In a previous post, I briefly commented on the Hitchens-Wilson interview on Imus. No doubt the condensed exchange will not convince any atheist that atheism is irrationalism in its most advanced and refined form. But to those who know the truth and who “are ready always to give an answer to every man that asks a reason of the hope that is in you,” Hitchens' abject failure is palpable. In addition to failing to provide a rational account of how a naturalistic metaphysics justifies his epistemology and ethics, Hitchens commits several faux pas in the interview. The failure to provide rational accounts for the foundations of one's epistemology is the “epistemological loafing” of all atheists. The two faux pas are Hitchens ' blatant “unscientific science” (a symptom of his epistemological loafing) and faulty reasoning as to what constitutes “sufficient proof.” (I’ll pass commenting on the straw man of lumping all religions into one basket and using non-Christian beliefs to attack Christianity.)
Hitchens continues the myth that atheism need not prove anything – that it is the theist who must prove God’s existence. According to Hitchens, the theist has the “tougher job.” The theist must prove God’s existence and until such proof is presented, then Hitchens and his “reason” can exist quite well without God. The problem with this mistaken notion is that the atheistic “scientific” worldview purports to explain everything in terms of matter which is governed by the laws of physics (reductionism). But if that is so, then Hitchens must provide the reductionistic explanation for his “reason” (epistemology). An impossible task that Hitchens conveniently ignores!
Hitchens’ view is symptomatic of atheists and is a case of what Cornelius Van Til called “epistemological loafing.” Put succinctly it is the idea that epistemology requires no metaphysical foundations and that such realities as consciousness, minds, laws of logic or even mathematics and the scientific method require no explanation. Such a view just posits these as unexplained and unrelated brute facts. This is a view that is fundamentally at odds with the supposedly “scientific” atheist philosophy.
Scientific reductionism – that everything springs from matter in motion and physics – requires a scientific explanation tracing the observed realities of consciousness, minds, laws of logic, etc., back to the material foundation. Hitchens refuses to answer or explain how logic arises from “colliding billiard balls” (as Wilson described the reductionist world view) – and thus indeed Hitchens' epistemology is suspended from a quite unscientific “sky hook." Hitchens' methodological presuppositions are impossible in the godless reality posited by his metaphysical commitments. Again Hitchens continues the atheist tradition of ignoring such and refusing to address the tough questions.
Unscientific Science! Or Hitchens does believe in the “Sky Hook!”
Hitchens totally ignored Wilson’s “sky hook” challenge. In an amazing sequence, Hitchens’ defense of reason is nothing more than a statement of the empirical fact that he is reasoning! But the scientific method does not account for phenomena by merely restating the phenomena! That is no explanation and is a vicious circularity, which I demonstrate with a hypothetical example. My hypothetical neighbor is a radical “afordist” – that is he denies that there is a Ford Motor company. Yet he owns and drives a Ford motor vehicle. One day as my neighbor pulled into his driveway in his Ford, I challenged him to account for the existence of his Ford in his "Ford-Motor-Company-less" reality. He responded,“Speaking of Fords, nonetheless here I am driving one!” We would certainly be amazed at such a statement, and, no doubt, marvel at the audacity that such was proffered as an explanation! Yet, Hitchens offers the same response! An observation is not an explanation of an observation – science does not work that way. . . .So much for Hitchens ' “scientific” worldview. Reason is just a “brute fact!” Wilson is right – Hitchens believes in “sky hooks!”
Even worse, however, is Hitchens’ view of “reason,” which is even more bankrupt. Hitchens called his “reason”, a “dim candle” and called it the only candle he has. He then conceded that it may “yield paradoxes and contradictions”! And as above, Hitchens and all other atheists have yet to provide an account of how logic arises from the motion of matter. Logic, being non physical, cannot emerge from a long chain of physical processes. The physical only begets the physical – to believe otherwise is to believe in the impossible. Yet, unbelievers continue to believe in realities emerging from the “void,” rather than acknowledge God, their Creator.
Amazingly, Hitchens seemed to be pleased that the empirical fact of the many divergent and contradictory religions in the world is a “sufficient proof” of atheism. Wilson handily disposed of Hitchens by responding that the Biblical account of sin also explains the existence of divergent religions. So much for the “sufficiency” of Hitchens' “proof.” The important point: That Hitchens thinks this is a sufficient proof reveals much about the shallowness of his beliefs.
What is it about “Reductionism” that Hitchens doesn’t grasp?
Reductionism asserts that all that exists is the material universe governed by the laws of physics. So, it should go without saying that the only laws that exist are physical laws. According to reductionism, everything else is explained by, and emerges from, matter-in-motion.
Written in terms of scientific “disciplines,” we would have:
Physics –> Chemistry -> Biology -> Consciousness –> “Reason” / “Logic” –> Ethics/Morality, and so on.
The only laws are those at the bottom (i.e. physical laws). We have yet to see the explanation of how nonphysical immaterial realities such as mind, reason, laws of logic and mathematics, for instance, arise from the random collocation of physical matter (“clatter of billiard balls”). Wilson challenged Hitchens to explain such. Hitchens declined.
Hitchens would be closer to an intelligible statement if he claimed that the laws of physics are a brute fact and innate to matter – those laws being inviolable and universal in space and time. But as above, in the atheist reductionist worldview, the only reality is matter in motion (a la Wilson’s billiard ball illustration) and the only laws are the inviolable laws of physics – there are no moral “laws.” Wilson effectively rebutted Hitchens when he pointed out that according to Hitchens evolutionary worldview there are no constant, universal moral laws; thus, in the evolutionary worldview there is no innate morality -- so Hitchens contradicts himself yet again.
According to physics, all that exists is a variety of physical activities of random material subsets of the universe. The random “moral” behaviors are the natural effects of random physical processes. Some subsets act one way, others some other way. We would expect diverse “biological” systems to exhibit diverse non-invariant, non-universal “norms.” For some female organisms, males are a tasty post-coital meal. And there are humans who eat other humans. Now Hitchens may object to such for humans (but arbitrarily so in his godless universe), but it is clear such is not “innate” in the world Hitchens posits. There is nothing reprehensible or commendable about physical systems evolving according to strict physical laws. One man likes Coca-Cola, another likes Pepsi – some men consume other men, some men don’t. So then, there may be behaviors of atoms that are what Hitchens would like to call “moral” – but such is mere nominalism. Such “laws” change through time, and vary in different locales. Thus, there are no absolute moral “laws” – societal norms are arbitrary and relative to the local society – one man’s law is another man’s oppression, one group’s “good” is another group’s “evil.”
Such “laws” are, of course, violated repeatedly, both within and between “societies” (and necessarily so, since such “violations” are caused by the underlying inviolable physical laws)! In the atheist worldview all we have is one piece of the universe “complaining” about the physically determined “behavior” of another piece of the universe. This is absurd. Such moral “concepts” are, at rock bottom, meaningless in the atheist worldview.
Of course, men do have a sense of morality because they are created by God. Hitchens relies on a perverted use of such when he rails against Christianity. Hitchens, like all atheists, attacks Christianity using moral precepts that are only intelligible in the Christian wordlview.