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Turning the Lion Loose

Regis Nicoll
Regis Nicoll
2014 12 Oct

Charles Spurgeon once said, "Truth is like a lion. Who ever heard of defending a lion? Just turn it loose and it will defend itself." A few years back, I learned just how right the 19th-century preacher was. It happened during in an online discussion I had with “Nigel” (not his real name).

Nigel is a self-described atheist and rising star in theBrights movement—a community of philosophical naturalists aimed at “illuminating and elevating the naturalistic worldview,” as their slogan proudly states. Some of its more prominent luminaries include Richard Dawkins, Michael Shermer, and Daniel Dennett.

After coming across a piece I had written critical of naturalism, Nigel invited me to have a dialogue with him on his open blog. I agreed and was quickly drawn into a protracted discussion.

Over a period of several weeks, we covered topics ranging from the origin of the universe and the nature of matter to the origin of morality and the nature of God. Nigel’s central argument rested on the explanatory power of naturalism over theism, with particular emphasis on Darwinian evolution. As he explained in one characteristic statement,

“Natural selection is so parsimonious and so powerful, it answers so many questions and solves so many intellectual problems in biology, archaeology, paleontology and anthropology, that it is rightly held aloft as one of the pinnacles of human thought.”  My response went something like this