Methodological Naturalism and Scientific Success
Lessons from the Realism Debate
Keywords:methodological naturalism, success of science, arguments for naturalism
Several metaphysical naturalists argue that the success of science, together with the claim that scientists adhere to methodological naturalism, amounts to strong evidence for metaphysical naturalism. I call this the scientific-success argument. It is argued that the scientific-success argument is similar to the no-miracles argument for realism in philosophy of science. On the no-miracles argument, the success of science is taken as strong evidence that scientific theories are (approximately) true. Based on this similarity, some considerations relevant to one argument may also be relevant to the other. One particular consideration is explored. The selectionist response to the no-miracles argument states that on an evolutionary model of science, in which scientific theories are accepted only after surviving a rigorous selection process, the no-miracles argument fails. The selectionist response also applies to the scientific-success argument. If scientific theories are selected for success, we do not need to explain the success of science by appealing to metaphysical naturalism.
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