— J — (on methodological naturalism)

IMG_2472Why should we refuse to consider supernatural explanations for things we observe in the world? The answer is, we shouldn’t. We should not dismiss the possibility that a God is behind unexplained phenomena any more than we should dismiss the possibility that magic or allegedly mythical creatures are behind unexplained phenomena. But these many possible domains of explanation are not equal in respect to their track records throughout the history of science. Whenever there has been an unexplained phenomenon, and both supernatural and natural explanations have been suggested as possible explanations, far more often has a natural explanation been the correct explanation.

Consider the history of natural and supernatural explanations for the following phenomena:
– Diseases
– Seizures
– Lightning
– Heredity
– Astrology
– Cognition
– Weather

This far superior track record of natural explanations over supernatural explanations justifies our expectation that, for the next unexplained phenomenon we encounter, the explanation will be natural, consistent with natural laws rather than violating those laws.

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This notion is called “methodological naturalism”, and is what keeps scientists from wasting time on improbable explanations. We arrive at the general probability that a supernatural explanation will be the explanation for the next unexplained phenomenon by dividing the number of successful supernatural explanations by the number of successful natural explanations. Doing this in today’s age of science yields a very low likelihood of a correct supernatural explanation for a given unexplained phenomenon.

The history of science is fascinating. Until recently, there were many supernatural explanations proffered whenever an unexplained phenomenon became the focus of inquiry. And very few of these supernatural explanations turned out to be correct. Not all natural explanations have turned out to be correct, as well. But wherever there has been an explanation discovered, that explanation has been a natural explanation. For this reason we have strong reason to regard proposed supernatural explanations for the next unexplained phenomenon we encounter to be highly improbable.IMG_2472


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