Epiphanies Along the Way


Couldn't agree with you more. I would even take it a step further and say the more that I examine naturalism, the more I find that it offers more than any supernatural system has or could ever offer.

Without exception, every supernatural system that I have studied or have participated in at one point or another in my life, East or West matters not a whit, seems to claim as its own the domain of things such as beauty, ethics, justice, art, meaning. Without originating from somewhere in the supernatural, the arguments go, these things lose their intrinsic value in some way. They even refer to them sometimes as the "higher" values which reinforces the "superiority" of the supernatural.

I can only speak for myself, but a lifetime of making room intellectually for the supernatural has definitely created some unconscious biases in my thinking. I simply assume that equating the supernatural with giving intrinsic meaning to human values and ideals is something that needs an answer, or that the argument carries some kind of philosophical weight. It doesn't. Naturalism, on the other hand, gives one a real methodology and framework to get a handle on those things that the supernaturalists claim belong to them exclusively.

There is no "ethereal" radio station broadcasting justice, beauty, etc. into the world of matter. These things come out of matter just like apples come out of apple trees, great taste and all. The source and the intrinsic value for these "higher" things is exactly the same as light, heat, radiation and photosynthesis: the activity and organization of matter and energy in a specific area of spacetime.

To assign something to the realm of matter and energy is another way of stating that it is real. To assign any aspect of it or all of it to a realm other than the natural is, by definition, making it less real than if it was totally subsumed in the natural realm.

On the flip side, I see this bias show when presenting naturalism to other people. The usual response once they understand it is: "So that's all there is, just matter and energy?" and my usual response had been to feel a bit uncomfortable, sort of like you just let someone know about their surprise birthday party. People, when hearing about naturalism, seem to have a reflex action to jump right into some nihilistic funk. Ripping away that bias, the situation from a naturalistic viewpoint couldn't more positive, reassuring and hopeful. If naturalism is the correct methodology and philosophy, than every aspect of you is firmly a part of the natural world, from your desire for sex to the awe you feel contemplating the Milky Way at night; always has been, is and always will be. You didn't come "from" anywhere nor are you "going" anywhere and that conclusion is drawn through the same methodology that our laws of gravity, medicine and geology are drawn from. It's all right here in front of you and it's not going anywhere, ever. That, to me, is real immortality; immortality that I can touch, feel, taste and, most importantly, understand.

It is a long, slow process integrating the naturalistic viewpoint and replacing incorrect assumptions and biases. But I have found that the epiphanies along the way are well worth the effort. While it is not as mature a system as we might like, you correctly point out that it is miles ahead of anything else. I like to think in terms of light years. :-)

– Rich Lawrence