In the previous two posts, I have described the naturalistic worldview, and laid out an argument by C. S. Lewis against naturalism. In this post, I’ll offer a second argument against naturalism, this time by the American philosopher Richard Taylor. If you had a hard time following Lewis’ argument, hang in there. This one is easier, and more pictorial.
Picture yourself sitting on a train. You look out the window and see a collection of rocks that spell out “The British railroad welcomes you to Wales.” You have never seen these rocks before, and you must decide what these rocks are doing there and whether or not to believe what the rocks are telling you.
You can explain the rocks and their message in one of two ways. The first option is to believe that these rocks arrived in their current positions by random chance. In other words, over the ages impersonal forces acted upon each of the rocks, and each rock finally came to rest where it is now. No intelligent force collected the rocks and made them spell out “The British railroad welcomes you to Wales,” they just happened to fall into place in such a way that this message appears through their formation.
The second option is to believe that these rocks were placed in their current position by an intelligent being. Someone developed a plan, collected the rocks, and put them where they are in order to spell out the message “The British railroad welcomes you to Wales.”
It’s important to recognize that each of these possibilities is valid. Rocks do get eroded and moved by the forces of nature. People do pick up rocks and set them in specific places. But while we may legitimately choose to believe either of these possibilities, we also need to be careful about the inferences we draw from them.
If we assume that the rocks came to be there by chance, then what are we to make of the sentence they spell out? If we believe the rocks came to their current position by chance and just happen to have formed the sentence “The British railroad welcomes you to Wales,” then we would be foolish to believe that we are actually arriving in Wales. In other words, we may well believe that the rocks got there by chance, but we should not believe any message that randomly situated rocks appear to be sending.
But if we believe that the rocks were placed there by an intelligent being, then it would not be illogical to look at the message the rocks spell out and take that message at face value.
To put it the other way around, if we are going to believe the message that the rocks spell out, then the only logical choice is to believe they were placed there by an intelligent being, not by chance.
Taylor likens this to believing the messages that we receive from our five senses and our minds. If we believe that our senses and our minds came about by chance, then we really should not believe what our senses or our minds tell us. If they came together randomly through impersonal forces, then why should we trust the messages we receive from them?
If we are going to trust the messages that we send from our five senses and our minds, then the only logical choice is to believe that they were designed with a purpose. The irony in this argument is that the naturalistic scientists who are studying nature and saying that everything came to its current form by chance are trusting their supposedly randomly formed senses and minds in order to reach their naturalistic conclusions.