Note: The following is a series of notes presented several years ago at an apologetics conference. Enjoy!
Philosophical or metaphysical naturalism refers to the view that nature is the “whole show” of all there is. There is no supernatural realm and no supernatural intervention in the world. In the strict sense, all forms of nontheisms are naturalistic, including atheism (the belief that God doesn’t exist), pantheism (God is everything and in everything), deism (There is a supernatural being that created the world, but isn’t interested in the universe and doesn’t perform miracles in it), and agnosticism (You can’t be sure that there is a God).
However, some theists, especially scientists, hold a form of methodological naturalism. That is, while acknowledging the existence of God and the possibility of miracles, they employ a method of approaching the natural world that does not admit of miracles (such as the Origin of Life). This is true of many theistic evolutionists. They insist that to admit miracles in nature to explain the unique or anomalous is to invoke “the God of the gaps.” In this sense they are bedfellows with the antisupernaturalists, who deny miracles on the grounds that they are contrary to the scientific method.
NATURALISM, ORIGIN, AND OPERATION SCIENCE
Naturalistic scientists claim that they must practice methodological naturalism, i.e. that natural causes are the only ones allowed, and God, if He exists, did nothing that can be investigated contrary to Romans 1:18–23 which says,
These naturalistic scientists claim that if they only accept natural causes as an explanation, then this doesn’t have to necessarily imply that nature is all that really does exist, and God doesn’t. However, the opposite is true, which is one reason methodological naturalism is promoted by so many atheists — atheists must believe that nature is all there is because the other option is, for them, frightening.
The scare tactic they use to promote methodological naturalism is reasoning like:
‘It is simply not possible to solve a scientific question if one is willing to invoke a supernatural answer, because supernatural answers foreclose further scientific inquiry. As we have already noted, a person who accounts for the motion of the planets by asserting that angels propel them is simply not going to be able to account for Kepler’s laws of planetary motion in any kind of fruitful way.’
This fails to note the distinction between normal (operational) science, and origins or historical science. Normal (operational) science deals only with repeatable observable processes in the present, while origins science helps us to make educated guesses about origins in the past which can never be repeated or tested and must always start with certain assumptions about what may have happened.
Operational science has indeed been very successful in understanding the world, and has led to many improvements in the quality of life, e.g. putting men on the moon and curing diseases. As the Bible explains in Genesis 1 & 2, because creation was finished at the end of Day 6, biblical creationists would try to find natural laws for every aspect of operation science, and would not invoke a miracle to explain any repeating event in nature in the present. So a creationist would actually not dispute Lerner’s statement as far as operational science is concerned, despite his best efforts to caricaturize our position. This can be shown in a letter that a creation scientist wrote to an enquirer who believed that atoms had to be held together by miraculous means:
“‘Natural laws’ also help us make predictions about future events. In the case of the atom, the explanation of the electrons staying in their orbitals is the positive electric charge and large mass of the nucleus. This enables us to make predictions about how strongly a particular electron is held by a particular atom, for example, making the science of chemistry possible. While this is certainly an example of Col. 1:17, simply saying ‘God upholds the electron’ doesn’t help us make predictions.”
So naturalists are wrong in saying that creationists are in any way hindered in real operational science research, either in theory or in practice.
In contrast, evolution is a speculation about the unobservable and unrepeatable past. Thus it comes under origins science. Rather than observation, origins science uses the principles of causality (everything that has a beginning has a cause) and analogy (e.g. we observe that intelligence is needed to generate complex coded information in the present, so we can reasonably assume the same for the past). And because there was no material intelligent designer for life, it is legitimate to invoke a non-material designer for life. Creationists invoke the miraculous only for origins science, and as shown, this does not mean they will invoke it for operational science.
The difference between operational and origins science is important for seeing through silly assertions such as the following by another anti-supernaturalist named Levitt (as quoted by Lerner):
‘… evolution is as thoroughly established as the picture of the solar system due to Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, and
However, we can observe the motion of the planets, but no-one has ever observed an information-increasing change of one type of organism to another.
To explain further: the laws that govern the operation of a computer are not those that made the computer in the first place. The naturalist’s anti-creationist propaganda is like saying that if we concede that a computer had an intelligent designer, then we might not analyze a computer’s workings in terms of natural laws of electron motion through semiconductors, and might think there are little intelligent beings pushing electrons around instead. Similarly, believing that the genetic code was originally designed does not preclude us from believing that it works entirely by the laws of chemistry involving DNA, RNA, proteins, etc. Conversely, the fact that the coding machinery works according to reproducible laws of chemistry does not prove that the laws of chemistry were sufficient to build such a system from a primordial soup. Let’s look at some forms of metaphysical naturalism.
Forms of Metaphysical Naturalism. Metaphysical naturalists are of two basic kinds: materialists and pantheists. The materialist reduces everything to matter and the pantheist reduces all to mind or spirit. Both deny that any supernatural realm intervenes in the natural world. They differ chiefly about whether the natural world is composed ultimately of purely matter or of mind (spirit). Those who hold the latter often admit the possibility of supernormal events by tapping into this invisible spiritual Force (Which is like the Zen Buddhist idea of the “Force” in Stars Wars). However, these are not supernatural events in the Biblical sense of a supernatural being intervening in the natural world he created.
Bases for Naturalism. Metaphysical naturalists reject miracles outright. They vary only in the basis for their criticism of the supernatural. Benedict Spinoza believed miracles are impossible because they are irrational. David Hume claimed that miracles are incredible. Rudolph Bultmann held that miracles are unhistorical and mythical (He was a religious liberal who denied the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible). Based on the unrepeatability of the miraculous, the atheist Antony Flew argued that miracles are unidentifiable. Immanuel Kant contended that miracles are not essential to religion. All of these allegations have been care fully analyzed and found to be without foundation.
Evaluation of Naturalism. Theistic Inadequacy of Naturalism. Naturalistic views either admit that a deistic sort of God exists or deny or doubt existence of any divine Being. But the alleged disproofs for God are notoriously unsuccessful with the greatest proof of His existence being found in the Bible. The evidence that God exists is strong and the Biblical record shows that the creation “screams” to us that there is a God. As for views that admit the existence of a supernatural God but deny miracles (such as deism), many critics have pointed out their basic incoherence. For if God can and has performed the greatest supernatural act of all—creating the world out of nothing, then there is no reason to deny the possibility of lesser supernatural events (i.e., miracles). For making water out of nothing (as God did in Genesis 1 ) is a greater supernatural event than making water into wine (as Jesus did in John 2 ).
Scientific Insufficiency. Modern science has pointed to its own miracle—the origin of the material universe out of nothing or that the universe is eternal and cyclical. The evidence that the universe had a beginning is testified to by the Scriptures and by the science of thermodynamics. This evidence includes the second law of thermodynamics, the expanding universe, etc. If so, then matter is neither eternal nor all there is. And if there is a Creator of the whole universe from nothing, the greatest miracle of all has occurred.
Philosophical Insufficiency. Two premises common to all forms of secular humanism/naturalism are nontheism (No-God) and naturalism (No need for God). These can be treated together, since if there is no supernatural being (Creator) beyond the natural universe, then nature is all there is. Often naturalism means that everything can be explained in terms of chemical and physical processes. At a minimum it means that every event in the universe can be explained in terms of the whole universe or the whole system working together to produce the whole thing as it exists together. Naturalists believe there is no need to appeal to anything (or Anyone) outside the universe to explain any event in the universe nor to explain the whole universe itself.
But the very scientific naturalists who insist on explaining everything in terms of physical and chemical laws cannot explain their own scientific theories or laws in terms of mere physical and chemical processes. For a “theory” or “law” about physical processes is obviously not itself a physical process. It is a nonphysical theory about physical things. A physics professor was once asked: “If everything is matter, then what is a scientific theory about matter?” His response was, “It is magic!” When asked his basis for believing that, he replied “Faith.” It is interesting to note the inconsistency that a purely materialistic worldview resorts to faith in “magic” as the basis of their materialistic beliefs. Another argument revealing the inconsistency of pure naturalism can be summarized in the following quote by C.S. Lewis:
If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motion of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true . . . and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. (Lewis, Miracles, 22).
If naturalism is claiming to be true then there must be more than mere natural processes; there must be “reason,” which is not purely a natural physical process.
Another way to state the inconsistency of naturalism is to show that a basic premise of science, which even naturalists hold, is contrary to their conclusion that every event in the universe can be explained in terms of the whole universe. This premise that “every event has a cause” is at the philosophical heart of scientific research. Scientists—certainly naturalistic ones—are trying to find the natural explanation or cause for all events. But if every event has a cause, then it follows that the whole universe has a cause. For the universe as conceived by modern science is the sum total of all events at a given time. But if each event is caused, then every event is caused. And if the universe is the sum total of every event, then the whole universe is caused. For instance, if each tile on the floor is brown, then the whole floor is brown. And if each part of the table is wooden, then the whole table is wooden. Likewise, if every event in the universe is an effect, then adding up all the events (effects) does not equal a cause. Rather, the sum total of all caused events needs a cause to explain it.
It is not sufficient for the naturalist to say there is something “more” to the universe than the sum of all the events or “parts,” for then he is not really explaining everything in terms of the physical “parts” or events but in terms of something beyond them. It is, however, perfectly consistent for the Biblical Creationist to insist that all the events of the universe cannot be explained solely in terms of the physical universe of events. But naturalism is not able to explain either itself or the universe on a purely naturalistic premise.
Professor Richard Lewontin, a geneticist (and self-proclaimed Marxist), is a renowned champion of neo-Darwinism, and certainly one of the world’s leaders in evolutionary biology and naturalism. He wrote a very revealing comment. This comment illustrates the implicit philosophical bias against Genesis creation—regardless of whether or not the scientific facts support it.
‘We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.’
The Atheists Know Why Christianity has to Fight Evolution!
Atheist Richard Bozarth said,
‘Christianity has fought, still fights, and will continue to fight science to the desperate end over evolution, because evolution destroys utterly and finally the very reason Jesus’ earthly life was supposedly made necessary. Destroy Adam and Eve and the original sin, and in the rubble you will find the sorry remains of the Son of God. If Jesus was not the redeemer who died for our sins, and this is what evolution means, then Christianity is nothing.’
Aldous Huxley: Admits motive for anti-theistic bias
Aldous Huxley was a British novelist who wrote Brave New World (1932), and was a grandson of ‘
‘I had motive for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics, he is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do, or why his friends should not seize political power and govern in the way that they find most advantageous to themselves. … For myself, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.’
A designer is unscientific—even if all the evidence supports one!
Dr Scott Todd, an immunologist at
‘Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such an hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic’
Leading anti-creationist philosopher admits that evolution is a religion
Michael Ruse was professor of philosophy and zoology at the University of Guelph, Canada (recently moved to Florida), He was the leading anti-creationist philosopher whose (flawed) arguments seemed to convince the biased judge to rule against the Arkansas ‘balanced treatment’ (of creation and evolution in schools) bill in 1981/2. At the trial, he and the other the anti-creationists loftily dismissed the claim that evolution was an anti-god religion.
‘Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion — a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality. I am an ardent evolutionist and an ex-Christian, but I must admit that in this one complaint — and Mr [sic] Gish is but one of many to make it — the literalists are absolutely right. Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.
‘… Evolution therefore came into being as a kind of secular ideology, an explicit substitute for Christianity.’
Dr. Ruse also made astonishing admissions about the religious nature of evolution at a symposium titled 'The New Antievolutionism' (during the 1993 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.)1 These statements shocked his colleagues because he has written a book, But is it Science?, denouncing creationism because it is religious and was the last person expected to give the game away.
He appeared to admit that evolution is based upon dogmatic exclusion of a miraculous creation/creator — in effect, a faith commitment to naturalism, the unprovable, religious belief that no supernatural element exists or is relevant.
'at some very basic level, evolution as a scientific theory makes a commitment to a kind of naturalism, namely that at some level one is going to exclude miracles and these sorts of things, come what may.'
He went on to defend this unprovable assumption by the fact that, in his view, it works. Nevertheless, said
'evolution, akin to religion, involves making certain a priori or metaphysical assumptions, which at some level cannot be proven empirically.'
Further on, he said that one can't just say that evolution is science, creation is religion, period. One has to have some other 'coherence theory of truth, or something like that. I still think that one can certainly exclude creation science on those grounds'.
Law professor Phillip Johnson has severely criticized
'I mean I realize that when one is dealing with people, say, at the school level, or these sorts of things, certain sorts of arguments are appropriate. But those of us who are academics … should recognize … that the science side has certain metaphysical assumptions built into doing science, which — it may not be a good thing to admit in a court of law — but I think that in honesty that we should recognize, and that we should be thinking about some of these sorts of things.'
Many people do not realize that the teaching of evolution propagates an anti-biblical religion. This is called the religion of secular humanism.
Atheists such as Eugenie Scott, who is the Executive Director of the NCSE, know that if a materialistic framework of thinking can be established in young people through the education system, then Christianity will not stand. No wonder the American Humanist Association recently presented Scott with a major award for her work against Biblical creation. Atheism has evolution (everything made itself) as its logical foundation. Christianity has creation as its logical foundation. Christianity with evolution as its foundation will collapse. Atheist Frank Zindler said,
‘The most devastating thing though that biology did to Christianity was the discovery of biological evolution. Now that we know that Adam and Eve never were real people the central myth of Christianity is destroyed. If there never was an Adam and Eve there never was an original sin. If there never was an original sin there is no need of salvation. If there is no need of salvation there is no need of a saviour. And I submit that puts Jesus, historical or otherwise, into the ranks of the unemployed. I think that evolution is absolutely the death knell of Christianity.’ (Frank Zindler, in a debate with William Lane Craig, Atheism vs Christianity video, Zondervan, 1996).
The Naturalist’s underlying attitude was undoubtedly summarised by Michael Shermer (himself a self-confessed apostate) of the Skeptics Society (USA):
‘It is important to note that Skeptics and scientists have no quarrel with genuinely religious people and their religious organisations who make no claims of scientific proof for their religious beliefs’ (in the preface to 25 creationists’ arguments and 25 evolutionists’ answers, The Skeptics Society, 1994).
In other words, you can ‘believe’ whatever you like, as long as you don’t claim your beliefs have any basis in objective reality—that there is tangible evidence for what you believe that can challenge others to believe also. As long as ‘religious’ people keep it in their churches and in their heads, the Skeptics and the Naturalists will leave them alone, because they know that such a faith will die with the next generation.
How can anything be ‘religiously neutral’ anyway? Jesus said we are either for Him or against Him—there is no ‘neutral’ position:
The Naturalist is vehemently opposed to Christians who believe the Biblical account of history, from the beginning. Is that ‘religiously neutral’? The agenda of the naturalist and the hardened skeptics is to see everyone taught that ‘evolution’ explains the origins of everything, so ‘God’ is unnecessary in this ‘scientific’ view. This totally contradicts the clear teaching of the Bible that God is clearly revealed in what He has created. The Bible says:
God is made invisible by the teaching of evolution and thus men will not need to heed the laws of an imaginary Creator (at least in their minds). That’s why atheists are so enthusiastic about evolution! If there are any real (i.e. Bible-believing) Christians supporting Naturalistic and Skeptical societies (like the
 God of the gaps is when we can’t explain something through natural causes and invoke God as the supernatural cause of the unexplainable event. i.e: The Origin of Life.
 This is what is known as ontological naturalism.
 Geisler, N. L. (1999). Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Baker reference library (Page 521).
 Richard Lewontin, ‘Billions and billions of demons’, The New York Review, January 9, 1997, p. 31.
 G. Richard Bozarth, ‘The Meaning of Evolution’, American Atheist, p. 30. 20 September 1979.
 Huxley, A., Ends and Means, pp. 270 ff.
 A complete transcript of the talk is available from the (so-called) National Center for Science Education, PO Box 9477, Berkeley CA 94709–0477, USA (Cost: $US 1.00 plus postage). The NCSE is an organisation totally devoted to promoting evolution, with hardly a hint of real science like physics, chemistry, etc.