Metaphysical naturalism

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This article covers metaphysical naturalism as a worldview. Naturalism (philosophy) discusses methodological naturalism.

Metaphysical naturalism, or ontological naturalism, characterizes any worldview in which reality is such that there is nothing but the natural things, forces, and causes of the kind that the natural sciences study, i.e. the things, forces and causes which are required in order to understand our physical environment and which have mechanical properties amenable to mathematical modeling. Metaphysical naturalism entails that all concepts related to consciousness or to the mind refer to entities which are reducible to or supervene on such natural things, forces and causes. More specifically metaphysical naturalism rejects the objective existence of any supernatural thing, force or cause, such as are described in humanity’s various religions and mythological accounts. In this view, all "supernatural" things are ultimately explainable purely in terms of natural things. It is not merely a view about what science studies now, but it can also emphasize what science will encompass in the future. Metaphysical naturalism is a monistic and not a dualistic view of reality.

In practice the use of the term metaphysical naturalism reduces to the more specific ontological view of “scientific naturalism”, according to which reality consists only of what the concepts of the natural sciences (and especially physics) refer to. Scientific naturalism is closely related to physicalism. It is often simply referred to as naturalism, Religious Naturalism or spiritual naturalism and occasionally as philosophical naturalism or ontological naturalism, though all those terms have other meanings as well, with naturalism often referring to methodological naturalism.

Metaphysical naturalism represents a particular view about reality and hence belongs to the philosophical field of ontology. It forms the philosophical foundation of the related but distinct methodological naturalism which represents a particular view of how one may think about reality and which hence belongs to the philosophical field of epistemology.


[edit] Definition

The Cosmos is all there is, has ever been or ever will be.

Carl Sagan[1]

Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy concerned with what exists. It may or may not include what has been discovered by science, because the denotation of "metaphysical" is "beyond physics."[citation needed] Metaphysics investigates principles of reality transcending those of any particular science. Thus, metaphysics entails value judgments about reality, e.g., whether or not supernatural entities exist; whether human will is contra-causal or not; whether ethics are objective, subjective, or something else entirely, etc. Metaphysical naturalism refers to a belief about the totality of what exists, including value judgments on any concept in human reference.[citation needed] It is a belief that nature is all that exists and assumes that observable events in nature are explained only by natural causes, and that supernatural causes are not possible.

This particular definition rests in an ambiguity caused by the use of the term "supernatural" by Richard Carrier and other apologists for naturalism whereby this word indicates non-materially reducible entities (spiritual substances) rather than the traditional meaning (where a spiritual substance, if created, is encompassed within the natural world, though being a spiritual or immaterial substance).

[edit] Quasi-religion

Metaphysical naturalism is presumably not a religion, but in one important respect it resembles religion: it can be said to perform the cognitive function of a religion. Like a religion, metaphysical naturalism gives a set of answers, (i.e., "value judgments"; see Definition) to deep human questions and hence can sensibly be thought of as a "quasi-religion".[2] Religious Naturalism takes a bigger step in being religious in that the attitude towards being religious is more pronounced. Both, however, are focused on finding the meaning of life devoid of supernatural explanations.

Metaphysical naturalists begin by examining their epistemology. Constructing an epistemology based on Metaphysical Naturalism in a reasonable and thoughtful way requires an examination of what is being investigated, seeking how to discover if it is a possibility, and spending the time necessary to reach conclusions.

In practice, however, one's epistemology is but superficially examined and applied merely by intuition. More often, it is simply borrowed from parents, teachers, or peers and not critically examined or constructed by the individual. If one has not even thought about it, much less carefully examined and tested what one thinks one knows, it's unlikely that one's unexamined assumptions will just by pure chance be sound and trustworthy. Everything done, believed and desired ultimately depends upon one's knowledge being correct.[3] It is the metaphysical naturalist’s duty to question all things and have a well-grounded faith in what is well-investigated and well-proved, rather than what is merely well-asserted or well-liked.[3]

Because of this, metaphysical naturalism was condemned in Pope Pius IX's 1864 Syllabus of Errors.

[edit] Physicalism & pluralism

There are many different varieties of metaphysical naturalism, but a few can be separated into two general categories, physicalism and pluralism. Physicalism entails the claim that everything everyone has observed or claimed to observe is actually the product of fundamentally random arrangements or interactions of matter-energy, arrangements or interactions that follow natural laws of physics, in space-time, and therefore it is unreasonable to believe anything like a creator deity exists. Pluralism (which includes dualism) adds to this the existence of fundamentally random things besides matter-energy in space-time (such as reified abstract objects). Other forms of metaphysical naturalism agree with the science of scientific naturalism, but its metaphysical conclusions differ over abstract objects like "mind," "soul," "free will," or anything having to do with self-made men.

[edit] The mind is caused by natural phenomena

What all metaphysical naturalists agree on, however, is that the fundamental constituents of reality, from which everything derives and upon which everything depends, are fundamentally mindless. So if any variety of metaphysical naturalism is true, then any mental properties that exist (hence any mental powers or beings) are causally derived from, and ontologically dependent on, systems of nonmental properties, powers, or things. This means metaphysical naturalism would be false if any distinctly mental property, power, or entity exists that is not ontologically dependent on some arrangement of nonmental things, or that is not causally derived from some arrangement of nonmental things, or that has causal effects without the involvement of any arrangement of nonmental things that is already causally sufficient to produce that effect.[3]

In lay terms, if metaphysical naturalism is true, then all minds, and all the contents and powers and effects of minds, are entirely constructed from or caused by natural phenomena. If metaphysical naturalism is false, then some minds, or some of the contents or powers or effects of minds, are causally independent of nature (either they partly or wholly cause themselves, or they exist or operate fundamentally on their own).

Belief in the latter entails some form of supernaturalism (the opposite of naturalism), which is not limited to supernatural beings, but can encompass mindless things with distinctly mental properties, like magical objects (see magic and incantation) or causally efficacious Platonic forms or the existence of love as a cosmic force.

[edit] Relationship of metaphysical & methodological naturalism

The relationship between metaphysical and methodological naturalism is not one-dimensional and varies among individual thinkers. To understand this relationship, two varieties of methodological naturalism should be distinguished. Absolute methodological naturalism is the view that it is in some sense impossible for any empirical method to discover supernatural facts, even if there are some. [This is compatible with (but does not entail) the view that something other than empirical methods might be able to discover supernatural facts.] Contingent methodological naturalism entails the belief that, judging from past experience, empirical methods are far more likely to uncover natural facts than supernatural ones. It is generally an ill-advised waste of resources to pursue supernatural hypotheses, but it would not be impossible to confirm them empirically if any were true. Thus not all methodological naturalists will be metaphysical naturalists.

[edit] Distinguishing metaphysical & methodological naturalism

Metaphysical naturalism is most commonly distinguished from methodological naturalism that refers to the long-standing convention in science of the scientific method making the assumption that observable events in nature are explained only by natural causes. Methodological naturalism entails the belief that for one reason or another empirical methods will only ascertain natural facts. The supernatural is not explicitly denied, but supernatural explanations are considered outside of science.

[edit] Science and Metaphysical Naturalism

"Since philosophy is at least implicitly at the core of every decision we make or position we take, it is obvious that correct philosophy is a necessity for scientific inquiry to take place."[4] There are basic assumptions derived from philosophy that form the base of the scientific method - namely, that reality is objective and consistent, that humans have the capacity to perceive reality accurately, and that rational explanations exist for elements of the real world. These assumptions are the basis of metaphysical naturalism, the philosophy on which science is grounded.[4]

[edit] Common beliefs

Contemporary naturalists possess a wide diversity of beliefs and engage each other in healthy debate and disagreement on many issues. However, besides the basic beliefs already described above, most if not all contemporary naturalists believe the following as the logical consequences of the core beliefs of naturalism. These form the basis for naturalistic interpretation of science.

[edit] Undesigned universe

The universe has either always existed or had a purely natural origin, being neither created nor designed. Either way, naturalists hold nature (rather than, say, God or Tao) to be the ground of all being. The popular Big Bang cosmology was developed within this assumption, proposing that the observable universe had a beginning, unfolding from a process of natural laws. But this does not resolve the question of whether all that exists began to exist at once or whether a being of some sort has always existed. Some naturalists propose a multiverse theory where it is thought that the observable universe is only part of a much larger whole. Citing the first law of thermodynamics, other naturalists propose that matter has always existed; matter, not the universe in its current state, exists eternally. [3]

[edit] Deep Time

The concept of time as associated with the existence of a universe or universes is known as Deep Time. Its measurement is conceived in billions of earth years. As an indispensable part of the Cosmos, deep time is an accepted fact, not an hypothesis. "By recognizing the vastness of Earth history compared to human history, we internalize what John McPhee has termed Deep Time"[5]

[edit] Abiogenesis

Since matter is all there is, and since there are no gods to interact with the universe, abiogenesis (life arising from inorganic matter according to natural law) is an unqualified certainty, not a hypothesis. There are several current hypotheses about how abiogenesis happened, but thus far a conclusive explanation of how abiogenesis works remains elusive. [3] The concepts of Panspermia and Exogenesis move the origin of life to elsewhere in the universe rather than starting on earth. As the preconditions of abiogenesis currently appear to be statistically rare in the universe, humanity's existence is therefore seen as lucky rather than planned or intended, and most naturalists call upon everyone to appreciate and make the best of their good fortune rather than devaluing or squandering it. [3]

[edit] Evolution

Since there were once only simple lifeforms and now there is a rich diversity of life on Earth (the existence of creative gods is precluded) evolution by natural selection or other means is a verity of the naturalist worldview. While scientific hypotheses of how the evolutionary process took place over deep time are widely discussed, belief in the fact of evolution is unshakable.

Humanity's existence as conscious and inteligent animals, is explained not as the outcome of intelligent design nor as a mere accidental combination of chemicals (such as originated life), but as the product of a dynamic, random system that generates highly complex order on its own, without any guidance. Since this entails that the properties of living organisms have been derived from random generation of diversity, genetic drift and natural selection, naturalists interpret individual organisms and species as not having any theleological purpose whatsoever, moral or otherwise, as nature is the cause and nature has no plan. However, this does not exclude the possibility of true moral propositions derived from evolved facts (see Value of society and Primacy of happiness below). [3]

[edit] Mind as brain

Human beings have no independent soul or spirit, but only a material brain, which operates to produce a conscious mind. Since one's mind, and hence one's identity and existence as a person, is entirely the product of a physical process, three conclusions follow. First, all mental contents (such as ideas, theories, emotions, moral and personal values, or beauty and ugliness) exist solely as computational constructions of the brain, and not as things that exist independently of conscious thought. Second, damage to the brain (from disease, drugs, malnutrition, or injury) frequently entails damage to the self and therefore should be of great concern. Third, the death or destruction of one's brain cannot be survived, and therefore all humans are mortal. Given present technology, this means that death is inevitable and causes the complete extinguishment of an individual. Since this entails there is no afterlife, naturalists argue humans need to accept this and make the most of what they have. [3]

[edit] Utility of reason

Reason is the refinement and improvement of naturally evolved faculties, through discovering, then learning, and then employing methods and procedures that are found to increase the frequency with which one arrives at true conclusions and correct information about oneself and the universe. Naturalists thus believe that reason is superior to all the other tools available in ascertaining the truth, so anyone who wishes to have more beliefs that are true than are false should seek to perfect and consistently employ their reason in testing and forming beliefs. One outcome of this principle has been the discovery that empirical methods (especially those of proven use in the sciences) are unsurpassed for discovering the facts of reality, while methods of pure reason alone can securely discover only truths inherent in concepts and systems of ideas. [3]

[edit] Value of society

Humans evolved as social animals, which is the only reason humanity has developed culture and civilization, and now in fact depends on them. This means that even in the neutral terms of differential reproductive success, humanity's future as a species depends on developing and maintaining a healthy and productive culture and civilization. Any behavior contrary to that end threatens humanity's survival and the survival of one's neighbors, kin, and descendants. Likewise, this means humans have been "designed" by blind natural forces to require a healthy society in order to flourish and feel happy and content. Therefore the pursuit of human happiness requires the pursuit of a healthy society so people can live in it, interact with it, and benefit from it.

[edit] History

[edit] Ancient period

Metaphysical naturalism appears to have originated in early Greek philosophy. The earliest presocratic philosophers, such as Thales, Anaxagoras or most especially Democritus, were labeled by their peers and successors "the physikoi" (from the Greek φυσικός or physikos, meaning "natural philosopher," borrowing on the word φύσις or physis, meaning "nature") because they sought to explain everything by reference to natural causes alone, often distinctly excluding any role for gods, spirits or magic in the creation or operation of the world. This eventually led to fully developed systems such as Epicureanism, which sought to explain everything that exists as the product of atoms moving in a void, or the advanced Aristotelianism of Strato of Lampsacus, which sought to explain everything that exists as the inevitable outcome of uncreated natural forces or tendencies.

In their definition of nature, the ancient Greeks distinguished "nature" from "artifice." Anything that resulted from the innate properties of a thing was regarded as having a natural cause, regardless of whether those properties themselves were intelligently arranged or not, while anything that resulted from intelligent action was regarded as having an artificial cause, regardless of whether the intelligence itself was the product of natural causes. Thus, natural causes were partially distinguished from intelligent causes. It was often assumed that some intelligent causes were primary causes and not solely the product of natural properties, but not everyone agreed. Following the physikoi and their successors, some ancient intellectuals denied the existence of any intelligent causes that were not entirely the product of natural causes (thus reducing all intelligent causes to natural causes), and they represent the earliest metaphysical naturalists. However, only a few Greek and Roman intellectuals embraced such a view, though of those few, Epicurus and Strato of Lampsacus were the most famous.

Metaphysical naturalism is most notably a Western phenomenon, but an equivalent idea has long existed in the East. Though unnamed and never articulated into a coherent system, one tradition within Confucian philosophy embraced a view that can correctly be called metaphysical naturalism, dating back at least to Wang Chong in the 1st century, if not earlier. But this tradition arose independently and had little influence on the development of modern naturalist philosophy or on Eastern or Western culture.

[edit] Middle ages to modernity

With the rise and dominance of Christianity and the decline of secular philosophy in the West, metaphysical naturalism became heretical and eventually illegal, thus making it difficult to document the history of metaphysical naturalism in the Middle Ages. When the Renaissance reintroduced numerous lost treatises by Greek and Roman natural philosophers, many of the ideas and concepts of naturalism were picked up again, contributing to a new Scientific Revolution that would greatly advance the study and understanding of nature. But social and legal hostility continued to prevent advocates of metaphysical naturalism from coming forward, if there were any, until the political advances of the Age of Enlightenment made genuine free speech possible. Then a few intellectuals publicly renewed the case for metaphysical naturalism, like Baron d'Holbach in the 18th century.

In this period, metaphysical naturalism finally acquired a distinct name, materialism, which became the only category of metaphysical naturalism widely defended until the 20th century, when advances in physics as well as philosophy made the original premise of materialism untenable. In physics, matter was found to be a form of energy and therefore not the fundamental constituent of reality as materialists had been presuming.[citation needed] In philosophy, renewed attention to the problem of universals and other undeniable but "immaterial" realities further called materialism into question. These developments refined naturalism into the two forms now widely advanced (physicalism and naturalist pluralism, as explained above), both corresponding more closely to the system historians believe was articulated by Strato, rather than the system advanced by Epicurus as is commonly thought.[citation needed]

Currently, metaphysical naturalism is more widely embraced than ever before, especially but not exclusively in the scientific community, where acquaintance with the facts of nature is broader and more secure, though metaphysical naturalism is still a minority worldview. The vast majority of the population of the world remains firmly committed to supernaturalist worldviews. However, it is likely that a substantial minority or even a majority of the population in certain European and other first world countries might embrace metaphysical naturalism in some basic, unarticulated sense. To date, nothing that is not physical has ever been discovered, and so metaphysical naturalism remains a valid position based upon what is currently known. Today, noteworthy proponents are too numerous to count, but prominent defenders of metaphysical naturalism as a complete worldview include Mario Bunge, Richard Carrier, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and David Mills.

[edit] Marxism, Objectivism, and secular humanism

Certain extreme varieties of politicized naturalism have arisen in the West, most notably Marxism in the 19th century and Objectivism in the 20th century.[citation needed] Marxism is an expression of communist or socialist ideals in a naturalist framework, while Objectivism is the exact opposite, an expression of capitalist ideals in a naturalist framework. However, today most advocates of metaphysical naturalism in first world countries are neither Marxist nor Objectivist, and instead embrace the more moderate political ideals of secular humanism.[citation needed]

[edit] Arguments for metaphysical naturalism

There are many arguments for belief in metaphysical naturalism. Only a few will be surveyed here, and only in brief. There are many others, but most involve refinements, variants or sub-arguments to the following.

[edit] Argument from precedent

For over three hundred years empirical methods have consistently discovered only natural things and causes, even underlying many things once thought to be supernatural. Meanwhile, no other methods have produced any consistent conclusions about the substance or causes of anything, much less anything supernatural. The logical inference is that since countless past gaps in knowledge have been filled by naturalism, and by nothing else, probably all remaining gaps in knowledge will be filled by naturalism as well. This simply extends a principle fundamental to science as a whole, that we should presume any new phenomenon obeys known laws of physics until we have empirically proven otherwise. Hence we should presume that any unexplained fact has a natural explanation until we have empirically proven otherwise. Therefore, since we have not found empirical proof of anything supernatural, and since we have abundant reason from past precedent to expect that natural explanations underlie everything, metaphysical naturalism is most probably true.

[edit] Argument to naturalism as best explanation

Some naturalists argue that sound naturalist hypotheses about facts still scientifically unexplained outperform all other hypotheses in explanatory scope and power, relative to explanatory simplicity. If that's true, then metaphysical naturalism is the best explanation of everything we observe and experience, and is therefore probably true. This amounts to arguing that everything makes more sense if naturalism is true, many details about ourselves and the world are more probable if naturalism is true, and to explain even the most mysterious of facts naturalism has to resort to fewer ad hoc assumptions than any known alternative. For example, resorting to the supernatural as explanation typically requires an array of completely ad hoc assumptions about the abilities, nature, limitations, and desires of supernatural forces. Even so, much of what remains unexplained is then elucidated as simply the "mystery" of the enigmatic will of the supernatural or as beyond human ken. Naturalism, on the other hand, relies much more heavily on assumptions already scientifically established as precedents and principles, and makes more specific predictions about what the observed results would be if naturalism were true, which align very well with actual observations.

[edit] Argument from absence

One major way in which naturalism explains things better than alternatives is that if the supernatural exists (whether as gods, powers, or spirits), it is so silent and inert that its effects are almost never observed, despite vast and extensive searching. Even the relatively few alleged observations take place only under dubious conditions lacking in sound empirical controls or tests, and on those occasions when they are subsequently subjected to sound controls or tests, they turn out to be false. Our inability to uncover clear evidence of anything supernatural is somewhat improbable if anything supernatural exists, but very probable if nothing supernatural exists, and therefore metaphysical naturalism is probably true.

[edit] Argument from physical minds

Scientists have accumulated vast evidence that the human mind is a product of a functioning brain, which is entirely constructed from different interacting physical systems that evolved over time through the animal kingdom, and that our brain is now the most complex machine found anywhere in nature, and that our minds appear limited to our brain's physical needs and capabilities. We have discovered no clear evidence of any other kind of mind, nor any clear evidence that our minds can exceed the limitations of our physical brain, nor any clear evidence that our brains did not slowly evolve through billions of years of natural selection. This is the only way we would observe the facts to be if naturalism were true (since there is no other way to have a mind on naturalism except as the product of a slowly evolved, highly complex physical system like our brain), but if supernaturalism were true (and therefore some minds or mental content exist independently of a physical machine like our brain), what we observe is not the only way things could be (since by now we could have and likely would have observed some supernatural elements of our or other minds or observed mental powers in other things). Since this observation is less probable if supernaturalism is true, metaphysical naturalism is more likely to be true.

[edit] Cosmological argument for naturalism

If naturalism is true, then the formation of intelligent life via natural processes in any one given small corner of a young universe is unlikely. Therefore, the only way we would be observing life to exist if naturalism were true, is if the universe were so immensely old and big that events of such an improbability will be very rare but still likely to occur. We observe the universe to be that immensely old and big and life to be that rare. In addition, the universe is almost entirely lethal to life. By far most of what exists is a deadly radiation-filled vacuum, and by far most matter in the cosmos composes lethal environments like stars and black holes. Insofar as supernaturalism allows other possible arrangements for us to observe, such as universes more universally hospitable to life, universes far too young or small to produce life by mechanical accident, or universes in which life is far more common, what we observe to be the case is less probable given supernaturalism than given naturalism, and therefore metaphysical naturalism is more probably true.

[edit] Arguments against metaphysical naturalism

In much the same way that theology consists largely of working out which theories of divinity are plausible and coherent (and which are not), so naturalist philosophy consists largely of working out which naturalist worldviews are plausible and coherent (and which are not). Consequently, attacking inept constructions of naturalism or caricatures of naturalism is akin to attacking inept theologies or caricatures of theology. Just as critics of the existence of God need to address the most carefully constructed and best defended theologies, critics of naturalism need to address the most carefully constructed and best defended naturalist worldviews.

That said, metaphysical naturalism has no lack of critics. It has been loathed by countless defenders of supernatural worldviews for thousands of years and has been subject to countless attacks. Some arguments present significant challenges to naturalist philosophy. Those arguments will be briefly surveyed here.

[edit] Evolutionary argument against metaphysical naturalism

Alvin Plantinga, a contemporary philosopher of epistemology at Notre Dame has argued that anyone who holds to the truth of both metaphysical naturalism and evolution is irrational in doing so. His argument relies on establishing that the probability that unguided evolution would have produced reliable cognitive faculties is either low or inscrutable. For example, imagine a hunter who very much likes the idea of being eaten, but when he sees a tiger, always runs off looking for a better prospect, because he thinks it unlikely that the tiger he sees will eat him. This will get his body parts in the right place so far as survival is concerned, without involving much by way of true belief. If this argument holds, one who holds both naturalism and evolution acquires a “defeater” for every belief he holds, including the beliefs associated with naturalism and evolution.[6]

[edit] Argument from reason

Some have argued that certain features of human reason cannot be explained by naturalism. For example, it is claimed that naturalism cannot explain intentionality, mental causation, or the existence of logical laws or abstract objects. This argument was summed up by Clive Staples Lewis as follows:

If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true... and hence no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.
Clive Staples Lewis, Miracles

[edit] Argument from physical law

Some claim naturalism cannot explain the existence of physical laws. This argument takes many forms, but the two most common are the claim that the mathematical nature of physical laws entails a supernatural mind behind them and the claim that naturalism can provide no ontological foundation for physical laws, requiring some supernatural power or being to realize and maintain them. Yet another argument, related to the argument from incoherence, states that because all data available to naturalists is based on physical laws, any attempt on the part of naturalism to explain physical laws would be an instance of begging the question.

[edit] Argument from incoherence

Sometimes it is claimed that naturalism entails self-contradictory commitments. This argument involves the claim that metaphysical naturalism precludes all nonphysical data in its premise. Because metaphysical naturalism assumes that everything is physical, using physical data in support of it would constitute circular reasoning. At this point in the argument, the only data that could plausibly support metaphysical naturalism would be nonphysical data. Opponents then argue that any existence of such data would be a direct contradiction of metaphysical naturalism. Finally, it is concluded that metaphysical naturalism is an illogical (or at least impossible to empirically prove) worldview.

[edit] Argument from the necessity of a God

One of the more esoteric arguments against naturalism is to claim that it is in some sense impossible for the universe to exist unless it is caused or cohabited by a supernatural entity.[citation needed] There are several forms of this argument, some requiring a demonstration of the premise that the universe began to exist (like the Kalam cosmological argument). Others argue that even if the universe has always existed, the act of getting from some distant point in the past to now would involve transcending an infinite amount of time through consecutive addition, an arguably impossible feat. As the impossible has allegedly been demonstrated as having occurred, the opponent of naturalism suggests the necessity of supernatural activity.

[edit] Argument to cosmological design

Also known as the Fine Tuning argument, this is the claim that the fundamental constants of physics and laws of nature appear so finely-tuned to permit life that only a supernatural engineer can explain it.

[edit] Argument from improbability of life

Many claim the origin of life was too improbable to have occurred without supernatural intervention and therefore naturalism fails to explain the appearance of life. This argument is usually based on statistics and figures that supposedly tell the probability of life occurring through natural means. It is argued that this probability is so small as to be safely assumed to be zero.

[edit] Argument to biological design

Recently popular is the legally unscientific[7][8] claim that certain structures in evolved organisms are too complex to have evolved by natural selection and can only be explained as the result of intelligent design. This argument suggests that certain biological instances (the favorite example being the eye) could not have occurred gradually, but must have come to be instantaneously. This is referred to as the argument from irreducible complexity.

[edit] Argument from consciousness

Since no one has yet scientifically explained the qualitative nature of conscious experience, otherwise known as qualia, some argue that naturalism is therefore refuted or should not be believed. Proponents of this argument suggest that naturalism's lack of a definite explanation on this matter is not a result of a simple lack of research (which would indicate that science may one day explain qualia), but that naturalism cannot explain qualia because no valid physical explanation exists.

[edit] Moral argument

There are two kinds of moral argument: the claim that naturalism eliminates morality and the claim that moral facts exist that naturalism cannot explain. The first claim, that there can be no moral truth if naturalism is true, is a variety of the argument from despair already noted above, and naturalists respond in the same way here as there. In addition, naturalists argue we can derive moral propositions from actual facts about human needs and desires and the social and physical environment we inhabit. As to the second claim, naturalists respond that no one has ever demonstrated the actual existence of any moral facts that naturalism cannot explain.

[edit] See also

[edit] Select bibliography

[edit] Historical Overview

  • Edward B. Davis and Robin Collins, "Scientific Naturalism." In Science and Religion: A Historical Introduction, ed. Gary B. Ferngren, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002, pp. 322-34.

[edit] Pro

[edit] Con

[edit] References

[edit] External links

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