The suicidal tendencies of atheism.
One can learn to recognize false atheist beliefs by taking a lesson from poker: Top poker players become successful in part because they develop an ability to recognize non-verbal cues made by their opponents known as “tells.” A nervous facial tick, for example, may likely be a “tell” that a poker player is holding a weak hand and is bluffing. Similarly, false doctrines often give themselves away with the “tell” of being self-defeating, or internally inconsistent. Many atheist doctrines, in effect, commit suicide.
Atheist beliefs are often self-defeating
Atheist thought has been deeply influenced by a philosophical movement known as logical positivism, which originated in Vienna during the 1920’s. According to logical positivism, scientific knowledge is the only kind of factual knowledge, and all other doctrines (such as metaphysical and religious doctrines) are meaningless. But after decades of immense influence, this philosophical movement began to die out when philosophers realized that it cannot meet its own standards. Nancy Pearcey notes in Finding Truth:
What happened, though, when the test of logical positivism was applied to itself? Its central claim was that statements are meaningful only if they are empirically testable. But is that statement empirically testable? Of course not. It is not an empirical observation. It is a metaphysical rule—an arbitrary definition of what qualifies as knowledge. Thus when the criterion of logical positivism was applied to itself, it was discredited. It stood self-condemned.
If one stops to think, the doctrine that “scientific knowledge is the only kind of factual knowledge,” is itself not scientific knowledge. How would one scientifically test such a doctrine? With a chemistry experiment involving a bunsen burner and test tubes? With a biology experiment involving a microscope and a petri dish? By its own standards, logical positivism is not factual knowledge…it commits suicide. Richard Pearcey notes in the foreword to Finding Truth:
These [false] 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).
As another example, Darwinists are fond of claiming that Christianity is a false belief which evolved to provide survival value. But if false beliefs evolve to provide survival value, why should we not assume that Darwinism is false and evolved to provide survival value, instead of truth? And if evolution leads our reasoning astray, then why should Darwinists trust the reasoning faculties which led them to the conclusion that evolution leads our reasoning astray? As I mention in Why Atheism is Self-Defeating Charles Darwin himself noticed this problem. He once admitted:
[W]ith me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?
Atheism is based in materialism, but material things can’t be true or false
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 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 contain truth (or falsehood)? Nerve impulses can no more be true or false than the chair you are sitting in:
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.
Eighteenth century Scottish philosopher David Hume is undoubtably one of the most influential atheist thinkers of all time. His empiricist philosophy continues to have an enormous influence on atheist thought into the present day. According to Hume, we cannot know anything for certain except that which we can prove through empirical scientific observation. All religious and metaphysical doctrines are thereby rendered meaningless. Hume famously wrote:
If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.
But do Hume’s above words “contain any abstract reasoning containing quantity or number”? Clearly not. Do they contain any “experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence”? Again, no. Therefore, by his own standards, we must commit Hume’s reasoning to the flames because it contains nothing but sophistry and illusion. Nancy Pearcey eloquently explains why Christianity, unlike many of the doctrines promoted by atheists, is a worldview which does not self-destruct.
[The] biblical view has two crucial implications. First, the intelligible order of the universe reflects the mind of the Creator. Second, because God created humans in his image, our minds correspond with that order as well. There is a congruence between the structure of the world and the structure of human cognition—a correlation between subject and object in the act of knowing.
Strong evidence for the truth of the Christian worldview exists in the fact that, as historians of science almost unanimously agree, Christian beliefs were responsible for the rise of science. Please read my post titled Without Christianity, There Would Be No Science to explore this topic in more depth.