Generally what we deem “natural” is what we have understood in the world around us; from laws, to objects, organisms etc. Anything we find out to be a product of this world, whether it be by human hands, or by nature; is deemed in the “natural plain” (or realm) of existence. Hence Naturalism is the idea that this plain of existence has rules and laws by which it run, and that there is nothing outside this plain of existence by the sheer fact that if something does exist outside of our understanding of this realm, and we find out what it is, it becomes something “natural” as we have observed it in nature. Thus Naturalism, is an ever growing understanding of the world around us, and how it works.
Naturalism encompasses two aspects, Natural philosophy (science) and methodological naturalism (scientific method). These terms are not mutually exclusive as one operates with the other. Generally Science is man’s way of understanding the world around him; by positing ideas and forming hypothesis based on those ideas, then following out that hypothesis with experimentation. Allowing for evidence to be analysed and falsified before finally being concluded upon, based on where the evidence leads and what simple conclusions can be met (Occam’s Razor) from the experimentations. The element of demonstration and discussion is also a key part of the scientific method, for if it is a theory that weighs in the natural plain of existence it must be established in a way that can be related to that plain it is discussing (i.e give proof for your knowledge base idea).This method is also self-correcting, hence the falsification bit that was mentioned. Claims that aren’t falsifiable are not good explanations.
Now there has been much discussion on what then is to be deemed “Un-natural” or “super-natural”. Now there are a couple of problems firstly with these terms. What we consider to be natural is within our understanding of the plain of existence we in-habit. If we find laws by which we have not yet come across, we shall establish those laws as laws, and thus (as you can see) those”un-natural” laws, become “Natural” laws. Anything outside our understanding is often coined as being “un-natural” or in some aspects “super-natural”, however one has to point out that these terms are flawed by means that, if we find out about something; most likely we will establish it as being in the realm of existence i.e the “natural realm”.
The multi-verse and other such theories, posit multiple universes, that may operate on different physical and epistemic rules and laws. One could ask “Wouldn’t any universe, who’s laws are different to our own; be considered ‘not-natural’?” well you see the dilemma in that question. Here is an analogy that explains this sort of thinking. You have a Jewellery box, in it you have various sized boxes; each with its own content. The various smaller boxes represent different universes, with different laws. They all exist in the Larger Jewelry box, and that is what we consider to be natural. You see that discussion happens about what is deemed “un-natural” and “natural”, yet one must realize that what we don’t know is not “un-natural” for when we discover it, it is added in the list of what is natural or what can come about by means of natural laws.
This is why meta-physical claims, such as God and fairies, that posit super-natural explanations can not be falsified and thus are wrong. As they posit different realms that, if existed, would be encompassed in a larger realm that we would call natural. As anything we don’t know, that we find out, we add as something nature posits and creates; if intelligent beings existed outside the realm of space and time, they don’t exist to us. You see, meta-physical claims are flawed by the outset, and are un-scientific, and rely on a premise that is un-falsifiable.
This is why when one calls himself a “naturalist” at times they do not even realize what nature, or what the definition of a “naturalist” is. If you believe this realm of existence is the only existence, and you keep in mind what we discover will increase that plain of existence, then you are a naturalist. One would go a step further and state that all people are naturalists, by the sheer fact that if they believe in the “super-natural” they must realize that the term they are using is in sight of a lack of understanding of a possible realm within our existence, that if discovered, would become something “natural”, even though it was already natural to begin with. By this logic, it can be safely said, that the only realm of existence is the “natural realm”, and anything we do not understand is still “natural” as it occurs within our plain of existence; and when we find out about that thing which we do not understand, it becomes Natural.
Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson