Responding to Objections 5: “Couldn’t this be explained by . . . “

Rick Mattson Apologetics, Atheism 2 Comments


From my last post: Why think theism (belief in God) is a better explanation for the world than naturalism (athiesm)?

Here’s one reason. Naturalism struggles to explain the more subjective parts of life, such as consciousness, ethics, art, intention and other mental states.

Two atheist philosophers illustrate the point:

  • Thomas Nagel acknowledges the difficulty of explaining the rise of human consciousness in a purely physical world. How could inanimate matter somehow start to think? (1)
  • Michael Ruse calls the rise of human consciousness the really hard problem, saying, “Here the naturalist is, admittedly, caught flat-footed.” (2)

To be fair to Ruse, he doesn’t think anyone else, including theists, has a better explanation for consciousness. But the point is that in a purely physical/material world, subjective elements such as higher thinking are tough to explain.

A stream cannot rise higher than its source.

But if a personal God has created man and woman in his image, then consciousness and other human traits such as creativity and ethical intuition are to be expected. The stream now flows naturally from its source.


The argument just mentioned doesn’t prove the existence of God. But that’s not the goal. Rather, I’m saying that in one important field, at least — that of consciousness and other non-material parts of life — theism provides a better explanation than naturalism.

Next time: Why a friend thinks miracles are impossible.


(1) See chapter 3 of Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False.

(2) See Ruse’s response to Evan Fales in chapter 1 of God and Morality: Four Views.


photo courtesy of Poulsen Photo at



Comments 2

    1. Post

      Charles, good point. Seems to me that God is free to intervene in our world in any manner he chooses, whether directly — “Let there be light” — or indirectly through the laws of nature which he created. Additionally, there are other indirect means at his disposal — human agents, for example.

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