Why Naturalism Lacks Explanatory Power Part II

PleaseConvinceMe Blog

AnselmMy last post examined some of the problems inherent in adopting atheistic naturalism as a model to explain how life and intelligence emerged. By contrast, I argued, the Christian worldview makes better sense of things, grounded as it is in a supernatural “perfect” being. This led to dialogue that raised to the following challenge: even if God did design the brain, how do we know that he did so to allow the brain to rightly correspond with reality? How do we know that God did not design the brain to“pull the proverbial wool over our eyes?” The challenge concluded: the only way to argue against such a notion is to point out that our brains “seem to work,”but this is the same argument that the naturalist makes.

In trying to respond to this challenge, I drew on the understanding of God articulated by St. Anselm of Canterbury. In his ontological argument, Anselm explained that if one truly holds in his mind the conception of God, and all that concept conveys, then one would be thinking about “that being a greater than which cannot be conceived.” This understanding is not immediately grasped by most people. When they first hear this explanation, they believe that Anselm is simply “defining” God, as one would define a word. Or, perhaps, that Anselm is simply applying a “label” to something whose characteristics are not fixed, that are “subjective.” But this is not what Anselm was doing. He began with the premise that the mind is only capable of conceiving of things with real existence; had he lived in modern times, he may have likened it to a radio receiver than can pick up signals from “out there.”

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The radio must receive and decode the signals, and it uses its built-in machinery to do so. So, too, with the human mind; though we don’t understand how it is that we use logic and reason in forming conceptions, it seems to be universally true that we do. We receive ideas from outside ourselves and make sense of them using these inborn tools – logic and reason. As it relates to God, what logic and reason tell us is that this being must be unlimited and all powerful in all respects – including the quality of “goodness.” What’s more, the point of the ontological argument is that God must have necessary existence. God – Anselm concluded – cannot possibly not exist.

An analogy may help clarify the point. The conception “food” has no fixed set of items which qualify. Food necessarily means “that which can be consumed by human beings and provides nourishment.” This is more than a definition, although it can serve as one; it is a way of understanding what the speaker is referring to. I can choose to call something food, but my label must correspond to reality for it to actually be food. For example, if I define “food”to include “containers made of porcelain,” I would be justified in calling an ash tray “food.” Doing so would be an example of labeling or naming something in a circular fashion. However, the label is not the issue. Try digesting an ash tray and the label will make no difference. This is because the “conception” food defies any particular label but applies generally to any “thing” that is edible and provides nourishment. Through such explanations, we make sense of the world, using intelligence – the only tool we have at our disposal to perform such tasks…


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