If everything in the universe came about by non-rational forces, we should also be non-rational, but there is a fundamental quality in us which must be excluded by definition from our analysis of the origins of things.
In my various intellectual travels, I came across the idea of “emergence”. Emergence is the propensity for complex things to arise out of simpler things. For instance, I’ve often marveled at the hexagonal rock structures that formed in various places up in the mountainous areas around Mt. Baker:
At first you may think, this is an interesting idea. Neato! I’m glad some smart people somewhere are thinking up things like this. However, something more important is going on here. It is really another way to dress up the problem of the designed universe and of the existence of human intelligence. People equate the “emergence” of crystalline rock structures with the “emergence” of human consciousness and human society, because they both use the word “emergent”. It is a magic juju word dressed up as fancy intellectual term so that everyone wisely nods their head and drinks the damned poison. Look at this quote from Peter Corning, from Friday Harbor WA:
“[In] evolutionary processes, causation is iterative; effects are also causes. And this is equally true of the synergistic effects produced by emergent systems. In other words, emergence itself… has been the underlying cause of the evolution of emergent phenomena in biological evolution; it is the synergies produced by organized systems that are the key.” (from wikipedia)
You might well think, “there is possibly a case here for biological systems to exhibit the quality of emergence, that more complex systems might arise from simpler ones in a chain of simpler emergent events. There is evidence for biological adaptation, and given enough time, many things could happen. Stop being so fundamentalist.”
For the sake of argument, I am going to give you that, with no contest. There is a very important question lurking behind all of this. I think that the point that Alvin Plantinga (Christian philosopher) and Thomas Nagel (non-theist philosopher) are making is that we are compelled to make a rational judgment call when we name something as “emergent”. If everything is simply random, then the fact that some rocks are blob-shaped and some rocks are hexagonal crystal-like shapes means nothing. In the same way, unless we have some quality that judges it to be so, there is no more significance to random dark-matter atoms floating in the cold forgotten reaches of space somewhere and the atoms that make up Einstein’s or Jesus’ brain. Everything is simply another random happening. The fact that we want to call something emergent at all is the real question here. When we call it “emergent”, we interpret that one structure is more significant or worth noting than another. However, we cannot really explain the random events of undirected uncaused nature as emergent unless we possess a quality that strives to interpret order into the sequence of things and names some phenomena “emergent” while calling others pre-emergent. Emergence is not an empirical observation of raw natural data, it is a rational judgment call that one state of things is more significant than another state of things. You are not allowed to read rational patterns into something that you have defined as undirected non-rational events.
If you look at Peter Corning’s canon, you can see how far people are trying to press this idea. Everything from the appearance of life from non-life to the appearance of the rational from the non-rational to political systems to the female orgasm is explained by the same juju magical concept. One of his books is even titled “Nature’s Magic”. I haven’t read a single one of his books, so I confess that I am unqualified to comment on this. Despite that, it is pretty easy to see where he is heading. People are trying to explain literally all of human experience in terms of Darwinistic adaptive survival-of-the-fittest dynamics:
I could list about 10,000 links on this topic and not even come close to scratching the surface.
We have an incredible and inexplicable capacity to reason and make sense of the world, that cannot be said to have emerged from irrational chance collisions of fundamental particles and forces. Anyone with the slightest grasp of common sense and natural truth can see it. You can write books about emergence because you have the capacity to reason. Reason is not just a more crystalline form of random things that came before it. Reason is an alien presence that comes along to evaluate and name and notice relationships between things. There is no such thing as emergence when it comes to the appearance of the mind.
Here is the true rub with this issue. Physicalist atheistic Darwinism demands that non-rational forces converged to create life. Yet it uses rationality to judge the results as being “emergent”, and so depends upon the existence of the very thing that it denies. If everything in the universe came about by non-rational forces, we should also be non-rational, but there is a fundamental quality in us which must be excluded by definition from our analysis of the origins of things. This is impossible really. If these structures are emergent, then there is a rationally imagined teleological endpoint, but by definition there was not supposed to be any such thing as rationality until it (gradually!) emerged in us. None of this rings true in the slightest way.
I’m just an ignorant backwards uneducated religious fool babbling on about matters of which I have little knowledge. But here I am, the man on the street, saying that we have a naked emperor here. There are a good number of professional educated well-credentialed smart people saying similar things. When the atheistic communist regime of Nicolae Ceaușescu fell in the 80’s, thousands gathered around the parliament palace building to celebrate the demise of the awful tyrant. What is not well known is that they were saying, in Romanian, “there IS a God, there IS a God.” Here I am, in concert with them, saying “There is a God.” You really are a fool if you think otherwise.
The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”
(Psalms 14:1, NASB).