Re: Any strong challenges to Naturalistic Sufficiency?

From: Stephen E. Jones (
Date: Wed Jan 19 2000 - 09:30:30 EST

  • Next message: "Re: Part II of reply to Stephen on my remarks about Johnson"


    On Tue, 18 Jan 2000 15:14:24 -0600, Chris Cogan wrote:

    CC>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.

    Chris would need to show first that there *is* such a "Principle of
    Naturalistic Sufficiency". I have checked my dictionaries of philosophy, my
    philosophical and apologetic books, the online Encyclopaedia Britannica, and
    even using AltaVista, and I can find no mention of "naturalistic sufficiency".

    CC>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. I've argued for this principle briefly in an earlier post,
    >though I have by no means given my entire argument for it (i.e., one that
    >covers prospective objections, etc.).

    While most theists would no doubt in general support the proposition that
    if a truly equivalent naturalistic explanation is available, it would suffice to
    render a supernatural explanation unnecessary and superfluous. Bill
    Dembski's explanatory filter seems to be based on that principle, in that
    naturalistic alternatives like Law and Chance have first bite at the
    explanatory cherry before intelligent causes can be inferred. But no doubt
    an atheist like Chris, and a theist like me, might disagree on whether the
    naturalistic theory was truly "equivalent"!

    There is a built-in asymmetry here. While a theist can accept a naturalistic
    explanation and remain a theist, an atheist cannot accept a supernaturalistic
    explanation, no matter how good the evidence for it is, and still remain an
    atheist. As Christian geneticist David Wilcox pointed out:

    "One can be a theistic `Darwinian,' but no one can be an atheistic
    `Creationist.'" (Wilcox D.L., "Tamed Tornadoes," in Buell J. & Hearn V.,
    eds., "Darwinism: Science or Philosophy?", 1994, p215.

    So I suspect that the atheist Chris here has a not-so hidden agenda to use
    the "Principle of Naturalistic Sufficiency" in a way that *any* naturalistic
    explanation, no matter how weak the evidence for it is, is always deemed
    to be at least "equivalent" to any supernaturalistic explanation, no matter
    how strong the evidence for that is!

    CC>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

    While I *do* claim that "the rising of Jesus from the dead" is "an
    established fact", in the sense that by the ordinary standards of historical
    investigation, the resurrection of Jesus is as well (if not better) attested as
    any fact of history can be. The resurrection of Jesus is rejected on
    *philosophical* grounds, not on historical grounds.

    But I cannot remember recently using words to the effect that "the rising of
    Jesus from the dead" is "an established fact".

    CC>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

    This just shows that no amount of evidence would ever convince Chris on
    something that even mildly threatened his atheism. Chris's atheism must be
    pretty fragile if it is threatened even by the possibility that Jesus might have

    In fact Frank Zindler made this same claim in his debate with William Lane
    Craig, and the latter flatly said that *no* reputable historian these days
    claims that Jesus did not exist. And Zindler did not refute Craig's assertion,
    when clearly he would have if he could have.

    I challenge Chris to quote from *one* leading historian today who denies
    that Jesus even existed.

    If Chris cannot even accept that Jesus existed, then it is probably a waste of
    time debating with Chris on *anything*. I actually intended not to answer
    Chris' post, but then I thought there may be others on the List who would
    benefit from the discussion, even if Chris does not (and probably cannot).

    CC>*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).


    Which only goes to confirm my point. Chris does not even believe in his
    own "Principle of Naturalistic Sufficiency", because he does not even
    accept that there even *could* be such a thing as a "*non*-naturalistic

    On Chris's atheistic metaphysical assumptions, a "*non*-naturalistic theory"
    is really just a "fantasy"! So Chris does not ever *really* intend to seriously
    compare a "naturalistic explanation" with a "*non*-naturalistic theory" to
    see if they are "equivalent". Chris has already decided in advance on his
    basic philosophical principles that there cannot possibly even *be* a
    "*non*-naturalistic theory"!

    I was already going to ignore Chris' responses to the "Why Phillip Johnson is a
    Dangerous Man" threads, because of Chris' descent into the ad hominem
    gutter. Indeed, I will probably start ignoring more of Chris' posts

    I have just been advised today that I have been accepted into a university
    degree course, so if that works out, I will anyway in the near future have to
    make more stringent cost/benefit decisions regarding which posts I answer
    on this Reflector, or indeed if I stay on the Reflector.


    "A large number of well-trained scientists outside of evolutionary biology
    and paleontology have unfortunately gotten the idea that the fossil record is
    far more Darwinian than it is. This probably comes from the
    oversimplification inevitable in secondary sources: low-level textbooks
    semipopular articles, and so on. Also, there is probably some wishful
    thinking involved. In the years after Darwin, his advocates hoped to find
    predictable progressions. In general. these have not been found-yet the
    optimism has died hard and some pure fantasy has crept into textbooks."
    (Raup D.M., "Evolution and the Fossil Record", Science, Vol. 213, No.
    4505, 17 July 1981, p289).
    Stephen E. Jones | |

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