In a Times Literary Supplement review of Alister McGrath’s new book on C. S. Lewis, C. S. Lewis: A Life—a review which is, for all practical purposes, an attack on Lewis—reviewer Anthony Kenny nonetheless has some surprising things to say about naturalism (materialism):
There remains the argument that naturalism is self-refuting. Despite the rough handling that Lewis’s version of it received from Anscombe, versions of this argument remain popular among philosophers. And indeed there are signs that naturalism is collapsing under its own weight. Even self-proclaimed naturalists seem unable to give a clear account of it. Of course, the natural is contrasted with the supernatural; but that contrast by itself will not give us a non-circular account of nature.
At one time it seemed as if a robust and substantive naturalism could be easily stated. This was a conception that thought of the world as being made up of solid, inert, impenetrable and conserved matter – a matter that interacts deterministically and through contact. But twentieth-century physics posited entities and interactions that did not fit the materialist characterization of reality, and which took science far away from a world of solid, inert, massy material atoms.
Shall we identify naturalism, then, not by its ontology, but by its method? Methodological naturalism would be a commitment to employing in inquiry only the methods of the empirical sciences and mathematics. But this would surely be an unjustifiably dogmatic stance. In recent years, it seems, the armoury once deployed so confidently by atheists to demolish belief has been gradually decommissioned: verificationism, materialism, reductionism, physicalism. One is left wondering what is left of naturalism after all these weapons of mass deconstruction have been laid aside.
Burnt toast, I guess.
What’s remarkable is the way this sophisticate just tosses that off, as if all the “in” people now know.
Maybe the people who shop at discount stores and thrifts don’t know yet, but …
What will replace it? Guesses?
See also: Why materialist neuroscience must necessarily remain a pseudo-discipline