Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The Circularity of Naturalism

Readers of Sunday's Bend (OR) Bulletin's science section were treated to no less than seven articles describing new research and assuring us that evolutionary biologists have proven that there is no God. Much of the actual research shared in these articles was fascinating, and much of it has real potential for advancing our understanding of the ways things are. Unfortunately, in each case, the authors of the articles and the researchers themselves begin with the uncritical ("faith-based," if I may borrow a term for my own use) acceptance of naturalism and common ancestry (macroevolution). Not only is the real value of the studies lost in a metaphysical mantra ("Evolution is the only God, and Natural Selection is his greatest Prophet"), but the entire project is an exercise in circular reasoning.

Let me give you an example. One of the articles (by Cornelia Dean of the New York Times News Service) is titled "Science of the Soul?" Its thesis can be found in this quote,
The idea that human minds are the product of evolution is "unassailable fact," the journal Nature said... on new findings on the physical basis of moral thought.
(As an aside, I was startled to learn that the journal Nature had evolved to the point of saying things itself; I suspect that the reality is that some individual--an intelligence--actually said these things in the journal Nature, but that citing this nameless someone would not have given us the same sense of authority and credibility as does crediting the journal itself.)

The actual evidence offered to support this bold thesis statement falls far short of doing so. It consists of two sets of observations. One is that feelings (including those from which moral senses seem to arise--empathy, disgust, joy) have a physical component in the brain. The other set of observations is that these sensations and their physical component are not unique to humans but seen also in higher animals, birds and mammals.

This entire article is a thinly-veiled attempt to address the problematic (that is, to naturalistic evolutionists) argument for the existence of God known as the "Moral Argument." The latter says that the only reasonable explanation for the universal moral intuition unique to humans is that there is an ultimate Lawgiver (the Christian version going on to make explicit that humans are uniquely "created in His image"). But theists have always been willing to grant both that higher animals have soulishness--share with us such things as mind, will, and emotion--and that there is a physical basis for these things.

The Christian view is that we are souls who have bodies, and further, that there is an immaterial (spiritual) component to our souls (which likely is not an aspect of the souls of higher animals). The view of naturalistic evolutionists is that all is physical and that there are no immaterial components to reality (whether souls or minds or God or angels). The problem is that this article provides no evidence that would distinguish between these two views, but then adds a great deal of absurd rhetoric claiming a scientific success on behalf of their view.

As is the case with each of the evolutionary articles in Sunday's paper, this one suffers from the fallacy of special pleading, in which only selective evidence is given and contrary evidence suppressed. In another post, I'll share some of the research that has led formerly naturalistic scientists in this very field (brain physiology) to abandon their naturalism and acknowledge the existence of an immaterial soul.

But the point of this post is to demonstrate that evolutionists are so trapped in their faith that they cannot recognize either the limits of their evidences (dealt with above) or the fallacious, circular nature of their reasoning processes. As to the latter, here's another quote from the article:
There is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution as an explanation for the diversity and complexity of life on Earth.
The problem here is that the author wrongly confuses science (the supposedly objective discipline) with naturalism (the metaphysical or religious philosophy). The statement would be perfectly true if the author redressed this error, and replaced the word 'scientific' with the word 'naturalistic':
There is no credible naturalistic challenge to the theory of evolution as an explanation for the diversity and complexity of life on Earth.
There are (and always have been) credible scientific challenges to the theory of evolution. But they are inadmissable if we first redefine science to be naturalistic. In tomorrow's post, I'll (once again) show that there is neither an historical, a philosophical, nor a scientific justification for so redefining science. But for now, let me reiterate: to declare in advance that naturalism (physicalism) accurately describes reality, then to offer only naturalistic interpretations of your research, and finally to conclude that you have bolstered the proofs for a naturalistic theory, is nothing more than a self-deluding exercise in circular reasoning.

So watch for it--circular reasoning by evolutionists--coming soon to a newspaper, classroom, or television near you.

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