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Cosmic Variance

Moving Naturalism Forward

11 Oct 2012, 18:09 UTC
Moving Naturalism Forward
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I’m very excited about a workshop I’ll be at later this month: Moving Naturalism Forward. By “naturalism” we mean the simple idea that the natural world, obeying natural laws, is all there is. No supernatural realm, spirits, or ineffable dualistic essences affecting what happens in the universe. Clearly the idea is closely related to atheism (I can’t imagine anyone is both a naturalist and a theist), but the focus is on understanding how the world actually does work rather than just rejecting one set of ideas.
Once you accept that we live in a self-contained universe governed by impersonal laws of nature, the hard work has just begun, as we are faced with a daunting list of challenges. The naturalist worldview comes into conflict with our “folk” understanding of human life in multiple ways, and we need to figure out what can be salvaged and what has to go. We’ve identified these particular issues for discussion:

Free will. If people are collections of atoms obeying the laws of physics, is it sensible to say that they make choices?
Morality. What is the origin of right and wrong? Are there objective standards?
Meaning. Why live? Is there a rational justification ...

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