No atheist can argue against the reality of non-material things without using non-material things. It's like someone arguing that there's no such thing as oxygen, while breathing the whole time. It's almost like arguing that there's no such thing as arguing! For when a materialist argues that only the material realm is real, that only material things exist, he cannot do that without using immaterial things. For example, like Einstein said, ideas are not physical. It turns out to be so simple, to disprove the claim that only the physical realm exists for, ideas exist. So Bob Enyart and Fred Williams have fun presenting Real Science Radio's List of Things, Real Things, that are Not Physical, aka RSR's Materialists vs. Everything List!
* Non-Material Things List:
- Numbers are not physical.
- Math is not physical.
- Information is not physical.
- Grammar is not physical.
- Logic is not physical.
- Reason is not physical.
- Ideas are not physical.
- Science is not physical.
- Concepts are not physical.
- Morality is not physical.
- Truth is not physical.
- Souls are not physical.
- Spirits are not physical.
- Codes are not physical.
- A Googol is not physical.
- A Googolplex is not physical. Knowing where the truth leads, some atheists are afraid to acknowledge that numbers are not physical. In their fear, they throw a temper tantrum and insist that numbers, such as the number 3, are made of matter. So then, how about a googol? That is a 1 followed by a hundred zeroes, a quantity greater than the number of particles in the known universe. And a googolplex, 10 to the googol power, also cannot be made of matter because with that number also, that much matter doesn't exist. But even more emphatic than with a googol, with a googolplex, that number has far more digits than there are particles in the universe! So that number could not, of course, be physical because even its digits could not be physically represented for there are no where near that number of particles in existence.
- The square root of negative one is not physical. The atheist, who is irrational, could be asked, "Are imaginary numbers, such as the square root of negative one, physical?" An imaginary number is a concept and as such, obviously, and like all concepts and all numbers, it is not made of matter. Yet scientists use imaginary numbers to better understand electric circuits and quantum mechanics. A strictly materialist big-bang universe though would be incapable of using an imaginary number, because imaginary numbers are not physical. Therefore, the square root of negative one reveals the intellect of the Creator because it was clearly used as a design element in the creation! When God designed the function of quantum mechanics, like our own designers, He conceived of optimal designs using immaterial concepts. He then implemented that design, in quantum mechanics, even though it utilized an imaginary number which has no parallel in the physical realm. See more including what Wigner and Einstein thought about such things, at rsr.org/math#sq-rt-neg-one.
- Infinity is not physical. Yet it is real. Don't believe us? Then believe Vsauce...
- Consciousness is not physical. The best an atheist can make of a physical explanation for consciousness comes from one of the world's leading mathematical physicists, Roger Penrose, who wrote of the brain that it somehow has harnessed, "details of a physics that is yet unknown to human physicists." Other atheists including Daniel Dennett and Jerry Coyne argue that consciousness is an illusion. Why? They intuitively recognize consciousness, that is, awareness, as evidence against their materialism and for non-physical reality. Ironically though, even if it were an illusion, an illusion, being a concept, is non-physical, so that they can't even argue against such reality, since arguments too are non-physical.
- Genomes are not physical. They are information, that is, a genetic code, and can be losslessly copied onto different media; and while nothing physical can hitch a ride on a photon, a genome's information can be transported on fiber cable, for example at light speed, which is just another indication of its nonphysicality; etc.
- Pain is not physical. Non-sentient plants feel no pain; brain surgeons operate with a local anesthetic for the skull but without anesthetizing the brain, for the brain is the organ that feels no pain, yet ironically, it is the only organ where pain is "felt"; emotional pain is far greater than physical pain, for example, the excruciating pain of childbirth can be overcome in hours whereas even years often minimally mitigate the emotional pain that comes from the loss of a child; for physical pain first must to be translated into to the non-physical realm of awareness before being "felt"; etc.
- Your mind is not physical. Minor observations consistent with this include that when neurosurgeons magnetically or physically stimulate the part of the brain that causes a patient to lift an arm, and the patient says that while he is completely aware that his arm lifted, he is also aware that "he" is not the one who made the decision to lift his arm. Whether or not all (or even most of) the atoms in your brain are replaced over your lifetime, that does not replace you or your mind.
- Laws are not physical. This is true of perhaps all laws and certainly of criminal laws, civil laws, social rules, house rules, etc. Yet consider even the physical laws. Are they made of matter? Apparently not. Are they made of energy? Apparently not. As one consideration, quantum laws are probabilistic, and probability is a concept and not physical.
- And God is not physical.
And Materialists vs... Matter??? Perhaps, yes. So, how about matter itself? There still remains the very difficult question, "What is matter?" What if it turns out that matter is not physical? That is, would it matter if matter was not made of matter? Some scientists suspect that matter is information based, such that matter itself may not even be material. If so of course then, materialism is deader than a doorknob; it's less than a zero, after it's been erased. But that wouldn't even give most of them pause. They'd just become godless spiritualists. Consider though how leading physicists have wrestled with the fundamental nature of matter, and even whether it might be information based. Renowned physicist John Wheeler (1911-2008), a strong advocate of information theory, coined the terms "black hole" and "wormhole", collaborated with Einstein and Bohr, and advised graduate students Everett, Thorne, and Feynman. Wheeler described his career, and hence, his growing understanding of the universe, in three stages. First, "Everything is Particles." Second, "Everything is Fields." And finally, "Everything is Information." (To illustrate the uncertainty, see CIT's Sebens over at Aeon explains the raging uncertainty about whether electrons, etc., are actually particles or fields.) And over at BigThink in a 2017 article, The basis of the universe may not be energy or matter but information, they quote Wheeler's 1989 paper for the Santa Fe Institute:
"every it--every particle, every field of force, even the space-time continuum itself--derives its function, its meaning, its very existence entirely--even if in some contexts indirectly--from the apparatus-elicited answers to yes-or-no questions, binary choices, bits."
And Philip Perry at BigThink continues:
There are lots of theories on what the basis of the universe is. Some physicists say its subatomic particles. Others believe its energy or even space-time. One of the more radical theories suggests that information is the most basic element of the cosmos. Although this line of thinking emanates from the mid-20th century, it seems to be enjoying a bit of a Renaissance among a sliver of prominent scientists today...
If the nature of reality is in fact reducible to information itself, that implies a conscious mind on the receiving end, to interpret and comprehend it.
There is much in quantum mechanics that supports that. And the scientific origin even of the (absurd) multiverse/many-worlds belief was exactly an effort to avoid the implied requirement of consciousness which appears to many brilliant minds to be at the heart of physics. (See rsr.org/mutliverse#princeton.) Of course though in his article, like in that excerpt, Perry skips the conscious Mind that would first be on the transmitting end.
IBM's Phil Tetlow, writing of MIT, CIT, CMU's Edward Fredkin, sometimes Feynman collaborator, sometimes physics professor, quotes him saying, "I've come to the conclusion that the most concrete thing in the world is information" and as Wired puts it, Fredkin insisted that "everything we see and feel is information."
Tim Malden's 2019 text on Quantum Theory published by Princeton discusses "quantum information theory" in which physical changes in a system can occur based on "what someone believes about the system." On the first page of his book he asks, "What is matter?" Malden answers his own question, "The best theory of matter presently available is quantum theory. Our main task is to understand just what quantum theory claims [yet] no consensus at all exists among physicists about how to understand quantum theory... Instead, there is raging controversy." Perhaps then science will finally arrive at the New Testament teaching in Hebrews 11:3 that "the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible" for "In the beginning was the Word, and... all things were made through Him" John 1:1-3. After all, God didn't generate, but He "said, 'Let there be light.'"