Keith M. Parsons, Editor
The following article is from Philo,
Volume 3, Number 2.
issue of Philo opens with a topic that has recently generated considerable
controversy. Proponents of the latest version of creationism,
"Intelligent Design Theory," including, alas, some prominent
philosophers, have recently attacked methodological naturalism. The
natural sciences, from astronomy to zoology, have long assumed a
naturalistic framework. That is, the sciences have long assumed that the
causes and explanations of natural phenomena are to be found in nature
itself and have excluded theories postulating gods, souls, spirits, or
other supernatural entities. This practice is now being challenged by
proponents of "theistic science" who regard an exclusively
naturalistic methodology as an expression of dogmatic materialism. They
charge that methodological materialism presupposes metaphysical
materialism by assuming that supernatural beings do not exist or that the
only causes are natural ones.
Society of Humanist Philosophers conference held in Chapel Hill, North
Carolina in September of 1999 addressed some of these issues. One of the
papers given there was Barbara Forrest's essay printed in this volume.
Forrest argues that, while methodological naturalism does not entail
metaphysical naturalism, the enormous success of naturalistic
methodologies, and the corresponding lack of anything like a
supernaturalistic methodology, makes metaphysical naturalism a far more
reasonable position. This essay is followed by Theodore Schick's paper
which argues that science should not presuppose either methodological or
metaphysical naturalism. He contends that scientific methods could in
principle confirm supernatural hypotheses. In practice, supernatural
hypotheses have consistently failed to meet even minimal standards of
rigor, testability, scope, simplicity, etc., and therefore were rightly
rejected. The scientific disdain of the supernatural is therefore not an a
priori prejudice, but the result of long, bitter experience.
of the most popular theistic arguments has been the "fine
tuning" argument. When presented by skillful theistic debaters this
argument has great intuitive appeal, and has befuddled a number of their
atheist opponents. In this issue we are proud to present two excellent
articles criticizing the "fine tuning" argument. The first, by
philosopher Theodore Drange, presents a rigorous version of the argument
and then a powerful critique. It is often said that there are no truly
knock-down arguments in philosophy; the most skillful refutation still
leaves wiggle room. However, Drange's paper comes as close to a knock-down
blow as any I've seen. If any "mopping up" operation is needed
after Drange's attack, it is ably provided by physicist Victor Stenger's
essay. Stenger, with a clear mastery of the physical concepts, attacks the
central thesis of the argument, i.e., that any significant variation in
the basic constants would produce a universe hostile to complex life. He
shows just how shaky that core premise is.
addition, we present two essays critical of work by leading theistic
philosophers William Alston and Richard Swinburne. Alston's 1991 book Perceiving
God advanced the challenging thesis that, like sense perception,
mystical claims to perceive God should be considered prima facie reliable.
Peter Byrne's incisive essay challenges this claim and rebuts Alston's
attempts to deny crucial disanalogies between sense perception and
mystical experience. Lewis Vaughn presents a clear and cogent critique of
some of the main arguments of Richard Swinburne. We conclude with book
reviews of Michael Denton's Nature's Destiny and A. Weisberger's Suffering
papers from the 1999 conference will appear in future issues.