Sunday, February 25, 2007
Methodological and Philosophical Naturalism
1) There are things that science cannot deal with. This also means that if science attempts to deal with something outside its scope, then it will likely be wrong. However, given that, is there a way to determine if a phenomena is studyable by science? If there is not a mechanism to determine whether phenomena X is within the boundaries of science, then how do you know that your inquiry and results are reasonable?
2) If methodological naturalism is really distinct from philosophical naturalism, then there should be no problem with a hypothesis that is methodologically naturalistic but has implications against philosophical naturalism.
An example of #2 is irreducible complexity. IC _is_ methodologically naturalistic. It implies philosophical non-naturalism, but there is nothing in IC which requires anything but methodological naturalism to deal with.
Another similar issue is the direction of complexity. Do more complex sequences evolve from less complex sequences or the other way around? If we are not assuming philosophical naturalism, there should be no problem with the hypothesis that previous forms were more complex rather than less, and that evolution is either a “de-evolution” or a working out of previous patterns. Neither of these hypotheses are distinct from methodological naturalism, but they both imply philosophical non-naturalism.
As a practical example, look at the origin-of-life. There is an assumption that this event can occur through physics and chemistry. Methodological naturalism would not assume this. There is absolutely no evidence that this can occur. In fact, there are numerous reasons why life should be an “assumed” of science rather than it be assumed that life can develop from non-life. Under the assumptions of methodological naturalism, there is no reason to assume that life can come from non-life. Yet many only consider origin-of-life scenarios “scientific” and the idea that life only comes from life is non-scientific. The fact that the latter hypothesis is the only one which has evidence (and thus should be preferred in a methodologically naturalistic scenario) the fact that many textbooks talk about the “origin of life” show that they are participating in philosophical naturalism rather than methodological naturalism.