Naturalism – The Subtle God-Denier (Readers Digest Version)
Naturalism is a philosophy and belief that implies the human understanding of the workings of matter and energy alone can be used to explain all events in history and in life. The most important things to realise about this is that it is just a belief, a way of thinking.
The Torah comes from the objective Source that is beyond matter and energy and deals with events that cannot be contained in or by the unguided interactions of matter and energy. The creation and formation of nature is by definition a non-naturalistic event, therefore naturalism cannot be used to understand it. The worldwide deluge of Noah is a non-naturalistic event and therefore naturalism cannot be used to understand it. Both events are written in the Torah, in Bereshis (Genesis), as events where God’s will was the primal cause and shaper of these events.
Science (or maybe physical sciences) is a tool used to measure and observe the relationships between matter and energy, what we can observe, and build stories with regards to what is experienced, normally in order for that framework to be used to manipulate these factors for human benefit. Science is limited to what we can experience and perceive, and thus is limited by the user, by humanity.
When it is distorted into scientism, it becomes the belief that this tool can be used to provide answers for things we have never experienced and can never perceive, as if it has or will have the final answers for every aspect of life. It should be seen that this is nothing more than the glorification of human intellect, that, some day, humans will have the answers for everything by our own efforts. If there is nothing out of our reach, then humans become the gods.
If science is a tool of human experience, then it can never say anything with any authority about what we don’t or have never experienced. To attempt to use it for such things as humans have never experienced, it becomes speculation and isn’t worth our time in a meaningful sense. Thus when it comes to a history we were never involved with, or distances we can never reach, it is simply the realm of philosophy and speculation, not truth. When it comes to origins, Rambam says it well:
“No inference can be drawn in any respect from the nature of a thing after it has been generated, has attained its final state, and has achieved stability in its most perfect state, to the state of that thing while it is moved towards being generated. … Whenever you err in this and draw an inference from the nature of a thing that has achieved actuality to its nature when it was only in potential, grave doubts are aroused in you …” (Rambam, Moreh Nevukhim 2:17).
When a person chooses to adopt the Torah-traditional point of view that God created the world meta-naturally in the course of a week, thousands of years ago, or that he caused the world to be wasted and ruined in a deluge that was worldwide in scope, it is outside the remit of a practitioner of science proper and an acolyte of naturalism to say this is impossible. Why? Because all they can do is observe the present conditions and the factors that are in their reach of perception and say this is how things are now. To hold back the hand of God Himself and say “you can’t have done this because what I record and understand as happening to matter and energy now is all that can happen, and you must work within their limits,” this is not just idolatrous, making much of the natural phenomena and the human understanding of it; it is total foolishness.
The view of the oldest rabbis when confronted by and immersed in just the written and oral Torah traditions – the absolute truths that come from a truly objective Source, not the changeable and tentative probable stories of the ardent naturalist – was simply that: a meta-naturally created universe made in 6 or 7 normal days thousands of years ago; and a meta-natural worldwide “waster” or “churner” (the mabbul, or the deluge) in the days of Noah. If a practitioner of science proper or an acolyte of naturalism, whether they say they accept the Torah and the God of Israel or not, says any differently, you have every right in the world to say “You’re welcome to your speculations, faith and philosophy driven impositions on circumstantial evidence. But they are not worth anything when it comes to truth.”