According to the Oxford philosopher Keith Ward *,


Modern science does not start with observation.

(Neither does religion.)


OK… What then?

Both start with the CONSCIOUSNESS and COMMON SENSE of a human mind.

How does this up-front admission square with the typical thinking of Materialism?

[For more use the DOOR.]





Materialists don’t begin to lay their “foundations” this way.

But they lay foundations nonetheless, as you’ll soon see. ALL PATTERNS OF THINKING ARE BUILT UPON “OBVIOUS”  AGREED-UPON ASSUMPTIONS. SCIENCE IS NO EXCEPTION. Logical patterns don’t “free float”; they rest upon foundations (often largely hidden).

“What, then, about those ‘everyday, soft’ words ‘CONSCIOUSNESS‘ and ‘COMMON SENSE,'” that I’ve “screamed” in boldface, with underlining , and color?” Will they support bricks and boards of logical, repeatable information?

Now for (our) defining of the “c” words: “Consciousness, regardless of what led to its creation, is the magical ability of sensing what’s outside of our skin, and even inside, and usefully thinking about it.” And the second: “Common sense is using good judgment when observing and acting upon what is observed.” (These are adozenseconds.com’s spin, not Ward’s.)

“But ‘magical‘!?” you say.

“Well, yes, or ‘supernatural,’** if you prefer. Work in science cannot even take place, or even explain how such work is possible without MAKING THESE ASSUMPTIONS. Those doing science simply must “believe” that the phenomenon of human consciousness (involving the brain, of course) actually exists. And that consciousness works in a regular way to observe and reliably record repeatable information**. “Randomly” changing laws and ways to measure are “not allowed” here.

4 things to say about this:

(1) If this is so simple, how would an atheistic materialist respond? Perhaps like this: “Well, we just evolved this way. Something so obvious is not worth talking about.” To which we would add: “Well, having and using a workable, repeatable ‘package of science’ is something that you still have to believe, or have faith in. To be blunt: Humans cannot use science to prove that humans can use science. They have to assume that this is possible. Moreover, until shown otherwise, it must be assumed–or accepted on faith–that humans are the only living creatures with consciousness and common sense who can do this. Doing science can then can provide detailed blueprints of the house we see, while being unable to (yet) understand much of the hidden foundation it’s built upon.

(2) It’s a logical mistake to automatically equate the “God of the Bible” with “supernatural” in the way it’s used here. “Super” simply means “beyond” what appears natural (at least so far). Sometimes what seems to be supernatural proves to be natural after all.

(3) “Consciousness” and “common sense” are useful words in trying to understand philosophy, science, and religion. Everything “out there” is not just willy-nilly. Things happen, and there are regular repeatable patterns to much of this that we can observe and share with others of our species.

(4) The “c words” are, of course, used in other ways than what we’ve defined. But we’ll try to be consistent as we build on our foundation.


* This reflects much of the argument in Keith Ward’s More Than Matter? What Humans Really Are (Lion Hudson, 2010) and Ward’s “Boyle Lecture” at Gresham  College at Oxford, 2009. What Ward may consider distortions and unwarranted wanderings fall at my own feet.

**  We don’t mean to say, or imply, that everyone necessarily sees exactly the same thing. Differences in intelligence, and color-blindness, for example, can cause differences in observing the same objects. We’re addressing a general principle.




Author: John Knapp