A question for atheists regarding free will and rationality

by Matt Slick

Okay atheists, I have a question for you.  But before I get to the question, I must first make it clear that I know there are different kinds of atheists.  Some are strict materialists; some are not.  Some are more agnostic.  Some ‘lack belief in God’ while others openly deny God.  But, this video is aimed at those atheists who believe that the only thing in the universe is matter and energy and its various forms.  This would mean that there is no supernatural, no God, no spirits, no miracles.

Okay, for those of you who fit this criteria, here’s my question. If matter and energy are all that exist in the universe, then how do you rationally defend the idea that you have free will and can properly use logic? 

The point is this--how can you as a strict materialist really trust your own mind?  I mean, if everything in the universe is matter and energy, then that means your physical brain is bound by the laws of physics.  Think about this.  In a purely materialistic worldview where the human brain is nothing more than the summation of chemicals and brain wiring, how do you justify having both free will and rationality?

You see, it’s a brain problem.

How does one chemical state of the brain that is altered by the electrical firing of neurons, which leads to another chemical state in your brain, produce free thought and logical inference?  

If your brain is hardwired and constrained by the physical laws, then it cannot act outside of those laws or outside the limits of the hardwiring.  It is, in essence, caged in by the limits of physical properties and cannot break free of them.

This would mean that whatever stimulus you receive, such as being asked a question, will result in a specific response that must be in accordance with whatever arrangement your brain’s nuero-chemical wiring requires. 

Let me illustrate.  If you could be exactly reproduced in an identical environment and your other ‘you’ was asked a question, it, just like you, would produce the exact same response.  If this scenario were played over and over again, you’d always respond the exact same way.  You’d have no choice but to do so.  Why?  Because, in strict materialism, you are nothing more than the arrangement of chemicals and wiring in your brain which will automatically produce a specific result when faced with specific stimulus.  So then, how are you free?  And, how can you trust your logical conclusions since they too are merely the result of the changes of chemical states in your physical brain?  How do you know you aren’t believing lies about reality, and how would you know you’re not being illogical in your conclusions?  After all, it could be your brain wiring that makes you “think” you’re believing truth and also being logical.

Now, if you say that my reasoning is flawed, then my response is that you are forced to reply that way because of the neuro-chemical wiring in your brain.

Or perhaps you “believe” you have free will.  Maybe you “think” you’re logical.  But then again, perhaps you are forced to believe and think that way due to the neuro-chemical wiring in your brain.  I have to ask.  How do you know that the neuro-chemical wiring in your brain doesn’t just produce a set of processes that force you to think and feel a certain way so that, according to evolutionary theory, your genetics can be passed down to other generations?  In this evolutionary, materialistic process, deception could be a reality provided it results in genetic descendants.  This way, your atheism is nothing more than a set of chemical states in your brain which forces you into certain beliefs and behaviors so that genes are carried on throughout the centuries.

Now, dear materialistic atheist, it doesn’t matter how you respond to this video because you were programmed to respond that way given the neuro-chemical wiring in your brain.  But don’t feel bad, it isn’t your fault.  It really isn’t your free will.  It is the illusion of free will produced by the neuro-chemical wiring in your brain that makes you say what you say and think that what you think is actually logical--even though it might not really be right.  Don’t agree?  Well, we both know why you don’t agree, don’t we?


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.