In an effort to try to understand entities with complex interdependent parts naturalism has fallaciously tried to reduce them to mere constituent parts. Since every piece of truth must pass through the brain in order to be understood, the human brain has been the biggest target. But, as Rene Descartes postulated, the mind is separate from the body; it is a separate entity. The mind is not physical; it is metaphysical. The mind has a separate realm of mental states and cannot be explained in merely physical terms. The mind is capable of willing action, thinking, predicting, comprehending, and even controlling the brain and the body. These are acts that are qualitatively different from their constituent neurons. And what of the notion that abstract concepts, such as thoughts, can act on natural things? That is completely out of the realm of the cause and effect relationship that most of the natural world appears to be operating under. There is, in reality, a dualism with separate orders of phenomena that at its core is very counter-intuitive and problematic for science alone to uncover. And were it not for this dualism of the brain/mind phenomenon, psychology would be a superfluous undertaking.What are we actually doing by reducing the mind to mere biochemistry? The person carrying this out is essentially saying, ‘I (the non-existent concept of the self or the ego) am nothing but a mere composition of atoms, elements, chemicals.’ But, if this is true then we should have no cognitive capabilities or reason for postulating that “reality.” Mere chemicals do not have cognition or trustworthy reasoning capabilities to make such claims. Reductionism is, therefore, self-defeating at its core.
But how far will we really take the absurd naturalistic reductions? Will we continually reduce everything to mere body parts, organs, tissues, chemicals? Or will go further and reduce everything to the cellular level? Or perhaps go even further and see the entirety of reality on the atomic level? We could elaborate further with countless other examples, but it may prove to be a lesser experience than the brilliant exposition of Fyodor Dostoevsky in The Brothers Karamazov,
“Secular science, which has grown into a great force, has investigated, particularly during the past century, everything that has been handed down to us in the sacred books. That is something you must always remember, young man. After their thorough, merciless analysis, there was nothing sacred left in the hands of those secular scholars. That was because they analyzed only the parts and failed to study the whole, showing thereby a truly astonishing blindness. And the whole still stands today, firm and unassailable before their eyes, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Hasn’t it survived nineteen centuries and isn’t its existence apparent today in the spiritual emotions experienced equally by individual men and by masses of people? And in the hearts of the very atheists who are trying to destroy everything, that spiritual emotion lives on to this day. This is so because even those who have renounced Christianity, even those who rebel against it—even they, in their essence, were created in the image of Christ and have remained in His image. Their combined wisdom and their desperate efforts to create a nobler man with greater dignity, the ideal set by Christ, have come to naught.”
We can not define life by merely its composing physical properties. If composing parts could define the full essence of the thing, then our biochemistry is all that composes our brain. But can we really use a brain that is nothing but biochemistry and that we can not trust in light of such reductionism, to be able to reason and argue for defining anything, anything at all? Clearly not! Then why do we buy into these claims? But the buzz of the television beckons us back to the covert invasion of our minds that do not pause long enough to question the claims made on the nightly news. Reductionism hypnotizes us. Should we just put up your hands horizontally with a slight limp, freeze our glare on an object some distance away and walk to the beat of the heart of the enchanting buzz of naturalism?
Please also see reductionism and problems with methodology.
Arthur is an author, a former agnostic, and current ambassador of Jesus of Nazareth who loves to share the best of reasons for God's ultimate reality. His love and passion are helping skeptics and Christians grow in their faith and knowledge of God through accessible materials.