What is nature

In the introduction to God and the New Atheism, the theologian John Haught says [p x]

The belief system that Dennett and the other new atheists subscribe to is known as “scientific naturalism.” Its central dogma is that only nature, including humans and our creations, is real; that God does not exist; and that science alone can give us complete and reliable knowledge of reality.

That’s not how I would put it. I think naturalism means that all there is is all there is. There is what there is. The theists’ claim of God seems to include the idea that it has to be mysterian.

Why not just think of it as part of what there is, and then ask how to figure it out – how to find it or argue for it or show how it is explanatory or necessary (having first carefully defined it)? Why not give it a less tendentious and more descriptive name?

The idea that there is nature, and then there is something else, or more, or outside nature, or supernature, or metaphysic, is a religious idea. Without it, one just thinks there is whatever there is, and we certainly don’t know all there is to know about it.

To us it doesn’t make sense to say there is what there is, and then there is something above or “beyond” that. How could there be? There is what there is. Maybe it includes some cosmic intelligence or design-force – but if it does, it is part of what there is.

We don’t think of nature as some closed boundaried thing with special attributes that distinguish it from some other thing on the other side of it. We just think of it as what there is. Not what we know there is – not what we’ve discovered of what there is – just what there is. So if you think god is, god has to be part of that.

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