Thursday, June 16, 2016

"Atheistic Freethinker' - The Great Contradiction

Some atheists, in their quest to find something in this life that they are for, refer to themselves as "freethinkers." And some accuse Christian theists such as myself as not being open to reason. But "freethinking" finds its meaning on theism, not atheism. The very idea of "freethinking," on atheism, seems incoherent. This is because "atheism" is philosophical naturalism; viz., the idea that, if there is no God, then all that exists is "nature" or "matter." Thus, hypothetically being so, it follows that what is called "thinking" is fully explained materially.

This relates to what has been called "the hard problem of consciousness." This problem is about how to account for the existence of phenomenal experience. Just what this "hard problem" is, and whether or not it is really so hard, is explained, e.g., in a collection of essays called Explaining Consciousness: The Hard Problem, edited by Jonathan Shear.

See the late atheistic neuroscientist Jeffrey Alan Gray's Consciousness: Creeping Up On the Hard Problem. Gray's conclusions are:

*The entire perceived world is constructed by the brain. The relationship between the world we perceive and the underlying physical reality is not as close as we might think."

*Much of our behaviour is accomplished with little or no participation from conscious experience.

*Our conscious experience of our behaviour lags the behaviour itself by around a fifth of a second - we become aware of what we do only after we have done it. The lag in conscious experience applies also to the decision to act - we only become aware of our decisions after they have been formed." (This is the famous Libet discovery, which is questioned by Alfred Mele in Free; Why Science hasn't Disproved Free Will.) 

*The self is as much a creation of the brain as is the rest of the perceived world."

If Gray is correct then the idea of "freethinking" is surely odd. I think atheists have borrowed the idea of "freethinking" from free will theism. "Freethinking" is not odd on the noetic framework of theism, but creates a hard, perhaps insurmountable, problem on atheism. (See Shear, p. 6) If atheism is true, freethinking seems impossible. To "think for your own self" takes on a whole new lack of meaning. Atheistic "freethought" is a vestigial organ of theism.

As the logic of philosophical naturalism evolves atheists will want to shake off the "freethinker" label but find it difficult to do so. They'll be stuck with all their "freethought" websites and t-shirts and coffee cups and tattoos. "Atheist freethinker" will find itself included among the great oxymorons of life. And, BTW, this is but one of several reasons why I could never intellectually embrace atheism. 

For further reading see:

Alvin Plantinga, "Theism, Atheism, and Rationality"

Joe Carter, "Should You trust the Monkey Mind?