Supernaturalists and the naturalistic fallacy
Morality, meaning & horoscopes
An often-repeated claim made by supernaturalists teaches that "by its very nature, science cannot deal with ethics" and morality. George Ellis, for example, expresses this opinion strongly (see his essay "Science and religion: a personal view of their relation").
Two interesting discussions appear in the latest volume of Evolutionary Psychology, available for free download: Alex Walter's "The anti-naturalistic fallacy: Evolutionary moral psychology and the insistence of brute facts" and Oliver Curry's "Who's afraid of the naturalistic fallacy?". From the latter paper:
"The naturalistic fallacy, by contrast, seems to have become something of a superstition. It is dimly understood and widely feared, and its ritual incantation is an obligatory part of the apprenticeship of moral philosophers and biologists alike. But if the arguments presented above are correct, then it is surely time to dispense with this superstition. To that end I make the following recommendation: Whenever someone uses the term 'naturalistic fallacy', ask them 'Which one?', and insist that they explain the arguments behind their accusation. It is only by bringing the 'fallacy' out into the open that we can break the mysterious spell that it continues to cast over ethics." (Curry 2006, Evol.Psych., 4, 234-247)
Supernaturalists are also very fond of stating that science cannot, in principle, deal with meaning. I've never understood arguments that support this claim, because the only way they make any sense, is to assume from the get-go that meaning is necessarily something which "exists" outside of the individual.
But this is an unnecessary assumption – it has no explanatory power, unless, of course, you want to maintain a supernaturalist world view. As I pointed out earlier, adding the supernatural to your world view explains nothing further about the world (other than being a source of psychological comfort to the believer).
As an aside, Ellis warns in his essay that one shouldn't "attempt to deal with these issues on a scientific basis" because of the horrible consequences (including racism & imperialism) of Social Darwinism (the application of biological ideas of evolution to social phenomena).
Uh, hello? I guess we shouldn't learn from our past and we shouldn't attempt to think anew about all sorts of things, just because at some earlier time they have been mis-applied by some. Anyone want a free horoscope?
nothing more to see. please move along.