from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun One versed in natural history, especially in zoology or botany.
  • noun One who believes in and follows the tenets of naturalism.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun One who understands natural causes; one who is versed in natural science or philosophy; specifically, one who is versed in or devoted to natural history; in the most restricted sense, a zoölogist or botanist.
  • noun One who holds the theological theory or doctrine of naturalism.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun One versed in natural science; a student of natural history, esp. of the natural history of plants or animals; a botanist or zoologist.
  • noun One who holds or maintains the doctrine of naturalism in religion.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun dated A person committed to studying nature or natural history.
  • noun philosophy A person who believes in or advocates the tenets of philosophical or methodological naturalism.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun an advocate of the doctrine that the world can be understood in scientific terms
  • noun a biologist knowledgeable about natural history (especially botany and zoology)


Sorry, no etymologies found.



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  • In the ongoing resurgence of atheistic thinking, the term naturalist has taken on a nuanced and politicized meeting.

    Spokesatheist Richard Dawkins, in his book The God Delusion, recognizes that the term "atheist" has a negative definition, i.e. a person who does not believe in god, and that a negative definition unnecessarily frames atheists at the margin rather than at the center of the discussion. Additionally, this particular term has a negative semantic orientation among moderate, influenceable Americans.

    Instead, he has proposed the adoption of the alternate terms "naturalist" and "supernaturalist." This frames atheism with a positive definition and at the center, i.e. a person who believes in the natural world, with all of the positive associations of the word "natural." This consequently frames believers at the margin, de-privileging the concepts of gods, angels, and devils, by underscoring the salient similarity between them and the concepts of ghosts, psychics, and the X-Files.

    --From Tato at

    August 22, 2007

  • Everything is spin. Mr. Dawkins can relabel himself however he wants, but it's fairly despicable to intentionally slight religious groups by trying to relabel them. It's like "pro-life/pro-death" vs. "pro-choice/anti-choice," which is a pretty stupid battle of rhetoric in itself. Though the word naturalist is a good one, Dawkins is a jerk for foisting the purposely negative supernaturalist on his "rivals."

    August 22, 2007

  • Maybe he needs to choose a different word, though. In my view, "naturalist" already has quite a good definition, and while it may intersect that of Dawkins' in some ways, it certainly isn't the same definition as the one he proposes. Presently the word refers to someone who studies nature and natural history (or teaches them), not one who "believes" in it. Awfully confusing, in my opinion.

    And does he mean to suggest that all atheists necessarily believe in the natural world and vice versa? Is that really the case? (This isn't necessarily a rhetorical question--I'm not at all sure about this, not being well-versed in the subject.)

    August 22, 2007

  • I think that's the definition of atheism. Anything veering away from a strictly natural belief system enters the territory of theism, or at least agnosticism.

    August 22, 2007

  • Oh, and I've heard "Dawkins' definition" of naturalism since way before Dawkins claimed it, I think.

    August 22, 2007

  • Don't know, uselessness. I get all of that, but I've always thought that this "natural" vs. "spiritual" dichotomy is far too clean to help us make sense of the muddiness we live with. I know a self-proclaimed atheist, for example, who couldn't care less about the natural world. Where would he fall in this argument? I'm almost certain he wouldn't describe himself as a naturalist.

    I suppose I should ask him directly, but he's not available at the moment. ;-)

    August 22, 2007

  • So your friend doesn't believe in God... but does believe in supernatural occurrences? Like ghosts and stuff? I guess that could be defined as atheism, perhaps, but it would seem a person in that position might want to do some more evaluating of how s/he really believes and chooses to be identified. And then there are the apatheists, who are in a whole other boat altogether. I'd say the label "atheist" is only for people who are decided on the matter, not for people who aren't sure or don't care.

    August 22, 2007

  • I have to agree with you--in fact, maybe this is *his* problem, not ours. :-) I only know what he's told me. I've always suspected he uses the description "atheist" almost literally--as in, not believing in a god but not necessarily believing in anything else. Which brings us back to square one here, I suppose.

    August 22, 2007

  • Be interesting to get his views on nihilism or anarchism do you think?

    August 22, 2007

  • Sure would--but I'd have to catch him on a good day. He can be a tad ornery. ;-)

    August 22, 2007