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L&FP, 57: What is naturalism? Is it a viable — or even the only viable — worldview and approach to knowledge?

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What is naturalism? (And why do some speak in terms of evolutionary materialistic scientism?)

While everything touched on by philosophy is of course open to disagreements and seemingly endless debate, we can find a good enough point of reference through AmHD:

3. Philosophy The system of thought holding that all phenomena can be explained in terms of natural causes and laws.
4. Theology The doctrine that all religious truths are derived from nature and natural causes and not from revelation.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy suggests:

The term “naturalism” has no very precise meaning in contemporary philosophy. Its current usage derives from debates in America in the first half of the last century. The self-proclaimed “naturalists” from that period included John Dewey, Ernest Nagel, Sidney Hook and Roy Wood Sellars. These philosophers aimed to ally philosophy more closely with science. They urged that reality is exhausted by nature, containing nothing “supernatural”, and that the scientific method should be used to investigate all areas of reality, including the “human spirit” (Krikorian 1944, Kim 2003) . . . . Those philosophers with relatively weak naturalist commitments are inclined to understand “naturalism” in a unrestrictive way, in order not to disqualify themselves as “naturalists”, while those who uphold stronger naturalist doctrines are happy to set the bar for “naturalism” higher.[2]

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy comments:

Naturalism is an approach to philosophical problems that interprets them as tractable through the methods of the empirical sciences or at least, without a distinctively a priori project of theorizing. For much of the history of philosophy it has been widely held that philosophy involved a distinctive method, and could achieve knowledge distinct from that attained by the special sciences. Thus, metaphysics and epistemology have often jointly occupied a position of “first philosophy,” laying the necessary grounds for the understanding of reality and the justification of knowledge claims. Naturalism rejects philosophy’s claim to that special status. Whether in epistemology, ethics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, or other areas, naturalism seeks to show that philosophical problems as traditionally conceived are ill-formulated and can be solved or displaced by appropriately naturalistic methods. Naturalism often assigns a key role to the methods and results of the empirical sciences, and sometimes aspires to reductionism and physicalism.

Then, there is Wikipedia, speaking of its own core tendencies:

In philosophy, naturalism is the idea or belief that only natural laws and forces (as opposed to supernatural ones) operate in the universe.[1]

<<Naturalism is not so much a special system as a point of view or tendency common to a number of philosophical and religious systems; not so much a well-defined set of positive and negative doctrines as an attitude or spirit pervading and influencing many doctrines. As the name implies, this tendency consists essentially in looking upon nature as the one original and fundamental source of all that exists, and in attempting to explain everything in terms of nature. Either the limits of nature are also the limits of existing reality, or at least the first cause, if its existence is found necessary, has nothing to do with the working of natural agencies. All events, therefore, find their adequate explanation within nature itself. But, as the terms nature and natural are themselves used in more than one sense, the term naturalism is also far from having one fixed meaning. — Dubray 1911>>

According to philosopher Steven Lockwood, naturalism can be separated into an ontological sense and a methodological sense.[2] “Ontological” refers to ontology, the philosophical study of what exists. On an ontological level, philosophers often treat naturalism as equivalent to materialism. For example, philosopher Paul Kurtz argues that nature is best accounted for by reference to material principles. These principles include mass, energy, and other physical and chemical properties accepted by the scientific community. Further, this sense of naturalism holds that spirits, deities, and ghosts are not real and that there is no “purpose” in nature. This stronger formulation of naturalism is commonly referred to as metaphysical naturalism.[3] On the other hand, the more moderate view that naturalism should be assumed in one’s working methods as the current paradigm, without any further consideration of whether naturalism is true in the robust metaphysical sense, is called methodological naturalism.[4] With the exception of pantheists—who believe that Nature is identical with divinity while not recognizing a distinct personal anthropomorphic god—theists challenge the idea that nature contains all of reality.

So, already, we can see why it is quite reasonable to speak of “evolutionary materialistic scientism,” as that explicitly summarises a relevant, even dominant, form of naturalism commonly seen on the ground, especially in scientific and policy contexts.

Namely, following AmHD, the scheme of thought or view that “all phenomena can be explained in terms of natural causes and laws.” That is, evolutionary materialism from hydrogen to humans, and scientism that reduces knowledge and know-ability to scientific approaches shaped by this a priori such that science as conceived monopolises or even dominates what can be called knowledge. Much as Lewontin, the US National Science Teachers, Martin Mahner, Monod and others have variously said.

Lewontin’s well-known phrase is that Science is “the only begetter of truth.”

Manifestly, such a claim fails.

First, the scientism is self refuting, self referentially incoherent (and depends on its institutionalised power to get us to lock out other perfectly valid approaches to warrant that substantiates knowledge . . . with, of course, the first duties of reasoning lurking out of the fog).

Of course, some here may appeal to an older sense of “Science,” meaning, systematic study on reasonable and responsible principles leading to an agreed body of discussion and knowledge with best practices, i.e. a discipline. In this older sense, Theology had reason to claim to be Queen of the Sciences, especially as she embraced a good slice of philosophy. If you are unwilling to acknowledge Theology and Philosophy or Ethics as sciences, then you cannot appeal to that older sense of science. And if one insists on science as pivoting on empirical observation and linked explanatory theorising (especially when mathematical analysis can be applied), then a core part of doing science is not science, Mathematics, the study of the logic of structure and quantity . . . applied and extended logic of being.

That’s before one recognises that the claim Science monopolises or so dominates knowledge that once it steps in, all else is silenced, is not a scientific claim. It is a proposed thesis of epistemology, the philosophical study of knowledge, warrant and related matters. That is, scientism is self referentially incoherent and absurd.

Once these points are realised, the idea that we may freely impose so-called methodological naturalism without having smuggled in metaphysical naturalism, collapses. Instead, we must open ourselves instead to any valid approach to learning and warranting what we may learn; and in that context, the legitimacy of philosophy, logic of being [i.e. ontology], wider metaphysics, epistemology, logic, ethics and even aesthetics is obvious. So is the credibility of historical and forensic or common sense knowledge, and so are many other approaches to knowledge that can meet the duties to truth, right reason, warrant and wider prudence.

Indeed, we may make a minimal algebraic analysis, regarding any distinctly identifiable field of study amenable to careful reasoned discussion:

The truth claim, “there are no [generally knowable] objective truths regarding any matter,” roughly equivalent to, “knowledge is inescapably only subjective,” is an error. Which, happily, can be recognised and corrected.

Often, such error is presented and made to seem plausible through the diversity of opinions assertion, with implication that none have or are in a position to have a generally warranted, objective conclusion. This, in extreme form, is a key thesis of the nihilism that haunts our civilisation, which we must detect, expose to the light of day, correct and dispel, in defence of civilisation and human dignity. (NB: Sometimes the blind men and the elephant fable is used to make it seem plausible, overlooking the narrator’s implicit claim to objectivity.)

Now, to set things aright, let’s symbolise: ~[O*G] with * as AND. It intends to describe not mere opinion but warranted, credible truth about knowledge in general.


~[O*G] = 1 . . .

is self referential as it is clearly about subject matter G, and is intended to be a well warranted objectively true claim.

But it is itself therefore a truth claim about knowledge in general intended to be taken as objectively true, which is what it tries to deny as a possibility.

So, it is self contradictory and necessarily false:

PHASE I: Let a proposition be represented by x G = x is a proposition asserting that some state of affairs regarding some matter in general including history, science, the secrets of our hearts, morality etc, is the case O = x is objective and knowable, being adequately warranted as credibly true}

PHASE II: It is claimed, S= ~[O*G] = 1, 1 meaning true

However, the subject of S is G, it therefore claims to be objectively true, O and is about G
where it forbids O-status to any claim of type G
so, ~[O*G] cannot be true per self referential incoherence

PHASE III: The Algebra, translating from S: ~[O*G] = 0 [as self referential and incoherent cf above] ~[~[O*G]] = 1 [the negation is therefore true]
CONCLUSION I: O*G = 1 [condensing not of not] where, G [general truth claim including moral ones of course]

So too, O [if an AND is true, each sub proposition is separately true]

CONCLUSION II: That is, there are objective truths for any distinctly identifiable topic of study; and a first, self evident one is that ~[O*G] is false, ~[O*G] = 0. The set of knowable objective truths in general — and embracing those that happen to be about states of affairs in regard to right conduct etc — is non empty, it is not vacuous and we cannot play empty set square of opposition games with it.

That’s important.

Also, there are many particular objective general and moral truths that are adequately warranted to be regarded as reliable. Try, Napoleon was once a European monarch and would be conqueror. Try, Jesus of Nazareth is a figure of history. Try, it is wrong to torture babies for fun, and more.

Ours is a needlessly confused age

The scientism part has failed.

So does the evolutionary materialism part (once we realise that to do science we must be rationally, responsibly free and this cannot be reduced to computation on a blindly mechanical substrate), as for example J B S Haldane long since pointed out. Let us — yes again — cite him, reframing in terms of laid out propositions:

“It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For


[p:] my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain

[–> taking in DNA, epigenetics and matters of computer organisation, programming and dynamic-stochastic processes; notice, “my brain,” i.e. self referential]


[q:] I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true.

[–> indeed, blindly mechanical computation is not in itself a rational process, the only rationality is the canned rationality of the programmer, where survival-filtered lucky noise is not a credible programmer, note the functionally specific, highly complex organised information rich code and algorithms in D/RNA, i.e. language and goal directed stepwise process . . . an observationally validated adequate source for such is _____ ?]

[Corollary 1:] They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically.

And hence

[Corollary 2:] I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. [–> grand, self-referential delusion, utterly absurd self-falsifying incoherence]

[Implied, Corollary 3: Reason and rationality collapse in a grand delusion, including of course general, philosophical, logical, ontological and moral knowledge; reductio ad absurdum, a FAILED, and FALSE, intellectually futile and bankrupt, ruinously absurd system of thought.]

In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” [“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209. Cf. here on (and esp here) on the self-refutation by self-falsifying self referential incoherence and on linked amorality.]

Re-conceive us as oracle machines, where the in the cybernetic loop neural network processors are also interacting with a supervisory oracle, and we arrive at Eng Derek Smith’s sort of vision:

The Eng Derek Smith Cybernetic Model

Notice, this is not a low level analysis of say an insect, the point is that we can see a supervisor, interacting through say quantum influences, with not instinct but rational, responsible wisdom. True freedom of the rational soul is back on the table, whatever the likes of a Provine may imagine, by suggesting that “human free will is nonexistent . . . . humans are locally determined systems that make choices. They have, however, no free will.”

So, are you sufficiently responsibly and rationally free to make a rational objection, pivoting on first principles and duties of reason? If so, evolutionary materialistic scientism is dead; if not, then what may be chemically sound as a matter of cause effect chains in your brain, has no framework to claim more than being a product of GIGO limited computation. So, it has no power to properly claim warrant on ground-consequent relations or inference to best explanation etc.

Naturalism, as commonly proposed, fails. END

92 Replies to “L&FP, 57: What is naturalism? Is it a viable — or even the only viable — worldview and approach to knowledge?

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    L&FP, 57: What is naturalism? Is it a viable — or even the only viable — worldview and approach to knowledge?

  2. 2
    chuckdarwin says:

    So, already, we can see why it is quite reasonable to speak of “evolutionary materialistic scientism,” as that explicitly summarises a relevant, even dominant, form of naturalism commonly seen on the ground, especially in scientific and policy contexts.

    You forgot “atheistic Marxist evolutionary materialistic scientism”…… You could even set it up as an acronym: “AMEMS” Then you could use it like “hey moms, get your kids inside, there is a creepy, nasty AMEMS lurking in the neighborhood….”

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    CD, atheism is not a necessary ideological commitment, though it can be implicit. When pressed on the proper force of the claim to know there is no God, most atheists turn into agnostics. Naturalism, materialism, physicalism, by contrast are well known terms. Meanwhile, have you any warrant for scientism _____ or for evolutionary materialism and/or fellow travellers _____ ? KF

    PS, though marxism is yet again rising from the dead, in cultural narrative forms [see the Frankfurt School’s heirs in critical theory], the concern in the OP is separate from it. Marxism is no silly bogeyman.

  4. 4
    JHolo says:

    Chuck, he also forgot ‘nihilistic’.

    It is always easier to discount something that conflicts with your religious beliefs if you assign a diminutive label to it.

  5. 5
    chuckdarwin says:

    How could I forget “nihilistic?” Good catch…

  6. 6
    kairosfocus says:

    JH & CD, strawman with dismissive namecalling, a sure sign you have little or nothing to answer the merits. Nihilism can and does arise from the inherent amorality of materialism, as Plato noted in The Laws, Bk X, 2360 years ago, but it is not material to the issues with naturalism that are on the table. KF

  7. 7
    jerry says:

    Immediately, two of the resident clowns focus on religion.

    There is no need for this other than give Kf a hard time because he makes a dichotomy that does not logically have to exist. Kf is trying to set up a long discussion that will be like all the others, go nowhere.

    A more interesting discussion is to just add logic to materialism. And discuss where that leads. The materialist will not object to logic (and mathematics which is part of logic)

    Then, maybe some of Kf’s cherished beliefs may fall out. I personally believe they will which is why I push for getting religion out of any discussion of ID.

    Materialism + logic=> ID.

    No need for long complicated OPs that no one reads. And it would be much more interesting.

    But no one here is interested in building a logical argument. This is a place to hold forth with opinions that are not justified.

  8. 8
    JHolo says:

    KF: JH & CD, strawman with dismissive namecalling, a sure sign you have little or nothing to answer the merits

    And what is equating evolutionary science to ‘evolutionary materialistic scientism’ if not a strawman with dismissive name calling?

  9. 9
    kairosfocus says:

    Jerry, as you know, naturalism is a significant issue in its own right and merits a discussion that is substantial. Evolutionary materialistic scientism is derivative and descriptive of a major pattern of naturalism. As for logic, that has long been on the table. The fact of instant resort to strawmen and toxic distractors tells us the balance on the merits; which is not easy to come across as it cuts across a preferred narrative: we are scientific, you are ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked Christofascist fundies and would be theocrats with nothing substantial to say. Confession by projection to the despised other. So, let the record stand. KF

  10. 10
    kairosfocus says:

    PS, as evolutionary materialism is self defeating on cognition, it does not take any proper role in reasoning on any topic, as ex falso quodlibet.

  11. 11
    relatd says:

    CD at 2,

    Thanks for the suggestion 🙂

  12. 12
    relatd says:

    JH at 4,

    You’re right.

    Note: Mark down date and time.

    Quickly followed by ‘not right.’ Leftists use that tactic.

  13. 13
    relatd says:

    Jerry at 7,

    “hold forth”? Again? You can break the cycle. Yes, you.

  14. 14
    Silver Asiatic says:


    Its current usage derives from debates in America in the first half of the last century.

    As such, I think it”s a very antiquated term that very few philosophers use now. Philip Johnson used the term “naturalism” in several of his works, but I think he was just searching for a single term as a catch-all and that one works although it risks missing the target since it’s not a commonly used term. Most philosophers and scientists do not identify themselves as naturalist.

    we can see why it is quite reasonable to speak of “evolutionary materialistic scientism,” as that explicitly summarises a relevant, even dominant, form of naturalism commonly seen on the ground, especially in scientific and policy contexts

    In this I wonder if the term “scientism” is redundant in that phrase. Simple “materialism” should mean that all reality is reducible to physical science. Then the term “evolutionary materialism” may also be inverted. You could have theistic evolution or materialist evolution. But I don’t know how you could have anything other than “evolutionary materialism” – and that would mean “evolutionary” would be redundant. If correct – then the term “materialism” substitutes for naturalism, scientism and evolutionary-materialism.
    But the term “materialism” has its problems also. The scientists and philosophers who proclaim that “reality does not exist” will not like the term “materialism” since they believe that has been made incoherent by quantum theory.

    First, the scientism is self refuting, self referentially incoherent (and depends on its institutionalised power to get us to lock out other perfectly valid approaches to warrant that substantiates knowledge . . . with, of course, the first duties of reasoning lurking out of the fog).

    Scientism, naturalism, materialism and evolutionary-materialism are all self-refuting concepts. They’re incoherent and irrational.
    This fact never registers with materialists, even those who make the greatest effort be consistent with their own nihilistic thought (Alex Rosenberg may be the very best in that category).
    Clearly, it won’t work very well to accept and admit that one’s worldview is self-refuting, incoherent and irrational. Darwin bumped into that problem:

    But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?

    He pursued this in the classic materialist method:
    1. See the problem
    2. Realize that the problem is devastating to one’s own claims and worldview
    3. Come up with a strategy to avoid the problem
    4. Proclaim something that enables you to bluff your way through another day

    In this case, Darwin saw the problem clearly. He then makes it clear that it’s a major obstacle to his own claims and worldview – he does this by referring to it as a “horrid doubt”. So, he’s terrified.
    Then, he has to come up with a strategy (he’s not going to change his view even though he sees it is clearly wrong). He then implements the strategy.
    In this case, the strategy is encapsulated in one single character on our keyboard … the lowly, but almighty question mark.
    “Would anyone trust …?”

    And that’s the signal of academic propriety masking intellectual cowardice. Never make a declarative statement, but instead, have your final conclusion simply be an unanswered question.

    Evolutionists and materialists have been following that methodology ever since (and before Darwin).
    “Recent discoveries on the evolution of human consciousness open up new questions for researchers”.

    But other materialists take strategies different than Darwin’s.
    The one thing they will not do is deal with the problem. That’s for certain.
    However, instead of just ending their conclusions with the question mark, they may become a bit bolder:

    1. “Of course materialism is not self-refuting. I have a perfectly rational mind and I use logic”.
    2 “That is just silly and insulting. Materialism just means that we don’t believe in fairy tales and ghost stories.”
    3. “Religion is very bad”
    4. “Why can’t you admit that we just don’t know?”
    5. “You’re always making the same criticism about the self-refuting nature of materialism. What a joke”.
    6. “Look at all these scientists and academics who accept materialism – and nobody accepts ID”.

    There are dozens more like that. Deny and dodge, turnaround, avoid, feign outrage or being offended, appeal to agnosticism ….

    None of this changes the fact that materialism is self-refuting. None of it is even the faintest attempt to deal with that problem. it’s all just a means of self-protection.

    Lewontin’s famous quote comes closer to the truth: “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs”. But it’s still based on cowardice and lying and ignorance. It’s not just that materialism leaves us with “mystifying” results or that “some of it’s constructs are absurd” or that it goes against common sense. It does all of that, as he says.
    However, he ignores, dodges, avoids or fails to understand his own worldview – since it’s the entire thing that is absurd and self-refuting.
    But he can’t deal with that.
    None of the materialists can deal with it. We could repeat this a thousand times and they’re like a cement wall. Blind faith sustains the illusion, in the face of an obvious contradiction.

  15. 15
    relatd says:

    SA at 14,

    Lie and deny. Just lie and deny.

  16. 16
    kairosfocus says:

    SA, actually, naturalism is baked in as a pseudoconsensus; one with fatal flaws. It has to be exposed. As for identifying oneself, just the opposite, they do identify with it, seeing it as a laudatory term. I am not going off Johnson, as the clips will show. Darwin was actually using the doubt to challenge speculative metaphysics that doubts what he thought of as fully empirically supported evolutionism, not realising or accepting that it was self referential. As for expanding it, that describes what is going on, and scientism in particular is needed to highlight the epistemological failure. Physicalism may be technically more appropriate, but it is a rare term, too rare. And evolution is supposed to be the secret sauce from hydrogen to humans. KF

  17. 17
    jerry says:

    This is all very simple. But I am sure thousands of words will be written anyway.

    If one considers materialism as just the four forces of physics, then logic (includes mathematics) quickly leads to some unusual conclusions. Namely, that there is something else besides these four basic forces.

    Those who want materialism to be just the four basic forces and nothing else are denying there exist something else. They are demanding a priori a specific conclusion and as such are committing a basic fallacy of logic, namely “begging the question.”

    ID tries to identify this something else as an intelligence. This is not begging the question since ID will gladly admit there could be something besides intelligence.

  18. 18
    chuckdarwin says:

    Who put the bee in your bonnet? I can say with relative certainty that I have never referred to anyone on this blog as “ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked Christofascist fundies and would be theocrats with nothing substantial to say.”

  19. 19
    kairosfocus says:

    CD, the implication has long been there in too much of what is and has been going on. It is time to restore serious responsible discussion on serious terms. look again at the stunts you and others pulled starting at no 2 above, cheering one another on. Then, fix the problem. KF

  20. 20
    chuckdarwin says:

    It’s a two way street, your compatriots are not exactly exemplars of good manners and civility…….

  21. 21
    kairosfocus says:

    CD, things are too serious for turnabout projection games. You know that you were dealing with me specifically and chose to play distractive stunts rather than address a serious issue on merits. Given the penumbra of attack sites, that tells me you have no cogent rely but are desperate not to address the substantial issue. We wait on someone with something substantial; you obviously have nothing cogent to say. KF

    PS, treat this as a warning.

  22. 22
    kairosfocus says:

    JH, 8:

    >>what is equating evolutionary science to ‘evolutionary materialistic scientism’ if not a strawman with dismissive name calling?>>

    Perhaps, you have forgotten what was let out of the bag by Richard Lewontin:

    [Lewontin:] . . . to put a correct [–> Just who here presume to cornering the market on truth and so demand authority to impose?] view of the universe into people’s heads

    [==> as in, “we” the radically secularist elites have cornered the market on truth, warrant and knowledge, making “our” “consensus” the yardstick of truth . . . where of course “view” is patently short for WORLDVIEW . . . and linked cultural agenda . . . ]

    we must first get an incorrect view out [–> as in, if you disagree with “us” of the secularist elite you are wrong, irrational and so dangerous you must be stopped, even at the price of manipulative indoctrination of hoi polloi] . . . the problem is to get them [= hoi polloi] to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world [–> “explanations of the world” is yet another synonym for WORLDVIEWS; the despised “demon[ic]” “supernatural” being of course an index of animus towards ethical theism and particularly the Judaeo-Christian faith tradition], the demons that exist only in their imaginations,

    [ –> as in, to think in terms of ethical theism is to be delusional, justifying “our” elitist and establishment-controlling interventions of power to “fix” the widespread mental disease]

    and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth

    [–> NB: this is a knowledge claim about knowledge and its possible sources, i.e. it is a claim in philosophy not science; it is thus self-refuting]

    . . . . To Sagan, as to all but a few other scientists [–> “we” are the dominant elites], it is self-evident

    [–> actually, science and its knowledge claims are plainly not immediately and necessarily true on pain of absurdity, to one who understands them; this is another logical error, begging the question , confused for real self-evidence; whereby a claim shows itself not just true but true on pain of patent absurdity if one tries to deny it . . . and in fact it is evolutionary materialism that is readily shown to be self-refuting]

    that the practices of science provide the surest method of putting us in contact with physical reality [–> = all of reality to the evolutionary materialist], and that, in contrast, the demon-haunted world rests on a set of beliefs and behaviors that fail every reasonable test [–> i.e. an assertion that tellingly reveals a hostile mindset, not a warranted claim] . . . .

    It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us [= the evo-mat establishment] to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes [–> another major begging of the question . . . ] to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute [–> i.e. here we see the fallacious, indoctrinated, ideological, closed mind . . . ], for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door . . . [–> irreconcilable hostility to ethical theism, already caricatured as believing delusionally in imaginary demons]. [Lewontin, Billions and billions of Demons, NYRB Jan 1997,cf. here. And, if you imagine this is “quote-mined” I invite you to read the fuller annotated citation here.]

    Science and ideological imposition don’t mix well.

    And there is much more there that can be put on the table as needed on the point, it’s time to admit to and deal with the problem.


  23. 23
    Seversky says:

    It would be helpful if we could agree on what we mean by “naturalism”, “materialism” and “physicalism”, otherwise we may be talking at cross-purposes.

    There is obviously a degree of overlap between the three. For example, “physicalism” best describes my position but that name is used interchangeably with “materialism” in current usage so I have no problem with either as long as we understand that.

    We find ourselves existing in a natural world – a Universe comprising a multitude of phenomena, each of which having its own nature or that which makes it itself and not something else. We try to explain what we observe in terms of what we have previously observed. We try to infer the existence of phenomena we have not yet observed from phenomena we have already observed. By such methods we have built the growing body of scientific knowledge we enjoy today and hope that we can continue to build on it tomorrow and on into the future.

    If there are ghosts or gods or just advanced aliens somewhere out there – however elusive they might be – then they will form part of this overall natural order. On this understanding. there is no “supernatural” just the unknown.

    There is no epistemological failure – catastrophic or otherwise – embodied in the above. The value of reason is not in question. The nature of free will is still a contentious issue in philosophy and, since “ought” cannot be derived from “is”, neither “naturalism”, “materialism’ or “physicalism” have any bearing on morality and ethics.

  24. 24
    Silver Asiatic says:


    If there are ghosts or gods or just advanced aliens somewhere out there – however elusive they might be – then they will form part of this overall natural order. On this understanding. there is no “supernatural” just the unknown.

    We observe that all things have a cause for their existence and nothing comes into existence by itself as its own cause. You are stating that “nature exists” – therefore, nature came into existence by a cause, and also, nature cannot be the cause of nature. We therefore call the cause of nature “supernature”.

    There is no epistemological failure – catastrophic or otherwise – embodied in the above.

    There is a problem because you’re just asserting the existence of things (from a physicalist perspective) as if they are self-existing or need no explanation for their origin. You’re asserting that various natures exist – and you’d need physical evidence to support that view. You’d additionally need physical evidence to support whatever cause the origin of those things.

    The value of reason is not in question.

    Yes, reason operates on a higher order than materialism can. But in any case, your statement requires physical evidence. Where in nature do we observe “the value of reason”? Or even that reason exists? It needs to be reducible to physical matter – something tangible that can be measured and explained in space, dimension, weight, physical location. Where, precisely, is “the value of reason” physically in our universe?

    The nature of free will is still a contentious issue in philosophy and, since “ought” cannot be derived from “is”, neither “naturalism”, “materialism’ or “physicalism” have any bearing on morality and ethics.

    A denial of free will is opposed to the idea that we make choices based on reason. If we are not free, then something other than reason drives our decisions.

  25. 25
    kairosfocus says:

    Sev, kindly see OP, where the key term, naturalism, is explored. The epistemic catastrophe is the self referential incoherence of scientism, leading into the problems of computationalism vs rational, responsible freedom as Haldane highlighted long since. Those cannot be simply asserted away. KF

  26. 26
    William J Murray says:

    A denial of free will is opposed to the idea that we make choices based on reason. If we are not free, then something other than reason drives our decisions.

    I don’t think this is well-said. A denial of free will is opposed to the idea that we CAN make choices based on reason. Most choices are irrational.

    Seversky’s position actually denies that reason/logic even exists as anything more than a kind of bio-chemically produced feeling. IOW, no “objective” logic or reason would exist; it would only exist as whatever any individual feels or thinks of it as according to their biochemistry. To debate using reason/logic as if it is an objective standard other people must or should adhere to is to tacitly admit it is an objective standard immune to individual biochemstry, and to tacitly admit that free will exists that can supernaturally impose that objective standard onto/above individual biochemstries.

    When a naturalists complains that someone is not listening/submitting to reason and logic, they are tacitly admitting that reason and logic are, in fact, supernatural. Otherwise, you might as well be complaining that the other person has a different hair or eye color than you.

  27. 27
    William J Murray says:

    I mean, when you get down to it, any debate where you expect the other person to submit to logic and evidence is a tacit agreement that the supernatural exists. Otherwise, our thoughts, voices and whatever we say are, in principle, the same as leaves rustling in the wind.

  28. 28
    kairosfocus says:

    WJM, yes, and Haldane made the point on record long ago. Not, that that seems to give pause to those who have been pushing the computation on brain as substrate idea. Computation is simply not reasoning, though it may reflect the reasoning of the designers and programmers. KF

  29. 29
    William J Murray says:

    Seversky said:

    We find ourselves existing in a natural world – a Universe comprising a multitude of phenomena, each of which having its own nature or that which makes it itself and not something else.

    There is no epistemological failure – catastrophic or otherwise – embodied in the above.

    Here’s the catastrophic epistemological failure: we do not “find ourselves existing in a natural world.” How do you know the world you exist in is “natural?” What does that even mean? You begin with epistemological ambiguity full of unexamined assumption. For instance, why would anyone believe that a world full of computable, predictable patterns is “natural” in the first place?

  30. 30
    jerry says:

    How many threads have discussed free will?

    Hundreds, so here we go again.

  31. 31
    Lieutenant Commander Data says:

    “Purpose” the magic word that make materialism disappear unless someone knows the chemical composition of purpose. Water: H2O , Purpose: ____ 😆
    PS: materialists have to stick only with atoms and molecules to make their case. Unfortunately to define materialism they have to use a thought but using a thought(a nonmaterial idea) they destroy the intrinsic idea of materialism. Saying silence make silence disappear. Saying materialism make materialism disappear.

  32. 32
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: It seems advisable to clarify the term, “nature.” First, Merriam Webster gives a cluster of relevant senses:

    Definition of nature

    1 : the external world in its entirety
    2 : natural scenery enjoyed the beauties of nature
    3a : disposition, temperament it was his nature to look after others— F. A. Swinnerton her romantic nature
    b : the inherent character or basic constitution (see constitution sense 2) of a person or thing : essence the nature of the controversy
    4a : humankind’s original or natural condition
    b : a simplified mode of life resembling this condition escape from civilization and get back to nature
    5 : a kind or class usually distinguished by fundamental or essential characteristics documents of a confidential nature acts of a ceremonial nature
    6 : the physical constitution or drives of an organism especially : an excretory organ or function —used in phrases like the call of nature
    7 : the genetically controlled qualities of an organism nature … modified by nurture— E. G. Conklin
    8a : a creative and controlling force in the universe
    b : an inner force (such as instinct, appetite, desire) or the sum of such forces in an individual

    Wikipedia testifies as to its ideological bent:

    Nature, in the broadest sense, is the physical world or universe. [–> contrast Plato in The Laws Bk X, cf. below, and the concept highlighted above, ” the inherent character or basic constitution (see constitution sense 2) of a person or thing”] “Nature” can refer to the phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general. The study of nature is a large, if not the only, part of science. Although humans are part of nature, human activity is often understood as a separate category from other natural phenomena.[1]

    The word nature is borrowed from the Old French nature and is derived from the Latin word natura, or “essential qualities, innate disposition”, and in ancient times, literally meant “birth”.[2] In ancient philosophy, natura is mostly used as the Latin translation of the Greek word physis (?????), which originally related to the intrinsic characteristics of plants, animals, and other features of the world to develop of their own accord.[3][4] The concept of nature as a whole, the physical universe, is one of several expansions of the original notion;[1] it began with certain core applications of the word ????? by pre-Socratic philosophers (though this word had a dynamic dimension then, especially for Heraclitus), and has steadily gained currency ever since.

    During the advent of modern scientific method in the last several centuries, nature became the passive reality, organized and moved by divine laws.[5][6] With the Industrial revolution, nature increasingly became seen as the part of reality deprived from intentional intervention: it was hence considered as sacred by some traditions (Rousseau, American transcendentalism) or a mere decorum for divine providence or human history (Hegel, Marx). However, a vitalist vision of nature, closer to the presocratic one, got reborn at the same time, especially after Charles Darwin.[1]

    Within the various uses of the word today, “nature” often refers to geology and wildlife. Nature can refer to the general realm of living plants and animals, and in some cases to the processes associated with inanimate objects—the way that particular types of things exist and change of their own accord, such as the weather and geology of the Earth. It is often taken to mean the “natural environment” or wilderness—wild animals, rocks, forest, and in general those things that have not been substantially altered by human intervention, or which persist despite human intervention. For example, manufactured objects and human interaction generally are not considered part of nature, unless qualified as, for example, “human nature” or “the whole of nature”. This more traditional concept of natural things that can still be found today implies a distinction between the natural and the artificial, with the artificial being understood as that which has been brought into being by a human consciousness or a human mind. [–> notice, nature vs art cf Plato, and the attempt to confine art to human art, never mind our inability to exhaust intelligent creativity] Depending on the particular context, the term “natural” might also be distinguished from the unnatural or the supernatural.[1]

    We here see much of the problem of the dominance of that form of naturalism that boils down to evolutionary materialistic scientism, with fellow travellers. Similarly, the subtle distancing from distinct identity, that A is itself i/l/o its core characteristics, i.e. nature is tied to logic of being and first principles of reason that has to reckon with things and states of affairs as they are.

    Where, lastly, nature vs art [techne] and signs of these as causal factors are at the heart of the validity of the design inference. So, we must seek clarity and truthfulness at this point.

    Well worth pondering, cf next, Plato.


  33. 33
    kairosfocus says:

    PS, It is worth the pause to reflect on Plato in The Laws, Bk X, where notoriously wherever we go in thought we meet Plato, Socrates and Aristotle on the way back. Citing:

    Ath [enian Stranger in The Laws, Bk X 2,360 ya]. . . .[The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that fire and water, and earth and air [i.e the classical “material” elements of the cosmos — the natural order], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art . . . [such that] all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only [ –> that is, evolutionary materialism is ancient and would trace all things to blind chance and mechanical necessity, contrasted to “the action of mind” i.e. intelligently directed configuration] . . . .

    [[T]hese people would say that the Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them . . . .

    Then, by Heaven, we have discovered the source of this vain opinion of all those physical investigators . . . . they affirm that which is the first cause of the generation and destruction of all things, to be not first, but last, and that which is last to be first, and hence they have fallen into error about the true nature of the Gods.

    Cle. Still I do not understand you.

    Ath. Nearly all of them, my friends, seem to be ignorant of the nature and power of the soul [[ = psuche], especially in what relates to her origin: they do not know that she is among the first of things, and before all bodies, and is the chief author of their changes and transpositions. And if this is true, and if the soul is older than the body, must not the things which are of the soul’s kindred be of necessity prior to those which appertain to the body?

    Cle. Certainly.

    Ath. Then thought and attention and mind and art and law will be prior to that which is hard and soft and heavy and light; and the great and primitive works and actions will be works of art; they will be the first, and after them will come nature and works of nature, which however is a wrong term for men to apply to them; these will follow, and will be under the government of art and mind.

    Cle. But why is the word “nature” wrong?

    Ath. Because those who use the term mean to say that nature is the first creative power; but if the soul turn out to be the primeval element, and not fire or air, then in the truest sense and beyond other things the soul may be said to exist by nature; and this would be true if you proved that the soul is older than the body, but not otherwise.

    [[ . . . .]

    Ath. . . . when one thing changes another, and that another, of such will there be any primary changing element? How can a thing which is moved by another ever be the beginning of change? Impossible. But when the self-moved changes other, and that again other, and thus thousands upon tens of thousands of bodies are set in motion, must not the beginning of all this motion be the change of the self-moving principle? . . . . self-motion being the origin of all motions, and the first which arises among things at rest as well as among things in motion, is the eldest and mightiest principle of change, and that which is changed by another and yet moves other is second. [–> notice, the self-moved, initiating, reflexively acting causal agent, which defines freedom as essential to our nature, and this is root of discussion on agents as first causes.]

    [[ . . . .]

    Ath. If we were to see this power existing in any earthy, watery, or fiery substance, simple or compound-how should we describe it?

    Cle. You mean to ask whether we should call such a self-moving power life?

    Ath. I do.

    Cle. Certainly we should.

    Ath. And when we see soul in anything, must we not do the same-must we not admit that this is life?

    [[ . . . . ]

    Cle. You mean to say that the essence which is defined as the self-moved is the same with that which has the name soul?

    Ath. Yes; and if this is true, do we still maintain that there is anything wanting in the proof that the soul is the first origin and moving power of all that is, or has become, or will be, and their contraries, when she has been clearly shown to be the source of change and motion in all things?

    Cle. Certainly not; the soul as being the source of motion, has been most satisfactorily shown to be the oldest of all things.

    Ath. And is not that motion which is produced in another, by reason of another, but never has any self-moving power at all, being in truth the change of an inanimate body, to be reckoned second, or by any lower number which you may prefer?

    Cle. Exactly.

    Ath. Then we are right, and speak the most perfect and absolute truth, when we say that the soul is prior to the body, and that the body is second and comes afterwards, and is born to obey the soul, which is the ruler?

    [[ . . . . ]

    Ath. If, my friend, we say that the whole path and movement of heaven, and of all that is therein, is by nature akin to the movement and revolution and calculation of mind, and proceeds by kindred laws, then, as is plain, we must say that the best soul takes care of the world and guides it along the good path. [[Plato here explicitly sets up an inference to design (by a good soul) from the intelligible order of the cosmos.

    Thus we see a longstanding challenge to physicalism, where PHUSIS or PHYSIS is of course the term for “nature” being used in the Greek.

    This is of course the first design inference on record in our civilisation. And, it is cosmological, arguing to mind as antecedent to the physical world we inhabit.

    This issue, then, is absolutely central to the matters contemplated here at UD and fully merits the focus of an OP on Logic and First Principles.

    Given the penumbra of attack sites, it will be interesting to see how the substantial questions are addressed.

  34. 34
    kairosfocus says:

    Jerry, this one is bigger than free will, though it includes the self-moved as the ensouled thus first cause. KF

  35. 35
    kairosfocus says:

    LCD, food for thought. Free, unprogrammed, creative, rational, intelligent thought is a refutation of a worldview in which there can be no genuinely free thoughts. KF

  36. 36
    jerry says:

    this one is bigger than free will

    That’s true.

    But it is incredibly simple too. Probably a lot of irrelevant comments will be made. Many have already been made.

    Every time religion enters the comments you can be sure it’s irrelevant just as free will is irrelevant.

  37. 37
    kairosfocus says:

    Jerry, the core theme was sounded by Plato, and thoughts are acts of the self-moved. Unless the physicalists etc are content to be hopelessly self referentially incoherent they must reckon with self aware thought as a first empirical datum, one we routinely communicate to others like ourselves. This is a first, self evident fact. And for thought to have credibility it must be free and rational, responsible before first duties. As Haldane pointed out 95 years ago, it cannot be reasonably reduced to dynamic-stochastic computation on a wetware substrate. That would undermine even the materialists and evolutionists. Provine and Rosenberg etc, necessarily, are wrong. That brings us full circle to Plato’s point, that the self moved principle, the intelligent soul, is before the physical world, which in its laws and coherent order reflects its roots in mind. Evolutionary materialistic scientism is dead and it takes down with it its fellow travellers. Whose name is legion. KF

  38. 38
    jerry says:

    It’s very very simple.

    No need for Plato, just simple logic. No need for any philosophy at all.

  39. 39
    kairosfocus says:

    Jerry, as usual, when we go down the road of logic, we meet Socrates, Plato and Aristotle on the way back. There is bite to the saying that Philosophy is a collection of footnotes to Plato. Many do not wish to acknowledge that inheritance, but that does not make it any less true. KF

    PS, and of course, scientism does not wish to acknowledge its philosophical character as that is what exposes its self-refutation.

  40. 40
    William J Murray says:

    No need for Plato, just simple logic. No need for any philosophy at all.

    In other news, I cut down a tree near my house but I still have the shade it provided.

  41. 41
    kairosfocus says:

    It’s a mirikle!

  42. 42
    William J Murray says:

    KF @41,
    That actually made me laugh out loud.

  43. 43
    jerry says:

    when we go down the road of logic, we meet Socrates, Plato and Aristotle

    No need for any of these philosophers.

    You are implying that anytime one uses logic, one must cite/refer to ancient philosophers. Absolute nonsense. They just get in the way.

    As I said they are just irrelevant comments. But that’s the norm on UD.

  44. 44
    William J Murray says:

    You are implying that anytime one uses logic, one must cite/refer to ancient philosophers. Absolute nonsense. They just get in the way.

    I mean, really, why waste time with Socrates, Aristotle and Plato when we got Vizzini here to do the ‘splaining? Inconceivable!

  45. 45
    kairosfocus says:

    Jerry, no. I am pointing out that from the beginning, logic is a main branch of philosophy and that other disciplines including the sciences derive from extensions of philosophy so are inextricably entangled with it. Further, warrant and knowledge use logic and are another main branch, epistemology. We cannot establish a sound body of knowledge without involvement of these main philosophical disciplines. Where, for example, math is perhaps best seen as an extension of logic of being, study of the logic of structure and quantity, where we can start with von Neumann so we get N, then Z,Q,R,C,R* etc and more. That heritage was laid out from the first, by said trio. (Which does not mean they made no errors, nor that we have not built up much on the first thoughts.) The error of scientism is to be blind to that heritage, which is how it instantly refutes itself. We would be well advised to fix our education systems to instead acknowledge that heritage, or science frankly becomes a fraudulent crooked yardstick that builds on error and uses key errors to dismiss what is sound. Which should sound all too familiar, for cause. KF

  46. 46
    JHolo says:

    WJM: I mean, really, why waste time with Socrates, Aristotle and Plato when we got Vizzini here to do the ‘splaining? Inconceivable!

  47. 47
  48. 48
    jerry says:

    I am pointing out that from the beginning, logic is a main branch of philosophy and that other disciplines including the sciences derive from extensions of philosophy so are inextricably entangled with it

    All unnecessary to address the basic issue which is extremely simple.

    But to do so would eliminate thousands of irrelevant words. Already over 7500 words, 2/3+ irrelevant. As I said, irrelevant words/ideas are the norm for UD.

  49. 49
    kairosfocus says:

    Jerry, it is precisely the ignorance regarding or denial of this heritage that led to scientism. To correct it, at least in outline we need to set the record straight. KF

  50. 50
    jerry says:

    we need to set the record straight

    Can be done very simply.

    If, you really want to set the record straight there is no need for all these extraneous concepts. They just get in the way.

    In the last couple years you personally have written over a million words on this or related ideas. Most were unnecessary.

    Now if you approach this from the simplicity of it all, it will lead to the illogic that is used against this simplicity. That will not only be a simpler approach but communicate more clearly.

    Is it a viable — or even the only viable

    Easily addressed.

    No need for long involved discussions. As I said they are irrelevant.

  51. 51
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Relevance? Lesse, the OP’s title, again: “What is naturalism? Is it a viable — or even the only viable — worldview and approach to knowledge?” Where, this is no 57 in the series on logic and first principles. KF

  52. 52
    Lieutenant Commander Data says:

    Every time religion enters the comments you can be sure it’s irrelevant just as free will is irrelevant.

    😆 1st Commandment of Jerry the Great about what you should do. This is about ethics and morality (=religion) . Where from did you get your Commandment? What is the foundation of your rule about what should happen when somebody write a comment?

  53. 53
    William J Murray says:

    Meanwhile, Jerry has contributed 5,874,793,271 words and 143,738,027 comments here complaining about unnecessary words and comments, knowing full well and admitting that his complaining will have zero effect.

    Except, you know, to add to the volume of unnecessary words and comments.

    You know, maybe we are, after all, meatsack automatons that just do whatever the biochemicals tell us to do ….

  54. 54
    jerry says:

    will have zero effect

    I agree 100%.

    Logic does not work a large percentage of the time on UD no matter which side the commenter is on. Often the objective here is not understanding or communicating clearly.


    That’s a thousand times more comments than ever made on UD.

    Amazing proclivity.

  55. 55
    kairosfocus says:

    LCD, oddly, because we are rational, responsible, morally governed creatures, we can and do know that basic fact through some common sense reasoning. For example, those who object to objective principles do so because they think something is wrong with them. That is, they cannot but sit on the same first duties branch with the rest of us. If we are willing to pay attention, that’s a clue that we are dealing with self evident first principles. So, we know we are morally governed and we know some first duties. As one is duty to neighbour, it carries with it fairness, justice and the list of commands Paul highlights in Rom 13:8 – 10 and echoes in 2:12-15. Where, he endorses the sort of received insights Cicero summarised. This is epistemology, knowing that. Such opens up knowing why and how, the root of reality issue. That requires the inherently good and utterly wise. But even this is philosophy, logic of being applied to a world in which there are morally governed creatures. Sound religion, unsurprisingly, will endorse that. But the crying religion we are seeing is abut trying to dismiss with prejudice without having to ponder serious questions. Irresponsible rhetorical stunts, in short. Time to do better. KF

  56. 56
    kairosfocus says:

    Jerry, part of the effect is precisely the exposing of the want of cogent response to the OP and linked issues. That tells us just how cracked the foundation of the dominant narrative is. Time for sound reformation. KF

  57. 57
    relatd says:

    Seversky at 23,

    Why make it complicated? All men should desire the truth. Not civil, well-mannered phrases that hide a lie – the Truth. Nothing less.

  58. 58
    relatd says:

    WJM at 26,

    Why do you write nonsense? Why? That is the question. How do you handle real life? With irrational decisions?

    “Most choices are irrational.”

    Seriously? Are you prepared to stand up in a room full of people and say that?

  59. 59
    relatd says:

    Jerry at 30,

    To borrow from a reference I can no longer find: ‘We must repeat the truth daily to combat the lies being spread among the people.’

    The media is blaring at us daily. Without a literal list of things that are true, part of their job is to steer people off course – away from truth.

  60. 60
    relatd says:

    Jerry at 36,

    Wha… what? What the heck does that mean? Or are you prone to making irrational statements?

  61. 61
    relatd says:

    WJM at 40,

    You too 🙂

  62. 62
    AaronS1978 says:

    CD = Troll

  63. 63
    StephenB says:

    Since so many people here are demanding simplicity, I will try make it simple. First principles come first, that is why they call them first principles.

    That is also why philosophy, done correctly and in concert with reason, is a necessary enterprise and is on a higher intellectual plane than science. The problem is that modern philosophy, as opposed to classical philosophy, contains serious errors, such as materialism in the ontological order or nominalism in the epistemological order. Such errors reduce philosophy to a lower plane than science.

    Classical philosophy, the nobler kind, tells us that logic depends on the law of non-contradiction, a point that was originally discovered by Aristotle. We can say things like *if A, then B” only if we first say *A cannot also be B, or C or D etc* That’s where it all starts – with first principles in concert with reason..

    So it is with causality and science. We can say *A caused B* to move or exist or arrive at its present state only if we first acknowledge that all existence, movement, and change is caused by an outside source, which is a philosophical principle that rules science. It is from philosophy that we get the rules for evidence, the need to isolate variables, the principle of inductive reasoning, and so on. It has nothing to do with religion. Any such claim is a strawman.

    So this is the take home point: Science does not inform the rules of right reason; the rules of right reason inform science.

  64. 64
    Alan Fox says:


    Just wondering if “evil exists” is still one of your first principles.

  65. 65
    kairosfocus says:

    AF, evil has no independent existence, it is a privation or frustration or twisting of what is from its due . . . and often manifest . . . ends, hence chaotic impact. But if there are evils, there are also due ends. The due end of rational, responsible freedom is truth in love, thus to do good that builds and brings peace. For classic example, that is how were lying to become the norm, communication, society and key relations would collapse. Lying only works because of relative rarity and some remaining degree of trust aka social capital. KF

    PS, notice, again, the side-tracking nature of your objection. Given the penumbra of attack sites, that is a sign of not having a cogent answer to the evident incoherence and self refuting nature of evolutionary materioalistic scientism and its fellow travellers. Naturalism, which lends itself to such, is bankrupt.

  66. 66
    Lieutenant Commander Data says:

    Darwinists show us a black box(their theory) and tell people to believe them that inside is a red ball. They also say that is not possible to open the box because our span life is 70 years and the box opens once in a million years. They call it science ,except science is what you can prove it not what you can imagine about the world. If darwinists can’t open the black box to show us the red ball then definitely is not science.

  67. 67
    jerry says:

    The OP asks “what is Naturalism?”

    Answer: it is that all in our universe is due to the four forces of physics. (Possibly other undiscovered forces)

    End of discussion.

    No need for long involved explanations or irrelevant verbiage. But the UD way is to generate dozens/hundreds and sometimes thousands of comments that go nowhere. All repeats of previous comments.

    The real question is “can naturalism explain everything?”

    The answer is that when logic is applied to science, the four forces come up short. That’s what ID added to naturalism or why ID is naturalism + or

              ID is Science +

  68. 68
    kairosfocus says:

    Jerry, that’s physicalism; a form of naturalism, yes, but not all of it. That brings out that philosophy is the department of studies that handles hard questions. Hard Q’s are defined by there not being any simple, and good, answers. What that means is that complexity is baked into the framework of any serious discipline or issue, starting with logic, logic of being and epistemology. Appreciating that should be part of education. As for what ID is, it recognises the possibility of intelligently directed configuration, thus the role of intelligent organisation and information as key causal factors and means. These often leave reliable signs, and so ID, rightly understood is that scientific school that studies signs of design. It is a commonplace, but becomes controversial because it challenges key theses of naturalistic thinking. Which is the dominant frame of thought — frankly, ideology — in the academy. KF

  69. 69
    kairosfocus says:

    PS, Martin Mahner:

    . . . metaphysical naturalism is a constitutive ontological principle of science in that the general empirical methods of science, such as observation, measurement and experiment, and thus the very production of empirical evidence, presuppose a no-supernature principle [–> recall, we are dealing with what is institutionally dominant, it matters not that some would disagree, this is a statement of where the Overton Window lies and what the power brokers think they have power to lock out, regardless of actual merits] . . . .

    Metaphysical or ontological naturalism (henceforth: ON) [“roughly” and “simply”] is the view that all that exists is our lawful spatiotemporal world. Its negation is of course supernaturalism: the view that our lawful spatiotemporal world is not all that exists because there is another non-spatiotemporal world transcending the natural one, whose inhabitants—usually considered to be intentional beings—are not subject to natural laws . . . . Both scientists and science educators keep being challenged by creationists of all shades, who try hard to reintroduce supernaturalist explanations into biology and into all the areas of science that concern the origin of the world in general and of human beings in particular. [–> Confession by projection? No merely human power class has a permanent empire. This too will fall.]

    [–> of course he here glides by the point Plato highlighted in The Laws Bk X, natural vs supernatural, and the linked point that it is empirically well founded that there are signs of intelligently directed configuration as cause, where a major goal and condition of credibility of science is that it seeks empirically supported truth about our world. Ideological capture of science and science education potentially has a ruinous cost.]

    A major aspect of this debate is the role of ON in science . . . .

    ON is not part of a deductive argument in the sense that if we collected all the statements or theories of science and used them as premises, then ON would logically follow. After all, scientific theories do not explicitly talk about anything metaphysical such as the presence or absence of supernatural entities: they simply refer to natural entities and processes only. Therefore, ON rather is a tacit metaphysical supposition of science, an ontological postulate. It is part of a metascientific framework or, if preferred, of the metaparadigm of science that guides the construction and evaluation of theories, and that helps to explain why science works and succeeds in studying and explaining the world. [–> cat out of the bag.] [“The role of Metaphysical Naturalism in Science,” Science and Education, 2011]

    The matter is clear and any prudent educator or thinker on related subjects would avoid terminology that invites the Lewontin imposition, unless that is precisely what it is desired to enable. Which, cannot be justified.

  70. 70
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS, US Science Teachers, with National Academy of Sciences backing:

    [NSTA Board, July 2000:] All those involved with science teaching and learning should have a common, accurate view of the nature of science. [–> yes but a question-begging ideological imposition is not an accurate view] Science is characterized by the systematic gathering of information through various forms of direct and indirect observations and the testing of this information by methods including, but not limited to, experimentation [–> correct so far]. The principal product of science is knowledge in the form of naturalistic concepts [–> evolutionary materialistic scientism is imposed] and the laws and theories related to those [–> i.e. ideologically loaded, evolutionary materialistic] concepts . . . . science, along with its methods, explanations and generalizations, must be the sole focus of instruction in science classes to the exclusion of all non-scientific or pseudoscientific methods, explanations, generalizations and products [–> censorship of anything that challenges the imposition; fails to appreciate that scientific methods are studied through logic, epistemology and philosophy of science, which are philosophy not science] . . . .

    Although no single universal step-by-step scientific method captures the complexity of doing science [–> a good point, but fails to see that this brings to bear many philosophical issues], a number of shared values and perspectives characterize a scientific approach to understanding nature. Among these are a demand for naturalistic explanations [–> outright ideological imposition and censorship that fetters freedom of responsible thought] supported by empirical evidence [–> the imposition controls how evidence is interpreted and that’s why blind watchmaker mechanisms never seen to actually cause FSCO/I have default claim to explain it in the world of life] that are, at least in principle, testable against the natural world. Other shared elements include observations, rational argument [–> ideological imposition may hide under a cloak of rationality but is in fact anti-rational], inference, skepticism [–> critical awareness is responsible, selective hyperskepticism backed by ideological censorship is not], peer review [–> a circle of ideologues in agreement has no probative value] and replicability of work . . . .

    Science, by definition, is limited to naturalistic [= evolutionary materialistic scientism is imposed by definition, locking out an unfettered search for the credibly warranted truth about our world i/l/o observational evidence and linked inductive reasoning] methods and explanations and, as such [–> notice, ideological imposition by question-begging definition], is precluded from using supernatural elements [–> sets up a supernatural vs natural strawman alternative when the proper contrast since Plato in The Laws, Bk X, is natural vs artificial] in the production of scientific knowledge. [US NSTA Board, July 2000, definition of the nature of science for education purposes]

  71. 71
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: On experience, it is necessary to document from the horses’ mouths, as there is a definite tactic of evasion, obfuscation and denial.

  72. 72
    kairosfocus says:

    PPPS, as a capstone, Monod:

    In writing about naturalistic origins of life, in Chance and Necessity, Monod proposed that life is the result of chance and necessity. This reflects the naturalistic attitude, and is tied to the a priori rejection of design as a possibility highlighted by Lewontin thirty years later; yes, an assumption held to be pivotal to scientific “objectivity.”


    [T]he basic premise of the scientific method, . . . [is] that nature is objective and not projective [= a project of an agent]. Hence it is through reference to our own activity, con-scious and projective, intentional and purposive-it is as | makers of artifacts-that we judge of a given object’s “naturalness” or “artificialness.” [pp. 3 – 4] . . . .

    [T]he postulate of objectivity is consubstantial with science: it has guided the whole of its prodigious develop-ment for three centuries. [–> false!] There is no way to be rid of it, even tentatively or in a limited area, without departing from the domain of science itself. [–> ideological captivity to evolutionary materialistic scientism][p. 21]

    Further to such, in a 1971 television interview, he asserted — tellingly — as follows:

    [T]he scientific attitude implies what I call the postulate of objectivity—that is to say, the fundamental postulate that there is no plan, that there is no intention in the universe. Now, this is basically incompatible with virtually all the religious or metaphysical systems whatever, all of which try to show that there is some sort of harmony between man and the universe and that man is a product—predictable if not indispensable—of the evolution of the universe.— Jacques Monod [Quoted in John C. Hess, ‘French Nobel Biologist Says World Based On Chance’, New York Times (15 Mar 1971), p. 6. Cited in Herbert Marcuse, Counter-Revolution and
    (1972), p. 66.]

    This is of course a Nobel Prize winner speaking and writing on the record. Chance and Necessity was in fact a highly influential, widely celebrated book. This is not some half baked soapbox debater.

  73. 73
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Here are some considerations on the proposal “evil exists”.
    First, as stated elsewhere, evil is a privation or lack of perfection, a perversion of good, so it cannot be a “real” entity in that sense.
    However, there is a philosophical equation that works like this:

    True = what exists = real = good

    On the other side

    False = what does not exist = unreal = evil

    In logical terms we can say “error exists”. Error is what is false – is a lack of reality, lack of goodness.

    But that’s the mental concept of error. So, evil can exist as a concept, but not in reality.

    Our objective moral norms begin with the idea of truth. What is true is what is real. What is false is what tends towards evil. Our conscience moves us to the truth – objectively and morally.
    It’s not a subjective process.

  74. 74
    relatd says:

    SA at 73,

    Evil is not a concept. It exists in reality. When human beings act in defiance of right reason and their God-given natures, that is evil in action. I suggest paying attention to the evil actions going on all around us.

  75. 75
    Silver Asiatic says:


    Evil is not a concept. It exists in reality.

    This is how Manicheanism developed. The belief that “evil is an entity that exists in reality” means that evil must be traced back to an origin, as a thing is created.
    The Manicheans determined then there must be an evil god and a good god. The evil god created evil.
    St. Augustine refutes that since there can only be one God. Plus, God must be perfectly good – not a mixture of good and evil.
    So, evil cannot be a thing that exists in reality – it cannot be an entity.
    Evil is the deprivation of the good. It is a lack of good. It’s the perversion of what is good. It does not have its own existence, being and purpose of its own. Evil tends towards destruction, not to building. Whatever exists is good, at least partially. Evil is what is removed from good – it’s not a thing in itself in reality.
    Death is an evil – it takes away life. Life is something we can see and realize as an entity in reality.
    Death is not a thing we can see – it’s just the absence or end of life.

    When human beings act in defiance of right reason and their God-given natures, that is evil in action. I suggest paying attention to the evil actions going on all around us.

    Sin is the perversion of a good action. Vice is a corruption of virtue. Virtue and goodness exist as “that which is true and real”.
    That which is false and evil exists in the way “-2” exists. I can have 2 apples, but I cannot possess -2 apples. Evil takes away being and takes away good.
    Sinful behavior always has a good root that is “defied”. We are oriented to good, to what is real and to the truth. The sin of drunkenness for example, is something good (drinking) perverted to excess. Theft is something good (taking something good for oneself) perverted by taking what we do not rightly own.

  76. 76
    relatd says:

    SA at 75,

    In the Catholic understanding of evil, it begins with a created entity, Satan or the Devil. Jesus was tempted by the Devil, not some concept of evil. He has an identity. He rebelled against God along with others like him.

    Luke 10:18

    ‘And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”

    Death is not evil. Jesus defeated death but we cannot avoid it.

    Hebrews 9:27

    “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,”

    In the Final Judgment, Jesus himself will judge our eternal fate.

  77. 77
    Silver Asiatic says:


    What is Evil? Aquinas’ Classical Definition Found in Catechism
    Evil is the lack (or privation) of a good that should be present in a thing. For example, blindness is a physical evil because it is the absence of the ability to see, which is proper to a human being. In moral terms, sin is the absence of a particular virtue in a person. As such, evil is not something that exists in itself; it is merely the absence of the good (see Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs 309, 314).
    Fr. José Antonio Fortea

    Death is an evil that entered the world as a punishment for sin

    Death may be considered in two ways. First, as an evil of human nature, and thus it is not of God, but is a defect befalling man through his fault. Secondly, as having an aspect of good, namely as being a just punishment, and thus it is from God. Wherefore Augustine says (Retract. i, 21) that God is not the author of death, except in so far as it is a punishment.

  78. 78
    relatd says:

    SA at 77,

    Thank you for the clarification of evil from Aquinas, however, The Fall, an actual event, was caused by the appearance of an actual being.

    The clarification of the origin of death does not take away from the reality of death for each of us and the judgment. The atheist does not believe this.

    Genesis 2:17

    ‘but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

  79. 79
    jerry says:

    For example, blindness is a physical evil because it is the absence of the ability to see, which is proper to a human being

    So a blister, a stubbed toe or mosquito bite is evil according to this definition.

    What about near sightedness?

  80. 80
    relatd says:

    Jerry at 79,

    Thank you for helping to clear away the fog.

  81. 81
    kairosfocus says:

    Jerry, minor privations, but privations. KF

  82. 82
    jerry says:

    minor privations, but privations

    That is the point!

    Isn’t blindness a privation? Is there a continuum on which privations or unwanted events can be ranked and at some point, these privations/unwanted events become evil? The answer is no. That would be an absurd conclusion.

    I find it telling that no one is interested in trying to understand the implications of the concept of “evil.” Everyone believes that this is an attempt to take away a precious word they use all the time. In a way it is but only to replace this extremely imprecise understanding with a much better understanding of what is involved.

    What flows from this better understanding is a complete vitiating of the argument from evil which is only used against the Christian God.

  83. 83
    Silver Asiatic says:

    The Fall, an actual event, was caused by the appearance of an actual being

    All beings, by virtue of having been created by God, possess goodness. Sin is a deprivation or deviation from the will of God. It’s not an existent entity. No being can be completely evil, not even Satan. By the fact that Satan exists he possesses some good. Satan also is subject to God’s punishment – to His justice and that is a good thing, even though Satan has conformed himself to sin and rebellion.

  84. 84
    relatd says:

    Catechism of the Catholic Church:


    “391 Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy.266 Scripture and the Church’s Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called “Satan” or the “devil”.267 The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: “The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing.”268

    “392 Scripture speaks of a sin of these angels.269 This “fall” consists in the free choice of these created spirits, who radically and irrevocably rejected God and his reign. We find a reflection of that rebellion in the tempter’s words to our first parents: “You will be like God.”270 The devil “has sinned from the beginning”; he is “a liar and the father of lies”.271

    “393 It is the irrevocable character of their choice, and not a defect in the infinite divine mercy, that makes the angels’ sin unforgivable. “There is no repentance for the angels after their fall, just as there is no repentance for men after death.”272

    “394 Scripture witnesses to the disastrous influence of the one Jesus calls “a murderer from the beginning”, who would even try to divert Jesus from the mission received from his Father.273 “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”274 In its consequences the gravest of these works was the mendacious seduction that led man to disobey God.

    “395 The power of Satan is, nonetheless, not infinite. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building up of God’s reign. Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries – of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature- to each man and to society, the action is permitted by divine providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history. It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, but “we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him.”275′

  85. 85
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Since evil is the result of a defect in the good, Aquinas says, it cannot be that God is the generator of any evil, since he possesses no defect, only perfection. This argument places the fault and blame of evil in the hands of humanity, the only other being with inherent goodness which exercises a will and an intellect. In doing this, Aquinas sets up his answer to the problem of evil, that evil is not the responsibility of God, since he had no part in creating evil.

    God cannot create evil, since to create something is to create a being, or reality or that which is. Creation is a positive act which confers being – and therefore is good.
    Evil takes away from the goodness of being.
    Evil is not the result of a creative act but of destruction. It’s the result of something not something created as an affirmation.
    Punishment for moral disorder is part of justice – which comes from God.
    The fact that our reality is deprived of goodness, and suffers evil, is a result of justice and is a necessary component of having creatures with free will.

  86. 86
    kairosfocus says:

    Could someone explain to me how we went from clarifying naturalism and identifying linked issues, to Catechism?

  87. 87
    EDTA says:

    SA @ 75 and relatd,

    I define evil as harm, which is further understood as deviation from intended purpose. This avoids the need for evil to be a separate thing, and certainly not a separate entity of any sort. Evil’s origin can simply be our sin nature taking its fallen course. Interestingly, God does harm to his creation, but only in response to man’s sin. This means a few traditional boundary lines between good and evil need to be adjusted slightly–which I explain in depth.

    Jerry, I would say that harm exists on a continuum. But only God could actually perform the ranking. It’s not something we could undertake with any hope of definitive success. Our very finiteness gets in the way of most of our efforts in circumscribing evil. That’s just the way it has to be, since we are the inferior creatures.

    >I find it telling that no one is interested in trying to understand the implications of the concept of “evil.”

    I invite those with a sincere interest in the topic to take a look at the draft of my book on evil, found here: There is a PDF version linked here:

    Any comments are welcome. I will try to respond there as time allows.

    *It is undergoing professional editing at this time; sorry for the “draft” feel it currently has.

  88. 88
    kairosfocus says:

    EDTA, re >>For a concept everyone is familiar with, it is surprising that there is no universally agreed-upon, useful definition of evil.>>

    This is normal for philosophical . . . hard . . . questions. Comparative difficulties allow us to manage that irreducible complexity.


  89. 89
    kairosfocus says:

    PS, note the RION frame of scales, ratio, interval, ordinal, nominal. An ordinal scale is valid especially if there are behavioural or observational anchors to assist the grading. It is better to be roughly right than exactly wrong.

  90. 90
    jerry says:

    I would say that harm exists on a continuum. But only God could actually perform the ranking

    Ok, but a stubbed toe and torture are not near each other on the continuum.

    But both are on the continuum. That is the first step is understanding just what this concept that people call “evil” is. Other definitions besides harm are unwanted events, icky stuff, disagreeable, discomfort, misfortune etc.

    As the possibility of certain unwanted events become impossible or highly unlikely, other events on. the continuum that were not considered as undesirable now move up the list as things to avoid.

    This is not the thread to discuss this so this will be my last comment here on this off topic distraction.

  91. 91
    Silver Asiatic says:


    Could someone explain to me how we went from clarifying naturalism and identifying linked issues, to Catechism?

    AF asked about the phrase “evil exists” @64. You responded with the classical formulation @65. I just reiterated it. Then Relatd questioned that.

  92. 92
    Silver Asiatic says:


    I would say that harm exists on a continuum.

    True. There are degrees of evil, and there are degrees of goodness.
    We say an ice cream cone is good. And a human being is good. There’s a continuum.
    The one difference with evil is that there really cannot be a “maximum evil” but there is a maximum good (God).

    A simple formula:
    Good does not require any evil (e.g. heaven has no evil in it)
    But evil does require the existence of good. (any existing thing has some good in it. It cannot be 100% evil).

    I define evil as harm, which is further understood as deviation from intended purpose. This avoids the need for evil to be a separate thing, and certainly not a separate entity of any sort. Evil’s origin can simply be our sin nature taking its fallen course. Interestingly, God does harm to his creation, but only in response to man’s sin.

    That sounds like a very good definition to me.

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