Mind Over Matter: The Necessity of Metaphysics in a Material World By Brian M. and Wayne D. Rossiter A review

 

Authors

Brian Rossiter holds a Master’s degree in Theological Studies from Trevecca Nazarene University, and is an adjunct professor at Ohio Christian University, as well as a long-time high school teacher. Wayne Rossiter is Assistant Professor of Biology at Waynsburg University. He received his B.S. from Otterbein University, his M.S. from Ohio State University and his Ph.D. from Rutgers University. Dr. Rossiter teaches Principles of Biology, Ecology and Environmental Biology, and is the author of In the Shadow of Oz: Theistic Evolution and the Absent God. In Mind Over Matter, the Rossiters offer a tactical guide to responding to methodological and philosophical naturalism as espoused by atheistic scientists. (Methodological naturalism is a scientific method that assumes for anything under study, it is assumed that it is the product of natural causes and processes. Philosophical naturalism is the view that natural causes and processes are all that exist.)

 

Synopsis

Mind Over Matter is a short booklet, just 112 pages. It is arranged into four major sections and an appendix. The first three sections respond to arguments from science, philosophy, and the last section uses arguments from theism to respond to poor theistic arguments for naturalism. Each of these sections presents a series of claims made by naturalists (sloppy shorthand for those who hold to either form of naturalism), followed by citations from scientists who make these claims. A response is offered, and an explanation for why it is a good one. In the appendix, the Rossiters deal with the confusion which often ensues in discussion on evolution due to the ambiguous nature of the term. A critique is then offered of the Kalam Cosmological Argument, and the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument.

 

Analysis

Some of the arguments from science that this book addresses are great illustrations of the fact that scientists are often poor philosophers, but there is no straw-men attacked here. Most of the claims are substantive. Speaking of poor philosophy, the above-mentioned adage being true made the second section of the book fairly easy to write. One rejoinder I would offer refers to the response to Beghossian’s straw-man definition of “faith.” The suggested response is, “Could you please show me this definition in a dictionary or encyclopedia?”[1]  Dictionary.com offers the following, “strong or unshakeable belief in something, especially without proof or evidence.” Since dictionaries follow common usage rather than vice versa, and common usage has abandoned the usage found in the Bible, it may be time to use a different word.

Where this book really shines, as did In the Shadow of Oz, is the way theistic evolutionists, particularly those who are Christian, are shown to be inconsistent when they deny the possibility of miraculous creation on scientific grounds, while affirming miracles like the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Where I would find the book to go off track a little is exemplified by the claim that if God has complete foreknowledge then free will cannot exist is confused. It seems like Rossiter is applying the following logic:
(1) Necessarily, if God foreknows x, then x will happen.

(2) God foreknows x.

(3) Therefore, x will necessarily happen.[2]

 

As Craig points out, the error here is that the necessity is that (3) follows from (1) and (2) and (3) ought to say “Therefore x will happen.”[3]

 

Another area of disagreement comes with the treatment of the Kalam Cosmological Argument. Rossiter asserts, “That is, it doesn’t clearly follow that the cause of our universe must be timeless, spaceless, immaterial, or uncaused.” If you are explaining the cause of the beginning of time, the cause would have to exist timelessly. If you are explaining the beginning of space, the cause must be non-spatial. If you are explaining the origin of material, the cause cannot be material. Moreover, the core of the KCA is the impossibility of the existence of traversing an actual infinite. (You can’t count to infinity.) The only alternative to an uncaused cause is an infinite regress of causes. It is beyond the scope of this review to explicate the KCA, but the critique offered by Rossiter displays a fair amount of confusion.

 

Recommendation

For all the above problems. Mind Over Matter is a fine resource for helping people see the weakness of philosophical naturalism, and to some extent, methodological naturalism. It is refreshing to see a scientist (Wayne Rossiter) make an honest attempt to understand the philosophical aspects of his discipline. Even if I disagree with some of his views, his work in this area is head and shoulders above many of his colleagues, who are quite dismissive of philosophy.

I am not a fan of “When they say X, you say Y” formats, but to be fair, I have an advanced degree in this stuff, and it’s easy for me to forget what it’s like to not know this stuff. Most of the book is accessible to high schoolers and up. It would be a valuable addition to the lay apologist’s library.

 

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[1] Rossiter, Wayne; Rossiter, Brian (2016-02-04). Mind Over Matter: The Necessity of Metaphysics in a Material World (Kindle Location 867). Athanatos Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

 

 

[2] James K. Beilby;Paul R. Eddy. Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views (p. 126). Kindle Edition.

 

[3] Ibid.

 

Author: apologeticsminion

Daniel has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. He is married and has four grown children. Professionally, Daniel is a sign language interpreter.

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