I’ve been listening to the infuriating Frank Turek. He’s got one argument against materialism which he seems to be well known for: those damn atheists are saying you’re merely molecules in motion, and you know you’re not, so therefore atheism is false, to paraphrase. Here’s an example from Turek’s debate with Hitchens. It’s an awful argument.
Christopher’s a self-described materialist but if atheism is true we have no grounds to know it because reason and thoughts are just chemical reactions in the brain. How can you have—even Einstein believed this. Einstein was a determinist. How can you trust what Christopher says if it’s just chemical reactions going on in his brain and chemical reactions in our brain? See, chemical don’t reason, they react. Now, I’m not saying there’s no connection between our thinking and chemicals, there is, but if it’s nothing but chemicals, how can we trust them? Even Darwin recognized this, it’s called Darwin’s doubt. He said, “If we are just the product materially of primates, why should I even trust anything, much less my theory of natural selection?” The next major reason is the laws of mathematics. Science depends on the notion that the universe is rational and mathematical at all levels. But how does rationality and mathematics arise from randomness? How do they come from matter? Rationality and mathematics are the product of mind, not matter. So you’ve got reason and the laws of logic, the laws of mathematics, and, number seven (or, seven in my list here, three in the addition) human freedom and the ability to make choices. Christopher is somebody who is very concerned about human freedom as I am, but again, if we are just molecules in motion, how do we have human freedom? William Provine from Cornell, he’s a materialist, a Darwinist, he points out that we don’t have any human freedom if all we are is molecules in motion. Now, Christopher ought not scold anybody for being a snake-handling, Bible-thumping, funny mentalist preacher because according to his own world view, that person is that way because these are just chemicals going on in his brain. Neither could you say that Hitler had done anything wrong if it’s just chemicals going on in his brain. I mean, what is the murder molecule? How much does justice weigh? These are questions that have no answer in a materialistic world view, but that is Christopher’s world view. It seems to me that it makes much more sense to say that reason and laws of logic and mathematics and human freedom come from a great mind that granted us these immaterial realities. The final argument is consciousness. Do you know that a heap of sand and a human brain have the same elements? Why are some carbon-based molecules conscious and some are not? Materialists have no answer for this. Daniel Dennett, another person who would agree with Christopher on many things, he’s a materialist, says that consciousness is an illusion because he’s a materialist. You’re not really witnessing this right now, it’s just an illusion. Now one wonders if he was conscious when he wrote this. But again, there is no explanation for this in an atheistic world view.
He has it all wrong.