Ted Drange on the Logical Coherence of Atheism

Theodore M. Drange
Theodore M. Drange

Ted Drange just me the following response to Vasko Kohlmayer’s column, “Atheism: Why It is Logically Incoherent.”

Toward the end of his essay, the author writes:

But even as the atheist tries to make his point, he unwittingly falls into a trap: If his worldview were true, then the principle of non-contradiction – or any other rule of logic – would be void of meaning.

Why? Because within atheism reality is ultimately composed of only matter and motion. If atheism is true, then everything in the universe must be explainable in terms of these two.

Rules of logic, however, possess properties that cannot be explained in terms of matter and motion. After all, rules of logic are immaterial, abstract, universal and unchanging.

None of these qualities can be explained by what the atheist claims constitutes reality. Such properties simply do not fit into a materialistic picture of the universe.

On atheism, rules of logic should not even exist. But they do exist. Atheists themselves testify to this fact every time they make a logical argument to “prove” their point.

To put it another way, they presuppose that which their outlook implicitly denies.

It is crucial that we grasp this point: Atheists claim that everything is ultimately matter and motion, and yet in their reasoning they resort to categories which cannot be accounted for by matter and motion. This constitutes a contradiction at the very heart of atheistic thought.

If atheism were true, then human reasoning – which is based on rules of logic – would be a futile exercise.

Thus every time an atheist puts forth a logical argument in support of his position, he refutes that which he seeks to defend.

Atheism is not a logically coherent position, because it cannot account for the very tools which its adherents use to justify their beliefs.

If they really wanted to be consistent, proponents of atheism would have to relinquish their worldview.

I gather from that the following:

1. He is not defending theism against my atheistic argument, but rather, putting forward a general attack on atheism (one that is nothing new).

2. His argument could be summarized as follows:

(a) Atheism implies materialism.
(b) Atheism also presupposes that logical laws exist.
(c) Materialism can’t adequately explain the existence of logical laws.
(d) Therefore, it is impossible for materialism, and hence atheism, to be true.

3. There are some deep philosophical issues involved in that piece of reasoning. One of them is that of what it might mean to speak of logical laws as “existing.” And another is that of what it might mean to speak of “explaining the existence of logical laws.” One who delves into those issues might be able to come up with good objections to premise (b) and/or premise (c) of the argument. (I am not inclined to attempt such philosophizing at the present time.)

4. Premise (a) of the argument is clearly false. Atheism merely claims that God does not exist. It has nothing to say about non-material things in general. Some atheists are materialists, denying that there are any non-material things, but there is no need for an atheist to go that route. Atheists could quite consistently accept the existence of some non-material things (numbers, propositions, etc.) and yet deny that God exists. That in itself refutes the argument.

5. I would also argue that the conclusion does not follow from the premises. Even if there were something that materialism could not adequately explain, it would not follow that materialism would need to be false. The thing that materialism could not explain might be something that it is absolutely impossible to explain.

6. The author hints that theism could adequately explain the existence of logical laws, but that is something I would strongly deny.

Related Posts:

God and ‘The Laws of Logic’” by Keith Parsons