Methodological Naturalism Explained - Why Science Can't Consider The Supernatural
I am going to make a bold statement.
"For all practical purposes, it is always irrational to assign a supernatural cause to an event observed in the natural world."
Now I am going to attempt to back up that statement.
The only reason (of which I am aware) to assign a supernatural cause to a given event is the following:
"I do not currently understand the details and outcome of this observation given my current state of knowledge and understanding of the natural world."Also, I suspect that many of you would prefer to add the caveat "And the details and outcome of this event are consistent with a particular supernatural belief or belief system", but that is clearly an example of circular reasoning and cannot be a valid part of this discussion. The supernatural belief or belief system is, in fact, the item in question, or to be more accurate, the observation cannot be assigned a cause which has not been demonstrated, it can only be assigned a hypothesized cause and thus acceptance as 'truth' or 'belief' is unwarranted and irrational.
So can we all agree that this is the only reason which has been given to date for doing so?
Okay, assuming that we can, I will move on to my next argument.
First, we need to discuss establishing a probable cause. In Science, including the Historical Sciences (especially the Historical Sciences), we do not seek to assign a 'Cause' to a given observation. Rather, we only EVER seek to understand the Probable Cause of a given observation.
The reason for this is obvious: Everything in Science, down to the last letter (which I guess would be 'e'?), is tentative. Everything.
Don't believe me? Read virtually any paper in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, and you will see just how careful and precise actual Scientists really are about their language.
Furthermore, if everything in Science wasn't tentative (including, by the way, the Scientific Method itself), it would not work.
Think about it. If Science had not been able to change to accommodate new information, we wouldn't have Science at all. Science builds upon the discoveries and inventions of the past, to be sure, but those discoveries and inventions NEVER completely 'Pass the Test'. We test not just the knowledge we are seeking to gain, but also ALL of the knowledge which brought us to that point.
This is why some Scientific disciplines, particularly Physics, have had such landmark, groundbreaking, and mind-blowing observations which forced the discipline to, essentially, double check and question everything we ever thought we knew about anything.
Ok, so with that out of the way, I will continue my argument.
Given a properly-applied system of Critical Thinking, the reason given above, which would also happen to be the state of the observer at the moment, and moments following, the observation, is necessarily a 'pause' point.
At the end of the sentence "I do not currently understand the details and outcome of this observation given my current state of knowledge and understanding of the natural world." the first and most rational action is to tentatively withhold judgement regarding the cause.
The next step, if you happen to be curious, would be to investigate the observation in as much detail as possible. By withholding judgement on the cause, you are
If, at the end of the investigation, you and any cohorts whom you have invited to investigate can, if the evidence warrants it, choose to assign a tentative natural cause.
That's it, that's the end.
"WHAT?", you might scream at me. "How dare you be so transparent with your naturalistic bias?"
I have, nor am currently displaying, no such bias. It is those whom believe in the supernatural that you have to thank for that outcome, and only that outcome.
Are you intrigued yet?
Because it's actually so beautifully, elegantly simple, you're going to wonder how you didn't realize it sooner.
By definition, evidence in the natural world can only point to natural causes, because supernatural causes are, again by definition, not measurable or detectable or predictable by any natural means.