Having shown that Boudry at al.’s attempt to provide a new and improved version of MN is just the god-of-the-gaps approach in a new Trojan Horse, let’s turn to their more “theological” arguments. For example, they write:
After all, a complete disregard for possible supernatural causes makes sense only if we already have airtight a priori reasons that the supernatural does not exist, or that if it does, it never interferes with our material universe. Advocates of IMN do not provide such reasons, precisely because they do not want to commit themselves to metaphysical naturalism. However, in the absence of a sound rationale for disqualifying the supernatural, the dictum of IMN to proceed “as if” only natural causes are operative looks quite arbitrary.
Here the authors offer up a false dichotomy purely as a function of not taking Christian theology seriously. For the Christian, it is obvious there is a third possibility that exists as a consequence of classic, traditional Christian theology – God is a personal being. Thus, whether or not God interferes with our material universe is a matter of His will. Now, unless Boudry at al. can come up with a strongly supported hypothesis about when, where, and how God would choose to interfere with our material universe, they have no testable hypothesis. Since they have no testable hypothesis, they are not doing science. Science has no authority over the “God hypothesis” because God is not in the class of things that science can study. His actions flow from His will, not some laws or contingency. He is not a member of some population with shared characteristics; He is unique. And any human who thinks the human brain can grasp the will of God well enough to make scientific predictions about when, where, and how God would choose to interfere with our material universe is building their fantasy on a straw man version of God.
The authors then try to support their false dichotomy by actually citing Dawkins (reminiscent of the way of Christian fundamentalist might quote a Bible verse):
This becomes clear as soon as we imagine what would happen if supernatural forces were really operative in our universe. In such a world, IMN would be a very bad methodological device indeed, because it would exclude a real and tangible factor governing the universe from scientific consideration. As Richard Dawkins wrote (see also Edis 1998; Edis 2002):
A universe with a supernatural presence would be a fundamentally and qualitatively different kind of universe from one without. The difference is, inescapably, a scientific difference. (Dawkins 1997, p. 399)
Huh? Just how in the world does Dawkins know that a universe with a supernatural presence would be a fundamentally and qualitatively different kind of universe from one without? Does he have independent knowledge of what the two different universes look like? No. So it just seems that way according to his own personal intuition, right? And just how, pray tell, would they look different? According to Dawkins, that is.
The only thing clear is that Boudry et al. and Dawkins personally believe that a universe with a supernatural presence would be a fundamentally and qualitatively different kind of universe from one without. They are describing themselves, not any universe. They are entitled to opinions about this matter, but this type of vague squish cannot support the conclusion they wish us all to share.
Okay, so Boudry at al. want to use science to test theology without giving theology serious consideration. They vaguely imagine a world where supernatural interventions to have occurred to be fundamentally different from ours. Then, to make things even more obscure, now is the time to exploit the multiple meanings of “science” (recall they made zero effort to define the terms):
But as we have shown in our other article on MN (XXX), if the supernatural were knowable at all, there is no reason why science would in principle be incapable of telling us anything about it. If supernatural forces were to intervene in our material universe, as IDC proponents and other theists maintain, they would have empirically detectable consequences, and these are in principle open to scientific investigation.
Just because science entails empirical detection does not mean empirical detection is science. Just because something was empirically detected does not mean it is now open to scientific investigation. Just because all crows are black does not mean anything that is black is a crow. Get it? The simple fact is the empirical detection most commonly takes place outside of science and there is no reason to think that anytime an event has empirically detectable consequences, these are open to scientific investigation. Maybe it’s the case; maybe it’s not.
At this point it would help to read two previous essays that are quote relevant:
Coyne and the nine-hundred-foot-tall Jesus – let’s make it clear – empirical detection does not equal science
Science does not contradict the Resurrection of Christ – an example where science cannot investigate a claim which has empirically detectable consequences.
Look at it this way. The authors insist:
If supernatural forces were to intervene in our material universe, as IDC proponents and other theists maintain, they would have empirically detectable consequences,
Okay so far. In fact, from a theological perspective, such supernatural intervention would be a miracle or sign. From the scientific perspective, it would be a gap.
and these are in principle open to scientific investigation
Bzzt. Wrong. A miracle or gap is something science cannot explain and is thus not open to scientific investigation. To be open to scientific investigation, the miracle, at the very least, would have to be reproducible. But miracles are not reproducible in any scientific sense, as they depend on the context that is only known by God and will of God. Boudry et al. are simply trying to make the nonsensical point that miracles can be part of science.