I'll examine this question through the lenses of philosophy, science, and theology.
Philosophy - the EAAN
The EAAN (evolutionary argument against naturalism) is Alvin Plantiga's famous argument that one cannot rationally believe both unguided evolution and naturalism are true.
- R = Reliable cognitive faculties
- E = Evolution
- N = Naturalism
If (naturalistic) evolution is true, then our cognitive faculties will
have resulted from blind mechanisms like natural selection, working on
sources of genetic variation such as random genetic mutation. And the
ultimate purpose or function (Churchland's 'chore') of our cognitive
faculties, if indeed they have a purpose or function, will be survival
... But then it is unlikely that they have the production of true beliefs as a function. So the
probability of our faculties' being reliable, given naturalistic
evolution, would be fairly low.
Beliefs don't causally produce behavior by themselves; it is beliefs, desires, and other factors that do so together. Then the problem is that clearly there will be any number of different patterns of belief and desire that would issue in the same action; and among those there will be many in which the beliefs are wildly false.
P(R/N&E) is either low or inscrutable; in either case (if you accept
N&E) you have a defeater for R, and therefore for any other belief B
you might hold; but B might be N&E itself; so one who accepts N&E has
a defeater for N&E, a reason to doubt or be agnostic with respect to
it. If he has no independent evidence, N&E is self-defeating and hence
Could he get a defeater for this defeater - a defeater-defeater? Maybe
by doing some science, by, e.g., determining by scientific means that
his faculties really are reliable?
But of course that would presuppose that his faculties are reliable.
Thomas Reid (Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man):
If a man's honesty were called into question, it would be ridiculous
to refer to the man's own word, whether he be honest or not. The same
absurdity there is in attempting to prove, by any kind of reasoning,
probable or demonstrative, that our reason is not fallacious, since
the very point in question is, whether reasoning may be trusted.(276)
Is there any sensible way at all in which he can argue for R? Any
argument he might produce will have premises; and these premises, he
claims, give him good reason to believe R. But of course he has the
very same defeater for each of those premises that he has for R
So this defeater can't be defeated.
We could also put it like this: any argument he offers, for R, is
circular or question begging. Naturalistic evolution gives its
adherents a reason for doubting that our beliefs are mostly true;
perhaps they are mostly mistaken; for the very reason for mistrusting
our cognitive faculties generally, will be a reason for mistrusting
the faculties that produce belief in the goodness of the argument.
Hence the devotee of N&E has a defeater D for N&E - a defeater,
furthermore, that can't be defeated. So N&E is self-defeating, and
can't rationally be accepted.
One who contemplates accepting N, and is torn, let's say, between N
and theism, would reason as follows: if I were to accept N, I would
have good and ultimately defeated reason to be agnostic about N; so I
shouldn't accept it. (An argument for the irrationality of N, not for
The traditional theist, on the other hand, has no corresponding reason
for doubting that it is a purpose of our cognitive systems to produce
true beliefs, nor any reason for thinking the probability of a
belief's being true, given that it is a product of her cognitive
faculties, is low or inscrutable. She may indeed endorse some form of
evolution; but if she does, it will be a form of evolution guided and
orchestrated by God. And qua traditional theist - qua Jewish, Moslem,
or Christian theist - she believes that God is the premier knower and
has created us human beings in his image, an important part of which
involves his giving them what is needed to have knowledge, just as he
The conclusion to be drawn, therefore, is that the conjunction of
naturalism with evolutionary theory is self-defeating: it provides for
itself an undefeated defeater. It is therefore unacceptable and
The entire argument is lengthy & complex - the excerpt above is but a part of an abbreviated version of the the argument (see here). Plantiga has many critics and many supporters; some of his personal debates on the argument are available online.
Plantiga's argument does not disprove naturalism much less unguided evolution; rather, it shows why it is not rational to believe in both.
Naturalism is not a scientific theory, it is a philosophical assumption that can be made (or not) prior to conducting scientific inquiry. As a result, there is no way for science to confirm or refute naturalism on its own merits. Because naturalism rejects all supernatural inputs, any potential supernatural evidence would necessarily be excluded (or written off as a mistake, fraud, etc.) before evaluating the remainder of the evidence.
Because researchers working from the methodological assumption of naturalism have delivered useful results in many fields of study, many scientists will exercise faith in naturalism (I'm using "faith" in the Biblical sense of the word--the Greek pɪstɪs--as in confidence or trust derived from past behavior). They believe naturalism will produce useful results in the future. In its innocuous form, this means using naturalism in future relevant research. In its more extreme form, this means assuming that any question not yet answered on naturalistic grounds will eventually be answered on naturalistic grounds.
This latter assumption is not a valid, deductive conclusion, and it is a very precarious inductive conclusion, as it must first exclude all competing evidence before logical reasoning begins (there is a term for deciding before applying reason: "irrational").
Although I accept that there are circumstances where naturalism can be a useful methodological assumption in evaluating a specific question, as a truth claim or a general worldview it is question-begging: all evidence in its favor is accepted and all evidence to the contrary is rejected. This is not scientific at all.
Thus, naturalism can be useful in methodical inquiry--excluding one possibility at a time (including supernatural influence), without privileging any single variable, enables one to test whether the remaining variables produce the effect under investigation--but science provides no reason to believe naturalism offers a true description of our universe.
In naturalistic scientific inquiry, naturalism is a premise and scientific learning is a conclusion. No argument, no matter how clever, can prove in its conclusion that one of its premises is true.
Theology - the Resurrection
Does Peter count as a Christian philosopher?
Perhaps the most straightforward way to reject naturalism as a statement of reality is to argue in favor of the resurrection - so far as we know, resurrection of the dead to an immortal, glorified, incorruptible body, is not a natural process.
Christianity is rooted in the belief that Jesus of Nazareth died, was buried, and rose again. And not only that he rose again, but He rose immortal (unlike say, Lazarus or the daughter of Jairus, who remained mortal after being revived). Arguments that this bold claim is true generally fall into 2 camps:
- Historical arguments for the resurrection
- Revelatory experiences affirming the resurrection
The Gospels of Matthew & John, several of the New Testament epistles, Revelation, and other documents relay eyewitness testimony first-hand, affirming the resurrection of Christ. My video series arguing that the Gospel of Matthew is a historically reliable document, written in a time and place where its central claims about Jesus could be fact-checked, is found here: Who When & Why - the Writing of the Gospels.
If the Gospel of Matthew is what it purports to be, and what generations of early historians claimed it is, then we have historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus that is as reliable as anything written in the ancient world (this is why the Gospel of Matthew has been so thoroughly and often unscrupulously attacked in the last 190 years).
Although I find supporting evidence in the historical data, my belief in the resurrection is founded upon what God has made known to me personally. Prior to the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter testified that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and he knew this because God had revealed it to him (see Matt. 16:16-17). I claim to know this truth the same way Peter did.