Comment by Arcus on August 23, 2012 at 6:11pm

@Robertson: Your line of reasoning is the one of the ones I would also pursue.

@Schumacher: There is a difference between disagreeing and disrespecting. It's equally annoying when atheists argue poorly as when religious people do, at least that is my opinion. I did have to parse this specific 'Argument from Reason' (vs the Lucretian argument) in my civil confirmation course and had my logic torn apart since it is deceptively simple. It should be recalled that Lewis was an atheist before he became christian, and I doubt too many Oxford scholars publish thoughtless arguments in general.

Comment by Kevin Harris on August 23, 2012 at 6:58pm

For a more sophisticated presentation of this argument see Plantinga's "An Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism".

Comment by Richard E. Robertson on August 23, 2012 at 8:06pm

Do you have a link to that @Kevin Harris?

@Arcus, since you have had formal experience and training in dealing with the argument, could you provide a decent rebuttal?

Comment by Arcus on August 23, 2012 at 9:21pm

No formal experience or training, the point of the exercise was to teach humbleness. It was also 17 years ago when I was 14, and I can't quite recall the line of reasoning I prepared to this day (and in any case, as mentioned, it was poor).

Comment by Go Away on August 23, 2012 at 10:54pm

I don't see the flawed logic in the passage quoted above.  What he is saying is

1)  (implied)  I (Lewis) believe in a higher intelligence which created mine.

2)  If I didn't believe in that, what grounds would I have to believe my own intelligence was intelligible?

3) If I didn't have any grounds on which to believe that, what could I therefore believe in for certain?

4)  Atheists don't believe there is a higher intelligence that created theirs.  To them, their intelligence is not by design but by natural selection.

5)  How can they trust their intelligence, therefore?

I think it is a good point, actually, in that from the point of view of natural selection, what we are naturally selected for has to do with one thing and one thing only:  survivability (and reproduction, okay, that's two).  The fact that we survive does not prove that our brain is capable of being "right", it only proves that it has been capable of directing us towards biological survival. 


I don't see how it's full of crap, actually.  It's not a 'proof' for existence of God, it's just a comment on the fact that we all have to ultimately have blind faith in something.  Don't we?  Is there anyone who doesn't?

Comment by Richard E. Robertson on August 24, 2012 at 12:12am

The flaw is how do you trust that other "intelligence" to put our minds together any better than natural selection? We don't have to have "blind faith" in anything. We just accept that the universe doesn't justify trust and hope for the best anyways. :)

And why shouldn't  an atheist trust their own intelligence? What would make an intelligence that resulted from natural process (and demonstrably successful!) be any less trustworthy for that origin? He avoids the question and demands the acceptance of a conclusion without showing any accountability for the same. 

Comment by Doug Reardon on August 24, 2012 at 12:25am

The brain evolved to improve our odds of survival, if it is inefficient or "not in tune with reality" it wouldn't have survival value.

Comment by Josh Leach on August 24, 2012 at 1:29am

Terry Goodkind discusses this topic quite well in the book "Naked Empire". It's quite good. The main character discovers an "empire" of people who embrace the philosophy that nothing is real, that they cannot trust their own senses to tell them what is happening around them as they are living it. I feel it strongly resembles this quote from C.S. Lewis

Comment by Go Away on August 24, 2012 at 6:50am

The fact that the brain evolved does not mean that it is in line with reality or able to come to truth.  It does make it efficient.  What is good for survival is not always the 'truth'.  There are a lot of times we already know when it is better for survival to NOT be in the truth about things.  For instance, it is clearly shown that people repress traumatic memories or unconsciously distort memories to favor themselves.  These are clear cases where the brain DID not evolve to be in truth. How many more cases like that are there?  

It is human nature to insist that your own memory of something is correct; we all instinctively trust our memories. And yet science has clearly shown that memory is very untrustworthy.  Look how many people have been exonerated by DNA evidence after having been convicted by eyewitness.  

So, being 'in tune with reality' does not always have survival value.  People who think things that are not true have sometimes survived much better than the ones whom history has proven were right.  I could give probably a hundred examples right off the bat.  

So I still think Lewis has a valid point that no one has answered.  He is saying that, as a Christian, he puts 'faith' in his intellligence because he has already put faith in a higher intelligence, whereas an Atheist has to put faith in the hope that natural selection has left him a trustworthy intelligence.

I came on here hoping to find some good arguments for atheism and I am not finding them. I hope someone can do better, cause some of the arguments on here seem to be supporting the idea that atheists shouldn't trust their intelligence. 

My cat is frequently wrong and mistakes friend for foe and foe for friend and her species still survived to reproduce for millenium upon millenium.  People are frequently wrong and yet it's undeniably human nature to believe we aren't.  So why should anyone believe natural selection has given us an intelligence capable of being right about anything besides where the food and sex are?

Comment by Rob Lippmann on August 24, 2012 at 7:51am

@Elizabeth; The fallibility of human perception is well known, and most atheists I know don't have faith in self-perception alone.  That's what scientific thinking is for--using evidence, reason, logic, and the experiences of others to support or refute one's own personal subjective view.  The point of scientific thinking is to overcome personal biases that distort the individual's perception of reality and move closer to the truth through shared evidence and consensus.  It's still not perfect but it beats relying on the individuals ability to self-delude themselves in order to paint a picture of reality that conforms to one's own wishes but is false and misleading.  And admitting this is the case takes intelligence.

Lewis' argument above doesn't even go there, really.  He's stating that only a brain designed by a creator is capable of reliable thought and perception, based on the false notion that otherwise thought processes are due to random chance--a Creation Museum-level argument in terms of rigor.  Therefore, says he, it only makes sense to believe in a god, since only a god-designed brain is capable of reliable thinking.  It's a circular version of the old watchmaker argument that has been discredited often, polished and dressed up in an Oxford cap and gown, but still built on false premises underneath.  I'm not impressed by it.  

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