Time for Everything
1/3/12 at 11:58 PM 0 Comments

Naturalism, Scientism and the Limits of Science

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Some of Darwin's critics are agnostics and atheists.

Charles Darwin
Creative Commons photo by L2F1 / Flickr

In 2010 university professors Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini authored the book What Darwin Got Wrong. Both professors are atheists.

In an interview with Salon, Fodor challenged conventional wisdom on evolution:

Creationism isn't the only doctrine that's heavily into post-hoc explanation. Darwinism is too. If a creature develops the capacity to spin a web, you could tell a story of why spinning a web was good in the context of evolution. That is why you should be as suspicious of Darwinism as of creationism.

Fodor and co-author Piattelli-Palmarini see weaknesses in natural selection as a means for the development of all biological traits.

Agnostic Karl Popper was a famous philosopher of science that dissented from Darwin. Popper observed flaws in the world of science and proposed a falsifiability requirement for science. Unlike many proponents of naturalism, Popper saw value in metaphysics.

In 1976 Popper wrote:

Darwinism is not a testable scientific theory, but a metaphysical research program. And yet, the theory is invaluable. I do not see how, without it, our knowledge could have grown as it has done since Darwin. In trying to explain experiments with bacteria which become adapted to, say, penicillin, it is quite clear that we are greatly helped by the theory of natural selection. Although it is metaphysical, it sheds much light upon very concrete and very practical researches.

Pro-evolution websites such as Wikipedia, Talk Origins and the National Center for Science Education all note that Popper recanted his critique that natural selection isn't science. However, they have all failed to report that two years before he died, Popper revealed in an interview with Scientific American writer John Horgan that he still rejected Darwinism:

But when I interviewed him in 1992, he blurted out that he still found Darwin's theory dissatisfying"One ought to look for alternatives!" Popper exclaimed, banging his kitchen table.

Popper's support for metaphysics stands in contrast to the prevailing support for scientism in the scientific community. According to PBS, "scientism claims that science alone can render truth about the world and reality."

Scientism could not exist without naturalism which Wikipedia describes as the philosophy "that nothing exists beyond the natural universe or, if it does, it does not affect the natural universe that we know."

Prominent intelligent design supporter Philip Johnson describes the scientism supporters in an unflattering manner.

For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter.

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