Randal Rauser says:
A substance dualist might argue for their view that the human agent is a soul by arguing that we have free will and free will requires a non-physical agent to intervene in the chain of material causes.
This misses the point in two key respects:
i) The issue isn’t physicalism v. dualism, per se. The issue is what underwrites the end-result.
What does substance dualism amount to in atheism? A human being is still the byproduct of a mindless process.
To take a comparison, suppose I’m having a business lunch. In the middle of lunch the waiter passes me a note which says, “Call home.”
I will leave the table and call home.
Suppose I’m playing a game of scrabble, and on one throw the letters spell “Call home.”
I won’t call home. I attach no significance to that outcome.
What’s the difference? You have the same result, but the process makes all the difference. Although the sentences are identical and, in that respect, equally meaningful, the note is a message whereas the scrabble pattern is not. The scrabble sentence is accidentally or coincidentally meaningful. It’s not a genuine message or communication. In that respect, it’s no different than gibberish. The result of random chance.
Likewise, unless human beings are the product of a wise Creator, human life doesn’t have the same value. It has no inherent dignity.
ii) Randal also disregards the issue of the afterlife. If human beings don’t survive the grave, then that, too, radically affects the value of life.
Take one of those European villages that hasn’t changed very much in 800 years. Folks have been living in the same cottages and townhouses for 800 years. But while the buildings are the same, the residents are not. Every 100 years, give or take, you have a total replacement rate.
Not only does this apply to individuals, but to an entire set of relationships. Parents, grandparents, children, spouses, siblings, lifelong friends–and even their pets. When they all die, that entire cumulative network of mutual affections and shared memories dies with them. Lost forever. A total loss to all parties concerned.
That’s the standard atheistic narrative. And it you take that to heart, it makes a huge difference to your outlook on life.
Rauser doesn’t begin to appreciate the unique and all-important value of the Christian vision. For him it’s just a nice accessory. A dispensable add-on which enhances the value of life, but isn’t fundamental to the value of life.