[editor’s note: Here’s our guest blogger Tom McDonald with a bit of original philosophizing. You can read more like this on his blog zuhanden.com. -ML]
I want to pose some general questions to all readers, but especially to those scientifically inclined and favorable to a naturalistic worldview. The questions are about the naturalistic worldview that is presently normative but problematic in modern society.
Firstly, the problem I see is not with science per se, but with philosophical naturalism.
I would argue that the ultimate rift between science as culture and religion as culture should be understood in terms of the broader rift between philosophical-metaphysical naturalism and the remarkable historical phenomenon of human normativity, i.e., our ability to reason and deliberate about rightness in theoretical and practical matters.
If anyone of a liberal or humanistic persuasion thinks through the above problem philosophically, they should (a normative-theoretical claim by me) come to realize that they share much more with religiously-flavored objections to naturalism than they otherwise might be inclined to based on more superficial political issues.
If we look at the issue this way, isn’t naturalism as a metaphysical-ultimate worldview really normative conservativism? That is, simply the attempt to preserve what is?
Naturalism would be conservative by natural-izing anything and everything that exists, including all those human behaviors which were once considered unnatural at prior moments in history.
Thus, the political liberal who advocates metaphysical naturalism from a scientific spirit turns out to be a kind of conservative, making the unnatural character of human ideals that would diverge from the One Nature impossible.
Isn’t it the case that what is meant by nature and naturalism is — ultimately — behavior absent of any human reflection or thought or deliberation in the way of that behavior?
The fact that we can think as much as we do is, in a very definite way, perversely unnatural. There is no place for distinctive thought in naturalistic monism.
Naturalism as espoused through all the mainstream studies we read every day say human behaviors x, y, and z can be explained by natural evolutionary adaptations. They may thus — depending on the specific behavior being discussed — be read as a way of reducing norms produced by the labor of unnatural human thinking to natural unthinking mechanisms. (But again, I would not claim all should be read this way).
In effect, this sort of naturalism, rabid to fight ‘supernaturalism’, may pose a danger even to liberals by persuading that the system in which you live is thoroughly natural — reducing the normative to the natural — and therefore cannot be opposed by reflection that would violate the rules of nature.
– Tom McDonald