The only thing worse then trying to tell people that you are a Secular Humanist is trying to tell people that you are a metaphysical naturalist.
WTF? Metaphysical Naturalist?
Its almost as if someone where just trying to make big words to sound smart. But metaphysical naturalism is a real thing, and it happens to describe a huge part of my worldview.
When you tell others that you are a metaphysical naturalist, the word that dominates their thoughts is nature. Particularly thoughts of camping, hiking, and Walden Pond. Or worse yet; nudist colonies.
This is slightly off target.
Perhaps for this reason when people ask me about my naturalism I tell them that as a naturalist I am intrigued by the loveliness of nuclear waste.
When a naturalist discusses nature he discusses the natural world as it is determined by scientific examination. When a naturalist discusses nature its not usually to contrast forests with cities, as culture has programmed us. To the naturalist the city is a perfectly comfortable manifestation of nature.
It is not the fault of the public that the definition of metaphysical naturalism is not well known.
It is however high time that we discussed naturalism enough for people to at least know what it is.
Naturalism is the idea that what we know comes from empirical study of nature. The scientific method is known as methodological naturalism. Quite simply, naturalism at its basis is science. Metaphysical naturalism is built on the cornerstone of methodological naturalism. It is the bloom on the root of the scientific method.
What me know must come from science says the naturalist. But when we begin to ask "what should we do with what we know?" that the task of the metaphysical naturalist.
Metaphysical claims are notions about how things should be, ethics, love, freedom. Out of professional courtesy and discipline scientist do not make metaphysical claims in the name of science. Metaphysical naturalists do.
The naturalist asks, "If this be true in nature what does it mean for humanity?"
One example is the thoughts of John Dewey on free will. Naturalists tend to reject notions of free will as something that exists beyond nature. Christianity, for example, teaches us that our will is something that transcends this mortal coil and reaches beyond from a spiritual realm. Naturalist reject this by pointing out that everything we chose to do we chose as a result of causes. John Dewey argued that we should think of habits as free will.
In short, naturalist answer questions on the nature of free will by illustrating the evidence that this universe is governed by causes. This is a principle known in physics and chemistry and by the metaphysical naturalists: thought of in the context of human choice.
Metaphysical naturalism has many champions: Betrand Russel, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Paul Kurtz, Pat Churchland, Victor Stenger, Richard Carrier, and Susan Blackmore (who's punk rock antics endear me).
Naturalism is the philosophy behind respectful atheism. Those atheists we all love for their beautiful words would happily admit that they are naturalist. It is just harder to sell books on naturalism; remember the whole nudist colony/Walden Pond problem.