Epistemology

Epistemology

Francis J. Beckwith- It's The Epistemology, Stupid! Science, Public Schools and What Counts as Knowledge

Materialists seem to believe that "knowledge" which is not derived from the hard sciences cannot count against the apparent deliverances of the hard sciences. For example, Mayer asserts, "I would not like to see my theology and my science to get mixed." I have never dealt with a scientific process where somebody says, 'I believe.' I have dealt with theological processes where one believes. Mixing epistemologies can become burdensome. But what happens when "science" conflicts with "theology" when each is describing the exact same phenomenon, event or entity? For example, the claim that there is an immaterial ground to the human being, such as a soul, is inconsistent with the claim of materialist philosophers of mind who argue that an exhaustive materialist accounting of the human person is in principle possible. Suppose I have good reasons to believe in the existence of the soul, a conclusion inconsistent with the deliverances of materialist science. Who wins? Dr. Mayer would say that they are not in conflict but are two "different ways" of "knowing". (Darwin’s Nemesis p. 107)

Stephen Jay Gould: "Each subject (science and religion) has a legitimate magisterium, or domain of teaching authority-and these magisterial do not overlap…The net of science covers the empirical universe; what it is made of (fact) and why does it work this way (theory). The net of religion extends over questions of moral meaning and value."

Gould is making a philosophical assessment regarding the nature of science and religion, and thus Gould is implying that philosophy is logically prior to science and thus the appropriate discipline by which to assess questions of the nature of science. If that is what he is implying, then it is not clear on what grounds he could object to, or not seriously considers intelligent-design arguments against scientific materialism, for they typically include philosophical challenges to the prevailing view of the nature of science. (Darwin’s Nemesis p. 108)

The California School Board makes the following statement: "A scientific fact is an understanding based on confirmable observations and is subject to test and rejection…Scientific theories are constantly subject to testing, modification, and refutation as new evidence and new ideas emerge."

However, non-natural explanations, even ones that attempt to explain the order and nature of being itself ; precisely the same phenomena the board states natural explanations are employed to account for, do not count as "science," and thus the board implies that they cannot count as real knowledge that could serve as a defeater to naturalistic explanations.

Consequently, if school districts are to obey their state board's framework and incorporate it into their science curricula, each district must, ironically, reject the board's definition of what counts as science or knowledge, since it is a claim that is either self-refuting. Evolution is a belief based, at least in part, on faith and is "not subject to scientific test and refutation. (Darwin’s Nemesis p. 109-10)

Francis J. Beckwith is a graduate of Fordham University (Ph.D. and M.A. in philosophy), he also holds the Master of Juridical Studies (M.J.S.) degree from the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis.