Thursday, 14 February 2008

The Rational Structure Of Reality - Summing Up

Well, I've found the attempt to make atheists justify some of their assumptions interesting. I am very grateful for the interaction and the opportunity it's giving me to find ways to express my case more clearly. The attempts in the comments to avoid having to justify the assumptions used by atheists have very quite creative - and mutually contradictory. One commenter denies that his assumptions carry any burden of proof; another tentatively suggests that survival-of-the-fittest might have the answer; another seeks to evade the challenge by denying that the genetic mutations leading up to man should be called "copying errors" and so don't undermine the assumption of his rationality; another seeks a get-out by arguing that life may after all have been created by aliens. This total confusion as to how to meet the challenge well illustrates the strength of the challenge itself.

Summarising the case

I think this one has probably run its course and should be tied up for now. I'd like to just summarise in a hopefully fresh and final way what atheism fails to do. Here's what I've been saying:

  • The universe apparently has a rational structure. That is, we expect that there is a coherent system of truth "out there".
  • Moreover, human beings are apparently rational beings - that is, they, unlike the lower animals, have the capacity to process, compare and contrast arguments and ideas, and to organise them.
  • More than that, it seems that the two points above fit neatly together. Humans believe and act on the basis that they are in a position to explore and discover, using their rational faculties, the truth that is "out there". They have the necessary mental furniture to follow the clues and understand what reality is all about.

Those assumptions underlie basically all debates about reality. The Christian and the atheist come together to debate truth - using the above as an assumed starting point.

What I've sought to do is to shine the spotlight on these assumptions. They are, after all, part of the whole system of reality - the system which is to be explained either on the basis of Christianity or atheism (or something else, if someone else wants to come to the table). They're part of what needs accounting for. Before I'm going to respond to the atheist challenge "show us your evidence", I want to put an equal challenge to the atheist - show us how, on your grounds, we can know that we're even equipped to have this discussion to begin with?

I've been asking, "does Christianity or atheism explain these assumed facets of reality best?" Or to put it more sharply, "Is the Christian or the atheist actually justified in making these assumptions? Can their explanations of reality actually account for these assumptions, or do they just hang in the air or even contradict the position being argued for? Are atheists trying to build their system using materials that they stole from Christians?"

What I've argued, and my commenters have illustrated, is that atheism cannot account for the basic structure of rationality in the universe. How to connect it with the atheist story - that man is nothing more than the sum of his parts, no more than basic biology, the result of a long, undirected neo-Darwinian process of errors in copying DNA - is an entire mystery. How do we account for the universe and particularly man's rational composition, on the atheist basis? It's evident that atheism implies irrationality, not rationality - a universe of undirected chaos, not of ordered truth.

Making the pieces fit

Christianity, on the other hand, has a very simple and coherent explanation. If you accept as your presupposition the truth of the Bible, then the above phenomena all fall out quite easily:

  • The universe is the handiwork of an immense rational mind: a vastly intelligent Creator God.
  • Man, as part of that universe, is likewise created by God. Moreover, he is created as a unique and distinction creation: made in the image of God.
  • As such, man also carries the characteristics of rationality. As God has created man to know and to enjoy his Maker, he has equipped him with the ability to seek him, find him and hold fellowship with him.
  • Therefore, it's no surprise to find that the pieces fit. Man is the kind of creature who seeks and is able to find and process truth, precisely because he is created by God.

So, here we are. The Christian explanation of reality gives a coherent and simple explanation for the phenomena of rationality. The atheist one completely fails. Atheism cannot even explain why we should believe in our ability to discuss and debate ideas in the first place. Ergo, which of Christianity or atheism is, on this basis, the more likely to be an accurate explanation of reality? My commenters keep banging on about evidence - but it's in front of their noses. Every time they seek to employ the unaccounted for, on atheist assumptions tools of logic and reason to interact with me, they testify that they really do know what I'm talking about.

Most of today's campaigning atheists have been spent too much time drinking at the fountain of amateur-philosopher-cum-part-time-scientist Professor Richard Dawkins and his ilk. They have swallowed the philosophy that empirical and positivist proofs are the only valid types of proof. This philosophical belief of his (which isn't itself provable by positivism or empiricalism, and hence is self-refuting) wouldn't pass muster in a sophomore philosophy class. Nevertheless, it's pawned off by Dawkins onto his willing drones, who apparently fail to notice that Dawkins himself relies heavily on other types of philosophical proof in his own arguments.

Ho hum; we press on. Lined up for the near future, God-willing, is something which I think you'll find more accessible if you found the above a bit too abstract and philosophically deep. I want to start opening up the question "Can we be good without God?" Stay tuned!

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