An Analogy That Isn’t

Here’s something I don’t get. Or maybe I do get it and just think it’s silly. One of those. It’s from an article by Michael Ruse in Robert Pennock’s collection Intelligent Design Creationism and its Critics, “Methodological Naturalism under Attack,” page 365. Ruse is making the distinction (which featured heavily in the Kitzmiller trial) between metaphysical naturalism and methodological naturalism; he’s making the distinction and explaining it and arguing for it.

This is not to say that God did not have a role in the creation, but simply that, qua science, that is qua an enterprise formed through the practice of methodological naturalism, science has no place for talk of God. Just as, for instance, if one were to go to the doctor one would not expect any advice on political matters, so if one goes to a scientist one does not expect any advice on or reference to theological matters.

Just as? Just as? I think not. Not just as at all, I would say. Because claims about God are claims that God is real and really exists. They may (or may not) be metaphysical claims, but they are pretty much always truth-claims about God; the claims may include the stipulation that God is supernatural, outside time and space, but since they mostly also include claims about the way God creates or acts on this world, that stipulation seems a tad half-hearted. Especially when it comes to fans of ID, which is Ruse’s subject matter. The whole point of the ID God is that it designed the universe and the earth and wonderful us. So – that means the doctor analogy is an absurd analogy. It is not the case that science is to theology as medicine is to politics. Theology is about is, politics is about ought. You can always define God (and hence theology) as supernatural and metaphysical but in that case no one has anything to say about it, including theologians – it is by definition out of reach and unknowable. But if it is within reach and knowable, then it’s accessible to anyone who looks. Theologians don’t get special technical training that enables them to find God (how to use a special kind of microscope perhaps, or a special microtelescope), they don’t learn research methods and equipment-use that no one else knows, nor do they learn magic tricks. So it’s just bizarre to say that scientists have nothing to say about God while at the same time pretending that other people do have something to say about God. That involves pretending there is some kind of expertise or special knowledge that scientists don’t have. There is no such expertise or knowledge. That box is empty.

The physician may indeed have very strong political views, which one may or may not share. But the politics are irrelevant to the medicine. Similarly, the scientist may or may not have very strong theological views, which one may or may not share. But inasmuch as one is going to the scientist for science, theology can and must be ruled out as irrelevant.

But how can it be irrelevant unless the theology in question concerns something that is wholly outside the natural world and thus inaccessible to human investigation altogether? How? They want to have it both ways; that’s the problem. They want to say that God and theology are in this special magical category that is completely different from science and that science therefore has nothing to say about, while at the same time saying that they are perfectly entitled to lay down the law about God and theology. Well I do not see how it can be both! And I think the idea that it can be both rests on some kind of weird hocus-pocus about what theology is. Either that or it just rests on plain old rhetoric. Or, the original suggestion, that I just don’t get it. Okay let’s assume that I just don’t get it. Somebody explain it to me.

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