A particularly interesting argument for God’s existence stems from the human consciousness. When a person describes the human consciousness, one is describing not only the awareness of a particular person, but the mind and will also. Placed together, consciousness could refer to the human soul. The existence of the human consciousness dictates the existence of God. The argument from consciousness is teleological in nature as it demonstrates that consciousness must stem from an eternal consciousness, known as God. This article will examine one particular argument from consciousness and will seek to demonstrate that such an argument is valid.
Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli offer the following argument as an example for the argument from consciousness:
“1. We experience the universe as intelligible. This intelligibility means that the universe is graspable by intelligence.
2. Either this intelligible universe and the finite minds so well suited to grasp it are the products of intelligence, or both intelligibility and intelligence are the products of blind chance.
3. Not blind chance.
4. Therefore this intelligible universe and the finite minds so well suited to grasp it are the products of intelligence” (Kreeft and Tacelli 1994, 66).
Let’s consider each of the premises of Kreeft and Tacelli’s argument.
We experience the universe as intelligible. This intelligibility means that the universe is graspable by intelligence.
In other words, we can know that we are conscious beings because we are aware of our surroundings and have the reason to understand our awareness. While animals have an awareness, the awareness of human beings to rationalize, figure, and discover the universe far exceeds that of the animal kingdom. In addition, the universe is intelligible meaning that it is knowable and is so that discoveries can be made. Thus, this premise notes the existence of intelligible creatures and an intelligible universe.
Either this intelligible universe and the finite minds…are products of intelligence, or both intelligibility and intelligence are the products of blind chance.
There is an either/or situation at hand. Either the universe and its intelligible beings (i.e. conscious beings) came about by a supreme intelligence or their existence transpired due to blind chance. This brings to mind what I would like to call the “eternal necessity.” The eternal necessity dictates that something eternal exists. Either there is an eternal universe that has the ability to do conscious things (which seemingly is an oxymoron), or there is an eternal conscious God who brought about the materialistic universe into being, or the universe and God are one. Some philosophies and worldviews, such as pantheism and panentheism, would claim that the universe was God. Yet such a notion still designates the existence of God. So, for the benefit of simplicity, we shall only look at the first two options. Either there is an eternal conscious God who brought forth consciousness or the inanimate forces have the ability to bring about consciousness by blind chance.
Not blind chance.
One of the critical questions pertaining to the argument from consciousness is found in the third premise. Could consciousness have stemmed from non-conscious material? Evidence seems to reject the notion that blind chance could have produced conscious beings. Thomas Nagel, an agnostic philosopher admits as much in his book Mind and Cosmos as he writes pertaining to his skepticism of naturalism that “My skepticism is not based on religious belief, or on a belief in any definite alternative. It is just a belief that the available scientific evidence, in spite of the consensus of scientific opinion, does not in this matter rationally require us to subordinate the incredulity of common sense” (Nagel 2012, 7). J. P. Moreland adds that a strong objection can be made against physicalism—that is, the belief that the material world is all that exists—in that “it is just obvious that mental and physical properties are different from each other, and the physicalists have not met the burden of proof required to overturn these deeply held ingrained intuitions” (Moreland 2014, 100). In addition, there is great incredulity to the notion that sheer nothingness could accidentally exist, could accidentally form physical laws to order itself, could accidentally spring forth galaxies, could accidentally spring forth planets with the proper environment for life, and could accidentally spring forth life itself, and could accidentally spring forth consciousness. Such a notion exists on the level in believing that this article is the byproduct of an explosion of a library with all the letters of all the books falling into place. It is beyond incredulous; it is insanity to believe such a thing. Therefore, the evidence does not support consciousness stemming from mere blind chance.
Therefore this intelligible universe and the finite minds so well suited to grasp it are the products of intelligence.
Perhaps the greatest benefit from the argument from consciousness is the clear understanding that consciousness stems from consciousness. This brings to mind the argument from biological parents. While I have never met most of the readers of this post, I can make one grand assumption. The reader’s existence dictates the necessary existence of the reader’s biological mother and father. The reader did not self-start, but was the byproduct of two conscious beings (i.e. a mother and a father). Consciousness began from consciousness. Conscious beings produce other conscious beings. If such is the case then, if pushed far enough back into the past, human consciousness must stem from an eternal intelligible consciousness known as God. It has been demonstrated that blind chance is incredulous in answering the existence of conscious beings. Yet, it is certainly rational to posit that an eternal Mind gave life to all conscious beings.
In John’s Gospel, one finds the great truth in that “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). The existence of all things owes their existence to God. Such is especially true for conscious beings. The argument from consciousness offers the common sensical view that life stems from life. Since life stems from life, then one should naturally see the necessity for God’s existence as God is eternally living and the great imparter of life in this world and in the world to come.
Kreeft, Peter, and Robert K. Tacelli. Handbook of Christian Apologetics: Hundreds of Answers to Crucial Questions. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1994.
Moreland, J. P. The Soul: How We Know It’s Real and Why It Matters. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2014.
Nagel, Thomas. Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.
© August 3, 2015. Brian Chilton.
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