Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Naturalism, Atheism, and the Argument from Intelligibility

Naturalism and atheism are often presented as the default rational positions, but a deeper look reveals profound philosophical challenges to their coherence and explanatory power. Naturalism asserts that nature is all that exists and that all phenomena can be explained through natural processes. Atheism, which frequently relies on naturalistic presuppositions, is the lack of belief in any gods or supernatural forces. However, both worldviews face significant obstacles.

First, naturalism appears to rest on circular reasoning - it assumes the primacy of nature and then interprets all evidence through that lens. This begs the question, effectively sidestepping the need to provide a more fundamental justification for its core claim. While naturalists appeal to the success of science as validation, the scientific method is arguably underdetermined when it comes to ultimate metaphysical questions. Science's explanatory triumphs do not rule out the existence of realities beyond the strictly natural and quantifiable.

Second, naturalism and atheism struggle to account for key features of reality, such as the profound intelligibility and fine-tuning of the cosmos. Our universe exhibits a stunning susceptibility to rational investigation, from its mathematical elegance to its precise calibration of physical constants. As many have compellingly argued, this pervasive intelligibility points to an intelligent source - a divine mind behind the rational order of creation.

Naturalistic explanations for cosmic intelligibility, such as brute contingency, physical necessity, or the anthropic principle, prove inadequate upon philosophical scrutiny. They fail to address the specificity, beauty, and uncanny resonance of the universe's rational structure. In contrast, theism offers a more parsimonious and illuminating account, grounding the intelligible cosmos in the creative rationality of God.

Longmire's Teleological Argument encapsulates this powerful case for a transcendent intelligence:

P1: The universe is scientifically intelligible. 

P2: Scientific intelligibility stems from rational minds.

C: The universe stems from a rational mind (i.e., God).

The theistic worldview also better coheres with the full scope of human experience, from our apprehension of objective moral truths to our intuitive sense of meaning and purpose. Naturalism and atheism, by reducing reality to the strictly physical and mechanical, struggle to find a place for these defining aspects of the human condition.

The persistent failure of naturalism to fully explain the foundational character of the universe it claims as its own should give us pause. The existence of a world so breathtakingly rational, so shot through with beauty and meaning, so congenial to the flourishing of conscious creatures who bear the image of their Creator - all of this should reopen the question of God with fresh eyes.

As we grapple with the profound philosophical problems inherent in any totalizing worldview, an attitude of intellectual humility is vital. Let us reason together in good faith, following the evidence where it leads. The argument from intelligibility, rigorously made, calls us to look beyond the natural to its supernatural source. In the artistry of creation, we may discover the mind of the Artist.

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