Thursday, May 23, 2013

Tom Gilson replies to Barbara Forrest on Naturalism

This is Tom Gilson's critique of a Barbara Forrest essay in defense of naturalism. I had linked to the essay and suggested that it was a huge exercise in begging the question.

25 comments:

Dan Gillson said...

Where are the links?

Crude said...

Click on the title.

Papalinton said...

"An impressive body of thought built up over the centuries as theologians and philosophers (most notably Thomas Aquinas) explored rational arguments for God."

That says it all, "... explored rational arguments' but never produced the evidence. Gilson lurches from one person's personal expression to another's as evidence, even CS Lewis gets a mention, feeding on each other's viscerally-derived opinion.

Gilson poses three questions that distinguish naturalism from supernaturalism:
"A. What is the basic substance of reality? Does science describe real entities or something else?

B. How do we determine truth?

C. How do we determine value?"


Apparently, according to Gilson's dictum naturalism is self-refuting, self-defeating purely on the basis of these three criteria. Science qua naturalism cannot answer these questions, ergo they are supernatural in content. Ergo. by default. they are the manifest 'stuff' of God.

What a crock of shit.

Papalinton said...

As a hot current issue clashing with the nonsense of the past watch this scene of Wolf Blitzer asking the tornado survivor that must 'Thanks God for keeping her safe.' Very short video news item HERE.

What the survivor should have returned to Blitzer, "What, the same one that killed the other victims?"

The truth of naturalism is everywhere. Supernaturalism? Not so much.

Martin said...

>The truth of naturalism is everywhere. Supernaturalism? Not so much.

There he goes again.

Papalinton, frame the debate in terms of anti-Aristotelianism vs Aristotelianism, and the picture isn't quite so obvious. I see that you abandoned the other thread where I forced you down this route.

Stop hiding behind these vague terms "natural" and "supernatural".

Papalinton said...

Martin
"The truth of naturalism is everywhere. Supernaturalism? Not so much."

I was borrowing from Bob Prokop's hymn book. "Look around, God is everywhere. You can't get better proof than a beautiful sunset" ;o)

Martin said...

So, nothing to say, then, huh?

Interesting...

ingx24 said...

Martin,

You sound like you've set up a false dichotomy between Aristotelianism and materialism. Why?

Papalinton said...

"Papalinton, frame the debate in terms of anti-Aristotelianism vs Aristotelianism, and the picture isn't quite so obvious. I see that you abandoned the other thread where I forced you down this route."

There he goes again. Having a wet dream.

Martin said...

I don't think I ever said those were the only two choices. I'm trying to demonstrate that Papalinton's overconfidence springs from the vagueness of the term "natura". And if the debate is framed in more precise terms, then his confidence ought to dry up. As it does, because he doesn't ever address my points.

Crude said...

Martin,

I'm trying to demonstrate that Papalinton's overconfidence springs from the vagueness of the term "natura".

Respectfully, Martin - don't you think you should be more selective with who you try to educate? I mean, if you were doing this in fun I wouldn't comment. But when you're dealing with a liar and a known plagiarist - a plagiarist who stole other's words, precisely when he was called upon to correctly describe the very thing he was attacking - what's the goddamn point? He doesn't care. Facts and data don't matter. This isn't about reason or science or even God and atheism, and it never will be.

You're smart, you're well-read. I'd suggest saving your energy for people who can and will comprehend what you point out.

But, you're the master of your own time, so hey, do what you want. I just wanted to speak up since I feel bad for you - you put effort and thought into your replies. Pearls before swine and all that.

Papalinton said...

Two god-botherers simpering and mutually licking over their wounded pride; one who believes himself a 'final cause', the other, well .... just a stalker with a tree on his shoulder. Both masters at only managing to pick the low hanging fruit in comments. Example: Martin picks up my ode to Prokop, "Naturalism is everywhere", but is an avowed coward when it comes to supporting the asininity of the reporter's comment reflected in the video news item. I can understand. I too would be terribly embarrassed about such god shit.

Crude appears from stage left not intent in discussing the OP but to hurl, as Zach fittingly describes it, shit pellets all over Dr Reppert's nest. On ya! Crude. You truly do know your own crap.

Dan Gillson said...

I can't say I'm too impressed with Tom's reply. The best that the "science can't explain everything" meme (did I just say "meme"?) can do is to make believing in the existence of the supernatural intellectually respectable, if even that. However, I'm also not impressed with Forrest's articles on naturalism. It's one thing to say that reality is exhausted by nature; it's another thing to say, like Forrest does (basically), that nature is exhausted by the laws of physics and chemistry.

Martin said...

Yeah, I guess you're right, huh?

He's kinda like one of those schizophrenics walking around the street. No coherence there at all..

I now refrain.

Crude said...

Dan,

The best that the "science can't explain everything" meme (did I just say "meme"?) can do is to make believing in the existence of the supernatural intellectually respectable, if even that.

I think pointing out the limitations of science, even with regards to 'natural' phenonema, does a pretty good job of eradicating the line of attack Forrest is attempting to stake out.

That's one reason why I think all talk of methodological naturalism is ultimately mistaken - it inaccurately describes the methodology, because limiting one to 'natural' explanations and claims still leaves you with a whole lot of explanations and claims that are beyond what's reasonably called science.

Dan Gillson said...

Re: the metacommentary on Papalinton

After reading the articles and Papalinton's summary of them, I have yet another occasion to wonder if the man actually comprehends what he reads. He clearly isn't capable of participating in an intelligent discussion. I imagine him to be the sort of person who never listens, but is always waiting for the next time he can say something, regardless of whether or not it's on topic.

Dan Gillson said...

Crude,

I'm definitely not a fan of the sort of naturalism that Forrest advocates. However, pointing out the limitations of science isn't a positive argument for supernaturalism; it merely opens up the possibility that the supernatural can factor in the sorts of explanations that science can't provide, with the upshot of making the supernatural intellectually respectable to believe in.

Crude said...

Dan,

However, pointing out the limitations of science isn't a positive argument for supernaturalism;

I agree entirely. Do you think Tom's going for that though? I think it's more a critique of the warrant she's trying to pull for naturalism more than a positive case for 'supernaturalism', whatever that would be. Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but that's the impression I get so far.

Dan Gillson said...

Crude,

No, I don't suppose it is Tom's intent to argue for the existence of the supernatural. I think he's content to leave us with the possibility that it exists. (I almost said as much in my last comment, but I ended up deciding not to.) I have a feeling that your impression is probably right, or mostly right, but that still leaves me feeling dissatisfied with the extent of the conversation. I was hoping for more.

Victor Reppert said...

I really do believe that, for some people, new atheist ideology becomes quite literally an intellectual straitjacket, of the kind that most people are accustomed to seeing in religious fundamentalists of various sorts.

ingx24 said...

I *really* don't like the term "supernaturalism", and I *really* wish people would stop using it. It carries a ton of negative baggage with it, and seems to lump anything beyond materialism in with religion, creating a false dichotomy and the impression that once you've admitted the existence of things not observable by science, you've stepped into the realm of theology.

Dan Gillson said...

ingx24,

I don't like the term either. I prefer 'transcendentalism' to 'supernaturalism', because people dump all kinds of superstitious stuff (e.g., faeries, ghosts, etc.) into 'supernaturalism'.

Papalinton said...

ingX24

i agree. Supernaturalism is a nonsense. It is indeed a thoroughly theological contrivance that as you say has serious and warranted connotations. And as Dan properly notes, it is a grab-bag of theological pooh. But It is, however, the rightfully named grab-bag from which all sorts of meaningless spooky netherworldy religious pooh, along with all the fantastical imaginings of legends, folkloric musings and other things that go bump in the night, are deposited since the dawn of human consciousness.

What is most telling is when one searches for Supernaturalism as a philosophical concept, say through the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, no such definable thing exists. Equally, when scrolls through the Encyclopedia Britannica, this little bit pops up:

"supernaturalism,  a belief in an otherworldly realm or reality that, in one way or another, is commonly associated with all forms of religion.
Evidence of neither the idea of nature nor the experience of a purely natural realm is found among primitive people, who inhabit a wonderworld charged with the sacred power (or mana), spirits, and deities. Primitive man associates whatever is experienced as uncanny or powerful with the presence of a sacred or numinous power; yet he constantly lives in a profane realm that is made comprehensible by a paradigmatic, mythical sacred realm."
One has to subscribe to read the rest. That primitive paradigm manacles the minds of the great unwashed even to this day.

Prof John Shook, eloquently summarizes the culture wars between naturalism and supernaturalism:

"In modern times, naturalism and supernaturalism are the only serious worldview competitors. Naturalism -- the scientific worldview -- takes reality to be what verifiable observation and scientific method discovers. Much has been explained by science, and much more will be.
As science has shined its light of knowledge farther into nature, religion’s God has fled to hide beyond all the stars.
Supernaturalism can now only appeal to the margins and obscure corners of human experience: uncanny sights and sounds, spooky feelings of being watched, tortured emotions and deep dreads, engrossing tales of magical deeds, reassuring voices of priestly incantations, self-righteous feelings of moral authority, and the like. Theology was once the mighty explainer of all things in heaven and on earth, but by now it can only take comfort in whatever science has not yet explained. Theology, that architect of soaring systems of vast thought, has been reduced to hunting and stitching together tattered scraps of mysteries."


The rest of this excellent and informative article can be READ HERE.

Contrary to Dan's naive metacommentary, this man PapaL thinks deeply, responds accordingly and ridicules religious nonsense mercilessly. What he doesn't do is suffer fools gladly.

Papalinton said...

"From" should be "into"

Dan Gillson said...

PapaL,

I'm glad you didn't say of yourself that you read carefully or write intelligibly. Then your self-assessment would have been obviously false, instead of being merely vaguely untrue, as it is now.