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Does Science Assume Naturalism?

  1. Yes

    5 vote(s)
  2. No

    3 vote(s)
  3. Not sure

    1 vote(s)
  1. Apr 6, 2009 #1
    Does it and should it?
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2009
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 6, 2009 #2


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    What do you mean by naturalism?
  4. Apr 6, 2009 #3
    if you mean does it assume that everything has a naural cause. Then yes it does. And yes it should because you cannot test (by definition) something supernatural.

    if you insert the possibility of the supernatural, it would always give you two possibilities at the end. one of which you could never disprove. You would therefore never gain any knowledge.
  5. Apr 6, 2009 #4

    That is what I am defining as Naturalism.

    While you're at the website give this a read, tis very interesting:
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 6, 2009
  6. Apr 6, 2009 #5
    No. Empiricism is the assumption of science.
    Should it? The fewer assumptions the better.
  7. Apr 6, 2009 #6
    Joe this is from naturalism.org

    basically this is the definition of that Thrilho is giving for naturalism.

    "What constitutes knowledge: Naturalism as a worldview is based on the premise that knowledge about what exists and about how things work is best achieved through the sciences, not personal revelation or religious tradition."

    From the above its pretty obvious that science assumes that science is the best method for gaining knowledge.
  8. Apr 6, 2009 #7
    Well that's unfortunate.

    In philosophy, one can distinguish between the epistemological, having to do with knowledge, and the ontological, having to do with existence. Naturalism is actually not limited to a theory of knowledge.

    The notion that everything that there is, is part of nature, is 'metaphysical naturalism'. The notion that the way to attain knowledge is through observation of the natural world is 'methodological naturalism'.

    Science doesn't assume there are no 'supernatural' events or causes, further, it can function without a naturalist epistemology, strictly on the level of empirical observation.
    Methodological naturalism, is simply a useful framework.

    So, no, science does not even need naturalism.
  9. Apr 9, 2009 #8
    Assumes methodological naturalism? Yes. Assumes philosophical naturalism? No.

    Naturally, methodological naturalism is a necessary assumption for science.
  10. Apr 10, 2009 #9
    Its no a necessary assumption, its just one most scientists make.

    One can be a a radical empiricist with all sorts of weird assumptions.
  11. Apr 11, 2009 #10
    Not at all, because the moment you enter any kind of supernatural entity into the equation everything falls apart, because you cannot, almost by definition, find a way to hold supernatural entities constant (if it was possible, it wouldn't, by definition, be supernatural).
  12. Apr 12, 2009 #11
    People have been trying to figure out the intentions and pleasures of gods for thousands of years. They use observation all the time. Notions like 'god's will', and karma.... and divine retribution are all about observing and then fitting the observation into a supernatural framework.

    So, no, science doesn't need naturalism. Everything that happens could simply be the will of giant space turtle. The fact that we observe consistency in our observations, could simply be because said space turtle is hung over, and hasn't bothered to make any changes recently. Tomorrow, he could change it all.

    Methodological naturalism is useful for science, but not essential.
  13. Apr 15, 2009 #12
    If a magical pixie can both 1) change your instruments and 2) the facts of reality arbitrarily, how is science possible?
  14. Apr 15, 2009 #13
    The trick there would be figuring the motivations of said mp, by looking at the evidence of its past actions. Also figuring out how to appease said mp would be useful. Its clear that some things in the universe are consistent, so the mp is not changing things randomly 'all the time'. Is he malicious, insane, confused, or just bored? 'Magical' is really just a way of saying 'beyond understanding', but with science one could find patterns in the mp's behaviour... if such patterns exist, and while they exist. Even if the mp itself is magical and whimsical, science could at least track the changes as they come.

    Its clearly not a well supported idea, given current evidence, nor a particularly attractive one. IMO. But anything that interacts with the 'seemingly' natural world would be something science could examine, at least indirectly.

    Not a good assumption of course, if you haven't seen any pixies of late.
  15. Apr 15, 2009 #14
    Thats statement is utterly idiotic. Inserting the supernatural pixie into the equation gives you TWO VARIABLES. you can only measure so much stuff, therefore you cannot say which one is changing.

    Even if you keep conditions the same, it could be the property of nature that is changing and the pixie is doing nothing. It could be that the property of nature doesnt change but the pixie is having a jolly good laugh. It could be both are changing. It could be the pixie isnt diddling with you experiement at all, but has changed your bottle of Evian to Absinthe.

    Inserting the supernatural makes ANY explination a possibility. So while this may be true, it teaching us NOTHING NEW. Apart from, oh that pixie. shes such a joker, i hope she doesnt take a peep at me in the shower.

    You are so right, i've not seen ANYthing supernatural... EVER! So lets say the the goal of 'good' science 'is to make 'good' assumptions. As you have quite correctly shown, inseting the supernatural is 'NOT a good assumption'.

    Therefore GOOD science will always assume that the supernatural pixies/gods/FSM will take no part in nature. Which kind of answers the thread in contrary to all your previous statements.

    Now this is one of my assumptions about this thread. I was assuming that the OP wants to know about good science, not crazy arsed religious pseudoscience.
  16. Apr 17, 2009 #15
    Indeed, the main issue here is that you are unable to hold MP constant.
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