Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Atheist’s Guide to Reality. The self-destruction of material monism.

A few weeks ago, I was contemplating why there are no atheist works on "systematic atheology"  (at least I was unaware of any.)  After all, there are many Christian works on systematic theology that lay out the basis and scope of Christian beliefs.   My interest in such a "systematic atheology" was that, should such a work appear, the self-contradictory nature of atheism would be laid bare -- straight from the horse's mouth. 

As it turns out, there has been an attempt, of sorts, in The Atheist's Guide to Reality by Alex Rosenberg.  The book lays out the hard-line implications of his particular denomination of atheism: material monism (matter is all there is) with scientism as his epistemological article of faith. Many of the absurdities of atheism are exposed to the light of day.   (And there is a final absurdity that Rosenberg says implicitly, but does not utter, which we will examine below.)  Some of the conclusions that follow from material monism (" a godless material reality" in which the only causation is physical causation) and which Dr. Rosenberg fully embraces are: 
  • The only kind of  'mind' is a brain.
  • There is no 'free will.' We are all robots moving according to the physical properties of matter.
  • There are no objective morals of any sort.  Right, wrong, good and bad, they are all the same.

As Christians, we must say 'bravo' to Dr. Rosenberg!  If physics fixes everything then the above conclusions would be true.  His book is a brilliant self-refutation of atheistic material monism using its own presuppositions. . .and, thus, is TAG (Transcendental Argument for God) in brilliant display.

Dr. Rosenberg takes us down the same path on the implications of material monism that prominent presuppositional apologists Dr. Cornelius Van Til, Dr. Greg Bahnsen, and others have marked out before.   As well, some similar analysis has been posted in this blog.

Dr. James N. Anderson writes in his review of this book: 
"Christian philosophers have been developing and refining arguments for the existence of God since the earliest times, but it’s not often one comes across a convinced atheist making a powerful philosophical case for the existence of God. Yet that’s precisely what we find—quite contrary to the author’s intent—in Alex Rosenberg’s book The Atheist’s Guide to Reality."
Anderson's insightful review can be read at his blog.

I will add just a few observations.  A central tenet of presuppositional apologetics is that all non-Christian philosophical systems of thought (worldviews) are contradictory and reduce to absurdity, which Anderson discusses.  The coup de grace delivered by presuppositional apologetics is that non-Christian worldviews, when examined solely on the basis of their presuppositions, lead to the destruction of truth and knowledge.

Rosenberg's book promotes the conviction that only science leads to truth ("scientism").  He preaches with fervor the "truth" that everything consists of collections of fermions and bosons.  This is a scientific "truth."  Everything that is, or happens, is the result of laws of physics (properties of matter).  But then he asserts, after many chapters:
"Look, if I am going to get scientism into your skull, I have to use the only tools we've got for moving information from one head to another: noises, ink-marks, pixels.  Treat the illusion that goes with them like the optical illusions in Chapter 7.  This book isn't conveying statements.  It's rearranging neural circuits, removing inaccurate disinformation and replacing it with accurate information.  Treat it as correcting maps instead of erasing sentences." (p. 193. emph. added).
There are many falsehoods in that paragraph -- almost as many as there are words. (See Anderson's review, and his remarks on intentionality and aboutness.)   But the final epistemological suicide of material monism lies in these words: "This book isn't conveying statements."  And that is a really strange and fatal statement.  Here's why: statements (or propositions) are the carriers of truth value, which, from the implications of material monism, his book does not contain. . . a conclusion of material monism with which we wholeheartedly agree.

So then, Rosenberg has told us that his book contains no capacity to convey truth or knowledge (and that applies, as well, to: "This book isn't conveying statements.").  This is futility and the destruction of knowledge.  Nonetheless, Rosenberg tells us that "scientism" yields "truth," when by his own mouth he implies it doesn't.  Rosenberg's false metaphysics (material monism) supplies no basis for Rosenberg's false epistemology (scientism).

If material monism were true, then it would be false.  It is, therefore, false.

And that is the end of the matter.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Heideggerian Nonsense. Asking the Wrong Questions Revisited.

In a discussion over the certain existence of the Christian God, an interlocutor, who admitted that his position had been poked full of holes (a refreshingly honest response), attempted the diversion: "Rather than asking about the existence of God, one should ask why there is something rather than nothing."  This is sheer desperation and atheism unadulterated.

That question is Heidegger's famous question (or pseudo-question).

As Michael Inwood has written in his book Heidegger: A Very Short Introduction, depending on whom you ask, 

 "He [Heidegger] was (with the possible exception of Wittgenstein) the greatest philosopher of the twentieth century.  He was (with the possible exception of Hegel) the greatest charlatan ever to claim the title of 'philosopher', a master of hollow verbiage masquerading as profundity."
To ask Heidegger's question (a prejudicial question that, in itself, presupposes a reality of pure contingency) is to deny it.  To ask "why . . . rather than . . ." is to ask for a causal agency, and such a causal agent is then itself "something." The question is meaningless and self-contradictory, pure and simple -- empty verbiage masquerading as profundity.  The venerable maxim "Ex nihilo nihil fit"1 has no exceptions.   Heidegger was a charlatan.

So then:  The issue is not that there is "something"; the issue is the nature of that eternal and ultimate "something."  Both sides in the debate have an ultimate. The ultimate "something" of atheism
of the material monist variety is eternal impersonal matter 2.   Material monism explains nothing.  This worldview of a "godless material universe" is self contradictory (e.g., eternal matter is incoherent as discussed here), and further, it cannot account for immaterial abstract entities such as logic, absolute morality, minds, human free agency, or rationality. . .none of which can emerge from mere "matter in motion."

There are also the atheists of the pluralist sort, those who merely posit a plurality of eternal, incoherent co-ultimates.  This incoherent reality is populated with such things as realms of abstract logic and abstract moral laws, chance, matter, minds, space-time, and a whole host of other brute facts.  This is, essentially, atheistic Platonism.  This incoherent philosophy explains nothing, as well as violates the principle of Ockham's razor, of which most atheists are very fond -- unless it applies to them.  These Platonic brute-fact worlds of the pluralist interact magically via Platonic mysteries!   These are even more brute facts.  This is a great deal of question begging.  We will deal with this version of atheism in a future essay.

All varieties of atheism contradict themselves and resort to question-begging presuppositions and special pleading.  They end in futility and destroy the possibility of knowledge.  So then, we know God exists because of the impossibility of the contrary (transcendental argument or apagogical argument via internal critique).  Since atheism, on its own presuppositions and its epistemological "standard," is self-refuting, there is a God.

In Christian theism, ultimate reality is the personal Triune God who is the Creator and who sustains the universe.  He is the source of all life, morality, rationality and the whole of creation.  Again, it is ONLY Christian theism which is consistent and provides the foundations for all of human experience.

1 Out of Nothing Comes Nothing.
2 The term "monism" is actually a verbal ruse, which I plan to address in a future blog post.