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Summary in 400 words or less:
Naturalism can be summed up with Carl Sagan’s well-known mantra, “The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” This worldview holds that everything about reality can be reduced to and explained by the interaction of matter. Many naturalists, therefore, see science as the ultimate tool in being able to understand and measure the totality of existence. If the physical universe was a box, then nothing would exist outside of it—no gods, no heaven, no spirits, souls, or heaven and hell.
The first problem with naturalism is that it is difficult to see how it could ever actually be affirmed. The material world isn’t moved by reason, but blind physical forces. Why should one believe that thoughts, which are ultimately determined by an irrational source, correspond to reality? Why should one hold that their beliefs are inspired by the evidence and not physical causality? It is difficult to see how a worldview can be argued for when it undermines rational thought and the possibility for an objective examination of the evidence.
Second, naturalism suffers in its ability to provide a satisfying explanation for many facets of reality. The naturalist must believe that the universe with its order and regularity came to exist and is sustained by nothing; that life emerged from non-life; that persons arose from the impersonal; that sentience flickers into existence from physical and chemical reactions; that non-moral forces have produced in us a justified sense of right and wrong; that cosmic accidents have created humanity with inherent value; and that purposeless forces have created beings who can act with intention and create meaningful choices.
Finally, naturalism is impossible to live out. A mother does not grieve the death of her son only because the neurons are no longer firing and the heart has refrained from pumping blood. A father does not demand justice if his daughter is raped merely because one clump of particles has collided with another. A musician creates what he believes is more than just sound waves; a hiker watching the sun set behind the mountains views something more majestic than electromagnetic radiation; and a writer pens a poem that signifies more than ink of a page. Our experience and reactions assume that life transcends the physical world and it is only seen otherwise when the naturalist attempts to mask this behind a lectern or hides behind his philosophical treatise.
 Carl Sagan, Cosmos (New York: Random House, 1980), 4.
 Kenneth Samples, A World of a Difference (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), 214.
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References for further reading:
- Evaluating Naturalism
Collaborators: Christopher Riggs
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