Is naturalism ideology or science?

It’s almost always a simplification to point to a single ideology as being “what the culture believes.” With that caveat, however, it is not inaccurate to say that the opinion-makers of America–academia, media, scientists, etc.–have nearly unanimously embraced the naturalistic worldview. While even its supporters struggle to define naturalism precisely, at its heart is the simple idea that everything in the world (both what exists and what happens) can be explained through purely mechanistic cause and effect. Everything from planets to animals to ideas is ultimately the product of a chain of exclusively material “dominoes” stretching back into the unknowable past. The theory really came into its own in the 19th Century, as Darwinian evolution purported to fit the diversity and apparent design of biological life into that same impersonal progression of cause and effect.

Naturalism matters to a Christian because it is what is left over when theism is discarded. Throughout history, humans have assumed there are two fundamental sorts of “stuff” in the universe: mental/spiritual existence (things like gods, angels, ideas, and values) and material/physical existence (things like elements, molecules, and atoms). Christianity and most other theistic worldviews assume that the spiritual existed before and was the cause of the material: “In the beginning was the Word… All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” Atheism, on the other hand, by definition cannot accept a preexistent and creative Mind. This leaves the atheist with a world in which everything begins with impersonal, material being; naturalism, in other words.

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Thoughts on evolution

J: “I know you probably get this a lot, but I was just wondering what your opinions on evolution are.”

Before we start talking about evolution, it’s important to consider why the issue matters. From a scientific perspective, even infallible proof that evolution occurred (by “evolution” I mean the theory that biological complexity can be explained through natural processes as opposed to intelligent design) would hardly remove the need for some sort of God to explain the world. Throughout history, scientists and philosophers have recognized that various aspects of the universe strongly suggest the existence of a Designer: the simple existence of “something rather than nothing,” to quote Leibniz; the strange suitability of the universe for life, called the Anthropic Principle; the existence of any sort of biological life; and finally, the remarkable complexity of biological life.

Because evolution operates through the mechanism of the survival of the fittest, and because being alive in the first place is a fairly universally acknowledged prerequisite for survival, evolution can only appear on the scene once biological life exists. This means it has nothing to say about the sheer existence of the universe, nothing to say about the Anthropic Principle, and nothing to say about the very first appearance of biological life. All of these still appear to demand a creative Intelligence which evolution is absolutely unable to replace.

But that’s not really why we talk about evolution. Evolution matters because it appears to contradict the creation account found in Scripture. The first few chapters of Genesis describe the creation of complex life forms from nothing, over the course of six days. Evolution requires millions upon millions of years. The two pictures cannot both be right. Well, where does that leave us?

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Study: Intentionally-inflicted pain hurts more


Researchers at Harvard University have discovered that our experience of pain depends on whether we think someone caused the pain intentionally. In their study, participants who believed they were getting an electrical shock from another person on purpose, rather than accidentally, rated the very same shock as more painful. Participants seemed to get used to shocks that were delivered unintentionally, but those given on purpose had a fresh sting every time.