Stephen Fry, Humanism, & Incoherence

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

|

February 27, 2015

The British actor, Stephen Fry, has recently narrated a short animated video in which he advocates the atheistic view of humanism. In my experience, humanism seems to mean different things to different people. According to a quick Google search, humanism is typically defined as:

“An outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. Humanist beliefs stress the potential value and goodness of human beings, emphasize common human needs, and seek solely rational ways of solving human problems.”

I’m convinced that humanism doesn’t make any sense at all because objective meaning, value, purpose, goodness and morality in general don’t make sense on atheistic naturalism. After watching this video, I contend that the only way one can make sense of human value,goodness, and rationality itself, is only if God and soul exist. Let’s begin by dealing directly with Stephen Fry:

“What should we think about death? One thing we can be sure of is that we will die. Everybody will. Some people do not like the thought of this and don’t accept it. They prefer to think that death is not the end of us but that we might live on, perhaps in another life on earth, or in another place where people are rewarded or punished… But wanting something to be true is not the same as it being true.”

That’s right, Stephen Fry, but this sword cuts both ways. Most atheists I know sure don’t want Christianity to be true, but wanting atheism to be true doesn’t make Christianity false. Since the truth of propositions like these are not determined by our wants, desires, or our hopes, we need something a little more substantial – we need evidence!

Now evidence comes in a manner of many packages. Of course we have empirical and scientific data that counts as evidence, we also can use things like the historical method as evidence. Sometimes we can have mathematical evidence to help us prove things. In a courtroom we have testimonial evidence to help the judge and jury attain knowledge of the truth. But all of these disciplines have one thing in common; they all rely on the bedrock and foundation of the laws of logic. It therefore follows that we should not only use logic as evidence, it’s where we should start.

After all, a scientist cannot employ the scientific method without assuming the laws of logic, but the laws of logic do not assume the scientific method.

So, when it comes to using evidence to demonstrate the way reality probably is, we must not make the mistake of assuming scientific or empirical data is all that counts as evidence. We start with the logic, and then use as many disciplines as possible to attain knowledge of reality.

Now, in the video, Frye, says the following about evidence:

“And there is no evidence to support the idea that our minds could survive the end of our bodies.”

Well, that is plain and simply flat-out false! This is either an example of uneducated ignorance at best, or straight- up deception at worst. Let’s examine one logic-based argument that counts as evidence demonstrating not only that an immaterial mind/soul does exist, but also that it can exist apart from the body. Consider my “Freethinking Argument Against Naturalism.”

  1. If naturalism is true, the immaterial human soul does not exist.
  2. If the soul does not exist, libertarian free will does not exist.
  3. If libertarian free will does not exist, rationality and knowledge do not exist.
  4. Rationality and knowledge exist.
  5. Therefore, libertarian free will exists.
  6. Therefore, the soul exists.
  7. Therefore, naturalism is false.
  8. The best explanation for the existence of the soul is God.

Let me run through this argument very quickly so fasten your seat belts and put your helmets on!

1- If naturalism is true, the immaterial human soul does not exist.

 Atheistic naturalists usually affirm this premise, as it is virtually synonymous with, “If naturalism is true, nature is all that exists!”

2- If the soul does not exist, libertarian free will does not exist.

Atheistic naturalists usually agree with this premise too, as this statement is virtually synonymous with, “If all that exists is nature, then EVERYTHING is caused and determined via the laws of nature and the initial conditions of the big bang.”

I must point out that most naturalistic/atheistic scientists and philosophers agree with this premise. Well-known advocates of atheism such as, Sam Harris, Will Provine, Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, Jerry Coyne, Alex Rosenberg, and even Daniel Dennett (who tries to find some “elbow room” for free will) will tell you that LIBERTARIAN free will (the real kind) cannot exist along with a naturalistic world view.

3- If libertarian free will does not exist, rationality does not exist.

Allow me to let Dr. William Lane Craig defend this premise for me. He says:

“There is a sort of dizzying, self-defeating character to determinism. For if one comes to believe that determinism is true, one has to believe that the reason he has come to believe it is simply that he was determined to do so. One has not in fact been able to weigh the arguments pro and con and freely make up one’s mind on that basis. The difference between the person who weighs the arguments for determinism and rejects them and the person who weighs them and accepts them is wholly that one was determined by causal factors outside himself to believe and the other not to believe. When you come to realize that your decision to believe in determinism was itself determined and that even your present realization of that fact right now is likewise determined, a sort of vertigo sets in, for everything that you think, even this very thought itself, is outside your control. Determinism could be true; but it is very hard to see how it could ever be rationally affirmed, since its affirmation undermines the rationality of its affirmation.”

In other words, it’s question-begging to assume your determined thoughts and beliefs are any better than my determined beliefs that your beliefs are wrong. It is begging the question (a logical fallacy) to affirm all things are determined, while assuming your determined thoughts and beliefs happen to be correct. An argument based on a logical fallacy is no argument at all.

4- Rationality exists.

Rationality is the process of being able to think of and about competing hypothesis, deliberate between them, and infer the best explanation via the laws of logic. Given this definition, a rational entity must also possess at least two other attributes: intentionality (which seems unlikely on naturalism) and libertarian free will (which seems impossible on naturalism).

If one wants to argue this premise, they affirm it because they must provide a rational argument against rationality. That would be self-refuting (another logical fallacy) and thereby affirm premise (4). Moreover, one is free to deny this premise, but then why should anyone listen to them? They would be affirming their non-rationality!

If these four premises are true, then the deductive conclusions logically follow:

5- Therefore, libertarian free will exists.

6- Therefore, the soul exists.

Anyway, Stephen Fry, don’t tell me there is NO evidence for the soul! My argument reaches a deductive conclusion that the soul exists and this counts as evidence!

Fry quickly changes the topic to discuss the value of life and says:

“What sense could we make of the things that we value – love, experiences, communication, achievements, the warmth of the sun on our face – if we were disembodied?

Well, Stephen, have you seen the Matrix? I can certainly imagine something like that as Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus didn’t really have bodies while in the Matrix, but it sure seemed like they did. What’s more, they not only could experience love, communication, and achievements without bodies, but they could also “feel” the warmth of the sun on their faces (you could have fooled Neo anyway)!

It doesn’t seem like the “Matrix idea” is as far-fetched as you might think. In fact, many physicists today are making a case that we are actually disembodied right now (even though it doesn’t seem like it)! Scientific American has recently published some articles on this topic. In a nutshell, much recent high-end theoretical physics has lent weight towards the possibility that the fabric of space is emergent. The consensus among quantum gravity researchers is converging on the view that space is not fundamental but emerges from underlying information.[1]

Take the world-renowned theoretical physicist, Fotini Markopoulou, for example. She makes the following statements: “ I’m not so sure you could describe a world without a time, but describing a world without space is an easier job.” She goes on to say, “If there is no time, then things do not happen… space is a bit easier to do away with.”[2] If there is no space, then there is no matter. If there is no matter, then there are no bodies since bodies are composed of matter. If you do not possess a body, then what are you? You would be a mind/soul who thought he had a body made of matter. This is scientific data that suggests reality might not be how you think it is!

I’m not ready to admit they are correct about the non-existence of matter; however, their arguments cannot be ignored. At the very least, we have to keep it on the table as a possibility. If it’s possible that this world is immaterial, why can’t Heaven be that way?

Anyway, I digress; let’s get back to Stephen Fry’s video:

“And if life were eternal, wouldn’t it lose much of what gives it shape, structure, meaning, and purpose?”

Stephen what do you mean by the words, “meaning,” and, “purpose,” to human life. If we are going to have a conversation regarding real and OBJECTIVE meaning, value, and purpose, then eternity is an essential ingredient! I’ll get back to this soon!

Now, Fry says,

“Think about reading a good book or eating a delicious cake. These may be great pleasures, but one of the things that makes them pleasures is that they come to an end. A book that went on and on forever and a cake that you never stopped eating would both soon lose their appeal.”

I don’t know about you, Stephen, but I think the great thing about finishing a good cake is hoping that someday I will get to experience it again. Now, of course I don’t want to only eat cake, as cake alone would get pretty sickening very quickly, but good meals and desserts come to an end, we get full, but eventually we get hungry again, and it is always satisfying to enjoy another great tasting meal. I don’t know about you, but I get excited looking for new entrées to try and new desserts to enjoy.

In between meals, I also appreciate good books. The great thing about finishing one book is knowing that there are so many other good books I can read if I want to! I enjoy good movies too! Now, some think I could watch the Star Wars movies over and over and over (maybe I could), but eventually it’s nice to watch a new movie like the Matrix or the Avengers! Well, guess what, there are thousands of movies available for me to enjoy when I feel like it, and new movies are constantly being made by fantastic filmmakers (I can’t wait for the new Star Wars movie)!

All of this to make the point that I think Fry is kind of setting up a false dilemma. It’s almost as if he is suggesting that we must choose between either eating nothing but cake for the infinite future or simply cease to exist!

Well, Stephen, why can’t we have a potentially infinite amount of new recipes to enjoy into the eternal future? Why can’t we have new books being written and new adventures to enjoy for eternity? Why can’t we continue to be exhilarated as we continue to learn new things about God and ultimate reality? This idea excites me, and although this excitement is not proof that Heaven is for real, it sure demonstrates that Stephen Fry needs to so some more thinking on the topic!

Speaking of Fry needing to do some more thinking on the topic, he says:

“Death is a natural part of life. It makes sense for us to try not to be afraid of this but instead to come to terms with it.”

Stephen, what do you mean by, “it makes sense for us to TRY not to be afraid of this…”? I mean, this doesn’t make SENSE at all when you contemplate a purely naturalistic universe. In a world where God and soul do not exist, all is determined via the laws of nature and the initial conditions of the big bang! So, how are we supposed to “TRY” to do anything? According to atheistic naturalism, we don’t “try” to do things, we either are forced to do things or not via the big bang!

Fry goes on:

“Then we can focus on finding meaning and purpose in the here and now, making the most of the one life we know we have and helping others to do the same, choosing good over evil without the expectation of reward in some other place.”

Wow! There are FIVE mistakes to point out in that one single sentence:

1- There are no “cans” on naturalism; only what is or will be the case.

2- There is no objective meaning and purpose in this life to try to find even if you could TRY to find it.

3- There is no objective good or evil on naturalism, and even if these concepts are simply subjective, there is no objective obligation to “choose” good over evil.

4- By the way, there is no ability to CHOOSE anything on naturalistic determinism!

5- On Fry’s view there is no eternal reward for living a “good” life, but there is also no eternal punishment if we could choose to live a subjectively evil life. Thus, it makes no difference if one wants to live like Ted Bundy or Mother Theresa.

Fry continues:

“When we do die, we will live on in the work we have done and in the memories of the other people whose lives we have been part of.”

Well, sure, Stephen Fry, at least until the heat death of the universe anyway! If atheistic naturalism is true, this universe and all life and memories of it are doomed to annihilation. There is no escape; we are doomed! The universe is doomed!

You will leave no legacy and no one will remember your name!

Ultimately, it will be as if we never existed in the first place! If it will eventually be as if we never existed, then the present moment of right now is meaningless! Our very lives are meaningless! If atheistic naturalism is true, our lives do not really matter. Nothing matters (objectively speaking)!

As Melissa Cain Travis says, “The catch-22 for atheism is that *IF* atheism is true, it doesn’t ultimately matter that it’s true.”[3]

If atheism happens to be true, it doesn’t matter that it is true, or even that we come to realize it’s true, because we all reach the same annihilation, along with the universe itself. Why bother doing anything if atheism is true? What does it matter in the long run (objectively speaking) that we make medical or scientific advances to prolong life for a brief few more moments? If there is no eternity, what is the significance between seconds, years, or decades?

However, if Christianity is true, then this objective truth would be of extreme, eternal, and infinite importance! If Christianity is true, it suffers from no such “catch – 22!” If Christian theism is objectively true, that truth is of INFINITE significance to all humanity, no matter what they subjectively think.

Let’s keep dissecting Fry’s incoherent worldview (just because one has a British accent, it doesn’t mean they know what they’re talking about)! He says:

“Our bodies will break up and become part again of the cycle of nature”

Well, Stephen, according to the worldview of naturalism, only nature exists, therefore, our bodies never stopped being a part of nature at all. What do you mean by “again” becoming a part of nature?

He concludes:

“The atoms that form us now will go on to form other things – trees and birds, flowers and butterflies.”

So what, Stephen? Those same atoms will also form venomous vipers, mosquitos, members of ISIS, and the next Hitler and Ted Bundy! Why just put a happy face on your worldview when there are sad faces galore that should not be ignored? In fact, on your naturalistic view, there is no objective good, bad, right, or wrong. There is only what IS the case, not what OUGHT to be. Thus, there is nothing objectively bad or wrong with the atoms that form ISIS and nothing objectively good or right with the atoms that form butterflies.

Almost everything Stephen Fry says in this video is incoherent and unintelligent. It might sound good to the uneducated or those committed to their faith in atheism, but once these statements are carefully observed, one can quickly see that atheistic humanism does not make any sense at all!

Be reasonable (Philippians 4:5):

Tim Stratton


Notes:

[1] Michael Moyer, Is Space Digital?, Scientific American, (109)

[2] Fotini Markoupoulou, “Closer to the Truth,” http://youtu.be/1-Q4m5T7knM (Accessed 9-3-14)

[3] Melissa Cain Travis, https://hcchristian.wordpress.com/2013/07/27/the-catch-22-of-atheism/

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About the Author

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

Tim pursued his undergraduate studies at the University of Nebraska-Kearney (B.A. 1997) and after working in full-time ministry for several years went on to attain his graduate degree from Biola University (M.A. 2014). Tim is currently enrolled at North-West University pursuing his Ph.D. in systematic theology with a focus on metaphysics, history, and biblical data.

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