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You know what you get with an assumption, don’t you?

June 14th, 2007 | 3 min read

By Keith E. Buhler

“In a nonmetaphysical age there is probably more metaphysics, in the common sense (ie a priori assumptions) than in any other, because there is more complete unconsciousness that we are resting on our own ideas, while we please ourselves with the conviction that we are resting on facts.”

Benjamin Jowett*JP Moreland (of recent Kingdom Triangle fame) wisely pointed out in his book “Christianity and the Nature of Science,” that our modern scientific worldview has achieved such wide-ranging acceptance and agreement that it has begun to masquerade as a Given, as “Fact.” Though pure Scientism (the belief that only propositions empirically verifiable may be judged to be true or false) has failed for an obvious lack of internal coherency (At which lab was that belief itself empirically proven to be true?), its modern idealogical brother, what Moreland calls Scientific Naturalism, has somehow escaped the same level of critical examination and so enjoys an unjustified imperial authority in the minds and hearts not only of specialists (scientists, philosophers, psychologists, news media, the writers at the Discovery Channel) but of the average American layperson as well.

The modern scientific endeavors that flow out of Scientific Naturalism are mostly good. The scientific methods (as Moreland argues is a more proper name for them) work. They produce new information, new technologies, new airplanes, bigger, better, and faster than the ones before. They produce discoveries and insights into a limited scope of the knowable universe. But this success is partial.

The Naturalistic worldvew that so delights in the partial success of the scientific methods is also a clandestine metaphysical view. It is an understanding, an assumption, a purely philosophical position that the knowledge and information garnered through such methods are the only kinds worth looking at… That everything else is fairy tales and chimeras, so much ethereal speculative gas.

How do we know this is false? Because the philosophical construct on which such an assumption is itself non-emperically verifiable, non “scientific” in this strict sense. It is something grounded in deeper presuppositions. It is a science built on a philosophy. We must recognize this to even rise to the level of reasonable, adult, human examination of what we believe. Naturalism, as an idea, may actually be true. But if so, it is a truth grounded in rational arguments, not laboratory tests. Or, if it is false, it will not necessarily be disproved by the influx of more data, but by the influx of new premises.

Neither its truth or falsehood, are currently regarded as fairy tales and empty fantasies. Why not? They are both invisible aren’t they? Yes, but this alone does not disprove their reality. Rather, they are intellectual strongholds, and powerful cultural infrastructures on which companies, governments, and families are built. Yet neither can be seen, touched, tasted, felt, or smelled.

The modern scientific experiment is working and picking up speed. The overall Naturalistic worldview is failing and running out of steam. Human beings with any sense of “holy curiosity” as Einstein said, have always, and will always, seek a wholistic worldview that accounts for the empirical universe as well as the intelligible universe. Even the so called “Laws” by which we describe physical phenomenon have themselves more of an intelligible reality than physical. Where in the universe is the law of gravity? Where is the second “law” of thermodynamics? (For that matter, where is the law of non-contradiction?)

More and more philosophers are waking up to the fact that Naturalism itself is a view that presupposes a high degree of trust in philosophy, in the veracity and verifiability of epistemological and metaphysical arguments. As this awareness is born more fully into the academic and scientific community, it will naturally lead to a much needed re-examination of the metaphysics that we have been assuming a priori since Bacon, Hume, Nietchze, Darwin and the like so forcefully propounded their hypotheses to the world. These hypotheses, as well as new ones, will be considered and reconsidered. And, God willing, thoughtful controversy will replace unthinking consensus. It will be a brighter day when we again have completely become an explicitly “metaphysical age,” no longer content to rest on our own assumptions in the comforting and wishful fantasy that they are scientific facts.

*Dialogues of Plato, Introduction to Parmenides, p.40