Saturday, 16 February 2008

You are what you eat?

Many anti-Christian philosophies can be refuted easily - simply ask them to pass their own tests. Sometimes this can be done quite amusingly.

Ludwig Feuerbach was a contemporary of Karl Marx. Like many contemporary atheists, he was a determinist and reductionist. That is, he believed that the universe can be completely explained without reference to any outside forces - everything that happens is caused from within the universe, not by any transcendent or supernatural being. Ultimately, everything can be explained by the laws of physics. Applied to man, this means that man is basically a machine, driven by the chemistry of his brain, which ultimately lives and operates and is physically constituted of what we ate. Feuerbach was responsible for the famous phrase, "Man is what he eats", which was a slogan of his atheism. Man's behaviour isn't determined by any spiritual component - any soul - but by the physics and chemistry of what he had for breakfast.

Which brings us to author John Gerstner's amusing dismantling of this same idea, as introduced by John Blanchard:

"... the trouble with that statement is that the man who wrote it must be what he eats as well as the man who reads it. ... 'Bt if that is the case, then some of [Feuerbach's] ideas may have been the product of the spinach he had for supper, and things he wrote in chapter twelve may have been produce by pie a la mode. And the conclusion of all his volumes may have come right out of a can of beans... We should be wondering what the books would have been like if the author had eaten the spinach on Thursday instead of on Friday, and how different the conclusions might have been if it had followed a banana split rather than the beans. Moreover it is conceivable that if Feuerbach had had some smoked herring, he might have concluded that man is not what he eats. There is one thing we dare not do with such an author, and that is take him seriously. If man is what he eats, then he is not what he eats. If he is not what he eats, then there is some possibility that food, whatever influence it may have on him, does not altogether determine what he is.'" (John Blanchard, "Does God Believe In Atheists?", Evangelical Press, p152).

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