Testing “naturalism”May 7, 2008 — Deacon Duncan
No, we’re not talking about naturalism as in the scientific study of nature. We’re back to reviewing schooloffish’s post “DOES YOUR WORLD VIEW PASS THE TEST,” and we’re ready to have a look at his critique of the naturalistic (presumably as opposed to supernaturalistic) world view. First, let’s look at the three tests he uses to evaluate a world view.
When testing a world view, you need to take into account three things. Even if you are not familiar with all the aspects of a world view, if any one of these three test proves to be false, then the entire world view must – necessarily – be false. These tests are:
1. Is the world view contradictory within it’s own view?
2. Does the world view actually align with reality?
3. What do expects and eye witness have to say about the world view?
As we mentioned before, the relativistic world view (aka postmodernism) fails the first test, so we’ll skip over that analysis and go straight to the part about naturalism.
Naturalism by name believes that what one sees or observes is true… The problem is that science (the poster child for naturalism) is based nearly entirely on hypothesis or educated assumptions.
Well, no, I’m afraid that’s not true. Science is based first and foremost on observation. Observation is what leads the scientist to formulate a hypothesis, and observation is what the scientist uses to test the hypothesis. Consistency in observations is what lets us distinguish what’s true from what’s not. But let’s move on.
Many of these hypothesis CAN be tested, but many cannot. We can’t test consciousness, intuition, or morality for instance. We know that these things exist, but we simply don’t know why or how and since things like consciousness can only be attested to by the individually conscious person, no independent test can be produced to test such a thing. Another way of stating this is. The test of intimate knowledge. Only the person feeling or thinking something has intimate knowledge of the truth and no test can allow others into my intimate knowledge of something. This doesn’t mean that the information is NOT true just that it can’t be tested. For instance we can test memory but we can’t testconsciousness or the existence of a soul.
On the contrary, we most definitely can test consciousness, in fact, my wife is a nurse, and part of her job involves taking a (scientific) assessment of the patient’s level of consciousness, especially if there’s any suspicion of compromised brain function. But perhaps schooloffish means that there exists no scientific test for the existence of subjective thoughts and experiences? There are two answers to this: 1) scientists can and do observe the consequences of subjective thoughts (behavior, brain waves, etc), and 2) purely subjective experiences are part of subjective reality, so it’s really not science’s domain anyway (except in the case of psychiatry and psychology). Science is primarily concerned with objective reality; the existence of subjective realities does nothing to disqualify it in its proper realm.
And of course, there’s a very good reason why we cannot scientifically verify the existence of a “soul”…
Science would have us believe that the world happened by chance with no help from an invisible GOD. After all, we can’t see GOD and therefore he can’t exist.
No, I’m sorry, but this is wrong again, on both counts. Describing the origin of the world as happening “by chance” leaves out a vital dimension of the natural world, namely the natural laws which constrain and direct chance, and make some possibilities more likely than others. If I hold a golf ball in my hand and then release it, there are an infinite number of directions it could go—up, down, horizontally, north, west, south, east, or any number of countless variations in between. If we fail to consider natural laws like the law of gravity, we might think the odds of a golf ball falling down would be a gazillion to one. But the ball does not move “by chance,” it moves according to natural laws, just as the origin of the universe has done.
Schooloffish is also mistaken when he portrays naturalism as insisting that “we can’t see God and therefore he can’t exist.” Science is more than willing to believe in invisible realities, provided they are consistent with the observable and verifiable world. The number pi, for example, is invisible, inaudible, intangible, and so on, yet it is quite real, as is c, the limit on the speed of light in a vacuum. God’s invisibility is not what prevents science from finding Him, but rather the absence of any significant, verifiable, divine interaction with observable reality.
The general theory of evolution is all about change over time from one species to another. However, is this what we actually observe the world to be? Of course not.
This, unfortunately, is also incorrect. Evolution is about changes in the relative proportions of alleles over time, under the influence of natural variation and natural selection. The result of this process is, eventually, the occasional divergence of a gene pool into distinct species, i.e. new species arising via descent with modifications from common ancestors. Those who are truly willing to engage the evidence do indeed observe that the world consistently reflects the operation of evolutionary forces, both in the emergence of new species and in the residual consequences of past evolutionary events.
In fact, Christians ought to be deeply ashamed at the slur against God’s inventive genius if they should find that Creation were missing the astonishingly elegant, innovative, and powerful evolutionary systems that ordinary mortals (with PhD’s) have worked out by their studies of Nature. Evolution is too intelligent of a design for a wise and insightful Creator to have forgotten or refused to implement—in fact, given the existing laws of biochemistry, He would have had to take special steps to prevent evolutionary adaptations and improvements from blessing life on earth with the ability to cope and recover in a hostile environment.
We’ll take a break here, but so far it doesn’t look like schooloffish has come sufficiently close to the truth about naturalism to be able to critique it properly. We’ll see if he can do any better next time.