Saturday, December 30, 2017

Can Metaphysical Claims Be Falsified By Science?

One frequently touted claim by Thomists is that metaphysical claims cannot even in principle be falsified (and perhaps corroborated by) scientific data, because metaphysics and science lie in two completely separated domains.

This is easily shown false. I claim that some metaphysical views make claims or assume things about the nature of physical reality, and such claims or assumptions fall within the purview of science. Here is why using AT metaphysics as an example:

1. AT metaphysics claims act/potency causality distinctions are real.
2. Act/potency claims that A will actualize B's coming into existence.
3. This requires a true ontological coming into existence or "becoming" of effects by their causes.
4. Such a claim presupposes the view on time known as presentism is true.
5. Presentism says that only the present moment exists and does so universally, and that the past and future do not exist.
6. Presentism's claims about time fall within the purview of scientific investigation.

I could stop right here because I've demonstrated my claim: Some metaphysical claims make or assume things about the nature of physical reality, and such claims fall within the purview of science. However, I can go a step further:

7. Scientific theories and experimental data have falsified the view known as presentism via special and general relativity.
8. Therefore, AT metaphysics assumes a view on the theory of time that falls within the purview of scientific investigation and that has been falsified for 100 years.
9. Thomism would be false as a result of this.

Now I'm not particularly interested in 7-9 right now. I'm more interested in 6, since dogmatic Thomists insist that nothing about AT metaphysics can in principle make a claim that can fall within the purview of scientific investigation. But a recent article on the Catholic Strange Notions site by a philosopher well acquainted with Thomism, Dr Dennis Bonnette, would seem to contradict this as he makes it explicit that a presentist ontology where things begin to exist ("becoming") is required for Thomism's metaphysical claims to survive.

Also, nothing I'm saying here implies that metaphysics itself can be falsified by science. Only certain ontological claims from within a metaphysic can be falsified by science, including salient ones. But this means science can in principle falsify certain metaphysical views, like Thomism.

So for those who disagree, where did I go wrong? I will admit that perhaps my wording above isn't perfect, and may need adjustments for clarity, but I think the concept behind the overall meaning is correct.

Someone could respond to all this and ask:

So I can fill an environment with Hydrogen and Oxygen gas light a match and know it is impossible for that match to actualize the potential for an explosion since the act/potency distinction cannot be true because SR has disproven presentism and verified eternalism and the block universe?

This question is wrong on so many levels. The real question is whether the fire comes into existence, AKA becoming. And this opens up a dilemma for the Thomist:

1. If the answer is yes, he'll admit Thomism assumes presentism and my argument is right.

2. If the answer is no, the effect isn't technically actualized because it tenselessly existed already. And act/potency is thereby false.

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