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The Single Best Argument Against Philosophical Materialism?

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Filed under Atheism

Skulls

A Dilemma for Materialists

 
In my experience, it's often difficult for my intelligent atheist friends to seriously consider arguments for the truth of Christianity. An argument from the resurrection of Jesus remains implausible because their worldview fundamentally excludes this sort of event. In light of this, I'd like to engage one popular form of this worldview, namely philosophical materialism.

Thus here’s my dilemma for materialists:

1. Either subjective experience, in its capacity as subjective experience, is relevant in the explanation of behavior or it is not.

2. If subjective experience is relevant in the explanation of behavior, then materialism is absurd (more than that, it is unambiguously false).

3. If subjective experience is not relevant in the explanation of behavior, then materialism is absurd.

4. Therefore, materialism is absurd.

The conclusion necessarily follows from those three premises, if all are true, so let's examine each premise one at a time.

Premise (1): A Philosophical Axiom

 
Premise (1) is obvious and uncontroversial. It appeals, in philosophical jargon, to the “law of the excluded middle”, which holds that for any assertion X, either X is true or not-X is true. One example of this axiom is that either Barack Obama is a horse or he is not a horse. There can be no “middle” position wherein he is somehow neither of those two possibilities. Premise (1) is simply another example of the same axiom where “subjective experience, in its capacity as subjective experience is relevant in the explanation of behavior” is used instead of “X” or “Barack Obama is a horse”.

Premise (2): A Definitional Point

 
“Materialism” is a term used somewhat inconsistently by philosophers. However, materialists of every stripe are at least committed to the “causal closure of the physical domain.” For this reason, the truth of materialism and the explanatory relevance of subjective experience are mutually exclusive.

Perhaps most commonly, “materialism” is used interchangeably with “physicalism” as the view that everything including people consist of nothing by physical matter and that a person’s mental states just are (or at least are reducible to) physical states of their brains. But I am using the term in a broader sense to encompass the position known as “dual aspect theory” (or sometimes “property dualism” or “non-reductive materialism”) as well.

Dual aspect theorists are willing to admit that mental states are something distinct from physical states and that they are not reducible to physical states. This means, as the dual aspect theorist David Chalmers has put it, that our mental states are such that they could not be explained by anything we could reasonably apply the term “physics” to. Rather, on this theory there are as-of-yet undiscovered “psychophysical laws, specifying how [mental states] depend on physical properties.”

Importantly, however, both physicalism and dual aspect theory (and any other theory that could reasonably come under the term “materialism”) is committed to what may be called “The Causal Closure Thesis." This thesis holds that there are no non-physical causes that operate on the physical level. This does not rule out the possibility—important to some theories of quantum mechanics—that some physical events are uncaused and random. But it does mean that even though the dual aspect theorist admits that non-physical mental states exist, he denies that they have any effect on the physical domain.

As Chalmers puts it, “the physical domain remains autonomous,” and “the view makes experience explanatorily irrelevant.” Rather, the true explanation of behavior may be diagrammed as follows:

The sole explanation of the behavior in question (reaching for an apple) is the antecedent physical cause of that behavior. There may be an arrow from a physical state of affairs to the mental state of desiring an apple, but there could never be an arrow from that or any other mental state to a physical result. Stephen Hawking is a materialist and demonstrates his commitment to this position in his recent book The Grand Design:

“Recent experiments in neuroscience support the view that it is our physical brain, following the known laws of science, that determines our actions, and not some agency that exists outside those laws...It is hard to imagine how free will can operate if our behaviour is determined by physical law, so it seems that we are no more than biological machines and that free will is just an illusion.”

Therefore, if materialism is true, then subjective experience, as Chalmers has put it, is “explanatorily irrelevant”; Premise (2), in other words, is sound.

Premise (3): Why Materialists Can’t Employ an Evolutionary Theory of Knowledge

 
It is tempting to jump to an overly simple objection to the materialist position at this point. Physics is governed by physical laws, not reason. As Victor Reppert has put it, when there is an avalanche the rocks do not move as they do because they think it would be a good idea to do so, but because they “blindly” obey non-rational physical laws. Why should we expect the atoms in our brain to behave any differently? Shouldn’t they too blindly follow non-rational physical laws? And, if so, why should we expect the result of such non-rational behavior would be rational and trustworthy? And, of course, the materialist must, to avoid absurdity, think his mental states are rational and trustworthy or else he could have no reason for believing materialism to be true in the first place.

C.S. Lewis used this as the basis for an argument for the existence of God in his book The Case for Christianity:

"Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It's like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can't trust my own thinking, of course I can't trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God."

But haven’t we made that dangerous inference Richard Dawkins is always warning us about from the appearance of design to the existence of design? And, in this case, like so many others, shouldn’t we look to Darwinism to set us straight? William Hasker provides a nice summary of the position:

“The central idea of Darwinist epistemology; is simply that an organism’s conscious states confer a benefit in the struggle to survive and reproduce. Such responses as discomfort in the presence of a chemical irritant, or the awareness of light or warmth or food, enhance the organism’s ability to respond in optimal fashion. For more complex animals there is the awareness of the presence of predator or of prey, and the ability to devise simple strategies so as to increase the chances of successful predation or of escape therefrom. As the organisms and their brains become more complex, we see the emergence of systems of beliefs and of strategies for acquiring beliefs, and the strategies that lead to the acquisition of true rather than false beliefs confer an adaptive advantage. Natural selection guarantees a high level of fitness, including cognitive fitness.”

But though this Darwinist sort of reasoning is quite convincing as an explanation of the apparent design of certain physical attributes of living things (such as the warm coat of arctic animals or the beaks of finches) it is unconvincing as an explanation of the reliability and rationality of mental states under a materialist worldview. This is because on such a worldview, as I noted above, subjective experience is utterly irrelevant as an explanation of one’s behavior. If this is true, then there is no survival advantage to proper thinking, meaning that evolution would be powerless to naturally select for proper thinking.

For example, if one person reacted to a vile of poison with the thought that poison is healthy and delicious and the physical state of running from the poison his thinking would be naturally selected over a person who reacted to the vile by thinking poison is poisonous and proceeded to take a sip. As Hasker puts it, on materialism “conscious experience is invisible to the forces of natural selection.” Or, in Chalmers’ colorful words “[t]he process of natural selection cannot distinguish between me and my zombie twin.”

In light of this, we can see that if subjective experience is not relevant in the explanation of behavior, then we have no reason for believing our thoughts to be true and, therefore, no reason for believing that subjective experience is not relevant in the explanation of behavior. Any position we might take under such conditions would be absurd, so Premise (3) is also sound.

A Religious Conclusion

 
Now we've reached the unavoidable conclusion that materialism is absurd. But so what? Thomas Nagel notes that we shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that Christianity or even theism is true from such an argument. He calls the “overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about life, including everything about the human mind...ludicrous.” And he admits that “the capacity of the universe to generate organisms with minds capable of understanding the universe… has a quasi-religious ‘ring’ to it.” But he concludes that “I think one can admit such an enrichment of the fundamental elements of the natural order without going over to anything that should count literally as religious belief. At no point does any of it imply the existence of a divine person.”

I think that Nagel is right about this. In fact, even C.S. Lewis provides further evidence for this position. Lewis converted from atheism in reaction to the argument above (or something very near to it). But he did not immediately convert to Christianity. Instead, he sought refuge in the philosophy of absolute idealism.

But such philosophies have problems, which is why you see so few absolute idealists today. And, in any event, once materialism is given up, the door for Christian apologetics is thrown wide open. A reassessment of the argument for the resurrection, for example, is warranted.
 
 
Originally posted at Shameless Popery. Used with author's permission.
(Image credit: Heroic Life Path)

R.P. Ritchie

Written by

R.P. Ritchie is an attorney from Dallas, Texas. Raised in a Protestant family, he was received into full communion with the Catholic Church at the 2012 Easter vigil. He works primarily in the area of civil business litigation. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 2011.

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  • Hadi Deeb

    Excellent work -- if only non-believers could take the time to doubt their wobbly positions (there is no greater religious fanatic than a militant atheist) and read articles such as these.

    One quibble (forgive me): it is a "vial" of poison -- although poison may often taste rather "vile."

    • I'm not sure what this comment does except violate the commenting policy.

    • Thanks for the comment, Hadi. I'd like to echo Rob's comment below. Please review our commenting policy which discourages broad generalizations like "there is no greater religious fanatic than a militant atheist". Hope to see you comment more in the future!

      • Hadi Deeb

        Rob/ Brandon -- sorry about that! I hadn't read the instructions beforehand, clearly. Such is the plight of the first-time commentator. I'll be sure to adhere to the policy in future posts.

  • Sqrat

    Does Ritchie's argument that materialism is absurd pass the "bullet test" referred to in the "Is Reality What We Think It Is?" article? Doesn't his argument ultimately imply that a bullet to the brain could not possibly affect a person's subsequent subjective experience, much less terminate that subjective experience altogether? Doesn't it ultimately imply that subjective experience does not depend on the brain at all?

    • Vasco Gama

      No and No.

      I don't see any problem here, Ritchie is only claiming that materialism (or absolute idealism) is absurd ( I am not so sure that anyone is an absolute materialist or idealist, I guess that those positions are totaly incoherent).

      • Sqrat

        Well,it all depends on what is meant by "materialism," does it not?

        Ritchie defines the term in his article, but when he was done I still wasn't sure by what he means by it. It's one thing to say that my subjective experience and my brain state are not the same thing, but quite another to say that I can have a subjective experience that is totally divorced from any actual state of my brain, such that I need not even have a functioning brain in order to have the experience. Ritchie does not say, but seems to imply, that when he has a subjective experience, there is not necessarily anything related going on in his brain at all; his subjective experience is completely and totally independent of his brain state.

        What is even less clear than what Ritchie means by "materialism" is the relationship of his argument to whatever broader theological point he is trying to make. He writes, "In my experience, it's often difficult for my intelligent atheist friends to seriously consider arguments for the truth of Christianity. An argument from the resurrection of Jesus remains implausible because their worldview fundamentally excludes this sort of event. In light of this, I'd like to engage one popular form of this worldview, namely philosophical materialism." But how does philosophical materialism "fundamentally exclude" the resurrection of Jesus? I do not see what connects those dots. Ritchie certainly does not try to connect them.

        • Vasco Gama

          I would say that absolute materialism is wrong (in the sense that it fails to account a variety of things that constitute our objective experience). However I am much more sympathetic to materialism than to idealism (those are a sort of extremes in the way we may use to rationalize reality).

          However Ritchie addresses what he means by materialism when he refers to “Premise (2): A Definitional Point”, maybe you should give it another reading as it seems to me that he is not claiming what you refer to in your comment: «that I can have a subjective experience that is totally divorced from any actual state of my brain, such that I need not even have a functioning brain in order to have the experience».

          After reading the article, in no way it seemed to me that that was what he meant at all.

          • Sqrat

            Consider Ritchie's diagram, which shows "Physical state of desiring an apple," which causes both "Mental state of desiring an apple" and "Reaching for an apple." He obviously thinks that model is wrong.

            He doesn't provide an alternate diagram of the model he thinks is right, but implies that there should be a causal arrow from "Mental state of desiring an apple" (a "subjective experience") to "Reaching for an apple." And therefore, no causal arrow from "Physical state of desiring an apple" to "Mental state of desiring an apple"? Or does he think that particular causal arrow should run, in the opposite direction, from "Mental state of desiring an apple" to "Physical state of desiring an apple" (i.e., that our subjective experiences cause our brain states, and not vice versa)? Or that there is no such thing as a "Physical state of desiring an apple" at all? Or that there is a "Physical state of desiring an apple" as well as a Mental state of desiring an apple," but those things are not causally connected in any way? I really can't tell.

            If he is saying that there is no causal arrow between physical state and mental state, then he is indeed saying that his subjective experience is totally divorced from his brain state.

          • Vasco Gama

            Of course he thinks that the diagram is wrong. He doesn't provide an alternative, he is just arguing that the mental states (causaly) afect the action (and that is wrong to dismiss this, that is his argument).

            Maybe you should read the article again and try to understand what Ritchie is trying to say (as you keep misunderstanding what he actualy says).

          • Sqrat

            And is he then saying that the physical brain state does NOT causally affect the action?

          • Vasco Gama

            No. What he is saying (and that is his point) is that the mental state (of desiring an apple) must be causaly related with the action (of reaching for an apple). He is in no way dismissing the physical brain state.

          • Sqrat

            Replying to your edit: OK, connect the dots for me. How does materialism exclude the resurrection of Jesus?

          • Vasco Gama

            How can materialism consider any ressurection possible (not just the ressurrection of Jesus)? Do you have any possible explanation?

          • Vasco, what you're saying is that there is currently no materialist explanation for resurrection. Which is quite different from saying materialism excludes any such resurrection.

          • Vasco Gama

            As far as I can see there is no way that materialism can consider the possibility of a resurrection (unless there was no death, but then it was not a resurrection). It is just not a question of being something that could be explained in the future (unless it would involve a redefinition of death).

          • Again, there's a difference between saying you don't see how an explanation is possible and asserting that an explanation is impossible.

          • Vasco Gama

            agreed (but that sounds like expecting magic to happen in the future)

          • No, Vasco, it's just an acknowledgment of science's history. Think about this: Imagine someone staring up at the stars a thousand years ago, and imagine their reaction if you told them we'd someday be able to determine the chemical composition of each of those stars. How on earth would such a thing be possible? And yet it is...now.
            But the bigger issue I have with your comment is that it still doesn't recognize the logical difference between: "We don't know how to explain X" and "No explanation for X is possible."
            You don't have to invoke magic to see that there's a huge difference between those statements.

          • Vasco Gama

            I see your point (but, by then we would have to possess a different account of what is materialism)

          • Sqrat

            Are you saying that the resurrection of Jesus was not a material event, but a subjective experience?

          • Vasco Gama

            nothing of the kind (that was a miraculous event outside the order of nature)

          • Sqrat

            So are you suggesting that Ritchie believes that mental states are "miraculous events outside the order of nature"?

          • Vasco Gama

            are you joking?

          • Sqrat

            Are you? I am trying to figure out how to connect the dots between Ritchie's argument about mental states and his implied claim that, if you accept that a person's mental state can cause physical action by that person, you can then, perhaps, accept the resurrection of Jesus.

            Let's say, for the sake of argument, that MY mental state of wanting an apple can cause ME to reach for an apple, and that's not a miracle. Could MY mental state of wanting a deceased loved one to be with me again cause THAT PERSON to rise from the dead? I really don't see the connection.

          • Vasco Gama

            You don't need to connect the dots as there are no dots to be connected, and the only sad thing here is me trying to explain you this (NO DOTS TO BE CONNECTED).

            The thing is that in the introduction Ritchie refers to their atheistic friends that I suppose hold phylosophical naturalism (which is quite common). In this case, they would reject the possibility of Jesus resurrection (on basis of philosophical naturalism, not on the basis of atheism, but a series of atheists, such as Thomas Nagel, deny the validity of philosophical naturalism, however I am not really familiar with their opinion on Jesus or on the resurrection, but this is a minor issue and not relevant at this point). So Ritchie exposes a case against materialism on the mind/body problem (and clearly says «Thus here’s my dilemma for materialists», more precisely on the relevance of the subjective experience, as a dilemma, and that is what this issue is about (which is not really related with the resurrection, but in reality with the validity of philosophical naturalism, even in their mild non-reductionist aproaches, such as the one from Chalmers).

            But then you would have realized all that if you read the article with a bit of more care (as I suggested earlier)

          • Sqrat

            You seem to be conflating materialism with naturalism. I suppose it is true that materialists compose a subset of naturalists, but if materialists reject the resurrection of Jesus because it would have had to be a miraculous event, isn't that because of their naturalism and not because their materialism? If you're not gonna claim that mental states are miraculous, then the question of how, or whether, subjective experiences can be said to cause actions seems irrelevant to the question of whether or not miracles occur.

          • Vasco Gama

            I am not claiming anything, besides that you are not addressing the claims of Ritchie (and that is my single point in this discussion).

            In my opinion Ritchie wrote an interesting and nice argument addressing the irrationality of dismissing the subjective experience. If want to debate the issue you have to address the claims that were actually made, and not anything else that your imagination produces to be what Ritchie wrote.

            To me it seems that Ritchie is using the term "materialist" to denote what I usually call naturalists (nothing special about this, I recognize that materialists compose a subset of naturalists, but I guess it is not relevant to what Ritchie wrote).

          • Geena Safire

            a series of atheists, such as Thomas Nagel, deny the validity of philosophical naturalism

            Not a series. Just two. Thomas Nagel and Anthony Flew. Nagel is still atheistic, though, and the late Anthony Flew only got as far as deism.

          • Vasco Gama

            two that you know of, you mean or his there a rule that makes this inevitable (in the sense that if you don't believe in God you have to accept that philosophical naturalism is valid).

          • Geena Safire

            You are the one that made the claim, Vasco. The burden of proof is on you to provide support for your claim for this series of atheists.

          • Vasco Gama

            Actually I came across to a variety of atheists (really don’t know how many, but it is much more common than you suppose), that don't include themselves in the "new atheist" kind, humanists and others, who strongly disagree with Dawkins and comp. (that they often see as an embarrassment to their worldview). At the moment I can’t give you any name (I don’t recall), but I will keep attentive and I will provide you this information if you so desire.

            I know I have the burden of proof, I will keep that in mind.

          • Geena Safire

            I thought you were referring to professional philosophers and such, since you mentioned Thomas Nagel.

            In addition, it is a statistical fact that more people have been leaving Catholicism for atheism than the other way around.

          • Vasco Gama

            Yes, that was what I meant philosophers or scientists. I owe you some names (I will not forget that).

            Those statitics have no special relevance besides fewer Catholics and emptier churches. People are known to show erratic behaviors from time to time.

          • Geena Safire

            Thank you, Vasco.

            I did not intend to convey that either migration direction is wrong. I was just trying to verify that you did not mean that more atheists were lining up at the baptismal font than Catholics queuing for the blow dryer.

            FYI Three times more`professional philosophers, philosophy faculty, and philosophy graduate students are atheists rather than any stripe of theist.

          • Vasco Gama

            You know Geena that in Germany, just before the war the number of people (including intelectuals and scientists) supporting Nazism was growing and growing (that didn't make their choice reasonable nor the people that made those choices stupid, just terribly wrong).

          • donsalmon

            Hi Vasco - can you share your objections to idealism?

      • Man of the Hour

        I honestly don't see how idealism can ever have any issues, since we see a form of it working in our dreams, which means it can work perfectly in our waking state as well. It's literally the only ontology that actually has a proven world where it works. We don't even know if the other ontologies are even possible.

    • John Smith

      Our Consciouness needs a vessel to inhabit in this reality. Like a vehicle which is what our physical body is.

      If that vehicle becomes broke beyond repair our consciouness can no longer use that vessel as an adequate functioning tool from which our consciouness ( the ships captain - you! ) can experience and express itself in this reality.

      I have come to view that 'I' inhabit my body not am my body. I am the captain of my ship as is every other conscious human being. Admittedly I get lost at sea often !

      • David Nickol

        I have come to view that 'I' inhabit my body not am my body. I am the captain of my ship as is every other conscious human being.

        I don't know what religion (if any) you are affiliated with, but since Strange Notions is run by Catholics, I will point out that you are not expressing a Catholic point of view. You seem to be describing yourself as a "ghost in a machine."

        • John Smith

          A immaterial conscious entity rather inhabiting a biological machine. Unless you view consciousness as a material ' thing'? But to regard consciousness as material as stated leads to absurd lines of reasoning and explanation.

  • Geena Safire

    .

    • Vasco Gama

      Is this really related with Ritchie's post? I supose it is (it is just my guess). I guess also that you don't agree with the conclusion of the dilemma, probably because you don't agree with some of the permises), but what I fail to understand is what learning, nervous systems, omniscience, the elements, or the original sin have any relevance to the existence of subjective experience and its relation with our decisions, that is what really is relevant in Ritchies's article.

      • David Nickol

        the existence of subjective experience and its relation with our decisions

        What I find interesting is—if I understand him correctly—R. P. Ritchie does not argue that it is impossible to have a materialist explanation of subjective experience. He just argues that subjective experience per se cannot have any impact on behavior. The physical state of desiring an apple can cause a person to reach for an apple, but the mental state of desiring an apple can't cause a person to reach for an apple. I believe most who find materialism "absurd" would argue that the physical state of desiring an apple could not even produce a mental state of desiring an apple, because the mental state of desiring an apple is nonmaterial.

        Part of the problem may be that although Ritchie cites Chalmers, he gives as a reference a quotation of Chalmers reproduced in a paper that is criticizing Chalmers, a rather odd thing to do when your argument relies on Chalmers being correct.

        • Vasco Gama

          No David, you didn't understand him correctly, he is arguing against Chalmers that the subjective experience is not irrelevant to the dermination of behavior (and not as you understood that "subjective experience per se cannot have any impact on behavior").

          • Geena Safire

            No Vasco. He's saying that whether subjective experience is or is not relevant to the determination of behavior, materialism is absurd.

            In any case, the sense of 'wanting an apple' seems to be given to the consciousness by other parts of the brain. Why? Because, based on evaluating various inputs (low blood sugar, boredom, eye strain, memory of apples in kitchen...), the brain determined that eating an apple would be beneficial. That motivational emotion to the consciousness is part of getting the whole person toward that apple. Over evolutionary time, I assume that the brain 'has figured out' that the consciousness would get upset if the brain took the body to the kitchen without informing and involving the consciousness.

          • Vasco Gama

            Geena,

            No, but no to what?

            «He's saying that whether subjective experience is or is not relevant to the determination of behavior, materialism is absurd.»

            Right, but then he exposes his argument (that seems ok, but I am sure you don't agree with me).

            And the only thing he claims is that it is not reasonable to dismiss subjective experience to the causal relation that leads to action.

            If that was the case, if one was hungry, and saw an apple one would reach for the apple, no matter what, but that is not the case, we do it according to the circustances in a rational way (which involves our subjective cognition, consciousness and reason). We would do it quite differently if the apple was in our house (and nobody was considering eating it), or if it was in a store, or if a stranger was eating it. (I really fail to understand the reductionist perspective).

          • Geena Safire

            Vasco, you might want to start reading some about neuroscience. The brain is not one thing but 80,000,000,000 things, arranged in a large number of interconnected areas with a wide range of functions. Our consciousness is just the tip of the iceberg, and it does not control the rest of the brain but rather participates with the other parts.

            If consciousness ruled the brain, then consciously wanting to lose weight would always inevitably lead to weight loss.

          • Vasco Gama

            I am not denying that "The brain is not one thing but 80,000,000,000 things, arranged in a large number of interconnected areas with a wide range of functions." But what is that related with our consciousness being just a tip of whatever iceberg you presume it to be, and what is the relevance of that.

            I am not claiming (not anybody else that I know) that our consciousness rules the brain. But I have to refuse to accept that our subjective experience is irrelevant to the decisions we make (much as Richie claims in his dilemma), and apparently so do you, "Our consciousness is just the tip of the iceberg, and it does not control the rest of the brain but rather participates with the other parts."

          • Methodological Naturalist

            Free will is all one needs to maintain a healthy BMI. That's why there are no overweight ladies. Oh wait...

            Geena I appreciate your braininess and tenacity. Have been wanting to say that. Can you give a good reason for free thinkers to participate on this site? I'm starting to have my doubts. Thanks.

          • Geena Safire

            Can you give a good reason for free thinkers to participate on this site?

            I can't say that these are good reasons, but these are my reasons - at least the conscious ones.

            The folks here, at all positions on the map, are kind, respectful and intelligent.

            I enjoy and have always enjoyed discussing the big questions about life and meaning.

            Dialogue regarding the big questions with Catholics, at least philosophically and scientifically minded Catholics such as here, is worlds better than attempting to discuss them with creationists or fundamentalist Christians. Since we atheists stopped eating babies and the Catholics stopped burning us at the stake, we have gotten along much better together. ;-)

            I am a fan of diplomacy and better communication between folks with differences of opinion. Although their primary purpose is to be e-missionaries, my sense is that the SN Catholic folk are also trying to better understand the various atheist points of view and atheist responses to various apologetic efforts. Of course, this is done to some extent with a goal of gathering a better set of apologetics to use to e-proselytize to today's atheists. So, to that extent, I recognize that one could say the SN atheist contingent is thereby furthering the SN primary mission.

            On the other hand, I am also here to provide an atheist perspective for any naïve atheists who might peruse this site. (Naïve Catholics, of course, are forbidden to peruse such a site as SN, so I am not writing with them in mind.)

            EDIT: It also gets my goat when people get science wrong. In that sense, I have a bad case of siwoti - someone is wrong on the Internet.

          • Methodological Naturalist

            Great Scott! A most sensible reply. Thank you for it! Have a wonderful experience of gratefulness today and always.

            http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-sWGs86iiboY/ULoJA0kxkII/AAAAAAAAAJs/hxjtikyD9tQ/s1600/Ingersoll+Sermon.jpg

          • bbrown

            "....Although their primary purpose is to be e-missionaries..."

            We are all just trying to arrive at truth and clarity. Yes, we are all in this sense e-missionaries, with the mission being to better discern the nature of reality. The Christian, the atheist, and every one in between has the same goal here.

          • Geena Safire

            Very well said, Bill. Thanks! I agree wholeheartedly.

            On the other hand, Catholics are taught never to engage in any activity, including thinking, that would tend to lead them in any way to doubt their faith in what Catholicism teaches. But, apart from (just) that, they are allowed to pursue or discern truth and reality.

    • John Smith

      'Our conscious mind is just one of the crew members in our brain, not the captain..'

      Really ?
      So I guess when you last went to shop for some bread and milk it was something other than your consciousness deciding that ? When you last made the trip to work, college your best friends house wherever it was something other than your consciousness leading that also ? When you last turned on the tv and decided what programme you want to watch it was something other than your consciousness deciding that as well ?

      Are you remotely controlled by some other conscious intelligence then ?

      Really ! The number of up votes must have been made by people who skipped your last ludicrous statement.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        Really ?
        So I guess when you last went to shop for some bread and milk it was something other than your consciousness deciding that ? When you last made the trip to work, college your best friends house wherever it was something other than your consciousness leading that also ? When you last turned on the tv and decided what programme you want to watch it was something other than your consciousness deciding that as well ?

        Geena cannot respond to your comment, as she has been banned from this site. If you wish to have a discussion with her about this, you can find here over here:

        http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com/2015/06/what-is-this-i-dont-even.html

    • anas qamar

      Before "thinking" or "beliefs" or "consciousness," as we know them, came on the stage with nervous systems, there was this thing called "learning." It is the process whereby an organism can develop and correct internal representations of the external world.

      But that does not matter in any way, since the materialist view must be that, anything besides material, be it a thought, or feeling, or learning - they all are irrelevant in the explanation of behavior. That is because it is not our subjective aspect that determines behavior, but our object aspect, such as natural selection (under a materialist worldview).

      Correct interpretation and motivation/instruction to correct action are the most fundamental functions of nervous systems. Learning is nearly as fundamental.

      But the arrow only points from a material to the behavior, not the other way around. Thus, no matter how many other immaterial things you bring in to explain behavior (such as learning), that would never be a basis for behavior at all - because, again, it's the material that creates action, not something else.

      • David Hardy

        Hello,

        Geena is no longer able to respond in this thread. However, she requested that, if you wish to engage her on this topic, please respond to her comment here . The link goes to a forum thread where she will be able to respond to you.

      • David Hardy

        Upon reflection, I would also add the following caution: the forum linked is dominated primarily by atheists, some of whom are likely to aggressively challenge theistic positions that appear. While many of the posters, Geena included, are very respectful in doing so, there are some who are not always so. I add this so you are prepared if you choose to post there.

  • Geena Safire

    Let me see if I understand this. Per the first paragraph quoted below, on 'Darwinism', brains are adaptively selected for acquisition of true beliefs. Per the second paragraph quoted below (the subsequent paragraph in the article), on materialism (which includes 'Darwinism'), because of the above, brains are not adaptively selected for proper thinking.

    Maybe I'm thick, but I tend to consider 'true beliefs' and 'proper thinking' as related in a more directly proportional rather than an inversely proportional way.

    Then how could the adaptive selection for true beliefs mean that there is no adaptive selection for proper thinking?

    From a William Hasker quote on Darwinist epistemology: "As the organisms and their brains become more complex, we see the emergence of systems of beliefs and of strategies for acquiring beliefs, and the strategies that lead to the acquisition of true rather than false beliefs confer an adaptive advantage. Natural selection guarantees a high level of fitness, including cognitive fitness.”

    [T]his Darwinist sort of reasoning ... is unconvincing as an explanation of the reliability and rationality of mental states under a materialist worldview. This is because on [a materialist] worldview, as I noted above, subjective experience is utterly irrelevant as an explanation of one’s behavior. If [a materialist view] is true, then there is no survival advantage to proper thinking, meaning that evolution would be powerless to naturally select for proper thinking.

    • R.P.R.

      Right. The point is to show that Darwinist epistemology is actually incompatible with materialism. This is because on materialism “conscious experience is invisible to the forces of natural selection.”

      • Geena Safire

        Please be so kind as to provide clear and thorough definitions (including source) that differentiate the terms 'belief' and 'thinking' as you are using them.

        • Christian Stillings

          Out of curiosity, why must his definitions (assuming that he gets around to providing them) cite a source? If said definitions are sufficiently clear and intelligible to suit the conversation here, wouldn't that properly suit the needs of the conversation? I understand why citing sources is valuable in some circumstances ("experts say" or "scholars conclude" or so on), but I don't think base-level philosophy is such a circumstance.

          • Geena Safire

            I want to know if he is using a specific philosophy book or web source, or a Catholic source, or a dictionary source. Plus, due to the topic, he should have defined them in the article.

          • Christian Stillings

            If you think that his in-article definitions were insufficiently clear, that's a different matter than him needing to cite definitions from another source. Why not just ask him to provide more precise definitions and leave him with the option of co-opting another writer/thinker's definitions if he sees fit to do so?

      • Andrew G.

        No, on epiphenomenalism conscious experience is invisible to selection. On physicalism, which is the dominant position (don't be misled by noisy contrarians like Chalmers), this is not the case.

  • Paul Boillot

    This is the same argument that Doctor Ben made a couple of days ago, albeit gussied-up some.

    "And, if so, why should we expect the result of such non-rational behavior would be rational and trustworthy? And, of course, the materialist must, to avoid absurdity, think his mental states are rational and trustworthy or else he could have no reason for believing materialism to be true in the first place."

    There is no logical reason to follow you down this path: why should we expect rationality to emerge out of non-rationality? Why shouldn't we? We see complexity emerging out of randomness all over the place.

    The whole is not the sum of the parts, premise 3 is false, and the teeth of your and Ben's argument have fallen out.

    • Christian Stillings

      What is the deductive step between the difficult-to-determine-connection between internal perception and outward action and natural selection not being able to operate on behaviors (potentially?) caused by those internal states?

      I don't think the language of "internal states 'causing' behaviors" is appropriate to the situation. Per naturalism/materialism, behaviors can be explained in purely physical/material terms without reference to "internal states" or "internal perception."

      ...selection pressures will favor bodies which keep living long enough for that post-hoc rationalization to take place.

      Why do you think this is so? What establishes a positive correlation of "surviving organisms" to "organisms which retrospectively rationalize"? I don't see that you (or anyone) have established a connection.

      • Paul Boillot

        I don't think the language of "internal states 'causing' behaviors" is appropriate to the situation. Per naturalism/materialism, behaviors can be explained in purely physical/material terms without reference to "internal states" or "internal perception."

        I'm not sure who you're arguing with; I, as a materialist, would argue that internal perceptions are correspondent to the neurological state which gave them rise. R.P.R. wants us to follow Chalmers and agree that "subjective experience....is explanatorily irrelevant.” If you don't think the language is appropriate, take it up with the OP.

        So. Fine. I'll play along and pretend that subjective experience has no causal relationship to behavior. This view, with the arrow representing causality, is wrong:
        Conscious Being -> Brain Activity -> Behavior

        We clearly still perceive ourselves as agents doing things, even if we're just audience members watching the behaviors our brains cause our bodies to engage in. The real picture is more like:
        Brain Activity -> Behavior ++ (Illusory Consciousness)

        Either way, natural selection is going to exert selection pressure on behaviors, and those behaviors are going to be caused by given patterns of brain activity. Whatever our subjective experience is like, evolution is still going to favor brains which cause fit behavior.

        • Geena Safire

          I might add "external and internal input to brain" at the beginning into your 'real picture'.

        • Christian Stillings

          I, as a materialist, would argue that internal perceptions are correspondent to the neurological state which gave them rise.

          I agree, as a non-materialist, that this is consistent with materialism. As to "inappropriate language," I meant that it suited the hypothetical experience poorly, not that it was insufficiently civil for the SN forums.

          We clearly still perceive ourselves as agents doing things, even if we're just audience members watching the behaviors our brains cause our bodies to engage in.

          For clarification: whether or not our own existence is metaphysically materialistic, this is our conscious perception. This conscious perception is a possible result of, but not a necessary result of, a metaphysically materialist/naturalist existence.

          Either way, natural selection is going to exert selection pressure on behaviors, and those behaviors are going to be caused by given patterns of brain activity.

          I agree, with qualification - all causation pertinent to behaviors, and brain functions which relate to them via nervous system operations, are (in a naturalistic/materialistic metaphysical framework) purely the result of matter interacting. I think it'd be most accurate to say that brain function impacts behavior via nervous system functions and that non-bodily phenomena impact nerves throughout the body and consequently affect brain function.

          Whatever our subjective experience is like, evolution is still going to favor brains which cause fit behavior.

          I'd switch one term - "evolution will favor brains which correspond to fit behavior" - and agree. The question posed in this post's third section is whether or not, per "Darwinian epistemology," brains which correspond to fit behavior have any particular likelihood of corresponding to mental phenomena which accurately represent the physical world. As Hasker argues - rightly, I think - there's no reason to believe that right belief and fit behavior are particularly likely to correspond to one another in a naturalistic/materialistic metaphysical framework.

        • bbrown

          How does this theory explain the highest or most noble form of behaviour, self-sacrifice for the good of another?

        • John Smith

          Is it your brain that drives a car or your consciousness through sufficient information acquired ?

          Are these words physically departing your screen and climbing into your brain through whatever orrifice so that your brain can understand them ? Indeed how does any information you ever read sink into your brain without conscious awareness ? It certainly doesn't do it physically in the strict material sense ?

          If consciousness is illusory then driving your car is illusory as is reading this right now.

          As I have said for materialists to uphold their world view as the only definite truth to reality they actuslly have to abandon reason and make absurd claims and explanations to do so.

    • bbrown

      "We see complexity emerging out of randomness all over the place."

      How does a purely naturalistic mechanism cause that? Whilst you seem to take it for granted, can you give any explanation of how this can occur in a random, non-teleological universe without any intelligence behind it?

  • Question about Premise #2 (and 3 I suppose). What about animals? Are they more than just physical matter? An animal may chose to go right or left, here or there, based on some subjective experience, and this experience may be an explanation of the animal’s behavior. Therefore, the animal is more than material?

    • Christian Stillings

      I can't answer on behalf of all the theists/Christians here, but I'm inclined to say that some part of animals' function can't be explained in solely material terms. In other words, yes.

    • BrianKillian

      Yes, consciousness applies to animals as well. Thomas Nagel wrote a famous paper called "What is it like to be a bat" using the subjective experience of an animal as an example.

  • josh

    The mistake of this line of argument is to think that, on materialism, subjective experience can be separated from the physical processes underlying it. The phenomenon of subjective experience is caused by the physical process and subject to the evolutionary pressures which shape the physical creature. You could say that evolution directly selects for behavior but you don't get that behavior without the physical structure of the brain that inevitably gives rise to subjective experience. There is no selection for, in fact there would be selection against, the evolution of a separate 'subjective' brain that simulates a dream world unconnected with the reality of the body.

    Technically, the subjective description is not necessary in principle for the explanation of behavior, just as the 'wave' description of ocean mechanics is not necessary if you can describe everything in terms of individual water molecules. But this doesn't mean that you can have a wave separate from the motion of the molecules.

    • Ben Posin

      And....in a better world, that would pretty much end this thread. Good job on cutting to the heart of this.

      • Ben, I'm not sure what to make of this comment. Are you suggesting josh's reply necessitates shutting down any further dialogue? Are you implying that R.P.'s response below should never be posted?

        There's no problem saying, "I agree, josh. Thanks!". But comments like this--"in a better world, that would pretty much end this thread"-- are unnecessary.

        • Ben's meaning is perfectly clear. No, he wasn't suggesting anything he didn't suggest - he wrote what he wrote because that's what he meant, not because he was alluding to some constellation of implications. To reiterate: josh's post should suffice to end this thread because his explanation cut to the heart of the matter.

          • "To reiterate: josh's post should suffice to end this thread because his explanation cut to the heart of the matter."

            But that assumes josh's post contained no errors, and therefore should be the last word. Yet this can't be assumed--it's precisely what's under discussion!

            As R.P. points out in his cogent reply, josh's comment did contain flaws, and therefore it's prudent to continue the discussion instead of prematurely ending it.

          • Paul Boillot

            RP's reply was *not* cogent.

            "The mistake of this line of argument is to think that, on materialism, subjective experience can be separated from the physical processes underlying it." - josh

            vs.

            "you could imagine a world where the same objective facts existed, but the subjective facts were completely jumbled" - R.P.R.

        • Geena Safire

          If it were me instead of Ben, I would be implying that this article shouldn't have been posted, since it attempts to be yet another snarky "Ha! Checkmate, atheist!" article. Plus the author is writing with absolutely no understanding of the minimum basics of brain function and neuroscience, which ought to underlie any philosophy of mind writing these days.

          • Ben Posin

            I like this game. At this point I'm waiting for someone to come up with a really good interpretation, which I can then claim was my meaning all along.

            Brandon, you're right, I was a bit snarky. And of course people get to keep talking, I don't get to end the thread. I guess I was just carried away by the strength of my feeling that this article is simply wrong, for the reason Josh stated.

          • bbrown

            " it attempts to be yet another snarky "Ha! Checkmate, atheist!" article"....

            I have to agree with Geena. I hate to see that kind of attitude. There really needs to be some humility in the OP's article, at least in the heading. This stuff is complex and we are at such a rudimentary understanding of so much of it! Of course the triumphalism runs both ways, and it's silly IMO to ever act with presumption.

            That said, I'd love to have the input here of leading brain experts with both naturalist and Christian or theist worldviews to cut to the chase and perhaps bring clarity to the discussion. Anybody have some connections?

          • Geena Safire

            Patricia Churchland, professor emerita at University of California at San Diego, is the pioneer of neurophilosophy from the 1980s - philosophy that takes into account the scientific findings of biology and, especially, neuroscience. She has been writing and speaking, in the last several years, about the neural evolution of sociality and morality.

          • bbrown

            Would be great to have some folks like Churchland, who have spent their lives studying and thinking about these things, to go over this blog and give us their take on the replies. It might even be fun for them to do the exercise - I'm sure they would immediately detect anything that's fallacious. To be fair, I would love to have 'experts' from varying worldviews. How could we achieve this?

      • John Smith

        Er..... No it most certainly wouldn't ! What an audacious claim ! Please explain how you have reached this absurd conclusion ?

    • R.P.R.

      But if "the subjective description is not necessary in principle for the explanation of behavior" you could imagine a world where the same objective facts existed, but the subjective facts were completely jumbled. There would be no selection against this because, by hypothesis, the objective behavior is the same.

      The point is that if we assume materialism is true, then we have no reason to think we are in a world where subjective facts are rational and reliable, and thus no reason to trust the truth of our subjective states, including the one about materialism being true.

      • This seems similar to saying that, since temperature emerges from a large group of particles, and since it isn't a property of any of the individual particles, thermodynamics is therefore not a reliable way to explain the large group of particles.

        If consciousness is somehow a property that emerges from the structure of the brain, then it is at least as reasonable to explain conscious human activity on the level of consciousness as it is to explain it on microscopic level of the structure itself. It's probably more reasonable to stay on the level of consciousness for much of human behavior, if for no other reason than because it's not as cumbersome.

        • R.P.R.

          I disagree. Temperature is logically entailed by the objective facts of the particles. As Chalmers' zombie example illustrates, subjective experience is not logically entailed by the objective facts. In this world they are clearly interrelated, but there is a logically possible world where the same objective facts pertain and we are zombies, i.e there is no subjective experience

          • First, I'd like to say thanks for taking time to answer our questions and respond to our objections. You didn't write this article for the forum here, so I'm grateful you came all the way over here to engage in discussion.

            Secondly, I'm confused about what you are saying:

            Temperature is logically entailed by the objective facts of the particles. As Chalmers' zombie example illustrates, subjective experience is not logically entailed by the objective facts.

            Not logically entailed by the objective facts of what?

          • Paul Boillot

            "subjective experience is not logically entailed by the objective facts"
            Chalmers could be wrong.

          • The best way to find out is to build one. :D

          • josh

            I never find talk of logically possible worlds very useful because we don't actually know what, if anything, is ontologically possible other than what is. But regardless, we are talking about the actual world, whatever may be 'logically' possible. The materialist view is that in this actual world, physics entails our subjective experiences. You may want to dispute that view, but it isn't self-defeating for the reasons I stated. On this view both the reliability and the unreliability of our experiences and reasoning are explained by relation to the physical world. Zombies aren't logically possible in the actual world posited by materialists. It's like imagining that your car is accelerating but there's no engine inside: you can imagine it but it can't be true.

      • Paul Boillot

        But if "the subjective description is not necessary in principle for the explanation of behavior" you could imagine a world where the same objective facts existed, but the subjective facts were completely jumbled.

        No, because:

        The mistake of this line of argument is to think that, on materialism, subjective experience can be separated from the physical processes underlying it.

        if we assume materialism is true, then we have no reason to think we are in a world where subjective facts are rational and reliable, and thus no reason to trust the truth of our subjective states.

        Of course we don't have reason to assume subjective facts are reliable, and they're not. Do we doubt that materialism is true? Yes.

        But we doubt it less than the other hypotheses because the internal models which got us to that conclusion have increased human survival and well being for millennia. It has consistently made predictions which have proven useful to us.

        The color 'magenta' does not exist as a wavelength of light.
        We 'see' solid objects where none exist.
        We perceive that we touch our keys when we type, yet no contact is ever made.

        But a 1:1 mapping between perception and "real" reality is not necessary for increased survival; only a mapping between reality and an internal model which increases the chances of survival.

    • I wrote my response to this before I saw your response. You say the same thing far better than I did. Thank you.

    • Christian Stillings

      I don't think he's argued that subjective experience can be separated from physical processes in a materialistic metaphysical framework. A subjective experience which is at all separate from physical processes would be absurd in a materialistic existence. Where do you think he's said that "given materialism, subjective phenomena can be separated from physical phenomena"? I agree with the rest of your comment; R.P.R. has addressed the remnant problem for materialism in his own response.

  • Methodological Naturalist

    In my experience, it's often difficult for my intelligent atheist friends to seriously consider arguments for the truth of Christianity. An argument from the resurrection of Jesus remains implausible because their worldview fundamentally excludes this sort of event.>blockquote

    I find your experience hard to relate to because in my experience pols have shown that atheists score well in religious knowledge. That is relevant because it is also my experience that many atheists are former people of faith whose "religious clothes" slipped right off precisely because of their careful reconsiderations.

    Secondly, I think you wrongly understand the barriers that so many people like me see. Diagnosis by exclusion, if you will, for me and the hundreds of atheists I am happy to talk to, only comes after evaluation, not before. Please note that this is in direct contrast to my experience with people of faith who, when asked if they are possibly wrong about the existence of a deity or their worldview, find a kind of virtue in saying they would die for their beliefs before changing them.

    I know the bulk of this article is about materialism, but it could have been presented without this preamble without any loss of the main points. I offer these observations charitably.

    • MN, thanks for the stopping by. We must distinguish between religious knowledge and considering religious arguments. You can *know* what Christians believe about the Resurrection without taking those arguments seriously. R.P. is lamenting this mindset.

  • Reject Premise 2, obviously.

    Just as josh wrote, the "explanation of behavior" can be a physics-level explanation, a chemistry-level explanation, a biology-level explanation, or a psychology-level explanation. All are fine models at their respective scales. But there's only one reality that they are all attempting to model. The article tries to point to the fact that the physical and psychological models are not isomorphic and then conclude that each model must be talking about a distinct mode of reality. That's just as wrong as pointing to a political outline map of Texas and a large, finely detailed geographic map of Texas and declaring that if you accept both, then you must believe there are two different Texases.

    • (It's definitely the case that Premise 3 was not validly established, and probably the case that Premise 3 should be rejected, too. However, it's ambiguous enough that it admits of contradictory meanings, so it's more work than it's worth to systematically distinguish the meanings and accept or reject them individually on their merits, especially since the argument had already failed utterly by Premise 2.)

  • It seems as though explanation and understanding take place on multiple levels. For that reason, I don't buy Premise 2. Understanding involves comprehension of explanations over multiple levels. Physics is the most fundamental science and, if materialism is true, can be applied to predict the probable future. But understanding involves more than the ability to predict the future.

    Here are two examples:

    (1) A box full of atomic gas can be described accurately by describing the positions and velocities of each atom in the box. Or the box can be described using temperature, pressure, entropy, quantities that no one atom possesses. Understanding where each atom is and how fast it's going may allow you to predict the future state of the gas in the box, but it won't give you any understanding of temperature or pressure. Either the motion of every individual atom or the emergent properties of the box of gas can be used to explain the gas, past, present and future.

    (2) Maybe I could measure all the molecules and atoms that interacted with the Roman Forum at around 63 BC, and I could place all this information into a computer and solve for all the future states for the Roman Forum. I could predict everything that would happen during Cicero's speech at the forum that year, including every word that was said, even if I didn't understand a word of Latin. But it would be a mistake to say that I understood why Cicero said what he said. I might not even understand the words themselves. The words can be predicted, but an adequate explanation would have to be on the level of history, personalities, language and culture.

    Both the physical state and mental state can be used as explanations or causes for my getting an apple, and both are adequate explanations (even if one emerges from the other). It would be important to explore how I got the apple on both levels (physical motion and mental desire) in order to say that I really understand why I got the apple. Both can be called causes, and neither is more real than the other, even if one is more fundamental than the other.

    • R.P.R.

      As Jaegwon Kim points out, that kind of a theory "fails to do full justice to psychophysical causation in which the mental qua mental has any real causal role to play. on this account: whether or not a given event has a mental description (optional reading: whether or not it has a mental characteristic) seems entirely irrelevant to what causal relations it enters into. Its causal powers are wholly determined by the physical description or characteristic that holds for it; for it is under its physical description that it may be subsumed under a causal law."

      • Andre Boillot

        "As Jaegwon Kim points out..."

        True story - my mind initially read this as 'Qui-Gon Jinn'. That is all.

      • It's not even a theory, because no one understands how consciousness works. In order to actually explain how my state of mind leads me to get the apple, we'd have to have an adequate explanation of consciousness, and maybe people will discover that consciousness is reducible to physical states of the brain, or maybe they won't.

        If consciousness is ever understood via an overarching theory, then that theory will offer a satisfying explanation for me getting the apple at the level of my own thoughts. It will have to, because if it didn't, it wouldn't be a good theory of consciousness.

        That Jaegwon Kim is not satisfied is entirely reasonable of him, because so far there is no such theory.

    • Sqrat

      Both the physical state and mental state can be used as explanations or
      causes for my getting an apple, and both are adequate explanations (even
      if one emerges from the other). It would be important to explore how I
      got the apple on both levels (physical motion and mental desire) in
      order to say that I really understand why I got the apple

      Spot on. In ordinary discourse, when you ask a person why he did something, you are expecting a reply that has something to do with his mental state (his reasoning or his motives), and not with the physical state of his brain (about which the person is probably mostly or completely unaware). But that's not to say that there was no connection between the mental state and the physical brain state.

  • joanstevenson55

    It is my subjective reality that Obama is not a horse, but he is a Jackass.

  • joanstevenson55

    "If not for God, there would be no atheists" -Chesterton

    • Methodological Naturalist

      A splish-splashy deepity or just sloppy thinking (begs the question) on Chesterton's part. That form of apologetics hooks a few I suppose. Better to say where religion is weak, atheism is weak. Atheists are only defined by what they are not. Take away the antecedent or fail to argue convincingly for one (gods) and it's hardly a surprise that nothing should remain.

  • Andre Boillot

    I wish all you maniacs a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

    • Fr.Sean

      You too Andre, i wish all the maniacs and heretics a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

  • I reject the dual aspect approach. There is simply one cosmos. The mental and physical states of desire are different words for the same brain state.

  • Paul Boillot

    I goofed in my initial reply. This article is not making the same case as anything written by Ben Wikers, but by Gerard Verschurren in Darwin's Blind Spot.

    "Darwin’s own theory ... has run into trouble ... because once I take natural selection to be the only power shaping me and my mind...I would have reason to doubt what my rational capacities are really worth. And evolutionary theory happens to be fully dependent on these very capacities—which fact gives it a rather shaky basis." -- G.V.

    vs.

    "Darwinist sort of reasoning...is unconvincing as an explanation of the reliability and rationality of mental states... because on such a worldview...subjective experience is utterly irrelevant as an explanation of one’s behavior...there is no survival advantage to proper thinking, meaning that evolution would be powerless to naturally select for proper thinking." -- R.P.R.

    Neither of them explain why the a pattern-of-thought (logic/reason) couldn't be evolutionarily selected for, or why, if it were, it wouldn't be useful.

    • anas qamar

      The reason why (logic/reason) can't be naturally selected is because they arose out of 'materials', which in turn were determined by physical laws.
      So:
      1. If I were completely determined by my physical state of the brain, I would not have a 'free' will nor a 'free' thought, because it's the material that would 'make up' that thought or the 'process of thinking'. Under all such scenarios, I wouldn't even have any choice to really 'think'. Now, remember, this 'material' would be behaving under a cause/effect scenario.
      2. If this material is behaving under blind forces of nature (physical laws), then why should I assume that my thinking has any positive effect, given the fact that it's simply a cause/effect scenario, where my thinking must produce equally blind results as they were happening in the past.
      3. Now, simply assume a material that has a capacity to undergo mutations, but does not have any "consciousness". Assume further that this 'material' is shaped by the environment in such a way that a conscious experience 'arises out of it'. Now, it would be silly to assume that this material (the one we started with initially) would give up it's own laws in favor of whatever the consciousness 'desires'. Under such a case, why should this material now have a better chance of survival if it produces a conscious experience that "thinks more" or "reveals the reality as is"? The simple answer is that this "material" would have no better chances of survival if it did produce a consciousness that is able to "think". Thus, natural selection would be powerless to produce organisms for better thinking.

  • David Nickol

    But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It's like
    upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will
    give you a map of London.

    It seems to me one can trust one's thinking to be true because the brain is an information processor that resulted from natural selection. Evolution is not like "upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London." The element of randomness in evolution is genetic mutation. But a new type of organism that has evolved is not a purely random arrangement of matter. First, the new organisms are mainly copies of previously evolved organisms that were not a purely random arrangement of matter. And second, the new organisms were "chosen" by natural selection because they had some feature or features that enabled them to reproduce and survive with more success than their ancestors.

    All the various false analogies for evolution like spilled milk forming a map of London, or a windstorm blowing circuits together randomly to make a functioning computer, are analogies made by people who don't understand evolution. Evolution doesn't work toward a goal such as a map or a computer or a human being. Any analogy that depicts evolution as randomly throwing together parts to construct a predetermined object (map, watch, computer, etc.) is a false analogy, because evolution is not a process working toward a predetermined goal.

    • Methodological Naturalist

      Spot on. Evolution is also not what the Catholic Church accepts.

      • Vasco Gama

        In spite of your impression (or anybody else personal opinion), it is a fact that the Catholic Church accepts evolution.

        • Geena Safire

          Yes, but....

          The Catholic Church accepts evolution -- but only for the physical body. The RCC is very explicit that, at some point during evolution, God ensouled two humans/hominins that somehow were the ancestors of all of us (although genetics disputes this idea), and the soul was what endowed the human with reason and such higher brain functions.

          Perhaps the prefrontal cortex just enlarged enormously with dramatic increases in complexity that were without any function until the soul came along to 'drive' it.

          • David Nickol

            The Catholic Church accepts evolution -- but only for the physical body.

            And I suspect if one looks deeper, the evolution that the Church accepts (if it makes sense to say the Church accepts evolution) is some kind of "guided" evolution, which is not what scientists mean when the speak of the theory of evolution.

          • Guest

            It seems to me that, if you really were limited to methodological naturalism, you would not insist either way, that evolution is guided or unguided.

            That's a philosophical interpretation of the facts, the facts themselves don't necessitate an interpretation.

            If you insists that the materialist interpretation of evolution is THE scientific one - that's just full blown naturalism.

          • David Nickol

            I really don't understand your point. Methodological naturalism doesn't prohibit the conclusion that evolution is unguided by a creator. It seems to me it requires it. One can practice methodological naturalism and personally believe that evolution is guided, but to say the Catholic Church accepts evolution (by which I mean the neo-Darwinian synthesis) but also maintains that evolution is guided by God makes no sense. Natural selection is fundamental to the theory of evolution, and to say you believe evolution works by natural selection but that God is guiding makes no sense. "Guided evolution" is an oxymoron.

          • Vasco Gama

            Geena,

            I repeat myself, “the Church accepts evolution” as it considers that it is the best explanation to the biological development of life that we have.

            You can be suspicious of the fervour of the Church endorsement of this theory, still that only your subjective opinion (even if you share this suspicion with a large number of people), but then it seems to me that you are suspicious of any of the claims from the Church (so that is really irrelevant).

          • Geena Safire

            Vasco,

            I repeat myself: the Catholic Church accepts evolution, but only for the physical body, not for the soul.

            From the Wikipedia page on the Catholic
            Church and Evolution
            , Pope Benedict XVI said:

            "Currently, I see in Germany, but also in the United States, a somewhat fierce debate raging between so-called "creationism" and evolutionism, presented as though they were mutually exclusive alternatives: those who believe in the Creator would not be able to conceive of evolution, and those who instead support evolution would have to exclude God. This antithesis is absurd because, on the one hand, there are so many scientific proofs in favour of evolution which appears to be a reality we can see and which enriches our knowledge of life and being as such. But on the other, the doctrine of evolution does not answer every query, especially the great philosophical question: where does everything come from? And how did everything start which ultimately led to man? I believe this is of the utmost importance."   and   "But in so doing [the theory of evolution] cannot explain where the 'project' of human persons comes from, nor their inner origin, nor their particular nature."

            From the Wikipedia page on the Catholic
            Church and Evolution
            , from Pope John Paul II re evolution:

            In an October 22, 1996, address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Pope John Paul II updated the Church's position to accept evolution of the human body: "In his encyclical Humani Generis (1950), my predecessor Pius XII has already affirmed that there is no conflict between evolution and the doctrine of the faith regarding man and his vocation, provided that we do not lose sight of certain fixed points.... Today, more than a half-century after the appearance of that encyclical, some new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than a hypothesis. In fact it is remarkable that this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines. The convergence in the results of these independent studies—which was neither planned nor sought—constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory." In the same address, Pope John Paul II rejected any theory of evolution that provides a materialistic explanation for the human soul: "Theories of evolution which, because of the philosophies which inspire them, regard the spirit either as emerging from the forces of living matter, or as a simple epiphenomenon of that matter, are incompatible with the truth about man."

            From the catholic.com link:

            Concerning human evolution, the Church has a more definite teaching. It allows for the possibility that man’s body developed from previous biological forms, under God’s guidance, but it insists on the special creation of his soul. Pope Pius XII declared that "the teaching authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions . . . take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter—[but] the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God" (Pius XII, Humani Generis 36). So whether the human body was specially created or developed, we are required to hold as a matter of Catholic faith that the human soul is specially created; it did not evolve, and it is not inherited from our parents, as our bodies are.

            From the

            Vatican.va
            page of Humani Generis
            :

            36. For these reasons the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and
            living matter - for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God. However, this must be done in such a way that the reasons for both opinions, that is, those favorable and those unfavorable to evolution, be weighed and judged with the necessary seriousness, moderation and measure, and provided that all are prepared to submit to the judgment of the Church, to whom Christ has given the mission of interpreting authentically the Sacred Scriptures and of defending the dogmas of faith. Some however, rashly transgress this liberty of discussion, when they act as if the origin of the human body from pre-existing and living matter were already completely certain and proved by the facts which have been discovered up to now and by reasoning on those facts, and as if there were nothing in the sources of divine revelation which demands the greatest moderation and caution in this question.

          • Vasco Gama

            Geena,

            What does it make that (the non recognition of the evolution of the soul) relevant (and that is why I didn't bother to address it). Science doesn’t consider the existence (or non existence) of the soul (so even less recognizes any evolution or any other particularity about the soul), or has anything to say about that (as if it is transparent to science).

            This is not surprizing, or even unexpected, there are a lot of objective and real things that are also transparent to science. It also unable to say anything (relevant that we didn’t knew before) about religion, morals and ethics, aesthetics, or when it has something to say it either it is irrelevant or it belongs and is framed of another subject of human knowledge such as philosophy or metaphysics.

            Science doesn’t address issues that relate to meaning, value, purpose, or teleology (unless we hold a religious perspective about what science is, but that is irrational), so we humans have to deal with that by other objective means that are not science.

            I really fail to see how this even remotely concerns you as I guess you believe that there no such thing as a soul, so it is irrelevant and bears no meaning to you.

            Thank you for the quotations you introduced, they are not really new to me (and they generally correspond to my personal thoughts on those matters and I am always happy to acknowledge that agreement), but thanks anyway.

          • Doug Shaver

            I repeat myself: the Catholic Church accepts evolution, but only for the physical body, not for the soul,

            Since the theory of evolution makes no mention of anything but the physical body, I don't see why that's a problem.

        • David Nickol

          In spite of your impression (or anybody else personal opinion), it is a fact that the Catholic Church accepts evolution.

          As Fr. Komonchak often asks over on dotCommonweal, when you say "the Catholic Church" here, whom do you mean? Are there magisterial statements on evolution? I can recall Pope John Paul II making some quite positive statements on evolution, but I do wonder if there is an "official" Church position on evolution that you can cite. It would probably be more accurate to say the Catholic Church does not condemn or reject evolution rather than to say the Church accepts it. The Church speaks on matters of faith and morals, and evolution is a matter of science.

          Also, I think the Church would not accept pure, Darwinian evolution, where everything that happens is by chance occurrence and there is no goal. Certainly the Church maintains that God intended there to be human beings and that he created them in his "image and likeness." A true Darwinian would say that the human race is a chance occurrence that might easily not have happened.

          • Vasco Gama

            David,

            Evolution is the common understanding, but as people are suppose to be rational, they are free to make the choices of explanations of nature. Very much in the same way as it is not a matter of faith (or of doctrine) to consider that Catholics must acknowledge the existence of gravity, or chemical bonds, or whatever).

            Nobody accepts pure Darwinian evolution this days, but the fundamental of the theory still holds.

            Evolution, and science at large are unable to consider goals or purposeness (or teleology), that is a limitation that is due to the methodological naturalism that science has to consider. The only teleology that science can consider is the one that is observed, and belongs to facts (from the past), such as that some species A (that is not arownd anymore) may have evolved to some other species B (that we observe to exist) .

        • Danny Getchell

          It's my understanding that the Church does not require of its believers that they accept a young Earth and the precise order of events as they appear in Genesis 1 (although I am not aware of any requirement that they not so believe). And that's about it.

          As far as evolution being a result of random mutations over time, I do not think the Church accepts that, although I would be happy to be shown wrong.

          • Vasco Gama

            The Church is not a scientific institution and doesn't acnowledge that it is in its vocation, competences and goals to certify scientific theories. The view of the Church on this matter is not distinct from the view of an informed and rational observer. The Church clearly oppposes to literal interpretations of the bible (that contradict reason).

            The problem of random mutations is that no one can show that mutations leading to evolution are random (we observe causal teleology in the past evolution, and that is what is there to observe). Science as to consider the mutations to be ramdom, unless it finds that they are directed to some goal (which I don't think is reasonable to accept).

        • Methodological Naturalist

          Hi Vasco, I understand why you might think that but the Catholic Church always requires a theistic element for any conversation about evolutionary origins.

          That's not science. It's a problem.

          • Vasco Gama

            « the Catholic Church always requires a theistic element for any conversation about evolutionary origins»

            why, what are talking about?

          • Doug Shaver

            I'm not rejecting pizza just because I won't eat it unless it has pepperoni.

      • BrianKillian

        It seems to me that if you really were limited to methodological naturalism, you would not insist either way, that evolution is guided or unguided.

        That's a philosophical interpretation of the facts, the facts themselves don't necessitate an interpretation.

        If you insists that the materialist interpretation of evolution is THE scientific one - that's just full blown naturalism.

        • Methodological Naturalist

          What would you have me do?

  • David Nickol

    Because no one has come up with a complete explanation (yet) of exactly how physical beings can have qualia ("individual instances of subjective, conscious experience"), which seem to many to be inexplicable as results of physical processes, a new, nonphysical "component" has to be invented to add to physical beings to enable them to have nonphysical experiences. For Christians (and most other religious people), the added component is a spiritual soul. I confess to having no idea whether such a thing as a spiritual soul exists. It seems to me not impossible. I don't consider myself an atheist, at least not on good days. But positing the existence of a spiritual soul seems like an ad hoc solution to a problem that in turn creates many more problems. How do a physical body and a spiritual soul interact? Since we cannot study spiritual souls, it is apparently futile to ask either how perceptions from our sense organs are communicated from our physical brains to our spiritual souls, or how decisions to move our arms—people with spiritual souls seem always to move their arms—are communicated from a spiritual soul to a physical body. Descartes thought it was in the pineal gland. However, among other
    things, we now know that removal of the pineal gland has no effect on a
    person's ability to reason and perceive. No one seems to have an explanation as to how general anesthesia can cause both certain areas of the brain and the soul to suspend operation, or why the souls of people who have passed away and have no access to their brains are regarded by Christianity to continue as conscious entities (including, for Catholics, suffering in purgatory and interceding with God on behalf of the living). Any properties of the soul that seem necessary can simply be asserted. One cannot say, "I don't know how a purely physical brain can account for subjective, conscious experience, but I believe it does," because that has been "proven" to be "absurd." But one can say, "I don't know how a soul can continue to think, or suffer, or pray without the use of a brain, but of course we know it does, so obviously God enables it to somehow."

    I do acknowledge that there are things beyond the realm of science. But it seems to me all of the scientific evidence is that the mind is something the physical brain does, and there is no scientific evidence that can be interpreted otherwise.

    • bbrown

      "But positing the existence of a spiritual soul seems like an ad hoc
      solution to a problem that in turn creates many more problems."

      I'm not sure it's completely ad hoc, as there are many other evidences for the soul's existence. And this can be studied, but the methods of science may not be the tools appropriate to that study. I am of the opinion, based on 35 years of molecular biology research and intensive care medicine, that the scientific method is inadequate for knowledge of most of reality.

      • David Nickol

        I'm not sure it's completely ad hoc, as there are many other evidences for the soul's existence.

        I am not, by far, an expert on the history of the concept of the soul, but it seems to me that it has pretty much always been dragged in to solve the problem that consciousness does not appear to be physical. I would be interested to know what you consider evidence for the soul.

        • John Smith

          Consciouness, mind just for starters.

      • Methodological Naturalist

        What are your thoughts about homeopathic measles vaccines?

  • mriehm

    when there is an avalanche the rocks do not move as they do because they think it would be a good idea to do so, but because they “blindly” obey non-rational physical laws. Why should we expect the atoms in our brain to behave any differently? Shouldn’t they too blindly follow non-rational physical laws? And, if so, why should we expect the result of such non-rational behavior would be rational and trustworthy?

    Rationality is the quality or state of being agreeable to reason.[1] An action, belief, or desire is rational if we ought to choose it.[2] Rationality is a normative concept that refers to the conformity of one's beliefs with one's reasons to believe, or of one's actions with one's reasons for action.

    -- Wikipedia

    Labeling the physical laws which govern the avalanche as "non-rational" is inappropriate and misleading. Rationality is an attribute of human thought, not of the laws which govern the motion of rocks down a hill, or of the electric forces which govern the chemistry of the brain. It is meaningless to label such laws as rational or non-rational: they simply are.

    • Argon

      I saw that too and also didn't follow the reasoning. I sensed that there was a context shift in the meaning of 'rational'.

      FWIW, premise 3 seems to be (to me) very similar to Alvin Plantigna's 'Evolutionary argument against Naturalism' (EAAN) which has been discussed in many other books and venues. The EAAN is an interesting argument and there have been great discussions for and against Plantigna's various formulations, but I don't recall seeing 'conclusive' in any descriptions. It would be helpful for the author to link to those various discussions of the EAAN.

      I would also note two things: 1) Our progress in science and learning also relies on selection of various, often competing ideas against the outside world/environment, and 2) Do we really know whether something is absolute true or does our knowledge of the world fall into the 'good enough' and we think 'close enough' category. I'm pretty sure it's the latter. As for me, I'm certain of no mechanism that can provide absolute truth (trademark), to a limited agent such as a human such that we can *know* the certainty. So I think the question about being able to discern absolute truth is orthogonal to the question about whether evolutionary mechanisms can create reliable, if not perfect approximations to what we think about the outside world. "Truth" likely exists, but our ability to discern it with certainty is something else.

  • mriehm

    ... there is no survival advantage to proper thinking, meaning that evolution would be powerless to naturally select for proper thinking. For example, if one person reacted to a vile of poison with the thought that poison is healthy and delicious and the physical state of running from the poison his thinking would be naturally selected over a person who reacted to the vile by thinking poison is poisonous and proceeded to take a sip.

    That is a silly example used to bolster an invalid argument. What you are saying is that evolution might result in creatures that are attracted to danger but react to it by fleeing - that evolution could result in a massive dissonance between mental state and physical reaction. But this is false. The physical behavior is a decision made as a result of perceiving a threat, i.e. as a result of the mental state. The sequence of events is: perceive circumstances; assess a threat condition; decide to flee. Any creature that did not align its reaction with its threat/benefit assessment would neither live long nor propagate.

    This article is typical of this website. There are a lot of fancy metaphysical ideas but a lack of basic logic.

  • Renard Wolfe

    This makes no sense. Why are materialism and subjective experience mutually exclusive? Subjective experience works based on your brain, which is a material object. The fact that our brains are different is a large part of the reason WHY experiences are subjective.

  • Greg Pavlik

    Premise #3 is fatally flawed. The existence or non existence of something is not the same thing as explanatory value. It's perfectly reasonable for something to exist and have no explanatory value.

    Quite bluntly, the argument is a sophistic version of the timeless "I don't understand how consciousness works, therefore God."

  • Tom Cabeen

    Excellent article; thank you. I suggest one very minor correction: In the section that discusses Premise 3, next to last paragraph, "vile" (adj, unpleasant) should be "vial" (n, a small container). As it is, it distracts a bit.

  • John Smith

    If everything in the universe is material then how much do individual thoughts weigh? What substance is information communicated verbally literally or otherwise ? If I have the thought to build a house do my thoughts have the same weight and matter of the house I built ? To people with more knowledge and information stored in their brains start to weigh more ?

    Of course all my questions appear absurd and are to most reasonable minds absurd questions. But then even such analysis is itself subjective which makes it irrelevant according to some materialists. The problem of consciousness forces materialists to make absurd claims and explanations in order to cling to their purely material world view.

    I grew up indoctrinated by evolution and gross materialism but after real reflection and thinking into it and the implications of it being true and anything not false have had to conclude the absurdity of it.

    • David Nickol

      If I have the thought to build a house do my thoughts have the same weight and matter of the house I built ?

      Does a television tuned to an unused channel weigh less that a television tuned to a channel that is broadcasting a program? Does a television that is tuned to a program showing butterflies on the screen weigh less than a television that is tuned to a program showing battleships?

      While I don't pretend to be able to explain consciousness, assuming it is electrical signals traveling through the brain, why would ideas weigh anything? Do telephone wires weigh more when lots of people are making phone calls and weigh less when few people are using them?

      To people with more knowledge and information stored in their brains start to weigh more ?

      Certainly the brain changes physically with the acquisition of skills and knowledge. And of course loss of a particular part of the brain (as in the case of a stroke) can cause loss of skills and/or knowledge.

      • John Smith

        Your further examples are more of what I am talking about and reinforce my point.

        As you rightly point out thoughts and ideas weigh nothing so are they then materai physical things ? Is consciousness a physical property ?

        Iff it isn't then is it real ? Are thoughts even real ?

        Without making absurd irrational arguments one has to conclude that thoughts are not a material physical thing.

        Yet consciousness thoughts and ideas shape the world around us, the societies we live in our very lives. It is the power behind the throne.

        'As above so below ' springs to mind !

        • David Nickol

          As you rightly point out thoughts and ideas weigh nothing so are they then materai physical things ?

          You seem to have a very narrow concept of physical. Drop a stone in a pond, and waves will ripple out from where the stone hit the water. Do the waves weigh anything? No, they don't. Are they material? Certainly they are. Sound waves don't weigh anything either. Signals along electrical circuits don't weigh anything.

          You seem to believe that if something is physical, it must have mass, and you must be able to pick it up and put it on a scale. That is far to narrow a definition of physical in my opinion.

          • John Smith

            The waves in the pond would have weight they are still part of the mass of water simply reacting to the impact of another mass thrust upon it. Therefore it is not a valid comparison to make in relation to thoughts and consciousness.

            Your example of electricity and sound waves is a more interesting one and could well be used to provide a separate topic for conversation altogether.

  • D Rieder

    Old post and maybe it's deactivated, but I had a thought.

    I am a materialist by default not necessarily by assertion. IOW, I don't defiantly declare there is nothing but physical. I just don't think I am aware of anything suggesting the universe is being affected by some outside non physical force. IT seems an unnecessary and superfluous assertion.

    But more to the point, usually when a person writes a convincing essay challenging materialism, raising what they claim is a dilemma, I am left is a state of...for want of a better word...mental tension. IOW, I worry through the issues and try to resolve what they've said with my worldview and seek to know if perhaps they've hit upon that thing that might lead me to think differently. But, for some reason your essay left me...unaffected. There is nothing in it that causes me to "think toward" something other then materialism. It's kind of like when you read some view...stated with lots of philosophical words and reasoning...but you're left with a feeling that somehow the exact combination of the various concepts are arranged in a context that leaves no alternative but the one proposed...but with a slight variation of term usage/phrase selection and exact opposite conclusion would be just as forth coming.

    It might be because I don't understand some of the words and concepts.

    But before I try to lay out all my confusions, is anyone still monitoring responses?

  • Man of the Hour

    Subjectivity is irreducible to objectivity. This is the nightmare problem for materialists. When you get at the crux of materialist beliefs, their core mistake is believing that subjectivity can be reduced to objectivity- that experience itself can be reduced to the external nonexperiential correlates of an experiencer. Such is lunacy. This is why the Hard problem of consciousness even exists. In reality, as I have demonstrated above, it is the impossible problem. However, while one may quip that objectivity is irreducible to subjectivity (which is actually debatable, and ultimately indefensible on positivist grounds), such would not work with materialism. Double aspect theory is the only tenable ontology in such a case. The crux that unravels materialism for good is that consciousness *is* subjectivity, and as such consciousness *is* irreducible to objectivity, and thus to anything objective, and thus to anything other than consciousness. Since we know consciousness is a thing, that truly exists it is essential that since it is irreducible to anything else, it doesn't depend on anything else, and is thus a substance. However, we see clearly that there can only be one substance, since for consciousness and non-consciousness to interact, they must do so through a shared property, which would imply that either one reduces to the other, or they both reduce to some third thing. However, since consciousness is an irreducible substance, non-consciousness must reduce to consciousness. Thus a double-aspect idealism must be the case, with the objective being derived from universal inter-subjectivity , with things being the same as thoughts that are merely external to one's particular ego, and with the ego and the body being dual aspects of a particular excitation in consciousness. The ground of being must itself be a universal subject. Physics must resemble information processing, since it must be information processing, with the added provision that things are only as defined as they need to be, coming into being probabilistically and assuming necessary traits when interacted with- and this is what we see to be the case with relativity and quantum mechanics (see professor Brian Whitworth's paper for how these match information processing).

  • Man of the Hour

    What about a dual aspect theory where the only causation is mental causation, or a non-emergentist neutral monism?

    • Dylancaufield1

      Hi, I have seen a comment you made on a free-will article and just out of curiosity can I ask if you are religious?

  • Collin

    I agree with the first two premises, but not quite the third. I believe one can have a faith in physical laws, rather than a creator.

  • De Ha

    "You are a foodist!"
    "I'm a what?"
    "A foodist! And that leads to several other beliefs that are wrong, such as..."
    "Wait wait wait, what's a foodist?"
    "You believe all living things eat food"
    "What's food?"
    "Anything that can be eaten"
    "Anything?"
    "Yes"
    "So.... let me get this straight, I aparantly believe everything eats food, and food is just about anything"
    "Yes, that is what you foodists believe"
    "So... things eat various things"
    "Yes"
    "So?"
    "So it means that you can have no love for black people because they are merely food eaters"
    "What are you talking about? You just said everything eats food!"
    "Everything that eats food is a lowly food-eater, so sayth Starvaho the Hungry"
    "Is this another thing I aparantly believe even though I've never heard of it?"
    "No, we believe in Starvaho, you are a heathen for believing in Foodism instead of starvaho"
    "Why would I give a shit what Starvaho thinks, then?"

    That's what Theists sound like when they talk about Materialism. ESPECIALLY when they throw in value judgements like "if we are just made of atoms..."

  • Josh Cohen

    Subjective experience occurs within the brain. Although this is not material in the sense of the physical world, these experiences have a completely material explanation for their existence. It is possible that there is more to subjective experience then could be explained by the brain, however there is yet no proof of this. Therefore, the burden of proof is on you to not explain how subjective experience can alter the behaviour of the subject, but to show that subjective experiences can alter the exterior physical world independent of physical action from the subject him/herself.