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  • Writer's pictureDr. Benjamin J. Williams

10 Apologetic Arguments: The Human Intellect Argument

Why do humans have the ability to ask and analyze a question like whether or not God exists? What is the meaning of terms like cognitive faculties, memory, perception, intuition, sympathy, introspection, testimony, induction, or moral sense?

Every day humans make use of all of these capacities and trust them to be reliable. The theist sees this as most natural. After all, according to the Christian creation story, the human is made in the image of God (imago dei) and is thereby endued with divine qualities, such as intellect and awareness.

However, naturalism, the worldview excluding God or any supernatural reality, lacks an explanation for this raw fact. Evolution could conceivably explain the animal development of the abilities to feed, flee, fight, and procreate. However, there does not seem to be an evolutionary advantage to anything like the reasoning power of humans. As Darwin himself admitted to a friend, “With me, the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”1

In the naturalistic, materialistic worldview, human perceptions and values are simply the lingering effects of neural states, the particular configuration of electrons whirling around the human nervous system. Your “ideas” are merely the content of those states. A dog also has a nervous system, and as such has neural states, the particular configuration of which must now – out of fairness to dogs – be called “ideas” or “beliefs.” If you are willing to believe that dogs have such things as beliefs, would you also be willing to believe that they are true or reliable? If not for the dog, why for the human? Why do you trust your neural state?

In other words: Why do you think you can think?

In short, this argument points to a particular feature of our reality we are well acquainted with, the human cognitive faculties. This feature is easily explained if there is a God, but not at all explained if there is not. The more sophisticated you believe you are, the more pronounced this fact is! As Paul Davies, professor of mathematical physics has written,

We human beings can grasp at least some of nature’s secrets. We have cracked part of the cosmic code. Why this should be, just why homo sapiens should carry the spark of rationality that provides the key to the universe is a profound enigma. We, who are children of the universe – animated stardust – can nevertheless reflect on the nature of that same universe, even to the extent of glimpsing the rules on which it runs. How we have become linked into this cosmic dimension is a mystery. Yet, the linkage cannot be denied.2

  1. In a letter to William Graham dated July 3rd, 1881.

  2. Paul Davies, The Mind of God: The Scientific Basis for a Rational World (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), 232.

Ben Williams is the Preaching Minister at the Glenpool Church of Christ and a regular writer at So We Speak. Check out his new book Why We Stayed or follow him on Twitter, @Benpreachin.

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