Side Comments on Christians in Science

I don’t think it’s a very big issue, depending on how you approach the subject. You certainly shouldn’t touch the subject during an interview or with anything performance-related (ditto for marriage status, sex, health & etc). But in normal conversation, it’s probably not a big thing to bring up and gauge the response. Proselytization is out but free conversation that doesn’t discomfort others is fine. Religious paraphernalia can be tricky but if your beliefs compel you to where something like a yarmulka, a bindi or an ash smear on Wednesday, that’s fine.

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Hi PdotdQ,

How does someone “not hold that MN is tautological”? How does one affirmatively hold that MN is tautological?


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There are many formulations of this, and in the end it depends on what you call “natural” or “supernatural”, what you mean by “science”, and on the particular form of Methodological Naturalism that you hold.

Here is one formulation:

  1. Methodological Naturalism says that: phenomena we observe in the sciences do not have supernatural causes
  2. Something is in the natural world if it interacts physically with the rest of the natural world (e.g. our senses)
  3. Scientific experiments interact with the physical world in some way - i.e. therefore science cannot test supernatural phenomena
  4. So MN is tautologically true

Note on 2): this means if e.g. ghosts exist and can affect the natural world (e.g. poltergeist or what have you), then they are by definition part of the natural world and can be studied by science.

So more than half of responses want me to start with TE/EC. Why? I hope no one is conspiring to start a fight :slight_smile: .

I’m not looking to start a fight, I’m just looking for a better understanding of the theory and the objections to it. I’ve been working my way through the 800+ page Theistic Evolution by Moreland, Meyer, et. al. and it’s slow going because I’m fact checking almost everything. At the rate I’m progressing, I’ll be retired before I finish the book.

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Have you seen my review yet? Three Reviews of the Crossway Theistic Evolution Book

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No, but I will definitely read it. Thanks!

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Hm - I’ve never really thought about the two questions together (‘what is our purpose as scientists?’ and ‘how does God work in the world?’). I suppose how you answer one does influence the other. Well, here goes:

After coming a ways down the ‘purpose’ hierarchy (glorify God, enjoy him forever, discover truth, etc.), I would say that my purpose is to demonstrate that the God revealed in Jesus Christ is in perfect harmony with the universe he created. That he is by far the best explanation for the physical observations of our universe in comparison to any rival hypothesis.

As for how God acts, I agree with those who’ve suggested earlier that there’s not ever a time that God DOESN’T act. He acts in a multitude of different ways at many different levels at every moment in time, and because of our general ignorance of his will, we classify some of these ways as “miracles” and others as “laws of physics”. But the ignorance is in our own minds, and not in the actions of God. At a sufficiently deep level there are no “miracles”, in the sense of a special act of God different from his other acts. Shallower “miracles” are explained by deeper “miracles”. So for instance a miraculous catch of fish in the Gospels may be a miracle in the day of a fisherman, but presumably nothing miraculous needed to happen at the level of the law of physics. At the deepest level - that is, at the level of the miracle of the Incarnation - there are no “miracles”. Everything is simply a perfectly consistent working out of God’s eternal will in performing that deepest miracle.

I’m still not quite sure how the two questions connect, but that’s where I stand on them.


Thanks for the explanation @PdotdQ. Here’s how I think of MN:

Every event has many causes. Aquinas listed 5: formal, material, efficient, exemplary, and final. MN restricts investigation to the material, efficient, and exemplary. MN does not deny formal and final causes; it simply does not speak to them.

To me, this seems like a formulation of MN that is not tautological and could be affirmed by a Catholic. Would you agree?



The main problem is with this statement. It’s an assumption that material interactions are all there is… and the cause for all that we can observe.

But I think that is no longer methodological naturalism, and is instead metaphysical naturalism. I think methodological naturalism just says that the universe we observe with our senses has a regular order, and that order is intelligable and explicable. In particular, science provides a very successful set of methods, processes, and social constructs to create, test, and refine models of that order so that we can have reliable knowledge of the empirically accessible world around us.

It doesn’t claim, in my thinking, to assess final causes, rationality, subjective experience, or experiences outside the regular order (think outliers).

Intelligible and explicable without resorting to an intelligent agents as an explanation?
At least that seems to be how it is practised.

I don’t think it’s just restricted to subjective experiences… but also the actions of a “subject”… for example science will not cover the decisions made by individuals.

That’s OK. You’ll also be retired before Moreland understands evolution. (OK, that was snarky but I think also true).


I’m not sure you will find a good description of evoutionary science from that book…

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No, intelligent agents are “allowed”, but they have to be “observed with our senses” and act regularly, i.e. be accessible to experimentation.

I’ll but it this way, science doesn’t care if it’s Jesus, Zeus, Thor, or the ghost of Isaac Newton that upholds F = ma, we just know that that’s the relationship between force, mass, and acceleration whenever we measure it. Science looks at relationships between physical parameters and models for reality, it not really interested in final causes.

But of course people are intelligent agents and social sciences study them, so I think they’re allowed.

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Also inferred from the presence of burial pits, burn pits, distributions of tool-like objects & etc.

I’m trying to understand why non-evolutionsists are so opposed to it. I can’t say I’m finding a lot of compelling scientific arguments. At least not it that book.

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An interesting perspective from Joel Edmund Anderson:

J.P. Moreland and the Book “Theistic Evolution”:
Part 1: What do William Paley, Richard Dawkins, and J.P. Moreland all have in common?
Part 2: Young Earth Creationist Arguments…Applied Inconsistently


Yes, of course I agree. I think that the tautologicalness of MN depends on what one means by terms such as science/natural/supernatural and the formulation of MN that one holds. This is one such formulation in which MN is not tautological. However, I cannot deny that there are other formulations that sounds just at reasonable to me, yet renders MN tautological.

I don’t think that this statement assumes that material interaction is all there is, but it does assume that all that is observable stems from natural causes. I think this is reasonable as our senses works through material interactions.

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At the least, it’s a philosophical position that “nature” or “matter” can be a cause for a phenomenon in itself.
Science as discipline seems to presuppose materialism. I think that’s why any theism that depends on a worldview shaped by science tends towards deism or pantheism… i.e that all material interactions are pre programmed (deism)… or that nature somehow shapes itself and creates itself (pantheism).