Naturalism Implies Skepticism

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A naturalistic worldview is one which accepts only the existence of matter and energy. Upon first blush, naturalism appears to be a pragmatic, well ordered, and easy to defend worldview. After all, if you can’t see it, why believe it? However, when one delves a little deeper, one will discover the great difficulty and confusion which maintaining this position entails.

One problem a naturalist encounters is this: On what basis is his reason considered reliable? How does a naturalist answer this question? From the naturalistic worldview, the human brain is simply a complex arrangement of matter and energy interacting to produce the illusion of consciousness. What is it about this arrangement that allows it to make truth claims? There is nothing! Working from the assumption that matter and energy are all that exist, a human being has not the slightest reason to trust his faculties of logic!

As human beings have witnessed, animals are prone to mistakes. Within the naturalistic system, human beings are seen as no more than animals. Consider the example of the Sphex Wasp. These wasp's are famous for the way in which they provide for their young. They burrow into the ground, find a caterpillar or some other type of bug, paralyze it with their stingers, fly it back to the burrow, leave the caterpillar right next to the burrow, go in and check for uninvited guests, then come back out and grab the caterpillar. The wasp then lays her eggs inside the caterpillar and leaves. When the eggs hatch, the wasp young will feed on the caterpillar. All of this goes off without a hitch, however, if someone or something moves the caterpillar just a short distance from the burrow, the wasp will move it back to the opening of the burrow, then go inside a second time to check it out again. At first this seems like an intelligent move, however, if the caterpillar is moved a third time, the wasp will repeat the same process again! It is possible to trap the wasp in an infinite loop of moving the caterpillar, checking the burrow, moving the caterpillar checking the burrow. As long as the caterpillar is moved a short distance from the opening every time, the wasp will repeat the last step.1

If animals can unknowingly make such mistakes, why not humans? Imagine a future evolution of the human race, one with more developed brains. Perhaps they would be able to find flaws in our most basic logic, in the same manner in which we find flaws in the wasp’s judgment. This implies that there is no basis, within the naturalistic worldview, to lend any credence to the theories and propositions of human beings. Naturalism provides no support for the validity of human reasoning and thus no support for its own validity. Therefore naturalism is self refuting.

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simeonvisser profile image

simeonvisser 5 years ago

Please continue your reasoning by showing that there exists a world view that does not suffer from this problem. Presumably a religious world view but how exactly is a world view based on faith doing better? If a world view is ultimately based on faith, isn't that immediately its weakest spot?


onceuponatime66 profile image

onceuponatime66 5 years ago from USA IL

A naturalistic worldview is one which accepts only the existence of matter and energy-I agree with simeonvisser. I enjoyed this article even though. Merry Christmas.


onceuponatime66 profile image

onceuponatime66 5 years ago from USA IL

Keep writing either way, as we give insights to you and want to learn from you.


AntonOfTheNorth 5 years ago

I actually support your position, but not the argument you make for it.

Yes naturalism places humans with the animals.

Yes naturalism would be the first to acknowledge that humans make mistakes

Naturalism makes a claim to be more objective than religion, but starts with the assumption that all of reality is observable and quantifiable (it may be, but not by humans)

Faith based arguments actually have the same position, as simeonvisser stated, but feel the observation must be made through an initial assumption of unseen and unseealbe creator.

The brain stem of the wasp you mention is only slightly above that of common housefly. It is not making a mistake, it is following a program set down by millenia of evolutionary trial and error. Its not fair to the wasp to say it is making a mistake, the same way it is not fair to say a light switch has failed because the bulb burned out. It is doing the only thing it is capable of.

I agree with you, however, that skepticism based on limited knowledge is, well, limiting. If we decide something is impossible without knowing all the relevant information, then we ARE making a mistake.

Is there any way in our current makeup that we can know enough relevant information to know what reality is? Nope. The solution is not skepticism, the solution is to remain plyable enough to hear and consider all posibilities (note, not all things are possible, but another discussion).

Thanks for the hub. Sorry to be so late to the conversation.

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