Evidence for Metaphysical Naturalism

Some evidence for Metaphysical Naturalism

Jeffery Jay Lowder

Here I want to give two lines of empirical evidence which I think support metaphysical naturalism. Although I believe there are additional facts which support naturalism, space limitations require that I limit myself to just two lines of evidence. I shall attempt to argue that these two facts are much more likely on naturalism than theism.

A. Naturalism makes sense of the physical nature of minds.

As Paul Draper, an agnostic philosopher at Florida International University, puts it,

"Consciousness and personality are highly dependent on the brain. Nothing mental happens without something physical happening."

Now Michael Tooley, a philosopher at the University of Colorado, has stated five lines of evidence in support of this claim. Let me summarize just briefly that evidence.

1st, when an individuals brain is directly stimulated and put into a certain physical state, this causes the person to have a corresponding experience.

2nd, certain injuries to the brain make it impossible for a person to have any mental states at all.

3rd, other injuries to the brain destroy various mental capacities. Which capacity is destroyed is tied directly to the particular region of the brain that was damaged.

4th, when we examine the mental capacities of animals, they become more complex as their brains become more complex.

5th, within any given species, the development of mental capacities is correlated with the development of neurons in the brain.

Thus, the conclusion that, "Nothing mental happens without something physical happening," seems inescapable.

But if nothing mental happens without something physical happening, that strongly implies that the mind cannot exist independently of physical arrangements of matter. In other words, we do not have a soul. And this is exactly what we would expect if naturalism is true. But if theism is true, then our minds should not depend on our brains for their existence; we should have souls. Also, if theism is true, then God is a disembodied mind; Gods mind is not in any sense dependent on physical arrangements of matter. But if nothing mental happens without something physical happening, that is evidence against both the existence of souls and the existence of any being who is supposed to have a disembodied mind, including God. Therefore,the physical nature of minds is unlikely if theism is true, but what we would expect if naturalism is true.

B. Naturalism makes sense of the pointless evil and suffering in the world .

Have you ever wondered why there is so much evil and suffering in the world? In addition to evils committed by human beings, there is much agony and pain caused by solely natural processes, including earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, and viruses.

Now, this tends to be pretty embarrassing for the theist. If theism is true, we have to believe that God allows people to suffer horrible pain that any decent person would themselves prevent. But that's hard to believe. If there is a God, He is more than just a decent person; He is the very standard of decency itself. So why doesn't he just eliminate evils like the one I just described? Even after thousands of years of theological reflection, theistic philosophers still have no idea. They just assume that there must be a reason for God allowing evil.

For example, Alvin Plantinga of Notre Dame University, one of the most influential theistic philosophers of our time, admitted, "Many of the attempts to explain why God permits evil seem to me shallow, tepid, and ultimately frivolous."

Naturalists, on the other hand, have a plausible explanation for pointless suffering: there is no all-good, all-powerful, all-knowing being to intervene and prevent pointless suffering. Therefore, pointless suffering is much more likely on naturalism than on theism.
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