“Methodological atheism” is a term that defines the methodology of science as it is defined within the mainstream scientific establishment . “Material Naturalism” or “methodological materialism” are other synonymous terms often used. It is understood that methodological atheism is not the same as philosophical atheism so that most mainstream scientists within that same mainstream scientific community would virtually all agree that they must restrict explanations according to the former, but do not necessarily have to subscribe to the latter.( Invoking the supernatural when conducting experiments in the laboratory is said to be bad science, or non-science!). In confirming this for the purposes of discussion, it is best that I let someone in a position of authority confirm this outlook rather than me just stating it. I quote Dr. Eugenie Scott (1998), director of the evolution watchdog group the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), as she explains how methodological materialism (methodological atheism) sets the limitations for scientific inquiry;
http://www.designinference.com/document ... _of_ID.pdf (page eight);
“Most scientists today require that science be carried out according to the rule of
methodological materialism: to explain the natural world scientifically, scientists must
restrict themselves only to material causes (to matter, energy, and their interaction).
There is a practical reason for this restriction: it works. By continuing to seek natural
explanations for how the world works, we have been able to find them. If supernatural
explanations are allowed, they will discourage—or at least delay—the discovery of
natural explanations, and we will understand less about the universe.”
Therefore, I think it is safe to say that all atheists would acknowledge both that definition of science in terms of the need for methodological atheism in the laboratory, and, in addition, would also claim a broader, general philosophical atheism as well.
To get more specific than just saying “science”, let us observe a distinction in that modern, mainstream, evolutionary biologists, if working in tune with the methodology Dr. Scott stated above, would all recognize and agree that their science too must still function according to methodological atheism in the lab, but would claim that this does not automatically also have to include philosophical atheism. Whether this claim might be an illogically inconsistent claim is irrelevant at this point. Many mainstream evolutionary biologists who fully claim Neo-Darwinian Evolution as understood within a framework of methodological atheism, do, in fact, still claim to have religious Faith in God. By example, Roman Catholic Kenneth Miller).
Within the mainstream scientific establishment then, and according to the rules established above for science by Dr. Scott, the Darwinian mechanism is said to give us the means whereby fully natural forces, unguided by any intelligent agent, are believed to have guided life to its present level of complexity and diversity. This process is said to have involved both natural selection (survival of the fittest), and random mutation. This may not tell us how life first arose, but, according to the Darwinian mechanism, it is said to tell us how simple life developed (“evolved”), advancing over eons by way of natural selection and mutation, to its present level of development.
Also, this process could not be seen as static. By definition It is an ongoing basic principle, (assuming life sustaining conditions of course). Darwinian “macro evolution” simply asserts that, over time, stronger members in a population of creatures thrive, and, in competition with them, weaker ones do not. Random genetic mutations propel the process slowly forward as creatures appear who have some slight advantage by way of random genetic mutation. Thus, evolution must be seen as an ongoing, active force of nature, still at work today in the world of living creatures. Thus, beyond the state at which we see the results of this process at the present point in time, the process would necessarily still be an active, ongoing one as we anticipate its effects in the future.
Richard Dawkins, though also an avowed philosophical atheist, offers a descriptive analogy for the Darwinian mechanism of macro evolution; the “Blind Watchmaker”. Blind, because there is no active intelligent force behind it. We can perceive it as a natural process. A Watchmaker, in that this wholly unguided, natural process is fully responsible for blindly “creating”, (by way of natural selection and mutation), the living world we see in all of its breathtaking complexity, and even including us; sentient, self aware creatures.
Do I have it basically correct so far???