How to teach your new pet rock everything it needs to know (or, the problem of knowledge for naturalism)
By Jason McMartin
Among the must-have toys of Christmas 1975 was the pet rock. Advertising executive Gary Dahl conceived the idea while listening to others complain about the hassles of animate pets, and then his marketing instincts kicked in. He gathered ordinary stones, printed care instructions and boxes with air holes, placed the rocks on a bed of straw, and then collected near 100% profit on every unit sold to become a multimillionaire within about nine months. In 2012, instead of buying one, people must now make their own. The creation of humorous instructions abounds, including a recent guidebook that can be purchased on Amazon. For example, some tricks are easy to teach your new pet rock, such as sit and play dead. Others are quite difficult or require owner assistance. House-training a pet rock is easy: “Place it on some old newspapers. The rock will never know what the paper is for and will require no further instruction.”
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The novelty and humor of the pet rock emerge (if at all) from the absurdity of the whole situation. Of course the rock doesn’t “know” what the newspaper is for. We’re not misled for a second into attributing thought or consciousness to the rock. Yet, the naturalistic worldview of our culture insists that all of reality is composed ultimately of physical or material stuff, including human persons. If we are primarily or entirely made up of matter, just like the rock, how are we able to be consciously aware or to know anything?
A recent book by Biola University apologetics professor R. Scott Smith provides a detailed examination of how knowledge has been characterized by those who espouse a naturalistic worldview. In Naturalism and Our Knowledge of Reality, his conclusion is that naturalism is simply unable to account for our ability to have knowledge. In brief, the argument of the book goes like this: we know many things and there is no reason to doubt that we do. Naturalism is unable to explain this adequately. Therefore, it is a failed worldview…
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