Can't Philosophers Tell the Difference between Science and Religion? Demarcation Revisited

Synthese 178 (2):177-206 (2011)
In the 2005 Kitzmiller v Dover Area School Board case, a federal district court ruled that Intelligent Design creationism was not science, but a disguised religious view and that teaching it in public schools is unconstitutional. But creationists contend that it is illegitimate to distinguish science and religion, citing philosophers Quinn and especially Laudan, who had criticized a similar ruling in the 1981 McLean v. Arkansas creation-science case on the grounds that no necessary and sufficient demarcation criterion was possible and that demarcation was a dead pseudo-problem. This article discusses problems with those conclusions and their application to the quite different reasoning between these two cases. Laudan focused too narrowly on the problem of demarcation as Popper defined it. Distinguishing science from religion was and remains an important conceptual issue with significant practical import, and philosophers who say there is no difference have lost touch with reality in a profound and perverse way. The Kitzmiller case did not rely on a strict demarcation criterion, but appealed only to a “ballpark” demarcation that identifies methodological naturalism (MN) as a “ground rule” of science. MN is shown to be a distinguishing feature of science both in explicit statements from scientific organizations and in actual practice. There is good reason to think that MN is shared as a tacit assumption among philosophers who emphasize other demarcation criteria and even by Laudan himself.
Keywords Demarcation  Intelligent Design  Creationism  Creation-science  Methodological naturalism  Science and religion
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.2307/41477271
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 16,707
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

View all 22 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
A. A. Derksen (1993). The Seven Sins of Pseudo-Science. Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 24 (1):17 - 42.
John Preston (1994). Methodology, Epistemology and Conventions: Popper's Bad Start. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1994:314 - 322.
B. D. (2000). A Pragmatic Approach to the Demarcation Problem. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 31 (2):249-267.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

138 ( #17,218 of 1,726,249 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

9 ( #74,830 of 1,726,249 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.