Naturalism is the viewpoint that everything arises from natural causes and that there is no supernatural realm. You coin the term “poetic naturalism” for your own particular brand of this guiding philosophy. Why the need for a new term?
Naturalism has been certainly been around for a very long time, but as more people become naturalists and talk to each other, their disagreements within naturalism are interesting. I thought there was a judicious middle ground, which I call poetic, between “the world is just a bunch of particles,” and “science can be used to discover meaning and morality.”
To me the connotations of “poetic” are that there’s some human choice that comes into how we talk about the world. In particular, when it comes to questions of morality and meaning, the way we go about deciding what is right and wrong, and meaningful or not, is not the same as the way we discover what is true and false.
This argument for naturalism feels particularly timely, when politicians and many in society are increasingly hostile to science and evidence-based thinking. How receptive to the approach of naturalism do you think most people are?
I think that scientists have a sort of professional level of understanding of the universe, and scientists are overwhelmingly naturalists. Whereas people on the street, or in Washington, D.C., still don’t admit to this. There aren’t a lot of naturalists in Congress. The way we talk about these things in the public sphere has not caught up with the way we understand the universe as it really is. More.
So, Carroll: right and wrong does not correspond to true and false, and the political world has not caught up with that?
(doting reviewer) And “politicians and many in society are increasingly hostile to science and evidence-based thinking”?
Carroll: There aren’t a lot of naturalists in Congress. The way we talk about these things in the public sphere has not caught up with the way we understand the universe as it really is.
Actually, we left it all behind with Lucretius, but like so many bad things, it is back.
See also: In search of a road to reality
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