Naturalism is not an Axiom

It’s always nice when I can find something that sums up my own view so well. Of course, Richard Carrier has helped develop that view, but he bases it on a couple of thousand years of philosophy and accumulation of knowledge, so I’m not just parroting.

In this post, he addresses how scientists, I’m talking about the people now, often say naturalism is something they choose as a premise for their work, and they are fine leaving others to have their gods or whatever. But, science, as in the centuries of study, has really shown that naturalism is the only correct approach, anything else is someone trying to force their private beliefs on you. As he says, if we all said this out loud, it would “blow up the world”. It’s the “New Atheists” approach. So, we go on letting people have their Christmas and Easter TV specials, to keep the peace.

Where it comes into conflict with this forum is when people show up, present a theory, then get mad because some of the regulars are not “open-minded”. I’ve had this happen with personal friends too, like ones who want to tell me about my astrology or something.

The key, and he quotes Gregory Dawes on this, is, after so many generations investigating so much, we can now, with nearly 100% precision, conclude that supernatural claims are no longer tenable because claims “should be supported by reference to some publicly-accessible body of evidence”. Personally, I’m fine if that is something only you have noticed, some bit of logic that put together two seemingly unrelated things. But those things still have to be things I or someone can see (or detect with whatever), and the logic still has to be sound.

I could expand on this, but the post does a lot of that, and I want to go gather some firewood.

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I’ll read it of course, but naturalism is a self evident truth, i.e. axiomatic. One needs very little - if any - science to conclude that.

But science gives Naturalism a substance, religious subjective thinking can’t touch.

I recently found an article from 2011 making a point I’ve long made myself, that the entire notion of a “presumption of naturalism” being axiomatic to history and the sciences is both an error made by some historians and scientists and an apologetic bluff by Christian apologists—

and that, instead, naturalism is an evidence-based conclusion in the sciences reached by long experience, and thus is theoretically revisable; it is also based on evidence, and therefore cannot be “swapped out” by simply changing one’s faith commitment or “preferring” a different axiom.

I recommend the whole thing: Gregory Dawes, “In Defense of Naturalism,” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 70.1 (2011): 3-25.

Is it? Or is that a result of when and where you were born, and how much you liked science class? The philosophers who first tried to reconcile Aristotle with religion seemed to genuinely struggle with it.

It’s late, but I have more to say on this thread.

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Roger Bacon, Doctor Mirabilis, gave us scientific method in the C13th in the tradition of Aristotelian empiricism (who must have got it from India via Persia) via Alhazen. Nearly four centuries before the scientific revolution. The ancient Greeks gave us atoms and evolution.

And they were chased out of town.

I think we are using two different meanings for “self-evident”. Yes, reason is the most basic of things, even the man who believes the lady next door is a witch has reasons for it. What’s not self-evident is that there isn’t some other underlying force below that. There isn’t a giant consciousness formed in space that drives us to be reasonable. That’s the thing that people can’t get a grip on. They can only regress so far, answering the “why” question with so many causes, then they run out, and they need supernatural forces or they aren’t comfortable.

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And supernatural forces are not self-evident and therefore cannot be axiomatic.

OTOH, Nature is natural and self-evident and therefore can be used as an axiom.

that works fine for someone who is actually reasonable and is willing to say that they don’t know everything and they don’t get to just make stuff up because it seems right or their grandmother believed it.

But, people like John Lennox, who come off as intellectuals, make that exact argument, that’s it’s just obvious, that there must be something that made the universe exist.

I can’t listen to him anymore. I just want to slap him silly.

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I can’t stand Lennox. A whingeing special pleader. He, Lane Craig, 3rd rate. Even Platinga, Polkinghorne, Freeman Dyson and other 2nd rate fallacy peddlers [all the self-congratulatory Templeton Prize winners, like Paul Davies]. As a still wannabee existential if not nihilist, atheist Christian I’m sick of all of them. [They’ve got nothing, just the fallacy of incredulity, that their desire for significance is significant, therefore the illusion of fine tuning is real. I hate it because it had me for 45 years].

I see that Anaxagoras was, for atheism, but not Leucippus or his pupil Democritus (atomism), and Anaximander (evolution). Any more? For the crime of empiricism?

Hypatia was torn to pieces by religious monks.

“In the starry expanse that has no dwellings: forces of the universe, interior virtues, harmonious union of earth and heaven that delights the mind and the ear and the eye, that offers an attainable ideal to all wise men and a visible splendor to the beauty of the soul”. Hypatia (From a dramatic work by Leconte de Lisle, 1857)

Hypatia of Alexandria: A Woman Before Her Time


Correct, a thousand years after naturalism was self evident.

Did you miss Write’s point, or am I missing yours? Either, it wasn’t self-evident to those monks, or what? Were the monks just an anomaly? Was dragging someone through the streets for blapshemy just a crazy night out for some boys? Please, no flippant incoherent responses to my questions.

I’m not making any. I replied to Write’s point. There’s a thousand year’s anachronistic difference between the pre-Socratic empiricists and poor Hypatia. No that wasn’t anomalous behaviour by apostatic Christians at all.

We’re talking about something being self-evident to humans. I don’t think we would have come down from the trees or out of the caves if there wasn’t some sense of a rational experience of nature, a sense that it could be experimented against and truths could be determined. it took a long time to develop how to collect and analyze empirical evidence, and we’re still improving those methods. That’s what this discussion is about.

So, a thousand years, in a period long before the methods were refined, is not really much of a statement. You seem to like to just throw stuff out there and see what sticks. Just what is an “anachronistic difference” anyway? I don’t care if your opinion differs from mine, I’d just like to know what your’s actually is.

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The same as your first paragraph. Write elided the pre-Socratics with Hypatia to me. That is an anachronism, collapsing a thousand years. Their experience was nothing like hers. Naturalism came pretty natural to them. You said they were chased out of town for it. Only Anaxagoras was for the crime of atheism (a crime the Romans persecuted Christians for), which was more likely an excuse for his politics. I’m not aware of any other pre-Socratic railroaded for empiricism/naturalism.

After the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C., anti-Macedonian sentiment again forced Aristotle to flee Athens."

Just a basic fact there. This is what I meant. Also, well-known, their works were split up, some going East, until centuries later when Muslims and Christians started trying to understand them again.


So, I’m assembling my new grill and listening to Lex Fridman talk about existentialism, you know, as one does, and he and Sean Kelly give a nice review of how we got where we are. The meaning of “God is Dead” is mentioned, but that’s within a discussion of Sartre. Around the half-hour mark or so, Kelly lays out the difference between the “sacred” age, 5 or 600 years ago, and the current “secular”. In the sacred, you were born into a religion, and if you accepted it, you could conclude that other people, with other beliefs, were less than human. You can’t do that anymore, not so easily. Kelly does not force a worldview on you, he speculates that it must be unsettling because now most people see the value in the expansion of tolerance, but that means we don’t have a system handed to us to conclude what’s right.

Fridman describes the person who has reached a worldview on their own, and Kelly says that’s fine, but not everyone is able to do that. They follow up with a discussion on “The Brothers Karamazov” and how we transitioned that pre-scientific thinking.

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I guess Socrates wouldn’t be called pre-Socratic, but I don’t why you would draw the line there. I don’t think we’re really arguing with each other anymore, rather we have different points we are trying to make. But, unless I have it wrong, Socrates was sentenced to death for teaching young people to think for themselves and not supporting the gods of Athens.

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Aye, ‘Socrates himself is particularly missed.
A lovely little thinker, but a bugger when he’s pissed.’ as the song goes.

The point I’m failing to make is that empiricism, evidence based reasoning to naturalistic conclusions like atoms and evolution, was doing fine from 600 BCE in the West and even earlier in India. Socrates was vastly admired, even by the state that killed him although it didn’t really want to at all. As you said, when we came down from the trees we noticed things. Despite our superstitious bent. Admittedly the guys seeing the self evident truths of nature were ruling class geniuses; it wasn’t that obvious.

Nothing has changed at all . History is full of religious wars about who’s God is the True God. George Carlin summed it up without the subtle distinction that are always used to draw qualitative distinctions, but all of them are mere variations on a theme.

warning,crude language.