Naturalism takes for granted the following tenets:
- Nature is all there is.
- All reality is comprised of or rooted in matter.
- There is no supernatural—no Creator, no miracles, no souls,
no angels, no life after death.
- Science becomes the only (or best) means of knowledge.
Richard Dawkins is a four-point naturalist. Such a position, however, defies our most basic intuitions and assumptions about human experience. Naturalism’s logically leads to:
- the impossibility of knowledge;
- the unreliability of reason;
- the denial of free will and personal responsibility;
- the undermining of human rights and dignity
I’ve already touched on the first two points (on the impossibility of knowledge and reliable reason) in a previous post, but let me review before addressing the matter of free will/personal responsibility.
Knowledge is warranted true belief. It’s not enough to have true belief, since you can believe something that’s true but in a totally fluky way. And Dawkins is right—that we just dance to the music of our DNA—then he himself is dancing to his own DNA. Dawkins has accidental true belief, but that’s not knowledge. If our beliefs are determined and we believe that determinism is true, then this is just a lucky coincidence—again, not knowledge. Those who reject determinism are still determined to believe what they do. Yet Dawkins claims to know his view is true and that he is more rational than the theist.
Naturalistic evolution is interested in survival, not truth. As naturalistic philosopher of mind Patricia Churchland puts it:
“Boiled down to essentials, a nervous system enables the organism to succeed in the four F’s: feeding, fleeing, fighting and reproducing. The principal chore of nervous systems is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive….Truth, whatever that is, definitely takes the hindmost.”
The late atheist philosopher Richard Rorty echoed Churchland’s analysis of the implications of Darwinian theory: “The idea that one species of organism is, unlike all the others, oriented not just toward its own uncreated prosperity but toward Truth, is as un-Darwinian as the idea that every human being has a built-in moral compass—a conscience that swings free of both social history and individual luck.” 
If naturalistic evolution is interested in survival rather than truth, I may believe a lot of things that help me to survive—human dignity and worth, human rights. But these beliefs may be completely false. On the other hand, if we are truth-seeking beings (a reflection of what the Bible calls “the image of God”), this makes a lot better sense if a rational, intelligent being created us to think or reason—to have genuine knowledge. Being made in the image of a rational God means we have good reason to trust our minds as generally reliable rather than malfunctioning or systematically misleading us.
So much for review. Another implication of naturalism is that it must deny free will or personal responsibility. If matter is all the reality there is, how could free will emerge? Our beliefs are the necessary result of certain physical inputs. It’s like a prism of colors that is inevitably formed when sunlight is refracted through mist or rain. Certain physical inputs lead necessarily to certain outputs.
On naturalism, there is no self that makes decisions, and no “decisions” really matter. The buck doesn’t stop with the agent since “no one” is making those decisions. “Choices” are not up to me. They are the product of material forces that impose themselves on each of us—forces over which we have no control.
Atheist philosopher of mind John Searle of Berkeley makes this quite clear. “Physical events can have only physical explanations, and consciousness is not physical, so consciousness plays no explanatory role whatsoever. If, for example, you think you ate because you were consciously hungry, or got married because you were consciously in love with your prospective spouse, or withdrew your hand from the flame because you consciously felt a pain, or spoke up at a meeting because you consciously disagreed with the main speaker, you are mistaken in every case. In each case the effect was a physical event and therefore must have an entirely physical explanation.”
If you look at the website, www.naturalism.org, many noted atheists like Daniel Dennett are on its advisory board. This site claims: “From a naturalistic perspective . . . [h]uman beings act the way they do because of the various influences that shape them, whether these be biological or social, genetic or environmental. We do not have the capacity to act outside the causal connections that link us in every respect to the rest of the world. This means we do not have what many people think of as free will, being able to cause our behavior without our being fully caused in turn.”
Naturalist Michael Ruse tells it to us straight: we merely think morality is objective and binding upon us—but that’s totally false. We believe the illusion of moral realism and moral obligation; without this strong impulse, Ruse declares, we would disregard or disobey morality. “If you think about it, you will see that the very essence of an ethical claim, like ‘Love little children,’ is that, whatever its truth status may be, we think it binding upon us because we think it has an objective status.” This is a corporate illusion that has been “fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to cooperate.”
When we are assessing a worldview and whether we should accept it, one of the criteria we should use is whether the worldview can be lived out consistently or if we have to systematically live at odds with it. Does our worldview disallow us to practice what we preach?
Richard Dawkins confesses: “As an academic scientist, I am a passionate Darwinian, believing that natural selection is, if not the only driving force in evolution, certainly the only known force capable of producing the illusion of purpose which so strikes all who contemplate nature. But at the same time as I support Darwinism as a scientist, I am a passionate anti-Darwinian when it comes to politics and how we should conduct our human affairs.” Why, if Darwinism creates the illusion of purpose, has Dawkins been able to see clearly? Why isn’t he under the illusion of purpose?
Theism doesn’t have to resort to such metaphysical hypocrisy. The theistic context—of a personal agent who freely creates—affords a setting to anticipate or expect creaturely agents who can freely make decisions. Even if environment and genetics influence choices, they do not determine them. Unlike Dawkins and his naturalistic views, we can be passionate theists both in theory and in practice.
 Patricia Smith Churchland, “Epistemology in the Age of Neuroscience,” Journal of Philosophy, 84 (October 1987): 548.
 Richard Rorty, “Untruth and Consequences,” The New Republic (31 July 1995): 32-36.
 John Searle, The Mystery of Consciousness (New York: New York Review of Books, 1997), 154.
 “Tenets of Naturalism,” at http://www.naturalism.org/tenetsof.htm. Accessed March 10, 2008.
Michael Ruse, “Evolutionary Ethics: A Phoenix Arisen,” in Issues in Evolutionary Ethics, ed. Paul Thompson (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995), 236.
Michael Ruse and E. O. Wilson, “The Evolution of Ethics,” in Religion and the Natural Sciences, ed. J. E. Huchingson (Orlando: Harcourt Brace, 1993), 310–11. For discussion on this, see Matthew H. Nitecki and Doris V. Nitecki, Evolutionary Ethics (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993), 8.
 Richard Dawkins, A Devil’s Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2003), 10-11.