Methodological naturalism in the sciences

International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 88 (1):57-80 (2020)
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Abstract

Creationists have long argued that evolutionary science is committed to a dogmatic metaphysics of naturalism and materialism, which is based on faith or ideology rather than evidence. The standard response to this has been to insist that science is not committed to any such metaphysical doctrine, but only to a methodological version of naturalism, according to which science may only appeal to natural entities and processes. But this whole debate presupposes that there is a clear distinction between the natural and the supernatural, and thus that naturalism is a meaningful doctrine. I argue that this assumption is false. The concepts of the natural and the supernatural are in fact hopelessly obscure, such that the claim that science is committed to methodological naturalism cannot be made good. This is no victory for anti-naturalists however; explicitly supernaturalist theories, such as Creationism, can be ruled out of scientific consideration as a priori incoherent, given that they presuppose for their intelligibility that there is a meaningful natural-supernatural distinction. This is not the case for standard scientific theories however, as they are not explicitly naturalistic theories; they do not postulate natural or physical entities or processes as such.

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Sandy C. Boucher
University of New England (Australia)

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References found in this work

Laws and symmetry.Bas C. van Fraassen - 1989 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Every thing must go: metaphysics naturalized.James Ladyman & Don Ross - 2007 - New York: Oxford University Press. Edited by Don Ross, David Spurrett & John G. Collier.

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