Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Loss of Secularism in Naturalism Part 5; Defeator Arguments

The case has been made that many naturalists are, in the words of Dr. Quentin Smith, "uninformed," having an "unjustified true belief" in the ancient science. "The Metaphilosophy of Naturalism"; PHILO [see link in left column of this blog]

The ancient science is nothing less than calling a spade a spade, which in the words of Leonard Peikoff concerning existence is "a self-sufficient primary [that is] not a product of a supernatural dimension, or of anything else," with nothing being previous to existence, "its nature [ ] irreducible and unalterable." Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology ; by Ayn Rand. Piekoff defines it in its atheistic countenance, but even in its theistic trappings it is irreducible, unalterable, and "natural" in its working, in a form of molecules-to-man evolution in its epistemology.

"As Bertrand Russell's A History of Western Philosophy (1946) points out, philosophy and practical science were not originally separate. They were born together in the beginning of the 6th century BC and they both involved a transition from a theistic toward a natural way of thinking about the world."

"The controversy [between the theists and the naturalists] erupted early in the 19th Century when geological discoveries implied that the earth is much older than was suggested by the contents of the Judeo-Christian Bible [ ] The profound impact of this early debate upon the popular mind was directly responsible for the 1857-1860 revival in protestant religious enthusiasm."

In "the publication of The Genesis Flood in 1961, Dr. [Henry] Morris saw clearly that good science—the proper handling and interpretation of scientific evidence—would demonstrate the veracity of the biblical accounts of Creation and the Flood." [italics added]

"Today, thousands of creation scientists [can] be found in literally every discipline of science [ ] Evolutionists are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain the fiction that evolution is 'science' and creation science is 'religion.' Such statements today merely reveal the speaker's own liberal social philosophies—not his or her awareness of scientific facts." [italics added] The Institute for Creation Research, from which this quote comes, maintains laboratory facilities on its campus in Dallas, Texas. Its researchers and faculty are well-recognized in their fields.
In the "National Review," author Barry Freundel reviews the ideas of one of the latest and most controversial of these creationists, Phillip Johnson, and his book "Reason in the Balance." Johnson himself is also Program Advisor to Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, UC Berkeley, where he is a law professor and former U.S. Supreme Court clerk, and holder of a named chair at Berkeley. (See below for "Discovery Institute.")

But before we get to any discussion of Johnson's book, we need a definition of Naturalism. "Carl Sagan summed up the philosophy in these words: 'The Cosmos is all there is, all there has been and all there ever will be.' A naturalist believes that nature is the whole show. There is no 'super-nature' (God). For sure a naturalist could talk about a pantheistic 'God' who is Life Force or Energy or even the Ground of Being, but not Creator. There is no place in a naturalist scheme for a God existing independent of nature, who created it and on whom it depends."

But this is not the view of many naturalists, though they may keep it out of their work. Most have some logical or emotional basis for a continuing belief in a deity, and they are not to be maligned for this.

"[R]eligion is an early form of philosophy, [ ] the first attempts to explain the universe, to give a coherent frame of reference to man’s life and a code of moral values, [ ] before men graduated or developed enough to have philosophy. And, as philosophies, some religions have very valuable moral points. They may have a good influence or proper principles to inculcate, but in a very contradictory context and, on a very—how should I say it?—dangerous or malevolent base: on the ground of faith."
“Playboy’s Interview with Ayn Rand,” March 1964

And "faith" is the very nature of the disagreement between theists of any sort and naturalists of any sort.

"Explaining in great detail [ ] Naturalism and its deep flaws," [quoting Johnson,] Freundel claims Johnson makes a case that Naturalism is as much a religion as any other, if it means "a system based on unchallengeable orthodoxies. Indeed Naturalism may be more 'fundamentalist' than [ ]conventionally defined fundamentalism." The disagreements between naturalism and religion "is leading us toward a culture war [ ] when rational discourse breaks down and one side resorts to denigrating the other -- in this case, as "phobic," "authoritarian," and otherwise dangerous. Only by restoring the search for objective truth, and allowing all viewpoints a fair hearing, can we avoid such a frightening prospect." [italics added]

Johnson, in his chapter "Theistic Naturalism and Theistic Realism", wants us to believe that "the much-hyped physical theory of everything may never be more than a myth (and in any case would explain disappointingly little)"; and that "scientists pursuing the grand project [ ] have refused to consider that there may be limits to what can be learned about reality through their methodology. [ ] Perhaps their dogmatic metaphysical naturalism has even led scientists to disregard some aspect of reality that is virtually staring them in the face. Could it be, for example, that living organisms (in Richard Dawkin's wording) 'give the appearance of having designed for a purpose' because in fact they are designed?"

To a creationist, this fallacious logic is all that is needed to write off naturalism as the denial of creationism, when no such thing is intended. Peikoff's definition of existence may belong to that of the atheists, but it is astoundingly true that "thousands of creation scientists [can] be found in literally every discipline of science," and that does not disclude the field of naturalism. One does not need to be atheist to believe that God created the universe with laws that allow for our understanding of a molecules-to-man epistemology.

"Scientific naturalists meet this shocking suggestion with one of two inconsistent responses," says the Discovery Institute. "One is to make a few superficial debater's points against design and then declare the subject closed." This is precisely what Smith contends too many of us do with a wave of the hand. It is precisely the reason that in some quarters, creationism is winning, all too easily, and the very reason we naturalists must learn arguments that defeat the "defeator arguments" of the creationists. It is easy for us to see that the creationists often use fallacious, emotion-laced or based logic. But it is not as easy to overcome these fallacious objections in the real world when we ourselves have no understanding of how to defeat the creationistic logic that would have us becoming the skeptical position against theism, rather than what ought to be happening, which is reverting back to the pre-1967, pre-Plantinga era when theism was the skeptical position against naturalism.

The Discovery Institute quotes Johnson: "[T]he very atheistic physicist Steven Weinberg [says] '[T]he only way that any sort of science can proceed is to assume that there is no divine intervention and to see how far one can get with that assumption.'"

To "assume there is no divine intervention" may be the atheist platform of naturalism, but does not even attempt to overcome Johnson's defeators. This abdication of any dismissal of creationism denies the epistemic principle of existence as a self-sufficient primary, ignores logic that is assumed in the argument for Creation, and ignores (or affirms) that there must be the possibility that before Creation there was "nothingness" as the only existent.

But the sound conclusion is that "nothingness" cannot be reified into an existent. Thus, according to this hypothesis by Weinberg, there is the tacit admission that "nothingness" was once a reified existent, and that we need to "see how far we can get" with that illogical assumption.

For any committed creationist, Johnson's argument is this: "On the contrary, the very notion of 'natural law' grew out of the concept of a lawmaker."

I must, myself, assume from ignorance that this is where Augustine and Plotinus had such an effect in reversing the roles of naturalistic world view to being the skeptical position of theism, as Smith alludes to in PHILO.

This "very notion," of the concept of a lawmaker, Johnson says of biology as he uses one example, "will not only survive but prosper if it turns out that genetic information really is the product of preexisting intelligence. Biologists will have to give up their dogmatic materialism and discard unproductive hypotheses like the prebiotic soup...Freed of the metaphysical chains that tie it to nineteenth-century materialism, biology can turn to the fascinating task of discovering how the intelligence embodied in the genetic information works through matter to make the organism function." [italics added] How many naturalists can argue that while it is our job to discover such nature embodied in genetic information, that this natural intelligence is not divinely created but is an act naturalistic molecules-to-man, even if he/she must maintain a belief in the supernatural creation of the molecules themselves, as many naturalists do?

Yet, for all his subjectivity, Johnson makes the astonishing declaration that, "If there really is a materialist explanation for the origin of life, or the human mind, it surely will be found by a scientist who resolutely ignores the objections of people like me and persists in looking for it."

His theme in this book may come when he writes, about the current state of naturalist knowledge, that "the managers of the enterprise may be confident that a smashing success is just around the corner," then undercutting that by saying the epistemic problem "is deciding when to stop believing [the] promises of eventual success, particularly when the managers have been successful in the past.

"How can we tell who is correct? ...the solution is not to grant the insiders the exclusive privilege of auditing themselves. I do not urge scientists to give up on any theory or research agenda until they themselves are convinced that further efforts would be fruitless."

This is why the Discovery Institute calls it "shocking [ ] to make a few superficial debater's points against design and then declare the subject closed." Johnson wants the debate. He knows as well as Quentin Smith does that most committed naturalists are "uninformed" with "unjustified true beliefs." He thinks his creationistic arguments will hold up in this increasingly de-secularized, evangelical atmosphere in which our society now exists. He's probably right.

Johnson gives us our due on the one hand, then undercuts it with the other. "In view of the cultural importance of the naturalistic worldview, however, and its status as virtually the official philosophy of government and education, there is a need for informed outsiders to point out that claims are often made in the name of science that go far beyond the available evidence." [italics added]

So Johnson also uses the word "informed" to designate himself and others like him who can defeat our arguments. But what do they use as defeators? The fall-back position of saying, "Naturalists have not proved this or that, we are going beyond our own proofs into supposition, and therefore the creationists must maintain their own belief that a blind watchmaker is not the cause of what we propose.

But he labels such attempts such as the scientist who resolutely ignores the objections of people like him and persists in looking for naturalistic proof--and finding it--attempts at working with "heuristic assumptions," or assumptions that provide help in the solution but that are not independently justifiable or provable. And yet, if they are not provable, how can the scientist who ignores critics like Johnson find that there "really is a materialist explanation for the origin of life?"

"How can we tell who is correct?" Johnson asks. "[T]he solution is not to grant the insiders the exclusive privilege of auditing themselves."

But it never has been the exclusive privilege of any science to audit itself, because every science has an impact in one way or another on the other sciences and on the arts and humanities in general, not to mention that more generalized philosophers of epistemology must set the standards. (Smith, himself, is a professor of, among other things, epistemology.)

"Science was born as a result and consequence of philosophy; it cannot survive without a philosophical (particularly epistemological) base. If philosophy perishes, science will be next to go," wrote Ayn Rand. "It is not the special sciences that teach man to think; it is philosophy that lays down the epistemological criteria of all special sciences." It makes one wonder what the epistemological criteria must be for Johnson's odd defence of creationism. He seems to find it in his desire for the naturalists to go on toiling, maintaining "the fiction that evolution is 'science' and creation science is 'religion;'" or that "creation science" which assumes the supernatural ought to go about attempting to prove supernaturalism; in the desire that naturalists go on "pursuing the grand project;" or that we refuse "to consider that there may be limits to what can be learned about reality through [naturalistic] methodology."

I know of no naturalist who would claim there are no limits. The state of science changes all the time, and the methodology of the twenty-first century is not the methodology of the Atomists.

No, the epistemology seems to be in the attitude that a little bit of evolutionism is not so worrysome.

To "Johnson and his ilk [a] new adaptation here, a lost adaptation there--who cares?" writes Michael Ruse in "Naturalistic Fallacy" Reason Magazine " Rather, it is the very moral fiber of the nation that counts. Let in evolution, and pornography, abortion, and sodomy are next. Or rather, because we let in evolution, pornography, abortion, and sodomy are now. Johnson starts with an introduction to the enemy [as those] 'who assume that God exists only as an idea in the minds of religious believers [,that] humankind created God--not the other way around. In that case, rationality requires that we recognize the Creator as the imaginary being he always has been, and that we rely only on things that are real, such as ourselves and the material world of nature."

That is exactly Smith's point when he writes, "The four goals of the informed naturalist are i) retrieve naturalism from its de facto reclassification by medieval philosophers; ii) reclassify the philosophy of religion as a subfield of naturalism, viz. skepticism about naturalism, so that the position in the various fields of philosophy formerly occupied by 'the philosophy of religion' is replaced by the field 'the philosophy of naturalism;' iii) to understand in outline an actually extant version of original naturalism (Greco-Roman naturalism) that these original naturalists justifiably believed to be an informed naturalism and which contemporary informed naturalists justifiably believe is approximately the best that could be done by naturalists in the epistemic situation of Greco-Roman philosophers; and iii) A third goal is to understand in outline an actually extant version of original naturalism (Greco-Roman naturalism) that these original naturalists justifiably believed to be an informed naturalism and which contemporary informed naturalists justifiably believe is approximately the best that could be done by naturalists in the epistemic situation of Greco-Roman philosophers; [and] iv) to justifiably reformulate, and answer, the two basic ontological why-questions that medieval philosophers took over from the Greco-Roman naturalists, and which have (for the most part) remained ever since 'questions asked in the field of the philosophy of religion.' The successful accomplishments of these four tasks will restore academia to the mainstream secularization it possessed before the post-1967 breakdown in the field of philosophy."

"This retrieval [i] is also a reversal. The aim is that theism be justifiably reclassified as a subfield of naturalism, namely, as a skepticism about the basic principles of naturalism whose refutation serves to stimulate and further develop the naturalist program. 'Philosophy of religion' disappears, to be replaced by a new subfield of naturalism, namely, 'skepticism about naturalism,' with skeptical arguments being put forth and argued against, with the aim in mind of further developing the argumentative foundations of the naturalist world-view."

"[T]he most basic answers to the ontological why-questions in a certain naturalist theory permit the two most basic why-questions, formulated in the following way, to be positively answered, [and] then that theory is explanatorily complete.

"Q1. Why do these things exist and why do these laws of nature obtain rather than some other possible things and other possible laws of nature?

"Q2. Why is it the case that there is not only nothing? (The reason for formulating the question this way will become apparent when I discuss the atomists.)" [For that discussion, please read Smith's paper in the link at the top of this blog.]

Clearly, we "uninformed" naturalists have a long way to go. Not being in academia, I have long believed that my naturalism was "justified true belief." But then, I do find myself in a different class from most naturalists who are either agnostic or have some form of belief in a creator.

My argument for naturalism runs this way, as I said above and have said on many past occasions: existence is self-sufficient, primary, the given, and is "self-existent, self-explanatory, self-operating, and self-directing, that the world-process is not teleological and anthropocentric, but purposeless, deterministic (except for possible tychistic events), and only incidentally productive of man [Greek Atomism]; that human life, physical, mental, moral and spiritual, is an ordinary natural event attributable in all respects to the ordinary operations of nature; and that man's ethical values, compulsions, activities, and restraints can be justified on natural grounds, without recourse to supernatural sanctions, and his highest good pursued and attained under natural conditions, without expectation of a supernatural destiny," because anything less that this denotation would require that "nothingness" be the original state of existence and it is an epistemic contradiction to insist that "nothingness" was at one time an existent, the thing that existed before existence existed. There can be no "thing" in existence before existence allowed for the conditions necessary for a "thing."

"Existence and identity are not attributes of existents, they are the existents . . . . The units of the concepts “existence” and “identity” are every entity, attribute, action, event or phenomenon (including consciousness) that exists, has ever existed or will ever exist." Ayn Rand: Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology

The deductive syllogisms by which we uninformed naturalists must come to discover are the "defeators" of our beliefs, defeators which prevent our beliefs from being "justified and true" beliefs, Smith lays out in his paper:

Where "N (a thesis). Naturalism, i.e., the thesis that there exist inanimate or animate bodies, with animate bodies being either intelligent organisms or non-intelligent organisms, but there exists nothing supernatural; then

"A (a defeated justifier). A is the argument that contemporary science and naturalist philosophy are known to be probably or certainly true, even though A includes no counterarguments against contemporary arguments for theism: or

"DA (a defeater for the justifier A). DA is a sound argument that argument A is unsound; or

"B (a defeated justifier). B is an argument that, contemporary science and naturalist philosophy, when conjoined with an evaluation of contemporary theist arguments for not-
N, (where “not-N” implies naturalism is not true) justify not-N; or

"C (an undefeated justifier for N). C is the argument that, contemporary science and naturalist philosophy, when conjoined with an evaluation of contemporary theist arguments for not-N, justify N.

"According to the informed naturalist, the predicament of at least ninety-nine percent of contemporary naturalists is represented in the following columns. We can state very briefly the arguments different philosophers believe in terms of our symbols. The mentioned belief states are arguments believed to be sound by the relevant parties.

"Belief State of Most Contemporary Naturalists
2.A justifies N.
3.Therefore, N is justified.
Defeater Recognized by Informed Naturalists
5.DA defeats A.
6.Therefore, A does not justify N.
Belief State of Most Contemporary Theists
8.B justifies not-N.
9.Therefore, not-N is justified.

Defeater Recognized by Informed Naturalists
11.DB defeats B.
12.Therefore, B does not justify not-N.

"Since both A and B are defeated, most contemporary naturalists, as well as most contemporary theists, hold defeated beliefs about the truth-value of naturalism. The informed naturalist knows the complex argument C that constitutes the defeater of B and the justification of N, as well as meets other conditions explained later in this paper.

"Belief State of Informed Naturalists
14.C justifies N.
15.Therefore, N is justified.

"Some naturalists believe they are informed naturalists. But whether they are in fact informed naturalists is not an issue I am addressing in this paper. This paper is a metaphilosophy of naturalism, not a philosophical argument that naturalism is true. Such philosophical arguments can be found in other papers and books. In this paper, I am (in part) characterizing the contemporary epistemic situation about naturalism from the point of view of a real or hypothetical informed naturalist."
We real and hypothetical informed naturalists have a great deal of work ahead of us.

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