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No Belief in God? No Belief in Thought! (Time for a great C.S. Lewis quote)

19 Dec

“Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so, I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”

 
17 Comments

Posted by on December 19, 2019 in atheism

 

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17 responses to “No Belief in God? No Belief in Thought! (Time for a great C.S. Lewis quote)

  1. clubschadenfreude

    December 19, 2019 at 1:32 pm

    “Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so, I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”

    Lewis didn’t think very hard about his simplistic arguments; they were meant only to console Christians that they made the right choice. Just because one claims a god creating humans doesn’t mean that humans can trust their thoughts to be true because a god created them. Lewis, as usual, makes baseless claims as his premise and since he can’t show his claim to be true, his following argument fails.

    Happily, we don’t need a god to be able to invent the scientific method that helps us avoid bias and to confirm reality.

     
  2. Dr. Larry Dixon

    December 19, 2019 at 2:25 pm

    Thank you for your comment — and for reading my blog. Do you mind unpacking your perspective a bit for me? Please help me understand why you find Lewis’ argument simplistic and baseless. Thanks! Larry

     
  3. keithnoback

    December 19, 2019 at 10:40 pm

    Post hoc ergo propter hoc. We have observed the world, so the world has an ‘observability function’.?

     
  4. Dr. Larry Dixon

    December 20, 2019 at 7:00 am

    Thank you, Keith, for your comment. I have to admit, I had to look up post hoc ergo propter hoc. What I found was: “Post hoc is a particularly tempting error because correlation appears to suggest causality. The fallacy lies in a conclusion based solely on the order of events, rather than taking into account other factors potentially responsible for the result that might rule out the connection. A simple example is “the rooster crows immediately before sunrise; therefore the rooster causes the sun to rise.”

    If you don’t mind, please unpack for me a bit more your objection to Lewis’ argument. Thanks. Larry

     
  5. keithnoback

    December 20, 2019 at 10:27 pm

    His premise can be reformulated, “A cogent observation presupposes the suitability of the observed for observation by a cogent observer. Therefore the contents of cogent observations are predicated on the existence of a cogent observer.”
    In the simplest sense, perhaps, be it ever so trivial.
    But he makes an additional inference: Because we consider the observer first, the observer lends an intelligibility property to the observable.
    The thinker and the thought come with each other, just because we consider the thinker first doesn’t mean that the thinker is the sole, determinative cause of the thought

     
    • Dr. Larry Dixon

      December 21, 2019 at 8:58 am

      Keith: I’m college-educated, so things have to be explained to me very sllloooowwwlly! Do you mind telling me exactly what the problem is that you find with the Lewis quote? Thank you. And Merry Christmas! Larry

       
  6. keithnoback

    December 21, 2019 at 3:10 pm

    “…nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking… if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true?”
    That’s the problem. His support for this statement is of the priority = cause variety.

     
  7. Dr. Larry Dixon

    December 23, 2019 at 6:33 am

    Keith – thanks for getting back to me. Would you say that intelligence and logic make more sense if their source was intelligent and logical? I hope we can keep our conversation going. May you have a blessed Christmas and New Year’s. Larry

     
  8. keithnoback

    December 23, 2019 at 7:08 am

    OK. What do you mean when you say ‘logic’ and ‘intelligence’? What are those things that they can make sense, themselves, and demand a source?
    I can get this started.
    Logic is our theoretical treatment of causality. Causality theorizes identity. Identity is a brute fact.
    🙂

     
  9. Dr. Larry Dixon

    December 23, 2019 at 7:44 am

    Keith: Thank you for your response. I feel I’m a bit out of my depth here as a theologian and not a philosopher. But I’ll do my best. “Logic” is the ability to use our reason to draw conclusions that reflect reality. “Intelligence” is one’s capacity to use one’s mind to make sense of one’s surroundings. Doesn’t it make sense that our ability to reason logically and use our intelligence must come from a source that also reasons logically and has intelligence? Do those abilities come from nothingness? What do you mean that identity is a “brute fact”? Blessings. Larry

     
  10. keithnoback

    December 24, 2019 at 8:18 am

    Yeah, I’m no philosopher either, but this ends up being pretty straightforward. A brute fact is a fact which has no further explanation.
    I disagree with you about the nature of logic and intelligence, but rather than pursue that disagreement into the weeds, I’d head back to Lewis’ contention. It relates.
    If I were to tell Lewis that logic was a theory derived of our experience, he would reply that I had just used logic to state my case, proving that logic is not derived, but a given precondition – without logic, I could not talk about logic. The contents of my statement are subsequent to a logical operation, therefore the contents of my statement are a property of (belong to) logic.
    His argument is a lovely illustration of the problem embodied by the post hoc fallacy. It invites a proliferation of brute facts.
    Apply the same line of argument to an English translation of Don Quixote. If I am able to translate the story, then the story must have a ‘property of English translatability’, and that property comes from English. We can’t speak of English translations without referencing English, after all. The translatability of Don Quixote derives from the English language, period.

     
    • Dr. Larry Dixon

      January 7, 2020 at 6:27 am

      Keith — It may be that you are busy, but I’m hoping we can continue our conversation about spiritual things. May I ask a favor of you? In our discussing philosophy, I just read this morning in my Bible I Corinthians chapter one. Would you consider reading that chapter and giving me your opinion on it? Thanks. Larry

       
  11. Dr. Larry Dixon

    December 26, 2019 at 6:28 am

    Keith: Hope you had a great Christmas. Would you mind if we shifted our discussion to the question that, I think, is the most important: What do you think of Jesus? I would be very interested in your perspective on him. Thanks. Larry

     
  12. dolphinwrite

    January 3, 2020 at 7:13 pm

    That was insightful. I believe the good Lord gives us understanding, more so if we’re searching. One other thing. I was looking at a ceiling fan with lights, and suddenly it all made sense, and I’ve never seen a diagram. Also, as a teacher, I “learned” to see understanding in the students’ eyes. I asked: where is this understanding coming from?

     
    • Dr. Larry Dixon

      January 4, 2020 at 6:17 am

      Thank you for your insightful comment, my friend. And thank you for reading my blog! Blessings. Larry

       
  13. dolphinwrite

    January 3, 2020 at 7:16 pm

    One more thing: if we’re completely secular, everything from the big bang, the planets forming, life starting, all the evolution, people meeting people and getting married, all the way to our parents meeting, getting together, and all things going right, have to have happened for you to be here (The person inside your body, the one that knows he exists.). Any chink in the trillions of events and you would not be here: if we’re going completely secular. Yet most people don’t realize the significance of their own existence, that they were created. Thanks for your thoughts.

     
  14. Dr. Larry Dixon

    January 4, 2020 at 6:18 am

    You make an excellent point. I especially like your point about any “chink” in the events! Blessings. Larry

     

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