Naturalism: a kite that goes through the motions?

I read this from the atheist Steven Pinker:

The facts of science, by exposing the absence of purpose in the laws governing the universe, force us to take responsibility for the welfare of ourselves, our species, and our planet.

But two hours beforehand, I read this from Bill Vallicella:

The truth may be this. People who hold a naturalistic view and deny any purpose beyond the purposes that we individually and collectively project, and yet experience their lives as meaningful and purposeful, may simply not appreciate the practical consequences of their own theory. It may be that they have not existentially appropriated or properly internalized their theory. They don’t appreciate that their doctrine implies that their lives are objectively meaningless, that their moral seriousness is misguided, that their values are without backing. They are running on the fumes of a moral tradition whose theoretical underpinning they have rejected.

If that is right, then their theory contradicts their practice, but since they either do not fully understand their theory, or do not try to live it, the contradiction remains hidden from them.

My two cents

Beautiful Morning Sunrise on Saturday, 17th Au...
Beautiful Morning Sunrise on Saturday, 17th August 2013 at 6:41 am (Photo credit: Nature Photographer 12)

With the first quote, I’m not sure if the conclusion follows neatly and logically from the premises. On first blush, there feels like a gap between the two—which makes for the reach at the end. Whatever reach is made, I gather it’s not then clutching at straws.

With the second quote, while written in a different context, is more logical and connected; the link between the premises and the conclusion are much stronger. If naturalism (in its scientific manifestation) happens to be true, then the kite of human existence is propelled by an indifferent and purposeless wind. So then, to what extent is naturalism an exercise in going through the motions?

The first quote comes from an article entitled Science is not your enemy; but can the same be said of naturalism?

Quote sources

  1. Pinker, S. (2013). Science is Not Your Enemy: An impassioned plea to neglected novelists, embattled professors, and tenure-less historians. Available: Last accessed 7th Nov 2013.
  2. Vallicella, B. (2013). Would Naturalism Make Life Easier?. Available: Last accessed 7th Nov 2013.

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