The Mind Argument for God

The “Mind” Argument for God

“One of the things that we see is that our minds work, that our sense perception and rational intuition help us perceive the real world. But if there is no God, and everything has a physical, natural cause, then we are led to some very disturbing conclusions about our own minds. Thoughts of the brain are only the results of non-rational, non-intelligent chemical processes in the brain. Neuroscientists today tell us that all thinking is the product of chemicals which are the product of our genetic code, brought to us by the long process of evolution. Therefore all our thinking and choices are pre-determined—there is no real freedom of thought. This is an inescapable conclusion of the belief that there is no God or eternal reality. But if our thoughts are not free and rational, but determined, then so are the thoughts that espouse this view, in which case we cannot trust them—they are only conditioned responses. And so we are in the position of listening to a man who says, “don’t trust a word I am saying”. You have to dismiss that sentence as self-refuting nonsense—failing to satisfy its own criteria of acceptability. Any view of the universe which would make it impossible to trust our thinking or minds to tell us about reality has to be dismissed.

But surely the process of evolution has given us minds that we can trust, for we could not have survived unless they told us about reality.

Evolutionary biology is no help here at all. Darwinian theory is that absolutely every capacity we have is due to a process called “natural selection”, in which those traits that help us adapt to our environment are passed along genetically (since only those with the “fittest” traits survive). Our minds therefore were not designed by a Creator to perceive the real world; they are produced by a blind process that helps us survive in the world. Now we cannot possibly know that perceiving reality leads to surviving, only that what we perceive leads to surviving. For example, we know that “psychological” survival needs regularly lead us to repress or deny realities. If it is too painful to acknowledge how angry someone is because of our behavior, we may completely deceive ourselves about it—just refuse to “see” it. What proof do we have that the same thing has not happened to our capacities for perceiving the physical world? The simple fact is that evolutionary theory says the purpose of our minds is physical survival, not the production of true beliefs, and therefore it gives us no reason to trust our minds—quite the contrary. In fact, Darwin himself admitted this, when he wrote: “The horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of a man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there were any convictions in such a mind?” At best evolution makes us agnostic about our minds, which means we should then be agnostic about evolution itself, and everything else. But maybe our minds just emerged and do ‘work’—why do we have to have a God for that? This raises an additional problem for the non-theistic worldview. The main reason our minds help us understand the world is what has been called “the uniformity of nature”. The method of generalizing from observed cases to all cases of the same kind is called “induction”. Without it, we would not be able to learn from experience, we would not be able to use language, we would not be able to rely on memory or advance science, all of which involve observing similarities and projecting them into the future. Now if we set the theistic view next to the non- theistic (which sees the universe as the production of random matter-in-motion) and ask: “which view best comports with the inductive principle?” we have to conclude that it isn’t the non- theistic view.


So we see the severe problems with non-theistic thinking—it cannot account for itself! It is belief in God that provides us the necessary pre-conditions for trusting our minds at all, or accounting for why induction and deduction and sense perception works at all. Rational mind appears to be a reality (and to deny it is self-defeating), yet how do we account for it unless there is a rational mind behind the universe? Some say, “though there is no God, I just know that reason works”. What that means is: “though your worldview leads us to expect what we see and mine does not, I am going to hold mine anyway.” But if our premise (that there is no God) leads to a conclusion that is completely impossible to hold (that we cannot trust our minds, including the thought that we cannot trust our minds), why not question the premise?”

(Apologetics, Tim Keller)


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