What is science (or how do you define it?)

One difference that comes to mind is that a methodological objectivist can consider cases of medical miracles without ruling out the supernatural apriori. As an objectivist, every real possibility can be considered utilizing methods that minimize bias.

That is the outdated presumption of scientists before the advent of chaotic dynamics. Schrodinger even wrote this book called “What is Life” to argue that quantum events could have no effect on the operation of life. He was wrong because it was based on the same presumptions that chaotic dynamics found to be incorrect, that perturbations would average out and have no effect on large scale phenomenon. It was all based on the routine practice in science of approximating non-linear differential equations with linear equations. But it turns out that this is the one area where the linear approximations fail. In non-linear equations small perturbations can be selectively amplified to effect the large scale behavior.

Reading the Wikipedia article on chaos theory, I don’t see how these uncaused events have any role to play in the theory.

“these systems are deterministic, meaning that their future behavior follows a unique evolution and is fully determined by their initial conditions, with no random elements involved.”

And then add into your system a multitude of individuals who are capable of random behavior and it’s a real wonder to see God’s providence.

I explained it already… but I can try it again.

They are deterministic provided that the initial conditions are given precisely. But that only happens in a computer simulation – those are indeed deterministic. Ilya Prigogine proved that in order to determine the events in a non-linear system, the initial conditions have to be given to an infinite degree of precision. But that means quantum events play a role in the outcome of events in such a system. So if quantum events don’t have a cause within the premises of the scientific worldview (as established by the failure of Bell’s inequality) then the direction of macroscopic events doesn’t always have a cause within the premises of the scientific worldview either. And how common is nonlinearity? The three body problem is nonlinear. Thus except for rare initial conditions, you have non-linearity if you have more than two bodies interacting.

So… like I said, in a nonlinear system tiny fluctuations can be selectively amplified to change the course of direction of the whole system. This is the so called “butterfly effect.” And so as long as there are quantum fluctations, then no matter how deterministic a non-linear system may be in a computer simulation, in the REAL world they not deterministic at all.

But it seems like you are using the theory differently than it’s being described. Not that I disagree it is impossible to rule out the possibility of uncaused events affecting our world.

The Wikipedia article continues:

In other words, the deterministic nature of these systems does not make them predictable. This behavior is known as deterministic chaos, or simply chaos. The theory was summarized by Edward Lorenz:

Chaos: When the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future.

As I understand it, scientific theories are models based on multiple tested hypotheses. They make sense of multiple lines of evidence. Each hypothesis is testable and makes predictions, but a theory is more overarching than a single hypothesis.

@jammycakes made some good points about observability, testability, and repeatability in relation to models that describe the past here: The Big Bang Idea - #2 by jammycakes

Huge areas of scientific investigation involve trying to understand how we got where we are. These models are testable and falsifiable, but they are tested and falsified in different ways than, say, does this medicine slow cancer growth in cells?

I agree that much of what falls under evolutionary psychology at the popular level amounts to a Just So story. Psychology, sociology, anthropology, archaeology, and linguisitcs (which all come into play when studying the human development of religious practices) are “soft sciences” and don’t follow the same methodologies as hard sciences. Observations in these fields are more subjective to begin with and rarely involves purely empirical measurements. The observations themselves require interpretation of situations and behavior that are colored by the lenses of the researchers and shaped by the investigative tools.


Terms are just agreed on labels. You don’t have a better one for what we are discussing, so that is why Christian scientists “go with” the already agreed on label for the methodology. The fact that uninitiated people misunderstand labels because they don’t have fully developed concepts like other users of the label is just a routine fact of communication. Applying a different label would not automatically inject a developed concept into their brains. Concepts are developed with experience and learning. The idea that the methodology is something Christian scientists shouldn’t “go with” is just evidence of not understanding the concept or that it’s central to scientific disciplines. And the methodology has yielded plenty of “light,” which is why it hasn’t been discarded.


The etymology of the term is a phenomenon in itself… I suspected it was a recently “agreed upon label” but I would never have guessed it occurred in my lifetime.

Sure, but the term was invented to describe a process that was already accepted. The concept always exists before the label. It’s not like people got together and invented a term and then decided to start doing science that way. So the eymology of the word describing the process is really pretty irrelevant to the discussion of whether or not the methodology itself is a good way to approach science. And it’s also irrelevant whether or not untrained lay people can ascertain all the nuances of the scientific process from hearing the term “methodological naturalism.” That’s not how technical terms ever work.


I do wonder about the history of science in this regard. Where it merely prioritized natural explanations when investigating natural phenomena, and when it excluded supernatural explanations apriori while investigating claims of the miraculous?

When in the history of science do you imagine people were concerned with scientifically investigating claims of the miraculous?

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Scientists don’t investigate the miraculous because the tools of science can’t handle it. How can you seal out God or demons from a controlled experiment?

I thought that is what theistic evolutionists were doing.

I guess my confusion is about where to draw the line between science and knowledge.

Since one can objectively consider claims for miracles and can rationally conclude God has acted in history. It would then be a misnomer to say this person is being unscientific or has adopted a pseudoscientific belief.

They don’t have to handle it, they don’t have to exclude it.

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Um, no. The evolutionary model is scientific and makes no reference to God. TE/EC musings on the role of God in creation attempt to harmonize theology and consensus science (done according to methodological naturalism) but they do not claim these metaphysical musings are science nor are they trying to demonstrate anything about God via testing or other empirical means. It’s a theological enterprise.

Doing this is not science. Claiming you have concluded scientifically that God has acted in history is indeed pseudoscience.


And it would be irrational if one does not consider the scope of natural events and the question of an infinite regress. While this isn’t science, it is interesting to watch scientists and mathematicians consider the question of whether there can be an infinite number of objects or events.

Again it’s the troubled meaning of science, as even Kant employed the term in a way we would not use it today.

One can say they have scientifically concluded a belief is true, when they mean they have carefully considered an opinion. Having researched it carefully, they conclude as Keener does that miracles have in fact occurred in history. While it may be true, as you use the terms, to call his research pseudoscience, it feels derogatory.

Why not call it pseudonaturalism? Or methodological supernaturalism? :grin:

I don’t think one can. Scientific doesn’t mean “a carefully considered opinion,” it means something is grounded in the methodology and principles of science. Philosophy is its own discipline, with its own methodologies and rules of engagement.


Someone who uses histiographic methods to evaluate testimony is not doing science, they are doing history. Keener never claims his conclusions are scientific. Claims to truth can be warranted without being established scientifically. But that is the realm of philosophy and epistemology, not science.

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Keener speaks intelligently to the issue:

“What if we expand our definition of science to hypothesize about intelligent causes? Surely any real God should be able to act as a cause no less than any human person does. In this case, science might even help quantify probabilities that a particular event is a divine act.”

“Rather than dismissing the possibility of miracles, science when defined most narrowly simply excludes them from its sphere of discussion.”

Miracles Today: The Supernatural Work of God in the Modern World by Craig S. Keener.

(emphasis mine)

Then you are moving beyond the established limits of science into metaphysics, which Keener is tacitly acknowledging. Science can certainly provide knowledge and methodologies that may prove useful in metaphyscial discussions. But he is correct that science in terms of the scientific method excludes miracles from its sphere of discussion.

Also Keener is a New Testament scholar and not trained in the methodologies or principles of any hard science. So why would we go to him as an expert on what counts as science? He doesn’t do science, he does theology and Bible interpretation.