November 29, 2012


Naturalism is Elephant all the way down, as explained by a tale borrowed from James Sire’s discussion of presuppositions—the foundations of a person’s philosophy of fact. Here’s the tale: Boy asks what holds up the world. Dad says it’s a camel. One day passes. Boy now wants to know what holds up the camel. Dad’s answer: a kangaroo. Short time elapses. Boy wants to know about the kangaroo’s support. Anxious father conjures up and bellows out “Elephant!” theorizing that “if you shout, people believe you.” Doesn’t work. Boy needs to know what holds up elephant. Father’s triumphant genius: “Son, it’s Elephant all the way down.”*

For dad, in my somewhat expropriated story, other beasts notwithstanding, Elephant is anchor. The earth is the Elephant’s and the emptiness thereof. Elephant moves kings and sets up elections. White mold and dark matter depend on Elephant! Bird and bee, fish and tree, mountain and sea, you and me, personal and local, national and global, infinitesimal and universal destiny, are all a whimsy named Elephant. There is no mind, and therefore no will; no conscience, and therefore no morality; no emotion, and therefore no care either for us or for Elephant—only Elephant all the way back, all the way through, and all the way down.

Philosophical naturalism, astonishingly, claims both mindlessness and philosophy. The latter knows no category distinction between the universe and its support. Its heavens declare the glory of fluke. They, your wonder at them, and philosophy on either, are but quirks of freakish chance, because naturalism knows that no reason drives its mindlessness. The atheist fool of Psalm 14:1 must descend to oblivion on elephants’ tales. Naturalism is Elephant all the way down.

* James W. Sire, Discipleship of the Mind (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1990), p. 35.

Lael Caesar is an associate editor of the Adventist Review. This article was published November 8, 2012.