Humans: the supernatural in nature.
Article Type:
Philosophy of mind (Research)
Authors (Beliefs, opinions and attitudes)
Intelligent design (Creationism) (Research)
Evolution (Research)
Alexanian, Moorad
Pub Date:
Name: Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith Publisher: American Scientific Affiliation Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Philosophy and religion; Science and technology Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 American Scientific Affiliation ISSN: 0892-2675
Date: Sept, 2011 Source Volume: 63 Source Issue: 3
Event Code: 310 Science & research
Named Person: Lewis, C.S.
Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States

Accession Number:
Full Text:
Michael L. Peterson, "C. S. Lewis on Evolution and Intelligent Design," (PSCF 62, no. 4 [2010]: 253) presents a comprehensive study of C. S. Lewis on the theory of evolution, the argument from intelligent design, and how Lewis would distinguish the philosophical arguments for a Transcendent Mind from the current claims of the intelligent design (ID) movement.

The central issue in all arguments and discussions regarding the scope of science is based on the distinction between the notions of methodological naturalism in science from those of philosophical naturalism. Methodological naturalism is the scientific approach of restricting the explanation of natural phenomena to natural causes. Philosophical naturalism, on the other hand, is the metaphysical view that nature alone is real, that the supernatural does not exist. However, it is not often clear what one means by "natural phenomena" and "natural causes." For instance, is human reasoning a natural phenomenon based on natural causes? Lewis considers human reasoning to be supernatural. (1) Therefore, it seems that methodological naturalism presupposes physicalism, which can only deal with the physical aspect of human beings, and so can never give a complete description of what a human being is.

Note that physicalism implies that purely physical devices can collect, in principle, all the data that form the assumed reality. Therefore, methodological naturalism equates the real with the physical. Of course, what is real ought to be the totality of all that can be "detected" directly by human beings together with data collected with the aid of purely physical devices, the latter data encompassing only the subject matter of science and not the whole of reality.

In evolutionary theory, one applies the results of the experimental sciences to construct a temporal development, connecting cosmic evolution and biological evolution supporting the appearance of human beings. However, it is hard to understand how Lewis would subscribe to such a theory that leaves out the true essence of human beings, namely, their ability to "detect" God, which is Lewis's "argument from reason." The "detection" is based on the supernatural nature of human reasoning in which the inferior supernatural being "detects" the infinitely superior supernatural Being. Purely physical devices cannot accomplish that. Accordingly, one can do experimental science and develop theories summarizing the data without invoking God; however, the true nature of humans, who are the doers of science, will remain hidden from studies that assume methodological naturalism.

Peterson indicates, "ID views itself as reviving and updating the eighteenth-century argument for God which assumes that science can discover traces of a designing intelligence in the natural world" (p. 256). The enterprise of science involves using collected physical data together with prior information that allows humans to make Bayesian inferences. Of course, if one begins with physical data, then such inferences relate to the physical aspect of reality only and not to the supernatural aspect. The whole of reality, that is nature, involves, in addition to the purely physical data, nonphysical data "detected" by humans. Note that human (supernatural) reasoning is used to make scientific inferences from purely physical data, that is, the doing of science itself requires the supernatural.

It is clear that attempts to answer questions of what constitutes nature must be based on the kinds of knowledge one uses to make sense of the whole of reality. William Oliver Martin characterizes kinds of knowledge as being autonomous or synthetic. (2) The latter are reducible to two or more of the autonomous (or irreducible) kinds of knowledge. Martin considers six autonomous kinds of knowledge: history (H), metaphysics (Meta), theology (T), formal logic (FL), mathematics (Math), and generalizations of experimental science (G). Metaphysics and theology constitute two domains of the ontological context. Martin indicates the role that autonomous kinds of knowledge play in synthetic kinds of knowledge, namely, instrumental, constitutive, and/or regulative. For instance, historical propositions are constitutive of G, metaphysical propositions are regulative of G, and propositions in formal logic and mathematics are instrumental to G. Theological propositions are not related to G.


(1) C. S. Lewis, Miracles (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1971), Appendix A.

(2) William Oliver Martin, The Order and Integration of Knowledge (Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press, 1957).

Moorad Alexanian

ASA Member

Department of Physics and Physical Oceanography

University of North Carolina Wilmington

Wilmington NC 28403
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