Daily Archives: June 8, 2011

More Philosophical Ignorance

Knowledge of all types takes time and effort to understand.  More than that, it helps to take a moment to study epistemology to understand why we believe what we believe.

And if people had a basic understanding of epistemology, then stuff like this could be avoided:

I’ve discussed Monica’s ignorance before (on both tweets and longer posts 1 | 2| 3).  We have some more ignorance right here, and more proof that it is not substance that brings you followers and friends.  Having good traffic ratings, subscribers, fans, friends, and followers is a reflection of marketing skill.

Now, on with the real point of this post: Monica fails to make two important distinctions, and that is why her tweet fails.  The first distinction is between methodological naturalism and metaphysical naturalism.  This is a mistake most atheists make.  The second is a distinction between what science is best equipped to answer, and what metaphysics is best equipped to answer.  Of course, making the first mistake means that she won’t even consider metaphysics as a way to answer anything, so the second mistake is inevitable.

Methodological naturalism means the scientist carries a presumption that an effect will have a cause within the system it appears.  For example, if I win the  lottery, I assume that I was just the lucky recipient of a fortunate combination of statistical laws and probability–someone had to win, right?  I don’t assume that God granted me the money, though (to qualify) I would seek his will in what I did with the money.  Others, however, don’t make the same assumptions.

Metaphysical naturalism is a bit contradictory.  The metaphysical naturalist doesn’t believe in anything outside the system.  In other words, the system is all that there is, so all causes by definition will be found in the system.  Metaphysical naturalism is contradictory because it denies metaphysics, while remaining a valid metaphysical position.

Now that we have that out of the way, we can see why this is so ignorant.  The subjects Monica mentions provide real knowledge on how something occurs.  Evolution demonstrates how life changes over the years.  Astronomy provides insight into the motion of stars and planets.

None of these, however, provide an answer to why these things occur.  Evolutionists, the honest ones, admit that evolution only explains what happens to life when it’s already here.  It never speculates on an origin.

Astronomy can chart a star’s motion through the sky and provide us with an understanding of the size of the universe and our general location in it, but it can’t tell us where any of it came from.

That brings us to the second, and related mistake.  Science answers how, which is why the scientist must necessarily be a methodological naturalist.  A metaphysical naturalist precludes even asking why something is, because there is no why by definition.  The first scientists were Christians, and were not scientists despite being Christians as is so often claimed.  They were scientists because they were Christians–they wanted to figure out how the world worked, figuring (correctly) that religion has already established why.  Indeed, only theology is capable of establishing why.