I had a conversation the other day with a fellow on twitter coming off of one of Ken Ham’s tweets. There was a lot of back and forth and I attempted to understand his position. I did employ some Street Epistemology in the conversation but I think that was done in vain. I just didn’t want to boil over into a flame war. That doesn’t do anything to further any conversation. We somewhat ended the discussion with him asking if I was a naturalist. I hadn’t heard the term before so I looked it up. It essentially is the belief that there is nothing beyond the natural world and everything can be explained with natural process. I’m not a huge fan of labels (that is different than check boxes, I friggen love check boxes) but agreed with that assertion. He then sent me this article talking about some things that naturalism can’t account for. I will spend this post refuting it’s points.
The first point this article makes points out that is that if there is no other plane than the natural then our minds (I’m assuming he means consciousnesses) are nothing other than a result of natural processes. The implication being that we have no true “free will.” My question is, so what? We as a species are excellent input/output machines. We’re also excellent at pattern recognition (even when there isn’t one there). There are even denominations of Christianity that believe we have no free will (Calvinism to name one). The fact that we can look at our selves introspectively can be easily explained by evolution. Once we evolved to the point where we were no longer living from meal to meal our brains suddenly had all this free time. It was freed up to do things like existential thinking. I am looking to do some more research into the entire notion of free will and what possible implications there are to not having it.
Next up is the topic of morality. I sometimes wonder at the nature of “morality” or ethics. I did take a class in college on the subject of ethics and found it fascinating. One thing that I was never really convinced of was moral absolutes. There is the old antic-dote about that goes something like this: You are in 1940’s Germany and are hiding a Jewish family in your house. One day the SS shows up and asks you if you are harboring any Jews in your home. Do you tell a lie and save the family or do you tell the truth and not lie. It’s a pretty easy decision, you lie. Now if you adhere to a strict rule of moral absolutes where no “sin” is greater than another then you have a pickle here. You’d have to tell the truth and in turn an entire family dies. YOU made that choice and would have to live with that the rest of your days. That doesn’t seem very “moral” to me.
The final point the argument presented is that of meaning. Essentially that with out god our lives are nothing more than what we have here while we’re alive. There’s no higher purpose to our existence. I fail to see how a deity give our lives any deeper value than that of a life devoid of such a being. Our life meaning is different for everyone. We aren’t designed to worship anything. Our meaning is self-defined. The author points to an example of a child thinking their meaning is to play video games all day. OK, what’s the problem. If this kid can grow up and support himself on playing video games more power to him (there is some serious money in that industry). If not, they will have to do what we all do and find a job they can tolerate to support that which he finds fulfilling (video games). Granted there are exceptions to this the biggest being if you find your meaning by infringing on someone else’s life (such as murder, rape, and the like).
As I stated before I was pointed to this article from a Twitter user and promised I would give my rebuttal. I don’t believe that anything else other than the natural order of things is needed to explain us. We aren’t special. We are just another animal on this planet that happens to have a higher intellect. Our ability to self-reflect, make moral decisions, and find fulfillment can all be explained by our evolutionary history. I now had the difficult task of finding that twitter string and sharing this article with that user…whose name has completely escaped me.
Also published on Medium.