Thursday, June 6, 2024

Hitchens’ Razor applied to atheism/ naturalism

Hitchens' Razor states that "what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence." When we turn this principle on naturalism (and atheism by association), we find that it is a worldview that is often asserted without sufficient evidence, and thus can be dismissed on the same grounds.

Naturalism, at its core, is the philosophical belief that the natural world is all that exists - that there are no supernatural or transcendent realities beyond the physical universe. But what evidence does the naturalist provide for this sweeping metaphysical claim? How do they prove that there is nothing beyond the natural order?

The answer, upon scrutiny, is that naturalism is often accepted as a default position without proper evidential support. It is assumed, rather than argued for, as the starting point for many atheists and skeptics. But this assumption is not metaphysically neutral; it is a substantive philosophical stance that requires justification.

In fact, when pressed, naturalists often appeal to the success of science in explaining physical phenomena as evidence for their worldview. But this is a non sequitur. The effectiveness of scientific methods in studying the natural world does not prove that the natural world is all that exists. It is entirely consistent with theism to acknowledge the validity of scientific inquiry while also affirming the reality of a transcendent God.

Moreover, as the argument from intelligibility powerfully demonstrates, the very success of science in uncovering the rational structure of the universe is itself evidence against naturalism. The profound intelligibility of the cosmos, its mathematical elegance and fine-tuning for discovery, is more naturally explained by a theistic worldview that grounds the rational order of nature in a divine mind.

Naturalism, in contrast, struggles to account for this intelligibility. It is forced to accept it as an inexplicable brute fact, or resort to ad hoc explanations like the multiverse hypothesis which themselves lack empirical support. Naturalism provides no satisfying explanation for why the universe is comprehensible to rational minds in the first place.

Indeed, when pressed on the inadequacy of their naturalistic explanations for the intelligibility and fine-tuning of the universe, atheists often retreat to a position of skeptical agnosticism (i.e., the Skeptic’s Shield). They'll say things like "we just don't know" or "it's a mystery" or "science hasn't figured it out yet".

But this is nothing more than a thinly veiled argument from ignorance. It's an attempt to evade the force of the teleological argument by appealing to our current lack of knowledge or understanding. In effect, the atheist is saying "I can't explain the apparent design and purpose in the cosmos, therefore no one can, therefore we should suspend judgment".

So when Hitchens' Razor is applied to naturalism, it becomes clear that it is a worldview that is often asserted without adequate evidence. The naturalist makes a bold metaphysical claim - that there is no supernatural reality - but fails to provide a convincing proof for this claim. They assume naturalism as a default position, but offer no justification for this assumption.

Theism, on the other hand, is not merely asserted, but argued for on the basis of the observable evidence of the universe's intelligibility. The theist follows the evidence where it leads, inferring a divine mind as the best explanation for the rational structure of the cosmos. This inference is not a bare assertion, but a philosophically rigorous argument grounded in the empirical features of the universe.

Thus, Hitchens' Razor, when applied evenhandedly, actually undermines naturalism and supports the theistic argument from intelligibility. It exposes naturalism as a metaphysical assumption often accepted without proof, while highlighting the evidential basis of the theistic worldview.

This is not to definitively settle the debate or rule out all forms of naturalism. But it does shift the burden of proof onto the naturalist to provide a compelling evidential case for their position. They cannot simply assert naturalism as a default and dismiss theistic arguments; they must justify their worldview in the face of the universe's profound intelligibility.

In the end, an honest application of Hitchens' Razor suggests that it is naturalism, not theism, that is the brittle, question-begging worldview that can be dismissed without evidence. Theism, grounded in the rational structure of the cosmos, emerges as an empirically anchored and philosophically robust explanation that demands serious consideration from any sincere truth-seeker.

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