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Are the laws of logic simply a reflection of the way the universe works? Dr. Jason Lisle, AiG–U.S., shows why this argument falls apart and undermines atheistic claims.
The article in question is: Atheism: An Irrational Worldview
In this article it is claimed that the atheists’ use of reasoning and the laws of logic invalidates their own belief there is nothing beyond the material, rationalistic “reality’. Several possible atheist responses are considered, but I’m missing a quite obvious one. This makes the article feel unfair, a straw man argument.
Laws of logic may not be physical, but may be a necessary result of natural laws that obviously do exist. On a macroscopic scale, the laws of mathematics exist and can be proven to be consistent: if you take three apples, and add another, you have four apples. Every time. These mathematical laws are not physical, but are part of or consequences of the natural laws that govern our universe (like the Pauli exclusion principle). The same seems to go for laws of logic: on a macroscopic scale, the laws of logic seem to be as applicable and real as any natural law, even though they have no physical reality (just like those natural laws). This is not a problem for an atheist. One can philosophize that in a different, “parallel” universe these laws might be different, and quantum dynamics have taught us that on a subatomic level different laws rule, like in the mass-energy equality, the wave-particle dualism and the flow of time for certain particles which seem to contradict some laws of logic.
So the article should be corrected by adding the atheists response: “the laws of logic (and causality, mathematics, etc.) are a necessary extension of the (macroscopic) laws of nature in this universe, and humankind has evolved enough to recognize and utilize these laws of logic”. If you cannot refute that response, the article should be deleted.
Please keep in mind that I’m a Christian, and fully believe the Genesis account of our world’s origin and history. I simply don’t like invalid arguments, even if they be for valid cases.
—Erik, the Netherlands
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Let us know what you think.
Thanks for your message. The article on laws of logic does address a number of potential responses by evolutionists. But, since there are an infinite number of possible responses, a finite article cannot cover them all. Therefore, I tried to give just a few of the most common examples so that the reader can see that none of them stand up to scrutiny. The argument is that laws of logic are a reflection of the thinking of the biblical God as revealed in the Scriptures, and that any alternative view really doesn’t make sense. The hypothetical response that you have posed is essentially the conjecture that laws of logic are a reflection of the way the universe works. This position is also very easy to refute for a number of reasons.
First, it would be hard to support the notion that laws of logic are a reflection or extension of the physical universe because they do not describe the physical universe (as laws of nature do). Rather, laws of logic pertain more to the reasoning process; they describe the correct “chain of reasoning” from premises to conclusions. For example, the law of non-contradiction (A and not-A cannot both be true at the same time and in the same relationship) deals with concepts—not with nature, per se. Laws of logic connect conceptual relationships, rather than describing specific conditions or processes in the physical universe.
More importantly, if laws of logic were a reflection of the universe (rather than of God’s thoughts), then they would be contingent upon the universe. And that leads to some rather absurd consequences. If laws of logic were contingent on the universe, then we would expect that different parts of the universe would have different laws of logic. After all, the conditions in the core of the sun are quite different than conditions on the surface of earth. If laws of logic describe the universe, then they would be different from place to place, since different parts of the universe are described differently.
Moreover, if laws of logic were contingent upon the universe, then we would expect them to change with time, since the universe changes with time. Yet, we all presume that laws of logic are invariant—the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. This, of course, makes sense in the Christian worldview, since God is beyond time, and, thus, His thoughts are as well. If laws of logic were merely an extension of the physical universe, then we would have no basis for arguing that they must apply in unknown regions of the universe or in the future, since no one has experienced these things. It does no good to counter that laws of logic do work in known regions and have always worked in the past. This is irrelevant to unknown regions and the future unless we already presupposed an underlying uniformity, which only the consistent Christian has a right to expect.
Mathematics is similar, reflecting the thinking of an infinite God. Mathematics is not an extension of the physical universe, even though natural laws can often be expressed in terms of mathematical principles. Mathematicians frequently entertain concepts that have no corresponding physical reality whatsoever. We could consider a 38-demensional space and compute the hyper-volumes of hyper-spheres and other shapes in such mathematical realms. Such concepts would be perfectly meaningful, even though such things do not and cannot exist physically in our three-dimensional space.
By the way, laws of logic (and mathematics) are not violated even at the quantum scale or at relativistic velocities. Energy and mass are not contraries, and, so, there is no problem with an equivalence relationship. Even wave-particle duality is not truly contradictory; objects behave wavelike in some ways at some times, and particle-like at other times and in other ways. When the time or sense is different, there is no contradiction.
I hope this helps. God bless.
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