Welcome to the fourth article in my series about weighing worldviews. In part 1 we discussed what a worldview is and in part 2 we answered the key questions that help you identify your worldview. In part 3 we examined the Christian worldview and I explained how I think that is the true worldview that matches reality. In this article we will look at another worldview that is competing for dominance in the West: naturalism.
The Naturalist Story
In the beginning was nothing. Or a multiverse. Or something we haven’t discovered yet. All that is certain is that it wasn’t God or gods or any kind of supernatural force since in naturalism, the natural is all there is (hence, naturalism). And then something happened which brought everything into existence – space, time, matter, and energy. Eventually stars and planets formed and then life inexplicably arose on Earth (and possibly elsewhere in the universe). Life continued forming and evolving until we have every kind of living creature in existence today. Where is all of this heading? No one knows. Maybe the universe will keep expanding until it runs out of energy and becomes cold and lifeless. Or it will all crunch back into a singularity. Only time will tell.
As you can see, there really isn’t a grand narrative of naturalism, just an account of what happened and speculation of what may happen in the future. So how does naturalism answer the key worldview questions?
1) What is ultimate reality?
In the words of Carl Sagan, “The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be.” By Cosmos he means the physical universe: space, time, matter, energy. No God or gods, no supernatural, just physical stuff.
2) What is the nature of the universe?
Matter. Stuff. There’s no underlying intelligence, just the laws of physics. The universe is a closed system of cause and effect.
3) How do we know reality?
Through our five senses.
4) Who (or what) are we?
Matter. Stuff. Meat machines. We aren’t special, just grand cosmic accidents. Cousins of all living things, we’re the result of blind evolutionary processes. There is no soul or immaterial mind. Consciousness is an illusion, a feature that just happened to emerge from our random configuration of molecules. Since everything in the universe is determined by the laws of physics, that means we are as well. Our thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, everything. Free will is just an illusion.
5) What happens when we die?
The end. Since there is no soul, there is nothing of you to continue after your body dies. It decomposes and your matter goes back into the universe, which goes on without you and won’t miss you when you’re gone.
6) What are good and evil?
As Richard Dawkins said, there is “no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” There are no transcendent moral rules to the universe, just survival. Morality boils down either to personal preference or cultural norms. There are no moral facts, just opinions, no matter how strongly you may hold to them.
7) What is the meaning of human history?
There is no objective meaning or purpose to life. Feel free to make up your own or just live your life however you want. It doesn’t matter ultimately since when you die, it’s over. The universe will eventually die as well, either from its constant expansion or from collapsing back on itself. There’s no point so just enjoy life while you’re here.
That’s naturalism. No meaning, no purpose, just “blind, pitiless indifference.” If it seems depressing, that’s because it is. I haven’t gone out of my way to make it seem bleak; it is bleak. But beyond being a gloomy, hopeless worldview, I think it’s a bankrupt system. Next time I’ll discuss why it does not sufficiently answer our worldview questions and simply does not match reality. And if you disagree or feel I have been unfair towards naturalism, please tell me in the comments!