Posts Tagged by philosophical naturalism

The Explanatory Fallacy

In the nearly 20 years or so of debating with various kinds of non-Christians, I have often encountered a way of thinking that I think is self-evidently flawed, but oddly common nonetheless. What I mean is this: as soon as you press the point, they drop the principle, recognizing it can’t be maintained as tightly as was presented. A moment later, or in another conversation, the principle is re-presented.

The principle is this: that a proposition is true if it explains something. Or, a belief is to be preferred if it explains something. Or, the better belief is the one that explains the most.

At first blush, this principle seems pretty solid. After all, don’t we give weight to an idea, hypothesis, or theory if it provides an explanation for something else? If I come across the body of a clearly murdered person and the evidence points to another person who is known to have hated the victim, wouldn’t we say, “Well, that explains that. He hated him.” ? Well, yes. It does explain it, but it still doesn’t follow that he actually murdered anyone. The time honored tradition for hanging a murder verdict on someone does include motive- but also means and opportunity. Merely having a hypothesis that ‘explains’ the facts does not prove the hypothesis. One must corroborate it. If it cannot be corroborated, it doesn’t follow it isn’t true. We just have to be careful how we weight it. We certainly would not (or ought not) sentence a man to death for it.


Atheism as ‘Gateway Drug’ to Drifting Away

As of this writing, I am facilitating a course/discussion regarding the decline of Christianity in America. Someone made a point in the discussion that is similar to one I’ve made previously… but I can’t find where I made it so I’m making it anew. 🙂

The question begins with a look at the measured increase in self-identified ‘religious nones’ in America since around 1990. (This data can be found linked to here.) In 1990, some 8% of Americans identified themselves as having no religion. Today, that figure has doubled. In the meantime, there has been a drop in those identifying themselves as Christians, from about 86% to 76% of the nation’s population. Some back of the napkin calculation suggests that some 30,000,000 fewer people call themselves Christian than did in 1990 with a significant portion of these falling into the ‘religious none’ category.

However, of note, the number of outright atheists has seen only a moderate increase. Even many of the ‘religious nones’ say they believe something.


Scientism: The Atheist’s Religion of Faith

In light of what I have said above it may come as a surprise that I have a very high view of science. But it’s true. I believe that you need the right tool for the job and in many cases that tool is empirical scrutiny. But other jobs require other tools and no hemming and hawwing will change that. For some jobs a hammer, for others a screwdriver and others, pliers. You may have found that sometimes one gets lucky- a screwdriver is best for screws but at last resort a hammer did the trick. But try changing your lightbulb with a hammer and tell me how that goes. 😉

Let the hammer pound nails and the screwdriver drive screws and air compressor pump up the tire: the right tool for the job, and be wary of anyone who insists on using just one tool for all jobs, and watch out especially if they don’t want anyone looking over their shoulder while they are ‘at work’ and even berate you for suggesting other approaches.


Transcendence and Immanence, Logic and Superlogic- and Sublogic

Orthodox Christianity holds that God is both a transcendent entity and immanent. If you understand what Christians propose to be true about God, you understand why both attributes follow necessarily. All religions boil down to some expression of one of these two attributes, usually to the exclusion of one to the other. Deism, for example, emphasizes transcendence and despises immanence. Various forms of paganism emphasize immanence, that is they identify ‘God’ with the universe and reject that there is a God ‘outside’ it. Even atheism takes a position here: naturalism is just another variation on immanence and ‘God’ is just another label for the ‘universe.’

Christianity insists that God is both transcendent and immanent.

At any rate, there are some implications of this and I think it would be helpful to understand some arguments regarding Christian theism. I can begin with by trotting out the old ‘Can God create a rock that he cannot lift or move?’ line. The contention is that if God is all powerful he should be able to do this but in doing so he would simultaneously undermine his own omnipotence. Most of the time this is answered by pointing out that some statements are just nonsense and God’s omni-characteristics do not require him to be able to achieve the nonsensical. To understand how this is nonsensical we might take on the next line in this attack, “Can God make a round square?” We see in this case that what is involved is simply definitional. If round is properly and consistently defined and asked to apply to a square, also properly and consistently defined, then the request is nonsensical. Something doesn’t become reasonable just because you insert ‘Can God’ in front of it.


Santa Claus is Real and so is Jesus

Christian apologists are constantly asking skeptics and genuine seekers to hold to the question of God and Jesus the same standards of evidence they hold anything else. The question of Jesus being also a question of history, we are satisfied if non-biased standards of historical research were employed. Usually, it is the skeptics employing ad hoc standards based on priorly held beliefs about reality.

On this basis then, we see that one cannot dismiss the idea that there was really a man named St. Nicholas just because 350 years separates him from the (current) best sources. On that reasoning we’d have to ditch much of what we know about a great many historical figures, including big ones like Alexander the Great. So, let it be agreed: Santa Claus existed; it is a fact of history.


Who made God? Who made the Universe? Chicken, meet the Egg

The value of the Barker quote above is to corroborate my assertion that it is not inherently inferior to say that there is a God, eternally existing, because no matter what, we posit something eternally existing, without a cause. We can turn Barker’s quote around: “Who made the universe? If a universe can be thought eternal, then so can God.”


Response to Curtis Clark on Naturalism- A Breath of Fresh Air

Recently an atheist stumbled upon my site and in the course of corresponding with him I have discovered that our different points of view aside, he is a gentleman that I can have a conversation with.  His site is called The Academy of Metaphysical Naturalism and he recently put up a post responding to a […]


Why Christians Don’t Believe in Pixies, Fairies, Ancient Legends

It is entirely plausible, according to the Christian worldview, for there to be other agents besides human agents. Since, however, the Christian proceeds based on evidence rather than presupposition, he might dismiss a recorded instance of a miracle, say, in the Odyssey, not because he knows it can’t be real because the event is so old, but simply because the attestation of that event is very weak. In other words, the reasons why a Christian might reject such things are not the same as the atheist’s.


Equivocation on the word natural by atheists and philosophical naturalists

Has anyone else noticed this? As a case in point- in part because atheists have accused me of ‘inventing’ atheistic positions- consider this entry on my blog and the comments that follow.  But to be clear, I run across this phenomena all the time as I read and debate theism or ‘intelligent design.’ Let me […]


Global Warming and Evolution: Intimidation the New Step in the Scientific Method

I must at the outset admit that I haven’t delved into the data that I am told substantiates the view that the earth is steadily warming. That is one reason why I have not said anything about Global Warming. I shall say that here in Wisconsin we just came off of a mighty cold spell with snows as late as April, and last year was about the same. As Wisconsin is part of the globe, I feel I can anecdotally chime in that to this point I am skeptical about the Global Warming argument. Moreover, there clearly are several different parts of the question: even if we establish that the earth is warming, it doesn’t follow that humans are causing it, and even if it is warming, it doesn’t follow that a warming earth would be all that bad (did I mention the cold Wisconsin winters?).


Understanding the Root Controversy of Intelligent Design

I have not yet seen Stein’s movie, Expelled, but hope to by the end of this weekend.  I’ve used this week as an opportunity to highlight various issues and I have linked to corroboration of at least some of the allegations that are made in the movie.  I would like to spend a moment addressing […]


Power to the Experts! Down with Intelligent Design! To arms, to arms!

So one of the biggest public events in the Intelligent Design debate is upon us.  Ben Stein’s Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is going to be out in theaters today.  Browsing through anti-ID commentary you get a sense of the heat this movie is taking.  It is a small taste of the heat this movie is […]


Bill Maher a Bigot? UFO’s more likely than the Christian Story? Is the Catholic League Right to be Offended?

So I just saw on Fox News Donohue of the Catholic League talking about the subject of their news release.  He was pretty hot about it.  The offending statement- as taken from the news release- is this: “But I think it is much more likely that there could be space ships from outer space, than […]


Christian Response and Reaction to Pullman and His Dark Materials: the Golden Compass, the Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass

The full response is pasted below, but you may want to download and print it off, or attach it in an email. If so, here it is for download: If you would like to discuss this issue, please use my discussion forum, where this thread has been set up for that purpose. Since this has […]


The “His Dark Materials” Series is Pullman’s direct answer to CS Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia.” Lewis intended to inoculate a Christian worldview using his series and it is clear that Pullman had the same idea in mind. Except in case you didn’t know, Pullman is a hardcore atheist.

Many Christians will focus on the apparent paganism, the hostility to Christianity and more precisely the Church, and some of the less than subtle sexual allusions. These would be the wrong place to put our emphasis. What Pullman aims to do is to offer a naturalistic explanation for anything and everything, including that which might be true in Christianity or in paganism.

He uses a mainstream interpretation within quantum science that posits that there are an unlimited amount of universes that exist and evolution working out in unlimited ways in each of them, so that one could allow yourself to consider almost anything as possible- without ever invoking a God.

It is this that makes Pullman’s series the threat that it is. Young people all over the place are going to school and university and are actually being taught in dogmatic terms that evolution is the real explanation for how we got here and it is only a matter of time before these students learn about the ‘multiverse’ as well as comprehend that scientists really take it seriously.

Thus, young people are primed to receive the atheistic worldview… they read it in high school as fiction only to have the main premises of the series shoved at them as straight science in college. Though the overt hostility to the Church, the pagan elements, and the sexuality are enough to make many a Christian’s blood boil, these are just symptoms, and we Christians should remember that.

For the full examination click the ‘read the rest of the entry’ link below. Or, to Print it off, download it in PDF here: ChristianResponsetoPullmansGoldenCompass (140.0 KiB, 2,302 hits)