Why I can't be an atheist Part II Appeals to reason and logic<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
It is quite possible that atheists as a group are more intelligent than the community of theists at large. I don't have statistical evidence to support this claim, but anecdotally, I can believe that it is quite likely. Many, who become atheists, probably arrive at a crisis, where there are points of tension in reconciling Christianity with their own constructs of logic and reason. The atheist may say that this migration occurs because intelligent people gravitate toward a worldview distilled from logic and reason, as opposed to one conjured from superstition and unquestioning acceptance. That seems a bit self-serving and laced with hubris, though. Based on my observations, both groups are intellectually stratified-ignorant theists, astute atheists, and vice-versa. You realize that apologists for theism are themselves intellectual giants, when the best are pitted in debate against their atheist counterparts.
The positive argument about intelligent people is easily reversed. I could conclude that greater levels of intelligence present a pitfall of conceit that the atheist steps into. High levels of intelligence can cause a belief of invulnerability and hubris--that humanity will solve all problems and eventually gain a comprehensive knowledge of the universe--thus God is, or will become, unneeded and unwanted. This is the faith (though they might call their faith claims "confidence based on experience," if that is a distinction with a difference) of naturalism. That "faith" is justified according to its devotees, in that once upon a time, empirical knowledge existed as a small corpus of information, yet today it has snowballed into a juggernaut. While is it true that empirical knowledge has grown exponentially, few are sagaciously differentiating between that which is presently unknown and that which is by definition unknowable (as theists might say, hidden in the mind of God). The atheist's confidence to comprehend the "unknowable," comes from a belief that empirical investigation can eventually explain everything conceivable. This impression must assume that there is no truth outside the realm of empiricism.
Atheists often claim their belief system is based on logic and reason. Again, this is almost a tautology that goes something like this.
We believe that logic and reason is the only revelation of truth.
Theism isn't logical or reasonable.
Therefore, theism must be false, hence, atheism is reality.
We could throw in some corollary statements, also. What they infer is structurally sound if the premises are true--but are they?
Many atheists I've dealt with, only accept empirical evidence as proof for the existence of anything. "Logic and reason" are defined as tantamount to empiricism. But what justifies this position? Where does that put us when we want to prove the existence of things like love, self-awareness, personal identity throughout life, the mind, or even the very concepts of logic and reason themselves; all of which are abstract entities? In a materialistic universe, these abstractions would be mere sensations caused by the reactions of nerve endings and chemicals in the brain (essentially, this is what Francis Crick claims in his 1994 book The Astonishing Hypothesis). That is where the atheist must reside, if held to his metaphysical truth claims.
In a world where only empirical evidence is allowed, we must eventually ask how we empirically prove that only empirical evidence should be allowed. The universal solvent dissolves the container it is stored in. Notice I didn't deny that empirical evidence is a way to prove certain things; I merely questioned whether it was the one and only meaningful way.
The other night, I asked my wife if we had any ice-cream. She opened the freezer, took out the container, to show me that there was less than one serving remaining in the carton. The question was answered through the simple "look and see" process. The atheist/empiricist makes the mistake of assuming that all factual questions can be distilled to this simple observational analysis.
Let's test this philosophically with an assumption about my own hypothetical experience. One night I walk out to the mailbox for the mail. As I am about to return to the house I hear the audible voice of God telling me to write this editorial. For a minute, presume this actually happened. Exactly what empirical fingerprint can I show you to verify my talk with God, thus proving I'm not a crackpot? None. That is my point. Empirical methods cannot test for all truth or truth claims, because of the metaphysical nature of the entity subject to investigation. Any truth claim can be philosophically cross-examined for logical cogency, however. I have shown theoretically, that truth can exist outside the parameters of empirical analysis. A denial of this claim is not based on objectivity, but a presupposition and bias toward empiricism.
The problem with appeals to logic and reason, are that they mistakenly become a devise for questioning whether supernaturalism is credible, yet seldom are used to critique the internal coherence of atheism as a system of thought. We examine that in a future installment.
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