Currents in Naturalism

March - April 2009

~ Center for Naturalism Newsletter ~


Additions to Naturalism.Org

~ Systematizing Naturalism - answering life's vital questions.

~ Heading Off the Revolution - in how we might reform criminal justice in light of determinism.

~ Democratizing Success - stating the obvious in service to equality.

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Heads Up

~ Center for Inquiry's World Congress on science, public policy, and the planetary community, April 9-12, Bethesda, MD.

~ American Humanist Association conference, June 5-7, Phoenix, AZ.

~ Freethought events, courtesy of the Secular Web and Jason Torpy.

~ Psychologist Roy Baumeister worries about determinism, but needn't.

~ Susan Blackmore debunks free will in the Guardian, suggests implications for criminal justice.

~ Neuroscientist Martha Farah and philosopher Nancey Murphy defend the physicalism of neuroscience as a viable metaphysical outlook.

~ Experimental philosopher Thomas Nadelhoffer on the advisability of publicizing the death of free will, at The Situationist.

~ Interview with Dale McGowan on raising kids without supernatural beliefs.

~ Theist Ken Miller and naturalist Massimo Pigluicci debate whether belief in God is compatible with science, and the virtues of faith.

~ Beingism: naturalism by another name, including skepticism about free will and its ethical implications.

~ Encountering naturalism with the Infidel Guy.

~ Tamler Sommers suggests that Richard Dawkins equivocates on the reality of free will. More on Dawkins' views about free will, responsibility and punishment is here.

~ Highly recommended books, to be reviewed:

~ The Ego Tunnel - neurophilosopher Thomas Metzinger on the science of mind and the myth of the self.

~ Beyond Revenge - psychologist Michael McCullough describes the evolution of the forgiveness instinct and how it can be harnessed.

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Memeing Naturalism

The Wisdom of Alice


It would be nice if a worldview were not only true, but livable. As yet, there arenít many thorough-going naturalists to provide data, but a hardy few have reported back on the livability of naturalism. It mostly seems to pass the test, see Living in light of naturalism. Below are some updates from Alice in Australia at the Naturalism Philosophy Forum, who describes some of the practical and psychological advantages of taking a consistently cause and effect view of ourselves, and the understandable suspicions many folks have about it. She also describes applying naturalism to child-rearing, as does Stephen, another member of the Forum. If a worldview can pass that test, then clearly itís a winner!  EnjoyÖ


Alice writes:

Iím really happy with my understanding of the world based on what I understand Naturalism to be telling me. In the past Iíve found that I was coming up with theories, then when I came across a theory that made sense I was applying it, but it never went smoothly, something always came up that didnít fit in with my theory. So I jumped from theory to theory until finding Naturalism in July 2007. 18 months is probably the longest that Iíve had a theory that Iíve applied to my life where in 18 months Iíve not yet had a contradiction to the reality that Iíve experienced. I feel enlightened. I tell my friends this and theyíre not sure what to think... 

- continued here


Getting Along:
Civil Disagreements with a Thinking Christian


Itís always salutary to be evaluated by a strong critic of your position, someone who doesnít share your preconceptions and assumptions and who therefore is able to detect weaknesses in your premises and arguments. Being an advocate of a worldview is to be biased in its favor, and itís good to achieve some virtual distance from your commitments by looking at them through the eyes of an opponent.


Tom Gilson at Thinking Christian was kind enough to offer a critique of Reality and its rivals, an article that discusses the justifications for intersubjective empiricism (exemplified by science) as our most reliable way of knowing, how empiricism tends to support naturalism, and the ethical obligation we have to one another to be empiricists (and thus, perhaps, naturalists). He then invited me to a debate in three parts, which you can read here.


I wonít reprise the arguments since the disagreements are perhaps less important than the tone of the discourse, which was pretty amicable. Since itís unlikely that unanimity on the fundamental questions that worldviews address will ever be achieved, itís crucial that worldview adversaries share a belief in live-and-let-live tolerance, otherwise things can get very nasty, as the history of ideological conflict shows. They should agree that maintaining an irenic philosophical pluralism is more important than achieving world domination for their worldview, because thatís simply not achievable given human diversity. Better we disagree peacefully than try to enforce an untenable uniformity...

- continued here

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Ongoing Activities

~ Naturalism Meetups - monthly get-togethers for those wanting to explore and meme naturalism.

~ Philosophy Cafe @ Harvard Book Store - monthly philosophical discussions on any number of topics; moderated, with refreshments. No worldview commitment required.

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For those interested in learning more about naturalism, or in participating in outreach, research, and writing in collaboration with the CFN, here are a few resources, online and otherwise.


Causality Consulting - practical philosophical consultation that's science-based, short-term, and results-driven.

Encountering Naturalism: A Worldview and Its Uses - "the little orange book of naturalism" is in its second printing, available at Amazon. About the book, see

Naturalism: The Next Step for Humanists? - online video presentation about naturalism for the Freethought Association of Western Michigan; works as a spoken introduction to the philosophy and its implications.

Applied Naturalism Group - a forum to explore the personal and social applications of naturalism; membership by application.


Naturalism Philosophy Forum  - to facilitate the investigation of scientific naturalism, its assumptions, structure, and logical implications; open membership.

Naturalism as a World View - Richard Carrier's page devoted to explaining and defending naturalism.


Religious Naturalism - an online group explores the spiritual implications of naturalism, see Religious Naturalism and its associated Yahoo group.


Psychological Self-Help - an excellent resource, see in particular two chapters on determinism applied to issues of self-acceptance and self-control.  


Cause and Effect World - a smart and skeptical take on this crazy thing called life with host Samantha Clemens; her radio shows, including one on naturalism, are linked here.


Garden of Forking Paths - a free will/moral agency blog with knowledgeable contributors on the leading edge of current academic debates.


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Heads Up

Memeing Naturalism

Ongoing Activities

Online Resources




News Archives





Center for Naturalism


Background on Naturalism


Viability of Naturalism




Applied Naturalism


Spirituality Naturalized