Thursday, August 28, 2008

Naturalist Resources--A Short List Part 2

Last week on Thursday I published Part 1 of a list of resources for naturalists who are getting their feet wet in the subject, or who need further explanation. This is not going to be a "regular" Thursday feature. You won't see it again for several weeks, if ever. But tomorrow's blog, like yesterday's is about "free will vs. naturalism." That is a subject laden with pitfalls and dark corners and hidden doors. It won't be ready until tomorrow. Today, the list, Part 2.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is always a good place for good information. Its first two paragraphys under the heading "Naturalism" make clear the nature of the beast:

"The term ‘naturalism’ has no very precise meaning in contemporary philosophy. Its current usage derives from debates in America in the first half of the last century. The self-proclaimed ‘naturalists’ from that period included John Dewey, Ernest Nagel, Sidney Hook and Roy Wood Sellars. These philosophers aimed to ally philosophy more closely with science. They urged that reality is exhausted by nature, containing nothing ‘supernatural’, and that the scientific method should be used to investigate all areas of reality, including the ‘human spirit’ (Krikorian 1944, Kim 2003).
"So understood, ‘naturalism’ is not a particularly informative term as applied to contemporary philosophers. The great majority of contemporary philosophers would happily accept naturalism as just characterized—that is, they would both reject ‘supernatural’ entities, and allow that science is a possible route (if not necessarily the only one) to important truths about the ‘human spirit’."

The Secular Web is owned and operated by the Internet Infidels, Inc., a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to defending and promoting a naturalistic worldview on the Internet.

An apparent sister site, begins with its own short comparison between "metaphysical" and "methodological" naturalism, then lists a number of articles, all very much worth reading, under each heading.

(You will notice that where many "metaphysical" naturalists deny the existence of a "soul," and of "free will," this website takes the opposite view. See The Academy's Definition of "Strong" Naturalism in the left column.)

In addition, The Secular Web has one page devoted simply to listing all the names of the authors who have contributed to their site. The list is long, and impressive. They also have a Subject Index , and their own Library, which is another list

Freedom From Religion Foundation, , while not strictly a "naturalist" organization, has "more than 12,000 members, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists and agnostics). FFRF has been working since 1978 to promote freethought and to keep state and church separate.
"The Foundation promotes freedom from religion with a weekly national radio show, its newspaper Freethought Today, a freethought billboard campaign and other educational endeavors, including scholarships for freethinking students. In addition, the Foundation acts on countless violations of the separation of state and church, and has taken and won many significant complaints and important lawsuits to end state/church entanglements. No one has fought harder than FFRF to legally challenge the "faith-based initiative."

They have a billboard reading: "Keep Religion OUT of Politics." It is currently displayed in Denver and will remain there throughout the Democratic National Convention.

The Skeptics Dictionary is like most other sites, attempting to explain the differences in the naturalistic points of view. It has a great number of live links to the various aspects of naturalism, then concludes that short section with this:

"The difference between mechanistic and teleological views may best be understood by considering a few examples," after which it lists the sex drive, bee pollination, pedophilia, What is the purpose of evil? teleology according to Spinoza, naturalistic worldview, and further reading.

The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia is a frequently used resource of mine. It is as objective as any reference, at least above the "blue line," where it merely defines the subject. Below the "blue line" is definitely the dogmatic version of the subject. But even having the dogma defined is often useful, and as dogma-defined goes, this Catholic reference is still objective, never preachy, merely saying what the Church says.

ALL ABOUT PHILOSOPHY.Org is obviously a theist organization, given that their only subtitle to "Naturalism" is "Improbable." But they do a good job of explaining the "defeator" arguments against naturalism (see this Academy's blog 8.11-8.16.08.)

It is definately good to understand the defeator arguments. As this blog explained in that week, you are an "uninformed" naturalist, according to Dr. Quentin Smith, if you don't know how to defeat the defeators. In a sidebar, All About lists other "world views" like atheism, secular humanism, and existentialism, among many. Interesting reading for anyone wanting to understand "the other side."

"Defense of Naturalism" by Keith Augustine, is his "Thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of theUniversity of Maryland, College Park in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree ofMaster of Arts 2001." So if you are up to a long academic paper, this one is for you. It is also available at The Secular Web, listed above.

"An Atheist Fairy Tale" is a well-put-together and interesting commentary on the connection between atheism and evolution, with many attributions, but it seems to have no author. But for the sake of the good tale, here are the links to it:
Evolutionism and Atheism
Common Objections
What is the evidence?
Intelligent Design
Theory or Fact?
Scientists and Bias
Evolutionism and Scripture
Are Creationists Honest?
Audio Video
Works Cited
It ends with this quote: "Evolutionism needs atheism needs evolutionism needs atheism needs evolutionism.Garbage in: Garbage out."

Another good argument for the "other side" is the PDF The Logical Underpinnings of Intelligent Design.

The Center for Naturalism and Naturalism.Org have a Yahoo group If you feel like discussing the subject with an organization that has some of the best scientific minds behind it, this one is for you. There is no guarantee you will get answers from any of those scientific minds, but you could always address your questions to one of those parent websites. Or you could get into arguments with their members about whether or not humans have souls and free will.

"NATURALISM IS AN ESSENTIAL PART OFSCIENCE AND CRITICAL INQUIRY" by Steven D. Schafersman was a "paper originally presented at the Conference on Naturalism, Theism and the Scientific Enterprise, sponsored by the Department of Philosophy, The University of Texas, Austin, Texas, February 20-23, 1997."

So, by clicking on that blue link to the conference, you automatically get ANOTHER resource. Don't you just love how the internet actually works?

"A Philosophical Premise of 'Naturalism'?" by Mark Isaak (another blue link) is published by Talkdesign.Org, which "is a response to the "Intelligent Design" movement of creationism. It is dedicated to: Assessing the claims of the Intelligent Design movement from the perspective of mainstream science. Addressing the wider political, cultural, philosophical, moral, religious, and educational issues that have inspired the ID movement. Providing an archive of materials that critically examine the scientific claims of the ID movement. We feel that the "Intelligent Design" arguments require this kind of focused attention due to their widespread use in antievolutionary activity."

Isaak's paper says, "we will see that the complaint about naturalism is applied unfairly to discredit only those parts of science that naturalism's critics oppose on ideological grounds."

Another of my favorite references for many things aside from naturalism is The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy . I'm not certain, but I think there is an Objectivist or a neo-objectivist behind this resource.

Apex Naturalism is an online magazine. On its About Page it says: "An apex is the top, peak or summit. Naturalism is a system of belief that proposes that all phenomena can be explained in terms of natural causes and laws. Thus Apex Naturalism means being dedicated to becoming the best Naturalist that we can be.
This inevitably means learning about ourselves, our naturalism and the world around us. This magazine is dedicated to that unending quest for wisdom and knowledge."

I just bookmarked that one for myself. It looks good.

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