Why, naturalism, naturally…

If you punch 2 + 2 and then = into a calculator, and it shows 5, is it wrong? Naturalistically, nothing malfunctioned in the calculator; its circuitry is flawless. Why is the calculator wrong about its sum but your “neurolator” is correct?

A naturalist believes that what he is saying and typing at any point in time is but the unforeseeable, unalterable result of whatever happens to be happening in his cranium (and, antecedently, in the physical structure of the world leading up to that point). Hence, while there are (physiological) reasons for his saying what he says, there are no rational grounds for his claiming what he claims. This is just the argument from reason, so I don’t claim to be original.

The scenario I pose, then, is that one natural tabulating device is pitted against another (i.e., a naturalist’s brain vs. his calculator). His neurolator happened to produce 4 as the solution to 2 + 2, while the calculator produced 5. On purely natural terms, neither device malfunctioned, since for all we know the calculator was programmed that way. Hence, while it is mathematically false that 2 + 2 is 5, it is, even if only for that one calculator, naturalistically unassailable. He would agree to this, and defend his own sum, but in so doing he is appealing to some other source of order (i.e., formal truth, mathematical order) to which nature must correspond formally. The mathematical order must trump the naturalistic outputs of any computer, since the calculators we have all around us are engineered based on that mathematical order and not on purely natural outcomes (which may or may not be wrong mathematically). We would only know if this or that computer is properly functioning if we already had a grasp of the rules to be followed in various formal operations. The validity of addition had to precede the natural performance of addition, otherwise there would be no way, no form-by-which, nature could perform any such operation.

If two streams merge, they have combined their water molecules, but can it really be said that they performed addition? If so, then the naturalist, as many are wont to do these days, is a panpsychist in the making. Presumably, one pair of streams would be “smarter” than another pair because it could “add” more faster. Presumably, one pair of streams would be “bad at math” if beavers jammed up one stream and clogged its additive powers. Etc.

If not, however, then who says the naturalist himself ever performs addition? For he is, naturally speaking, a mere confluence of atoms, and any sum he produces is, by his own admission, also no more rationally respectable than a river’s “addition.” Water molecules or synapses–– it’s all just blind flux which we anthropomorphically filter “as if” there were purpose in our words and truth to which natural processes must conform in order to be called instantiations of this or that formal operation.

I am drawing, now, on not only the Lewis-Reppert argument from reason, but also A. Plantinga’s famous evolutionary argument against naturalism and, especially, one of the key prongs of argumentation in James F. Ross’s “Immaterial Aspects of Thought”, which is a must read. http://www.nd.edu/~afreddos/courses/43151/ross-immateriality.pdf

Is the human person oriented towards truth? Is a calculator? Does not a human’s brain operate in order for a naturalist to deny the truth of supernatural claims, and to assert the truth of his naturalism? Or is the orientation of his mind for truth a sheer fiction, the mere happenstance of evolutionary biology? And if so, is my orientation towards the putative truth of that naturalistic claim itself a fiction? Are genes “about” producing specific kinds of beings? Does it even make sense to speak of genes without saying they are meant for producing specific entities according to distinct forms of life? Or is that kind of genetic platitude also just a fiction? In short, if there is no formal order and no final orderliness in the world, what makes science anything more than an anthropomorphic jumble of myths?

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