This is both a theoretical and practical question.

Physics (at least university-taught physics) is often based upon Newton's basic worldview, a naturalistic worldview that's said to be the cornerstone of physics. From that point physics evolved. While the mainstream view was naturalism, other branches of metaphysics have been influential as well - although they often ended up being rejected by the mainstream view.

Taking this history in mind, is it possible to study physics without forcing upon ourselves the naturalistic worldview?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; if you like to discuss the question, use this chat room. Comments should be submitted only if they suggest improvements of the question. – Philip Klöcking Jul 18 '18 at 6:30
  • You need to better identify what you are labeling the naturalistic worldview. We cannot read Newton's mind in retrospect, and his worldview included Alchemy, which at some level depends upon an entirely Hermetic worldview. He was also an orthodox Anglican, which involves both a very Roman Catholic worldview and a Protestant overlay of simplifying literalism. What is it that you see underlying all that complexity? I would contend that 1) what we take as the basic psychology of physics is really imposed on Newton retroactively, and 2) it does not constitute a worldview. – jobermark Aug 23 '18 at 21:53

According to Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies (WTCRL) page 77-8, while criticizing what he called "hands-off theology" practiced by theologians such as Rudolph Bultmann, noted the following about Isaac Newton:

...Newton himself (one hopes) accepted the Newtonian picture, but he didn't accept hands-off theology. He believed that God providentially guides the world. He also believed that God regularly adjusts the orbits of the planets; according to his calculations, their orbits would otherwise spiral off into chaos. More important, however: according to Newton and classical mechanics, natural laws describe how the world works when, or provided that the world is a closed (isolated) system, subject to no outside causal influence.

Naturalism does not go back to Newton's worldview. Naturalism rejects Newton's worldview.

According to Plantinga what needs to be added to the Newtonian picture is "Determinism plus the causal closure of the physical universe". (WTCRL, p 85)

A view that accepts the Laplacean picture, not the Newtonian picture, is the source of naturalism. (WTCRL, pp. 84-90)

With that as a preliminary, let's consider the question:

Taking this history in mind, is it possible to study physics without forcing upon ourselves the naturalistic worldview?

Yes, it is possible. An example of someone who studied physics without accepting the naturalistic worldview was Isaac Newton.


Plantinga, A. (2011). Where the conflict really lies: Science, religion, and naturalism. OUP USA.

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