If You Don't Value Truth, Then What DO You Value?"
As a consequence of the dependence of Naturalism and Atheism on the universal validity of principle of Cause and Effect, certain corollaries become necessarily true, in order to support that conclusion. That these corollaries are true cannot be in doubt under this thought process, because the conclusion which they support has been declared true, an exercise in rationalization. Some of these corollaries follow.
First, life is not a definable substance, and is not different in any way from the individual components that comprise the thing that is said to live. “There is no essence of life, unless it is [the existence of ] DNA”: Massimo Pigliucci. Life is not exceptional to purely material existence, and is fully defined by material causality.
Next, in humans as in all material substance based constructs there is no exceptionality from other material substances. Cause and effect applies to all substances, including humans. This means that every aspect of human functioning is a material effect which has a material cause.
This in turn means that the human does not exhibit any action that is not pre-determined by a chain of causes that go back to the Big Bang. So there is no human ability to decide anything, because every action is determinate beyond the ability of any self-agency to modify. And self does not exist either, because for one thing, there is no reason for a non-agent to be an independent entity, a self. A rock is not a self any more than the boulder from which it split was a self. Self is not a material substance; it cannot exist under the materialist decree.
So humans are without self, without agency, and without intentionality in their actions. If humans think that they have – or are – these things, then they are harboring an illusion or delusion. (Delusion occurs if one believes an illusion). If you doubt that this is a consequence of Atheism / Naturalism, then read the sources at the end of this article.
The typical Atheist response to this state of non-Agency is that the delusion of self and agency works just fine, and is a fine way to live, believing that we have agency in the face of being saddled with Fully Causal Determinism. Some Atheists and Naturalists even claim that there is a small bubble of non-determinism which is available to us, even though Causal Determinism is a universal principle; this allows us a small degree of agency within the constraints of our environmental and genetic histories.
If these ideas are valid, what would be the consequences? Are our actions fully predetermined and without recourse for modification? Or conversely, do the laws of Cause and Effect stop at some short-field locus that actually allows us to have some very limited agency?
Oh please, not Anaheim!
Living Fully Causal and Without Self, Except for Self-Delusion.
How can we be self-deluded if there is no self to delude? To self-delude a self, requires a self, and the idea is therefore non-coherent. So that can’t be.
But maybe we are deluded, not by ourselves which do not exist, but by circumstances. What is it that gets deluded? There is no self; the conscious mind merely gets informed of the predetermined, fully caused actions of the neural electrochemical discharges. If the conscious mind is only a register of what has already happened deterministically, yet the conscious mind thinks that it performed those actions, then the conscious mind is, in fact, delusional. And that is necessarily true of all conscious minds. Every mind is delusional regarding its self and agency. And by necessary extension, all the products of the self and agency.
But then the question of self arises again. Something has happened that causes non-entopic activities to occur in the wake of the activities of human mental faculties. If there is no core being that causes those non-entropic activities for which living things are known, then how are they caused (or are they delusions too)? And can I not think, consciously, in a manner to design, to create, to cause things to happen that could not otherwise happen without an agent’s causal force? And things which would not have happened without intentionality? Is the existence of these agent-caused intentional products not real (because there is no agency)? Exactly how delusional are we? And why would we be expected to share the same delusions with countless others, say when we board a plane or ride an escalator, or engage with communication devices? How are universally common delusions implemented - what is their cause? Is it more parsimonious to consider that we share a common, universal delusion, or that we share a common, universal reality?
Consider the other claims of Atheists and Naturalists, specifically the claim to be rational. If they claim universal delusion on the one hand, how can they claim rationality on the other? If they have no self, if they have no intentionality or agency, if their actions are fully causal with their conscious minds merely informed post hoc, how can they be rational? Even if the neural electrochemical discharge is declared the source of rationality, that also is fully caused, deterministic, and without any agency or intentionality, and moreover, why should a material mass of molecules have any non-deterministic capability, much less rationality and self-hood? The Atheist / Naturalist argument must apply to the neurons as well as to consciousness.
So unless the Atheists / Naturalists can produce an argument that provides an exception to their primary argument which universalizes determinism, an argument for a non-deterministic haven which endows themselves with agency even while surrounded with a fully caused and deterministic universe, then their argument fails. And paradoxically, if they do provide an argument for excepting themselves from determinism in order to allow their own rationality, then universal determinism cannot be a valid principle. Either way, full causal determinism fails.
Moreover, if we are merely deluded into the belief that any non-deterministic agency exists, then the reality that we think we have created is also a delusion. Therefore, if the principle of delusion of agency is valid, then delusion becomes a constant and consistent necessity, a state which we cannot differentiate from actual reality if there is any actual reality. Once again the Atheist / Naturalist claim of rationality cannot be valid if we all are deluded. The argument from delusion prohibits rationality.
Empiricism and the Question of Self, Agency and Delusion
Empiricism is an intentional activity; it is the sole source of valid knowledge according to the proponents of universal determinism, the Atheists and Naturalists. Yet that pairing of concepts self-contradicts. Again, without agency to design and perform the experimental analysis which characterizes empirical activity, there could be no meaningful knowledge product issuing from empirical activity. Once again there must be an exception to the principle of universal determinism in order for meaningful information or knowledge to come out of empirical activity. And once again, the principle of universal determinism cannot be valid if knowledge or meaning exists due to the exceptionalism of agent driven empirical activity. Unless of course, empiricism and its products are delusions. So either determinism does not apply to empiricism, or empiricism and knowledge are delusions. Either way, Atheism and Naturalism fail as rational worldviews, since they require both fully causal determinism AND empirical knowledge both to be valid simultaneously.
Why is delusion a part of the Atheist / Naturalist worldview? What are the rational (or non-rational) logic steps that produce the necessity of delusion?
The conclusion comes first by decree: There can be no non-material existence. The support for this conclusion is winnowed and selected for those items which do not contradict the conclusion.
For example the basic conclusion, full materiality of existence is decreed, not observed. Under the decree, certain things cannot exist, things which would invalidate the decree. So when those certain things are seen to exist after having been denied, they must be declared to be delusions.
This process is both non-rational and non-empirical. It is the product of a belief system, one that specifically denies parts of reality that conflict with the basic tenet of the belief. Any invalidating observations are thus delusions, especially if they cannot be defeated empirically.
So in this sense, both Atheism and Naturalism are religious-types of non-empirical belief systems, which actually deny certain aspects of observable reality as delusions, and which are based on faith in concepts derived by rationalization rather than valid logical processes. The fundamental concept – all existence is material only - is decreed rather than observed and it is not even observable, yet it is declared both true and the basis for what is called a rational worldview.
The belief in Atheism / Naturalism is not based in empiricism or rational analysis, it is based in something else: a desire for it to be true.
[Note 1] I use the term "naturalism" here, despite its confusing meanings. While I prefer "philosophical materialism", naturalism is commonly used in some of the "mind" literature, so I will use it here, too.
Sources For Further Reading:
Pinker, Steven; “How the Mind Works”; 1997, WW Norton & Co.
Schwartz, Jeffrey and Sharon Begley; “The Mind and The Brain”; 2002, Harper.
Clark, Thos; “Encountering Naturalism”; Center For Naturalism, 2007.
Huemer, Michael; “Skepticism and the Veil of Perception”; Rowman & Littlefield, 2001.
Martin, Michael; Atheism, A Philosophical Justification; Temple University Press, 1990.
“The Cambridge Companion to Atheism”; Michael Martin Ed.; Cambridge University Press, 2007.
“British Philosophy and the Age of Enlightenment”; Stuart Brown, Ed.; Routledge History of Philosophy Volume 5; Routledge, 1996.
Reason & Analysis; Bland Blanshard; Paul Carus Lectures Series 12; 1962; Open
Does he have a sense of humor?