Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Can Naturalism Justify the Preconditions of Science?

From Without a Doubt: Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions by Kenneth Richard Samples pp. 195-196.

If naturalism is to be accepted as an adequate worldview, then it must possess genuine explanatory power. But some difficult questions emerge to challenge the purported truth of a purely naturalistic worldview.

  • How can a world that is the product of blind, purposeless, random natural processes account for and justify the crucial conditions that make the scientific enterprise possible?
  • Aren’t the order, regularity, and uniformity of nature out of place (unaccounted for and valueless coincidences) in a purely naturalistic world which could as easily have been a purely random and chaotic universe?
  • What accounts for the existence of abstract, nonempirical entities such as numbers, propositions, the laws of logic, and inductive inferences in a world that is the product of a mindless accidental process?
  • If the sensory organs and cognitive faculties of human beings are the result of chance and accident, how can they be trusted to yield coherent data, much less objective “truth”?
  • Since naturalism implies a type of physical determinism (all things are the product of genetic, chemical, and environmental factors), then doesn’t that by necessity rule out such things as uncoerced, deliberate thought?
  • Since this determinism is incompatible with rational thought, free will, and moral decisions, wouldn’t naturalism be self-defeating?

Christian philosopher Greg L. Bahnsen has argued that far from justifying their underlying presuppositions, naturalists illegitimately rest their scientific operation on Christian theistic principles. The naturalist is borrowing Christian philosophical/epistemological capital. Naturalism appears unable to explain the assumptions that make modern science possible. It also seems at odds with the very practice of science. The discipline of science presupposes a biblical-like worldview. Physicist and popular science writer Paul Davies offers this observation:

"In the ensuing three hundred years the theological dimension of science faded. People take it for granted that the physical world is both ordered and intelligible. The underlying order in nature – the laws of physics – are simply accepted as given, as brute facts. Nobody asks where they came from; at least they do not do so in polite company. However, even the most atheistic scientist accepts as an act of faith that the universe is not absurd, that there is a rational basis to physical existence manifested as lawlike order in nature that is at least part comprehensible to us. So science can proceed only if the scientist adopts an essentially theological worldview."

Could science have arisen if the dominant metaphysical views of the time were naturalistic and materialistic in nature? And would naturalism be able to sustain the scientific enterprise that Christian theism birthed? A rational person can’t help but wonder.


  1. This is arguing from ignorance- god exists because we can't justify x without god. Does this means god exists? Well, we keep on finding ways to justify x without god- we have finished of many in the science category, but people are starting to hit more in the philosophy category- conciousness for starters. Or morality, the fate of the universe, the start of the universe, etc... I think they have finished up explaning why Europe managed to conquer the world (see guns, germs and steel- no it isn't about the tech- it goes a lot deeper).

  2. Nice effort to try and move the goalposts without answering the post.

    Just what exactly do you propose has been answered "without God"?

    Better yet, why don't you use the scientific method to prove to us that science itself is scientific? Don't forget to include your hypothesis, experiments and experimental data such as the preconditions and measurements, your observed results and conclusions.

  3. Typical. Naturalists hate playing defense. They want to assume that their worldview is correct by default, and then want to argue everything on their terms.