Eugenie Scott’s Philosophical Incompetency

I remember the first time I picked up Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion from the shelf of a bookstore. I had heard so much about it, and people were harolding it is the ultimate refutation of theism. I picked it up, and read through the first two chapters, and, much to my suprise, the book was terrible. There are many, many books that argue from an atheistic perspective *far* better than Dawkins. Now, don’t get me wrong, Dawkins is a bright guy, but he has never studied the area of theology, philosophy, or anything else, and the result is a book that is filled with misunderstandings, naive and uncritical assumptions, and a fundamental misunderstanding of the issue. I never thought I would ever run into someone who was worse than Dawkins.

However, I got a copy of the DVD Expelled, No Intellegence Allowed from the school library, and I ran into someone who is far worse. The woman’s name is Eugenie Scott. This woman is way more naive than Richard Dawkins! You see, the theory of evolution is built upon the presuppositions of naturalistic materialism. Now, naturalistic materialism is in trouble philosophically. Eugenie Scott obviously knows this. How does she keep evolution from the battering rams of philosophy? Just listen:

Eugenie Scott distinguishes between what she calls “Methodological naturalism,” and “Philosophical naturalism.” She defines “methodological naturalism” by saying that

In science, we restrict ourself to natural cause. Science is a limited way of knowing, I like to tell people. We are limited to explaining just the natural world, we are not telling people how to treat each other, morals and ethics. We are just trying to explain the natural world, and we limit ourself to natural cause. The reason we limit ourself to natural cause, to methodological naturalism, is not because all scientists are atheists, because they aren’t. The reason we limit ourself to natural cause is because the essence of science is testing ideas against the natural world.

And, of course, she gives the philosophical definition of naturalism for the definition of “philosophical naturalism.” Now, I want to take this apart, and show that, when you dialogue with someone like Eugenie Scott, this is distinction between Methodological Naturalism and Philosophical Naturalism is the first thing you have to attack.

The first thing I think that needs to be pointed out here is that Eugenie Scott’s definitions here are a philosophical mess. First of all, when you say that you are going to limit yourself to natural causes, you are presenting a metaphysical position. Eugenie doesn’t understand that, if you believe in a world other than the natural world that interacts with the natural world, then that other world is going to provide you with the context in terms of which you are going to understand the natural world. If you are not allowed to appeal to that context, then what you are, in essence saying is that such a context for understanding the natural world does not exist.

Although she isn’t meaning to say it, what she is in essence saying is [and I cannot believe that anyone would ever fall for this] that you can hold to any philosophy you want outside of the Science classroom, but, once you step into the science classroom, your methodology can no longer be built upon the sovereign God of the text of scripture; it must be built upon naturalism. In other words, when it comes to other things, you can hold to any philosophy you want. When you step into the classroom, you must construct a methodology based upon a metaphysic that, in any other area of inquiry, you do not hold.

What this ends up doing is promoting an inconsistency in someone’s metaphysic. It also creates an inconsistency in one’s epistemology. Eugenie says that science is a limited way of knowing, but, as Christians, the foundation of our knowledge begins with the supernatural, with God and his revelation. Hence, this limitation precludes the Christian worldview from being true right from the very beginning. In fact, Eugenie is basically saying that all scientific inquiry must be based upon the philosophy of Kant. What Eugenie is presenting as “methodological naturalism” is a philosophy of rationalism that is based upon Kant’s brick wall that he set up between the natural and supernatural realms. She is saying that, while you can deny that philosophy in other areas of life, you must hold it when you do science.

Now, what about the idea that someone can believe in evolution and still believe in God? My response is that theism is not Christianity. The view of a theistic evolutionist is far different from the view of a Biblical Creationist [of all forms]. Most theistic evolutionists have a very naturalistic view of God, which, of course, goes back to the fact that they are limiting themselves to the natural world. Even the ones who do not have to answer the question of how they know of God, since they cannot accept the Biblical model, and, even if they can answer that question, the answer is going to be radically different than the Christian answer. In essence, if you are a theist, and you take Eugenie Scott’s position, you are forced into a self-contradiction, or you can only add the supernatural back into the mix after you have begun with a naturalistic conclusion, which, in my mind only delays the inevitable incoherence.

Even Richard Dawkins can see past this. On the Expelled movie, Dawkins says those who believe in evolution and also believe in God are actually atheists. Even he can see the inevitable contradiction that will result from this kind of messy thinking.

That is why, philosophically, this is rediculious. However, I can only imagine the mind of a child who hears this. That is what, to me, is so sad. While it is philosophically absurd, it is deceptive because of the appearance of neutrality. Anytime an unbeliever wants to claim common ground like this, we need to be very suspcious. We are told in scripture that no man can serve two masters [Matthew 6:24], and that we are to take every thought captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ [2 Corinthians 10:5]. Notice what Eugenie is trying to argue. She is trying to argue that you *can* serve to masters [both God and naturalism], and that you do not have to take all thoughts captive the the obedience of Christ, and, in fact, in the scientific realm, you *can’t* take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ! You must leave Christ out of it.

At this point, I would recommend Greg Bahnsen’s lectures on this subject. I only pray that we could get Greg’s lectures into the hands of every Christian student going off to college:

Now, let us revisit Eugenie’s definition of science, and point out what Greg Bahnsen and his teacher Dr. Cornelius Van Til always said. When you take this view of science, you destroy science. Let us again take a look at Eugenie’s view of science and her methodology:

The reason we limit ourself to natural cause, to methodological naturalism, is not because all scientists are atheists, because they aren’t. The reason we limit ourself to natural cause is because the essence of science is testing ideas against the natural world.

Dr. Van Til and Dr. Bahnsen used to say that such a view of science destroys science. Let us look at a couple of examples of why that is.

First of all, I don’t think that anyone would argue that the laws of logic need to be disregarded in scientific research. In fact, Eugenie uses the laws of logic in her research. However, the laws of logic are not part of the natural world. The laws of logic are universal and abstract. As abstractions they are not material, and as universal, it is impossible to test them against the natural world. Therefore, one cannot consider the laws of logic given Eugenie’s position.

Also, how does Eugenie explain the principle of induction using this methodology? She speaks about things such as scientific laws, but the problem is, for something to be a law, it must be true for all times and all places. How does she know that such uniformities exist in nature? It would seem to me [and even to men like David Hume] to be totally irrational to assume such a thing, since any explaination of uniformity in the natural realm is going to necessarily have to rely upon the natural realm [since we are limited to the natural realm] thus begging the question.

Also, Richard Taylor’s argument is a problem. Taylor’s argument begins with an illustration. Let us imagine that we are in England traveling from London to Whales on a train. After a while, you look outside your window and see a formation of rocks that appear to be arranged in such a way so as to convey the message “The British Railway Welcomes you to Whales.” Now, you do realize that it would be perfectly rational to conclude that someone got up on the hill, and arranged those rocks in that formation. However, it would also be rational [although not overly likely] to conclude that that the rocks got into such an arrangement by natural weathering, by explaining how each rock could have gotten into the very place it is at. However, it would be irrational to conclude, on this latter interpretation, that you have information that you are entering Whales from the rock formations.

The question therefore becomes, if our senses are formed by naturalistic forces, then how do we know that they *function* to give us information about he external world? Such is an irrational conclusion if you believe that naturalistic processes formed your senses. In essence, now you cannot even have knowledge of the external world if you are a Darwinistic naturalist in your scientific methodology.

Hence, the logical conclusion of taking Eugenie’s methodology is that you cannot do science at all. Limiting knowledge and metaphysics in the way she has destroys the laws of logic, it destroys natural law, and it destroys investigation of that natural world. Yet, these are all things that are preconditions of science. Hence, Eugenie’s definition of science actually ends up doing violence to science, because such limitations on your methodology limit it to such an extent that the fundamental tools for understanding the material universe are thrown out as well.

Therefore, in reality, I would conclude that, not only does Eugenie Scott’s distinction not work, but her methodology results in the destruction of science altogether.

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4 Responses to “Eugenie Scott’s Philosophical Incompetency”

  1. Dani Says:

    Hi Adam,

    Totally unrelated to this post (sorry) but I just wanted to thank you for responding so thoughtfully to ‘anon’ on the Biblical Manhood comments. I should know better than to enter into extended dialogue with her, and I should also know better than to let her get me riled up. So thank you for responding the way you did rather than let it just denigrate into a ‘she said / she said’ slinging match. I’ll probably regret responding again to her myself – but too late now.

    So anyway, thanks!

    PS. If you moderate these comments feel free not to publish this – I just wanted to contact you and say I appreciated your thoughtful post/s.

  2. Jason Says:

    If you feel that you can mix religion and science together, would you then say that there is christian electronics, and/or Presbyterian chemistry? Mixing in religious dogma with science was exactly what got in the way of Galileo’s research. The Church thought that the Sun revolves around the Earth, instead of the other way around. The Bible is not a Science textbook. And scientists should follow whereever the factual evidence takes them, regardless of there presuppositions.

  3. otrmin Says:

    Jason,

    If you feel that you can mix religion and science together, would you then say that there is christian electronics, and/or Presbyterian chemistry? Mixing in religious dogma with science was exactly what got in the way of Galileo’s research. The Church thought that the Sun revolves around the Earth, instead of the other way around.

    Actually, this is a myth. The reason why people believed this at the time of Galileo is because they were mixing Aristotilian ideas with Christianity. There is nothing in scripture that says anything about the sun revolving around the earth. Also, I would point out the nonsense that has come from mixing naturalistic dogma with science, namely, all of the nonsensial ideas about the origin of life, and all of the nonsensial ideas about the origin of the universe. When you start having to explain things by crystals and aliens, you are pretty out there.

    The Bible is not a Science textbook.

    No one ever claimed that it was. However, it presents a worldview and certain presuppositions that are very relevant to science.

    And scientists should follow whereever the factual evidence takes them, regardless of there presuppositions.

    The problem is that the facts don’t speak for themselves. All facts must be understood in a particular context. I am reminded of the story of Hack Wilson who was a star baseball player for the Chicago Cubs. He had a drinking problem, and the fact that he was always getting drunk was hurting his team’s image. Hence, is manager called a team meeting. At the team meeting, he brought in a glass of water, a glass of Hack’s favorite moonshine, and a can of worms. He opened the can of worms [no pun intended], and pulled one out. Then he said, “Hack, what does this tell you?” He then placed the worm in the water, and it wiggled happily around. After that, he took the worm out of the water, and put it into the moonshine. Of course, the worm stiffened up and died. Hack then looked at it and said, “That tells me that, if you drink my favorite moonshine, you won’t get worms.”

    Of course, the point that the manager was trying to make is that abuse of alcoholic beverages can be fatal, because of what he saw it doing to Hack and his team. However, Hack Wilson, because he believed that his moonshine was good, was looking at how that was beneficial to him.

    That really is the problem with what you have said. Evidence and facts must be interpreted within a context. How a scientist understands the nature of reality, and how we know what we know are going to greatly affect his interpretation of the data.

    God Bless,
    Adam

  4. Jason Says:

    Well in Joshua 10:13 it seems to state that the Sun moves around the Earth. “And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day”. 1 Chronicles 16:30 ” Fear before him, all the earth: the world also shall be stable, that it be not moved. ” Job “9:6 Which shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble.

    9:7 Which commandeth the sun, and it riseth not; and sealeth up the stars” Psalm 19:4 Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, (19:4-6)
    19:5 Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.
    19:6 His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.

    Psalms 93:1 The LORD reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved. There are many apparant inaccuracies in the Bible, whether anyone cares or not. http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/science/long.html

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