WWW.DISSERTATION.XLIBX.INFO
FREE ELECTRONIC LIBRARY - Dissertations, online materials
 
<< HOME
CONTACTS



Pages:   || 2 |

«by Thomas A. Gilson (Originally published as a series on the Thinking Christian weblog, December 2005 to January 2006. Some blog formatting features ...»

-- [ Page 1 ] --

Barbara Forrest and Naturalism

by Thomas A. Gilson

(Originally published as a series on the Thinking Christian weblog, December 2005 to January 2006.

Some blog formatting features are retained in this version.)

Barbara Forrest and Naturalism: Part 1

I reviewed Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design, co-authored by Barbara Forrest

(with Paul Gross), about a year ago (here and here), not knowing then the prominent part she would play in

the Dover Intelligent Design trial. I was perplexed by the book's offhand dismissal of philosophical issues respecting Intelligent Design, especially given that Forrest is herself a philosopher. As it turns out, she has indeed written about methodological and philosophical naturalism, in articles available here and here (see here for more from Forrest).

Her fundamental contention is that naturalism is the most rational view of the world, both methodologically (i.e., science is most fruitful when it assumes that all events have potentially discoverable natural causes) and philosophically (i.e., this is an accurate view of reality; there is no supernatural). Today I begin to review and respond to what she has written.

I'll start by summarizing her case in the first linked article, "Methodological Naturalism and Philosophical Naturalism: Clarifying the Connection," and by offering a rejoinder to just one of its points in this first section.

Forrest first defines the two versions of naturalism, in terms borrowed from Paul Kurtz:

"First, naturalism is committed to a methodological principle within the context of scientific inquiry; i.e., all hypotheses and events are to be explained and tested by reference to natural causes and events. To introduce a supernatural or transcendental cause within science is to depart from naturalistic explanations. On this ground, to invoke an intelligent designer or creator is inadmissible....

"There is a second meaning of naturalism, which is as a generalized description of the universe.

According to the naturalists, nature is best accounted for by reference to material principles, i.e., by mass and energy and physical-chemical properties as encountered in diverse contexts of inquiry. This is a non-reductive naturalism, for although nature is physical-chemical at root, we need to deal with natural processes on various levels of observation and complexity: electrons and molecules, cells and organisms, flowers and trees, psychological cognition and perception, social institutions, and culture..."

She adds that methodological naturalism (hereafter MN) is an epistemological principle, while philosophical naturalism (hereafter PN) is ontological or metaphysical. Her reasons for adopting PN are primarily epistemological, however. (MN is relatively uncontroversial; it's the application of its assumptions to all of reality that draws fire, and to which I respond here.) She says, "[I]f there is no workable method for acquiring knowledge of the supernatural, then it is procedurally impossible to have knowledge of either a supernatural dimension or entity. In the absence of any alternative methodology, the metaphysical claims one is entitled to make are very strictly limited. The philosophical naturalist, without making any metaphysical claims over and above those warranted by science, can demand from supernaturalists the method that legitimizes their metaphysical claims. In the absence of such a method, philosophical naturalists can not only justifiably refuse assent to such claims, but can deny--tentatively, not categorically--the existence of the supernatural, and for the same reason they deny the existence of less exalted supernatural entities like fairies and ghosts: the absence of evidence."

...

"If supernatural causation as a methodological principle 'does not afford a basis for objective knowledge,' the implication is that methodological naturalism does afford one. If supernatural causation cannot be 'counted as a means of comprehending the universe in a scientific manner,' the implication is that methodological naturalism can be so counted upon."

She does not claim that supernaturalism is actually impossible; rather, that it has no basis in knowledge "This exclusivity is not mandated a priori; the philosophical naturalist justifies it on the basis of the explanatory success of science and the lack of explanatory success of supernaturalism."

...

"Methodological naturalism does not disallow the logical possibility that the supernatural exists.

To assert categorically that there is no dimension that transcends the natural order is to assert that human cognitive capabilities are sufficient to survey the whole of what there is; such a claim would amount to epistemological arrogance. But neither does methodological naturalism allow that logical possibility is sufficient warrant for the attribution of existence. At least the naturalist position is well established with respect to the kind of cognitive capabilities we do have."

...

"Adopted in the sciences because of its explanatory and predictive success, methodological naturalism is the intellectual parent of modern philosophical naturalism as it now exists, meaning that philosophical naturalism as a world view is a generalization of the cumulative results of scientific inquiry. With its roots in late 19th-century science in the aftermath of Darwin's The Origin of Species, it is neither the a priori premise nor the logically necessary conclusion of methodological naturalism, but the well grounded a posteriori result."





The explanatory success of science under MN provides her with confidence in its applicability to ontology:

"Naturalist philosophers ground their philosophical naturalism in both the failure of the supernaturalist to meet Schafersman's challenge and in the success of methodological naturalism in science. This is because the reliability of knowledge depends on the method by which it is obtained, and as Schafersman says, 'science, solely because of its method, is the most successful human endeavor in history. The others don't even come close.'"...

"Taken together, the (1) proven success of methodological naturalism combined with (2) the massive body of knowledge gained by it, (3) the lack of a comparable method or epistemology for knowing the supernatural, and (4) the subsequent lack of any conclusive evidence for the existence of the supernatural, yield philosophical naturalism as the most methodologically and epistemologically defensible world view."

This claim of science's explanatory success is greatly overstated, as we'll see below; the same applies to her contention that evidence is lacking for the supernatural.

In summary, Forrest argues that PN is justified over supernaturalism because of its grounding in MN, which provides far greater epistemological support than any supernaturalist view. She allows for the logical possibility of a supernatural world but denies that we can know anything about it reliably. Therefore any speculation supernaturalism is trivial at best.

Interestingly, she quotes geologist Arthur Strahler in a passage that seems actually to rule out any possibility of the supernatural whatever. I highlight this not to suggest that is entirely her view, but to note a response she might have made to it but did not.

–  –  –

[Forrest continues] "Under the theistic model, according to Strahler, any recognition of natural causation is logically nullified by the simultaneous assertion of supernatural intervention, either actual or merely possible. Even while differing with Strahler on the logical impossibility of invoking both natural and supernatural explanations--it is logically conceivable if the supernatural and natural causes operate at different ontological levels--one must recognize that invoking supernatural explanations is illegitimate because of the procedural impossibility of ascertaining the facticity of the supernatural cause itself, not to mention its intervention in the chain of natural causes. This points to the metaphysical implications of methodological naturalism: if supernatural causal factors are methodologically permissible, the cosmos one is trying to explain is a nonnatural cosmos."

Strahler deserves a stronger reaction than this. He claims that if any link in a causal chain is "replaced by an element of the religion set," then "the entire ensuing sequence is flawed... and must be viewed as false science, or pseudoscience." He sets up a choice: you can have God or you can have science, but you can't have both. They are mutually exclusive. If there is the mere possibility of supernaturalism, there is the accompanying possibility that all science is false. This is an extremist position and should have been flagged as such; instead, Forrest gives it her qualified approval. (And the court, I'm sure, viewed her as a religion-neutral witness!) Strahler's point, moreover, ignores much of the history of science. It has often been shown that science arose in only one culture, the Christian world of Europe, the only culture in which a rational Mind was conceived as the basis of reality. The earliest "scientists" (who more often called themselves "natural philosophers") believed they were investigating the works of God as they studied the natural world.

This did not stop science; it was precisely what was necessary for it even to get started. Note the extreme shift in mindset since then. A scientist like Strahler today will throw up his hands in the air and say, "Look, if we can't explain it all naturally, we don't have any explanations at all!" The early theistic scientists said, "If we study we can understand the world better, and thus know God more deeply." The naturalist viewpoint is independent, proud; it insists on knowing it all or not even trying. The theistic viewpoint says, "we can learn what we can learn from science and be grateful for the knowledge; and if it leads us beyond itself, so much the better."

Barbara Forrest and Naturalism: Part 2 Barbara Forrest, a witness for the plaintiffs in the Dover ID case, has written a defense of philosophical

naturalism, outlined above. Her argument can be summarized:

1. Science employs methodological naturalism in its search for knowledge.

2. Science has been extremely successful in its search for knowledge.

3. Supernaturalist metaphysics have no comparably successful methodology for reliably discovering knowledge.

4. Science is progressively explaining more and more of the world, so that the need for extranatural explanations is being gradually eliminated.

5. Therefore, although a supernaturalist metaphysic cannot be absolutely ruled out, there is no basis whatever for believing in it.

Even the first assertion can perhaps be challenged, thought that would have only academic interest. Points 2, 3, and 4 present more interesting problems, and in fact they are where Forrest's argument fails.

In this section we look at the validity and generality of point 2, "Science has been extremely successful in

its search for knowledge." Dr. Forrest wrote:

"Naturalist philosophers ground their philosophical naturalism in both the failure of the supernaturalist to meet Schafersman's challenge and in the success of methodological naturalism in science. This is because the reliability of knowledge depends on the method by which it is obtained, and as Schafersman says, 'science, solely because of its method, is the most successful human endeavor in history. The others don't even come close.'"...

"[T]he demonstrated success of methodological naturalism suffices to show why it is the only justifiable explanatory principle. "...

[Quoting Kornblith] "What does have priority over both metaphysics and epistemology, from the naturalistic perspective, is successful scientific theory, and not because there is some a priori reason to trust science over philosophy, but rather because there is a body of scientific theory which has proven its value in prediction, explanation, and technological application. This gives scientific work a kind of grounding which no philosophical theory has thus far enjoyed.

...

Since philosophical naturalism is an outgrowth of methodological naturalism, and methodological naturalism has been validated by its epistemological and technological success, then every expansion in scientific understanding lends it further confirmation.

And in summary, "Taken together, the (1) proven success of methodological naturalism combined with (2) the massive body of knowledge gained by it, (3) the lack of a comparable method or epistemology for knowing the supernatural, and (4) the subsequent lack of any conclusive evidence for the existence of the supernatural, yield philosophical naturalism as the most methodologically and epistemologically defensible world view."

There's certainly no denying the success of science in its proper function. We live in a world unimaginable even a couple of generations ago, shaped largely by technology born out of science. We take for granted tknowledgehat would have astounded and perplexed our predecessors, who argued over whether heat was the flow of phlogiston, whether there were such things as atoms, and what was the center of the universe.

We can't imagine a planet or a solar system without simultaneously thining of its associated gravity, yet the word itself was only invented as recently as Isaac Newton.

Science's epistemic success is attributable to the consistent accessibility of the material it works with. It deals with regularities and the publicly observable.* It is uniquely fitted, especially in the "hard" sciences, to highly reliable observation and measurement. As one whose training is in a field of social psychology (Industrial and Organizational Psychology) I know that this reliability wanes quickly as personality gets involved; we just can't predict and measure human behavior the way we can an electron or a mitochondrion. In physics, chemistry, much of biology, and so on, though, the stuff with which scientists work has a nice consistency of behavior. This allows scientists to repeat tests, to check each other, to make predictions and measure their accuracy, and all the things that work to make science the stable body of knowledge that it is.



Pages:   || 2 |


Similar works:

«MICROTEXTURAL, ELASTIC AND TRANSPORT PROPERTIES OF SOURCE ROCKS A DISSERTATION SUBMITTED TO THE DEPARTMENT OF GEOPHYSICS AND THE COMMITTEE ON GRADUATE STUDIES OF STANFORD UNIVERSITY IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY SRB VOLUME 127 Ramil Surhay oglu Ahmadov JUNE 2011 © Copyright by Ramil Surhay oglu Ahmadov 2011 All Rights Reserved ii I certify that I have read this dissertation and that, in my opinion, it is fully adequate in scope and quality as...»

«PREDICTION OF TOPOGRAPHIC AND BATHYMETRIC MEASUREMENT PERFORMANCE OF AIRBORNE LOW-SNR LIDAR SYSTEMS By TRISTAN COSSIO A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA © 2009 Tristan Cossio To my friends and family ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I thank my friends and family for helping me through this whole process. I also thank my professor Clint Slatton, for his patience and...»

«The effects of habitat and predation on bay scallop populations in New York A Dissertation Presented by John Michael Carroll to The Graduate School in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Marine and Atmospheric Science Stony Brook University August 2012 Stony Brook University The Graduate School John Michael Carroll We, the dissertation committee for the above candidate for the Doctor of Philosophy degree, hereby recommend acceptance of this...»

«COMBINED EXPERIMENTAL/THEORETICAL APPROACH TOWARD THE DEVELOPMENT OF CARBON TOLERANT ELECTROCATALYSTS FOR SOLID OXIDE FUEL CELL ANODES by Eranda Nikolla A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Chemical Engineering) in The University of Michigan Doctoral Committee: Assistant Professor Suljo Linic, Co-chair Professor Johannes W. Schwank, Co-chair Professor Erdogan Gulari Professor John W. Halloran Professor Phillip E. Savage ©...»

«Curriculum Vitae 1 Contact Address, Education and Employment Name: Raj Krishna Bhatnagar Address: Department of Computer Science University of Cincinnati Cincinnati, OH 45221 513-556-4932 email: Raj.Bhatnagar@uc.edu Education: Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science. Dec. 1989, University of Maryland, College Park, Md-20740. Dissertation Title: Construction of preferred causal hypotheses for reasoning with uncertain knowledge. Master of Science in Computer Science. Dec. 1985, University of...»

«The Role of Imageability in Word Learning Efficiency and Transfer among First and Second Graders At-Risk for Reading Disabilities By Laura M. Steacy Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Vanderbilt University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in Special Education May, 2015 Nashville, Tennessee Approved by: Donald L. Compton, Ph.D. Douglas Fuchs, Ph.D. Lynn S. Fuchs, Ph.D. Christopher J. Lemons, Ph.D. Sonya K. Sterba,...»

«GEOCHEMISTRY AND BASIN ANALYSIS OF LARAMIDE ROCKY MOUNTAIN BASINS by Majie Fan _ A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of the DEPARTMENT OF GEOSCIENCES In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements For the Degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY In the Graduate College THE UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA THE UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA GRADUATE COLLEGE As members of the Dissertation Committee, we certify that we have read the dissertation prepared by Majie Fan entitled Geochemistry and basin analysis of Laramide Rocky...»

«A 3D Model Search Engine Patrick Min A Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of Princeton University in Candidacy for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy Recommended for Acceptance By the Department of Computer Science January 2004 c Copyright by Patrick Min, 2004. All Rights Reserved Abstract This thesis describes an online search engine for 3D models, focusing on query interfaces and their corresponding model/query representations and matching methods. A large number of 3D models has already...»

«TAKING THE REINS: THE EFFECTS OF INCOMING LEADER STATUS AND BEHAVIOR ON INFLUENCE PATTERNS IN TEAMS A Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Cornell University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy by Stephen James Sauer August 2008 © 2008 Stephen James Sauer TAKING THE REINS: THE EFFECTS OF INCOMING LEADER STATUS AND BEHAVIOR ON INFLUENCE PATTERNS IN TEAMS Stephen James Sauer, Ph.D. Cornell University 2008 This dissertation...»

«Assertive Community Treatment Implementation Resource Kit DRAFT VERSION Implementation Resource Kit User’s Guide Table of Contents Acknowledgments Foreword Introduction Background Project Philosophy and Values Components of the Assertive Community Treatment Implementation Resource Kit How to Use the Resource Kit Materials—An Implementation Plan A Word About Terminology Implementing Evidence-Based Practices Project Annotated Bibliography for Assertive Community Treatment Special Populations...»

«ABSTRACT Title of Dissertation: COMMUNICATION INTERFACE PROXIMITY AND USER ANXIETY: COMPARING DESKTOP, LAPTOP, AND HAND-HELD DEVICES AS MEDIA PLATFORMS FOR EMERGENCY ALERTS Wenjing Xie, Doctor of Philosophy, 2009 Directed By: Professor John E. Newhagen Philip Merrill College of Journalism This study is an experiment investigating the effects of communication interface proximity on college students’ anxiety when they receive the alerts about on-campus crimes via e-mails and text messages. It...»

«AN INVESTIGATION OF LITHOSPHERIC STRUCTURE AND EVOLUTION IN CONVERGENT OROGENIC SYSTEMS USING SEISMIC RECEIVER FUNCTIONS AND SURFACE WAVE ANALYSIS by Joshua A. Calkins A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of the DEPARTMENT OF GEOSCIENCES In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements For the Degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY In the Graduate College THE UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA August 2008 2 THE UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA GRADUATE COLLEGE As members of the Dissertation Committee, we certify that we have...»





 
<<  HOME   |    CONTACTS
2016 www.dissertation.xlibx.info - Dissertations, online materials

Materials of this site are available for review, all rights belong to their respective owners.
If you do not agree with the fact that your material is placed on this site, please, email us, we will within 1-2 business days delete him.