Is The Design of Modern Science Defective?: A review of Science’s Blind Spot: The Unseen Religion of Scientific Naturalism

Original Article

[Editor’s Note: This review of Discovery Institute Fellow Cornelius G. Hunter‘s book Science’s Blind Spot was originally written by a Discovery Institute legal intern, Guillermo Dekat, for Evolution News and Views, and was subsequently republished at Mr. Dekat is a law student at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the Air Force Academy.]

A review of Science’s Blind Spot: The Unseen Religion of Scientific Naturalism By: Cornelius G. Hunter (Brazos Press, 2007)

In law, one who sells a product in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the user is held strictly liable for the physical harm to the injured party. One way for the injured party to win a case is to successfully argue that there is a design defect in the product. Put another way, the plaintiff is entitled to damages because there is something wrong with the blueprints for the product. At this point, expert witnesses are found to testify to the design’s integrity or its defectiveness.

Perhaps the most common blind spot that inhibits the proper functioning of a product is the quite literal blind spot we experience when driving our cars. If modern science and the pre-suppositions that support it were an automobile, then Dr. Hunter’s new book would be the testimony of an expert witness who has found a significant design defect. The defect has created a blind spot that is not necessary for the proper functioning of science.

Dr. Hunter begins his book by pointing out the design defect: “The problem is that religion has joined science.” (Hunter, 2007, pg. 9) He goes on to explain that, while today’s science is thought to be empirical and free of theological premise, nothing could be further from the truth. Dr. Hunter examines the complex interaction between religion and science in history and arrives at what may be a surprising conclusion for many: the modern design of science is based on theological naturalism, a phrase he uses to describe the restriction of science to naturalism for religious reasons.

But Hunter goes further and refutes a common argument that naturalism is a result of atheism or empirically based findings. Instead, he lays the responsibility for naturalism at the doorstep of theists, who were largely thinkers inside the church hundreds of years ago. Hunter explains that theological naturalism is not opposed to religious ideas, because the philosophy is itself religious. It makes theological assumptions for a number of different reasons and then mandates a non-intervening “god.” This mandate allows the stream of thought to necessarily flow from theological naturalism to methodological naturalism—the idea that science ought to pursue naturalistic explanations. According to Dr. Hunter, this philosophy of theological naturalism predated the theories that we argue about today.

Dr. Hunter then makes the connection between the philosophies and the blind spot that was created in science:

The problem with science is not that the naturalistic approach might occasionally be inadequate. The problem is that science would never know any better. This is science’s blind spot. When problems are encountered, theological naturalism assumes that the correct naturalistic solution has not been found. Non-natural phenomena will be interpreted as natural, regardless of how implausible the story becomes…. Theological naturalism has no way to distinguish a paradigm problem from a research problem. It cannot consider the possibility that there is no naturalistic explanation for the DNA code. If a theory of natural history has problems — and many have their share — the problems are always viewed as research problems and never as paradigm problems.

(Cornelius G. Hunter, Science’s Blind Spot: Unseen Religion of Scientific Naturalism, Brazos Press, 2007, pg. 44-45)

Dr. Hunter follows theological naturalism through many of the significant ideas of science in the modern era and analyzes how the blind spot affected the results. However, he doesn’t just analyze the problem, for Hunter also suggests another design that will not produce such a blind spot. His suggestion is moderate empiricism in lieu of the heavy reliance on the assumptions of theological naturalism. Hunter explains that moderate empiricism is not a new idea; it was used by Boyle and Newton and pursues the experimental sciences largely unhindered by axioms or historical science frameworks. He sees this method being used by the intelligent design theorists and applauds them for it.

As an expert witness, Dr. Hunter excels. Not only does he examine the current design of modern science, he also offers a design that will address the defect and allow science to function properly. Perhaps it may function even better. With his testimony complete, the jury is out. Will the scientists of today and the next generation choose to drive an automobile with this defect, or will they choose a different design, one without this blaring blind spot? Regardless, they would all do well to read Cornelius G. Hunters’ Science’s Blind Spot: The Unseen Religion of Scientific Naturalism.

Amazon Link: Science’s Blind Spot: The Unseen Religion of Scientific Naturalism.