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Atheists Against Darwinism - Page 8

Let's not "leave that aside". Nagel raises an issue that re-enforces the probity of focusing upon "design" as an explanation, rather than upon the secondary question of divine design. Fuller comments upon the "heuristic value" of design detection criteria and design explanations, like those used by ID, which are "accepted in settings less fraught with theological controversy"; noting that: "The most extreme version of this application appears in NASA's Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI, project?"[67] The observation that personal agency and internal states of agents (human and non-human) are routinely cited as scientific explanations holds true despite the fact that, as Nagel notes, the creativity routinely referenced therein might itself turn out to be beyond the reach of a naturalistically defined science.[68] That is, no one thinks that if some form of mind-body dualism is true, then forensic science isn't a science after all because it explains with reference to something that doesn't fit within a naturalistic worldview! One needn't have a settled view upon the mind-body problem to justifiably count forensic science as a science. Likewise, one needn't assume that design explanations per se are necessarily naturalistic in order to within one's rights in counting such explanations as scientific:

The fact that there could be no scientific theory of the internal operation of the  divine mind is consistent with its being in large part a scientific question  whether divine intervention provides a more likely explanation of the  empirical data than an explanation in terms of physical law alone. To ask  whether there are limits to what can credibly be explained by a given type of  scientific theory, or any theory relying only on universal physical laws, is  itself a  scientific question. An answer to the question that asserts such limits on the basis  of empirical evidence is still a scientific claim, even if it also proposes an  alternative cause whose internal operation is not governed by the kind of natural  law that science can investigate. I suspect that the assumption that science can  never provide evidence for the occurrence of something that cannot be  scientifically explained is the principal reason for the belief that ID cannot be  science; but so far as I can see, that assumption is without merit.[69]

Going Soft on Methodological Naturalism

One can distinguish between hard and soft methodological naturalism.[70] Hard methodological naturalism (HMN) excludes intelligent causation from science - exiling many fields of study currently considered scientific (e.g. forensic science, SETI) and ceding epistemological competency to philosophy. Soft methodological naturalism (SMN) excludes explicitly supernatural causation from science, but permits explanations framed in terms of intelligence. Those who (like Fodor) believe that explanations framed in terms of intelligence are ultimately reducible to naturalistic metaphysics, those who (like Nagel) take an anti-reductionistic position, and those who are agnostic on this question, can all accept SMN. This is a pragmatic reason for practicing at least some science within SMN: Accepting SMN allows science to function as a "big tent" for people of all worldviews. Rather than theists doing "theistic science" a la Plantinga, and atheists doing "naturalistic science" (HMN definition) a la Ruse, we can all co-operate in science (SMN definition).

SMN doesn't entail adopting or rejecting ID. SMN permits ID to count as science just as effectively as the outright rejection of "methodological naturalism" advocated by Monton, Nagel, Fuller et al. SMN limits the epistemological competency of science (like HMN), but without subverting it (unlike HMN). Whether an intelligent cause is supernatural or not, it is still an intelligent cause, and true to note it as such within scientific theory making.


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