The “n” word

The word “naturalism”…something I’ve been intending to post about for a while now.

Anyone familiar with the creationism/ID/evolution debate has probably seen religious types refer to scientific naturalism as if “naturalism” is a dirty word. 

The organizations that speak officially for science continue to deny that there is a conflict between Darwinism and “religion.” This denial is another example of the skilful manipulation of definitions, because there are evolution-based religions that embrace naturalism with enthusiasm. –Phillip Johnson

We live in an era when public high schools and colleges have all but banned God from science classes. In these classrooms, students are taught that the whole universe, including plants and animals—and humans—arose by natural processes. Naturalism (in essence, atheism) has become the religion of the day and has become the foundation of the education system (and Western culture as a whole).  –Ken Ham

Here we see two of the most outspoken Christians against evolution equating naturalism with atheism and saying it plays a major role in “evolution-based religions” (which include what, by the way?). 

Perhaps these two men need to get together to discuss the matter, because they just contradicted each other.  But I digress…

Yes, evolution is naturalistic.  But let us not forget that ALL of science is naturalistic, and necessarily so.  The goal of science is to explain the natural world.  As Henry Neufeld states on his blog, “[Science] is ill-equipped to explain the supernatural, because the supernatural does not function as the natural world does. That’s why we call it supernatural.”  There is nothing inherently wrong, anti-religious, anti-God, etc, about this.  Perhaps Talk Origins explains it best when saying:

The naturalism that science adopts is methodological naturalism. It does not assume that nature is all there is; it merely notes that nature is the only objective standard we have. Supernaturalism is not ruled out a priori; it is left out because it has never been reliably observed. There are many scientists who use naturalism but who believe in more than nature.

Ironically, the same people who often sneer at “naturalism” and the evils of science then insist on using it to support their beliefs in the supernatural.  A quick glance at Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research show this to be true.  God cannot, and should not, be placed in a box that is regulated by natural laws.  The very idea is contradictory, and insulting, to the idea of God Himself. 

Naturalism may make Christians uncomfortable.  It seems cold, unfeeling, and lacking compassion.  Yet this is irrelevant.  As Neufeld alludes to (can you tell I enjoyed his post?  I thoroughy recommend reading it), we may not like it when a cold, unfeeling hurricane leaves us without power for 13 days (thank you, Hurricane Ike), or when an earthquake causes our home to crumble to the ground.  Our feelings, however, are not going to alter the reality of the situation. 

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3 Responses to “The “n” word”

  1. Naturalism cold and unfeeling, lacking compassion? Not necessarily, see http://www.naturalism.org.

    best,

    Tom Clark
    Center for Naturalism

  2. Good points raised. It’s easy to understand a Christian’s discomfort with naturalism as God’s normal modus operandi, though. Do you ever get questions about how God could allow a tsunami to occur? How do you answer that in light of what you believe about naturalism?

  3. Thomas,
    Naturalism is God’s motis operendi? Have you even read the Bible?
    -IP

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