Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Defeating Naturalism

[An apology to those who will read this and wonder WHERE ON EARTH DID THAT COME FROM??!! This is an attempt on my part to work through some "scientific" arguments posed by some of my peers, who deny the existence of God. The level of discourse is high, and I'm afraid this post may scare off some, but if those who read it can comment on its meaning to them, or if you have any comments, I'd appreciate the feedback.]
The Thinking Fish

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.
Psalm 14:1

Spend any amount of time in popular metaphysical literature, and you will find abundant reference to the notion that science precludes the existence of God. Conservative commentators must constantly wage battle with the notion that faith and science are mutually exclusive, the one a fool’s errand and the latter the only path to a true understanding of the world.

This text attempts to refute that notion, proving unequivocally that science is not only compatible with the notion of faith; but moreover that science’ dependence upon observation for understanding truth, coupled with the logic that undergirds its study, forces science to conclude the existence of a supernatural creator.

Understanding Naturalism

We will prove that naturalism is self-contradictory. In order to do so, and to prevent claims that we have manipulated its definition in order to facilitate our attempt, we will first clearly define naturalism. This will also provide a basis for further discussion should any naturalist desire to challenge the points made in this text.

Naturalism, according to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (2000), is a philosophy which holds that “all phenomena can be explained in terms of natural causes and laws.”

Stated more colloquially, naturalism holds that all events and objects derive from natural causes – that no event transpires for which an non-natural event provides ground. Even more strenuously, naturalism precludes the intervention of any non-natural force in the causation of all things we know and experience.

Further, naturalism holds that the ultimate and only source of knowledge is via rational inquiry. No source of revelation beside the actual scientific study of observation and logical conclusions that follow may be allowed to intrude on the reasoned discourse of man.

The means for refuting naturalism, then, must lie in the discovery of some physical phenomena for which it can be demonstrated that no natural cause exists. Such a phenomenon would then require as grounds for its existence some extra-natural event, something that naturalism is quite unprepared to accept.

The Heart of Naturalism

The deep core of naturalism beats around the notion of causality. Any object, any event can be defined as the confluence of causes and events that intersect with its existence. Yet this notion presents a deep problem that cuts at the very tenets of naturalism, for if naturalism is to hold, it must hold for all things natural.

A moment of clarification is necessary. Naturalism, if it is to hold, must be understood to provide an answer for any physical phenomena. Whether we can provide such an answer, it is enough if we can conceive that nature could produce such a reason.

Consider for a moment a single cause. Perhaps it is the brush of wind that caused a rock to skittle down a hill. The small grain of dust that overwhelmed a cloud’s capacity to contain the rain. Now consider the causes adjacent to that, and then adjacent to those, and so on, until you fathom the sum of all causes within the physical world.

This entity is known to us. It is existence. These causes, in their aggregate, are (according to naturalism) the very agents that cause us to be. So what of them? They can be observed to some degree, although we could not contain the whole of them within our comprehension. But the clarification above states that we need not comprehend the entirety if we can but conceive a means by which they might be explained.

Unfortunately, logic prevents us from doing so. Were there a cause for the totality of causes, would it not be included a priori within said causes and hence no longer be able to cause the rest, for certainly a part of something cannot cause the whole?

Naturalism however, demands that this event, this existence of the confluence of all causes, have a source. There are to be no free causal agents, those that cause but are not caused in return. Yet no such cause can be found, for to find such a cause would indeed be subsumed within the entity it seeks to cause.

As such, the demand of naturalism itself leads to the only conceivable conclusion, that something outside of nature inserts itself within our world to create existence.

The Death of Naturalism

So naturalism, as we know it, must die. To entertain the notion that all can be explained within the physical is to conclude that something must derive from the non-physical. Such contradictions ought not to be tolerated within the realm of science.

But what if we attempted to rationalize the supernatural into something akin to our natural world, a supernaturalism, if you will? What if we attempted to create a supernature about our nature, so that our physical world must operate within the confines of our natural law, punctuated by the occasional intervention from supernature, but that the agent within supernature that caused our existence is itself bound by some higher natural law? We might then still be able to salvage the character of naturalism, although its singular nature must needs surrender to the concept of some hierarchy of natures.

Unfortunately, this too is doomed to failure, for were our supernature to be constrained by its own form of naturalism, it would fall to the same argument that did in our own limited view of nature. It appears that postulating hierarchies of nature is sufficient only to complicate the question. It cannot free naturalism of its own inherent contradiction.


The only solution then by which we might save naturalism, is to appeal to some Alpha naturalism, the sum total of a potentially infinite hierarchy of natures, each punctuating and affecting those beneath it. Perhaps by its infinite nature, we can come close enough to God without having to concede his existence as well.

Such an infinite hierarchy of natures would indeed be complex, but mathematics and science are hardly strangers to the world of the infinite. This infinite world-within-a-world construct, while itself infinite, is and must be a single entity. Within its bounds is an infinite stream of worlds, but considered as a whole, it is singular, and according to the Alphanaturalism that would constrain it, must itself have a cause. We are back to the same difficulty.

The only conceivable means by which we can solve this dilemma is to stop. Stop attempting to harness a greater and greater world, and instead recognize the supernatural source, a free causal agent that causes without being caused, one that has Existed without requiring a beginning. Only such a source can provide the answer, and yet such a source is the ultimate defeat of naturalism.

Science And God

The commentary above demonstrates that the observable world and its laws must drive us to a conclusion. Namely, that a force unwillable by any other force, and with the power to affect all worlds beneath its scope, both willfully and deliberately created all around us. Such a force finds no place in the traditional scientific literature of today, but is freely accommodated in the world of Faith.

That Science leads us to God is no surprise to those who believe in God. Science and faith are not mutually exclusive. In fact, Science is dependent upon God both for the structure upon which it rests and for the logical grounds within whose constraints it operates.

This text says nothing of the nature of God. It does not demonstrate the truth of any particular faith. It merely points to God’s existence. And as such, Science fundamentally changes the nature of our discourse, for we can no longer deny the existence of God.

Our method of understanding God may vary from person to person, but indeed, only fools can claim that God does not exist, for Science not only demands the existence of deity, but depends upon It for its very survival.


Blogger Goliath said...

I do concur. It amazes me how scientists can say that things are so complex and have no idea what they are talking about because it is so complex and yet say that it just is. But, of course, they know enough to know that there is nor God.

Case in point, my Geology class I took last year. The last term we covered evolution. The teacher had his work cut out for him. There were a number of Christians in the class that refused to believe in evolution and rather than just learning it to pass the test, challenged him and questioned him at every opportunity. he was baffled. There were many times that he said something about evolution and the evolutionary timeline that they could not explain and yet I could look back and see where biblically there was an explanation. It's amazing that they say the Bible is not true just because they refuse to believe in a God, yet if they picked it up with an open mind they would see that all of their dilemmas are explained in one single concise well written book.

I like this discussion. You should make a post based upon all the stuff you know about the Noah incident. Remember what you were talking about at Labor Day? The Ice shield and all that? I would enjoy having that in a single location I could point people to to read.

October 06, 2005 8:22 AM  
Blogger Ken said...

*I am by no means a naturalist, I am just bothered by your blatantly biased presentation*

Are you familiar with the idea of a “straw argument”? Essentially, a straw argument is where an individual sizes up his opponent’s position in a slanted and/or unflattering light so that the opponent’s argument can be easily torn down. If you will, imagine tying up your opponent’s hands at the beginning of a boxing match and then having your way with him. Due to the way you present the naturalist’s point of view, you are establishing a straw argument.
It would appear as if you are attempting to construct an academic argument; for such an argument, I hardly think that it is acceptable to grab definitions from any random dictionary. Would a lawyer refer to Webster in order to define a technical, law related word? My guess would be no and for the simple reason that Webster lacks the correct language that would be found in a dictionary of legal terminology. Similarly, using your laying-around-the-house dictionary to define naturalism is a bad idea because that type of dictionary is going to lack the critical language needed to build your argument’s foundation. Coming from AFC, you should be aware of with the man who built is house on the sand, right? A solid foundation is a good thing to have.
After yielding a definition that arises from an insufficient source, you proceed to add your own interpretations; the spin, quite frankly, becomes overwhelming. Furthermore, as you walk the readers through your thought process, you loosely manage to draw weak conclusions based off of your doctored definition.
So really, you accomplish nothing. You stated at the beginning of your piece that you wanted to firmly establish a definition so that nobody can (a) call BS on you and (b) manipulate your words . . . but really, the only thing accomplished was a nice cheap shot to the opposing argument. Where is the objectivity? The rules were established by you. The language behind the definition was selected by you. The naturalist’s argument is built up and torn down by you. What’s the point of the argument? There is no argument; your piece is nothing more than a one sided rant.
I have the funny feeling that you are going to write off this comment; however, before you do so, I suggest that you collect the proper data/references and then reconstruct your argument. Until you do so, your over-arching conclusion cannot be taken seriously. The end does not justify the means.

*Just a note for Goliath (given that he reads this). Congratulations. You and your fellow Christian, classmates teamed up on a teacher and bombarded him with questions. That is one courageous act. But sarcasm aside, you said that you used Bible scripter to answer questions concerning the evolutionary timeline . . . what questions were those exactly? Contrary to the Bible (and its estimation that the world is roughly 4000 years old), most evolutionists believe that the world is millions upon millions of years old. If the Biblical and evolutionary timelines were compared, it would be noticed that the missing link takes place millions of years before the world (according to the Bible) was created.*

October 12, 2005 6:15 PM  
Blogger Rational Icthus said...


Thanks for the comments. Understand that I’m not about to “write off” your comment. I do however, feel that you are slightly off-base. Perhaps the fact that you are not a naturalist accounts for this. Perhaps it’s because you made no effort to compare my definition (which you claim manufactures a “straw man”) with the ones provided by naturalists themselves.

Recall that the dictionary definition I found describes naturalism as a philosophy holding the view that “all phenomena can be explained in terms of natural causes and laws.” I stated further that naturalists hold that all events and objects derive from natural causes – that no event transpires for which a non-natural event provides ground. Even more strongly, I stated that naturalism precludes the intervention of any non-natural force in the causation of all things we know and experience.
Quickly, my definition reduces to two succinct points:

1) All phenomena can be explained via natural causes
2) No non-natural event exists which causes a natural one

You seem to hold the view that this is a definition constructed by me to construe an artificial weakness into the arguments of naturalism. Unfortunately, you’re sadly misinformed about the facts. The website www.naturalism.org, a website for the Center For Naturalism, defines naturalism to be just what I stated. Here are some quotes from the site.

There is, under naturalism, nothing supernatural about us which places us above or beyond nature, but this is something to be celebrated, not feared. Practically speaking, naturalism holds that an individual’s development and behavior are entirely the result of prior and surrounding conditions, both genetic and environmental. Naturalism, therefore, denies that persons have contra-causal free will - that something within them is capable of acting as a first cause. But this isn't a problem, it's just how things are.

Everything we are and do is completely connected to the rest of the world. Our bodies and minds are shaped in their entirety by conditions that precede us and surround us. Each of us is an unfolding, natural process, and every aspect of that process is caused, and is a cause itself. We are therefore entirely at home in the physical universe.

Naturalism, in essence, is simply the idea that human beings are completely included in the natural world: there’s nothing supernatural about us. Naturalism is based on science as the best, most reliable means for discovering what exists. Science shows that each and every aspect of a human being comes from and is completely connected to the natural world, and is understandable in terms of those connections.

The naturalist view of ourselves is of course very different from traditional religious or supernatural understandings, and it has profound implications. We don’t have souls that continue after death. Instead, we are fully physical creatures, fully caused to be who we are. We don’t have free will in the sense of being able to choose or decide without being fully caused in our choices or decisions. Instead, as individuals we are part of the natural unfolding of the universe in all its amazing complexity.

Is my definition so far off, then? They claim that in naturalism, there is … nothing supernatural about us. Point #2 above. They claim that an individual’s development and behavior are entirely the result of prior and surrounding conditions. Point #1, albeit restricted to the individual. Other naturalist writings expand this claim to all phenomena.

Exactly where is this straw man you speak of? Perhaps you posit a scarecrow where none exists because you yourself are afraid to deal with the arguments at hand? I’m pretty sure that sums up your argument, because the rest of your rant dealt with how I tortured my conjured definition to make weak points related to my argument.

You are correct, an “everyday” dictionary might be insufficient to deal with weighty matters that require technical definitions. In this case, however, it was clearly sufficient and on-target. Perhaps you should not make over-reaching statements and instead read up yourself on naturalism. That way you could have verified whether my definition was worthy of consideration. If you want to be taken seriously, that is. In the academic/intellectual community, charges of fraudulent arguments are taken seriously, and those that make baseless claims of such fraud are regarded with great skepticism.

On a slightly different note, who are you? You seem to know the AFC, so perhaps you know me. But I don’t know you. It’s easier to discuss issues like this when you know your opponent.

As for your comments toward Goliath, I think he and his comrades acted (in my opinion) quite courageously. There are ample accounts in the news of students who are being railroaded from college campuses because of their expressions of Christian faith. To stand up, even in a small group, against the authority and prestige of an academic professor backed by the collegiate institution he represents, requires some degree of courage, especially given the ridicule they were likely to face. There is no question that within the liberally hijacked academic community, the blatant disregard for all things Christians poses challenges for those who would stand up for Jesus Christ.

As for your comments about the Bible and the evolutionary timeline…

Given that they two timelines are in conflict – the Bible claims an earth of age around 6,000 years – it is clear that only one of the two accounts can be true, not both. (Of course, it is theoretically possible that neither account is correct.)

The epic flood described in Genesis actually provides a theory that counters the flawed thinking that is evolutionary theory. Given that the Genesis flood provides such a contrary theory, it is not unreasonable to assert the right for Christians to assert what they believe to be the truth regarding the origin of man.

Genesis 1:7
And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.

Genesis 1:14
And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:

Genesis 1:20
And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.

These three verses indicate that according to the creation account in Genesis, that at the time of creation there was water beneath and *above* the firmament. What is the firmament? Given that God placed lights there (sun, moon and stars) and commanded the birds to fly in it, the firmament must have been the sky. We thus have an account where there are bodies of water both above and below the sky. Further, the account of the flood indicates that there was water beneath the surface of the earth, for the fountains of the deep were broken and flooded the earth.

We then have a scriptural account that proposes a world with vast quantities of water in the earth, and above the earth. Scientific creationists propose an ice sheet in the stratosphere (using the term stratosphere loosely here, don’t go all definition-crazy on me) This isn’t completely nuts, the gravity of the earth could maintain such a sheet, and it would not be unlike the rings of Saturn.

Scoffers abound, but which is more unreasonable? Do we laugh at the notion that rocks dissolved in a hot ocean and somehow enough atoms got to the right spot and *BAM* there was life? We have no precedent for such belief that has been observed by man, yet we have precedent of ice in the atmosphere in several of the planets we can observe.

If the ice theory is true, and if somehow a catastrophic event occurred with shattered the ice so that it re-entered earth atmosphere and if said event also broke open the “fountains of the deep,” the flooding would be immense. Especially if the breaking caused the formation of the tectonic plates we now have. Prior to those breaks, the earth could have been extensively uniform in height, allowing for quick flooding.

Such a flood would have killed the vast majority of vegetation, leading to large mats of vegetation floating on the surface of the worldwide flood. Such mats would have eventually sank and been buried under the sediment that precipitated out of the water as it flowed into what eventually became our oceans. These mats would eventually turn to oil. The rapid deposits of mass amounts of material would have led to high pressure and high heat (due to decomposition) that could have produced the conditions for making oil in a short amount of time.

Such sedimentary deposits could also explain why we have layers upon layers of sedimentary rock, and silt of different densities sorted in the receding waters. It would explain how fossils from the one period are found in the strata from another.

Certainly it is not unreasonable, simply unpopular given the current state of academia and the reticence of today’s media to do anything but scoff at reasonable Christian beliefs.

What’cha think?

November 08, 2005 1:12 PM  
Blogger Ken said...

First, if my throwing ideas/complaints your way has offended you, I will apologize. I had no intentions of coming across as malicious.
Second, you, quite frankly, seem like a fairly cocky/educated individual . . . those are the types that I like to spark up conversations/arguments with. All in all, I find that when I enter into a conversation with someone more knowledgable than I, I am forced to stretch my mind a bit. Although it sounds rather greedy, in the end I usually walk away a better person and that's what I strive for. When I came across your blog, I couldn't help but say something. Again, sorry if I ruffled your feathers.
Third, I have grown up (fortunately or unfortunately, I've yet to decide) with the Medford AFC. Some time ago, you taught one of the Sunday school classes I attended . . . that's how I know you. Also, I've known your wife's family for quite some time know.
Lastly, I don't agree with evolution, so the scripture was not at all necessary. Although I don't subscribe to any religion in particular, I would say that I lean towards Christianity and basic Christian beliefs*. Hence, I do indeed believe that God created this world; I just irritating to hear people brag about teaming up on a single individual, regardless of the concepts being questioned.

*However, due in part to not living a Christian lifestyle, I refrian from calling my self a Christian . . . to do so would be rather sacrilegious. Or so I believe.

Kenneth L. Lane, IV
(Kenneth Hastings)

November 08, 2005 6:18 PM  
Blogger Rational Icthus said...

True enough, you managed to ruffle my feathers, but no offense taken. My apologies to you if I came on too strong.

I recognize your name, but I'm not sure I know you per se. The only Sunday School class I taught in Medford was the 4th/5th grade class, and you are entirely too adult-sounding to have been in that class.

I'm gonna have to ask my wife to help me figure out who you are :)

Look forward to further debates.

Just curious. What do you think of our discussion as it stands now?

November 08, 2005 11:54 PM  
Blogger Rational Icthus said...

OK, I remember subbing in the high school class a couple of times. And my wife reminded me that I was there when we had your graduation party at the church.

A bit foggy, but it's coming back to me.

November 09, 2005 9:41 AM  
Blogger Stacy said...

Ok so as I recall you left a message on my blog stating that I was alive. I would assume that you are speaking on the fact that it had been a while since I had last posted. Well looking at the date on your latest blog, it says Oct. 4th and last I checkded today's date is Nov. 9th.


Are you alive??

November 09, 2005 5:23 PM  
Blogger Ken said...

Concerning my thoughts on the discussion thus far, I've been a little lazy in my efforts to make a solid point and I need to step it up a notch . . =)
As far as this thread is concerned, I've yet to thoroughly look at your newest/restated older points -- I hate it when school gets in the way of my fun. Hopefully though, I should have some free time this upcoming week and I will do my best to go over/address anything at that time.
Real quick though, I wanted to bring your attention to stats (pertaining to gay numbers, etc) you listed on Bryan's thread. I double checked the numbers to make sure that I wasn't running behind on current events, and as I expected, the number for new HIV/AIDS cases with the homosexual community is not +70%.
From what I could find on the CDC website (the most current numbers that I could find reflect 2003 cases), the numbers state that *from the beginning of the HIV academic up until 2003*, male-male intercourse was behind 53% of all outbreaks. The break down of new HIV/AIDS cases in 2003 with respects to sexual orientation were as follows: 17,969 for homosexual cases and 13,260 for heterosexual cases.
Also, an UNAIDS report for 2004 clearly states that new HIV/AIDS cases due to “unprotected, heterosexual sex” is on the rise in countries where “unprotected, homosexual sex” was normally the culprit (North America, parts of Europe). Not trying to say the homosexuals don’t do their fair share of the damage, but globally, heterosexuals are behind a good chunk of the HIV/AIDS epidemic; human trafficking and overall strong patriarchal systems are considerable problem with respects to HIV/AIDS (I know that you were talking specifically about the States . . . I just wanted to toss that in for fun).
Lastly, when you said that we as a country spend more money on HIV/AIDS than on any other disease/virus, was that taking into account the significant amount of financial aid we’ve sent to Africa?
While I'm talking about Bryan's thread, I just wanted to say that you rightfully called me on my Buddhism assertion. I was horribly vague and didn't offer any supporting thoughts; after thinking about it, I've decided that it would be best to retract that statement . . . heh.



November 11, 2005 6:36 PM  
Blogger Rational Icthus said...

Tell u what,

Gimme a few to look at the HIV research and I'll present my case in full. Remember, the 70% figure is only part of a larger assertion that the gay lifestyle is unhealthy -- physically, psychologically and spiritually -- and that the gay lifestyle has done a great deal of harm to US culture. AIDS is only a portion of that argument.

I've been promising to write this one up for a while, and I keep putting it off. For one, I don't wanna get flame, and second it's just plain a lot of work. I've got a whole binder full of stats and it's no small project to pull them all together.

As for retractions, I've made some half-hearted attempts at an apology for my baiting comments about gays earlier. While I believe the homosexual lifestyle to be wrong and unhealthy, it doesn't excuse my rudeness. Sorry if I offended you.

Until then.

November 12, 2005 3:30 PM  

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