Swamidass vs. Nelson – trying to find a “Common Narrative with ID on MN”?

I’ll intervene on this conversation started by S. Joshua Swamidass as my guess is he’s going to mangle terms & then claim mastery over them, as he has done in the past on the topic of ‘methodological naturalism’ (MN). Paul Nelson (of micro-/macro- distinction) has posted here in the past & has done a fine job of staying more neutral, scholarly and welcoming to discussion than most IDists at the DI. It would be welcome for Nelson to clarify, re-iterate or to add any points here that Swamidass might not wish to address at PS, or in case the naive scientism cum MN lobby grows too loud there.

This is one of those topics where in my view Swamidass scores quite low in credibility and coherency (much like I score in biology! = P). This makes sense because he has little training and doesn’t seem to have done much personal reading in philosophy, social sciences or humanities. Paul Nelson, on the other hand, did a PhD in the philosophy of biology. So if Swamidass starts to try to out-philosophize Nelson, things could get hilarious quickly, as they have in the past, e.g. with Jonathan Burke, who discovered predecessors to GA -> GAE that Swamidass missed & had to add at the last minute.

Let’s see if Swamidass is ready to learn if the term ‘methodological naturalism’ is really a sword he wants to fall on or not. So far, it has been. Nelson, as do I, rejects MNism, & not just as a misnomer.

In the highlighted thread, we see Swamidass ask Nelson for clarification on a topic that Swamidass has obviously done a little bit of armchair talk with buddies about, but hasn’t actually got into the main course yet. Swamidass insists, “For the record, I think MN is legitimate, but that debate is a separate issue.”

Swamidass keeps repeating the same clumsy and imprecise language, then insisting there is nothing to debate about it. He continues to use a word duo (M+N) that he says he thinks is ‘wrong,’ yet without making any attempt to get beyond it. Why not? If he has to hear it 20 times before he understands it, then despite his proficiency in biology & computation, that might be what he needs in order to learn in other fields, such as philosophy. MN is not simply ‘legitimate’ or ‘illegitimate;’ it is rather an expression of ideology about the way (natural) science is done, i.e. its methods. That Swamidass doesn’t realise the inherent bias in the way he is framing the conversation explains much about why people communicating about ‘origins’ topics don’t understand each other.

The reasons Swamidass won’t debate are because, 1. He doesn’t have an original place to stand that was not already taken first by others who likely know the field better than he does, 2. Debate for Swamidass seems always to quickly turn into a kind of non-mainline Christian evangelical apologetics, similar to the BioLogos model, at least how he frames his ‘Empty Chair Confessional’ scenario, as if he were the Science Pope. And when you can’t evangelize evangelcalism to your opponent, or claim A&E as your own in front of them, then the game is up, and, 3. He’s trying to promote peace when there is no peace, using inciting arguments (re: MN) & doing so while flying the confessional banner of the very community that has been among the most protesting & agitating & stubborn & backward (consistent biblical literalistic bigotry & anti-science misunderstanding) in the conversation. And yet he hasn’t yet issued a word of apology for even the METHOD he is using, which comes right out of the same fundamentalist-creationist playbook that caused the problems in the first place and which in his own way, he exacerbates even while ‘scientifically’ preaching peace.

Mature catholic and orthodox Abrahamic monotheists have no need for the highly ideological, scientistic ‘peace’ that Swamidass would sell them on the way down the road to further separation of theology/worldview & human life.

“1. Using God as an explanation is disallowed by MN in scientific work.”

Technically speaking, that comes closer to ‘methodological anti-supernaturalism’ (ASN) than to promoting a naturalism-only approach to methods used in natural sciences. The latter would require a positive signification that Joshue doesn’t adequately provide, which is why the DI produces books like “The Nature of Nature.” It is difficult to figure why Joshua doesn’t understand that MASN does not = MN. Yet he keeps repeating it. One could write it down to a kind of narrow thinking required to ‘do biology’ that may make it difficult to explore other fields of thought respectfully and on their own terms, & thus to try to better understand than just dictating standard-fare (most often, but not always, atheism-driven) MN to philosophers.

Anti-supernaturalism is a different position from pro-naturalism. Methodological naturalism is still a type of naturalism. Swamidass can’t seem to come to grips with or allow his own English language to reflect this in his thoughts. So instead he might pause to ask why philosophers, not to mention social scientists and humanities scholars rather widely, reject the ideology that Swamidass thinks he is defending by simply calling it ‘good science’. We don’t want Swamidass’ naturalistic ideology hidden behind the term ‘methodological,’ yet Swamidass insists we must accept it or be negatively counted.

Sorry Swamidass, ideology is not just automatically ‘good science’ because a PhD in biological computation with a medical degree says it is & encourages others on a soapbox to echo him.

2. Wrong based on answer to 1.

“3. The idea was to discuss an intelligent designer rather than God, design rather than creation, and remove references to Scripture. In fact this was all an attempt to abide by MN.” – Swamidass

How can Swamidass get this so wrong? Is it because he is fixated on MN as a personal ideology he holds as a natural scientist? I have asked Joshua in the past to clearly articulate what a non-naturalist natural scientist looks like & he has avoided answering as if a plague were chasing him. In other words, in his ideological incoherence, he claims both to reject naturalism & accept naturalism at the same time. And now having been caught doing this, doesn’t wish for it to be pointed out. It would be better if Swamidass could learn his error openly & move forward with a clearer message. I believe Paul Nelson could help him do this.

First, it’s an Intelligent Designer, capitalized, if one has a proper sense of Divine Names. C’mon, Paul, don’t just peter out on this – take it head-on! Yes, the DI won’t talk about the Intelligent Designer as part of the ‘theory,’ which is rather minimalist in the end anyway, definitely not a ‘design revolution’. IDism in short: information, therefore mind & therefore a better chance of divine Creation than according to an atheist worldview. Apologetics. Yet Swamidass doesn’t seem to realize how using & promoting the ideology of MN, actually furthers the atheism he somewhat vaguely claims he is against. And the problem is that he can’t just up his science-talk in giving an answer to this because it is not a ‘strictly scientific’ observation or problem he is facing. Pushing harder the wrong way isn’t a good choice. So, when Swamidass gets off his high Science horse, we may actually be able to have a better conversation that takes the ideology of MN more seriously than Swamidass currently does, perhaps just because he can’t see the other side.

4. Facepalm.

“5. Consequently there has been a shift in ID. Rather than work within MN, more and more ID proponents want to get rid of MN in questions of origins.”

No, IDists have been consistently anti-MN since the beginning of the Movement. I’ve been following it since @2002. “In questions of origins,” one of the problems is the scientistic attitude Swamidass brings to the table in contrast with Nelson. Then Swamidass has the gall to ask: “How would you rewrite your narrative in a way that could be common to us?”

I realise the guy deserves some slack, but how about Swamidass making an attempt to rewrite his non-mainline ‘narrative’ in a way that doesn’t particularly privilege the ideology that he holds in the conversation? It would be more productive to instead open up the conversation even to people who patiently, consistently & faithfully reject the scientistic ideology of MN. If Swamidass is unwilling to even consider that it is he who might be misperceiving things, perhaps due to his philosophical immaturity & loose use of concepts & terms, progress with Nelson might indeed take place, which could be good for the future of ‘the conversation.’

One of Nelson’s flaws, of course, is his trust in the work of Stephen C. Meyer, whose definition of ‘history’ leaves more than a lot to be desired. I was quite surprised at what I discovered at Cambridge where Meyer wrote his dissertation & don’t think they appreciate being linked as Meyer & the DI likes to advertise. Let’s leave Meyer out of this & listen to what Nelson has to say.

I’d pick Nelson over Swamidass when it comes to MN. And of course Steve Fuller has gone perhaps even further than Steve Dilley, who Nelson recommended to Swamidass, in exposing MN. Whether or not Nelson can finally get through to Joshua on this topic is another issue. Sometimes more attempts is all it takes.

Nelson wrote that: “MN is the current dividing line because the ID community is united by the bare proposition that “intelligent design is empirically detectable in nature.” In order for design to be detectable, of course, it must have some observational or empirical content which does not reduce ultimately to physics. That’s intelligence as a distinct cause, issuing in distinct effects. MN forbids appeals to intelligence (i.e., as a basic or fundamental constituent of reality). There’s the conflict.”

Here’s where Nelson starts to go off the rails. 1) It’s Intelligent Design, not intelligent design’. The detectability of divine Intelligence, as Phillip Johnson & Charles Thaxton, along with Olsen & Bradley believed & believe. 2) Design is already ‘detectable’, but it is not the end goal simply to ‘detect’ some kind of thing (ontology). Rather, IDism is about implications, the implication of a Mind beyond matter. Good natural science and social science can & do already “appeal to intelligence”. I was speaking with a design theorist & reading a design thinking paper recently. But that’s not ‘Intelligent Design Theory’ and never will be. 3) Science is not a ‘forbidding’ field or discipline. Nelson himself couldn’t see a coherent, clear, valuable ‘Intelligent Design Theory’ even recently, in his own words. The IDists simply have provided no strictly scientific evidence of the instantiation of what they call ‘Intelligent Design’ and instead depend on probabilism & sciency apologetics, the latter much like the earlier ‘creationist’ movements.

So, in the end Swamidass is right about at least this: “The issue is divine intelligence, and the attempt to recognize design without considering the designer (neither approach works in science).” Biology differs considerably from theology & theological biology isn’t welcome; it’s intentionally schismatic. Yet Swamidass is otherwise wrong to suggest that ‘science’ is & only ever can be ‘naturalistic,’ so it’s a rather small & narrow view he is espousing, in the name of Science.

At least S. Joshua Swamidass might learn the difference between philosophy and ideology from Nelson in this conversation. He may then come to realize he’s been foisting a figment of his own imagination that needn’t have been constructed. Then again, he may just shrink back into typical disciplinary language that wreaks of natural scientism, ideological naturalism, biologism & reductionism again. Whatever he does, because I’m calling him out on it here and he doesn’t like being called out away from PS, Joshua will likely deny it all or just ignore it in public because he can’t seem to figure any other way out of the philosophical corner he’s pained himself into than to blame the messenger. Sad to see such an ethically-challenged scientist.

Properly understood, ‘methodological naturalism’ denotes ideology, not ‘good science.’ If Nelson would go further than he has in the past and acknowledge this, a different, likely better conversation would open up. The problem is that Swamidass hasn’t yet shown he’s ready to travel that road. Maybe Nelson will help him get there towards meeting next year with his former ‘hero’ (as Swamidass once briefly called) Behe.

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462 thoughts on “Swamidass vs. Nelson – trying to find a “Common Narrative with ID on MN”?

  1. faded_Glory,

    A reminder of your question:

    Can anyone give me some examples of scientific hypotheses that do include a possibility of divine intervention, yet are still amenable to empirical testing?

    YEC certainly includes a possibility of divine intervention, yet is still amenable to empirical testing.

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  2. faded_Glory,

    “an example of a non-MN empitically testable scienctific hypothesis”

    Social sciences & humanities. Wow, that was hard. Thousands of examples to choose from.

    We don’t use MNism. What’s so difficult to understand? Why are you trying to force an ill-suited ideology on social sciences & humanities scholars? If you don’t think you are trying to force naturalism outside of natural-physical sciences, then a change in your language is needed.

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  3. keiths: See my reply to Corneel above. This is a testable supernatural hypothesis:

    The YEC God exists.

    It’s been falsified because the YE part has been falsified.

    I guess that makes sense: The only way to learn about a supernatural entity is through its interactions with the natural realm. It does require that the supernatural entity in question does so in a predictable manner (this feels familiar, we discussed this before, didn’t we?).

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  4. Gregory:
    faded_Glory,

    Social sciences & humanities. Wow, that was hard. Thousands of examples to choose from.

    We don’t use MNism. What’s so difficult to understand? Why are you trying to force an ill-suited ideology on social sciences & humanities scholars? If you don’t think you are trying to force naturalism outside of natural-physical sciences, then a change in your language is needed.

    He’s asking for a non-naturalistic hypothesis, try again.

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  5. Corneel,

    I guess that makes sense: The only way to learn about a supernatural entity is through its interactions with the natural realm. It does require that the supernatural entity in question does so in a predictable manner…

    Right. “God did it” isn’t testable, but “God did it less than 10,000 years ago in a non-deceptive way” is.

    (this feels familiar, we discussed this before, didn’t we?).

    I think so.

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  6. dazz,

    If he doesn’t allow a ‘non-natural hypothesis,’ that makes it, well, difficult to please such a person.

    That’s one of the great problems with ideological naturalists: they are blind to non-natural reality.

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  7. Kantian Naturalist:
    I’d like to know what “methodological anti-supernaturalism” isn’t the same as “methodological naturalism”.

    ETA: I’ve read the “Naturalism in the Natural Sciences” by de Vries and am curious to know what is supposed to be objectionable about it.

    Ok, you’re welcome for the text.

    Yet somehow you don’t know the difference between ‘anti-‘ & ‘pro-‘ apparently? Give it a try, KN. Put in a bit of thought outside of narrow analytic scientismic philosophistry.

    Maybe start with removing the ‘methodological.’ How is anti-supernaturalism different from (or the same as) pro-naturalism? Won’t you offer some guesses, at least?

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  8. Corneel: I guess that makes sense: The only way to learn about a supernatural entity is through its interactions with the natural realm.

    Or a book with the inspired word of God and revelation.

    It does require that the supernatural entity in question does so in a predictable manner (this feels familiar, we discussed this before, didn’t we?).

    Not seeing why a omnipotent/ omniscience Being is required only to act in a predictable way to beings with limited knowledge.

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  9. Gregory:
    dazz,

    If he doesn’t allow a ‘non-natural hypothesis,’ that makes it, well, difficult to please such a person.

    That’s one of the great problems with ideological naturalists: they are blind to non-natural reality.

    Hahaha, how lame. Come on, Gregory, we’re open minded. Blow our minds

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  10. Corneel:

    I guess that makes sense: The only way to learn about a supernatural entity is through its interactions with the natural realm.

    newton:

    Or a book with the inspired word of God and revelation.

    Such a book is the result of an interaction between God and the natural realm.

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  11. newton,

    Not seeing why a omnipotent/ omniscience Being is required only to act in a predictable way to beings with limited knowledge.

    If there are no constraints (including self-imposed ones) on God’s behavior, then “God did it” becomes unfalsifiable.

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  12. Gregory:
    dazz,

    The disenchanting bait is noted & rejected.

    I’m presuming the rejected “bait” is the invitation to produce something, anything, that anyone whose mind is not already made up can evaluate and consider.

    If we are blind to “non-natural reality”, produce some already. Point to it. Let us test it and measure it and relate it to whatever it’s related to. If you can’t (or won’t) do that, all you have is meaningless word salad. “Non-natural reality” indeed. Is this perhaps related to “pure woo”?

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  13. Gregory:
    faded_Glory,

    Social sciences & humanities. Wow, that was hard. Thousands of examples to choose from.

    We don’t use MNism. What’s so difficult to understand? Why are you trying to force an ill-suited ideology on social sciences & humanities scholars? If you don’t think you are trying to force naturalism outside of natural-physical sciences, then a change in your language is needed.

    “Social science” or “humanities” is a scientifically testable hypothesis? I understand that these are areas of interest, generally speaking, but where is the hypothesis? “Biology” isn’t a hypothesis either, for example.

    There are of course whole academic departments devoted to the study of how people think, why they do what they do, what explains individual taste and preference, and so on without end. I have both conducted and been a subject of experiments in psychology. And yes, these follow the form of constructing a hypothesis, proposing operational definitions, performing the experiment, analyzing the results, deriving multiple alternative interpretations of the results, constructing hypotheses and tests based on each interpretation, and iterating this process. Not drastically different from science in any field.

    You might draw some sort of distinction between social science or physics (where experiments can be conducted) and fields like astronomy and paleontology which are more observational. Of course in both astronomy and paleontology you can construct testable hypotheses, they just can’t replicate what are essentially historical observation.

    Now, if by “humanities” you are referring to literature, music, art, dance, etc. I will grant these are a different category. But I would not grant that learning to paint or play piano is science.

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  14. Flint,

    Sorry, thought I heard an empty echo. It seems we’ve had this rodeo before. “Of course culture is natural…in the world of [natural] science, there is no distinction between ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’.” http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/why-methodological-naturalism-is-a-questionable-philosophy-of-science/

    Since you didn’t learn anything then, there’s no need to go further now.

    You said you’re retired, yes? Well, I’m busy. Too busy for this oblivious (informationally, culturally, spiritually, symbolically, etc.) ideationally weak naturalistic nonsense that rigs the language game in an unfair way. Not playing, elder atheist/agnostic. Good luck with it.

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  15. Flint: Of course a god coming down from heaven for a spectacular photo op would be evidence.

    You are the one who just said it would be evidence, so what would it be evidence of? Of the supernatural? Because you have already said there can’t be evidence of the supernatural.

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  16. Gregory:
    Flint,

    Sorry, thought I heard an empty echo. It seems we’ve had this rodeo before. “Of course culture is natural…in the world of [natural] science, there is no distinction between ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’.” http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/why-methodological-naturalism-is-a-questionable-philosophy-of-science/

    Since you didn’t learn anything then, there’s no need to go further now.

    You said you’re retired, yes? Well, I’m busy. Too busy for this oblivious (informationally, culturally, spiritually, symbolically, etc.) ideationally weak naturalistic nonsense that rigs the language game in an unfair way. Not playing, elder atheist/agnostic. Good luck with it.

    I don’t mind. Go pray at something else.

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  17. phoodoo: You are the one who just said it would be evidence, so what would it be evidence of?Of the supernatural?Because you have already said there can’t be evidence of the supernatural.

    This is exactly the question I asked. Yes, everything we can observe, either directly or indirectly, is evidence of something. Interpreting our observations is where the challenge often lies.

    As you may perhaps have read in one of my replies to you, I did not rule out dark matter or energy as evidence of the supernatural. I said that IF these are indeed supernatural phenomena, then science will either never be able to explain them, or propose incorrect explanations.

    But again I must ask, if thunder is not evidence of Thor, what is?

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  18. Flint,

    Well, why can’t you answer your own question, you just said it is evidence. So what do you mean by that?

    If “a god coming down from heaven for a spectacular photo op” is evidence, is it evidence of a god coming down from heaven for a spectacular photo op ?

    What are you trying to say?

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  19. Gregory,

    It may have escaped your notice, but on this site the debate focusses on evolution in biology. You keep bringing in the social sciences and humanities as if they are relevant here, but just about the only poster ever discussing those subjects is you.

    So, let me clarify the question:

    Can you provide an example of a non-MN empirically testable scientific hypothesis in the field of biology?

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  20. keiths,
    Ok, I will grant you that, but the only reason YEC could qualify is that they in effect have provided an operational definition of their god.

    ID studiously avoids doing this.

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  21. Gregory:
    dazz,

    If he doesn’t allow a ‘non-natural hypothesis,’ that makes it, well, difficult to please such a person.

    That’s one of the great problems with ideological naturalists: they are blind to non-natural reality.

    This is not about me allowing it or not, this is about you presenting us with an example of a non-natural hypothesis (preferably one relevant to the main topic of this site, i.e. biology) that still qualifies as scientific.

    I note that several posts later you still haven’t done so, and I expect you never will.

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  22. faded_Glory: You keep bringing in the social sciences and humanities as if they are relevant here, but just about the only poster ever discussing those subjects is you.

    When all you have is a hammer…

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  23. petrushka: When all you have is a hammer…

    If he had a hammer he could at least go out into the field and take some rock samples, you know, to do some naturalistic science. Or perhaps to formulate a non-naturalistic geological hypothesis?

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  24. faded_Glory:
    phoodoo,

    By formulating hypotheses and testing them out in the lab.

    How is testing something in a lab going to tell you how life started originally?

    Is this the same way you test how the dinosaurs went extinct. By trying to make some in a lab and then wiping them out?

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  25. phoodoo: How is testing something in a lab going to tell you how life started originally?

    More on topic: what should abiogenesis researchers actually be doing to get rid of the ideological blinders of MN?

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  26. Corneel,

    Here is what I think is more do topic. According to you naturalists, something is science if I can make a prediction, and then think of a lab experiment to test it. The test doesn’t have to work, I don’t even actually have to perform the test. I just have to say what the theory is then explain an experiment.

    So I can say I believe God exists and that God can turn a radish into a cucumber. I take a radish put it into a lab, then wait.

    Now it’s science.

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  27. phoodoo: So I can say I believe God exists and that God can turn a radish into a cucumber. I take a radish put it into a lab, then wait.

    Now it’s science.

    So what did you find? Did the experiment confirm your hypothesis?

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  28. Corneel,

    We are waiting. Just like other science theories. Are the other theories that haven’t provided a result yet not science?

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  29. phoodoo: We are waiting. Just like other science theories. Are the other theories that haven’t provided a result yet not science?

    Excellent, perseverance is a useful trait for a freshman scientist. However, perhaps you should consider provisionally accepting the hypothesis that there is no God who eventually turns all radishes into cucumbers. That is, after all, the most parsimonious explanation.

    Now, I propose you move on to ponder hypothetical tests for the existence of the God you DO believe in. You know, the One that doesn’t turn radishes into cucumbers on command. Or returning to the original question: how do we test that God created the first living creatures in the dawn of time? If you accuse “naturalist” scientists of deliberately keeping the supernatural out of their explanatory framework, it is only fair you suggest an alternative for them to work with.

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  30. Corneel,

    Are you going to concede that given your sides definition of science, that this qualifies as science every bit as much as faded glory suggests we can do with the original origin of life? Or for the dinosaurs extinction. Or for dark energy? If that is science, then so is the search for God.

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  31. Corneel,

    And let me be clear. I am simply going by what you materialists say is science. I happen to think science is just the search for the best truth we can find. I think it is just an excuse to say you can test all science. But if that is what is required, not that the test is successful, but just that you propose it, we’ll then I have satisfied that criteria the same as your side has

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  32. keiths:
    newton,

    If there are no constraints (including self-imposed ones) on God’s behavior, then “God did it” becomes unfalsifiable.

    Catch 22. Even an omnipotent God is constrained , by that which is logically possible. A logically impossible event happened , it would falsify god did it. However if a logically impossible event happened , it would not be a logically impossible event.

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  33. phoodoo: And let me be clear. I am simply going by what you materialists say is science.

    What do theistic scientists say is science?

    I happen to think science is just the search for the best truth we can find.

    So your version of science might seek to determine the truth of which flavor of snoballs is the best? Awesome.

    I think it is just an excuse to say you can test all science.

    Someone might say ,it is just an excuse to say you don’t need to test it.

    But if that is what is required, not that the test is successful, but just that you propose it, we’ll then I have satisfied that criteria the same as your side has

    Sure, and that is why some Christian Scientists test the power of the supernatural by withholding medical treatment from their children.

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  34. phoodoo: Are you going to concede that given your sides definition of science, that this qualifies as science every bit as much as faded glory suggests we can do with the original origin of life?

    Given that you were just being facetious, I wouldn’t say it qualified “every bit as much” but at least there was a glimmer of hypothesis testing, which I consider part and parcel of the scientific method.

    phoodoo: It seems you keep trying to deflect.

    ?

    phoodoo: I happen to think science is just the search for the best truth we can find. I think it is just an excuse to say you can test all science. But if that is what is required, not that the test is successful, but just that you propose it, we’ll then I have satisfied that criteria the same as your side has

    Of course, the demarcation problem. It appears that you have a different view of science than I have. I do not view science as “the search for the best truth we can find” but rather as a toolset for efficiently figuring out how things work; An organised way of satisfying ones curiosity, if you will. And I judge research by how efficient it is at that.

    As to your complaint that unsuccesful experiments are part of science as well; yes, they are, since they help us dismiss hypotheses that perform poorly. This seems to be the part that vexes creationists mostly. It is a small thing to dismiss God-that-transforms-all-radishes-into-cucumbers, but would you be willing to dismiss God-that-has-not-intervened-in-the-origin-of-life?

    In some previous discussion with J-Mac, you introduced the concept of God guiding his creation as someone who pushes a wooden cart of a hill. He knows what its path and its destination will be, so the cart just rolls on without need for intervention. Do you think it is worthwhile to test this hypothesis against creation of life ex nihilo? Would you want to know?

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  35. faded_Glory,

    Listen, my patience has run out & you appear very under-capable of grasping simple things that teenagers I speak with get in 2 seconds without any difficulty.

    Biologists use natural scientific methods. What is hard to understand about this?!? Any disagreement? No.

    Biologists are NOT required to accept/adopt ideological methodological naturalism, WHILE DOING NATURAL SCIENCE. Any disagreement? No.

    Is this really that hard to understand? It does seem really difficult for this to be internalized into your mind (oops, brain).

    Yet you seem intent to either fake, lie or complain that you continue to not understand this.

    Are you saying that 100% of biologists SHOULD adopt the ideology of methodological naturalism? Yes or No.

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  36. There’s clearly something to the old neo-Kantian distinction between the methods of the Naturwissenschaften (natural sciences) and those of the Geisteswissenschaften (humanities), where the former look for explanations and the latter aim at understanding.

    But I’m simply baffled at the claim that accepting this distinction means that the Geisteswissenschaften aren’t also governed by methodological naturalism in de Vries’s sense. His concern is with a distinction between empirical inquiry into contingent actualities and speculation about possible ultimate or final causes.

    It is true that de Vries puts a good deal of weight on the distinction between reasons and causes; as he puts it, just knowing all the biological facts about a person’s brain and body won’t tell you what reasons they have for doing what they do. I wouldn’t put this point as starkly as he does, but surely there’s something right about this distinction. (I believe the first place where this distinction gets made is Plato’s criticism of Anaxagoras in Phaedo.)

    The social sciences are methodologically hybrids, one might say: whether a sociologist or psychologist is interested in explanations or in understanding depends on his or her training and sub-discipline. It might depend on their specific research question.

    But does that mean that the humanities and humanistic social sciences are therefore neglecting or avoiding methodological naturalism? I don’t think so.

    From what I can tell, methodological naturalism only says that our causal explanations are restricted to spatio-temporal phenomena. We cannot empirically confirm or disconfirm any hypotheses about causal regularities beyond the limits of the universe. That is, we cannot determine through empirical testing of models whether or not God exists, or the soul is immortal, etc.

    In other words, I find de Vries’s methodological naturalism to be a pretty Kantian way of declaring a truce between science and religion, in a “limiting knowledge to make room for faith” kind of way.

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  37. I would be happy if zero percent of people adopted ideologies, and if a large percentage adopted pragmatic approaches to problems.

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  38. KN, as you appear fully committed to ideological naturalism, not only in natural-physical science, but also SSH, a simple question arises.

    Do you intentionally equivocate between ‘scientific methods’ and ‘methodological naturalism’, though there is no need to do so in English language?

    This is what Dr. David Heddle (physics) wrote recently at PS, on the thread Joshua started for an evangelical Protestant creationist after Paul Nelson left due to people not listening there: “BTW, I view MN and ‘the scientific method’ as synonymous.”

    Is that your position also? Otherwise, what’s different about them?

    Let’s leave aside this ‘neo-Kantian’ stuff as we’re obviously post-Kantian in so many ways now. Indeed, Kant really wasn’t a very good representative of the Germans on this topic – he was too early. Husserl, Dilthey, Windelband, who distinguished idiographic from nomothetic. Johann G. Hamann from the same period already went past Kant & bringing the heart back from Kant’s calcified hyper-rationalism. But hey, you don’t appear familiar with post-Kantian thought, so we’re stuck clarifying if you will volunteer any difference at all between a METHODOLOGY & an IDEOLOGY. Baby steps indeed for a philosophist.

    Notice as well that KN is ‘already an expert’ & putting out hairbrained schemes about what de Vries meant (though we’ve long discussed this same thing KN is catching up on), after finally, waiting more than a decade, where if he were genuinely interested, he could have got off his comfy & complacent anti-religious attitude & even in apostasy, looked up de Vries important paper? Sad, anti-religious secularizer.

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  39. Corneel,

    You keep deflecting with irrelevant points. I wonder why that is. At least three people here recently have claimed that to be science, it must be testable. I then said, how about the extinction of the dinosaurs? How about the OOL, are those things testable? What makes them science.

    If we go by faded glory and flint and others, then great, I have just shown you can say the same thing about the supernatural. But you keep dismissing that.

    You also seem to be dismissing the fact that as a materialist, you claim there can’t be evidence for the supernatural. Then, as I said to Flint and others, well, if God comes down and writes his name in the stars, do we count that as evidence or do we ignore it and say, “well, we just can’t explain it.” If the suns turns into a burning cross, and then flickers on and off in morse code, “I am God” do we ignore that as evidence?

    So what’s your position, can there be evidence for a God or not?

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  40. newton: Sure, and that is why some Christian Scientists test the power of the supernatural by withholding medical treatment from their children.

    And most of them survive just fine.

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  41. petrushka,

    Fear of ideology in a person represents embrace of chaos. Ideology got a horrible name under Karl Marx. Even reading that name, many N. Americans bristle. Even atheists, of whom Marx was one.

    What I am asking for is some maturation in the ability to speak about ideology in N. America. It is LONG overdue.

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  42. phoodoo: You keep deflecting with irrelevant points. I wonder why that is.

    Just because you aren’t satisfied with my responses, doesn’t mean I have deflected.

    phoodoo: At least three people here recently have claimed that to be science, it must be testable. I then said, how about the extinction of the dinosaurs? How about the OOL, are those things testable? What makes them science.

    Sure those events are testable*. We know that the K–Pg extinction event took place and we are pretty sure of some probable causes. Scientific progress in those topics is achieved for a large part by testing competing hypotheses (e.g. asteroid impact and extended periods of heightened volcanism). We learned a lot by doing that.

    phoodoo: If we go by faded glory and flint and others, then great, I have just shown you can say the same thing about the supernatural. But you keep dismissing that.

    And I have told you why I keep dismissing that. There is no hypothesis testing in most flavours of creationism, including Intelligent Design. Your radish-transforming God made me smile, but it should be obvious it fails as a serious test as well. Neither of us accepts the persistent radishness of your experimental radish as conclusive evidence for the non-existence of God. So we are left concluding that either 1) God does not exist or 2) God didn’t really feel compelled to transform your radish. We learned pretty much nothing because you weren’t testing a true entailment of the existence of God.

    phoodoo: You also seem to be dismissing the fact that as a materialist, you claim there can’t be evidence for the supernatural.

    You misunderstand: I never claimed there can never be any evidence for the supernatural. What I have been saying is that no such evidence is present today, and that we are completely dependent on the willingness of those supernatural entities for presenting us with that evidence. We can’t probe the supernatural directly, by definition.

    *nitpick: since birds are Dinosaurs, they have never gone extinct.

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  43. Corneel: What I have been saying is that no such evidence is present today, and that we are completely dependent on the willingness of those supernatural entities for presenting us with that evidence.

    Please try to listen to what I am saying more carefully. You are sounding a bit like Flint with his “there can not be any evidence for the supernatural, and anyway I haven’t seen any yet.”

    If you are saying there CAN be evidence for the supernatural, simply tell me what would qualify as evidence? Its that simple.

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