How does the failure to define naturalism affect Lowder’s argument for naturalism from the history of science?
In retrospect, it may have been good to put this at the end of my previous article. But better late than never. How does Lowder’s failure to define naturalism adequately affect his argument for naturalism from the history of science? To put it mildly, it doesn’t do it any favors.
First, let’s recount the argument itself (which I’ve excerpted from here):
If there is a single theme unifying the history of science, it is that naturalistic explanations work. The history of science contains numerous examples of naturalistic explanations replacing supernatural ones and no examples of supernatural explanations replacing naturalistic ones. Indeed, naturalistic explanations have been so successful that even most scientific theists concede that supernatural explanations are, in general, implausible, even on the assumption that theism is true. Such explanatory success is antecedently more likely on naturalism–which entails that all supernaturalistic explanations are false–than it is on theism. Thus the history of science is some evidence for naturalism and against theism. (emphasis added)
So what is this thing called naturalism that is more compatible with the history of science than is theism?
As I’ve argued, Lowder cannot give a clear example. Thus, things end up looking like this:
Tom and Marsha awoke to a thump in the darkness. Marsha opined, “I think Billy is trying to sneak in his window after staying out too late.”
But Tom had a different hypothesis. “I say that x made the sound.”
Marsha looked at Tom quizzically. “What exactly is x supposed to be Tom?”
“X is the hypothesis that something natural made the sound. Maybe it was the sump pump. Or the wind blowing a branch against the window. Who knows what we’ll find out?”
Marsha looked skeptical. “And what if it was Tom?”
“Well then Tom made the sound by some part of his body contacting some part of the window sill, in which case it really was a natural cause anyway.”
Marsha (rolling her eyes): “I’m going back to sleep.”