Hint: Don’t think very hard about the conclusions that are logically compelled by your metaphysical premises.
Today, frequent commenter Seversky gave us an example of a materialist employing this stratagem. UD News posted about Professor Granville Sewell’s observation that the materialist account of the origin of life is a provably unprovable proposition. In advancing this proposition, Dr. Sewell states:
All one needs to do is realize that if a solution were found, we would have proved something obviously false, that a few (four, apparently) fundamental, unintelligent forces of physics alone could have rearranged the fundamental particles of physics into libraries full of science texts and encyclopedias, computers connected to monitors, keyboards, laser printers and the Internet, cars, trucks, airplanes, nuclear power plants and Apple iPhones.
Is this really a valid proof? It seems perfectly valid to me, as I cannot think of anything in all of science that can be stated with more confidence than that a few unintelligent forces of physics alone could not have rearranged the basic particles of physics into Apple iPhones
To which Sev responded “I agree . . .”
Wow, this is amazing. An inveterate materialist who has been advancing the materialist line literally night and day for 13 years has given up on the proposition that material forces, by themselves, can account for the origin of life. With this stunning admission Sev has just given away the materialist evolutionary store. Cause for celebration, no?
Not so fast. As ellipses often do, I have elided the actual substance of the quotation. Allow me to set it out in full. Sev, actually said:
I agree, but then that is not what is being claimed, is it? The claim is that life-forms arose from inanimate chemical precursors and they evolved into increasingly complex creatures that could eventually design and build Apple iPhones.
So Sev agrees 100% with Dr. Sewell that by themselves a few fundamental, unintelligent forces of physics alone could not have rearranged the fundamental particles of physics into Apple iPhones. But wait. He thinks he has an answer to this objection. The fundamental, unintelligent forces of physics alone did not rearrange the fundamental particles of physics into Apple iPhones. Nope, not at all. Instead, Sev avers, the fundamental forces only arranged the fundamental particles into “inanimate chemical precursors.” And from those “inanimate chemical precursors,” increasingly complex life forms arose that eventually could design and build Apple iPhones. Nothing to see here. Move along.
Here is where we get to the part where it is revealed that after years of debating the topic, it is glaringly obvious that Sev has not thought very hard about the conclusions that are logically compelled by his metaphysical premises. Let’s tease out the logic underlying Sev’s rejoinder to Dr. Sewell.
Sewell: The claim that the fundamental, unintelligent forces of physics alone cannot rearrange the fundamental particles of physics into Apple iPhones is provably unprovable.
Sev: I agree. But that is not the claim. The claim is that that the fundamental, unintelligent forces of physics alone rearranged the fundamental particles of physics into “inanimate chemical precursors” of life forms. Then life forms arose from these chemical precursors and evolved into increasingly complex creatures. And it was these creatures – not the fundamental, unintelligent forces of physics – that eventually designed and built Apple iPhones.
In summary, Sev argued that the fundamental forces of physics had to carry the causal ball only so far. Those forces only had to rearrange the fundamental particles to the point where life forms arose. Then, those life forms evolved into intelligent agents, and those intelligent agents picked up the causal ball that resulted in Apple iPhones.
Where did Sev’s logic go off the rails? Sev blundered when he introduced the (unspoken) premise that there was a fundamental ontological discontinuity between “inanimate chemical precursors” and the lifeforms that arise from those precursors. Nothing should be clearer than that under materialist metaphysics there was not any such discontinuity. Indeed, the whole point of materialism is that there can never be such a discontinuity.
The most fundamental premise of materialism – the premise from which everything else follows – is that everything that exists, without exception, can be explained in reductionist terms. In other words, the cause of everything that exists can be traced back in purely material terms to the interaction of the fundamental forces with the fundamental particles. There can be no exception to this causal chain, because if there were even one exception the whole materialist house of cards would come tumbling down.
So, Sev, it really is the claim under materialism that Apple iPhones were caused by nothing but the fundamental forces of nature rearranging the fundamental particles. And if, as you say, you agree with Dr. Sewell that that is provably unprovable, then you have conceded his argument.
Here is the grand irony of Sev’s argument. It is a DESIGN ARGUMENT. In its most basic terms, the ID argument boils down to this: It is unlikely that the fundamental, unintelligent forces of physics alone can rearrange the fundamental particles of physics into complex specified information and irreducibly complex artifacts. This has certainly never been observed to have happened. On the other hand, there are countless trillions of examples of intelligent agents creating complex specified information and irreducibly complex artifacts. Therefore, we make an abductive inference. The best explanation for the existence of any particular instance of complex specified information or an irreducibly complex artifact (such as an iPhone) is “act of intelligent agent.” It turns out that Sev agrees with this line of thinking even as he frenetically tries to undermine it.
Back to the title of this post. Materialists must work very had to avert their gaze from the logical conclusions compelled by their metaphysical premises. One of those conclusions is that genocide and sacrificial love are equally meaningless, because there is no objective moral standard by which to judge the difference between them. Another is that blind unguided physical forces are competent to produce iPhones, because under their premises there is no other candidate for the job.
As I have often said before, no sane person acts as if materialism is actually true. No one believes that genocide and sacrificial love are equally meaningless. No one believes that blind unguided physical forces can produce iPhones. And occasionally the façade slips and a materialist will admit as much, as Sev unwittingly did today.