A Clash of Worlds (4)

The Laws of “Logic and Reasoning”

Gary is very committed, at least verbally, to the use of logic and reason. He tells us; “Logic is logic. Math is math. It does not depend on any worldview.”  Naturally, he is embarrassingly wrong.  The laws of logic are not physical and he must therefore explain immaterial laws of logic within his worldview.  The way one views reality makes an enormous difference to how much of that reality one can explain.  But putting aside that not-so-unimportant point let us ask how a philosophical naturalist can even believe in logic.

Well, the laws of logic are deductive or inductive in nature (there is transcendental reasoning; the type we are engaging in here, but this is not utilized by most people; certainly not by most atheists). Deduction argues from the general to the particular, using universal concepts like “humanity,” “number,” etc.  No one has seen the class “car” or “humanity.” Concepts are not material things. You don’t see concepts out in the natural world. They are in the “mind.” But without classes and concepts (universals) there can be no deduction, and so no logical reasoning! How does Gary explain the conflict between his worldview (viz: “I don’t believe in anything beyond the [material?] natural order of the universe.”), and his adherence to the immaterial class-concepts of logic? Can he prove them empirically? He may think he can, but let us see.

Inductive Inference

For anybody to enter a laboratory and conduct a meaningful experiment he will have to assume a number of things: 1). That conditions today are the same as they were in the past and that they will be the same in the projectable future. 2). That his sensations are ‘normative’ and reliable, 3). That there are universal standards of fairness which he must conduct his science under.

Before we turn to the first point let us just stop long enough to point out that if all there is is the natural world then the question arises (for the philosophically minded atheist like Gary says he is), “How do I know that my sense-experiences – upon which I must depend if I am to test anything empirically – are reliable? Especially if my mind is nothing but firing neurons and synapses?” How can I test my senses empirically? Must I not take them for granted? But if I do I must admit that not everything can be known empirically; since I assume these basic things before I proceed on to inductive testing. Again, as standards of conduct are mandatory to the validity of any experiment, we must ask how these norms can be tested empirically? In the world of the atheist would they not be relative to each individual’s brain chemistry? If not why not?

But let us move back to the first point, the uniformity of nature. Without the Biblical Worldview, which says that there is uniformity in history (Gen. 8:22), how can someone who believes knowledge comes through “the scientific method” of induction justify his belief in the uniformity of nature? He cannot employ the scientific method on the future (since it is not open to empirical testing), or on the past (since it too is no longer testable – memory, of course, is not the past but a memory of the past). If we grant to him his insistence that “in the past it has always been the case that the future has been like the past” then he has not escaped his own snare.  For how can he prove this empirically?  For he is merely asserting what he is being asked to prove. Again, how does he know empirically that nature will be uniform tomorrow? That is, how can he justify his use of induction?

We might interject here the conceited testimony of those people who profess that they will not believe anything unless they can prove it with their five senses.  Can they prove the existence of reason that way?  Can they prove that numbers exist (beyond the numerals we employ to represent them)?  Can they touch or taste the past? or hear or smell or see the future?  If they can’t, we must conclude either that they don’t believe in such things, or that they actually do believe many things which they cannot prove by their five senses!

Ethical Norms

Finally, Gary the philosophical naturalist believes in ethical absolutes:

“I think you should do the right thing – period.” 

“If God exists and is all-powerful, I would expect him to meter justice more appropriately.”

“I think benevolent societal standards are self evident or at least easily concluded from logic and reasoning.”

“I do believe in the existence of bad actions and that you shouldn’t do them because they are bad and you wouldn’t want them done to you.”

Now, we might ask, if all that exists is the laws of physics and chemistry how does the atheist like Gary account for ethical mores in his naturalistic outlook?  He says that they are a product of evolution. Is that a scientific statement? Or is that a statement which simply shifts the problem elsewhere?  Is his statement a product of empirical proof?  Based upon what? Remember that we’ve already seen that an immaterial concept (like, this case “morality”) cannot be known empirically, it has to be assumed beforehand. Further, we’ve seen that immaterial class-concepts (like “morality” or “number”) cannot be logically deduced, since logic depends upon them. In other words, Gary must first justify his use of logic and inference (i.e. deduction and induction) before he can speak meaningfully about morality. But as we’ve said, how can he do this unless he can justify ethical norms by which he can operate?.  He’s in an embarrassing Catch 22 situation.

Even if we forego the essential foundational questions and allow him to expatiate about morals he is no nearer making any kind of sense. He has to justify the existence of immaterial things (like concepts) in the natural world. He can only do so by turning to metaphysical dualism. But then he has to relate the realm of immaterial things with the realm of material things and demonstrate how the vaunted laws of nature work this miracle on their own. Can an evolutionist do this without reducing the immaterial to the material? (e.g. mind to brain), or the material to the immaterial? (neurons to morals).  Does he also believe in immaterial evolution? Does the immaterial evolve by natural selection?  Can this be shown by his standards of proof?


For all Gary’s verbal posturing he has not even begun to realize the consequences of his worldview statements. His only responses to these crucial philosophical matters is to state the obvious:

“logic is logic” – we knew that!

“The fact that we are having this conversation should be empirical proof of man’s logic and reasoning.”  – Yep, but it’s no proof of cognitive evolution.

Of course, we never doubted that Gary believes in ethics, logic, and inference. Our issue with him is more straightforward and basic than that. We are saying that a man who believes that all that exists is “the natural order” is at an utter loss to justify using science, logic and morality, let alone be “motivated” by them.

He must now be challenged to justify his belief in naturalism while having to justify logic and reasoning within a naturalistic framework. “That’s just common knowledge” is not a justification! If he cannot justify his worldview he should give it up and get one that makes sense of reality. Or he can become an irrationalist. Whatever. He should cease pontificating and saying such naïve things like, “I don’t think morality is rocket science. And I don’t think it is at all dependant on the existence of God.”  What Gary thinks is not the issue here. Some folks think NASA faked the Apollo Moon Landings.  Some even think the world’s flat.  We all have our opinions.

The fact is he has entered into debate with a worldview which is impossible while taking for granted everyday truths supported only by the Christian worldview. And he must be pressed to give a reason (one of his favorite words) for his assertions. The Christian can easily find room for moral norms (as well as induction and deduction) in his worldview. But Gary?  He is going to find that demonstrating a basis for morality and logic within his worldview is far more difficult than rocket science!  He just needs to be pointed at the horrendous problems inherent in his scheme of things.

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