As we wrap up the series of arguments, we get to my own argument. I haven’t really heard this one posited anywhere else, and so I tentatively step out on my own here. I am honest enough with myself to admit that there may be holes in this argument that could come to light. If any of the four arguments bears attack, this one is probably it.
Now that I’ve tipped off any skeptics to lick their chops, let me explain the main point of the argument, give the hypothetical syllogism for the logic of the argument, then give the supporting evidence.
The main point of the argument is this: intangible concepts, such as ideas, words, emotions, moral characteristics, etc. cannot be reasonably shown to have material origins. The intangible soul, described plainly by theists and more specifically Christian theists, is the best explanation for the origin of intangible concepts.
The logical argument is this:
1) If intangible concepts exist, then the best explanation for the origin of these concepts is the soul.
2) Intangible concepts exist.
3) Therefore, the best explanation for the origin of these concepts is the soul.
Now the only objections to the second condition in the argument might come from the New Age movement, where some believe that our entire existence is illusory. I can’t really respond to that objection without going into all of the fundamental flaws with an illusory existence, so I’m going to put that possible objection aside and focus on the biggest potential problem with the argument: that the best explanation for the origin of intangible concepts is the soul.
For our purposes, I’m only going to take the argument far enough as to suppose the inference to the best explanation of soul. I think the logic would follow that the best explanation for the existence of soul is that it is created by God and instilled in us from birth, but that is not the goal of this post. If there is an objection at this level, perhaps we will address it in the comments. But I tend to believe that the greater number of possible objections will come in the initial step, rather than this second level. So let’s stick to the top level and reason it out first, then work our way down if necessary.
Now, the basis for the argument is rooted in taxonomy and genetics, with the simple scientific belief that something that originates from something else must contain the markers of its predecessors. A baby deer, for instance, will gather its genetic code from its parents. And deer are classified with other animals that have similar features into one family or genus, or phylum, etc., so the taxonomy tree is completed.
Now if we apply the same scientific method to intangible concepts, they must be similar to the thing from which they originate, right? So when we look for where intangible concepts come from, ought not that thing also be intangible? For where else in science or nature do we see something tangible produce something intangible? There is no evidence of this anywhere in science, so if we apply the same scientific method used to explain taxonomy and genetics, which point to the furthering of species, it makes sense that the origin of intangible concepts is itself intangible.
Now this raises a dilemma for the materialist. The materialist would say that such things as soul do not exist, and that things like emotions, words, ideas, come from the brain. But how do you explain the origin of such concepts in the brain using the scientific basis we’ve already discussed? The second issue with the brain being responsible for these is that the brain is not a creating entity, but rather a processing entity.
From the National Institute of Health: “The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord. It is the major information-processing center of the body. The spinal cord conducts sensory information (information from the body) from the peripheral nervous system to the brain. After processing its many sensory inputs, the brain initiates motor outputs (coordinated mechanical responses) that are appropriate to the sensory input it receives. The spinal cord then carries this motor information from the brain through the PNS to various locations in the body (such as muscles and glands).” (emphasis mine) So the only initiation done by the brain is in response to a sensory input; it does not create anything by itself. Think about it this way–the eye processes light and sends information to the brain to tell you what you are looking at. But the eye did not create the light, it merely processed and necessitated a response. The brain is the same way.
Now the materialist would say, “Well words evolved just like other natural things. Similar grunts were processed by the brain and became associated with things, and over time they developed into words and that’s how we got language.” While that is entirely possible, this explanation does nothing for other intangible things like morality and emotions. The evidence for this is fairly rational–think of an emotion like love. Say your kid wanders into traffic. As a parent, you rescue them and can either hug them tightly or give them a swat on the rear for doing that. Both things are done out of love, but it is expressed different ways. The brain shouldn’t by nature process two opposite reactions to the same instance and arrive at the same conclusion, because the output must be appropriate to the input (i.e. my parent is inflicting pain, therefore she does not love me, versus my parent holds me tight and kisses me, therefore she loves me).
So for these intangible concepts, we need an entity that creates and generates them, rather than a responsive entity like the brain. Based on the taxonomy and genetics explanation above, it makes most sense that this entity also be intangible. So what is an intangible creative entity? Well, supernaturalism (and more specifically theism) has long posited the existence of such an entity called soul, by which things are created innately in us and our brain initiates motor outputs in response to express these things. Existence of soul would also mean that things like language, morality and emotions have been ingrained in us since the beginning of time, and while they have adapted due to different natural environments, they have always been present in one form or another.
Again, this poses a huge problem for the materialist, and more specifically for the evolutionist, because it would then make evolution the least plausible explanation for the existence of life. If language has existed from the outset, then humanity has existed from the outset, and did not evolve from some other life form.
So I feel like there’s a compelling case here that the existence of soul is the best explanation for intangible concepts. To make a reasonable objection, one must first tear down all of the arguments I’ve made here and provide positive evidence for the best alternative. I welcome your questions and objections.