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Secular Philosophy Metaphysics Epistemology

QUESTION: Secular Philosophy – Metaphysics and Epistemology


Epistemology refers to our theory of knowledge and answers the questions How much can we know about reality? and How do we obtain this knowledge? Secular Humanist naturalism answers that we can know everything in the physical world (which is the extent of what exists) through science. According to Roy Wood Sellars, “The spirit of naturalism would seem to be one with the spirit of science itself.”1

Most Secular Humanists agree with Sellars. The Humanist Manifesto II states, “Any account of nature should pass the tests of scientific evidence,”2 eliminating the possibility of the supernatural, which is neither measurable nor observable. Naturalists, whose epistemology is grounded in science, find truth in what they can see with their eyes—that is, only the physical universe.

Secular Philosophy – The Physical Universe is All that Exists
The epistemology of Secular Humanism shapes its metaphysics. A worldview consistent with the belief that the physical universe is all that exists and that science is our only source of knowledge precludes the existence of knowledge about anything supernatural. However, belief in science as the ultimate means to knowledge (truth) requires as much faith as belief in the existence and truth of the supernatural. Admitting this self-contradiction, Carl Sagan announced, “[S]cience has itself become a kind of religion.”3

Lamont rationalizes the Secular Humanist position of placing faith in science rather than in religion: “It is sometimes argued that since science, like religion, must make ultimate assumptions, we have no more right to rely on science in an analysis of the idea of immortality than on religion. Faith in the methods and findings of science, it is said, is just as much a faith as faith in the methods and findings of religion. In answer to this we can only say that the history of thought seems to show that reliance on science has been more fruitful in the progress and extension of the truth than reliance on religion.”4

The epistemology of the naturalist is inseparable from science. In order to properly know and understand the world around us, Secular Humanist naturalism requires that we apply science to every aspect of life, including the social and the moral.


Rendered with permission from the book,Understanding the Times: The Collision of Todays Competing Worldviews(Rev. 2nd ed), David Noebel, Summit Press, 2006. Compliments of John Stonestreet, David Noebel, and the Christian Worldview Ministry at Summit Ministries. All rights reserved in the original.

1 Roy Wood Sellars, Evolutionary Naturalism (Chicago, IL: Open Court, 1922), 5.

2 The Humanist Manifesto II, 16.

3 Carl Sagan, UFO’s-A Scientific Debate (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1972), xiv.

4 Corliss Lamont, The Illusion of Immortality (New York, NY: Frederick Ungar, 1965), 124–5.

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