Breath of Life: The Argument from Consciousness and Reason
by David McGrew
Where does consciousness come from? What best accounts for the capacity of certain creatures to be self-aware? What best explains the powerful extent of human reasoning? Creatures can adapt to their environments, but outside of B-grade science fiction, inanimate matter does not adopt the capacity for intelligence on its own. In the absence of an intelligent source for living souls, true reason is meaningless on the premise of materialistic monism.
Christians believe that God breathed into man the breath of life. Scriptures further clarify that many other living creatures have been given the breath of life by God (Gen. 1:30, 6:17, 7:15, 22). This is a clear explanation for consciousness. However, since this begins with the assumed existence of God, many non-theists will reject it out of hand as an example of ungrounded religious enthusiasm. In response, it may be helpful to show that the premise of consciousness developing from mere matter and energy is also liable to an indictment of ungrounded atheistic enthusiasm.
Naturalism, as C. S. Lewis tackles it in his book Miracles, tries to answer questions about the whole show of existence by giving cause and effect answers. But this poses a problem: the explanation must involve an explanation of itself, because the explainer is part of the whole show. So, the Naturalist—stuck with nothing but the atoms and energy of a non-supernatural universe—is doomed to have to explain how his own brain, a mere collection of atoms and energy, can explain itself without stepping out of the whole show in order to make the explanation…