Meaningless tap-dancing. The disclaimer is saying, "Lewontin is not specific and he's trying to start a fight; besides, what he wrote isn't part of a research project so... don't listen to him." (?) Regardless, the intent of my using Lewontin's quote was demonstrate that a solid committment to Methodological Naturalism precludes one from admitting the supernatural into the equation. Basically, the Methodological Naturalist is caught in a loop - a loop which they don't particulary mind being in, by the way - in which they declare that MN can only describe the events of the natural, materialistic world. So, one reasons, if MN can only describe the materialistic world, we are forced to adhere to only materialistic explanations no matter how extraordinary an event may seem. This is the portion of his quote that I used:
It is also important to note that this quotation from Lewontin, which makes its way time and time again into creationist propaganda, is - ambiguous - deliberately inflammatory—since Lewontin was taking issue primarily with what he regarded as Sagan's triumphalism about science taken from the New York Review of Books, - not a scientific journal; it is therefore unfair to take it, as it is often taken, as some kind of revelation about scientific methodology.
...that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.You've got to be careful with the use of ellipses because people will tend to think you're leaving out the juiciest parts. That may be true, of course, but if you're using a free comment provider like Haloscan, then you may just be trying to stay within the 1,000 character limit! Anyway, thanks to Imago Dei, I've found the link to the entire article in which Lewontin reviewed Carl Sagan's book "The Demon-Haunted World" in the NY Review of Books, January 9, 1997. Please take the time to read the entire article. For the time being, here is the paragraph in which the quote I used is found:
Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.Interestingly enough, earlier in the review, Lewontin states:
[warning: ellipses ahead!] ...to put a correct view of the universe into people's heads we must first get an incorrect view out. People believe a lot of nonsense about the world of phenomena, nonsense that is a consequence of a wrong way of thinking. The primary problem is not to provide the public with the knowledge of how far it is to the nearest star and what genes are made of, for that vast project is, in its entirety, hopeless. Rather, the problem is to get them to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations, and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth. (emphasis added)A Methodological Naturalist will not allow a Divine Foot in the door because of their prior adherence to a methodology which confines itself to a materialistic view of the world. Sometimes they may request evidence for the hocus pocus magic acts that some fairies in the sky perform - but it's just a bait and switch, for they know full well that their worldview does not permit any evidence to be labeled supernatural, and any evidence that is natural is, by definition, simply that. No matter how absurd.