Friday, October 20, 2006

Naturalism is any of several philosophical stances, typically those descended from materialism and pragmatism, that do not distinguish the supernatural from nature. Naturalism does not necessarily claim that phenomena or hypotheses commonly labeled as supernatural do not exist or are wrong, but insists that all phenomena and hypotheses can be studied by the same methods and therefore anything considered supernatural is either nonexistent, unknowable, or not inherently different from natural phenomena or hypotheses.

Any method of inquiry or investigation or any procedure for gaining knowledge that limits itself to natural, physical, and material approaches and explanations can be described as naturalistic.Many modern philosophers of science use the terms methodological naturalism or scientific naturalism to refer to the long standing convention in science of the scientific method, which makes the methodological assumption that observable events in nature are explained only by natural causes, without assuming the existence or non-existence of the supernatural, and so considers supernatural explanations for such events to be outside science. They contrast this with the approach known as ontological naturalism or etaphysical naturalism, which refers to the metaphysical belief that the natural world is all that exists, and therefore nothing supernatural exists.

This distinction between approaches to the philosophy of naturalism is made by philosophers supporting science and evolution in the creation–evolution controversy to counter the tendency of some proponents of Creationism or intelligent design to refer to methodological naturalism as scientific materialism or as methodological materialism and conflate it with metaphysical naturalism to support their claim that modern science is atheistic. They contrast this with their preferred approach of a revived natural philosophy which welcomes supernatural explanations for natural phenomena and supports theistic science or pseudoscience.

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