Posts Tagged ‘Naturalism’

To extract the skylark’s song out of granite rock

September 10, 2009

And meaning, what is that? Have you ever pondered meanings? We talk of the import or
meaning of this thing or that, the meaning of a poem, the meaning of a scientific concept, of a political event. Where are these to be found in nature? Only in us. They cannot be exhumed or distilled out of material movements. As well endeavor to extract the skylark’s song out of granite rock, or honey from the salt seas. They are not resident in physical things, or to be expressed in the terminology of the laboratories. Meanings are the exclusive property of conscious selves and continuing selves. “Though the universe encompasses me,” wrote Pascal, “by thought I encompass the universe.” What are we to understand by this? Despite its stupendous immensity, the universe is not aware either of me or of itself. I, in my insignificance, am aware of myself and of the world. Is it possible, this paradox, this preposterous, unbelievable thing? For it declares that you and I possess a supreme talent denied to the universe. We are awake as nothing else in creation is awake. The
most enigmatical, indescribable, undeniable attribute of the self is its awareness. How can such an awakening ever at all or anywhere come about? Can material things, oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, water, lead, stone, electrons or protons, or any combinations of such things become conscious of themselves? Can the stream rise above its source or the result outsoar its cause? Can carbon recognize itself as carbon, or say “Ah, here is hydrogen”? If not, beside them we are as gods, looking down from the Olympian battlements of consciousness upon the
senseless nonentities which neither know nor care to know what they are or what they do.
Before you dismiss the self as irrelevant you will do well to ponder this, its aristocratic prerogative, which makes all else by comparison a negligible cipher.

W. Macneile Dixon, The Human Situation

The loss of God and human personality

September 10, 2009

I believe that with the loss of God, man has lost a kind of absolute and universal system of coordinates, to which he could always relate anything, chiefly himself. His world and his personality gradually began to break up into separate, incoherent fragments corresponding to different, relative, coordinates.

Vaclav Havel, Czech playwright, dissident, later President

Harnack’s Inconsistency

September 10, 2009

We are firmly convinced that what happens in space and time is subject to the general laws of motion, and that in the sense, as an interruption of the order of nature, there can be no such things as miracles (Adolph Harnock, Das Wesen des Christenums [Leipzig, 1933], p. 17).

But he still wanted to salvage something: “That the earth on its course stood still; that a she-ass spoke; that a storm was quieted by a word, we do not belive, and we shall never again believe; but that the lame walked, the blind saw, and the deaf heard will not be so summarily dismissed as an illusion. (Harnack, What is Christianity?)

in R. Abba, Nature and Authority of the Bible, p.153

Harnack’s inconsistency is plain to true believer and atheist alike. Why believe in Christ’s miracles and deny the Old Testament miracles? If God be God, why can he do the the former and not the latter. If God is not, then neither set of miracles are really miracles but merely await a naturalistic explanation.

Liberalism tried to cosy up to the zeitgeist of Modernism whilst trying to retain a sanctuary of belief – a miserable, compromising failure.

A man said to the universe

September 9, 2009

A man said to the universe

A man said to the universe:
“Sir I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.”

Stephen Crane


September 9, 2009

And all you touch and all you see
Is all your life will ever be

Roger Waters, Breathe, Dark Side of the Moon

Naturalism in Liberal Theology

September 9, 2009

This closedness (of the universe) means that the continuum of historical happenings cannot be rent by the interference of supernatural, transcendent powers and that therefore there is no ‘miracle’ in this sense of the word.

[Rudolf Bultmann, Kerygma and Myth: A Theological Debate, ed.Hans WernerBartsch, trans. Reginald H. Fuller, (London: Billing and Sons, 1954), p. 292.]

1. This viewpoint is passé, or should be.

2. It’s another reminder not to be wedded to the spirit of the age because his thinking, though ‘cutting edge’ and trendy then, is very much ‘widowed’ now

The Hubris of Naturalism

September 8, 2009

The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.

Carl Sagan

Really? Been everywhere Carl? Or are you an omniscient being that you can know that?

Naturalism undermines logic

September 8, 2009

Any argument we construct implies…laws (of logic)— the classical ones of identity, noncontradiction and the excluded middle. But that fact does not guarantee the ‘truthfulness’ of these laws in the sense that anything we think or say that obeys them necessarily relates to what is so in the objective, external universe. Moreover, any argument to check the validity of an argument is itself an argument that might be mistaken. When we begin to think like this, we are not far from an infinite regress; our argument chases its tail down the ever-receding corridors of the mind…Naturalism places us as human beings in a box. But for us to have any confidence that our knowing we are in a box is true, we need to stand outside the box or to have some other being outside the box provide us with information (theologians call this “revelation”). But there is nothing or no one outside the box to give us revelation, and we cannot ourselves transcend the box.

James W Sire, THE UNIVERSE NEXT DOOR, p.95-96

Naturalism undermines knowledge

September 8, 2009

Naturalism holds that perception and knowledge are either identical with or a byproduct of the brain; they arise from the functioning of matter. Without matter’s functioning there would be no thought. But matter functions by a nature of its own. There is no reason to think that matter has any interest in leading a conscious being to true perception or to logical (that is, correct) conclusions based on accurate observation and true presuppositionsWhy should whatever that matter is conscious of be in any way related to what actually is the case? Is there a test for distinguishing illusion from reality. Naturalists point to the methods of scientific inquiry, pragmatic tests and so forth. But all these utilize the brain they are testing. Each test could well be a futile exercise in spinning out the consistency of an illusion.

James W Sire

THE UNIVERSE NEXT DOOR by James W Sire, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois, pp.93-94

playing out the game without reason

September 8, 2009

Also man now realizes that he is an accident, that he is a completely futile being, that he has to play out the game without reason. I think that even when Velasquez was painting, even when Rembrandt was painting, they were still , whatever their attitude to life, slightly conditioned by certain types of religious possibilities (prejudices) which man now, you could say had cancelled out for him. Man now can only attempt to beguile himself for a time, by prolonging his life- by buying a kind of immortality through the doctors. You see, painting has become – all art has become- a game by which man distracts himself.

Francis Bacon, 1971

Yet in the same place he speaks of  ‘a selective process’ and ‘part of the accident one chooses to preserve’. Bu what does choice and selection mean if he is a futile accident? Doesn’t his art deny (his) modern philosophy?