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Untrue Reason -- re Naturalism

As some here at know, I have been writing a review of the book that the religious folks (Campus Crusade for Christ, among others) have made from a collection of essays titled "True Reason: Christain Responses to the Challenge of Atheism" edited by Tom Gilson and Carson Weitnauer. While I have written something about all the chapters of this book over on my blog, it is too scattered to put into a single discussion thread, here. To get started, I picked the essay that was most interesting to me to review in this discussion. It is:

The Explanatory Emptiness of Naturalism by David Wood

Mr Wood begins this with:

The success of scientific investigation has led many thinkers to conclude that science will ultimately (if it hasn’t already) make all supernatural explanations obsolete. Whatever gaps remain in our understanding of the world, they are steadily being filled in. Since these ever diminishing gaps form the basis of Natural Theology, arguments for God’s existence will soon have no foundation whatsoever. God has nothing left to do.

Thus the past few decades have seen a growing shift from mere Methodological Naturalism (which holds that the sciences should confine themselves to natural explanations) to Metaphysical Naturalism (the claim that the natural world is all that exists).

This a an important distinction that I have been writing about for some time. I hold to Methodological Naturalism exactly because there is no way to show the absence of the Supernatural. Yes, I know there are those who want to define the Supernatural out of existence, but you can't do that without complete knowledge of the Universe. If you could, you would have the solution to Russell's Teapot. Also, part of the pursuit of Methodological Naturalism is to find its limits (if there are such) which only can be found if science sticks to it. Thus, I will agree with David Wood, that while Metaphysical Naturalism seems to be the case, we can't know that for sure. However, Mr. Wood is going to try to pick away at Metaphysical Naturalism to try to construct a false dichotomy that forces us to accept Supernaturalism. He proceeds to:

If Naturalism were true, we would expect all effects to have natural causes.

We don't know that all effects have causes, natural or otherwise. It seems that way on our normal size scale, but not so at the quantum scale. There may be other special cases. We would have to have complete knowledge of the entire Universe to rule that out. Mr. Wood is trying to work his way to:

Naturalism can’t account for science, and science turns out to be evidence against Naturalism.

He is going to try to do this through a series of "problems."

The Cosmological Problem

This is the usual discussion of where the Universe came from because without it "science obviously wouldn't take place." This part is rather tedious because it rehashes all the cosmological arguments, and without a Universe we would have a bigger problem than lack of science.

The Fine-Tuning Problem

This is a false problem based on confusion of Physics as model and the physical world which can't be shown to have tuning "knobs" at all. (see my other discussion that goes into this, and this great video)

The Problem of Biological Complexity

Abiogenesis is possible, even if we do not know (or even never know) the exact way it happened. Self increasing complexity is a function of random walking through a phase space where some patterns of atoms (molecules) have more autocatalytic properties than others, so they tend to cause more of their own.

The Problem of Consciousness
... And it’s important to recognize that human consciousness requires more than a large and convoluted brain. Consciousness requires what we call a "soul." ... Our beliefs are true or false. An arrangement of particles in a brain cannot be true or false (one arrangement of particles being true, and another being false).

None of that is established, and is countered by the phylogenetic and ontogenetic objects I have brought up on the consciousness threads here at

The Problem of Reason

Mr. Woods wants to use the unreliability of our minds to reason against reason itself. But we can "evolve" computer programs that demonstrate reasoning abilities from random starting points and no design for "reason." We have branches of Information Science that study how to reach reliable calculations with unreliable components. Neither the origin of our minds or the biological substrate presents a forcing problem, especially when augmented by the memeplex of our culture (including the scientific method).

The Problem of Logic

Backwards reasoning gets him lost on with this one. From the author's argument adding 2 stones to a bag of 2 stones would not produce 4 stones if we were not given a law of 2+2=4.

The Problem of Natural Uniformity

We don't actually need the world to keep to uniformity, we just need it to not change faster than we can track.

The Problem of Value
Yet, if Naturalism is true, there are no objective values (i.e., values that are valid independent of our opinions or preferences).

The natural world needs no 'values' just patterns that make more of themselves.

Putting all of this together, we see that Naturalism is bankrupt as a worldview. Naturalism cannot explain the existence of our universe, the fine-tuning of the cosmos, complex biology, human consciousness, the reliability of our cognitive faculties, our access to logical laws, the Uniformity of Nature, or the values we hold. But since science presupposes and depends upon these features of our world, Naturalism provides no foundation for science, and scientific discovery is an enormous problem for Naturalism.

Put all of this together, and Mr. Woods has no justifications for his conclusions.



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