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Methodological naturalism would have been a science stopper for Isaac Newton

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Sir Isaac Newton's own first edition copy of his Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica

… one of his supreme scientific achievements, the theory of universal gravitation, was not a mechanical explanation at all, but rather a fruitful mathematical description of phenomena on the basis of a postulated gravitational force that acted at a distance and permitted very precise predictions of astronomical events. As a theist, Newton was not bothered by this state of affairs in the least, since he regarded God as being integrally involved in the quotidian course of nature. What should therefore be observed—especially in respect of Newton’s theory of universal gravitation—is that it was precisely his rejection of methodological naturalism in conjunction with his mathematical genius that enabled him to follow the course that he did, and to revolutionize physics and astronomy.

As a consequence, gravitational theory proceeded quite happily without a “mechanism” for well over two centuries, until Einstein provided one in the general theory of relativity: Mass-energy affects the structure of spacetime through gravitational waves propagating at the speed of light. Of course, quantum theory undoes all this. Feynman diagrams as aids to computation and visualizability are mere expedients.

What is basic to quantum field theory and essential to its empirical adequacy are (1) nonlocal action-at-a-distance that defies any conception of efficient material causality, and (2) statistical descriptions and principles of superposition that cast aside anything even vaguely reminiscent of individuatable material substances with intrinsic identities.85 And if, as most physicists believe, the reconciliation of general relativity with quantum theory will come through the quantization of gravity, all of these basic quantum-theoretic consequences will reassert themselves in gravitational phenomena.

– Bruce L. Gordon, “The Rise of Naturalism,” in The Nature of Nature (Pp. 22-23)

Don’t forget, you can win a copy of The Nature of Nature in this contest, which closes Saturday (August 6, 2011): “Uncommon Descent contest: List the five books that helped ID most – written by non-ID researchers”

3 Replies to “Methodological naturalism would have been a science stopper for Isaac Newton

  1. 1
    Ilion says:

    If, as the DarwinDefenders assert, there is no necessary connection between ‘methodological naturalism’ and ‘philosophical naturalism’, then, by the same token, there is no necessary connection between ‘methodological designism’ and ‘philosophical designism’.

    And yet, as we all know, they are terrified of ‘methodological designism’.

  2. 2
    Mung says:

    Methodological designerism is an oxymoron!

    Designers are completely arbitrary!

    You just never know when a software designer is going to grab an airplane engine and try to stuff it into his code.

  3. 3
    StuartHarris says:

    And peer review would have been a science stopper for Einstein. In today’s world of government funded, refereed, top-down controlled “science” how could an unkown patent clerk publish a paper in a journal the likes of Annalen der Physik?

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