Friday, September 5, 2008

Variations on a Theme of Naturalism; and The Wedge Strategy

Variations on a Theme of Naturalism
"As defined by philosopher Paul Draper, naturalism is "the hypothesis that the physical world is a 'closed system' in the sense that nothing that is neither a part nor a product of it can affect it." More simply, it is the denial of the existence of supernatural causes. In rejecting the reality of supernatural events, forces, or entities, naturalism is the antithesis of supernaturalism. -- Keith Augustine

Augustine continues: "As a substantial view about the nature of reality, it is often called metaphysical naturalism, philosophical naturalism, or ontological naturalism to distinguish it from a related methodological principle."

But as we shall see, the definitions of all of the varieties of naturalism have differences within the definitions that make the use of any typecasting impossible. You can be a "metaphysical naturalist" in one critic's or one scientist's opinion; yet be another type in the opinion of another critic or another scientist.

Richard Carrier, in defending metaphysical naturalism, says we must reject the "conclusion that naturalism must abandon materialism and realism about material objects and other minds." [ibid "Augustine"]

But materialistic naturalism is sometimes contrasted with metaphysical naturalism. "The meaning of the terms naturalism and materialism depends on the meaning of one's conception of matter and nature. One can have, for instance, spiritualistic and materialistic naturalism. Likewise, there is materialistic monism such as physicalism (there is no other matter than physical matter) and materialistic pluralism (for instance, there is biological in addition to physical matter)."
[original document]

The same author writes, "My thesis is that Christians are mistaken in their belief that material reality can be understood without reference to non-material created causes, such as mind, or to non-material uncreated causes, such as God."

By definition, some definitions of some forms of naturalism don't admit of the existence of "non-matter," let alone "non-material causes," "mind," "spirit (soul)," or "uncreated causes."

"There is an objective difference between one who has knowledge of something and one who does not. This is true in both the occurrent and the dispositional senses of "knowledge" and "knows. [ ] Can this objective difference among human beings consist in properties and relations that fit within a naturalist ontology?

"[T]hose in the 19th and 20th centuries who insisted upon distinguishing Naturalism from Materialism--have held that it could be. But with the rise and development of the mind/brain identity thesis during the last half of the 20th century, the generous naturalism (as we shall call it) of Dewey, Santayana, Sidney Hook and others has largely disappeared in favor of a narrower naturalism more commonly and more correctly called "Physicalism" (the older "Materialism").

"Only someone who reads "descriptive" (as opposed to normative) in a strongly materialistic or physicalistic fashion would take the opposition of normative to descriptive to be the issue of naturalism in epistemology. Dallas Willard

So now we must differentiate the "older materialism" as something called "physicalism." "Physicalism is the thesis that, in some sense, everything (beliefs, thunderstorms, people, sounds, etc.) is physical. [ ] A further condition of physicalism is that the physical world is causally closed. The causal closure thesis essentially states that every physical event has a physical cause. More strongly, it often asserts that everything that happens in the world can be explained by the causal interactions that occur at the fundamental physical level. Physicalism is to be differentiated from materialism because materialism is committed to a very particular physical theory in which matter serves as the fundamental entity. Physicalism, while committed to physical monism, is not committed to a particular view of the fundamental physical stuff and recognizes that the basic level of reality could be non-material (e.g. energy, strings, fields)." International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design [The ISCID is a highly developed enterprise of teleological thinking.]

Then Willard continues, dividing us even more:

"What might be called 'generic Naturalism' has a long history that includes: Classical Naturalism, with figures such as Democritus, Epicurus, Aristotle and Lucretius; Renaissance Naturalism, with Bruno, Campanella and Telesio, and--born too late--Spinoza; Empiricist/Nominalist Naturalism, with Hobbes, Hume, D'Holbach and most of the French Encyclopedists and Comte; 19th-Century Materialistic Naturalism, with Jakob Moleschott, Karl Vogt, Ernst Haeckel, Ludwig Büchner, Herbert Spencer and, it is often presumed, Charles Darwin; Mid-20th-Century (largely anti-Materialistic) Naturalism, with Santayana, Dewey and others; and Late-20th-Century ("Identity Thesis") Naturalism, which wavers between Scientism and Physicalism, with Quine, David Armstrong, Paul and Patricia Churchland, John Searle, etc." [ibid Willard]

"What is meant by naturalistic and materialistic explanations? Naturalism assumes that only natural laws are adequate as explanatory accounts for all events or phenomena. Materialism claims that physical matter is the only fundamental reality—that the interaction of matter can explain all processes or phenomena. This naturalistic assumption in explaining all things within science by materialistic explanations is known as methodological naturalism (MN)."
Donald J. Eckard, DDS [italics added]

From the sidebar of this blog page, we pushlished two definitions of mataphysical naturalism, under the heading of "Phrase of the Week." (This sidebar block is changed each week, but this is what it said:)

"The metaphysical presuppositions established by Newtonian science influenced scholars from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. David Ray Griffin defined this type of naturalism, which he referred to as naturalism (SAM) as encompassing sensationalism, atheism, materialism, determinism and reductionism, sometimes referred to as metaphysical naturalism. In addition to these attributes, Griffin also states that it encompasses what he refers to as naturalism (NS) which he concludes is only a rejection of supernaturalism and casual relations interruption. In Griffin's opinion naturalism (NS) is compatible with theism, whereas naturalism (SAM) is not.

"The present problem is that naturalism (SAM) seems to have dominated science and is synonymous with scientific naturalism. This is primarily represented in the works of Searle, Dawkins, Weinberg, Uttal and others. Although scientific naturalism dominates in the academy, particularly in its methodology and mechanistic varieties, it is increasingly being challenged both inside and outside the academic circles." John J. Eberts

So here are two descriptions of the simple word "naturalism" from the same mind, to be distinguished only by the use of (SAM) and (NS).

How are specific naturalists defined?

"[Daniel] Dennett uses our scientific knowledge of brain and consciousness to ultimately defend an entirely naturalistic and materialistic interpretation."

On this, Willard would seem to agree. "In the typically "naturalistic" mode he declares his "starting point to be the objective, materialistic, third person world of the physical sciences," and holds "that philosophy is allied with, and indeed continuous with, the physical sciences." [ibid Willard]

"Willem Drees endorses not only minimal naturalism, understood as the rejection of supernatural interruptions of the world's normal causal processes, but also maximal naturalism, with its reductionistic materialism. Besides arguing that this reductionistic naturalism provides the best framework for interpreting science, he believes that it is compatible with religion (albeit of a minimalist sort). The "richer" naturalism advocated by Whiteheadians is, accordingly, unnecessary. Drees's position, however, cannot do justice to a number of "hard-core commonsense notions," which we inevitably presuppose in practice and thereby in science as well as religion. His naturalism is too poor, in particular, to account for subjectivity, freedom, and mathematical, religious, and moral experience." [italics added] David Ray Griffin

Now we have another division: minimal vs. maximal. Does the subject get more complicated than this? Yes.

For now, let's leave it at this level! My head is spinning.

But I will add one thing: The Academy's "Strong" Definition of Naturalism with its caveats is intenteded specifically to delineate any definition you might come across from that of the Academy. This Academy believes in "soul," "spirit," "mind," and "free will," as natural arisals from empirical existence, as much as the brain is a natural condition of certain atoms that are the basic building blocks--in differing orders depending on the nature of the empirical existent--of all real, knowable matter, and make up absolutely anything that empirically exists.

And while this Academy believes that sentience and cognizance and emotions and the mind are composed of natural, physiological, i.e., empirical events occuring within the form of life that contains them, this does not explain them a "nature deposing free will."

"Free will" is merely the freedom to think or not; and if one has only one or two choices to make with his/her free will, so be it. Circumstances of life are the conditions of life without which sentience and cognizance could not exist. If I am cognizant that I must do the one and only thing open to my choice, I still have the free will to make the choice do nothing at all.

The Wedge Strategy
Secularism in Naturalism was always supposed to be the norm. A Naturalist does not go looking for signs of God, neither does he go looking for means to disprove God's existence. The Naturalists does begin with the epistemic proposition that since "non-existence cannot ever have existed, otherwise non-existence would have been an existent,--which of course is a contradictory statement used only by theists--it is normal that the Naturalist exclude God as a causative agent in the laws of nature. If god exists, he could not have created existence, without that pesky contradiction getting in the way of epistemic integrity.

"If we understand our own times, we will know that we should affirm the reality of God by challenging the domination of materialism and naturalism in the world of the mind. With the assistance of many friends I have developed a strategy for doing this,...We call our strategy the "wedge." --Phillip E. Johnson [1]

"With the simplest of metaphors, Phillip Johnson describes the "wedge" strategy adopted in order to advance "intelligent design" theory, the most recent--and most dangerous--manifestation of creationism." Barara Forrest

"In Dover, Pennsylvania, the school board decided to introduce Intelligent Design into 9th grade science classes and undermine the teaching of evolution be describing it as merely a theory, different from the rest of science. This was done for religious reasons and the school board was sued. A long, scathing decision explored the religious nature of Intelligent Design and ruled against Dover."

"One of the refreshing things about Judge Jones' decision in the Dover trial was his reference to the infamous 'Wedge' strategy of Intelligent Design supporters. Far from being a scholarly and scientific research program, Intelligent Design was conceived from the outset as a means for injecting more religion, theism, and Christianity into schools and American culture generally." Austin Cline

"[T]he wedge strategy is being aggressively and systematically executed by the Discovery Institute's (DI) Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture (CRSC) through an extensive, constant, and sometimes dizzying range of activities which, as Johnson says, are intended ultimately to "affirm the reality of God." [ibid Forrest]

"The Wedge Document is an internal memorandum from the Discovery Institute (the leading proponent of Intelligent Designer "Theory") that was leaked to the Internet in 1999. The Discovery Institute later admitted to its authenticity. Since then, Discovery Institute hasn't talked very much about the document, or the strategy it outlines. The reason is crushingly obvious, since the Wedge Document makes it readily apparent that the Discovery Institute is flat-out lying to us when it claims that its Intelligent Designer campaign is concerned only with science and does not have any religious aims, purpose or effect." Lenny Flank (including the entire "Wedge Document" itself)

“Those who cavalierly reject the Theory of Evolution, as not adequately supported by facts, seem quite to forget that their own theory is supported by no facts at all.” –Herbert Spencer, 1820-1903

"It is, however, not difficult to account for the credit that was given to the story of Jesus Christ being the son of God. He was born when the heathen mythology had still some fashion and repute in the world, and that mythology had prepared the people for the belief of such a story.

"Almost all the extraordinary men that lived under the heathen mythology were reputed to be the sons of some of their gods. It was not a new thing, at that time, to believe a man to have been celestially begotten; the intercourse of gods with women was then a matter of familiar opinion.

"It is curious to observe how the theory of what is called the Christian church sprung out of the tail of the heathen mythology. A direct incorporation took place in the first instance, by making the reputed founder to be celestially begotten. The trinity of gods that then followed was no other than a reduction of the former plurality, which was about twenty or thirty thousand: the statue of Mary succeeded the statue of Diana of Ephesus; the deification of heroes changed into the canonization of saints; the Mythologists had gods for everything; the Christian Mythologists had saints for everything; the church became as crowded with one, as the Pantheon had been with the other, and Rome was the place of both. The Christian theory is little else than the idolatry of the ancient Mythologists, accommodated to the purposes of power and revenue; and it yet remains to reason and philosophy to abolish the amphibious fraud." Thomas Paine (1794) "The Age of Reason"

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This publication © 2008 by Curtis Edward Clark and Naturalist Academy Publishing ®
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