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Are We Living in the Matrix?

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Filed under Culture

On Monday, the New Yorker suggested that “the bizarre finale to Sunday night’s Oscar ceremony brought to mind the theory—far from a joke—that humanity is living in a computer simulation gone haywire.” Lest you think that such a self-evidently absurd theory is a mere cry for attention from a dying publication, the idea that we’re all in the Matrix was actually seriously debated at the American Museum of Natural History’s 2016 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate. The list of those partial to this theory include some of the most prominent scientific voices in our culture, and the debate was moderated by one of the most famous:

Moderator Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the museum’s Hayden Planetarium, put the odds at 50-50 that our entire existence is a program on someone else’s hard drive. “I think the likelihood may be very high,” he said.

So how do people this smart end up advocating a theory this absurd? Simply put, because they’re atheistic materialists smart enough to see the implications of their own religious and philosophical views. Three errors in particular are at the root of this:

Mistake #1: Reducing the Mind to a Computer

If you’re a materialist – that is, if you think that matter is all that there is – then two conclusions follow: (a) the “mind” is really nothing more than the brain; and (b) the brain is really nothing more than a highly-advanced computer. You can’t be a materialist and still believe in things like a soul or an immaterial mind. And so, you’re left with arguments like this one, from Oxford’s Nick Bolstrom:

One thing that later generations might do with their super-powerful computers is run detailed simulations of their forebears or of people like their forebears. Because their computers would be so powerful, they could run a great many such simulations. Suppose that these simulated people are conscious (as they would be if the simulations were sufficiently fine-grained and if a certain quite widely accepted position in the philosophy of mind is correct). Then it could be the case that the vast majority of minds like ours do not belong to the original race but rather to people simulated by the advanced descendants of an original race. It is then possible to argue that, if this were the case, we would be rational to think that we are likely among the simulated minds rather than among the original biological ones.

In other words, if there’s no principled distinction between us and computers, then there’s no reason to think that we’re not computers. In fact, there would be good reason to believe that we are. Technology is rapidly advancing, and there are predictions that computational speeds for personal ($1000) devices will surpass the human brain by about 2025 or so:

Continuing that trend into the future, the argument goes, it won’t be long before we will be able to create “Sims” that have the full range of human intelligence. These Sims would have no idea that they weren’t real, and we could create a virtually limitless number of them. So the odds that such a culture has already done that to us means that the mathematical odds that we’re amongst the nearly-limitless Sim population dwarfs the likelihood that we’re real.

Clara Moskowitz, writing in Scientific American, explains:

They [members of this advanced civilization] would probably have the ability to run many, many such simulations, to the point where the vast majority of minds would actually be artificial ones within such simulations, rather than the original ancestral minds. So simple statistics suggest it is much more likely that we are among the simulated minds.”

There are two things to point out about this theory. First, it follows logically from materialism. Second, it’s utterly ridiculous.

If human minds are nothing more than advanced computers, then current computers are nothing less than simple minds. Shouldn’t human rights (or at least animal rights) activists start advocating on behalf of abused laptops? By this reasoning, is there any moral difference between owning an iPhone and owning a slave — and if there is, is it just that the iPhone isn’t smart enough yet?

As far back as 1983, Robert and Mueller were asking, Would an intelligent computer have a “right to life”? And the EU parliament just voted in January in favoring of granting personhood rights to AI, a conclusion promoted by a study sponsored by the U.K.’s Department of Trade and Industry some ten years ago. So that’s where this line of reasoning leads. Or more ominously: once computers become more advanced than human brains (in terms of computational powers), this logic would suggest that human rights ought to be considered inferior to robotic rights. (Ray Kurzweil, one of the leading futurists advocating this, openly recognizes this possibility).

So let’s make a few things clear. First, human life isn’t reducible to consciousness (you’re alive even when you’re unconscious), and consciousness isn’t reducible to computational ability (you’re self-aware, and a calculator is not). These distinctions are true in principle, not just based upon current technology. In other words, the exact moment that Bolstrom’s argument goes wrong is here: “Suppose that these simulated people are conscious (as they would be if the simulations were sufficiently fine-grained and if a certain quite widely accepted position in the philosophy of mind is correct).” Bolstom has aptly (if advertantly) demonstrated why a materialist philosophy of mind can’t be true without leading to absurd conclusions.

Computers might get (and are already getting) very good at mimicking human conversation and thought processes, but that doesn’t mean that they’re actually persons. The mind is not reducible to the brain, and the brain isn’t reducible to a computer. These bad assumptions are built into Bolstrom’s model, and the model suffers as a result.

Mistake #2: Materialism Can’t Account for the Human Person

Closely related to the last point, materialism reduces the human person to a collection of information, or an internal processor, or a collection of cells. Carl Sagan put it this way:

I am a collection of water, calcium and organic molecules called Carl Sagan. You are a collection of almost identical molecules with a different collective label. But is that all? Is there nothing in here but molecules? Some people find this idea somehow demeaning to human dignity. For myself, I find it elevating that our universe permits the evolution of molecular machines as intricate and subtle as we.

But if that were true, if you’re only a collection of molecules, consider what follows. Over the course of your life, you’ve expelled far more molecules (sweating, using the restroom, shedding skin, and the rest) than you currently possess. So why don’t we consider those assorted, discarded cells as the “true” Carl Sagan, or the “true” you?

And you equal the collection of molecules that happen to exist within your body at this exact moment, that collection has only existed for a fraction of a second, and already doesn’t exist by the time you finished reading this sentence. So it follows that you don’t exist, or at least, you’re actually a different person than the one who started reading this. In other words: if materialists are right, you are only a few moments old, and have simply inherited somebody else’s memories.

This problem is nothing new. The seventeenth-century philosopher David Hume argued that minds are “nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement.” As a result, he was logically forced to deny the existence of himself:

For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch myself at any time without a perception, and never can observe any thing but the perception.

This also led him to claim he doesn’t exist when he’s asleep:

When my perceptions are remov’d for any time, as by sound sleep; so long am I insensible of myself, and may truly be said not to exist. And were all my perceptions remov’d by death, and cou’d I neither think, nor feel, nor see, nor love, nor hate after the dissolution of my body, I shou’d be entirely annihilated, nor do I conceive what is farther requisite to make me a perfect non-entity.

Of course, Hume’s argument is self-refuting: if I don’t exist, how is there is neither an “I” capable of stumbling (and certainly not “always” stumbling), nor a stable “myself” upon which to stumble.

In other words, any attempt to reduce human beings to mere matter will always fail, because our matter is in flux. We eat things, we digest, etc. If we don’t have something immaterial like a soul, there’s simply no coherent way we can speak of enduring human consciousness.

Or to put it another way, there is a you that is made up of cells, and has certain information in your brain, and contemplates things mentally, and which has grown and changed in countless ways. You’re not reducible to any of these processes, or to any of the stages of any of these processes, because these are things happening in you and to you.

Mistake #3: Refusing to Consider God as a Possibility

One of the strongest arguments in favor of the “we’re living in a computer simulation” argument is that the universe is filled with evidence of design. Scientific American points out:

And there are other reasons to think we might be virtual. For instance, the more we learn about the universe, the more it appears to be based on mathematical laws. Perhaps that is not a given, but a function of the nature of the universe we are living in. “If I were a character in a computer game, I would also discover eventually that the rules seemed completely rigid and mathematical,” said Max Tegmark, a cosmologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). “That just reflects the computer code in which it was written.”
 
Furthermore, ideas from information theory keep showing up in physics. “In my research I found this very strange thing,” said James Gates, a theoretical physicist at the University of Maryland. “I was driven to error-correcting codes—they’re what make browsers work. So why were they in the equations I was studying about quarks and electrons and supersymmetry? This brought me to the stark realization that I could no longer say people like Max are crazy.”

These scientists have rightly seen that the universe appears to be mathematical, rational, and designed in a way that a randomly self-creating universe wouldn’t. Considering the universe to have randomly come-into-being despite its clear order and structure is a bit like assuming that the book you’re reading is the product of a series of random ink spills that happened to produce the letters in just such an order. (And a great many of the New Atheists’ arguments amount to saying, “this book couldn’t have been written, because I didn’t like Chapter 3!”)

Cosmologists like Tegmark and physicists like Gates, each of whom regularly bump into evidence of designedness in the course of their daily jobs, rightly recognize that “the universe just happened” is a bad explanation. It doesn’t account for the design at all. And yet, materialists refuse to accept even the possibility that this might point to the existence of a Divine Creator. The evolutionary biologist Richard C. Lewontin (himself an atheist) lets the cat out of the bag in an essay for The New York Review of Books:

What seems absurd depends on one’s prejudice. Carl Sagan accepts, as I do, the duality of light, which is at the same time wave and particle, but he thinks that the consubstantiality of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost puts the mystery of the Holy Trinity “in deep trouble.” Two’s company, but three’s a crowd.
 
Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.

So no matter how strong the evidence may be, materialists refuse to accept the possibility that the right answer might be a Divine one. And so, if you recognize that the universe is designed, but refuse to accept God as a possibility, you’re forced to come up with ever-more-convoluted explanations instead. That’s how you end up with amusing moments like Neil deGrasse Tyson, one of the smuggest popular opponents of religion, openly wondering if we live in a computer. Or this line from the philosopher David Chalmers:

And if someone somewhere created our simulation, would that make this entity God? “We in this universe can create simulated worlds and there’s nothing remotely spooky about that,” Chalmers said. “Our creator isn’t especially spooky, it’s just some teenage hacker in the next universe up.”

Part of the hilarity of these absurd explanations is that they’re so short-sighted. The “teenage hacker in the next universe up” apparently lives in a universe just as designed and mathematically-structured as our own, enabling him to code and omnisciently govern this universe. So why is that universe designed? This explanation just kicks the can down the road one step. The attempt to avoid God as an answer succeeds in creating foolish theories, but fails in eliminating the need for God.

In other words, the conversation has gone more or less like this:

Scientists: “You know there’s a lot of evidence that this universe was designed…”
 
Materialists: “NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!!!!! You’d have to be an idiot to believe that!”
 
Scientists: “… maybe it was an alien or a teenage hacker?”
 
Materialists: “Oh, those are valid theories! Let’s consider them carefully!”

There is a more rational explanation, guys. Just let the Divine Foot in the door already.

Joe Heschmeyer

Written by

Until May 2012, Joe Heschmeyer was an attorney in Washington, D.C., specializing in litigation. These days, he is a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, and can use all the prayers he can get. Follow Joe through his blog, Shameless Popery or contact him at joseph.heschmeyer@gmail.com.

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  • Sample1

    Start the discussion

    Pass.

    Mike, naturalist and faith free.

    • Mike

      you just discussed.

    • Peter A.

      You do of course realise that in order to be a "naturalist" requires a level of faith that the most bigoted of fundamentalists could only ever dream of acquiring.

      No, I guess you didn't know this.

      • Sample1

        I'll give you the benefit of the doubt that you're not calling me a bigot and respond.

        Why are you telling me all this?

        Mike, doesn't believe in any gods no matter how they are spelled, capitalized or otherwise described.

        • Peter A.

          "Bigot"? Where on Earth did you get this idea from? It isn't "bigoted" to simply point out what so many others already know, but which you apparently do not.

      • David Nickol

        Do you actually have anything to contribute besides arrogance and condescension?

        • Peter A.

          What arrogance, what condescension? I simply pointed out a rather obvious fact.

        • cestusdei

          I have flagged this comment.

          • Peter A.

            We don't need to start 'flagging' each other simply because some are misinterpreting completely innocuous comments. I don't recall insulting anyone here, and as for being "condescending" or "arrogant", well, that's a highly subjective perception. What may come across as being "arrogant" to some, may just be stridency to others (ex. when R. Dawkins heard about how many consider him to be arrogant, his response was along the lines of, "no, I'm strident". There really is a difference).

          • Valence

            People are way too touchy, you're right about that.

          • cestusdei

            I didn't start flagging until they did. Hypocritical liberals flag me while insulting me in the most vile manner. So tell them to stop.

      • Michael Murray

        We know there are people like you who believe this. But that's OK. There are people who believe all manner of things.

        • Peter A.

          Meaning? What?

      • Doug Shaver

        You do of course realise that in order to be a "naturalist" requires a level of faith that the most bigoted of fundamentalists could only ever dream of acquiring.

        That depends entirely on how you are defining the word "faith." I've seen Christians define it so many ways that I never know what a particular Christian is talking about, when they talk about faith, unless they tell me exactly what they mean.

        • Lazarus

          Well, to be a naturalist does mean, of necessity, to accept (if you are uncomfortable with the words :believe" or "faith") quite an array of very difficult propositions. They may not always be that apparent to the naturalist.

          I cannot really put it better than John F Haught in "Is nature enough", a very good exposition of the weaknesses in the naturalist viewpoint.

          • Doug Shaver

            Do you think that I, an atheist, would ever be entitled to tell any Christian what it means, of necessity, to accept the Christian faith?

          • Lazarus

            Absolutely.

          • Doug Shaver

            And would any Christian then be entitled to say I was wrong?

          • Lazarus

            The question is getting a bit vague now.
            Short answer though, yes, she would be so entitled if you were wrong, or if she legitimately thought you were wrong.

            These seem obvious positions to me. I am sorry if I am missing something obvious.

          • Doug Shaver

            We might be construing "entitled" differently. Perhaps to you it means "permitted as an exercise of free speech." To me, in this context, it means "epistemically justified."

          • Lazarus

            I thought of that possibility, and my answer would remain the same in both instances.

          • Doug Shaver

            Very interesting. So, if a Protestant came into this forum and said, "Of necessity, being a Catholic means worshiping Mary," you would say they were justified, even if all the Catholics in this forum said, "No, it doesn't mean that"?

          • Phil

            I think it depends what one is talking about. For example, if a Christian and non-Christian are using a word, like "naturalist", in a similar way, then is perfectly possible for the Christian to say to the non-Christian that there are many things that must be rationally and logically accepted if one is to be a naturalist.

            Now, it is very possible that they are using "naturalist" in different ways. That is why it is important to figure out what way each side is actually using there terms. (May be different types of naturalism, etc.)

          • Doug Shaver

            if a Christian and non-Christian are using a word, like "naturalist", in a similar way, then is perfectly possible for the Christian to say to the non-Christian that there are many things that must be rationally and logically accepted if one is to be a naturalist.

            I'm not questioning the possibility, but I would question the presupposition that it was happening on any given occasion.

            And, if a Christian and a non-Christian disagree about what a naturalist must accept, then they cannot be using the word in a similar way.

            I used to be a Pentecostal, and I considered myself a Christian in those days. I still believe that Pentecostals are Christians. I also believe, nowadays, that Roman Catholics are Christians, but when I was a Pentecostal, I didn't believe they were. It seems clear to me that when I was a Pentecostal, I wasn't using the word "Christian" the way I use it now.

            One could now ask: Is it a necessary part of being a Pentecostal to deny that Catholics are Christians? Having been one, I can say that it depends on which sect of Pentecostalism we're talking about. In the sect I belonged to, it was necessary. Any member of my church who said that any Catholic could be a true Christian would have been denounced as a heretic. Other Pentecostal sects are not so rigid on that issue, though. Their members would say that most Catholics will burn in hell, but not all of them.

          • Lazarus

            Protestants (and others) do that all the time. In my book they are justified, in both senses of the word as we used it, to make that claim. Objectively speaking, in my view, they are wrong of course, but the claim can be made. I understand why they think so.

          • Doug Shaver

            Protestants (and others) do that all the time.

            That doesn't make it right. I think the only people entitled to say what a religion necessarily means are the people who belong to that religion, or at least used to belong to it. And I think the same applies to any other belief system. If anyone wants to know what naturalism necessarily means, they have to ask someone who calls themself a naturalist.

          • Lazarus

            I would agree with that to a qualified extent. Religion in general is so fragmented, so open to misunderstanding and interpretation that being a member of a specific religion or belief does not make one an automatic expert. We see that here rather often.

            But yes, in general, one would be in better hands with an adherent than an outsider. That said, and even though I have never practiced any of it, there are certainly aspects of Islam, Hinduism and so on that I feel confident in venturing an opinion on. Having practiced Buddhism and lived atheism I certainly feel qualified to express strong opinions on those.

          • Doug Shaver

            I've never been a Catholic, but I have many opinions about Catholicism that I consider quite well justified. But, no matter how justified I think I am, I cannot be justified in saying anything about Catholics that is not actually true. I am not entitled to say that they worship Mary if they don't worship Mary. Furthermore, if Catholics say that they don't worship Mary, then I think I'm not entitled to say that they're lying.

          • Lazarus

            Of course, it sometimes gets more difficult to determine that truth.

            - Buddhists are complacent because of the doctrine of karma.
            - Evangelicals are neurotic because of the fear of hell.
            - Some Catholics worship Mary.

          • Doug Shaver

            Of course, it sometimes gets more difficult to determine that truth.

            Of course.

            Some Catholics worship Mary.

            I suspect so, but if most of them don't, then it cannot be true that Catholicism necessarily includes worship of Mary, and so any Protestant who says it does has to be wrong. There is no difficulty in any of that.

          • Rob Abney

            "I have many opinions about Catholicism that I consider quite well justified"
            Aren't all opinions well justified?
            Why don't you try to form your opinion by actually experiencing Catholicism? You've obviously made some progress in that direction since you had anti-Catholic opinions previously.

          • David Nickol

            Aren't all opinions well justified?

            No. Why would you say that?

            Why don't you try to form your opinion by actually experiencing Catholicism?

            Are you implying the best way to get to know a religion is to practice it? Perhaps if you just set aside your Catholic prejudices and practiced Buddhism (or Islam, or Scientology), you would come to recognize the Truth.

          • Rob Abney

            Because it is an opinion.

            I didnt say just practice the religion, you changed my statement as you often do. I suggested that he consider experiencing Catholicism. And if
            I was on an Islamic website then I would consider experiencing islam rather than just talking about it.

          • David Nickol

            I didnt say just practice the religion, you changed my statement . . .

            I did not change your statement. I asked a question. I asked, "Are you implying the best way to get to know a religion is to practice it?"

            . . . as you often do.

            Is this kind of accusation consistent with Christian charity?

          • Rob Abney

            I did not change your statement. I asked a question. I asked, "Are you implying the best way to get to know a religion is to practice it?"

            Then the answer is no, I am not implying that. The best way to know the truth is to use all your rational faculties, intellect and will. Discussing Catholicism is a good use of intellectual skills but the best way to engage the will is through experience.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Discussing Catholicism is a good use of intellectual skills but the best way to engage the will is through experience.

            Many of us on here engaged Catholicism with our will and found Catholicism very wanting.

          • Rob Abney

            Yes, I seem to recall your "de-conversion" story, where you in your early 20's at the time? When did you last receive the sacraments? Were you from a devout family?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I flirted with atheism in my early 20s, but went back to Catholicism. I completely deconverted in my mid to late 20s. I haven't been to mass in a little over a year for a friends wedding. I haven't regularly attended mass in 3+ years. Haven't received any of the sacraments in 5-6 years. Wouldn't go back.

            Very devout family. The faith was the most important thing.

          • Rob Abney

            When you were defending the faith did you ever encounter the influence of evil spirits? I ask that because those who are devout experience such influences more than those who are lukewarm or less, and I believe you have previously described yourself as devout.
            I realize the mention of evil spirits may be ridiculed here, but devout people often have unexpected obstacles occur when they are making the most spiritual progress for themselves or others, and in hindsight they attribute these obstacles to evil influences.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I can't say I ever experienced evil spirits while defending the faith. However, I was told that they were very active in my life since I was very young. I knew people who claimed to see them and experience their presence in their life. I never saw them or heard them, but I knew a lot of people who would blame the evil spirits for bad things happening in their lives. I know see it as part of the fear that Catholicism tries to instill in adherents. If you aren't scared of hell, maybe you will be scared of the demons roaming the earth who you might invite into your life with music or sex. It is actually quite a traumatic experience.

            I was also told that if you strayed from the faith the demons would let it happened, but if I ever tried to return they would rear their ugly heads. What a pathetic god. What an ugly religion.

            I have a very low opinion of any God that would allow super evil genius spirits to interfere with the workings of the natural world. Us humans have enough problems as it is. It is just another reason to view Catholicism as a silly superstition developed in the dark and middle ages.

          • Rob Abney

            as part of the fear that Catholicism tries to instill in adherents

            That sounds like the explanation that might be given to a child but I'd be surprised if you would encounter that sort of teaching for adult consumption.
            I do believe they exist, but that's a whole different discussion to explain.
            But I have a different understanding of evil spirits than you do. I don't consider them to be scary but rather like having an acquaintance who likes to get you into trouble. What I've learned is that their main purpose is to keep you away from the sacraments. They have an easy job these days!
            I don't understand how you see evil spirits interfering with the workings of the natural world, in my view they can't interfere anymore than evil humans, although by being around for so long they do have more evil ways.
            I do agree that you will encounter evil spirits if you try to return to the faith but I don't agree that you should be afraid of that because they are as powerless as any human to change your will.

          • Doug Shaver

            I didnt say just practice the religion, you changed my statement as you often do. I suggested that he consider experiencing Catholicism.

            How does one experience a religion without practicing it?

          • Rob Abney

            In the Catholic church you can experience it with every sense. You can sit, stand, and kneel to pray. You can view art and architecture made to glorify God. You can smell incense and hear beautiful music to make you aware of the numinous. You can easily experience it in many ways, but to practice it takes a commitment.

          • Doug Shaver

            Aren't all opinions well justified?

            In my opinion, no, they're not all justified.

            Why don't you try to form your opinion by actually experiencing Catholicism?

            Have you engaged in every activity about which you have an opinion?

            You've obviously made some progress in that direction since you had anti-Catholic opinions previously.

            My opinions were based on certain dogmas of Protestant fundamentalism. When I rejected those dogmas, my opinions had to change accordingly.

          • Rob Abney

            Have you engaged in every activity about which you have an opinion?

            I engage in every activity that I am interested in. For instance, I was very interested in rock climbing so I read all about it and went to a climbing gym to learn some techniques. Finally, I went out to a climbing area and looked at a huge cliff and decided that I didn't want to risk my life on it! I may still try it but only with a lot of support.

            You may be different, you've reasoned about Catholicism a lot but once you go and experience it you may say that you would risk your life for it. It can be a scary proposition.

          • Doug Shaver

            I engage in every activity that I am interested in.

            I couldn't do that without being a great deal wealthier than I've ever been.

            In the Catholic church you can experience it with every sense. You can sit, stand, and kneel to pray. You can view art and architecture made to glorify God. You can smell incense and hear beautiful music to make you aware of the numinous. You can easily experience it in many ways

            Sure . . . except for the most important way. I can do all the things you mentioned just by an act of will, but I cannot become a believer just by an act of will.

            to practice it takes a commitment.

            Exactly, and a sincere commitment requires belief.

            I have had all the other experiences. I did not become an atheist immediately upon leaving Protestant fundamentalism. For several years I continued to believe in Christianity, but of a very liberal sort, attending various mainstream Protestant churches. I also attended several Catholic masses during that period, and quite enjoyed them. To this day, there is something about the rituals and all the rest of it that I find very appealing.

          • David Nickol

            I think Lazarus lost track of the point. Your original (hypothetical) assertion was:

            Being a Catholic of necessity means worshiping Mary.

            That is clearly false. Even if some Catholics worship Mary, or most Catholics worship Mary, it is still false. Even if it is understandable that some Protestants say that, it is still false. It is a tenet of Catholicism that only God is to be worshipped. Even if all Catholics fell into Mary worship, the above statement would not be true (because of the words "of necessity"). It would still be possible for some Catholics not to worship Mary even if all of them did. No Catholic worships Mary "of necessity" since Mary worship is not required, and in fact is prohibited. Of course, it is clear to me that some Catholics do worship Mary, although I suppose it is always possible to quibble about the word "worship."

          • Doug Shaver

            Your original (hypothetical) assertion was:

            Being a Catholic of necessity means worshiping Mary.

            That is clearly false.

            Of course it's false. That's why I made it hypothetical: because I know it to be false.

      • Valence

        This depends on the naturalist. A naturalist completely convinced that his/her worldview must be correct is full of faith and dogma, just like a fundamentalist. A naturalist who just thinks, given the arguments and evidence, naturalism is the most plausible philosophy doesn't have much faith at all.
        The same can hold for Christians. Wishy washy Christians have little faith, right?

  • I don't think we have any way to tell if this apparent cosmos is a simulation or not. The repeated statement of absurdity tells us nothing.

    The argument that we are not reducible to brains and thus computers is irrelevant. The simulation may be substance dualist, or even idealism.

    Also, God has nothing to do with this question. We could be in a simulation, irrespective of whether a god exists.

    The issue the author seems to want to establish is that materialism is false and that there is apparent design in the universe. I don't accept these either but those are different questions.

    • Mike

      if there is no design at all does that mean that you brian are just a fluke a random blip of matter? how else do you characterize yourself if there is literally no design in the universe?

      • There is lots of design in the universe. Human designs. I don't describe myself as a random blip but as a human being. Not sure what you mean by "blip". I don't think that word describes humans very well.

        But why ask this it has nothing to do with this article.

        • Mike

          but you weren't designed by a human being so if you are not designed what are you? i mean the physical entity calling itself brian, if it is not the product of design what is it? to me the only other option is that it is a random accident of sorts wouldn't you agree?

          i ask bc you said you don't believe there is any design in the universe yet you seem designed.

          • It's a human being. It's a product of evolution. No not random. Natural selection.

            I don't think I seem designed. But what does any of this have to do with this article?

          • Mike

            ok so evolution is not random? ie it has a direction a pattern so to speak? if so why do you think it itself wasn't designed? if the universe operates according to complex patterns and rules which causes some ppl to postulate that this world is a simulation or a comp program, couldn't we say that those rules at least appear designed?

          • "ok so evolution is not random?"

            No, it naturally and unintelligently selects for fitness to survive.

            "if so why do you think it itself wasn't designed"

            Because just because an event is non-random does not mean it was designed. The path of a river is non-random, the rising of the sun is non-random. These are undesigned, patterns following a natural order.

            "if the universe operates according to complex patterns and rules which
            causes some ppl to postulate that this world is a simulation or a comp
            program"

            This is not why people postulate a simulation. They postulate it for various reasons. The idea, from what I can tell is that if the universe is a multiverse, it is infinite in time and space and they guess that the odds are that some would create simulations with sapient entities that would not be able to distinguish the simulation from the "real" cosmos. Its a statistical postulate. As far as I can tell there is no way to confirm or deny it.

            " couldn't we say that those rules at least appear designed?"

            Depends on the rules. The rules we are talking about are called "laws of nature" or "natural order", I would suggest, for a reason. Because they are radically different from theistic or human rules. The latter can and are violated commonly, e.g. do no murder, do no work on the Sabbath. We know human rules are designed because we understand and observe the process of their developmet. Whereas we call things laws of nature when we identify a pattern that appears unbreakable. Such as "all massive objects attract each other". No matter what a human does or wants, this seems to always happen. If we ever observe it not happening, we will no longer consider it a law of nature, and so on.

            "

          • Mike

            maybe evo looks like it wasn't designed bc it works w/o a flaw or a glitch which gives us the false impression that it is just 'natural'. ard louis in a lecture says there are too many combos in protein creation for evo to be random. it is more like a program with a stable end state in mind than a random number generator.

            right a natural ORDER, wherefore that ORDER? only minds as far as i know can recognize such an immaterial concept as ORDER. so are we seeing order where there isn't? ie all the sublime mathematical order in QM is an illusion? or that order really is there in the universe in which case we are discovering an order that has its origin in a mind of sorts.

            so i guess the question becomes do all things in the universe have 'their' nature? what do you think?

          • You need to abandon this notion that evolution by natural selection is random. There are random mutations, but then the non random, unintelligent process of those with less fit alleles reproducing less comes into play.

            Wherefore that order? I do not know. I have no idea. Sure only minds can recognize order, but that isn't the question.

            No I'm not prepared to go along with the phrasing of all things in nature have "their nature", this is too undefined. I can say humans observe patterns, and those that appear inviolable we tend to consider laws of nature or a natural order. I think this is all I can say with confidence in this context.

            If you believe you know the origin of this apparent order and can justify belief in this origin, feel free to lay that out.

          • Mike

            isn't science in the business of figuring out effects and trying to predict them? that to me sounds like it is in the bus of trying to discover natures of things. like that nature of a gene or an atom or a car traveling at 60 miles and hour whatever.

            its funny bc ppl who claim there is only nature then deny that all of nature has a nature or natures which makes me think that they must think then that some things, those that don't have natures, are super natural but don't want to admit it. so they'll say well at least human beings don't have a nature which sounds then like they are making a special exemption for us.

          • Sure on that definition of "nature" science is trying to discover the nature of things. ("The Nature of Things" is the name of a celebrated science show here in Canada)

            When you talk about a nature of nature I am confused. This seems to be a different use of the term.

            The term gets vague when you speak of "human nature". A better term might be psychology, or normal human psychological or social tendencies.

          • Mike

            here is a very interesting lecture by a physicist on whether the human mind is essentially 100% 'natural' that i think you might enjoy:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_Dk2G3_iwo

      • Doug Shaver

        if there is no design at all does that mean that you brian are just a fluke a random blip of matter?

        If there is no design, then we can be so characterized. But "can" does not imply "must," and even less does it imply "must only." To view myself and my fellow humans with dignity, I don't require instructions from my designer. I can do it just because it makes good sense to do so.

        • Mike

          ok but then you concede that your 'dignity' is contingent on your choice to view it this way. that at bottom that in reality actually there is no such thing as 'human dignity' apart from how a particular person chooses to defn it and apply it. one may choose your defn another may choose another; neither is right nor wrong but all are contingent on a contingent being that just happens to 'exist'.

          • Doug Shaver

            ok but then you concede that your 'dignity' is contingent on your choice to view it this way.

            My dignity is my own responsibility. The way I treat other people is also my own responsibility. If that's what you mean, then yes, I agree.

          • Mike

            right so on your view 'dignity' is relative. for you it is 'your responsibility' and you may take it 'seriously' but for someone else it maybe something radically diff. but that doesn't make their rad. diff. view 'wrong' per se just different.

            and so this is why i say that atheism/naturalism either denies obj morality or can not account for it. which imho means that it is not true.

          • Doug Shaver

            i say that atheism/naturalism either denies obj morality or can not account for it.

            And I have offered no argument to the contrary, because I'm not defending the notion of any objective morality.

            which imho means that it is not true.

            If you assume an objective morality, that is a logical conclusion to reach.

          • Mike

            well even God has a nature so it seems all things really are 'natural' in one sense or another. what doesn't makes sense to me is atheism as even if God doesn't exist we are God like and therefore Gods to lower animals ie atheism still not true. theism is logically necessary seems to me.

          • Doug Shaver

            we are God like and therefore Gods to lower animals ie atheism still not true.

            If we are gods just because other animals would think we were gods if they could think about such things, then yes, atheism is false.

          • Mike

            yes plus if we created AI then to those mutants ala bladerunner we would be gods. either way atheism is metaphysically impossible imho as something necessarily must be either a god/God.

          • Doug Shaver

            either way atheism is metaphysically impossible

            That's a very odd metaphysics. It seems to say that reality is whatever any sentient being thinks it is.

          • Mike

            no i just think it says that God/god is a necessary being or concept.

          • Mike

            just says that god is a necessary being/concept

          • Doug Shaver

            Any concept can be defined so as to become necessary. The tactic is one way to make any argument irrefutable.

          • Mike

            i am using the traditional defn used by the RCC not a personalist God.

          • Doug Shaver

            i am using the traditional defn used by the RCC not a personalist God.

            That was not clear from what you said about us being gods to other animals.

          • Mike

            well relatively speaking we would be all powerful and all knowing and all good to a certain extent. i mean compared to a dog i think i am almost infinitely smarter, more capable to doing things. not sure about better at being good though but that comes with the territory.

            i am trying to imagine a world w/o God or gods and this is what i come up with: no sorry i can't do it. probably means i'd make a terrible science fiction writer. maybe something like a computer program that crashes randomly and that is all screwy the screen flickers sometimes the rules don't work or contradict each other basically random noise or chaos.

    • neil_pogi

      atheists just claim that the universe is not designed, and that the universe is just a simulation. simulation from what? do you consider yourself too as just a simulation?

      • I could be. I do not know. This post is suggesting that many atheists do believe this universe is a simulation that was designed.

        • neil_pogi

          a simulation that was designed? pls explain further.

        • neil_pogi

          you do not know, are you in real situation now? maybe, you should start slapping your own face with no-simulated palm of your hand. if you feel any pain, you should know pretty well that you're in a reality realm

          • "are you in real situation now"

            Yes.

            "you should start slapping your own face with no-simulated palm of your hand. if you feel any pain"

            Yes. But how do I know that this hand is not simulated? And this pain is real? If I were dreaming I would still think I had done it and felt pain but would that be real, wouldn't I?

          • neil_pogi

            if you can feel the pain then that would mean that you're in reality, no simulation. i wonder why atheists came to that idead that the 'universe is a simulation'? simulation from what?

          • neil_pogi

            if in the first place, if someone is in 'simulation' area, then it's all not real. we experience dreams, sometimes dreams are disturbing, wake you up and in cold clammy hands. but we know dreams are not true therefore we treated them as nothing. just tell me why the universe is just a 'simulation'. simulation from what? or just because the universe is created fine-tuned and atheists are in bad situations on how to refute it and then they are telling the public that the universe is just a 'simulation'. no explanation is given.

          • But how do you know when you awake from a "dream" you are then in the "real" world and not the other way round?

            I don't think the world is a simulation. I've said from the beginning I think there is no way to tell.

            There is no evidence this universe is fine tuned. Fine tuned on what?

            Actually there is nothing atheist about suggesting this world is a simulation. Christianity might be true either way.

          • neil_pogi

            quote: 'There is no evidence this universe is fine tuned.' - the universe is fine-tuned for emergence of life. because of that, atheist astronomers conclude that there might be many universes besides our own. they even suggested that our own universe is just a 'simulation'. this multiverse is just another fancy imagination they concocted out of their minds. the only reason they arrive at the multiverse hypothesis: Multiverse theory is designed for one purpose, and one purpose only, and that is to defend atheism. It makes no predictions, it gives no insight, it provides no control, it produces no technology, it advances no mathematics, it is a science in name only, because it is really metaphysics.

          • Right, there is no evidence that the universe is fine tuned.

            There is enormous evidence that the universe is hostile to life.

          • neil_pogi

            i didn't say that the universe is not fine-tuned. why quote my statement erroneous? or are you deliberately misquoted it? if the universe is hostile to life, then why are you still here? and why there is SETI project ongoing?

          • I am still here because I have avoided most of the universe that would kill me in seconds if I went there.

            You see because something is hostile to life doesn't mean it eradicates all life.

            For example, no mans land in the firs world war was a stretch between trenches filled with barbed wire, mines and enemy snipers taking shots at you. Many people survived it, but it was still hostile to life.

            Similarly thus universe is mostly "empty" space. Well over 99.999% of it. This area will kill a human in seconds. Most of the mass of the universe is stars and black holes which kill all life instantly. The rest is mostly gasses that would kill us. Not a single spot in light years from earth can support life. Except this planet which is mostly molten rock. The rest is mostly water in which we may easily die. The rest is habitable, but we have famine, disease and natural disasters putting us in danger. There is virtually no part of the universe in which we can easily thrive.

            I call that hostile.

          • neil_pogi

            you are living on this planet, and that planet was just created for sustenance and support for life, that's why you are still enjoying life. remember you are not living in the outskirts of the universe. so you said that the universe is not fine-tuned for life, then what the hell is SETI doing research for ETs? is SETI created by dumbfool scientists just raking the american people its precious dollars?

          • Phil

            If I am not mistaken, most scientists would agree that the universe at least *appears* to be fine-tuned for life. The debate is more whether this is merely appearance or if it actually is fine-tuned for life.

          • What is the exact theistic claim?

            The universe is fine tuned?
            The universe is fine tuned for life?
            The universe is fine tuned for intelligent life?
            The universe is fine tuned for humans?

          • Phil

            What is the exact theistic claim?

            The universe is fine tuned?
            The universe is fine tuned for life?
            The universe is fine tuned for intelligent life?The universe is fine tuned for humans?

            One could take many directions if you stick with a general theistic claim, but I'll present the specifically Catholic claim:

            God created the material cosmos so as eventually bring about intelligent human life that was invited to be in relationship with Him and capable of loving just as He loves.

          • I think you are mistaken. I think they would say that if some constants were slightly different life could not exist because hydrogen would not clump to form stars and so on. But this is not the same as saying it was fine-tuned, which is not a scientific statement. We don't know how these constants got this way. There is no evidence that there was anything to tune or anything or anyone to tune it.

            Theists need to stop inferring that because something is specific it was designed. You need to have some evidence of how it got that way to conclude... well that you know how it got that way.

      • Doug Shaver

        atheists just claim that the universe is not designed, and that the universe is just a simulation.

        I've never known an atheist to say that the universe is just a simulation, and I'll bet you haven't, either.

        • neil_pogi

          then why not ask for brian green adams about it?

          • Doug Shaver

            then why not ask for brian green adams about it?

            Because nothing he could say would be relevant to what I said.

          • neil_pogi

            actually, i just learned about that (simulation) by his post.

  • Deacon Marty McIndoe

    As a person who has spent a great deal of my life programming computers, from machine language to assembly level to high level in everything from Basic to Fortran to Cobol to PL1 to Algol etc., I can assure you that computers deal very well with logic situations and can often mimic the human mind. However, a computer can never mimic the personhood of a human and knows nothing about the soul. Granted, computers can construct environments that may be unreal, but even then there are tell tale signs of a lack of reality. I did enjoy this article, Joe. God bless

    • Current computers sure. But what about those in 10,000 years? 100,000 years? What about the quantum computers from 10,000 years ago?

      • Deacon Marty McIndoe

        that is a hard one. I cannot begin to tell you the changes in computers that I have seen since I received my Computer Science degree in 1969. Who knows what even another 50 years will produce. Still, they are a product of man who hopefully will continue to control them. Simulations are getting much better. Compare the original Pac Man to todays games. Perhaps the MATRIX is some day a possibility, but I hope mankind doesn't allow that.

    • Granted, computers can construct environments that may be unreal, but even then there are tell tale signs of a lack of reality.

      What is scary is that modernity is eviscerating the mental faculties required to detect such "tell tale signs". The populace is getting used to fragmentation of mind and discontinuous social life. After all, everything is changing so quickly! When history becomes irrelevant and facts are too legion to combine into a unified understanding, glitches are just part of life. Neo thought so, until Trinity amplified his little "déjà vu" comment into concern, based on her superior knowledge. What happens when there's no Trinity around and everyone is supposed to either rigorously defend their position with reason and evidence or accept what society (or perhaps its priests scientists) says is true.

  • David Nickol

    The message seems to be that materialists/scientists know in their heart of hearts that materialism is untenable, but they are so bent on denying the existence of God that they will endorse any absurdity to remain in denial. This does not seem to me to be an invitation to dialogue.

    • Mike

      pretty much what nagel suggested in mind and cosmos plus he admitted that he just doesn't want this world to be one in which God exists. he admitted that for him it's an emotional resistance.

      • I want this world to be one in which a God exists. Well, admittedly I would be just fine with an afterlife, but if that needs a God, count me in!

        • Mike

          thx for the intellectual and emotional honestly and i hope that doesn't sound paternalistic or condescending.

    • Sample1

      David,
      This is how it is. Those willing to stay are guided by the Holy Spirit those offended and leave ultimately have Satan the father of lies as their father. Get with the program. Ad hoc rationalization isn't just for breakfast anymore.

      Mike, naturalists have better stories.

    • Agreed. Jesus never pulled that kind of stunt. He always had an incisive question which revealed hearts.

  • Mike

    my co-worker once said that he thinks it highly reasonable to assume that we were created by some highly evolved alien from another planet. when i asked him why he thought that that was reasonable but that believing that we were created by a god from another dimension wasn't, he looked dumbstruck almost like he had never considered the similarity.

    anyway great article. the part about light vs trinity is also fascinating.

  • Ye Olde Statistician

    Suppose that these simulated people are conscious (as they would be if the simulations were sufficiently fine-grained

    And along comes Daniel Dennett arguing that consciousness is an illusion...

    A simulation is no more the real thing than a map is the territory. If Tyson, et al. are simulations, just what are they simulating?

    One wonders too the basis for the "probabilities" cited, like "50/50." Based on what sample size and frequency? Or is it was we used to call a SWAG?

    Aren't scientists cute when they step outside the scientific sandbox? Sagan, by his quote regarding "collections of molecules," seems not to grasp the difference between a heap and a thing.

    • Michael Murray

      You should read the whole quote. Sagan knew the difference between a heap and a thing.

      http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/761447-i-am-a-collection-of-water-calcium-and-organic-molecules

      • Then... the answer to "Is there nothing in here but molecules?" is a resounding YES? After all, the relationship between molecules is not a molecule.

        • Michael Murray

          I've no idea where you got the "here" from. In the article we are commenting on it says

          if you’re only a collection of molecules,

          • Did you read the full quote you linked? Here's the sentence in context:

            I am a collection of water, calcium and organic molecules called Carl Sagan. You are a collection of almost identical molecules with a different collective label. But is that all? Is there nothing in here but molecules? Some people find this idea somehow demeaning to human dignity. For myself, I find it elevating that our universe permits the evolution of molecular machines as intricate and subtle as we.

            But the essence of life is not so much the atoms and simple molecules that make us up as the way in which they are put together. Every now and then we read that the chemicals which constitute the human body cost ninety-seven cents or ten dollars or some such figure; it is a little depressing to find our bodies valued so little. However, these estimates are for human beings reduced to our simplest possible components. We are made mostly of water, which costs almost nothing; the carbon is costed in the form of coal; the calcium in our bones as chalk; the nitrogen in our proteins as air (cheap also); the iron in our blood as rusty nails. If we did not know better, we might be tempted to take all the atoms that make us up, mix them together in a big container and stir. We can do this as much as we want. But in the end all we have is a tedious mixture of atoms. How could we have expected anything else? (Goodreads quotes: Carl Sagan)

          • Michael Murray

            Yes I realised later and EDITED my post. Thanks.

          • I would have thought Sagan means "am I nothing more than a bunch of molecules". He makes quite clear he knows the difference between a heap and a thing.

            This phraseology precludes the plausibility that much of what makes Sagan Sagan lies primarily in "a bunch", and not so much in "of molecules". Taken as a whole, it is much easier to interpret him as saying "a bunch" ≈ "a heap" than "a bunch" ≈ "a thing".

            The more the relationships between the "molecules" matters, the less accurate it is to use words such as 'collection' and 'bunch'. An over-emphasis on atomism is deeply embedded in Enlightenment DNA, so this is not surprising. It lessens the error when evaluated based on how else Sagan could have thought, but it does not lessen the error of Sagan's thought. Translated to a different domain, neglecting the importance of relationship has greatly damaged our ability to alleviate poverty. I can articulate this at length if you'd like, drawing on Mary Douglas' and Steven Ney's Missing Persons: A Critique of the Personhood in the Social Sciences. We can also talk category theory—which is utterly agnostic to implementation details—in which case I'll draw on Robert Rosen's Life Itself. The bottom line is that it is not at all clear that Sagan has given thing-ness anything like its proper due. Merely employing the terms 'collection' and 'bunch' just don't cut it, not at that stage in science.

          • Michael Murray

            I can articulate this at length if you'd like,

            Don't bother on my behalf. I've covered the point I was making. Thanks.

  • SpokenMind

    I offer the following video for your consideration.

    http://www.magiscenter.com/remarkable-evidence-of-a-transcendent-soul/

    All the best.

    • Doug Shaver

      I offer the following video for your consideration.

      I watched the first 10 minutes. I was not impressed by the rigor of his reasoning.

      • SpokenMind

        Hi Doug,

        Thanks for watching part of the video.

        I think there are some interesting data points when it comes to near death experiences. People born blind seeing things around them only while there brain is shut down. People aware of objects and conversations in other locations nearby while they are “out”, which are later verified.

        While I don’t think this proves we have souls, it is interesting. To me, it seems to point to a transcendent dimension of the human person beyond physical reality. It fits with the concept of a soul.

        What are your thoughts on near death experiences?

        All the best.

        • Doug Shaver

          What are your thoughts on near death experiences?

          I've seen naturalistic explanations for them. Those explanations seem entirely plausible, and so far as I'm aware, no one who disbelieves those explanations has offered a good reason to think them improbable.

          • SpokenMind

            How would a naturalist explain a blind person whose brain is power-down being able to see their surrounings?

          • Doug Shaver

            I would have to know the specifics of that situation in considerable detail to give a useful response. Can you link to a reliable report?

          • Michael Murray

            Not sure about reliable but they are mentioned in the article by Spitzer that SpokenMind linked to before

            http://www.magiscenter.com/pdf/Science_Medicine_and_NDEs.pdf

            An example appears here

            http://www.near-death.com/science/evidence/people-born-blind-can-see-during-nde.html

            There is a common problem with all these kinds of reports

            Vicki told Dr. Ring she found herself floating above her body in the emergency room of a hospital following an automobile accident.

            That isn't accurate. What must have happened is that after she woke up from her medical emergency she remembered floating .... etc. We aren't told how long it once from the waking up to the remembering.

          • Doug Shaver

            Thanks for the links, Michael. Based on a quick scan, I think the Spitzer article will provide what I need to answer the question.

          • Michael Murray

            Steven Novella on his blog has talked about NDEs a bit.
            Here is an entry about the Parnia study

            http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/aware-results-finally-published-no-evidence-of-nde/

          • Doug Shaver

            How would a naturalist explain a blind person whose brain is power-down being able to see their surrounings?

            What I need to explain depends on what you mean by “power-down.” If you mean “dead,” then we’re not going to hear about any blind person seeing their surroundings because brain death is irreversible. A brain that seems to have died but returns to life was never actually dead (http://www.webmd.com/brain/news/20140103/brain-dead-faq#1). Brain death must be distinguished from clinical death, which is “cessation of blood circulation and breathing” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clinical_death), and which is reversible in some cases.

            There is a reason for the “near” in “near-death experience.” An experience near death is not an experience of death, and so the brain is still alive during an NDE. The failure of an EEG to detect its activity is not proof of the contrary.

            Our understanding of how the brain functions is still meager. Neuroscience has made significant progress in recent decades, but there is still much more that we don’t know than that we do know. The progress has included, however, the discovery that the brain is not merely a passive receptor of data about the external world. Sensory data are more like inputs to a creative process when those data are present. When sensory data are not present, the creative process may continue to function using whatever other data may be available. Dreams are an instance of this occurrence. Memories, too, are not just a playback of recorded data. Some data do get stored in certain areas of our brains, but our conscious memories do not consist merely of those data being retrieved with more or less fidelity from those storage areas.

            Thus, what we perceive in our visual field is a construction of our minds, normally but not always based on data originating in our retinas. And our memories are reconstructions of visual and other perceptions, usually but not always, and mostly but not entirely, based on data that were perceived on the remembered occasions. That is my understanding of several reports I have seen on the current state of brain science, and so far as I am aware, these conclusions are not seriously disputed within the scientific community.

            It seems to me that these conclusions provide a naturalistic basis that is both plausible and sufficient to account for a blind man’s honest claim to remember seeing things on an occasion when his brain was undergoing severe trauma, as well as account for all other credible reports of NDEs. Plausibility could of course lie in the eye of the beholder, but sufficiency is just a matter of logic. Are there any undisputed facts about NDEs for which a credible explanation must assume the existence of what Spitzer calls the “transphysical component of a person”? Such facts would constitute evidence contrary to naturalism. Spitzer offers four such facts, claiming, “physicalist explanations of near death experiences do not (and probably cannot) explain these combined phenomena.” (For the present discussion, I’ll assume physicalist = naturalist.) He does not accept such explanations, of course, and he could argue that it would be inconsistent with Christian faith to accept them. I have no interest in trying to prove that souls don’t exist. All I wish to demonstrate is that I’m not being unreasonable if I think they don’t. A defense of doubt does not require proof that belief is irrational or unreasonable. The burden of proof is on those who claim that the undisputed facts in evidence cannot have a naturalistic explanation.

            So, how does Spitzer try to prove the insufficiency of a naturalistic explanation? He has essentially two arguments. One is an appeal to authority, the other a kind of argument from ignorance. Section IV of his paper, “Response to Physicalist Explanations,” is devoted mostly to conveying the objections of one neuroscientist, Dr. Mario Beauregard of the University of Arizona, mostly paraphrased from Beauregard’s 2012 book titled Brain Wars: The Scientific Battle Over the Existence of the Mind and the Proof that Will Change the Way We Live Our Lives. A point-by-point critique of Spitzer’s account of Beauregard’s objections would be tedious, but the weakness of those objections can be illustrated.

            Much of Beauregard’s work was not on NDEs as such but instead on out-of-body experiences—OBEs. The distinction need not concern us here, though, since an NDE is just a particular kind of OBE.

            Hallucinations reminiscent of NDEs, or OBEs in general, have been induced by direct stimulation of certain brain regions. Beauregard noted that they are manifestly not veridical, meaning the subjects reported seeing things that could not have been real (e.g. portions of their bodies being shortened). From this Spitzer infers: “These experiences are illusory whereas typical OBEs are not illusory.” But that is not a valid inference. A realistic illusion is no less an illusion for its realism. If I see something that cannot be real, then of course I must be hallucinating, but just because it could be real doesn’t mean—even if it actually exists—that it’s really there in front of my eyes. Spitzer’s claim that “typical OBEs are not illusory” begs the question: He is assuming his conclusion.

            Furthermore, no one is claiming, so far as I know, that these experiments with stimulated hallucinations duplicate the conditions under which OBEs occur. I am aware of no naturalist who argues, “We can make people hallucinate, therefore OBEs can’t really happen." What these and countless other experiments do demonstrate, though, is that the brain can and does produce visual experiences that, when they occur and without any corresponding data from the sensory organs that normally cause those experiences, are indistinguishable from ordinary visual experiences.

            Spitzer then addresses the hypoxia hypothesis, which he attributes to Susan Blackmore. Citing Beauregard again, who in turn appeals to work by Dr. Pim van Lommel, Spitzer says, “100% of dying people suffer from anoxia; so if anoxia is the cause of near death experiences, 100% of patients should have them.” I don’t know what Blackmore actually claims, specifically, about the role of anoxia in NDEs, but this is almost fatuous. Most smokers don’t get lung cancer, but no doctor in his right mind would argue that therefore smoking cannot cause lung cancer. According to Spitzer, “only 18% of adults” have NDEs. Fine, but less than 10 percent of smokers get lung cancer. If any naturalist has made the specific claim that “anoxia is the cause of near death experiences” and meant to say that nothing else need occur for an NDE to happen, then of course that naturalist doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

            Does anybody actually know everything that is going on in the brain during an NDE? I very much doubt it. I am aware of no attempt at a complete naturalistic explanation of the NDE phenomenon, but this is a very new area of scientific research, and the subject is extremely complicated. The brain has been described as the most complex structure in the known universe. Of course we can’t explain everything it does down to the last detail, but we are not, for that reason alone, compelled to accept a hypothesis that was proposed thousands of years before modern science even existed.

            Spitzer concludes this section of his paper thusly: “it is highly unlikely that physicalist explanations will ever be able to account for phenomena can have unmistakably transphysical effects—which is at best a contradiction.” But he is assuming his conclusion again. All we know about NDEs is what the people who have them tell us about them. What they say is all that needs any explanation. Why do they say it? We assume, reasonably, that they say it because they believe it. The question then becomes: Why do they believe it? It could be because what they thought was happening, a “transphysical effect,” was really happening. Some of us think there are other possibilities, and we deny that anyone has proved we’re being unreasonable in thinking so.

            Spitzer devotes the remainder of his article to exploring the religious implications of NDEs on the assumption that his preferred hypothesis is the correct one. Those implications are of course consistent with Christian orthodoxy, and so NDEs can be construed as scientific confirmation of certain things the church has been teaching for nearly 2,000 years. And maybe that is just what they are, if the church has been right for all those years. Spitzer’s preferred hypothesis, though, just is that the church has been right, that there is, as a matter of fact, a transphysical component of every one of us. He has not shown how, if I deny that hypothesis, I commit any offense against the proper exercise of reason.

          • Michael Murray

            Great discussion. Thanks.

          • Doug Shaver

            You're welcome. It was my pleasure.

          • SpokenMind

            Hi Doug,

            Thanks for your very thoughtful reply. This seems to be an area of study where we have only scratched the surface.

            The main reason I shared this article is I think the evidence demonstrates something that is currently inexplicable – blind people being able to accurately see only during the time when their brain is in a state, that as far as our scientific instruments can tell, is next to off or off. It’s hard to explain, especially when what they saw matches reality. That being said, your thoughts on this matter are within the realm of reason, as are other explanations I am aware of. I also see this as a place where one could apply faith and say we have a transcendent soul.

            Personally, I don’t think a soul will ever be proven. The best we’ll ever be able to find is evidence that arguably points to such.

            All the best!

          • Doug Shaver

            All the best!

            Thank you. And thank you also for a very civil response.

          • Lazarus

            Jeffrey Long's "God and the Afterlife" deals with a few fascinating reports of blind people seeing during their NDE, and other examples of experiences that are difficult to explain from the naturalist point of view. Long also maintains a website that records reports of NDE.

          • Peter A.

            The problem with the "naturalistic explanations" is that they simply don't work. For example, the hypoxia hypothesis, if true, would result in distortion, failure of memory, incoherence and an absence of most of the features of your typical N.D.E., and yet that has not prevented many of the "sceptics" from latching on to this hypothesis and refusing to let go, in spite of all the problems associated with it (like not actually explaining what is taking place during an N.D.E.).

          • Doug Shaver

            The problem with the "naturalistic explanations" is that they simply don't work.

            That's what Spitzer claims in his article. I'm still working on my response to it.

  • SpokenMind

    For those who prefer to read, I offer the following for your consideration.

    http://www.magiscenter.com/pdf/Evidence-of-the-Transcendent-Soul.pdf

    All the best.

    • Michael Murray
      • SpokenMind

        Hi Michael,

        I must confess, I only skimmed the link you provided.

        What is the issue with Eben Alexander?

        All the best.

        • Michael Murray

          Sorry I couldn't do it justice in a summary here. But I don't think Alexander is a serious person in this area. Parnia is. But Parnia's study didn't show any evidence that an NDE is somehow the persons "mind" or "consciousness" or whatever actually leaving the body as distinct from just feeling like it leaves the body.

          • SpokenMind

            What explanation would Parnia give for someone having accurate knowledge of a conversation in another room while their brain was off?

          • Michael Murray

            I don't think Parnia is at the offering explanations stage. He was looking for reliable experimental evidence for this kind of thing occurring. Claims of things being heard etc after the fact are really hard to verify.

          • SpokenMind

            In my opinion, I don't see why something heard in another location would be hard to verify. An inependant source could just ask what someone was talking about without asking a leading question. If they match, they match. That's the nature of the studies in the article. I would encourage you to take a second look.

          • Michael Murray

            For starters you are relying on human memory. It's a seriously fallable tool. You are relying on interview. Hard to do without that leading question.

            Personally I think there are a whole bunch of phenomena that people claim occur to which I have a similar response: NDEs, OBEs, reincarnation, ESP and the whole field of parapsychology. My thoughts on them are:

            There are very strong arguments against them occurring from physics. See Sean Carrolls book or this youtube video

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vrs-Azp0i3k

            As a researcher in mathematics related to physics I find this very persuasive. But we all have our own biases!

            All these phenomena have great emotional appeal. Who wants to completely disappear when they die ?

            These fields have many deliberate charlatans who are trying to make money, accidental charlatans who genuinely believe, the accounts are hard to verify, they really on anecdotal evidence, they are hard to do experiments in, etc. When we do do experiments as in parapsychology we find that the better the experiment the weaker the effect observed.

            I was interested in these things once and I guess I retain a passing interest but life is short and getting shorter and busy and getting busier. So I have to make choices about what I read. There is a nice account of this problem here

            http://www.susanblackmore.co.uk/Chapters/Kurtz.htm

            by Susan Blackmore who used to study parapsychology motivated by a personal dramatic OBE.

          • SpokenMind

            Hi Michael,

            Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

            I think the evidence in the article presented was gathered in an accurate, unbiased manner. The sources cited are well-respected for their scientific rigor. Perhaps past rabbit holes have led to nowhere. Maybe this one is different.

            Some interesting excerpts from the article:

            “How could a clear consciousness outside one’s body be experienced at the moment that the brain no longer functions during a period of clinical death with flat EEG? . . . Furthermore, blind people have described veridical perception during out-of-body experiences at the time of this experience. NDE pushes at the limits of medical ideas about the range of human consciousness and the mind-brain relation. In our prospective study of patients that were clinically dead (flat EEG, showing no electrical activity in the cortex and loss of brain stem function evidenced by fixed dilated pupils and absence of the gag reflex) the patients report a clear consciousness, in which cognitive functioning, emotion, sense of identity, or memory from early childhood occurred, as well as perceptions from a position out and above their ‘dead’ body.”
            (van Lommel, et al 2001. P. 2045.)

            “Using the most stringent criterion – that a case would be classified as inaccurate if even one detail was found to not correspond to reality – Holden found that only 8 percent involved some inaccuracy. In contrast, 37 percent of the cases – almost five times as many – were determined to be accurate by an independent objective source, such as the investigation of researchers reporting the cases.”
            (Carter 2010, p. 217.)

            “[veridical reports concern] only descriptions of extremely low antecedent probability that have been cited, such as one woman’s accurate description of the plaid shoelaces on a nurse participating in her resuscitation (Ring and Lawrence, 1993), or one man’s accurate description of his cardiac surgeon during his open-heart surgery ‘‘flapping his arms as if trying to fly’’ (Cook, Greyson, and Stevenson, 1998, p. 399), hardly the type of behavior typically shown in media portrayals of open-heart surgery. Both of these examples, incidentally, were corroborated by independent interviews with the doctors and nurses involved. In a specific test of ability of patients to imagine accurate resuscitation scenarios, Michael Sabom (1981, 1982) found NDErs’ descriptions of their resuscitations to be highly accurate with specific veridical details, whereas those of resuscitated patients who did not report NDEs but were asked to imagine what their resuscitations must have looked like were vague and contained erroneous specifics.”
            (Greyson 2007 p. 237.)

            Take care and all the best!

          • David Nickol

            It won't have any impact on this discussion that I can think of, but Sean Carroll on Twitter recently called attention to a talk that covers much the same ground as the video you linked to. It's Quantum Fields: The Real Building Blocks of the Universe - with David Tong. It's informative and also very entertaining.

          • Michael Murray

            Thanks David.

          • Michael Murray

            Thanks again. I just watched all that. Very interesting and impressively done. I particularly liked the picture of the quantum vacuum. Something to bring out when we have another "physical nothing" vs "metaphysical nothing" discussion.

            EDIT: More about the primordial quantum vacuum affecting the cosmic microwave background here.

          • Peter A.

            Cites Susan Blackmore. Fail.

          • Michael Murray

            Plagiarises previous comment. Fail.

          • Peter A.

            I'm just doing what you did. It's silly to do this, don't you agree? To just dismiss some idea because of where it came from (the genetic fallacy).

          • Michael Murray

            Mine has some justification. I followed up later with links to a couple of articles criticising Alexander.

          • Peter A.

            "...a couple of articles criticising Alexander". Wouldn't it be prudent to also examine what Alexander himself has to say, rather than just listening to his critics?

          • Michael Murray

            Go for it. I've read enough of this NDE stuff in the past to feel I don't need to read every new one that appears.

          • Peter A.

            So you're not open to new evidence then, because in your opinion you've "read enough" to know that there is nothing to this that a materialist cannot simply explain (away).

          • Michael Murray

            I'm open to new evidence. Just not particularly open to more of the same old evidence.

          • Peter A.

            So you admit that it in fact IS evidence, just not the kind you like because it constitutes evidence against the materialist worldview. Have I got that right?

          • Michael Murray

            I don't regard it as evidence against the materialist world view.

          • Lazarus

            I share your views on Alexander and Parnia.
            Have you read any of Jeffrey Long's work?

          • Michael Murray

            No thanks. I'll have a look.

        • Michael Murray

          Here is a longish article by Sam Harris on Alexander.

          http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/this-must-be-heaven

          While Harris is a well-known atheist he is also a very keen meditator and has been in trouble with other atheists for his belief in "spirituality" so I think he is an interesting person to read on this topic. He is also a neuroscientist.

        • Doug Shaver

          What is the issue with Eben Alexander?

          His credibility.

        • Doug Shaver

          As I write this, I cannot access the site that Michael linked to, but I found this: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffbercovici/2013/07/02/esquire-unearths-proof-of-heaven-authors-credibility-problems/#2d86ff7e1fd6

          If the doctor who treated Alexander disputes his claim about the condition he was in, then I don't see why I should take Alexander's word for it that what he says happened actually happened.

  • David Nickol

    Lest you think that such a self-evidently absurd theory is a mere cry for attention from a dying publication . . .

    This is truly bizarre. What is the evidence that The New Yorker is a "dying publication"? This sounds like a Trump Tweet. I don't think the discerning reader of Adam Gopnik's piece would seriously conclude he believes we are living in the Matrix!

    Exactly how absurd the theory is that we are living in a simulation I won't venture to say, but the Christian explanation of why things go so seriously awry in human affairs ("first parents" who committed "Original Sin") is probably in the same ballpark.

    • Ignatius Reilly

      This is truly bizarre. What is the evidence that The New Yorker is a "dying publication"? This sounds like a Trump Tweet.

      This is a keeper. I'm going to steal it. Now whenever someone says something inane, I'm going to tell them that they sound like a Trump tweet.

      I don't think the discerning reader of Adam Gopnik's piece would seriously conclude he believes we are living in the Matrix!

      I'm convinced that SN authors don't actually read the articles they link to.

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    Shouldn’t human rights (or at least animal rights) activists start advocating on behalf of abused laptops?...As far back as 1983, Robert and Mueller were asking, Would an intelligent computer have a “right to life”? ....(etc)

    I'm not sure what that whole section was supposed to prove. Seems Heschmeyer is trying to say that if computers could be sophisticated enough to be minds, then this would raise some moral questions... therefore computers can't be minds? That conclusion does not follow. Just because something raises moral questions does not make it absurd.

    • Michael Murray

      Steve Zara wrote an interesting article on the Richard Dawkins site about this a few years back. I can't find it over there anymore but this seems to be a copy of it inside someone else's blog

      http://integral-options.blogspot.com.au/2010/07/steve-zara-blue-brain-blues-materialist.html

      • Sample1

        I remember Zara's moral concerns about AI and his discussions on RD. Great link to some of his thoughts. Hopefully many here will read them.

        Mike, faith free since 2011ish. Empathy reboot around 2012. Chasing zero lies coming from my mouth (tiny ones or whoppers) since about 2013. :-)

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    In other words, any attempt to reduce human beings to
    mere matter will always fail, because our matter is in flux. We eat
    things, we digest, etc. If we don’t have something immaterial like a
    soul, there’s simply no coherent way we can speak of enduring human
    consciousness.

    I wonder what Heschmeyer's thoughts on the Ship of Theseus are. Does the ship have an immaterial component to it that allows it to endure and remain the same ship. Or is it immaterial and ceases to be the ship the moment a nail is replaced?

    • David Nickol

      I was thinking along roughly similar lines. A great deal of philosophical thought has gone into the issue of the continuity of the identity of physical objects and also personal identity. It is given extremely short shrift in the OP.

      I don't know whether it's me or Strange Notions that has changed (probably a bit of both), but whereas in times it used to be enjoyable to discuss such issues here, now it seems like work. I don't think there is anything new here, and making the same arguments over and over becomes tedious. No offense intended to Joe Heschmeyer or any of the other contributors, but the posts often seem to be aimed at making the believers feel self-satisfied that they are the ones who have opened their minds to Truth, while the skeptics, agnostics, and atheists are at best deliberately obtuse (or perhaps just evil).

      An atheist post with the identical tone only directed toward believers could not get published here. Belief in God is willfully resisting the obvious truth, and theists are simply forced to make the preposterous arguments they do because otherwise they would have to admit there is no God.

      Maybe it is just time to move on from this site.

      • Michael Murray

        while the skeptics, agnostics, and atheists are at best deliberately obtuse (or perhaps just evil).

        I thought we were deliberately ignoring God so we could indulge our hedonistic desire to use condoms ?

        I did find it remarkable that the whole field of the study of consciousness was apparently being dismissed as obviously wrong.

      • Jim (hillclimber)

        An atheist post with the identical tone only directed toward believers could not get published here.

        I agree that there is a double standard in effect in this regard, whether intended or not. I think it's fine to have at least some OPs that take a polemical tone, but when you only allow polemics from one side, that is harmful to dialogue.

        Personally, I don't usually care much either way about the OPs per se. I am just looking for the OPs to generate good conversation in the ensuing comboxes. But I suppose that is an easy attitude for me to take when I'm not the target of the OP polemics.

        Finally, I agree that even combox dialogue with intelligent and respectful interlocutors can get old and tiresome, as we end up largely repeating the same arguments to each other. There is probably a danger for all of us that we are using these conversations as ways of distracting ourselves from more significant progress that we need to make with our lives. With that in mind, I'm going to take the rest of Lent off form this place.

        Catch you later!

      • Sgt Carver

        This OP, as with all the OP's for the last couple of years, is just a reprint from an apologetics site. In this case Shameless Popery, as such they are in no way intended to actually engage with atheists, agnostics etc.

        ETA:

        http://shamelesspopery.com/the-matrix/

        • Lazarus

          Every single post in this thread is nothing but such an engagement. What else do you wish to engage on? How can we engage more meaningfully? I just do not see the boundaries that you do?

          • Sgt Carver

            It's quite clear both David and I were referring to the OP's not the comments.

          • Lazarus

            The comments are the live, dynamic section of SN.
            I ask you again, how can we improve the engagement, where do you see those boundaries running?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Idk, how about theists not insisting that atheist and humanist posters are somehow the equivalent to Hitler.

          • Lazarus

            Yes, because we do that. Ever so often.
            Come on guys. Engage all you want, this site is one of the best, one of the only ones to allow this to this degree.

          • Lazarus

            Edit - and if you really want to see negative engagement, go read the comments Over There. Why the double standards?

          • Sgt Carver

            The fact that you are correct in saying that "this site is one of the best, one of the only ones to allow this to this degree" is sadly telling.

          • Lazarus

            Are there other sites, presented by either camp, that does this better?

            And you still haven't answered my questions.

          • Sgt Carver

            My point was that there is not, on the Christian side. Crisis allows a lot of freedom in it's comboxes but it's OP's (?) are horrible in both tone and content.

            I honestly find it difficult to judge atheist sites as I am an atheist. I constantly check my biases, I have even corrected some comments that agree with me when I think they are incorrect on part of a point. But it is difficult to be neutral and open.

            As to your questions... Well I think you shifted the goalposts and I would not speak in terms of boundaries but..

            I would like SN to actually be what it said it would be and attempted to be from the outset. No purging of atheists, no different rules for one side, less biased moderation, no control by someone who literally relies on the RCC to feed their kids, OP's that reflect both sides and no upvoting by the owners/moderators of comments that clearly break the site's own stated policies.

            ETA. That last one was when I knew BV could not be trusted to be honest.

          • Lazarus

            I see that, by those lights, you seem quite comfortable with double standards, as is abundantly clear from some of the sites that you comment on.

            You also seem to be more interested in confrontation than engagement, as is clear from your comment regarding BV.

            You have not been banned. You get away with comments that are in breach of the site rules, and yet you complain of "biased moderation". Your comment as to the RCC ... wow. The less said the better.

            Don't fool yourself. You're not here to "engage". You are getting a totally fair break, you can most certainly state your case to the full extent of those arguments. And yet, not good enough.

          • Sgt Carver

            Bloody hell I'm supposed to be biased! But I am not running a site that claims to be neutral and encourage open discussion. I don't have double standards, I simply want SN to stick to the standards it set itself. If I breach the rules it is because I don't know what the rules are and how evenly they will be enforced.

            As to my comment about the RCC. Does BV work directly for (the now) Bishop Barron and do you think his creation of this site was part of the reason he got the job?

          • Lazarus

            All of that is meaningless and quite demeaning gossip either way. Judge the site on the work that gets done.

          • Sgt Carver

            It is not demeaning, meaningless or gossip.

            It is a statement of fact.

            The "mission statement" of this site is clear. Also BV talked clearly his new employment. Although if the site changed after that employment is subjective, you simply dodged the question. Yet you earlier asked that I answer your (off topic) questions and ignore mine.

          • Lazarus

            I am not going to "engage" or indulge you in gossip. You seem oblivious to the offensive nature of these comments of yours. You also seem to think they are on topic.

            The site has, in my view, delivered a consistently high standard of service, with some mistakes (some of which I called them on), and if anything their standards have improved over the last number of months.

          • Sgt Carver

            Okay I agree that the standard of moderation has improved, even if I break the rules. The topic, which you diverted from was the standards of the OP's.

            As to the charge of gossip, please stop clutching your pearls, this is an open conversation, where anyone can join in, on things people can easily verify for themselves. I would think that is pretty much the opposite of gossip.

            But it is now 9ish in Ireland and I am going to have many pints and argue with, gossip with and insult my friends. Pretty much what people do in real life.

          • Sgt Carver

            I should add that I think I do get a fair break here. So much so I made an idiot of myself on the last OP by arguing with Jim(Hillclimber) on something which I later found to be false.

          • Lazarus

            I'm glad to hear that - about the fair break, not the idiot making. I know how uncomfortable that feels ;)

          • No purging of atheists, no different rules for one side, less biased moderation [...]

            I spent a good deal of time among a good number of said purged atheists, in an environment where they had complete control over the rules and the enforcement thereof. What I found was an environment hostile to theists (not just this theist), where moderation was quite partial, and where others were allowed to break the rules while I was not. The moderator didn't even step in when one of their members compared me to a child rapist. Ultimately, I was summarily banned with zero warning—which is one of the same complaints that group had of SN. I suspect that sometimes, excluding a number of people from discussion may be required for an environment amenable to rigorous debate. EN is amenable to rigorous personal attacks, not rigorous debate.

            Now, I am with you on equalizing the enforcement of rules and moderation, but that's actually rather hard, given human nature and the extreme tribalism which has the West in its clutches. So why not participate on SN while being silent about said "unfairness" for a while, showing that you're a valuable contributor? While you're doing this, you can collect instances of the more blatant unfairness. (It's always best to pick the most egregious examples.) If you can then present enough examples that I think are bad, I'll threaten to ban myself from SN. Any other frequent contributors are welcome to join me in this. I would like the dialog level to improve around here.

            P.S. I have criticized @bvogt1:disqus himself for using language more incendiary than necessary (after atheist @ignatiusreilly1:disqus helped me see its incendiary nature). I've also threatened to leave if there were more rigor offered which SN rejected:

            sg: In my 20 years of debating Christians and reading apologetics and studying philosophy at the graduate level, I have never once encountered an apologist who understood what he meant by "cause" or "explain".

            LB: Such statements are hollow when not accompanied by what the claimant thinks are good understandings. Why not strike a deal with SN, whereby someone from OSTS whether banned or not from SN, writes a guest article dealing with the above matter. If the person is banned, @bvogt1:disqus would at least unban him/her for that article (with an agreement that [s]he will not post on other articles). The article would have to defend robust notions of 'cause' and 'explain' which are better than anything found among 'Christian apologists'. If the author wishes to argue that those who routinely interact with 'Christian apologists' do any better in understanding what these terms mean, evidence will be required.

            I would like to see more rigor on SN, and I think this is an excellent opportunity. If SN is not interested, especially if it is not interested in practicing the Christ-exemplified acts of mercy and forgiveness (my ignored request for clemency toward some OSTS regulars), it might be time for me to move on. I was honored to be listed as "[one of SN's] regular commenters, who have provided so many rich thoughts and insights over the years", but praise isn't enough to keep me around. I want excellence and rigor (the latter where appropriate), and I believe God does, too.

            I include the whole comment because somehow all the comments at Would God Create Perfect Creatures? – A Christian/Atheist Dialogue have been deleted; I had to "view source" and look at the WordPress version.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Apparently the @ feature works now. I received a notification.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            My point is that a theist that insists on calling an atheist a Nazi over and over again should get some kind of community reprimand. If I saw an atheist calling you a genocidal maniac I would tell him to stfu.

          • Lazarus

            Pull the other one. Over There you called Joe "dense" and "dumb". Sample 1 tells us that Joe has "lost his mind". There's more.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Being dense and being a Nazi are not even in the same ballpark of insults.

          • Sample1

            Oh for Pete's sake. I don't believe Joe has literally lost his mind, it's a figure of speech. I'm not claiming his grooming habits leave much to be desired, has no friends, or is living in a van down by the river. I would never make fun of people with broken brains.

            It was a figure of speech to express my frustration with this article of his. It's really that bad. That's my opinion.

            Mike

          • Mike

            who's done that? maybe you're self conscious on this point bc you realize but can't admit that your philo can't account for morality.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I'm not self-conscious. I'm sorry I even thought it was a good idea to write a comment on this site again. My philosophy can account for morality as well as any other.
            The poster cestusdei has repeatedly compared me to Hitler. He's better than par for the SN course.

          • Mike

            how can materialism or naturalism account for right and wrong when it denies immaterial concepts like justice and fairness. and if justice is something material it must vary as no 2 bits of matter especially among humans are the same in which case morality is relative and subjective in which case there really is no right and wrong just your right and my wrong.

            unless there is some other level of reality there can not be any standard by which to judge acts. only if there is some independent objective standard can we make a judgement. scoring 80 points in a basketball game can not be any better or worse than fouling out in the first 2 mins unless there is an independent objective standard for the game by which to judge the relative value of scoring points vs craping out.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Euthyphro

          • Mike

            eucalyptus? just kidding.

            naturalism says that all things have 'natures' ala natur-alism, so that must mean that we have natures which must determine what is good/bad for us GIVEN our Natures. would you agree with this?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Sounds more like Aristotelian thought than naturalism. When someone tell me they are a naturalist, I take them to mean that they don't believe in any deities, The Force, karma, destiny, fates, ghosts, or anything supernatural.

          • Mike

            so why is it called naturalism then if it denies that all things have natures. maybe those natures are in flux but surely what they mean is that the nature of thunder excludes zeus or something to that effect. plus how do you know that fates for ex aren't natural or part of the natural order? many ppl believe in fates. what experiment can a person perform that would decide such a question. i mean maybe some ppl have them and some don't. plus if there is no real free will maybe we are all fated by nature.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            It is called naturalism because it claims that there is only the natural world and there are no supernatural entities out there. Naturalism cannot be proven. Speaking only for myself, I would say that I'm a naturalist, because all claimed supernatural occurrences seem to be merely natural.
            Whether or not things have natures is a completely different question. I would be careful about saying that the nature of thunder excludes being caused by Zeus. It will ruin your arguments for Divine Simplicity.

          • Mike

            then your defn of naturalism just seems to beg the question seems to me and doesn't do much work.

            i don't think it's an unrelated question: if everything is natural ie no supernatural 'interference' then as we are 100% nature shouldn't we observe the same natural laws w/o any 'interference'? this would seem to imply that we are 100% natural ie predictable, ordered, pattern like, like gravity or whatever else that is a natural law.

            what i don't get is how you can believe there is only nature ie nothing 'from the outside' yet not also believe that we are 100% natural and therefore follow some nature/law as well.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            If I told you of a spring deep in the Amazon blessed by the goddess Mira, who will give peace to all those who drink of the waters, would you believe me? What if I told you that I and my traveling companion drank of the water and saw Mira in a watery reflection.

          • Lazarus

            If you showed me that the people who knew Mira radically changed their lives, that Mira did some really awesome things like coming back from the dead, that the people who met her were prepared to, and did die for Mira, that your little group grew into the biggest religion in the world - you would certainly have my attention.

          • If you showed me that Jesus's teachings could help me reach enlightenment and end the cycle of Samsara you would have my attention

          • Lazarus

            The Buddha did that ;)

          • Ignatius Reilly

            So basically, you are saying that you would only consider a supernatural story, if there was an abundance of extra evidence. This is largely how the naturalist operates. If I was told that there was a psychic who could tell me the future, I would be highly skeptical, which is basically the default position for most of us. We are skeptical of claims of the supernatural, unless they confirm our own beliefs. Since I don't have any supernatural beliefs, I am skeptical of all of them.
            How do you feel about garden variety Christian miracle claims, say Lourdes or a faith healer or what not? Do you see the resurrection event as special, but treat other Christian miracle claims like my Mira story or would you give more leeway to a Christian miracle claim? If so, how much leeway?
            I would also disagree with the strength of your evidence for Christianity. Your evidence is largely based on the fact that Christianity along with Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam, is one of the winners. I don't think it is necessarily surprising that certain religions gain cultural dominance. That in itself is not an argument for a religion or another. The fact that Christianity came out on top instead of a religion based upon Isis or another goddess is just how the dice shook out.
            That someone radically changed their lives is not cause in itself to believe in one religion or another. People do experience natural life events that can change their lives radically. Maybe it is a book, or a nearly fatal accident, travelling, or an unusual experience. Someone changing their life does not demand a supernatural explanation. If someone gives a supernatural explanation that does not mean it is the correct one.
            Say, when I came back from my Mira trip, you noticed that I was radically changed for the better. Would that lend credence to my story? Would you take a leap of faith and travel to the amazon to seek Mira?
            Suppose instead of the history we have the world we lived in was different in that the followers of Mira spread throughout the continent converting wherever they went. They then crossed the ocean and conquered the less technologically advanced peoples in Europe spreading their religion wherever they went. Suppose also they had sacred books detailing the first prophet of Mira and his resurrection by Mira's grace. Suppose also we could explain many of the Supernatural claims made in the books as devices of the genre the books were written. Suppose also that the ravages of time have obscured most of what we can actually know about the early religion, because it started small, but grew exponentially. Would this religion be worth looking at closely?
            Finally, would there be any real difference between what I experienced in my Mira story and what the early apostles experienced? One just happened a long time ago and is buffered by cultural biases that make us think it is more likely to be true.

          • Lazarus

            I would have to confess to, shall we call it a bias towards Christian miracle events. The question is whether that bias is justified or not, and I would argue that it is. See Craig Keener's book on miracles. I first became convinced of the truth of Christianity and then, as a consequence of that, I am open to accept certain "Christian " miracles.

            I do equally accept however that God can work miracles in the setting of other religions. I have no problem with that. I do believe that a proper miracle of necessity implies a supernatural event.

            The resurrection event to me is a real historic event. I have studied it from every angle and I accept it as real. The arguments are well debated here and elsewhere. That changes everything. It legitimizes an a priori bias if you will towards Christian miracles. It would be an odd approach to truly accept the Resurrection and yet be all squeamish about miracles!

            With that said, I must say (and continue my politically incorrect argument) that I do believe that there is a difference between what the apostles experienced, what they recorded, what transpired as a result of their efforts and your Mira story. If those same consequences attended your story then of course I would accept your story also as being miraculous and I would accept that God was trying to tell us something by it.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Arguing about whether or not miracles are plausible explanations or if the resurrection actually happened is probably a bit more than a combox can take. However, is there anyway you could summarize what you found compelling about Keener's argument? Was there anything in particular that really stuck out?

            Also, if you would indulge my curiosity, how do you judge among Christian miracles the ones that are genuine from the ones that have natural explanations? Here are some that I experienced: How would you evaluate? Is the default position: not a miracle?

            When I was around 14, a nun was claiming to cure people with Padre Pio's glove. Padre Pio was alleged to have the stigmata and he wore gloves. There were after mass healing services that took place in various parishes. Parishioners would get blessed by the glove and there alleged healings. A few years later, it became known that the nun had a fake glove.

            Also when I was young, I was involved in a charismatic movement. There were healing services, and in the middle of mass people would go up to the alter to get blessed by a priest, who supposedly had the gift of healing. While you were getting blessed, someone would stand behind you to catch you, in case the blessing caused you to fall backwards. If not, the priest would give you a gentle nudge and would fall back and meditate for however long the spirit moved you. Supposedly there were cures and other miracles. Years later the priest was forbidden from practicing - there were rumors of pedophilia, but don't think they were necessarily true.

            Another interesting one was there was this statue of Jesus that was found in a dumpster. Someone put it back together and supposedly it cured people. It was traveling around from house to house around the country and when I went to visit it with my family there was a really creepy vibe about the whole thing. It was later claimed that the Jesus statue was infected by a devil.

            What about Medjgorje? Is that real? How would you evaluate?

          • Lazarus

            I think that Keener is a much underestimated apologist. Watch a few of his YouTube videos.

            At more than 1200 pages "Miracles" is tricky to condense. It is a painstakingly careful, conservative and very generous discussion of the miracle events of the Gospels. He does a fair comparative study of other reported miracles, old and new, and then concludes :

            "What if, instead of a priori ruling them in or out as a class of claims, one examines individual supernatural claims, using the same criteria we use for other claimed events? I believe that a reader without Humean premises, who allows for the possibility of supernatural explanations among others, would find sufficient cases to render the hypothesis of a supernatural explanation probable in those cases, hence challenging prejudice against such a possibility."

            He argues that some of the reported miracles should be held to have probably occurred. It is simply the most detailed, fair and balanced study of miracles that I am aware of.

            As to my own informal "method" of assessing these claims I would say that I combine a good dose of skepticism (as does the Church, btw) and also I allow myself to be guided by the Church. Most miracle claims are rejected by the Church, and I accept that. Some of the claimed miracles are recognized by the Church, and I am quite comfortable in accepting that. With Medjugorje I believe that there is too much controversy, and the Church has, as far as I can tell, refused to accept the claims as genuine.

            If I can try to answer you this way : I don't believe that the miracle claims (excluding the Resurrection) would, in themselves, have converted me. Having however been converted, I certainly accept some of them as valid, and I understand how they can be true.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I'll check out Keener when I have some time. Things are crazy right now. I think I have one of his books on my shelf, but it is unread. I didn't realize that one could write 1200 pages on miracles. That is quite the tome.

            I think at the end of the day, our position on miracles is not as far apart as one would maybe first imagine. I think one of the things that kept me in the faith was a belief in miracles.

          • Lazarus

            Ok hurry up then, when you're done with that he also has a book on Jesus that's a few pages short of 900 densely written pages.

            Hope things uncrazy for you soon.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            If things get uncrazy, I will get bored and start reading 1,000 page books on Jesus. :-)
            It is almost the weekend, so things will slow down for a couple of days at least.

          • Mike

            but why do you assume that all water is the same? on what principle to you make that claim? is it something to do with the nature or essence of water?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            That is not an answer to my question. Would you believe me?

          • Mike

            if i was a naturalist yes i would.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            If you were a naturalist, you would believe in the Mira story?

          • Mike

            yes

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Then you would be a very poor naturalist

          • Mike

            no i would be a consistent one.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            A naturalist doesn't believe in the supernatural, but you as a naturalist would believe the first supernatural story you heard. That does not make sense.

          • Mike

            bc you exclude yourself from that natural world view but you aren't entitled to that. either all is natural including you and me or there is some 'room' for something that is other than 'natural' as we know it. only if i allowed that my mind has a non natural aspect to it could i judge that the water story is probably false.

            john lennox was asked a q like this in one of his veritas forum lectures and answered that if all was natural we wouldn't be able to know it or something to that effect.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            only if i allowed that my mind has a non natural aspect to it could i judge that the water story is probably false.

            I would love to see some kind of demonstration of this.
            By your argument, you wouldn't believe the water story, but you would be universally skeptical.

          • Mike

            no my theory only says that i would be able to EVALUATE the water story in the first place. only if there is something non natural about me would i have that ability in principle, otherwise there's nothing to compare anything to.

            on pure naturalism everything is natural, literally. and what's the defn of natural, something with an essence a nature, an ordered being, predictable maybe even something running a script of sorts. this would make us like that necessarily.

            we can only be skeptical at all ie think bc there is some part of us that is not 100% natural.

          • Sample1

            After reading your natural vs. magic water explanation, I have to ask what would be an example of incompatible truths according to your theory?

            Mike

          • Mike

            not sure what you mean. my critique is of naturalism that it is incoherent ie if it's true we wouldn't be able to know it, like materialism.

          • Sample1

            The naturalism I'm familiar with makes claims comprised of facts that may or may not denote the truth of an experience.

            So I don't understand what you mean by naturalism for it seems to me you would have to reject all claims of fact. What is your reliable tool for discovering facts?

            Mike

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Mike is trying a classic apologist ploy of claiming that without some supernatural entity, we cannot discover any truth whatsoever. He is from there going to claim that a consistent naturalist will become a complete agnostic about everything.

            Of course all of this is very much undemonstrated and very much a dodge of the actual issue, which is how do naturalists perceive and understand the world.

          • Sample1

            It wouldn't bother me in the slightest if he came to the conclusion that I was not sure of anything 100%. Agnosticism isn't a character flaw. Considering his personal definition of naturalism, it wouldn't surprise me if he had a personal definition of agnosticism. I suspect he might consider it a state of permanent ignorance rather than a position open to change and degrees of certainty.

            Mike

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I just want to emphasize that he has a personal definition of naturalism that is a far cry from what how actual naturalists would describe their beliefs. We don't really get very far with all this dialoging that we do...

          • Mike

            yes exactly my claim is that if naturalism is true but 100% true then all claims of fact are illusory. but since it isn't true 100% as our intellects are not 100% natural we can judge/appraise things to see how likely they are to fit some condition.

            on naturalism either there would be no miracles and no one would ever claim there was one or there would be none but ppl would say there were but wouldn't know they were lying or there would be miracles they would just be part of the natural order of things: ie sometimes miracles happen.

            i and you can tell the truth bc our cognitive faculties are not 100% natural ie there is something about our thinking ability that can look AT reality from another vantage point so to speak.

          • Sample1

            yes exactly my claim is that if naturalism is true but 100% true then all claims of fact are illusory. but since it isn't true

            What problems, in your opinion, does this cause for me? Can you give some examples?

            Mike, naturalist

          • Mike

            see this fascinating lecture by a physicist on whether the brain is 100% 'natural'; it's really interesting and don't worry it doesn't say anything about religion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_Dk2G3_iwo

          • Sample1

            I would rather continue conversing with you than listen to a physicist on YouTube. I'm not a physicist. If you want to stop the conversation, I will respect that.

            -Outshine The Sun Mike

          • Mike

            no i don't mind but i am not a trained anything and am not as eloquent as some ppl on here which is why i posted the video.

          • Sample1

            I understand. However, if you are unable to discuss the contents of the video because you aren't trained, and I'm not trained, then can you understand why I don't see it as very helpful to either of us?

            Where we go from here?

            Mike

          • Mike

            only unable in a technical sense but it's really worth a watch.

            we go to where the truth lies ie not in naturalism ;).

            let's try something different. suppose you're correct there is NOTHING super natural/ other than what is at bottom impersonal laws of physics. suppose we know this somehow with 100% accuracy. what in this case would stop me from blowing my brains out on catholicism for example if that's what i chose to do?

            my point is i can't for the life of me understand how if you folks are right there can be anything 'wrong' with anything.

          • Sample1

            I can't for the life of me understand...

            Thank you for your honesty. I have no reason to doubt that. I have come across other believers who might make reference to devils and demons being my bed partners but not you. So for that, thank you! Honesty is gold and you've made a positive impression on me.

            what in this case would stop me from blowing my brains out

            Well, consider the hundreds of millions of human beings who lived for a vast amount of time before the religion we know as Catholicism even existed.

            Suicide must have been a smaller percentage of mortality in those populations than other manners of death. In other words, people got on without the belief system you have and did so for millennia. They didn't blow their brains out.

            What this suggests to me is that there is something in your personal religious culture that supports, rightly or wrongly, the conclusion you have come to. Why might that be?

            Mike

          • Mike

            thx but i just used Catholicism as a place holder for systems of meaning or purpose, regardless of what they are. i am almost certain that i would be 'religious' no matter where i was born bc to me it makes the most logical sense. again this presupposes that systems of meaning like naturalism or materialism are incoherent to my mind anyway as they seem to me again obviously self refuting.

            why i am a catholic is another question but i don't think it's that interesting as my exp is probably very similar to most ppl's with some quirks along the way to be sure though.

          • Sample1

            Isn't it funny how we are so different? I used to think Catholicism was coherent and logical too but no longer.

            Now I think the various disciplines outside of religion--the sciences--make better sense as to where we humans came from, where we are, and where we are going. These
            new stories also have the added benefit of being more fascinating than anything I learned in religious education.

            Mike

          • Alexandra

            Science and Catholicism are probably my two favorite subjects, so wherever you want take this conversation, I'm game. :)
            (I can't really speak to Quantum Mech. though, too specialized.)

            It seems like your saying science makes better sense at explaining certain things. OK, fair enough.
            Are you also saying there's a conflict or contradiction between Catholicism and science?

          • Michael Murray

            This video David recommended the other day is excellent.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNVQfWC_evg

            (I'm not suggesting any connection or contradiction with Catholicism.)

          • Alexandra

            Thank you Michael. I will definitely have a look. :)

          • Lazarus

            Thanks Michael, I enjoyed this.

          • Sample1

            Science and Catholicism are probably my two favorite subjects

            I believe you.

            ...science makes better sense at explaining certain things. OK, fair enough.

            Sa weet. Yep.

            Are you also saying there's a conflict or contradiction between Catholicism and science?

            Well, that can be a complicated question. Catholicism is a creedal religion with a heirarchal leadership governed by canon laws which direct its mission to explain the human condition.

            I have yet to understand why I should be bothered with it.

            Mike

          • Alexandra

            "Complicated" ? Ok . That's fine. Take care.

          • Sample1

            Oh you fucker! Haha. Don't be shy, just because I said it's complicated doesn't mean I'm not willing to participate!

            Put your big girl panties on and come back.
            Mike

          • Alexandra

            It seemed like you were done with the science discussion. My mistake.
            What point are you making about science?

          • Sample1

            I could see how you might have thought that. My bad...I sometimes think people can understand me despite not saying much (evidently).

            I wrote a little description of Catholicism in my last post. None of those descriptors really apply to the science. Or would you disagree?

            I'm happy science is one of your favorite subjects, many here likely are; it's a common thread of familiarity among many atheist sites, ime. Do you have a preferred subject? I wish I would force myself to learn more about the philosophy of science but there are only so many hours in the day. Epeeist is our local interlocutor on that front.

            You don't have to answer it, but I won't judge you harshly if you do. Why should I be bothered with Catholicism? I don't see the need for it in my life.

            Mike

          • Sample1

            Whoopsie, I thought it was on Outshine The Sun. I'm trying not to comment over on this site anymore. You know where to find me.

            Mike

          • Michael Murray

            It's alright. At the beginning you will have the occasional relapse. Just climb back on the wagon.

          • Mike

            yes i used to think that religion generally and the RCC were little more than ppl playing dress up ie they were all the same and not much different than various contingent fashions each with a tiny bit of truth here and there but mostly not worth thinking much about.

            science is great but its what we do with it how we interpret it that matters. biology itself doesn't tell you what to think of genetic inheritance: ie is it a good thing i have my parents smart genes or a bad thing bc it makes me proud and haughty? or is it a good thing i am tall bc of my genes or does it mean i didn't earn it or is it bad that i have my dad's genes which make me inclined to like booze and drugs or is that just the way i am meant to be? science itself is silent. i once asked a hard atheist friend: what if we found out 100% that some group was smarter than another with 100% certainty, what would that justify in your mind. he had a hard time answering the question bc the science wouldn't actually tell you what would be justified the answer lies more in qs about human dignity not in what a science test proves. blade runner gets into this a bit.

            yes i agree that science is fascinating. i've been watching this series of videos which you might find interesting: https://finetune.physics.ox.ac.uk/videos/fine-tuning-conversations-george-ellis-and-ard-louis

            anyway faith is more like a marathon it's i am discovering really a relationship that you grow into, as hokey as that sounds its beginning to make more sense. it's about moral improvement as leah libresco i think realized about virtue practice etc. and with that come new horizons new challenges. for ex how do i "use" prayer to improve my relationship with my bully coworker ie how do i play a part in this great drama to bring about more goodness etc. all things are good per the RCC but not in their proper place so our goal is to bring about as much harmony and order as possible.

          • Sample1

            I've never thought religion was little more than dress up. I see it as a human social phenomenon not immune from scientific inquiry into how it functions to maintain membership.
            -----
            Biology teaches me that I am cousins with all living things on this planet from mushrooms to monkeys. Seeing myself in others is probably the foundation of my moral guidance.
            -----
            If one group is smarter than another then it is justified to say one group is smarter than another.
            -----
            I don't claim that all science is fascinating but I'm not aware of a religion that is fascinating to me.
            -----
            You claim that faith is like a marathon. I've heard people say faith is like a cup of water or a sunset or even a back rub with scented oils. To me, faith is a choice of mindset that some people make in order to feel comfortable when evidence-based answers are not forthcoming.

            Mike

          • Mike

            if it's not dress up what are all these billions of ppl doing?

            well that's just it i grow in my faith BC of accumulating evidence not inspite of it; most ppl would say the same thing after all there must be some benefit to explain the billions who believe it and the hundreds of millions in the west who still do.

            what do you think happens to ppl who have done really REALLY bad things when they die?

          • Sample1

            When you say really bad things, what do you mean? A couple of thousand hundred years ago, it was really bad to think about women a certain way, or animals, or children. Today women can own property, children have labor protection rights, and non-human animals have anti-cruelty protections.

            Mike

          • Mike

            like say a serial child rapist and murderer?

          • Sample1

            Wouldn't someone with willful intention who desecrates a consecrated host be at least on par with your two examples of child rapist and murderer?

            How about a priest who chooses to concelebrate a Mass with a woman?

            Mike

          • Mike

            no i don't think so. why do you ask?

          • Sample1

            Because I am discerning your level of education/knowledge in Catholicism.

            Mike

          • Mike

            oh ok that's fine. so can you please answer my q about the child murderer?

          • Sample1

            In Catholicism, a child murderer in the 21st century who is unrepentant faces the same ecclesiastical danger as a person who draws an emoji on a wafer held in a tabernacle.

            Mike

          • Mike

            what do you mean by "ecclesiastical danger"?

          • Sample1

            Any action that may incur the penalty of excommunication by the clergy of the Catholic church.

            Mike

          • Mike

            ok so what does that have to do with my question about child rapists/murderers?

          • Sample1

            Oh, you want a conversation to proceed a certain way? Don't we all!

            Mike, atheist

          • Mike

            huh? ok well whatever floats your boat. take care.

          • Sample1

            Maybe if you asked me, "what happens to someone who takes a fine sharpie marker and draws an emoji on a wafer in a tabernacle," I would find it an interesting question and reply differently.

            Mike

          • Mike

            ok what happens to them?

          • Sample1

            Well, in a billion years or so, whatever remains (assuming they are fossils) will be incinerated by our Sun when it evolves into a Red Giant and vaporizes our planet.

            Mike

          • Mike

            i think that our memories our hopes dreams terrors loves uncertainties the drama of our lives will live on in some sense.

          • Sample1

            If Earth somehow lost its atmosphere tomorrow or was physically destroyed by a killer asteroid, evidence of our existence would continue in the form of our satellites and probes, most notably the Voyager probes which have a probable unhindered trajectory of tens of thousands of years.

            Is that what you mean?

            Mike

          • Mike

            LOL yeah that's it.

            BTW what comfort does believing that we are nothing but matter give you personally? is it just knowing that you believe in what is true no matter the emotional consequences whatever they may be? so like a sense of courage and bravery? i am asking seriously.

          • Sample1

            I'm a human being who likely shares the same emotions about various subjects as you do only the subject material doesn't include the supernatural. It's a bit like asking you what you feel about Czech soap operas or Hindu gods. You probably don't feel anything about them as they aren't in your day to day thoughts. I wouldn't call you brave or courageous just because they aren't a part of your world.

            When you say "nothing but matter" I think of all the experiences I've had in my life from love to grief and silliness to excitement. So "nothing but matter" isn't a phrase that means much to me.

            Mike

          • Mike

            that's disingenuous as you're on Strange notions which is devoted to catholic claims of the super natural.

            do you think that there is a part of you that is immaterial? for ex are your thoughts their content immaterial?

          • Sample1

            Did you just call me disingenuous? Are you for real?

            Mike

          • Mike

            yes and yes. you seem surprised.

          • Sample1

            Why do you think that? I am not intending to be disingenuous. I don't hold to any supernatural claims.

          • Mike

            i know you don't hold to any claims but you are defn INTERESTED in them at LEAST more than i am in czech opera singers. why else are you on here? again for what it's worth i have never been on ESN or any other atheist site as i really am not interested in that world view as i am convinced that it is not true.

            how about something interesting: biggest fear if you're wrong? mine is radical existential despair; ie literally nothing matters at all and there is only an infinity of darkness and nothingness awaiting all of us. you?

          • Sample1

            No, you misunderstand and I should explain. I am interested in some people who hold supernatural claims. I don't care one iota how many cubits an animal ark may have been in length or when a wafer becomes a Catholic god.

            Learning about people, how and why they believe supernatural claims is my interest. I am also interested in medical quackery but that does not mean I lay awake at night thinking about chiropractic subluxation theory.

            -----
            I do not fear death as I have no good reason to believe I will be conscious when my brain evaporates.

            I do not think I am wrong.

            Mike

          • Mike

            ok can you answer my question about your greatest fear?

          • Sample1

            I would have to think about that. I don't like to disappoint people and I suppose that is a fear of mine.

            Mike

          • Mike

            ok please think about it and let me know. i'd be interested. btw i suppose the same is true for me. i am interested in ppl who have no interest in the supernatural; the psychology is fascinating to me as i can't understand it and to be honest don't believe it.

          • Sample1

            I think you might be interested in people who do not have an interest in religions that you are familiar with, mostly Christianity I suspect. Then again, maybe you are on other forums discussing with people who believe in obscure pagan gods. I don't know.

            I'm glad you don't understand it rather than saying something like you do understand it but the reason you provide is wrong.

            Mike

          • Mike

            yes of course but i think Christianity even if wrong is the most developed religion in the world; the others have bits and pieces but it imho has the most going for it.

            i mean i have some theories why ppl don't want to believe in anything but in itself i find the phenomenon baffling.

          • Sample1

            Good luck with that. I'm ready to stop.

            Mike

          • Mike

            ok but please come back and let me know what your biggest fear is if you're wrong! after you've had some time to think about it.

          • David

            I'm interested in the supernatural only to the extent that I am interested in how anyone could believe in something so stupid.

          • Mike

            lol but i am convinced you believe in supernatural things but you just don't know it.

          • David

            I'm not surprised you think this. As I mentioned before, it's facsinating the dumb things that you'll believe.

          • Mike

            ok but just so you know you believe them too.

          • Mike

            btw are you psychologist?

          • Sample1

            Fuck no.

            Mike

          • Mike

            oh i forgot you have some background biology i think. which raises an interesting q in my mind. is human life an emergent property to physics/chemistry or is the idea/possibility of us somehow embedded in the structure of the universe?

          • Sample1

            Life is a complicated question. It is a verifiable fact that humans are genetically related to all other species catalogued on Earth. From a physics perspective, we are connected to stars, sharing the same atoms in our bodies as stars.

            I don't believe that we are made of dust blown upon by a god with only two related human parents who supposedly lived a few thousand years ago.

            Mike

          • Mike

            ok but do you think life is emergent ie something that appears as if out of nowhere OR is it baked into the physical structure so will eventually just show up either way. or is there another possibility i am not thinking of?

          • Sample1

            I'm hesitant to reply.

            What experiences have you had or what information have you come by that made you formulate questions such as these?

            Mike

          • Mike

            these videos i watched recently: https://finetune.physics.ox.ac.uk/videos/fine-tuning-conversations-george-ellis-and-ard-louis

            mostly parts 1-3. yes ard is a christian and an oxford biology/physics prof looking at self assembly.

            plus i think that what is in the effect must have been in some sense in the cause which means that i am convinced either way that life was always a part of the universe right from the very beginning in potency so to speak.

          • Sample1

            Good luck with that too.

            Mike

          • Mike

            thanks i guess. btw if you figure what you think about the emergence of life let me know.

          • Sample1

            You are under the assumption that there is something to figure out which you are calling

            emergence of life

            Mike

          • Mike

            do you mean we've figured it or that there isn't anything to figure out?

          • Sample1

            I mean at least two or three things:

            1. What do you mean by emergence?
            2. How are you defining life?
            3. Though it's splendid to get one, the universe does not owe apes an explanation for anything.
            4. Potency? Not a biological word in my experience.

            Mike

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Technically it does have a biological meaning. A meaning that has to do with erections and orgasms.

          • Mike

            1. that life isn't present at lower levels of complexity ie at one point there was none on earth when all there was were simple compounds but no organic matter, then fast forward and there's you and me
            2. that's not the easiest question then again no one doubts that you and me are alive whereas a rock isn't so for this purpose we can say higher life forms like plants and animals
            3. though its splendid to get one God doesn't owe simple humans an explanation for natural evil? not sure what you mean by this as you seem to be hedging that there may be no explanation for life appearing which i don't like the sound of as it seems to cut short science
            4. potency can be considered a biological term in this way. an oak tree is in potency inside an acorn; the acorn 'contains' the tree in another form; without it the tree doesn't exist yet in the acorn the whole tree is in a sense potentially there.

          • Sample1

            Thanks Mike! Those are great replies.

            I am hedging as it is always possible that some questions will not be answered by us apes. I would like to see the same caution in your approach. We may never know how life started on Earth. That isn't cutting science short.

            Using your term, do you believe chemistry has the potency for biology?

            Mike

          • Mike

            we may never know how life got started but in principle there's nothing about that to my mind that makes that likely.

            yes i think that whatever is in the effect must be in the cause somehow at least the physical aspects of biology must be 'present' in chemistry in some sense. but that doesn't mean there isn't emergence as well as the properties can't be know just by looking at physical structure.

            how else can you account for this diversity of life if it isn't in some sense already present there at the start of the universe.

          • Sample1

            we may never know how life got started

            Looks like we agree.

            in principle there's nothing about that to my mind that makes that likely.

            Why? That's a bold assertion.

            how else can you account for this diversity of life

            Darwinism explains what we apes call diversity of life.

            already present there at the start of the universe.

            When did the universe start?

            Mike, for bonobos, "make love, not war" is the mantra. Rather than fight, they use intercourse — including the same-sex variety — to resolve disputes and solve problems.

          • Mike

            in principle bc we know that more complex life came from less and that less complex are made of same stuff as inorganic matter so it seems like the jump is in theory possible. i am not saying it'll be easy but i can't see why it should be impossible maybe extremely strange; like maybe the way it happened was so quirky that no one would have thought of it that way but who knows.

            right so we get lots of diversity from no diversity which to my mind means that all that diversity was always potentially there and then darwins theory DESCRIBES how it was actualized and appeared.

            i am not sure monkeys know what a 'mantra' is and can think in those categories or that we can know their thoughts. i am no expert in them but i doubt seriously they don't fight. how do the men have sex with the other men? like do they rub up against each other? and how do they resolve them with sex? do they rape each other is that what you mean. or is the first to orgasm if they even do that the dominant one? sorry i don't follow this last part.

          • Sample1

            Bye Mike. I'm done with the site (again). Come over to Outshine The Sun if you want to continue.

            Mike, swings and roundabouts

          • Mike

            what's the difference where we converse. anyway thx for the exchange.

          • David Nickol

            Did I miss something? To what does your last paragraph refer? Has a message been deleted?

          • David Nickol

            czech opera singers

            He said czech soap operas. Soap operas and operas are two different things.

          • Mike

            there are czech soap operas?

          • Sample1

            I wouldn't call an atheist site a worldview. I'm not sure I would even call Outshine The Sun an atheist site. What is an atheist site? Though I can't speak for Outshine The Sun's owner, Andrew G., at the very least it is a site set up to provide a forum for those who were banned from Strange Notions. Of course there are the occasional original articles by the owner and others and sections like the Open Thread where anything can be discussed.

            We have all kinds of believers that *pop* in over there as well as atheists. We don't have a creed except the occasional banter about the love of whisky (which I am exempted from considering it's not a favorite poison of mine).

            Stop on by sometime.

            Mike

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Icelandic bands produce wonderful music.

            That they do.

            SN Mike basically just said that he doesn't read atheists, because he knows they are wrong. That is an open mind for ya.

          • Sample1

            I can't find your post to Lazarus (because Disqus) but to paraphrase Hitchens:

            To have an even playing field, the believer would have to find us a secular society who adopted the teachings of Lucretius, Epicurus, Spinoza,Galileo, Einstein, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Bertrand Russell, and then see if such a society fell into famine (Lenin had his anti-science agriculturist who hastened starvation in the USSR), war, torture, gulags, and so on...that would be the fair test. Where literature and philosophy are valued as well as science.

            Mike

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Exactly. It is not atheism that is on trial here. It is dogmatic ideologies.

          • Lazarus

            His post to me? Which post are you talking about, maybe I can help.

          • Sample1

            Oh I found it. No biggie. Replied to another area... it was about ideology versus religion versus atheist.

            Mike, Obama drank my milkshake -Trump

          • You believe there is a god yet child rapists still clearly exist. You believe the rapist may be punished(if they don't repent), but the child was still raped and murdered, god did nothing to stop it. How exactly does adding a god change anything about the actual world we observe?

          • Mike

            it adds justice to a great evil; hope, meaning to said act, opportunity for reconciliation.

            i wouldn't say God did Nothing but certainly he didn't directly intervene no.

          • it adds justice to a great evil

            You can't even know that, god allowed the rape, he may have a greater purpose in mind. Part of his divine plan. At best, it might make you feel better.

          • Mike

            yes he only allows evil from which he draws good; evil we see is a privation of a good so diff goods bump into each other causing evil accidentally.

            certainly it makes me feel better but in a profound way not like a candy bar does.

          • Lazarus

            I think that what you are trying to say is that if naturalism is true then we would have no warrant for trusting our minds, our conclusions? Not being able to know things at all I believe is overstating the position.

          • Mike

            yes but i think it works out in the end to the same thing.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            All of that is really irrelevant though. We are first concerned with defining what it means to be a naturalist. Attempting to draw consequences with out first agreeing a definition is a distraction. Furthermore, whatever consequences you think naturalism entails is not necessarily relevant to how naturalists see themselves, which I think was the original point in all of this.

          • Mike

            of course, naturalists conveniently exclude their own minds from what constitutes natural. this is an old trick of self deception.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            No it isn't. The problem is that you don't actual have an argument. You are repeating your conclusion in a few different ways and also conflating naturalism with Aristotelian thought, but you aren't in anyway mounting an argument for your claim that under naturalism knowledge is impossible.

            As far as I can tell your argument goes like this:

            1) I can discern knowledge if and only there is a non-natural thing that gives me that power.

            2) I cannot discern knowledge if naturalism is true. (Follows from one)

            3) If naturalism is true, I cannot know anything therefore I wouldn't make any knowledge claims.

            4) I would believe in the magic water. This is in contradiction to the rest of your argument.

            The problem with your argument is that you have given 0 basis for us to believe that 1 is true. If you want is to take you seriously in your claim that the Supernatural is required for knowledge than you are going to actually have to do some work.

            Now you are also throwing in some argument about how naturalism means that everything has a nature or an essence, which is not something that naturalism requires. The vast majority of those who describe themselves as naturalists would not be essentialists.

          • Mike

            right ppl who say that everything is natural but deny essences are plain wrong imho. check out this video for a more eloquent explanation of my claim: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_Dk2G3_iwo

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I just finished work. I'm teaching a class in an hour. I'm not going to watch an hour long video. Why don't you just explain your position in a comment?

          • Michael Murray

            I searched a bit for a transcript of that talk but I couldn't find one. I'd be interested to read one. I don't like watching videos when it's material I know I am going to want to ponder and think about.

          • David Nickol

            Posting videos is fine, and I probably will watch this one, since I hold Stephen Barr in high regard. But this site is supposed to be for dialogue, and I don't consider posting videos of my experts refuting other people's experts, or watching videos of other people's experts refuting my experts to be dialogue.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Videos are fine. I don't mean to imply otherwise. What I object to is Mike throwing out assertion after assertion without any explanation as to why he thinks his assertions are true. Then when pressed he links to a video.

          • Mike

            no i can't do it justice it's really interesting. it's by stephen m barr who is the director of a particle physics lab in delaware i think. it's basically i suppose about how bc we can do maths our minds are not reducible to material systems.

          • Rob Abney

            Here are some concluding remarks from an essay by Barr that seems to cover the same subject as the video.

            Both Gödel's Theorem and Lucas' argument are extremely subtle, but we can state the gist of them as follows. Gödel's Theorem implies that a computer program can be outwitted by someone who understands how it is put together. Lucas observed that if a man were himself a computer program, then by knowing how his own program was put together he could outwit himself, which is a contradiction. One may explain the Lucas argument in another way. Gödel's Theorem also showed that it is beyond the power of any computer program that operates by logically consistent rules to tell that it is doing so. However, a human being, Lucas noted, can recognize his own consistency--at least at times--and so must be more than a mere computer.

            In recent years, the eminent mathematician and mathematical physicist Sir Roger Penrose has taken up the Lucas argument, further refined it, and answered criticisms that had been leveled at it by mathematicians and philosophers. This has not quieted the criticism. However, the Gödelian argument of Lucas and Penrose, though often attacked, has never been refuted.

            Where does this all leave us? ... And we find that the deepest discoveries of modern physics and mathematics give hints, if not proof, that the mind of man has something about it that lies beyond the power of either physics or mathematics to describe.

            Chesterton told the story of "an English yachtsman who slightly miscalculated his course and discovered England under the impression that it was an island in the South Seas." The explorer, he said, "landed (armed to the teeth and speaking by signs) to plant the British flag on that barbaric temple which turned out to be the pavilion at Brighton." Having braced himself to discover New South Wales, he realized, "with a gush of happy tears, that it was really old South Wales."

            https://www.firstthings.com/article/2003/03/retelling-the-story-of-science

          • Ignatius Reilly

            It is also unrefuted that we are inconsistent Turing machines or that we do not know our own Gödel sentence. It is really sad when such interesting philosophical work is abused in the name of simplistic apologetics.

            Even if Lucas is right that does not mean materialism is false. It means we are not consistent Turing machines. Furthermore, even if materialism is false, that does not make it anymore likely that YahwehJesus is the answer.

          • Rob Abney

            "It is really sad when such interesting philosophical work is abused in the name of simplistic apologetics."
            You complained that you didn't want to watch an in-depth video so I gave a brief summary and now you are complaining that it is too simple?

            "even if materialism is false, that does not make it anymore likely that YahwehJesus is the answer"
            this is only discussing one premise, so why leap ahead to what you want the conclusion to be?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            You complained that you didn't want to watch an in-depth video so I gave a brief summary and now you are complaining that it is too simple?

            I am aware of Lucas's work and the criticisms of it. I've also done graduate level work in mathematical logic. I am complaining that SN Mike is abusing the work of great minds in the name of simplistic apologetic arguments.

            this is only discussing one premise, so why leap ahead to what you want the conclusion to be?

            I don't want the conclusion to be anything. I'm already quite convinced that Christianity is for all intents and purposes wrong. I don't want the conclusion to be that, but that is what the conclusion is.

            Now, you cannot go from materialism is false to YahwehJesus. If you think you can, I am more than willing to grant the premise. My point is that if materialism is false it would not be a great shock to my worldview. I would have to recalibrate some things, but it would not make me a Catholic.

            However, the conclusion is not even that materialism is false, but rather that we are not consistent Turing machines.

          • Sample1

            Water is two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. What if someone says, "Well, that's not how I choose to think about water."? All we can do is appeal to scientific values. And if he doesn't share those values, the conversation is over. If someone doesn't value evidence, what evidence are you going to provide to prove that they should value it? If someone doesn't value logic, what logical argument could you provide to show the importance of logic?
            Sam Harris

          • Mike

            ie water has a nature an essence. it has properties that 'lie' somewhere in its structure in its arrangement of protons electrons and neutrons etc. and so all you need to know is that it's water to know what it can and can't do.
            but if all there is is nature and we are a part of it then we must have a nature as well or we can't know for sure what a thing's nature is in which case maybe some water has other properties. see there is nothing per se about the arrangement of the basic physical particles that determines exactly what properties a thing will have. for that you need empirical experiments.

          • Sample1

            but if all there is is nature and we are a part of it then we must have a nature as well or we can't know for sure what a thing's nature is in which case maybe some water has other properties

            I don't understand this, particularly the italicized bit.

            Mike

          • Mike

            italicized was by accident.

            if i were a consistent naturalist i would believe that all things have natures that their properties are uniform so that all water has such and such property and not that some water has this property but some water has say magic properties: all water would be the same and the same thing would go for all other things in nature, including us as we would then be 100% natural. we would have a nature given the kind of thing we are just like all donkeys have a nature that is distinct from say a salmon fish.

            so what about that magic water claim? well i would be forced to admit that there are now 2 kinds of water, magic and non magic as all things would be natural.

          • Sample1

            How would you reliably distinguish between magic water and non-magic water?

            Mike

          • Mike

            if i was a consistent naturalist i wouldn't be able to but if i allow that my mind is not 100% natural then i'd be able to point to nature of water/judge that it is not miraculous in most cases. but if i were a consistent naturalist then i would have to allow that there might be 2 water natures or 3 or 5 or whatever as all would be natural even bodies rising from the dead.

            see if naturalism is true it has to account for all things literally including human beings which must have natures as all things then must have a nature ie be natural.

            if a person lies about magic water their lying must also be natural and can't reflect malice.

          • Sample1

            Is it important to think your way?

            Mike

          • Mike

            yes bc it's true.

          • Sample1

            Are all true things important?

            Mike

          • Mike

            yes very, bc truth is an aspect of goodness and being and maybe beauty.

          • Sample1

            It's true, for example, that certain diseases find their life cycles only in human beings.

            By your theory, that is an aspect of goodness and maybe beauty?

            Mike

          • Mike

            yes the truth of that is good and maybe beautiful bc it enables us to maybe find a cure perhaps. would you disagree?

      • Lazarus

        Hi David

        In saying this I am simply expressing my own opinion, and I should probably have kept it to myself. I however think that this is maybe a good juncture to say that there is good reason for some of us Christians to feel that we have opened our minds to Truth. With all respect, for a lot of us discussions like this thread do lead to greater conviction. The atheist and naturalist arguments are in trouble, and it is proper that someone starts pointing out the naked emperor.

        Of course that is my opinion, but I know that it is shared by a lot of others. Even if that is true that is of course not an excuse for arrogance, and where such arrogance or hubris exists it should be apologized for. But confidence in your arguments is another thing altogether. My take on your recent discussions here shows a level of your frustration, from where I am sitting, sometimes with your own arguments. I think some of that comes from having to argue constantly that the emperor is finely dressed, or that least he could maybe be.

        You say that theists make "preposterous " arguments. I'm not sure that you really believe that in every instance. A place like SN clearly shows on a daily basis that the theist's arguments are by and large very strong and a highly rational worldview.

        I for one would find SN the poorer a place if you leave. I would like to hear your views on whether your frustration derives from your arguments or from ours.

        • Ignatius Reilly

          The atheist and naturalist arguments are in trouble, and it is proper that someone starts pointing out the naked emperor.

          Do you think this OP points out the naked naturalist emperor?

          • Lazarus

            Yes indeed.

            My own view of the matrix arguments is rather uncomplimentary.

          • David Nickol

            I don't take at all seriously the idea that we are living in "the Matrix," but that has basically nothing to do with my criticisms of the OP. A small example: JH quotes from an article in Scientific American that seems to argue that odds are we are simulations. The quote concludes: "So simple statistics suggest it is much more likely that we are among the simulated minds.” Then JH says the following:

            There are two things to point out about this theory. First, it follows logically from materialism. Second, it’s utterly ridiculous.

            Seriously? It follows logically from materialism that we are probably simulations? You find that a compelling argument against materialism?

          • David Nickol

            By the way JH's lead-in to the quote from Scientific American ("Clara Moskowitz, writing in Scientific American, explains") implies that Moskowitz herself is making her own statement, when in fact she is summarizing Bostrum:

            A popular argument for the simulation hypothesis came from University of Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrum in 2003, when he suggested that members of an advanced civilization with enormous computing power might decide to run simulations of their ancestors. They would probably have the ability to run many, many such simulations, to the point where the vast majority of minds would actually be artificial ones within such simulations, rather than the original ancestral minds. So simple statistics suggest it is much more likely that we are among the simulated minds.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            And I don't think we are living in a matrix. None of this is an argument against materialism. Just a haughty OP.

      • Alexandra

        Maybe it is just time to move on from this site.

        Nooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!
        That's all I have to say.

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    I don't claim to be a Hume expert that that seemed like a severe misreading of the passages quoted. It looks to me that Hume is saying that existence of "you" (ie your mind) is the existence of consciousness or of perceptions. This does not sound too controversial to me. In what sense does a mind really exist if it cannot think, feel, love, perceive, etc.

    This is not saying that you never exist at all, as Heschmeyer seemed to think. And it has nothing to do with the Ship of Theseus problem. The idea is that your mind exists when it is conscious, whether or not it is constantly changing.

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    There are two things to point out about this theory [that computers could have intelligence]. First, it follows logically from materialism. Second, it’s utterly ridiculous.

    It would have been nice to hear why it is utterly ridiculous. Instead we are just given the fact that AI would raise moral questions (a non-sequitor), and assertions that "consciousness isn’t reducible to computational ability."

    I would suggest that Heschmeyer learn about Searle's Chinese Room thought experiment. I'm not sure that it succeeds, but then at least he could add some meat to his arguments.

    • Peter A.

      I'll try to address this then, since you believe that the author of the article did not.

      It is ridiculous because, 1. there is at this time no evidence for the belief that intelligence is simply an emergent aspect of matter's apparent "complexity", 2. there is no reason to believe that machines will ever be intelligent, in spite of all the hype we so often hear from those who work in the field of A.I., 3. and intelligence isn't something that can actually be quantified in the first place, in spite of all those people who like to proudly boast about their "I.Q." (like the members of Mensa).

      Intelligence, like consciousness itself, point us to a reality that is far above and beyond the mundane material world. Its existence is evidence enough that the philosophy (or as D. B. Hart would put it, "metaphysical prejudice") of materialism cannot be true.

  • Michael Murray

    The Sagan quote goes on:

    I am a collection of water, calcium and organic molecules called Carl Sagan. You are a collection of almost identical molecules with a different collective label. But is that all? Is there nothing in here but molecules? Some people find this idea somehow demeaning to human dignity. For myself, I find it elevating that our universe permits the evolution of molecular machines as intricate and subtle as we.

    But the essence of life is not so much the atoms and simple molecules that make us up as the way in which they are put together. [My emphasis]

    So Sagan was not claiming this

    But if that were true, if you’re only a collection of molecules,

    • Philosophy professor Eric Sotnak::

      I have long thought there needs to be an informal fallacy named, maybe, "argumentum ad tantum" -- argument from 'just',
      Humans are JUST collections of molecules. Evolution says life is JUST an accident. A McLaren P1 sports car is JUST a bunch of metal and glass, etc.
      Theistic views of reality are not immune from this sort of thing:
      "If, as you say, humans are created in God's image, then obviously human life has no real value, since we are just pale imitations of God with no dignity or worth of our own. We are nothing but playthings God made for his own amusement. blah blah blah."
      If theists are unfazed by attempts to apply argumentum ad tantum to their views, I don't see that atheists should be fazed, either.

      • Michael Murray

        Nice. I hadn't seen that before.

      • neil_pogi

        if humans are mere collections of molecules, why humans can not perform sex in a public square, what is the fundamental goal of atheists on why attacking theists? if Jimmy and his cohorts can do sex in a public square, i might believe that we are just çollections of molecules'

        • David Nickol

          why humans can not perform sex in a public square

          They can!

          • neil_pogi

            really? but you can't!

    • Peter A.

      So how molecules are put together somehow makes them more than just molecules? No matter the arrangement, you are still "just molecules".

      • Michael Murray

        A diamond is different to graphite but they are both just collections of carbon atoms.

        • Peter A.

          Yes, but the original Sagan quote was that in spite of the arrangement, he is nothing more that what he is made of (and he mentions "water, calcium and organic molecules").

          So, that's all he is, and nothing more. That was the point that I was trying to make, that he believed himself to be just material in nature. You made the claim above that Sagan was not actually doing this for some reason, because "the essence of life is not so much the atoms and simple molecules that make us up, as the way they are put together."

          Even if the arrangement of matter is unusual, it is still just matter.

          • Michael Murray

            Did you read the article this is a comment on ? Sagan does not believe, as the article suggests, that if we randomly rearrange all of Sagan's molecules we will have Sagan.

          • Can we replace all of Sagan's molecules and still have Sagan?

          • Michael Murray

            I would think in theory yes. In practice with out current technology no.

          • So the fact that we're made of molecules seems much less important than the relationships between those molecules. The formal cause is crucial for identity, while you just need some sort of proper material cause, details not all that important.

            I don't actually believe the above (any imbalance, whether toward the universal or toward the particular, ends badly), but it is a curious result of pushing something quite close to nothing-buttery.

          • neil_pogi

            so atheists just believe that every thing they see is just 'çollection of molecules', if that is so, then why how these collections of molecules arrive in the idea that there are morals? always attacking theists: if God exists then why evil persists? it's like this: my penis is just a suspended slice of meat, and performing sex in a public squre but why mentioning or performing that in a public makes one shout: that is gruesome or disgusting? or that is immoral?

          • Peter A.

            Did you even read my response to your previous objection here? Yes, he DOESN'T believe that a different arrangement of "molecules" will still give you a clump of matter called 'Carl Sagan', BUT HE STILL BELIEVES THAT MATTER IS ALL WE ARE!!!!

            Do you get it now, or will I have to repeat myself once again?

          • Michael Murray

            I'm done once the shouting starts. But please don't leave. You are a wonderful reminder of how biased this website is when it comes to people breaching the commenting rules.

          • Peter A.

            What rules have I breached? Be specific.

            Typing in capitals doesn't necessarily mean that I am shouting; I did it to emphasise a point, that point being that I am right when I say that people like Sagan still view themselves as being nothing more than matter, even though the arrangement of that matter is unique.

            Am I actually wrong about this? I don't think so.

        • The problem is when you give lots of attention to the material cause ("made of carbon atoms") and too little attention to the formal cause ("this kind of crystal lattice"). Such an imbalance leads to lack of ability to recognize the more complex formal causes. For example: nonlinear systems with non-atomistic causation which have relevant history. (My foil here is the hidden Markov model. Useful in some domains, but a far cry from the true complexity—and glory—of reality.)

      • Doug Shaver

        No matter the arrangement, you are still "just molecules".

        No, I'm not. If those molecules have to be arranged in a particular way in order to be me, then it isn't true that, no matter the arrangement, I'm just molecules.

        • Peter A.

          So, you are nothing more than molecules in a particular arrangement then. That doesn't change the fact that you believe yourself to be nothing more than complex chemistry and electricity (i.e. nothing more than matter), which is what I said before. That was my point.

          • Doug Shaver

            That doesn't change the fact that you believe yourself to be nothing more than complex chemistry and electricity (i.e. nothing more than matter),

            If I say that I believe myself to be A, B, and C, you're not justified in claiming that I believe myself to be nothing more than A.

          • Peter A.

            Your logic doesn't work, because in this case B and C are just subsets of A.

            Do you believe that people are more than just their bodies, the 'stuff' out of which they are made? I certainly do, because it makes sense to do so. I'm guessing you don't, although I could be wrong about that. Materialists, by definition, believe that all can be accounted for via recourse to explanations that do not involve anything that could be termed the supernatural. What is the real difference between claiming that "we are just chemistry" and "we are chemistry, but in an unusual arrangement, which allows the emergence of consciousness"? It's basically, on a philosophical level, the same claim.

          • Doug Shaver

            in this case B and C are just subsets of A.

            I don’t think so. An arrangement is an ordering, and a particular ordering of the elements of a set S is not a subset of S except in the trivial sense that every set is a subset of itself. A subset of S other than S itself is called a proper subset of S.
            Two sets are said to be equal if they have the same elements. The divisors of 12 form a set, D = {1,2,3,4,6}. That set can be alternatively written as E = {1, 3, 2, 4, 6} or F = {2, 1, 4, 3, 6}, etc. But E and F are not proper subsets of D, because E = F = D.
            This is not to say that the ordering of elements in a set is never relevant to any discussion about that set, but equal sets that are differently ordered are not different sets, and the specification of the ordering is not itself a member of the set so ordered. If I ask for “the divisors of 12 listed in order from least to greatest,” then the set I am asking for is “the divisors of 12,” and the condition “listed in order from least to greatest” is not a member of that set and therefore cannot be a subset of it.
            I am a materialist. I believe that I consist of nothing more than matter, a set of molecules. However, the set of molecules comprising my body is not me unless they are ordered according to a highly complex set of specifications. I will die when that set of specifications no longer obtains, and I believe that when that happens, I will no longer exist. I therefore justifiably deny believing that I am “nothing more than matter.”

            Materialists, by definition, believe that all can be accounted for via recourse to explanations that do not involve anything that could be termed the supernatural.

            You are conflating materialism with naturalism. That’s easy to do, since they tend to coincide. Most materialists are also naturalists and vice versa.

            What is the real difference between claiming that "we are just chemistry" and "we are chemistry, but in an unusual arrangement, which allows for the emergence of life and consciousness"? It's basically, on a philosophical level, the same claim.

            The difference goes to whether we recognize and appreciate (a) that there is something awesome about being alive and conscious and (b) that it is worth a considerable expenditure of our time and other resources to trying to discover how nature managed to achieve it.

  • Steven Dillon

    I think Joe is right that the mind cannot be reduced to a computer and that materialism cannot account for the human person. But, I don't think he's right that creationism is any better than materialism. The problem with creationism is that "creation" is either a choice -- in which case "God" is not divinely simple -- or it is a brute fact -- in which case "creation" moves the explanandum back a step without accounting for it.

  • Doug Shaver

    This article looks more like a rant than an argument. We have seen and addressed all these arguments before, and Heschmeyer adds nothing to them.

    Moderator Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the museum’s Hayden Planetarium, put the odds at 50-50 that our entire existence is a program on someone else’s hard drive. “I think the likelihood may be very high,” he said.

    Notice where the quote marks appear and don’t appear. Saying “the likelihood may be very high” is not saying “the odds are 50-50.” Unless Tyson made another statement actually using the figure 50-50, this is misrepresentation.

    The absurdity of the Matrix hypothesis depends on how it is formulated. The proposition “It is highly probable that we are living in the Matrix” actually is absurd, in my judgment. But the proposition “There is a non-zero probability that we are living in the Matrix” does not contradict any undisputed fact of which I am aware, and the assertion “X is possible” asserts nothing more than “The probability of X is not zero.”

    The realization that, for all I can prove to the contrary, I could be a character in somebody’s holosuite program on Deep Space Nine is no threat whatsoever to my worldview, which includes the assumption that I am nothing of the sort. In can justify my disbelief in the Matrix hypothesis the same way I can justify my disbelief in the resurrection: I have no good reason to believe it. Absent any prima facie reason to accept a hypothesis, it is belief, not doubt, that needs a reason.

    So how do people this smart end up advocating a theory this absurd?

    I have not watched the debate that Tyson hosted, but if the theory is, “We are living in the Matrix,” I have never heard of anyone who does advocate it.

    Three errors in particular are at the root of this:

    Mistake #1: Reducing the Mind to a Computer

    If you’re a materialist – that is, if you think that matter is all that there is – then two conclusions follow: (a) the “mind” is really nothing more than the brain; and (b) the brain is really nothing more than a highly-advanced computer.

    The first conclusion does not follow. On materialism, the mind is a subjective experience made possible by a sufficiently complex brain. It is something that a brain can do. Analogously, transportation is something that an automobile can do, and nobody claims that transportation is nothing more than an automobile.

    As for the second conclusion, yes, that follows from materialism. So how does Heschmeyer try to falsify it?

    If human minds are nothing more than advanced computers, then current computers are nothing less than simple minds.

    This is wrong, for the reason just stated.

    Computers might get (and are already getting) very good at mimicking human conversation and thought processes, but that doesn’t mean that they’re actually persons.

    I will stipulate that no existing computer is a person. Whether we might somebody build a computer that we should consider a person is an interesting question. Whether we’re going to like the answer has nothing to do with whether the brain is, as a matter of fact, just a computer.

    Mistake #2: Materialism Can’t Account for the Human Person

    Closely related to the last point, materialism reduces the human person to a collection of information, or an internal processor, or a collection of cells.

    No, it doesn’t exactly do that. That is a caricature, not a characterization, of materialism.

    So it follows that you don’t exist, or at least, you’re actually a different person than the one who started reading this. In other words: if materialists are right, you are only a few moments old, and have simply inherited somebody else’s memories.

    If someone who manifestly believes materialism to be evil says, “Materialism says X,” and most people who embrace materialism say, “No, materialism doesn’t say X,” then who is more likely to be correctly reporting the teachings of materialism? When religious apologists carry on about the implications of materialism, I cannot help thinking of how Protestant fundamentalists carry on about the implications of Roman Catholicism.

    If we don’t have something immaterial like a soul, there’s simply no coherent way we can speak of enduring human consciousness.

    Nevertheless, we materialists speak coherently of enduring human consciousness.

    Mistake #3: Refusing to Consider God as a Possibility

    One of the strongest arguments in favor of the “we’re living in a computer simulation” argument is that the universe is filled with evidence of design.

    Here is the definition of “strong argument” as presented (with relevant context) in a typical textbook for an introductory course in logic:

    1. An inductive argument is distinguished from a deductive argument as follows: a deductive argument seeks to demonstrate that the conclusion cannot be false if all its premises are true, while an inductive argument seeks to demonstrate that the conclusion is unlikely to be false if all its premises are true.

    2. An inductive argument is strong if it successfully demonstrates that the conclusion is unlikely to be false if all its premises are true.

    3. An inductive argument is cogent if (a) it is strong and (b) its premises actually are true.

    And so, to call this “one of the strongest arguments” is to say that if the universe is, as a matter of fact, filled with evidence of design, then we should think it extremely unlikely that we are not living in a computer simulation. But just to say so is not to demonstrate that it is so. Furthermore, evidence of design does not entail actual design. Reputable scientists have explained how the universe could exhibit apparent design—those phenomena alleged to be evidence of design—without there having been any actual design.

    These [other] scientists have rightly seen that the universe appears to be mathematical, rational, and designed in a way that a randomly self-creating universe wouldn’t.

    So, they have seen “rightly,” have they? This is an argument, all right, but it’s circular. Yes, some credentialed scientists have endorsed some version of a design hypothesis, but the scientific community has not reached a unanimous consensus on this issue. If you’re going to use an argument from authority and the authorities disagree, you don’t get to just pick one side and say, “Those are the ones we should believe.”

    So no matter how strong the evidence may be, materialists refuse to accept the possibility that the right answer might be a Divine one.

    Heschmeyer is just accusing us of simple pigheadedness. We don’t accept his evaluation of how strong the evidence is, and so we don’t agree that it proves what he says it proves. Therefore, yes, we reject his hypothesis, but to reject a hypothesis is not to deny any possibility that the hypothesis is correct.

    We materialists are as human as any theist. (No one here denies that, do they?) It is human nature to be stubborn about these issues, and so we materialists can be stubborn about them, but so can theists. (No one here denies that theists can be stubborn, do they?) So yeah, it’s possible that the evidence for design should lead us to believe that (a) there was a designer and (b) that designer was God. But we materialists have examined the theists’ arguments with all the good faith at our command and found them wanting. Many of us are prepared to credit the theists with having exercised no less good faith in their examinations of our counterarguments. In the judgment of this one materialist, it is inappropriate and unproductive for either side to gratuitously accuse the other of a simple refusal to follow the evidence wherever it rightly takes us.

    • We have seen and addressed all these arguments before, and Heschmeyer adds nothing to them.

      You would think that Catholics, who love building on tradition, wouldn't do the very thing you describe. Perhaps the tradition is dead, not alive. At least, dead in this area, for Heschmeyer.

  • Sample1

    I disagree with Heschmeyer that the simulation argument is ridiculous.

    Joe provides evidence he doesn't understand the argument nor does he even spell Bostrom's name correctly.

    If human minds are nothing more than advanced computers, then current computers are nothing less than simple minds. -Heschmeyer

    The model, not the territory, is that minds aren't computers but rather brains are. If Joe understood that, he wouldn't try to construct a false correlation that simple minds equate to current computers but then there might not be forthcoming paragraphs titled Mistake #2 and Mistake #3 either.

    Mike

    • Ignatius Reilly

      Shocking, Bostrom doesn't even assign a high probability to us living in a simulation. I wish apologists would read/listen to the people they are criticizing.

      • Sample1

        Agreed. It's a fascinating argument...it's a well made argument in my opinion. It's been on my mind off and on all day. Can't wait to bring it to a few friends and chew on it.

        Mike

        • Michael Murray

          I'm surprised there hasn't been more discussion about it here. I particularly thought the idea of nested sequences of ancestor simulations and the way it might drive moral behaviour was interesting.

      • Michael Murray

        But then what would they do with all their straw ? It has to go somewhere.

  • Consider the following: How do you know that you did not enter into a kind of video game that that is indistinguishable from reality and that you have forgotten you are in the virtual reality?

    Now you can argue, as Joe has, that such an event is impossible. But of course he must rely on only information from this reality to make such inferences, so that is unhelpful. For example, Joe relies on the limits of materialsim. But there is nothing to say that the real reality is not Idealism.

    The thing is you can't. There is not reason to think we are or are not in a simulation, or a dream. Everything you come up with as evidence for it being real, would seem real in a dream.

    • SpokenMind

      Is there any evidence the reality we share, is virtual or a dream?

  • David Nickol

    As far back as 1983, Robert and Mueller were asking, Would an intelligent computer have a “right to life”?

    I would say yes, if by intelligent is meant conscious and self-aware similar to a human being, angel, or God (if the latter two exist). Isn't anyone watching Humans or Westworld? (One might also include Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. if one is fond of typing periods, although it has dealt very little with the issue of the moral status of conscious robots.)

    The Joe Heschmeyer position would seem to suggest that there can never be androids such as in Humans or Westworld or, somewhat disturbingly, that if someday there are, their suffering and death would be of no consequence, because no matter what evidence they gave of being thinking, feeling persons, it would be overridden by philosophical "proofs" that "machines" could not be conscious.

    Apparently Descartes believed that animals were mechanical automata with no experience of self-awareness or ability to feel pain. (If I am not mistaken, and of course I may be, a theist or two has agreed with that position here on SN.) If an animal or an android were indeed such a contraption, would there be any reason whatsoever not to torture and kill them? I suppose there could be an argument similar to that against video-game violence. While no harm is actually being done, simulated violence desensitizes a person to real violence.

    • Peter A.

      There won't be intelligent computers though. Not within the near future, not within the far future, because even though we now have machines that can mimic what people do (ex. play chess), the machine in question is just following a programme, just doing what it was designed to do. It doesn't have free will, can't transcend its programming, can't refuse requests, can't be original and creative, and can't think.

      Isn't anyone watching Humans or Westworld?

      You're bringing fiction into your argument? 'Humans' and 'Westworld' are not real, they are fantasy scenarios.

      The Joe Heschmeyer position would seem to suggest that there can never be androids such as in Humans or Westworld or, somewhat disturbingly, that if someday there are...

      There won't be though, so you don't need to worry.

      • David Nickol

        There won't be intelligent computers though.

        I really can't say whether there will be or not. But what I can say is that you have no way of knowing, any more than I do. You're welcome to your opinions, but your opinions are not facts, any more than mine are. Nobody really knows.

        You're bringing fiction into your argument? 'Humans' and 'Westworld' are not real, they are fantasy scenarios.

        Both shows are exploring the issue of how people react to androids who give every appearance of being truly conscious and self-aware. Whether or not there will ever be androids that are truly conscious and self-aware I do not know. But I would be willing to bet that within the next twenty years or so, there will be androids or other forms of artificial intelligence that give every appearance of being truly conscious and self-aware. Will philosophical arguments be sufficient to "prove" that they are not?

        There won't be though, so you don't need to worry.

        As I have said, you don't know that. You haven't really presented any evidence on behalf of your position. You have just made assertions. I am not attempting to prove there will be true, conscious AI. I am raising the question of how we will know if faced with something that gives all the appearances of it.

        As I said somewhere recently, there are those who believe that animals are purely automatons who have no awareness and are incapable of suffering. There is no way to prove that that is not true. Should we allow people to torture animals if they sincerely believe the animals have no feelings, just the appearance of feelings?

    • The Joe Heschmeyer position would seem to suggest that there can never be androids such as in Humans or Westworld or, somewhat disturbingly, that if someday there are, their suffering and death would be of no consequence, because no matter what evidence they gave of being thinking, feeling persons, it would be overridden by philosophical "proofs" that "machines" could not be conscious.

      Hey neat, I haven't heard of Humans. I found out about Westworld via SN and quite enjoyed it, especially the tie-in to Bicameralism. The voice-hearing thing made me think of that "still small voice" Elijah encounters after Mt. Carmel turns from victory to defeat. Although, according to the TDNT, the history is possibly backwards:

      In the great writing prophets, however, the significance of the pictorial revelation is much less than that of the verbal revelation. The original voice which they perceive in themselves is no longer revealed as their own voice (2 S. 23:1: נְאֻם דָּוִד) but as the voice of Yahweh (נְּאֻם יְהוָֹה). (TDNT: λέγω, λόγος, ῥη̂μα, λαλέω, λόγιος, λόγιον, ἄλογος, λογικός, λογομαξέω, λογομαχία, ἐκλέγομαι, ἐκλογή, ἐκλεκτός)

      This may also be the reverse of Owen Barfield's Unancestral Voice, although I need to re-read it to be sure. Of course one can reverse all this stuff by following Schleiermacher and/or Feuerbach, but I believe that I abide in God, not that God abides [solely/​individually] in me.

       
      Back to what you were saying. I think it's important to distinguish between:

           (1) all androids are Turing machines
           (2) no Turing machine is conscious

      If we accept (2) and (1), then we can get:

           (3) no android is conscious

      But I see no reason to accept (1). My understanding is that psychologists and psychiatrists these days have rejected the computer model of the mind. AI has also rejected a sole reliance on symbolic manipulation:

      The psychological assumption and unconscious skills. Many AI researchers have come to agree that human reasoning does not consist primarily of high-level symbol manipulation. In fact, since Dreyfus first published his critiques in the 60s, AI research in general has moved away from high level symbol manipulation or "GOFAI", towards new models that are intended to capture more of our unconscious reasoning. Daniel Crevier writes that by 1993, unlike 1965, AI researchers "no longer made the psychological assumption",[13] and had continued forward without it. (WP: Hubert Dreyfus's views on artificial intelligence § Vindicated)

      Instead, I suspect that being able to deploy symbolism is necessary to self-awareness, but not sufficient. Indeed, it may be that the evolution of symbolism (which may have occurred by God first talking to specific animals; 2001: A Space Odyssey plays with this idea where 'God' ∼ Monolith) was the final step to self-awareness. But you cannot have symbolism alone and get self-awareness. Indeed, symbolism alone is probably well-described by Ps 115:4–8.

    • While no harm is actually being done, simulated violence desensitizes a person to real violence.

      Is this true in all cases? This argument was made for a long time wrt violent video games; I haven't investigated the issue much, but I've heard that some claims similar to yours have actually been falsified.

  • David Nickol

    Or more ominously: once computers become more advanced than human brains (in terms of computational powers), this logic would suggest that human rights ought to be considered inferior to robotic rights.

    The lives of conscious, self-aware "persons" is not dependent on how intelligent they are. A conscious android would have the same right to continued existence as a human being. Less intelligent human beings do not have less of a right to life than more intelligent human beings. There could be a lot of quibbles here, but basically I think in western society, all human lives are at least theoretically considered equal.

    I would argue that computers, in terms of computational powers, long ago exceeded human beings. And, in an case, it does not seem to me that even the most powerful computer human beings will ever build would be conscious.

    It's a tricky business comparing a computer to a brain. Even if you take the position that all brains are "meat computers," that does not mean that all computers are brains. I don't think anyone assumes that if we just keep building more and more powerful computers, eventually the computers will be conscious, self-conscious, aware, and so on.

    • I don't think anyone assumes that if we just keep building more and more powerful computers, eventually the computers will be conscious, self-conscious, aware, and so on.

      Ummm, isn't this precisely an argument of the Singularity folks? Maybe your argument turns on 'assumes', but some of what I've seen from the Singularity folks makes 'assumes' seem not so bad a model.

  • Peter A.

    I see a great deal of criticism of both the article and author below ("nor does he even spell Bostrom's name correctly") but it is, overall, correct in its claims.

    1.

    If you’re a materialist – that is, if you think that matter is all that there is – then two conclusions follow: (a) the “mind” is really nothing more than the brain; and (b) the brain is really nothing more than a highly-advanced computer. You can’t be a materialist and still believe in things like a soul or an immaterial mind.

    The very definition of a materialist is one who believes material reality to be all there is, and that the apparently non-material (ex. consciousness) can be explained by, and/or is emergent from, the purely material. It's just atoms, electricity and complex chemistry, and because of this there is no, because there cannot be, any meaning, purpose, design and so on in life or the cosmos.

    However, and as the article points out, there clearly is design to be found. Where there is design there is a designer; of this there can be no question, but that presents a problem for the die-hard materialists. Solution? Invent an extremely improbable, and quite frankly ludicrous, Matrix hypothesis. The fact that one has to then account for how the "Matrix" came to be doesn't seem to bother them much, but if the answer to this is yet another, higher-level Matrix, then one is clearly in a lot of trouble with a little something called "infinite regression". At its base, reality, however one defines it, simply must have a necessary foundational explanation. One need not call this explanation "God" if that is too frightening, too theological for one's tastes, but it cannot be avoided.

  • Peter A.

    2.

    But if that were true, if you’re only a collection of molecules, consider what follows. Over the course of your life, you’ve expelled far more molecules (sweating, using the restroom, shedding skin, and the rest) than you currently possess. So why don’t we consider those assorted, discarded cells as the “true” Carl Sagan, or the “true” you?
    And you equal the collection of molecules that happen to exist within your body at this exact moment, that collection has only existed for a fraction of a second, and already doesn’t exist by the time you finished reading this sentence. So it follows that you don’t exist, or at least, you’re actually a different person than the one who started reading this. In other words: if materialists are right, you are only a few moments old, and have simply inherited somebody else’s memories.

    Exactly! What could be more obvious than this? If ALL we are is physical, then how is it even possible that we could be the person we were just five days ago, never mind five years or five decades? If, over time, you replaced all of the physical components of a car (or computer), and decided to use parts that came from an entirely different model, would you be able to claim that after almost nothing of the original was left that it was still the same car (or computer)? No, of course not, that would be silly. Yet... it's okay to say this when it comes to people, and people won't think you're a raving lunatic. In fact, they will praise you for being "realistic" (i.e. materialistic).

  • Peter A.

    3.

    Cosmologists like Tegmark and physicists like Gates, each of whom regularly bump into evidence of designedness in the course of their daily jobs, rightly recognize that “the universe just happened” is a bad explanation. It doesn’t account for the design at all. And yet, materialists refuse to accept even the possibility that this might point to the existence of a Divine Creator.

    Yes, we can't have a creator, even though, strictly speaking, an alien or teenage computer geek would qualify as one. Of course we all know what is really considered to be unmentionable, and that is a designer or creator that is in any sense "religious" as well. That won't do, because then all of the "Creationists" will be able to gloat and say, "Ha! We told you so." No, we can't have that. Better to believe in something as silly as a "Matrix".

  • David Nickol

    I may be an agnostic, but I have enough faith in God to believe that if he wanted to create matter in such a way that a sufficiently complex arrangement of it could give rise to consciousness, then he certainly could have. If there is a Creator, I don't see why the created world could not be entirely material.

    Is it by your wisdom that the eagle soars?

  • SpokenMind

    Questions and thoughts . . .

    Is the only difference between an animal brain (like an ape) and a human brain, some flipped bits in the DNA? The differences between what an animal brain can do and a human brain can do (such as the intricacies of human language) are so dramatically different. Astounding to think that ability was waiting to reveal itself once the right DNA sequence finally came up. Is what the human mind can do attributable entirely to what our DNA built? Has science identified which DNA bits caused this? Could the difference be that humankind has an eternal soul enabling these uniquely human abilities?

    All the best.

  • You say it is self-evidently absurd. Why? I don't see this explained. Perhaps it is, but that needs to be shown. This issue is not an issue only “atheistic materialists” have wrestled with. Dualists and idealists (almost all of them theists) have done so as well. See Descartes. He essentially said “God wouldn't do that”. I'm also sure that not all materialists accept this particular philosophy of mind (nor atheists). Even those who do may find the simulation argument unconvincing on other grounds.

    As for sims being “not real” what does that mean? They would be independent of others' minds. So that's real as I understand it. Even assuming one may accept the computational theory of mind, not all computers would be persons. I'm not aware of anyone who believes they are. AI is another matter. Why would this be automatically absurd? Catholics too recognize persons that aren't human. As for this molecular view, I think it is the particular combination they find makes us who we are, not the exact given molecules. This seems not that hard to understand (whether or not it's true). Hume's view (although I agree it refutes itself) again is hardly the only one, or the sole logical conclusion.

    How do you know they haven't considered God, but find this more probable? There is a difference. I'm not sure what analogy you mean with your criticism of the New Atheists' arguments. You assume order cannot come from disorder, or that the origin is said to be wholly “random”, neither of which has been shown. Design is also assumed here, not proven.

    The quote from Lewontin, is a bit rich, given that Catholics are required to accept certain things a priori. So you're saying that's bad? Even so you also generalize this to everyone, but on what basis? Again, what of the possibility they may consider and reject divine explanations? You left off the last sentence with Lewontin where he states why this view was taken, in what seems to be a restatement of methodological naturalism: "The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen."

    If you attack the most absurd presentation of opposing views, then yes, anything looks good by comparison.

  • Chad Wooters

    The simulation theory does not entail all the assumptions made in the article and is generally compatible with Christian theology overall. Paul does say we fight against a layer of reality between us and God, i.e. "powers, principalities and wickedness in high places." I cannot image a more awful transcendent overlord than a basement dwelling teenager. Second simulation theory does not depend on a physical theory of mind (the computational model). The permutations of the "code" can still manifest formal and final causes of mind. There can still be a kind of hylomorphism just not with atoms and such.

  • Muddleglum Smith

    Curiously, this is old hat. Perhaps five decades ago a science fiction book called something like "Simulacrum III" about a man that finds that he exists in a partial simulation but, I think, wants to keep his romance with a woman going. He went up a level and found that the simulators were existing in a simulation and they-- I cannot remember if he got past the eventual top simulation and reality, but I think he was able to have his romance. There is nothing new, I suspect, under a simulation of some sun in some simulation of a kicked can.

  • I know this is a late comment, but I take serious issue with this blog post. As a Christian who tries to think carefully about these things. I believe the movie The Matrix is actually much deeper than the OP allows. Indeed, I recently played off of it with my recent guest post on Roger Olson's blog: Reality: Code or Narrative?. It was supposed to have the following image, but there was a snafu: http://imgur.com/a/j5DYE

    First, human life isn’t reducible to consciousness (you’re alive even when you’re unconscious), and consciousness isn’t reducible to computational ability (you’re self-aware, and a calculator is not). These distinctions are true in principle, not just based upon current technology.

    If this "in principle" were true, the same argument could be made with the most sophisticated computer available (perhaps IBM's Watson?). I would like to see that done. Going one step further, I suggest taking the embodied AI Ava from Ex Machina and explaining how in principle it (not "she") is not self-aware.

    Just what is this "self-aware"? Some Turing machines can print out a description of themselves and then compute on those descriptions. Any Turing machine can be transformed so that it has such ability. But surely the OP does not wish to describe this as "self-aware". Perhaps the key is distinguishing between self and reality? But then, at least according to Christopher Lasch, 'narcissism' is a psychological problem whereby one fails to distinguish between self and world (The Culture of Narcissism, The Minimal Self). It's not clear that the OP wishes to allow that those suffering from this kind of narcissism lack self-awareness.

    Now, perhaps the notion of "self-awareness" cannot be analyzed with the formality that is available to the kind of formal systems targeted by Gödel's incompleteness theorems. Reality could easily be more complex than that class of formal systems. (I think indeed it is; see for example Robert Rosen's Life Itself and David Braine's The Human Person: Animal and Spirit.) But if the term "self-awareness" cannot be teased out in any rigorous way, the theist and atheist alike are invited to view it as opaque and lawless, in the 1 John 3:4-sense.

    In all this, I'm not arguing that the quoted text is factually incorrect. However, intuitions which are not arbitrarily explorable are not of God:

    It is the glory of God to conceal things,
        but the glory of kings is to search things out.
    (Proverbs 25:2)

    “Seek the Lord while he may be found;
        call upon him while he is near;
    let the wicked forsake his way,
        and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
    let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
        and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
    For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
        neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
    For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
        so are my ways higher than your ways
        and my thoughts than your thoughts.
    (Isaiah 55:6–9)

    “Can you discover the depths of God?
        Can you discover the limits of the Almighty?
    (Job 11:7)

    As the heavens for height, and the earth for depth,
        so the heart of kings is unsearchable.
    (Proverbs 25:3)

    But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)

    People of God do not present to others idols to worship but not inspect.

  • Lazarus

    I'm just saying a quick goodbye to everybody, as I have (at last) realized that my days of debating theology in the religion wars are over. Nothing like Lent to focus those loose ends.

    While my eventual conversion to Catholicism demanded an intellectual conviction, I do not really believe that these discussions of ours really convert each other, and maybe they shouldn't. The God debate, in my view, at best argue us to a standstill, a stalemate. And that is good also. They are certainly both rationally defensible positions. A personal commitment, a leap into the darkness is necessary. Faith is a tough old place to get to, even tougher to stay with.

    I no longer enjoy the work necessary to converse properly with multiple posters. I don't like the insults, the meanness, the primping and posing, the intellectual showing off. I hate the insults, the pettiness, the fact that so many of us forget that we could be dead wrong. I am uncomfortable in arguing with people that I feel nothing but love or concern for. Would Jesus have a discuss account;)?

    Of course apologetics and counter-apologetics is necessary. At its best it is necessary, healthy and fun. I however believe that anyone, especially on a board like this, who really wants to know our best arguments can find it easily and better expounded in a mountain of books. SN does this online forum better than anyone else. I believe that Brandon and the team have built a unique apologetic vehicle here. Thank you, and congratulations. My decision should not be seen as criticism of any sort. The hunger for God continues, despite declining Church membership figures and the rise of the "nones".

    I am as secure in my place in this beautiful religion as I suppose I could be. Catholicism is my home, my family. Here I find God speaking to me like nowhere else. I am not going to change, and I don't believe many here will, for what that's worth.

    I will rather swop the world the two hours or so that I spend weekly in this manner for two hours or so in some parish projects and a few of my own that I want to get up and running. I think that will be ok, I think the Internet will (in time) get over it ;) I will still pop in once or twice a month just to lurk, learn, make sure that neither side has proved or disproved God, and to catch up with my favorite SN people. I am not going to mention any of the wonderful people on "my team", but I think that I will mention people like Ignatius, David Nickol, Michael, Doug, Michael Murray.... thank you.

    Other than that, please allow me to pray for all of you on this wonderful journey we are all on.

    X

    • Rob Abney

      Maybe conversion doesn't seem to be working because of the wrong approach. The rational proofs will always be prone to "an admixture of error", and many skeptics require 100% proof. I am convinced that "God exists" is 100% true but I didnt come to that conclusion through combox discussions.
      But "we" of course are not the ones who will convert anyone, it is the Holy Spirit who converts people.
      I would like to see how effective we could be in encouraging skeptics to be open minded to the gifts that are offered through the Holy Spirit. We have been taught that those gifts are many but they are available in the surest form through the sacraments, especially the sacrament of reconciliation and the Eucharist.
      I can't imagine that a skeptic would be able to remain skeptical after a trial period of frequently attending Mass and praying, even less possible for a lapsed Catholic to return to confession and the Eucharist and still stay turned away from God. Unfortunately, most that I have recommended this approach to have declined to try it.

      • Michael Murray

        If the way to bring back someone who has lapsed is just for them to go back to doing what they have stopped doing why wasn't it enough to hold them before they stopped ?

        Personally I would feel it rude to go to confession and take the Eucharist if I didn't actually believe or at least want to believe. But I guess that just shows how well trained I was as a child!

        • Rob Abney

          If the way to bring back someone who has lapsed is just for them to go back to doing what they have stopped doing why wasn't it enough to hold them before they stopped ?

          Because you have probably changed since that time, unless it was very recent.

          You are correct that it would seem to be rude but that would be an underestimation of God's mercy.

    • Alexandra

      May God bless you Lazarus. I will miss your presence here, and thank you for your kindness to me. Do stop by and say hello when you can.

    • Michael Murray

      I've enjoyed your company and your posts Lazarus. Hope things go well for you and yours.

    • David Hardy

      Hello Lazarus,

      While I rarely post anymore myself, I wanted to send good wishes to you on your journey forward from here. Be well.

      -David

    • SpokenMind

      Food for thought. . .

      “I [Paul] planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth.” (1 Cor 3:6-7)

      The responsibility of the Christian is to spread the Word and be patient. The results are left to God.

      All the best!

      Mark 4:1-20

    • neil_pogi

      "Come now, let us reason together." - Isaiah 1:18

  • The point materialists miss and the point god-believers miss in their responses to materialists is: Humans are autonomous. As autonomous beings, humans are more than chemistry and more than "evolved animals". Humans are unpredictable, creative, self-aware, and multi-goal centered. A few grams of brain cells makes this rather diverse and highly unpredictable behavior the norm for humans. Thus materialists come up short on explanation and god-believers go way out of reason to encompass that which they don't understand either. The majority of the rest just shut up and try to live without the craziness of both materialists and god-believers.

  • neil_pogi

    the difference between a brain and a computer, is that computer relies on human pilot in order for it to work, and the brain needs a 'soul' in order to work.