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Metaphysical Naturalism
Metaphysical Naturalism
Published by Clutch Munny
12-07-2007
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Suppose we understand Metaphysical Naturalism to be the view:

A. MetaNat (Vacuous): The natural world is all that there is, a closed system in no need of a supernatural explanation.

This is, or was, the definition of metaphysical naturalism used by the Internet Infidels to define the educational purpose of their organization. But what are we to make of this position? The most salient thing about it is that its defining terms are hopelessly vague. What is the natural world? What is it for the natural to be a closed system? What is it for something to need an explanation, and what would a supernatural explanation amount to?

Some of these questions might be given better answers than others, but the real problem is that A’s commitment to the explanatory sufficiency of the natural world doesn’t seem definable in any way more precise than as a rejection of the supernatural. Similarly, the supernatural is not obviously open to definition except as the opposite of the natural. In light of this tight circle of inter-definition, the perception that anything substantive is conveyed by A is, I submit, entirely illusory. The definition of Metaphysical Naturalism itself tells us neither what the natural is nor what the supernatural is. Presumably it is left to science to provide the substance to this distinction.

But just how are we to read Metaphysical Naturalism as a metaphysics, once we make this allowance? For if there’s any one defining feature of the scientific enterprise (and that’s a big ‘if’), it’s that we never know what new data, theories, concepts, or other explanatory or predictive tools will come along. So we have broadly two possible interpretations of “what science tells us”: what science tells us today, and what science tells us ever, in an evolving, dynamical sense.

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  #1  
By naturalist.atheist on 08-24-2008, 11:45 PM
Default Re: Metaphysical Naturalism

I think you have to understand (A) as a political statement. That in the light of science as it exists today the distinction is rather meaningless because if anything is discovered by science it is automatically natural. It can't be anything else. Be that as it may historical forces are still very much alive and kicking. The pope not too long ago pleaded at his alma mater for scientists to use god to explain reality scientifically. A plea that most people didn't hear over the din of complaints from Muslims about his alleged derogatory comments about Islam. And of course in the US Christianity, as a political force, is trying to insert itself into every walk of life by force of law and control of government money. It is only when considering that there are supernaturalists out there trying to inject their explanations of reality into science that one can see that there is a distinction between naturalism and supernaturalism. Not so much from the naturalist side, because everything after all is natural, but from the supernaturalist side. And the supernaturalists contend that reality can only be understood by considering special knowledge they have that is beyond the natural.
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  #2  
By GodPossessed on 09-26-2008, 10:06 PM
Default Re: Metaphysical Naturalism

The commitment of science to empirical means and results is it's very definition. But do all metaphysical inferences made upon empirical data fall under sciences magesteria? Will science itself become ontological interloper upon all sources of knowledge? Will science make the ontological claim that "if our net don't catch it, it ain't fish?"
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  #3  
By naturalist.atheist on 09-27-2008, 03:32 AM
Default Re: Metaphysical Naturalism

Quote:
Originally Posted by GodPossessed View Post
The commitment of science to empirical means and results is it's very definition. But do all metaphysical inferences made upon empirical data fall under sciences magesteria? Will science itself become ontological interloper upon all sources of knowledge? Will science make the ontological claim that "if our net don't catch it, it ain't fish?"
Anyone is of course free to invoke any supernatural construct to explain anything they like. It is not so much that science is an "interloper" in all sources of knowledge; it is more the case that the approach of science just works orders of magnitude better than other approaches so it is being adopted. Even the supernaturalist can't ignore this. That is why the current fashion is to try to dress up supernaturalism so that it looks like science. ID is an example of this trend. This is a backhanded acknowledgement of just how well science works but at the same time trying to make special pleading for the supernatural. At the base of it supernaturalists are in a competition with science by trying to account for the very same reality with an approach that is very different from science. So there is a choice and which you choose will depend on what you value. If you are interested in improved control and knowledge about reality then you will favor science, if you are interested in finding a psychic teddy bear to shield you from the finality of our existence then you will favor some kind of supernatural. And then there are many that try to straddle both by playing games like "separate magisteria" by backhandedly acknowledging that science and religion are two very different explanations for the very same reality.
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  #4  
By Clutch Munny on 10-01-2008, 01:21 PM
Default Re: Metaphysical Naturalism

Quote:
Originally Posted by GodPossessed View Post
The commitment of science to empirical means and results is it's very definition. But do all metaphysical inferences made upon empirical data fall under sciences magesteria? Will science itself become ontological interloper upon all sources of knowledge? Will science make the ontological claim that "if our net don't catch it, it ain't fish?"
1. Yes. 2. Strange unargued presuppositions. 3. Read the essay.
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  #5  
By theblackbook on 08-22-2009, 02:14 AM
Default Re: Metaphysical Naturalism

Science also has to admit that it isn't sure of anything. While it can't be positively proven that nothing supernatural exists, it also can't be disproven, since it is "supernatural" and so out of the reach of science by definition. However, if science has to admit it doesn't know everything, then supernaturalism/religion should, too- something that it is glaringly not required to do.
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  #6  
By naturalist.atheist on 08-22-2009, 02:53 AM
Default Re: Metaphysical Naturalism

Quote:
Originally Posted by theblackbook View Post
However, if science has to admit it doesn't know everything, then supernaturalism/religion should, too- something that it is glaringly not required to do.
What does this sentence mean?
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  #7  
By skeptic griggsy on 08-24-2009, 11:16 AM
Sad Re: Metaphysical Naturalism

:wave: Ontological naturalism maintains that not only are causes and explanations efficient, they are also necessary and primary; Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz notwithstanding, they are the sufficient reason.This neither begs the question nor sandbags theists as it is the demand for evidence as Einstein overcame Newton.:chin:
Fellow skeptic John L. Schellenberg faults us naturalists for relying on ever-changing science, but that is the glory of science!
And haughty Jon Haught objurgates us for not allowing other venues of knowledge, but he begs the question : just what are they?:whup:
T'is for naught that my friend Jerry Coyne takes on the creationist evolutionists, in particular Karl Giberson and Kenneth Miller with their guessing that maybe God tweaks evolution and sub-atomic events. Nay, they just obfuscate.
And as the evidence reveals that there is no cosmic teleology- no planned outcomes, to postulate the supernatural would contradict those natural causes rather than complement them! To aver that the supernatural is consistent with science would therefore maintain the new Omphalos argument that He deceives us into thinking that we have found the ultimate causes whilst behind the screen, He operates. Nay, there is no heuristic need for Him.:eek:
The Razor shaves Him off as being an entity itself that requires convoluted ad hoc assumptions, and thus He is needlessly redundant [necessary pleonasm], Alister McGrath, Dawkins's nemesis notwithstanding.:yawn:
The ignostic challenge is that with his incoherent attributes that so conflict one with the other, He is vacuous- no there there.:doh:
The supernatural cannot give us that more abundant life! It is a replaceable placebo!
Blessings and good will to all!:wave:
Last edited by skeptic griggsy; 08-24-2009 at 12:00 PM.. Reason: corrections
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