Science: methodological naturalism

“Since the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, science has been limited to the search for natural causes to explain natural phenomena.         

This revolution entailed the rejection of the appeal to authority, and by extension, revelation, in favor of empirical evidence. 

Since that time period, science has been a discipline in which testability, rather than any ecclesiastical authority or philosophical coherence, has been the measure of a scientific idea’s worth. 

In deliberately omitting theological or “ultimate” explanations for the existence or characteristics of the natural world, science does not consider issues of “meaning” and “purpose” in the world.

While supernatural explanations may be important and have merit, they are not part of science. 

This self-imposed convention of science, which limits inquiry to testable, natural explanations about the natural world, is referred to by philosophers as “methodological naturalism” and is sometimes known as the scientific method. 

Methodological naturalism is a “ground rule” of science today which requires scientists to seek explanations in the world around us based upon what we can observe, test, replicate, and verify.

The National Academy of Sciences  is in agreement that science is limited to empirical, observable and ultimately testable data: “Science is a particular way of knowing about the world. In science, explanations are restricted to those that can be inferred from the confirmable data – the results obtained through observations and experiments that can be substantiated by other scientists. Anything that can be observed or measured is amenable to scientific investigation. Explanations that cannot be based upon empirical evidence are not part of science.” 

This rigorous attachment to “natural” explanations is an essential attribute to science by definition and by convention.  

We are in agreement with Plaintiffs’ lead expert Dr. Miller, that from a practical perspective, attributing unsolved problems about nature to causes and forces that lie outside the natural world is a “science stopper.” As Dr. Miller explained, once you attribute a cause to an untestable supernatural force, a proposition that cannot be disproven, there is no reason to continue seeking natural explanations as we have our answer. “

The U.S. District Court For the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. vs/ Dover Area School District, et al., Memorandum Opinion; December 20, 2005

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