Another Simple Apologetic

Back when I was leading high-school young people, I had come up with my own "apologetic" ("Reason to Believe") to present to them, and it was reasonably well-received. Since then, I've been exposed to Reformed theology and a wider sphere of Christian thought, and I've modified my primary apologetic concept to something more like the Kalam or Cosmological Argument. Again, like any apologetic, it will be ineffective for anyone convinced in an opposing paradigm. However, for those who are NOT convinced in any paradigm, this may be useful. This set of people would include those "shopping" for a truth model ("religion"), and Christians who are dealing with doubt.

You can contact me if you want to discuss anything you see here. However, if you are someone who is already convinced in an opposing paradigm or truth model ("religion"), I don't really care to debate. If you are not convinced by my arguments, I will not likely be convinced by yours, and we both have better things to do.

All of experienced reality must have a Foundational Principle, a Basic or Ultimate Reality, and there are only two possibilities for the nature of this Ultimate Reality: Machine or Mind

The reality we experience, looking around us at the physical universe, the stars and galaxies, the mountains and trees and rivers, the microbes and animals and plants, is finite, temporal, contingent. The reality we experience within ourselves, our consciousnesses and rationality and emotions and instincts, and the construction and operation of our bodies, is finite, temporal, contingent. There has to be an underlying transcendent and eternal beneath all this finite, temporal, and contingent reality, and there are only two choices: a Machine - a system of natural principles and some sort of mathematically-describable substance or field; or a Mind - infinite and powerful. The "Machine" view is necessarily implied by positions is known as materialism or naturalism, and further implies atheism and evolutionism. The "Mind" view is necessarily held by theists. There are no logical alternatives to these two, since in fact the "Machine" view is precisely the "Not a Mind" view.

The statement above can be reformulated into something more like the Kalam argument:

All of experienced reality is a contingent "effect" and must have an Ultimate Cause, and there are only two possibilities for the nature of this Ultimate Cause: Machine or Mind

In order to consider the questions of Origins and Being, we must employ logic. One of the foundational principles of logic is the Law of Cause and Effect. Observed phenomena like physical objects and ourselves are not eternal entities, they are effects, caused by other phenomena. There are only three explanations for the existence of these familiar effects:

  1. An infinite regress of causes
  2. Effects which cause themselves
  3. Effects ultimate caused by an Uncaused Cause

The infinite regress notion is generally dismissed by philosophers. Besides, if we're talking phenomena like rocks and people that exist in Time, if things have been happening since infinity then it would have taken an infinite duration of time to get to now; therefore now would never happen. Time and Infinity don't mix. Besides, in scientific terms, we have today something that the Ancients didn't really have, the well-attested Second Law of Thermodynamics. The universe is running down; the energy available to do work (like keep stars burning and people breathing) is being dissipated as useless heat. Disorder is increasing. At some point in the past, the universe had its peak of potentiality, and that point was the Start of Time. Besides, us Moderns now regard the Hubble Red-Shift as evidence that the universe has expanded out from its origin (although the current favorite Machine-compliant theory, the "Big Bang", is increasingly showing its defects). So there is a lot of observational scientific opposition to the once-popular "eternal universe" concept.

Effects causing themselves suffers from being a violation of another foundational principle of logic, the Law of Non-Contradiction. If an entity doesn't exist, it isn't capable of causing itself to exist. It cannot exist and not exist. Even the materialists recognize this (mostly), and postulate a Machine cause of the "Big Bang" (such as in Multiverse Theory, a generator of universes).

So that leaves an ultimate Cause. Which again is restricted to Mind or Non-Mind, or Machine and Mind. Same stage as the other formulation. Now, there is no logical distinction between Machine and Mind, and there is no way to subject the Ultimate Reality to scientific test. Instead, we have to see which proposition for Ultimate Reality fits the observed reality better.

Reasons to Reject the Proposition
"Ultimate Reality is a Machine"

The Machine view is the foundation for materialism or naturalism. If reality is ultimately Machine, then everything is ultimately matter, energy, time, and space. There is no supernatural, hence no God. But by this, there is no reality for the abstracts (at this point, this apologetic intersects with my earlier apologetic). The abstracts include:

  • Love
  • Honor
  • Fidelity
  • Value
  • Meaning (as in, meaning of life)
  • Good and Evil (Morality)
  • Liberty

In a Machine universe, these abstract principles that we treasure have no actual or transcendent existence. They are just neurological phenomena thrown off by brain activity, programmed in through evolutionary processes.

There is no actual reality to Consciousness or Personhood or Individual Identity. There is no "self", no "me". It's all just a byproduct of neurons firing in an order produced by evolutionary pressures.

Worst of all, there's no actual reality to Logic itself! If Logic and Reason are just side-effects of neurons firing in our brains, and neuro-chemical reactions, and all this is a stage we're in with the evolutionary process, and it could change in some future generation, and it's different than it was in some previous generation, then there's no reason to have any confidence whatever that our reason or logic corresponds to actual reality. Thus, adhering to the proposition that Ultimate Reality is Machine destroys the very possibility for this proposition to have any meaning! The Machine viewpoint undercuts itself!

And there's one more consequence of the Machine view that I believe is fatal: Information. At this point in our history (or, maybe during the previous stage, the Modern era), humanity has an understanding of information. Scientifically-speaking, that is, what we observe and can test empirically, information is a product of minds. It is contained in communication, written or spoken or transmitted electronically. It is contained in DNA, and specifies (like computer software) the operation of living cells. Information is always a product of minds. It is never generated by natural processes; indeed, natural processes degrade information - in engineering terms, it is known as "noise".

The abstracts, personal consciousness, logic and reason, and information itself are NOT inherent in matter, energy, time, and space. It's pretty hard to explain these very familiar aspects of reality by the Machine view. The Mind view, on the other hand, explains them completely. Human minds are created by the Infinite Mind as little finite models of Itself, and are bestowed and imbued with the abstracts. Logic and reason are built-in; they are not identifical with neurologica activity and are not the results of a blind evolutionary process; therefore, we can have confidence that there is a high degree of correspondence between our internal ideas and external reality, and we can therefore contemplate propositions like the Machine view or the Mind view. The existence of information is not a problem in the Mind view, being generated and communicated either by the Infinite, Ultimate, Transcendent Mind or by our little, finite, temporal, contingent minds.

The Ultimate Mind is fundamentally Personal.

At this point, my apologetic supports the proposition that Ultimate Reality is Mind. Obviously, the Mind is God. But how do we tell anything further about this God? Here again, my newer apologetic intersects with my earlier apologetic. In summary,

  • We observe ourselves as persons. An aspect of "personhood" that we observe is the ability and desire to communicate with other persons.
  • If our inclination to interpersonal communication is yet another aspect of us being finite, temporal, contingent "models" of the Infinite Eternal Transcendent Ultimate Person, then we would expect God to be in communication with His creatures from the beginning of time.
  • This excludes Deism, which has God creating the universe but not having any further involvement in it.
  • This excludes gods of religions that had been practiced in the past but went out of fashion (in spite of nostalgic pagans who want to revive these religions as a spiritual hobby).
  • This excludes the gods of religions that had their beginning in historic times, such as Islam and Mormonism; gods who lack a consistent connection to anything preceding the founding of their religions.

And this leaves the God of the Bible, recorded but not invented by Moses, the God of Adam and Noah and Abraham, the God who communicated His further plans and intentions through the prophets, and who injected Himself into His own story in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.