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24 marca 2009


The Case Against Naturalism

A Review ofReason in the Balance by Phillip E. Johnson (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 1995) 245pp.

The subtitle of this book is: "The Case Against Naturalism in Science, Education, and Law." Let's begin then with a definition of Naturalism. Carl Sagan summed up the philosophy in these words: "The Cosmos is all there is, all there has been and all there ever will be." A naturalist believes that nature is the whole show. There is no "super-nature" (God). For sure a naturalist could talk about a pantheistic "God" who is Life Force or Energy or even the Ground of Being, but not Creator. There is no place in a naturalist scheme for a God existing independent of nature, who created it and on whom it depends.

From this basic belief flow some logical conclusions:

1. The world and any life within it is meaningless. The universe has no design and no goal. It has an origin but no Originator and it is destined to just peter out.

2. Free will is an illusion. All events are pre-determined by the interlocking system of causes and effects which nature is. That you are watching a computer screen at this instant was programmed in the first nano-second of the Big Bang.

3. Right and wrong are meaningless categories. It is totally subjective to say one action is good and another is bad. As G.B. Shaw stated, "the Golden Rule is that there is no Golden Rule." The only sin is calling something a sin, that is being judgmental or intolerant.

4. We can only know appearances not reality (truth). We may speak about "my truth" and "your truth," but to claim any objective truth is pure arrogance. After all, consciousness is merely a chemical reaction.

In Reason in the Balance Johnson demonstrates how this philosophy of naturalism has become identified with "science." As such it dominates our legal and educational system from universities on down. Those who hold an opposite belief (theism) can win acceptance by saying their faith is a private matter, it gives them personal comfort and they would never think of "imposing" their subjective beliefs on anyone else. If naturalism and theism come into conflict (Johnson describes recent court cases where it has) the argument is framed as "science vs. religion," and the latter by implication isirrational. Sagan squeezes that point hard in Demon Haunted World but comes across like a man who gets a lot of rind in his orange juice because he does not know when to stop.

za: Heartland/2964/reason