Saturday, March 28, 2009

Argument from Reason.

This is an overview of C.S. Lewis' "The Cardinal Difficulty of Naturalism" found in the book "Miracles" chapter 3.

"Chapter 3:

I. The Big Idea: Naturalism rules out reasoning.

II. Flow of Reasoning:

a. By definition, Naturalism must be explainable in terms of the whole system

—no heeltaps

b. Anything found outside of the system ruins the naturalistic argument

c. This rejects science by statistics—everything must be calculable

i. “The movement of one unit is incalculable, just as the result of tossing a

coin once is incalculable: the majority movement of a billion units

can however be predicted, just as, if you tossed a coin a billion

times, you could predict a nearly equal number of heads and tails.

Now it will be noticed that if this theory is true we have really

admitted something other than Nature. If the movements of the

individual units are events ‘on their own,’ events which do not

interlock with all other events, then these movements are not part

of Nature.” (19)

d. The knowledge we have of any information is observation + inference, thus all

possible knowledge depends on the validity of reasoning.

i. our observation demands that we recognize something outside of


ii. when we recognize that which is outside of ourselves, then we are


iii. “It follows that no account of the universe canbe true unless that

account leaves it possible for our thinking to be real insight. A

theory which explained everything else in the whole universe but

which made it impossible to believe that our thinking was valid,

would be utterly out of court. For that theory would itself have

been reached by thinking, and if thinking is not valid that theory

would, of course, be itself demolished. It would have destroyed its

own credentials. It would be an argument which proved that no

argument was sound—a proof that there are no such things as

proofs—which is nonsense.” (21-22)

e. If nature is explainable in terms of the whole system, it must, by definition,

imply a cause & effect universe—cause and effect all of the way back to

the beginning

f. In this view, then, reasoning must be nothing more than “one link in a causal

chain which stretches back to the beginning and forward to the end of

time.” (24)

g. Thus, mental events are caused by previous mental events and nothing more—

“knowledge” plays no role in the progression of these mental events—also

mental events came into being in the same evolutionary way that physical

events came into being—mental events to the naturalist, then are nothing

more than responses to stimuli.

h. Yet, the experience that things are always connected (fire burns you) is only of

animal behavior, Reason comes into play when you infer something from

the events

i. Nature cannot show how one turns sub-rational, animal instinct, into rational

thought, thus a break in the chain occurs

j. Knowing is more than mere remembering what happened last time, but of

inferring that what happened in the past will continue to take place in the

future. Inference, then is determined by genuine knowledge, not by cause

and effect.

k. Inference and reason are the means by which we know and understand nature

and how we explain nature and cannot be explained by nature"1.

My thoughts basicly about what C.S. Lewis is saying is that this whole universe is like a system of cogs, of causes and effects. If this was so then there are no such things as reason or the idea of "free thought " or "knowledge". We simply do what we are reacting to (stimuli). If this is so how can we trust our own thinking if all it is, is just cause and effect? How could we possibly gather an accurate answer of the universe if we do not necessarily control our thoughts?

C.S. Lewis says in regard to this: "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"2.

Yet for the theist, naturalism is not the complete story, to him God designed him to think and to have understanding of our universe.
Paul touches on this in Romans 1:20-22 "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,
because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Professing to be wise, they became fools".

So according to the Bible everyone is without excuse. Everyone knows there is a God or did know there was a God but chose to "darken" their hearts and now are decieved. Maybe a little like Pharoah in the book of the Exodus. God hardened his heart only after Pharoah hardened his heart first. God often gives us what we want. Scary thought.

If a Naturalist argues his belief: “Natural selction is bound to preserve and increase in useful behaviour. And we also find that our habits of inference are in fact useful. And if they are useful they must reach truth”3.

Lewis replies “But notice what we are doing. Inference itself is on trial: that is, the Naturalist has given an account of what we thought to be our inferences which suggests they are not real insights at all. We, and he, want to be reassured. And the reassurance turns out to be one more inference (if useful, then true)-as if this inference were not, once we accept his evolutionary picture, under the same suspicion as all the rest. If the value of our reasoning is in doubt. You cannot try to establish it by reasoning"3.

The Naturalist sounds like he is using circular logic does he not? A similar thought about evolution: "the fittest are those who survive; and those who survive are deemed the fittest...It assumes that just because something survived, it is the fittest"4.

It is hard to see exactly how rational responses to situations (inference) could come about through a system of cause and effects. If we evolved we would become just really good at responding to stimuli not infering something about something else, "Knowing is more than mere remembering what happened last time, but of inferring that what happened in the past will continue to take place in the future. Inference, then is determined by genuine knowledge, not by cause and effect"1. It's a hard line to draw, exactly where responses to stimuli would become inferences. One that Naturalists have to explain but in that lies their problem, they need to justify their own reasoning if it came about through cause and effects and not intelligent design.

So, Naturalism can be a type of fatalism e.g. I was meant to write this post and nothing could have prevented me, it is already was/is meant to be.



2."The Case for Christianity" by C.S. Lewis

3."Miracles" by C.S. Lewis


1 comment:

  1. That Chapter 3 of C.S. Lewis' is a great one to read for a real mental workout! Dan, you've managed to sum it up much better than I could. :) It is a very interesting argument, and one that I'm sure is bound to provoke some controversial conversations!!