Foundations of Science

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 227–244 | Cite as

How Not to Attack Intelligent Design Creationism: Philosophical Misconceptions About Methodological Naturalism

Article

Abstract

In recent controversies about Intelligent Design Creationism (IDC), the principle of methodological naturalism (MN) has played an important role. In this paper, an often neglected distinction is made between two different conceptions of MN, each with its respective rationale and with a different view on the proper role of MN in science. According to one popular conception, MN is a self-imposed or intrinsic limitation of science, which means that science is simply not equipped to deal with claims of the supernatural (Intrinsic MN or IMN). Alternatively, we will defend MN as a provisory and empirically grounded attitude of scientists, which is justified in virtue of the consistent success of naturalistic explanations and the lack of success of supernatural explanations in the history of science (Provisory MN or PMN). Science does have a bearing on supernatural hypotheses, and its verdict is uniformly negative. We will discuss five arguments that have been proposed in support of IMN: the argument from the definition of science, the argument from lawful regularity, the science stopper argument, the argument from procedural necessity, and the testability argument. We conclude that IMN, because of its philosophical flaws, proves to be an ill-advised strategy to counter the claims of IDC. Evolutionary scientists are on firmer ground if they discard supernatural explanations on purely evidential grounds, instead of ruling them out by philosophical fiat.

Keywords

Intelligent design creationism Methodological naturalism Supernatural explanations Scientific methodology Science and religion 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Behe, M. J. (2006). Darwin’s black box: The biochemical challenge to evolution (10th Anniversary Edition). New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  2. Benson H., Dusek J.A. et al (2006) Study of the therapeutic effects of intercessory prayer (STEP) in cardiac bypass patients: A multicenter randomized trial of uncertainty and certainty of receiving intercessory prayer. American Heart Journal 151(4): 934–942CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boudry, M. (2009). Methodological naturalism as an intrinsic property of science: Grist to the Mill of intelligent design theory. Paper presented at the conference “150 years after origin: Biological, historical and philosophical perspectives”, November 2009, Toronto.Google Scholar
  4. Boudry, M., & Braeckman, J. (2010). Immunizing strategies & epistemic defense mechanisms. Philosophia, doi:10.1007/s11406-010-9254-9.
  5. Coyne, J. (2009). Seeing and believing. The never-ending attempt to reconcile science and religion, and why it is doomed to fail. New Republic, February 4. Retrieved 30/03/2009 from http://www.tnr.com/article/books/seeing-and-believing?page=2.
  6. Darwin, C. (1965 (1872)). The expression of the emotions in man and animals. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  7. Darwin, C. (1998 (1859)). The origin of species. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Darwin C. (2000) The life and letters of Charles Darwin (Vol. 2). Adamant Media Corporation, Boston, MAGoogle Scholar
  9. Dennett D. C. (1996) Darwin’s dangerous idea: Evolution and the meanings of life. Simon and Schuster, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  10. Dennett D. C. (2003) In Darwin’s wake, where am I?. In: Hodge J., Radick G. (eds) The Cambridge companion to Darwin. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 393–412Google Scholar
  11. Edis T. (1998) Taking creationism seriously. Skeptic 6: 2–56Google Scholar
  12. Edis T. (2002) The ghost in the universe: God in light of modern science. Prometheus Books, Amherst, NYGoogle Scholar
  13. Edis T. (2006) Grand themes, narrow constituency. In: Young M., Edis T. (eds) Why intelligent design fails: A scientific critique of the new creationism. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, NJ, pp 9–19Google Scholar
  14. Forrest B. (2000) Methodological naturalism and philosophical naturalism: Clarifying the connection. Philo 3(2): 7–29Google Scholar
  15. Forrest B., Gross P. R. (2004) Creationism’s Trojan horse: The wedge of intelligent design. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gish D. T. (1973) Evolution: The fossils say no!. Creation-Life Publishers, San DiegoGoogle Scholar
  17. Haldane J. B. S. (1934) Fact and faith. Watts, LondonGoogle Scholar
  18. Haught J. F. (2000) God after Darwin: A theology of evolution. Westview Press, BoulderGoogle Scholar
  19. Haught J. F. (2004) Darwin, design, and divine providence. In: Ruse M., Dembski W. A. (eds) Debating design: From Darwin to DNA. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 229–245Google Scholar
  20. Hume, D. (2000 [1748]). An enquiry concerning human understanding. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  21. Hume, D. (2007 [1779]). Dialogues concerning natural religion and other writings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Humphrey N. (1996) Soul searching: Human nature and supernatural belief. Vintage, LondonGoogle Scholar
  23. Johnson P. E. (1993) Darwin on trial (2nd ed). InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, ILGoogle Scholar
  24. Johnson P. E. (2001) Evolution as Dogma: The establishment of naturalism. In: Pennock R. T. (eds) Intelligent design creationism and its critics: Philosophical, theological, and scientific perspectives. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, pp 59–76Google Scholar
  25. Kitzmiller v. Dover (400 F. Supp. 2nd 707 (M.D. Pa.) 2005).Google Scholar
  26. Kitcher P. (2007) Living with Darwin: Evolution, design, and the future of faith. Oxford University Press, Oxford, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  27. Koperski J. (2008) Two bad ways to attack intelligent design and two good ones. Zygon 43(2): 433–449CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Laudan L. (1996) The demise of the demarcation problem. In: Ruse M. (eds) But is it science? The philosophical question in the creation/evolution controversy. Prometheus Books, Amherst, NY, pp 337–350Google Scholar
  29. Lem S. (1999) A perfect vacuum. Northwestern University Press, EvanstonGoogle Scholar
  30. Lewontin R. (1983) Introduction. In: Godfrey L. (eds) Scientists confront creationism. Norton, New York, pp xxiii–xxviGoogle Scholar
  31. Lewontin R. (1997) Billions and billions of demons. Book review of ‘The Demon-Haunted world: Science as a candle in the dark’ by Carl Sagan. The New York Review of Books 44(1): 31Google Scholar
  32. Macbeth N. (1974) Darwin retried: An appeal to reason. Garnstone Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  33. Maienschein J. (2007) Untangling debates about science and religion. In: Comfort N. C. (eds) The panda’s black box: Opening up the intelligent design controversy. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, pp 83–108Google Scholar
  34. McGinn C. (1994) The problem of philosophy. Philosophical Studies 76(2): 133–156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Miller K. B. (2009) The misguided attack on methodological naturalism. In: Schneiderman J. S., Allmon W. D. (eds) For the rock record: Geologists on intelligent design. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, pp 117–140Google Scholar
  36. Miller K. R. (2000) Finding Darwin’s God : A scientist’s search for common ground between God and evolution. HarperCollins, New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  37. National Academy of Sciences: (1998) Teaching about evolution and the nature of science. National Academy Press, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  38. Nelson P. A. (1996) The role of theology in current evolutionary reasoning. [Article]. Biology & Philosophy 11(4): 493–517CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pennock R. T. (1999) Tower of Babel: The evidence against the new creationism. MIT Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  40. Pennock R.T. (2007) God of the gaps: The argument from ignorance and the limits of methodological naturalism. In: Petto A.J., Godfrey L.R. (eds) Scientists Confront Intelligent Design and Creationism. New York & London, WW Norton & Company, pp 309–338Google Scholar
  41. Pigliucci M. (2002) Denying evolution: Creationism, scientism, and the nature of science. Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, MAGoogle Scholar
  42. Plantinga A. (2001) Methodological naturalism?. In: Pennock R. T. (eds) Intelligent design creationism and its critics: Philosophical, theological, and scientific perspectives. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, pp 339–361Google Scholar
  43. Richter R. (2002) What science can and cannot say: The problems with methodological naturalism. Reports of the National Center for Science Education 22(1–2): 18–22Google Scholar
  44. Ruse M. (1982) Darwinism defended: A guide to the evolution controversies. Addison-Wesley, Reading, MAGoogle Scholar
  45. Ruse M. (2004) The argument from design: A brief history. In: Dembski W. A., Ruse M. (eds) Debating design: From Darwin to DNA. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 13–31Google Scholar
  46. Ruse M. (2005) Methodological naturalism under attack. South African Journal of Philosophy 24(1): 44–61Google Scholar
  47. Ruse M. (2006) Darwinism and its discontents. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  48. Sarkar S. (2007) Doubting Darwin? Creationist designs on evolution. Blackwell, Malden, MAGoogle Scholar
  49. Schafersman, S. D. (1997). Naturalism is an essential part of science and critical inquiry. Retrieved 30/03/2009, from http://www.freeinquiry.com/naturalism.html.
  50. Scott E. C. (1998) Two kinds of materialism: Keeping them separate makes faith and science compatible. Free Inquiry 18: 20–20Google Scholar
  51. Scott E. C. (1999) The ‘Science and religion’ movement. An opportunity for improved public understanding of science?. Skeptical Inquirer 23(4): 29–31Google Scholar
  52. Scott E. C. (2004) Evolution vs. creationism: An introduction. University of California Press, Berkeley, CAGoogle Scholar
  53. Shanks N. (2004) God, the devil, and Darwin: A critique of intelligent design theory. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  54. Smith K. C. (2001) Appealing to ignorance behind the cloak of ambiguity. In: Pennock R. T. (eds) Intelligent design creationism and its critics: Philosophical, theological, and scientific perspectives. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, pp 705–735Google Scholar
  55. Sober E. (2008) Evidence and evolution: The logic behind the science. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  56. Stenger V. J. (2008) God: The failed hypotheis: How science shows that God does not exist. Prometheus Books, Amherst, NYGoogle Scholar
  57. Strahler A. N. (1992) Understanding science: An introduction to concepts and issues. Prometheus Books, BuffaloGoogle Scholar
  58. Swinburne R. (2004) The existence of God. Clarendon Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Worrall J. (2004) Science discredits religion. In: Peterson M. L., VanArragon R. J. (eds) Contemporary debates in philosophy of religion. Blackwell, Malden, MA, pp 59–71Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maarten Boudry
    • 1
  • Stefaan Blancke
    • 1
  • Johan Braeckman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and moral sciencesGhent UniversityGhentBelgium

Personalised recommendations