June 4th 2017 First Sunday Monthly Service on THE ARGUMENT FROM REASON

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June 4th 2017 First Sunday Monthly Service on THE ARGUMENT FROM REASON

Post by tim »

You would think that something called "The Argument From Reason" would a reasonable, sensible thing that offered something of value. In fact, it is a mishmash of philosophical conundrums that have long been puzzled over that is aimed at claiming that supernaturalism - and specifically "God" (the Christian deity of course!) - is the only way of answering such questions.The idea is basically that if the material world of nature is conceived of as mindless and purposeless at its most basic level, with molecules and physical forces just doing what they do according to their nature, that we ourselves as conscious beings cannot think or behave rationally or intentionally. The idea partakes of (among other problems):

1) Obviously, the mind-body problem and even what Descartes (who famously made the distinction between mind and matter) struggled with: how an immaterial mental substance could possibly interact with the material substance of the body. It is said that he speculated that this happened in what we now call the pineal body in the brain. The mind-body problem comes in various forms and lots and lots of things have been written and discussed about it.

2) The problem of "qualia," which is best understood by the thought experiment of color scientists living and working in a completely black and white lab who had never themselves seen any colors. Suppose further that they are able to figure out how photons of various energies interact with the molecules in the retina to send neural impulses to the visual cortex where those signals are used to construct an image of the world that shows those different frequencies of visible light. If such scientists understood everything about how that process works, would they, if they then exited the lab and saw what a color world looks like, learn anything new from their own visual processing?

3) The Problem of Other Minds: how can any of us know that other people really have minds? The philosophers have a concept of a "philosophical zombie" which would be a person in every respect but without a mental/conscious experience. How could we tell if someone was a "philosophical zombie" since they could not be distinguished in any way? Even if we could peer into our own brains and examine them atom-by-atom we would never find a "mind."

4) The Problem of Free Will: given #3, what is it that actually makes the "choices" we feel that we are making? And even if there were "mental substance," some sort of supernatural stuff besides our brain that makes us who we are, wouldn't that have its own regularities of behavior? Otherwise our "choices" would be essentially the result of random chance or caprice.

At its bottom, then, "The Argument From Reason" is just another capitulation to ignorance and therefore a "God of the Gaps" claim. It is saying, in essence, "this doesn't make sense to me, therefore 'God.'" But, as such, it is then a substitution of real questions that we can continue to consider with far worse questions about the supernatural and "God." These include the problem of where "God" came from and even how, if the supernatural exists, we could rely on any of the principles of science and technology. If the supernatural existed then a stray cat with telekinetic powers could crash airplanes. And a creative mind could think of lots of other possibilities that are ridiculous if the supernatural does not exist.

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