Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Butting Heads (nicely)


Yesterday, a reader ("Mr. Dawkins") left the following comment regarding my previous post ("CopyCats") which I feel is worthy not just of a reply, but of its own dedicated post. Here is the entire comment in context. I will respond below ...
Your alleged case against naturalism is inherently flawed. Just because naturalism has not yet explained consciousness or thought life doesn't mean it never will. That is to say, your whole post forecloses on the possibility of a naturalistic explanation for these things when there is still a possibility naturalism can account for them. Or, to quote one of the favorite lines from you theists, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Given the extraordinary claims of theism, you bear an extraordinary burden of proof. Pointing out a few things naturalism has not yet explained won't make your case.
I want to thank Mr. Dawkins for his comment. I really do appreciate it and have only chosen to respond in this way because it displays such a textbook example of the naturalistic paradigm, it sets itself up as a great example of why I began this blog in the first place.

First, the post he mentions is not in any way intended to be my "case against naturalism." Maybe I wasn't clear, or maybe Mr. Dawkins missed my point, but the case against naturalism is vastly greater than the small observation I made here. Actually, the article I cited just caught my eye because of the creativity issue. But Mr. Dawkins' comment brings up several points I'd like to make:

First, the primary shortfall I addressed really only requires a short rejoinder. In this specific case, I was just pointing out that it is not just that science has not explained "thought life or consciousness." The point is that, under the naturalistic worldview, such things cannot even exist. I would not demand that Mr. Dawkins (unless he is THE Mr. Dawkins) provide a scientifically verifiable solution to the problem. I'm just asking that those who share his view offer some minimal philosophical justification for a phenomenon that is internally incoherent within that view.

Second, Mr. Dawkins, like many who share his view, makes an appeal to wait a little longer for our proof by asserting that "just because naturalism has not yet explained consciousness or thought life doesn't mean it never will."

True.

Maybe science will eventually explain such things. If it does, it will be self-refuting because it will require a complete admission that Naturalism must be re-defined to include the actual existence of non-physical entities. When theists try to offer, "God did it" (a phrase that makes me cringe, by the way) as an explanation for things that are otherwise inexplicable, naturalists call it an appeal to "The God of the Gaps." So, in fairness, I would say that Mr. Dawkins is appealing to a parallel " Science of the Gaps." No matter who makes the Gap appeal, it is an intellectual evasion. My view is that we should all examine the evidence and take the evidence where it leads. An intellectually honesty search for the truth demands it.

Third, Mr. Dawkins accuses me of "foreclosing on the possibility of a naturalistic explanation." But I do no such thing! I am open and waiting for such an explanation but if someone were to find one it would not in any way threaten my worldview. The naturalist, on the other hand, DOES fear a theistic explanation for anything and therefore denies its possibility by eliminating it BEFORE he examines the evidence. Darwinists do this all the time. They disparage the Intelligent Design movement not due to the evidence they find in complex biological systems, but in spite of it. This is what disturbs me about naturalists. Their presuppositions eliminate explanations BEFORE they examine the data.

Finally, Mr. Dawkins demands that my view requires an "extraordinary burden of proof." I agree. So does his. I do not presume Mr. Dawkins to be an atheist when I say this, but the burden to "prove" that God does NOT exist is greater than mine. No one denies the "appearance of design" in the universe. In the same way, no one can deny the existence of the non-physical thoughts/ideas/imaginings we all share. So, as obvious as the evidence for those things is, on what basis would Mr. Dawkins "prove" the non-existence of immaterial reality in general or God specifically? Let's be fair -- we both bear an extraordinary burden of proof. And, once again, I believe that intellectual honesty, devoid of the presupposed elimination of possible explanations, requires that we examine the evidence and accept the implications of that evidence.

I thank Mr. Dawkins for challenging me to do so and I hope he accepts my challenge for him to do the same. I believe that an honest pursuit of the truth will lead us to theistic conclusions and I think the evidence weighs heavily in my favor or I wouldn't be spending my time writing here. I look forward to more dialog along these lines in the future.

CROSSPOSTED AT: truehorizon.org


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