The myth of methodological naturalism: thirty-one great scientists from history who made scientific arguments for the supernatural

Isaac Newton, Carol Linnaeus, Joseph Priestley, James Clerk Maxwell - just a few of the many scientists who made scientific arguments for Intelligent Design. Images courtesy of Wikipedia.

Table of Contents Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four Part Five Part Six Part Seven
Part Eight Part Nine Part Ten Part Eleven Part Twelve Part Thirteen Part Fourteen Conclusion

Thirty-one noted scientists from the past who openly flouted the principle of methodological naturalism

Zack, you object to Intelligent Design theory because you see it as breaching a cardinal rule of science, which is that you can't talk about the supernatural, or even leave the door open to the supernatural, when you're doing science. So far, you've collected the signatures of 75 Nobel Prize-winning scientists who agree with you.

In reply, I've listed a total of 28 Nobel Prize-winning scientists who have declared that either the origin of life itself, or that of the human mind, is incapable of being explained by the Darwinian theory of evolution, which you want to Louisiana high school students to be taught as an established fact. Here, I'd like to put forward the names of thirty-one famous scientists throughout history, who openly flouted the rule which you claim defines science: methodological naturalism. I should add, Zack, that these scientists have made much more significant contributions to science than the 75 Nobel Laureates who signed your petition, Zack.

So I see your 75 Nobel Laureate scientists, Zack, and I raise you the following 31 great scientists from history.


I have made use of a variety of different sources in my biographical research, but I would like to single out the following for special mention: THE WORLD’S GREATEST CREATION SCIENTISTS From Y1K to Y2K by David Coppedge and Creation scientists and other biographies of interest by Answers in Genesis. (I should add that although I am a believer in an old universe and in common descent, I am quite happy to draw upon the research of other believers in a Designer of Nature, whatever their religious persuasion, if I am convinced of the scholarly merits of their research.) I would also like to thank Stephen Snobelen, Assistant Professor in the History of Science and Technology at the University of King's College, Halifax, Nova Scotia, for his valuable work on Newton, and Carl Frangsmyr, Magdalena Hydman and Ragnar Insulander, of Uppsala University, for their valuable biographical research on Linnaeus. I'd like to thank Michael Flannery for his research into the life of Alfred Russel Wallace, and Ian Hutchison for his research on Maxwell's religious views

(1) Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543), the founder of modern astronomy.

Who was he and what was he famous for?

Nicolaus Copernicus was the first person to formulate a comprehensive heliocentric cosmology which displaced the Earth from the center of the universe. He was also a mathematician, astronomer, jurist with a doctorate in law, physician, quadrilingual polyglot, classics scholar, translator, artist, Catholic cleric, governor, diplomat and economist.

How did he violate the principle of methodological naturalism?

In his scientific writings, Copernicus referred to God as "the Artificer of all things." The motivation for Copernicus proposing his heliocentric hypothesis in the first place was a theological one. In his great treatise on astronomy, De revolutionibus orbium caelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, 1543), Copernicus voices his conviction that anyone who diligently contemplates the movements of the celestial bodies will be led thereby to a knowledge of God. In Chapter 8 of the same work, Copernicus even puts forward theological arguments in favor of his scientific theory that the Earth rotates on its axis once a day.

Where's the evidence?

In the Preface to his work De revolutionibus orbium caelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, 1543), Copernicus explains that the motivation for his heliocentric hypothesis was theological. He believed that a universe that had been created by God for our sake must be comprehensible to the human mind. He states that he was forced to revive the long-forgotten heliocentric hypothesis, because it alone could yield knowledge of the movements of the heavenly bodies with the desired accuracy:

For a long time, then, I reflected on this confusion in the astronomical traditions concerning the derivation of the motions of the universe's spheres. I began to be annoyed that the movements of the world machine, created for our sake by the best and most systematic Artisan of all, were not understood with greater certainty by the philosophers, who otherwise examined so precisely the most insignificant trifles of this world. For this reason I undertook the task of rereading the works of all the philosophers which I could obtain to learn whether anyone had ever proposed other motions of the universe's spheres than those expounded by the teachers of astronomy in the schools. And in fact first I found in Cicero that Hicetas supposed the earth to move. Later I also discovered in Plutarch that certain others were of this opinion.

In the Introduction to his work De revolutionibus orbium caelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, 1543), Copernicus expressed his conviction that anyone who diligently contemplates the order displayed in the movements of the celestial bodies will thereby come to admire "the Artificer of all things":

"For who, after applying himself to things which he sees established in the best order and directed by Divine ruling, would not through diligent contemplation of them and through a certain habituation be awakened to that which is best and would not admire the Artificer of all things, in Whom is all happiness and every good? For the divine Psalmist surely did not say gratuitously that he took pleasure in the workings of God and rejoiced in the works of His hands, unless by means of these things as by some sort of vehicle we are transported to the contemplation of the highest good." (Copernicus, Nicolaus, On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, Thorn: Societas Copernicana, 1873, pp. 10-11).

In the following paragraph, Copernicus refers to astronomy as a "divine rather than human science" and favorably quotes the opinion of Plato, who was inclined to think that no-one lacking a knowledge of the heavenly bodies could be called godlike:

The great benefit and adornment which this art [astronomy - VJT] confers on the commonwealth (not to mention the countless advantages to individuals) are most excellently observed by Plato. In the Laws, Book VII, he thinks that it should be cultivated chiefly because by dividing time into groups of days as months and years, it would keep the state alert and attentive to the festivals and sacrifices. Whoever denies its necessity for the teacher of any branch of higher learning is thinking foolishly, according to Plato. In his opinion it is highly unlikely that anyone lacking the requisite knowledge of the sun, moon, and other heavenly bodies can become and be called godlike.

However, this divine rather than human science, which investigates the loftiest subjects, is not free from perplexities.
(Nicholas Copernicus, De Revolutionibus (On the Revolutions), 1543. Source: Translation and Commentary by Edward Rosen, The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London. Adapted from Dartmouth College, MATC, Online reader.)

At the beginning of the Introduction to his great work, Copernicus even defines the science of astronomy in theological terms, as "the discipline which deals with the universe's divine revolutions, the asters' motions, sizes, distances, risings and settings, as well as the causes of the other phenomena in the sky, and which, in short, explains its whole appearance." (Nicholas Copernicus, De Revolutionibus (On the Revolutions), 1543. Source: Translation and Commentary by Edward Rosen, The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London. Adapted from Dartmouth College, MATC, Online reader.)

In Chapter 8 of his De revolutionibus orbium caelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, 1543), Copernicus even adduces theological arguments in favor of the stability of the universe and the daily rotation of the Earth, after listing several scientific arguments for these ideas:

As a quality, moreover, immobility is deemed nobler and more divine than change and instability, which are therefore better suited to the earth than to the universe... You see, then, that all these arguments make it more likely that the earth moves than that it is at rest. This is especially true of the daily rotation, as particularly appropriate to the earth. This is enough, in my opinion, about the first part of the question."
(Nicholas Copernicus, De Revolutionibus (On the Revolutions), 1543. Source: Translation and Commentary by Edward Rosen, The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London. Adapted from Dartmouth College, MATC, Online reader.)

Let us review the evidence. The motivation for Copernicus proposing his heliocentric hypothesis in the first place was a theological one. In his great treatise on astronomy, Copernicus voices his conviction that anyone who diligently contemplates the movements of the celestial bodies will be led thereby to a knowledge of God. He refers to astronomy as a "divine rather than human science," and he approvingly quotes Plato's statement that no-one who lacks a knowledge of the heavenly bodies can be called godlike. He even defines the science of astronomy in theological terms, as "the discipline which deals with the universe's divine revolutions." In Chapter 8 of the same work, Copernicus even puts forward theological arguments in favor of his scientific theory that the Earth rotates on its axis once a day. Can anyone describe such a man as a methodological naturalist?

(2) Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564), the founder of modern anatomy.

Who was he and what was he famous for?

Andreas Vesalius was the author of De humani corporis fabrica (On the Structure of the Human Body). He is often referred to as the founder of modern human anatomy.

How did he violate the principle of methodological naturalism?

In his scientific writings, Vesalius repeatedly referred to God, to the Creator, to the Founder of things (Conditor rerum), and to the Great Artisan of things (or Opifex). He also declared that the construction of the human body can be used to "argue for the admirable industry of the immense Creator." His understanding of human anatomy was thoroughly teleological: he believed that God had designed each organ of the human body for a specific purpose.

Where's the evidence?

(a) In his scientific writings, Vesalius frequently referred to God, the Creator, the Founder of things, and the Great Artisan

The following quotes are taken from an essay by Nancy G. Siraisi, entitled, Vesalius and the reading of Galen's teleology (Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 50, No. 1, Spring 1997, pp. 1-37):

In the Fabrica, references to Natura [Nature - VJT] - always capitalized and followed by an active verb - must run into the hundreds. There is also a substantial group of references to the Opifex [Artisan - VJT] of things and a few to the Founder of things (Conditor rerum), to the Creator, or to God. For any Christian author, the terms conditor, creator, deus and probably opifex presumably all refer to the Christian God.... A few examples follow:

If only contemplating in the construction of mankind you consider in this way, you will grasp things [about the orbit of the eye] which, although they may not be greatly conducive to the art of medicine, argue for the admirable industry of the immense Creator.

Rightly to be praised is the immense Opifex of things whom we think bestowed on the teeth alone of the rest of the bones a noteworthy faculty of feeling.

[I]t behooved the Opifex of things to pay attention to four particular needs when constructing the thorax, namely voice, respiration and the size of the heart and lung.

But the joints show how skilfully Nature constructed these things for obeying the motions which we endeavor [to make] with the thighs.

For unless the joints of the bones and cartilages were held together with ligaments nothing would prevent the bones or the cartilages from being dislocated in the course of some movement or other ... Lest that happen God the highest opifex of things surrounded the bones of the joints and cartilages with ligaments, strong indeed but also capable of considerable stretching. Greatly to be wondered at is the industry of the Creator.

Therefore Nature by a certain marvelous artifice produced two muscles ... placing one in the greater angle of the eye, the other in the lesser.

[The ligaments of the first and second sections of the cervical vertebrae] abundantly demonstrate the industry of Nature to the spectator however perfunctorily they are narrated. When therefor it was necessary to link the first cervical vertebra to the head, Nature rightly created a strong and robust ligament... But lest [the vertebra] should be dislocated ... the Opifex of things created another ligament.

Nature neither carelessly nor negligently constructed the oblique course of this tendon [of the foot].

But rather, the admirable industry of Nature here should come to be considered who enginerred all those things thus divinely, nor constructed anything in the intestines unless for the highest usefulness ... And considering these purposes indeed she most artfully crafted the intestines.

[W]e will rightly praise the care of the highest Opifex of things who constructed the rough artery [that is, the trachea] as simultaneously a convenient organ of respiration and voice. And he showed such great artifice in the construction of the larynx that it can be closed now more, now less.

[T]hese fibers [of the dura mater of the brain] that Nature has fastened surpass in ingenuity the cords by which Vulcan bound Mars to Venus, for they support while they tether.

The issue here is not to determine how many of these statements Vesalius took from Galen and how many he issued on his own account. Rather, the point I wish to make is simply that language of this kind is pervasive in the Fabrica. It is impossible to read more than a few pages without coming across examples. It therefore seems that it deserves to be taken seriously.
(Siraisi, 1997, pages 14-17.)

(b) Vesalius maintained that knowledge of human anatomy could lead to a deeper knowledge of God

In her essay, Vesalius and the reading of Galen's teleology, which I quoted above, Siraisi attempts to explain the prevalence of teleological language in the writings of Vesalius. She contends that it sprang from his deep-seated conviction that knowledge of anatomy enables human beings to partake of the wisdom of God, their Creator:

... Vesalius repeatedly emphasized the role of his own superior anatomical skill in "exposing with certainty one skilful contrivance of Nature after another." Thus, by providing accurate descriptions of structure, a good anatomist uncovers hitherto unknown or misinterpreted instances of Nature's ingenuity. But once such descriptions have been made available they constitute self-evident inducements to appreciation of Nature's skill and praise of the Creator. It is this self-evident quality that makes it possible to compress or eliminate longwinded generalizations upon the subject. (Siraisi, 1997, p. 19.)

[P]ositive moralizing themes that centered, like the example quoted from Massa above, on the idea of the human body as an outstanding example of God's handiwork, are also frequent in sixteenth century rhetoric about anatomy. Thus Guinter of Andernach opined not only that God had made nothing better or more wonderful in the world than the harmony of the human body, but also that knowledge of the body "alone made men prudent and like gods." When Vesalius himself characterized anatomy in his preface as "that most delightful (iucundissima) knowledge of man attesting to the wisdom of the immense Founder of things (Conditor rerum)," he was speaking the language of positive moralization as well as expressing a personal enthusiasm. (Siraisi, 1997, pp. 21-22.)

Galen, broader Renaissance philosophical currents, and the lack of any non-teleological framework for explaining biology all combined to ensure that his detailed investigations of human anatomy would strongly reinforce in him the fundamental conviction that every detail of anatomical structure revealed the forethought, ingenuity and skill of Nature, that is, ultimately of God. (Siraisi, 1997, p. 30.)

An additional reason for the wealth of paeans to the Creator lay in Vesalius' conviction that God was not properly praised by incorrect depictions of His handiwork, such as were found in the writings of Galen. Hence, correct descriptions of human anatomy provided additional reasons to praise the ingenuity of the Creator:

In the new anatomy, at least ideally and most of the time, claims about Nature's ingenuity were to be tied to accurate accounts of details of human structure. (Siraisi, 1997, p. 30.)

This brings me to my next point: one of the reasons why Vesalius cared so passionately about describing the human body correctly was that he considered incorrect descriptions of God's handiwork to constitute a form of blasphemy against the Creator. Hence his insistence on getting it right.

(c) Vesalius declared in his medical writings that we reverence God best by describing His handiwork accurately

In his book, Andreas Vesalius of Brussels (University of California Press, 1964), Charles Donald O'Malley cites a passage from Vesalius' on the human brain, in which he declares that poor anatomical descriptions (such as were found in the writings of his contemporaries) constitute a form of impiety towards God, and that we reverence God best by describing His handiwork accurately:

Book VII provides a description of the anatomy of the brain accompanied by a series of detailed illustrations revealing the successive steps in its dissection. Until at least the end of the fifteenth century knowledge of the brain had remained medieval, based not so much upon Galen's doctrines as upon a debased tradition, a situation that permitted Vesalius to introduce his discussion with a notably severe criticism:

Who, immortal God, will not be amazed at that crowd of philosophers, and let me add, theologians of today who, detracting so falsely from the divine and wholly admirable contrivance of the human brain, frivolously, like Prometheans, and with greatest impiety toward the Creator, fabricate some sort of brain from their dreams and refuse to observe that which the Creator with incredible providence shaped for the uses of the body. They parade their monstrosity, shamelessly deluding those tender minds that they instruct.

(O'Malley, 1964, p. 178)

But there's more. Vesalius also argued that each part of the human body was the human body was skilfully designed by God to accomplish its designated purpose(s).

(d) Intelligent Design arguments in the medical writings of Vesalius

In his book, Andreas Vesalius of Brussels (University of California Press, 1964), Charles Donald O'Malley also addresses the frequent teleological references in Vesalius' Fabrica. On page 155, O'Malley provides an example of a typical teleological argument in the anatomical writings of Vesalius. The argument contains an explicit reference to the Mind of the Intelligent Creator of Nature. In this passage, Vesalius argues that God had a special reason for making the human back in the way He did:

Chapter XIV opens with a further teleological argument:

Quite properly nature, the parent of everything, fashioned man's back in the form of keel and foundation. In fact, it is through the support of the back that we are able to walk upright and stand erect. However, nature gave man a back not only for this purpose, but as she has made various uses of other single members she has constructed, so here too she has demonstrated her industry.

First, she carved out a foramen in all the vertebrae at the posterior part of their bodies, so preparing a passage suitable for the descent of the dorsal marrow [i.e, spinal cord] through them. Second, she did not construct the entire back out of unorganized and simple bone. This might have been preferable for stability and for the safety of the dorsal marrow, since the back could not be dislocated, destroyed or distorted unless it had a number of joints. Indeed, if the Creator had in mind only the ability to withstand injury and had no other or more worthy goal in the structure of the organs, then the back would have been created as unorganized and simple. If anyone constructs an animal of stone or wood, he makes the back as a single continuous part, but since man must bend his back and stand erect it was better not to make it entirely from a single bone. On the contrary, since man must perform many different motions with the aid of his back it was better that it be constructed from many bones, even though in this way it was rendered more liable to injury.

(O'Malley, 1964, p. 155)

I'll let my readers be the judge. Vesalius was a man who, with Copernicus, could be described as a co-founder (along with Copernicus) of the Scientific Revolution. This great thinker's medical writings abound in references to to God, to the Creator, to the Founder of things, and to the Great Artisan. Vesalius even declares that a proper knowledge of anatomy makes us godlike, and reproaches those who make incorrect assertions about human anatomy with impiety. Finally, he argues that God did an excellent job in the way He constructed the various parts of the human body, including the human back. In other words, he was an Intelligent Design proponent. Is this a man whom you would describe as a methodological naturalist?

(3) Francis Bacon (1561-1626), the author of an inductive methodology for scientific enquiry which bears his name (the Baconian method) and which had a lasting influence on the course of the Scientific Revolution.

Who was he and what was he famous for?

Francis Bacon was the author of an inductive methodology for scientific enquiry which bears his name (the Baconian method) and which had a lasting influence on the course of the Scientific Revolution.

How did he violate the principle of methodological naturalism?

Bacon clearly stated in his writings that an investigation of the natural world could lead scientists to a sure knowledge of God. But if he reasoned in this way, then he cannot have believed, as many modern philosophers of science falsely allege, that science can only yield natural knowledge, and that the supernatural is barred to scientific enquiry. In other words, Bacon was not a methodological naturalist.

Bacon also referred to natural philosophy (science) as the "most faithful handmaid" of religion.

Where's the evidence?

(a) Bacon maintained that the existence of God is obvious, and that the human mind is capable of inferring the existence of a supernatural Deity even from ordinary natural phenomena

In his famous essay Of Atheism, Bacon treats the existence of God as an obvious fact – a fact so obvious from God's ordinary works (which are found in Nature) that it needs no miracle to confirm it.

It is important to understand Bacon's meaning correctly here. Bacon is not rejecting the existence of miracles; after all, he was a Christian, as his own personal Confession of Faith clearly shows, and he acknowledges in his confession of faith that on rare occasions, "God doth transcend the law of nature by miracles," as for instance when Jesus Christ "took flesh of the Virgin Mary." Rather, what Bacon is saying is in his essay Of Atheism is that the human mind is capable of inferring the existence of a supernatural Deity even from ordinary natural phenomena. The human mind has a lazy tendency to cease its rational enquiry into the explanation of a phenomenon when it discovers a natural second[ary] cause. Viewed in isolation from other causes (i.e. "scattered," as Bacon puts it), secondary causes at first appear sufficient to account for phenomena, and a shallow human mind may "rest in them, and go no further." However, when the human mind beholds the ensemble or “chain” of secondary causes in Nature, "confederate and linked together," it cannot help but conclude that there is a God – or as Bacon puts it, "it must needs fly to Providence and Deity."

Bacon then goes on to express incredulity at the absurd idea that an infinite number of scattered atoms ("seeds unplaced") could generate the order and beauty we find in the cosmos:

I had rather believe all the fables in the Legend, and the Talmud, and the Alcoran, than that this universal frame is without a mind. And therefore, God never wrought miracle, to convince atheism, because his ordinary works convince it. It is true, that a little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion. For while the mind of man looketh upon second causes scattered, it may sometimes rest in them, and go no further; but when it beholdeth the chain of them, confederate and linked together, it must needs fly to Providence and Deity. Nay, even that school which is most accused of atheism doth most demonstrate religion; that is, the school of Leucippus and Democritus and Epicurus. For it is a thousand times more credible, that four mutable elements, and one immutable fifth essence, duly and eternally placed, need no God, than that an army of infinite small portions, or seeds unplaced, should have produced this order and beauty, without a divine marshal.

This is an Intelligent Design argument, in broad outline, and it is totally incompatible with methodological naturalism. Bacon treats the existence of God as an evident fact which needs no miraculous sign to confirm it; but according to methodological naturalism, scientists can only infer natural causes for natural phenomena. Bacon, however, does not hesitate to go beyond secondary causes and "fly to Providence and Deity" when he beholds the chain of secondary causes in Nature.

(b) Bacon referred to science (natural philosophy) as the "most faithful handmaid" of religion

Bacon's supernaturalism becomes even more evident when one examines his classic work, The New Organon (1620). In chapter LXXXIX, Bacon talks about the obstacles that natural philosophy has had to contend with in the past – in particular, "superstition, and the blind and immoderate zeal of religion." Bacon cites historical instances in which scientists investigating the causes for natural phenomena were accused of impiety by the ancient Greeks, as well as some of the early Christian Fathers. He then criticizes what he regards as the unfortunate incorporation of Aristotle's philosophy into the Christian religion by medieval schoolmen, which impeded the investigation of natural phenomena. Later on, other theologians made the fatal mistake of mingling the divine and the human by attempting to deduce the Divine truths of the Christian faith from human philosophical principles. Finally, Bacon attacks the simple-minded attitude of some clerics (or divines) who feared a no-holds-barred philosophical investigation of the natural world. It is worth recalling, when reading the following passage, that science was referred to as "natural philosophy" in Bacon's time:

Lastly, you will find that by the simpleness of certain divines, access to any philosophy, however pure, is well-nigh closed. Some are weakly afraid lest a deeper search into nature should transgress the permitted limits of sober-mindedness, wrongfully wresting and transferring what is said in Holy Writ against those who pry into sacred mysteries, to the hidden things of nature, which are barred by no prohibition. Others with more subtlety surmise and reflect that if second causes are unknown everything can more readily be referred to the divine hand and rod, a point in which they think religion greatly concerned — which is in fact nothing else but to seek to gratify God with a lie. Others fear from past example that movements and changes in philosophy will end in assaults on religion. And others again appear apprehensive that in the investigation of nature something may be found to subvert or at least shake the authority of religion, especially with the unlearned. But these two last fears seem to me to savor utterly of carnal wisdom; as if men in the recesses and secret thought of their hearts doubted and distrusted the strength of religion and the empire of faith over the sense, and therefore feared that the investigation of truth in nature might be dangerous to them. But if the matter be truly considered, natural philosophy is, after the word of God, at once the surest medicine against superstition and the most approved nourishment for faith, and therefore she is rightly given to religion as her most faithful handmaid, since the one displays the will of God, the other his power. For he did not err who said, "Ye err in that ye know not the Scriptures and the power of God," thus coupling and blending in an indissoluble bond information concerning his will and meditation concerning his power. Meanwhile it is not surprising if the growth of natural philosophy is checked when religion, the thing which has most power over men's minds, has by the simpleness and incautious zeal of certain persons been drawn to take part against her.

Notice that Bacon here refers to natural philosophy or science as the "most faithful handmaid" of religion, insofar as it reveals the power of God. Notice also that Bacon regards religion and natural philosophy as coupled and blended "in an indissoluble bond." For Bacon, there was no wall of separation between the two, and he would have been puzzled by the suggestion that natural philosophy is limited to investigating the secondary causes of phenomena.

(4) Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), the Father of modern astronomy and the father of modern physics.

Who was he and what was he famous for?

Galileo Galilei was the Father of modern astronomy and the father of modern physics.

How did he violate the principle of methodological naturalism?

Galileo affirmed the reality of miracles in his writings. He also wrote that birds were beautifully designed for flight, and that fish were admirably designed for swimming in water. That's an Intelligent Design-style argument. Finally, he believed that the human mind was not the product of Nature, but must have been specially created by God.

Where's the evidence?

Was Galileo a methodological naturalist? Ronald Numbers (2003) seems to think so. He quotes Galileo in support of a claim that the laws of Nature are never broken. As we shall see, Galileo says nothing of the sort. Before I do so, however, I would like to clear up a number of popular misconceptions.

It needs to be kept in mind that Galileo remained a devout Catholic all his life.  His famous aphorism, "The Bible was written to show us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go," was not intended as a criticism of the Church, but was actually a citation from the writings of a cardinal of the Catholic Church, Cardinal Baronius, who made this statement in 1598, long before Galileo ever looked through a telescope (Stillman Drake, Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo, Doubleday Anchor Books, 1957, p. 136). Indeed, Pope Urban VIII sent his special blessing to Galileo as he was dying.  After his death, Galileo was interred not only in consecrated ground, but within the church of Santa Croce at Florence.

There are four grounds for denying that Galileo could have been a methodological naturalist.

(a) Galileo believed in Nature miracles, such as the Biblical miracle of Joshua

"Even if Galileo was a Catholic, those were his personal views," you may object. "They have absolutely no relevance to his work as a scientist."  But wait, there's more!  Galileo believed in miracles, too.  That means that he could not have believed that the laws of Nature are never violated, as Ronald Numbers claims. Take a look at his Letter to Madame Christina of Lorraine, Grand Duchess of Tuscany: Concerning the Use of Biblical Quotations in Matters of Science (1615).  In his letter, Galileo discusses the Biblical miracle in which Joshua commanded the Sun to stand still.  What is interesting is that Galileo, the father of modern science, expressly affirms the reality of this miracle.  The only point on which he differs from his Christian contemporaries is in his explanation of the mechanics of the miracle:

The sun, then, being the font of light and the source of motion, when God willed that at Joshua's command the whole system of the world should rest and should remain for many hours in the same state, it sufficed to make the sun stand still. Upon its stopping all the other revolutions ceased; the earth, the moon, and the sun remained in the same arrangement as before, as did all the planets; nor in all that time did day decline towards night, for day was miraculously prolonged. And in this manner, by the stopping of the sun, without altering or in the least disturbing the other aspects and mutual positions of the stars, the day could be lengthened on earth — which agrees exquisitely with the literal sense of the sacred text.

So the father of modern science believed in miracles – and not just private little miracles, but big, public spectacles that everyone could see, and whose occurrence was a matter of public record (Joshua 10:12-14).  So much for Galileo's alleged methodological naturalism.

(b) How Ronald Numbers misreads Galileo on the laws of Nature

Ronald Numbers completely overlooks this point, in his discussion of Galileo. What's more, he completely misinterprets Galileo, even making him out to be a disbeliever in miracles:

The Italian Catholic Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), one of the foremost promoters of the new philosophy, insisted that nature "never violates the terms of the laws imposed upon her." (Numbers, 2003, p. 267)

The selective quotation from Galileo is taken from the letter to Madame Christina of Lorraine, Grand Duchess of Tuscany, which I quoted from above. When we consider that in the same letter, Galileo expressly affirms the reality of the miracle of the sun standing still, it is obvious that Galileo cannot have intended to say that the laws of Nature are never broken, as Numbers mistakenly construes him as saying.

What is Galileo saying in the passage selectively quoted by Numbers? He is saying that Nature is obedient. Matter, in his mechanical view of Nature, is inert and passive, and does what it is told. A body will react in a fixed way to whatever forces are applied to it. But in the passage cited by Numbers, Galileo is not concerned with the question of whether those forces are natural forces, pushing and pulling other particles, or supernatural forces (i.e. the will of God, moving matter). Nowhere does Galileo assert that that Nature is a causally closed system; in any case, as we have seen above, belief in the causal closure of Nature was not common until the mid-nineteenth century. Instead, what Galileo is arguing is that Nature cannot fail to respond to the forces acting on it. There can be no question of Nature rebelling against the command of these forces; for Nature is unable to defy any command imposed upon her. Hence, if sense-experience tells us that something happened, we should not doubt for a moment that it actually did, for Nature, which causes our sense-experiences, cannot deceive. The thinking here is the same as in the old adage, "The camera does not lie." As Galileo puts it:

But Nature, on the other hand, is in­exorable and immutable; she never transgresses the laws imposed upon her, or cares a whit whether her abstruse reasons and methods of operation are understandable to men. For that reason it appears that nothing physical which sense-experience sets before our eyes, or which necessary demonstrations prove to us, ought to be called in question (much less condemned) upon the testimony of biblical passages which may have some different meaning beneath their words.

Galileo then goes on to discuss the miracle of Joshua. Not for a moment does he contest its reality. The only point at issue is whether the Sun stopped moving, or the Earth.

(c) Galileo was an Intelligent Design advocate

It gets even worse for Numbers. It turns out that Galileo was something of an Intelligent Design theorist.  I am deeply indebted to Michael Caputo for the following quotes, and I would like to express my sincere thanks to him, for his valuable research.

Galileo's observations and meditations on God's wonders led him to conclude: "To me the works of nature and of God are miraculous." (Brunetti, F. Opere di Galileo Galilei. Torino: Unione Tipografico-Editrice Torinese, 1964, p. 506.)

Poetic license, you say?  I haven't finished yet; there's more.  Galileo often mused on what he saw as the stunning manifestations of God's creative wisdom. He was particularly impressed with birds and their ideal design for flight, and with fish and their perfect design for swimming in water:

God could have made birds with bones of massive gold, with veins full of molten silver, with flesh heavier than lead and with tiny wings... He could have made fish heavier than lead, and thus twelve times heavier than water, but He has wished to make the former of bone, flesh, and feathers that are light enough, and the latter as heavier than water, to teach us that He rejoices in simplicity and facility. (Sobel, Dava, Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love. Toronto: Viking Press, 1999, p. 99.)

So according to Galileo, God not only personally designed fish, but He also designed the bones, veins, flesh and feathers of birds, in exquisite detail.

(d) Galileo held that the human mind had been created by God, and he believed that God spoke to him

To add insult to injury, it appears that Galileo, "the father of modern science," was what the Darwinian philosopher Daniel Dennett disparagingly describes as a "mind-creationist":  he believed that the human mind was not the product of Nature, but must have been specially created by God. The human mind was, according to Galileo, one the greatest of God's achievements:  "When I consider what marvelous things men have understood, what he has inquired into and contrived, I know only too clearly that the human mind is a work of God, and one of the most excellent."  Yet the potential of the human mind "... is separated from the Divine knowledge by an infinite interval." (Poupard, Cardinal Paul. Galileo Galilei. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1983, p. 101.)

Galileo saw himself as a man privileged by God.  He believed that God, in His mercy, occasionally deigns to reveal a new insight to some chosen individual, thus augmenting the stock of knowledge revealed to humanity: "One must not doubt the possibility that the Divine Goodness at times may choose to inspire a ray of His immense knowledge in low and high intellects, when they are adorned with sincere and holy zeal." (Chiari, A. Galileo Galilei, Scritti Letterari. Florence: Felice Le Monnier, 1970, p. 545.)  Galileo saw himself as the recipient of great truths that were previously known only to God, and he expressed his gratitude to God for being the first to experience these revelations: "I render infinite thanks to God, for being so kind as to make me alone the first observer of marvels kept hidden in obscurity for all previous centuries." (Sobel, Dava, Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love. Toronto: Viking Press, 1999, p. 6.)

Seer. Supernaturalist. Miracle believer. Intelligent Design theorist. Mind creationist. This is the secularists' hero, Galileo Galilei. And he was a great scientist, too.  I hope, that they will be gracious enough to allow Louisiana high school students the right to freely hold and publicly defend the same views as those held by the father of modern science.

(5) Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), best known for his three laws of planetary motion.

Who was he and what was he famous for?

Kepler was a German mathematician and astronomer, who is best known for his three laws of planetary motion.

How did he violate the principle of methodological naturalism?

Kepler wisely refused to treat the Bible as a science textbook, maintaining that it was never meant to be used in such a fashion. However, he explicitly incorporated religious arguments and reasoning into his scientific works, arguing that because the universe was designed by an intelligent Creator, it should function in accordance with some mathematical pattern. That's theological reasoning, and it played a vital part in Kepler's scientific discoveries.

Where's the evidence?

(a) Kepler's principal axiom, when doing science, was that everything in the world was created by God according to a plan

Let me begin by quoting from a biography, Kepler, by Max Caspar, translated and edited by Clarise Doris Hellman (Dover Publications, 1993, p. 62):

Nothing in the world was created by God without a plan; this was Kepler's principal axiom. His undertaking was no less than to discover this plan for creation, to think the thoughts of God over again, because he was convinced that "just like a human architect, God has approached the foundation of the world according to order and rule and so measured out everything that one might suppose that architecture did not take Nature as a model but rather that God had looked upon the manner of building the coming [ED. NOTE: "about to be created"] human."

But don't take my word for it, Zack. Just take a look at chapters four and ten from Kepler's Harmonices Mundi (Harmonies of the World) (1619), the scientific treatise in which he announced the discovery of his famous third law of planetary motion. If Kepler had been a methodological naturalist, there's no way he could have written those chapters.

(b) Kepler used theological arguments in his scientific works

Recent historians of science have highlighted the theological underpinnings of Kepler’s astronomical arguments. In an article entitled, "Theological Foundations of Kepler's Astronomy" (Osiris 16: Science in Theistic Contexts. University of Chicago Press, 2001, pp. 88-113), Professors Peter Barker and Bernard Goldstein demonstrate that Kepler incorporated religious arguments and reasoning into his work. Ms. Genevieve Gebhart takes their argument further in her award-winning essay, Convinced by Comparison: Lutheran Doctrine and Neoplatonic Conviction in Kepler's Theory of Light (intersections 11, no. 1 (2010): 44-52). She illustrates how Kepler, in his scientific works, made use of a special three-step proof (called a regressus) which had been originally proposed by the Lutheran theologian Philip Melanchthon, when identifying the cause of planetary motion, and also when attempting to derive a theory of light. A few highlights:

Kepler sought to find logically the "true cause" behind the virtus motrix (motive power) that moved the planets and determined their organization. (p. 44)

Kepler imposed fundamentally Lutheran principles onto the Neoplatonic concept of emanation, which he used as a guide in his physical investigation of the mechanical motive force of the solar system. (p. 52)

These conclusions allowed Kepler to theologically, mystically, and empirically confirm the motion of the planets as the effects of a universal, physical law. (p. 44)

Kepler claimed that the arrangement of the cosmos could have been proven logically using the idea of creation and appealing to the "divine blueprint" of a priori reasoning. (p. 47)

Now, if you believed that science cannot go outside the bounds of the natural world, as methodological naturalists do, then you certainly wouldn't engage in a priori reasoning about a "divine blueprint" for the cosmos, while writing a scientific treatise. Obviously Kepler didn't subscribe to methodological naturalism, as most modern scientists do. But if he didn't, then why should we? And now ask yourself: would you allow Kepler’s scientific works into a high school science classroom? Or would you censor Kepler too?

(6) William Harvey (1578-1657), the founder of modern medicine.

Who was he and what was he famous for?

William Harvey founded modern physiology and embryology. He is famous for elucidating the complex nature of the heart's functions and discovering the circulation of the blood.

How did he violate the principle of methodological naturalism?

In his scientific writings, he claimed that because things are "contrived and ordered with ... most admirable and incomprehensible skill," they point to "God, the Supreme and Omnipotent Creator." Harvey also used Intelligent Design reasoning when making his most important scientific discovery: the circulation of the blood. Finally, he was a Christian who believed that the existence of purpose in nature reflected God's design and intentions.

Where's the evidence?

(a) Harvey put forward an Intelligent Design argument for a supernatural Creator in his scientific writings

In his book, Anatomical Exercises on the Generation of Animals (1651), William Harvey wrote:

"We acknowledge God, the Supreme and Omnipotent Creator, to be present in the production of all animals, and to point, as it were, with a finger to His existence in His works. All things are indeed contrived and ordered with singular providence, divine wisdom, and most admirable and incomprehensible skill. And to none can these attributes be referred save to the Almighty."
(Harvey, William. 1989. Anatomical Exercises on the Generation of Animals. Toronto: Great Books of the Western World, William Benton, Publisher, Vol. 28, p. 443).

Harvey here states that all things, and especially animals, are "contrived and ordered with singular providence, divine wisdom, and most admirable and incomprehensible skill." That's theological talk, Zack. Harvey goes further, explicitly ascribing the design to God the Creator: "And to none can these attributes be referred save to the Almighty." Hence Harvey is willing to "acknowledge God, the Supreme and Omnipotent Creator, to be present in the production of all animals." And remember, Harvey is writing all this in a scientific treatise, entitled: Anatomical Exercises on the Generation of Animals!

Does that sound like methodological naturalism to you? It looks like someone forgot to tell Harvey about the "rule" that science and the supernatural belong in separate compartments!

Notice also that Harvey is making, in broad outline, an Intelligent Design argument here. He is saying that because things are "contrived and ordered with ... most admirable and incomprehensible skill," they point to "God, the Supreme and Omnipotent Creator," and to no-one else. In other words, Harvey believed that only a supernatural Creator could have designed the bodies of animals! That's the polar opposite of methodological naturalism.

I should like to note in passing that the modern Intelligent Design movement is much more cautious in its claims: it simply asserts that biological complexity points to an Intelligent Designer, who may or may not be supernatural.

(b) The principles of Intelligent Design informed Harvey's approach to science, when making his discovery of the circulation of the blood

It gets worse, Zack. Harvey used Intelligent Design reasoning when making his most important scientific discovery: the circulation of the blood. How do we know this? We have it on the testimony of the chemist Robert Boyle, who was a contemporary of Harvey's. Dr. David Coppedge, who is a network engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, takes up the story in his online work, THE WORLD'S GREATEST CREATION SCIENTISTS From Y1K to Y2K:

In a recollection by Robert Boyle, Harvey, shortly before he died, related to the young chemist the clue to his discovery. Writing 31 years after Harvey's death, Boyle recalls how he had asked the eminent physician about the things that induced him to consider the circulation of the blood:

He answer'd me, that when he took notice that the Valves in the Veins of so many several Parts of the Body, were so Plac'd that they gave free passage to the Blood Towards the Heart, but oppos’d the passage of the Venal Blood the Contrary way: He was invited to imagine, that so Provident a Cause as Nature had not so Plac'd so many Valves without design; and no Design seem'd more probable than that, since the Blood could not well, because of the interposing Valves, be sent by the Veins to the Limbs; it should be sent through the Arteries, and Return through the Veins, whose Valves did not oppose its course that way. (Emphasis added in all quotes.)

Lest this design by "Nature" appear Deistic, Emerson Thomas McMullen in Christian History (Issue 76, XXI:4, p. 41) stated that Harvey frequently "praised the workings of God’s sovereignty in creation — which he termed 'Nature.'" We must not, in other words, read back 18th-century French concepts into 17th-century English terminology. McMullen, a PhD in the history and philosophy of science and a specialist in the life of Harvey, provides quotes that show Harvey's provident Nature was an active, intelligent, wise, personal agent: Nature destines, ordains, intends, gives gifts, provides, counter-balances, institutes, is careful. Harvey spoke of the "skillful and careful craftsmanship of the valves and fibres and the rest of the fabric of the heart." According to McMullen, Harvey's primary achievement, the explanation of the circulation of the blood, was occasioned in part "by asking why God put so many valves in the veins and none in the arteries." He believed that nature does nothing "in vain" (in Vein, perhaps, but not in Vain).

In the same article (No Vein Enquiry, in Christian History, Issue 76, XXI:4, p. 41), biographer Emerson Thomas McMullen explains that Harvey understood the Aristotelian principle, "Nature does nothing in vain," in a theological sense:

Throughout his written works, Harvey reinterpreted the classical principle "Nature does nothing in vain" as a statement of God's sovereign purposefulness in creating and sustaining the natural world (reflected in Isaiah 45:18).

(c) Harvey saw Creation as a reflection of God

We have seen how Harvey used theological reasoning in order to make scientific discoveries about Nature. But Harvey also believed that Nature could tell us about God, because for Harvey, the wonders of Nature were a reflection of their Creator. As he put it:

"The examination of the bodies of animals has always been my delight, and I have thought that we might thence not only obtain an insight into the lighter mysteries of nature, but there perceive a kind of image or reflection of the omnipotent Creator Himself."
(Harvey, as cited in Keynes, Geoffrey. 1966. The Life of William Harvey. Oxford: Clarendon Press, p. 330. Bold emphases mine - VJT.)

The foregoing quote from Harvey can also be found in an online article, No Vein Enquiry, by his biographer, Emerson Thomas McMullen, in Christian History (Issue 76, XXI:4, p. 41). Commenting on this quote, Dr. David Coppedge remarks in his online work, THE WORLD'S GREATEST CREATION SCIENTISTS From Y1K to Y2K:

This glimpse into Harvey's leitmotiv shows him to be acting freely in a worshipful spirit as he undertook his scientific studies, not under compulsion as a naturalist trapped in a predominantly Christian culture. [Biographer Emerson Thomas] McMullen says that William Harvey was a "lifelong thinker on purpose" in anatomy and physiology, mentioning this throughout his writings in an effort to discern the final causes of things. This was not mere Aristotelianism. "Harvey was a Christian," McMullen states unequivocally, "who believed that purpose in nature reflected God's design and intentions." The appeal of being able to glimpse something of the mind of God, to understand how he had made things work, in the hope of understanding more fully both God and his works, has been a frequent and productive force in the development of modern science.

I put it to my readers that Harvey's whole approach to science was at odds with the tenets of methodological naturalism, which eschews any scientific appeal from the creature to the Creator, or vice versa.

(7) Bishop John Wilkins (1614–1672), Fellow of the Royal Society and one of its Twelve Founding Members

Who was he and what was he famous for?

John Wilkins FRS was an English clergyman, natural philosopher and author, as well as a founder of the Invisible College and one of the founders of The Royal Society. Wilkins was educated at Magdalen Hall (which later became Hertford College), Oxford, graduating with a B.A. in 1631 and an M.A. in 1634. He studied astronomy under John Bainbridge. He was ordained in the Church of England in 1637, and was Bishop of Chester from 1668 until his death.

John Wilkins is particularly known for his work, An Essay towards a Real Character and a Philosophical Language, in which he proposed a universal language and a decimal system of weights and measures, not unlike our modern metric system.

How did he violate the principle of methodological naturalism?

Wilkins was also one of the leading founders of the new natural theology, which was highly compatible with the best science of his day. He also put forward an Intelligent Design argument for a supernatural Creator of the natural world.

Where's the evidence?

(a) Bishop Wilkins put forward an Intelligent Design argument, based on the laws governing the movements of the heavenly bodies

In his work, Of the Principle and Duties of Natural Religion, London: 1675, he sets forth what can only be described as an Intelligent Design argument for a supernatural Creator of the cosmos:

Chapter VI Argument from the Admirable Contrivance of Natural Things

From that excellent contrivance which there is in all natural things. Both with respect to that elegance and beauty which they have in themselves separately considered, and that regular order and subserviency wherein they stand towards one another; together with the exact fitness and propriety, for the several purposes for which they are designed. From all which it may be inferred, that these are the productions of some Wise Agent. The most sagacious man is not able to find out any blot or error in this volume of the world, as if any thing in it had been an imperfect essay at the first, which afterwards stood in need of mending: but all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.

Tully [= Cicero - VJT] doth frequently insist on this, as that most natural result from that beauty to be observed in the universe. Esse praestantem aliquam, aeternamq; naturam & eam suspiciendam adoramq; hominem generi, pulchritudo ordoq; rerum celestium cogit confiteri. "The great order and elegance of things in the world, is abundant enough to evince the necessity of some eternal and absolute Being, to whom we owe adoration." And in another place, quid potest esse tam apertam, tamque perspicuum, cum caelum suspeximus, caelestiaq; contemplati sumus, quam aliquod; esse Numen praestantissime mentis, quo haec regantur. "What can be more obvious, than to infer a supreme Deity, from that order and government we may behold amongst the heavenly bodies?" The several vicissitues of night and day, winter and summer, the production of minerals, the growth of plants, the generation of animals, according to their several species, with the law of natural instinct, whereby everything is inclined and enabled, for its own preservation: The gathering of the inhabitants of the earth into nations, under distinct policies and governments, those advantages which each of them have of mutual commerce, for supplying the wants of the other, are so many arguments to the same purpose.

(b) Bishop Wilkins put forward an Intelligent Design argument, based on the laws governing the movements of the heavenly bodies

But Bishop Wilkins didn't stop there. He immediately went on to say that the excellent contrivance of parts within the bodies of tiny animals (such as insects) proved beyond all doubt that God exists.

I cannot here omit the observations which have been made in these latter times, since we have had the use and improvement of the microscope, concerning that great difference which by the help of that, doth apppear betwixt natural and artificial things. Whatever is natural doth by that appear adorned in all elegance and beauty. There are such inimitable gildings and embroideries in the smallest seeds of plants, but especially in the parts of animals, in the head or eye of a small fly: such accurate order and symmetry in the frame of the most minute creatures, a louse or a mite, as no man were able to conceive without seeing of them. Whereas the most curious works of Art, the sharpest finest needle, doth appear as a blunt rough bar of iron coming from the furnace or the forge. The most accurate engravings or embossments seem such rude bungling deformed works, as if they had been done with a mattock or a trowel. So vast a difference is there between the skill of Nature and the rudeness or imperfection of Art.

And for such kind of bodies, as we are able to judge by our naked eyes, that excellent contrivance which there is in the several parts of them; their being so commodiously adapted to their proper uses, may be another argument to this purpose. As particularly those in human bodies, the consideration of which Galen himself, no great friend to religion, could not but acknowledge a Deity. In his book de Formatione Foetus, he takes notice, that there are in a human body above 600 several [= various - VJT] muscles, and there are at least 10 several intentions, or due qualifications, to be observed in each of these; proper figure, just magnitude, right disposition of its several ends, upper and lower position of the whole, the insertion of its proper nerves, veins and arteries, which are each of them to be duly placed, so that about the muscles alone, no less than 6,000 several ends or aims are to be attended to. The bones are reckoned to be 284; the distinct scopes or intentions of these, above forty; in all, about 100,000. And thus it is in some proportion all the other parts, the skin, ligaments, vessels, glandules, humours, but more especially with the several members of the body, which do in regard to the great variety and multitude of those several intentions which are required to them, very much exceed the homogeneous parts. And the failing in any one of these, would cause an irregularity of the body, and in many, such as would be very notorious.

And thus likewise is it in proportion with all other kinds of beings; minerals, vegetables: but especially such as are sensitive, insects, fishes, birds, Beasts; and in these yet more especially, for those organs and faculties that concern sensation: but most of all, for that kind of frame which relates to our understanding power, whereby we are able to correct the errors of our senses and imaginations, to call before us things past and future, and to behold things that are invisible to sense.

Now to imagine that all these things, according to their several kinds, could be brought into this regular frame and order, to which such an infinite number of intentions are required, without the contrivance of some Wise Agent, must needs be irrational in the highest degree.

(c) Bishop Wilkins argued that the general tendency of human psychological faculties to seek out what is good, points to a benevolent Creator

Wilkins went on to argue that human beings' psychological faculties were oriented towards their well-being as individuals - a fact that could not be satisfactorily explained if they were the product of chance or necessity:

And then, as for the frame of human nature itself. If a man doth but consider how he is endowed with such a natural principle, whereby he is necessarily inclined to seek his own well-being and happiness: and likewise with one faculty whereby he is enabled to judge of the nature of things, as to their fitness or unfitness for this end: and another faculty whereby he is enabled to choose and promote such things as may promote his end, and to reject and avoid such things as may hinder it. And that nothing properly is his duty, but wht is really his interest: this may be another argument to convince him, that the author of his being must be infinitely wise and powerful.

The wisest man is not able to imagine how things should be better than now they are, supposing them to be contrived by the Wisest Agent; and where we meet with all the indications and evidences of such things as the Thing is capable of, supposing it to be true, it must needs be very irrational to make any doubt of it. Now I appeal to any considering man, unto what Cause all this exactness and regularity can reasonably be ascribed, whether to blind Chance, or blind Necessity, or to the conduct of some wise intelligent Being.

Wilkins' argument can be elucidated with the aid of a thought experiment. Imagine a race of beings who were physically like us in every respect, but whose psychological tendencies were totally unlike ours. For example, at breakfast time, they crave harmful drugs instead of cereal and fruit juice. If this race of beings were to follow their wishes, they would soon die. They could only continue as a race by continually fighting against their natural desires. Wilkins is saying that we are in no such unfortunate position. Our desires are actually conducive to our well-being. How lucky for us.

One might attempt to counter Wilkins' argument by saying that a race of beings whose desires were conducive to their biological well-being would rapidly out-compete a race of psychologically twisted beings like the ones I have described in any Darwinian struggle for survival, and that the fact that animals generally tend to crave what is good for them is no mystery. Wilkins' reply, if I read him aright, is that our general psychological tendencies as human beings - as distinguished from the perverted cravings of some depraved individual - are invariably oriented towards our own good, both as individuals and as social beings. Chance, he thinks, would not bring about such an optimal orientation.

From a modern perspective, Wilkins' rosy view of human nature appears positively Pollyannaish. Nevertheless, it is a remarkable fact that individual and social interests almost invariably coincide, and that most individuals, most of the time, want what is good for them. Evolutionary theory is so far from explaining this fact that it cannot even account for why we want anything at all - in other words, it fails to account for the existence of consciousness. Leaving this point aside, however, there is another, more fundamental point that Wlikins makes in his argument: neither Chance nor Necessity can systematically produce good results.

(d) Bishop Wilkins argued that neither Chance nor Necessity can systematically produce good results

Wilkins finally delivers his coup de grace against atheistic accounts of the world: if the world is not governed by Wisdom, it must be governed by chance or necessity. Neither of these is systematically able to deliver good results. Yet in the world around us, creatures of various kinds do attain their good on a systematic basis. Consequently, the world must be governed by a wise Creator.

Though we should suppose both matter and motion to be eternal, it is not in the least credible, that insensible matter could be the author of all those excellent contrivances which we behold in these natural things. If anyone shall surmise, that these effects should proceed from the Anima Mundi [pantheistic World Soul - VJT], I should ask such a one, is this Anima Mundi an Intelligent Being, or is it void of all sense and perception? If it have no kind of sense or knowledge, then it is altogether needless to assert any such Principle, because matter and motion may serve for this purpose equally welll. If it be an Intelligent Wise, Eternal Being, this is GOD under another name.

As for Fate or Necessity, this must be as blind and unable to produce wise effects, as Chance itself. From which it will follow, that it must be a Wise Being that is responsible for these wise effects. By what hath been said upon this subject, it may appear, that these visible things of the world are sufficient to leave a man without excuse, as being the witnesses of a Deity, and such as do plainly declare his great Power and Glory.


Recommended reading

John Wilkins 1614-1672 by Barbara Shapiro.

Scientific Theology: Nature by Alister McGrath.

(8) Robert Boyle (1627-1691), Founding Member of The Royal Society and the founder of modern chemistry, best known for Boyle's law.

Who was he and what was he famous for?

The seventeenth century chemist Robert Boyle was a Founding Member of the Royal Society. He was also the founder of modern chemistry. Today, he is best known for Boyle's law (P.V = k).

How did he violate the principle of methodological naturalism?

Robert Boyle asserted that scientific discoveries revealing the astonishing complexity of living things, particularly tiny organisms such as insects, could be used to prove the existence of God.

Where's the evidence?

(a) Boyle put forward Intelligent Design arguments in his works

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Boyle fastens on two main types of design arguments: those involving the complexity of animate beings, particularly very small animate beings, and those which highlight the need to explain the origin and continuing function of natural laws: God must not only sustain God's creatures, Boyle argues, he must also sustain the regularities which we recognize as lawlike.
(MacIntosh, J. J. and Anstey, Peter, Robert Boyle, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2010 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <"">.)

Boyle genuinely admired the exquisite workmanship involved in the way God made insects, and he saw these creatures as providing a cogent proof of God’s existence:

"God, in these little Creatures, oftentimes draws traces of Omniscience, too delicate to be liable to be ascrib'd to any other Cause... my wonder dwells not so much on Nature's Clocks (is I may so speak) as on her Watches."
(The Works of Robert Boyle, Hunter, M., and Davis, E. B. (eds.), 14 vols., London: Pickering and Chatto, 1999–2000. Citation is from vol. 3, p. 223. See also Birch, T., 1772, The Works of the Honourable Robert Boyle, Thomas Birch, (ed.), 6 vols. (London, 1772; reprinted Hildesheim: George Olms, 1966), a reprinting of the five volume 1744 edition. Citation is from vol. 2, p. 22.)

Clocks, watches, complexity of little creatures ... does that sound familiar to my readers? Robert Boyle, the scientist, is making an Intelligent Design argument! He didn't feel in the least embarrassed about putting forward such an argument, as he undoubtedly would have done, had there been a widely observed convention in the 17th century that scientific reasoning should not be used to argue for the existence of God. Evidently there was no such convention. Which prompts me to ask: if 17th century scientists felt free to put forward Intelligent Design style arguments, then on what basis do modern scientists assert that these arguments fall outside the boundaries of science? Who decides what "real science" is?

(b) Boyle argued on empirical grounds for the reality of miracles

Finally, Boyle firmly believed in the reality of miracles. He was extremely skeptical of miracles outside the Bible, but he was also worried about the possibility of deceptive, demonic miracles. He wrote:

I first assent to a Natural Religion upon the score of Natural Reason antecedently to any particular Revelation. And then; if a Miracle be wrought to attest to a particular doctine concerning Religion, I endeavor according to the principles of Natural Religion and right Reason, to discover or not, this proposd Doctrine be such, that I ought to looke upon a Miracle that is vouch'd for it, as comeing from God or not. And lastly if I find, by the Agreeableness of it to the best notions that natural Theology gives us of God and His Attributes, that His Religion cannot in reason be doubted to come from Him; I then judge the body of the Religion to be true.
(BP 7: 122-3). Quoted in Boyle on atheism by Robert Boyle, transcribed and edited by John James Macintosh, University of Toronto Press, 2006, p. 206.)

Boyle went on to acknowledge that there may be "Lying Miracles" which God permits "to try men."

(c) Boyle on mechanical and final causes in Nature

Boyle is believed by some to have been opposed to Aristotle's appeal to final causes in Nature. In fact, his real position was considerably more nuanced. Boyle was no ant-teleologist. In his work, A Disquisition About the Final Causes of Natural Things, Boyle argued that the appeal to final causes in science is valid, but that they must be used with caution:

The result of what has been hitherto discoursed, upon the four questions proposed at the beginning of this small treatise, amounts in short to this: [Works, V, 444]

In his work, Boyle on atheism, Professor Macintosh notes:

For Boyle there was the realm of things to be explained scientifically, ... but there were also many things that required supernatural intervention, including God's sustaining His creatures in existence, sustaining the system as a lawlike entity or automaton, granting incorproeal souls to corporeal humans ('physical miracles' which occur hundreds of times each day), and ensuring that there was a lawlike connection between the sensory input of animals and the intellectual abstractions they were able to perform. Also in need of explanation was the mechanically inexplicable ability of people - that is, incorporeal souls - to move matter. Additionally, people seemed to be able to acquire knowledge beyond their ordinary ken, providing a prima facie case for angelic intervention. There were apparent miracles of healing and apparent cases of diabolical communication. There were cases of things that could in some sense be explained naturally but that seemed to Boyle to be much happier wearing supernatural explanations than natural ones, the most interesting being the spreas and survival of the Christian religion - a 'permanent' as opposed to other, 'transient,' miracles. There were cases of created intellects apparently being able to foretell the future. And then there were cases of supernatural with an apparent intention to validate a particular instituted religion or one in the process of becoming instituted.

For Boyle the world is split up into events which have a mechanical explanation and those which do not. The ones that have a mechanical explanation are thereby lawlike. Of the ones which do not, some are lawlike in their regularity and some are not, but it is clear that supernatural intervention in Boyle's system is pretty much a commonplace. (Boyle on atheism by Robert Boyle, transcribed and edited by John James Macintosh, University of Toronto Press, 2006, pp. 207-208.)

Supernatural explanation is "pretty much a commonplace"? That certainly doesn't sound like a methodological naturalist to me!

(9) John Ray, (1627-1705), founder of Modern Biology and Natural History, and the first to put forward a rigorous definition of a species.

Who was he and what was he famous for?

John Ray founded the science of modern biology, just as Robert Boyle founded modern chemistry. In his book, The Founders of British Science: John Wilkins, Robert Boyle, John Ray, Christopher Wren, Robert Hooke, Isaac Newton (Cresset Press, London, 1960, p. 94), J.G. Crowther describes the relationship between the work of these two scientists as follows:

'The work of recording and classifying the contents of nature, which, as Bacon had indicated, was the first step in creating a modern universal science, was led in chemistry by Boyle. In biology the comparable work was carried out by John Ray.

How did he violate the principle of methodological naturalism?

In the course of his scientific research, John Ray found abundant evidence that all things – not only the heavens and the earth, but also living organisms – had been created by an infinitely wise and loving God. He maintained that the exquisite detail of the structure and function of living organisms was clear evidence of God's wisdom.

Where's the evidence?

(a) Ray argued that the scientific refutation of the doctrine of spontaneous generation discredited atheism

Ray mounted a powerful cumulative case for a Creator of Nature in a book entitled The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of the Creation (1691), which became a best-selling classic. In his book, Ray argued forcefully against the doctrine of spontaneous generation (the notion that life can arise from non-living matter), which he contemptuously described as "the Atheist's fictitious and ridiculous Account of the first production of Mankind, and other Animals":

Another Observation I shall add concerning Generation, which is of some moment, because it takes away some Concessions of Naturalists that give countenance to the Atheist's fictitious and ridiculous Account of the first production of Mankind, and other Animals, viz. that all sorts of Insects, yea, and some Quadrupeds too, as Frogs and Mice, arc produced spontaneously. My Observation and Affirmation is, that there is no such thing in Nature, as AEquivocal or Spontaneous Generation, but that all Animals, as well small as great, not excluding the vilest and most contemptible insect, are generated by Animal Parents of the same Species with themselves; that Noble Italian Vertuoso, Francisco Redi, having experimented, that no putrified Flesh (which one would think were the most likely of any thing) will of itself, if all Insects be carefully kept from it, produce any: The same Experiment, I remember, Dr. Wilkins, late Bishop of Chester, told me, had been made by some of the Royal Society. No Instance against this Opinion doth so much puzzle me, as Worms bred in the Intestines of Man, and other Animals. But Seeing the round Worms do manifestly generate, and probably the other Kinds too, it’s likely they come originally from Seed, which how it was brought into the Guts, may afterwards possibly be discovered.

Moreover, I am inclinable to believe, that all Plants too, that themselves produce Seed, which are all but some very imperfect ones, which scarce deserve the Name of Plants) come of Seeds themselves. For that great Naturalist Malpighius, to make Experiment whether Earth would of itself put forth Plants, took some purposely digged out of a deep place, and put it into a Glass-Vessel, the Top whereof he covered with Silk many times doubled, and strained over it, which would admit the Water and Air to pass through, but exclude the least Seed that might be wafted by the Wind; the Event was that no Plant at all sprang up in it... (The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of the Creation, Part II, pp. 298-299, available online here ).

(b) Ray was a proponent of Intelligent Design

Ray also put forward an Intelligent Design argument in his book, when he reasoned that the absence of any maladaptive parts in the human body attests to the existence of an infinitely wise and benevolent God as our Creator:

Had we been born with a large Wen upon our Faces, or a Bavarian Poke under our Chins, or a great Bunch upon our Backs like Camels, or any the like superfluous Excrescency; which should be not only useless but troublesome, not only Stand us in no stead, but also be ill-favoured to behold, and burdensome to carry about, then we might have had some Pretence to doubt whether an intelligent and bountiful Creator had been our Architect; for had the Body been made by Chance, it must in all likelihood have had many of these superfluous and unnecessary Parts.

But now seeing there is none of our Members but hath its Place and Use, none that we could spare, or conveniently live without were it but those we account Excrements, the Hair of our Heads, or the Nails on our Fingers ends; we must needs be mad or sottish if we can conceive any other than that an infinitely Good and Wise God was our Author and Former...
(The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of the Creation, Part II, pp. 228-229, available online here).

Modern biologists would vigorously contest Ray's assertion that none of our body parts are maladaptive, but regardless of whether you agree with Ray or not, the point is that he intended his argument for the existence of an Infinite God as a scientific one. He knew nothing of any "bright-line" rule saying that science cannot furnish arguments for the supernatural.

The modern Intelligent Design movement is much more modest than John Ray in its claims: it does not state that only God could have produced the first living things, but that only an Intelligent Agent could have done so. One cannot therefore accuse the Intelligent Design movement of bringing religion into the classroom.

(10) Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723), the father of microscopy.

Who was he and what was he famous for?

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek is popularly known as "the Father of Microbiology." Although he did not invent the microscope, he greatly improved its design, and he also made significant contributions towards the establishment of the science of microbiology. He was the first to observe and describe single-celled micro-organisms, which he originally referred to as animalcules, as well as being the first to record microscopic observations of muscle fibers, bacteria, spermatozoa, and blood flow in capillaries (small blood vessels).

How did he violate the principle of methodological naturalism?

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek was an eminent scientist and naturalist, whose scientific writings repeatedly expressed his conviction that science could tell us more about the Creator, as well as his firm belief as a scientist that the wonders of Nature had all been created for a purpose.

Where's the evidence?

(a) Van Leeuwenhoek believed that the purpose of science was to glorify God

Van Leeuwenhoek's whole approach to science was very much grounded in his theological thinking, as Dr. David Coppedge informs us in his masterly online work, THE WORLD'S GREATEST CREATION SCIENTISTS From Y1K to Y2K:

A. Schierbeek, the Editor-in-Chief of the collected letters of Leeuwenhoek, explains that he was part of the 'New Philosophy' of scientists like Robert Boyle, who regarded the study of nature as "a work to the glory of God and the benefit of Man." The newly-formed Royal Society was made up largely of Puritans with similar convictions, from which we can infer Leeuwenhoek shared with them a common bond of belief, since he took great pride in his relationship with the Royal Society, mentioning it on his title pages and even on his tombstone. Schierbeek observes, "His works are full of his admiration of creation and the Creator, a theme which is frequently found in writings of this period; in becoming better acquainted with creation, men wanted to get nearer the Creator, a conviction which is found among many of the early members of the Royal Society." (Schierbeek, p. 200). Thus we see again that Christianity was the driving force during the rise of modern science.

Of Leeuwenhoek's personal faith, Schierbeek says, "To this we must add his deep religious assurance, his complete faith in the 'All-wise Creator,' a never-flagging admiration for the perfection of the most minute, hidden mysteries of the work of His hands and the conviction that his researches would surely help to make His Omnipotence more universally known. Without ever lapsing into high-flown phrases he repeatedly gave evidence of his religious faith: 'Let us lay the hand on our mouth, and reflect that the All-wise hath deemed this needful for the reproduction of all that hath received movement and growth, and so, the why and the wherefore we can but guess after.'" (Schierbeek, p. 31).

Let us pause here and recapitulate. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek was an eminent scientist and naturalist, whose scientific writings repeatedly expressed his conviction that science could tell us more about the Creator, as well as his firm belief as a scientist that the wonders of Nature had all been created for a purpose - even if it was one of which we are wholly ignorant. That's not methodological naturalism, Zack. That's methodological theism.

(b) Van Leeuwenhoek was an ardent proponent of Intelligent Design

But Dr. Coppedge doesn't stop there. He also informs us that Antonie van Leeuwenhoek was an early proponent of Intelligent Design: he argued that the complexity of micro-organisms constituted evidence for their having had a Creator, as well as powerful evidence against the proposition that something as complex as life could evolve from inanimate matter as a result of undirected natural processes:

... Leeuwenhoek refuted the doctrine of spontaneous generation that was popular in his day, the idea that living things emerge spontaneously from inanimate matter – eels from dew, shellfish from sand, maggots from meat, and weevils from wheat. He observed the complete life cycle of ants, fleas, mussels, eels, and various insects, proving that all organisms had parents. It would take another 150 years for the false notion of spontaneous generation to be dealt its final death blow under Louis Pasteur (although a new form of the doctrine arose in the twentieth century, of necessity under Darwinian philosophy, under the name "chemical evolution")...

It is clear, too, from his stand against non-Christian superstitions such as the doctrine of spontaneous generation, that he held to a Biblical doctrine of creation. He believed it foolish to think his little "animalcules" could have formed by chance, and he worked diligently to prove that all things reproduce after their kind, as the book of Genesis teaches. For example, after working for weeks observing the propagation of insects, Leeuwenhoek stated confidently, "...This must appear wonderful, and be a confirmation of the principle, that all living creatures deduce their origin from those which were formed at the Beginning." (Schierbeek, p. 137). After another remarkable series of experiments on rotifers in 1702 he concluded:

The preceding kinds of experiments I have repeated many times with the same success, and in particular with some of the sediment which had been kept in my study for about five months... From all these observations, we discern most plainly the incomprehensible perfection, the exact order, and the inscrutable providential care with which the most wise Creator and Lord of the Universe had formed the bodies of these animalcules, which are so minute as to escape our sight, to the end that different species of them may be preserved in existence. And this most wonderful disposition of nature with regard to these animalcules for the preservation of their species; which at the same time strikes us with astonishment, must surely convince all of the absurdity of those old opinions, that living creatures can be produced from corruption of putrefaction. [Schierbeek, p. 171]

From Leeuwenhoek's writings we frequently sense the awe and wonder that can only emanate from a man who has a joyful, personal relationship with God the Creator. Dan Graves, in Scientists of Faith (Kregel, 1996), writes, "He often referred with reverence to the wonders God designed in making creatures small and great. His virtues were perseverance, simplicity, and stubbornness. He loved truth above any theory, even his own. He asked of his challengers only that they prove their points as he proved his." Schierbeek says, "Leeuwenhoek was driven by a passionate desire to penetrate more deeply into the mysteries of creation. To him, as to many others of his time, a watch was a greater specimen of craftsmanship than a clock in a tower; this opinion is reflected in his biological views. The microscope gave him the opportunity to study and admire the small organisms, the "animalcules," and whenever he was able he expressed his admiration of the beautiful things he saw." (Schierbeek, p. 196).
(Bold emphases are mine - VJT.)

The picture that emerges here is that Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, the father of microscopy, conducted his scientific research in a manner that was wholly anti-thetical to that proposed by today's methodological naturalists. He would have found their insistence that science can tell us nothing about the supernatural very puzzling.

(11) Robert Hooke FRS (1635-1703), the discoverer of Hooke's law.

Who was he and what was he famous for?

Robert Hooke was an English natural philosopher, architect and polymath. In 1660, Hooke discovered the law that bears his name. Hooke's law (F = k.x) states that the tension in an elastic spring is proportional to the displacement, or extension, of the spring. Hooke also built the vacuum pumps used in Boyle's gas law experiments. In 1665, Hooke published Micrographia, a book describing microscopic and telescopic observations, and some original work in biology. Hooke coined the term cell to describe the basic structural and functional unit of all known living organisms. He built some of the earliest Gregorian telescopes, observed the rotations of Mars and Jupiter and, based on his observations of fossils, was an early proponent of biological evolution. He investigated the phenomenon of refraction, deducing the wave theory of light, and was the first to suggest that matter expands when heated and that air is made of small particles separated by relatively large distances. Hooke also developed a scientific model of human memory.

How did he violate the principle of methodological naturalism?

He referred to God in his scientific writings. Not only that, but he also referred to Adam and quoted Scripture.

Where's the evidence?

The following is a quote from Hooke's Micrographia, a work in which he makes repeated references to the Creator.

And indeed, so various, and seemingly irregular are the generations or productions of Insects, that he that shall carefully and diligently observe the several methods of Nature therein, will have infinitely cause further to admire the wisdom and providence of the Creator; for not onely the same kind of creature may be produc'd from several kinds of ways, but the very same creature may produce several kinds: For, as divers Watches may be made out of several materials, which may yet have all the same appearance, and move after the same manner, that is, shew the hour equally true, the one as the other, and out of the same kind of matter, like Watches, may be wrought differing ways; and, as one and the same Watch may, by being diversly agitated, or mov'd, by this or that agent, or after this or that manner, produce a quite contrary effect: So may it be with these most curious Engines of Insect's bodies; the All-wise God of Nature, may have so ordered and disposed the little Automatons, that when nourished, acted, or enlivened by this cause, they produce one kind of effect, or animate shape, when by another they act quite another way, and another Animal is produc'd. So may he so order several materials, as to make them, by several kinds of methods, produce similar Automatons. (Chapter XLIV)

(12) Nicolas Steno (1638-1686), the founder of modern geology.

Who was he and what was he famous for?

Nicolas Steno, the Dutch geologist, anatomist and (in later life) bishop, is regarded as the co-founder of modern human stratigraphy and modern geology, along with James Hutton.

How did he violate the principle of methodological naturalism?

He declared that his observations of the structure of the heart and the other inner organs of the human body had led him to conclude that such a wonderfully elaborate "work of art" could not be the product of chance or necessity, and that it must have been designed by a wise, personal God.

Where's the evidence?

The following is a quote from Blessed Nicholas Steno: Natural History Research and Science of the Cross by Frank Sobiech, in the Australian eJournal of Theology 5 (August 2005), pp. 1-5.

But what did Steno believe during the years up to his conversion? During his study in the Netherlands (1660–64), he made acquaintance with Cartesian, deistic, and atheistic thinking, all of which shook his Lutheran faith and consequently led him to a religious crisis. Influenced especially by deism, he believed that it would be possible to grasp all mysteries of faith with the help of the natural reason alone. During a dissection performed as bishop in Celle on 7 May, 1680 he even confessed that he had been nearly seduced by atheism, by doubting a personal God and accepting an impersonal fate. After his discovery that the heart was a muscle in 1662/63, his observations of the structure of the heart and the other inner organs of the human body led him to conclude that such a wonderfully elaborate "work of art" could not be accidental or determined by blind fate. A personal, wise God was involved. This realisation led him back to faith in a personal Creator.

(13) Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727), the greatest scientist who ever lived.

Who was he and what was he famous for?

Isaac Newton, who was arguably the greatest scientist who ever lived, was famous for the publication of his Principia in 1687 and for his formulation of Newton's three laws of motion. He also developed a corpuscular theory of light, and invented calculus independently of Leibniz. (Who invented it first remains a controverted question.)

How did he violate the principle of methodological naturalism?

Newton was an advocate of natural theology and thus saw the study of nature as revealing the creative hand of God, as his Principia and Opticks both abundantly illustrate. Newton also put forward Intelligent Design arguments in a scientific treatise on optics.

Where's the evidence?

(a) Newton argued for Intelligent Design in a scientific treatise on optics

Newton put forward Intelligent Design arguments in a scientific treatise on optics. Stephen Snobelen, Assistant Professor in the History of Science and Technology at the University of King's College, Halifax, Nova Scotia, discussed Newton's views in a 2005 interview with Paul Newall, entitled Newton Reconsidered:

In my view, Newton's theology and his natural philosophy can be distinguished in certain ways, but were never completely separate. First, Newton was stimulated by his religious beliefs to study nature. Like his contemporary the alchemist/chemist Robert Boyle, Newton likely saw himself as a sort of high priest of nature. This religious stimulus to work in natural philosophy, which can be termed an example of a weak relationship between science and religion, did not directly shape the specifics of the content of his natural philosophy. But there are many examples of what can be called a strong relationship between Newton’s science and his religion, namely examples where Newton's religion helps shape the cognitive content of his natural philosophy.

Newton was an advocate of natural theology and thus saw the study of nature as revealing the creative hand of God. This commitment to natural theology can be found briefly in the first edition of the Principia (1687) and more extensively in the later editions of the Principia and the Opticks.

So what did Newton actually say? In the 1717 edition of his Opticks, he attached an appendix with queries about scientific matters. In Query 28, he poses a rhetorical question about the skill (or art) with which animals were fashioned:

How came the Bodies of Animals to be contrived with so much Art, and for what ends were their several Parts? Was the Eye contrived without Skill in Opticks, and the Ear without Knowledge of Sounds? How do the Motions of the Body follow from the Will, and whence is the Instinct in Animals? Is not the Sensory of Animals that place to which the sensitive Substance is present, and into which the sensible Species of Things are carried through the Nerves and Brain, that there they may be perceived by their immediate presence to that Substance? (Newton, Opticks (1717), Query 28, pp. 344-45.)

Newton answers his own rhetorical question by appealing to an incorporeal intelligent Being whose omnipresence grounds the unity of natural phenomena, and who is immediately aware of events occurring in the world and thus able to respond to them:

And these things being rightly dispatch'd, does it not appear from Phaenomena that there is a being incorporeal, living, intelligent, omnipresent, who in infinite Space, as it were in his Sensory, sees the things themselves intimately, and as it were thoroughly perceives them, and comprehends them wholly by their immediate presence to himself: Of which things the Images only carried through the Organs of Sense into our little Sensoriums, are there seen and beheld by that which in us perceives and thinks (Newton, Opticks (1717), Query 28, p. 345.)

Later on in his Opticks, Newton adds that "the first Contrivance of those very artificial Parts of Animals, the Eyes, Ears, Brain, Muscles, Heart, Lungs, Midriff, Glands, Larynx, Hands, Wings, Swimming Bladders, natural Spectacles, and other Organs of Sense and Motion", along with their instinct, "can be the effect of nothing else than the Wisdom and Skill of a powerful ever-living Agent, who being in all Places, is more able by his Will to move the Bodies within his boundless uniform Sensorium, and thereby to form and reform the Parts of the Universe, than we are by our Will to move the Parts of our own Bodies". (Newton, Opticks (1717 ), Query 31, pp. 378-79.)

"Artificial" here means "made with skill." Newton is putting forward an Intelligent Design argument: the elaborately contrived parts of animals points to their having been made by an intelligent living Agent, who can sense what's going on anywhere and move a body by an act of his Will.

Newton is still more explicit about his theology in a private manuscript (Newton, Keynes, MS. 7, p. 1) where he puts forward an Intelligent Design argument against atheism:

Atheism is so senseless & odious to mankind that it never had many professors. Can it be by accident that all birds beasts & men have their right side & left side alike shaped (except in their bowells) & just two eyes & no more on either side the face & just two ears on either side [of] the head & a nose with two holes & no more between the eyes & one mouth under the nose & either two fore leggs or two wings or two arms on the sholders & two leggs on the hipps one on either side & no more? Whence arises this uniformity in all their outward shapes but from the counsel & contrivance of an Author? Whence is it that the eyes of all sorts of living creatures are transparent to the very bottom & the only transparent members in the body, having on the outside an hard transparent skin, & within transparent juyces with a crystalline Lens in the middle & a pupil before the Lens all of them so truly shaped & fitted for vision, that no Artist can mend them? Did blind chance know that there was light & what was its refraction & fit the eys of all creatures after the most curious manner to make use of it? These & such like considerations always have & ever will prevail with man kind to believe that there is a being who made all things & has all things in his power & who is therfore to be feared.

(b) Newton vs. methodological naturalism: Newton drew a different dividing line between science and religion

Now, I'm sure that readers will point out that Newton died 132 years before Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species was published in 1859, and that had Newton known what we know now, he would have argued differently. Maybe; maybe not. But here's my point: when Newton put forward his Intelligent Design arguments, he thought he was doing science. Newton wasn't aware of any "bright-line rule" that prohibited scientists from reasoning about the supernatural. For Newton, the dividing line between science and religion lay not in the distinction between the natural and the supernatural, but in the sources of truth appealed to by science and religion: unlike religion, science could not appeal to any statements based on Divine revelation (e.g. verses from the Bible); instead, it had to obtain its data from the world of natural phenomena. As Newton put it in an abandoned draft of a preface to a later edition of the Principia:

What is taught in metaphysics, if it is derived from divine revelation, is religion; if it is derived from phenomena through the five external senses, it pertains to physics; if it is derived from knowledge of the internal actions of our mind through the sense of reflection, it is only philosophy about the human mind and its ideas as internal phenomena likewise pertain to physics. To dispute about the objects of ideas except insofar as they are phenomena is dreaming. In all philosophy we must begin from phenomena and admit no principles of things, no causes, no explanations, except those which are established through phenomena. (I. Bernard Cohen, "A Guide to Newton's Principia" in Newton, The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philsophy, trans. by I. Bernard Cohen and Ann Whitman, University of California Press, 1999, p. 54.)

Quite right. However, a Cause that is established through the study of natural phenomena need not be itself natural. That was the whole point of Newton's arguments for an Intelligent Designer of Nature in the 1717 edition of Opticks. In other words, Newton believed that natural phenomena could be used to scientifically infer the existence of a supernatural Being, as the statements cited above from the 1717 edition of Newton’s Opticks clearly demonstrate.

So I would like to ask: if Isaac Newton, the greatest scientist who ever lived, didn't know of any "rule" prohibiting scientists from reasoning about the supernatural, then why should we consider ourselves bound by such a rule?

(14) William Derham, FRS (1657-1735), the first scientist to accurately measure the speed of sound.

Who was he and what was he famous for?

William Derham was an English clergyman and natural philosopher. He produced the earliest, reasonably accurate estimate of the speed of sound. Derham was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1703. He was Boyle lecturer in 1711–1712.

How did he violate the principle of methodological naturalism?

Derham's Wikipedia biography describes how he freely mixed science and theology in his scientific works:

In 1696, he published his Artificial Clockmaker, which went through several editions. The best known of his subsequent works are Physico-Theology, published in 1713; Astro-Theology, 1714; and Christo-Theology, 1730. All three of these books are teleological arguments for the being and attributes of God, and were used by William Paley nearly a century later. However, these books also include quantities of original scientific observations. For example, Physico-Theology contains his recognition of natural variation within species and that he knew that Didelphis virginialis (the Virginia opossum) was the only marsupial in North America. Similarly, Astro-Theology includes several newly identified nebulae, albeit one or two now known to be star clusters; his 16-feet long telescope (also used when measuring the velocity of sound) was at the top of the tower of St Laurence's Church, where the necessary doors are still in place.

Where's the evidence?

The following is a quote:

(15) Carol Linnaeus (1707-1778), the father of modern taxonomy.

Who was he and what was he famous for?

Carol Linnaeus is regarded as the father of modern taxonomy.

How did he violate the principle of methodological naturalism?

Linnaeus, like John Ray, was an eloquent advocate of physicotheology. Nature was likened to a book in which God had written down messages, and just as one could read the Bible, one could also read the Book of Nature. Linnaeus believed that organisms had their place in nature, and that everything worked together like a perfect machine. As a naturalist, he continually asked himself what the purpose of everything was. Because he believed that God never created anything unnecessarily, he endeavored to show that everything was part of God's great scheme.

Where's the evidence?

(a) Linnaeus believed that everything in Nature had a purpose, pointing to the existence of a wise Creator

Most of Linnaeus' works are not yet available online in English. However, Uppsala University has created an excellent online Web site, Linne online, dealing with Carl Linnaeus, his life and his scientific discoveries. The Web site includes several topical essays contributed by researchers in various fields. One of these, The History of Ideas, was written in Swedish by Carl Frangsmyr, Magdalena Hydman and Ragnar Insulander, and subsequently translated into English. In the section entitled, Linnaeus’ view of nature, the authors discuss Linnaeus' beliefs regarding the relationship between God and Nature:

Together with scientists like John Ray, William Derhamn, and William Paley, Linnaeus is one of the great thinkers in the physicotheological tradition. Nature was a key word and a sort of model during the 18th century. Nature was likened to a book in which God had written down messages, and just as one could read the Bible, one could also read the Book of Nature. Linnaeus was probably the foremost interpreter of his time in regard to the glorious plan of Creation.

The concept of the 'economy of nature' was used for the first time in the 17th century, then denoting basically how God governed his Creation — Nature. The notion that there existed an organized principle in nature, a perfect administration that meant that nothing was wanting and nothing was superfluous became a popular way of thinking during the 18th century. In treatises like Curiositas Naturalis 1748, Oeconomia Naturae 1749 (Husbandry of Nature), and Politia Naturae 1760 (Polity of Nature) Linnaeus developed ideas in this field that point forward to an ecological view. He wrote about the cycle of nature and the importance of mulching in nature, about how organisms had their place in nature, and that everything worked together like a perfect machine.

The authors continue their discussion of Linnaeus' views in the section entitled, Physicotheology,

The relationship between God, nature, and humans was something that thoroughly occupied the minds of 18th-century scientists and philosophers. This issue was of crucial importance in the branch of thought that is usually called 'physicotheology' and was embraced by many natural scientists both in Sweden and abroad. The Englishman William Derham, who in 1713 published the book Physico-theology, is usually claimed to be the creator of physicotheology and its greatest exponent. In Sweden Linnaeus is usually counted among the leading representatives. He perceived nature as a wonder created by God, which is expressed, among other places, in the speech "On the Remarkableness of Insects," which he gave at the Royal Academy of Sciences in 1739.

Unfortunately I have not been able to locate an online copy of this speech in English. I would be very grateful if anyone could email me a copy, or direct me to where I might find one.

(b) Linnaeus held that the purpose of studying Nature was to discover God's purposes

Frangsmyr, Hydman and Insulander continue:

The physicotheologists asserted that both religion and nature research were vital to humankind. Through the study of nature our knowledge of God and His Creation would be enhanced; it can therefore be said that science had a religious utility. This way of thinking was typical of Linnaeus, see Linnaeus' view of nature. In his treatise Cui bono? ("To What Good?"), he asks what the purpose of everything is, and his answer is that everything is part of God's grand scheme.

By this he means that God never created anything unnecessarily, that every object is an important part of Creation. The task of the naturalist is therefore to discover this purpose. In doing so, the glory of God would be made manifest and economic utility would be promoted.

I hope it is apparent by now that this view of Nature, which Linnaeus expounded in his scientific works and writings, is diametrically opposed to the tenets of methodological naturalism.

(16) Ruder Josip Boskovic (1711-1787).

Who was he and what was he famous for?

Ruder Josip Boskovic was a physicist, astronomer, mathematician, philosopher, diplomat, poet, theologian, Jesuit, and a polymath from the city of Dubrovnik in the Republic of Ragusa (today Croatia), who studied and lived in Italy and France, where he also published many of his works.

Boskovic is famous for his atomic theory. His atomic theory, given as a clear, precisely-formulated system utilizing principles of Newtonian mechanics inspired Michael Faraday to develop field theory for electromagnetic interaction. He also made many important contributions to astronomy, including the first geometric procedure for determining the equator of a rotating planet from three observations of a surface feature and for computing the orbit of a planet from three observations of its position. In 1753 he also discovered the absence of atmosphere on the Moon.

How did he violate the principle of methodological naturalism?

According to his Wikipedia biography:

Boskovic was a devout Catholic and in expressing his religious views was straightforward. In his most famous book A Theory of Natural Philosophy (1758) he says: "Regarding the nature of the Divine Creator, my theory is extraordinarily illuminating, and the result from it is a necessity to recognize Him ... therefore vain dreams of those who believe that the world was created by accident, or that it could be built as a fatal necessity, or that it was there for eternity lining itself along his own necessary laws are completely eliminated."[24]

Where's the evidence?

The following is a quote:

(17) Joseph Priestley (1733-1804), Fellow of the Royal Society, chemist and discoverer of oxygen

Who was he and what was he famous for?

Joseph Priestley was a Fellow of the Royal Society, chemist and discoverer of oxygen. His innovative techniques influenced the whole teaching of chemistry: the American Chemical Society has as its most prestigious award the Priestley Medal. Priestley was also a Doctor of Divinity and a Christian minister. His theological views, though, were very unorthodox for his day: he was a Unitarian, who held to a materialistic account of human nature and believed in a deterministic cosmos, in which everything happened for the best in the long run, because God had arranged it that way.

How did he violate the principle of methodological naturalism?

In his philosophical works, he argued that the existence of an infinite, supernatural Deity could be demonstrated on rational grounds alone. In his scientific works, he expressed his belief in a Governor and Maker of the world.

Where's the evidence?

(a) Priestley believed that reason alone could establish the existence of a supernatural Deity

In his two-volume work, The Institutes of Natural and Revealed Religion (London, 1794), Priestley sets forth an argument for the existence of a supernatural Deity, based on reason alone (Volume I, Part I, section 1, p. 3 ff.):

When we say there is a GOD, we mean that there is an intelligent designing cause of what we see in the world around us, and a being who was himself uncaused. Unless we have recourse to this supposition, we cannot account for present appearances; for there is an evident incapacity in every thing we see of being the cause of its own existence, or of the existence of other things. Though in some sense, some things are the causes of others, yet they are only so in part; and when we give sufficient attention to their nature, we shall see, that it is very improperly that they are termed causes at all: for when we have allowed all that we can to their influence and operation, there is still something that must be referred to a prior and superior cause. Thus we say that a proper soil, together with the influences of the sun and rain, are the causes of the growth of plants; but all that we mean, and all that, in strictness, we ought to say, is, that according to the present constitution of things, plants could not grow but in those circumstances; for, if there had not been a body previously organized like a plant, and if there had not existed what we call a constitution of nature, in consequence of which plants are disposed to thrive by the influences of the soil, th sun and the rain, those circumstances would have signified nothing; and the fitness of the organs of a plant to receive nourishment from the soil, the rain, and the sun, is a proof of such wisdom and design, as those bodies are evidently destitute of. If the fitting of a suit of cloaths [= clothes - VJT] to the body of a man be an argument, and consequently prove the existence of an intelligent agent, much more is the fitness of a thousand things to a thousand other things in the system of nature a proof of an intelligent designing cause; and this intelligent cause we call GOD.

If, for argument's sake, we should admit that the immediate author of this world was not himself the first cause, but that he derived his being and powers from some other being, superior to him; still in tracing the cause of this being, and the cause of his cause, &c. we shall at length be constrained to acknowledge a first cause, one who is himself uncaused, and who derives his being and cause from no superior whatsoever.

It must be acknowledged, however, that our faculties are unequal to the comprehension of this subject. Being used to pass from effects to causes, and being used used to look for a cause adequate to the thing caused, and consequently to expect a greater cause for a greater effect, it is natural to suppose, that, if the things we see, which we say are the production of some divine power, required a cause, the divine being himself must have required a greater cause. But this train of thinking would lead us into a manifest absurdity, in inquiring for a and a higher cause, ad infinitum. It may perhaps be true, although we cannot distinctly see it so, that as all finite things require a cause, infinities admit of none. It is evident, that nothing can begin to be without a cause; but it by no means follows from thence, that that must have had a cause that had no beginning. But whatever there may be in this conjecture, we are constrained, by following the chain of causes and effects, to stop at last at something uncaused.

That any being should be self created is evidently absurd, because that would suppose that he had a being before he had, or that he existed, and did not exist, at the same time. For want of clearer knowledge of the subject, we are obliged to content ourselves with terms that convey only negative ideas, and say that God is a being uncreated or uncaused, and this is all we mean when we sometimes say that he is self-existent.

It has been said by some, that if we suppose an infinite succession of finite beings, there will be no necessity to admit anything to have been uncaused. The race of men, for instance, may have been from eternity, no individual of the species being much superior to the rest. But this supposition only involves the question in more obscurity, and does not approach, in the least, to the solution of any difficulty. For if we carry this imaginary succession ever so far back in our ideas, we are in just the same situation as when we set out; for we are still considering a species of beings who cannot so much as comprehend their own make and constitution; and we are, therefore, still in want of some being, who was capable of thoroughly knowing, and of forming them, and also of adapting the various parts of their bodies, and the faculties of their minds, and to the sphere of life in which they act. In fact, an infinite succession of finite beings as much requires a cause as a single finite being, and we have as little satisfaction in considering one of them as uncaused, as in considering the other.

It was said, by the Epicureans of old, that all things were formed by the fortuitous concourse of atoms, that, originally, there were particles of all kinds floating at random in infinite space; and that, since certain combinations of particles constitute all bodies, and since, in infinite time, these particles must have been combined in all possible ways, the present system at length arose without any designing cause. But still, it may be asked, how could these atoms move without a mover; and what could have arisen from their combinations, but mere heaps of matter, of different forms and sizes. They could of themselves, have had no power of acting upon one another, as bodies now have, by such properties as magnetism, electricity and gravitation, &c. unless these powers had been communicated to them by some superior being.

(b) Priestley believed that reason could establish that God is an infinite and benevolent being

In Volume I, Part I, Section III of The Institutes of Natural and Revealed Religion, (London, 1794), Priestley goes on to argue for that the Intelligent Designer of Nature must be an infinite and benevolent Being:

That God is eternal, and immutable follows necessarily, as we have seen, from his being uncaused; but if we consider the effects of which he is the cause, or in other words, the works of which he is the author, we shall be led to ascribe to him other attributes, particularly those of power, wisdom, and goodness, and consequently all the attributes which are necessarily connected with, and flow from, them.

If we call a being powerful, when he is able to produce great effects, or to accomplish great works, then we cannot avoid ascribing this attribute to God, as the author of every thing that we behold; and when we consider the apparent greatness, variety, and extent of the works of God, in the whole frame of nature; as in the sun, moon and stars; in the earth which we inhabit, and the vegetables and animals which it contains, together with the powers of reason and understanding possessed by man, we cannot suppose any effect to which the divine power is not equal, and therefore we are authorised to say that it is infinite, or capable of producing any thing, that is not in its own nature impossible; so that whatever purposes the divine being forms, he is always able to execute.

The designs of such a being as this, who cannot be controlled in the execution of any of his purposes, would be very obvious to us if we could comprehend his works, or see the issue of them; but this we cannot do with respect to the works of God, which are both incomprehensible to our finite understandings, and also are not yet compleated; for as far as they are subject to our inspection, they are evidently in a progress to something more perfect. Yet from the subordinate parts of this great machine of the universe, which we can in some measure understand, and which are compleated; and also from the manifest tendency of things, we may safely conclude, that the great design of the divine being, in all the works of his hands, was to produve happiness...

It is a considerable evidence of the goodness of God, that the inanimate parts of nature, as the surface of the earth, the air, water, salts, minerals, &c. are adapted to answer the purposes of vegetable and animal life, which abounds every where; and the former of these is evidently subservient to the latter; all the vegetables which we are acquainted with either directly contributing to the support of animal life or being, in some other way, useful to it; and all animals are furnished with a variety of appetites and powers, which continually prompt them to seek, and enable them to enjoy some kind of happiness.

It seems to be an evident argument that the author of all things intended the animal creation to be happy, that when their powers are at their full strength, and exercise, they are always happy; health and enjoyment having a natural and necessary connection through the whole system of nature; whereas it can hardly be imagined, but that a malevolent being, or one who should have made creatures with a design to make them miserable, would have constituted them so, that when any creature was the most perfect, it would have also been the most unhappy.

It agrees with the supposition of the benevolence of the divine being, that there is the most ample provision made for the happiness of those creatures which are naturally capable of the most enjoyment, particularly the human species. We have a far greater variety and extent of powers, both of action and enjoyment, than any other inhabitants of the earth; and the world abounds with more sources of happiness to us than any other order of beings upon it...

Priestley then goes on to argue that natural evils cannot be used to argue against the goodness of God, for the following reasons:

(i) things in nature which we call noxious may have good uses which are as yet unknown to us;

(ii) natural evils are only partial: they may be bad for this or that compoenent of the system of nature, but they are good for the system as a whole;

(iii) we shouldn't call any particular thing in the system of nature "bad" unless we are sure that we would be better off without it. Fire, for instance, can wreak great harm, but the benefits it brings are immense;

(iv) predation in the animal kingdom might seem difficult to reconcile with the goodness of God, but the alternatives are far more horrible. Without predators, the earth would rapidly be over-run with organisms, and life would rapidly die out;

(v) in any case, natural evils are the consequence of general laws, the benefits of which vastly outweigh the consequences. Without laws, the world would be a buzzing, blooming mass of confusion; and finally,

(vi) should it be objected that God could have made the world in some other way, or that He need not have created general laws, the reply can be made that when judging whether nature is the work of a benevolent Deity, the only fair way to answer the question is to ask if any thing in the system of nature could be made better while keeping the other components the same. If it cannot, then we have no right to complain about nature.

(c) Priestley affirmed the existence of an infinite, supernatural Deity in a scientific treatise

In the preface of his scientific treatise, Experiments and observations on different kinds of air, Priestley avowed his belief in an infinite God, whom he described as a governor and maker of the world - in other words, a supernatural being:

As to myself, I find it absolutely impossible to produce a work on this subject that shall be any thing like complete. My first publication I acknowledged to be very imperfect, and the present, I am as ready to acknowledge, is still more so. But, paradoxical as it may seem, this will ever be the case in the progress of natural science, so long as the works of God are, like himself, infinite and inexhaustible. (p. vi)

The best founded praise is that which is due to the man, who, from a supreme veneration for the God of nature, takes pleasure in contemplating his works and from a love of his fellow-creatures, as the offspring of the same all-wise and benevolent parent, with a grateful sense and perfect enjoyment of the means of happiness of which he is already possessed, seeks, with earnestness, but without murmuring or impatience, that greater command of the powers of nature which can only be obtained by a more extensive and more accurate knowledge of them; and which alone can enable us to avail ourselves of the numerous advantages with which we are surrounded, and contribute to make our common situation more secure and happy. (p. xii)

Besides, the man who believes that there is a governor as well as a maker of the world (and there is certainly equal reason to believe both) will acknowledge his providence and favour at least as much in a successful pursuit of knowledge as of wealth which is a sentiment that entirely puts off all boasting with respect to ourselves, and all envy and jealousy with respect to others and disposes us mutually to rejoice in every new light that we receive, through whose hands soever it be conveyed to us. (pp. xii-xiii)

This rapid progress of knowledge, which, like the progress of a wave of the sea, of sound, or of light from the sun, extends itself not this way or that way only, but in all directions, will, I doubt not, be the means, under God, of extirpating all error and prejudice, and of putting an end to all undue and usurped authority in the business of religion, as well as of science, and all the efforts of the interested friends of corrupt establishments of all kinds will be ineffectual for their support in this enlightened age: though, by retarding their downfall, they may make the final ruin of them more complete and glorious. (p. xiv)

From the foregoing, it should be clear that methodological naturalism would have been utterly alien to Priestley's way of thinking.

Recommended Reading
Priestley, J. 1794. The Institutes of Natural and Revealed Religion. London. Two volumes.

Priestley, J. 1820. The theological and miscellaneous works of Joseph Priestley, Volume 17. Priestley's Letters to M. Volney begin on page 113, and his Letter III to M. Volney begins on page 119.

Dybikowski, James. 2008. Joseph Priestley, Metaphysician and Philosopher of Religion. In Joseph Priestley, Scientist, Philosopher, and Theologian by Isabel Rivers and David L. Wykes. Oxford University Press. Chapter 3 (pp. 80-112).

Kingston, Elizabeth. 2008. Joseph Priestley (1733-1804). Article in The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Seeger, Raymond F. (NSF, retired). Priestley, Nonconformist Minister. From JASA 36 (December 1984): 241-242.

The Religious Affiliation of Chemist, Minister Joseph Priestley. Article at

(18) William Kirby, FRS (1759-1850), the father of entomology.

Who was he and what was he famous for?

William Kirby was an English entomologist, an original member of the Linnean Society and a Fellow of the Royal Society. He is considered the "founder of entomology".

How did he violate the principle of methodological naturalism?

According to his Wikipedia biography:

Kirby produced his first major work, the Monographia Apum Angliae (Monograph on the Bees of England), in 1802. His purpose was both scientific and religious:

'The author of Scripture is also the author of Nature: and this visible world, by types indeed, and by symbols, declares the same truths as the Bible does by words. To make the naturalist a religious man – to turn his attention to the glory of God, that he may declare his works, and in the study of his creatures may see the loving-kindness of the Lord – may this in some measure be the fruit of my work...' (Correspondence, 1800)

This, the first scientific treatise on English bees, brought him to the notice of leading entomologists in Britain and abroad...

In 1830 he was invited to write one of the Bridgewater Treatises, his subject being The History, Habits, and Instincts of Animals (2 vols., 1835).

Where's the evidence?

The following is a quote:

(19) Thomas Chalmers, FRS (1780-1847).

Who was he and what was he famous for?

Thomas Chalmers was a Scottish mathematician, astronomer, political economist, and a leader of the Free Church of Scotland.

How did he violate the principle of methodological naturalism?

According to Wikipedia:

A series of sermons on the relation between the discoveries of astronomy and the Christian revelation was published in January 1817, and within a year nine editions and 20,000 copies were in circulation. When he visited London Wilberforce wrote, "all the world is wild about Dr Chalmers."...

Chalmers' Bridgewater Treatise, in the series On the Power, Wisdom and Goodness of God as Manifested in the Adaptation of External Nature to the Moral and Intellectual Constitution of Man, appeared in two volumes 1833 and went through 6 editions. As noted by Robert M. Young, these books effectively represent an encyclopedia of pre-evolutionary natural history, commissioned and published whilst Charles Darwin was on board The Beagle.

In the department of natural theology and the Christian evidences he ably advocated that method of reconciling the Mosaic narrative with the indefinite antiquity of the globe which William Buckland (1784–1856) advanced in his Bridgewater Treatises, and which Dr. Chalmers had previously communicated to him. His refutation of David Hume's objection to the truth of miracles is perhaps his intellectual chef d'oeuvre.

Where's the evidence?

The following is a quote:

(20) Rev. Dr. William Buckland, (1784-1856), Fellow of The Royal Society, geologist and paleontologist.

Who was he and what was he famous for?

The Very Rev. Dr William Buckland DD FRS (12 March 1784 – 14 August 1856) was an English geologist, palaeontologist and Dean of Westminster. He also wrote the first full account of a fossil dinosaur, which he named Megalosaurus. The short biography of Buckland in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica lists his numerous contributions to geology and mineralogy.

How did he violate the principle of methodological naturalism?

He argued that geology could furnish proofs of a supernatural Deity, Who is one, intelligent, benevolent and infinite. He also spoke of science as "the efficient Auxiliary and Handmaid of Religion."

Where's the evidence?

The 8th Earl of Bridgewater, Francis Henry Egerton (1756-1829) left a sum of money in his will to direct leading scientists to write treatises "for the purpose of advancing arguments in favour of Natural Religion." William Buckland was commissioned to contribute one of the set of eight Bridgewater Treatises, "On the Power, Wisdom and Goodness of God, as manifested in the Creation". Buckland's treatise took him almost five years, and it was finally published in 1836 with the title, Geology and Mineralogy Considered with Reference to Natural Theology (London, William Pickering, two volumes).

(a) Buckland believed that the mathematical laws we find in the natural world attest to the existence of a Creator

In Chapter 23 of his scientific treatise, Buckland argued against atheism on scientific grounds, from the existence of universal laws of Nature which work together in harmony and which are admirably adapted to the economy of the natural world. Even if the universe were eternal, the existence of laws alone would be enough to establish the existence of a Designer of Nature:

When we have in this manner traced back all kinds of mineral bodies, to the first and most simple condition of their component Elements, we find these Elements to have been at all times regulated by the self-same system of fixed and universal laws, which still maintains the mechanism of the material world. In the operation of these laws we recognize such direct and constant subserviency of means to ends, so much of harmony, and order, and methodical arrangement, in the physical properties and proportional quantities, and chemical functions of the inorganic Elements, and we further see such convincing evidence of intelligence and foresight in the adaptation of these primordial Elements to an infinity of complex uses, under many future systems of animal and vegetable organizations, that we can find no reasonable account of the existence of all this beautiful and exact machinery, if we accept not that which would refer its origin to the antecedent Will and Power of a Supreme Creator; a Being, whose nature is confessedly incomprehensible to our finite faculties, but whom the "things which do appear" proclaim to be supremely Wise, and Great, and Good.

To attribute all this harmony and order to any fortuitous causes that would exclude Design, would be to reject conclusions founded on that kind of evidence, on which the human mind reposes with undoubting confidence in all the ordinary business of life, as well as in physical and metaphysical investigations...

Such was the interrogatory of the Roman Moralist [Cicero], arising from his contemplation of the obvious phenomena, of the natural world; and the conclusion of Bentley from a wider view of more recondite phenomena, in an age remarkable for the advancement of some of the highest branches of Physical Science, has been most abundantly confirmed by the manifold discoveries of a succeeding century. We therefore of the present age have a thousand additional reasons to affirm with him, that "though universal matter should have endured from everlasting, divided into infinite particles in the Epicurean way, and though motion should have been coeval and coeternal with it; yet those particles or atoms could never of themselves, by omnifarious kinds of motion, whether fortuitous or mechanical, have fallen, or been disposed into this or a like visible system." * — Bentley, Serm. vi. of Atheism, p. 192.

(b) Buckland also believed that the laws of the natural world point to the unity of the Creator

In the Conclusion (Chapter 24) to his geological treatise, Buckland goes further, and attempts to derive, on purely scientific grounds, the attributes of the Designer of Nature. The systematic recurrence of various designs in Nature, coupled with their mathematical order, point to their having been produced by one and the same Creator:

Chapter XXIV

IN our last Chapter we have considered the Nature of the Evidence afforded by unorganized mineral bodies, in proof of the existence of design in the original adaptation of the material Elements to their various functions, in the inorganic and organic departments of the Natural World, and have seen that the only sufficient Explanation we can discover, of the orderly and wonderful dispositions of the material Elements "in measure and number and weight," throughout the terraqueous globe, is that which refers the origin of every thing above us, and beneath us, and around us, to the will and workings of One Omnipotent Creator. If the properties imparted to these Elements at the moment of their Creation, adapted them beforehand to the infinity of complicated useful purposes, which they have already answered, and may have further still to answer, under many successive Dispensations in the material World, such an aboriginal constitution so far from superseding an intelligent Agent, would only exalt our conceptions of the consummate skill and power, that could comprehend such an infinity of future uses under future systems, in the original groundwork of his Creation...

We have moreover seen such a systematic recurrence of analogous Designs, producing various ends by various combinations of Mechanism, multiplied almost to infinity in their details of application, yet all constructed on the same few common fundamental principles which pervade the living forms of organized Beings, that we reasonably conclude all these past and present contrivances to be parts of a comprehensive and connected whole, originating in the Will and Power of one and the same Creator.

Had the number or nature of the material Elements appeared to have been different under former conditions of the Earth, or had the Laws which have regulated the phenomena of inorganic matter, been subjected to change at various Epochs, during the progress of the many formations of which Geology takes cognizance, there might indeed have been proofs of Wisdom and Power in such unconnected phenomena, but they would have been insufficient to demonstrate the Unity and Universal Agency of the same eternal and supreme First Cause of all things.

Again, had Geology gone no further than to prove the existence of multifarious examples of Design, its evidences would indeed have been decisive against the Atheist; but if such Design had been manifested only by distinct and dissimilar systems of Organization, and independent Mechanisms, connected together by no analogies, and bearing no relations to one another, or to any existing types in the Animal or Vegetable kingdoms, these demonstrations of Design, although affording evidence of Intelligence and Power, would not have proved a common origin in the Will of one and the same Creator; and the Polytheist might have appealed to such non-accordant and inharmonious systems, as affording indications of the agency of many independent Intelligences, and as corroborating his theory of a plurality of Gods.

But the argument which would infer an Unity of cause, from unity of effects, repeated through various and complex systems of organization widely remote from each other in time and place and circumstances, applies with accumulative force, when we not only can expand the details of facts on which it is founded, over the entire surface of the present world, but are enabled to comprehend in the same category all the various extinct forms of many preceding systems of or ganization, which we find entombed within the bowels of the Earth. It was well observed by Paley, respecting the variations we find in living species of Plants and Animals, in distant regions and under various climates, that "We never get amongst such original or totally different modes of Existence, as to indicate that we are come into the province of a different Creator, or under the direction of a different Will"*....

In all the numerous examples of Design which we have selected from the various animal and vegetable remains, that occur in a fossil state, there is such a never failing Identity in the fundamental principles of their construction, and such uniform adoption of analogous means, to produce various ends, with so much only of departure from one common type of mechanism, as was requisite to adapt each instrument to its own especial function, and to fit each Species to its peculiar place and office in the scale of created Beings, that we can scarcely fail to acknowledge in all these facts, a demonstration of the Unity of the Intelligence, in which such transcendant Harmony originated; and we may almost dare to assert that neither Atheism nor Polytheism would ever have found acceptance in the World, had the evidences of high Intelligence and of Unity of Design, which are disclosed by modern discoveries in physical science, been fully known to the Authors, or the Abettors of Systems to which they are so diametrically opposed. "It is the same hand writing that we read, the same system and contrivance that we trace, the same unity of object, and relation to final causes, which we see maintained throughout, and constantly proclaiming the Unity of the great divine Original."*...

(c) Buckland believed that geology could support the claims of Natural Theology

In the Conclusion (Chapter 24) to his geological treatise, Buckland also argued that geology had rendered a service to theology, by establishing that the world had not existed forever, as many atheists contended:

It has been stated in our Sixth Chapter, on primary stratified rocks, that Geology has rendered an important service to Natural Theology, in demonstrating by evidences peculiar to itself; that there was a time when none of the existing forms of organic beings had appeared upon our Planet, and that the doctrines of the derivation of living species either by Development and Transmutation from other species, or by an Eternal Succession from preceding individuals of the same species, without any evidence of a Beginning or prospect of an End, has no where been met by so full an answer, as that afforded by the phenomena, of fossil Organic Remains.

In the course of our enquiry, we have found abundant proofs, both of the Beginning and the End of several successive systems of animal and vegetable life; each compelling us to refer its origin to the direct agency of Creative Interference...

(d) Buckland on the dividing line between science and religion

In the Conclusion (Chapter 24) to his geological treatise, Buckland also addressed the dividing line between science and religion. Buckland held that science, led by the light of reason, could establish the existence and fundamental attributes of a supreme Creator of the universe - a view that immediately puts him at odds with the tenets of methodological naturalism. What science could not do was tell us anything about the revelations which such a Creator might want to make to His human creatures. For Buckland, then, God-talk was perfectly acceptable within science; what was not allowed was the invocation of science to establish the truth of a particular religion:

The disappointment which many minds experience, at finding in the phenomena of the natural world no indications of the will of God, respecting the moral conduct or future prospects of the human race, arises principally from an indistinct and mistaken view of the respective provinces of Reason and Revelation.

By the exercise of our Reason, we discover abundant evidences of the Existence, and of some of the Attributes of a supreme Creator, and apprehend the operations of many of the second causes or instrumental agents, by which He upholds the mechanism of the material World; but here its province ends: respecting the subjects on which, above all others, it concerns mankind to be well informed, namely, the will of God in his moral government, and the future prospects of the human race, Reason only assures us of the absolute need in which we stand of a Revelation. Many of the greatest proficients in philosophy have felt and expressed these distinctions. "The consideration of God's Providence (says Boyle) in the conduct of things corporeal may prove to a well-disposed Contemplator, a Bridge, whereon he may pass from Natural to Revealed Religion."

"Next (says Locke) to the knowledge of one God, Maker of all things, a clear knowledge of their duty was wanting to mankind."

And He, whose name, by the consent of nations, is above all praise, the inventor and founder of the Inductive Philosophy, thus breathes forth his pious meditation, "Thy creatures have been my books, but thy scriptures much more. I have sought thee in the courts, fields, and gardens, but I have found thee in thy temples." Bacon's Works, V 4. fol. p. 487....

Having then this broad line marked out before us, and with a clear and perfect understanding, as to what we ought, and what we ought not to expect from the discoveries of Natural Philosophy, we may strenuously pursue our labours in the fruitful fields of Science, under the full assurance that we shall gather a rich and abundant harvest, fraught with endless evidences of the existence, and wisdom, and power, and goodness of the Creator.

"The Philosopher (says Professor Babbage) has conferred on the Moralist an obligation of surpassing weight; in unveiling to him the living miracles which teem in rich exuberance around the minutest atom, as wel1 as through the largest masses of ever active matter, he has placed before him resistless evidence of immeasurable design."

"See only (says Lord Brougham) in what contemplations the wisest of men end their most sublime enquiries! Mark where it is that a Newton finally reposes after piercing the thickest veil that envelopes nature — grasping and arresting in their course the most subtle of her elements and the swiftest — traversing the regions of boundless space — exploring worlds beyond the solar way — giving out the law which binds the universe in eternal order! He rests, as by an inevitable necessity, upon the contemplation of the great First Cause, and holds it his highest glory to have made the evidence of his existence, and the dispensations of his power and of his wisdom better understood by men."*....

(e) Buckland viewed science as the handmaid of religion

Buckland finishes his geological treatise with a ringing declaration that science was "the efficient Auxiliary and Handmaid of Religion" - words which should conclusively lay to rest any claim that at the time when he wrote (1837), methodological naturalism was considered part-and-parcel of science:

Shall it any longer then be said, that a science, which unfolds such abundant evidence of the Being and Attributes of God, can reasonably be viewed in any other light than as the efficient Auxiliary and Handmaid of Religion? Some few there still may be, whom timidity or prejudice or want of opportunity allow not to examine its evidence who are alarmed by the novelty, or surprised by the extent and magnitude of the views which Geology forces on their attention, and who would rather have kept closed the volume of witness, which has been sealed up for ages beneath the surface of the earth, than impose on the student in Natural Theology the duty of investigating its contents; a duty, in which for lack of experience they may anticipate a hazardous or a laborious task, but which by those engaged in it is found to afford a ratiunal and righteous and delightful exercise of their highest faculties, in multiplying the evidences of the Existence and attributes and Providence of God.*

The alarm however which was excited by the novelty of its first discoveries has well nigh passed away; and those to whom it has been permitted to he the humble instruments of their promulgation, and who have steadily persevered, under the firm assurance that "Truth can never be opposed to Truth," and that the works of God when rightly understood, and viewed in their true relations, and from a right position, would at length be found to be in perfect accordance with his Word, are now receiving their high reward, in finding difficulties vanish, objections gradually withdrawn, and in seeing the evidences of Geology admitted into the list of witnesses to the truth of the great fundamental doctrines of Theology.*

The whole course of the enquiry which we have now conducted to its close, has shewn that the physical history of our globe, in which some have seen only Waste, Disorder, and Confusion, teems with endless examples of Economy, and Order, and Design; and the result of all our researches, carried back through the unwritten records of past time, has been to fix more steadily our assurance of the Existence of One supreme Creator of all things, to exalt more highly our conviction of the immensity of his Perfections, of his Might, and Majesty, his Wisdom, and Good ness, and all sustaining Providence; and to penetrate our understanding with a profound and sensible perception,* of the "high Veneration man's intellect owes to God."

The Earth from her deep foundations unites with the celestial orbs that roll through boundless space, to declare the glory and shew forth the praise of their common Author and Preserver; and the voice of Natural Religion accords harmoniously with the testimonies of Revelation, in ascribing the origin of the Universe to the will of One eternal, and dominant Intelligence, the Almighty Lord and supreme first cause of all things that subsist — "the same yesterday, to-day and for ever" — "before the Mountains were brought forth, or ever the Earth and the World were made, God from everlasting and world without End."

(21) Adam Sedgwick, FRS (1785-1873), one of the founders of modern geology.

Who was he and what was he famous for?

Adam Sedgwick was one of the founders of modern geology. He proposed the Devonian period of the geological timescale. Later, he proposed the Cambrian period, based on work which he did on Welsh rock strata.

How did he violate the principle of methodological naturalism?

According to Wikipedia:

Where's the evidence?

The following is a quote:

(22) William Prout, FRS (1785-1850), one of the founders of modern geology.

Who was he and what was he famous for?

William Prout FRS was an English chemist, physician, and natural theologian. He is remembered today mainly for what is called Prout's hypothesis.

How did he violate the principle of methodological naturalism?

According to Wikipedia:

Prout wrote the eighth Bridgewater Treatise, Chemistry, Meteorology, and the Function of Digestion, considered with reference to Natural Theology.

Where's the evidence?

The following is a quote:

(23) Charles Babbage (1791-1871), the inventor of the world's first mechanical computer.

Charles Babbage. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Who was he and what was he famous for?

Charles Babbage was an English mathematician, philosopher, inventor and mechanical engineer who originated the concept of a programmable computer, and invented the first mechanical computer.

How did he violate the principle of methodological naturalism?

I take it that my readers will agree that a scientist who attempts to show, on rigorous mathematical grounds, that it is possible to prove the truth of a miracle, cannot be called a methodological naturalist. Such a man was the mathematician and computer scientist, Charles Babbage.

Where's the evidence?

Dr. David Coppedge informs us of the theological motivation for Babbage writing his Ninth Bridgewater Treatise (2nd ed., London, 1838; digitized for the Victorian Web by Dr. John van Wyhe and proof-read by George P. Landow) in his masterly online work, THE WORLD'S GREATEST CREATION SCIENTISTS From Y1K to Y2K:

The Earl of Bridgewater had left a sum of money in his will to direct leading scientists to write treatises "for the purpose of advancing arguments in favour of Natural Religion." By the time Babbage was 46 and fully involved in developing his calculating machine, eight prominent British scientists had published their entries in what had become a well-known and popular set of books, the Bridgewater Treatises. The suite included works by the Rev. Dr. Thomas Chalmers on "The Adaptation of External Nature to the Intellectual and Moral Constitution of Man," William Buckland on geology, William Whewell on astronomy and physics, William Kirby on zoology, John Kidd on the same subject as Chalmers, Charles Bell on design in the human hand, and Peter Mark Roget on animal and vegetable physiology. Perhaps Babbage felt the series need a ninth, like the Beethoven Symphonies, so in 1837 he added his own unofficial submission. He said, "I have, however, thought, that in furthering the intentions of the testator, by publishing some reflections on that subject, I might be permitted to connect with them a title which has now become familiarly associated, in the public mind, with the evidences in favour of Natural Religion."

Employing his skill at mathematics and statistics, Babbage tackled the subject of the Biblical miracles: specifically, to counter the arguments of David Hume who had called miracles violations of natural law, and therefore impossible. Though slightly off topic from the rest of the series, Babbage felt "I was led so irresistibly, by the very nature of the illustrations employed in the former argument [of the first eight treatises], to the view there proposed, that I trust to being excused for having ventured one step beyond the strict limits of that argument, by entering on the first connecting link between natural religion and revelation." In other words, he wanted to take the arguments of natural theology beyond the conclusion of an unspecified Designer, and link them to the historical accounts in Scripture. Babbage set out to prove mathematically that the Biblical miracles were not necessarily violations of natural law.

Babbage's Ninth Bridgewater Treatise (hereafter, NBT) is available online and makes for interesting reading ... Most interesting is his rebuttal to the arguments of David Hume (1711-1776), the skeptical philosopher who had created quite a stir with his seemingly persuasive argument against miracles. Again, it was based on the Newtonian obsession with natural law. Hume argued that it is more probable that those claiming to have seen a miracle were either lying or deceived than that the regularity of nature had been violated. Babbage knew a lot more about the mathematics of probability than Hume. In chapter X of NBT, Babbage applied numerical values to the question, chiding Hume for his subjectivity. A quick calculation proves that if there were 99 reliable witnesses to the resurrection of a man from the dead (and I Corinthians 15:6 claims there were over 500), the probability is a trillion to one against the falsehood of their testimony, compared to the probability of one in 200 billion against anyone in the history of the world having been raised from the dead. This simple calculation shows it takes more faith to deny the miracle than to accept the testimony of eyewitnesses. Thus Babbage renders specious Hume's assertion that the improbabiliy of a miracle could never be overcome by any number of witnesses. Apply the math, and the results do not support that claim, Babbage says: "From this it results that, provided we assume that independent witnesses can be found of whose testimony it can be stated that it is more probable that it is true than that it is false, we can always assign a number of witnesses which will, according to Hume's argument, prove the truth of a miracle." (Italics in original.) Babbage takes his conquest of Hume so far that by Chapter XIII, he argues that "It is more probable that any law, at the knowledge of which we have arrived by observation, shall be subject to one of those violations which, according to Hume’s definition, constitutes a miracle, than that it should not be so subjected."

The heart of NBT [the Ninth Bridgewater Treatise - VJT] is an argument that miracles do not violate natural law, using Babbage's own concept of a calculating machine. This forms an engaging thought experiment. With his own Analytical Engine undoubtedly fresh on his mind, he asks the reader to imagine a calculating engine that might show very predictable regularity, even for billions of iterations, such as a machine that counts integers. Then imagine it suddenly jumps to another natural law, which again repeats itself with predictable regularity. If the designer of the engine had made it that way on purpose, it would show even more intelligent design than if it only continued counting integers forever. Babbage extends his argument through several permutations, to the point where he convinces the reader that it takes more intelligence to design a general purpose calculating engine that can operate reliably according to multiple natural laws, each known to the designer, each predictable by the designer, than to design a simple machine that mindlessly clicks away according to a single law. So here we see Babbage employing his own specialty – the general-purpose calculating machine – to argue his point. He concluded, therefore, as he reiterated in his later autobiographical work Passages from the Life of a Philosopher (1864), miracles are not “the breach of established laws, but... indicate the existence of far higher laws."

I'd like to close by making a couple of comments. First, the mere fact that in the nineteenth century, the Earl of Bridgewater could leave a sum of money in his will to direct leading scientists to write treatises "for the purpose of advancing arguments in favour of Natural Religion" proves beyond a doubt that methodological naturalism was not yet considered part-and-parcel of science.

Second, the fact that a scientist like Babbage could write a treatise with the express aim of refuting skeptical arguments against the possibility of miracles, without attracting any criticism from his fellow-scientists for doing so, points to just how different the scientific Zeitgeist was, back in 1837.

(24) Edward Hitchcock, FRS (1793-1864).

Who was he and what was he famous for?

Edward Hitchcock was a noted American geologist and the third President of Amherst College (1845–1854).

How did he violate the principle of methodological naturalism?

According to Wikipedia:

Where's the evidence?

The following is a quote from by J. David Archibald:

(25) William Whewell (1794-1866), the polymath who coined the word "scientist."

Who was he and what was he famous for?

William Whewell was an English polymath, scientist, Anglican priest, philosopher, theologian, and historian of science. He was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge.

How did he violate the principle of methodological naturalism?

According to Wikipedia:

Where's the evidence?

The following is a quote:

(26) Richard Owen (1804-1892), the Victorian naturalist.

Richard Owen. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Who was he and what was he famous for?

Richard Owen was a nineteenth century English biologist, anatomist and paleontologist. In his day, he was considered to be the world's greatest living naturalist, and he published more than 600 books and papers during his lifetime. Owen was the driving force behind the establishment of the British Museum of Natural History in London, in 1881.

How did he violate the principle of methodological naturalism?

He held that the unity of plan in animals' body types testified to the oneness of their Creator, while the various modifications in that plan argue for His beneficence. The analogy of man-made machines could explain the purpose of some organs in animals; while others had a higher purpose, as illustrations of an Idea, or Exemplar, in the Mind of God.

Where's the evidence?

Richard Owen was a complex character, whose views on origins cannot be easily pigeonholed. Owen was not a special creationist; he was quite willing to accept that the Creator may have generated new species through the action of secondary causes, and as early as 1849, he declared his belief that evolution had occurred as a result of natural laws. Unlike Darwin, Owen considered evolution to be an internally directed process, rather than an undirected process: he ascribed the origin of new species to "an innate tendency to deviate from parental type" (On the Anatomy and Physiology of the Vertebrates, III, p. 807), rather than the selective action of external circumstances. Owen advanced the view that animals conformed to certain basic plans or archetypes, in their anatomical characteristics, and that these archetypes could be used to classify animals. For Owen, the archetypes could also be understood in a Platonic sense, as ideas in the Mind of God, who created the universe with certain built-in laws that guaranteed the emergence of certain biological forms over the course of time.

(a) Owen explicitly construed archetypes as ideas in the Mind of God, in his scientific writings

The theological implications of Owen's views are spelt out in a fascinating essay by Vaclav Petr (Zoological Library, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Prague) entitled, British metaphysics as reflected in Robert Broom's evolutionary theory:

Interested in Cuvier's work on functional adaptation as well as German non-materialistic science (idealism of romantic Naturphilosophie) of form, Owen advanced the idea of synthesis between functionalism and transcendentalism in vertebrate palaeontology. The latter, transcendental aspect of the biological form (intrinsic structural order of it), was prime for Owen. He suggested that organismal morphologies are variants on perfect or ideal forms (Archetypes or "primal patterns" as the First Cause) and proposed the so-called 'secondary causes' (metagenesis) which were the means of "translating the Word into flesh" (meaning exactly the paraphrase of the New Testament, John 1, 14).

In his 1849 work, On the Nature of Limbs (J. van Voorst, London), Owen hinted at his belief in the evolution of human beings from fish, but ascribed this evolution to the unfolding of an archetype implanted in Nature by God:

To what natural laws or secondary causes the orderly succession and progression of such organic phenomena may have been committed we as yet are ignorant. But if, without derogation of the Divine power, we may conceive the existence of such ministers, and personify them by the term 'Nature', we learn from the past history of our globe that she has advanced with slow and stately steps, guided by the archetypal light, amidst the wreck of worlds, from the first embodiment of the Vertebrate idea, under its old Ichthyic vestment, until it became arrayed in the glorious garb of the human form.
(1849, p. 86. This was the closing paragraph of Richard Owen's 1849 address, On the nature of limbs, delivered to the Royal Institution of Great Britain and published that same year.)

Vaclav Petr, in his essay on Robert Broom, which I cited above, highlights Owen's belief in an Intelligent First Cause who designed Nature to accomplish its ends through the agency of laws pertaining to form, rather than simple mechanical laws:

In his Palaeontology, Richard Owen has pointed out that everywhere "in organic nature we see the means not only subservient to an end, but that end accomplished by the simplest means. Hence we are compelled to regard the Great Cause of all, not like certain philosophic ancients, anima mundi, but as an active and anticipating intelligence." And he concluded that "we not only show intelligence evoking means adapted to the end; but, at successive times and periods, producing a change of mechanism adapted to a change in external conditions. Thus the highest generalizations in the science of organic bodies, like the Newtonian laws of universal matter, lead to the unequivocal conviction of a great First Cause, which is certainly not mechanical." (Owen 1860).
[The quotations are taken from pages 413 and 414 respectively of Owen's 1860 work, Palaeontology, or a Systematic Summary of Extinct Animals and Their Geological Relations, Adam and Charles Black, Edinburgh. - VJT.]

The thinking here, as Nicolaas Rupke explains in his work, Richard Owen: Biology Without Darwin (University of Chicago Press, 2009), is that human machines, unlike the bodies of animals, are not built according to a common plan, as their design is wholly determined by the end or function for which they are built. Animals, by contrast, are defined by their form:

Form rather than function leads us to the conclusion of design in Nature. The pectoral fin of the dugong, used for swimming, the forelimb of the mole, employed as a trowel, the wing of the bat, which makes flight possible, or the foreleg of the horse, made for running, all contain the same set of bony pieces. This fact could not be explained by function. Take, for example, human machines, each operating in a different medium. They share no common ground plan. "There is no community of plan or structure between the boat and the balloon, between Stephenson's locomotive engine and Brunel's tunneling machinery: a very remote analogy, if any, can be traced between the instruments designed by man to travel in the air and on the sea, through the earth or along its surface."(74) The presence of such a common plan, as in the forelimbs of all animals, carries our thoughts beyond functional adaptations to a "deep and pregnant principle in philosophy," namely "some archetypal exemplar on which it has pleased the Creator to frame certain of His living creatures."(75)
(Rupke, 2009, p. 112)

(74) Owen, R. 1849. On the Nature of Limbs, J. van Voorst, London, p. 10.
(75) Owen, R. 1860. Palaeontology, or a Systematic Summary of Extinct Animals and Their Geological Relations, Adam and Charles Black, Edinburgh. p. 172.

The foregoing remarks explain Owen's remark that "The fallacy lies in judging of created organs by the analogy of made machines" (Owen, R. 1849. On the Nature of Limbs, J. van Voorst, London, p. 85). For Owen, the mechanical analogy failed to do justice to these organs: they were not merely mechanisms, but embodiments of forms. As an Intelligent Design proponent, I think Owen is correct here: nevertheless, when we look at the components of the cell, we do indeed find biological machines which are exquisitely adapted for their function.

(b) The theological motivations underlying Owen's scientific work

In recent years, some of Owen's biographers have questioned the sincerity of Owen's religious convictions, pointing out that Owen's structuralism, with its focus on form rather than teleology, had attracted theological criticism from Oxbridge Paleyites, to whom it smacked of pantheism, and suggesting that after 1848, Owen made the decision to "Christianize" his concept of archetype by construing it as an idea in the mind of God, purely in order to advance his career. To my mind, these suggestions sound extremely cynical. It should also be recalled that at that time, belief in God was almost universal, even among scientists; and Owen, with his British empiricist training, had no leanings towards pantheism, in any case. Finally, what these biographers overlook is the theological outlook that pervaded Owen's later scientific controversies with Huxley regarding the uniqueness of the human brain: for Owen, it was precisely because he believed that man possessed unique mental capabilities, and additionally that any such unique capabilities must be based in some unique anatomical structure or structures, that he inferred that man could be distinguished from the anthropoid apes by unique structures in his brain - a point on which Huxley, aided by William Henry Flower, proved him wrong.

One scholar who fully appreciated the theological motivations behind Owen's scientific work was Adrian Desmond, who situated in its contemporary context in his masterly work, Archetypes and Ancestors: Palaeontology in Victorian London, 1850-1875 (Blond & Briggs Ltd., London, 1982):

"Owen needed a sensible alternative to transmutation embedded in a non-materialist framework, and he too turned to German transcendentalism, which he blended and muted with a liberal appeal to law. Far from the sterile hybrid that Huxley would have us believe, the union was astonishingly productive. First, it gave him the ideal Archetype, the 'primal pattern' on which all vertebrates were based. This was a kind of creative blueprint, "what Plato would have called the 'Divine Idea'". In practical terms, it was simply a picture of a generalised or schematic vertebrate; but this in itself provided him with a standard by which to gauge the degree of specialisation of fossil life, and in 1853 he saw it as an indispensable aid in determining the true pattern of emergence 'of new living species'." (Desmond 1982, p. 43.)

"The moral purpose behind Owen's science is clear: to prove that Man was in the Divine Mind at the time of Creation. Owen knew of course that not all fossil lines pointed the human way, in fact only one of many did - still, there was a timeless purpose behind nature's veneer. Romanticism this was, though of a typical British variety: shadows of change masked an eternal truth, a preordained Plan. But Owen was never one to accept the panpsychic mysticism of the German nature-philosophers, under the influence of F. W. J. Schelling, the Prince of Romantics. For Schelling nature was immanent in God and the Divine Intelligence reached out to express itself through a kind of cosmic poetry. Owen denied that the 'Great Cause of all ' was an 'all-pervading anima mundi', the more pointedly, perhaps, because Schelling had actually pleaded guilty to a sort of pantheism, and Owen himself had been accused of it by Puseyites. Rather, his God was a traditional British craftsman working to a blueprint." (Desmond 1982, pp. 47-48.)

(c) Owen argued for the goodness of God in a science textbook

In his work, The Principal Forms of the Skeleton and Teeth (Philadelphia: Blanchard and Lea, 1854), Owen put forward scientific evidence in support of his theory that animals conformed to certain basic plans or archetypes, in their anatomical features. In the same work, Owen also argued that these plans illustrate God's beneficence:

Of the nature of the creative acts by which the successive races of animals were called into being, we are ignorant. But this we know, that as the evidence of unity of plan testifies to the oneness of the Creator, so the modifications of the plan for different modes of existence illustrate the beneficence of the Designer. Those structures, moreover, which are at present incomprehensible as adaptations to a special end, are made comprehensible on a higher principle, and a final purpose is gained in relation to human intelligence; for in the instances where the analogy of humanly invented machines fails to explain the structure of a divinely created organ, such organ does not exist in vain if its truer comprehension, in relation to the Divine idea, or prime Exemplar, lead rational beings to a better conception of their own origin and Creator. (p. 228)

Taken together, the terminology Owen uses ("Creator," "Designer," "Divine idea") makes it quite clear that Owen is envisaging a supernatural Being. This places him firmly in opposition to methodological naturalism.

Recommended Reading

Richard Owen: Biology Without Darwin by Nicolaas Rupke.

On the Nature of Limbs: A Discourse by Richard Owen. Edited by Ron Amundson. With a Preface by Brian K. Hall. Paperback edition. University Of Chicago Press, 2008.

Appendix B: A Criticism on Prof. Owen's Theory of the Vertebrate Skeleton by Herbert Spencer, in The Works of Herbert Spencer, Vol. 3: The Principles of Biology, Vol. 2 by Herbert Spencer. (Otto Zeller, Osnabruck, Germany, 1966). pp. 548-566.

Accounting for Vertebrate Limbs: From Owen's Homology to Novelty in Evo-Devo by Ingo Brigandt. A review of Richard Owen's On the Nature of Limbs: A Discourse, edited by Ron Amundson, University of Chicago Press, 2007.

"Owen, Richard." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. 2008. Retrieved March 20, 2012 from

Richard Owen's archetype by Roberto Keller. Blog article. March 4, 2009.

Richard Owen. Selected quotations from Owen's writings, by Vaclav Petr.

Jettison the Arguments, or the Rule? The Place of Darwinian Theological Themata in Evolutionary Reasoning by Paul A. Nelson. Access Research Network.

(27) Louis Agassiz (1807-1873), Harvard paleontologist.

Louis Agassiz. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Who was he and what was he famous for?

Louis Agassiz was a Swiss paleontologist, glaciologist, geologist and a prominent innovator in the study of the Earth's natural history. He grew up in Switzerland and became a professor of natural history at University of Neuchâtel. Later, he accepted a professorship at Harvard University in the United States.

How did he violate the principle of methodological naturalism?

He argued that evidence of an Intelligent Creator can be clearly seen in the natural world.

Where's the evidence?

Louis Agassiz: Anti-Darwinist Harvard Paleontology Professor by Dr. Jerry Bergman.

A founding father of the modern American scientific establishment, Agassiz was also a lifelong opponent of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. Agassiz "ruled in professorial majesty at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology."

[He] was a, an essentialist who detested evolutionism—Darwin's brand in particular—and clung to a vision of well-ordered nature assembled by special creations. The zoology of Agassiz was consonant with the natural theology of William Paley.1

Agassiz wrote that “evidence of the existence of a Creator, constantly and thoughtfully working among the complicated structures that He has made” is found throughout the natural world.2 He concluded that in the living world "is clearly seen the intervention of an intelligent Creator" and that when we evaluate the living world we can see "the mental operations of the Creator at every step."3...

Agassiz concluded from his lifelong study of nature that purpose and design were manifested everywhere in nature.6 He noted that if it required an intelligent mind just to study the facts of biology, “it must have required an intelligent mind to establish them.”7 Following his famous teacher Cuvier, he asserted that the major groups of animals do not represent ancestral branches of a hypothetical evolutionary tree but, instead, document a great plan that was used by the Creator to design the many different species in existence today....

Agassiz saw the divine plan of God omnipresent in nature, and could not accept a theory that denied the intelligent design he saw everywhere in the natural world. Agassiz even once defined a species as "a thought of God." As Agassiz wrote in his Essay on Classification, his lifelong study of the natural world eloquently documented the "premeditation, power, wisdom, greatness, prescience, omniscience, providence" of God. He declared that "all these facts in their natural connection proclaim aloud the One God, whom man may know, adore, and love; and Natural History must in good time become the analysis of the thoughts of the Creator of the Universe."13

Long before the mutational theory of evolution was popularized, Agassiz foresaw the overwhelmingly harmful nature of mutations and the inability of “selection” to produce new life forms.16 He recognized that the problem with Darwinism was not the survival of the fittest, but rather the arrival of the fittest...

Darwin sent Agassiz a copy of his now-famous Origin of Species published in 1859. Although very "familiar with the factual evidence advanced by Darwin," Agassiz carefully examined his ideas and the evidence on which they were based. As Agassiz studied the Origin, "mounting annoyance" resulted as he continued to read because he recognized that the "ideas it contained were plainly no different from the notions... he had long since rejected."18

Two years after Origin was published, Agassiz wrote that Darwin's theory was scientifically wrong and was "propounded by some very learned but... rather fanciful scientific men" who taught that the forms of life presently inhabiting our earth “had grown out of a comparative simple and small beginning."19 Agassiz concluded that a great variety of evidence discovered in times past has refuted evolutionary theory. He considered this fact based on his paleontological research "a most powerful blow at that theory which would make us believe that all the animals have been derived from a few original beings, which have become diversified and varied in [the] course of time."20

(28) James Joule (1818-1889), known for the First Law of Thermodynamics.

James Joule. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Who was he and what was he famous for?

James Joule was an English physicist (and brewer) who studied the nature of heat and discovered its relationship to mechanical work, which led to the formulation of the law of the conservation of energy (with which he and Helmholtz are jointly credited). This law is also known as the first law of thermodynamics.

How did he violate the principle of methodological naturalism?

His own writings make it clear that his original belief in the law of the conservation of energy was theologically driven: "Believing that the power to destroy belongs to the Creator alone I affirm ... that any theory which, when carried out, demands the annihilation of force, is necessarily erroneous." Along with 85 other Fellows of the Royal Society, he also signed a remarkable manifesto entitled The Declaration of Students of the Natural and Physical Sciences, issued in London in 1864, in which the signatories affirmed their confidence in the scientific integrity of the Holy Scriptures.

Where's the evidence?

I'd like to thank Ann Lamont of Answers in Genesis for her 1993 article, The Great Experimenter Who Was Guided by God, from which the following excerpt is taken.


James Prescott Joule was born at Salford, near Manchester, England, on December 24, 1818. He was the second of five children born to a wealthy brewery owner...

James was educated at home until he was 15. He then went to work in the family brewery. However, he and his older brother continued their education part-time with private tutors in Manchester.

From 1834 until 1837, they were taught chemistry, physics, the scientific method, and mathematics by the famous English chemist John Dalton. (Like James Joule, Dalton was a Bible-believing Christian.) James gratefully acknowledged the key role that Dalton played in his becoming a scientist...

When their father became ill, James and his brother took over running the brewery. James therefore did not have the opportunity to attend university. However, his great desire was to continue to study science, so he set up a laboratory in his home and began experimenting before and after work each day. James saw this desire to study science as a natural consequence of his Christian faith. As he later wrote, 'it is evident that an acquaintance with natural laws means no less than an acquaintance with the mind of God therein expressed.'2

The principle of energy conservation involved in Joule's work gave rise to the new scientific discipline known as thermodynamics. While Joule was not the first scientist to suggest this principle, he was the first to demonstrate its validity... Joule's principle of energy conservation formed the basis of the first law of thermodynamics. This law states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but it can be changed from one form into another. Isaac Asimov called this law 'one of the most important generalizations in the history of science.'4 It means that the total amount of energy (including matter) in the universe is constant. As S.M. Huse points out in his book, The Collapse of Evolution, 'This law teaches conclusively that the universe did not create itself! ... The present structure of the universe is one of conservation, not innovation as required by the theory of evolution.'5

Joule was aware of the religious implications of his findings. He wrote that 'it is manifestly absurd to suppose that the powers with which God has endowed matter can be destroyed any more than they can be created by man’s agency.'6 The law of conservation of energy was completely consistent with the Bible, whereas Joule considered that some aspects of the caloric theory had not been consistent with the Bible.

On another occasion, Joule wrote that 'the phenomena of nature, whether mechanical, chemical, or vital, consist almost entirely in a continual conversion ... into one another. Thus it is that order is maintained in the universe - nothing is deranged, nothing ever lost, but the entire machinery, complicated as it is, works smoothly and harmoniously ... the whole being governed by the sovereign will of God.'7

He saw no contradiction between his work as a scientist and his confidence in the truth of the Bible. Many of his fellow scientists shared his views. 'In response to the tide of Darwinism then sweeping the country ... 717 scientists signed a remarkable manifesto entitled The Declaration of Students of the Natural and Physical Sciences, issued in London in 1864. This declaration affirmed their confidence in the scientific integrity of the Holy Scriptures. The list included 86 Fellows of the Royal Society.'9 James Joule was among the more prominent of the scientists who signed the document.

2. J.P. Joule, in a paper found with his scientific notebooks, as cited in: J.G. Crowther, British Scientists of the Nineteenth Century, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1962, p. 139.
4. I. Asimov, Biographical Encyclopaedia of Science and Technology: The Lives and Achievements of More Than 1000 Great Scientists from Ancient Greece to the Space Age, second ed., 1982, Doubleday & Co. Inc., Garden City, New York, p. 399.
5. S.M. Huse, The Collapse of Evolution, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1983, p. 59.
6. J.P. Joule, quoted in: O. Reynolds, Memoir of James Prescott Joule, Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, 1892, p. 27.
7. Ref. 1, p. 110. H.J. Steffens, James Prescott Joule and the Concept of Energy, Folkestone, Dawson, 1979, p. 142.
9. J.P. Joule, in a paper found with his scientific notebooks, as cited in: J.G. Crowther, British Scientists of the Nineteenth Century, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1962, p. 138.

The reader may be wondering what was in the Declaration of Students of the Natural and Physical Sciences, which Joule signed. Here it is:

We, the undersigned Students of the Natural Sciences, desire to express our sincere regret, that researches into scientific truth are perverted by some in our own times into occasion for casting doubt upon the Truth and Authenticity of the Holy Scriptures. We conceive that it is impossible for the Word of God, as written in the book of nature, and God's Word written in Holy Scripture, to contradict one another, however much they may appear to differ. We are not forgetful that Physical Science is not complete, but is only in a condition of progress, and that at present our finite reason enables us only to see as through a glass darkly, and we confidently believe, that a time will come when the two records will be seen to agree in every particular. We cannot but deplore that Natural Science should be looked upon with suspicion by many who do not make a study of it, merely on account of the unadvised manner in which some are placing it in opposition to Holy Writ. We believe that it is the duty of every Scientific Student to investigate nature simply for the purpose of elucidating truth, and that if he finds that some of his results appear to be in contradiction to the Written Word, or rather to his own interpretations of it, which may be erroneous, he should not presumptuously affirm that his own conclusions must be right, and the statements of Scripture wrong; but rather, leave the two side by side till it shall please God to allow us to see the manner in which they may be reconciled; and, instead of insisting upon the seeming differences between Science and the Scriptures, it would be as well to rest in faith upon the points in which they agree.

I rest my case. Could a methodological naturalist have approved those words? I think not.

(29) Alfred Russel Wallace, the scientist who proposed a theory of evolution by natural selection independently of Darwin

Alfred Russel Wallace. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Who was he and what was he famous for?

Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace was the co-originator with Charles Darwin of the natural selection theory of evolution. He was a naturalist who provided Darwin with his parallel theory, including the "survival of the fittest," before Darwin went public with their two theories.

How did he violate the principle of methodological naturalism?

Wallace was a hard-core materialist until he began investigating mediums in 1865. He soon became one of Spiritualism's most enthusiastic advocates.

In the 1860s, Wallace became a Spiritualist, and maintained that natural selection could not account for mathematical, artistic, or musical genius, as well as metaphysical musings, and wit and humour. He eventually said that something in "the unseen universe of Spirit" had interceded at least three times in history. The first was the creation of life from inorganic matter. The second was the introduction of consciousness in the higher animals. The third was the generation of the higher mental faculties in mankind. He also believed that the raison d'etre of the universe was the development of the human spirit. (Wikipedia)

Where's the evidence?

(a) Wallace believed that evolution had to be guided by some governing Intelligence, which had created the first life

Wallace firmly adhered to the theory of evolution by natural selection until the end of his life, but unlike Darwin, he also maintained that evolution has a purpose – namely, the production of intelligent life – and that some kind of Intelligence in "the unseen universe of Spirit" had intervened on at least three occasions in the Earth's history: the emergence of life from non-living matter, the subsequent appearance of sentient beings and finally, the arrival of intelligent beings.

The evidence that Wallace was skeptical about attempts to explain the origin of life or its development in purely materialistic terms and that he saw the need for a guiding Intelligence can be found in his essay, The Origin of Life. A Reply to Dr. Schaefer (S700: 1912), which was printed in the Everyman issue of 18 October 1912:

We see then that in the whole vast world of life, in all its myriad forms, whether we examine the lowest types possessed of the simplest characteristics of life, or whether in the higher forms, we follow the process of growth from a single cell up to the completed organism --even to that of a living, moving, feeling, thinking, reasoning being such as man himself -- we find everywhere a stupendous, unceasing series of continuous motions of the gases, fluids and solids of which the body consists. These motions are strictly co-ordinated, and, taken together with the requisite directing and organising forces, imply the presence of some active mind-power.

Hence the conclusion of John Hunter, accepted as indisputable by Huxley, that "life is the cause, not the consequence, of organisation." Hence also the "cell-soul" of Haeckel, though minimised to complete ineffectiveness by being unconscious.

In view of all these marvellous phenomena, how totally inadequate are references to "growing crystals," and repeated assertions that we shall some day produce the living matter of the nucleus by a chemical process; that "the nucleus" is in fact "the directing agent" in all the changes which take place within the living cell, and that "without doubt this substance (when produced chemically) will be found to exhibit the phenomena which we are in the habit of associating with the term life."

Finally, Dr. Schafer assures us that, as supernatural intervention is unscientific, "we are compelled to believe that living matter must have owed its origin to causes similar in character to those which have been instrumental in producing all other forms of matter in the universe; in other words, to a process of gradual evolution."

I submit that, in view of the actual facts of growth and organisation as here briefly outlined, and that living protoplasm has never been chemically produced, the assertion that life is due to chemical and mechanical processes alone is quite unjustified. NEITHER THE PROBABILITY OF SUCH AN ORIGIN, NOR EVEN ITS POSSIBILITY, HAS BEEN SUPPORTED BY ANYTHING WHICH CAN BE TERMED SCIENTIFIC FACTS OR LOGICAL REASONING. (The capitals are Wallace's. - VJT.)

(b) Wallace was a human exceptionalist, who believed that an Overruling Intelligence had directed man's physical evolution and the first appearance of the human intellect

Wallace's human exceptionalism also puts his theory of evolution in striking contrast to Darwin's. Wallace, like his contemporaries, regarded European civilization as culturally superior to all others that had gone before it, but unlike most of his contemporaries, he was a firm believer in racial equality. Thus he did not view other races as intermediates between civilized man and the apes, because he was convinced that their rational faculties were the equal of his own. But precisely because he could see no survival advantage in human musical, artistic and abstract reasoning abilities in the wild, Wallace became firmly convinced that the appearance of these abilities in human beings could not be the result of natural selection - a view which put him at odds with his fellow evolutionist, Charles Darwin. Historian Michael Flannery narrates the rift between the two scientists developed as a result of an article Wallace wrote for the Quarterly Review in April 1869:

Perhaps emboldened by his fertile discussions with Lyell, Wallace used his review to, in Martin Fichman’s words, present “to the world the unambivalent evolutionary teleology that he would expound in ever greater detail during the remainder of his life.”118 Wallace basically pointed to the human intellect as being too great for that simply allowable by natural selection because, by definition, the law of natural selection guided by the principle of utility (the idea that “no organ or attribute can exist in a natural species unless it is or has been useful to the organisms that possess it….”119) would be an effective barrier to its development. One could not, Wallace argued, explain the uniquely human attributes of abstract reasoning, mathematical ability, wit, love of music and musical aptitude, art appreciation and artistic talent, and moral sense as necessary for survival in a state of pure nature through which (by Darwin’s own principle) natural selection must operate. Therefore, some other cause or action must be invoked. That cause of action Wallace called “an Overruling Intelligence.”120

Darwin was devastated and scratched an emphatic “NO!!!” in the margin of his copy of the Quarterly. He wrote back to Wallace, “I presume that your remarks on Man are those to which you alluded in your note. If you had not told me I should have thought that they had been added by someone else. As you expected, I differ grievously from you, and I am very sorry for it.”121 Nine months later Darwin was still reminding Wallace, “But I groan over Man—you write like a metamorphosed (in retrograde direction) naturalist, and you the author of the best paper [“On the Origin of Human Races and the Antiquity of Man”] that ever appeared in the Anthropological Review! Eheu! Eheu! Eheu!—Your miserable friend, C. Darwin.”122 (Alfred Russel Wallace: A Rediscovered Life by Michael Flannery, Discovery Institute Press, Seattle, 2011, pp. 61-62.)

In a letter to Darwin dated April 28, 1869, responding to Darwin’s dismay over a recent article he had published in the Quarterly Review, Wallace elaborated his views, and argued that not only human mental faculties, but also many aspects of human anatomy, could not be explained as a result of natural selection:

It seems to me that if we once admit the necessity of any action beyond “natural selection” in developing man, we have no reason whatever for confining that agency to his brain. On the mere doctrine of chances it seems to me in the highest degree improbable that so many points of structure, all tending to favour his mental development, should concur in man alone of all animals. If the erect posture, the freedom of the anterior limbs from purposes of locomotion, the powerful and opposable thumb, the naked skin, the great symmetry of form, the perfect organs of speech, and, in his mental faculties, calculation of numbers, ideas of symmetry, of justice, of abstract reasoning, of the infinite, of a future state, and many others, cannot be shown to be each and all useful to man [on the principle of utility] in the very lowest state of civilization — how are we to explain their co-existence in him alone of the whole series of organized being? Years ago I saw in London a bushman boy and girl, and the girl played very nicely on the piano. Blind Tom, the half-idiot negro slave, had a “musical ear” or brain, superior, perhaps, to that of the best living musicians. Unless Darwin can show me how this latent musical faculty in the lowest races can have been developed through survival of the fittest, can have been of use to the individual or the race, so as to cause those who possess it in a fractionally greater degree than others to win in the struggle for life, I must believe that some other power (than natural selection) caused that development. It seems to me that the onus probandi will lie with those who maintain that man, body and mind, could have been developed from a quadrumanous [four-handed - VJT] animal by “natural selection.”15

Recommended Reading

Alfred Russel Wallace: A Rediscovered Life by Michael Flannery, Discovery Institute Press, Seattle, 2011.

Alfred Russel Wallace on Man: A Famous 'Change of Mind'--Or Not? Reproduced from the preprint of an article published in Volume 26, Number 2 of History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences (publisher Taylor and Francis Ltd.), copyright 2004 (Charles H. Smith).

(30) James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879), the Scottish physicist and founder of electromagnetic theory

James Clerk Maxwell. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Who was he and what was he famous for?

James Clerk Maxwell FRS FRSE, was a Scottish physicist and mathematician, whose greatest achievement was the formulation of classical electromagnetic theory, which united all observations, experiments and equations of electricity, magnetism and optics into a single, consistent theory. Maxwell's equations explained how electricity, magnetism and light could all be understood as manifestations of the same phenomenon, namely the electromagnetic field.

How did he violate the principle of methodological naturalism?

He argued that the matter of the universe must have been created, and that the hydrogen molecules we find in stars must have had a supernatural cause.

Where's the evidence?

Maxwell argued that while science cannot tell us about the creation of matter out of nothing, science can tell us that molecules of matter were made, and that they were not made by a natural process.

(a) Maxwell's scientific argument for the existence of a supernatural Creator

I would like to quote from Maxwell's famous Discourse on Molecules, delivered before the British Association at Bradford in September 1873. In the concluding paragraphs, Maxwell puts forward a scientific argument for the existence of a supernatural Creator:

But in the heavens we discover by their light, and by their light alone, stars so distant from each other that no material thing can ever have passed from one to another; and yet this light, which is to us the sole evidence of the existence of these distant worlds, tells us also that each of them is built up of molecules of the same kinds as those which we find on earth. A molecule of hydrogen, for example, whether in Sirius or in Arcturus, executes its vibrations in precisely the same time.

Each molecule therefore throughout the universe bears impressed upon it the stamp of a metric system as distinctly as does the metre of the Archives at Paris, or the double royal cubit of the temple of Karnac.

No theory of evolution can be formed to account for the similarity of molecules [here Maxwell is talking about molecular evolution, not Darwinian evolution – VJT], for evolution necessarily implies continuous change, and the molecule is incapable of growth or decay, of generation or destruction.

None of the processes of Nature, since the time when Nature began, have produced the slightest difference in the properties of any molecule. We are therefore unable to ascribe either the existence of the molecules or the identity of their properties to any of the causes which we call natural.

On the other hand, the exact equality of each molecule to all others of the same kind gives it, as Sir John Herschel has well said, the essential character of a manufactured article, and precludes the idea of its being eternal and self-existent.

Thus we have been led, along a strictly scientific path, very near to the point at which Science must stop, – not that Science is debarred from studying the internal mechanism of a molecule which she cannot take to pieces, any more than from investigating an organism which she cannot put together. But in tracing back the history of matter, Science is arrested when she assures herself, on the one hand, that the molecule has been made, and, on the other, that it has not been made by any of the processes we call natural.

Science is incompetent to reason upon the creation of matter itself out of nothing. We have reached the utmost limits of our thinking faculties when we have admitted that because matter cannot be eternal and self-existent it must have been created. It is only when we contemplate, not matter in itself, but the form in which it actually exists, that our mind finds something on which it can lay hold. (Emphases mine – VJT.)

What Maxwell is proposing here is an interesting design argument for a Creator, on scientific grounds: the fact that molecules are perfectly identical to one another suggests that they were manufactured according to an intelligent plan. What he had in mind was a "uniformity intended and accomplished by the same wisdom and power of which uniformity, accuracy, symmetry, consistency, and continuity of plan are ... important attributes..." as he wrote in a letter to a friend. (See E.Garber, S.G.Brush, and C.W.F.Everitt, (Eds) Maxwell on Molecules and Gases, 1986, MIT Press, Cambridge Massachusetts, p. 242.)

(b) Maxwell on the dividing line between science and religion

Note that the dividing line between science and religion is quite different for Maxwell than it is for modern scientists. For Maxwell, science could not explain the modus operandi of the Creator (especially the creation of matter out of nothing). But Maxwell felt quite confident in pronouncing, as a scientist, that certain entities (hydrogen atoms) did not have a natural origin. Today, proponents of the cosmological version of Intelligent Design have refined Maxwell's position somewhat: they would argue that the laws of nature describing the behavior of hydrogen atoms do not have a natural origin.

(c) Maxwell on evolution

In addition, the modern Intelligent Design movement claims to be able to identify certain complex patterns in the biological realm, which can only have been made by some sort of Intelligence. However, Maxwell himself never criticized Darwin's theory of evolution, and his article, "Atom," for the 9th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica (Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, 1875, Vol. III, p 48) indicates that he was probably an evolutionist:

In the case of living beings, ... the generation of individuals is always going on, each individual differing more or less from its parent. Each individual during its whole life is undergoing modification, and it either survives and propagates its species, or dies early, accordingly as it is more or less adapted to the circumstances of its environment. Hence, it has been found possible to frame a theory of the distribution of organisms into species by means of generation, variation, and discriminative destruction.

For those readers who are curious about Maxwell, I would also recommend this highly readable article, entitled James Maxwell and the Christian Proposition by Ian Hutchinson. It provides a history of Maxwell's religious views, and how they influenced his science.

In conclusion, I submit that James Clerk Maxwell's approach to science, and his willingness to assert on scientific grounds that certain phenomena could not have had a natural origin, places him at odds with the modern-day National Academy of Sciences, which espouses methodological naturalism. Even if he did not put forward any arguments for the Intelligent Design of living creatures, his scientific methodology would leave open the possibility of doing so.

(31) Sir William Thompson (Lord Kelvin) (1824-1907), the founder of thermodynamics and energetics.

Sir William Thompson (Lord Kelvin). Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Who was he and what was he famous for?

William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin OM, GCVO, PC, PRS, PRSE, was a mathematical physicist and engineer. At the University of Glasgow he did important work in the mathematical analysis of electricity and formulation of the first and second laws of thermodynamics, and did much to unify the emerging discipline of physics in its modern form.

How did he violate the principle of methodological naturalism?

He publicly declared that science forces us to "belief in God, which is the foundation of all Religion," that "overpoweringly strong proofs of intelligent and benevolent design lie all around us," and that Nature herself teaches us that "all living things depend on one ever-acting Creator and Ruler."

Where's the evidence?

(a) Lord Kelvin's presidential address to the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1871)

Lord Kelvin (Sir William Thomson) gave a presidential address to the British Association for the Advancement of Science (Edinburgh, August 1871) On the Origin of Life. In the speech, eh favored the hypothesis that the first living organisms on Earth originally came from outer space (the hypothesis of panspermia). Lord Kelvin was quite willing to allow that this primitive life had evolved into the modern life-forms that we see today. However, he objected to the notion that natural selection had been responsible for the evolution of life, and stated his belief in "intelligent and benevolent design."

Here is Lord Kelvin discussing panspermia and the subsequent evolution of life on Earth in his address:

From the Earth stocked with such vegetation as it could receive meteorically, to the Earth teeming with all the endless variety of plants and animals which now inhabit it, the step is prodigious; yet, according to the doctrine of continuity, most ably laid before the Association by a predecessor in this Chair (Mr. Grove), all creatures now living on earth have proceeded by orderly evolution from some such origin. Darwin concludes his great work on "The Origin of Species" with the following words:—

"It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us." .... "There is grandeur in this view of life with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms, most beautiful and most wonderful, have been and are being evolved."

With the feeling expressed in these two sentences I most cordially sympathise. I have omitted two sentences which come between them, describing briefly the hypothesis of "the origin of species by natural selection," because I have always felt that this hypothesis does not contain the true theory of evolution, if evolution there has been, in biology. Sir John Herschel, in expressing a favourable judgment on the hypothesis of zoological evolution, with, however, some reservation in respect to the origin of man, objected to the doctrine of natural selection, that it was too like the Laputan method of making books, and that it did not sufficiently take into account a continually guiding and controlling intelligence. This seems to me a most valuable and instructive criticism. I feel profoundly convinced that the argument of design has been greatly too much lost sight of in recent zoological speculations. Reaction against frivolities of teleology, such as are to be found, not rarely, in the notes of learned Commentators on Paley's "Natural Theology," has I believe had a temporary effect in turning attention from the solid and irrefragable argument so well put forward in that excellent old book.
(Kelvin, Lord. 1871. "Address of Sir William Thomson, Knt., LL.D., F.R.S, President," in Report of the Forty-First Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, held at Edinburgh in August 1871, pages lxxxiv-cv. Reprinted in Kelvin's Popular Lectures and Addresses, Macmillan and Co., 1894, p. 132-205. )

Let's stop right there. Despite believing in evolution, Lord Kelvin was a fan of William Paley! But there's more. Lord Kelvin concludes his address with these words:

"Overpoweringly strong proofs of intelligent and benevolent design lie all around us; and if ever perplexities, whether metaphysical or scientific, turn us away from them for a time, they come back upon us with irresistible force, showing to us through Nature the influence of a free will, and teaching us that all living things depend on one ever-acting Creator and Ruler."
(Kelvin, Lord. 1871. "Address of Sir William Thomson, Knt., LL.D., F.R.S, President," in Report of the Forty-First Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, held at Edinburgh in August 1871, pages lxxxiv-cv. Reprinted in Kelvin's Popular Lectures and Addresses, Macmillan and Co., 1894, p. 132-205. See also Ralph Seeger, 1985, "Kelvin, Humble Christian," in The Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, 37 (June 1985), pp. 100-101).

(b) Lord Kelvin's 1903 speech, Science Affirms the Creative Power (1903)

In a much later speech, Science Affirms the Creative Power, given by Lord Kelvin on May 1, 1903, as a vote of thanks following a course of lectures on "Christian Apologetics" given at University College, London by Rev. Professor Henslow, Lord Kelvin declared:

We only know God in His works, but we are absolutely forced by science to admit and to believe with absolute confidence in a Directive Power in an influence other than physical, or dynamical, or electrical forces. Cicero, editor of Lucretius, denied that men and plants and animals could have come into existence by a fortuitous concourse of atoms. There is nothing between absolute scientific belief in Creative Power and the acceptance of the theory of a fortuitous concourse of atoms. Just think of a number of atoms falling together of their own accord and making a crystal, a sprig of moss, a microbe, a living animal.

I admire throughout the healthy, breezy atmosphere of free-thought in Professor Henslow's lecture. Do not be afraid of being free thinkers. If you think strongly enough you will be forced by science to the belief in God, which is the foundation of all Religion. You will find science not antagonistic, but helpful to Religion.

In a subsequent letter to The Times, dated May 4, 1903, Lord Kelvin published a minor amendment to his address: he acknowledged that "while 'fortuitous concourse of atoms' is not an inappropriate description of the formation of a crystal, it is utterly absurd in respect to the coming into existence, or the growth, or the continuation of the molecular combinations presented in the bodies of living things." He continued:

Forty years ago I asked Liebig [Justus von Liebig, a German chemist and father of the fertilizer industry - VJT], walking somewhere in the country, if he believed that the grass and flowers which we saw around us grew by mere chemical forces. He answered, "No, no more than I could believe that a book of botany describing them could grow by mere chemical forces."

Every action of human free will is a miracle to physical and chemical and mathematical science.

Evidently Lord Kelvin was a "mind creationist," too!

(c) Why Lord Kelvin could not have been a methodological naturalist

According to Kelvin, science forces us to "belief in God, which is the foundation of all Religion." No methodological naturalist could say that. To add insult to injury, Kelvin puts forward an Intelligent Design argument in his address: he even appeals to Cicero and his famous argument against Nature being the product of chance, as modern Intelligent Design proponents do. And Lord Kelvin made this argument in a public forum, without the slightest trace of embarrassment or apprehension that he may have been violating some cardinal rule of science. Evidently Kelvin had not heard of any directive that science should confine itself to naturalistic explanations.

Darwinists may be tempted to criticize Lord Kelvin for overlooking the fact that the theory of evolution invokes necessity as well as chance. But Kelvin did not deny evolution as such, as his 1871 address to the British Association for the Advancement of Science On the Origin of Life makes clear: her even quoted from what he called Darwin's "great work on 'The Origin of Species'": what he objected to was the claim that natural selection alone could account for evolution. Nor did he claim that God must have created life on earth; he explicitly allowed for the possibility of panspermia (life from outer space), as Intelligent Design proponent Rob Sheldon does. The important point which he realized, however, was that the information in life had to have had an intelligent source.

Table of Contents Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four Part Five Part Six Part Seven
Part Eight Part Nine Part Ten Part Eleven Part Twelve Part Thirteen Part Fourteen Conclusion