Why Methodological Naturalism?

Currently, science does not search for all sorts of Truth. Rather, science is limited effort to explain the world on its own terms, without invoking God, His action, or divine design. There is a “line in the sand” in science, where consideration of God is explicitly disallowed by MN. Far from denying God’s existence, this way of doing science is strongly motivated by theism.

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I think we can be more inclusive - if that’s the right word - MN does not consider any god, spirit, demon, magic, or imagination. We need to be able to put our fingers on it, figuratively speaking. There is no singling out of the Christian God for exclusion, many other explanations are also not allowed.


For me, one of the requirements of MN is that you start with objective and empirical measurements that can be repeated by other scientists. In other words, the foundation of MN is uncontested facts, and then it builds towards a conclusion. This is very similar to logic in general where premises are agreed upon, and the conclusions follow from those premises.

This means that if God interacted with nature in an empirically and measurable manner then God could be a part of MN. Science isn’t rejecting God directly, but is instead rejecting the idea of an absence of empirical observations and testable hypotheses. From what I have heard from many Christians, God’s actions should not be empirically discernible or testable, so that means God can’t be included into MN because God fails to meet the requirements.


The Christian doctrine includes the term transcendent as an attribute of God.

In religious studies we define transcendence as independence from the material world and existence in a realm beyond all physical laws known to science. That would surely suggest that a transcendent deity would not readily be subject to the scientific method. (I sometimes have to remind my Christian brethren of this fundamental doctrine which they all claim to hold but sometimes forget.)


It seems that would lead to a logically absurd situation in which, if irrefutable empirical evidence arises for the existence of such a god, then its existence is refuted.

By definition it is unlikely that empiricism could test for and “irrefutably” identify and falsification test the big three attributes of omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence.

Your hypothetical is akin to “What if an irresistible force meets an unmovable object?”

This claim has always puzzled me because the Bible seems to describe God as being in the material and physical world. For example, God resides in the Holy of Holies within the temple. God is part of the burning bush. Jesus is God incarnate here on Earth. God is a disembodied hand that writes on a wall in the book of Daniel. So how does this fit in with what you are describing?

Transcendence does not preclude “intersecting” with the material world. (If it did, then Jesus as God Incarnate would be ruled out by definition.)

Transcendence also follows from God’s existence independent from the universe he created. The creator of a material world would by definition have to exist outside it.

Would it be fair to say that God can be both inside and outside of the material world?

Actually, MN could consider these things.

Omnipresence certainly includes that idea. Transcendence stresses the “otherness” and “above and beyond” aspect.

If there were a way to consistently and repeatedly test a non-natural (supernatural) mechanism such that scientists from all over the world reach the same conclusion, then MN would not be a theological obstacle.

How can one test a non-matter/non-energy (i.e., supernatural) entity using the scientific method—which can only investigate matter/energy phenomena?

There are very good reasons why the Christian philosophers who first defined natural philosophy and gradually developed empiricism (including the scientific method) saw the importance of treating science as a subset of philosophy and not some kind of complement to it.

By definition, science cannot investigate non-matter/non-energy phenomena/entities.

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Definitions are part of the problem with addressing questions like this. If I proclaimed water was supernatural, would science have to cease all scientific studies on water?

If God parts the Red Sea, is that a matter/energy phenomena?

In philosophy especially, definitions are absolutely essential. They aren’t the problem. Without definitions, nothing can be explored.

Mere declaration in a hypothetical ceases nothing. (Water has material properties in a physical world. Such an arbitrary declaration does not change that. Nobody in philosophy claims that the definition of God requires a physical world.)

That’s one of the sticking points I have in these discussions. Many things about God are merely declared. I understand that this is a rather mysterious and difficult subject that humans have probably been arguing over since language existed, but it is still a bit frustrating to hit points where it sounds an awful lot like, “Because I say so”.