Did mind make nature? Or did nature make mind?
Christian theism affirms that an infinite divine mind created the human mind in the Creator’s image, whereas secular naturalism affirms that the human mind is the unguided (from a nonmind) product of evolution.
Recently I posted a quote on Facebook from Oxford mathematician John Lennox concerning the topic of the mind’s origin. The quote sparked a lot of sharing and comments. Here’s the quote along with an interesting response followed by further discussion. I think you’ll benefit from this heady interaction.
“Either human intelligence ultimately owes its origin to mindless matter; or there is a Creator. It is strange that some people claim that it is their intelligence that leads them to prefer the first to the second.”1
A person’s mind is there. For it to be true, to trust it, your appreciation of reality should be as close as possible to reality itself. It’s not a question of the mind’s origin. If you can’t trust your own thinking and then place for yourself a defective analogy when people have already developed an explanation for complexity, it’s up to you to hold to that defective analogy.
Greetings. Please allow me to respectfully press you to think more deeply about this issue. On atheistic naturalism, the Darwinian model of evolution is driven on the basis of survivability. So the mind evolved to help us survive, but not necessarily to give us true beliefs about reality.
Charles Darwin appreciated this point:
“With me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”2
Even skeptics like Michael Shermer and Lawrence Krauss say that human beings developed beliefs about God, morality, and immortality because those beliefs enhanced our survivability as a species.3 But the problem is, given naturalism, those beliefs are false. So evolution developed false beliefs in our minds to help us survive. This problem raises serious doubt about whether evolutionary naturalism can produce minds that can be trusted to give true beliefs about reality. On the other hand, if a rational God created the human mind and endowed it with rational qualities, then we can safely assume that our minds are basically reliable.
I don’t understand why you bring Darwin into the equation when the point is that we can be closer to reality because of a good methodology, not because of an inherent trait of our minds. For something to be true, it is irrelevant what we think about it. It just is, and we have to offer arguments to justify it. What isn’t right (correct) won’t enjoy the support of such arguments. Whether or not we have a good mind, we have logic for it, not an inherent ability to discard falseness.
Whether human minds were created or evolved from something they have certain characteristics, and we can infer certain laws of behavior from history (like a predisposition to be happy with an answer, whether it’s right or not). Wanting to set our minds’ reliability from a completely different topic (such as its divine origin) is absurd.
The three false dilemmas of (1) forcing a very specific kind of naturalism to be the only option for atheists, (2) implying your proposed scenario as the only kind of results naturalism can have, and (3) saying that minds are reliable only through design, are plain mental corruption.
This is a philosophically complex topic and I admit that I wrestle to understand it with clarity. My previous comment was intended to help you understand Lennox’s context and meaning. But maybe I wasn’t clear and failed to offer an adequate explanation. Forgive me if I wasn’t sufficiently clear. I’ll try one more time.
Please consider these five points:
First, I bring Darwinism into the conversation because that’s the perspective that Lennox is responding to. He is comparing which worldview has a justified basis for trusting their reasoning to give them true beliefs about reality. I know you have your own beliefs about why you think you can trust your reasoning. But the context you have responded to is between atheistic naturalism and Christian theism.
Second, you insist that this issue is merely one of methodology and not about the nature and characteristics of the mind. But that’s not what Lennox is responding to. Moreover, your reliance on methodology and logic assumes that you can trust your mind to give you true beliefs about reality. The issue Lennox is responding to relates to whether reasoning in itself can have any basis at all given specific worldviews (naturalism or Christian theism).
Third, if evolutionary naturalism is true, then a nonrational source, nature, produced mind. In stark contrast, if Christian theism is true, then an infinite and eternal mind created finite and temporal minds. Thus, mind produced nature. Lennox, given those two worldview options, thinks Christian theism offers a better explanation for mind, reason, logic, and conceptual methodologies.
Fourth, your view that human minds work rationally and that logical patterns can be established about the world—regardless of whether the mind evolved from a nonrational source or whether it was the product of a rational creator—ignores the ontological and epistemological issue that Lennox is raising. Making sense of the mind and the rational enterprise that humans experience relies on worldview considerations (ontology and metaphysics: being or reality). The reliability of epistemology (one’s theory of knowledge) depends upon one’s metaphysical and ontological assumptions.
Fifth, if you are uncomfortable with a specific form of naturalism (impersonal, nonrational), then I suggest you offer another form of naturalism and defend its metaphysical and epistemological basis in comparison with that of Christian theism.
I hope this response to your concerns is clear and provides a greater level of explanation. With my best regards.
Did an unguided nonmind called nature make mind? Or did a guided mind make nature (including the human mind)? The first reflects Darwinian naturalism. The second reflects Christian theism.
Which explanation makes the best sense of sense?
- For more about evolutionary naturalism and Christian theism, see Kenneth Richard Samples A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test, chapters 12 and 16.
- For my version of the argument from reason, see Kenneth Samples, “Darwin’s Doubt: Can Naturalistically Evolved Human Minds Be Trusted to Give True Beliefs about Reality?”
- Some thinkers who present and defend the argument from reason include: C. S. Lewis, Miracles: A Preliminary Study, chapters 1–4; Richard Taylor, Metaphysics, 4th ed., 110–12; Victor Reppert, C. S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason; Alvin Plantinga, Warrant and Proper Function, chapters 11–12.
1. John C. Lennox, God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? (UK: Lion Books, 2009), 210.
2. Charles Darwin to W. Graham, July 3, 1881, in The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin: Including an Autobiographical Chapter, ed. Francis Darwin (1897; repr., Boston: Elibron, 2005), 1:285.
3. Lawrence M. Krauss, “Science and Religion Share Fascination in Things Unseen,” New York Times, November 8, 2005.