Knowledge Requires a Soul, and a Soul Requires God: An Argument for Theism
Greg Koukl, president of Stand to Reason, wrote a masterful article titled "Dominos, Determinism, and Naturalism." In this article Koukl examined philosophical naturalism, the idea that the universe is nothing more than physical stuff operating according to physical processes and natural laws. He powerfully demonstrated that if naturalism is true we could never know it. True knowledge is only possible if man possesses a rational soul. I have reproduced his article in its entirety below. Following the reproduction I will build on his foundation to offer a compelling argument in behalf of theism.
"Dominos, Determinism, and Naturalism"
I want to talk about a concept that I've been rolling around in my mind. In fact, I've talked to you about it before, but it has come to the front of my mind because I've started to take classes again in my master's program over at Talbot under J.P. Moreland. It's a class on metaphysics dealing with naturalism.
Naturalism is the idea that the only things that really exist or matter in the universe are physical things operating according to natural laws. There is no God outside of the system. There are no miracles. There are no hidden forces that drive the universe. There are no souls or spirits. There are no prophecies. There is no inspired Scripture. It's just physical stuff operating according to physical laws.
Of course, you can easily see that is this in direct contradiction to many things in the Christian world view and therefore is hostile to Christianity. One of the underlying claims of naturalism is that human beings can be reduced to mere physical things, and this is especially dangerous to Christianity because it means we have [no] souls.
First, you can imagine the consequence for moral behavior . Second, if we don't have souls, it seems hard to argue that Christianity is even possibly true. Let's face it, Christianity talks about God and our relationship with Him, and our spending the rest of eternity with Him. We die, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, according to the Apostle Paul. If we die, our bodies are where? In the ground. And our souls are with God. But if we are our bodies, then our souls aren't with God because our souls don't exist and we are where? In the ground because we are our bodies.
This is the primary dogma right now in philosophy of mind and in neurological sciences. Everything is bent towards trying to reduce human beings to the physical makeup. A brain, central nervous system, feelings, emotions--all of these things are simply the result of evolution. Behavior is dictated by our genes. Everything is built into the body.
As Time magazine said in 1995, "There is no you inside of your body that is directing it, governing it, and making it happen." They don't know what consciousness is, but they know one thing for sure. There is no soul.
Having laid that foundation, I want to offer you an understanding of why such a thing is seriously problematic.
First, I think is a very powerful and compelling reason. The point of view is that if such things are true, if there are no souls, that there are only physical systems, brain, central nervous system, synapses firing, and that kind of thing, then we could never know it. That's my point of view. If we are entirely physical, if there is no soul, then we could never know it.
Let me give you my argument why that's the case. If you are following me at all, you are realizing that if someone wants to assert physicalism and it can be shown that physicalism can never be known if it is actually true, then it's going to undermine the rationality of holding that point of view.
Let me give you the reasons why physicalism could never be known. I've got to start back a couple of steps.
Science seems to work pretty well. It seems to work pretty well for a reason. When you study something scientifically, it keeps happening on a regular basis regardless of where you are. If the conditions are the same, the result is always going to be the same. That is called experimental repeatability. That's why they do repeat experiments to see if the result is always consistent. And if it is always consistent, then we seem comfortable in saying we have stumbled upon some kind of scientific principle that can be relied on or some kind of scientific law. That is, it operates according to a uniform pattern.
But why is it that things in the physical universe operate according to a fundamental and predictable pattern? It's very simple. Physical things don't make decisions. Any physical action turns out to be a reaction to something happening before it.
You ask, why did the earth shake when we have an earthquake. Because of the shifting of the earth's surface. Why did we have this local shifting? Because of plate tectonics. You could in principle keep going back and back asking why? There will always be some other physical cause before it. So for any particular event, there is a series of physical causes that resulted in that event. And not just resulted in it, but necessitated it.
It's like a series of dominoes falling. When any particular thing happens in the physical universe we ask ourselves what was the domino before it that caused it? And what was the domino before that? You can chart that. This just points out that all physical systems are deterministic. Every single action is determined, brought by a prior physical action. Science is the discipline that is meant to discover those prior physical conditions so that if we recreate the prior physical conditions, if we set up the dominoes in the exact same way, they are going to fall in exactly the same way every single time.
So the effectiveness is predicated on the idea that physical systems fall like dominoes. You probably never thought of it that way before, but I'm sure you are very familiar with the concept. What caused that other thing?, is the question we often ask. If you have that in your mind, that all physical systems are just a matter of series of dominoes falling and humans are just physical systems, then you will understand why if that is the way reality actually is, we could never know it to be the case.
If we can't know it, we certainly can't assert it as so. It might secretly be the case, but we couldn't know that from any rational analysis. Why would I say a thing like that? Here are the reasons.
Science works because physical systems are strictly determined. Therefore they are very predictable and we can set a certain set of specific initial conditions and always know the outcome of those conditions. Science depends on a deterministic physical universe.
Now, of course, that turns out to be the problem, doesn't it? Some of you are thinking ahead a little bit. I mentioned that it's like a row of dominoes falling and in many cases, the cause and effect relationship for any effect that we view may be the result of a very sophisticated flow of dominoes, but they're just dominoes nonetheless when you get down to the basics.
Picture in your mind two lines of dominoes that are falling. And at the end of the line of dominoes is not another domino, but there is actually a human being, a person standing there right next to a cliff. What happens when the last domino falls and lands on our poor unsuspecting person at the end of the line of dominoes? Well, low and behold, just as every domino has fallen up until then, the last domino strikes the human being and he falls too, right over the cliff. Now, here is my question. Given that scenario, did that person jump off the cliff? The answer is no, of course not. He was pushed. What was he pushed by? A falling domino, a big one, adequate to shove him over the cliff.
Now, what if the person who fell over the cliff actually thought he jumped on his own. Would he have done just as he thought? The answer is, of course no. The guy thought he jumped over the precipice but it was really a domino that pushed him.
The question comes to mind, why would somebody think they jumped when in fact they were pushed? How could they be deceived in such a way? Obviously if they see the dominos falling and strike their body, they are thrust out over the cliff, and they know they didn't do it.
Well, sometimes the dominoes are not visible. Sometimes they are invisible. Sometimes they are not external. Sometimes the dominoes are internal. Just as external physical forces can cause us to do things. Certainly internal physical forces, like genetics, can cause us to do something, as well.
On the physicalist view of the universe, everything is dominoes, whether you see them or not. Whether they are outside or inside, everything is dominoes. Sometimes we think we are jumping, but the fact is we are not. Instead, he fell because of prior physical conditions that were sufficient to cause the effect of us jumping one way or another. We are always pushed if there are only physical causes in the universe.
Now, let's just make a small change in the illustration and you will see the problem with physicalism. What if he is not choosing to jump, which would be an illusion according to physicalism because he was pushed by the dominoes, but instead he chose to believe proposition.
Now, whether he is choosing to jump or choosing to believe, on the basis of physicalism neither of them are real choices. Whether it is the choice to jump or the choice to believe, the choice isn't a real choice, it is just an invisible domino that caused him to act in that way, whether it was a physical act or a mental act. Once again, it's all dominoes.
If that is the case, then what of the choice to believe that physicalism is true? You see, some people want us to choose to believe that physicalism is true because they've offered the evidence that we can consider, and the smart guy will put his money on physicalism as the point of view that is best supported by the evidence. However, if physicalism is true, then none of the choices we make are real choices, are they? Because then there would be a will acting freely. But there is no room for wills acting freely in physicalism. Everything is governed by prior events. Dominoes falling.
If it's all physicalism, it is all determinism. You and I never choose to do something or choose to believe anything. It is always chosen for us in a sense, we were pushed by the prior conditions that cause our physical state of mind or our physical actions. There is no free will if physicalism is true. There is no free will to jump or not to jump. There is no free will to believe or not to believe. Our thoughts and our beliefs are determined by prior physical conditions.
Therefore, knowledge would not be possible, ladies and gentlemen. The reason we employ reason is because we believe people can make free will choices based on good ideas and good evidence. We say you ought to choose to believe this because there is good evidence that ought to inform that decision. It presumes we can choose. But if physicalism is true, we don't choose anything. We certainly don't choose to believe anything, therefore reasons are irrelevant.
In the final analysis, those who choose to believe in determinism or physicalism don't choose to believe at all, they believe because of prior physical conditions. And those of us who choose to believe in some religious alternative, free will, and rationality didn't choose that either. Our beliefs were predetermined by prior physical conditions, falling dominoes.
In neither case do we know anything. We just believe what we have been determined to believe by the falling dominoes.
If physicalism is true, then physicalism leads to determinism, and determinism makes knowledge impossible. Therefore, if physicalism is true, you would never be able to know it as all the physicalists claim they do.
Implications of "Dominos, Determinism, and Naturalism"
Based on the above argument we must conclude one of two things: 1. Reality is purely physical, and thus all human thoughts and acts are determined by other physical processes, including our belief that all things are only physical; 2. There is a conscious, immaterial "you" that can transcend the deterministic cause-effect relationship inherent to purely physical things to exercise genuine free will in their thoughts and acts.
Supposing most people will conclude that the first option is inherently false and logically inconsistent (unless materialism is true and they cannot "believe" anything other than its truth) we are left with the second option. Humanity consists of more than physical parts and physical processes; humanity consists of an immaterial, spiritual aspect as well. Christians would call this immaterial substance, or conscious "you" that exists in conjunction with the physical body, the soul.
An immaterial aspect to man is required to give meaning to the notion of free will and genuine knowledge, but the implications of an immaterial existence to man do not stop at the issue of free will and knowledge. The confession has implications that render certain worldviews de facto false, and renders other worldviews reasonably sound.
Implications for Evolution and Materialism
Recognizing the existence of an immaterial soul eliminates, or at the very least renders the notion of naturalistic evolution improbable because evolution can only account for the existence of matter. It cannot account for the existence of the immaterial. Indeed most evolutionists deny the very existence of the immaterial because evolution by definition is a naturalistic worldview (more will be said concerning this later). In like manner it would render the worldview of materialism false because materialism states that only the material world exists. Buddhism is also eliminated because Buddhism denies the existence of the soul.
Implications for Morality
The admission of an immaterial, conscious soul capable of making decisions apart from necessary compulsion by external or internal physical factors and processes has serious implications for morality. A purely physical view of the world cannot make sense of morality because morality is reduced to what one was caused to do by the physical factors preceding their action. Preceding physical factors caused Hitler to kill the Jews, just as preceding physical factors caused others to protect them. Neither has any moral significance, and both actions are "morally" justifiable because neither group chose to do what they did. One can only make a choice if there is a truly conscious mind (in contradistinction to a mere brain) that can discern between options and make a rational decision apart from necessary/predetermined causes.
Bruce Reichenbach, himself a Christian physicalist, noted the liability of a physicalist view of the world when he admitted that "if we are to hold that man is governed by moral oughts, and that human performance or failure of performance of these yields moral responsibility, it would seem that we must reject the monistic [i.e. physicalist] view of man, for on this view both of these appear to be impossible because man is not free. This, I believe, constitutes a most serious objection to this view of the nature of man."1
The existence of a "you" beyond your physical body means one is responsible for the actions they choose. If we are responsible for what it is that we choose, are some choices morally good while others are morally evil? Do moral absolutes2 exist, or are all moral choices relative to the individual? Can one thing be wrong for me but right for you? Is there such a thing as true right and true wrong? While moral absolutism confesses that different situations will determine which moral rule to apply to the particular situation, the existence of moral rules/absolutes are still upheld. Moral relativism, however, maintains that morals are relative to the individual, not the situation.3 It is not the situation that determines what universal moral rule applies, but the person themselves. If we could find even one behavior that can be considered immoral on a universal level, however, it would indicate that moral absolutes do exist, even if we still wish to dispute what those moral absolutes are.
Moral Relativism and Moral Absolutism
Two such moral rules that all sane people agree on is that it is wrong to torture babies for fun, and that it would be wrong to execute law-abiding citizens rather than criminals. How do we make sense of these universally accepted moral intuitions if morals are relative to the individual? If there are no moral absolutes no one can legitimately justify declaring such behaviors immoral. The best a moral relativist can say is that it may be wrong for most people, but it is permissible for others. This goes against our moral intuition. We intuitively understand that such behaviors are immoral, not just for us, but for everyone. Where do we get this knowledge from? It is not something physical. It is not something we can evaluate in a test tube, yet we know it to be true. What kind of a truth is it? It is a non-physical truth that we know exists.
The discovery of a non-physical truth opens up a whole new world to discover. It demonstrates that not all truth can be discovered through our five senses. We do not have to perceive God through our senses to know He exists, just as we do not need to see the moral rule that babies should not be tortured for fun to know it is true. There are many things we can know apart from sensory experience and are justified in believing. This renders empiricism-the worldview that all knowledge begins with sensory experience-false. It also demonstrates that science is not the sole source of truth. Science is limited in what truths it can discover; i.e. physical truths. Only religion and philosophy are equipped to answer non-physical truth questions.
The Origin of Moral Rules
Where did morals come from? For a moral theory to be rationally satisfying it needs to be both coherent, and existentially viable. It must take into account three key aspects of our moral experience:
1. Humanity's universal sense of moral intuition
2. A feeling of oughtness that informs our will, and compels us to act in particular ways.
3. A feeling of goodness when we follow our moral intuitions, and feelings of guilt when we violate them (a sense of dread for having to answer for our deed)
What can account for humanity's universal sense of moral intuition? Why is it that every human being has an innate sense of right and wrong, justice and injustice? Why do we feel a sense of oughtness that compels us to choose certain behaviors and reject others? Why is it that we experience a sense of goodness when we obey our moral intuitions, but a sense of guilt when we do not?
There are a limited number of options to explain these basic components of our moral experience, so the answer is not as difficult as it may appear. Let's say you wake up on the morning of your birthday, walk to the kitchen, and find there on the kitchen table a cake with your name on it. Where did the cake come from? There are only a few possibilities. It either:
1. Popped into existence out of nowhere caused by nothing
2. A hot wind blew through your kitchen, and by chance combined all the necessary ingredients in such a fashion that a cake resulted
3. Someone made it for you
"When faced with limited options you don't have the liberty not to believe something. If you reject the idea that somebody baked the cake for you, you must assert in its place that the cake either materialized out of nothing or formed itself by accident. When you reject one option you are asserting an alternate option when all the options are clear."4
When it comes to morality we are faced with similar options. We must either believe that morality simply popped into existence out of nowhere, was invented and imposed on us by others for the purpose of social control, evolved, or was given to us by someone or something else. The question facing us is, Which moral theory are we most justified in believing? Which moral theory can best account for our moral experience? Part of the process for discovering the most reasonable moral theory is to eliminate those that cannot satisfactorily explain our moral experience and intuitions. Let us examine, then, the various moral theories to see how they fare.
Natural and Social Accounts of Morality
The view that morality was an accident of nature, and the view that morality is a social construction are similar in that both maintain our moral intuitions do not correspond to any transcendent reality "out there." Morality is simply what nature invented by accident, or humans invented on purpose. There is no ultimate reality behind our moral convictions. Because both moral theories confess morals to be illusory, the same criticisms apply to both. If morality just popped into existence out of nowhere caused by nothing, then it is an accident. If morality was invented by man it is arbitrary. If morals are an accident of nature, or an arbitrary invention of man, from whence do they derive their moral and binding force?5 Where does our sense of moral "oughtness" come from? Why ought we obey our moral impulses? How can we justify a prescription to obedience? If someone wants to torture babies for fun, why disallow them if our moral repugnance to the act is an illusion created by nature or man?
If morals are an accident or an invention it would be both impossible and unnecessary to determine what is right and what is wrong because moral positions are arbitrary and devoid of transcendent meaning. We could not condemn Hitler for killing Jews, and neither could we commend firefighters for risking their lives to save others. Both are acts with no moral significance one way or the other.
If morality is a social construction imposed on people for the purpose of control, why is it that it that nobody has been able to escape it?6 If the "ought" we feel that compels us to behave in certain ways, and the guilt we feel when we fail to follow our moral intuitions are merely social inventions, why is it that they are so effective? How is it possible that an invention of society, a manipulation technique if you will, could control all of the earth's six billion people, and nobody is able to free themselves from it?7
Furthermore, how is it possible that a person can create a feeling in another person? We can't create feelings in another person. We can only appeal to something that already exists in that person, and manipulate it for our own evil purposes. Guilt is not an invention of man for the purpose of social manipulation, but rather ethical pain. Ethical pain causes pain to the soul in a manner similar to the way physical pain causes pain to the body. We cannot create physical pain, and neither can we create ethical pain. We can only appeal to the pre-existing mechanisms that make such pain possible (nervous system, moral intuition). While society may manipulate our moral machinery for the purpose of control, they could not do so unless the moral machinery that produces guilt was already in place.8 If society's manipulative use of human guilt is only possible because it appeals to mankind's existing moral machinery, then the view that society invents morality for the purpose of manipulation is false.
Evolutionary Account of Morality
What about an evolutionary account of morality? Does that fare any better than the natural and social theories?
The evolutionary model claims that natural processes can account for our moral impulses. The basic idea behind the model is that species learned that certain behavior patterns help in the survival of their species, and thus those behavior were promoted as good. Behaviors which did not help a species survive long enough to pass its genes on to the next generation were condemned as bad. There are several problems with this reckoning of morality.
First, it assumes that species are self-consciously aware of the process of evolution, and then alter their behavior to accommodate the process.9 This seems rather remarkable!
Secondly, it claims that we feel "moral urgings because these moral urgings help us to survive better. They have at their core self-preservation in mind. But does self-preservation truly capture what we mean when we say a thing is moral. Indeed many things that fall into the moral category have to do with denying self."10
Thirdly, according to an evolutionary reckoning, morality turns out to be a behavior pattern. Morality cannot be reduced to mere behavior, however. We know this for two reasons. First, behavior in itself is not always moral or immoral. The extenuating circumstances often determine whether or not something is moral or immoral. Think of the behavior of cutting another human being with a knife. If the circumstance is that of a man attempting to take the life of another man the act of cutting is morally evil. However, if the circumstance is that of a doctor performing surgery on a man to save his life the act of cutting is morally good. What about the act of taking? If we are taking something out of our neighbor's yard without his permission (stealing) we are committing a moral wrong. If, however, we are taking something out of our neighbor's yard with his permission (borrowing) out of our neighbors yard our act is morally good. Another reason we know morality cannot be reduced to mere behavior is due to the fact that the moral impulse (oughtness) we feel that compels us to choose certain behaviors actually precedes the behavior. "If the moral element is prior to the behavior, then it can't be the behavior itself."11
Fourthly, science can only explain physical things and physical processes. As a scientific theory, then, evolution can only explain physical things and physical processes. Morals are not in that category. Evolutionary theory could only speak to the issue of morality if it can be shown that moral rules are physical things, and yet we have already demonstrated them to be immaterial. Science is simply the wrong tool to examine moral rules, and thus cannot make any pronouncements concerning their nature or origin.
Finally, morality is prescriptive; i.e. morality tells us what we ought to do. Evolution's explanation of morality is descriptive; i.e. it tells us what we do. This betrays our basic intuition of the moral enterprise. Morality guides, restricts, and informs our choices, it is not merely a description of our choices.
In light of the above examination we can reasonably conclude that the natural, social, and evolutionary models of morality are insufficient to explain our moral intuitions and capture morality as we experience it. If we reject these three options as unreasonable we must embrace the fourth option if it is sound. No one has the "liberty of standing in a neutral place on this issue. You've got to believe something. If you refuse to believe God made moral laws, given that you admit that they are there, then you're opting for one of the other two alternatives. And if you say that they just popped into existence or that they assembled themselves by chance, you have new problems to solve."12
Theistic Account of Morality
The fourth option maintains that moral absolutes find their source in a transcendent Someone: a moral law giver. Because morals are immaterial things, the Someone who made them must be in the immaterial realm as well.13
The good character of the moral law giver accounts for our recognition of a transcendent standard of goodness by which our actions can be judged, as well as the moral force we feel on our will; i.e. our sense of moral obligation. An impersonal force, or disembodied principle cannot produce our sense of moral obligation because a moral rule encompasses both a proposition and a command, both of which are features of a mind. The concept of moral obligation is meaningless apart from an intelligent and personal law-giver. "Obligation seems best understood in terms of minds and persons. Obligation seems to beg for another person to be obligated to. The obligation is best understood in terms of persons, which narrows the field of religions that can account for this feature."14
When we break a moral law we are not just breaking an arbitrary rule, but we are offending the person who gave it. The moral machinery all human beings are equipped with (evidenced by the universal sense of "ought" and the feeling of "guilt" when one goes against that sense of "ought") argues for the existence of God. Only a personal God can adequately explain humanity's universal concept of right and wrong, morality and immorality, justice and injustice.
Why do we feel guilt when we fail to follow our moral impulse? Maybe it's because we are guilty! Guilt comes from fractured relationships, when we fail to conform to a standard of goodness. Guilt arises when we violate another person. What can explain our sense of moral ought and our feelings of guilt when failing to fulfill that ought other than a personal God whom we have transgressed and wounded? We have the sense of ought because we reflect that God's personal character, and feel guilt because we have done something contrary to His character.
God gives us guilt to prevent us from hurting our soul, just like he gave us a nervous system that causes physical pain when we try to hurt our bodies. We are moral creatures. If we do things that are immoral we will hurt our soul, just like mutilating our bodies hurts our bodies. To protect us from hurting our bodies God gave us physical pain. To protect us from hurting our souls God gives us emotional pain in the form of guilt. Only the three monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) can explain this experience.
Morality and the Atheist
If theism best explains our moral experience, what about the person who rejects God's existence? Can they be moral? Yes. The atheist does not need to believe in God to recognize and practice morality, but he does need God to make sense of that which he recognizes. "The awareness of morality leads to God much as the awareness of falling apples leads to gravity. Our moral intuitions recognize the effect, but what is the adequate cause? If God does not exist, then moral terms are actually incoherent and our moral intuitions are nonsense."15
To believe in morality without believing in God is like eating a dinner without believing in farmers, ranchers, animals, and plants. Food doesn't appear out of nowhere with no explanation or sufficient cause. Either the food is an illusion, or it was provided by someone.16
Only theism can adequately explain why someone ought to be moral. Thomas Merton said: "We might ask the atheist in the name of what he asks me to behave. Why should we go to the inconvenience of denying our personal desires and satisfactions for a standard that is merely invented in another person's imagination, with no real existence? Why should we live out the fictions another imposes on me in the name of nothing?"17 The dilemma of an atheistic ethicist is how to get one to surrender their own self-interests for the common good of society. In the name of what should they do so?
The atheist cannot ground the human experience of moral compulsion. He cannot make sense of his feelings of oughtness and guilt, nor his sense of right and wrong, justice and injustice.
Implications for Theism
Not only does the confession of an immaterial and conscious "you" apart from your physical machinery have severe implications for evolutionary philosophy and morality, but it has implications for other metaphysical issues as well. If a human being is both body and soul, then immaterial things exist. There is something beyond the physical stuff of this world that is just as real as the physical stuff. While it could be that the soul is the only immaterial stuff that exists besides physical matter, the existence of an immaterial soul may indicate the existence of other immaterial realities. If the soul exists, even though it cannot be discovered by science,18 then other immaterial things or beings could exist, such as angels or divine beings that cannot be discovered by science.
While the acknowledgment of an immaterial "you" does not demand the existence of God(s), it does open the door for such a possibility. And when it comes to truth we are not dealing with absolute certainty, but with probability. There are only a few things we can know with apodictic certainty. Such things include the principles of math and logic. We can know for certain that there is no such thing as a square circle, and that 2+2 = 4. Beyond these few basic things, however, everything we claim to know cannot be proven beyond all doubt. There is an element of faith found in most all knowledge. I cannot prove beyond all doubt that God exists, but neither can I prove beyond all doubt that Socrates or George Washington existed. Most people would claim to know Socrates existed even though they have never seen him because there is historical evidence that justifies our belief in his existence. If we can believe in Socrates' existence without absolute certainty that he indeed existed, why must we prove God's existence beyond all doubt for us to believe in Him?
If we recognize that most things we consider to be true knowledge we cannot know beyond all doubt, but must accept on some measure of faith, then we should also recognize that it is unfair to force religious and spiritual truth claims to meet a level of certainty that we do not require other knowledge claims to meet.
When it comes to truth we must establish plausibility and reasonability, not apodictic certainty. We are attempting to determine what beliefs we are justified in believing to be true and which beliefs we are justified in dismissing as false, all the while realizing that we may be wrong due to the imperfection of human knowledge. To admit that human knowledge is imperfect and can be mistaken at times is not an admission that we cannot know anything. Indeed, we are justified in believing certain things to be true because they are reasonable, and we have no reasonable evidence to believe otherwise. When reasonable evidence compels us to draw a particular conclusion, it is our duty to maintain that conclusion as truth until/unless other evidence surfaces later that would cause us to draw a different conclusion.
The Origin of the Soul
The existence of the soul demonstrates the bankruptcy of materialism as a worldview. The universe is more than just material stuff. At least one immaterial substance exists, which opens the door of possibility for other immaterial substances to exist as well, including God. Belief in God's existence, then, can no longer be viewed as intellectually absurd.
The question "Are there other immaterial realities besides the soul?" is best answered by the question "What can best account for the origin of the soul?" What can account for its immaterial, rational, and personal nature?
What worldview best accounts for the existence of an immaterial substance such as the soul, and its rational/personal nature? Darwinian evolution? Hinduism? Buddhism? Christianity? Some can and some cannot. Once we determine which worldviews can account for such phenomenon, then we must determine which worldview best accounts for such phenomenon with the least amount of problems and with the greatest simplicity (Ockam's Razor).
Immaterial Nature of the Soul
To ascertain the possibility of other immaterial substances we might ask ourselves Where did an immaterial thing such as the soul come from if all else is purely physical? We have no reason to believe that material things produce immaterial things. It is unimaginable that a rock could produce a self-conscious, intelligent, and rational being. It is more reasonable to believe that our immaterial self is derived from some other immaterial source, just as material things are derived from material sources.
Personal, Intelligent, Conscious Nature of the Soul
We might also ask why it is that the soul is rational and personal, rather than irrational and impersonal. How could consciousness, rationality, and personality arise out of material stuff when material stuff is non-conscious, non-personal, and hence non-rational? What could account for the radical change? How can something go from being material to immaterial? Materialism simply cannot account for the traces of personality, consciousness, and intelligence we find in our universe. Materialism not only requires that we believe the immaterial came from the material, but also that we believe the personal came from the impersonal. Both claims are counterintuitive, and both are unscientific.
We know the cause of something is always greater than the effect. If we find traces of consciousness, personality, and intelligence in the universe, it stands to reason that the cause of such things possesses them as well, but in a greater capacity. Only an immaterial, conscious, personal, and intelligent being such as God is sufficient to explain the origin and nature of the human soul.
There are two other ways to ascertain the existence of other immaterial realities: an examination of morality, an examination of the cosmos. We have already examined the former and discovered that only a personal God can fully account for our moral experience. We will now turn our attention to the latter. What can best explain why something exists, rather than nothing? What can best explain why that which exists is ordered rather than chaotic? There are two theories of origins: evolution, intelligent design. If the existence and order of the universe cannot be explained by purely natural (evolutionary) means, but requires an immaterial source, then it would argue for the existence of another immaterial being who is higher than ourselves.19 We now turn our attention to an investigation of evolution to determine if it can explain the existence of the cosmos, or if we are required to opt for an immaterial, theistic cause.20
The Origin of the Cosmos
The Existence of Stuff
Evolution teaches that at one time the cosmos did not exist, but then without prior cause an explosion of matter occurred (from nothing) bringing matter, space, and time into existence for the first time, fully charged with energy. How did this happen? Scientists do not know. Some theories have been proposed, but they are merely hypotheses with no evidential support. They depend more on the presupposed theory of evolution than they do on observable data. Some scientists, such as J.V. Narlikar, are honest about the situation when they admit that the discipline of science does not answer the question of what caused the Big Bang: "It is assumed that all the present matter (and radiation) in the Universe appeared in its primary form at the time of the 'big bang'. Subsequent to this event matter as a whole is conserved according to the Einstein equations, although it may change its form as the universe evolves. So the question 'How was the matter created in the first place?' is left unanswered."21
Indeed science cannot answer the question of the ultimate origin of the universe because the discipline of science is not equipped to do so. Science deals with natural law. Natural law cannot explain how something came from nothing because nature (from whence natural laws are derived) is the result of the bang, not its cause. By definition the cause must be supernatural; i.e. something outside of this natural world. Either someone created something about of nothing or no one created something out of nothing. Science cannot supply the answer.
Furthermore, scientists cannot explain how energy came from nothing. P.C.W. Davies made the point that while naturalists may not like it, they must admit that energy was simply "put in" as an initial condition of the universe.22
When it comes to what we believe we should have sufficient justification for holding our beliefs up as true knowledge. Where is the evidence that justifies believing that nothing existed, and then suddenly something existed? How does nothing become something, out of nowhere, by means of no one? Which takes more faith to believe: matter simply popped into existence with no cause, the non-existent nothing becoming the existent something, or to believe in a rational, powerful, and creative being who actively caused matter to come into being? Unless we have rational justification to believe that there are effects without causes, then it is more rational to believe that there was a Causer who caused the cosmos to exist (effect).
The Beginning of Life
Evolution also teaches that material, living things came into existence from non-living, non-material things: abiogenesis. For evolution to be sound it must also be demonstrated scientifically how it is that abiogenesis might have occurred, and reasons anyone should believe that it did occur.
It is interesting that a tenet as central to evolution as the idea that life came from non-life is contradictory to a known law of science: the law of biogenesis. The law of biogenesis states that life can only come from life. Apart from the fact that this theory contradicts the strongest authority in science (scientific law), do evolutionists have any idea how such an event occurred? No, but they still maintain evolution anyway. Why? Because they presuppose its truth and then try to find justification for their philosophy? Why? Because it is the only philosophy that can explain the cosmos without employing the God-card that is so feared by the natural sciences.
To say life came from non-life is like saying a fork turned into a fish. How could this have happened? Do we have any scientific evidence to support such a belief? None whatsoever. Do current scientific observations support the possibility of such? Absolutely not.23 So why believe it? Because it must have occurred for evolution to have occurred. But how do we know evolution occurred? Because we are here. This is circular reasoning, presupposing that evolution is the means by which we got here and then arguing for a certain mechanism to explain it that has no justification other than the faith of the individual himself. This makes plain the truth about evolution: evolution is not about science, but about religion and philosophy.24
If for life to have existed abiogenesis had to have occurred, and yet we have no scientific evidence or epistemological justification for believing it did, why believe it? We only have reasons to assume that it did not, and indeed could not occur. If evolutionists have no way of justifying their belief in abiogenesis other than by the fact that the theory of evolution requires it, and if evolutionists are not able to explain the process by which it occurred other than by faith that it did somehow, then evolution as an explanation for life is a faith commitment that is not worthy of belief. If abiogenesis must have occurred for evolution to be true, yet it is rationally and scientifically impossible for it to have occurred, then evolution as a theory cannot get off the ground.
What requires more faith: the belief that life came from non-life naturally, or that there was an intelligent, powerful creator who created life? What takes more faith: the belief that random chance processes produced ordered and complex life (where do we see disorder producing order and simplicity producing complexity without the aid of intelligence?), or that an intelligent being created ordered and complex life?
It is not the religious person who is suffering from intellectual absurdities and blind faith; it is the evolutionist who lacks intellectual justification for his faith in evolution, and is tied to faith apart from reason! Both evolution and Christianity are positions based on faith. The knife cuts both ways. Evolution has faith in nature's ability to evolve into all things, while Christianity has faith in an intelligent being's ability to create all things. Neither view is without its religious implications and faith commitments, but one is more reasonable to put one's faith in than the other and it's not evolution!
If the cosmos is best explained by the existence of an immaterial, intelligent, and rational being, then it stands to reason that there are other immaterial substances besides human souls.
It seems strange that only a theistic view can adequately account for an immaterial aspect of man, the existence of morality, and the existence of the cosmos, and yet some people wish to claim that theism as intellectually archaic. If theism is a better explanation of reality and morality than atheism, why reject it? Theism is the safest ground to stand on intellectually speaking, and takes much less faith than any other naturalistic explanation of the world.
Christianity can account for all of the relevant data. It accounts for the existence of an immaterial, rational soul. Christianity accounts for morality by postulating the existence of a holy God that single-handedly created all men in His image, reflecting His moral character. Finally, Christianity teaches that God created space, time, and matter, and ordered the cosmos into a structured system.
When faced with various options why take a leap of blind faith to believe in materialism, empiricism, evolution, or moral relativism rather than putting one's faith in the God of Christianity? There simply is no good reason to do so. Both reason and faith are on the side of Christianity.
My Argument in Condensed Form
If there is no God everything is purely material, including ourselves. Material things do not make decisions, but respond in determined ways to prior physical events (event causation). If man is just physical stuff, then our "decisions" and "knowledge" are mere illusions, being necessary reactions to other physical processes. There is no free will. Since this is inherently contradictory (materialism could not be known to be true if indeed materialism is true, because one's belief in materialism would only be the result of prior physical processes, not the result of a conscious mind that weighed the evidence and came to "know" that materialism is true), there must be an immaterial aspect to man.
The confession of an immaterial and conscious "you" apart from your body has implications for two metaphysical areas: morality, theism.
The question "Are there other immaterial things besides the soul?" is best answered by the question "What can best account for our moral experience, the origin of the soul, and the origin of the cosmos?"
What Can Account for our Moral Experience?
The natural, social, and evolutionary views of morality fail to account for:
1. Humanity's universal sense of moral intuition
2. A feeling of oughtness that informs our will, and compels us to act in particular ways.
3. A feeling of goodness when we follow our moral intuitions, and feelings of guilt when we violate them (a sense of dread for having to answer for our deed)
The natural and social theories depict morals as illusory, making morality arbitrary and without binding force, and our sense of goodness and guilt an emotional hoax. The evolutionary theory confuses morality with behavior, which fails to account for the fact that our moral impulse precedes our behavior. All three of these theories fail to explain why someone ought to be moral, and fail to make sense of the universal sense of goodness and guilt.
Only the existence of transcendent, personal, and holy God can account for the universal nature of moral intuition, our sense of moral obligation, and our sense of goodness and guilt. The moral impulse is universal because all of humanity is made in the image of God, reflecting His holy character, and the ability to discern right from wrong. Goodness is not an invention of man, but is rooted in God's character. When we violate our moral intuitions we cause hurt to our soul in the form of ethical pain (guilt), because we have offended the moral law giver by doing that which is contrary to His personal nature.
What Can Account for the Origin of the Soul?
What can account for its immaterial, rational, and personal nature? Material stuff is not immaterial, rational, or personal, and cannot become such. Materialism requires that we believe the immaterial came from the material, the personal from the impersonal, the conscious from the non-conscious, and the rational from the non-rational. These claims are counterintuitive, and unscientific. Material things do not produce immaterial, rational, and personal things.
The cause of something is always greater than the effect. If we find traces of consciousness, personality, and intelligence in the universe it stands to reason that the cause of such things possesses them as well, but in a greater capacity. Only an immaterial, conscious, personal, and intelligent being such as God is sufficient to explain the origin and nature of the human soul.
What Can Account for the Origin of the Cosmos?
There are only two options to explain the origin of the universe and the origin of life. Either it happened naturally without intelligence, or supernaturally with intelligence. Either someone created something out of nothing, or no one and nothing created something out of nothing.
Two things must be true if it happened naturally: 1. Something must be able to come into being from nowhere caused by nothing; 2. Life must be able to arise from non-living things. Science cannot speak to the former because the cause of the universe is beyond natural law, and it has no evidence for the latter. Evolution also requires that chaos can be ordered without intelligence, and that the additional genetic information required to evolve life from simple to complex simply evolved into existence, both beliefs for which we have no scientific evidence. It requires more faith to believe in evolution than in an intelligent, personal creator who created all that we see, both living and non-living alike.
My Argument in Syllogistic Form
P1 Material things do not make decisions (they simply react to physical precursors)
P2 If man is purely physical, man does not make decisions
P3 Man does make decisions25
Man is not purely material
P1 Immaterial things of a conscious, rational, and personal nature exist
P2 Material things cannot produce immaterial things of a conscious, rational, and personal nature
An immaterial thing produced immaterial things of a conscious, rational, and personal nature
Ask the atheist, "Do you believe that humans have free will, or are our decisions and actions determined?"
If they affirm the latter, ask them why they believe that and how they know it is true. They will proceed to tell you what they believe and why they believe it. Point out that such assumes that there is someone who can believe, and that they have come to the conclusion they have based on good reason. When they try to justify their knowledge of determinism, point out that if everything is determined we could not claim to have knowledge of it. If determinism is true there is no reason to believe anything because one does not choose to believe one thing over another; neither does it do any good to justify one's belief because reason and evidence have no part in determinism, and have no part in "deciding" truth.
If they affirm the former, then ask them what it takes for one to have free will. It takes the ability to choose, which requires something non-material. It takes a conscious, immaterial "you" to be able to choose something. Only an immaterial something, not tied to material and physical processes can escape determined events, and account for free will and hence knowledge. Once they acknowledge the truth of this (and they would have to do so or else be faced with the idea that their rejection of your argument in favor of materialism is only because they have been predetermined to believe in materialism by materialism itself) they are well on their way to be able to believe in the existence of God.
Eternity and Forever: An Argument for Theism
You Can't Know Atheism is True Unless God Exists
1. Bruce Reichenbach, Is Man the Phoenix? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1978), p. 111 as quoted in J.P. Moreland and Scott B. Rae, Body & Soul: Human Nature & the Crisis in Ethics (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p. 155.
2. Moral absolutism maintains that morals exist outside of one's own self, are discovered rather than invented, and are equally applicable to all people at all times.
3. Greg Koukl, "When Absolutism is Relative"; available from http://www.str.org/free/commentaries/apologetics/relativism/whabsrel.htm; Internet, accessed 12 May 2003.
4. Both the analogy and the quote are from Greg Koukl, "Morality as a Clue to God"; available from http://www.str.org/free/commentaries/apologetics/comparisons/morlclue.htm; Internet, accessed 24 November 2002.
6. Surely some have challenged certain moral positions, but no sane person claims that torturing babies for fun is right. Even moral rebels retain some form of moral absolutes.
7. Greg Koukl, "Ethical Pain"; available from http://www.str.org/free/commentaries/philosophy/ethicalp.htm; Internet, accessed 13 August 2003.
9. Greg Koukl, "Did Morals Evolve?"; available from http://www.str.org/free/commentaries/evolution/mrlsevlv.htm; Internet, accessed 15 July 2004.
14. Melinda Penner, "Christianity as the Best Explanation"; available from http://www.str.org/free/studies/explana.htm; Internet, accessed 30 June 2004.
15. Greg Koukl, "Who Says God is Good?", Solid Ground; available from http://www.str.org/free/solid_ground/SG0307.htm; Internet, accessed 17 May 2004.
16. Greg Koukl, "Evil as Evidence for God", Solid Ground; available from http://www.str.org/free/solid_ground/SG0105.htm; Internet, accessed 5 June 2002.
17. Quoted in Phillip Yancy, "The Other Great Commission," Christianity Today, October 7, 1996, p. 136.
18. This is because of the nature of science. Science works on induction, not deduction, meaning they observe data and draw probable conclusions. Deduction works on logical certainties that must be true. Using the inductive method, at best scientists could only say that they have not found any evidence for the existence of immaterial things, but that such things are possible. Also, because science is limited to the observation of the material world, it does not have the tools to discover or analyze immaterial things, and nor can it refute the existence of such things. Immaterial things are discovered by deduction, not induction.
19. We could not be the immaterial cause of the cosmos because our immaterial and material self finds its roots in the cosmos. We have no reason to believe that our immaterial self preceded the existence of our material self and the cosmos.
20. The only viable option for a naturalistic origin of the universe is the theory of evolution. There are several theistic explanations, however. Different religions explain god's/gods' involvement with creation in different ways, so even if we determine that a theistic explanation is more reasonable than a naturalistic explanation, we would still have to evaluate each religious claim to determine which one best explains our universe as we know it and experience it to be. Examining the various theistic explanations is beyond the scope of this article, but I would like to make a brief evaluation of evolution to determine if a naturalistic explanation for the cosmos is a valid option for thinking people.
21. J.V. Narlikar, "Singularity and Matter Creation in Cosmological Models", Nature: Physical Science 242 (1973), pp. 135-6.
22. P.C.W. Davies, The Physics of Time Asymmetry (London: Surrey University Press, 1974), p. 104, as found in William Lane Craig, "The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe"; available from http://www.leaderu.com/truth/3truth11.html; Internet, accessed 13 July 2004.
23. This is especially telling because science deals with that which is observable, verifiable, and repeatable. It is obvious that scientists could not have seen life come from non-life when life came into existence (because they are a living organism themselves), so to affirm that such occurred is blind faith, and unscientific. It is unscientific in that it was not observable, and in the fact that no one has ever witnessed it occurring, ever! If we have never seen it happen, and have no viable mechanism that would enable it to occur, it is pure faith to affirm that it did.
24. Greg Koukl, "Evolution-Philosophy, Not Science"; available from http://www.str.org/free/commentaries/evolution/phnotsci.htm; Internet; accessed 14 June 2001.
25. If one wishes to dispute P3, they must abandon their claim that materialism is true, because they only believe it is true due to physical preconditions that necessitated that belief.
IBS | Statement of Faith | Home
| Browse by Author | Q
Links | Virtual Classroom | Copyright | Submitting Articles | Search