Posted in Apologetics, Epistemology, Evolution, Metaphysics

The Illusion of the Unattended Brain

In an effort to ground morality in science, Sam Harris, a neuroscientist, wrote a book published in 2010 entitled The Moral Landscape with the accompanying cover description: “How Science Can Determine Human Values.” Also on the front cover, Sam Harris is touted as “New York Times bestselling author of The End of Faith.” Sam Harris is not shy about either attacking religion or about extending the traditional role of science. Having plodded through the book, in keeping with the way that Sam explains his nature and condition as well as that of the rest of the human species, I can now say that Sam is a bold brain, but I can’t say anything else if I remain within the confines of Sam’s own description of himself and the rest of us. If you have read the book or if you follow along in this paper, you should soon see what I mean.

Sam Harris attempts to build a case for ethics based completely on the physical nature of man as an evolved species on this earth. Without evolution as theoretical background and the all encompassing presupposition as the explanation for the existence of mankind, Sam’s argumentation for scientific ethics has nothing to offer, but with it, he thinks that he can argue rationally for an ethical approach to life based simply on a greater understanding of the human brain and its relationship to events in the world. But can he?

Interestingly, a reader does not get far into the text before he realizes that Harris tries, in one sense, to “distance” himself from evolution. He writes, “As with mathematics, science, art, and almost everything else that interests us, our modern concerns about meaning and morality have flown the perch built by evolution” (14). But just what in the world does that mean? How have we humans “flown the perch” that evolution built? Sam doesn’t tell us. But given the fact that he says such a thing impresses me that there is something incongruent about the concept of evolution and the concept of meaning and morality that Sam Harris recognizes. And it is a problem for him throughout his effort to base morality on physicality. Look at the situation like this. When Sam says that we humans have “flown the perch built by evolution” I submit to the reader that since he surely is trying to say something meaningful, that he is either saying:

  • (1) Evolution is false, so we need to distance mankind from it in making the case for evolutionary ethics; or
  • (2) Evolution is irrelevant to the discussion of evolutionary ethics; or
  • (3) Evolution is inadequate as a justification of any evolutionary ethical theory.

I know he not claiming (1) evolution is false, because to the end of the book he stays attached to the claim of its scientific accuracy. I know he is not claiming (2) evolution is irrelevant because throughout the book he constantly employs the concept to bolster his thesis. I conclude that he is conceding, without intending to, that there is something awfully incoherent about conceptually connecting the concept of morality to mere apes. And if the reader thinks that I am being too hard on Sam for referring to people as “apes,” simply read the book and see how many times he uses the word or some synonym or similar expression to describe the human family. His is simply another sad effort at building a case with a missing link. Somehow and in some way (isn’t it strange), Sam thinks that human concern with meaning and morality go beyond the purview of evolution (the expression “flown the perch” has to have some application), and yet throughout the book he writes as though there is perfect harmony between the concept of organic evolution including the evolving of apes to men and the concept of human morality.

Harris chides fellow scientists for claiming that science has nothing to say about morality, and he claims that he has found the explanation as to why science can say something about it after all. It is his contention that facts cannot be separated from value. We all know that scientific work is in the field of empirical discovery. Science attempts to tell us about facts. But, Harris claims, that values are attached to facts, so that if science can tell us what the facts are, it can tell us something about what the values are. And if we know the correct values regarding facts, we can more adequately choose correctly in making our moral decisions.

Of course, Harris’ thesis is that since we cannot separate facts from value and since science is in the business of discovering and reporting the facts, that science then is equally in the business of being able to tell us what the value of the facts are. But, it must not go unsaid, that Harris’ whole case is based on his unproven and unprovable notion that all “facts” are physical ones. This is necessary to the proving of his thesis, but he never does, and he never can prove that only empirically derivable conclusions reached in a scientific laboratory qualify as “facts.” This is what he assumes but cannot prove, and in his book he never seriously tries to do so. He simply writes his book while granting that most Americans still do not believe the theory of evolution, as if they should. He never attempts to prove the theory at all, but takes it as a scientifically established fact. But, here Harris is very wrong. The fact is, that evolution as an explanation for the arrival of the human species has never been proven. Furthermore, given the nature of science and the nature of origins (including the origin of man), such a discussion of the origin of man and the morality of man is outside the scope of science anyway.

On the first night of the four night public debate in 1976 between Thomas B. Warren (theist) and Antony G. N. Flew (at the time a world renowned atheist, but who later disavowed atheism), Warren gave Flew the following True-False question:

  • T/F Value did not exist before the first human being.

Flew answered the question “True” and wrote on the paper that value was a function of the human mind (Warren-Flew Debate, p. 15 and APPENDIX). In his first speech on Monday, Warren pointed out that Flew’s answer to the question meant that since Flew was claiming that value did not exist before the first human did, then value itself was simply a function of the human mind. And that meant that the concept of “value” then is reduced to the subjective likes and dislikes of a person. Warren likened it to “liking or not liking spinach” (Warren-Flew, p. 15). This means that according to Flew’s answer, he was unfortunately taking the position that when men approve of something or disapprove of something, that in saying it is “right” or “wrong” they are simply expressing their likes and dislikes. In Philosophy, that view is described as “the emotive theory” of ethics.

Of course, since Sam Harris is here either by creation or evolution, and since he asserts that he (as well as the rest of us) is here via evolution, he has no basis upon which to dignify the concept of “value” or “morality” that gives it the objective meaning or status that he wants it so desperately in his book to entail. He wants so badly to argue for some kind of “objective” ethics based on some things that humans have in common which tend toward general human well-being. But all of his argumentation amounts to nothing when one considers that “value” is simply an invention of the human mind per evolutionary theory. And that means that “morality” is a merely human invention, too. So regardless what Sam Harris’ thesis is as to how to go about establishing a good evolutionary ethic, it all amounts to the fact that Sam Harris is simply providing us via his book with his own personal wish for the world as he would like it to be. But that is as high a standing in “value” as his thesis can acquire. It represents Sam’s effort at getting his way because the world as he envisions it is the world he wants. It is made up of things he likes. And it is true that a lot of what he likes, others like, too. But that is no basis of morality. And Harris even admits that a view is not established as true by its numerical support. Hear him:

Does a lone psychotic become sane merely by attracting a crowd of devotees? If we are measuring sanity in terms of sheer numbers of subscribers, then atheists and agnostics in the United States must be delusional: a diagnosis which would impugn 93 percent of the members of the National Academy of Sciences” (Landscape, 157, 158).

So, while on the one hand Harris recognizes that any particular viewpoint is not established as actually true simply by counting the number of people who support it, yet on the other hand he does argue for a theory of ethics which is based on the overall well-being of or happiness of “the greatest number of people” (Landscape, 28 ). So, regarding ethical theory, numbers do count after all! This is just one of many incoherencies in the development of his thesis.

Thus, basing ethics on the well-being of the greatest number, Harris is ethically a “utilitarian.” Regarding the question of God’s existence, he is an atheist. In fact, he is an atheistic neuroscientist whose view is that science and religion are antagonistic (158-176). They cannot be reconciled. Regarding politics, he says he is a liberal (90), and concerning his origin and nature, he is a self proclaimed ape (2, 114). I am not making this up! He does have a doctoral degree, however, but how impressive should that be among apes? So, the book is the product of an atheistic ape who is attempting to tell the rest of us apes how science, a discipline invented by apes, can help apes live happier lives. Are you following this?

Now, let us get back to the massive wall over which Harris attempts to climb in his effort to establish a science of morality. He does not accept the conclusion of the famous Scottish skeptic, David Hume, who pointed out many years ago that no one can get “ought” from “is.” And to attempt to do so is to commit what has come to be called the “naturalistic fallacy.” Harris thinks that Hume was simply wrong (38). He contends that there is a way for science (which describes to us what our world is) to tell us something of how we ought to act in it. But, we respond, it is just not possible!

Several years before he met Warren in public debate, the then atheist Antony G. N. Flew wrote a little book entitled Evolutionary Ethics. It was published in 1967, and he debated Warren in 1976. In his book, Flew affirmed that one simply could not get from “is” to “ought” in an evolutionary world. He sided with Hume. Flew quoted from Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature:

In every system of morality which I have hitherto met with I have always remarked that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary way of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when of a sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought or ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is, however, of the last consequence….” (Evolutionary, 38).

According to Flew, Hume took the position that “value” was a projection of the human mind onto the things that are being valued. Rather than value existing in the thing itself, value was the position or status granted it by the mind. Mind gave value to the thing rather than the thing’s having a value that presented itself to the mind. This, of course, meant that “value” was not objective. Value was not a characteristic of the thing but rather a propulsion of the mind onto the thing. Mind created value. Flew described Hume’s view as being,

that values are not any sort of property of things in themselves, but that they are in some way a projection out on to the things around us of human needs and human desires. (One resulting problem, more obvious perhaps to us than to Hume, is that of explaining how values can be in some such fundamental way dependent on, and some sort of function of, human needs and human desires, without its thereby becoming the case that some purely descriptive statements about what people do want or would want must entail consequences about what ought to be” (Evolutionary, 39).

And let it be noted that between 1967 and 1976, Flew had not found the answer to that problem! He recognized a great philosophical difficulty for evolutionary theory and ethics. And he never reconciled the two. He saw the problem; he had no answer.

In his third affirmative speech on Monday night of his debate with Warren, Flew said with regard to value: “I can not give a complete account of the nature of value and particularly of moral value, which I regard as even halfway satisfactory…The general line I want to take, as I think all humanists do, is that value is somehow—somehow—a function of human desires, human wishes, and so on…” (Warren-Flew, 43).

Flew went on to suggest that moral value was somewhat like the market value of a 1974 Volkswagen Beetle, and he maintained the likeness throughout the discussion (43, 184, 201). Flew maintained this likeness because he thought it illustrated to him how that moral value (1) was on the one hand a product of human desire—someone’s interest in buying a Volkswagen, and yet (2) on the other hand, the price was not determined simply by any one person’s desire. A man couldn’t buy a 1974 Volkswagen for a price that his desire set or determined. The market price decided what the man must pay.

But in is fourth affirmative on Thursday night, Warren responded:

But I have a question for Dr. Flew along that line: if the Volkswagen is worth $500.00 at one place and $1,000.00 at another place, how is the actual or real value of the car to be decided? Or, does it have any real value? Now, if your illustration is worth anything at all, it will have to have some real value, or else you will have to say that no human being has any real value, and you will have joined the Nazis in a thorough-going way to say that the Jewish people did not have any real value (only a market value that might fluctuate up and down and therefore would be worth nothing under the regime of the Nazis). Dr. Flew, you ought to think those illustrations through before you give them” (Warren-Flew, 186, 187).

Flew responded in his fourth negative that night, “I hope that I did not confuse people about this. Of course I do not think that moral value is in all respects like market value. One terribly important dissimilarity is precisely that market value does vary very freely with a place and time” (Warren-Flew, 201). Flew simply reiterated his point that at least the illustration presented a situation in which value was the product of human desire and yet one man’s desire did not determine what the value of the car would be. However, he was stuck with an illustration that, if like moral value, allowed for a relativistic view of ethics.

The sad thing is that Sam Harris concedes the whole point that, granted evolutionary theory as the accurate explanation for the arrival of the human species, we are stuck with evolutionary value. That is, we are in a situation such that moral values can change! So, on the one hand Harris says that “morality can be linked directly to facts about the happiness and suffering of conscious creations” (Landscape, 64); on the other hand he grants that what makes conscious creatures happy will not necessarily remain the same (84). And, of course, he has no way of countering Flew’s contention that science alone cannot tell us that what humans do, in fact, currently desire is what they ought to desire.

So, it is clear that, given evolution, there can be no such thing as “objective” ethics or, to put it another way, there can be no such thing as an act that is intrinsically good (that is, good in and of itself) or an act that is intrinsically evil. And yet Harris, while admitting this, continues to attempt to establish an evolutionary ethic. In fact, Harris concedes that, given evolutionary theory, it is possible that the science of morality may eventuate into perhaps a contradictory kind of morality so that what is now seen as good could be later viewed otherwise. Listen to Harris:

But what if advances in neuroscience eventually allow us to change the way every brain responds to morally relevant experiences? What if we could program the entire species to hate fairness, to admire cheating, to love cruelty, to despise compassion, etc. Would this be morally good? Again, the devil is in the details. Is this really a world of equivalent and genuine well- being, where the concept of ‘well-being’ is susceptible to ongoing examination and refinements as it is in our world? If so, so be it. What could be more important than genuine well-being?” (Landscape, 84).

Wow! Per Harris, if it turns out that current good is eventual evil and that current evil is eventual good, so be it! Of course, whether current or eventual, his ethical utilitarian theory is that if most people gain happiness by an act, that act is “good.” So, even now (much less later), if a majority of people would gain overall well-being and happiness from an act that gets rid of the minority, such would be good! Flew had no way of overcoming this objection to his concept of ethics; Harris has no answer either. Harris says that if the brain can be changed to look at ethics differently, that is the way that it will be. “The devil is in the details,” he says. No, the devil is behind the very idea of trying to justify ethics without God!

Of course, Harris goes on to express the view that a radical change in the way that we currently look at ethics is not likely to happen, but the fact that he allows for this is a tremendous insight into his theory of ethics. He is advocating “relative” ethics rather than “absolute” ethics, and by his imagination, he has treated us to his view that that is the nature of ethics. And that means that there is no such thing as an absolutely good act or an absolutely bad act! Consider the following:

  • T/F 1. An act is intrinsically good or evil in and of itself (Sam Harris says “False” because an act is only “good” if it contributes to the overall well-being of the majority of the people).
  • T/F 2. The Nazi killing of the Jews in World War II was an intrinsically evil act. (Sam Harris would have to say “False” since no act to him is an intrinsically evil act. And there are conceivably circumstances in which the annihilation of the Jews would contribute to the happiness or over all well-being of a majority of people in a nation or in the world).

Consider that Harris in a footnote bemoans the current standing of atheists in American society. He claims that “atheists are the most stigmatized minority in the United States—beyond homosexuals, African Americans, Jews, Muslims, Asians, or any other group” (Landscape, 234, 235). Then, I humbly ask, is it conceivable that we could reach a moment in our history in which the killing of atheists (on the grounds that they are atheists) would be acceptable ethical practice if the majority of Americans and/or the majority of all men deemed that the happiness of most men would be enhanced? According to the basis of Harris’ concept of ethics, neither he nor any other man would be able to pronounce such killing at such time as intrinsic evil! In fact, according to “utilitarian” ethics, such killing would be the right thing to do!

But now, consider the following statement from Harris: “I believe that we will increasingly understand good and evil, right and wrong, in scientific terms, because moral concerns translate into facts about how our thoughts and behaviors affect the well-being of conscious creatures like ourselves” (Landscape, 62). Now, regarding the quotation please notice the following:

  • Sam expects more of us in the future to accept the concept of good and evil as a scientific matter.
  • There are no moral concerns outside the realm of facts (which to Sam must be empirical).
  • Our thoughts and behaviors are determined by empirical facts only.
  • We are conscious creatures.
  • Sam believes this.

Now, dear reader, what you need to see at this point is that the above affirmations are reducible to the last one: Sam said, “I believe that….” We could give attention to each part of the quotation, but such is not necessary because of the relationship that Sam Harris has to the claims. Who believes the assertions? Sam Harris says that he does. Well, who is Sam Harris? And amazingly throughout the book he writes (1) as though a real person named Sam Harris exists who is, in some way, ontologically distinguishable from mere matter while all the time (2) attempting to convince us that neither Sam Harris nor any of the readers actually exists! Do you think that I have simply misread Sam Harris? Follow closely.

To assert that men are simply instances of conscious matter is incredibly self-contradictory. “Consciousness” is not a material property! It is not simply an empirical characteristic of anything. And consciousness has never been found in science (or anywhere else) capable of expressing itself without rationality. Apes have feelings, but apes cannot articulate those feelings in language. And language requires thought. Consciousness cannot express itself without thought. Animal life can express itself by mere animation (movement). But consciousness to express itself beyond movement requires thinking.

But, Sam Harris claims that all thoughts are merely and exhaustively empirically driven or produced. In other words, Sam attributes human thought completely to the human brain! And the brain is simply conscious matter. There is no “real” person attending the brain. The brain, according to Sam Harris, is an unattended physical organ that produces the “mind” with its thoughts and intentions! Furthermore, he (Sam Harris) as a neuroscientist studies the brain, and having studied the brain a lot (to the reception of a doctoral degree), he is now in position to tell us that there is no real Sam Harris! Furthermore, anyone reading his book needs to read it while recognizing that not only is Sam Harris nonexistent, but that the reader is equally ontologically unavailable! And all the while this conceptual and linguistic joke is carried on as though it has real scientific merit. Listen to Sam:

Your ‘self’ seems to stand at the intersection of these lines of input and output. From this point of view, you tend to feel that you are the source of your own thoughts and actions. You decide what to do and not to do. You seem to be an agent acting of your own free will. As we will see, however, this point of view cannot be reconciled with what we know about the human brain” (Landscape, 102).

Again, “All of our behavior can be traced to biological events about which we have no conscious knowledge: this has always suggested that free will is an illusion” (Landscape, 103). Again, “From the perspective of your conscious mind, you are no more responsible for the next thing you think (and therefore do) than you are for the fact that you were born into this world” (Landscape, 104). Sam claims that “thoughts arise (what else could they do?) unauthored and yet author to our actions” (Landscape, 105).

Dear reader, can you (and I mean the real YOU) believe it? You may ask, “Well, if no one is responsible for his own thoughts, then who is doing the thinking? Sam would have “us” to believe that the brain is the thinker! Per Sam Harris, the brain produces what “we” think of as the mind and its thoughts. “Decisions, intentions, efforts, goals, willpower, etc. are causal states of the brain, leading to specific behaviors, and behaviors lead to outcomes in the world” (Landscape, 105).

So, there you have it. It is not simply true that the real, personal, spiritual, metaphysical, ontologically distinguishable, Sam Harris has disappeared, but that, according to Sam Harris (whoever that is), there has never been a Sam Harris. But still, “we” have to account for Sam’s thoughts. Well, that is attributed to “Sam’s” brain. Sam is claiming that he is brain. He is conscious matter. But the conscious matter is not personally attended. It is still matter only that somehow in evolution reached a level of consciousness. And now at that level of consciousness, the brain all alone and unattended produces thoughts which express themselves at times in actions.

Dear reader, can you believe such? Of course, it never dawned on Sam that as he was writing his book and trying to inform us all that “we” do not exist but rather that our “brains” are the existent empirical entities that alone are responsible for our thoughts, that he was at cross purposes with himself. First consider the following:

  • T/F 1. I, Sam Harris, am a person ontologically (in the nature of being) distinguishable from my material body (Sam says “False). Per Harris, there is no immortal soul (Landscape, 110).
  • T/F 2. I, Sam Harris, am my brain and body, and my brain is physically distinguishable from the rest of my body (Sam would say True).
  • T/F 3. While I, Sam Harris, am composed of brain and body, it is “my” brain that is responsible for all my thoughts and intentions. (Sam says True).

Now, dear reader, please look at #3 again. The word “my” is placed in quotations because the sentence is written as though Sam somehow exists apart from body and brain, but according to Sam, he clearly does not. Furthermore, he writes this way throughout his book. He writes as though he has a real metaphysical status and that his readers have an actual metaphysical status while all the time attacking the very concept of anyone’s having real metaphysical status.

Please consider the difficulties that one faces when attempting to deny himself (that he actually has a metaphysical existence). Consider the following statement:

I, Sam Harris, deny myself.

The sentence makes sense in that it is pieced together with words each of which has meaning, and the whole of the arrangement seems to be stating a complete thought. However, the sentence does not make sense conceptually. For example, when we consider what is being affirmed and what is being denied, we must face the fact that either (1) the “I” (whoever it is) has to exist in order to make the denial of oneself, or (2) the “myself” has to exist in some sense in order to be denied. So the “I” must be here as denier or the “myself” must be here as the one to be denied. If one says, well, the answer is that the “myself” is not here for it is the very thing being denied, so far so good, it would seem. However, the denial itself must be attached to the “I” in order for the denial to be made. The brute fact is that there is no denial being made at all if someone is not making the denial and neither is someone being denied.

Furthermore, since Harris denies that he exists as an “immortal soul,” then let us consider a further difficulty. When he says that he does not exist, we then face the following possibilities. It is either the case that:

(1) a soul is denying itself; or

(2) a soul is denying its body (including brain); or

(3) a brain is denying its soul; or

(4) a brain is denying its body (including itself).

Since Harris denies having a soul, obviously then he cannot be meaning either (1) or (2). A soul cannot be doing anything since it simply is not there. So he cannot possibly be meaning that a soul is either the “one” (a metaphysical being) denying self or denying its body. So (1) and (2) are out of the issue. If it is then suggested that Sam means (3), that would mean then that a brain would be denying its soul. But since, per Harris, a brain has no soul, how could and why would a brain do that? How can a merely physical organ deny an ontological attachment to a metaphysical entity? A gall bladder can’t do that, nor a liver, nor a lung, nor a physical heart, etc. How is it possible for a merely physical organ, derived from an evolutionary background to go into the negative in describing its own nature? Can an empirical entity create the metaphysical category only to deny that it has any occupancy? And by the way, how would a mere brain know that anyone had ever accused it of having any attachment to a metaphysical entity in the first place? Such would be absolutely absurd!

Either a brain is not a purely physical organ (this, Sam as an evolutionist would deny), or it must be in some way connected to a metaphysical entity that is utilizing it in denying whatever it is that is being denied!

Harris has a personally unattended brain saying that it has no association with or connection to a soul. And, per Harris, the brain’s thoughts are not metaphysical constructs but rather are physiologically driven. Thoughts are the products of the mind which is the product of the brain. Thoughts, anyway, are simply like gas that has escaped the brain. We might say that his view more or less means that a brain merely “erupts” into thoughts. There is no purpose to them nor design for them. They are random secretions for which no person whatever is responsible!

Remember, he has told that “the conscious mind cannot be the source of its own thought and intentions” (Landscape, 216). And furthermore, he says, “Am I free to change my mind? Of course not. It can only change me” (Landscape, 104).

And that leaves us with (4): a brain is denying its body (including itself). When Sam Harris claims that he does not exist, he must be telling us that he as a brain is denying that the brain is there (with its body or that the body is there with its brain). But we know that Sam can’t mean to be suggesting (4) because that would mean that the brain is denying itself. And Sam in the book is quite insistent to claim that it is only the brain (with accompanying physical body) that does exist, and that the brain alone is “responsible” for thinking! Each of the four theoretical possibilities is thus eliminated from what Sam could actually be meaningfully saying. Regardless what with his incongruent combination of language and concepts he is attempting to do, the elimination of each possibility shows us that no one can rationally deny himself! And yet the ethic proposal that Sam proposes in his book is grounded in this irrational attempt!

But all the way through his book, Sam is taking the brain as being there and the metaphysical soul as not. He writes, “It seems to be that few concepts have offered greater scope for human cruelty than the idea of an immortal soul that stands independent of all material influences, ranging from genes to economic systems” (Landscape, 110). First, let it be said that without that immortal soul Sam can’t be rationally calling in question the existence of anything, much less himself! Dirt can’t deny the existence of dirt! Apes can’t deny the existence of apes, and they can’t even try.

Only metaphysical entities attached to empirical substance or form or bodies can have the capacity on this earth to deny one or the other of their conceptually distinguishable natures (physical or metaphysical). A purely physical entity has no ontological capacity to deny anything. Only a metaphysical entity has capacity to affirm and deny. Second, Sam is critical of the existence of any independent immortal soul that is not under the influence of “material influences.” But let it be said just here that we theists recognize that the mind or soul currently utilizes the brain. And any damage to the brain certainly can have a significant effect on the mind and its capacity to think. If the brain is the organ that the mind uses (as opposed to the liver, gall bladder, etc.), then any damage to the brain can certainly affect what the mind can or cannot currently accomplish. No one denies this that I know. But that is certainly not the same thing as to claim that there is no metaphysical mind as is proven by the fact that brain study has determined that a damaged brain affects thinking.

Sam Harris has studied the human brain a lot. But Sam has drawn some conclusions regarding human nature, the nature of truth, and the nature of morality that simply cannot be rightly deduced from that study. His denial of himself cannot “square” with his empirical investigation of the human brain. Someone is doing that study. But according to Sam it is merely one brain looking at another brain, and when thoughts are produced, they are unauthored by a person and no person is responsible for them. Notice the following:

  • T/F 1. Sam Harris as a metaphysical soul within a physical body is responsible for his book. (Sam says False).
  • T/F 2. Each reader of Sam’s book is a metaphysical soul within a physical body who is responsible for what he does with Sam’s book (Sam says False).
  • T/F 3. Sam Harris’ brain is alone responsible for Sam’s thoughts which in an “unauthored” way has provided us with Sam’s book (Sam tries to justify this as True though it is a self-contradictory affirmation).
  • T/F 4. Some unidentified brain produced the mind which produced the thoughts which produced the book called The Moral Landscape, attributed to Sam Harris as author (According to Harris’ argumentation as to the nature of man [he is a completely physical entity], this would be True).
  • T/F 5. The “people” who “read” Sam’s book are actually (according to Sam’s view of human nature) only other unidentified brains that produce minds which produce thoughts which produce action, so that only unidentified brains are “responsible” for minds allegedly produced by them (True, if Sam Harris’ view of human nature is correct).

A conscious mind cannot be held responsible, Sam tells us (Landscape, 216). Furthermore, he says that our thoughts are not even “authored.” Remember, he has told us that “…thoughts simply arise (what else could they do?) unauthored and yet author to our actions (Landscape, 105). On the cover of The Moral Landscape we find these words describing Sam Harris: “New York Times bestselling author of The End of Faith.” Therefore, even though Sam Harris is an “author” of books, he assures us that his thoughts have no author other than a personally unattended brain. Believe it who can! How can such drivel be allowed such publication and distribution for public consumption? It is as though Sam is telling us and trying to convince us that our situation is comparable to one computer communicating with other computers, telling them how they ought to act. And there is no “one” in the picture except computers. There is no “mind” behind the brain which uses the brain. There is no Maker of the mind but Sam knows that there can only be a computer and correspondence carried on between computers if someone made the computers and if someone uses the computers. But irrationally, Sam contends the situation is otherwise for the, according to him, evolutionarily developed human species!

Curiously, and without any evidence to support his theory, Harris attributes all thought to a physical organ that is metaphysically unattended, and Sam Harris intellectually attacks any concept of personal moral responsibility! Somehow our moral world is going to be improved when we all face up to what this neuroscientist is telling us: No real person is responsible for anything. Only a brain is! Remember, Harris contends that a “person” is no more responsible for his thoughts and actions than he is for being born into this world (Landscape, 104). As it turns out, given the explanation of the human situation according to Sam Harris, ethics has nothing whatever to do with personal responsibility! Now, there is your ape morality! And mixing such absolute fiction with some sort of “moral guidance” direction for the further development of the human species cannot save it from its on self-destruction.

There are many more very serious mistakes made in the book, The Moral Landscape. But we will not go into the exposure of every wrong turn that Sam took in arriving at his current confusion and explanation regarding morality. Once we see how the foundation for the theory (that science can determine human values) is based on such ontological self-contradiction, we see that everything else to be discussed is peripheral and secondary.

The very idea of a self-styled ape trying to convince other alleged apes how to live is laughable. And while I do sympathize with Sam in his horror over evil done in the name of religion, I cannot sympathize with him in a solution that embodies such incoherence and self-contradiction. And who among us can accurately apprise the misery caused in this nation already over the pseudo-scientific advocacy of organic evolution in its expression of current immorality? Sam incoherently warns us against self-deception (Landscape, 163, 176), all the while assuring us that there is no actual ontological “self” to be deceived! Such confusion is no help in trying to contribute to a better world.

It Is Only My Brain Talking

He said to me that he is not here.
“Who is not here?” I replied.
“Me,” he said as if unaware
That his denial had just been denied!

“If you are not here,” my inquiry began,
“To whom shall I make my reply?”
Someone responded (and I’m not really sure who),
“Me,” without blinking an eye.

“But how can I talk to you when you’re not here?”
“It is merely my brain,” he said with a smile.
“But how can that be?” I asked in response.
He said, “It’s been that way all the while.”

“Your brain? I asked with a skeptical look.
How can that possibly be?
The brain cannot be ‘your’ brain at all
For you just told me that the brain had no ‘me!’”

“There is no ‘my’ brain,” I tried to point out,
Not sure that he at all apprehended.
“If you are not here, the brain is not ‘yours.’
Indeed, the brain is completely unattended.”

Posted in Apologetics, Existence of God, Metaphysics

“Something” or “Nothing”?

The issue of “origin” as a concept has to begin somewhere. From whence did everything that is arrive? What is the source of all that we experience on earth? Ultimately, we are going to have to face two theoretical possibilities. Either there was a point at which there was “nothing,” or there has never been a point at which there was “nothing.” But before we go further, let us make sure that we are all on the same page regarding what nothing “is.” Look at those last quotation marks. They indicate that the very concept of “is” is opposed to the very concept of “nothing.” If we say that nothing is so and so, we are trying to give nothing some sort of ontological or “being” status, which by definition it simply cannot have. Nothing is not something. Nothing has no characteristics or qualities. Nothing is void of everything. It is the absence of anything and everything. It is the negation of all being. And by “being,” we mean existence at its most fundamental ontological level. If “nothing” were to be the absolute ultimate ontological condition at a given point, then we as men could not “think” it. As humans we cannot live with nothing and our minds are not equipped to even clearly grasp the meaning of the term we choose to describe as the absolute ontological contradiction to “being.” We have to think of “nothing” as a “something” even to bring it forward as a concept for discussion. Isn’t that amazing? And isn’t that insightful?

So, when we talk about “nothing” as a theoretical possibility regarding origin, we are having to intellectually squirm around in the effort to make sense of that which we are trying to describe. It is hard for a finite mind to get hold of the concept of nothing. It would do well for atheists to contemplate this point the next time they criticize the concept of eternal “something”. As humans we can only contemplate “nothing” as a topic from the background of the something that already impresses itself constantly on our minds. The backdrop of the discussion of “nothing” exists as a “something”. It cannot happen any other way. Since a human mind is certainly “something,” then we can only begin to attempt to fathom the concept of nothing via something, that is, our human minds. Minimally, the existence of at least the human mind is always the ontological presupposition to the discussion of “nothing”. Without our minds, there is no discussion, there is no issue, there is no controversy about the ultimate origin of all there is. So either “something” or “nothing” as the ultimate ontological explanation for all else is only relevant to a mind.

Now, just what does that insight tell us? It tells us that “nothing” can only be thought about by “something”! The approach to the topic of “nothing” can be made only by a mind. But a mind must exist before the concept can be thought. It is, then, impossible for “nothing” to be an intellectual category of existence all by itself. It can only exist in some sense as someone’s thought. If there were no thinker, then “nothing” could be thought or mentally produced as a concept. If there were no thinker, “nothing” could ever be known to be the ultimate ontological condition. If there were no thinker, “nothing” could never be discovered to be the ultimate ontological condition. “Nothing” as a concept only exists in a mind. Without a mind, there is no “nothing” to be thought or discussed. If “nothing” were (and without an eternal Mind) to be the ultimate ontological condition, then that “nothing” would have to continue as the ontological state. Out of nothing, nothing comes! That is, ontologically speaking, something cannot come from nothing! It is irrational to attempt to contradict that basic truth.

Think about it this way. Non-being cannot “be”. Non-being is not being. And not-being cannot be an existing ontological category that permits exploration or discovery as an existent category can. This means, then, that when in language we attempt to discuss the concept of “nothing,” that we can only do so by approximation. We can approximate the proposed ontological category of “nothing” only by language accommodation. But we can never actually get our minds around “absolute nothing,” because a mind can only think of “something”. That is the nature of thought. A thought cannot contain “nothing”!

Just as “something” is ontologically prior to “nothing” (as truth is to falsehood and as good is to evil), logically a mind is ontologically prior to the discussion of the possibility for any kind of “nothing”. That means that “something” is ontologically prior to “nothing”! “Nothing” as a category of thought or being only makes any sense either ontologically (in the totality of reality) or conceptually (in someone’s thought) with something already existing. Ontologically “nothing” can be isolated and in concept identified only against the background of “something”. It is, as already stated, like the concept of good or the concept of truth. “Evil” makes sense only on the ontological precondition of an existing good. And falsehood only makes sense on the precondition of an existing truth. Just so, “nothing” means nothing (that is, not anything at all) conceptually unless ontologically “something” exists with which it can be contrasted.

So, it is impossible for “nothing” to exist because “nothing” is “non-existence.” In one sense, to say that “nothing exists” is to say that nothing both exists and does not exist, which is a logical contradiction. This means that nothing cannot be anywhere located. It cannot be discovered because it cannot be found. It cannot be found because, by definition, it has no existence. If it has no existence, it has no accessibility to discovery. We talk about it only in some accommodative sense by an approximation in concept and then in language. Since one cannot discover “nothing,” he can only get close to it by altering the meaning of it. Since men cannot conceive of “absolute nothing,” we imagine a condition that is “almost nothing.” That is the best that we can do regarding the topic of origin. When we try to imagine a state of “absolute nothing,” we always fail. So, perhaps without thinking, we redefine the “almost nothing” that we imagined to be good enough to be the “absolute nothing” that is necessary in the discussion of origin as an alternative to an eternal “something”. So then, we should see that in our discussion of “nothing” and “something,” we cannot even discuss the contrast between the two without at the same time granting some sort of existence to the concept of “nothing” so that our minds can handle the discussion.

Now, think about the fact that if we could comprehend “nothing” (complete and universal non-existence absolutely) without accommodation and approximation, the concept itself could not have clear and precise definition. That is, it could not have clear meaning to us. Why? Because definition distinguishes something from something else. That is what definition does. By the fact that we can discuss “nothing” in some way that seems to make intellectual sense to us in the discussion of origin, we learn that it is being contrasted with “something” already. And I submit to you that the precondition or the backdrop or the contrast that makes the discussion of “nothing” a theoretical possibility in a way that is rationally intelligible is the existence of our minds. Our minds are always being the precondition or the “something” with which the “nothing” we seek to explore is held in contrast. “Nothing” is meaningful as a concept only because of “something” already being presupposed which presupposition is the human mind itself! This is the way that it is; this is the way that it always must be. We think at times that we are really grasping “nothing” because we try to imagine a blank or a void outside of our minds. But the mind itself is so constructed as to impose by its own nature conceptual limitations on our thinking. “Nothing” at minimal ontological reduction must be at least a concept or a thought we try to think or that is manufactured by our imagination, but we can never quite rid it of all content. Never!

To illustrate the impossibility of thinking of “nothing” without approximation (getting only close to its real meaning), let me offer a few items. Let us say that someone objects to our treatment of the topic and says that he can think of and describe, with absolute comprehension, the meaning of “nothing”. Let us say that our objector says that he thinks of “nothing” and can adequately describe it as a hollow or an empty place (void) or a place without form or color or shape. But you see, dear reader, that he is thinking about “nothing” from the viewpoint of “something”. The human mind is stuck right here in its capacity to conceptualize anything. We can only approximate the concept of “nothing”. We cannot grasp it accurately and certainly not comprehensively. We can only think in terms of “almost nothing”. This is as close as we can get! When the objector says that he thinks of “nothing” when he thinks of a hollow or an empty place, he is affirming “something” by which he means to be describing “nothing”!

Interestingly, the first definition in my dictionary of the word “nothing” is “something that does not exist.” And even the second definition, “NOTHINGNESS,” by the “-ness” on the end of the word suggests, somehow, “something” (see Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 577). That is, “nothing” is being considered as “something”. We cannot mentally get to the concept of “nothing” without identifying it as “something,” some state of affairs or condition or situation or location, etc. Now, isn’t that instructive? The human mind simply cannot get its arms completely around the concept of “nothing”. That means that when we attempt to think it or try to discuss it, we are doing so by means of some kind of conceptual and language accommodation, so that each of us knows what the others are meaning to say without anyone’s actually and precisely saying it when we refer to “nothing”. No human being can at one and the same time (1) exist and (2) claim accurately that “nothing” is possible of comprehension. The already existing mind cannot “get it”. We can only intellectually arrive at the border or the idea of the concept of it by thinking and speaking in terms of “almost nothing”. And that is as far as we can go. The bottom line is, then, that in the discussion of origin, we cannot even consider the idea of “nothing” without first presupposing “something”. By negation of “something,” we conceptually arrive at its opposite “nothing”. But that “nothing” cannot have complete meaning without the “something” that it opposes. To make this clear, let me offer the following. Let us identify the ways in which we can think of “something” and “nothing”. We can think of “something” in the following ways:

Possibilities for “Something

1. Something as only a concept (that is, it exists only in a mind).

2. Something as an actual ontological existent (that is, it exists also outside of the mind).

3. Something as only a word or sound (that is, there is no ontological referent for it even though the word can be written or spoken).

4. Something as an actual non-existent.

Number 1 can be illustrated by a 4,000 pound horse.

Number 2 can be illustrated by a real horse.

Number 3 can be illustrated by a unicorn.

Number 4 can be illustrated by a horse no longer alive and whose bones and flesh have been completely absorbed by nature.

Possibilities for “Nothing

1. Nothing as only a concept (that is, it exists only in a mind).

2. Nothing as an actual ontological existent (that is, it actually exists outside of the mind and without a mind).

3. Nothing as only a word or sound (that is, there is no ontological referent for it even though the word can be written or spoken).

4. Nothing as an actual non-existent.

Number 1 means that “nothing” is never outside the mind at all. There cannot be an “absolute nothing”.

Number 2 is a contradiction by definition. “Nothing” cannot be “something”.

Number 3 is actually a denial that “nothing” exists since it is only existing by a sound or a word that names it but gives it no ontological standing. We have a sign without a referent to which the sign points or for which the sign stands. “Nothing” is really simply a word or sound with no meaningful referent.

Number 4 is the meaning of “nothing” being attempted in the discussion of origin, but we arrive at the concept of “nothing” only by conceptual approximation.

Now why is this important to consider? It is important because it means then that, ultimately, there is no alternative to the eternal existence of “something”! Since out of nothing, nothing can come, and since the human mind can only approximate the condition of nothingness by the description that “almost nothing” exists, we are seeing and saying that “something” has always existed. And the very description that “almost nothing” exists becomes itself void of significance in the effort to identify theoretical possibilities in the discussion of ultimate origin. Why? Because we are affirming that “something” really does, after all, exist! And, ontologically speaking, that is the contradiction of the claim that “nothing” exists. In other words, to say that “almost nothing” exists is to say that “something” exists! So, to claim that “almost nothing” exists is not much of a claim, as it turns out, after all.

Think about the concept of improbability. If someone says that it is improbable that God exists, since the claim of improbability is the admission of the possibility of the contradictory, then whoever says that it is improbable that God exists is saying at the same time that God may exist after all! More strikingly, however, when someone says that it is possible that at a point “nothing” existed, since he can only approximate “nothing,” he is saying that at a point “almost nothing” existed, which implies, at that point, “something” existed after all!

Think about it this way. What if someone is discussing a box that he thinks has been emptied of all the apples in it. Suppose he says to a friend of his that the box is empty. Then suppose that his friend looks into the box and finds one remaining apple. Being shown this, the original claimant who said the box was empty now, in response, says that the box is “almost empty”. What does this mean? Obviously, if the box is only “almost empty,” then clearly it is not empty at all! Now to apply this easy illustration, when we find that the “ontological box” is almost empty (conceptually as we attempt to think about “nothing” as a category of inquiry and discussion), we are finding that the “ontological box” is not empty at all. “Something” is in it. But it looks like that something is barely in it. That is, the box looks to be almost empty or void of anything except this one lone, isolated apple.

Ah yes, it looks like there is a large encompassing atmosphere that envelops the one lone apple. The box is larger than is the apple within it.

And here is where the application of this illustration breaks down because the actual ontological condition cannot be that way. Why not? Because the ultimately identifiable “something” has no encompassing atmosphere that is larger than it is. If there is a larger encompassing something that is beyond what the already identified ultimate “something” is, then the “something” identified could not be the ultimate “something” possible! This reminds us, does it not, of Anselm’s correct insight regarding the ultimate Being as being that “greater than which cannot be conceived”. It is not merely coincidental that Scripture claims that God inhabits eternity (Isaiah 57:15; cf. Psalm 90:2). Conceptually, that is not anything close to saying, for example, that God inhabits Georgia. What God inhabits cannot be properly conceptualized as being a place larger than the inhabitant. The nature of ultimate Being cannot be described that way.

The Bible claims, and the situation must ontologically obtain, that beyond time and beyond everything else that there could ever possibly be, something had to be already “in place” with the “place” not being something like geography (e.g. Georgia) but a condition beyond time and place. The ultimate something, whatever or who it is must be beyond time in the sense that everything in time is characterized by the property of merely enduring through moments or segments of durative existence. That is, everything in time is marked by time and must be in the process of passing away or passing out of time. I would describe time basically as the process of diminishing change. The ultimate something or existent must be beyond time. Too, the ultimate existent has to be beyond place in the sense that it must be its own place. When Scripture declares that God inhabits eternity, it is saying that God is his own residence! He simply cannot exist in a place that preceded him, and he could not possibly exist in a place that succeeded him! God is his own area or “place”. He, himself, constitutes the only location there is, at least before any creation occurs.

This means that ultimate Being is something beyond both time and place as we are forced to think about both concepts, because we can only think of time as it applies to things created (that is, finite things); we can only think of place as location always in some sense larger than any possible existing inhabitant. Interestingly, according to Scripture, there is a sense in which God does not change (Malachi 3:6) and he inhabits eternity (Isaiah 57:15). God is the “I Am That I Am” (KJV) or the “I Am Because I Am” (ASV) per Exodus 3:14 in that he is not an effect but the eternally existing Being whose being is explainable only in terms of its own and only ontological self-sufficiency. The reason for God is God. As Aquinas taught us, his essence simply is “to be”. In one sense, it sounds so strange, but when the finite mind begins to explore the nature of reality, the absolute essentiality of such an ultimate essence is found to be not simply a possibility but an essentiality. So, again, God is beyond time and he was, since he was outside of time, the only “location” before creation.

Following creation, all of creation must be “in him”. This is why Paul can tell the philosophers in Athens that men live “in God” (Acts 17:28). The whole creation is a different sort of thing (by the nature of any created thing) from the Creator himself. All of creation must be “in God” in that God is greater than any and all of what he makes. The effect cannot be greater than the Cause. To revert to our “almost empty basket” illustration earlier, we see that God is not simply the lone apple left in the basket that shows that the basket is only “almost empty”. Rather he is the essential and necessary “basket” that contains any and all apples that can exist. So, as it turns out, the “something” that is implied by the “almost nothing” is, in fact, not merely a lone “something” that means that the basket is barely occupied, but rather the “something” turns out to be the necessary Lone Something—or God—that is able to contain everything else that ever there is or could be.

Now, what if someone grants the contention that it is really impossible, after all, for the human mind to completely comprehend the concept of ontological “nothingness,” but then registers the objection that such is irrelevant in the discussion of origin since the human mind cannot fathom the concept of eternity either. Suppose a skeptic says, for example, that the impossibility of complete comprehension of the idea of “nothingness” is not important to the discussion anyway, since the concept of eternity is equally off limits to human comprehension. Let us explore this possible objection and see if there is some merit to it.

When someone says that the concept of an eternal something (God) is just as hard to intellectually grasp as is the concept of an ontological “nothing,” we would suggest that since we humans are here to look at the topic of origin, something is certainly existing now. We must begin the exploration of the nature of the origin of our universe by virtue of the fact that something is already in place. The “something” and all the “somethings” that are present display their nature to be finite (limited) and contingent (dependent) effects without efficient cause and without sufficient reason from within themselves to explain themselves.

It is an obvious feature of our universe with its component parts, that the items that when combined constitute that universe are such as to cry out to us that they cannot explain themselves and they cannot cause themselves. The idea of something’s causing itself is a contradiction in terms. “X” cannot cause itself to exist because if “X” is the cause, it already exists before its effect does, and if “X” is the effect, it cannot be the effect of “X” that does not exist previously. It is irrational to suggest that anything can cause itself! It is an impossible situation that amounts to a claim for an ontological contradiction which is absurd. Well, if it is impossible for anything to cause itself, what about the possibility of something’s being the reason for itself? Those who study philosophy may be familiar with the principle of efficient causality and with the principle of sufficient reason. These are two different principles of tremendous worth. And both of them cover the existence of everything that there is! The principle of efficient causality covers everything that is an effect (which is everything but God). The principle of sufficient reason covers everything including God.

No man thinking correctly can say that (1) he caused himself to exist or that (2) he has the sufficient reason or explanation for himself within himself. Every man, if he thinks about the matter at all, surely realizes that the explanation for himself lies outside of himself and the cause for himself is outside of himself. And such is characteristic of every particle of this physical universe! The efficient cause and the sufficient reason for everything within the universe and the universe itself is outside of itself. That is the very nature of the essence of physicality. And even regarding the mind of man, by self-reflection, each of us can know that (1) he did not cause his mind to exist (since it is a contradiction to claim that a mind caused itself to exist) and (2) the sufficient reason for the existence of his mind within his body indicates that the sufficiency for the arrangement is not within the arrangement itself. It has to come somehow from the outside. Each of us would begin to explore the cause and the reason for ourselves by taking the first step and claiming that our parents are our efficient cause even if they cannot be the sufficient reason for us. According to Scripture, all men have a heritage of efficient cause all the way back to Adam and then to God who is the ultimate efficient cause and sufficient reason for the existence of everything outside of himself.

Every “something” in the universe, or the universe as a “something” considered as one entity, indicates its complete ontological inadequacy in explaining itself or being the reason for itself or in being the cause of itself. Every feature of our world points to a “something” that must exist and not by causing itself (which as we have seen is a contradiction in terms) but which must have the reason for itself within itself. But a mindless “it” or a simple piece of matter has no capacity to be its own explanation or reason, as we see in looking at our universe and all that composes it. The ultimate principle of the universe cannot be just an “it” or an “It” or an “IT”. All of the “its” as a category are effects at best of something that is not. The essence of the ultimate Being has to be greater than everything that composes a part of our universe and greater than the universe as a whole.

The ultimate “something” or “Something” has to be this way! God has the reason for himself within himself. He does not cause himself because such is impossible and also because he is no effect. But he does and must have within his own essence the essential claim on existence. And all effects must be less that all causes. And the total effect of creation must be less, in some sense, than the ultimate Creator. Aquinas taught us that God’s essence is to exist. Now, we may not be able to completely fathom such an essence, but we can fathom the necessity of such an essence when we are considering how it is possible for anything now to exist at all.

So, let us look at our two possibilities as we think about the origin of our universe. Everything is the result finally of either (1) “nothing” or (2) “something”. Now, it is correct to say that it is hard for a human and finite mind to comprehend an “eternal something”. But the “eternal something” is implied by every “finite something” that exists. The fact that it is hard for a finite mind to comprehend an infinite and “eternal something” ought to make us humble, reverent, and submissive while admitting to ourselves that it is impossible for us to completely grasp the nature of divine essentiality. But what we do know is that while we cannot grasp the nature of essentiality (and thus the sufficient reason for God’s infinite eternality), we can grasp the necessary nature of that existence as an explanation for whoever it is that causes everything else to exist. The first cause must be his own explanation. It simply has to be this way. And this is what the Bible means in affirming God!

It is true that we cannot fathom completely the concept of “nothing”. We can know, however, that “nothing” cannot be the ultimate cause of anything. And “nothing” cannot explain anything. We can approximate the category of “nothing” only by looking at it against the background of “something”. In fact, “nothing” is always being considered “something” as we try to imagine it. It is also true that as we talk about the eternal God as the ultimate cause of everything outside of himself and as the sufficient reason for himself, that we are claiming something that we cannot completely comprehend.

However, the two situations are not parallel in that—

1. “Nothing” can ever be the cause or the explanation for anything, period!

2. “Something” necessarily or essentially existed forever in order for something to exist even temporarily today.

3. The incapacity of the human mind to grapple completely with the concept of “nothing” only indicates the necessary background of “something” as the precondition for the discussion of “nothing” anyway.

4. We cannot know “nothing” as such, and we cannot know the essence of essential existence that must characterize the ultimate cause of the universe.

5. But we do know that since out of “nothing,” nothing comes, and that since “something” has come, then the “ultimate Something” somehow carries his own eternal ontological credentials for himself within himself. It cannot be any other way.

In the 1976 Warren-Flew debate on the existence of God, Warren said that an atheist cannot disprove the existence of God by appealing only to the concept of God (see p. 54 of The Warren-Flew Debate). Rather, Warren said that the attempt at disproof would necessarily entail not only the concept of God (which concept by itself is coherent), but such would entail combining the coherent concept with some empirical fact which supposedly contradicts the concept. This is what is involved when atheists attempt to disprove God by the so-called “problem of evil”.

So, according to Warren (and this was never denied by the atheist Flew in the debate), the coherent concept of God plus some empirical fact alleged to be contradictory of the concept would be required to attempt to disprove theism and to establish the claim of atheism.

Now, what have we been saying in this article? We have been saying, in effect, that the concept of “nothing” is really an incoherent concept at best. We simply cannot make sense of “absolute nothingness”. The state or condition or situation of any proposed “absolute nothingness” is an incoherent concept in and of itself! It only becomes intelligible by making it “almost nothing” against the backdrop of a “something”. By itself the concept of “nothing” or “nothingness” can never rationally be suggested as an alternative to the necessity of creation. The concept of “God” is a coherent one, and the atheist Antony Flew did not deny such. But the concept of “absolute nothingness” is not even coherent! In the Warren-Flew debate, Flew suggested in his rejoinder on Monday night, “It seems to me that someone could perfectly consistently be an atheist and believe that the universe is going as a matter of fact to have an end, or believe that it had had a beginning but was not going to have an end. However, I am myself inclined to believe that matter is without end and without beginning. But I do not see why as an atheist I have got to” (ibid., p. 65).

Thus, as an atheist Flew wrongly accepted the irrational notion that (1) “something” can come from “nothing,” while at the same time wrongly accepting the view that (2) matter is eternal. But Flew also conceded correctly that the concept of God by itself is coherent! Warren exposed Flew for accepting the self-contradictory view from Strato of Greece, called the “stratonician presumption,” which claims that “everything there is is a product of nature” (ibid., p. 170f.), which if true would mean, as Warren pointed out, that nature produced itself (now who can possibly actually believe that when he understands what it means?) and he told Flew that he needed to get on with the business of attempting to prove the eternality of matter (p. 187)! Warren used the Second Law of Thermodynamics in physics to show that the claim that matter is eternal is false (ibid.).

Finally, if the concept of “God” is coherent, and if the concept of “nothing” is incoherent, and if the attempt at disproving God must entail not only the coherent concept of “God” but an empirical fact judged to be contradictory to the concept, then what can we finally say about the concept of “nothing” plus some empirical fact? Notice that the incoherent concept of “absolute nothing” plus any empirical fact, means that “something” exists! Why? Because the empirical fact exists alongside the incoherent concept of “nothing”.

So, the concept of “God” plus some empirical fact is what is necessarily attempted by atheists to disprove God when they use the so-called “problem of evil,” but no facts can disprove God, because all facts ultimately demand God for ultimate explanation! As Professor Warren used to teach us, “if one thing exists, then God exists. If the one thing that exists is God, then God exists, and if the one thing that exists is not God, then it requires God for its existence”. And the incoherent concept of “nothing” plus some empirical fact proves “something” rather than “nothing” exists because the empirical fact is “something”.

It is impossible, then, to build a rational case for atheism either by the alleged eternality of matter or by “something” coming from “nothing”. There is no room in the discussion of ultimate explanation of the origin of anything, rationally speaking, for claiming anything other than God!

Posted in Apologetics, Epistemology, Existence of God, Metaphysics

The Impoverishment of Atheism

The Bible plainly teaches that the evidence for the existence of God is so plain and available that a man is a fool who reaches the conclusion that God does not exist (Psa. 19:1-4; Acts 14:17; Psa. 14:1; 53:1). Whether or not this man ever expresses his conviction to anyone else is irrelevant to his own miserable condition. If he says to himself that God does not exist, then the God who wrote the Bible declares this man a fool.

And yet some who reach the unenviable position of such irrational foolhardiness evidently, because of the way that they advocate their conclusion to others, think that there is some positive benefit to be had by subscribing to it. It is one thing to see in atheism only a curse. It is another thing to think that atheism somehow is a blessing. It would seem that depressed atheists would be more open to persuasion to the opposite viewpoint since it would lift their spirits. On the other hand, atheists who revel in skepticism would seem harder to convince that their doctrine is absurd.

Just here I want to make a few brief observations that indicate the absolute worthlessness of atheism. It has no value. It is not simply that it has a little of something good to offer; it has nothing. It is not simply a negative view that is wholly innocent in its nature, but it is seriously destructive in its complete makeup. And when men begin to publicly advance it not only as possibly helpful but as absolutely essential to human improvement and happiness on earth, the perverted use of such nonsense needs to be exposed.

The points that I will make will not be elaborated. They will simply be observed with but few comments, but the points are worthy of much consideration.

First, atheism provides no meaning or purpose to human living. Philosophers have throughout human history been wrestling with the problem of what life is all about. Atheism has absolutely no contribution to make. It is stuck between two impossible intellectual commitments: no Mind is responsible for our existence or that of anything whatever that exists. And at the other end of the spectrum, there is no destiny of the human spirit, because no human spirit exists either! So, everything is meaningless. When the searching spirit cries out for meaning, atheism at best can provide only a temporary fix. It has no answer, because there is no answer except that human life has no meaning.

Two, atheism provides no rational explanation for anything. All is the “product” of fluke, chance, and an impossible ontological situation. Not only is it the case that “out of nothing something comes,” but rather that “out of nothing everything comes!” Somehow, nothing is the grand ultimate provider of something. Philosophically, atheism is bankrupt!

Three, atheism has no explanation for the currently operative “laws of thought.” These “laws” that regulate all of human thinking have been discovered, isolated, and described. The law of identity, the law of excluded middle, and the law of contradiction provide the intellectual capacity for human thought. And the essential thing is, that each law was in operation in every accountable human mind before any one of them was located. It is impossible to think without them, and you can only attack them or deny them by using them! Add to these, the “law of rationality” (the law which says that we ought to justify our conclusions by adequate evidence) and you have the basic mental framework for the whole of intellectual activity on earth. To deny them is to affirm them and to assail them is to use them! What is the explanation for such an arrangement that makes it rationally impossible to be irrational? Atheism has no answer, because it grounds all mental framework in mindless matter!

Four, atheism has no answer to the question of the origin of the human conscience. The conscience is that intellectual apparatus and feature of human personality that intuits moral law. It is that by which a man is able to grasp a moral distinction between “right” and “wrong.” The significance of right and wrong, to the human, is poised at the position of his conscience. If conscience can’t grasp it, the person cannot become morally accountable. To deny the existence and nature of conscience would be to deny human capacity to enter the domain of the moral. To admit the domain of absolute good and absolute evil is to admit the existence of the conscience. And to deny the absoluteness of moral right and of moral evil is to admit that nothing is wrong in any meaningful sense! And yet, no atheist wants to live in a world where everything is considered morally subjective, at least when it comes to how he himself should be treated!

Five, since atheism is a system that can only allow for subjective ethics, then it can provide absolutely no help in describing the way that humans ought to live. In fact, there is no “ought” to be sought; there is no moral obligation with which men should comply. Everything is “up for grabs.” It is “each man for himself,” in a “dog eat dog” world where no man’s opinion is worth any more than any other man’s opinion as far as an opinion’s capacity to reach the level of moral authority is concerned. An atheist cannot tell anyone how to live or the best way to live, given his atheism as the basis for his suggestion. He can only tell you how he wants you to live. Some atheists think that they can tell what makes for happier people and so ground their ethical suggestions on the metaphysical conclusion that a person should so live as to become the happiest by his course of living. Others might think that a person should so live as to make others happy or to make the greatest number happy. But this is a conclusion not based on atheism, and a conclusion that cannot be discovered as it oozes up out of the mud. A man might follow a course that makes him happy (at least to some degree), but whether or not such basis can be “the” basis of a planned life cannot be grounded in atheism.

Six, since atheism is reduced to the practice of living without meaning, it assails the dignity of man. Man has a nature, and it is complex. According to Scripture, man is composed of body, soul, and spirit. According to atheism, man is not composed. He is only body. His total makeup is like that of a pig. His brain somehow is more highly developed, but again this is all according to chance occurrence and the mindless program of organic evolution. But in the end, whether one has a man’s brain or a pig’s brain, a brain is a brain. And according to nature, there is no value to a man in principle that cannot at the same time be ascribed to a pig. We are all bound for death and that will end us all. Five dollars is, numerically speaking, greater than one dollar. But all dollars are still only dollars. The Bible teaches us of our kinship to God. That is what explains our rationality and our conscience and our purpose and meaning. Man, because of God, has value and dignity. Atheism attacks God and so attacks man. Even atheists who attempt to suggest a kind of ethical program in the hope of helping man, do so under the illusion that they are actually helping. Alcohol producers warn us to “drink responsibly” while producing the product that enslaves and destroys. When misguided atheists write books to help us live better, they do not realize what they are doing.

Seven, atheism cannot explain the continuing order of the universe. How is it that there continues to be an atmosphere in which even an atheist can live and move and have his being? Why does the world continue to exist? Why are the “laws” that science seeks to discover and explain constant as regulators of the affairs of this universe? How can science itself as a legitimate field or category of inquiry continue? It is because that certain “laws” are stable and regulative. And these laws continue. How could mindless matter give rise to the development of the scientific laws over the millions of years of suggested evolutionary development? How could chaos give rise to order and mud to mind given the evolutionary view of things? And how could things get “fixed” and settled as ongoing principles or laws of operation? What gives such laws any ontological status in the first place, to say nothing of why they continue, in the second? Atheism again has only the irrational mutterings of a man on philosophical dope. The management of the universe is as foreign to any offered atheistic explanation as is the origin of it!

Eight, atheism has no contribution to make to philosophy of history. Why has history gone the way that it has? Since atheism cannot explain anything, it certainly cannot explain why the course of human history has taken the form that it has. Of course, human history is a broad and complex field for human analysis, but there are certain principles that explain it to some degree. The progress of nations has always historically been based on whether or not the inhabitants followed the dictate provided in Genesis 1:28. Unless there was for some reason the need for personal divine penetration into human affairs, the side of history (progress in advancement in time) has always been on the side of the country or countries whose citizenry attempted to “subdue” the earth. Too, human character has played a part. Righteousness and sin still effect historical development. The rise and fall of nations entails the application of this truth (cf. Psa. 127:1; Prov. 14:34). And of course, according to Scripture, the overall outline of human history has involved God’s management of human affairs so that men can be saved (Rom. 9-11). If atheism has made a contribution to human history, it is only by means of its impediment to its advancement.

Nine, atheism doesn’t know what to do about truth! Truth as a concept is both metaphysical and eternal. It is not meshed into empirical facts but resides in an atmosphere of eternity and is attached to the person of God himself. No God, no ultimate truth! If atheists are correct, truth is of very recent origin. Facts have to do with events and states of affairs, with things that happen. Truth has to do with propositions. We can illustrate this way: It is a fact that George Washington was the first president of the United States. The statement that “George Washington was the first president of the United States” is true. This is basically the difference between a fact and truth. The concept of “truth” has to do with accuracy with regard to a claim. Fact has to do with what has occurred or exists in a non-propositional way. Given evolution, truth evolved about six to ten thousand years ago. When man first began to think, truth was created! If I were an atheist, I would spend more time on an explanation for the most recent arrival of “truth” on earth than with obsessing over a relatively “young earth” claimed by some religionists. Truth is a human invention, per atheism. And its value is simply that which humans choose to invest in it! Nothing more! This is why there can never be moral obligation for any man to become an atheist!

Ten, atheism provides no sufficient motivation to what it may consider human progress in morality. When atheists write books that attempt to give moral guidelines to other humans, since men are the highest species yet evolutionarily developed, then man is, in fact, the measure of all things. Shades of the Greek sophist, Protagoras! I would ask, however, which man is the measure of all things? Since all men can’t have their way all the time and live in human society, then who should get to have his way? There is no way for an atheist to prove that one atheistic road is better, morally speaking, than another. If one atheist chooses communism and another humanism, which atheist has the higher ground of authority? At one moment, it could be the one with the gun! At another moment, it might be that the better road (one with greater social appeal) was the one being suggested by the atheist without the gun. But since there is no metaphysical basis for any atheistic authority whatever, the claimant for the “better” moral road is without any evidence! At any given moment in history, either the communist or the humanist might have a message of enormous appeal, given the existing social conditions of the time, but neither kind of atheist could produce rational proof that one kind of atheism is better than another kind at all, ever!

Eleven, atheism has no way to provide for justice. Some atheists, no doubt, would be quite willing to cite the crimes of religion against mankind. And we would have to admit that the history of religion on earth has not always been pleasant to consider. There has been much evil perpetrated on people by religion. But not all religion is right. There is much wrong religion. There are many religions. And there is little right religion being practiced. Truth on earth has been rarely found and more rarely practiced. The religion of the Bible, however, does provide for ultimate justice in that it has a doctrine of accountability and justice. Men do in this life often “get away with murder.” But it is at best only temporary, according to Scripture, for a judgment day is coming. With atheism, however, all of the injustice that men get away with on earth, they get away with, period! Atheism cannot produce nor intellectually defend a system of justice.

Twelve, atheism has no way of really offering any meaningful hope to mankind. Some atheists do see themselves as men trying to “better” the human condition, and they do plan and hope for a “better” life on earth. But, in the final analysis, there is no basis for their suggested improvement and no reason to hope that things will, after all, get “better” for man in any really meaningful sense. And the “better” that they envision, they themselves realize is only “better” for a mere moment. It is true that the best religion can degenerate into awful and oppressive false religion. But atheism in spite of its—at times—“humane” motivation, cannot rise far above its basic evolutionary barbarity. The religion of Christ has been often perverted into enormous religious persecution, it is true, but such is the result of falling away from the truth. When atheism is practiced, however, the Godlessness that it advances undercuts any alleged attempt at making things better on earth. Better for whom? For how long? Even if it tries to make things “better” for all men, it can only attempt to make things better but for a moment. There is no lasting hope to atheism! And remember, there are no atheists after death. If atheism were true, then no atheist could survive death. He would no longer exist. But if atheism were wrong, then an atheist must become a theist when he dies! So, there can only be atheists now—not later. Atheism can only at best be of temporary function. It is no accident of association that atheism and degeneration are conceptually snug.

Thirteen, atheism has no way of satisfying the human spirit to the degree that God desires and to the degree that the properly functioning human spirit desires as well. Consider Isaiah 55:2; John 6:27; Acts 17:27; Matthew 5:6; Matthew 4:4. According to Scripture, man’s spirit flourishes on a certain kind of spiritual diet. And atheism simply cannot satisfy the hunger! The sad thing is that some atheists are still hungry, but they are attempting to fill their bellies with the husks that the swine did eat (cf. Luke 15:16). Some tasks can be performed on such food, but great work cannot be attempted, much less accomplished, on such diet. There is still a “balm in Gilead” and a physician is still there (cf. Jer. 8:22; Matt. 9:12; Luke 4:23). It is a shame when men die of a condition that was operable simply because they refused the doctor and his counsel. And how sad that hungry men will not fill up on that which alone can fill.

Atheism is a poverty stricken viewpoint of long and miserable history. There is no defense for it, there is no improvement by it (only in spite of it), and there is absolutely no future in it. It assails human nature, the nature of truth, the nature of value, the nature of explanation, the meaning or purpose of human life on earth, human morality, and human rationality. It attacks all of these things, and yet some atheists would have us look upon their impoverished offering as helpful insights into the way things really are. How utterly misguided any atheist must be! While we love the atheist, we despise his doctrine. With David of old, we too, declare that we hate every false way, and certainly atheism is a false concept. It is an impoverished concept, and the life it really does undergird is a sad and dangerous way.

Posted in Apologetics, Epistemology, Existence of God, Metaphysics

Reflections on Mind and God (A Brief Essay Exploring What an Analysis of Our Minds Tells Us)

Humans are in a position, but not a predicament. We are somehow poised in an ontological setting which makes sense if we use sense in evaluating it. By “sense” I do not mean physical impressions, but metaphysical or mind impressions. In other words, if we use judgment, then that to which my mind applies seems rational. There has to be some rational explanation for the fact of the coherence of the physical universe and for the fact of the relationship that exists between the physical universe and my consciousness of it. There has to be some explanation for the fact that I can reason about the universe and that I can reason about reason. Human reason is an element of reality that must be accounted for in its relationship to all other reality. By the use of my mind the only explanation possible for myself and for everything else that I consider in the universe can only be a rational one. Even if I finally decide that the ultimate explanation for everything is a physical explanation (as a final cause), I can only come to this conclusion by the use of my mind. It is in this sense that all of my explanations must be rational. But if all of my explanations must be rational (by the employment of mind and reason), then how could it possibly be the case that the final cause could somehow be less than mind and less than reason?

In other words, how is it possible on the one hand that my explanation for the existence of everything must be rational, but that the final explanation as a cause could only rise to a level less than the nature of my own explanation? Can the final explanation as cause possibly be less in its essence than the partial explanation provided by a person living on this earth? If my explanations as an observer inside the universe can only be rational ones (since I arrive at them solely and essentially by the employment of my mind), then how would it be possible for the ultimate explanation of the universe from the outside be a non-rational one? By the “principle of sufficient reason,” we know that there is an adequate or sufficient reason for everything. But how could the ultimate explanation for the universe be sufficient if it is deficient in essence to explain “rational explanation” that exists on earth?

Rocks are not reasons, and they are not impressionable entities. We humans are characterized by reason, and we are very impressionable. Consciousness makes this possible. And even though animals are impressionable because of their own level of consciousness, we humans are aware of our consciousness, and we can reflect on it. We can reason about it in a way that escapes all levels of life below the human strata. Let us briefly and only lightly explore the human mind and see what we see in ourselves and what, if anything, it tells us about God.

Let us begin with exploring what my mind tells me about me. First of all, (1) it tells me that I am a superior kind of being to anything that does not have mind. Any normal human values himself above anything less than human. And most people (and all people who are thinking correctly) value all other people above anything less than human. Even atheistic humanists consider human beings as the ultimate expression of reality on earth. So, at first base, we realize that my mind informs me that I have standing or a certain position in the universe. I have value. It is true that many times some humans act out of harmony with this truth. But their failure to live in the light of this truth cannot and does not destroy it. A man may become so enamored with money that he disregards some humans in the attainment of it. He disvalues certain humans because they stand in the way of his acquiring more of that which he overvalues. However, if he finally is called upon to surrender riches or face certain death, he will let the money go to save his life. Truth finally is realized in his desperate moment. Some animal rights activists seem to be willing on occasion to kill a man in order to spare an animal, but again, if they are called on to surrender the animal unto death in order to save their own lives, truth again surfaces in their minds as to what is the more valuable. But even if we found one of them willing to die to save a mere animal, surely he would, if called upon to choose life for an animal or his child, he would save his child. No one on earth would commend him for sacrificing his child in order to save a brute. According to Scripture any person who would save the brute and sacrifice the child would be devoid of “natural affection” (cf. Rom. 1:31). False philosophical concepts regarding the place of man and animal in the universe cannot be consistently applied to reality.

Second, with regard to what my mind tells me about me, (2) it tells me that I am somewhat complex. Why do I say this? As I reflect on me, I understand that I am thinking about myself. As a person, not only do I have the capacity to focus on something outside of and other than me, but I can turn the intellectual microscope my way and examine myself through it. In fact, there is something altogether different about self-analysis in this regard. When I look at you, I consider you as an empirical being. I see your body and see by the movement of your body that there is someone animating it. And even if I see your corpse at the funeral home, I see an empirical body from which you have gone. And it is true that in the evaluation of myself, I can certainly look at my body and think about my body as well as about my mind. But there is also this very precious, private, intimate look that I can take into myself that is a self-reflection that is not directed by any exploration of my body. I can look inwardly and deeply into my own spirit or self or core of my existence and think about me as an independent and responsible agent, someone accountable for thoughts that are his own and actions that are his own. This inward look that I am taking is my own “look” at myself. I can examine myself and you can examine yourself in a personal and private and penetrating way that is not possible to someone outside ourselves (cf. 1 Cor. 2:10-11).

The complexity of my nature is further seen in the fact that while I realize that self-analysis is pursued by reason, reason finds other things than reason within me. Not only do I reason about reason, but I reason about sensation. Why is it that I like to see certain things? Why is it that certain foods taste good? Certain things smell good? Certain things feel good? Certain things sound good? How can a world of physical beauty make an appeal to me? So, I can reflect on mind, I can reflect on body, and I can even reflect on the combination of sensation and thought as they are combined in my human experience. I “feel” comfortable and good after a fine meal. Not only is the belly satisfied because of food within, but the spirit has been affected and is satisfied because of its connection to the body without. The spirit has an improved sense of well-being and is content because of its connection to and association with a physical body that demands food for its continuation.

Further, I find myself reasoning about my emotion or my non-physical feelings. Here I am thinking about feeling within my mind. I am thinking about my mental states or psychological conditions in which my mind resides. Think about the various moods that we experience in our spirit in the course of a day. We may pass through the feeling of happiness, contentment, sadness, anger, indignation, gratitude, resentment, jealousy, guilt, humility, etc.

Third, with regard to what my mind tells me about me, (3) it tells me that though I am in a sense confined to my body, there is a peculiar sense in which I can extend myself beyond my body. Paul informs us that the divinely constructed limitation of time and space to human beings on the earth is designed so that man will search for God (Acts 17:26-28). But even though we are all limited in time and space, my mind is able to carry me beyond my body and outside my own moment of existence. How can it do this? It is the nature of spirit which entails the nature of thought that makes such a thing possible. My mind simply is not “fixed” to the reality of space and time as my physical body is. The connections are not the same.

For example, my mind is constantly thinking about things that exist outside my mind and outside my body. A lot—if not most—of our thinking, though done by ourselves, is not about ourselves. So, the limitation of my space (my mind being inside my body) does not prevent me from going to other places in thought. I can think of the house down the street, or the next county that joins my county. I can think of other cities, countries, other people that occupy other spaces, etc. I am all the time thinking about things that exist outside of myself. My own body cannot contain myself in this regard. The body gives way to the spirit’s expression of itself as it explores the universe.

And it is the same in regard to time. My body simply cannot contain my mind when it comes to time. While I am still here in my body, my mind still travels to the distant past. I can even contemplate the “beginning” of Genesis 1:1. I know that I can mentally visit, not simply a prior moment to the present, but I can study the very distant past. And I can even project myself by imagination into the future and think about the things that are to come or the things that I hope will come and even the things that I know will not there occur. And I can reason about the future fulfillment of promises made to me, the fulfillment of which is to take place at some point beyond now. And I can even step beyond time in the sense that I can attempt to contemplate the very meaning of “eternity.”

And the thing is, I do not need a “vision” or miraculous “dream” in order to leave space and time. My mind allows me to do this all the time. And even when I am dreaming in my sleep, I somehow enter a domain that seems to border reality with unreality, another kind of dimension where in my unconsciousness my mind still is active, outside of personal consciousness.

Fourth, with regard to what my mind tells me about me, (4) it tells me that in description, language is the key to clarity. When awake, my mind is essentially operative. However, it can take in more than it wants or needs. It can speedily scan so many images. But when it focuses so as to describe anything that it has experienced, it articulates the experienced event by language. Language is necessary to precisely describe what the mind contains. It is amazing that while I can (1) think or comprehend by images or pictures of things, (2) when I tell myself about them rather than simply to remember the picture or image, I use language to do that. Language advances insight.

Fifth, with regard to what my mind tells me about me, (5) I see that my memory is the key to my intelligence or rationality. What we call “memory” is the mind’s enduring quality of visiting the impressions made on it. It is so necessary to intelligence and essential to communication that without it we could not make sense of ourselves to ourselves or to other minds. For example, I can only meaningfully talk to you if I remember each word in the sentence that I speak as I continue to add other words to the sentence. As I construct a sentence to deliver to you, I must remember each word and then its connection to each subsequent word in order to know of the meaning of the sentence that I am speaking. And if you do not remember each word as other words are “tacked on to it” in the sentence, you cannot possibly understand what I am trying to say. Memory is that fundamental.

Sixth, with regard to what my mind tells me about me, (6) it assures me that I exist. Of course, the Bible speaks of “the inward man” (2 Cor. 4:16), “the hidden man of the heart” (1 Pet. 3:4), and even compartmentalizes us into “spirit and soul and body” (1 Thess. 5:23). Paul once used a rare expression in saying, “I verily thought with myself” (Acts 26:9).

I must confess that I am the one writing this article. Technically grammatically correct, it is I, but, more familiarly, it is me. Who is it that holds memory? Who is it forming these words in mind and typing them out on computer? Who is thinking this through? Thoughts don’t think; thinkers think. Thinkers think thoughts. But just here a curious skepticism has arisen.

The famous (or notorious) Scottish skeptic, David Hume, alleged that he could never find himself without a thought. He concluded that he, therefore, could not know absolutely that he, David Hume, actually existed. But how in the world could Mr. Hume analyze his thoughts without comprehending that thoughts don’t think. Minds do! Thoughts are not the agents; they are the instruments. An agent or source has to produce the thought. As already mentioned, thoughts are not simply “non-connected” abstractions hanging out there somewhere in the universe. If they were, we could simply search for them and collect them as we do butterflies. Only minds have thoughts. Only minds that are somehow like God’s mind can produce thoughts but then can think about them. Men can think about thoughts. Incredible! Somehow we have the extraordinary capacity to focus thought on thought itself. That is absolutely amazing. And when we focus on thought, we can see that every thought is (1) meaningful or intelligible in some sense, (2) a production of a mind, (3) a minimal part of a coherent scheme of things called “rationality,” and (4) an essence completely distinct from all matter.

Just here let us observe that the profundity of these truths admits also a very obvious simplicity. We do not deny the existence of “love” simply because we cannot analyze it in a laboratory. We do not give up the concept of “justice” simply because it is not empirically verifiable. “Mercy” continues as a most desired concept even if many people do not show much of it. Such concepts are meaningful to humans living on earth. All humans live with the constant application of such concepts as fundamental, meaningful, and extremely relevant to human living. There is a constant and driving need to employ words that refer to such things in order to make life in some sense worthwhile and enjoyable.

But let us go back to Mr. Hume. He could not catch himself without a thought. That is because when he sought to find himself, he could only do so by thought. There is no other way! The only instrument at his disposal for the search was thinking! Man alive! That indicates the nature of spirit. Spirit expresses itself through thought; it articulates itself through words. The spirit of David Hume was not subject to vision location but rather to location by intellectual implication.

But, the strange thing about it was that when Hume concluded that he could not know that he was there, although he could find a thought there, someone reached that conclusion! If Hume intended to be taken seriously as to his denial that a person could know assuredly of his own existence, then he had to be equally desirous that his affirmation that the denial is true be taken just as seriously.

The “conclusion” that he could not know that he existed was not and could not be without connection to some mind. Now, if it were not David Hume’s mind, just whose was it? It is paramount to David Hume’s claiming: I am seriously drawing a conclusion, a conclusion that I am seriously intending for others to take equally seriously while at the same time I am also equally seriously meaning to be saying that the one saying this possibly is not making this claim at all! Now, just how profound is that? Not only is it not profound, but it is self-contradictory. Epistemological reality is so constructed that when we humans fall into such high-brow nonsense that our irrationality is showing! But who was on this exploration for the “self” when Hume philosophically tried to locate David Hume?

Consider the following True-False questions: When David Hume attempted to find the “real” David Hume but could only find a thought, then whoever was making the search was…

  1. No one;
  2. Someone;
  3. Everyone.

If it were (1) no one, then the search was not being made. The historical writings of Hume inform us that someone made the search. If it were (3) everyone, no one else knew that he was involved, Hume made no claim that others were involved, and all other men, if they had been asked about it, would have denied that they were in on the search. The evidence is conclusive that the search was being made by the same person who claimed that he could not prove that it was, in fact, himself! The strange thing is that the evidence so available to others as to the identity of the searcher and claimant somehow got overlooked by the searcher and claimant himself! What this bizarre scene tells us is that something so obvious on the one hand (the human self), on the other hand can be so recklessly misplaced even while undergoing intense intellectual investigation (cf. Rom. 1:20-23)!

It ought to be mentioned just here that, given “the law of identity,” no one can look for self unless the looker is the self! Hume cannot at one and the same time say that he looked for himself but could not find himself unless he was himself. The whole enterprise of seeking for self is impossible unless the law of identity holds true. Either (1) Hume was engaged in an irrational search or (2) his conclusion is false. If the one he was looking for was not the same one looking, then he was engaged in an irrational venture. If he concluded that he could not find himself because he could only find thoughts, then his conclusion is false because the thoughts implied himself. Either way Hume presents nothing that ought to disturb the rationally reliable conclusion that each one of us knows of his own existence. And, of course, Hume had to live in practical opposition to the unorthodox theoretical conclusion that he reached in his philosophical inquiry.

The fact is that there was something else that kept him from intellectually finding himself in his search. It could not possibly be that he was not there either as (1) the searcher or as (2) the object of search. If the law of identity holds in all of reality, Hume was both (1) subject and (2) object in his search. His thoughts should have told him that someone was thinking them. “Someone” was pursuing the investigation. If he couldn’t find himself without a thought, then the thought should have told him that he was both the one searching and the one for whom search was being made. If Hume realized he was actually the one looking (and he reported to us in his writings that he did make this search), then there is no rational reason for his denial that it was the same Hume whose location he alleged could not be found! If Hume was the one looking, then the Hume being looked for, had already been found even though not recognized!

The “real” is at times emphatically denied by skeptics. Robert Camp in his excellent article, “The Church Carries the Gospel to the Skeptic,” wrote, “It is often said of a mental patient, ‘He has lost touch with reality.’ This is precisely the position of the skeptic. He contends that it is impossible to be in touch with reality. If he only says it, he may be regarded as a great intellectual, but if his actions are governed by it, he is recognized as psychotic” (The Church of Christ—Essential, All Sufficient, Indestructible, Perpetually Relevant, Being the Freed-Hardeman College Lectures of 1971, p. 436). As Camp went on in his article to point out, skeptics cannot live in the light of their own claimed convictions. What they claim to know does not “fit” real life.

Seventh, with regard to what my mind tells me about me, (7) it shows me that my spirit self is far more important and even enduring than my physical body. On this point first let me observe that there is often a connection between the condition of my body and the position of my mind. When my body has difficulty, it affects that way that I psychologically feel. Bodily pain can produce great anxiety within me. But it is also the case that I have “feelings” that are not connected like that to the well-being of my body as such. My spirit can experience some kind of a mood in spite of or without resort to its connection to body. I can have a kind of peace in my spirit in spite of turmoil in the world. I can even have a kind of peace in spite of a bodily ailment and pain. The mood of mind is not always directly the result of bodily consideration. The metaphysical feelings of “guilt” or “innocence,” though not produced by bodily sensation as such do have effect on the human body. None of These Diseases, by Dr. S. I. McMillen, is a good treatment on how the ethic of Christ affects our health in this life. My inner state is more important than my physical body. Many people with good physical health cannot stand life because of their mental torture. If one had only the two options of mental torture with good physical health or bad physical health with mental peace, we would all choose mental peace. The spirit is superior to body.

The second point I wish to make is that the spirit is more enduring than body. Scientists tell us that every time that we live through about a seven year period, the cells in our physical makeup have all been replaced by other cells. We have a new physical body as far as chemical makeup about every seven years. But, notice how this truth was just expressed. I said that “we” have a new physical body. I affirmed the duration of something beyond the duration of something else. The physical body had been replaced by another physical body, but the one whose body it is remains the same in some sense. Also, and interestingly, the new body somehow maintains the same basic form of the old one so that my outward appearance more or less remains the same. My physical body can be identified by others, and I know that by self-reflection that I keep on identifying myself within. I can still recognize my physical form in the mirror as the one belonging to the same spirit within the other body over seven years ago.

And while it is true that my spirit changes in intellectual and emotional and spiritual development, it is not the same kind of change that my physical body undergoes. The growth in development is not a replacement of some sort of metaphysical “cells,” but simply the incline or decline of moral quality. Of course the Bible teaches that the human spirit endures beyond the termination of the physical body (Matt. 10:28; 2 Cor. 5:10).

Now, finally, just what does all of this have to do with God? What is it about the human mind that provides insight into the nature of the Mind that made us all? Does it seem purely coincidental that what we find within ourselves upon self-examination is also what we find contained in Scripture with regard to the ultimate Mind, or God, himself? Let us briefly mention again what, in self-reflection, we have discovered, and then let us see what the Bible says about God.

With regard to what my mind tells me about me, it tells me that:

  1. I am superior to anyone without a mind;
  2. I am somewhat complex;
  3. Though I am in a sense confined to my body, there is a peculiar sense in which I can extend myself beyond my body;
  4. In description, language is the key to clarity;
  5. My memory is the key to intelligence or rationality;
  6. Assuredly, I exist;
  7. My spirit is far more important and enduring than my physical body.

Now, with regard to each insight, compare what we have found about our own minds with what the Bible claims about the ultimate Mind:

  1. God is superior not only to everything without a mind but to all other minds that he has produced. He stands alone as the only self-explanatory and eternal mind (Exod. 3:14; Isaiah 44:6).
  2. God is the ultimately complex being, so much so that while we can and must admit him and submit to him, we cannot completely comprehend him (Rom. 11:33-36).
  3. God has form (Phil. 2:6), but has knowledge of all beyond him that he has made. He is infinite in understanding (Psa. 147:5).
  4. God has always used language with men, either (1) the natural language or communication of nature (Psa. 19:1-6; Acts 14:17), (2) moral law inscribed on hearts of men to inform of the difference between right and wrong (Rom. 2:14-15), or (3) the language of words. On each of the six days of Genesis 1, “God said.” The agent of creation himself—and our Saviour—is called the “Word” (John 1:1-3, 14). The deepest clarity of God’s desire for man is expressed in his word.
  5. As my memory allows me to continually be aware of my own self-identity, God knows himself constantly. Since he is not finite, he does not have to recall, for his Spirit essence is not only to exist but to know. He cannot help knowing everything ( Psa. 147:5; 139).
  6. God assuredly exists. He can be denied but never disproved. He must exist in order for anything else to exist including other minds who are capable to call both his and their own existence into question (cf. Psa. 14:1; Rom. 1:20-23; 9:20).
  7. God, as ultimate Being, is the most important expression of reality that there can be. He is personal and infinite and eternal. Somehow and someway he holds the ultimate explanation of himself within himself. He is ultimate Spirit. He is beyond time and space, though for the sake of man, in the incarnation of Christ, he partially located himself within both for a brief moment in order that man could be saved (Gen. 1:1; Exod. 3:14; John 1:14; 4:24; Psa. 90:1-2).

These things cannot be mere coincidences. We mirror God in our spirit composition. The point of comparison meets in spirit/Spirit kinship. As Moses long ago told us, we are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27), and as some unidentified Greek poets affirmed and as the apostle Paul has told us himself, we are the offspring of God (Acts 17:27-29). And the image is not in the dirt (Gen. 2:7). It is in spirit/Spirit (John 4:24; Luke 24:36-39).

Our human minds are made to search for God, the ultimate Mind. The search need not be futile, for God wants to be found that we might be with him forever in eternity (Acts 17:27; 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:2; Rev. 20:11-15). So, let each of us be cautioned: A human mind cannot possibly have found its divinely intended location or position in reality if it fails to find love for God (Matt. 22:37). Finding God is certainly necessary to the well-being of any human mind, but it is inadequate. Loving God with the full expression of all that entails is what God demands (cf. John 14:15; 1 John 5:3).