Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Naturalism, Defeated?

[a short dialogue exploring a naturalist's "dogmatic" denial of the supernatural]

I'm a detective working a major murder case. As far as cases go, this case is as open-and-shut as it could get. The physical evidence is overwhelming, the scene of the crime is littered with forensic evidence that all points to one suspect. The victim's blood is on his clothes and in his car, the murder weapon was own by him and residue from firing the gun was found on the suspects hand. The suspect had been seen in the area by many witnesses, entering the premises before the gunshots were heard and left afterwards. The answering machine of the victim had shown that the suspect had left a number of threatening messages including detailing how the victim was to be killed that matched the crime scene.

At trial, I was brought in to testify. I detailed the evidence above, talked about the evidence and how it was obtained. I argued about how it all pointed to the one subject, the quality and amount of evidence was so overwhelming that beyond all reasonable doubt the defendant was the killer. Then the defence lawyer cross-examined me.

"Are you an atheist?" he asked.
"I don't see the relevance of that." I responded.
"It's important in your assessment of the evidence. Are you an atheist?"
"I am."
"So is it fair to say that in your world-view you only consider natural causes?"
"That's a fair assessment."
"Do you consider only natural causes in your line of work?"
"They're the only causes I can consider."
"What you're saying is that when making the case against my client, you didn't consider the supernatural?"
"I did not."
"So how can you say it was my client, when you won't consider that this was a supernatural event?"
"The evidence against your client is overwhelming, as I demonstrated before."
"You did nothing of the sort, you presented no evidence against my client."
"I presented many different lines of evidence that all showed the same account."
"What you presented relied on your philosophical world-view."
"It doesn't matter what I believe, the suspect had the victim's blood on his clothing. The DNA matched."
"But did you consider that DNA analysis matched because demons interfered with the equipment?"
"I did not."
"And did you consider that the witnesses who place my client at the scene were in-fact under demonic possession?"
"I did not."
"And what about the voice analysis on the answering machine?"
"That was done in collaboration with the phone company and using the latest pattern recognition software that showed the harmonic frequencies on the tape matched the suspect, and the call was made from his phone."
"Again you're only considering natural causes. How do you know that wasn't Satan on the tape, and that Satan didn't modify the computer system to show my clients records?"
"I can't know that."
"Precisely. And when you say that the suspects gun was the murder weapon, did you think about God creating the gun ex nihilo to match what your forensics said?"
"I did not consider that."
"In other words, you have no evidence against my client."
"I have plenty of evidence."
"As we've established, it's only evidence when interpreted within your philosophical world-view. You have no case against my client, only your religious fervour to remain an atheist."

At that point I got up from the witness stand and punched the lawyer.
"You assaulted me!"
"No I didn't."
"I saw you punch me."
"That's a powerful demon tricking you."
"Other people saw you punch me."
"That's the powerful demon tricking them too."
"I have bruising on my face."
"That's just angels having a party."
"My blood is on your hand."
"That's not your blood, as my DNA analysis machine will show - if it comes back as your blood it just means a demon is messing with the results."
"But you're an atheist, you don't believe in any of that."
"And evidentially, when it suits you, neither do you."

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