Is Science Dependent on God?

I never thought that you are a reductionist :grin:. Although there is some irony to your statement. The philosophy of mind is the only field where a reductionistic answer is even considered anymore, but even here it is only a handful of people (The Churchlands and Alex Rosenberg for example).
Side note: Especially Rosenberg is a very interesting character and although I don´t agree with anything he offers, since eliminative materialism (the denial of existence of mental states/these are illusions which have to be reduced to the mental states) is a self refuting position, he is nontheless a widely known philosopher and maybe, ironically, the key for the ultimate death blow of materialism. Why? Because if his arguments in his book “An Atheists Guide to Reality” can be defended as valid, then a materialist and naturalist consequentially has to adopt eliminative materialism.
Currently I´m reading “The philosophical foundation of neuroscience” by philosopher Peter Hacker and neuroscientist Mike Bennett. It is somewhat the 21st century version of Poppers and Eccles “The self and its brain”. And dare I say, it was desperately needed. Especially Hacker is a furious critic of the current “neurobabble” plaquing the consens and of those mentioned eliminative materialists. But to answer your question in a brief manner: It is because there is no objective way to read from your pattern of firing neurons what you are thinking. The same thoughts would make for a very different picture in your and my brain. But more importantly: There is an indeterminicy of meaning in the pattern. The firing neurons don´t reveal the associations made with the thought.
The problem now is that I wished to give you a longer aswer, but I can´t talk about added aspects like “aboutness”, the ability of thoughts to be ABOUT the thing, which needs explanation as to how a the aboutness comes about (hehe). So I would love to give a longer answer, but your small question is pretty much the whole field of the philosophy of mind. Interestingly, this made me think, that something like Plato´s forms have to exist kin order to account for the meaning, aboutness and intentionality in our thought processes.

Added note: Your medical examples are no examples to support the case for a materialistic case, because they are unproblematically compatibel with everey kind of dualism. Even Descartes expected a very tight correlation between the soul and the brain/material processes.

1 Like

I’ve read this in Lewis as well - the notion that a purely materialist brain could no more be relied on to reach true or rational conclusions than a rock rolling down a hill could be trusted to do the same.

As an apologetic, I think this probably does not have much traction - other than to cast some doubt on materialism with respect to the mind. And I don’t know of any good answers to this, so (to me anyway), this still does have some traction as far as materialist shortcomings go, but I don’t lean on this for an apologetic (much less a Christian apologetic). For one thing, I think the objection has been answered, or at least suffered doubts as to its own validity.

In Lennox’s expression (as you have relayed it here) to use the words “…product of pure chance” is already a suspect phrase, because even on the materialists point-of-view, chance is but one of multiple “actors” (to the extent that we allow “chance” to be seen as an agent at all - I am fully aware of its deficiency in that regard) in an evolutionary process. So “pure chance” is already a debunked phrase since no evolutionist (religious or otherwise) claims that evolution is nothing but pure chance. Natural selection, probably among other things, is also in play. The criticism is that this would favor survival and reproductive success which almost certainly will not always coincide with faculty toward truth. And that is the live criticism in my mind. But, whatever it is that has had a hand in shaping our minds, it is still easy to conflate “reality-shaped” agency with “God-shaped” agency, so that the materialist is always free to call it by the former name and ignore the latter label.

In any case, while it may serve as a stepping stone for some toward good and necessary deeper reflection, I nonetheless would not want to make it a permanent resting place or foundation for any spiritual convictions.


Sounds very similar to Plantingas Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism. If evolution only values fitness, there is no reason to suppose that our rationality would be any more than an accidentally added faculty which COULD enable us to learn objective facts about the world, but we wouldn´t have any reason to believe it, because in this scenario, we wouldn´t have any evolutionary gain in terms of fitness through rational faculties. This would mean that if neo-darwinism would be true, consequentally we would have to challenge this finding constantly, since the above described scenario applies, so that we can´t be sure if we have the ability to abstract “truth” from the world at all.

I think this is a sound argument.

Except that when successful survival/reproduction becomes our measuring stick for “success” [as it would for the materialist], then any rationality we enjoy has been ostensibly employed toward those ends (or so it is then defined). So there is a bit of circularity that I think still defeats the use of this as a purely anti-materialist polemic. At least for those hoping for the philosophically air-tight case.

Yes I would agree so far, and I don´t use it for arguing in any way, because I haven´t engaged with the exact way it is argued for. But I don´t see how your first sentence attacks my intention in any way, because how could we be sure, that the same rational faculties which enabled us to become a successful species in regards to reproduction and survival, would also enable us to learn objective facts about the structure of our reality? How do we get from outsmarting enemies to the scientific method? I think this is generally what Plantinga is getting at.

Thank you for your detailed answer–you are arguing far above my head, as I don’t have the background in philosophy. However, the fact that we don’t recognize yet by synaptic firing how each person thinks doesn’t, in my mind, make it unlikely that our thoughts are awareness are materialistic/reductionist. It still seems to me that arguing from ignorance of how things work could be a God of the gaps mistake.

I’m not sure I follow you–if we can administer a chemical that removes all memory and consciousness, why wouldn’t that argue against dualism? Propofol and Versed do pretty well with these things.

Now, I do believe in the spirit world (and orthodox Christianity, similar to Lewis), but I don’t think we can prove it by any scientific experiment or logical induction.

I agree with @Mervin_Bitikofer and your discussion of the limits of arguing that we are imperfect machines at perception. I’m going to have to listen to a Plantinga book sometime (he may not be as far above me as some of the other folks you cite). :slight_smile:

To get to the “guarantee of a totally rational mind” is a problem - I agree, so my (let’s say hesitancy, rather than “attack”) around your assertion is just that I don’t think mechanical methods should be considered totally helpless towards rational development. After all, if my brain can’t even tell me whether I should run toward the sound of an approaching tiger or away from it, then I likely won’t be as long in this world, as a more astute companion. In other words we can’t have our rationality entirely divorced from reality; it must carry at least some currency toward survival/reproduction. So then there can always be some warrant for hoping that there is yet more truth to be had, even if just an accidental side-effect, from our developing “proto-rationality”.

1 Like

Right–the rationality has evolved to fit a rational universe for survival; it’s conditioned to perceive things correctly, not randomly.

1 Like

Yes … though I suppose we should distinguish between “correct perception” and “correct reasoning”. I might have perfectly good eyes that tell me, accurately, where the edge of a cliff is. But if I then thought it would be fun to dance, spin, and twirl right on the edge, that would then be a failure of rationality - provided accurate inputs and a desire to survive were all in place. The brute “wish for survival” is presumably an age-old premise that (along with our also needed perceptual inputs) gives our developing rationalities the material with which to practice.

I suppose the problems creep in when we suppose that same practiced rationality should also be reliable concerning other emerging premises and interests that transcend mere survival/reproduction.


If I’m not mistaken “Science” is supposed to explain what is observed came to be. How what is came to be, does not make the other dependent upon the explanation. It already is.

“True science is coming to the real answer as to how what is, really arrived as it is Since the book of nature and the book of revelation bear the impress of the same master mind, they cannot but speak in harmony. By different methods and in different languages they witness to the same great truths. Science is ever discovering new wonders, but from its research it brings nothing that, rightly understood, conflicts with divine revelation. The book of nature and the written Word shed light on each other. They make us acquainted with God by teaching us something of the laws through which He works.”


Just a couple of brief points, to not derail the discussion completely, but to still answer your points.

I´m personally mainly engaged in the philosophy of religion currently and am just starting with the philosophy of mind. However I can only say, that your position belongs to a very small minority. The main problem is how meaningful informations/thoughts are attached to, in terms of meaning, ambigous material objects. Thomas Nagel gave the field a pretty strong headache. If you are interested I give a few more names: Jerry Fodor, John Searle, GEM Anscombe, John Haldane, Noam Chomsky, Raymond Tallis and Richard Swinburne.

Materialism, Dualism, Hylomorphism (to which I subscribe) and everything in between is not a scientific, but a metaphysical question. Although there are many different positions within it, in this context by “dualism”, I mean Cartesian Dualism. Science doesn´t inform that question at all. The example you gave fits both materialism and dualism. Why? Consider an example of a computer which got a virus. In the materialistic framework, only the computer exists and its functions are limited. Now let´s have a look at the dualistic worldview where there is an external user of said computer. He will have the same problem because, the computer, his tool, is limited because it is broken to some extent. However with science we can only have a look at the results. And because they are the same, they don´t give you an answer about a hypothetical external user. This model can also be applied to the brain.

Agreed mostly, although we might disagree on how much we can approach it by simply using the latter. As a Thomist, I would say that we can come very close, although I agree that we can´t make a logical proof of the afterlife in any form.

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed 3 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.