Testing worldviews: naturalism part 2

Let’s continue our look at naturalism, as discussed in schooloffish’s post, “DOES YOUR WORLD VIEW PASS THE TEST?” Today we find him taking up the argument from design:

What we see is an orderly Universe where everything is in a perfect location to allow for humanity to thrive. If the sun was just a little hotter, or colder, life could not exist. If the continents were a little bit out of alignment, the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn would seize to flow and the world would be covered with ice. If our sun was just a little bit younger or older, our orbit would be such that the planet would be unable to sustain life. The fact is the Universe seems to be ordered, not in chaos as Darwin would have had us believe.

Needless to say, a scientific theory is basically a reasonably accurate description of some particularly orderly aspect of the natural world. If the universe were “chaos,” as schooloffish puts it, a theory like evolution would not even be possible. The absence of any predictable laws of cause and effect would completely invalidate science as we know it.

What schooloffish seems to miss here is that naturalism is based on the observation that the universe is orderly and makes sense. Of course, part of the reason it makes sense to us is because we are the products of that natural order. We’re used to it, as it were. Our own mental machinery was forged in the orderly, natural environment we are now seeking to know and understand better. Chaos is precisely what Darwin and other naturalists do not expect, because their science (our science) is based on observation, and we do not observe a chaotic universe. We view a cosmos that is complex, interesting and subtle, but amidst all that variety and infinite detail, we find a relatively small number of elegant, basic principles that organize and invigorate the whole.

Schooloffish takes the anthropocentric view that the universe is perfectly adapted to suit humanity, but in point of fact it would be more accurate to say humanity has become perfectly adapted to exist in the cosmos as we find it. This is not surprising: we clearly exist, therefore we already knew that nature was going to be turn out to allow for our existence. All science is doing is uncovering the precise hows and wherefores that made our existence possible. Granted, if conditions were significantly different, then life AS WE KNOW IT might not exist. Perhaps some other race of organisms would be debating whether some deity created the universe specifically for them.

But, as we know, it didn’t turn out that way. We’re here, and the reason we’re here is because of the inherent orderliness of reality. We like to think that we are the ontological center of the universe and that everything revolves around us, but science has a way of penetrating and deflating such selfish conceits. Sure, the world looks flat, in our common experience, from our limited frame of reference, but that doesn’t mean it really is flat. Yes, from where we stand it does look like the rest of the universe is moving around us (after all, it doesn’t feel like we’re flying through some vast, airless expanse), but that doesn’t mean that our home planet is necessarily the center of the universe, or even of our own solar system.

And yes, conditions right here happened to be such that intelligent life happened to arise and start going ooo and ahh over the fact that the conditions were right. But honestly, so what? There is no law of nature that scans through the cosmos, looking for life-friendly conditions, and disrupting them. There’s no particular reason why intelligent life should not arise as one consequence of the subtle and intricate interactions of the laws and forces of Nature.

So once again, schooloffish has failed to find any actual inconsistency in the naturalistic world view. There is no natural law preventing intelligent life from arising under suitable conditions, and (contrary to his mischaracterization of Darwin) neither evolutionary science nor any other science predicts that we should find the kind of chaotic, lawless environment which would prevent natural forces and processes from operating the way we observe them today. Science is based on observation, first and foremost, and what we observe is a self-consistent reality that conforms perfectly to natural and materialistic laws, without exception.

2 Responses to “Testing worldviews: naturalism part 2”

  1. mrrage Says:

    It would be better if schooloffish said, “What we see is an orderly SOLAR SYSTEM where everything is in a perfect location to allow for humanity to thrive.” Our solar system, and even more so Earth, is not even a speck of sand compared to the UNIVERSE. Most of the Universe, and even most of our solar system, is completely inhospitable to life as we know it. We just happen to be in an oasis in a sea of mostly nothing, and considering the size of the Universe it is not at all surprising such oases exists.

  2. inquisitiveraven Says:

    Oy vey. Leaving aside the fact that I think the verb, he wants is “cease” rather than “seize,” the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn don’t flow. They’re not currents; they’re arbitrary lines that, if they have any meaning at all, demarcate the boundaries between the “tropical” and “temperate” climate zones, and given the astrological names were probably drawn based on the northernmost and southernmost positions of the ecliptic as projected onto the surface of the planet.

    Oh, while we’re at it, chaos in the scientific sense doesn’t mean random; it means not readily predictable. Basically, a chaotic system can be completely deterministic but because it’s extremely sensitive to initial conditions, there’s no good way to predict outcomes except in a very general sense, i.e. by mapping it to some kind of fractal attractor. Granted this particular meaning has only really arisen in the past fifty years or so, but it’s still valid and allows for apparent chaos in a universe with consistent laws.

    At the other end of things, a stochastic process can have random elements to its inputs or at some point in the process and still have a non-random output. I’d put biological evolution in this category, but Darwin, AFAIK, never saw it that way. Darwin’s theory requires a source of heritable variation; it doesn’t require a RANDOM source of variation. AFAIK, like Lamarck, he believed that acquired characteristics were heritable and thought of these as a source of variation. Acquired characteristics are not random.

    Anyway, aside from the straw manning of Darwin, since when does he speak for all scientists? Sheesh.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: