Materialist reductionism (MR), sometimes referred to as “ontological reductionism”, is the philosophy of science that says everything in nature can be broken down into elementary particles governed by the laws of physics and chemistry. According to MR, Every molecular event that occurs in our brain is involuntary and is predetermined by a web of events that came before, backwards to the cosmic singularity (or beyond). We, along with everything else that has physical being, are only the sum of our parts, a conglomeration of atoms.
For atheists, MR is a tool often used to explain human psychology. Essentially, every thought that crosses our mind, every value we harbor, every emotion we experience, and every belief we hold is nothing more than the dynamics of our brain chemicals. Furthermore, we have no choices about any of it; we are organic robots controlled by the firing of our neurons. Free will is a wholesale illusion. There is no such thing as a “person” in the sense that we think of one; no entities that have command of the bodies roaming around on the planet. “People” are nothing more than bodies, and consciousness is only a grand illusion, a nifty bit of neurological trickery being played upon humanity by a brain cell conspiracy.
Neuroscientist Sam Harris puts it this way in his latest book: “Our wills are simply not of our own making. Thoughts and intentions emerge from background causes of which we are unaware and over which we exert no conscious control.”
Jerry Coyne, militant atheist Professor of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago says, “Free will is an illusion so convincing that people simply refuse to believe that we don’t have it.”
Obviously, MR has metaphysical implications. If there is no such thing as a soul, much less a disembodied soul, then God is nothing more than an abstract concept conjured by the highly evolved yet involuntary brain activity of some Homo sapiens, and whenever human bodies die, there is nothing that lives on into an afterlife.
For many of my readers, this view will sound laughably radical, like some sort of kooky fringe science. But just take a few minutes to browse the latest popular-level neuroscience books on Amazon. Note the names of the authors. Google them. These are the people who are lecturing in university halls around the country.
What’s curious (and incredibly entertaining) about the situation with MR is that many who espouse that view…for some mysterious reason…viciously ridicule those who believe that MR is wrong.
For instance, because I believe that the evidence from cosmology and biochemistry points to a Designer of the universe and of life, the materialist reductionist labels me an “uneducated fundamentalist” or my personal favorite, an “IDiot” (Intelligent Design idiot). Nevermind that–according to their very own philosophy–my beliefs are completely involuntary and inevitable as a result of my brain activity.
The last time I checked, making disparaging comments about someone because of a trait inherent to their biology is textbook bigotry. I was born with two X chromosomes (making me female), a fact I had no control over. Gender discrimination (sexism) is strongly frowned upon among the intellectual elite of society. All the other “isms” and “phobias” associated with biological traits are similarly condemned.
So, why does the MR advocate bother insulting other organic robots whose brains function differently?
If the reductionist derides someone who believes that human beings are more than the sum of their physical parts, that we are God’s image-bearers endowed with free will of thought and deed, aren’t they contradicting their own philosophy?
They are textbook neurochemical bigots if their philosophy is correct. But wait a tic, they didn’t have a choice but to behave that way, did they? Doesn’t that mean all the other discriminatory “phobias” and “isms” should be permissible, since they are, in fact, involuntary?
If my view, Judeo-Christian theism, is wrong, then whenever this organic robot ceases to function and passes out of existence, it will be none the wiser of its error and will have lived in a highly pleasurable brain state it called “communion with God.” But if the atheists’ MR philosophy is wrong, then they are tragic souls living in dark denial of the beautiful, infinitely expensive but freely offered transcendent reality of a loving, personal God. They will be aware of their grievous mistake for all of eternity.