I've noticed these questions have been a basis for attacking "naturalism" and I've been reading your review on "Reason in the Balance" by Phillip E. Johnson. The arguments made in it against naturalism were reasonable but illogical -- or, in the case of the second implied clause of naturalism according to Dr. Johnson, lacking the full scientific understanding. "2. Free will is an illusion. All events are predetermined by the interlocking system of causes and effects which nature is." Now, anyone who has seen Jurassic Park has heard of the Chaos theory, wherein an event has a probability of happening in one of several ways, which is indeterminable until it occurs. These events are occurring constantly. Furthermore even if free will is but an illusion, we perceive it to be so real as for there to be no need for us to feel as if we are locked into a behavioral system. The causes and effects of life in human society are as much a result of our emotional intercourse with them as they are substantiated in chemical reactions inside of our heads.
And emotions are a funny thing. The argument that it does not make sense for naturalists to assign the term "good" or "moral" to anything is reasonable. But I'm afraid you misinterpreted Carl Sagan and the standpoint of naturalism in general. While according to naturalists there is no supernatural, and we are a product of evolution, our emotions and feelings are important, nay, the most important things for us. We must enjoy life -- by satisfying our need for the aesthetic, for internal growth and overall happiness.
No naturalist wants to spend his precious life -- a mere sixty to ninety years -- not caring or feeling. Naturalism is not hopelessness. And our emotions and our love of fairness and morality is a result of what we are all taught from a young age, and what seems right to us. Gallic Monk Vincent of Lerins said Christianity is "what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all." Either God implanted moral law into our heads, or it just seemed right to us anyway. Coming from the standpoint of someone who does not believe in God, I would find the second conclusion vastly more probable. That's just skepticism at work.
Carl Sagan wrote his books because he wanted people to feel happy about life without succumbing to illusions and fear. This made him happy. And well, strangely enough, it also happens to be an altruistic endeavor. Most scientists don't buy into the idea that behavioral traits like altruism are part of the human genome. Rather, they believe that it is learned. Even if it is part of the human genome, it is basically vestigial -- humans can think and reason for themselves. Therefore, to a naturalist, morals are not a result of evolution. Nor are they a result of God's implanting. They are learned, they are what people would like to follow, for the sake of peace and happiness, which everyone desires. Because while many fail to remember this, man is *NOT* a competitive creature. They would sooner everyone including themselves be scrupulous than have every man fight for his own share. And we see exceptions to this every day -- more evidence that chaos is at work, not God.
Thanks for reading. Again, your page is fascinating. I'm afraid I only partially answered the review you wrote of Dr. Johnson's book, "Reason in the balance." And I understand that it is only a review, not a thesis. Still, it brings up some interesting questions so I look forward to more discourse on the subject. Thank you again.
Thanks for your e-mail. It contains many provocative points. I will post it and try to reply more fully when time permits. I do have a question about the Chaos Theory. Does it say that some events occur which are not interlocked with all previous events in nature and determined by them? Or is it just saying that given our present science, we could not have predicted certain events?
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