The Argument From Reason

This is something interesting, I mean, really interesting. I wanted to write about this for a long time as I have mentioned earlier in some comments. The argument from reason is, arguably, something that most intelligible theists will use; because the argument looks quite profound from a distance, but not so when it is critically examined. This argument has helped the theistic apologists a lot for a considerable period, it is the only sensible (or kind of) thing that presuppositionalistic(my article on their methods will be coming soon) apologists generally have to offer.
The most noted defender of this argument is C.S Lewis, he defended and explained this argument in his book Miracles: A Preliminary StudyThe argument may go as follows:

P1. No belief is rationally inferred if it can be fully explained in terms of nonrational causes.
P2. If naturalism is true, then all beliefs can be fully explained in terms of nonrational causes.
C1. Therefore, if naturalism is true, then no belief is rationally inferred (from 1 and 2).
P3. We have good reason to accept naturalism only if it can be rationally inferred from good evidence.
C2. Therefore, there is not, and cannot be, good reason to accept naturalism.

I will attempt to poke holes in each of the premises and see if the argument qualifies as a good one, it is going to be a nice ride for me.

P1. No belief is rationally inferred if it can be fully explained in terms of nonrational causes.

This seems quite a bit of stretch to me. Basically, he is trying to say that our brain cannot be ‘rational’ or ‘reliable’ in some sense if it is just some atoms in motion. How can a neuron recognize that an argument is valid[taken from Reasonsforgod]? After all, if our rational thoughts, logical inferences, deductions, abductions, the scientific method and pretty much everything else is the product of some causal chemical reactions and electromagnetic signals, how can we trust them? How do we know that they are telling us the truth? As C.S Lewis puts it; “Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”

Powerful, ain’t it? Well, no, at least not that much. First of all, you should see that the premise is committing the fallacy of composition. The fallacy of composition, according to Wikipedia, arises when one infers that something is true of the whole from the fact that it is true of some part of the whole (or even of every proper part). For example, every individual part of an aeroplane cannot fly, it doesn’t mean that the aeroplane cannot fly. Deducing the nature of the entirety of an object cannot be done by only knowing how their parts’ nature is. If that was allowed, many lines of absurd inferences would start to pop out. Each of the parts of our brains may be nonconscious(I hate to use this word) or nonrational but it does not rationally infer that the brain as a whole is nonrational.

But think about it, evolution, isn’t it? We were evolved on this planet to survive, to reproduce and to adjust with everything around us. As far as I can tell, knowing the truth (or knowing something that is somewhat true) is by far the basic need of survival. You just cannot survive for a long time in a jungle without actually knowing the possible dangers and the ways to overcome them. A lion may attack, a snake may bite, you may eat some poisonous stuff that just kicks you out from the race of life. When growing crops, you need to know when it rains, when it is dry, when it is ideal for growing an individual plant; you have to have an idea of these! And you need to have a basic methodology by which you can determine these truths, and the more accurate and reliable these methods will be, the more will be your chance of survival. In other words, evolution will create life-forms which actually are able to knows how to determine truths, evolution will create truth-grasping brains.
So, objection number one(O1): the fallacy of composition.

There is another problem I see right now. It is somehow formulating a gap argument, a God of the gaps to be precise. Notice that despite science assumes methodological naturalism (that is to keep a methodology that rejects supernatural explanations by default), it admits that there are many things which are inexplicable or not explained yet. This consciousness-problem will, by definition, fall into that category. Scientists are working on it, it is indeed a mystery as to how exactly self-awareness can arise from dead matter, nobody is denying that. But when somebody says ‘Ah! Here is it, you cannot explain this, therefore a personal agent(aka God) did it”, it should not convince anyone.
O2. God of the gaps fallacy.

P2. If naturalism is true, then all beliefs can be fully explained in terms of nonrational causes.

I don’t think so, naturalism only assumes that only the natural exists, a naturalist just says “Well, I am not gonna accept magic as true”, it does not make any assertion about whether atoms are ‘conscious’, ‘nonconscious’, ‘nonrational’ or anything of that sort. Probably because these terms are ill defined, it is not understood what it means to be consciousness exactly, it is not understood what it means to be a ‘rational atom’ or an irrational one. We just don’t understand these things yet. If naturalism is true, then all beliefs can be fully explained by natural causes, and that’s it. If it turns out that atoms are some kind of ‘rational'(I don’t actually understand what it even means) things, then be it; if not, not.
O3. Misrepresentation.

P4. We have good reason to accept naturalism only if it can be rationally inferred from good evidence.

This seems to be true but the funny part is that everything humans have demonstrably explained in history has turned out to be natural. That does not prove that naturalism is true, but that provides a good amount of inductive support to it. This premise would have only been a dead blow if the previous two premises which gave the conclusion C1, which they don’t actually seem to be.


The premises P1, P2 and P3 which give rise to C1 and C2, are fallible and shown to be committing fallacies. I don’t think, until anyone answers my objections sufficiently, this argument is going to work. The fallacy of composition, God of the gaps and misrepresentation seem to be evident. Our minds seem to be evolved for rationally infer things to attempt to understand what actually is. Our reasoning abilities are not perfect either, the evolution of philosophy and science over human history is a good evidence for that. If there was a perfect designer, it doesn’t seem that he would create so much imperfections in his own ‘special creations’. The fact of imperfect but useful rational abilities of human beings seem to be only fitted to the model of naturalism.

Thanks for reading.


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