural”]. (p. 19)

    Instead, we must understand science in terms of seeking to discover the empirically grounded truth about our world, through an open ended process.

    KF

  53. 53
    StephenB says:

    ID proponent meets the Methodological Naturalist:

    ID: According to the scientific evidence, the DNA molecule was designed.

    MN: Your evidence is inadmissible.

    ID: Why?

    MN: The scientist must study nature as if nature is all there is.

    ID: When did you come up with that one?

    MN: Right after we proposed our “nature-only” paradigm.

    ID: Isn’t that a little self-serving?

    MN: It works for me.

    ID: What do you mean by “nature?”

    MN: I don’t know.

    ID: But it’s your rule. Don’t you know what you mean by your own rule?

    MN: I don’t need to know what it means. I only know that you must follow it.

    You’ve got to love it.

  54. 54
  55. 55
    Axel says:

    Please, folks. I know sweet fanny Adams about science, but ‘phenomenon’ is the singular, ‘phenomena’, the plural. It’s been driving me mad, vainly, expecting someone to correct the error.

    ‘phenomenons’ is said to be an alternative plural, but it just muddies the water.

  56. 56
    ellazimm says:

    You seem to have forgotten your own earlier statement. Would you care to read it again? “Well, if that happened I’d be glad to offer my opinion.” Now you have changed you tune by saying that it simply can’t happen and you refuse to comment on or even consider the hypothetical example. Did you think I would not call your bluff?

    I didn’t say it can’t have happened. But I consider the evidence that it did happen flimsy at best.

    There’s no point arguing over a hypothetical example. Let’s stick with stuff we can verify.

    It appears that your mind is closed to the possibility of miracles and you would not open your mind even in the teeth of scientific evidence. Since you will not answer my question, I will answer it for you: If a group of meteorologists witnessed Moses parting the waters at will, they would, by virtue of their specialized scientific knowledge, rule out nature as the likely cause and characterize the event as a probable miracle.

    You do like putting words in my mouth. IF your scenario actually occurs then we’ll talk. Because then we’ll have something to talk about. You are just trying to grind an axe and you’re asking me to commit to something that hasn’t occurred so you can prove your point. You’ve mapped out the argument in your mind and you’re annoyed because I’m not playing along. Sorry.

    Again, you are missing the point. Science studies not only the means by which certain features in nature operate (the process) it also studies the means by which certain features in nature come to exist. I put the relevant terms in italics so that you would not evade the issue, which you decided to do anyway. In other words, your claim that science studies only repeatable events is false. Science also studies non-repeatable events such as the origin of life and the origin of the universe.

    But the steps and parts of the hypothesised origin of life theory will have to be dependably demonstrated to have been likely to have occurred under the conditions at the time. Yes? Otherwise it’s just all just-so stories. Not science.

    Most helpful to those who wonder why you continue to evade questions similar to the one I just asked.

    I’m not here to play your game.

    You didn’t answer my question? Do you think the scientists at the Lourdes Commission are scientists doing real science with real evidence?

    I haven’t looked at their reports or findings so I’m not going to make a judgement.

    Meanwhile, you have changed the subject to logical certainty, which no one has proposed. In other words, you avoided answering my question and substituted a strawman argument.

    You don’t have to argue with me if you find my style frustrating.

    Even so, I will answer your question: You can’t logically say that a natural cure didn’t happen with apodictic certainty. Nothing in science is certain. What you can say is that a cure is medically inexplicable and that there is no known natural explanation. It takes a scientist to make that determination.

    Agreed. But that means you cannot say that the event is non-natural. All science is provisional. Always. New data and evidence have to be considered. Always.

    Thus, for any non-biased person, it is reasonable to accept an alternative conclusion: A miraculous cure seems more likely than a natural cure if 20 scientists conclude, as a single body of investigators, that there is no known natural cure after having considered literally millions of combinations and permutations as natural possibilities. It is not up to the scientist to say that a cure was miraculous. It is his task to show that nature cannot explain it.

    And then the explanation remains undermined. It doesn’t mean a miracle (whatever that is) occurred.

    Example: just because something is a UFO, unidentified flying object, does NOT mean it’s an alien spacecraft. It means it’s unidentified.

    What is a ‘miracle’ by the way? Is it what the Catholic Church says it is? Is it what you say it is? Have you got a strict and solid definition that can unambiguously be applied so that no false positives (or false negatives) get thrown up?

    At what point do you think you can just throw up your hands and say: okay, science cannot EVER answer this so it must be miraculous. After one year? Two years? Ten years? A century? A thousand years? What?

    How can you ever, logically, assert that some event will never, ever be explained as a product of natural causes?

  57. 57
    Erasmus Wiffball says:

    Please, folks. I know sweet fanny Adams about science, but ‘phenomenon’ is the singular, ‘phenomena’, the plural. It’s been driving me mad, vainly, expecting someone to correct the error.

    You missed use of criteria as singular.

    I was only being polite, copying him. “When in Rome, do as the Romans” — a little bit ironic, because he got Latin wrong. I’m not too good at English unless I write real slow. So I better not throw stones. (Now I go from Rome to a glass house in China.) Even though it seems like basic literacy to me. I guess not in China. Maybe not in home schools neither.

    I think sweet fanny Adams is sweet Fanny Adams. Unless Adams is the name of a nice toches. (Excuse my Yiddish.) I never thought before of giving names to nice tocheses. Very good idea.

  58. 58
    Erasmus Wiffball says:

    ellazimm

    At what point do you think you can just throw up your hands and say: okay, science cannot EVER answer this so it must be miraculous. After one year? Two years? Ten years? A century? A thousand years? What?

    Methodological naturalism was a dictum (plural dicta) for explaining nature in Middle Ages. It came from Christians. I read that Christians always stuck with it through the centuries. Its important to remember that we start out believing in miracles. We always believe Jesus turned water to wine. The Bible says it was a miracle. So Christians know it was a miracle. Some phenomena really are miracles by divine agents. No doubt of that. Then we have to say, “Why isn’t everything we see God’s miracles, all the time?” MN says it is lazy to make all causes primary causes. Always look for secondary causes.

    I said before, MN means “Miracle — NOT!” I don’t think MNist can stop looking for secondary cause. Never ever. But MN came from people who really do believe in miracles. It still works that way now. I think that is what Dr. Swamidass talked about. He believes in miracles. He believes miracles are rare.

    You actually said what I tried to say better. Thank you.

    Christians can’t do Christian science without asserting the soul. No creation of information without a soul. We work miracles all the time. (Miracles are not rare. The soul God breathed into us is a primary cause.) We create information because God created us in His Image. What’s wrong with that? We know it is true. Why do we have to call the soul something else? Why can’t we have our own science? Starting with Truth from the Bible? It is our constitutional right. America is the Christian Nation. (But it dies for sure if Clinton gets elected. Only Trump give us pro religion judges, maybe. Only Trump sign laws to give Christian scientists fair share of tax payer money, maybe. Then universities would hire not expel Christian scientists.)

  59. 59
    Erasmus Wiffball says:

    johnnyb,

    I watched your two talks. You don’t justify how you demarcate natural = computable, supernatural = incomputable. It sounded like you did it in a 2011 paper. Trying hard to be fair I want to read the paper. Is it online? If not maybe you will email it to me?

  60. 60
    StephenB says:

    ellazimm

    There is no point in arguing about hypotheticals.

    Actually, there is. It is a very useful intellectual exercise. Any reasonable person would have conceded the point: If Moses came back to part the waters of the Red Sea, meteorologists on the scene would characterize it as a miracle. You didn’t concede the point. You didn’t even address it. I conclude, therefore, that you are driven by an ideology that compromises your capacity to reason effectively.

    You are just trying to grind an axe and you’re asking me to commit to something that hasn’t occurred so you can prove your point.

    I am asking you to think. And yes, I did prove my point. There is no reason why science cannot address the subject of miracles if the circumstances will permit it.

    SB: Again, you are missing the point. Science studies not only the means by which certain features in nature operate (the process) it also studies the means by which certain features in nature come to exist. I put the relevant terms in italics so that you would not evade the issue, which you decided to do anyway. In other words, your claim that science studies only repeatable events is false. Science also studies non-repeatable events such as the origin of life and the origin of the universe.

    But the steps and parts of the hypothesised origin of life theory will have to be dependably demonstrated to have been likely to have occurred under the conditions at the time. Yes? Otherwise it’s just all just-so stories. Not science.

    Irrelevant. Non responsive.

    I’m not here to play your game.

    This is not the ellazimm show. I get to ask questions as well. If you are not willing to address them, then I also get to draw conclusions from your silence.

    SB: You didn’t answer my question? Do you think the scientists at the Lourdes Commission are scientists doing real science with real evidence?

    I haven’t looked at their reports or findings so I’m not going to make a judgement.

    Non responsive. Your serial evasions are duly noted.

    Meanwhile, you have changed the subject to logical certainty, which no one has proposed. In other words, you avoided answering my question and substituted a strawman argument.

    You don’t have to argue with me if you find my style frustrating

    I don’t find your style frustrating. I was simply refuting your false claim that I had attributed logical certainty to a process that involves a mere inference to the best explanation.

    Agreed. But that means you cannot say that the event is non-natural.

    You can draw an inference that a miracle is possible, or even eminently reasonable, if it is warranted by the evidence.

    All science is provisional. Always. New data and evidence have to be considered. Always.

    You are repeating what I said as if I hadn’t already said it and as if I didn’t know it, and as if I had been arguing the reverse. It is yet another strawman argument.

    And then the explanation remains undermined. It doesn’t mean a miracle (whatever that is) occurred.

    Still nother strawman argument. I didn’t say that it means a miracle occurred. I said that it means that a miracle can be a more reasonable explanation than a natural cure. Most medical scientists are open to such things. Obviously, you are not, which would indicate, once again, that you are driven by ideology and not by a love of science.

    Example: just because something is a UFO, unidentified flying object, does NOT mean it’s an alien spacecraft. It means it’s unidentified.

    Inappropriate example. You are confusing an unknown identity with the unknown cause of an effect.

    What is a ‘miracle’ by the way?

    Something that is wrought by Divine power apart from and beyond the usual order of nature

    How can you ever, logically, assert that some event will never, ever be explained as a product of natural causes?

    You follow the evidence wherever it leads. If nature does not seem to have the power to produce the effect in question, then a miracle is a good candidate for the likely cause.

  61. 61
    ellazimm says:

    Actually, there is. It is a very useful intellectual exercise. Any reasonable person would have conceded the point: If Moses came back to part the waters of the Red Sea, meteorologists on the scene would characterize it as a miracle. You didn’t concede the point. You didn’t even address it. I conclude, therefore, that you are driven by an ideology that compromises your capacity to reason effectively.

    Why should I concede a myth? It’s like arguing about magic in Harry Potter. It’a not science.

    I am asking you to think. And yes, I did prove my point. There is no reason why science cannot address the subject of miracles if the circumstances will permit it.

    When you’ve got a rock-solid documented ‘miracle’ then science can examine it.

    This is not the ellazimm show. I get to ask questions as well. If you are not willing to address them, then I also get to draw conclusions from your silence.

    Knock yourself out.

    You can draw an inference that a miracle is possible, or even eminently reasonable, if it is warranted by the evidence.

    In the examples you cite your ‘best evidence’ seems to be: we have no naturalistic explanation. Is that evidence or just a god-of-the-gaps argument?

    Still nother strawman argument. I didn’t say that it means a miracle occurred. I said that it means that a miracle can be a more reasonable explanation than a natural cure. Most medical scientists are open to such things. Obviously, you are not, which would indicate, once again, that you are driven by ideology and not by a love of science.

    Some undefined and undetected agent intervened in some way which we cannot measure or detect is a more reasonable explanation? Really? How is that not just throwing in the towel?

    Something that is wrought by Divine power apart from and beyond the usual order of nature

    What divine power? How and when does it intervene? Where does the energy come from that renders the effect? It does take energy, that energy must come from somewhere . . . which means there must be a loss of energy from someplace else. Can we detect that?

    You follow the evidence wherever it leads. If nature does not seem to have the power to produce the effect in question, then a miracle is a good candidate for the likely cause.

    Again, when do you ‘give up’ on nature? After a year? After two years? It took centuries for human beings to realise that the earth was actually moving through space at thousands of miles per hour. It took centuries to realise that many diseases are caused by microbes and not by spirits, bad air or some such. For a long, long time it was assumed that new species arrived by some kind of divine intervention and now we have a naturalistic explanation. On the face of it, some aspects of quantum mechanics still look ‘miraculous’. But the theories behind the science have been tested and checked and perform as predicted on demand.

  62. 62
    StephenB says:

    bornagain 77 @54,

    At least Calvinball understands and can explain the rules he makes up as he goes along. The proponents of methodological naturalism can’t even do that.

  63. 63
    ellazimm says:

    johnnyb

    From your paper:

    So, for instance, given only the addition, subtraction, and summation operators, division cannot be computed. However, given those same operators, a multiplication function can be computed.

    Are you sure about that? Computers can calculate division problems only using accumulators which add do they not?

  64. 64
    kairosfocus says:

    EZ, I think there are issues over the “only” — shift and add type stuff (with 1s and 2s complements [looking for a NOT operator]) in binary registers for instance would be not ONLY. KF

  65. 65
    kairosfocus says:

    EZ, kindly show us a case where per actual direct observation of cause, meaningful coded digital information in a “language,” beyond 500 – 1,000 bits as text or as algorithmic information has originated by blind chance and/or necessity. Note, as languages also include description languages, this is WLOG relative to functionally specific complex organisation. KF

  66. 66
    kairosfocus says:

    EZ, I put it to you that we can reliably identify cases of intelligently directed configuration by art, as opposed to blind chance and mechanical necessity. Whether the source of such de3sign is within or beyond the observed cosmos is a matter of circumstances. For instance from the 80s on ID theorists accept that the FSCO/I in cell based life can be accounted for by say a molecular nanotech lab. But the fine tuning of the observed cosmos, even through a multiverse speculation, is of a different order. KF

  67. 67
    daveS says:

    johnnyb,

    From #45:

    What I have said is this – the only demarcation criteria that anyone has come up with that (a) has adherents on both sides, and (b) can be rationally evaluated is computability.

    Just curious—has anyone suggested the use of cryptographic problems in this area?

    As a somewhat contrived example, suppose a person claimed to have the ability to factor very large semiprimes mentally. As a test, you present this person with a “random” semiprime roughly the size of RSA-2048, and they are able to write down the correct factorization by hand in under 10 minutes, with no scratch work. And this person is successful over many trials, always arriving at the correct factorization.

    Obviously this would be an amazing feat, regardless of whether it involves any non-computable processes. I would place it almost at the level of parting the Red Sea, and don’t see how I could avoid categorizing it as “supernatural”.

    I wonder if there are substantial numbers of people on both sides of the debate who would agree this would be a supernatural event.

  68. 68
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, the issue is to consistently exceed capacity of a computational substrate feasible on relevant scope of investigation. Breaking products of primes like that by hand in 10 minutes would seem on the face of it to exceed the capacity of the human brain as a computational substrate. But then, I do not think it exceeds the capacity of the human mind, which I believe goes beyond that substrate [cf here the Smith two-tier cybernetic controller model]; so the issue is whether we view the human mind as supernatural — I am inclined, yes, as creativity routinely exceeds the capability of a blind cosmos, and is far beyond what can be rationalised on pre-programmed instincts (such as a Beaver dam etc). The idea of such substrates can be extended to a solar system or galaxy or cosmos acting as a system executing the laws of physics . . . analogue computing is after all computing too. (And in the “gap” after Babbage, it was the prevalent form of computing.) KF

  69. 69
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Tesla was reputedly able to design, construct and run a new AC machine in his mind for several weeks then disassemble and inspect for wear. As a result I have seen first example machines by him, and they are not the sort of rough prototypes I am familiar with for many other innovations. Mind beyond matter, methinks.

  70. 70
    daveS says:

    KF,

    Do you believe there are ( in principle solvable) computational problems that humans cannot solve?

    That’s what I’m after here.

  71. 71
    johnnyb says:

    Erasmus –

    One of the interesting parts of the case for that being the demarcation is that it is one of the few that (a) actually makes a demarcation (i.e., you can use it to tell one side or the other and not be dependent on fuzzy terms), and (b) there are both materialists and non-materialists who agree with it. It is hard to find any definition of materialism and non-materialism that matches even those two basic points (if you know of another one – by all means let me know! And, if there is not one, then there is no methodological naturalism). But, anyway, the paper you are looking for is here.

    Without diving into philosophy too deeply, just on the surface two benefits of the demarcation are that (a) materialists generally hold that it is theoretically possible (with enough circuits, etc.) to build a true AI, and (b) non-materialists hold that it isn’t. This is consistent with my demarcation.

    Anyway, my demarcation seems to hit most of the basic intuitions of both sides, while also being a definable and understandable standard, unlike most others brought forward.

  72. 72
    johnnyb says:

    daveS –

    Yes – Eric Holloway has done some work on it. However, I think Eric asks the question too directly. That is, as I mention in my Using Turing Oracles paper, I don’t think that humans have a direct halting oracle. I think the human oracle is smaller than that, but larger than the computable set. Therefore, I think that, if done right, humans could be used to break cryptography, but it will be more complex than just “here’s a human, go break the cryptography”. Using my oracle conception in a simplistic way, one would have to find a way to get the human to solve intermediate problems on the way which would then lead to them solving the problem.

  73. 73
    daveS says:

    Thanks, johnnyb, I’ll have to do some background reading on that.

  74. 74

    johnnyb. I’m still hoping for you answers to my question. I do not think you have a coherent case, but I’d like to be corrected if I am wrong. Help me out.

    http://peacefulscience.org/inq.....on-ground/

    In a show of good faith, I’ll answer your questions.

    1. In methodological naturalism, what exactly is meant by naturalism?

    Natural is anything other than the Christian God or any all-powerful personal deity like Him. This is not to deny His existence but to honor the the fact that His ways are beyond our scientific comprehension.

    2. Many of the things that were essential to naturalism in the 1600s were overturned by Newton, and many of the things that were essential to naturalism in the 1800s were overturned by Quantum Mechanics. If naturalism is such a fuzzy concept as to be continually overturned by new physics, why is it important?

    There are many fuzzy concepts that are, nonetheless, important. Morality is a great example. The fact that there are “boundary” cases where right and wrong are not clear, does not somehow negate the whole of ethics and morality. In the same way, the difficulty in deciding where specific cases fall in regards to MN does not somehow negate the whole concept.

    3. If humans have a supernatural component (i.e., a soul), then is it problematic for biologists to not be allowed to probe the parts of human behavior dependent on it, and/or require them to give wrong explanations for behavior (i.e., use a naturalistic explanation when one is not appropriate)?

    Humans are not the Christian God, so we can study them with science. Science, even as it studies humans, assumes that any soul that exists and is relevant is accessible with scientific methods, and is their for natural. This does not make science correct (and certainly it will be wrong at times), and it does not rule out emergent phenomena, but this is how science thinks about things. For example, science has discovered no evidence of an afterlife or an immortal soul, even though we as Christians hold this to be true. I do not think it is possible to “fix” science here, it is just limited.

    4. Is there a way to determine whether or not a phenomena is understandable via naturalism when it is first investigated? If not, what should a scientist do if they are investigating a cause but later discover that it is not naturalistic? Should they abandon their research? What would the appropriate move be?

    There is no way to do this within science. The appropriate move is to move from science to science-engaged philosophy when moments like this arise. We do not expect science to give us a complete view of the world, so this is encouraged and welcomed.

    5. Doesn’t methodological naturalism mean that scientists who are philosophically naturalistic can study more types of phenomena than those who disagree philosophically, because of the types of causes they believe responsible?

    No. We can all study everything, but in science we only offer natural explanations of things. For example, even though as a Christian I believe we have an immaterial soul, I do not offer this as a scientific explanation for mental illness. As long as I play by those rules within science, I can also pray for God’s healing as a Christian. Science is really good about being ecumentical this way.

    6. If there is a disagreement among scientists as to whether or not a particular phenomena is naturalistic or non-naturalistic, what is the appropriate place for such scientists to have a discussion? Should the results of this discussion influence scientific practice? Should science journals heed the results of such discussions? Should science textbooks heed the results of such discussions? If not, what is the point of having such discussions at all?

    We never exclude studying phenomena, but we do exclude certain types of explanations, like Intelligent Design. The history here answers your question. We have these discussions in scientific bodies, like the NABT, AAAS, NAS, and the decisions of these group sets the rules of science. There is no one single authoritative body, but there is wide consensus on what is and is not science in regards to ID. This doesn’t make them “right”, but that is how these disputes are resolved.

    7. If two scientists (A and B) agree that phenomena X with description Y are the cause of an event, but A believes that the phenomena is non-naturalistic, and B believes that the phenomena is naturalistic, does that mean that scientist B can investigate it but scientist A cannot?

    No. As discussed, in doing science we study everything (except God) and offer only natural explanations. So, a scientist that believes that the phenomena has a non-naturalistic component can still do this, but they will also believe that the scientific description (even if correct) is incomplete. This is exactly how Christians and atheists study the brain in science all the time, without being in constant dispute over philosophy.

    8. If a phenomena is currently under discussion in a philosophy journal as to whether or not the phenomena is naturalistic, what should the status of scientific research be? Should scientists stop doing research until a result is found by the philosophy journals? Should the science journals feel bound to the decision of the philosophy journals? If so, which ones would hold the definitive answers? If not, what would the point of methodological naturalism be except to enforce philosophical naturalism?

    As already stated, we would study it, but only to understand it in natural terms.

    9. The Big Bang was founded by a Priest who, in his unpublished work, said that it confirmed the Genesis account of creation. Today, many people (including some who do research on it) continue to hold to this idea, and say that the Big Bang shows that the universe has a supernatural origin. Does that mean that the Big Bang theory should be removed from science? Why or why not? How do those criteria affect other theories that involve divine origins?

    Those that say the universe had a supernatural origin in the Big Bang are doing science-engaged philosophy and theology. That is great, it might be right, but it is not science. Big Bang, in science, is 100% natural with specific predictions about the world we observe. It does not resort to miracle or God’s action at any point. So science demonstrates the universe had a beginning but tells us nothing of God’s rule in this beginning.

    10. In many other academic areas with boundaries, the boundaries are informative rather than strict. I.e., if my studies are in Renaissance art, it would certainly be problematic if I spent my entire time talking about Hellenistic art or automobile designs. However, no one would object at all for including some ideas in a Renaissance art journal on how ideas from Hellenistic art studies can be used in Renaissance art studies, or how Renaissance art can influence modern automobile designs. However, the strict methodological naturalism being promoted is not simply informative, but normative, which actively prevents this type of crossover knowledge. Why are the sciences the only area where crossover knowledge is not important?

    Scientists make the rules in science. They did this so we can avoid the culture wars and do our work. The system works. I support it.

    11. Experience is not the same as naturalism. We have experience of the supernatural just in talking with other people (as consciousness and creativity – two aspects of humanity – are supernatural, not natural). Thus, one could ground the supernatural in experience just like the natural. Therefore, could one not use such experience scientifically as well?

    Yes, but within science we would only think about that in natural terms. Remember, there is nothing here that excludes minds or intelligence from scientific study. Rather, the Divine Mind is excluded from the explanations that science offers.

    =======

    As you can see, I hope, I have a consistent position. Perhaps you do not agree with it. That is fine.

    Still curious your response to my questions.

  75. 75
  76. 76
    Erasmus Wiffball says:

    Prof. Swamidass

    Natural is anything other than the Christian God or any all-powerful personal deity like Him. This is not to deny His existence but to honor the the fact that His ways are beyond our scientific comprehension.

    Some philosophers and historians worked hard to study meaning of MN (going back to Middle Ages). They do their work as good as you do science. Maybe even better. (I don’t know how good you do science.) I told johnnyb to publish a review of MN (at secular philosophy conference). If he wants to be an authority on MN. I tell you the same. Maybe you think straighter than him. But that doesn’t magically give you knowledge of evolution of MN (necessary to understand it now). I don’t think you are more reliable source than johnnyb, talking about MN.

    I see here one “expert” then another “expert” then another “expert” then … Every one saying “What I think is very very very very very important because I am the one that thinks it.” All contradicting each other. But not saying they contradict. “Listen to ME. Listen to ME. Listen to ME ME ME ME ME.” Is there a limit on the number of areas these “experts” are “experts” on? Egos like Mt Rushmore. But most never study one area long enough to really be expert. Maybe too much genius to fence in?

    I accept you are expert on one area of science. Think how much work it took. Do you claim you are expert scholar on another area?

    You don’t help anything if you substitute smartness for real scholarship. You just set up a straw man. It is easy to knock over. Then people say, “MN is silly. Look what we did to Swamidass.” (They always look for “experts” easy to knock over. johnnyb’s straw man is simple NAS explanation of MN, aimed for general public.)

    Did you read Ronald Numbers (2003), “Science without God: Natural Laws and Christian Beliefs,” in When Science and Christianity Meet? I think its a good place to start. Its JUST a start. A prof can send request to university library, maybe even get copy delivered to office (not bother to walk to the library). No excuse to not read it. Then reflect. Think about Numbers talking at conference in your field, no more knowledge about it than you have about his field.

  77. 77
    Erasmus Wiffball says:

    P.S. Prof Swamidass, I don’t speak as expert on MN. I just know enough to know you don’t know enough.

  78. 78
    Erasmus Wiffball says:

    So science demonstrates the universe had a beginning but tells us nothing of God’s rule in this beginning.

    Technically no beginning under the model. Because time is in half-open interval (t0, t].

  79. 79

    I am no expert in the philosophy of science and in MN, but there are a large number of Christian historians and philosophers that agree with me here. I refer you to their work for more coherent treatments of this topic. For example…

    http://philsci-archive.pitt.ed.....etnat3.pdf

    We all have to rely on the expertise of others to do quality work. Philosophy is no different. I rely heavily on experts here. However, in regards to the day to day practice of science, I do have real expertise as a practicing scientist.

    I appreciate that there is real disagreement here. I do not think that will change. However, I do not see the coherence of your position. Explain it to me please, if you can.

  80. 80
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, solve in their heads in 10 minutes without scratching down notes [but then some have 3 d chalkboards in the head], or with say access to NSA’s computer banks, black budgets, programmers and years of time? KF

  81. 81
    daveS says:

    KF,

    DS, solve in their heads in 10 minutes without scratching down notes [but then some have 3 d chalkboards in the head], or with say access to NSA’s computer banks, black budgets, programmers and years of time? KF

    Definitely the former is what I had in mind. And the time allowed would be just about enough to allow a person to write down the factors at a normal speed.

  82. 82
    Erasmus Wiffball says:

    Prof. Swamidass, my position. In brief.

    johnnyb is perfectly right saying human soul is supernatural. He’s also perfectly right saying science can’t explain things right if it excludes souls. Do you think MN allows human soul in explanation? It seems you do. Because you say MN excludes only personal all-powerful god. Of course scientists do not use soul in explanations.

    I don’t believe MN can lead to idea of nature with human souls (included in nature). Never ever. I don’t believe physical evidence will ever convince the Dalai Lama (misspelled before) he wasn’t a chimp in earlier life. (I read his book on science. He actually likes MN kind of science. But I don’t remember him talking about MN.) We know the soul is real. That God breathed the spirit into Adam, not into the animals. That God created man in His Image. We know because God told us in the Bible. It is special revelation. We can’t discover it by studying the general revelation. In fact people used to put spirits into EVERYTHING in general revelation they didn’t understand. Some Christians said to stop doing that. Science gradually took spirits out, finally out of everything. It did not stop at humans. It’s not going to say, “OOPS. Explain humans behavior by soul. They are causa sui causa. But not chimps.”

    ID is perfectly right saying we create information out of nothing (ex nihilo). Also perfectly right saying information is physical like mass-energy. Dembski wrote about something like “the power of no.” An act of free will creates information. Creation is not just in the past. We participate in creation. It is a Participatory Universe. (But not like John Archibald Wheeler thought.) A universe with human souls creating something physical out of nothing, all the time causa sui causa, is a universe full of miracles. I will not call creation of physically reality, information, out of nothing non-miraculous. Because I will not call creation of mass-energy out of nothing non-miraculous.

    I don’t care how ordinary miracles are. They still are miracles. (Miracle cures were ordinary for Jesus disciples.) We fail to see the wonder of our temporal lives. Because we don’t see ordinary miracles as miraculous. By our divine “nature” (that is supernatural) we participate in creation of nature. We all work miracles all the time. Because God created us in His Image. Our divine souls are not natural. Our souls explain why we do what chimps will never do. (Nor something that ever evolves from chimps. Evolution did not produce our souls.)

    ID is entirely wrong using “intelligence” as code word for soul. It is a sick concession to anti religious judges in America. I do not believe in lying for God (to gain secular power). We must work to replace anti religion with pro religion in the Christian Nation. (Christian for now anyway. Maybe not much longer.) We must not hide the Light under a bushel. We must not put saving the Christian Nation ahead of saving lost souls. We must always make it clear we act to glorify God.

    We must build the house of science on the Rock of Ages. As we know it from special revelation in the Bible. Science will not discover the soul by methodological naturalism. It is impossible to explain how we create nature (information), leaving out the soul. So we must assert the reality of the soul. Which Christians know is True. Which others like the Dalai Lama can’t know is True. Because they reject the Bible. Theres no other way to understand the general revelation. Christians must declare independence of their science from secular science.

  83. 83
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, basically, what’s that oracle in the head then. Giving a boost to the computational substrate. KF

  84. 84
    Erasmus Wiffball says:

    DS, basically, what’s that oracle in the head then. Giving a boost to the computational substrate. KF

    Silly KF. Everybody knows the interface is the pineal gland.

  85. 85
    kairosfocus says:

    EW:

    Wiki,

    The pineal gland, also known as the pineal body, conarium or epiphysis cerebri, is a small endocrine gland in the vertebrate brain. The shape of the gland resembles a pine cone, hence its name. The pineal gland is located in the epithalamus, near the center of the brain, between the two hemispheres, tucked in a groove where the two halves of the thalamus join. The pineal gland produces melatonin, a serotonin derived hormone which modulates sleep patterns in both circadian and seasonal cycles.

    It’s all in your head . . .

    KF

  86. 86
    Erasmus Wiffball says:

    kairosfocus,

    Disappointing. Expected you to get a philosophy joke.

    The pineal gland is a tiny organ in the center of the brain that played an important role in Descartes’ philosophy. He regarded it as the principal seat of the soul and the place in which all our thoughts are formed.

    Descartes and the Pineal Gland,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

  87. 87
    kairosfocus says:

    EW ( & attn Prof JS),

    I just note to you that intelligently directed configuration, or design, is not a code word for the soul.

    The issue is, we know that causal factors [esp. for the origin of relevant things] typically fall under three broad categories, mechanical necessity, blind chance, intelligent action. The question that arises is, are there characteristic observable signs that indicate such factors at work in causal processes?

    Yes, necessity shows up as lawlike regularities under similar initial conditions. Unsupported objects near earth tend to fall under a force of 0.8 N/kg, pointing to a gravity field connected to their mass.

    Chance circumstances tend to pop up as distributions of outcomes under initial circumstances. A rolled fair die will give a more or less flat distribution across its six faces.

    Intelligently directed configuration OFTEN leaves traces such as functionally specific complex organisation and associated information beyond a threshold where it would be plausible that it arises by chance. (500 – 1,000 bits is useful as a threshold.) For simple case notice the text of comments beyond 72 to 143 ASCII characters. The most random document exercises have achieved is 19 – 24 characters in meaningful expressions.

    Such digital code is significant, as that is what we find in the heart of life, and with it processing machinery based on molecular nanomachines.

    Per the empirical evidence, we can infer design, but we must recognise that we have not inferred a particular designer or class of such. DNA and molecular nanotech could possibly come from a molecular nanotech lab.

    By contrast, it also turns out that the physics of our cosmos is deeply fine tuned and complex in ways that are functionally specific relative to C-Chemistry, aqueous medium, cell based life on a terrestrial planet. The solar system that sustains us seems to be similarly fine tuned and “privileged.”

    Even through a multiverse speculation, this points strongly to design. And the bill to be filled is pretty stiff: enormously powerful, deeply knowledgeable and skilled and a lot more. And beyond the cosmos.

    Where, basic philosophical considerations point to the root of reality being a necessary being. For instance, were there ever utter nothing [= non-being], such would forever obtain as non-being has no causal power. If a world now is, something always was, necessarily. And, the best candidate is a necessary being with capability to create a world. Mix in our being under moral government and we can only bridge the IS-OUGHT gap at world-root level. This calls for a root of reality that inextricably fuses is and ought.

    After centuries of debates, there is just one serious candidate: the inherently good creator God, a necessary and maximally great being, worthy of loyalty and the reasonable, responsible service of doing the good in accord with our evident nature.

    Notice, the clearly marked border between empirically grounded inductive, scientific inference, and the wider context of philosophical analysis of roots of reality.

    In this context, methodological naturalism is in effect an inappropriate imposition on scientific investigations into actual origins (which obviously is not repeatable). Instead of imposing evolutionary materialistic censorship by the back door — roughly, thou shalt not ever discuss causes outside of the circle acceptable to evolutionary materialists — we need to look, unfettered and unblinkered, at what empirically grounded explanatory factors currently make best sense of the facts.

    Where also Newton’s vera causa principle is a much better rule of restraint: in explaining things we do not directly observe, we should observe key features and traces of causal processes, and use in explanations only factors that in our direct observation are adequate to account for the result.

    For instance, we have seen just one adequate cause of functionally specific, often fine tuned, complex organisation and associated information: intelligently directed configuration. On trillions of cases all around us.

    Likewise, the attempt to push such an inference into being a god of the gaps argument fails. We infer to the known, reliable cause of FSCO/I.

    Likewise too, the talking point natural vs [suspect] supernatural is a strawman caricature. Since Plato in The Laws Bk X, the alternative natural [= chance and/or necessity] vs the ART-ificial has been on the table. And this is amenable to empirically grounded investigation.

    As for associated scientism which rejects or marginalises sources of knowledge not deemed big-S Science, the implicit claim that reliable knowledge only comes from Science — or more baldly, Science is the only begetter of truth — is an epistemological claim, not a scientific one. It is incoherent.

    I suggest reading the UD weak argument correctives under the resources tab, top of this and every page.

    KF

  88. 88
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Worth noting:

    In physics, particularly in statistical mechanics, we base many of our calculations on the assumption of metric transitivity, which asserts that a system’s trajectory will eventually [–> given “enough time and search resources”] explore the entirety of its state space – thus everything that is phys-ically possible will eventually happen. It should then be trivially true that one could choose an arbitrary “final state” (e.g., a living organism) and “explain” it by evolving the system backwards in time choosing an appropriate state at some ’start’ time t_0 (fine-tuning the initial state). In the case of a chaotic system the initial state must be specified to arbitrarily high precision. But this account amounts to no more than saying that the world is as it is because it was as it was, and our current narrative therefore scarcely constitutes an explanation in the true scientific sense.

    We are left in a bit of a conundrum with respect to the problem of specifying the initial conditions necessary to explain our world. A key point is that if we require specialness in our initial state (such that we observe the current state of the world and not any other state) metric transitivity cannot hold true, as it blurs any dependency on initial conditions – that is, it makes little sense for us to single out any particular state as special by calling it the ’initial’ state. If we instead relax the assumption of metric transitivity (which seems more realistic for many real world physical systems – including life), then our phase space will consist of isolated pocket regions and it is not necessarily possible to get to any other physically possible state (see e.g. Fig. 1 for a cellular automata example).

    [–> or, there may not be “enough” time and/or resources for the relevant exploration, i.e. we see the 500 – 1,000 bit complexity threshold at work vs 10^57 – 10^80 atoms with fast rxn rates at about 10^-13 to 10^-15 s leading to inability to explore more than a vanishingly small fraction on the gamut of Sol system or observed cosmos . . . the only actually, credibly observed cosmos]

    Thus the initial state must be tuned to be in the region of phase space in which we find ourselves [–> notice, fine tuning], and there are regions of the configuration space our physical universe would be excluded from accessing, even if those states may be equally consistent and permissible under the microscopic laws of physics (starting from a different initial state). Thus according to the standard picture, we require special initial conditions to explain the complexity of the world, but also have a sense that we should not be on a particularly special trajectory to get here (or anywhere else) as it would be a sign of fine–tuning of the initial conditions. [ –> notice, the “loading”] Stated most simply, a potential problem with the way we currently formulate physics is that you can’t necessarily get everywhere from anywhere (see Walker [31] for discussion). [“The “Hard Problem” of Life,” June 23, 2016, a discussion by Sara Imari Walker and Paul C.W. Davies at Arxiv.]

  89. 89
    kairosfocus says:

    EW, I just wanted to make sure our literally-minded objectors inclined to pounce on points out of context were anticipated. And hence my own one liner at the end. KF

  90. 90
    daveS says:

    KF,

    DS, basically, what’s that oracle in the head then. Giving a boost to the computational substrate. KF

    Well, first, does it actually exist?

  91. 91
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, that is why I broadened the case to addressing FSCO/I in general. What accounts for intelligence, in short, blind chance and mechanical necessity? How so? The oracle in the head is real enough [routinely outperforms what we could expect on blind chance and necessity, and does so creatively in novel situations], so what is it? Mebbe, there really is a proverbial ghost in the machine? KF

  92. 92
    daveS says:

    KF,

    The oracle in the head is real enough [routinely outperforms what we could expect on blind chance and necessity, and does so creatively in novel situations], so what is it?

    If this oracle is “real enough”, specifically what non-computable function does it return values for?

    I’m referring to the johnnyb’s paper here for background.

  93. 93
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, I am speaking a bit more widely, but the substance that we type is obviously non algorithmic, but it is output through the brain and CNS as a front end i/o processing entity in a bio-cybernetic loop. I think here the Smith model is a place to begin thoughts, with the supervisory controller. I am too busy with outing fires just now to go into a long exploration, I am just pointing and suggesting. KF

  94. 94
    daveS says:

    Yes, thanks, fair enough.

  95. 95
    johnnyb says:

    Dr. Swamidass –

    The problem, here, is that Intelligent Design does not include God, but you are insisting that it does. The Design Inference doesn’t mention God. Complex Specified Information doesn’t mention God. Active Information doesn’t mention God. Irreducible Complexity doesn’t mention God.

    In fact, a lot of work in ID theory in the last few years isn’t even anything about origins – it is about humans.

    Therefore, I find it very strange that you can say, (1) the only thing methodological naturalism excludes is God-talk, and (2) ID is therefore excluded. That is a flat-out non-sequitur, because non of the theories of ID include God.

    Now, there are people who move from ID to “science-engaged philosophy” and they are usually careful to distinguish when they do that. So, according to your definition, ID *is* methodologically naturalistic, but, in order for you to make your case, you insert your own baggage onto ID, which it does not share.

    Again, please let me know where in Specified Complexity, Active Information, Irreducible Complexity, or any other similar ID theory that it has a unique role for God. If you cannot, then you should consider ID methodologically naturalistic by your definition.

    For myself, I have trouble taking Halvorson’s and your definition of MN seriously, as it includes souls and angels and being considered part of “methodological naturalism”. This seems to be a giant butchering of language to do this. Additionally, I think that most of the people who are in control of the sciences under the term “methodological naturalism” would disagree (I’m thinking of the NCSE for instance). If they disagree with your definition of MN, then that would put you outside the mainstream of science as well, would it not?

    So, in short, it is your own baggage about what you think of ID, not what ID proponents actually say, that causes it to violate your very strange and unique definition of Methodological Naturalism. If you let them speak for themselves rather than try to put words into their mouths, then they are within your definition of MN.

  96. 96
    johnnyb says:

    Dr. Swamidass –

    By the way, I do plan on posting a response to your questions. However, last week class started and I actually have two books to write for this semester (we are using them in class so I can’t get behind), and this week I have a booth at the Tulsa Maker Faire which I had to produce a bunch of materials for, then I have also gotten behind in the AM-Nat book and videos, plus, you know, my actual job, which has a major launch this weekend. Anyway, hopefully next week I will have time to send you a response. My slowness is just because the last few weeks have been super-crazy.

  97. 97

    Hey JohnnyB,

    Thanks for the response. I think there are two mixed issues here. One is MN and the other is ID. We can agree on one and disagree on the other. A couple clarifications.

    First off, I did not say that MN excludes God Talk. That is something else entirely.

    Second, I do not how ID could work in science without moving to consider the designer. What is the limiting principle (if not MN) that would stop of short of that? In every other place design is considered, we also consider a designer. Why is ID different? What principle?

    If you cannot find a coherent principle, that works in science, ID does then violate MN.

    I know of no principle that would solve this problem, so I think that ID runs afoul of MN. Of course, you can give me some options I’m not creative enough to think of. But just reiterating that ID doesn’t make a statement about the designers identity is not enough. Why not? Why should scientists shop short, if not because of MN?

  98. 98

    You write,…

    >Again, please let me know where in Specified Complexity, Active Information, Irreducible Complexity, or any other similar ID theory that it has a unique role for God. If you cannot, then you should consider ID methodologically naturalistic by your definition.

    The unique role for God is that only a God-like being would be capable of operating in history to design life if these theories are true. That is why they take us right to MN’s door step. Of course, we all know this. This is, in fact, the entire motivation of many people in the ID movement: to use science to bring us to God’s doorstep. So I’m not sure why this is a confusing point.

  99. 99

    Finally,

    I do not really agree that science can deal with fully supernatural beings like angels. Moroever, in dealing with beings like humans with “souls”, I do not think science can ever give us a complete view of reality. I’m fine with that.

    It turns out, both Hans and I are in mainstream science. So we do not have to worry about your hypothetical world.

    So, of course, in some of the particulars, Hans and I disagree. That is fine. There is a great deal of diversity of thought within mainstream science. It is a great and openminded place on many of the details.

    I of course am not an authority here. I am just a scientist doing my work. My effort here isn’t to prove that science is right or 100% logical (this isn’t always so). Rather, I’m just explaining what I see about how it works.

  100. 100
    bill cole says:

    Joshua

    I know of no principle that would solve this problem, so I think that ID runs afoul of MN. Of course, you can give me some options I’m not creative enough to think of. But just reiterating that ID doesn’t make a statement about the designers identity is not enough. Why not? Why should scientists shop short, if not because of MN?

    The evidence that supports design like the architecture of living organisms only points to design not the designer. I agree with your point that this is limiting and science wants to answer the how questions and currently there is at best limited evidence to do this.

    The question in my mind is the ID inference useful in science as a guiding principle of research? If I am doing cancer research am I better off assuming the cell is designed or a result of blind unguided processes?

    When I have done cancer research the design hypothesis has been a more productive guiding principle. Other researchers that have used Darwin’s theory have been mislead. If you like I can take you through this in detail but would prefer to do it off line.

  101. 101
    Seversky says:

    Prof. S. Joshua Swamidass @ 74

    1. In methodological naturalism, what exactly is meant by naturalism?

    Natural is anything other than the Christian God or any all-powerful personal deity like Him. This is not to deny His existence but to honor the the fact that His ways are beyond our scientific comprehension.

    This is the only point over which I would differ with Professor Swamidass, I think. By my – admittedly non-standard – definition, “naturalism” is the study of the natures of observable phenomena, where “nature” refers to the aggregate of properties and attributes which make a thing itself and not something else and “observable” means not just visually but able to gather information about, however indirectly.

    On this understanding, phenomena such as souls or ghosts or demons, which are popularly thought of as being “supernatural”, are fit subjects for scientific investigation if they exist at all. In fact, by this understanding, the “supernatural” is an empty set – a redundant concept.

    In my view, this would also apply to the Christian God. If such a being exists, it is not random chaos but an ordered phenomenon with describable properties, in other words, a “nature”. It may well be that such a being is forever inaccessible to scientific investigation, although we have no way to know that, but if it exists then it is a natural phenomenon and hence one that could be investigated scientifically, at least in principle. In practice, it appears such research could only take place with the subject’s consent which, of course, should be the case with the scientific investigation of any sentient creature

  102. 102
    StephenB says:

    Johnnyb

    Again, please let me know where in Specified Complexity, Active Information, Irreducible Complexity, or any other similar ID theory that it has a unique role for God. If you cannot, then you should consider ID methodologically naturalistic by your definition.

    Joshua Swamidass

    The unique role for God is that only a God-like being would be capable of operating in history to design life if these theories are true.

    Good grief! What is it about the words “in any ID theory” that you do not understand. The question was about ID “methodology,” as he made clear. In other words, where in any of ID’s methodologies for design detection do you find any unique role for God? Indeed, where do you find God even mentioned in that context?

  103. 103
    StephenB says:

    J Swamidass

    This is, in fact, the entire motivation of many people in the ID movement: to use science to bring us to God’s doorstep. So I’m not sure why this is a confusing point.

    Do you not yet understand that a motive is not a method? Please believe me when I tell you that the confusion is yours alone.

  104. 104
    Origenes says:

    Swamidass @98

    Swamidass: … only a God-like being would be capable of operating in history to design life if these [ID] theories are true. That is why they take us right to MN’s door step. Of course, we all know this.

    By what scientific method did you exclude the possibility that certain features of life on earth are designed by aliens? How exactly did you determine that e.g. the bacterial flagellum cannot possibly be designed by advanced alien scientists?
    Or are you being unscientific and just offering your personal opinion?

  105. 105
    johnnyb says:

    Dr. Swamidass –

    Second, I do not how ID could work in science without moving to consider the designer. What is the limiting principle (if not MN) that would stop of short of that? In every other place design is considered, we also consider a designer. Why is ID different? What principle?

    There is not principle that prevents someone from considering who the designer is. However, the tools of ID don’t do it. Just like, there is no principle that prevents you from finding out who started a fire. But the tools of thermodynamics don’t do that. If you want to propose what tools we should use to determine the source of design, great! But specified complexity, irreducible complexity, active information, etc., simply don’t in themselves have the capabilities of that. This is very odd, because, at one point, you are saying “science is limited” (which I agree with), but then you are saying, “ID is faulty because it is limited”. So, I am just at a loss on what to say.

    But just reiterating that ID doesn’t make a statement about the designers identity is not enough. Why not? Why should scientists shop short, if not because of MN?

    I don’t know of any reason why a scientist should stop asking questions. You are the one who wants to prevent certain questions being asked. I’m just pointing out the the methodology of ID doesn’t answer the questions you are asking. Every scientific method is limited by the epistemic scope of the tools being used. The identity question is simply outside the scope of what these tools can tell you. If you know of ways to use them to find the identity of the designer, you should publish it!

    The unique role for God is that only a God-like being would be capable of operating in history to design life if these theories are true. That is why they take us right to MN’s door step. Of course, we all know this. This is, in fact, the entire motivation of many people in the ID movement: to use science to bring us to God’s doorstep. So I’m not sure why this is a confusing point.

    Isn’t this the type of science-engaged philosophy that you are actually advocating for? How is this different from other arguments for God you would give in a science-engaged philosophical conversation? How can you advocate for science-engaged philosophy in one breath, and then complain that many people in ID are also engaged in science-engaged philosophy — especially when those people keep them at the same arms length that you do?

    I do not really agree that science can deal with fully supernatural beings like angels.

    Then you have to go back and re-answer the questions, because your answers assume that God is the only thing outside of MN.

    So, of course, in some of the particulars, Hans and I disagree.

    However, the particulars are important. The reason why Hans included angels in his description is because it is a natural consequence of how he defined science. If you disagree with Hans on whether angels are included, that means that there must be a deeper reason for their exclusion. Simply saying, “I agree with Hans except about angels” is just special pleading, because it follows naturally from the rest of Hans’ definition of science.

    It turns out, both Hans and I are in mainstream science. So we do not have to worry about your hypothetical world.

    Since you included Hans in this, I would go ask Barbara Forrest – would someone investigating angels be considered part of MN and see what she says. Ask Michael Ruse. Ask any of the people who have been at the forefront of this. Then, find out if your definition is in the mainstream or if it is peculiar to yourselves.

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