Tom Clark On Naturalism

0909DSCN4165_a_ (2)The interview of Tom Clark by Ginger Campbell linked to below is unquestionably one of the best commentaries on the essence and implications of naturalism out there. It confronts head-on the issues of free will, morality, and what it is to be human.

[ MP3 ]   [ TRANSCRIPT ]

Ginger Campbell is the host of both Books and Ideas and Brain Science Podcast, 2 great podcasts that are cherry pie for inquisitive minds.


It says that we are all natural creatures, that nature is what there is, and that nature is enough: That we don’t need anything supernatural to describe ourselves, nor do we need anything supernatural in order to lead meaningful, moral, and effective lives.

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Science And Faith

The following is my own over-simplified comparison of science and faith. I’m posting it for the purpose of generating conversation. Please substantiate your opinions with evidence and argumentation. I’m especially interested in hearing from those who think that faith is based on evidence. I hear this from time to time, but have never been able to tease out exactly the relationship between the two. Where does evidence end and faith begin? What principle warrants stepping beyond the evidence into faith?


Is DNA Code?

dnaIs DNA code? This question has been answered affirmatively by some in an attempt to argue that DNA requires an intelligent author. Therefore the more fundamental question is “Did DNA arise from a natural process or from an intelligent designer?”

This is a legitimate question, but not a unique one. Throughout history, millions of similar questions have been asked, all having the basic form of “Does X have a natural or a supernatural cause?” Plug pandemics, lighting or psychotic behavior into X as examples.

For most of these millions of questions of causation throughout history, there have been 2 basic approaches.

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Predictive Power

The most compelling argument in favor of any ideology or theory is its predictive power.

If an ideology makes a prediction and fails, this counts against its validity.

If an ideology makes no predictions that can be tested, its validity remains marginal as is must depend on other less conclusive methods of science.

If an ideology makes a successful prediction, this adds to the validity of the ideology.

As obvious as this is, there are those who attempt dismiss predictive power by actually claiming that predictive power is arbitrary and subjective. I recently exchanged over 14,000 e-mailed words with one individual in defense of the superiority of ideologies having predictive power, only to finally discover that he had not even the slightest notion about what predictive power is. He stated the following.

“Superior predictive power” is … like saying ok, we’re going to play a game, and the object of the game is to bounce the ball off the wall. We’ll play to 15, and when I bounce the ball off the wall, I score a point. Period. You don’t get a point when you bounce the ball off the wall. According to the rules, I always win, because I made up the rules.

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The Non-Overlapping Magisteria Myth

overlappingIn 1997 Stephen Jay Gould first introduced the notion that science and religion occupied two Non-Overlapping MAgisteria or domains, a concept he tagged NOMA. In his famous essay on this topic he writes the following.

I believe, with all my heart, in a respectful, even loving concordat between our magisteria—the NOMA solution. NOMA represents a principled position on moral and intellectual grounds, not a mere diplomatic stance. NOMA also cuts both ways. If religion can no longer dictate the nature of factual conclusions properly under the magisterium of science, then scientists cannot claim higher insight into moral truth from any superior knowledge of the world’s empirical constitution. This mutual humility has important practical consequences in a world of such diverse passions.

Religion is too important to too many people for any dismissal or denigration of the comfort still sought by many folks from theology. I may, for example, privately suspect that papal insistence on divine infusion of the soul represents a sop to our fears, a device for maintaining a belief in human superiority within an evolutionary world offering no privileged position to any creature. But I also know that souls represent a subject outside the magisterium of science. My world cannot prove or disprove such a notion, and the concept of souls cannot threaten or impact my domain. Moreover, while I cannot personally accept the Catholic view of souls, I surely honor the metaphorical value of such a concept both for grounding moral discussion and for expressing what we most value about human potentiality: our decency, care, and all the ethical and intellectual struggles that the evolution of consciousness imposed upon us.
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The erroneous assumption behind this concept of separate magisteria or domains of human activity is the assumption that religion occupies merely a moral space, and makes no positive claims that fall within reach of empirical falsification. This is clearly not true.
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