Naturalism at the Cost of Reason

book_burnPhilosopher Alex Rosenberg, in defending his atheism, gives us a long list of very good reasons to reject it. We only need to think a bit on some of his statements:

The mistake, as Hume showed so powerfully, was to think that there is any more to reality than the laws of nature that science discovers. (Atheist’s Guide to Reality, p. vi)

Ever since physics hit its stride with Newton, it has excluded purposes, goals, ends, or designs in nature. It firmly bans all explanations that are teleological (from the Greek telos, meaning “end” or “goal” or “purpose” that some process aims at or is good at achieving). (ibid, p. 40)

Putting these two thoughts together leads him to a set of blatant absurdities in his book, and it is hard to see how the modern atheist can avoid them. If one believes that the only things which exist are the kinds of things science studies, one must reject most everything one knows, as Rosenberg spends much time and ink explaining. By the end of the book, he’s concluded that any trust of history, personal perception, language, moral conviction, the principle of causation, or your own thoughts is irrational.

But, in spite of his claims, neither science nor Hume’s philosophy have remotely shown this. Hume, I think, would be shocked to read that line, as he himself didn’t take the position that he “showed so powerfully”. Rather we are being asked to believe that these things don’t exist simply because science “firmly bans” thinking about any alternative to its methods.

Personally, I find this astonishing. While it is scientific to stick to the subject when doing science, many atheists have come to take this stipulation as some sort of unquestionable decree that we reject all other subjects in all areas of life.

Some are even calling this position “the scientific mind”.

Lovers of science should definitely react to the idea that arbitrarily limiting one’s thought is being called “scientific”. But, really, all these atheists have done is point out the basis of naturalism: the idea that we should distrust or ignore any part of our minds that can reach conclusions not covered by science.

Their mistake is failing to see that this is absurd.

Rosenberg makes it makes it here, and it leads him to a host of strange and contradictory statements (which I’ll address in turn). In the end, he’s left rejecting any basis he might have had for trusting science in the first place. But, still, he perseveres–for he understands clearly that to reject the idea that the physical is all that exists is to reject the intellectual foundation of modern atheism.

3 responses to “Naturalism at the Cost of Reason

  • indytony

    I am struck by how many modern “scientists” are “experimenting” with alternative creation myths – such as parallel universes, alien visitation, anything except the Biblical creation narrative which they deem “unscientific”.

    • Debilis

      I do think our culture often forgets that there is a difference between what is scientific, and what sounds scientific to the average person.

      And, yes, a lot of these proposals are purely metaphysical. They can’t rightly be treated as science.

  • Rejecting Science in the Name of Science | Fide Dubitandum

    […] Hallquist also complains that Craig doesn’t apply the same standards to “the God hypothesis”, but, here, he’s simply confused. The idea that there is such a thing as a “God hypothesis” is a fantasy of Richard Dawkins. The scientific hypothesis Craig is arguing for in the second premise of the “KCA” is the idea that the universe began to exist. Everything beyond that is logical analysis based on that conclusion. To demand that we apply scientific tests to metaphysics is to quit doing serious thinking and simply to insist on Scientism. […]

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