Taking on Rationalist Orthodoxy – Some Tools
Materialist secular atheism is a juggernaut that is rampaging in our society almost unchallenged. Here is an attempt to find a core set of positions and arguments to provide those, who are sceptical of the new orthodoxy, with some solid ground and foundation to stand on. This is the battle front on which we should be fighting. The churches and ‘faith groups’ seem paralysed by the onslaught.
My argument owes much to Isaiah Berlin, C.S. Lewis, J.B.S. Haldane and friends who have tolerated my persistent and annoying worrying at this like a terrier with a bone. It is not the finished work of a professional philosopher but the serous musings of an ordinary guy with lots of questions. It goes as follows.
A Self-Refuting Position
If the human mind gives access to truth about the world it must be because our thinking is not merely cerebral biochemistry, i.e. there is actually something out there to objectively know. In other words it is not simply a process going on inside our heads. Our knowing is a participation in a wider logic (logos?). The materialist alternative refutes itself and is unsustainable. The scientist J.B.S. Haldane explains this dilemma very well:
‘If my natural processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true… and hence I have no reason to suppose my brain to be composed of atoms.’
This position is self-refuting and, therefore, cannot be true. Human thinking must be a sharing in a wider ‘supernatural’ reason. By this is meant that human thought, when true, is not simply dependent upon the interlocked system of natural causes and effects. Rational knowledge is not caused by effects; rather it is the consequence of grounds. For example 2+2 = 4 has always been true. The axioms of logic such as if a = b, and c = b, then a must = c. These basic statements of logic and maths have not evolved with the neurones and chemicals of our brains but were just as true billions of years ago as they are now.
One might say that rationality is the simple tell-tale rift in nature which shows that there is something beyond or behind her. Rational thought makes present to humanity realities that are otherwise intangible.
The materialist takes the view that rational thought is on the same level as every other action of the human brain, or for that matter the human body. It is qualitatively the same as emotion or sensation. All three are caused by natural effects. As we have seen this is a self-refuting position.
Materialist atheistic scientists have been engaged in thinking about the world. However, they seem to have failed to attend to the fact that they are thinking. The moment we become aware of this it is evident that our thinking is not merely another event of the natural world of our observations. We are driven to acknowledge that there is something more than nature. Something other than nature exists and it is not remote and abstruse. ‘It is a matter of daily and hourly experience, as intimate as breathing,’ says C.S. Lewis.
When you look through a window, you do not always want to be aware of the pane of glass through which you are seeing the garden. When reading, you don’t always want to be aware of your eyes. It is quite normal in limited and particular enquiries of the world to ignore the fact of your own thinking and concentrate on the object. When you stop to reflect on the thinking process you have to take account of the self-refuting dilemmas outlined above.
Unless human reasoning is valid, no science can be true; and it cannot be valid if it is the random outcome of neurochemistry evolved by chance and evolution over the millennia. Of all the claims which the human mind advances, the claim that reasoning is valid is the only one which the materialist atheist cannot deny without metaphorically cutting his own throat. You cannot prove there are no proofs.