Post Author: Bill Pratt
The question of the origin of human rationality plagues the atheistic naturalist worldview – the worldview that says that all that exists ultimately is matter governed by the laws of physics. If every event that has ever occurred and ever will occur is determined by physical laws, then how are humans able to make decisions that are free from that determinism?
Rationality is mere illusion under naturalism, as everything we say and think is the result of antecedent physical conditions and physical laws. We can’t help what we say and think, because all our thoughts and words are the result of physical processes that we have no control over. Judging a person’s beliefs would be like blaming a leaf for falling to the ground.
On a recent Unbelievable? podcast, atheist Norman Bacrac posited the following solution to the problem. He claimed that the human brain represents the hardware that obeys the physical laws of nature. But running on this hardware is the software of the rational mind, software which evolved out of the hardware of human anatomy. According to Bacrac, even though the hardware is determined by natural laws, the software is not. Software represents the thoughts and arguments made by humans when they are reasoning.
Does this software proposal really help? I don’t think so. Consider what hardware and software mean in the computer world. Hardware consists in physical electronic circuits. Software performs the function of the program it implements by directly providing instructions to the computer hardware. Software is non-physical information. It can be instantiated into a physical medium, but the medium is not the software – it merely contains the software.
If we are using the analogy of computer hardware and software to explain the difference between the human brain and human rationality, then we need to explain where the non-physical software came from. Bacrac claimed that the hardware of the brain evolved through standard Darwinian processes, but what about the software? Ultimately, for the naturalist, the software must come from physical matter. So, we have physical hardware producing non-physical software, but this is certainly not the case in the world of computers. Microprocessors don’t produce spreadsheet applications; human minds produce spreadsheet applications.
In order for Bacrac’s analogy to work, he needs to explain the incredible leap from the determined, physical hardware of the brain to the undetermined, non-physical software of human rationality. On naturalism, I fail to see how this leap can occur, and thus the solution that Bacrac posits does not seem to work.