With this post we continue our examination of those aspects of the world which seem to fit more easily into a theistic worldview than that of atheism (See Part I and Part II). The fourth of these aspects is the fact of human consciousness.
How does it happen, for instance, that mere matter can produce qualia (e.g. the sensation of red or the taste of sweet)? How do electrochemical reactions in our neurons produce a belief, a value, a doubt, gratitude, regret, expectation, or disappointment? How does material substance produce forgiveness, resentment, or wishes, hopes, and desires? How does it appreciate (e.g. beauty, music, or a book)? How does it want, worry, have intentions, or understand something? How does matter come to be aware of itself and its surroundings?
These are vexing questions for a materialist view of the world. It may be that if we put the proper chemicals in a flask under the appropriate conditions the flask would become aware of itself, but we have no idea how it could do so, and the assumption that it could is simply an article of materialist faith.
In other words, on the assumption that matter is all there is consciousness is inexplicable. The existence of consciousness suggests that material substance is not the only constituent of reality.
5. The fifth aspect of the world that is better explained in terms of a theistic rather than an atheistic worldview is our sense that reason is trustworthy. If matter, energy, and physical forces like gravity are all there is then everything is ultimately reducible to material, non-rational particles. If so, our beliefs are just brain states that can be completely explained in terms of non-rational chemical reactions.
But any belief that is fully explicable in terms of non-rational causes cannot itself be rational. Therefore, if materialism is true, none of our beliefs are rational, reason itself is a non-rational illusion, and both truth and the reliability of scientific investigation are chimerical. Thus the atheistic materialist has no rational basis for believing that materialism, or anything else, is true.
As Stephen Pinker of MIT has said, "Our brains were shaped [by evolution] for fitness, not for truth."
Only if our reason is an endowment from an omniscient, good Creator do we have actual warrant for placing confidence in it. We may, if we don't believe that there is a Creator, decide to trust reason simply as an act of faith, but it's very difficult to justify the decision to do so since any justification must itself rely on reason. And, of course, employing reason to argue on behalf of its own trustworthiness commits the fallacy called begging the question.
6. The sixth characteristic of human beings that makes more sense given the existence of God than given atheism is our sense that we are free to make genuine choices and that the future is open. In the absence of God our sense that we have genuine choices and are responsible for those choices is problematic. In a Godless world we are just a collection of physical particles, and ultimately physical particles have no freedom, they simply move according to physical laws. There is no free will, there is only an inexorable determinism. At any given moment there is only one possible future, and our belief that we can freely create a future is pure sophistry and illusion.
Thus an atheist who faults me for writing this series of posts is acting inconsistently with his own assumptions. If there is no God I am driven to write by causes beyond my control and for which I am not responsible. Indeed, if there is no God, it's hard to see how anyone could be ultimately responsible for anything they do.
One can be an atheist and deny that we have consciousness, that reason is reliable, and that we have free will, but he will find few people who agree with him. If one believes that we do possess these attributes it's easier to explain them on the basis of theism than on the basis of atheism.