The Bible and Society

How God’s Word is True

“Scientific” vs “Supernatural”

Posted by Mats on 17/12/2008


An invitation to provide initial posts for discussion here at UD was recently extended to me.  My name is Donald M and for those who have posted here for a while, I’m probably not a stranger.  I’m a strong proponent of ID and I have serious doubts and reservations about several aspects of Darwinian evolution.  My main area of interest is in the Philosophy of Science and the philosophical assumptions of science and scientific practice.  While I am not a working scientist, I do hold a Masters degree in a scientific field.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to share some thoughts here, and hopefully provide some fodder for useful discussion among participants. 

With that brief intro, I’ll dive into my first contribution.

The January issue of Scientific American is focused entirely on the Evolution of Evolution. There are several articles on different aspects of Darwin and evolution. The article I want to focus on here is a critical piece by Eugenie Scott and Glenn Branch of the NCSE (National Center for Saving Evolution Science Education). Entitled The Latest Face of Creationism in the Classroom, the article laments the fact that Science still has to deal with “creationism”…the favored term over Intelligent Design for purely pejorative reasons.

Indeed the comment right under the title says “Creationists who want religious ideas taught as scientific fact in public schools continue to adapt to courtroom defeats by hiding their true aims under ever changing guises.” In the body of the article Branch and Scott lament that Lousiana Governor Bobby Jindal signed the Lousiana Science Education Act into law this past June, over the strenuous objections of scientists. Convinced a creationist conspiracy is afoot they opine:

As always in the contentious history of evolution education in the U.S., the devil is in the details. The law explicitly targets evolution, which is unsurprising—for lurking in the background of the law is creationism, the rejection of a scientific explanation of the history of life in favor of a supernatural account involving a personal creator. Indeed, to mutate Dobzhansky’s dictum, nothing about the Louisiana law makes sense except in the light of creationism.

Laying aside any real or imagined conspiracies on the part of “creationists”, I want to focus on the contrast Branch and Scott make between a “scientific explanation” and a “supernatural account” of the history of life. There are so many assumptions built into this particular contrast its hard to know where to begin. First the clear implication is that a scientific explanation represents fact whereas the supernatural account represents some fuzzy religious idea. In other words, its an epistomological assumption about what represents true knowledge (science) and what does not (religion).

Secondly is the assumption that the naturalistic worldview of science takes precedent over the theistic worldview of anyone who purports that a supernatural creator had something to do with bringing about the existence of life on earth. So much for methodological naturalism. Clearly full blown philosophical naturalism is equated to science here, since the contrast is between science and the supernatural.

Third, is the unspoken assumption that somehow the science classroom is a worldview-free zone.  Since they’ve contrasted science with supernatural, they clearly equate science with naturalism, so the real issue is which worldview ought to prevail in the science classroom and why. I wonder what Branch and Scott might say about a Bill to promote the teaching of philosophical naturalism in the disguise of science in the classroom?


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