Re: Any strong challenges to Naturalistic Sufficiency?

Date: Wed Jan 19 2000 - 00:32:45 EST

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    There are brief replies to excerpts from some of Chris' latest attempts
    to tell us all how it is.

    Chris writes:

    >Johnson is guilty of superstition not mainly because of the theistic aspect
    >of his metaphysics, but because of his rejection of basic rules of rational
    >thought. One example is his attempt to pretend that naturalism and
    >non-naturalism are on the same *epistemological* level.

    Of course, Chris merely believes Johnson is pretending in this fashion.
    But Chris does not know this is the case. Oh, he has his arguments
    to support his position, and they may *seem* correct, but no
    one really knows if they are. And unless we know this, we really don't
    know Johnson is indeed pretending. In the end, it merely boils down to
    belief in the strength of one's arguments. But the problem is that
    Chris is the type who is willing to banish those who think differently
    than he does to the Outer Realms of the Irrational. Y'see, it's simply
    not possible for someone to both disagree with Chris and yet remain

    Of course, as a non-naturalist, I must be, by definition, irrational.
    At least in Chris' mind, that is. Clearly then, it is probably a waste
    of my time to respond to Chris - poor old deluded irrational me
    could hardly expect to receive a fair hearing from up where Chris
    sits. We's irrational peasants is simply too dumb to sea da light.

    >But, as I've pointed out before, even non-naturalists agree that the natural
    >world exists, so there is no comparative burden of proof for naturalism or
    >non-naturalism in this respect. But, non-naturalism goes *radically* beyond
    >naturalism, proclaiming the existence of another metaphysical realm, and
    this *does*
    >impose a comparative burden of proof -- on non-naturalism.

    Obviously, both non-naturalists and naturalists agree the natural world
    exists. But they view the same thing differently and this is what I
    find to be important. Like I mentioned before, as an atheist, I came
    to the conclusion that atheism entails nihilism (one view of the natural
    world). As I see it, this is a very radical claim to make about the
    human condition.

    >Further, because any non-naturalistic explanation that *is* an explanation
    >can be "naturalized" (by trivial means), there simply is no need for a
    >non-naturalistic explanation for things. Non-naturalism does not give us any
    >real explanatory power than we already have via naturalistic means.

    This is exactly why Chris' approach to reality is so useless to me.
    It's thinking like this that leads directly to claims like the following:

    "Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such an hypothesis
    is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic" [Scott C. Todd
    Department of Biology, Kansas State University. Nature, 401:423, 30
    September 1999]

    Yes, with enough imagination and creativity, someone like Chris
    can always invent a purely possible naturalistic explanation for
    any data we find. And because of the game rules Chris lives
    by, this means a naturalistic explanation is always to be

    From where I sit, it looks more like Chris is trying to come
    up with a fancy rationalization for wearing blinders. That is, his
    argument means that even if it was true that God designed some
    part of reality, we have rationally obligated to deny this and
    adopt some ad hoc possible-world explanation Chris can
    imagine. Thus, truth is not the concern here. The only
    concern is coming up with naturalistic stories. What makes
    a belief rational is not its truth-content, but rather how well it
    conforms to naturalism.

    Chris, of course, is free to wear whatever blinders he can
    design for himself. But I take offense when he insists
    everyone else wears the same blinders or else they are
    to be labeled "irrational."

    My personal view is that reality is far too ambiguous,
    yes, even mysterious, to insist that only one set of
    games rules be used by everyone.


    >Not necessarily. Superstition is an epistemological concept. It has to do
    >with the method of establishing belief. Non-naturalism is superstition even
    >if it happens to be true, because there is no cognitive basis for it.

    Okay, so now I am irrational and superstitious. I suspect we are
    not far away from the claim that non-naturalism is inherently

    >I'm merely refusing to believe in something for which there is no evidence,
    >epistemological need, no philosophical need, no *objective* value whatever.
    >I refuse to believe in non-naturalism for the same reason that you
    >(probably) refuse to believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

    Hey, that fairly well summarizes my views about abiogenesis. The
    difference is that I don't refuse to believe in abiogenesis. I just
    don't see any convincing evidence that it happened.

    Steve quoted:

    > "It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to
    > believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked,
    > but I'd rather not consider that)." (Dawkins R., "Put Your Money on
    > Evolution", Review of Johanson D. & Edey M.A,, "Blueprints: Solving the
    > Mystery of Evolution", in New York Times, April 9, 1989, sec. 7, p34).

    Dawkins' nicely demonstrates the flippant arrogance that is
    typical of the know-it-all anti-design crowd. We must understand
    that they've figured out reality once and for all. The rest of us
    are either ignorant or stupid or insane or evil.

    Personally, I don't believe that eukaryotes and bacteria are related
    through evolution. This is not to say I believe they are not
    related as such, I simply lack evolution-belief with regards
    to this proposal for lack of good evidence. Now, hey, maybe
    this makes me ignorant or evil. But unlike Dawkins, who writes much
    about the evolution of the eye, at least I know (as do most undergraduate
    biology students) that retinal is not a protein (Dawkins commits
    that glaring blunder in his latest book).

    Chris replies to Dawkins quote:

    >I think this is literally true. Let me paraphrase, to make the point:

    >Paraphrase of Dawkins: It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet
    >somebody who claims not to
    >believe that 2+2=4, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked,
    >but I'd rather not consider that).

    >Would Stephen disagree with the point that someone who does not believe (or
    >who claims not to believe) that 2+2=4 is at least ignorant? (I count
    >stupidity as the expression of a certain kind of either ignorance or mental
    >disorder (or both)).

    I don't think the claim "2+2=4" is in the same category as "eukaryotes
    and bacteria share a common ancestor". Nope, not at all.

    >To conclude, I will note that, given the total lack of *positive* evidence
    >for design, Stephen's approach of attempting to find flaws in naturalistic
    >evolutionary theory is a sound strategy.

    I have already briefly spoken about what I consider to be positive
    evidence for the design of life: life as CSI and the need for teleological
    concepts/language to properly understand life. Chris may not agree,
    and that's fine with me. But he has offered absolutely nothing to indicate
    I am wrong for viewing these phenomena as positive evidence for design.
    And he most certainly has not demonstrated I am wrong. Thus, Chris
    doesn't believe such positive evidence exists. But as is typical of the
    anti-design crowd, he confuses his personal belief with a claim about
    the world. That is, since he doesn't believe such data are positive
    evidence of design, they are not, thus there is no positive evidence of
    design. Period.

    But hey, I've been asking several times now on this list for people
    like Chris to tell us what type of data they would consider positive evidence
    of design. And again and again, we see what they really want
    is absolute proof of design. Thus, since there is no absolute proof,
    of course there is no positive evidence. Or so they think.

    >But, by the Principle of Naturalistic Sufficiency, I can convert *any*
    >non-naturalistic theory that Stephen or anyone else proposes into an e
    >quivalent *naturalistic* theory that puts *less* stress on Occam's Razor
    >(because of the lack of a need to prove the existence of a woozily-defined
    >non-naturalistic metaphysical realm).

    Thank you for admitting that you are incapable of recognizing postive
    evidence of non-naturalistic design, even if it exists. I agree that you
    can do this, as human beings are well known for their imagination.
    Of course, we'd probably quibble about how we determine if an
    "equivalent" state was reached, but we all know that wouldn't matter.

    >This makes non-naturalism *useless* as an explanatory tool, as I
    >pointed out in an earlier post (in a somewhat grammatically garbled way).
    >Since it is also useless philosophically, for the same *and other* reasons,
    >we have to wonder why it is still being sold. So: *Why* is anyone still
    >trying to argue for non-naturalistic theories when they are both
    >scientifically and philosophically useless? I don't get it.

    You don't get it? You construct this a priori philosophical system
    that, to me, is no different from a rationalization for considering only
    one type of explanation (the very ones that just happen to coincide
    with your metaphysics). But some of us are not interested in telling
    stories where the ending is known from the beginning (it all happened
    naturally). For some of us, reality is stranger than this. Now, this
    closed-system you construct dictates to you that a ID approach should
    be useless. You insist and assert that it is. But I have demonstrated,
    with a simple example, that it is not (see my discussion on proof-reading).
    In fact, in my recent posting on ID and science, I also explained the
    utility of ID
    and how it has indeed been very helpful to science. But never mind, as
    that doesn't fit into this system you are building.

    Put yourself in my shoes, Chris. Your philosophy tells you ID is
    scientifically useless. My experience (although admitted limited
    at this time) tells me otherwise. Do I trust your words? Or do
    I trust how ID has indeed explained how the world works?

    >Before I start creating naturalistic theories out of SJ's non-naturalistic
    >theories, I'm wondering whether there is any strong arguments or attempts at
    >arguments against the Principle of Naturalistic Sufficiency.

    That's kind of like asking if there are strong arguments against handing
    out $200 when you pass go. You are free to invent whatever game
    rules you want. And if enough agree to play by those rules, you've
    got yourself a game. The problem is that some people get so caught
    up in the game they actually forget it's all a game.

    >This is the principle that there is, for any fact or facts capable of
    explanation, at
    >least one prospective naturalistic explanation that is better, in scientific
    >and Occam's Razor terms, than any equivalent *non*-naturalistic theory for
    >the same facts.

    In other words, "Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer,
    such an hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not
    naturalistic." Now, this ain't a bad game. In fact, it can be pretty
    fun to try this. But why confuse the results of a game with
    truth statements about reality? I used to be pretty good at Risk,
    but this doesn't mean I'd make a good General.

    >The principle applies not only to the development of life on Earth, but also
    >to the *claims* of people that Jesus rose from the dead (I mention this
    >because I see from a glance at another Jones post that he is claiming the
    >rising of Jesus from the dead as an established fact, whereas I have serious
    >doubts that he existed *at all* -- I would *love* to see the epistemology
    >that can make the claim of his existence truly acceptable *and* that can
    >also *strongly* support the claim that he rose from the dead, because there
    >a number of fantasies that *I'd* like to prove).

    No offense, Chris, but it doesn't surprise me you are a JDE (Jesus didn't
    exist) atheist. My extensive experience with JDE atheists doesn't exactly
    indicate they can approach these controversial topics in a open and fair
    manner. You're advertising just how important it is for you to grind that
    axe of yours.


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