Atheism and the curious case of the universal acid.
“Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded!” Self-refutation is an attribute which atheism and the preceding humorous comment (attributed to baseball legend Yogi Berra) have in common. For example, the famous atheist philosopher Daniel Dennett describes Darwinism as a “universal acid; it eats through just about every traditional concept [such as Christianity] and leaves in its wake a revolutionized world-view.” But, as with other concepts which stem from the atheist worldview, Darwinism is in reality an acid that only eats through itself.
Physicist Amit Goswami comments on how Darwinism refutes itself because it is rooted in the materialist view which declares that nothing exists except inanimate matter. But Darwinism relies on survival of the fittest, and survivability is not a property which can be ascribed to inanimate matter:
The Darwinian theory of evolution is based on natural selection: Nature selects those organisms that are fittest to survive. In the materialist view, an organism is just a bundle of molecules that are completely specified by their physical and chemical properties. Nowhere among these properties will you find a property called survivability. No piece of inanimate matter has ever attempted to survive or in any way tried to maintain its integrity under any circumstances. But living bodies do exhibit a property called survivability. Now the paradox. A Darwinist would say that the survivability of the living form comes from evolutionary adaptation via natural selection. But natural selection itself depends on survival of the fittest.
See the circularity of the argument? Survival depends on evolution, but evolution depends on survival! A paradox is a sure-fire sign that the basic assumptions of the paradigm are incomplete or inconsistent; they need a reexamination.
As Frank Turek puts it in Stealing From God, “The most common logical mistake we’ll see is that atheists violate the law of non-contradiction. They put forth a theory about reality that is supposed to be universal, but then they exempt themselves from it.” Nancy Pearcey elaborates upon atheist violations of the law of non-contradiction in Finding Truth:
…These worldviews see only a slice of reality and then try to direct human beings into measuring themselves by that narrow slice and living accordingly. Materialists thereby deny the reality of mind (while they use their minds to advance materialism), determinists deny the reality of human choice (while they choose determinism), and relativists deny the fact of right and wrong (while they judge you if you disagree).
Idol-centered worldviews not only fail to match the external world, they also collapse internally. They are self-refuting. The technical term is that they are self-referentially absurd, which means they propose a standard for truth that they themselves fail to meet. For example, a person may propose cultural relativism, which claims that there is no universal truth. But that statement itself makes a universal claim. Thus it contradicts itself.
Frank Turek comments on how materialism (in which atheism is rooted) refutes itself by declaring that there are no immaterial conscious entities such as God or human souls, because human consciousness is really nothing more than the activity of atoms in the brain:
Atheist evolutionary biologist J. B. S. Haldane put it well. He wrote, “If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true . . . and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.” He also has no reason to trust anything he believes, including atheism or evolution.
Atheist Francis Crick, co-discoverer of DNA, affirmed Haldane’s material view of reality. In what he called “an astonishing hypothesis,” Crick wrote, “The Astonishing Hypothesis is that ‘You,’ your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.”
If atheism is true, he’s exactly right. But he didn’t see the problem Haldane saw. Perhaps Crick would have seen that problem if he had applied his hypothesis to his own work. Imagine if Dr. Crick had written this: “The Astonishing Hypothesis is that my scientific conclusions that I write in this book are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.”
Physicist Stephen Barr reflects Turek’s above point about the self-refuting nature of materialism in Modern Physics and Ancient Faith. If humans are nothing but material brains with no soul, then human thoughts are nothing but patterns of nerve impulses in the brain. But how could a pattern of nerve impulses in the brain be either true or false?:
Cognitive scientists talk about neurons, for example. But “neuron” itself is an abstract concept that arose from the researches of biologists. For the materialist, then, even this concept of ‘neuron’ is nothing but a neurological creation; it also is a pattern of neurons firing in someone’s brain. If this sounds like a vicious circle, it is. We explain certain biological phenomena using the abstract concept “neuron,” and then we proceed to explain the abstract concept “neuron” as a biological phenomenon—indeed, a biological phenomenon produced by the activity of neurons. What we are observing here is the snake eating its own tail, or rather its own head. The very theory which says that theories are neurons firing is itself naught but neurons firing.
…Why should anyone believe the materialist, then? If ideas are just patterns of nerve impulses, then how can one say that any idea (including the idea of materialism itself) is superior to any other? One pattern of nerve impulses cannot be truer or less true than any other pattern, any more than a toothache can be truer or less true than another toothache.
Indeed, as Barr alludes to above, the existence of consciousness cannot be explained through the lens of the materialist/naturalist worldview. If true, the materialist belief that human consciousness is nothing but the firing of neurons in the brain cannot be anything other than….the firing of neurons in the brain. How could a true neuronal impulse be distinguished from a false one? By measuring the voltage of the impulse? A neuronal impulse can be neither true nor false, nor can any other natural phenomenon, such as a thunderstorm.
Andy Bannister illustrates how denial of God requires one to hold a self-defeating worldview in The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist. Specifically, he comments on how Richard Dawkins, the author of the world’s most popular atheist diatribe (The God Delusion) denies the existence of evil, but then precedes to Tweet a criticism of cricket player Stuart Broad, for cheating:
Indeed, in his book River Out of Eden, Dawkins penned this oft-quoted passage: “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. As that unhappy poet A. E. Housman put it: ‘For Nature, heartless, witless Nature Will neither know nor care.’ DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.”
But if nature really is neither good nor evil, if we are all simply dancing to our DNA, gyrating to our genes, then from which top hat has Dawkins produced this moral standard with which he’s whacking hapless cricketers over the head? There’s only one way you can make the value judgment that Dawkins brandishes here, and that’s if life has some kind of purpose, a way that you, I, and Stuart Broad are supposed to live. The difference between a game of cricket and the game of life – in an atheistic universe anyway– is that cricket has rules but life does not; at least not any purpose beyond reproducing our DNA, if Dawkins is correct.
Indeed, is it not ironic that Dawkins denies the existence of evil, and then precedes to write and present a TV documentary attacking belief in God which he titles The Root of All Evil?
If the universe is ultimately meaningless and purposeless, as atheism insists, then one is prone to wonder why outspoken atheists commit themselves to the purpose of convincing other people of this purposelessness. As the English mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead put it, “Those who devote themselves to the purpose of proving that there is no purpose constitute an interesting subject for study.”
Atheist reasoning is every bit as meaningless as atheists insist the universe is.