No Reason To Believe Them!

C. S. Lewis(1898-1963)

If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our present thoughts are mere accidents – the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the thoughts of the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else’s. But if their thoughts – i.e., Materialism and Astronomy – are mere accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give me a correct account of all the other accidents. It’s like expecting the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milk-jug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset.

C. S. Lewis,

“Answers to Questions on Christianity,” in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology & Ethics, ed. Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), 52-53.

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44 thoughts on “No Reason To Believe Them!

  1. Wow, héhé…didn’t read the comments (there seem to be many on this one)…C.S. Lewis didn’t seem to understand the concept of natural laws, it seems to me…they’re LAWS, they don’t operate by ACCIDENT…they force things to happen, I think they call that determinism or something…and there’s elements of randomness in the universe, according to physicists today…there’s also the idea that from EXTREMELY complex things arise UNPREDICTABLE things…so it makes it look like we have free will and such, but I’m going into other things here…

  2. Prayson wrote: “But then Brap, If it is not “close” to Lewis argument, would we not being chasing a red herring?”

    Not necessarily. I’m asking a question that has nothing at all to do with the argument Lewis presents in the quote, but depending on how you answer it I may get back around to the Lewis quote. But right now it’s sort of a broad philosophical question, like “how do we know anything is true?”

    Prayson wrote: “I outlined Lewis’ Argument. Why should we believe his argument:
    1. It makes sense of reality
    2. Rules of Logic(Common sense)”

    I’m not asking why we should believe his argument. My question still has nothing to do with his argument (yet). I’m asking why we should believe (or evaluate) anything anyone says about anything. The quote from Lewis gave reasons, if materialism were true, why we should not believe (or evaluate) anything anyone says about anything. You and Lewis obviously believe materialism is false, therefore you think some things some people say should be believed. I’m asking why you think some people can have true thoughts that might be worth evaluating.

    Is it simply because materialism is false? Is it because of the mental capabilities given to us by God? Is it just by pure chance that some thoughts are likely to be true? Is it because throughout history we have recorded instances of human thoughts that have turned out to be true? Is it because we can verify some thoughts through experimentation and/or gathering of evidence?

      • That’s totally up to you. If you want to give the impression to your readers that you are interested in having a reasonable, civil dialogue, then my recommendation would be to evaluate what I wrote and try to answer the question I asked.

      • Well Brap, you have answered your own question “asking why we should believe (or evaluate) anything anyone says about anything” 🙂

        To have reasonable, civil dialogue is why we should evaluate Lewis’ argument 🙂

      • Prayson wrote: “Well Brap, you have answered your own question “asking why we should believe (or evaluate) anything anyone says about anything”

        To have reasonable, civil dialogue is why we should evaluate Lewis’ argument.”

        I was not suggesting we should not evaluate Lewis’ argument. I was wondering if you could come up with a reason for evaluating anything Lewis (or anyone else) says that would not also apply if materialism were true. I will assume for now that the answer is “no,” and any sufficient reason for evaluating anything Lewis or anyone else says (as opposed to dismissing it a priori), would also be a sufficient reason for evaluating (and potentially believing) anything anyone would say if materialism were true.

        So, to actually address his argument, it seems to hinge on an assertion that thoughts which are the result of accidents cannot be right, therefore, if purely accidental thoughts existed (in other words, if materialism were true) there would be no reason to believe them or evaluate them. Since I find his splash analogy weak and unconvincing, I’m wondering if he has anything else to back up the assertion that accidental thoughts cannot be correct.

        • Brap,

          Here is Lewis’ Argument:

          1. If it the case materialism is true, then it is not the case one would know it’s true.
          2. It is the case one would know it’s true.
          3. Therefore it is not the case materialism is true.

          Are you asking for the truth of premise 1?

      • “Are you asking for the truth of premise 1?”

        Yes, because his only support for that premise seems to be his unsupported assertion that accidental thoughts cannot be correct.

      • Alvin Plantinga has formulated a long argument on this, example I agree with him when he said:

        “evolution is interested (so to speak) only in adaptive behavior, not in true belief. Natural selection doesn’t care what you believe; it is interested only in how you behave.”

        I have posted Alvin Plantinga’s article that aims to answer the truth of premise 1.

      • I commented on that Plantinga post after finally watching the whole video. I found his argument very weak (explained over there in depth), so I’m still wondering if there is any support for the C. S. Lewis assertion that accidental thoughts cannot be correct.

  3. Prayson – science is a process to understand the natural world, and in a sense you are right – there is no competition between an evidence based approach and a mythical approach.

    But in the United States, Christianity is very much in conflict with science when Christianity is being attempted to be shoe horned into science, where it does not belong and does not fit.

    There is no scientific veneer to apply to any religion, religion is not science and does not explain anything about the natural world and how it came to be in a meaningful, evidence based or substantial manner.

  4. Christianity makes many claims that are sciencey and not at all science, but they are also not in line with the scientific method, since that is an evidence based approach and religion has nothing to do with evidence, nor is religion able to adapt to new information – although it does reinvent itself periodically to keep the punters coming.

  5. Okay, now I understand that you are not understanding what I posted.

    I am not saying that he is arguing for creationism, I am saying that his argument is reduced down to the same reasoning behind creationism, and indeed, all deity centred religions and religious thinking generally.

    He is claiming that the universe is too complex to be an accident, and this is not based on evidence, but is a judgement based on personal preferences and the claimant’s lack of comprehension of the state of scientific understanding all those decades ago.

    Religion does not provide an explanation that provides an answer for anything about the universe – it stops inquiry and the building of a body of knowledge and understanding.

    So, just as we once thought that volcanoes and earthquakes were the expression of the gods’ displeasure and we know understand the process of global plate tectonics, so too are we developing knowledge about how the universe and everything in it came to be.

    A series of unlikely events is still far more probable than any deity, especially given what we’ve been able to learn about the universe – which is natural and deities are not.

    • Hej Random,

      Random, materialism is not science but scientism. Christians arguments against materialism are purely philosophical and historical which utilizes scientific methods.

      🙂

  6. the problem with using quotes like this is that science has developed a lot since the 1960s and earlier and CS Lewis wasn’t a scientist.

    So he’s basically making the creationist claim that the universe is too complex, so must have been created.

    Just because Lewis didn’t understand then doesn’t mean that we don’t have a good understanding now – especially with being able to see more of the universe – we’ve identified over 300 planets in other solar systems, we know more now.

    religion is about giving an answer – goddidit – that doesn’t answer anything and basically ends inquiry.

    science is a process to build knowledge and understanding and that includes changing our understanding based on new information.

    Honestly, I’ve never understood creationists going after biology, when a soft science like anthropology neatly demonstrates that religion is a cultural product and can be shown to be geographically limited and spread along immigration routes.

    • Hej Random,

      Thank you for your comment, but I believe you have attacked a Strawman. The quote is about the truthfulness of materialism 🙂 and not creationism nor goddidit 😦

      Thank you though for helping me know where you stand on creationism 🙂

      Prayson

      • I am not sure that you are using strawman correctly.

        I am not assigning false or weak traits to the CS Lewis quote and then attacking them and revealing their weakness as if it negates the whole argument.

        I am pointing out that you have used a weak position to make your point, because is it both out of date and not a credible source of expertise on the subject matter. I am not making the argument weak, I am pointing out the existing weakness of it.

        the basis of the CS Lewis argument is the same as the creationist argument and the same as the argument for religion – the universe is assumed to be too complex and therefore goddidit

        I reject the premise that the universe is too complex, so nothing that is dependent on it follows.

        • Hej Random,

          Thank you for your comment. I still believe you are attacking a strawman because Lewis argument is not about creationism, nor complexity of the universe but self-defeating of materialism. In deed one can take this argument and advance it to those given areas, but that would be a totally different argument 🙂

  7. Even though the existence of the universe and of man are accidents (in the sense that they are not divinely ordered), their existence in real enough. It can be sensed and logically explained. As for the thoughts of the materialists or their ideas, if they hold water and are logical enough, why would you not believe them? The whole premise that the accidental origins of the universe falsify any subsequent development is fallacious in itself, to my view.

  8. I believe you have misunderstood what Lewis is trying to argue. Before I answer your question, I would like to know if you understood what C.S. Lewis’ argument. Could you explain in your terms what is Lewis’ argument?

    • I believe Lewis is suggesting that if one assumes the materialist view is correct, that we’re all here by accident (no divine guidance or input), that means all of our actions and thoughts are merely accidents. If our thoughts are merely accidents, then there is no reason to put any value on those thoughts (accidents) or assume they are correct, since they are just accidental by-products of other accidents. Why value one random accident over another? Why should we expect one accident to tell us anything about another accident?

      • Yes, that is correct. I will try to explain it further:

        I think C.S. Lewis echoed Charles Darwin’s doubt:

        “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 any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?” (Charles Darwin to W. Graham, July 3, 1881, in The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, ed. Francis Darwin (1897; repr., Boston: Elibron, 2005), 1:285.)

        Lewis tried to show that if materialism is true, then there is no ground to believe one can formulate transcendent truth propositions. Why? Because materialism does provide a viable pathway to ensure that we develop reliable true beliefs about reality and not just an illusion to insure the survival of our genes. Thus the trustfulness or falsehood of a proposition does not matter, what matter is does that belief holding that proposition promote survivability?

        I think Alvin Plantinga stated Lewis argument better:

        “Naturalism, or evolutionary naturalism, seems to lead to a deep and pervasive skepticism. It leads to the conclusion that our cognitive or belief-producing faculties—memory, perception, logical insight, etc.—are unreliable and cannot be trusted to produce a preponderance of true beliefs over false.”

        Alvin Plantinga, “Evolution vs. Naturalism: Why They are Like Oil and Water,” Books & Culture, July/August 2008

      • Ok, let’s say I agree with the Lewis quote in the post, and I agree with the Darwin and Plantinga quotes in your most recent reply. Now, why should anyone believe any of C. S. Lewis’ or Alvin Plantinga’s thoughts?

      • If materialism is true, then there is no reason to why we should expect one accident to tell us anything about another accident.

        If materialism is true, then there is no reason to believe Lewis or Plantinga or 2 + 2 = 4 🙂

      • C. S. Lewis is stating that if materialism if true, there is no reason to believe the thoughts of anyone. He is not evaluating those thoughts in any way. Those thoughts could be describing what happens as a result of gravity on planet Earth, or those thoughts could be describing how a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe. He is dismissing those thoughts a priori based on materialism being true.

        When I asked why, given materialism is false, C. S. Lewis’ thoughts should be believed, your answer was an evaluation of his thoughts, specifically “Because it makes sense of reality.” I am wondering if you can give a reason why his thoughts should even be evaluated in the first place, since his argument against materialism eliminates the need to evaluate anyone’s thoughts.

        In one instance (materialism is true) thoughts are dismissed without evaluation. In the other instance (materialism is false) thoughts are presumably evaluated based on their merits. Does that seem unfair?

        • Brap, I think you did not get what Lewis is arguing. If materialism is true then it eliminates C.S. Lewis argument, but it does not stop there, it eliminates its own argument and any argument given even 2 + 2 = 4 🙂

      • Prayson, I fully get what C. S. Lewis is arguing (July 5, 18:58) and you agreed I understood it (July 6, 19:35). I am not arguing against his argument at all at this point. I am, however, asking you to defend what I guess might be the corollary of his argument, which is something like this: Materialism is false, therefore C. S. Lewis is not an accident, therefore C. S. Lewis’ thoughts should be believed (or at least evaluated).

        I’ll try to write it in logical notation:

        p = materialism
        q = C. S. Lewis’ thoughts should be believed (or at least evaluated)

        C. S. Lewis’ argument is this:

        If p is true, then q is false

        I am not arguing that at all. I’ll accept that so we can move on.

        Now this is what I think Lewis is trying to say follows as a result of his argument, although it may not necessarily follow from a logical standpoint:

        If p is false, then q is true

        I am asking you to defend that, not Lewis’ original argument. If you believe q does not necessarily follow from p, then what would make q true? I think this is important because if we can’t give a reason for q to be true, there is no reason to even evaluate Lewis’ original argument in this posting.

        • Dear Brap:

          This is not close to Lewis argument: ” Materialism is false, therefore C. S. Lewis is not an accident, therefore C. S. Lewis’ thoughts should be believed ”
          You were right in your evaluation of the argument but the implication as stated above missed Lewis argument 😦

          This is the argument:

          1. If it the case materialism is true, then it is not the case one would know it’s true.
          2. It is the case one would know it’s true.
          3. Therefore it is not the case materialism is true.

          The Argument is in this from:

          1. If X is the case, then Y is not the case
          2. Y is the case
          3. Therefore, X is not the case

          That is Lewis’s Argument 🙂

      • Prayson wrote: “This is not close to Lewis argument: ‘Materialism is false, therefore C. S. Lewis is not an accident, therefore C. S. Lewis’ thoughts should be believed.'”

        I know that is not Lewis’ argument, which is why I never suggested it was. I am suggesting, however, that he wants us to believe that so we have a reason for believing his original argument (or anything else he writes). I might be wrong, which is why I’m asking the question.

        My question has nothing to do with the validity of his argument. I am simply asking why we should believe any of C. S. Lewis’ thoughts. Pretend I never even saw his quote that is in the original post. Pretend I woke up this morning with that question on my mind. The answer may not have anything at all to do with materialism, and it should be applicable to anyone whose thoughts should be believed, or at least evaluated.

        • But then Brap, If it is not “close” to Lewis argument, would we not being chasing a red herring 🙂

          I outlined Lewis’ Argument. Why should we believe his argument:
          1. It makes sense of reality
          2. Rules of Logic(Common sense)

  9. Let’s pretend I have no thoughts regarding C. S. Lewis, and let’s go with the assumption that materialism is false. Now I’ll repeat my question: Why should anyone believe any of C. S. Lewis’ thoughts?

  10. Lewis’ paragraph in the post is quite silly and self-defeating if it is believed, because it works against itself. (Why believe any of C. S. Lewis’ thoughts, such as his thoughts on the believability of thoughts?)

    • Hej Brap,

      I think you just got what Lewis is trying to say. If materialism is true, then it is self-defeating as you wrote “Why believe any of C. S. Lewis’ thoughts, such as his thoughts on the believability of thoughts?”

      I would even make it worse(IF materialism is true). Why should I believe your thoughts of what you believe about C.S. Lewis’.

      If materialism is true, then I think Lewis is quite right 🙂

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