In a recent post, Jerry Coyne claims that science can test the supernatural. I disagree, and this post will be a response to that claim. In my view, what Jerry is really talking about, is testing the claims about the natural world that are made by some supernaturalists. And, for sure we can, at least in principle, test claims about the natural world. But testing claims about the natural world is not testing the supernatural.
From time to time, ID proponents mention James Shapiro as someone who offers an alternative to the Darwinism that they much ridicule. But they have never been sure where Shapiro stands on the question of ID. Shapiro has now given a response. And it is the kind of response that we might expect from a scientist at University of Chicago:
These statements are confusing. Is Dembski saying that he abandons the supernatural as a component of ID? If so, then we can start a real scientific dialogue about the possible natures of intelligence, teleology and design in biology and how to investigate them both theoretically and experimentally. However, if he does not want to abandon the supernatural (as Michael Behe has repeatedly told me he does not) and if he wishes always to have recourse to a literal Deus ex Machina, then we cannot have a serious scientific discussion. Doing that requires respecting the naturalistic limits of science. I think it would be a very positive development for ID proponents to give up on all theological crutches and engage in a strictly naturalistic inquiry, independent of whatever their beliefs in final causes may be. Is Bill Dembski willing to do that?
It is worth reading the full Shapiro post. There’s also a reaction at Uncommon Descent, though there isn’t much to the reaction yet. Perhaps more will follow in the comments.