Who Owes Me Three Dollars?

August 14, 2005

"If naturalism were true then all thoughts whateve…

Filed under: Uncategorized — ineedsheetmusic @ 4:18 am

“If naturalism were true
then all thoughts whatever would be wholly the result of irrational causes…it cuts its own throat”. That’s a C.S. Lewis quote. It addresses an area of study that has captured my mind for a long time. Let me briefly share with you what Lewis is saying.

Naturalism is another term for materialism; the idea that all that exists in the cosmos is matter. Non-material things just don’t exist.

You see the obvious inference here. They are saying that your mind is not what you think it is. If it exists, it is just matter. Now we know that matter exists. And what we know about it is this: it obeys laws – physical laws. Laws of reaction and response to stimuli – of several sorts. Another thing we know about matter is that it has no will, free or otherwise.

Therefore your thoughts and subsequent utterances about/from them are merely physical responses to prior physical stimuli (irrational causes, to Lewis). They spring up from nothing other than some physical cause.

The problem for the naturalist is this: one of those irrationally caused utterances (thoughts) is the very claim being made by the naturalist. What he has done is made a claim, and in the same breath, he has advertised that we should be considered fools to believe his claim.

To put it in graphical terms, the sounds that come out of any one’s mouth (statements, propositions) neither make any more sense nor carry any more authoritative weight than the gurgling that you can occasionally hear in your own stomach. Including his own naturalist claims. It cuts its own throat.

Problems for naturalists are many. One problem is the same one you would have if you started telling your mind that it is a physical thing, just a brain, say, and that mind (behind the green curtain) has no authority and is at bottom non-sensical. Secondly, if his own mind is telling him that it is non-material, what does he believe it with? (The obvious problem is that our minds do exist and he has no explanation for their source or their constitution, but this one begs the question and therefore is verboten in the discussion).

A third problem is how it is possible for the mind, a non-physical thing (whose existence he does not allow), to cause changes to occur in the physical realm. How can the non-physical control the physical? Examples of this abound in real life.

And you, the atheist or agnostic reader, have to be a naturalist. You don’t get a free pass around this. You can’t at once deny God and also get to believe in any other part of the non-material universe.

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10 Comments »

  1. There is matter, and there is also energy, but I think your points stand, since energy also “has no will, free or otherwise.”

    Comment by son1http://ruberad.wordpress.com — May 17, 2006 @ 11:24 pm

  2. Thanks Bruce. You took the time to state what I really don’t think would have fit into the forum at forester’s Blog. Plus you said it far better.

    I will surely link others to this post.

    God Bless

    Comment by Howard Fisher — May 18, 2006 @ 4:08 am

  3. Hi Bruce! Let me take this opportunity to say you have a great son there, and I feel lucky to have met him and have him as a friend. Of course, I wasn’t actually lucky – it was always going to happen in this universe.

    I accept that, at a certain level of abstraction beyond measure/perception by me, I have no free will. Our experience is the result of sufficiently complex interactions that we can’t tie every part of it down to a reason. That is until we’re able to abstract away and represent interactions in a formal manner.

    The Universe is more complex than an individual can internally comprehend, but an evolving assemblage (call it science) is getting there. You’re making the mistake of thinking that I think an individual can have an internal, perhaps visceral, representation of how the universe works.

    Our own bodies are less complex than the universe, so of course we can’t represent it in full internally. Modern science is generating a structure larger than ourselves for representing and exploring it. It’s called the literature. It’s flawed – quite badly in places – but that’s our tool.

    The whole reason is bigger than individuals, but we are developing the tools to construct a representation of it. We can comprehend parts of it, or at least manipulate representations of parts of it in a manner consistent with an evolving framework.

    Comment by LimeJellyhttp://limejelly.wordpress.com — May 18, 2006 @ 8:03 am

  4. Limejelly, I don’t think you really addressed the point; in a naturalistic universe, what is consciousness? What is will? Rocks don’t try to roll uphill (rather they wait for gravity to roll them downhill). Chemicals don’t seek out other chemicals to have reactions (rather they all float around in their environment, and if they bump into each other under the right conditions, they react). So this brings us full circle back to naturalistic evolution…

    Comment by son1http://ruberad.wordpress.com — May 18, 2006 @ 2:16 pm

  5. Another thought about chemicals; I guess that’s why they call them “reactions”, not “actions”. Consider that your Word of the Day. Immediately!

    Comment by son1http://ruberad.wordpress.com — May 18, 2006 @ 2:17 pm

  6. Consciousness and will are illusions brought on by complexity. We’re discussing something, and we feel like it’s up to us what we say, and I enjoy these discussions with you, because you’re interested in answers. But I am just a very very very large number of atoms that the laws of physics ended up generating via an amazingly large process. I can be described at a range of levels of abstraction, and some of them I can work with, but I guess the majority of them are beyond my individual ken.

    You want to know what consciousness is. Well, we haven’t worked it out yet.

    Comment by LimeJellyhttp://limejelly.wordpress.com — May 18, 2006 @ 3:29 pm

  7. “Consciousness and will are illusions brought on by complexity.”

    Exactly the point of the original post, and you basically restated it from the “other side”. So basically you did what Bruce alluded to. “You cut off your nose to spite your face.” (I do not say that in a mean spirited way.)

    So the original post stands as far as my chemicals bouncing around my head tell me. Oh wait…there is no me…wait…who just said that?

    Aaahhhh, never mind.

    God Bless

    Comment by Howard Fisher — May 18, 2006 @ 5:55 pm

  8. OK, cool, you’re beginning to get it. Howard, your explanation is a hypothesis.

    Comment by LimeJellyhttp://limejelly.wordpress.com — May 18, 2006 @ 8:06 pm

  9. Hypothesis? What’s that? There is no such thing as a hypothesis. Wait, how do I know that?

    🙂

    Comment by Howard Fisher — May 19, 2006 @ 3:03 am

  10. God bless.

    Comment by LimeJellyhttp://limejelly.wordpress.com — May 19, 2006 @ 8:20 am


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