From time to time, the Discovery Institute releases a multisyllabic blast of pseudo-scientific flatulence that is difficult to read and exhausting to write about. It’s tempting to ignore such stuff, but it seems to impress their generous patrons and their drooling fans, so sometimes we discuss it. This is one of those occasions.
Today at their creationist blog we found this: Dump the Metaphysics — How About Methodological Regularism? It was written by Tom Gilson, described in an editor’s note like this:
We are delighted to welcome Tom Gilson as a new contributor. Mr. Gilson is a senior editor at The Stream [a website friendly to the Discoveroids] and has hosted ID the Future [a collection of Discoveroid podcasts]. He blogs at Thinking Christian [link omitted].
In other words, Gilson is a creationist. Here are some excerpts from his post, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:
The pseudo-scientific doctrine of methodological naturalism has caused no end of trouble. [Aaaargh!!] It’s time we called for a more reasonable replacement: How about methodological theism?
We need to pause for a definition. Methodological naturalism — which Gilson finds so troublesome — is an operational procedure inherent in the scientific method. According to Wikipedia’s article on Naturalism, it “concerns itself with methods of learning what nature is. These methods are useful in the evaluation of claims about existence and knowledge and in identifying causal mechanisms responsible for the emergence of physical phenomena. It attempts to explain and test scientific endeavors, hypotheses, and events with reference to natural causes and events.” Okay, back to Gilson. He says:
Actually, for anyone who’d make a suggestion like that it’s time to duck for cover instead. The scientific community would stone you for advancing an idea so loaded with metaphysical and theological presuppositions. Except that’s precisely the point. Even if methodological theism had nothing else to recommend it — though it does — it can at least highlight how methodological naturalism contains every bit as much non-scientific bias.
Are you following this? Gilson says that methodological naturalism — the essence of the scientific method — has a “non-scientific bias,” while his proposal for methodological theism — whatever that might be — is somehow superior. Next he tells us:
Methodological naturalism, the usual doctrine, tells us we should treat our pursuit of science as if nature is all there is; that we should assume there is no supernatural reality, or if there is, it is completely and forever divorced from our theories, methods, and conclusions.
Utterly wrong. As we said in Bring Me An Angel Detector!:
To be a competent scientist, no philosophical materialism is necessary, and many — perhaps most — do quite nicely without it. A scientist may even believe that a multitude of spirits inhabit this world, but being imperceptible, they are outside the scope of his professional work. For the same reason, no scientist can embark on a scientific exploration of the anatomy of angels’ wings, because there are no observable or detectable data to be examined, measured, tested, etc. This is a consequence of methodological materialism — the process of science. It says nothing at all about the existence of spiritual matters, only their inability to be scientifically studied. Methodological materialism is an operational constraint of science, not a philosophical attack on theism.
Methodological theism, in contrast, supposes that there is a God who acts in and through nature, as Judaism and Christianity have traditionally understood God to do. [Brilliant!] Many will reject this out of hand. [He quotes a few scientists.] But in fact none of this has anything whatever to do with theism. [Hee hee!] It’s all a straw man, conveniently crafted, one suspects, to support a secular scientific view of reality.
How much of this can we endure? Let’s read on a little more:
True theism actually provides stronger support than naturalism for expecting nature to behave in a regular fashion. And this is no conveniently crafted theory on the theist’s part, served up to explain God in a world of science. This theism goes back millennia. It’s in the very earliest understandings of God as creator, to start with. Genesis tells us that God created humans to be morally significant agents.
Okay — that’s enough! We tried to slog through this mess, but we can’t go on. If you like, dear reader, click over there and read it all. Then, when you’ve been enlightened with all that Oogity Boogity, let us know if we missed anything worthwhile.
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