Methodological Naturalism

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    Delfino, Robert A.

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    Replacing Methodological Naturalism

    "In this paper I focus on methodological naturalism with the goal of demonstrating why the scientific community should abandon it and replace it with a new methodological principle. I accomplish this by performing four tasks. First, I analyze different formulations and justifications of methodological naturalism that have been put forth by scientists and philosophers of science. Second, I show how all of these formulations and justifications have serious problems and therefore the principle of methodological naturalism should be abandoned. Third, I argue that a new methodological principle needs to take its place. I propose and defend such a principle, which I call the principle of methodological neutralism...Fourth, and finally, I reply to some objections that might be raised against my view."
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    Haarsma, Loren

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    Methodological Naturalism in the Study of Human Behavior

    "In the social sciences, what we call "Christian scholarship" often includes explicit, or identifiably implicit, Christian assumptions. These assumptions sometimes clearly distinguish Christian scholarship from scholarship done by non-Christians. By contrast, when we study atoms, or when we study bird behavior, we're in the natural sciences. In the natural sciences, technical scholarship done by Christians and non-Christians are often indistinguishable. Some folks claim that this is because the natural sciences are 'methodologically naturalistic.' The methods and results of the natural sciences are increasingly being used to study human behavior. Social scientists and natural scientists are finding common working ground in neuroscience and psychology. So we need to ask: What's right about the term 'methodological naturalism'? What's wrong about the term?"
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    Haarsma, Loren

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    Christianity, Science and "Methodological Naturalism"

    "The basic theories and equations of science –– the 'laws of nature' –– don't explicitly refer to God, miracles, or the supernatural. It could be argued, therefore, that scientific equations and theories are methodologically naturalistic. You don't have to be an atheist to do science, so the argument goes. You may still believe that God exists. It's just that, whenever you are doing science, you must temporarily act 'as if God doesn't exist.' It is not unusual for atheists and agnostics to make this claim, that science is methodologically naturalistic. In fact, a number of Christian scholars also describe science that way."
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    O'Connor, Robert C.

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    Science on Trial: Exploring the Rationality of Methodological Naturalism

    "In this essay, I closely scrutinize the proposal presented in a recently edited volume entitled The Creation Hypothesis: Scientific Evidence of an Intelligent Designer by J. P. Moreland. Moreland chides Christians for what he takes as their failure to understand the proper integration of their faith with secular disciplines, particularly the natural sciences. Contributors to this volume propose a "theistic science" which focuses primarily on the tactical or strategic proscription against direct reference to divine agency (methodological naturalism [MN])...As I see it, the recommendation takes two forms: (1) it is positively irrational for the Christian engaged in natural science to remain committed to MN, and (2) because science has no intrinsic individuating features, it is irrational for the broader scientific community to continue to resist appeal to immediate divine agency as a proper part of natural science. Specifically, I argue that the first statement is mistaken, and the second is ill-advised. The disciplinary distinction, as determined in part by MN, is well-grounded, intrinsically valuable, and, when properly understood, a critical component of Christian inquiry."
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    Plantinga, Alvin

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    Methodological Naturalism?: Part 1

    "The philosophical doctrine of methodological naturalism holds that, for any study of the world to qualify as "scientific," it cannot refer to God's creative activity (or any sort of divine activity). The methods of science, it is claimed, "give us no purchase" on theological propositions--even if the latter are true--and theology therefore cannot influence scientific explanation or theory justification. Thus, science is said to be religiously neutral, if only because science and religion are, by their very natures, epistemically distinct. However, the actual practice and content of science challenge this claim. In many areas, science is anything but religiously neutral; moreover, the standard arguments for methodological naturalism suffer from various grave shortcomings."
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    Plantinga, Alvin

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    Methodological Naturalism?: Part 2

    "The philosophical doctrine of methodological naturalism is flawed. In many areas, science is not religiously neutral. Furthermore, neither claims about the definition or essential nature of science, nor theological presuppositions (e.g., 'functional integrity'), can properly support methodological naturalism. However, one may find stronger support for the doctrine in what might be called 'Duhemian science' -- i.e., those empirical inquiries pursued by all parties on common ground, independently of whatever metaphysical assumptions may be held by only some investigators. Duhemian science is thus 'maximally inclusive.' 'Augustinian science,' on the other hand, may employ particular theological or philosophical assumptions. The ideal of Duhemian science should not exclude Augustinian science: both are valid forms of inquiry."
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    Thorson, Walter R.

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    Legitimacy and Scope of “Naturalism” in Science, Part II: Scope for New Scientific Paradigms

    "Part I presented a theological basis for naturalism in science. As an intentionally limited discourse, science is sustained in a subsidiary context of religious/philosophical beliefs, whose adequacy and scope affects its creative horizons. I argue that biological systems cannot be adequately understood in terms of the materialist, mechanist, and reductionist assumptions appropriate to physical science, but require broader naturalistic explanatory paradigms. An organizational logic concerned with certain types of function or achievement is manifest in biological organisms, which is distinct from the principles of physics. Examples are given showing how tacit use of this logic influences current biological research."
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    Thorson, Walter R.

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    Legitimacy and Scope of “Naturalism” in Science, Part I: Theological Basis for a “Naturalistic” Science

    "The crucial reason for naturalism in science is theological—God’s transcendence with respect to creation. 'Naturalism' limits science to the 'creaturely' domain—and gives it legitimacy as a discourse distinct from theology. Adam naming the creatures forms the biblical paradigm for science: reason is a creaturely gift, not an autonomous power to subject God or divine agency in creation to our mundane scrutiny. Theological grounds for naturalism also affect its potential scientific meaning. Mechanistic assumptions adequate for physical science do not provide a final definition of 'naturalism.' Part II discusses important implications for biology in particular as a 'naturalistic' science."
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    van der Meer, Jitse M.

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    The Struggle Between Christian Theism, Metaphysical Naturalism, and Relativism: How to Proceed in Science?

    "My thesis is that Christians are mistaken in their belief that material reality can be understood without reference to non-material created causes, such as mind, or to non-material uncreated causes, such as God. The reasons I offer are that Christians know of the existence of non-material beings such as spirits and God and that ignoring this leads to a distorted view of reality or even a neglecting of empirical evidence. Broadly conceived, I suggest that materialism can be excused to be methodological only if it is open to revision, but that this is seriously hampered by the psychological and sociological power of beliefs antagonistic to theistic beliefs."