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Essential Reading: Naturalism: A Critical Analysis

Naturalism: A Critical Analysis
Edited by William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland
With contributions by William Lane Craig, William Dembski, Stewart Goetz, John E. Hare, Robert C. Koons, J. P. Moreland, Paul K. Moser, Michael Rea, Charles Taliferro, Dallas Willard, David Yandell
Routledge, 2000, 286 pages
ISBN: 0-415-23524-3

This impressive volume contains critical essays on naturalism from the perspectives of theology, ethics, cosmology, ontology, and epistemology. Various Discovery Fellows make contributions including Robert C. Koons, J.P. Moreland, William Lane Craig, and William Dembski.

Koons begins by noting that there is a simple correlation between existence and the requirement of some non-natural first cause. He observes an irony that science thinks it requires naturalism, when our very ability to practice science, due to the orderly, reliable, and predictable behavior of the universe implies a non-natural intelligent cause. Scientific dependence upon naturalism is self-refuting.

Moreland quotes Plato to reveal that there really is nothing new under the sun: scholars have been debating naturalism for millennia, and naturalists have been ever pugnacious in their insistence that mutual co-existence is not an option. Moreland recounts that the great philosopher wrote in Sophist:

"They [naturalists] define reality as the same thing as body, and as soon as one of the opposite party asserts that anything without a body is real, they are utterly contemptuous and will not listen to another word. ... On this issue an interminable battle is always going on between the two camps."

Yet the battle may eventually be over if the cosmological data presented by William Lane Craig has anything to do with it. Craig recounts the history of cosmology from when where scholars celebrated an eternal universe with no beginning or end, to one where the universe either has a "supernatural cause" or "one must say that the universe simply sprang into being out of nothing" (Big Bang cosmology mandates an expanding universe that is finite in both space and time.). Craig recounts the words of one team of scientists: "The problem of the origin [of the universe] involves a certain metaphysical aspect which may be either appealing or revolting."

William Dembski closes the volume by arguing that naturalism is no more supported by the scientific data in biology than it is supported in cosmology. Irreducible complexity in nature disallows the possibility that life arose via naturalistic mechanisms. It also signifies an intelligent cause that scientists cannot deny any longer.