Pastor-teacher Don Hargrove
Faith Bible Church
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
DDR AND FBC PRAYER LIST #492
CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHY/APOLOGETICS - PART 14:
Critique of Materialistic Atheism - Part 2
From a philosophical standpoint atheism is the easiest to defeat. In the last DDR I noted how the atheist really does not have a solid basis for science since they do not have a solid basis for the law of uniformity – upon which all of science depends. As Christians we have a solid basis for the law of uniformity as we understand that God, Jesus Christ in particular, holds all things together by the word of His power, Heb 1:3.
Today I would like to talk about the bankruptcy of atheism with respect to the mind. It is unfortunate that many in our culture, both on the street and even in many academic circles (outside of philosophy) think of and refer to the mind and brain synonymously – in other words they use the terms interchangeably. This is unfortunate because there is a great difference between mind and brain. For example: my brain is 5’ 11” off the floor and weighs around 3 pounds; it does not make sense to say that my mind is 5’ 11’’ off the floor and weighs 3 pounds or has any properties of weight, shape, or mass. There is a difference between the physical object, that grey matter called the brain and the invisible mind that conceptualizes.
The question in the field of brain-n-mind for centuries is can everything in the mind be reduced to the brain? Of course there is a relationship, but can the mind be reduced to the brain – to materialism? If the brain scientist could look into the grey matter could he see the qualia (experience/mental feel of things) or concepts in the mind? It is a long complicated matter and I will simply note that it is acknowledged by the experts that it is theoretically impossible to do that. The reason it is impossible is because we are talking about two things, the brain and the mind, which are of different orders altogether: it is one thing to look at the physical electrons and synapses but they have absolutely nothing to do with the conceptual content that is being transmitted over those synapses. You cannot tell what a person is thinking by dissecting his brain. Again, there is a vast difference between mind and brain.
Yet the materialistic atheist says that the mind must be able to be reduced to brain since ‘materialism is all that there is.’ Furthermore he will have to admit that given his viewpoint no one has any thought processes that are truly free. By his own materialism he is forced to say that all of our thoughts and “decisions” are but the by-products of the workings of the grey matter upstairs.
Now to go in for the “kill” in regard to atheistic point of view: if it is true that everything is but the results of biochemical activity in the grey matter then no one has any control over what they think. The real thinking atheist will agree to this statement. According to the materialistic atheist all that they think are but the results of antecedent material causes. When you speak to an atheist you need to make sure they understand this point. According to the materialistic atheist there really is not mind as such and everything can be reduced to biochemical electrical activity in the grey matter. Therefore what we think we could not help but think and therefore what we attempt to prove really could not be proved to be true for it is all but the results of electrical responses in my brain.
If what the atheist says is true he has no reason to believe that it is true. The atheistic worldview undermines any confidence that you could have in any worldview. To put it another way: all of the atheistic talk about atheism is but the result of electrical chemical responses in his brain. For all we know the machinery upstairs went wacko. But of course we could not hold anyone accountable for such a thing – after all if everything is physical then everything is just from antecedent physical causes. You could no more blame thoughts and motives than blame a rock that falls 32 feet per second per second as it is pulled to the center of the earth by gravity. Therefore, no one can help what they think, say, or what they do. If there is no mind and no freedom then no one can be held responsible. What I am getting at is if atheism is true then there is no reason to believe in atheism because all “thoughts” are just materialism at work. If atheism is true then I have no mind and the brain just does what it does. So you could just tell the atheist that since there really is no mind then it is futile to prove anything. I mean if my brain “says” what it says and your brain says what it says then there really cannot be a serious debate about anything. How can there be serious debate without minds? Furthermore if materialism is all there is then there are no such things as laws of logic and for an atheistic to show up for a debate proves the theist’s point of view. The very laws of logic are based on immaterial reality which the materialists must deny to be consistent.
There is also the problem of moral absolutes. Not only does the atheist have to borrow from the Christian worldview in regard to logic and freedom because his system lacks an immaterial mind, he also has to borrow morality. Why should anyone be “decent” to another person? What is wrong with raping and pillaging and the like? If you ask an atheist why would it be wrong to pull out a gun and shoot him instead of debating with him, he will either say that there are no moral absolutes but he wishes you would not shoot him and in actuality it would not be “wrong” to do it, or he will borrow from your Christian worldview and tell you you should not do it because it would be wrong.
If there are no moral absolutes then what would be wrong with winning the debate by eliminating the atheist with a handgun? But if the atheist says that it is wrong to win a debate by shooting your opponent for murder, he is going to have to explain why it is wrong and that means he is going to have to appeal to something that is beyond the material cosmos. He has to go somewhere beyond the physical world to get a moral absolute. Every atheist sits on the horns of that dilemma – if there is such a thing as morality then there must be something beyond the material realm like God - if there is nothing more than the physical realm then there are no moral absolutes.
The atheist often prides himself on reason, yet he has no basis for reason let alone the mind. The atheist often is found protesting this or that all the while he has no basis for right and wrong. The atheist might be able to suppress his knowledge of God (cf. Rm 1:18ff) but he does not and cannot suppress the consequences of God, i.e. the mind, logic, and basic morality. The atheist might talk about crass materialism but cannot escape the world of logic, love, and right-n-wrong. He might lecture on materialism but: he expects his students to be “independent” thinkers; he goes home and tells his wife and children he loves them; and will not tolerate any of his students cheating on his exams. What do you think the professor would do if the student caught cheating said something like, ‘I am just thinking and choosing on the basis of antecedent materialism in my brain – as per the epiphenomenalism you have taught us’? What do you think the professor would say to a student who cheated on a test and when caught turned to the professor and said “you hypocrite, you taught us all semester that there were no moral absolutes, who are you to condemn me? – after all you said it was ‘different strokes for different folks.’” The bottom line is that the atheist cannot live according to his own worldview. The same atheist who tells his students that there is no such thing as right and wrong and it is OK for the students to engage in “free” sex and even to shack up, is the same one who is out there protesting against the “injustices” of his country. For him it is different strokes for different folks when it comes to sexuality and liberalism but not when it comes to conservative principles of divine establishment.
Materialistic atheism is bankrupt – no basis for science, logic, morality, right or wrong, love, or the dignity of man. What do you think the atheist’s response is when you destroy their worldview? Do you think they will turn around and thank you for pointing out it out to them and say ‘O yea now I get it, now tell me about the Lord’ ? Very few will do this, very few are positive toward the Lord. Most have already chosen their faith system. They will do science, logic and live with right-n-wrong which demonstrates that they really do believe in God in their heart of hearts. It also shows that they do these things on the basis of faith – but a faith that has no basis to it. In the next DDR we will examine the atheist’s faith system and his self-deception. The atheist has deceived himself into thinking that there is no God but lives as though there is a God.