11/24/2006 04:23 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The God Delusion? Part 4

At a certain point we must leave Dawkins behind, since he is riding a hobby horse. He feels compelled to attack the onslaught of irrational forces that pose a crisis to the very existence of science. I doubt the crisis is so dire. Without screaming that the sky is falling down, one can say that two broad rivers of human experience have run into each other. One river carries science and objective observation of the world. The other river carries subjective experience and our craving for meaning, beauty, love, and truth.

There is no reason why these two rivers need to be separated, and what we are seeing--despite Dawkins' hysterical defense of materialism--is a merging. With a generation there will be accepted theories that integrate the world 'out there' with the world 'in here.'

This brings us to another of Dawkins' major points.

4. The universe is neither intelligent nor conscious. Science doesn't need those ingredients to explain Nature and its workings. Starting with atoms and molecules governed by strict physical laws, we will eventually explain everything.

This argument has to be made in a very loud voice with total conviction to sound plausible. Dawkins holds that humans are conscious because chemicals randomly collide in the brain to produce a phantom we ignorantly call the mind. This is a fashionable view and in fact is the logical outcome of arch materialism. Where else could mind come from if not molecules, assuming that molecules are the basis of the brain and therefore of reality itself?

Common sense finds it hard to take this argument seriously, because it leads to nonsense. The brain contains an enormous amount of water and salt. Are we to assume that water is intelligent, or salt is conscious? If they aren't, then we must assume that throwing water and salt together--along with about six other basic building blocks of organic chemicals--suddenly makes them intelligent. The bald fact is that Dawkins defends an absurd position because he can't make the leap to a different set of assumptions.

--Consciousness is part of existence. It wasn't created by molecules.
--Intelligence is an aspect of consciousness.
--Intelligence grows as life grows. Both evolve from within.
--The universe evolved along intelligent lines.

I realize that I've dropped a bomb into the discussion. The instant the word 'intelligent' comes up, skeptics rush in to shout that one is defending Intelligent Design, which is a stalking horse for creationism, which is a stalking horse for fundamentalist Christianity, which is a stalking horse for Jesus as the one and only son of God. Such is the heated climate of debate at the moment, and Dawkins takes full (unfair) advantage of it. Only Jesus freaks could possibly believe in an intelligent universe.

However, if consciousness is innate in the universe, so is intelligence. That absolutely has nothing to do with God sitting on a throne in heaven creating Adam and Eve. If we remain sane and clear-headed, the reason to assume that consciousness exists is simple. There's no other way to account for it. Without a doubt there is enormous design, complexity, organization, and interconnectedness everywhere in Nature. You can either say "I see it, let me explain it" or you can say "Ignore it, it's just a byproduct of randomness."

Consciousness isn't just plausible as part of Nature, it's totally necessary. Not just to keep God around but to keep science around. That will be the next stage of the discussion. First I'd like to hear responders' views. Do you think you are conscious and intelligent, or are you being fooled by random chemical reactions inside your skull?