Spin-off: Methodological Naturalism as an Ideology?

Hi James,

Just a small nudge to clarify re: this:

It would be helpful then if the watchdogs didn’t keep repeating “methodological naturalism” (de Vries’ clarity-destroying term for this conversation), as if that just meant “good science”.

The term “naturalism” sure LOOKS like an ideology to me, whenever it is written. These people trying to de-ideologize naturalism (merely by throwing the science-juicy term “methodological” in front of it?!) sure LOOK silly too. They just don’t notice the silliness is their Philosophy wearing no clothes, which is their continued usage of “naturalism” as a synonym for “good science”. That’s always been a problem here, and DavidS isn’t going overboard to caution against “methodological naturalism”, in my humble sociology & philosophy of science assessment. End of little anti-MNism rant. Thanks.

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I agree wholeheartedly. “Methodological naturalism” is a horrible term because different people have different ideas about what it actually means, and like it or not, it does have overtones of trying to drive God out of the picture altogether. And as you rightly pointed out, it also undermines the point that I keep trying to make that those of us who reject YEC do so for reasons that have nothing to do with “secularism” or “Darwinism” or “worldviews.” I think those of us who are Christians at any rate should try to avoid the term and look for alternatives instead.

The term I would suggest instead is “anomphalism” – basically, a rejection of the Omphalos Hypothesis. The idea is that this would allow us to acknowledge the possibility of miracles, but only in a way that is consistent with good science – in other words, that they should not be used as a get-out clause to let you reject scientific findings that you don’t like.

Here are some thoughts I wrote on the matter:

Thanks for your clarifying reply.

Yes, I appreciate this: “I decided to avoid appealing to methodological naturalism altogether.”

The next time some one at BioLogos demands that MNism = “good science”, I’ll link them to your thoughts on the matter. Maybe then they’ll relent from telling me how I must conceptualise the range of meanings of “science(s)” using MNism (cuz Paul de Vries was a genius admin-ethicist at Wheaton when he “cleverly” coined MNism :upside_down_face:).

Methodological naturalism is differentiated from religious naturalism of which theistic evolution is a part. It is the soft option itself compared with metaphysical naturalism, in that it says to carry on as if materialism is the only ontology, whereas metaphysical says it is.

God instantiates nature as if He didn’t, so methodological naturalism is as reasonable as naturalism gets. God as non-interventional ground of being is allowable, the only warrant for Him being Jesus of course [some non-intervention!]. Not older Jewish myths.

Sorry, Mark, but I agree with Craig here (even while I reject ideological creationism as “bad theology”). The person in question paints me negatively at seemingly every opportunity. It’s really hard to see “graceful dialogue” at BioLogos when Moderators do that to Guests.

I know why Craig wrote: "Wow, this is a very demanding (or mean) forum. "

Christy STILL hasn’t listened to me about “methodological naturalism”. Yet her communication requires that only one understanding of MNism is possible: a positive one. With Craig and DavidS, I simply reserve the right to disagree, and likewise, to instead pursure more appropriate, accurate, and valuable language for discussion, where MNism also has a negative meaning, for clear and easy to understand reasons. Thankfully, James’ statement should keep a humble Christy at bay on the topic, so she’ll accept that those who reject the ideology of “methodological naturalism”, may have a more convincing argument than she “paints” us as having.

Is that fair enough according to your moral framework to point out, Mark? Don’t you think Christy should always make it a point to play “fairly” by the rules of “gracious dialogue” also? Fairly would mean we don’t get “painted” negatively just for putting forward an alternative viewpoint than Christy, which I can assure anyone reading this, on the topics involved, evidence is widely available that MNism has been poisonous to “this conversation”. That’s why, like James, I rarely use it either.

Thankfully, James clarified that it’s possible to be a BioLogos insider, and still avoid MNism. “I decided to avoid appealing to methodological naturalism altogether.” James to me is much more accurate and careful with his terminology in this case than Christy is, who is just repeating worn out philosophy that should be retired defending MNism. I feel more welcome now at BioLogos that doubting MNism is possible. Thanks again for the link, James. Next on to Walton’s book.

Isn’t it amusing everyone, when Gregory talks about people involved in the conversation instead of talking to them? It’s such a cute little quirk of his… Always makes me smile and think, “Oh there you go again, Gregory, with your ‘Christy this’ and ‘Christy that.’”


This would be helpful for you to address too, Mark, as you’re the “non-theist” in the room. It would seem that you see “evenhandedness” at BioLogos, whereas others see otherwise, is that correct? I wonder if you also see Walton straying “out of his lane” into philosophy? Walton’s text referred to by Craig shows that Craig is correct about this.

In this case, Walton vs. Lennox wrt the philosophy involved isn’t unreasonable, as I see it. It could be a very interesting conversation at BioLogos! Walton’s dependence on de Vries’ mangled & confusing ideological (he’s was a philosopher ethicist & admin at Wheaton at the time) notion of MNism is a big problem with his position. I agree with @cewoldt about that, even while disagreeing with him about YECism. Can John Walton’s “philosophy” be called out, explored and openly questioned at BioLogos, or not?

Should I be painted as a “horrible actor” for that, Mark, just because anti-ideological MNism disagrees with a BioLogos moderator (or two)? I’d rather speak freely, without the incessant naysaying and painting. That’s how it “feels” sometimes posting at BioLogos, for those of us who aren’t “theistic evolutionists” or “evolutionary creationists”. Thought you should know about this in case you didn’t, even though you’re not one either. :relaxed:

I’d be wary of throwing those descriptors around, much, Gregory - as the only one I see being “incessant” around here [about these two things] is … you. But that said … I’ll bite.

I’m not Mark, but can you briefly summarize for me what Walton’s “unfortunate” philosophy is (again, if necessary … I realize there is probably a lot in past threads that I don’t want to search through right now - and I haven’t read Walton’s book in question as presumably you and others here have). But as an admirer of Walton from a distance, I’m nonetheless curious. If others find this tedious here, or it continues to be an off-topic “those horrible Biologos moderators gripe fest”, we can take it to private chat too. I have a thick skin.

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You’re a moderator supporting another moderator who continually naysays people who challenge MNism & ideological evolutionism, as if “it’s not really a problem”, when it quite obviously is.

It’s thus understandable that you only see “incessant” one-way, Mervin. BioLogos should face those topics, but it hasn’t been able (or willing) to do so yet. We’re all quite patient, but we won’t be bullied to hide evidence that readily exists, just to appease or entertain a BioLogos moderator with a particular ideology they wish everyone else to accept. That would be going too far, don’t you agree, Mervin?

This addresses your question:

Walton’s dependence on de Vries’ mangled & confusing ideological (he’s was a philosopher ethicist & admin at Wheaton at the time) notion of MNism is a big problem with his position.

If you’re a supporter of MNism, like Christy is, Mervin, then surely you won’t WANT to “get this” the way many other people do. You won’t want “MNism” to sound foolish or misleading. Your resistance is thus understandable, right?

Nevertheless, thanks to James, now it’s not a MNism-uber-alles grunge show at BioLogos. It’s possible to avoid, even to reject MNism. Thanks for the freedom!

I’m still waiting for a discussion of this evidence that we’re hiding from.

Don’t thank me yet. Nobody has granted you freedom to hijack any or all threads around to your two great missions in life, which (if I understand correctly) are: 1. to eradicate the prolific use of the word ‘evolutionism’ or ‘evolutionary’ for anything other than strict biological evolution; and 2. To put the last nail in a coffin containing any and all uses of the phrase “MN”.

You are correct in suspecting that I don’t see any problem with the concept that has come to earn the label “MN” other than that you and others have made it clear how much of a trigger phrase it is for you; so I won’t bandy it about more than strictly necessary so as not to cause unnecessary offense. But I fear that it is the underlying philosophy that earned that label which is what really generates the hostility - so whatever name is given it, will soon become the new target of your wrath in any case. And that underlying philosophy may be the harder nut for you to crack.

In any case, I’m still hoping to hear specifically how Walton has strayed. (Yes, I know - out of his own lane of expertise and all that - but aren’t we all most of the time around here … so I don’t join you in picking up stones over that.) So what is Walton’s (or perhaps all of ours around here) great sin?

@DavidS, or others feel free to pile on here too - as it is your thread; and if you feel I or Gregory are steering it wrong, we can always discuss elsewhere or in private too.


“I’m still waiting for a discussion of this evidence that we’re hiding from.”

Notice the “we won’t be bullied to hide evidence”. It still sounds like that’s what you’re doing, Mervin, as only “certain evidence” counts for you and your fellow “evolutionary creationists”. Other evidence, including books, articles, etc. somehow seem banned from your consideration and discussion.

BioLogos is hiding from or conveniently avoiding the Evolution Institute, the subfield of “evolutionary religious studies”, and ideological evolutionism. The 3rd one is hidden because it would inevitably throw shade on “theistic evolutionism” and no surprise, BioLogos doesn’t want to do that. You understand that, right Mervin? BioLogos is hiding from ERS because it is focused elsewhere, likewise with the Evolution Institute. The question is: should it finally close this major gap in their offering?

Isn’t it more than a bit ironic that BioLogos won’t even outline their official position about ERS or evolutionism (just two sentences!), given that the audience they’re trying to attract to ECism is highly worried about evolutionism, and especially with the claim that “religion evolved naturally into existence without any Creator God”. ERS & evolutionism exemplify the problem those evangelical Protestants are fighting against, yet BioLogos remains almost totally SILENT about ERS, evolutionism, as if the care and concern of YECists about “naturalistic explanations for religion” were unbiblical? It just makes no sense.

Up thread, your fellow moderator, misframed the conversation, pitting ideology against science, instead of ideology against ideology or science against science. It’s a chronic error among “evolutionary creationists”, Mervin, but if you are one, it might be harder for you to notice. And you wouldn’t want to correct yourself if you agree with that misframing either, would you?

“There is no real scientific debate over creationism vs. evolution”

Yet there’s a lot of “debate” in collaborative science, philosophy, theology about evolutionary theories and Divine Creation. Unfortunately, not much of it happens at BioLogos because they frame it as ideology (creationism) vs. science (evolution). It shouldn’t then be a surprise if with that “vs.” one gets a wrong answer, should it Mervin?

That’s hilarious. Everyone already agrees on the terms! So what’s all the fuss about? :rofl:

Let me translate.

By “people,” Gregory means “me” and by “a BioLogos moderator” he means “Christy” and by “particular ideology they wish everyone else to accept” he means “the basic definitions of terms typically used by this lay audience, not the special ones Gregory uses in his academic papers” and by “not a problem” he means “not as important to BioLogos as I think it should be.”


Yes, you continually naysay people who challenge MNism & ideological evolutionism, as if “it’s not really a problem”, when it quite obviously is. And this “hiding” is rampant since you’ve already said you won’t read what is written on the topic.

By “particular ideology they wish everyone else to accept”, I mean the ideology of “methodological naturalism”. Hopefully that clears up the ambiguity for Christy.

James gets it; and he’s stopped using MNism as a result. Christy hasn’t yet. C’est la vie.

Sure they do. That is hilarious, but no one is laughing. If there were agreement, you would not have a problem.

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I have never discussed methodological naturalism as an ideology or offered an opinion on it, I have mentioned it as a criteria for carrying out the scientific method, which I think is a good method for doing what it sets out to do, describe the natural world. I assert that you can’t hypothesize, test, or confirm supernatural activity via the scientific method. How is that an “ideology” in any sense of the word? Are you going to tell me that any word with -ism at the end just has to be an ideology because that’s how you decided words work?

If find a group that advocates a plant-based diet as part of a method to lower cholesterol, and I evaluate their method as adequate for doing what it sets out to do, and I say “Members of this group rely on veganism for their method. Eating meat isn’t part of the method and won’t help lower your cholesterol” Have I defended the “ideology” of veganism? Have I failed to properly assess how veganism is ruining some people’s health because you can find an example of an unhealthy person who won’t eat anything other than kale and chickpeas?


I’ll be the first to admit here that I’m not as well-versed in all the history of this exchange as Christy and probably others here as well. For instance, I only have an [pretty-well] educated guess as to what all is entailed in “Evolutionary Religious Studies” - (and I gather that you are ‘against’ them and want Biologos to be against them too?). But some of all your seasoned concern is frankly, probably over my head. Of the things I understand well enough, I think I can give some response - and yes, largely critical response at that (which apparently makes me a bully, but I gather you are a grown-up that can take it, and that we can speak without all the condescension here). I’ll just speak to this:

I think Creationists have a long history (quite pre-dating Biologos) of pitting themselves against the science of evolution. Don’t blame us for that. Yes - they do label all of evolution as an ideology (denying it any endorsement as ‘science’ … “science-so-called” they say). The only tweak Biologos has to make in that quite prior arrangement is to insist that, yes - evolution is real science. If that makes us guilty of something, so be it. I’m not denying the presence of ideologies all-around. I agree with you that we all have them. But there is such a thing as real science, and evolution-based biology qualifies. And yes, I do believe that young-earthers are more ideologically driven toward presupposing their respective conclusions than what real [other - the vast majority of] scientists are in reaching theirs.

Meanwhile, I don’t want @llamapacker 's post above to get buried behind all of our bickering here. Welcome to the forum, llamapacker - and don’t mind the bar brawl you happened to wander into the middle of here. Just duck the flying chairs and carry on your conversation with DavidS (or any of us) as best you can.

If our melee here goes on much longer, perhaps we’ll make this its own thread.


And be careful of the broken glass.

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Gregory did not like responses he got here:

or here:

Or here:

It’s not my job to read up on every area of interest recommended by forum users just so that I can be a better conversation partner. I’m not interested in this topic. You have failed to make a compelling case that I should be interested in this topic. I know how methodological naturalism is used in science textbooks, I know how creationists misconstrue it, and that is really as far as I need to go to moderate discussions about the topics the vast majority of the BioLogos audience is interested in and provide accurate scientific information.


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