January 2012
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Elgin’s Books

  • Christianity and Secularism

  • Evidence for the Bible

  • Science, Religion, and Naturalism, continued

    Paul L. LaClair’s post is here. His comments are in blue


    “Your emperor has no clothes. You keep insisting that I should debate with you about the intricacies of his magnificent garments.”

    What I have done is ask that you respond to the irrationalities of your argument. You want to talk about reason, yet you refuse to acknowledge that reason has anything to say about your position. It would appear that you have fallen into what I call default thinking.  This is where someone assumes that their world view is by definition correct and then demands that anyone who disagrees prove them wrong within their framework.

    For example, a theist who had fallen into default thinking, might take as their starting point, or default, the belief that God exists and is the foundation of everything, and then demand that critics point to something that was beyond the realm of God. I know that you would disagree with such a view, but I hope that you can also see the rational errors in this view.  It is ultimately a tautology.

    “To be more specific, a debate over whether and how a Great Unicorn might relate to a God would be comically and exclusively academic, since neither entity is known to exist.”

    Even scientifically this is incorrect.  For example, if science restricted itself only to entities known to exist, it would vastly limit its reach.  For example, the sub -atomic particle charm was ultimately postulated because someone did not like the idea of only 3 particles and figured 4 was better number. They were wrong on the ultimate number but this only demonstrates that even errors can be useful at times. In any event, they postulated what a fourth particle might be like. Once they had an idea of what it might be like, they set out to look for it and eventually found it.

    Still, none of this affects, the two fallacies I pointed out with your argument, and as such your earlier argument remains irrational.  Your questions in this note are irrelevant, given this underlying irrationality, except that you have simply added additional errors to the previous fallacies.  None of it actually addressed the linguistic point that I was making and the fallacy of equivocation that I pointed out.

    “Notice how this takes us back to a naturalistic framework, where we insist that fact claims be verified.”

    A nice example of your default thinking.  I have no doubt that viewed from within your framework, your framework looks fine and theism doesn’t.  However, you claim that in your framework facts must be verified, but what I, and others have been pointing out is that you simple ignore all attempts to apply the same standards to your framework itself, and to the arguments you use.

    “We’re saying there’s nothing else beyond what we can verify but we’re only saying it provisionally, just as we say everything in science provisionally”

    The core problem is, that this is a statement that you cannot verify. It is a statement that must just be accepted.  You make your assumptions, others make theirs and come to different conclusions. The real problem is that you then attempt to ridicule those who do not share you assumption, demanding that their assumptions be verified.  Thus in short you are holding those you disagree with to a different standard than that to which you hold yourself. You demand that their assumptions be verified, when yours cannot.  So just who is the emperor with no clothes?

    “if you provide us with more evidence, then we’ll expand our conception of the universe”

    Yet, I provided evidence, in the form of a rational argument, that reality consisted of more than the natural world, and thus, that the claims of naturalism were false.  Yet you basically ignored it.

    “It’s a practical philosophy, in other words, a philosophy that guides us toward living more productive and useful lives.”

    Again you assume that only your worldview does this. Yet all the productivity and usefulness that you claim as the benefits of naturalism fits equally as well in my world view. In short I see “naturalism” as a subset of my views, and that naturalism ultimately only artificially limits and restricts for no rational basis. I would add to this the numerous studies that show that practicing theists tend to lead longer, happier and more fulfilled lives. Given the evidence, why would I ever want to restrict my concept of reality?

    “Notice also that I didn’t say that God does not exist, only that God is not known to exist. Therefore, any fact claim about “God” lacks the necessary framework for reliability” and “every fact claim about God is a fact claim about something no one knows anything about.”

    These are arguments rooted within the framework of naturalism. The structure and logic of the arguments are ok. It is the underlying premises of naturalism that I would reject.   Thus from my point of view, I not only believe in God. I believe there is considerable evidence that He does exist, and that we can in fact know something about him. I understand that you disagree with these statements.  The big difference between us from my point of view, is that you artificially, and irrationally, restrict reality to the natural world, and given your presuppositions, are thus incapable of acknowledging any of the evidence for God as long as you stay within your framework.

    Before you revert back to your arguments grounded in culture to explain my views, I would point out that again not only are they irrational, they are very unlikely to be persuasive in my case because I grew up as an atheist and opponent of my current views.  My journey to my current views certainly has a spiritual component, but it also has a significant intellectual component, where I found the argument I used to defend my beliefs simply did not stand up to the same sorts of critical analysis I was using on those with whom I disagreed. In short culture had very little to do with my current views.

    “The point of the Great Unicorn example is not to get into the internal logic of your enterprise but to illustrate its absurdity”

    This is really turning things on their head.  The principles of logic are not tied to any particular framework, but instead rest on 3 fundamental laws: the laws of Identity, the Excluded Middle, and Contradiction which is also sometimes called the Law of Non-Contradiction.  Granted, not all world views accept these laws, but they are accepted by most theists, and are key to the scientific method and thus to naturalism.

    While these must operate within a framework such as theism or naturalism to reach a sound conclusion, errors that result in fallacies or invalid arguments are often independent of the framework. Thus the errors I have pointed out in your argument are not based on my framework, but ultimately go back to violations of these fundamental laws of thought. This is why I, and others, have pointed out that naturalism is self-refuting, for these laws form one of the foundations of naturalism, yet naturalism violated these laws.  Thus it is internally inconsistent and thus self-refuting.

    I will handle you specific argument to me in a separate post.

    One comment on “Science, Religion, and Naturalism, continued

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