Origins & Design 18:1

From the Editors

Sometimes an illustration wants a word of explanation. Such is the case with the art on page 18 of the printed counterpart of this issue, a portion of Piero di Cosimo's painting The Fire in the Forest. Di Cosimo (1462-1521), a Florentine Renaissance painter, peopled his primitive forest with strange half-creatures representing the origin of humankind as expressed in the evolutionary theories of Epicurus (341-270 B.C.), the Greek atomist philosopher. "And many monsters... the earth at that time essayed to produce," wrote Lucretius, a later disciple of Epicurus, "things coming up with strange face and limbs... and many races of living things must then have died out and been unable to beget and reproduce their breed." Hence, the sow with a woman's face: a confused species produced by the earth, but "all in vain, since nature set a ban on their increase."

Why use this illustration for an article on methodological naturalism? Notice, near the top of the illustration, the fire burning unheeded in the forest. According to philosophical naturalism, there was indeed a time when hominids could not control fire, but rather (so to speak) were controlled by it. More generally, philosophical naturalism holds that our human abilities to understand and control natural forces, to exercise moral choice, and to act ourselves as intervening causes in the course of nature, were in fact the products of nature itself--not of a designing mind or purposeful deity. As Alvin Plantinga discusses, according to philosphical naturalism, Mother Theresa acts as she does, not because God created her with a free will to choose, but because her genes simply do not know any better.

Theistic defenders of methodological naturalism, of course, dissent vigorously from philosophical naturalism, as they must. But the dissent, we argue, is of no practical consequence. The fire in the forest burns just as brightly for the philosophical and methodological naturalist, because, in actual scientific method, the patterns of nature are seen by both schools of thought on the view that nature is all that exists. As Art Battson has noted, we should never forget what noun is being modified by the adjective "methodological." It is the noun, and not the adjective, that will rule at the end of the day. [Or so O&D's editors contend; several members of the editorial board disagree.]

In addition to Plantinga's critique of methodological naturalism in this issue, you will find the work of five other authors new to our pages [see "About the Contributors"]. And, in light of the increasing number of article submissions to O&D, we have included detailed author guidelines. We look forward to seeing your submissions in our mailbox.

Copyright © 1997 Access Research Network. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
File Date: 5.1.97