Philosophical Morsels: Do You Believe in Anything Supernatural?

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One: Mr. J

I learnt of a story, told to me by a friend, he said he had asked a scientist in his lab – whom we shall call Mr. J. for now – if he believes in anything supernatural or supranatural for that matter. His response was something like I am too smart to believe in all these spooky stuffs, doh!

“My only believe is in science, I believe in truth” he said. Not something surprising to hear in such milieu.

It was difficult, at first, to label Mr. J.’s believe system, but after a few more clarifications about the encounter, which I am going to spare the reader, I figured he was a naturalist.

Two: You Can’t Be More Natural Than a Naturalist

But who exactly is a naturalist?

A naturalist is someone who professes to believe that all that there is, is the material world, and the only way to know the truth about all that there is (i.e. the material world) is through science.

Okay. Now we have got something to deal with.

First, let’s take the first part: “all that there is, is the material world”. This simply implies that the only thing which exists is what we know to be true empirically (empirically with a capital later e).

2), the second part, “the only way to know the truth about all that there is (i.e. the material world) is through science”. Here, a naturalist will go further and say, all that can be said to exist is only discoverable through science, even if we don’t know it to be true now.

I am afraid to say, even a perfunctory look at naturalism exposes several massive gutters, where you had expected a tight junction.

Three: 2 Gutters

Here is one: if a believe system exerts that all that can be said to exist is only discoverable through science, perhaps, the naturalists must show us how science shows that ‘all that can be said to exist is only discoverable through science’ (since all things includes the believe of naturalism itself.) [1]

Unfortunately, we just slid into the metaphysical realm, far, far beyond the reach of science [2].

What am I saying, I am saying that if this were to be a soccer game, a naturalist will have scored at least an own goal. In other words, if naturalism is ever taken to be true then it must be false, a shot in the head, that kind of thing.

That aside, the philosopher Alvin Plantinga discovered another (fairly big) gutter.

You see, naturalism sits right on top of biological evolution. If naturalism is the roof, evolution is the actual building. The kind of evolution we are talking about here is a purely naturalistic evolutionary theory.

For example, our friend, Mr J. does not believe in an intelligent designer, or any sort of purpose in the evolutionary process.  He believes that the nature exists because of something called natural selection, the idea that nature selects for the bests, the survival of the fittest. (Darwin’s theory of natural selection.)

But there is something very interesting about the Darwinian theory of natural selection which drives evolution. The theory exerts that nature selects for what survives, what is adaptable, not necessarily what is true.

The purely naturalistic evolutionary process can not care about truth at all, by definition. Not a bit, it’s all about whatever works. [3]

If evolution had granted us this sophisticated cognitive faculty, our brain, which naturalists believed to have evolved through a blind, random process that doesn’t care about truths; on what basis should we believe that the product of our reasoning is true, given that what is untrue could aid survivability. [4]

At the very least, it will be rational to doubt any such belief it births, including the belief in naturalism itself – and suddenly naturalistic evolution buries naturalism.

What is meant to be the foundational stone becomes the undertaker, what is meant to be the bodyguard becomes the assassin, what is meant to be the elixir becomes the poison, what is meant to be angel becomes the demon.

And to Mr. J., I will reject naturalism. It is most certainly false.


[1] Notice how naturalism is self-defeating itself.

[2] To be explicit, science here refer to the scientific method, the hypothetico-deductive model

[3] Straw Dogs by John Gray Pp 26-27; Trivers’ theory of self-deception.

[4] It should be noted that the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN) as is it’s called is not an argument against biological evolution, many people make this mistake. It’s an argument against a simultaneous belief in both a pure naturalistic evolutionary theory and naturalism.

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