Please watch the debate between Hamza Andreas Tzortzis and Professor Peter Simons on “Can Consciousness Best Be Explained By God’s Existence?”
The debate was a wonderful experience. Professor Simons showed great manners and humility. I was particularly amazed by the fact that the professor agreed with almost everything I had to say. He agreed with my account of why biological and philosophical accounts of consciousness fail to explain it. The point of disagreement was on what we understood to be the best explanation. I presented a five point argument asserting why God best explains internal conscious experience (phenomenal states) and the professor argued that we don’t have an answer but if we work hard enough we will find one that fits well with the materialistic paradigm.
The professor’s main contention was that God cannot be the best explanation as the improvement of science throughout time has shown that God has been replaced by a naturalistic scientific explanation. My response to this contention was that Islam strongly promotes scientific explanations for natural phenomena. However I continued by saying that the professor’s contention was misplaced because the argument I presented was not a “God of the gaps” fallacy. I argued that even if we were to know everything about the brain and even if we were to map all the possible neuro-chemical patterns we will still not be able to find out the reality of inner conscious states. In basic terms the argument I presented is not based on a lack of scientific knowledge but rather it is making the valid conclusion that inner conscious states cannot be addressed by materialism due to the key problems highlighted in my presentation. The debate, which was more of a friendly discussion, is an example of how Muslims and atheist academics can sit down together and really share ideas without having to resort to the binary and aggressive approach of some of the neo-atheists. The professor and myself hugged and I gave him a gift of my favourite translation of the Qur’an.
This debate is one of its kind for two main reasons. Firstly the form of the argument from consciousness I presented is unique. Secondly the well mannered nature of both speakers. This is how I want to continue to engage with leading atheist academics. I think the days of excessive passion and rhetoric are slowly coming to an end, insha’Allah.