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Plantinga & Ruse on Methodological Naturalism & Science Definitions

December 8th, 2009 by Matt

Michael Ruse (and many others) contend that science is constrained by methodological naturalism, which is the thesis that that neither the data, for a scientific investigation, nor a scientific theory nor the background beliefs, against which a theory is assessed, can properly refer to or contain supernatural beings or propositions based on revelation. In Darwinism Defended Michael Ruse seems to think science, by the very definition of science, is constrained by methodological naturalism.  He writes,

Furthermore, even if Scientific Creationism were totally successful in making its case as science, it would not yield a scientific explanation of origins. Rather, at most, it could prove that science shows that there can be no scientific explanation of origins. The Creationists believe that the world started miraculously. But miracles lie outside of science, which by definition deals only with the natural, the repeatable, that which is governed by law.[1]

Ruse’s specific target here are creationists who typically contend that the world was created around 6-10 thousand years ago, in 6×24 hour days and that the fossil record is the result of a world-wide flood. However, the definition he offers excludes far more than this specific position. Ruse’s definition entails that any reference to God’s activity is unacceptable in scientific theorising. Any claims such as that the universe was created (in some way or another), that God created the universe ex nihlo, that God sustains the universe, upholds laws of nature God or even theological interpretations of the big bang and the advocacy of theistic evolution would be ruled out as non scientific.

Moreover, this ruling out is a prori. It is not that scientists have examined whether God exists, that they have gathered evidence showing he does not exist and this has become a settled, peer-reviewed, consensus; science has, in fact, done no such thing. Further, Ruse is clear that his definition would hold even if God does exist and even if there is compelling evidence for his existence. Science would not consider such facts in its theorising; the very rules governing scientific inquiry would rule it out of consideration from the outset. This is because, according to Ruse, science by definition deals only with what is:

(i) natural;
(ii) repeatable;
(iii) law-governed.

Elsewhere in the same article Ruse defines in more detail what he means by (iii). He states,

[A]n approach to the empirical world that demands understanding in terms of unbroken law. That is to say, understanding in terms of regularities, which in some way or an other we feel are more than mere contingencies, but rather part of the necessary succession of the empirical world.[Emphasis added][2]

Ruse contends that science only postulates and presupposes objects and properties that are natural, repeatable and governed by laws of nature. He understands these as regularities grounded in some form of necessary succession.

Plantinga’s critique
Alvin Plantinga argues that Ruse’s definition of science is mistaken,

What about the Big Bang: if it turns out to be unrepeatable, must we conclude that it can’t be studied scientifically? And consider the claim that science, by definition, deals only with that which is governed by law—natural law, one supposes. Some empiricists (in particular, Bas van Fraassen) argue that there aren’t any natural laws (but only regularities): if they are right, would it follow that there is nothing at all for science to study?[3]

Plantinga here suggests that Ruse’s conditions (ii) and (iii) are subject to straightforward counter-examples and that, as such, his definition is mistaken. In Methodological Naturalism Under Fire Ruse responds to both these criticisms. Below I will examine Ruse’s response and argue that it is unsuccessful.

The Repeatability Requirement
Turning to (ii), Plantinga notes that on at least one possible cosmological model the big bang is unrepeatable. Despite this studies into the first instant of the big bang are clearly parts of science and would continue to be so even if this model is true and the big bang is unrepeatable. It follows from this that science can study unrepeatable events which renders (ii) false.

Ruse’s response is two-fold; first Ruse suggests that Plantinga is repeating a common line of argument,

As a matter of fact, Plantinga here is raising an objection which has often been raised by critics of the claim that scientific understanding involves reference to law. His point, as was theirs, is that there are many unique events that science must surely try to cover and under stand, but that given the uniqueness of these events, in some sense this precludes lawful understanding.[4]

Ruse then goes on to address this common line of argument,

But, as many critics of the critics have countered, there surely has to be some thing wrong with this argument. Take for in stance the demise of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous. This was in it self a unique phenomenon and un repeat able; but, uniqueness not with standing, the demise was made up of many factors which can individually be brought beneath lawful under standing. To day, it seems most probable that an asteroid or a comet or some such thing hit the earth. This was no unique phenomenon, nor was the hit ting of the earth by the asteroid or comet such that the normal laws of nature – that is to say Galileo’s laws of motion – could not be applied.[5]

Ruse’s response misses its target. Ruse construes Plantinga’s objection to be aimed at (iii), “the claim that scientific understanding involves reference to law.” This, however, is false. The appeal to the big bang was actually proposed as a counter example to (ii), Ruse’s contention that science deals only with repeatable events. The common line of argument Ruse responds to is not the line of argument Plantinga actually offers.

Moreover, Ruse’s response fails to address Plantinga’s counter example completely. Plantinga’s counter example was based on big bang cosmology. Instead of showing that his definition can accommodate the big bang, Ruse instead notes that other people (not Plantinga) have offered a different counter-example, the extinction of the dinosaurs, and that this different counter example is unsuccessful. Ruse may well be correct; the extinction of the dinosaurs is not a valid counter-example to (iii) however, Plantinga never said it was. What he said was that the possibility that the big bang is unrepeatable is a counter-example to (ii) and to this line of argument Ruse says nothing.

Requirement of Being Law-Governed
Of course Plantinga does offer a response to (iii), the idea that science, by definition, deals only with what is governed by law but his argument against this is very different to an appeal to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Plantinga turns to the issue of being law-governed in the next paragraph and raises quite a different objection to this,

Consider next the property of being governed by law. The first point, here, would be that the very existence of natural law is controversial; Bas van Fraassen, for example, has given an extended and formidable argument for the conclusion that there are no natural laws. There are regularities, of course, but a regularity is not yet a law; a law is what is supposed to explain and ground a regularity. Furthermore, a law is supposed to hold with some kind of necessity, typically thought to be less stringent than broadly logical necessity, but necessity nonetheless. … So suppose van Fraassen is right and there are no natural laws: would it follow by definition that there isn’t any science? That seems a bit strong.[6]

Plantinga’s point is that some empiricists (in particular, Bas van Fraassen) argue that there are not any natural laws, there are only regularities. Regardless of whether one agrees with van Frassen or not, even if he is correct it clearly would not follow that science does not exist. This entails that the existence of science does not depend on the existence of laws of nature; hence it is a mistake to define the former in terms of the latter.

Ruse’s response is as follows,

Now, whilst I am the last per son to belittle the formidable philosophical powers of Bas van Fraassen – as eminent in the field of the philosophy of quantum mechanics as Plantinga is in the field of the philosophy of religion – what is being extrapolated here is far stronger than van Fraassen or any one else would want (should want) to claim. Certainly there are questions about how one might interpret the necessity of laws: I myself have al lowed that already. But neither van Fraassen, nor any one else is going to deny that there are certain sorts of regularities of some kind and that these are pre -supposed in the activity of science.[7]

Here Ruse states the existence of science does not presuppose the existence of natural laws, it merely presupposes regularities in nature and this is compatible with the empiricist critiques of laws of nature. The problem is that this explicitly contradicts Ruse’s definition. Ruse states that science deals only with the natural, the repeatable and that which is governed by law. In elucidating this Ruse states that science is “an approach to the empirical world that demands understanding in terms of unbroken law. That is to say, understanding in terms of regularities, which in some way or another we feel are more than mere contingencies, but rather part of the necessary succession of the empirical world.” As Ruse defines science then it presupposes more than mere regularities. This position requires that these be necessary in some sense and it is precisely this understanding of laws of nature that empiricists, such as van Fraassen, do criticise.

Ruse appears to be in a dilemma; if he accepts natural laws as necessary in some sense then his argument is subject to the objection Plantinga raises. Some empiricists reject the existence of laws so understood but even if they are correct it would be erroneous to claim that science did not exist. If Ruse contends that science need only presuppose regularities then his definition is false because his definition states science demands an understanding in terms of a necessity over and above mere regularity. It seems then that Ruse’s definition of science is problematic; if this is the case, attempts to argue for methodological naturalism on the basis of such a definition are unsound.


[1] Michael Ruse Darwinism Defended (Reading, MA: Addison -Wesley, 1982) 322.
[2]
Ibid.
[3]
Alvin Plantinga “Religion and ScienceStanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy accessed 8 December 2009.
[4]
Michael Ruse “Methodological Naturalism Under Fire” South African Journal of Philosophy 24 (1) 2005 47.
[5]
Ibid.
[6] Alvin Plantinga “Methodological Naturalism” Perspectives on Science and the Christian Faith 49 (September 1997).
[7]
Ruse, above n4, 48.

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32 responses so far ↓

  • I could be looking at this wrong but I would have said that science is a process by which we gain an understanding of the universe, it’s the observations that have to be repeatable, not the hypothesized event. It’s the observations that are tested.
    The understanding of the law is a product of the observation, so science occurs prior to a law becoming understood and expressed mathematically.

  • It’s like you’re arguing that what Newton was doing to understand the motion of objects wasn’t really science until he got to the ‘finish line’ with an understanding of the laws of motion.

  • Andrew, no I am not suggesting that, the point is that Ruse’s definition entails that science only deals with things which are law governed, this of course entails that there can only be such a thing as science if there is such a thing as natural laws and so makes the existence of science depend on the out come of a the philosophical debate over whether laws of nature ( as opposed to mere regularities) exist. The point is that science’s existence clearly does not depend on the outcome of this debate, science does exist and the outcomes of philosophical dispute about laws of nature really do not alter this fact in any way

  • These mistakes happen because people don’t recognise the different types of science (or because they want a special definition that excludes some ideas that are not palatable).

    Science was originally operational, that is repeatable, and singular events would not come under the guise of science other than to say whether they were possible or not possible within the realms of Natural Philosophy. Events outside Natural Philosophy were not considered impossible, just not accessible via that methodology.

    But the addition of feasible stories extended science to include non-repeatable events, that is historical occurrences. So in a way the extinction of the dinosaurs is parallel to the big-bang, but also to other events such as the Fall of Rome, the death of King Charles, the eruption of Vesuvius, and the consumption of my breakfast this morning. Such historical science is challenged by non-scientific knowledge such as history, eye-witness testimony and revelation.

    Failure to comprehend the distinction between operational science and historical science makes these issues difficult to comprehend.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Adjusting multi-site and single site temperature data =-.

  • May I humbly suggest that you start from the rational premise that there is no God.

    If you start with that clean slate, you’ll find that much of the complexity you grapple with by herculean efforts of convoluted reasoning, will simply disappear.

    Rather than trying to resolve how ideas fits with your a priori fact of God, you’ll be able to see things for what they really are.

  • Hi Malcolm,

    Modern science was born from the priori that God exists. Without any priori, it’s very difficult to make any progress.

    We just have to be honest about the priori that each of us hold.

  • Malcolm, what are you responding to? I’m looking at the apparent subject of your comment, and it just doesn’t match any of the subjects in the blog entry that you’re replying to.

  • It was just a general comment really. I read and enjoy Matt’s posts, so I just thought I’d make a comment which often comes to mind when reading them.

  • Modern science was born from the priori that God exists. Without any priori, it’s very difficult to make any progress.

    Science may have been founded by people who believed in God, but progress was based on plain old observation, theories and experimentation. God not required.

    (It’s also hard to know how many eminent scientists really believed in God, as most lived in times where it would be near criminal to deny the existence of God.)

    If God was a pre-condition for science, then why has science relentlessly dis-proven much of which was previously explained by religion? Science has consistency challenged the easy answers offered by religion.

  • Couldn’t have said it better myself Malcolm…

  • “If God was a pre-condition for science, then why has science relentlessly dis-proven much of which was previously explained by religion?”

    Specifically, the belief in Judeo-Christian God was a pre-condition for the birth of modern science in the Western world.

    1. It was born in a Christian culture

    2. Most of the founders of science were Christians

    3. It was uniquely paved by the Christian theologians/philosophers of the thirteenth and fourteenth century

    Can you be specific of the things in Christian belief that has been disproven by science? Just so we are all clear on what you’re referring to. I’m sure there are many when you combined all religions, but specifically from Christian’s point of view.

  • Sorry, I only have time for a quick reply.

    Can you be specific of the things in Christian belief that has been disproven by science?

    The whole creation story from Genesis, for a start.

  • Malcom wrote“Sorry, I only have time for a quick reply.
    Can you be specific of the things in Christian belief that has been disproven by science?
    The whole creation story from Genesis, for a start.”

    Here’s a quick response, actually, this only follows if one interprets the Genesis story literalistically: as affirming that the word actually came into existence in 6 24 hour days and by understanding the Genealogies of Gen 5-11 as complete accounts which provide the exact dates of peoples ages. The problem is neither claim is given, for over a thousands of years Theologians such as Augustine, much of the early Church and various others have been arguing that Genesis is not a literalistic Genre, moreover for centuries even extremely conservative scholars have noted that the Genealogies of Genesis are not to be understood in this fashion. We have other writings from the ancient near east which can give us some understanding of the Genre of Genesis etc, so issues are nowhere near as simple as you make out. Much of this was widely accepted prior to Darwin.

    All Malcom tells us is that if you adopt one dispute interpretation of Genesis its contrary to the current scientific consensus.

    But if you’re going to push this line, I could also note several places where science has made claims that contradicted claims of Christian theology and science was latter shown to be mistaken. Here are four. 1. Historians for many years argued that no race called the Hittites ever existed, contrary to biblical records this was mistaken we now know that the Hittites were a major empire. 2. The leading scientific theories of the middle ages contended that God could not create the world ex nihlo because (a) it had always existed and had no beginning and (b) it was impossible even for an all powerful being to make a universe that did not follow the rules and laws of Aristotelian physics. 3. in the early 20th century the steady state theory was used to argue contrary to the standard theology of Augustine of Hippo that the universe did not have a beginning with time, the steady state theory has no largely been abandoned and big bang cosmology is extremely similar to Augustine’s views. 4 scientists of the 18-19th centuries argued that people could not read or write at the time of Moses, this was due to an evolutionary understanding of human development, we know now that writings existed centuries before the time of Moses ( whose life is usually dated either in the 15 century BC or in the 13th century).
    .-= My last blog-post ..View Pacific Viewpoint TV Panel on Abortion & Parental Consent Here (Feat. Madeleine) =-.

  • Science may have been founded by people who believed in God, but progress was based on plain old observation, theories and experimentation.
    This grossly over simplifies things, for starters why use observation, a long line of thought going back to the ancient greeks held that our senses are deceptive and the true way to gain understanding is by pure reason alone. A particular line of Aristoleian thought held that one could know a priori about the nature of the world by deduction from metaphysically necessary first principles.
    Some of the impetus for, experiment and observation grew out of theological convictions that God was not bound by necessity to create the world a particular way or even to make it at all, hence if one wanted to find what the laws of nature were one must look. Second the whole conviction the universe is governed by laws of nature is due to a particular theological conception of the world, using observation and experiments only makes sense against a background of metaphysical assumptions which Theism grounded and explained.
    It’s true a person can engage in science without believing in God. But its not obvious that the metaphysical claims upon which science rests can be metaphysically grounded without theism or if they are the explanation or grounding is as plausible as theism. This latter claim requires significant philosophical justification.
    .-= My last blog-post ..View Pacific Viewpoint TV Panel on Abortion & Parental Consent Here (Feat. Madeleine) =-.

  • But if you’re going to push this line, I could also note several places where science has made claims that contradicted claims of Christian theology and science was latter shown to be mistaken. Here are four. 1. Historians for many years argued that no race called the Hittites ever existed, contrary to biblical records this was mistaken we now know that the Hittites were a major empire. 2. The leading scientific theories of the middle ages contended that God could not create the world ex nihlo because (a) it had always existed and had no beginning and (b) it was impossible even for an all powerful being to make a universe that did not follow the rules and laws of Aristotelian physics. 3. in the early 20th century the steady state theory was used to argue contrary to the standard theology of Augustine of Hippo that the universe did not have a beginning with time, the steady state theory has no largely been abandoned and big bang cosmology is extremely similar to Augustine’s views. 4 scientists of the 18-19th centuries argued that people could not read or write at the time of Moses, this was due to an evolutionary understanding of human development, we know now that writings existed centuries before the time of Moses ( whose life is usually dated either in the 15 century BC or in the 13th century).

    What you have just outlined here Matt is commonly called the scientific method. This is where a hypothesis is formed, data/evidence is collected and a conclusion is drawn. If another person/lab repeats the work (at any time point after the original) and comes to a different conclusion then the original hypothesis may be rejected. Science is quite often wrong and the beauty of science is that it is self correcting.

    If you want to prove a god or a creation myth, then come up with a hypothesis, collect some data/evidence and present your conclusion. However, for this to work you will need evidence, which the creation scientists just don’t seem to have!

  • “Science is quite often wrong and the beauty of science is that it is self correcting.”

    Sure, but when a branch of science is wrong far too often (in comparison to other branches of science), you gotta question the foundation of that branch of science and not just brush it off saying that it’s just how science works.

  • “If you want to prove a god or a creation myth, then come up with a hypothesis, collect some data/evidence and present your conclusion. However, for this to work you will need evidence, which the creation scientists just don’t seem to have!”

    Oh there’s hypothesis and evidence all right. The problem is that the current scientific worldview/priori is limited and just isn’t capable of such science.

  • Bethyada’s point about the distinction between observational and historical science is at the heart of this entire debate.

    Observational science deals with repeatable, testable events. Although the conclusions drawn may still later be disproved, we can in general be confident about the data collected, provided the methodologies used are correct.

    However historical (and future) science involves extrapolating the observations of today (which themselves have some error associated with them) into the past or the future (creating considerably more error in the process).

    You cannot study either the past or the future directly, but can only infer what appears most likely from what is observed in the present. And there are far more unknowns, and a far greater potential for error, than with studies of the present.

    The claims of future science (such as all the different positions on the global warming debate) will only be resolved by waiting, and conducting observations in the present.

    The claims of historical science can only be verified through historical accounts. And when those accounts do not exist or are questionable, it is impossible to verify the claims.

    This applies to both naturalistic and theological explanations of origins. You can never prove the big bang scientifically, you can only claim that the evidence points towards that as the most likely scenario. You can also never prove young earth creation scientifically for the same reason.

    However we also have historical accounts of these events in the Bible. Those of us who accept the Bible as a factual historical record will interpret the scientific data observed in the present in the light of this understanding, and will necessarily come to different conclusions than the atheist who assumes there is no God. We may differ in our precise interpretations of the Genesis account, and I won’t go into that can of worms here, but whatever our interpretation of the text it will influence our views on the past, because we believe it is an extra source of reliable data in addition to that aquired scientifically.

    To consider the claims of the observational and historical scientist to be equally authoritative is a grave error.

  • Hi Freethinker you write

    What you have just outlined here Matt is commonly called the scientific method. This is where a hypothesis is formed, data/evidence is collected and a conclusion is drawn. If another person/lab repeats the work (at any time point after the original) and comes to a different conclusion then the original hypothesis may be rejected. Science is quite often wrong and the beauty of science is that it is self correcting. Granting for the sake of argument your account of the scientific method, what you point out is that when scientists come up with hypothesis that contradict theological claims science is quite often wrong.

    What you fail to see is the significance of this, if a current scientific hypothesis contradicts a theological position, one cannot simply assume that science is correct because it often is not.

    the beauty of science is that it is self correcting.

    Yes but so is theology, for example the Church ruled against Galileo that the earth did not move on the basis of a flawed scriptural interpretation. Latter they corrected their position and realized there interpretation was incorrect. Why is it when theology does this its taken as evidence is a flawed superstitious method, but when science does the same thing is called “self correcting” and beautiful?

    If you want to prove a god or a creation myth, then come up with a hypothesis, collect some data/evidence and present your conclusion. However, for this to work you will need evidence, which the creation scientists just don’t seem to have!

    Well I was not arguing for creation science, so this a mute point, but as to your claims about God, first many philosophers of religion have offered arguments for the existence of a creator, these arguments are subject to controversy, but its not a settled given consensus that they are mistaken. Second, your point is true about how we determine the truth or falsity of scientific “hypothesis” not everything people believe is held as a hypothesis. My belief that there exists an external world, or that the world is displays a certain order, or that moral principles are true, or that my cognitive faculties are reliable, are not hypothesis and certainly cannot be scientifically proven ( scientific methods usually presuppose these beliefs) so on what basis do you claim that theism is a hypothesis.

    Finally as to your contention that creation scientists should come up with evidence, perhaps you did not read the position of Ruse who I was criticizing, he said, in accord with probably most who write on this issue,

    Ruse states “ even if Scientific Creationism were totally successful in making its case as science , it would not yield a scientific explanation of origins… The Creationists believe that the world started miraculously. But miracles lie outside of science, which by definition deals only with the natural, the repeatable, that which is governed by law.”

    Hence your suggestion that creationists only need to provide evidence is false, it seems that, at least according to a large number of philosophers of science and scientists, no matter how much evidence they gathered it would never be scientifically proven because by definition science only postulates naturalistic explanations. Hence “proof” or lack of it really isn’t the issue.
    .-= My last blog-post ..View Pacific Viewpoint TV Panel on Abortion & Parental Consent Here (Feat. Madeleine) =-.

  • Anon wrote “Sure, but when a branch of science is wrong far too often (in comparison to other branches of science), you gotta question the foundation of that branch of science and not just brush it off saying that it’s just how science works.

    Yeah, I wonder how skeptics would respond if when they pointed to theological or religious claims that had been shown to be false, and if it could be shown theological/religious claims were often wrong. We answered that’s just the way religion works, its often wrong, but that’s the beauty of religion i’ts self correcting?

    I doubt they would be terribly impressed.
    .-= My last blog-post ..View Pacific Viewpoint TV Panel on Abortion & Parental Consent Here (Feat. Madeleine) =-.

  • To Anon
    Oh there’s hypothesis and evidence all right. The problem is that the current scientific worldview/priori is limited and just isn’t capable of such science.

    Your statement is contradictory, if there is evidence please show it to me, and if the current scientific worldview is not capable of such science then how can there be evidence?

    To Matt

    You can also never prove young earth creation scientifically for the same reason.
    It would be quite easy to prove young earth creationism scientifically, as the eminent J. B. S. Haldane stated, all you would need is to find a rabbit fossil in the Cambrian.

    Yes but so is theology, for example the Church ruled against Galileo that the earth did not move on the basis of a flawed scriptural interpretation. Latter they corrected their position and realized there interpretation was incorrect.

    Was their interpretation incorrect or was the scripture incorrect? In your view can scripture be incorrect or is it the true word of an infallible god?

    first many philosophers of religion have offered arguments for the existence of a creator, these arguments are subject to controversy, but its not a settled given consensus that they are mistaken.

    Yes, arguements, but no evidence!

    My belief that there exists an external world,

    I’m sorry what exactly is an external world?

    or that the world is displays a certain order,

    ????Of course the world displays order, and this can be scientifically proven.

    or that moral principles are true,

    again what do you mean that moral priniciples are true? Morals are a set of social rules that are developed by the society they belong to, your morals may be much different from those of an African tribe, this does not make them any more or less true!

    or that my cognitive faculties are reliable, are not hypothesis and certainly cannot be scientifically proven

    Reliable cognitive facilites can be scientifically proven within the guidelines of our laws and societal norms, hence the use of not guilty by way of insanity as a valid criminal defence. A scientist will analyze a criminal and decide scientifically if their cognitive facilities are reliable enough for them to stand trial.

    Yeah, I wonder how skeptics would respond if when they pointed to theological or religious claims that had been shown to be false, and if it could be shown theological/religious claims were often wrong. We answered that’s just the way religion works, its often wrong, but that’s the beauty of religion i’ts self correcting?

    Good point, the only problem is that most fundamental religious people will not admit when their religion is wrong so this is kind of a moot point.
    Your point that the church admitted it was wrong about Gallileo is a fine example of this, it only took them 359 years to admit it and pardon him!

  • “Your statement is contradictory, if there is evidence please show it to me, and if the current scientific worldview is not capable of such science then how can there be evidence?”

    What’s so contradictory about it? There are evidence and hypothesis, all of which not widely accepted by current scientific community because of naturalism and materialism biased.

    And you could Google it up yourself, there are countless resources on the net.

  • Freethinker –
    How would a hypothetical sea bed dwelling rabbit prove creation?

  • “all you would need is to find a rabbit fossil in the Cambrian.”

    You mean this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precambrian_rabbit ?

  • “Was their interpretation incorrect or was the scripture incorrect?”

    I think Matt has answered this quite clearly in previous post.

    Not all Christians hold this view, but then again it is ridiculous to think that all Christians agree on every topics.

  • The whole creation story from Genesis, for a start.

    A literal interpretation of Genesis, hasn’t been disproven, it has been challenged. Note this challenge is in the realm of historical science so itself can be challenged by historical claims such as eye-witnesses.

    And a billion year old earth has been challenged by other scientific data that suggest a much shorter duration for earth.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Adjusting multi-site and single site temperature data =-.

  • Matt The problem is neither claim is given, for over a thousands of years Theologians such as Augustine, much of the early Church and various others have been arguing that Genesis is not a literalistic Genre, moreover for centuries even extremely conservative scholars have noted that the Genealogies of Genesis are not to be understood in this fashion.

    This might be worth its own post for discussion at some stage. While a couple of theologians may have said as such prior to Hutton and Lyall, the vast majority did not. A several thousand year old earth was easily the most common position.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Adjusting multi-site and single site temperature data =-.

  • Freethinker

    ”It would be quite easy to prove young earth creationism scientifically, as the eminent J. B. S. Haldane stated, all you would need is to find a rabbit fossil in the Cambrian.”

    No that would simply show that rabbits existed in the Cambrian period. Some theory would be needed to explain this and according to methodological naturalism, the only theories which would be permitted are those that postulate a purely naturalistic explanation.

    Was their interpretation incorrect or was the scripture incorrect?

    There interpretation was correct. Psalm 93 is does not teach the cosmological thesis that the world is fixed. Its clear from the context that the word “does not move” is being used metaphorically, the way we do when we say a person “is not moved” by counter arguments etc, this is evident from the way the same language is used in the next line. Moreover references to the “seas” lifting up their voices, a few lines latter are clearly metaphorical, this is further reinforced by the fact that the Genre involved is a poem or song. Language like this in poems is typically metaphorical.

    ”In your view can scripture be incorrect or is it the true word of an infallible god?”

    I think that what God teaches in scripture is true, this does not commit me to claiming that Psalm 93, a poem or song about God’s majesty and glory is intended to teach cosmology. Nor does it commit me to saying humans never misread, misinterpret or make mistake about what is taught.

    The idea that there is an infallible interpreter of scripture is a catholic doctrine and its limited to certain contexts.

    ”Yes, arguements, but no evidence!”

    This is a false contrast, arguments by definition are conclusions inferred from premises, and hence involve an appeal to evidence. You may disagree with these arguments but claiming they do not exist or that no one has provided any evidence is simply false.

    ”I’m sorry what exactly is an external world?”

    The claim that the world exists independently of whether we perceive it.

    “????Of course the world displays order, and this can be scientifically proven.”

    Actually it can’t, to scientific proofs involve inductive reasoning, and inductive reasoning presupposes or assumes that the world displays order hence attempts to prove this scientifically are circular.

    Morals are a set of social rules that are developed by the society they belong to, your morals may be much different from those of an African tribe, this does not make them any more or less true!

    No cultural relativism of this sort is deeply flawed see my posts on relativism for an example.

    But if your going to fallacious line one can easily show that the claim “God exists” is true, after all some societies believe this and the fact that some communities of freethinkers do not believe this does not make this claim untrue.

    Reliable cognitive facilites can be scientifically proven within the guidelines of our laws and societal norms…A scientist will analyze a criminal and decide scientifically if their cognitive facilities are reliable enough for them to stand trial.

    Such a scientific proof would be circular, the scientist will have to rely on his cognitive faculties to engage in such proof, he will use his senses for example, use his reason to make inferences from these observations etc, and hence he will have to presuppose that his cognitive faculties such things as his senses his reason etc are reliable from the outset.

    Good point, the only problem is that most fundamental religious people will not admit when their religion is wrong so this is kind of a moot point.

    Well we were not talking about whether fundamental religious people (assuming your generalization is correct) are dogmatic we were talking about whether theology is self correcting or revisable in the way you said science was.

    But for the record, the historical record shows that creationists ( I assume thats what you mean by fundamental christians) have repeatedly revised there theories in light of new evidence, moreover Larry Laudan notes ” Numerous historians and philosophers of science (e.g., Kuhn, Mitroff, Feyerabend, and Lakatos) have documented the existence of a certain degree of dogmatism about core commitments in scientific research and have argued that such dogmatism plays a constructive role in promoting the aims of science.” so generalizations like this are not always as accurate as they appear, though I am sure in an audience of people imbibed with certain sterotypes they are effective.
    .-= My last blog-post ..Hadouken Punch =-.

  • Thanks for the replies, Matt and others.

    I forgot I had commented here, but I do appreciate your replies and ideas and the politeness of dialogue here.

    I’ll re-read this all now and think about you’ve said, but won’t reply further as I’m sure you all have better things to do and the moment has passed.

    cheers

    Malcolm

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