The Death of God, The Descent of Man, The Death of Humanity

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Is there any figure in all Western history more ironic than Friedrich Nietzsche, he who proclaimed the death of God? In mock tragic voice, his Madman even pretended to mourn it:

God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?

The Death of Man

Grant him credit for recognizing — as hardly any atheist does today — that God matters. But be not fooled. Nietzsche’s Madman was fine with this deicide, for he went on to say, “There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us – for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto.”

All his horror over the death of God was mere dramatic irony. Nietzsche wanted God dead. It made room for his Übermensch, his ethic of the “will to power,” his sneering dismissal of the Christian “slave ethic.” But his intentional irony was nothing compared to the unintended form that flowed out of his philosophy over the years: In killing God, we have killed ourselves.

I’ve written it before: Humanity is dead, and we are its murderers. With the death of God we’ve lost our selves; we’ve lost humanness itself. We don’t know who or what we are.

The Descent of Man

Indeed, if there is any work in Western literature more ironic than Nietzsche’s, it’s Darwin’s The Descent of Man. He meant “descent” in its genealogical sense: We are the descendants of some ape or ape-like creature. But the word also means the downfall, the drooping, the lowering; and in Darwin, man was lowered from the nobility of God’s image to the ignominy of undifferentiated animal. I do not mean the embarrassment of having apes as our grandparents; I’m talking about our becoming (in Darwin’s terms) one with all of nature, without distinction or difference.

When I was a child I was taught evolution’s “progress” from single-celled creatures to tiny proto-plants and animals, on up to the vertebrates, the mammals, the primates, and finally the highest of all, humans. That’s all myth, on a Darwinian accounting. Evolution knows nothing of progress. If it “knew” anything at all, it would be that success means nothing more than having offspring that have offspring. Some offspring do that better than others, but the new Darwinian synthesis explains that all as the purposeless result of mere mindless chance. Which is literally where we came from, on this viewpoint.

If you still want to use “higher” for certain evolved species, just remember how they got that way: Their ancestors’ offspring had more offspring. They conquered a niche. For humans, that niche may be defined as the tool- and language-using domain where cooperation and invention serve to preserve offspring to have more offspring. On Darwinian terms, though, our niche is no higher than that of the one animal whose numbers (and biomass) far outweigh all others: termites.

The Death of Dignity

But aren’t we higher, more dignified for being the self-aware, thinking, planning, intentional beings we are? One might think so, given that every person knows this is so, based on the most direct evidence of all: our own constant experience. Today’s atheists, however, intellectually descended (in both senses of the term) from Darwin, Nietzsche, Freud, and Marx, have wiped all that away.

Free will is an illusion, say Coyne and Harris. Daniel Dennett allows for it only the sense that something is free; but it isn’t you or I making free choices, it’s just chance, which from time to time escapes the shackles of physical determinism.

Atheist philosophers Alex Rosenborg, Paul and Patricia Churchland, and others deny human consciousness. Rosenberg denies rationality, even human thought. Thomas Nagel agrees atheism ought to lead to the same conclusions, so he hopes someday we’ll find a better answer than that (as long as it isn’t God).

All of them (except the ever optimistic Nagel) deny that humanness is what humanness seems to be. It has no substance, only illusion. So forget about human uniqueness signifying any kind of superiority over the rest of nature. We’re only more confused by the delusions that deceive us.

God is dead, said Nietzsche. His Übermensch translates to “super-man;” and in a sense he thought this new superman would soar, almost like the fictional man we know of from Krypton. In reality his philosophy ended up chaining us hard to the ground instead. And now we see the fruit of it as we live out this death.

Living in the Death

Of course we still want to soar. We know — not from philosophy or theology, but from our own undeniable self-awareness and experience — that we’re meant for something greater. Yet constantly we’re barraged with the Darwinian, Nietzschean message that we’re not meant for anything at all.

Is it any wonder we’re confused? Is it any wonder we no longer even know man from woman? Is it any surprise we’re more focused on sex and pleasure than purpose and meaning — not to mention procreation? As for marriage and family, how can one who doesn’t know who or what he is commit a lifetime to another person whose meaning and identity is as inscrutable as his own? Why would such a confused couple want children? Why would a woman hesitate to kill the child in her womb, when even her own place in the world is so much in doubt?

Why do scientists seek to edit human genes? Why do transhumanists speak of “singularity”? Is it because we want to invent a new übermensch? In a way, yes; but that’s only because we don’t know who we are, as we already are, and we place so little value on what we do.

Flailing for Meaning

Why are so many turning into social justice warriors? To create meaning where otherwise there is none. Why has an MSNBC anchorwoman proclaimed her life “pointless” if global warming is not averted? Because it’s pointless anyway, and the imminent collapse of everything (in her mind) only brings that fact to the fore. What explains the new intersectionality movement? The one who doesn’t know who she is as a human can at least hope to find identity as a disabled atheist lesbian Hispanic daughter of immigrant parents.

I have no beef with her for that, except when this identity surmounts her identity as a human being living among other human beings, and when it dims her knowledge that we’re all human beings. But again, why would it be any surprise if this happens? We no longer know what it is to be human. Where there is ignorance, there is flailing; intersectionality is exactly that sort of flailing.

Or Finding Life Again

So here we are. Nietzsche sang the death of God, unaware it was the death of humanity. Darwin lectured on the descent of man, ignorant of how far it would mean we would descend. Meanwhile all our social movements are in reality movements of rebellion against this descent and death, desperate attempts to find and re-define our place in the world. For we know we do have a place, and it’s not merely as another species of animal.

We know it because it’s true. But then one wants to know, how is it true? To that question, only the Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam can provide an answer; it’s found in Genesis, where we learn we are indeed different: we’re specially created in God’s image. And only Christianity can show how God came among us to prove our worth beyond all mistake; and to remedy our own mistakes.

Christianity is known above all for preaching a resurrected Savior. Christ is alive, and gives life out of death to those who trust in him. Yet there is another death he alone can cure, this same death of humanity I’ve been lamenting. Without him the flailing for meaning and identity will continue. In Christ, however, being human makes sense. In him, humanness has true worth. In him it is real. In him, humanness can live again.

Care to know how? I’ve got a recommendation for you — explaining all the above, and considerably more. 

Image Credit(s): Wikimedia Commons.

17 Responses

  1. K V Simon says:

    Amazing eternal truth beautifully articulated .
    Psalm 8 comes to my mind .
    Thank you .

  2. Marti Siegfried says:

    Thank you for this educational post about the depth of the West’s confusion and rebellion. The secular philosophical roots are deep. I learned from your facts, insights and arguments that it’s paramount to “know who and whose we are”. And, be able to share that w/ other people of Faith in Christ who do not act or speak much differently from others in the (destructive) secular movements. I choose battles carefully but when I do, I will add many of your thoughts to my arguments.

  3. We “know” Nietzsche’s atheism and reductive naturalism are false, because of “undeniable self-awareness and experience”? Is that the same intuitive basis that led us to believe Earth is geometrically central to the universe, because just look: even the sun revolves around us! Or are those intuitions of human freedom, purpose, and cosmic worth associated with the dozens of cognitive biases and fallacies we inherently perpetrate, as shown by cognitive science? We “know” we’re meant for something greater, because we feel that that should be so. And we should go with our gut, because truthiness matters more than truth.

    This is an argument from unpleasant consequences. To be up-front and honest about your argument, you should identify as a pragmatist and say–along the lines of Pascal’s Wager–that we’d much prefer for there to be a God, an afterlife, and perfect justice, and that that preference is all that matters because utility outweighs considerations of objective truth. But that would be crass, wouldn’t it? You’d rather have it both ways: the pretense that Christians alone care about truth and reality, and the shameless appeal to intuition and to what feels right even when that feeling flies in the face of naturalistic science (of Darwin, cosmology, cognitive science, etc).

    You’re also strawmanning Nietzsche. He understood perfectly well that atheism is horrific, that unpleasant reality is too much to bear for most people and that the truth could indeed destroy humanity. That was the whole point of Thus Spoke Zaruthustra. People aren’t ready for the atheistic prophet’s message. Most people aren’t strong enough to stomach the natural truth, which is why, for example, the “Last Men” will distract themselves with superficial pleasures to avoid facing the harsh facts (that there’s no god, afterlife, or cosmic purpose or justice, and that it’s up to us alone to create meaning). This is the problem of nihilism, which Nietzsche said atheism (i.e. natural reality) threatens us with.

  4. Tom Gilson says:

    I’ll admit I might have been tough on Nietzsche in one sense; he really did see the “death of God” as a grim reality. So he thought, at any rate; I don’t think it’s any kind of reality at all. My picture of the superman was overly simple, too. I acknowledge that.

    But no, these human intuitions aren’t like the others you spoke of. They are the very stuff of humanness, without which there is no being-human at all. You can try to deny your humanity, but it requires humanness to do so. You can try to deny rationality, nut it requires reason to reach that conclusion. You can try to deny free will, but if you’re determined to reach that conclusion it is no conclusion at all.

    Out humanness is literally undeniable. No empirical finding could overturn it even in principle, because it takes humanness to recognize and interpret experience and observation.

    It isn’t wishful thinking to say that this must be true. Only one thing could lead anyone to deny it, and that’s a philosophical commitment to materialism and its entailments. Materialists who believe humanness is illusory will go to every human length to say so.

  5. Tom Gilson says:

    Darwin, cosmology, cognitive science — you say they all contradict the intuition of humanness. But even aside from what I just wrote, this conclusion of yours only obtsinsif you add “plus philosophical materialism” to each of those terms.

    Darwin contradicts humanness only if you know he’s produced an accurate description of natural history, which I’ll stipulate for the sake of argument; and also if you know that the one engine driving it all is random variation plus natural selection. You can’t show that it’s the only engine, even if you show it’s a significant one.

    Cosmology doesn’t have a word to say about humanness unless you force a philosophical layer over it. The findings of the cosmologists are perfectly consistent with a creator God, and without humans being made in his image.

    Cognitive science shows pretty much what we already knew: that we live in and through our bodies, and that physical experience matters. It doesn’t show that our brains determine everything in our mental lives, as it would have to show, if you were right.

    Science doesn’t support your conclusions; not without the metaphysical add-on.

  6. Your appeal to humanness looks like the No True Scotsman fallacy. “No real American would eat fancy cheese.” “Real human nature is as we intuit it, or as I arbitrarily say it is: rational, free, and made in God’s image.”

    A better way of making your point would be to pick up on the philosopher Wilfrid Sellars’ distinction between the manifest and the scientific images of human nature. What you call humanness is the manifest image, the intuitive one we all experience through pre-reflective introspection. Then there’s the scientific set of findings which often contradict the way we naively see ourselves.

    For example, we often we think we’re great thinkers, but it turns out we’re not as inherently rational as we like to believe. According to the cognitive scientific image of our nature, our intuitions are heuristics, rules of thumb, stereotypes, or snap judgments that evolved to work in desperate situations but that lead us more often to comforting or to otherwise emotional hunches, reinforcing what we want to believe, than to how the world really works.

    There’s the Dunning-Kruger effect, according to which the more you know, the less confident you’re likely to be, and conversely (and disastrously) the less you know, the more confident you’re likely to be. So the most ignorant and least qualified individuals are likely the loudest voices in the room. That’s an example of how the scientific image can undercut the manifest image.

    True, cognitive science is eminently rational, but that doesn’t show that human commonsense is inherently rational. Science is a relatively recent institution that grows out of some human traits (curiosity, the lust for power, the penchant for organizing the world with mental maps) while conflicting with others, such as with our preference for our intuitive self-models. If scientific methods were intuitive or reflective of “humanness,” we’d have been doing modern science (testing hypotheses to bypass our subjective biases) for hundreds of thousands of years. Instead, Isaac Newton practically invented the systematic procedures of scientific reasoning, so the scientific image emerges largely from early-modern culture. (The Presocratics were doing protoscience, as were skeptics and inventors in ancient China, India, and elsewhere.)

    As such, scientific findings are free to contradict commonsense as they often do. See, for example, quantum mechanics, cosmology (the universe is far larger and older–not to mention more indifferent to our plight–than we’d have believed based only on intuition and direct experience), and evolutionary biology (we’re genetically and historically related to the other animal species in that we have a common, not a special origin).

    I agree that many critics of religion add philosophical interpretations to science. Some scientists, such as Jerry Coyne and Neil deGrasse Tyson themselves add scientism, which biases them against both philosophy and religion. The science is what it is, though. Mind you, the science can easily be made compatible with religion, because we’re free to reinterpret scriptures since the latter are often vague or poetic.

    Most biologists don’t think natural selection is the only evolutionary mechanism, but these same biologists also don’t find that we have a special origin, that we were created directly by a deity as opposed to evolving like all the other species on the planet. So that’s the biological part of the scientific image of our nature. It’s not just philosophical interpretation that precludes the theological view; rather, the religious judgment that we have a unique and divine origin and that we’re meant to be above the animals isn’t scientific in the first place, because it’s not testable, quantifiable, or empirically meaningful.

    The bottom line is that you want to defend the manifest image against the scientific one. I do as well, to some extent, and the trick is to do so without strawmanning science or philosophical naturalism.

  7. Tom Gilson says:

    No, it’s not a No True Scotsman fallacy. Not even close. I didn’t explain it that badly, did I?

    I didn’t say real human must be as we intuit it, as if that were the end of the story.

    We may not be as inherently rational as we want to believe, but if one denies humanness, one denies even the ability to assess rationality. So Sellars is in no position to say we’re not as rational as we think! And Dunning and Kruger can’t be right, because no one is competent to think rationally!

    That’s what I’m trying to say. Maybe I haven’t said it clearly enough yet. Let me try it in very shortened summary form: If humanness in the sense I’m speaking of it is illusory, then there is no rationality. It takes rationality to assess rationality. Without rationality, then, Sellars and Dunning and Kruger have nothing to say about human rationality.

    Human common sense isn’t reliably, consistently rational. I’ve read the studies, too, and I know that’s true. But there must be some rationality, otherwise what I’ve just said obtains.

    The science is what it is, yes. But science is not philosophy, and the philosophy is what it is, too, never mind your gratuitous jab at “the scriptures.”

    Biologists don’t find a deity because their methods and biases are both of the wrong sort to detect one.

    The “religious judgment” of which you speak is in two parts: that we have a unique nature and a divine origin. The latter is a matter of revelation; the former is a matter of sound philosophical reasoning. If we are not uniquely able to reason (to some degree) then we’re not able even to have this conversation. This is unique in nature.

    I’m not strawmanning science. I’m treating it and its limits appropriately. I’m not strawmanning philosophical naturalism, either; in fact I don’t know where that final charge even came from.

  8. Tom Gilson says:

    You spoke of a judgment that “isn’t scientific in the first place, because it’s not testable, quantifiable, or empirically meaningful.”

    What should we conclude from a judgment’s not being scientific in that manner? Is there some general conclusion that follows from that? If so, what; and if not, why bother to use it in the manner that you did?

  9. I’d like to go back to the point I think you were making in your article, so I don’t miss the forest for the trees and since not even a skeptic like David Hume would say there’s no such thing as rationality. If we include in human nature all our capacities, then of course logic, evidence-testing, and even institutional science are natural to humanity. They’re things that people can do.

    But that would be moving the goal posts from how you were thinking of humanness in your article. Your article contrasts two interpretations of humanness, the naturalist’s and the Christian’s. The naturalist conception of what we are–according to which we’re animals with no absolute dignity, supernatural freedom or cosmic purpose–spells the death of what you’d prefer to call humanness as such, namely our elevation above the animals on account of our being made in God’s image. So you’re arguing that Nietzsche and Darwin and the other naturalists generally kill not just God but “humanity” in that Christian sense.

    Thus you say, “We know — not from philosophy or theology, but from our own undeniable self-awareness and experience — that we’re meant for something greater.” And you say that we know about that supernatural purpose and “nature” of ours “based on the most direct evidence of all: our own constant experience.” That’s your appeal to intuition, to introspection, and to what Sellars called the manifest image.

    Alas, you say, liberal culture is dangerously confused because naturalism is ironically self-destructive for humanity. That’s why you say social justice warriors are clinging to politically correct pseudo-identities, because atheism has pulled the rug out from under them.

    Now the obvious response is that you’re only shooting the messenger. It’s not the naturalist philosophers that have undermined our self-serving beliefs, but natural reality on which they’ve merely reported. That’s why to avoid simply begging the question, you appeal to intuition and to introspection to explain how we know it’s not objective reality which blows up our delusions of grandeur, but wrongheaded naturalists who willfully ignore the evidence provided by commonsense (that we’re superior to the other animals and made for a great purpose).

    What, though, is the basis of your trust in commonsense? Is it mere expedience? If you’re aware of the findings in psychology that commonsense misleads us all the time and that our inherent powers of reasoning and emotional problem-solving didn’t evolve to present us with The Truth, you must be presupposing that God gave us commonsense as part of our telos. And of course the naturalist will deny that assumption.

    Moreover, if God did implant commonsense in us, God is not the benevolent fellow Christians make him out to be, as is clear, for example, from the Aeon article, “The bad news on human nature, in 10 findings from psychology,” by Christian Jarrett. In short, our commonsense is animalistic and barbaric, not angelic. For example, we naturally–as part of our ingrained human nature–take pleasure in other people’s suffering. And we’re naturally biased against strangers and foreigners. And we’re naturally dogmatic, hypocritical, and vain. And we naturally prefer our leaders to have psychopathic traits.

    Indeed, that’s why Jesus had to fight against human inclinations, to point out that God has much higher standards. Whereas we’re naturally prone to think the worst of each other, even if we manage to act well, God expects us to love our enemies. Paul says the natural man is incapable of appreciating the gospel and that only with the Holy Spirit’s guidance can the natural man be transformed into a spiritual being that can live up to God’s lofty plans for us. So there’s a biblical case against your argument too.

    Notice, by the way, that natural selection explains why our instincts are barbaric and fallible, because they evolved in a hostile environment in which we had to prioritize our mere survival and couldn’t hope to afford to be moral and angelic or philosophical. The better angels of our nature evolved only imperfectly and by accident. By contrast, Christians are saddled with the barbarity of our nature as part of the problem of evil, which they answer by saying we’re guilty of original sin. Either way, appealing to commonsense (as William Craig likes to do too, when it suits him) is dubious for philosophical or for spiritual purposes.

  10. Tom Gilson says:

    It’s Christmas morning, I’ve got a moment to myself, but only a moment so I won’t respond at length.

    I don’t think you’ve taken my comment 6 seriously enough. Hume, Nietzsche, and Darwin May not have drawn those conclusions, but other thinkers have, and I believe they’re inescapable. This isn’t shooting the messenger, it’s shieing that the message is self-referentially incoherent and thus impossible to be true. And this isn’t mere intuition, it’s logically necessary.

    Your complaints here about God have answers I can spend more time on later, along with the rest. But I do want you to look at 6 again, please. As long as you can think my message is either a mere appeal to intuition or shooting the messenger, you are demonstrating you haven’t grappled with what I’m really saying.

    I do appeal to intuition, too. I consider it evidence, and you should too. But that’s not all I do.

  11. By referring to your comment #6, I take it you’re asking me to address your presuppositionalist argument that naturalism is incoherent since it entails the end of humanness (in the Christian, intuitive, manifest sense of humanness) while also inadvertently demonstrating the reality of the traits of humanness (consciousness, reason, freewill, and our superiority to the other animal species owing to our God-given purpose).

    But naturalism prohibits only miraculous versions of these traits, and most naturalist philosophers aren’t eliminativists about consciousness, reason, and freewill. Also, once you appeal to a miracle to make sense of consciousness or freewill, it does you no good to charge naturalism with incoherence, since any worldview that affirms that a miracle occurred or that describes some trait as obscurely supernatural will likewise be incoherent. So for the sake of argument I’ll focus on the last trait which is the one that most plausibly conflicts with naturalism.

    Naturalism does indeed deprive us of an objective, intended purpose in the sense of one that’s built into the whole universe and that we don’t merely choose for ourselves. We did evolve with the other species and no species is absolutely greater than any other. Still, there can easily be objective biological comparisons, because some species might be better at achieving certain tasks, depending on their body-types. So fish are obviously better at swimming than birds, while birds fly better than fish. Likewise, social mammals are better at thinking and learning than, say, insects. And our species is obviously great at what we do: taking control of the evolutionary process, breaking free of the biological life cycle, and acquiring godlike knowledge and power. No other species that we know of does that, so a naturalist has no problem saying that we’re objectively superior to the other animals in that relative, instrumental sense: we’ve proven superior to the rest in achieving those goals (which we set for us).

    By the way, I don’t see any theistic advantage in saying that that superiority or that any of our other traits (consciousness, reason, freewill) is illusory rather than real, since the theist posits a hidden ultimate reality, God, relative to which everything else is false, flawed, and misleading. Hindus call nature “maya” (illusion). Following Plato, Christian Orthodox theologians likewise regard nature as comparatively unreal.

    As for the naturalistic eliminativists, their error is to confuse emergent constructs with illusions, in which case the only reality would be the simplest forms of matter (e.g. two-dimensional strings, according to string theory). So planets and stars would likewise be “illusory” just because they’re made from elements. There’s a fallacy of division in assuming that just because a whole is made up of parts, the whole has no independent features or causal power or reality. That’s what we find throughout nature: orders of complexity and creative (and destructive) processes. So consciousness, reason, and freedom are produced by the brain, and the brain in turn is made up of complex chemistry. If the brain can be a real product of chemical and evolutionary processes, the brain’s functions can be just as real. Much of this talk of reality and illusion is only semantic or definitional.

    As for the question of whether our species loses its dignity, given our evolutionary background and animal nature, the theistic conception of our superiority was ironically an excuse for us to behave in a more beastly fashion than any other animal species is capable of. We’re supposed to have dominion over the planet because of our godlike attributes, but how should we expect godlike creatures to act in the world, given the Bible’s depiction of our maker? If the biblical God is a jealous, irrational, sadistic tyrant, wouldn’t the specially-created children of such a deity be expected to make a mess of the planet, to squabble over territory, enslaving and exterminating billions of people, not to mention more recently, with factory farming, torturing and killing domesticated animals on the scale of an ongoing holocaust? And isn’t that just what we find, that we’re vain in deeming ourselves worthy of controlling the planet, because while we’re great at empowering ourselves with knowledge and technology, morality doesn’t come easy to us precisely because of our fallible, animal nature? Again, you can explain that nature by positing a godless evolutionary process or you can assume we fell from God’s grace or that we were produced by a monstrous deity (as the Bible implies).

    In any case, the naturalist has no problem reestablishing our dignity by reminding us of the epic struggles for life that fill out our evolutionary past in deep time. The timescale required to generate our species by a mindless evolutionary process is much more awe-inspiring than the theistic notion that a human-like deity produced us in a flash by the equivalent of waving a magic wand. The latter, theistic myth is just a verbal trick, since as Dawkins likes to say, positing God is supposed to explain humanity whereas God would already have all our mysterious attributes to an even more mysterious, infinite degree, and so theism only pushes the mystery back to the need to explain God. The former, evolutionary account, though, is a working theory.

    Granted, atheism is horrific in that we should feel alienated from the mindlessness and pointlessness of the forces and elements that formed us over that vast evolutionary period. But once again, as implied by Rudolph Otto’s analysis of the concept of holiness, the theist has no advantage here since God would be just as horrific as nature, which is why “faith in God” was often synonymous with “fear of God.” Properly conceived of, God is a fascinating and terrifying mystery, as Otto puts it. Just as many secular humanists and new atheists prefer to whitewash the Nietzschean, horrific aspect of naturalism, plenty of Western Christians whitewash the mystical aspect of monotheism, turning God into gentle Jesus.

    In any case, the presuppositionalist argument is invalid, since while naturalism may entail that we have no cosmic purpose, naturalists don’t inadvertently show, after all, that we have such a purpose. By exercising their consciousness, reason, and freewill in arguing for naturalism, they need reveal only that they have no miraculous versions of those traits, and by excelling as godlike creatures, we indicate only that we’re superior in that relative, instrumental sense, not that the whole universe is intended to fulfill some grand design. You certainly haven’t shown there’s any such performative contradiction, because you haven’t shown that intuition and introspection prove there’s a miracle afoot.

    At best, our being godlike makes us as monstrous as the monotheistic deity depicted in the Bible (and evidenced in nature’s indifference to life), which accounts for the horrors we’ve perpetrated throughout the Anthropocene. But mindless, inhuman nature can easily substitute for a psychopathic deity, so Occam’s razor would call for pantheism at that point.

  12. Tom Gilson says:

    Answer 2:

    But naturalism prohibits only miraculous versions of these traits,

    No, it prohibits every not-strictly-natural version. The miraculous is a subset of that, including only that which is exceptional, remarkable, rare.

    most naturalist philosophers aren’t eliminativists about consciousness, reason, and freewill

    I think they should be, for reasons stated.

    , it does you no good to charge naturalism with incoherence, since any worldview that affirms that a miracle occurred or that describes some trait as obscurely supernatural will likewise be incoherent.

    I do like reasons being stated. Which you haven’t done here.

    Much of your discourse from here on has to do with purpose, and some with dignity. These, I’ll grant you, are open to the rejoinder that they are either (a) illusory or (b) created by the purposing/valuing individual or group. I’m not making either of them a hill to die on.

    Rationality, intentionality (aboutness), and freewill are different. They’re inherent to humanness, and naturalism offers no coherent explanation for how they are possible. Emergent properties don’t explain it without some account for how such properties emerge. Complaints about false reductionism are no more than that: complaints about an answer that doesn’t suffice. What you need is an answer that does. Complaints that theism is likewise incoherent do no better, especially when you haven’t explained why you think that is so.

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