Wednesday, June 08, 2016

First-Person Subjective Consciousness and the Existence of God

Two of the pastors who attended my conference in Eldoret, Kenya. In Kenya it is customary for men to hold hands.

A "particle" (atomic, subatomic, think particle physics) does not have consciousness. A particle does not have first person subjective experience (there are no qualias in particles). A particle does not experience...  anything. (See, e.g., Particle Physics: A Very Short Introduction, by physicist Frank Close.)

Particles are matter, without remainder.

"Naturalism" is the view that reality is only and essential material. On naturalism all reality is in principle completely reducible to physical matter. (See Goetz and Taliaferro, Naturalism.)

"First person subjective consciousness" concerns awareness; e.g., "I now feel a pain in my left ankle which I sprained last week."

With these things in place we now have an argument for the existence of God, which reads:

1. If naturalism is true, then first person subjective consciousness comes from unconscious matter.
2. But first person subjective consciousness cannot come from unconscious matter.
3. Therefore, naturalism is false.
4. If naturalism is false, then non-physical realities exist.
5. The best explanation for the existence of non-physical realities is that a non-physical Being exists who is the logical cause of such non-physical realities.
6. Therefore, God exists.

Is #1 true? Yes, because given naturalism, whatever exists comes from unconscious matter. Consciousness (if it exists) therefore comes from unconscious matter, since on naturalism nothing that exists can have its explanation in nonexistent immaterial realities.

Is #2 true? There are many atheistic naturalists who think so. For example, naturalistic philosopher Colin McGinn writes that we "cannot explain how ever-expanding lumps of matter might have developed an inner conscious life." (Colin McGinn, The Mysterious Flame: Conscious Minds in a Material World, pp. 13, 15.) Philosopher of mind Ned Block says researchers are "stumped" about this and don't have a clue about where to begin explaining it. (Ned Block, “Consciousness,” in A Companion to the Philosophy of Mind, ed. Samuel Guttenplan. Blackwell Companions to Philosophy (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994), 211.)
Philosopher Jerry Fodor confesses to not having "the slightest idea of how anything material could be conscious." (Jerry A. Fodor, “The Big Idea: Can There Be a Science of the Mind?” Times Literary Supplement (July 3, 1992), 5.)

Could it be that we just don't yet know enough to demonstrate how thinkingness could have come from nonthinking matter? Perhaps. But another alternateive is that such a thing could never, in principle, be demonstrated, for the demonstration would itself assume naturalism,. Theistic philosopher Paul Copan writes:

"More than a few naturalists admit that it is hard to see how consciousness—human or animal—could emerge from nonconscious matter. Physics textbooks describe “matter” as having spatial extension, shape, size, density, and so forth—but not as “being conscious.” Mind and matter—though integrated—have utterly distinct properties. Thoughts about weight, color, shape, and size are without weight, color, shape, and size." (Copan, "Does Religion Originate In the Brain?")

I think we have good reasons to believe that #2 is true, and are therefore rational in holding to its truth until it is demonstrated to be elsewise. No such demonstration is available. It may be inconceivably difficult to disprove. And it may be in principle unprovable. So the atheist-naturalist can only reason that it must be true given their naturalism, which is question-begging (1. Naturalism is true. 2. Therefore non-natural realities cannot exist. 3. Therefore "consciousness," whatever it is, is fully reducible to naturalism.)