Dishonest Apologetics Pt. 2: Upsetting Milkjugs
Religion offers simplistic answers for everything, which is why it is so easy for people to succumb to it, and let go of reason. It is a placeholder for actual knowledge, because it explains everything without the need for any real understanding. The champion of this simplistic view of reality is C.S. Lewis. I've seen this claim by Lewis posted as a meme by Christians, and when you are done removing your palm from your skull you need to find a way to describe it, because it is so radically dumb that it leaves you speechless at first.
Here is the C.S. Lewis quote that has been doing the rounds in theist circles, probably for the better part of the last century:
“Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It's like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can't trust my own thinking, of course I can't trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”
Let's follow a simple analysis in Lewis' thought experiment:
Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking.
Lewis enters with a dishonest suggestions that a mind needs to be designed. At this point the theists are already giddy because they know this will be another trophy on their confirmation bias shelf.
It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought.
Atoms? There is something basically wrong with referring to the brain as a bunch of atoms. We don't talk about computers as a bunch of atoms, yet brains are infinitely more complex. This is the worst kind of argument from absurdity. Knowing some basic high school neurobiology, I cringe every time I read this statement. Brains are made of neurons, which themselves have complex modes of operation. A neuron can communicate with many other neurons. Neurons interact in a massively parallel network of super sophisticated networks that take multiple external and internal inputs. The statement above is no less than a lie of omission. I am fairly sure that Lewis was too lazy to learn the neurobiology of his day, and completely ignorant of the massive strides we have made in neurobiology today.
Here is a hypothetical C.S. Lewis like character describing some other things: "The Narnia books are just letters on paper. The Mona Lisa is just paint on a canvas. Curiosity is just a buggy in a sand pit. Star Wars is just a series of still photos shown in quick succession." All of these statements are technically true, but in a very essential way they fail to describe something properly.
Lewis loves to appeal to simplicity. He has a very simple view of life and how things work that appeals to the everyman. The difference is that he was a simpleton who could write and speak well, which made him the foundational apologist of modern Christianity, despite his overly simplistic view even of the christian faith and his terrible analogies, like the one in this article.