Friday, December 27, 2013

You are not a clockwork, by Bhakta Tom

On Christmas Eve I went to church, and in his sermon the priest challenged atheism by bringing up the question of which came first - the Word or the World. In other words, does consciousness arise from matter or vice versa? One year ago this question made me abandon atheism and led me towards Krishna Consciousness, so I will share my own take on it.

The kind of atheism which is backed by Western science and popularized by Richard Dawkins and others, has the following view of living beings:

1. There is nothing except the matter that can be perceived through anyone's five senses.

2. Matter is nothing but particles and waves.

3. The behavior of these particles and waves can, in theory, be completely predicted by knowing all their properties and relationships, in the form of scientific numbers, and applying physical calculations to these numbers.

4. Since nothing but numbers is necessary for understanding reality, there is nothing but numbers.

5. Therefore, what we call consciousness is a clockwork of numbers, just like the body.

However, cognitive dissonance arises when you consider that you are alive, but numbers are not. More specifically, you feel that you are aware, not just aware of being aware, but aware of anything at all, but how could numbers ever be aware?

I could also put it this way: Suppose that the scientists were able to know everything about every atom in your body. Or suppose they were able to build a robot which talked and behaved just like you. In both cases they would claim to have a complete copy of you. But you know that these copies would only be dolls, or clockworks, not aware of anything like you are. (There is a term for that: Philosophical zombies.)

This is not a proof against atheism, only an argument. A proof would require a solid definition of awareness, but there is none, and I doubt that there can ever be one. This is called The Hard Problem of Consciousness. However, that is not a defeat. On the contrary, it is a reassurance that awareness - in other words, the soul - can never be reduced to an object. It is always the subject, it just is. Awareness is that which says "I am". Think about it, you will realize that awareness is beyond the world of concepts and objects. It is transcendental, and that is my whole argument against scientific atheism.

Someone may argue that this is circular reasoning, that since awareness cannot be adequately explained, I turn to an invented explanation and argue on the basis of that. But that is a misunderstanding. I do not strive to explain, only to experience. Explanations are mundane, but awareness can be experienced in greater and greater depth. Everyone has this potential. The essence of scientific atheism is nothing but denial of a transcendental experience.

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