> JR> CC> Now, insofar as naturalism can be equated with the axiomatic fact
> JR> CC> Existence (that there is something, and the entirety of what
> JR> CC> called "Existence"), then naturalism would be basic as well.
> JR> I have never heard this defn of naturalism. If this is what you mean
> JR> "naturalism", then even God is a naturalist! :^>
> I didn't mean this as a definition. And I was wrong as well (rather, I
> misstated my views). I don't believe that naturalism is basic in the same
> way or to the same degree that the fact of Existence is, only that it
> naturally ( :-) ) flows from the fact of Existence. We don't
> start out with
> any reason even to think of the issue of whether what exists is natural or
> not. It just *is* as far as we initially can tell, and it is only later,
> much later, that we can even conceive of ideas like
> non-naturalism, which we
> can define only in terms of naturalism because the "natural
> world" (whether
> it's *really* natural or not) is the only world we have any experience of
> (or in, at least, being "natural world" beings ourselves). *If* we are to
> rationally conclude that there is a non-natural world, we need special
> evidence for it, but that evidence must somehow be *in* the natural world
> (because, otherwise, we have no access to it).
> But this means that there must be facts that not only do not
> submit well to
> current naturalistic explanations, but which *cannot* do well under
> naturalistic explanations (particularly since *relocating* the
> problem into
> a non-natural realm does not really *solve* it).
I agree that we don't start out thinking about any naturalism/non-naturalism
distinction -- we take life as it comes, a bit unphilosophically at first,
with those sorts of dichotomies being the result of more advanced
But most people, most Christians certainly, would disagree that that means
either that we have experience only of the natural world (that begs the
question, even if that's our most straightforward and, via science, rigorous
experience), or that the non-natural world is presumptively superfluous.
This is why I was wondering if you were going with scientism (you've said
you're not, and I accept that, though it seems to me kissin' kin): I think
that the approach you advocate is a good one for physical science, at least
provisionally (being overturned only if an alternative -- theistic,
interventionistic ID, say -- is not merely TRUE, but yields better long-term
PRACTICAL SCIENTIFIC RESULTS, which even as a firm Christian I don't -- yet,
anyway -- see happening). But I think it's seriously mistaken as a
methodology for philosophy or reason broadly construed, in that it
arbitrarily rejects extremely common and deep intuitions and experiences
about God, intuitions and experiences that I agree by no means amount to
proof that the staunchest disbeliever will accept (which doesn't logically
imply anything bad about them), but seem highly rationally relevant to those
who aren't already committed atheists, myself included.
To put it another way, to me and many others, your axiom about not believing
in the supernatural so long as naturalism is even conceivably correct seems
like a great epistemology to remain a fervently committed atheist, but not
to find God if God is there (unless God coerces belief, in which case it
won't much matter what epistemology you have; this doesn't seem to be a
If it seems to someone -- you say -- pretty much self-evident that there is
no God, then the above limitation is irrelevant. But to someone not
starting off from atheism, or starting from theism, the game seems rather
blatantly and strangely rigged.
After all, if, with the goal of minimizing our ontology (i.e., minimizing
the quantities and varieties of things that we think exist), we'd apply the
same sort of "I won't believe in X unless denying X is somehow demonstrably
logically incoherent (without assuming X)", to beliefs generally, we'd all
as staunchly reject the material world (in favor of mere sense data, which
we -know- is real -- don't we?), the past (an illusion), other minds (some
of our sense data by another name), rationality (simpler to have things
non-rational, no?), morality (what do moral claims even -mean-, and how
could they possibly be true??), laws of logic (talk about begging the
question by arguing for them), etc., as you reject God.
But almost nobody does that -- and it's a good thing, too.
(One caveat: some of my claims are easier to understand, I think, if one
thinks in terms not only of a minimal ontology, but a minimal set of
beliefs, in each case avoiding the risk of believing (in) something that
isn't correct. The flip side error is missing things that -are- there or
true. Credulity risks believing things that are false; skepticism risks
missing things that are true. Extremes of each are dysfunctional.)
Thus, this pretty clearly is not some good -general- principle of reasoning
(though it may be just right -specifically-, within more limited spheres,
such as physical science, and applied to the right objects, such as
I think you (tacitly) realize this, and so start using it only AFTER you've
gotten your core beliefs in the door. That's why (if I understand you) you
take the reality of the material world (and, I presume, the past, other
minds, logic, memory, perception, morality, etc.) for granted FIRST. THEN
you apply your filter -- to (types of) things you don't want to believe in.
But given that most people don't start off with this naturalistic axe to
grind, indeed given that most people have some more or less strong
inclination to believe in God (typically via a mix of a priori tendencies
plus experience), why should they intentionally, arbitrarily, and (from
their perspective) even -perversely- adopt an epistemology specifically
designed to accept everything they believe in but Him?
I take it you have, by nature or nurture, no such intuitions about God, and
no experience of Him acting in your life. (Perhaps at one point you did,
but became, as you now see it, rationally disabused of them -- rather than
growing in faith, you grew out of it.) Moreover, you've undoubtedly run
into many relatively unsophisticated believers who simply couldn't engage
you in serious debate. If this happens repeatedly, it's easy to see this as
a product not of their relative lack of sophistication or intellect, but of
their belief in God. (I hope I and some others have offered at least
a -hint- that this isn't a justified conclusion.) And based on your views
of Hitler, etc., as men of faith (that still boggles me), faith must seem
not only stupid but -positively dangerous for a free society-.
And so you have adopted the epistemology you've spelled out above, which
justifies, indeed demands, perpetual naturalism.
This isn't incomprehensible to me at all -- the logic in it is apparent,
given your starting point and associated beliefs. But it does seem a
serious error, or rather, a set of them. And I certainly hope you're not
surprised that, by and large, those not already committed to atheism, or
perhaps both atheism and the dangerousness of theism, will find your theory
of knowledge uncompelling -- especially when they're smart people too.
Thanks again, Chris. This is an interesting discussion.
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