Naturalism, consistently applied, makes life unlivable

I came across a speech yesterday by Andrew Sach entitled Science and God: do we have to choose?. I couldn’t find a current profile of him, but from his speech he’s a neuroscientist. His big point is that not only are science and Christianity NOT contradictory, but that in fact many of the people who argue that they are are really arguing for a certain philosophy (specifically, naturalism), and only acting as if they’re arguing science. Click the link to hear the entire thing, but I just wanted to share the portion near the middle where he argues that none of us really lives – and indeed couldn’t live – like we really believe in naturalism.

I want to read to you an excerpt from this book by John Gray. He’s a professor of European Thought at the LSE and apparently was Tony Blair’s favorite philosopher – I don’t know if that commends him to you or not! But this is what he says. Basically John Gray is arguing that we’ve failed to be consistent with our beliefs of naturalism. He himself isn’t a Christian. He gets to a kind of Gaia belief later in the book, but he’s of the opinion that we’ve failed to follow our beliefs to their logical conclusion, and he’s lambasting us for that.

“Man must accept that his or her existence is entirely accidental. He must awake out of his dream and discover his total solitude, his fundamental isolation. He must realize that like a gypsy he lives on the boundary of an alien world, a world that is deaf to his music, and as indifferent to his hopes as it is to his suffering, and his crimes.”

That last part is very perceptive – a world that is indifferent to your hopes, and to your suffering, my suffering. And to our crimes. A universe that is just random cannot be asked the question “why?”. See, here’s this dear friend of ours from church, he’s in hospital at the moment with a stroke, age 29. If you’re a naturalist you cannot even ask why. There is no one behind it. It is just an accident and your suffering is just bad luck, basically. No purpose behind it. And similarly your crimes.

And then later he relays a conversation he had with another neuroscientist.

“Kate, I can’t understand, if you’re right about the universe, why me killing you would be wrong. Now if I took out a dagger and kind of cut you in half all I would be doing would be increasing the entropy of the universe by a factor of two. Why would that be any different from cutting a grapefruit in half for my breakfast? Just rearranging the atoms in the universe in a slightly different way.

She thought for a moment and then she said “well, it’d be wrong because my mother would be upset with you!”

Good answer. But we were neuroscientists, so I said to her “Kate, what is ‘upset’? ‘Upset’ is just the increase in the concentration of a certain chemical in the random collection of atoms which is your mom’s brain. What’s it matter? What is the significance in anything that we do?

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