My World View – “The Argument From Reason… meh!”

This post is obviously supposed to be about the argument from reason. To start with, I think it is an unreasonable argument. If  you are unfamiliar with it that probably sounds like it might be an okay statement. If you are a fan of C.S.Lewis you probably think I’m being unreasonable. Yes, that’s the foundation of it, it’s an argument made by C.S.Lewis… yes that C.S.Lewis. Lets not confuse things and say that this is more than a philosophical discussion. How you apply it to your life is your business.
The basic argument from reason is like this:

C.S. Lewis originally posited the argument as follows:

One absolutely central inconsistency ruins [the popular scientific philosophy]. The whole picture professes to depend on inferences from observed facts. Unless inference is valid, the whole picture disappears… unless Reason is an absolute[,] all is in ruins. Yet those who ask me to believe this world picture also ask me to believe that Reason is simply the unforeseen and unintended by-product of mindless matter at one stage of its endless and aimless becoming. Here is flat contradiction. They ask me at the same moment to accept a conclusion and to discredit the only testimony on which that conclusion can be based.”
C.S. Lewis, Is Theology Poetry

The problem for such arguments as C.S.Lewis makes is that they were made before an understanding of things like string theory and that space is full of nothing, and nothing in this case is not a complete lack of anything else. Today we have a different understanding, one that changes the basic premises of previous arguments. Logic has to include facts as we know them. If it does not then it’s not very good logic. The new understandings of matter and what it ‘is’ has an important part in this argument. Materialism kind of gives way to physicalism with new understandings. What was thought matter is probably just another form of energy. I think so.

The absolutes that he speaks of are not the absolutes that we talk about now at least in respect of what science knows.

The whole picture professes to depend on inferences from observed facts. Unless inference is valid, the whole picture disappears… unless Reason is an absolute[,] all is in ruins.

Here we can read this with his understanding or simply rewrite it a bit. Religious faith does not depend on inferences from observed facts. Religious faith is just fine without reason and does not require it. In other words, his religious faith does not require inference from observed facts nor does it need the foundation of reason. It can, in fact, be wholly devoid of facts and inference and wholly unreasonable and it is still ‘good’ religious faith.

To be fair, that is not what he was trying to say but he does state that inference from fact and reason are not required for faith .. at least his brand of it. Think about that for a moment. If you’re argument is that you are right because you don’t need facts or reason, aren’t you doing something wrong? That kind of argument is available 24/7 from the psyche ward of your local medical institution, and of course from the church on every street corner of the USA.

He goes on to state that science asks him to “believe that Reason is simply the unforeseen and unintended by-product of mindless matter at one stage of its endless and aimless becoming.” Ahhh, the argument from ignorance. Note please that both endless and aimless are assumptions on his part and not a claim of science. Since the first single celled life on this planet the word aimless stopped being applicable. Purpose may still be called into question, but the natural processes of life were not without direction. It can be argued that the purpose of life, if there must be one, is to reproduce. Sit on a bus full of pubescent teens and nothing will be more clear to you than that simple ‘purpose’ .. as it were.

Reason, like mathematics, is a tool for understanding what is true, repeatable, observable, and reliable. He claims to know truth via a method that does not require facts or reason and logic. He is right because a book says he is, not because he has reason to think that he is right but rather he is right because a book says so. I was right, he is not using reason, facts, or logic.

The argument that reason cannot come from irrational matter (atoms in your head etc) and so it must come from elsewhere. That is to say that thought cannot be achieved by irrational matter. This was argued prior to the proclamation that animals are conscious beings.

I believe this to be misguided thinking. If we define intelligence in its minimalist form as the ability for a ‘thing’ to accept input data and decide in some fashion to change or not change the output state then a common thermostat is intelligent. This is the very basis of modern computers and software. From the combination of billions of these minimal intelligent ‘things’ (things without agency) we can get AI type systems capable of surgery, diagnosis of vehicle problems and much more. These are not independent agents, but intelligent ones who can be said to think within a very narrow scope. If we add more and more we get to where the mammalian brain is. That is to say that thought can come from irrational matter. Even if it is argued that ‘humans programmed the software so the original source is not irrational’ we still have programs that can learn on their own. We do have rational thought from irrational matter. Yes, such creations have designers, but it is not possible for humans to create rational agents without being designers. This does not infer nor demand that human rationality had a designer.

The point is that the faster and farther that science goes, the more useless is the argument from reason.

I should probably make a few more edits on this, format it better and check to see that the idea flows. I’ll post it now, tell me if it sucks.

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