Naturalism is true; therefore, evolution is a fact

At the conclusion of the series of essays on DarwinsPredictions.com, the author summarizes the viewpoint of Darwinists through the relevant philosophical assumptions.  The gist is that naturalism is seen as metaphysically true; therefore, through the process of elimination, evolution is true.  The question from this perspective cannot be, “Did evolution occur?”  It can only be, “How did it occur?”

The irony here is that evolutionists make naturalism unscientific according to their own criterion of testability. This is because naturalistic explanations are the only explanations that are allowed. They therefore cannot be tested because they are true by definition. The only testing that can be done is between different sub-hypotheses of naturalism. Gradualism can be compared with punctuated equilibrium, drift can be compared with selection, and so forth. But naturalism has been defined as the only scientific option available.

Imagine if the species were designed, as they appear to be. Imagine that the DNA code, the bat’s sonar system, the towering redwood trees, and the other biological wonders were designed. If this were true, it would never be allowed within evolutionary science. How can evolutionists claim their theory is a fact while simultaneously ruling out certain explanations? They can do this by allowing for only scientific explanations to be factual. The world outside of science may be beautiful, awesome, intriguing, enchanting, and so forth, but it is not factual. In a word, science deals with facts while non-science deals with values.

So the basis, the philosophical underpinnings, of their position is untestable, and is, therefore, unscientific by their own criteria. Science, it seems, lacks a definition apart from philosophical naturalism, which is held as a metaphysical truth…a metaphysical “truth,” which is untestable.

In the century and a half since Charles Darwin proposed his theory of evolution, science has discovered a plethora of contradictory information. Many predictions of the theory have been falsified, including foundational expectations. The theory has consistently failed and as a consequence it has grown far more complex than anything Darwin ever envisioned. Evolution is not a good scientific theory and in this sense it is comparable to geocentrism. Both theories grew ever more complicated in response to the evidences of the natural world, adding epicycle upon epicycle.

In stark contrast to these evidential problems, evolutionists believe that their theory is a fact. Evolution is a fact, they say, just as gravity is fact. This remarkable claim is an indicator that there is more to evolution than merely a scientific theory. In light of the scientific evidence, the claim that evolution is a fact may seem to be absurd. But it is not.

The fact of evolution is a necessary consequence of the metaphysical assumptions evolutionists make. Metaphysical assumptions are assumptions that do not derive from science. They are made independent of science. These metaphysical assumptions that evolutionists make would be difficult to defend as necessarily true outside of evolutionary circles, but within evolution their truth is not controversial. All of this means that the scientific problems with evolution are relegated to questions of how evolution occurred. The science cannot bear on questions of whether or not evolution occurred.

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12 Responses

  1. Amazing! Thus the reason there can be no agreement between us and them! I don’t argue with fundy Christians, so, with this article in mind, why would I argue with fundy naturalists? Actually, there doesn’t seem to be much difference between the two!

  2. Is the complaint here supposed to be — well, what, exactly? Is it that hypotheses rest on assumptions that are themselves untested? So what — by which I mean, how could it be otherwise?

  3. So what — by which I mean, how could it be otherwise?

    I guess if you don’t have a problem with it then that is fine for you Carl. You won’t change your mind on that point, and I’m not sure why you bother even asking the question.

    I have a problem with a system that purports to investigate nature that excludes options on the basis of a single metaphysical assumption. Perhaps there’s ultimately no getting around assumptions entirely, but there is no requirement for that philosophical assumption to be at the root of scientific investigation. Another problem is that with the “naturalism is true; therefore, evolution is a fact” mode of thinking is that it results in rigidly adhering to a framework that becomes unwieldy in its complexity, lacks parsimonious explanations, has been falsified in many of its major hypotheses, and has become akin to geocentricism as the author of Darwin’s Predictions has well demonstrated.

    So, I’m assuming you have no problem with the statement:

    “Naturalism is true; therefore, evolution is a fact.”

  4. Actually, I have LOTS of objections to that statement — but none that Hunter touches on in his conclusion to the website, which is all I’ve read so far.

  5. I’m in the Florida Keys this week so I probably won’t be commenting much but the assumption: “Theism is true; therefore science is possible.” was much more fruitful for progress in knowledge and Progress in general. In contrast, “Naturalism is true, therefore evolution is a fact.” has spawned evolutionary creation myths associated with the eugenics movement, Nazism and has been associated with pseudo-science and hypothetical goo in general.

    I have windsurfing to do. Hehe, later… 😉

  6. Very good point mynym. Have fun windsurfing, and take some pics! 😉

  7. One thing about Hunter’s article which I appreciate is a distinction he draws between different kinds of falsified theories. There are falsified theories which can be taken as limited cases of not-yet-falsified theories, and there are falsified theories which are unsalvageable. Newton’s classical mechanics is an example of the first case; the geocentric model of the solar system is an example of the second case.

    Likewise, we can distinguish between “mild skeptics” towards evolution, “moderate skeptics,” and “extreme skeptics.” A “mild skeptic” is someone who thinks that the modern synthesis is like classical mechanics — it’s not the whole story, but it will turn out to be an important part of the whole story. A moderate skeptic is someone who thinks that the modern synthesis is basically true, but trivial or insignificant in relation to a better theory. An extreme skeptic is someone who thinks that the modern synthesis is like geocentrism — it will not turn out to be any part of the truth.

    I would say that Brian Goodwin and Stuart Kauffman are “mild skeptics” — maybe also Conway Morris — whereas I would regard Behe and perhaps also Denton as “moderate skeptics,” and maybe Dembski, though I’m not sure. I tend to regard most creationists as “extreme skeptics” with respect to the modern synthesis, but I don’t know if that’s fair of me.

  8. Carl,

    While we’re making lists of categories, I might submit a few in addition to the ones that you provide.

    An extremist or fundamentalist naturalist is one who says “naturalism is all there is, and I will never consider any alternative.” In other words, naturalism is considered to be an absolute or metaphysical truth. A moderate naturalist believes that naturalism is a useful and supervening tool for understanding the physical world, but believes there could be more than material explanations to the nature of reality. A mild naturalist would admit that there is some power in naturalism for understanding reality, but is open to a wide range of ideas in explanation of phenomena. I would classify PZ Myers, Eugenie Scott, and Dick Dawkins, and most of the Panda’s Thumb and Phyrangula crew as fundamentalist naturalists (i.e., those who believe naturalism entails atheism and naturalism is all there is). A moderate naturalist would include many IDers such as Michael Behe, William Dembski, and David Berlinksi. Under the classification of mild naturalists I would include creationists such as Ken Ham, myself, and DB (although DB and I are probably not as mild as Ken Ham).

    Isn’t classification fun?

  9. […] I’ve never heard one! Is it any wonder that compassionate and loving people (Godly) find the theories of evolution and eugenics to be devoid of anything but man’s unfeeling arrogance and Godlessness? Is it any wonder that […]

  10. I’m not delighted with your proposed scheme, Country Shrink, because there’s no room within it for people such as Gould, or Miller, or myself. Now, this could be because, as you and others have suggested, our view really is too confused, too incoherent, to be worth taking seriously. But of course I’d rather that not be the case!

    Here’s one way of seeing how I’d prefer to frame the issues — beginning with the question of what makes for a good explanation. It is a common theme — though of course not universally accepted — that we are committed to accepting the existence of those entities which must exist in order for our best theories to be true. That’s why we’re committed to the existence of quarks and not leprechauns. It may seem odd that ontological commitments change as theories change, but that’s the nature of modern science.

    Now, if (1) explanations are the only source of ontological commitment, and if (2) the best explanations are “naturalistic”, then yes, it follows that only “nature” exists. Hence I’m taking “nature” and “naturalistic” to refer to causal regularities between entities that exist within space and time.

    The distinctions you make above, Country Shrink, are distinctions made with respect to whether naturalistic explanations are the best, or only, explanations. And I think it’s important to pose these objections — but it’s also worth pointing out, I think, that the distinctions you’ve made above are different attitudes towards (2). Whereas what I want to do, and what I think Gould and Miller would do if they were as good at philosophy as they are at science, is call into question the status of (1).

    If the commitment to (1) is called into question, then the way is clear to seeing how ontological commitment can arise in all sorts of ways. For example, in our ordinary ways of talking about ourselves and one another, we implicitly rely on notions of thoughts, intentions, desires, and norms (norms of correct belief, norms of correct action).

    If we accept both (1) and (2), then we are entitled to use these concepts if, but only if, they can fit into a naturalistic world-picture. And since it seems mysterious as to how these concepts can fit into a world-picture that consists entirely of causal regularities between spatio-temporal entities, it may seem as though there is no place for our self-conception as rational agents within a naturalistic world-picture. Hence it follow that naturalistic world-pictures are dehumanizing, just as DB and many others have argued.

    But this inference — that naturalism opens up the possibility of dehumanization — depends on the acceptance of both (1) and (2) — i.e. both that explanations alone determine ontological commitments, and that the best explanations are ‘naturalistic’. (One might also define “scientism” as the commitment to both (1) and (2).) Country Shrink wants to object to (2), whereas I want to object to (1). So my approach is not to introduce non-natural explanations alongside naturalistic explanations, but to introduce other modes of ontological commitment besides explanation.

    On my approach, the fact that our ordinary ways of talking relies on notions such as “intention” or “normativity” is just by itself a good reason for being committed to the existence of such things — not for the purposes of explanation, but for the purposes of coordinating social activity, holding each other responsible for actions, expressing our deepest longings and fears, giving voice to our need to be rescued from despair, and so on.

    In short, my aim is to make room for religion, for art, for spirituality, and for music in terms of serving some fundamental human needs other than the needs of “explanation”.

  11. Carl,

    I didn’t expect you to be delighted with my classifications, and that was the point. I was making a point, although not overtly, that anyone can come up with categorizations, and that those categorizations are not without consequence. I also don’t look at all ideas and experiences (apart from science) as need-serving endeavors. I suppose this is where the shrink side of me kicks in, because the way we categorize things are important in determining our feelings and actions. When I think of needs, I think of food, water, shelter, clothing, and so forth. But maybe I’m being picky about semantics.

    Now, if (1) explanations are the only source of ontological commitment, and if (2) the best explanations are “naturalistic”, then yes, it follows that only “nature” exists. Hence I’m taking “nature” and “naturalistic” to refer to causal regularities between entities that exist within space and time.

    Country Shrink wants to object to (2), whereas I want to object to (1). So my approach is not to introduce non-natural explanations alongside naturalistic explanations, but to introduce other modes of ontological commitment besides explanation.

    Actually, Carl, I want to object to both (1) and (2). I am merely advocating a more open system of scientific investigation with full recognition that the philosophical assumptions that underlie science, in a pervading sense, inhibit investigation and result in a fundamentalist type of mentality among many scientists. As far as Gould’s NOMA notions go, I would consider myself to have a view more in line with Dembski’s notion of COMA (completely open or overlapping magisteria as recently discussed on UD).

  12. […] then I’ve never heard one! Is it any wonder that compassionate and loving people find the theories of evolution and eugenics to be devoid of anything but man’s unfeeling arrogance and Godlessness? Is it any wonder that […]

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