It goes by many different names. Some call it naturalism or scientism; others refer to it as materialism or modernism. Some don't refer to it at all, believing that it is the presupposition of any rational person...
It goes by many different names. Some call it naturalism or scientism; others refer to it as materialism or modernism. Some don't refer to it at all, believing that it is the presupposition of any rational person.
It is the basic belief that we can only know what we can empirically observe; that is, the only valid explanation for any phenomenon is that which can be scientifically proven. Carl Sagan famously summed up the naturalist worldview by saying, "The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be." The naturalist rejects supernatural explanations. The problems with this worldview are myriad, yet in spite of these it has become the default framework of knowledge in secular society. The following are just three of the problems that undermine naturalism's credibility as a worldview.
First and foremost, naturalism is self-refuting. The naturalist claims to reject the metaphysical while at the same time ignoring the fact that naturalism is itself a metaphysical framework. As many have pointed out, naturalism (or scientism) cannot be scientifically proven. It is an un-provable philosophical assumption that guides experimentation; it is not itself the result of experimentation. It is logically impossible to prove via natural means that the supernatural does not exist. Of course, anyone is free to start from naturalist presuppositions, but they should realize that this is no less of a faith commitment than starting from a theist's point of view.
Second, as Paul Copan has pointed out, the naturalist is guilty of what is known in logic as the "self-excepting fallacy." That is, he does not hold his own beliefs to the same standard he expects of others. He explains away the religious beliefs of others as the product of their DNA and experience, suggesting that they are therefore unfounded. But he does not consider his own reasoning abilities untrustworthy even though, according to his own worldview, they are the product of chance plus matter plus time. The naturalist sees no need to defend his presuppositions, though this is precisely what he expects of others.
Finally, John Lennox has pointed out a more subtle error of naturalism. The naturalist worldview fails to account for the difference between mechanism and agency. If the naturalist can determine the mechanical cause behind a phenomenon, he believes his work is done. But he has not considered the question of agency, that is, whoever or whatever set the mechanism in motion. Isaac Newton (a theist) didn't make this confusion. As Lennox points out, Newton recognized gravity (the mechanism), but he glorified God (the agent responsible). The belief that evolution is the mechanism by which this universe arrived at its current state does nothing to resolve the question of what agent set that mechanism in motion. Although many scientists recognize the limited explanatory power of science, proponents of scientism treat the natural world as if it were an agent rather than a mechanism.
I am curious to know how Dr. Sagan would have responded had someone asked him to prove his statement that the Cosmos is all that is, was, or will be, for there is no way to prove naturalism by naturalistic methods. Is it not reasonable that those who preach naturalism consider just what a heaping helping of faith their creeds require?
Betsy Childs is associate writer at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
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French Christian, physician and microbiologist Louis Pasteur applied the first successful anti-rabies vaccine to Joseph Meister, a boy who had been bit by a dog. Pasteur also developed vaccines against chicken cholera, anthrax, and swine erysipelas.
More on Louis Pasteur: http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs/1221.asp