Here are two posts that I originally put up as comments to an article that pitted the Intelligent Design theorists against those who are atheists for the sake of evolution. The occasion for the article was the Topeka school district’s decision to… teach something or not teach something: I don’t remember. The debaters were hotly contesting the nature of scientific method. I said:
The problem here is that science means two things:
a.) Any objective, dispassionate body of knowledge that is based in certain known principles and proceeds to certain known conclusions. (henceforth, I’ll call this “science a”)
b.) Any body of knowledge that begins with a falsifiable hypothesis, and through prediction and experiment establishes its truth. (henceforth, “science b”)
I have no doubt that every science “b” is a science “a”, but not every “a” must be a “b”. The problem with everyone these days is that they assume that every a is a b- as though every science must have one method: which makes no more sense than assuming every science must use the same instruments. The lamentable result of all this is that philosophy, theology, and even logic are not considered “scientific”- and hence it is viewed as ridiculous that there could be any such thing as a science concerning God. The evolutionists agree with this, and so they mistakenly deny that God is scientifically known; and the IDers hold that there is a science of God, but they mistaskenly try to force him into science “b”. Both positions are partially true, and partially false. The evolutionist is right to assert that there is no knowledge of God by science b, but he is wrong to assert that there is no science of God, and the IDer is right to affirm a science of God, but wrong to place it in science B (I stress the word “in”. As soon as God comes up, one is, by definition, not considering nature as such, for God is a supernatural being.) But it does not follow from this that there is no science of God. THIS is the science that the kansas folks should desire to know and teach…
“The study of nature” is related to the study of God, but the IDers, and the atheist-for-the-sake-of-evolution crowd do not recognize the proper way in which God is manifest from the study of nature. The proof for this is in trhee parts:
I.) What is the study of nature?
II.) What Place does God have in the study of nature?
III.) What is metaphysics, and how does it relate to the study of nature?
The study of nature involves more than one science, and it has more than one method, just as it has more than one instrument. In fact, the study of nature means two things:
1.) the study of nature as nature. This science, however, has two parts, since nature as such is a principle of change- it can mean either:
a.) change inasmuch as it is quantified and measured, or understood in a way that is fit for measurement and treatment by mathematics, or
b.) change considered in light of the principles of change as such- matter, substance, form, causality, etc.
2.) the study of nature can also mean nature taken more particularly, for example, inasmuch as it is living (biology) or energy (thermodynamics) or composed of matter (chemistry). Any of these sciences might divide up further into, say, organic chemistry, or human anatomy.
God, who the IDers want to prove, and the Atheist-for-the-sake-of-evolution want to deny, is found as the term of natural science 1b. This God manifests himself as the Unmoved Mover, who is immaterial and unchangeable. It is important to stress that God is the TERM of the science- he ENDS the science of nature 1b. This is not to say that the science of nature 1b is incapable of further refinement, but every refinement takes place prior to the proof for the unmoved, immaterial mover.
The problem with the IDers is that they think that God should show up in a science #2. Even if they’re right, they wouldn’t know anything about this God beyond proving that he made something. Even then, they would have no principles by which to come to a fuller understanding of this God- they couldn’t prove, for example, that he was eternal, benevolent, one, omnipotent, imperishable, good, immaterial, personal, living, a lawgiver, that he cares about men, that he was the highest end of human life, and a bottomless fount of other truths. All these things can be proven if we start with natural science 1b. For proof of this, read the Summa.
The other problem with IDers is that they don’t understand that God is the terminal point of any science of nature. The above critiques that say “if we believed in this God, it would end our science” are in a certain sense true. God is above nature- he is not natural- when we speak of “the divine nature” we use the word “nature” analogously.
Metaphysics involves the study of immaterial being. If it did not, then natural philosophy (which studies changeable things) would be the same as metaphysics. The problem with metaphysics is that its subject matter is not self-evident. As far as we can tell from simply opening our eyes, “to be” means “to be material”. Metaphysics, then, must prove the existence of its subject matter. This will happen necessarily if we begin with natural science 1b. it will not happen if we begin with anything else. We must consider matter as such if we want to have any hope of establishing the existence of something immaterial. Even if some specialized science were to do this (as can happen, for example, in the science of the human soul, or perhaps as happens in ID) this still requires an appeal to the principles that are laid down in natural science 1b.
Unless IDers turn to science 1b, they will continue to lose arguments, and they will at best end up with a concept of God that is totally infertile- incapable of producing a further science. They simply don’t have the tools to understand God in any deeper way. They will also be unable to answer the critiques of the atheist-for-the-sake-of-evolution crowd, who rightly claim that the positing of a God is a sort of term to the science of nature.