If Naturalism, How Then Free Will? How Then Morals?

Naturalism is a position that believes that the only thing that exists is matter and energy. Naturalism does not believe in supernatural forces, but all that exists are particles of matter, energy, and physics. Naturalists are materialists, believing everything is purely material, with no intervention by any God or any force that is not totally natural. Therefore, naturalists believe that everything about humans is caused by physical forces acting upon the pile of matter called a human. As the Center For Naturalism explains:

By understanding ourselves as fully caused, and by seeing just how we are caused (by our genetic endowment, upbringing, and social environments), we dramatically enhance our powers of prediction and control, both in our personal lives and in the larger social arena. . . Also, since we see that we aren’t the ultimate originators of ourselves or our behavior, we can’t take ultimate credit or blame for what we do. This reduces unwarranted self-righteousness, moral superiority, pride, shame, and guilt. And since we see others as fully caused – for instance substance abusers, criminal offenders, the destitute and homeless – we become less blaming, less punitive and more compassionate and understanding. People don’t create themselves, so responsibility for their character and behavior isn’t ultimately theirs, but is distributed over the many factors that created them. And after all, were we given their environmental and genetic conditions, we would have become what they are, and acted just as they did: there but for circumstances go I. (http://www.centerfornaturalism.org/descriptions.htm)

This is the logical conclusion of naturalism, the dominant view of the secular world today. Ultimately, in this viewpoint free will does not exist, for everything about us is caused. Naturalists, if they are consistent, believe that human behavior is caused, and humans are not independent agents, able to originate anything unless some external force is causing us to behave. All our thinking is caused by some force outside of ourselves.

Besides the problem of this worldview of coming to the concept of “self,” it presents other issues. If all our thinking is the result of the firing of nerve synapses…..of cells and molecules……then how then free will? If we are a pile of natural, chemical processes, then is free will true, or just an illusion? If we have free will, then we can make moral decisions. If we do not have free will, then we can’t make moral decisions. Without free will, then there are no true morals. So in the worldview of those who have nothing but natural processes, we have no basis for morals, which is exactly the point the naturalists above are making.

Now, we know naturalists do have morals. But this only makes them inconsistent, sneaking morals in the side door somehow, only without a basis. How does this happen? Because there is a natural law, of which we cannot escape, a law that transcends nature. If I mix vinegar and baking soda together on my kitchen counter, I will generate a lot of motion and a bit of heat. But this, nor any other chemical reaction, cannot ever get to a sense of “ought.” All nature can do is describe what is, and cannot get to a sense of what ought to be. Physics and chemistry can only describe what is, and cannot answer what ought to be different. The very fact that “right” and “wrong” are meaningful concepts is proof that a moral law exists, and moral laws require minds, not merely matter.

So why does every human hold that some things are right and some are wrong? Because an objective moral lawgiver wrote it on our hearts. We are not mere matter and energy, but have a soul that knows right and wrong.

About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
This entry was posted in Apologetics, Atheism, Philosophy. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to If Naturalism, How Then Free Will? How Then Morals?

  1. Jessica Hartsfield says:

    I stumbled upon this blog while researching for a paper I’m writing and I just love how clear and concise and interesting this post was! I look forward to reading more =)


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