I’d like to welcome @terrellclemmons to the forum. Terrell is a freelance writer, apologist and blogger who frequently writes for Salvo Magazine. Her most recent article which sparked our conversation was the following: Baptizing Darwin by Terrell Clemmons - Salvo Magazine, where she questions whether Biologos (and evolutionary creationists in general) are faithfully and properly integrating science and Christianity. The article is written from a pro-ID viewpoint. It led to an exchange between me and Terrell about what methodological naturalism really is, as understood by someone in the TE/EC camp. This is a topic which has been discussed recently here, including in our series of threads dealing with supernatural/natural distinction:
- How should we define the supernatural?
- Defining the supernatural: a Recap
- Why Some TE/EC Scientists Silent About Divine Action?
- Christians in Science: Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility (side comments)
To pick up on where we left off, one particular point which kept surfacing in our conversation was Jonathan Wells’ accusation that in methodological naturalism (MN), "materialistic philosophy is running the show."
@terrellclemmons clarified that
That’s just Wells’s colloquial way of saying that the terms and boundaries of all of the reasoning are defined and delimited by materialism, which is consistent with what you’ve explained to me with your phrase, “science as it is practiced today.”
In a strict sense, this is true, if by “materialistic” one means non-supernatural or non-spiritual. Although it turns out not everyone here agrees with me (see Defining the Supernatural: A Recap), I maintain that the science does not and cannot investigate the supernatural, because the behavior of the supernatural is not circumscribed by a set of simple, unambiguous, mechanistic, falsifiable rules which is necessary to scientific reasoning.
However, what I do not like about this phrase (which is quite characteristic of much of pro-ID rhetoric) is the hidden implication that science is controlled by the views of philosophical materialists, who believe that the supernatural does not exist. On the contrary, MN only reflects the fact that science is a limited set of tools which developed primarily on the basis of what has historically “worked” and what didn’t. No group of elite scientists have ever sat down and decided that supernatural explanations are forbidden. Rather, over the centuries scientists have naturally found that it is most fruitful for science to be done by positing only tightly circumscribed, unambiguous, mechanistic, falsifiable explanations, all of which do not apply to supernatural agents. (Thus, one could say that God has designed the universe in such a way that adopting MN makes it most amenable to empirical investigation. It is God’s doing, not that of atheistic scientists!)
This does not mean that when one is adopting MN in science, one becomes ruled by materialistic philosophy. Most ECs affirm that God is knowable through Scripture, personal revelation and history. (A recent survey of a popular majority-TE/EC group on FB found that over 90% believed in the bodily resurrection of Jesus.) In addition, far from adopting a deistic view of God, I maintain that God is necessary to sustain the regular operations of the laws of the universe that make science possible. The important difference is that I don’t think this is a scientific argument, but a philosophical one. This is not just a pedantic difference, but one which determines, for example, whether we regard evolution and Design as complementary or opposing each other.
Does this clarify things, @terrellclemmons?