Naturalism in the light of reality
Published: 14 June 2012 (GMT+10)
The following incident took place in 1970, when I was a medical missionary, working in Tanzania, East Africa. Our son Matthew was about 18 months old, and was only just beginning to talk. He had been increasingly fretful that day, and in the evening I discovered that he had a severe middle-ear infection, acute otitis media. It was one of the worst cases I had ever seen. The eardrum was deep red and bulging.
I felt that he needed a small operation to drain the pus through the drum; but I did not have the right equipment. We thought of taking him to another hospital, but it would have meant driving 120 miles through the bush, and darkness had fallen already. In the end, we prayed, gave him an injection of procaine penicillin—an ordinary dose—and put him to bed. He cried for a time, but then went to sleep.
In the morning, my wife went into his bedroom, which was next to ours. He was standing up in the cot, looking very cheerful. As she came into the room, he pointed to the other door, which opened onto the veranda, and said “Jesus go there”. I came into the room almost immediately afterwards and examined his eardrum. It was completely normal!
Now some people will say that it must have been the single injection of penicillin which cured him. This would be a possibility if it had been a mild infection. But this was one of the worst cases I have ever seen. I have never known a severe infection like this clear up in a few hours—in my experience, it has always taken at least several days, with a course of antibiotics. You can judge for yourself, but my wife and I have no doubt that it was a miracle. More than that—and to remove any doubt—it seems that Jesus Christ appeared to Matthew in a form that he recognised, as well as healing him. (We had already started reading him Bible stories from an illustrated children’s Bible.)
But what does this incident have to do with creation and evolution? The answer is that it contradicts the basic premise of secular science, which is naturalism or materialism. That is, the belief that there is no supernatural, and that nature or matter/energy is all there is.1 Some secular scientists are agnostic about the existence of some sort of God, but all are united in arbitrarily assuming that all phenomena can and must be explained naturalistically. The evolutionist Dr. Scott Todd wrote in the science journal Nature:
“Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such a hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic.”2
And this is what a leading evolutionary geneticist, Professor Richard Lewontin wrote:
“We take the side of [evolutionary] science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs … in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism … . Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”3
The falsity of the naturalistic worldview can be shown in a number of ways—historical, scientific and logical/philosophical—and I will give four examples.
The first example is the kind of incident which I have just related. There have been countless such incidents down through the centuries. I know of at least three in my own family, and have heard or read many more first-hand accounts—not to mention many more which are not first-hand.
The preconditions of intelligibility make sense only in a biblical worldview.
The second example is the historical evidence recorded in the Bible. For example, journalist Frank Morison set out to disprove the resurrection of Jesus. But after years of study, he found that the sheer weight of the evidence compelled him to conclude that Jesus did rise from the dead. As a consequence, he wrote the book Who Moved the Stone?
Again and again biblical history has been shown to be accurate, and the skeptics have been proved wrong. Professor Sir William Ramsay, for example, was a skeptic, but after many years of study and archaeological investigation, he wrote, concerning the book of Acts (written by Luke): “Further study … showed that the book could bear the most minute scrutiny as an authority for the facts of the Aegean world, and that it was written with such judgment, skill, art and perception of truth as to be a model of historical statement. It is marvellously concise and yet marvellously lucid.”4 Luke, of course, recorded many supernatural events, including those involving the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.
The third example is the evidence we can see all around us in creation. As Romans 1:20 tells us, the evidence is obvious, and there is “no excuse” if we fail to see it. Atheistic and agnostic scientists are perfectly well aware of this evidence, but they refuse to accept it. The Bible tells us that they do not want to be accountable to God, and they deliberately “suppress the truth” (see Romans 1:18–23). One example of this kind of evidence is the presence of huge amounts of ‘universal information’ (a term coined by Professor Werner Gitt) in living cells. This kind of information cannot arise by chance. It is always created by intelligence.5
The fourth example is a more philosophical one. It is the fact that certain “preconditions of intelligibility”, such as laws of logic, uniformity of nature, absolute morality and reliability of our senses and memory are required in order to learn anything about the universe. According to the naturalistic worldview, however, the universe is an accident, and there is no intelligence, plan or purpose behind it. In that worldview, therefore, there is no logical reason why any of these preconditions should be true. Furthermore, if the human brain is merely the product of random chemical accidents, why should we trust its reasoning? The preconditions of intelligibility make sense only in a biblical worldview. According to that worldview, a real universe was created by a rational, consistent, moral God, and it continues to be upheld by him. Furthermore, God created mankind “in his own image”, so that we are able to know him, to reason intelligently, to explore his creation, and to “think God’s thoughts after him”. That is why modern science began in Christendom, and was boosted by the Reformation, which was Bible-centred. All the Reformers were biblical creationists, and so also were most if not all the founders of modern science.6
Note also that when secular scientists decree that naturalism/materialism is the basic premise of science, they are being arbitrary. They do not know and cannot prove that there is no supernatural. They are simply expressing their personal opinion or belief. Note also that the naturalistic worldview is inconsistent. For example, it depends on preconditions of intelligibility which make sense only in a biblical worldview. Without these preconditions, secular scientists could not even begin to construct their worldview.7
These are not the only reasons for rejecting naturalism, but they demonstrate clearly that it is an inadequate foundation for discovering the truth about the universe, the world, ourselves and everything else. In other words, the naturalistic worldview is false.
What about the “millions of years” and the theory of evolution? It needs to be understood that when, for example, Charles Lyell wrote Principles of Geology and Charles Darwin wrote On the Origin of Species, they were deliberately seeking to exclude God and the Bible, and to explain everything naturalistically. The whole point of the theory of evolution—in their minds, and in the minds of secular scientists today—is that evolution is a natural process which does not require supernatural interference. The idea that the God of the Bible used microbes-to-man evolution to create the living world makes no sense—especially when we consider the fact that it would mean that God’s method of creation was a process of millions of years of death, disease, violence, suffering and waste.
In fact, when secular science decrees that naturalism is the basis of real science, and that all phenomena must be explained naturalistically, it is being unscientific, because it is deciding what the answer is before it looks at the evidence!
It is true that God’s Son “upholds all things by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). This means, amongst other things, that he sustains the natural processes which he created. Theistic evolutionists claim that microbes-to-man evolution is one of those processes. But the idea of macro-evolution is so bound up with the anti-Christian, anti-biblical intent of its originators, and is so contrary to biblical revelation and the real facts of science, that the term “theistic evolution” is in fact an oxymoron8 (as far as the God of the Bible is concerned). The term “deistic evolution” is less illogical—but a deistic god, if he (or maybe it?) were to exist, would not be the God of the Bible.9
The theory of evolution is not science. It is incompatible with the real facts of science, and those who believe in it believe it ultimately by faith. Christians also have faith, but theirs is a reasonable faith which is in harmony with, and based upon, the real facts. If God does exist and did create by means of special creation, secular science cannot discover that truth, because it has arbitrarily ruled out the possibility before it looks at the evidence. In fact, when secular science decrees that naturalism is the basis of real science, and that all phenomena must be explained naturalistically, it is being unscientific, because it is deciding what the answer is before it looks at the evidence!
Biblical creationists are much more open-minded. Many of them were atheists, agnostics or “old-earth creationists” (as I was) before they came to see that biblical creation is by far the best way of understanding both the Bible and the real facts of science and history. Also, it is non-arbitrary, consistent, and in harmony with the “preconditions of intelligibility”.
- Another premise is empiricism—the idea that all knowledge is gained from observations. Return to text.
- Todd, S.C., correspondence to Nature 401(6752):423, 30 Sept. 1999. Return to text.
- Lewontin, R., ‘Billions and billions of demons’, The New York Review, 9 Jan. 1997, p. 31. Return to text.
- Ramsay, W. M., The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1920, p.85. Return to text.
- Gitt, W., Without Excuse, Creation Book Publishers, Atlanta, 2011. Return to text.
- Sarfati, J., creation.com/biblical-roots-of-modern-science. Return to text.
- Lisle, J., The Ultimate Proof of Creation, Master Books, Green Forest, 2009. Amongst other things, this book explains the different kinds of arbitrariness and inconsistency, and also the “preconditions of intelligibility”. Return to text.
- Oxymoron = a self-contradictory term—e.g. a married bachelor. Return to text.
- The god of the deist is not the God of Christianity. He is a remote being who started the universe, but left it to run itself, operating according to natural laws. Return to text.