Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday Quote: C.S. Lewis on Naturalism

"If all that exists is Nature, the great mindless interlocking event, if our own deepest convictions are merely the by-products of an irrational process, then clearly there is not the slightest ground for supposing that our sense of fitness and our consequent faith in uniformity tell us anything about a reality external to ourselves. Our convictions are simply a fact about us-like the colour of our hair. If Naturalism is true we have no reason to trust our conviction that Nature is uniform."

- C.S. Lewis, Miracles, p.109

11 comments :

Ex N1hilo said...

A very profound point that naturalists mostly don't seem to get.

paulcorrado said...

what does he mean by "If Naturalism is true we have no reason to trust our conviction that Nature is uniform"? I am not arguing true of false, i just do not understand what he is referring to. if someone knows what he is saying here please explain. thanks!

gnol6ffej said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gnol6ffej said...

I believe what he means is that a world view based on naturalistic philosophical presuppositions assumes there is nothing in the universe but impersonal matter and impersonal processes. According to this view, we have originated through a process of time and chance which has slowly caused the impersonal matter to function with more complexity. However, Lewis believes this lacks adequate explanatory power to convince a rational person that they should trust their own convictions about the universe seeing as how even these beliefs themselves would be nothing but another link in the chain of cause and effect.

If we are nothing but creatures brought around by an impersonal time and chance process than to say that we are able to "understand" anything is ludicrous, seeing as how cognition requires personality. Lewis does not believe there is no order in the universe, what he is saying is we would never have known that there is order in the universe if we lacked a mind that enabled us to transcend the natural process and view it from above so to speak. This type of mind is inconsistent with naturalism. No matter how much time, chance, or matter involved the impersonal will never give birth to personality. How would we ever stop and realize we are part of a massive impersonal machine?

According to a theistic worldview however, we have minds with consciousness and cognition as a result of being created by a personal God who has implanted us with the characteristics that are consistent with his own nature. A God with reason, emotion, and volition. This is a much more reasonable explanation for how we are capable of recognizing are place in the universe and why we should trust are beliefs about the uniformity of the universe.

gnol6ffej said...

Haha, I just reread what I wrote and I noticed that in my last sentence I used the word "are" instead of "our" twice. My apologies, grammar has never been one of my strong points lol.

Scruffy said...

This is why the naturalism Lewis speaks of is circular logic and self-defeating. In fact, all world-views that rest on a similar foundation are.

I always laugh to myself at how absurd it is to believe that a particular grouping of atoms in motion managed to build upon each other to give rise to thinking beings. The atoms managed to group together and move with one another just right so they were able to figure out what they were doing.

Brap Gronk said...

"If Naturalism is true we have no reason to trust our conviction that Nature is uniform."

Exactly, that's why we shouldn't trust our convictions outright but should instead verify them with evidence and propose testable theories that can confirm or deny their truth. That seems much better than basing our convictions solely on the unverifiable convictions of people who lived hundreds of years ago.

RkBall said...

"... our conviction that Nature is uniform?" The question mark should be nuked (unless C.S. spoke like a valley girl?).

Brian Auten said...

Fixed. Thanks, RK.

Scruffy said...

"Exactly, that's why we shouldn't trust our convictions outright but should instead verify them with evidence and propose testable theories that can confirm or deny their truth. That seems much better than basing our convictions solely on the unverifiable convictions of people who lived hundreds of years ago."

Everything, including the 'evidence' and 'testable theories' you speak of would be products of the same natural processes that created us. Using them as tools to conclude if a conviction is true or false is just as folly as trusting said convictions outright.

It is for this reason naturalism is reasoning in a circle. You use your senses that came about naturally to conclude that the evidence points to naturalism.

It's akin to try and use science to prove something it presupposes in order to do in the first place, such as mathematical and logical truths.

gnol6ffej said...

To Brap Gronk and Scruffy, when a person is trying to determine if a proposition is true they have to go back to their method of evaluating truth claims in order to see if it fits. That leads to a sort of circular rationality, but this is the way that all beliefs work. For example, when a person rejects the supernatural because it's not reasonable to them, they're putting their reason in the same role as a Christian would put the Bible. If someone were to ask them why they should trust their reason than they would have to say "I trust my reason because that's what seems most reasonable to me." Thus they're forced to use their reason to prove itself. There's nothing wrong with that, every worldview uses it's standard of truth to prove itself,(that's why it's the standard), but it would be unfair for an atheist to reject the supernatural because of this. Someone could just as easily undercut a humans ability to reason as the ultimate authority as well. Especially seeing as how there's no "reasonable" explanation for how we are able to reason in the first place.

Reason is an integral part of being human. It's one of the best gifts God has given us and it's what enables us to understand Him and His creation. In fact, using our minds to make reasonable judgments is a virtue in scripture. Acts 17:11 says, "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." Not only that but it's an integral part of who God is himself. The problem is that when we base truth on our own minds we're always going to run into limits. Man is personal and yet he is finite, so he is not a sufficient integration point for himself. Sartre said that "No finite point has any meaning unless it has an infinite reference point." This is true of our minds as well. This is proven when two equally intelligent people come to different conclusions based on the same information on the same topic, both using their reason as the ultimate standard of truth. If one is correct and the other not, (which our relativistic culture may dispute haha), than it is only because the person correct is closer to using their finite mind to think about an issue in the same way as God. If we've studied philosophy, science, history, etc. and use the reason that we do have to study the evidence objectively, we certainly have enough justification to suppose that there's something beyond what the atheistic view allows if that's where the evidence leads. The point that Lewis is making is that to be able to do so at all refutes naturalism.

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