Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Loss of Secularism in Naturalism Part 4; We Populists

The subject of this series is rooted in Dr. Quentin Smith's contentions about "informed" vs. "uninformed" naturalists. "A [ ] person who knows the nature, goals and consequences of naturalist philosophy may be called an “informed naturalist," Smith wrote, in "The Metaphilosophy of Naturalism." " [T]he great majority of naturalist philosophers have an unjustified belief that naturalism is true and an unjustified belief that theism (or supernaturalism) is false."

This unjustified state of affairs in our beliefs--if you are, like myself, a novice on the subject--is because we do not know the arguments against naturalism that contain the logic to "defeat" our own beliefs, whether or not we can argue those beliefs. An "informed" naturalist is one who can defeat the defeator logic. In the last part of this series, Part 5, tomorrow, we will examine these "defeator" arguments, and attempt to briefly examine the logic and some of the actual arguments.

But as I may assume most of my readers have come here through the magic portal of a link on a Yahoo Answers (YA) answer, I may also assume that most of you are in the same novitic, uninformed, unjustifed state of true belief as I am, and which I hope to be able to get myself out of.

Today in part 4 we are going to look at some of the "popular" arguments we regularly either run into or use against these popular "defeators." We naively debate and argue with our populist theist adversaries and we are in turn populists naturalists. Being populist does not make either side wrong, not in theory or in practice. But it makes we naturalists wrong in the sense that if naturalism is the natural epistemic state of mind at birth, as we say atheism is present at birth, then we have a moral obligation to know more than we allow ourselves when we learn only our own theories, our own arguments, our own internal "defeator" arguments and the means by which to overcome them.

We need to learn the strong arguments of the theists, those over which we seem to have no responses that are stronger in logic that can defeat the theist defeators of naturalism. Smith's paper is not "a philosophical argument that naturalism is true." It is, in fact, about the lack of epistemic integrity in the uninformed naturalist. He offers the syllogism of the defeating arguments, and the one syllogism which can be the defeator of theistic arguments. But for the actual theistic arguments themselves we must look else where.

But as most of us have been populist (uninformed) naturalists all our lives, in other words, since we do not write papers and books containing indefeasable arguments for the supposition that naturalism is indeed true, we turn instead to the only position we know, that of the populist. A populist is someone who is not necessarily trying to reach other uninformed naturalists as a matter of course or of policy or of a specifically plotted device for being "popular."

A populist naturalist is quite simply one who is "uninformed" and has, therefore, an unjustifed true belief in the philosophy of naturalism. I count myself as one, but my attention in the future will be specifically to learn those defeators which counter my true belief and which, by not comprehending them, makes my own true beliefs unjustified.

Today, we look at some of the defeators--and some of the populist arguments on both sides--to see, by example, just what this "uninformed" state consists of. All of the defeator arguments have what Smith labels "undefeated justifiers" for naturalism, meaning that as "undefeated justifications" they give us the epistemic integrity to have "justified true beliefs"--if only we can come to learn how to achieve them.

These are only a minute amount of the academic and mostly populist arguments we encounter and use in our own silly and amusing debates on YA and other places, perhaps in face to face debates with friends or family members. If we can learn to defeat with justification the arguments of the theists, whether "populist" or not, we can help turn the tide against the justifications for theism, and do it from the non-academic "real" world we live in, where once the Ancient Greeks ruled supreme with the "undefeated justifiers" of the naturalism which they discovered and which came to be defeated by Augustine and Plotinus (see previous posts).

If we can come to learn the academically epistemic justifications used by theists, and learn to counter them with undefeated justifiers of our own, then we will have served our selves and our philosophy by helping to not only preserve it, but to revive it. We will also have served to preserve the world from the darkness where a “'Dark Age' means an age when the vast majority of philosophers (and scientists) do not know the true world-view..." says Smith. "A hand waving dismissal of theism" is not enough to stop the rising tide of the populist door-knockers, the Bible-thumpers, and the other evangelicals who ride the wave begun and maintained by smarter theists who know the way to defeat naturalisism.

Let's look at some of the populist defeators we must work against, and tomorrow we will attempt to discover the more erudite, better educated, and strong defeators of our own necessary holistic world view.

J. Gresham Machen, "Christianity and Culture," Princeton Theological Review 11 (1913): 7.
"False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel. We may preach with all the fervor of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there, if we permit the whole collective thought of the nation to be controlled by ideas which prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion. Under such circumstances, what God desires us to do is to destroy the obstacle at its root."

Bertrand Russell, "Selected Papers of Bertrand Russell," Random House, 1927, p. 3.
"That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins---all these things, are so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built."

Russell begins with a defense of naturalism as defined by the Pre-Socratics: Man's origins are the outcome of accidental "collocations" of atoms. But then he falls into the near-nihilism of the maudalin fallacy of thinking philosophy must accept that the species called Man is doomed to extinction--if his soul is to be saved from the same extinction.

"'God' as traditionally defined is a systematic contradiction of every valid metaphysical principle. The point is wider than just the Judeo- Christian concept of God. No argument will get you from this world to a supernatural world. No reason will lead you to a world contradicting this one. No method of inference will enable you to leap from existence to a 'super-existence.'" Leonard Peikoff; "The Philosophy of Objectivism."

Peikoff's argument would be irrefutable, and is in fact justifiably true, but is left unjustified. Piekoff offers in this particular quote no "undefeatable justification." It is justifiably true, and many naturalists may use it to back up their own justifications and logic; but as it stands it goes unjustified.

To the uninformed naturalist, Piekoff's argument is justified. To the informed theist, it will become fodder for arguments which naturalists and Objectivists ought to be able to counter with justified defeators.

"[T]heistic realism holds that the design and works of God are manifestly evident in nature, particularly Creation, so that evidence and reason lead inevitably to belief in God."

"Theistic realism is a philosophical justification for intelligent design proposed by Phillip E. Johnson in his book, 'Reason in the Balance.' According to Johnson, true knowledge must begin with the acknowledgment of God as creator because he believes that the unifying characteristic of the universe is that it was created by God. Theistic realism, therefore, relies on a God that is real, personal, and acting in the world, through mechanistic creationism.

"Theistic realism was developed by Johnson to be a counter to methodological naturalism. To Johnson, any attempt to understand nature without acknowledging the creator is doomed to fail. As he and his supporters describe it, theistic realism holds that the universe and life cannot be explained completely naturalistically. Methodological naturalism (MN) refers to any method of inquiry or investigation or any procedure for gaining knowledge that limits itself to natural, physical, and material approaches and explanations. ..."

Interview with Phil Johnson

"I must confess that on reading [Johnson's book,] my jaw did sag somewhat. I have myself recently published a book with the title Evolutionary Naturalism . I had no idea that that which Johnson describes was the topic on which I was supposed to be writing! I am fascinated (and troubled) by the God question, but that I was denying God's existence was news to me. Naively, I thought that naturalism was about a particular attitude that one takes to understanding, refusing to appeal to the supernatural (miracles) in the physical world, but saying nothing definitive about whether there is a world beyond this. Perhaps God exists. Perhaps not. But, wonderful book though 'Evolutionary Naturalism' may be, on these issues it says nothing."
from "Reason Magazine"; "Naturalistic Fallacy" Michael Ruse October 1996 Print Edition

If a respected, published scientist and author on the subjects of evolution and of naturalism can be defeated without knowing it, it makes Quentin Smith's contention even more important. We, as "true believers" in the naturalistic, objective philosophy that the world is self-sufficient and uncaused, existing because existence exists, not because "ex nihilo" God created the world in six days (or created it at all,) then we must become informed naturalists with logical justifications that theists cannot defeat, at least not without sounding like the contradictory and uninformed skeptics of naturalism which they will become--when we learn to intellectually defend our own position from being redefined as Michael Ruse found his own book redefined by Johnson.

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