The inadequacy objection
A. The Inadequacy Objection
This objection is also extremely popular. It claims that appealing to God or any or any other supernatural entity provides only a pseudo-explanation for the phenomena in question. So, if something cannot be explained naturalistically, it is better to simply say we do not have an explanation than to appeal to something beyond our outside of nature.
So for example, if we were to explain the existence of reason in terms of the theistic God, that would not be to explain the existence of reason at all. The only way reason could be genuinely explained would be if reason could be explained interms of something that is without reason, something like, say, a blind evolutionary process. As Keith Parsons put it:
Creationist “explanations” do not explain. When we appeal to the inscrutable acts and incomprehensible powers of an occult being to account for mysterious phenomena, we only deepen the mystery. Like Nagel…I regard such “explanation’ as mere markers for our ignorance, placeholders for expalantion we hope someday to get.
However, what we are calling “supernatural” explanations are primarily intentional, teleological, or person explanations that cannot in principle be reduced to impersonal mechanistic explanations. And it is just false to say that in the absence of a further mechanistic explanation, all we have is a “placeholder.” Consider my cheering and pumping my fist when Steve Nash hits Amare Stoudemire with a alley-oop pass that results in a slam dunk for Amare against the San Antonio Spurs. The explanation that makes sense of that action on my part is that I am a fan of the Phoenix Suns who especially likes to see them beat the San Antonio Spurs. Having given that explanation, which is intentional in nature, I have not indicated whether or not there is some further explanation available in terms of neurophysiology. No doubt neurophysiology is part of the account (no dualist wants to deny that), but whatever may be involved in that further account, or even if there is no further account and the intentional explanation is all we’re ever going to have, nevertheless we do have an explanation and not just a placeholder. Indeed, a detailed analysis of my brain states would be far less explanatory in terms of what anyone wants to know about my state of mind after seeing that slam dunk than the simple intentional explanation that I gave above.
If, as I believe, God is a rational, personal being, surey that makes it more likely that rational creatures shold arise in a world God creates, because persons by nature are interested in communicating with other persons. So the prohbability that rational beings should emerge looks to me pretty good; the emergence of rational beings in a naturalistic universe seems very unlikely if not impossible.
While we do not know any strict laws concerning God’s conduct, we certainly think we know various things regarded God’s character which make some divine acts more likely than others. If God were to resurrect someone from the dead who lived in the 21st Century, it would more likely be Mother Teresa than Adolf Hitler.
The inadequacy objection gratuitously assumes that matter is what is clearly understandable, and that “mind” is something mysterious, the very existence of which has to be explained in terms of unmysterious matter. This seems just false. According to Galen Strawson:
This is the assumption that we have a pretty good understanding of the nature of matter—of matter and space—of the phsyical in general. It is only relative to this assumption that the existence of consciousness in the material world seems mystifying. For what exactly is puzzling about consciousness, once we put the assumption aside? Suppose you have an experience of redness, or pain, and consider it to be just as such. There doesn’t seem to be any room for amything that could be called a failure to understand what it is.
On the toher hand, matter is described by modern physics in the most mystifying terms imaginable. The philosopher of science Bas van Fraassen writes: “Do concepts of the soul…baffle you? They pale beside the unimaginable otherniess of closed space-times, event horizons, EPR correlations, and bootstrap models.”
Parsons says “When I am told that consciosuenss and reasoning are due to the inscrutable and miraculous operations of occult powers wielded by an undetectable entity that exists nowhere in the physical universe, I am not enlightened.” I will not comment on whether or not this description of mind/body dualism backed up by theism is an apt one, although I consider it to be actually misleading. Nonetheless, I would simply pointo ut that to be enlightened is to discover the truth, and if thsie is the truth, then it is enlightening, even though it may be epistemically frustrating to someone like Parsons. Second, the “obscurantism” I am advocateing may be necessary to preserve science itself, while (if I am right) a mechanistic account of mind undermines the scientific enterprise. Parsons’ own theory makes Einstein’s theory of relativity and Darwin’s theory of evolution the result of blind physical causes. In the last analysis, whose theory is more obscurantist?
Therefore I maintain that the inadequacy objection gratuitously assumes that the only real explanations are mechanistic explanations, and that this is evidently false. It is supposed to be part of God’s nature to be rational. If we explain one thing in terms of something else, and that something else in terms of something else again, the chain of explanation will have to terminate somewhere. The theist explains the existence of ratioanlity in the universe by appealing to the inherent rationality of God. It cannot be the case that the materialist can actually argue that one ought never to explain anything in terms of something having such and such a nature. One cannot go on giving reductive explanations forever. If, as I have argued, we have good reason to suppose that reason cannot be built up out of nonintentional and nonteleological building blocks, then in order to preserve reason and the logical foundations of science, we have good reason to accept a nonmaterialist understanding of the universe. If my argument in this essay is correct, then explainig reason in terms of unreason explains reason away, and undercuts the very reason on which the explanation is supposed to be based.