Friday, August 28, 2009

Atheist Objections Part VII

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI

#7 (Non-reductive physicalism) There is no empirical evidence and/or reason to accept the concept of a non-material soul. Christopher Hitchens brought this up in a recent debate with a Jewish Rabbi at New York City. Non-reductive physicalism makes the most sense when analyzing human behavior. Why do we see our grandparents lose all sense of awareness? Or a particular disease makes someone change their entire demeanor. What about Phineas Gage? It appears to be obvious that all our behavior stems from physical components and that there is nothing outside of the material world in creating cognitive thoughts as well as our temperament.

He assumes that the sole legitimate form of evidence is empirical evidence. This contention aside, what is "empirical evidence?" The Oxford English Dictionary (online) says: adjective -- based on observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic.

OK, having observed and experienced myself for my entire life, I can say that I am more than just a collection of atoms on a one - way trip to oblivion's boneyard. As sure as anyone knows anything, I know that I am a soul. I'm aware that this fails as conclusive proof, but it passes the test as observational and experiential, if for me alone. If you want scientific evidence of an external, demonstrable quality, look elsewhere. I have the internal evidence of myself, but I cannot lay it on a slide under a microscope for you.

That said, embracing Hitchens' reasoning, I can say with confidence that no empirical evidence exists that he loves his mother; therefore, he does not love his mother. See the endless possibilities for this brand of "logic?"

Speaking of logic, it cannot abide the nonexistence of souls. Logic is reason or sound judgment. If we are happy accidents -- mere bundles of mobile matter -- and not spiritual beings encased in physical bodies, then we have no reason to insist on the concept of rationality, as our thoughts have purely material origins, and may or may not be reliable. If we cannot know if our thoughts are reliable, logic loses its usefulness to us, because logic assumes A.) its own existence, and B.) that it is comprehensible to humanity. By the way, science as we understand it accepts the existence and general reliability of logic as an axiom. Without reason, our whole basis for morality and government and justice flies right out the window.

If we have no souls, then free will is a pipe dream. We are slaves to the materials that make up our bodies. Our thoughts and actions are predetermined. Here I must add that I've never known another human being who lived his life as if he assumed that others had no control over their actions, being products of unguided materialism.

The logical end of materialism is nihilism; if we are biological automatons, then the murderer or rapist or robber is as much a victim of physics as the murdered, the raped, or the robbed. The idea that non - reductive physicalism makes the most sense of human behavior is a naked assertion; that's an interesting argumentative tack for someone demanding empirical evidence for the soul.

I have read that every seven to nine years, or thereabouts, the matter of our bodies is replaced, including that in our brains. So the physical components that constituted the superficial me no longer exist as parts of my body; yet I remain myself. I have memories of events that occured before the materials of my physical makeup became parts of the greater whole that is the material me. If this doesn't impress you as strong evidence that humans are more than matter conglomerations, I dare say that nothing else would, either.

We also have the Holy Bible as evidence that humans have souls, offering a plethora of verses on the subject. We are told about life after death (Revelation 6:9), obtaining salvation for one's soul (John 3:16), and even finding rest for our souls (Matthew 11:29), among numerous other references.

On the subject of grandparents "losing all sense of awareness," I don't know what this means; he should have elaborated further. My maternal great - grandmother suffered from an advanced state of Alzheimer's Disease at the time of her passing. She also had pneumonia. My paternal grandfather succumbed to a rare form of bone cancer. At no point did either of my loved ones "lose all sense of awareness."

As for injuries / diseases that change a person's demeanor, I can see how one might argue for an irrevocable link between the physical and spiritual in our lives on Earth, but I don't see how this supports the nonexistence of souls. It also fits the biblical view that we live in a fallen world. If you've read most or all of these posts addressing atheist objections, you've probably noticed the trend of atheists and agnostics ignoring this central Christian tenet in their questioning of Christians, as I have pointed it out more than once.

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