What is the nature of the human person? A mere conglomeration of matter that consists of different levels of brain state or a being that is also endowed with a soul? In this final part of the series on Naturalism, Dr. J. P. Moreland exposes the philosophical inadequacies of physicalism and explains why the Christian message is more convincing.
Denying the existence and emergence of morality and ethics, Naturalism, a growing worldview, proves inadequate in explaining human nature and its qualities. Having examined the myth of evolution and scientism in Part 1, Moreland explores the jeopardy of the absence of ethics in this second part of a four-part series.
Scientific Naturalism is a worldview that is powerfully influencing our culture today. So much so that even believers in one and the same God struggle with conflicting views. J.P. Moreland begins the first of his four part series with a clear examination of its belief system and the role theistic evolution plays to perpetuate its ends. Here are parts II, III, IV.
Naturalism" seems to me in this and other respects rather like "World Peace." Almost everyone swears allegiance to it, and is willing to march under its banner. But disputes can still break out about what it is appropriate or acceptable to do in the name of that slogan. And like world peace, once you start specifying concretely exactly what it involves and how to achieve it, it becomes increasingly difficult to reach and to sustain a consistent and exclusive "naturalism." There is pressure on the one hand to include more and more within your conception of "nature," so it loses its definiteness and restrictiveness. Or, if the conception is kept fixed and restrictive, there is pressure on the other hand to distort or even deny the very phenomena that a naturalistic study — and especially a naturalistic study of human beings — is supposed to explain.
‘But if oxen (and horses) and lions…. could draw with hands and create works of art like those made by men, horses would draw pictures of gods like horses, and oxen of gods like oxen. … Aethiopians have gods with snub noses and black hair, Thracians have gods with grey eyes and red hair.’ Like many later critics of anthropomorphism, Xenophanes evidently did not question the gods themselves but only their human attributes. Later Western writers think the Greek gods especially anthropomorphic, but gods in many other religions are equally so.
In science itself I certainly want to include the farthest flights of physics and cosmology, as well as experimental psychology, history, and the social sciences. Also, mathematics, insofar at least as it is applied, for it is indispensable to natural science. What then am I excluding as “some prior philosophy,” and why? Descartes’ dualism between mind and body is called metaphysics, but it could as well be reckoned as science, however false. He even had a causal theory of the interaction of mind and body through the pineal gland. If I saw indirect explanatory benefit in positing sensibilia, possibilia, spirits, a Creator, I would joyfully accord them scientific status too, on a par with such avowedly scientific positions as quarks and black holes. What then have I banned under the name of prior philosophy? ¶ Demarcation is not my purpose. My point in the characterization of naturalism … is just that the most we can reasonably seek in support of an inventory and description of reality is testability of it observable consequences in the time-honored hypothetico-deductive way — whereof more anon. Naturalism need not cast aspersion on irresponsible metaphysics, however deserved, much less on soft sciences or on the speculative reaches of the hard ones, except insofar as a firmer basis is claimed for them than the experimental method itself.
The Astonishing Hypothesis is that “You,” your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.
The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousand of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so… In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.
Think of a flabby person covered with layers of fat. That is what your mind can become — flabby, covered with layers of fat till it becomes too dull and lazy to think, to observe, to explore, to discover. It loses its alertness, its aliveness, its flexibility and goes to sleep. Look around you and you will see almost everyone with minds like that: dull, asleep, protected by layers of fat, not wanting to be disturbed or questioned into wakefulness. ¶ What are these layers? Every belief that you hold, every conclusion you have reached about persons and things, every habit and every attachment. In your formative years you should have been helped to scrape off these layers and liberate your mind. Instead your society, your culture, which put these layers on your mind in the first place, has educated you to not even notice them, to go to sleep and let other people — the experts: your politicians, your cultural and religious leaders — do your thinking for you. So you are weighed down with the load of unexamined, unquestioned authority and tradition.
…there is just no reason that can be given for adopting the postmodern perspective rather than, say, the outlooks of Western capitalism, male chauvinism, white racism, and so forth, since post-modernism has no more truth to it than these perspectives. Caught in this self-deafting trap, some post-modernists have been forced to the same recourse as Buddhist mystics: denying that post-modernism is really a view or position at all. But then, once again, why do they continue to write books and talk about it? They are obviously making some cognitive claims — and if not, then they literally have nothing to say and no objections to our employment of the classical canons of logic.
At one level, the continuity of philosophy and empirical science is uncontentious. Many philosophical problems arise because of apparent tensions or conflicts within the assumptions which empirical evidence recommends to us. The most obvious examples are issues in the philosophy of science, such as problems about the interpretation of quantum mechanics, or the asymmetry of time, or the logic of natural selection. But other less specialist philosophical questions, like the existence of free will, also arise because of difficulties raised by empirical assumptions (in particular, in this case, by assumptions about the extent to which human beings are subject to the same laws of nature as the rest of the
In his own era, Darwin’s most formidable opponents were fossil experts, not clergymen. Even today, according to the author, the fossil record, far from conclusive, does not support the presumed existence of intermediate links between species. A law teacher at UC-Berkeley, Johnson deems unpersuasive the alleged proofs for Darwin’s assertion that natural selection can produce new species. He also argues that recent molecular studies of DNA fail to confirm the existence of common ancestors for different species. Doubting the smooth line of transitional steps between apes and humans sketched by neo-Darwinists, he cites evidence for “rapid branching,” i.e., mysterious leaps which presumably produced the human mind and spirit from animal materials. This evidence, to Johnson, suggests that “the putative hominid species” may not have contained our ancestors after all. This cogent, succinct inquiry cuts like a knife through neo-Darwinist assumptions. ~ Publishers Weekly
God does not exist if Big Bang cosmology, or some relevantly similar theory, is true. If this cosmology is true, our universe exists without cause and without explanation. There are numerous possible universes, and there is possibly no universe at all, and there is no reason why this one is actual rather than some other one or none at all. Now the theistically alleged human need for a reason for existence, and other alleged needs, are unsatisfied. But I suggest that humans do or can possess a deeper level of experience than such anthropocentric despairs. We can forget about ourselves for a moment and open ourselves up to the startling impingement of reality itself. We can let ourselves become profoundly astonished by the fact that this universe exists at all.
We must therefore ask ourselves: What sort of thing is it reasonable to believe without proof? I should reply: The facts of sense experience and the principles of mathematics and logic — including the inductive logic employed in science.”
[This world] exists nonnecessarily, improbably, and causelessly. It exists for absolutely no reason at all. It is inexplicably and stunningly actual … The impact of this captivated realization upon me is overwhelming. I am completely stunned. I take a few dazed steps in the dark meadow, and fall among the flowers. I lie stupefied, whirling without comprehension in this world through numberless worlds other than this one.
In a sense, and as in melodrama, killing yourself amounts to confessing. It is confessing that life is too much for you or that you do not understand it. Let’s not go too far in such analogies, however, but rather return to everyday words. It is merely confessing that that “is not worth the trouble.” Living, naturally, is never easy. You continue making the gestures commanded by existence for many reasons, the first of which is habit. Dying voluntarily implies that you have recognized, even instinctively, the ridiculous character of that habit, the absence of any profound reason for living, the insane character of that daily agitation, and the uselessness of suffering. ¶ What, then, is that incalculable feeling that deprives the mind of the sleep necessary to life? A world that can be explained even with bad reasons is a familiar world. But, on the other hand, in a universe suddenly divested of illusions and lights, man feels an alien, a stranger. His exile is without remedy since he is deprived of the memory of a lost home or the hope of a promised land. This divorce between man and his life, the actor and his setting, is properly the feeling of absurdity.
In an earlier article on the problem of evil, Adams argued: "Where the internal coherence of a system of religious beliefs is at stake, successful arguments for its inconsistency must draw on premises … internal to that system or obviously acceptable to its adherents; likewise for successful rebuttals or explanations of consistency. The thrust of my argument is to push both sides of the debate towards more detailed attention to and subtle understanding of the religious system in question." Here Adams considers an especially thorny kind of evil, what she calls "horrendous evil". A horrendous evil is one that instinctively causes us to doubt whether the life of the victim in such a case could possibly be worth living. The magnitude of the evil and suffering is so great that it overwhelms any good in the participant’s life. Adams believes that none of the standard responses to the argument from evil adequately address evils of this sort. Building on her previous argument ? that solutions to the argument of evil are only possible within a particular religious framework ? Adams suggests that horrendous evils can only be defeated by being overwhelmed by something far greater in its goodness than is the evil in its horror. For the Christian, intimacy with a good and infinite God in life after death promises the hope that such evils will in fact be defeated, and that the lives of victims in such cases can be deemed worth living by the victims themselves. ~ Afterall
For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can’t readily accept the God formula, the big answers don’t remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command or faith a dictum. I am my own God. ¶ We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state and our educational system. ¶ We are here to drink beer. ¶ We are here to kill war. ¶ We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us. ¶ We are here to read these words from all these wise men and women who will tell us that we are here for different reasons and the same reason.
Darwinists took the wrong view of science because they were infected with the craving to be right. Their scientific colleagues have allowed them to get away with pseudoscientific practices primarily because most scientists do not understand that there is a difference between the scientific method of inquiry, as articulated by Popper, and the philosophical program of scientific naturalism. One reason that they are not inclined to recognize the difference is that they fear the growth of religious fanaticism if the power of naturalistic philosophy is weakened. But whenever science is enlisted in some other cause — religious, political, or racialistic — the result is always that the scientists themselves become fanatics. Scientists see this clearly when they think about the mistakes of their predecessors, but they find it hard to believe that their colleagues could be making the same mistakes today.
This work re-opens a controversial subject by calling into question how well theological views of human nature stand up to the discoveries of modern science. Alan Olding explores the question of whether the argument for the existence of God is fatally undermined. Emphasizing the metaphysical implications of biology, Modern Biology and Natural Theology takes up issues currently of concern to many thinkers, particularly those interested in the impact of Darwinism on natural theology. This book will interest not only professional workers in the fields of philosophy of biology and philosophy of religion and theology, but also students and laypersons, and is bound to provoke further debate on this controversial subject. ~ Product Description
Noted philosopher Kai Nielsen offers an answer to this fundamental question – a question that reaches in to grasp at the very heart of ethics itself. Essentially, this innocent inquiry masks a confusion that so many of us get caught in as we think about moral issues. We fail to realise that there is a difference between judging human behaviour within an ethical context, or set of moral principles, and justifying the principles themselves. According to Nielsen, it is precisely this basic muddle that has spawned all sorts of challenges to morality, from relativism and institutionism to egoism and scepticism.Nielsen first argues the case for these challenges in the strongest possible terms; then he shows that their failure to establish themselves demonstrates a fundamental flaw – an inability to understand what it means to have good reasons for the moral claims we make. In his search for "good reasons" Nielsen must face the innocent question "Why be moral?" He tries to show us that skirmishes among supporters of specific moral principles require a different sort of resolution than those that occur between groups of ethical principles. Justifying an action within a moral point of view is quite different from making the case for having a moral point of view in the first place. ~ Product Description
It is within the phenomenal or experienceable realm that language has developed and it is to this that it literally applies. Indeed the system of concepts embodied in human language contributed reciprocally to the formation of the humanly perceived world. It is as much constructed as given. But our language can have no purchase on a postulated noumenal reality which is not even partly formed by human concepts. This lies outside the scope of our cognitive capacities.
The Judeo-Christian religious tradition, is not just a domain of poetry, imagery, mystical transport, moral directive, and non cognitive, existential self-understanding. Interacting especially with the philosophically developed tradition of Christian theology, [I] joint the vast majority of other leading contributors to contemporary philosophical theology in taking for granted theological realism, the cognitive stance presupposed by the classical theistic concern to direct our thoughts as well as our lives aright. It has been the intent of theologians throughout most of the history of the Christian faith to deserve correctly, within our limits, certain important facts about God, human beings, and the rest of creation given in revelation and fundamental to the articulation of any distinctively Christian world view. In particular, reflective Christians throughout the centuries have understood their faith as providing key insights into, and resources for, the construction of a comprehensive metaphysics.
The quantum theory of gravity has opened up a new possibility, in which there would be no boundary to space-time and so there would be no need to specify the behavior at the boundary. There would be no singularities at which the laws of science broke down and no edge of space-time at which one would have to appeal to God or some new law to set the boundary conditions for space-time. One could say: ‘The boundary condition of the universe is that it has no boundary.’ The universe would be completely self-contained and not affected by anything outside itself. It would neither be created nor destroyed. It would just BE.
The interaction of the waves and pebbles in this case is a perfectly orderly process, even if our comprehension of that order can only be statistically expressed. Moreover, we know for sure that Dawkins himself knows this to be so. Is there here, then, only a slip of the pen, perhaps overlooked because of something which the author can assume to be obvious? No, I don’t think so. Rather, he is succumbing to the pull of his ultimate vision. He is in the grip of the romanticism of evolution as a sweeping ontological principle, essentially incorporating the mystical vision of an Urgrund of chaos and nothingness giving birth of itself to the physical universe. Which is all very fine as an aesthetic approach to the cosmos, and appears to be vaguely comforting to some atheistic cosmologists, perhaps because of the great wonder of it all. (Carl Sagan says “billions and billions and billions…” in the same tone, and with the same glazed expression, that others chant of Krishna or Christ. The public television science series are often quite remarkable in the amount of ritualism they contain.) But it has nothing at all to do with “evidence of a universe without design.”