Puritan Gems

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Knowledge Of God Part V

Realism: A Mind Enslaved By Natural Forces
"...there is the in-group bias, in which we place more value on the beliefs of those whom we perceive to be fellow members of our group and less on the beliefs of those from different groups. This is a result of our evolved tribal brains leading us not only to place such value judgment on beliefs but also to demonize and dismiss them as nonsense or evil, or both." (Michael Shermer - Scientific American, July 5, 2011)
"For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him." (Colossians 1:16)
The epistemology known as Realism holds that the human mind, being part of the material world, is limited to and completely in subjection to that world. The human mind is simply part of the real universe, and thus knowledge reflects only the reality of that universe. Proponents of Realism often refer to themselves as "free thinkers", but nothing could be further from the truth. Their minds are enslaved by a naturalistic worldview, and cannot possibly fathom anything beyond that view. Of course, this fits in very well with their foundational beliefs concerning knowledge. However. naturalistic realism, with its evolutionary view of the origins of the human mind and the laws that govern that process, faces a quandary in that knowledge itself (not to mention personhood, free will, ethics, etc.) must be reduced to a material nature. Thus, aside from the failure to establish the connection between the mind and the physical universe (without resorting to alternative epistemologies), Realism also makes such ideas meaningless, leaving us with the following issues:

1. Genetic and Epistemological Determinism. (We are what our genes say we are, and we think what our neurons tell us to think). If knowledge is simply part of the material universe, then it is governed by the laws of physics and biochemistry. In such cases, free thought, rationality, or meaningful inquiry, do not exist. Every thought and action that we undertake occur in an impersonal, meaningless universe, being at mercy to the laws of physics at every point of our existence.

2. Relativism - The ideas of right and wrong, fact or fiction, are useless, since both are simply the results of impersonal material laws. Whose to say that one result is preferable to the other?

3. If knowledge is material in nature, then forgetfulness would be impossible, since matter cannot be destroyed. But people do forget, so while it’s reasonable to think that human consciousness is part of reality, there must be something about knowledge and reality that transcends mere matter.

C.S. Lewis accurately expresses the quandary for unbelievers, particularity Realists, concerning knowledge.
"If minds are wholly dependent on brains, and brains on bio-chemistry, and bio-chemistry (in the long run) on the meaningless flux of the atoms, I cannot understand how the thought of those minds should have any more significance than the sound of the wind in the trees..." (C.S. Lewis, They Asked for a Paper - London: Geoffrey Bles, 1962, 164-165.)
Because we are all "in the world" (John 17:14-18), we are inevitable affected by the physical universe. But all men have an innate understanding that personhood transcends the physical universe. Naturalistic Realists like Carl Sagan may try to convince us that "the cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be", but they simply don't live that way. They do believe in the value of personhood, knowledge, right and wrong, free will, etc. In the end, the brute fact of the existence of the physical universe cannot account for true knowledge.


Mike Erich the Mad Theologian said...

I always find it ironic when people from a realistic, deterministic view take the viewpoint that they can condition people in order to produce a better world. They never seem to recognize that if their view were true that their idea of a better world is what they have been conditioned to believe and therefore meaningless.

Puritan Lad said...

Right on Mike. There is no consistency in there thinking as they will waver back and forth between Realism and Idealism, neither of which will justify anything.