The issue is because God is real, but God is an entirely different sort of being compared to a wavefunction or a chromosome or a chemical element. God creates and sustains the existence of all these things. God can determine that my experiment today will measure a 10-sigma result and cause me to become frustrated and leave the lab early, maybe because he wants to teach me a different spiritual lesson. God is in fact, more real than any of these things, including the practice of science itself, which is why it seems belittling God to compare him to a wavefunction that you can poke and prod at to induce a predictable reaction.
As Joshua and others have pointed out, the practice of natural science does not necessarily rule out human causal agents such as someone dumping sugar into a gas tank. Human causal agents have clear limitations on what they can do, because we can scientifically study human behavior and physiology. We have knowledge and evidence of the mechanisms that humans are capable of performing. However, God’s causal agency has no such limits. God could have created the universe with apparent age and memories if he wanted to, even though it was actually created 10 days ago.
Well there seems to be 100% agreement that MN as you define it @pnelson, as you stated, is not practiced by science.
The difficulty is that we have different definitions here. Science as I know it includes mental causes, and this has never been in dispute. Science just only includes created things in scientific statements, which includes mental causes.
It’s a good guess, but not correct. You are discussing the final conclusion, not how I made the case, following MN at every step. The how question seems to be pretty important.
You seem not to realize that I agree with you about this.
SETI, forensics, archaeology, experimental psychology, remote sensing (e.g., satellite detection of heavy metals as evidence of human polluting activity), and on and on.
Which is precisely why I see MN as tendentious at best, hypocritical in reality, and destructive of rationality in its consequences. The real reason MN is promoted has nothing to do with the actual practice, or content, of science, which uses “intelligence” to explain ALL THE TIME.
MN is promulgated to keep “creationism” at bay. That’s it. But the very existence of this discussion board, and its ongoing disputes (e.g., about how to determine the information content of proteins and whether they require an intelligent cause) shows that no one pays the least attention to MN if they find an interesting open question they want to play with. MN does nothing for science that science cannot do for itself.
BTW, all the unctuous concerns expressed above for God’s dignity, that He is not a created object, etc. – spare me the pious expressions. God can act as a cause in the physical universe if He so pleases, and leave unmistakable evidence that it was He, and not something else, who brought about the effect in question.
They don’t understand MN, because they don’t actually follow it. Agents are allowed, indeed necessary in light of certain patterns of evidence – except if the agent is God.
What’s odd is scientists can know that some event – say, the origin of life – was NOT caused by God, but never allow that evidence could show the opposite. Such asymmetries should catch one’s attention; they characterize philosophical hypocrisy.
Of course God can act in the world! It is part of traditional theological investigation of the world to treat God differently than created things. If you would like to collapse the distinction you may, but that’s too large a departure for tradition for me!
These are not unctuous concerns (in the sense of “excessively or ingratiatingly flattering”). If you really think that it is “flattering” to God to not consider Him as the same sort of thing as a wavefunction, then you fail to take God’s ontology seriously enough, and you are reducing God to the level of a super-powerful demiurge, which is nothing like the God of Christianity, who existed before anything else, and in whom all things hold together (Colossians 1:17). In fact, this kind of theology where we are able to subject God to the test is condemned in Scripture (Luke 4:12).
And yes, God can leave unmistakeable evidence that He directly brought about some effect instead of something else. That’s what special revelation is for.
As one of the “or nots” how would you “like” to see science change? Would you rather that untestable hypotheses predominate our understanding of the natural world, thus limiting how we study it? I like to think that scientists moved past this quite some time ago with good reason.
Terrible, intractable difficulties with MN. Which is ironic – I grew up there (truly, in north Minneapolis and later Golden Valley; played ice hockey from grade 1, talked like a character out of the Coen Brothers movie Fargo).
To all: I find that I am repeating myself in this thread, growing testy and impatient, picking fights. Not good behavior for me. As John Mercer has stressed, ID can complain all day about MN and never make any progress of its own. Ann Gauger and I (and several others) have an ongoing research project, ORFanBase, requiring my attention. Moving back to that project, best to everyone, I’m out.
I don’t understand your position here. Only a strict, over-the-top Scientism insists that only that which is empirically detectable is real. It sounds like you are elevating Science to some kind of ultimate authority which it is not. And just because something is empirically undetectable at a given time in human history does NOT mean that something is “unreal.” (Was the Higgs boson “unreal” until it was empirically confirmed a few years ago? That view seems similar to the bizarre but popular question about whether a tree falling in the forest produces sound even if nobody is there to hear it. Of course there are sounds produced when a tree falls in the forest. They are real, regardless as to whether some human empirically detects the air molecule vibrations.)
And that discovery came through an empirical process: the mechanic checks the gasoline tank and the fuel filter, where the insoluble sugar accumulated harmlessly (though if clogs the fuel filter it may starve the engine of fuel until the filter is cleaned or replaced.)
As a has-been linguist, I must mention that there is a kind of semantic ambiguity at work in this argument. (I don’t want to call it an equivocation fallacy because that might give the impression that there was an intention to confuse the issue, and I certainly don’t believe that that is the case here.)
When we speak of natural (as in “natural causes”), we may mean:
(1) That which exists in or is caused by nature—and thereby not made or caused by humans.
(2) That which is opposite of supernatural, something explainable through the laws of physics as understood in the matter-energy world.
Your example of a mechanic discovering sugar clogging a fuel filter doesn’t qualify as natural in the aforementioned Definition #1. Nevertheless, the cause in the example is entirely natural as understood in Definition #2. No supernatural processes were involved. The mechanic empirically determined that an insoluble contaminant was added to the fuel line, and everybody has heard of the prank where humans sometimes pour sugar or sand into gasoline tanks in order to cause trouble. Nothing supernatural is suspected. The value of Methodological Naturalism is not somehow compromised in this scenario. MN in no way failed to provide an explanation.
By the way, suppose a chimpanzee is trained to pour sugar in gas tanks. In that case both Definition #1 and Definition #2 would label the chimpanzee a “natural cause.”
[And before a professional mechanic corrects me, I certainly concede that in the vast majority of cases, the sugar would merely accumulate on the bottom of the gasoline tank and most of it would probably not reach the fuel filter at all—depending on a lot of variables which are obviously beyond the context of this thread.]
(S. Joshua Swamidass)
Split this topic
“We will discuss five arguments that have been proposed in support of IMN [intrinsic methodological naturalism, which is what we’ve been discussing in this thread]: the argument from the definition of science, the argument from lawful regularity, the science stopper argument, the argument from procedural necessity, and the testability argument. We conclude that IMN, because of its philosophical flaws, proves to be an ill-advised strategy to counter the claims of IDC. Evolutionary scientists are on firmer ground if they discard supernatural explanations on purely evidential grounds, instead of ruling them out by philosophical fiat.”
By all means, folks, let’s critique ID on its mistakes, oversimplifications, vagueness, whatever. In other words, subject ID to the serious scientific criticism it needs. If nothing survives: well, too bad for ID.
But don’t keep MN in your hip pocket, just in case. That’s lazy, hypocritical, “heads I win, tails you lose,” and unworthy of science or philosophy.