March 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

    “Elgin, it’s not default thinking. It’s empirical thinking. It’s responding to what works.”

    Yet the vast majority of your reply only further demonstrates the contrary. Since you are leaving the discussion I will simply respond to a few points. If you think I skipped something important just let me know and I will address it.

    “That’s right but the difference is that science can take the next step into application.”

    There are several key problems here with the word “application.” For one thing there are significant areas of science that have no application, at least not currently. In addition much, if not most of scientific knowledge precedes any application. Thus making application a prerequisite for any knowledge would invalidate at least parts of science.

    In addition it is unclear what are the limits this application. What kind of application must there be for knowledge to be consider legitimate? Then there are the areas of knowledge, such as history, which are commonly accepted as legitimate, but for which the concept of application is, at best, unclear. Can we legitimately say that Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States? What would be the application of such knowledge?

    The key difference between naturalism and my view is that I focus more on the method of knowledge. Thus applications confirm the usefulness of the method, not just the results. This is an important distinction for it allows me to talk about knowledge in areas such as history, where there is little or no application, but where the methods can still be applied.

    “It isn’t just that “God” is unproven, it’s unprovable according to all we know.”

    This goes back to my comments at the beginning of our discussion concerning the concept of proof. But in any event, the real point is that “to all we know” really means, “to all the naturalist believes” and is again a classic example of default thinking.

    ME: “Yet, I provided evidence, in the form of a rational argument,”

    YOU:” Because that’s not evidence. Read your statement again. Where’s the evidence?”

    This basically demonstrates my point. That which does not support you, you simply ignore. Whether you choose to accept it or not a rational argument is evidence. Reject this and you reject the core of the scientific method upon which your view depends. Your selective acceptance of reason, i.e., you accept it when it reaches the conclusion you like, is hardly a rational position, but instead just more evidence of the flaws within naturalism.

    Concerning your answer to the argument that you requested.

    “1. Knowing that cause and effect as we understand them lead to a seemingly inescapable paradox, you posit an answer based on a series of assumptions.”

    It is only a paradox for naturalism. There is no paradox at all for my view, and in fact this argument is quite consistent with my view. While they are clearly assumptions, they are the assumptions of naturalism, which is the point of the argument. The only real problem with this argument for the naturalist is that it points to a conclusion that naturalism refuses to accept.

    “Maybe there is something about the nature of space-time, and therefore causation that we don’t yet know,”

    I already pointed this out in an early note. While true, it is irrelevant to the point of the argument. The point of the argument is that the evidence we currently have points to something naturalism says cannot exist. Your refusal to accept what, in any other context would be an obvious conclusion, clearly demonstrates that naturalism is inconsistent. Naturalism claims to be empirical relying only on the evidence, but then rejects the current evidence in favor of some hypothetical future possibility. At this point the naturalist abandons the scientific evidence in favor of faith and hope. Faith that naturalism is true, and hope that some evidence that avoids this may be found in the future. Again this is fine. Naturalists would certainly not be the first people in history to hold on to their beliefs in spite of the evidence to the contrary, but it does show that your claims to be open to evidence to the contrary are clearly false, and so perhaps you will not be so quick to ridicule those who disagree with you in the future.

    “That’s a more likely explanation, since that has been the course of scientific discovery to date.”

    Actually the course has been the opposite. For 200 years, naturalist based science has consistently attempted to avoid any concept of a start to the universe, probably because of the implications. From early theories of a steady state universe, to more recent theories that postulated various form of a cycling universe, every attempt so far has had to be discarded as more evidence came in. The course has been opposite of the one you describe. In fact if we just go by the “course of scientific discovery to date” that would be a much better reason to call into question any new theory that the universe did not have a beginning. All previous attempts to make this claim were subsequently overthrown by the evidence, so why shouldn’t any new theory suffer the same fate?

    “2. Out of all the possibilities one could imagine, you settle arbitrarily on a conscious creator.”

    Once again you show that you cannot squarely face the argument as presented, but must instead change it into something you are more comfortable with. In this case so you can divert the argument onto your beliefs on the origins of religion, beliefs which, btw, cannot be verified. Again the argument says nothing about consciousness one way or the other, and so this attempt at refutation is no more valid than the last time you raised it. In short, you cannot refute an argument that does not mention consciousness, by talking about consciousness. You need to deal with the argument, not some straw man of your own creation.

    “We naturalists aren’t in a quandary, as you claim. We merely observe that there are questions we can’t answer yet”

    This is not only a statement of hope, it is a statement of denial, as the only way to not be in a “quandary,” or at least think that you are not, is simply to ignore the argument. Yet this is inconsistent with the principles of naturalism as you have stated them. You can ignore the problem the argument reveals, but that does not make it go away, it just demonstrates your claim to simply follow the evidence is false.

    “if you do, we naturalists will listen and alter our views based on the new evidence – if that ever happens. Y’all refuse to do the same, which is intellectually dishonest.”

    Except that when I demonstrated that the assumptions of naturalism are inconsistent with the best scientific evidence we have, you ignore the evidence and hope things will change in the future. You talk about evidence and reason, but have repeatedly show that you will quickly discard them when they do not support your belief in naturalism. So who is being intellectually dishonest?

    “I don’t mean to be rude but what you’re doing is not interesting or productive.”

    That is fine, as there really is no place left for the discussion to go. I and others have pointed out a number of fallacies and errors in your claims, which for the most part you have just ignored. To move forward, you would need to actually address these fallacies and errors, providing either explanations for why they are not fallacious or in error, which for many would not be possible; or attempt to restate the arguments so as to remove the fallacies and errors. However, instead of refuting or correcting them, you have basically denied that naturalism can be rationally evaluation. This not only conflicts with your claim on the importance of verification, but make further discussion difficult at best, unless you resort to repetition of previously refuted argument, which you have done.

    The only other way to more forward would be for you to face the implications of the argument based on origin I cited, but to do this would be to acknowledge the fatal flaw in naturalism, which you clearly cannot do, for to do this would be to abandon naturalism. Instead you have appealed to hope. This is fine, but it against precludes further discussion because I cannot know what may or may not be discovered in the future, and you have again precluded naturalism from being evaluated. But realize that this is a hope that runs contrary to you claims, and is in fact exactly what you are so critical of others for doing.

    But, in any event, I do what to thank you for an interesting discussion.

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