I think Braterman makes an important point here. Acting like naturalism is a principle of science, instead of just a result of it, is both wrong and dangerous since it gives science the appearance of being just as dogmatic as any ideology.
Science, it is often said, is restricted in principle to the search for natural causes and the rejection of the supernatural; call this intrinsic methodological naturalism (IMN). Here, following the work of Boudry et al. , I argue that this view is misguided and damaging. We have not precluded supernatural claims from discussion. On the contrary, we have investigated them and found them wanting, as I show here using both historical and present-day examples.
“I have no need of that hypothesis.” So, according to legend, said the great astronomer and mathematician Piere-Simon, marquis de Laplace, when asked by Napoleon why he had not mentioned God in his book. If so, Laplace was not referring to the hypothesis that God exists, but to the much more interesting hypothesis that He intervenes in the material world. And Laplace’s point was not, fundamentally, philosophical or theological, but scientific.
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2 thoughts on “The natural, the supernatural, and the nature of science”
A very clear and powerful essay.
I thought it was longer than it needed to be, but I agreed with his main thesis.