Saturday, April 2, 2011
Our limited friend
Those who hold a naturalistic view do so with the assumption that the material universe is all there is. Evolutionary scientist, Richard Dickerson has this to say about science, "Science, fundamentally, is a game. It is a game with one overriding and defining rule. Rule No. 1: Let us see how far and to what extent we can explain the behavior of the physical and material universe in terms of purely physical and material causes, without invoking the supernatural." Niles Eldridge adds, “If there is one rule, one criterion that makes an idea scientific, it is that it must invoke naturalistic explanations for phenomena … it’s simply a matter of definition—of what is science, and what is not.” But, can all reality be explained on a purely naturalistic level?
On a naturalistic level, all truth is determined by scientific investigation, but can this view take us to an ultimate truth as to how things really are? What if a supernatural realm exists? Obviously, if this is the case, then science only offers a limited view of truth. Science writer, Kitty Ferguson, states, "if the supernatural world exists, and if it is inherently beyond testing by the scientific method, then there is truth beyond the range of scientific explanation."
Science, although helpful in many ways, is itself limited. There are a multitude of questions that science will never be able answer. Where did the universe come from? Surely, no credible scientist would say it came to be from nothing? Why do we have the freedom of thought? Will the naturalist say that we are simply programed machines? And, if that is the case, why should anyone be held responsible for their actions? How does one explain history on a naturalist scheme? What formula can be offered to account for the resurrection of Jesus? How about philosophical knowledge; is logic testable by way of the scientific method? Do moral values open themselves up to the realm of science?
Scientific naturalism seems to be severely limited. In fact, scientific naturalism assumes that we can only think in one direction. Richard Lewontin makes this point by saying, "We have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations…that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.” But again, if truth is ultimately what is important, naturalism fails to answer in a comprehensive way.
What exactly is naturalism? It is a one way, limited pursuit, as to what can be known in the material universe. Naturalism can never answer the ultimate truth question, because of its limitations. Not only does scientific naturalism turn out to be limited, but it presents itself as a philosophy in which to view the world. Philip Johnson sums up naturalistic science, stating, "Evolutionary naturalism takes the inherent limitations of science and turns them into a devastating philosophical weapon: because science is our only real way of knowing anything, what science cannot know cannot be real."
 Dickerson, Richard, The Game of Science:Perspectives on Science and Faith (Vol. 44, June 1992), p. 137
 Eldridge, Niles, The Monkey Business: A Scientist Looks at Creationism, Washington Square Press, 1982
 Ferguson, Kitty, The Fire in the Equations, p. 82-83
 Lewontin, Richard, Billions and Billions of Demons, p. 28