My open letter to Matt Dillahunty

· Mind, Reason, Theology
Authors

In a clip I saw from The Atheist Experience, Matt Dillahunty asks the caller the following question: “Please provide an example of one demonstrably real, positively effective thing- that requires religion- that cannot be achieved by secular means.”

He also asks a deeper, more fundamental question:

“Why would you believe something for which you have no good reason to think it’s true?”

I think if we examine both of these questions, first answering question two, I will be able to give an adequate answer for question one.

First, I must define a word that is required of Matt to accept prior to there being any discussion. Matt must accept the following definition of Naturalism: “the idea or belief that only natural laws and forces operate in the world.”[1]

Matt, do you believe in Naturalism?

If yes, what reason do you have to think it is true?

If your reason is based on Evidence, then you must be willing to accept testimony as a viable form of epistemic justification for a belief (see below for why).

If your reason is not based on Evidence, then what rational theory do you use to assume Naturalism over a belief in supernatural intervention in a natural world?[2]

If no, what rational method leads you to reject supernatural intervention in a natural world?

Rejection of supernatural intervention in a natural world based on lack of verifiable evidence, is an assumption of Naturalism.

Rejection of supernatural intervention in a natural world based on rejection of non-evidential rationalization is an acceptance of Evidentialism, which is an epistemic mode of Naturalism.

Rejection of supernatural intervention in a natural world based on rejection of testimony as a viable form of epistemic justification for a belief is self-defeating for Naturalism.[3]

Upon examining the premises which are entailed by either response, my hope is that you accept the following conclusion:

Either Matt believes in Naturalism without good reason, or Matt does not believe in Naturalism and believes that testimony is a viable form of epistemic justification for a belief.

 

Now, my answer to the second question is: I do not believe something for which I have no good reason to think it is true, and that is why I do not believe in Naturalism.

With that in mind I can positively answer the first question: Laying down someone’s life without any expectation of natural reciprocation is only found in religion.

A response someone may have to this answer is: That isn’t positive.

But, what reason does someone have to believe self-sacrifice for non-natural reciprocation isn’t positive, unless they already hold a basic assumption, that is, Naturalism?

From a secular perspective: the sole Teleological purpose of nature is to spread one’s genes. Non-reciprocal acts which cease one’s natural existence cannot possibly be met by secular means. But, if I have no reason to believe Naturalism, then I have no reason to believe that the sole teleological purpose of nature is to spread genes. So, sacrifice of one’s own natural existence is only negative if one accepts Naturalism, and even from a secular perspective, one might see self-sacrifice (an old man saving a child from being hit by a car, or a secret service agent jumping in front of a bullet meant for the president) as good.

If one wishes to reject my example they must:

Accept that they have an assumption of Naturalism (but then I ask question two).

Explain a different secular perspective on the teleological purpose of nature.

Explain how non-reciprocal self-sacrifice is not positive, without assuming Naturalism.

If this can’t be done, then one must accept that there are positive examples of things that cannot be achieved by secular means.

I look forward to your response.


[1] This was taken directly from Wikipedia

[2] My guess, and you are welcome to prove me wrong, is that you assume Naturalism and do not give it much thought as to why.

[3] If one believes that testimony is not a viable form of epistemic justification for a belief, then Naturalism cannot be believed unless the individual has some form of non-testimonial method for learning scientific process and for sharing evidence. Evidence is verifiable testimony, and if testimony is not a viable form of epistemic justification for a belief, then evidence, categorically, is not a viable form of epistemic justification for a belief.

I will update with future post if necessary

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