Are big-picture belief systems or worldviews—like fighters in
boxing—vulnerable to knockout blows? Can certain issues or
problems prove so intractable that they render a worldview unviable
as a belief system?
Christian thinkers over the centuries have generally viewed the
deductive problem of evil as a potential defeater for Christian theism. Thus Christian philosophers and apologists have worked vigorously to show that the presence of evil is not logically incompatible with God’s attributes of omnibenevolence and omnipotence. Even today some atheist philosophers concur.
What is known as “the hard or intractable problem of consciousness,”
however, may now stand as a potential defeater for the secular
worldview of naturalism. A number of leading naturalistic philosophers have candidly admitted that the so-called mental phenomena of the cosmos are quite mysterious and pose substantive challenges to a purely physicalist explanation of nature.
Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False,
eminent philosopher Thomas Nagel concludes that Darwinian
materialism has failed as a comprehensive scientific explanation
for reality. Nagel rejects both reductionistic and emergent physical
explanations for consciousness, stating that “consciousness is the
most conspicuous obstacle to a comprehensive naturalism that relies
only on the resources of physical science.” An ardent atheist with no predilection toward theism, Nagel also states: “On a purely materialist understanding of biology, consciousness would have to be regarded as a tremendous and inexplicable extra brute fact about the world.”
Thomas Nagel is a notable academic scholar at New York University
and an authority on the philosophy of mind. His words carry weight.
Concerning the grand evolutionary theory that purports to explain
all life through solely natural means (appealing to the workings of
physics, chemistry, and biology), Nagel declares: “It is an assumption governing the scientific project rather than a well-confirmed scientific hypothesis.” Later he says about materialistic Darwinism: “I find this view antecedently unbelievable—a heroic triumph of ideological theory over common sense.”6 And he insists: “I would be willing tobet that the present right-thinking consensus will come to seemlaughable in a generation or two…” Theism’s Better Explanation.
Unwilling to entertain a theistic explanation for consciousness, Nagel instead prefers the rather mystical view of panpsychism––the mind or soul are universal features in all things.8 However, a powerful theistic case for consciousness can be made. Contrary to physicalism andmysticism, Christian theism and the existence of the biblical God provide a rational explanation for the presence of conscious being in the universe.
Assuming the worldview of atheistic naturalism, one must conclude
that the conscious mind of human beings (with capacities such as
personal mental states and intentionality) ultimately came from a
source that is (in and of itself) mindless and nonconscious. From this view, the natural cause of humans’ mind, personhood, reason, and conscious awareness itself lacked these qualities. In other words,
humans, the personally conscious effect, can reflect back on the
nonpersonal, nonconscious universe (the cause), but it cannot reflect
on us. Thus we can know the cosmos in a way that it cannot know us.
This effect would be exponentially greater than its cause.
One can see why the attempt to explain personal self-awareness
from a naturalistic perspective has apparently reached a dead
end. As Nagel’s book informs us, naturalistic philosophers of mind
admit they have no idea how personal consciousness emerged from
nonconscious matter. Therefore, it is safe to say that consciousness—
whether conceived as reductionistic or emergent—does not fit in the
purely physical world of naturalism.
How does the Christian theistic worldview better account for
consciousness? Christian philosopher Gregory Ganssle offers a
If God exists, then the primary thing that exists is itself
a conscious mind of unlimited power and intellect. This
mind has its own ﬁrst-person perspective, and it can think
about things. The notion that such a mind, if it creates
anything, would create other conscious minds that have
their own ﬁrst-person perspectives and can think about
things is not a great mystery.
Thus, while naturalism faces the inexplicable mystery of
consciousness, in a theistic world self-conscious awareness is
an anticipated and common feature. In fact, the God of historic
Christianity is understood as being super-personal (one divine What
[essence] and three distinct Whos [persons]). He is the source of all
personal consciousness—which is a far more robust explanation than
nonpersonal physicalism or impersonal mysticism.
When considering the human mind, person hood, reason, and self awareness,
it is much more reasonable to conclude that these
features ultimately stem from a source that possesses all these
incredible qualities exponentially. And it is important to recognize
that this proposed theistic explanation for the world’s conceptual
realities is not a god-of-the-gaps form of reasoning. Rather, it is
an inference drawn from the worldview that best ﬁts the data and
possesses greater explanatory power and scope.
When considering the human mind, person hood,
reason, and self-awareness, it is much more
reasonable to conclude that these features
ultimately stem from a source that possesses all
these incredible qualities that this proposed theistic explanation for the world’s conceptual realities is not a god-of-the-gaps form of reasoning. Rather, it is an inference drawn from the worldview that best ﬁts the data and possesses greater explanatory power and scope. (RTB)
*** Will Myers
Please “Donate a penny” or any amount to support the ministry’s research and development. Just click the link below: