Naturalism - Philosophical and Theological Disposition
Naturalism, commonly known as materialism, is a philosophical paradigm whereby everything can be explained in terms of natural causes. Physical matter is the only reality -- everything can be explained in terms of matter and physical phenomena. Naturalism, by definition, excludes any Supernatural Agent or activity. Thus, naturalism is atheism. Naturalism's exclusion of God necessitates moral relativism. Philosophers agree, without God there is no universal moral standard of conduct.
Naturalism - The Origin of the Universe
Naturalism faces some significant hurdles. Recent discoveries (including galactic motion in astronomy and proton decay in physics) have led scholars to accept this certainty: the universe began at some point in time -- a singularity. Without the possibility of an eternal cosmos, there are only two feasible alternatives for the origin of the universe: either Someone made it, or it made itself. The observations of empirical science have put materialists in an awkward position -- they must identify a natural mechanism by which the universe could have created and developed itself without an Intelligent Director.
Naturalism - The Origin of Life
Naturalism has a major "Achilles' Heel" - the origin of life. Life only comes from life. How do naturalists fit this into their cosmogony? They must find a mechanism by which life could evolve from inorganic matter. Life is incredibly complex. Could this level of complexity arrive naturally by chance chemical interactions over time? The Stanley Miller "Spark and Soup" experiments are the closest man has ever come to creating life from inorganic matter "naturally by random chance" in the laboratory. However, there are three significant problems with Miller's experiments.
First, Miller started with the wrong materials. Miller assumed a reducing atmosphere: Methane (CH4), Ammonia (NH3), and Hydrogen. He purposefully excluded Oxygen, because as a biochemist, Miller knew that Oxygen would destroy any amino acids (the building blocks of life) that might be produced. Oxygen precludes any naturalistic evolutionary origin of life. Yet, as far down as we dig into the Earth's crust, we find oxidized rock, indicating the Earth has always had an oxygen-rich atmosphere. However, just suppose there was an Oxygen-free reducing atmosphere. Now we have a chicken and the egg problem. Without Oxygen there is no Ozone (O3). Without Ozone there is nothing shielding the Earth from the Sun's Ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The problem is Ammonia is decomposed by UV -- Ammonia can't exist apart from Ozone. To further cast doubt on the "reducing atmosphere" hypothesis, we should find Methane in ancient sedimentary clays and we don't. The geology appears clear: Earth never had a reducing atmosphere.
Second, Miller used the wrong conditions. The experiment was supposed to demonstrate how life could evolve from inorganic matter naturally by random chance. Miller used an electric spark to simulate lightning flashing upon the ancient earth. The spark was necessary to combine the gas molecules to produce the desired amino acid building blocks. The problem is the same spark that puts the amino acids together tears them apart. Actually, it is much better at destroying them than creating them. As a biochemist Miller knew this, so he circulated the gases and trapped out the amino acids using a well-known biochemist trick. Miller was supposed to recreate the spontaneous generation of life from inorganic matter naturally by random chance, but he acted as an engineer, using biochemical know-how. Thus, the Miller experiment was not random at all -- wrong conditions.
Third, Miller got the wrong results. Dr. Mark Eastman comments on the results of Miller's "Spark and Soup" experiment, "The major products of the experiment (tar and carboxylic acids) are poisonous to living systems. Such chemicals poison and ultimately kill living systems by binding irreversibly to protein enzymes in them. This is how modern pesticides kill their prey. In fact, had he drunk the solution his experiment produced, it is a virtual certainty that Stanley Miller would have died. To argue that such a toxic environment is the cradle of life requires a great deal of faith." (Mark Eastman, M.D., "Creation by Design," 1996, pg. 15) Miller did not create life -- he created poison -- wrong results.
Evolutionist Robert Shapiro summed-up the experiment very well, "The very best Miller-urey chemistry, as we have seen does not take us very far along the path to a living organism. A mixture of simple chemicals, even one enriched in a few amino acids, no more resembles a bacterium than a small pile of real and nonsense words, each written on an individual scrap of paper, resembles the complete works of Shakespeare." (Robert Shapiro, "Origins - A Skeptics Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth," 1986, p. 116)
Naturalism - The Staggering Statistics
Naturalism has another problem. Even if scientists were to discover a method by which amino acid building blocks could be produced by random chemical processes, could life itself evolve randomly from inorganic matter? Not according to secular mathematicians. Eastman explains, "In the last 30 years a number of prominent scientists have attempted to calculate the odds that a free-living, single-celled organism, such as a bacterium, might result by the chance combining of pre-existent building blocks. Harold Morowitz calculated the odds as one chance in 10^100,000,000,000. Sir Fred Hoyle calculated the odds of only the proteins of an amoebae arising by chance as one chance in 10^40,000. When you consider that the chances of winning a state lottery every week of your life from the age 18 to age 99 is about one in 4.6 x 10^29,120, the odds calculated by Morowitz and Hoyle are staggering. The odds led Fred Hoyle to state that the probability of spontaneous generation 'is about the same as the probability that a tornado sweeping through a junk yard could assemble a 747 from the contents therein.' Mathematicians tell us that any event with an improbability greater than one chance in 10^50 is in the realm of metaphysics - i.e. a miracle." (Mark Eastman, M.D., "Creation by Design," 1996, pgs. 20-22)