Monday, February 13, 2012

Original Intentionality and Indexicals

Does the role of indexicals in language tell us something about how we understand consciousness and intentionality?

There seems to be something which, unless there is life after death, ceases to exist. Yet, on a materialist view, everything is matter, and matter is not created nor destroyed. What is it that ceases to exist?

203 comments:

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Clayton said...

Hi Victor,

I don't see how the material following the first question relates to the question. Can you expand on that?

What ceases to exist on the materialist view is a person, one made of material parts. Maybe matter is neither created nor destroyed, but that which is made of matter is. What's wrong with that? Seems the right view for sticks of butter, tables, cars, planaria, and kittens.

Zach said...

Victor how do you think the materialist would answer the q's in your second paragraph? It's pretty obvious isn't it?

We can't do all the work here.

Steve Lovell said...

Zach and Clayton,

Well given causal theories of meaning, the historical causes of course are still in effect, so the meanings would presumably remain.

I'm guessing this will also be a consequence of lots of other candidate theories of meaning ... and it doesn't look like a consequence which is especially appealing. Not a theory killer, and the theorist could just bite the bullet, but that doesn't mean it isn't a bullet.

If the answers are obvious, Zach, you can presumably provide them? I can think of other answers for the naturalist, but I'd rather not put words in his mouth ... especially as I'm woefully out of touch with this sort of thing (in case the above hasn't already made that obvious!).

Steve Lovell said...

Oh, should have added, for Clayton, that the connection between the first bit and the rest is that in naturalism all the 3rd-personal facts seem to remain on the death of an individual. It's precisely the 1st person perspective that has gone.

Zach said...

Hint: What happens to a watch when it is no longer there? Where did it go? What happened to the function of its second-hand?

Answer that, and you'll have one obvious materialist response.

Not saying the materialist answers are right (I am a substance dualist), just obvious.

Zach said...

Did anyone here besides Clayton read the long, thoughtful discussion on indexicals a couple of posts ago?

finney said...

I'm not a materialist, but I don't see this as a problem for materialism. A block of cement no longer exists qua a block of cement when it has been carved into a statue of Martin Luther King. The statue exists, the block of cement doesn't.

Blue Devil Knight said...

My daughter (year and a half now) has recently started to point to things she wants, saying 'mine.' I see this as a kind of indexical that means 'Give me that.' Around the same time, she started to follow my finger to where I pointed, rather than simply look at my figer.

Seems to be the roots of reference (it might not be a coincidence that her word count is going up very quickly).

I see this as a rudimentary understanding of signs. Pointing at 'that' is, in a sense, the primary act of reference, in which understanding it means you no longer look at the finger, but what it is aiming at.

It would be cool to study the ontogeny of indexical usage and understanding, and its cognitive significance.

This is a conversation we can have without worrying about whether Ella's mind is material or not.

I see indexicals as a fairly primitive form of communication, like a grunt of a monkey asking for a banana right in front of it, right now. Or the vervet calls that signify the presence of a hawk.

Hunch to explore later: indexical semantics are a crossroad where perceptual contents and conceptual contents meet, and the former breathes life into the latter.

Steve Lovell said...

Zach, if I understand you, you are saying that when a watch stops functioning we can either say:

(a) That was a watch
(b) That is a broken watch

In both cases it's based on a function which is no longer being performed. Fine. This is the response I imagined. Now on naturalism, are functions of mental entities causally defined or in some other way? If the former, then it's not obvious that the causal chains are broken, if the latter it's not obvious how this works without bootstrapping.

This is mere handwaving in the direction of an argument. I realise it's not going to be very persuasive. I've never done much in the philosophy of mind, but at the same time I feel there are real issues here. My tutors were all rabid functionalists and I could never get beyond that to more interesting/subtle naturalisms. At least I assume that such things exist, though the aforementioned tutors didn't give me much reason to believe it. One of them was the Smith of the text Smith and Jones The Philosophy of Mind.

Shackleman said...

"The statue exists, the block of cement doesn't."

Not true. Given materialism, there is no difference between the two. They are both just rocks.

Now, given that every mind on the planet can see the symbolism in one and not the other, *is* a problem for materialism.

Shackleman said...

"(a) That was a watch
(b) That is a broken watch"


The correct answer, given materialism is:

(c) That *is* a watch

This is because the function is not inherent to the watch, but is sort of imbued into it by a mind.

That every mind on the planet would intuit the correct answer is either a) or b) *is* a problem for materialism.

finney said...
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finney said...

"They are both just rocks."

Nuh uh... They're distinguishable by virtue of having a different shape, texture, finishing polish, stature, width, volume, (location!) and height. To say they're both "just rocks" is to say they're both of the same kind of material. That's true, but two different objects can be of the same material - and that's why one of those objects can exist while the other doesn't. To say otherwise is to say statute can only exist if the square of marble exists, and therefore once the square of marble exists, the statute cannot exist.

mattghg said...

BDK,

There's a good amount of evidence that (i) understanding pointing is a diagnostic for a certain level of theory of mind development and (ii) theory of mind development is a prerequisite for language acquisition, so I'm not at all surprised that your daughter's vocabulary size is increasing rapidly at about the same time as she's beginning to point and understand pointing.

It would be cool to study the ontogeny of indexical usage and understanding, and its cognitive significance.

Exactly what class of words do you have in mind? I mean, whatever your answer, someone is doing the study to be sure. But I wonder if we oughtn't separate demonstratives ('that ...') from what Kaplan called 'pure' indexicals ('I', 'here', 'now') - especially as I have a feeling that the difference is significant for the point that Victor is trying to make. Victor?

mattghg said...

What is it that ceases to exist?

A point of view. But then we're back to Bob's question from the previous thread: how is this different to an argument from consciousness?

Blue Devil Knight said...
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Blue Devil Knight said...

matt: I'd like to better understand the ontogeny of understanding pointing, and its relation to other cognitive milestones.

Another question I have is how do we study indexical semantics in prelinguistic babies? That's where it probably starts, right? But how do you do looking time studies on indexicals, showing just movies and such to infants with no language?

Are there languages that don't have a separate word for 'I'? I wouldn't be surprised if, for any English indexical, there is a language that doesn't have a synonym.

Rambling stopping now...

William said...

I suspect that to use pointing pre-linguistically implies that the child has mastered two things:

a notion of other minds (so that there is another mind to get the point)

a notion of mental content (so as to know one can focus another's attention on different content within a context)

...and these notions must be understood in some kind of pre-linguistic way, kind of like how a person playing basketball sort of understands gravity and velocity without needing to know the math or the words.

Blue Devil Knight said...

My hunch is that first-person pointing might be an extension of reaching. I don't remember when Ella started to reach for things.

Understanding other people's points as pointing seemed to come later.

Theory of mind connection is interesting, as a "point" does seem to have an intention behind it, a "content" beyond the finger itself.

But that is an adult view of pointing. You could have an early stage where it wasn't dependent on understanding other minds, but merely learned via statistical learning: when adults point, there is usually something interesting to see, and this is just an environmental statistical regularity that is picked up independently of ToM (like when you throw a ball for a dog and they run in the direction the ball will go, they likely have no ToM, but just a model of the ball's trajectory). Only later do they understand the intentional component.

Anyway, just poking around in hypothesis space. I wouldn't be surprised if Piaget wrote about pointing, but googling 'piaget pointing' doesn't bring anything up.

mattghg said...

BDK,

I'd start with the work of Mike Tomasello at Leipzig. He's definitely worked on this question and gets cited a lot. They've got a whole department of people working on similar questions.

You could have an early stage where it wasn't dependent on understanding other minds, but merely learned via statistical learning

This is absolutely a matter of debate among developmental psychologists. I studied this a bit when I was a masters student and remember taking the theory-of-mind-all-the-way-down view because of reported results like: 14-month-old children understand pointing when accompanied by eye contact but not without. But of course there are counterarguments.

Tomasello et al., A new look at infant pointing

William said...
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William said...

Interesting Matt. From the article here

"Interestingly and importantly, 12-month-old infants can also make reference in their pointing to absent
entities"

Is this that weird "inexistence" of the intentional already?

Blue Devil Knight said...

Very cool stuff: thanks a lot for the references I'll take a look when I get some time. Infant cognitive development has been a hobby of mine since I was an undergrad. Now that I have a daughter, it is actually hard to think about it too much given how much attention it takes just to be there for her.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Obvious next question: do nonhuman species point?

My dog does, when we are hunting. But is that really pointing?

Google just told me that this is a very controversial topic in the nonhuman primate literature.

Awesome stuff, I must read more!!!

mattghg said...

Chimpanzees have been observed to point to things they want a human researcher to give them. What's much more controversial is whether they ever do this among themselves. I was taught that chimps (unlike dogs) can't even be trained to understand pointing by humans, which if true would seem to make the statistical learning / stylised reaching analysis of chimp pointing in the lab more likely. Chimps certainly understand reaching.

B. Prokop said...

Bees "point". Not, of course, with fingers - they don't have any. But they do indicate where pollen-rich flowers are to others in the hive by means of complex movements. I woulld call that pointing.

Shackleman said...

"They're distinguishable by virtue of having a different shape, texture, finishing polish, stature, width, volume, (location!) and height."

Of course! The *physical* properties of the rocks differ. But "statue" is not a physical property. It's a mental construct. Given materialism, only the physical properties matter. Mental constructs are illusory, therefore, they are both just rocks.

finney said...

"But "statue" is not a physical property. It's a mental construct."

Only in the same way that any concept or word (or anything you can put in quotation marks) is a mental construct. You're assuming that mental states are distinct from physical states - that's a distinction I agree with, but framing it this way begs the significant question: Are mental states reducible to physical states?

Blue Devil Knight said...

Bob that is a great example. Not sure if bees point, but their dances probably do have indexical content or proto-content.

Blue Devil Knight said...
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Blue Devil Knight said...

Shackleman the naturalist would just say it is a statue partly in virtue of the intention and work that went into building it. An identical piece of rock formed by erosion under a waterfall would not count as a statue, for the naturalist.

Obviously if you think naturalists cannot account for intentions to build statues, then you would think there is a problem here. But as finney pointed out, if that is the topic under discussion, then the mere existence of statues is not enough to refute materialism.

For the record, and speaking as a relatively mainstream materialist, statues aren't "just rocks" any more than a Michelangelo is just a random assortment of pigments or a butterfly is an unorganized collection of organic molecules.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Bob one reason I like bees is because I use them as a stepping stone for a naturalistic theory of mental representations (as I described here).

If you want to know what a naturalistic theory of mental representation looks like, study the bees.

B. Prokop said...

BDK,

I'm one of those who have no problem with non-human species having consciousness. (I believe Lewis came close on several occasions to saying that (at least on the Earth) the only conscious beings were people.) My long experience living with cats and dogs prevents me from espousing that view. I actually tend in the opposite direction (admittedly on zero evidence), in that I suspect that consciousness is more widespread than we suspect. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that plants were conscious beings.

As to pointing, isn't my dog engaging in something at least related to such an act, when she stands by the door and looks back at me, indicating she wants to go outside? Again no fingers, but she's using body language to "point" to an object (the outside) at a distance.

William said...

Bernard Baars (global workspace etc) just posted an excellent summary of the biological mechanisms supporting consciousness here. The paper outlines what kind of brain he thinks is needed to be conscious (sorry no plants included, Bob :)

Shackleman said...

"Are mental states reducible to physical states?"

To the materialist, all things by necessity reduce to physical states, so to them, the answer is yes, though it seems many refute this answer for reasons I have yet to understand or be convinced of.

Shackleman said...

BDK,

The materialist's/naturalist's position is that a brain-state is nothing more than a really, really complex arrangement of carbon, having been in such an arrangement as a necessary result of a complex series of physical and chemical processes. In other words, there is no soul or spirit or anything else to which he can siphon off intentionality. It's all self-contained in the brain. The brain is just one big chemical reaction, not quantitatively different than the reaction you get when putting sodium into water.

So there's really no difference between a brain producing a Michelangelo or a waterfall. Both are just physical/chemical processes acting out the laws of nature.

Is this enough to refute naturalism? Probably not, but it's a problem at least. And a big one if you ask me.

Papalinton said...

Shackleman
"To the materialist, all things by necessity reduce to physical states, so to them, the answer is yes, though it seems many refute this answer for reasons I have yet to understand or be convinced of."

To suggest "all things by necessity reduce to physical states" is a misleading statement and not consistent with the facts. Rather, it should read, "all things must of necessity be grounded in the physical state." It's the only one we have. To 'reduce' to the physical state seems based on the assertion that the normative state of existence is somehow higher than the physical state. This would account for the theist's refutation of this perspective [and would be a justified reason for understanding and be convinced why they cling to such refutation] and the dearly wished-for escape from the drudgery of the trials and tribulations of everyday life, so promised by christian theism ['don't exert any energy in this world as it will reach its eschaton soon. Save it all for the next life in heaven']. Externalizing one's existence from the humdrum of everyday life is a well-known psychological brain-state strategy for minimizing stress and mitigating harmful mental dissonance.

In reading the article offered by William in an earlier thread, ["Bernard Baars (global workspace etc) just posted an excellent summary of the biological mechanisms supporting consciousness here"], Baars notes: "The scientific study of consciousness has been debated for more than a century, in part because of the difficulty of verifying conscious experiences in humans and other species. However, both technical and conceptual advances have now clarified the evidence, and viable hypotheses have emerged, so that in 2005 the journal Science listed "the biological basis of consciousness" as one of the major open questions in science. Well-known scientists like Francis Crick and Gerald M. Edelman have advanced significant ideas about the brain basis of consciousness, and discussion of non-human consciousness has also found increasing acceptance in neurobiology. (Edelman, 1989; Crick & Koch, 2003; Edelman et al, 2010)."

The key point made, is that, "While philosophical debates continue, the scientific key is to compare conscious and unconscious brain states and reportable vs. unreportable contents. These are relatively easily observable, and allow us to gain a third-person perspective on what has traditionally been described from a subjective point of view. Over the past decades a very large empirical and medical literature has emerged using such comparisons."

There is little doubt that consciousness is a function of brain activity, rather than the imagined link to the supernatural. The mind is what the brain does.

And it is just as you say, "In other words, there is no soul or spirit or anything else to which he can siphon off intentionality. It's all self-contained in the brain." The concepts 'soul' and 'spirit' are theological constructs is the absence of knowledge and understanding of the brain and its functions.

Crude said...

Linton,

Your ability to quote and parrot extracts, and then completely flub what the hell is being talked about, only proves how clueless you are. Though I'm glad to see you continue to scream 'theological!' at anything your meager understanding takes to be "not something the atheists you are familiar with would approve of." One has to be consistent. In your case, consistently ignorant. ;)

So sayeth the Catholic Taliban!

William,

While I have no idea where Bob is going with his talk of plant consciousness, one thing that always gets me about papers like Baar's (which is, I think, a mostly-fair paper - he's not very bombastic) is that he right away ties 'conscious' to 'reportable'. I see this move made a lot, but it doesn't strike me as correct - at least not obviously correct. And if that's a valid criticism, the rest of the paper seems to suffer from it.

Not that the paper would drop its value altogether: I think focusing on 'the ability to report' would be an interesting way of approaching the problem, while recognizing that ability as at least in principle distinct from the question of consciousness and experience.

And one last general comment: the question of 'are mental states reducible to physical states' only becomes meaningful if we state what counts as a 'physical state' in advance. Panpsychists may or may not be on board with the idea that 'everything reduces to the physical', but what they call 'physical' involves the mental present as a fundamental property anyway. (My favorite example is Galen Strawson's name for his view: "Real Materialism.") That often gets lost in these discussions - it's not just a fight over whether there's something beyond the physical, but also what the 'physical' is when all has been accounted for.

Tell me original intentionality and experience is a fundamental property of the world and sure, I won't be surprised if that kind of 'materialism' can make some headway on questions of the mind.

Gregory said...

There is little doubt that consciousness is a function of brain activity, rather than the imagined link to the supernatural. The mind is what the brain does.

These statements, presumably, have arisen from one particular brain's conjecture....following a particular causal history that is rooted in physics and chemistry.

So if I were a consistent "physicalist", I would have to say that the above statements ought to be analyzed--not in terms of their "truthfulness" or "veracity"--but in terms of the causal history of the molecular constituents of the physical brain. That would amount to a reckoning of not only "consciousness", but also all of the minutiae of propositional/mental content that arose from those mechanisms.

But, what are we to say of our own ideas? That our own ideas are merely a feedback loop of the physical? ***Perhaps OCD is our "natural" condition.

If that is true, then what possible refutation can be offered for a feedback loop that denies "physicalism"? In other words, how can two contrary opinions be "rationally" resolved among the flurry of molecular reactions within two different brains?

I suppose the answer lies somewhere between "mind-altering" drugs and frontal cortex lobotomies. For the physicalist, that is how you can change someone's mind. But, even here, it's highly doubtful that someone's propositional content can easily be replaced with contrary philosophical opinion by these methods.

Maybe written words can alter brain chemistry, thus relieving the "supernaturalist"--by means of written propaganda--the error of his/her "superstitious" ideas and ways.

"In the beginning were the Words. And the Words were with the Brain. And the Words were the Brain....The Words became Arguments and dwelt among us."

1 Hesitations 1:1-3,14

William said...

Crude:
"he right away ties 'conscious' to 'reportable'. I see this move made a lot, but it doesn't strike me as correct - at least not obviously correct.
"

You are right, but note that Baar seems actually to share your concerns, as is expressed in his reflections on recent research in the renaming of the "vegetative state" to the "minimally conscious state."

To some degree we all are forced to be like the drunk looking for his keys by the lamppost because that is the only place where it's not too dark to see. We do need better tools. If you invent a genuine mind reading device, please send me one!

Crude said...

William,

You are right, but note that Baar seems actually to share your concerns, as is expressed in his reflections on recent research in the renaming of the "vegetative state" to the "minimally conscious state."

Well, I think that's a different concern (since it'd seem he'd just cash that out to 'minimally reportable') but as I said - Baars' paper seems to be pretty low on the bombast in general, which is nice to see.

Papalinton said...

Crude
"Your ability to quote and parrot extracts, and then completely flub what the hell is being talked about, only proves how clueless you are."

Another bleat from the bleachers. Once, just once, you might want to cobble together something of substance that may merit discussion. On current performance your contribution has had as much corporeality and meaningfulness as the load of post holes I have stacked in the back of my pick-up.

Seriously Crude, consciousness is not a gift from god. Consciousness is an attribute of human beings that can be just as seriously damaged or compromised as would an amputation. Indeed mountains of research and evidence has demonstrated direct causal links showing how consciousness is varyingly impaired relative to the damage done in parts of the brain.

There is nothing mystical or magical about the mind, brain and brain states. In fact evolution has pretty much ensured everyone, well almost everyone, has one. And the purported god bit of consciousness is simply just the god-shaped vacuum in a theist's brain.

B. Prokop said...

Crude,

Maybe I don't know where I'm going with it either. I've freely admitted I have no evidence for it. But the idea does lead to the following:

Even the materialist (loathe as he might be to admit such) thinks in terms of even the non-biological universe as being conscious, and does so all the time. Just ponder for a moment the implications of the term "Law of Nature". Laws are something human beings devise, and are obeyed by conscious human beings. Yet we casually anthropomorphize matter and energy by speaking of them as obeying "laws".

Interestingly enough, in the Middle Ages, people spoke of the universe as being moved by "Love". All our Modern Age has done is replace one word with another, but the thought processes are identical. (And I won't even be so rude as to bring up the idea that "where there is a Law, there must be a Law Giver".)

But a far greater difficulty for the strict materialist is answering the question of how matter knows how to behave. When we get down to quantum scales, where we start thinking about concepts like the Plank Length and elementary particles, we run out of finer detail in which to embed information - as "knowing" (to use an anthropomorphic term) how to behave is unquestionably information. It must be stored someplace (e.g., my memory in my brain, my documents on my hard drive, laws in a legal document). But at the quantum level, just where is this information encoded?

The materialist's view of the universe runs out of gas at this point. He must either ascribe conscious thought to everything, or somehow fall back (without admitting it) on a non-materialist explanation for the undoubted fact that matter and energy know how to behave.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Bob: that is far out. I see conscious experiences as a property of certain complex brain states, and I don't see a reason to attribute it so promiscuously. I don't think billiard balls bouncing around are conscious.

Baars and Koch, imo, are two of the best out there to read on the science of consciousness. Baars from the psychological perspective (his classic A Cognitive Theory of Consciousness), Koch from a neural perspective (The Quest for Consciousness).

Reportability is just a quick and dirty way to operationalize things. It fails all the time, as in people who are paralyzed but conscious, and unable to report anything. It isn't sufficient, as some people could be confabulating (and it is very hard to determine if someone is simply describing their experiences incorrectly, lying, or hallucinating the experiences and describing them correctly). This is a big problem in interpreting the behavior of people with 'blindness denial' who insist they can see, but are cortically blind and run around bumping into things and are completely off the mark in describing their environment.

The ultimate inadequacy of reportability is a problem in studies of many psychological phenomena (attention, motivation, syntax), not just consciousness. Our main window into the phenomena has been behavioral. This is now changing, though, with noninvasive techniques for looking at conscious, attentive, motivated, language-producing human brains.

B. Prokop said...

"I don't think billiard balls bouncing around are conscious."

Of course you don't. But that still leaves you with the far greater problem of "How do said billiard balls know how to bounce? where is this information stored?"

And the problem is infinitely worse (for a strict materialist) at the elementary particle level. Personally, I think this is the ultimate, slam-dunk refutation of materialism, or at least of its crudest, most simplistic variant (e.g., Papalinton).

At the macro level, such as our own minds, you can get away with attempts to define away consciousness by alluding to physical processes in the brain. But you don't have that escape hatch at the particle level. You are faced with the naked fact that there is information out there, unattached to any conceivable material anchor.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Bob I don't think they literally know where to do. And my bet is that most nonmaterialists don't think they do either. When I drop the bowling ball from the roof, it is not consciously following gravitational laws.

My stomach might be conscious, too, but I don't know it, I have no evidence for it, and I see no reason to go down such a road.

Quantum phenomena are weird, I will grant you that. At this point in history of physics, QM interpretations are the ultimate intellectual Rorshack test. Whatever your proclivities, you will find an interpretation that satisfies them, but only at the cost of believing something weird. E.g., today I like Bohm's nonlocal realist interpretation.

B. Prokop said...

"Bob I don't think they literally know where to do. And my bet is that most non-materialists don't think they do either. When I drop the bowling ball from the roof, it is not consciously following gravitational laws."

I think we're saying the same thing here. Where we're parting ways is my contention that, once you abandon the notion of inanimate objects being conscious, you're left with the materialistically unsolvable dilemma of explaining how objects (at least at the particle level) possess the information needed to react to stimulus (such as being dropped from the roof).

You can explain away the bowling ball's fall by punting the issue to lower and lower levels of matter. But eventually you hit a brick wall (the Plank length, or 1.616199(97)×10−35 meters - the theoretically smallest unit of size), beyond which you cannot go. Ultimately, you are forced to posit a non-material storage "device" for the information needed to determine a particle's behavior.

At least to me, it seems that one could get around this dilemma by assuming a conscious universe (which was why I brought the idea up, although I personally do not subscribe to such), but even there one has to abandon pure materialism.

Blue Devil Knight said...

I see a new version of Plato's Symposium coming from you Bob: protons and electrons--a love story.

B. Prokop said...

You're too late! I've actually seen an educational cartoon for young children about atoms, etc., which explained the mutual attraction of protons and electrons in just that manner. (And it's a darned good thing they didn't take that idea to its logical extreme and brought in antimatter. Not that there's anything wrong with that!)

Crude said...

Linton,

Once, just once, you might want to cobble together something of substance that may merit discussion.

I did - hence people ****ing discussing it and ignoring you. As usual. Because you do nothing but parrot what you don't understand, and rant about unconnected things. You're still in your corner ranting about God and theologians, as if that's been brought up. Better yet, as if the only critics of materialism are theists.

You should encounter a Christian physicalist one day. I'd say it would blow your mind, but it'd require you actually *comprehending* something. ;)

BDK,

Reportability is just a quick and dirty way to operationalize things. It fails all the time, as in people who are paralyzed but conscious, and unable to report anything.

The problem is that it's quick and dirty with no corresponding way to check if it's even in the vicinity of being right on this question. I can appreciate going with hunches, or even setting up one's axioms in a way that ultimately lands you in the direction of where Baars is drawing his already shaky lines. But at that point it should be recognized just where the hunches and the axioms are coming in to play.

My view on this is similar to Bob's. Panpsychism and the like? Not my view of choice - I'm far closer to the thomists. But I'm also not going to laugh at them and say their idea is just so silly that we can rule it out right away, given the situation discussions on consciousness are in.

I'd think you'd agree, especially if you take the Bohmian interpretation seriously.

B. Prokop said...

Crude,

Did you also note Papalinton's use of the following: "The dearly wished-for escape from the drudgery of the trials and tribulations of everyday life, so promised by christian theism ("Don't exert any energy in this world as it will reach its eschaton soon. Save it all for the next life in heaven")."

I found this fascinating for at least two reasons.

First, he's inveighing against arguments nobody has made. this goes beyond "straw man". Perhaps we should label this "air man".

Second, somehow it seems to have escaped Papalinton's notice that the entire sacred scripture of Christianity is virtually silent on the theme of the "next life in Heaven". I've never actually done this, but I'd wager that if you collected all the non-repetitive statements about the "next life in Heaven" in The Bible, they could likely be put on one-two pages at the most. Maybe even just one page. Christianity is quite "this world" oriented in its foundational documents.

But then Papalinton would get you with a "heads I win; tails you lose" argument. He would dismiss the second point above as "arguing from scripture" (and therefore irrelevant to him), while simultaneously insisting that only he knows what Christian scriptures actually say and mean. He wants to have it both ways.

Papalinton said...

Science knows its limits. And we know that the boundary of limitation is not far out from where we stand. And it has made no pretense about operating outside its limitations. Science as is generally understood today has after all only been with us for a couple of centuries. In that very short time, however, our knowledge and understanding about man, about the world, about the universe, has grown enormously. But it remains a work in progress. But even with these enormous strides, for the average Joe in the street, his world remains filled with the ancient ghosts, devils, angels and christs of all sorts, together with the malevolent spirits of our ancestors' imagination. As a society, we remain largely oblivious and ignorant of this great store of knowledge. Why is that? I propound two fundamental reasons, lack of education particularly in the sciences, and our abiding fascination with ancient superstition and its locomotive power, religion. And these two elements are the ends of a set of balance scales, inversely proportional, as one rises the other lowers. In today's world the scales are heavily biased in favour of theism.

Even as we discuss the issue of consciousness, the discourse is trammeled by discussants who are only able to contribute through the restricted lens of theological supernaturalism. From early years their training prescribed their thinking to certain patterns and confined their view of reality within the figment of theological boundaries. This prescriptive thinking is exemplified in the statement, "Ultimately, you are forced to posit a non-material storage "device" for the information needed to determine a particle's behavior." How does this person know that? Does he have information at the quantum level that scientists have yet to discover? Has he been a party to a revelation? No. And the form of words used to construct this notion comes straight from lessons in theology. A 'non-material storage device' indeed. A repository that sounds pretty much like a God to me, a perfectly homologous model, the one referent that a theist can rely on when no information is available. A gap in one's understanding, a gap about which, "[u]ltimately, you are forced to posit a non-material storage "device" for the information needed to determine a particle's behavior."

A second example, again couched in ideas and concepts that principally reflect a theological perspective, is, " .. once you abandon the notion of inanimate objects being conscious, you're left with the materialistically unsolvable dilemma of explaining how objects (at least at the particle level) possess the information needed to react to stimulus (such as being dropped from the roof)." . This is not the form of statement, or style expressed, that a scientist would make. This statement is packed with theological connotation. A somewhat wrongheaded question with teleological intent at its most theistic.

The inertia of religious tradition is singularly the one roadblock that impedes and limits humanity's capacity for growth in knowledge and understanding. Augustine best characterizes the theological approach to the sciences:

"There is another form of temptation, even more fraught with danger. This is the disease of curiosity. It is this which drives us to try and discover the secrets of nature, those secrets which are beyond our understanding, which can avail us nothing and which man should not wish to learn.

-St. Augustine (354 C.E.- 430 C.E.)

We have a choice of paths into the future, the path of rationality or that of superstition. When one goes up, the other goes down. Simple physics really.

B. Prokop said...

"A repository that sounds pretty much like a God to me"

Boy, it sure doesn't sound like a God to me! But it does very much sound like something non-material, yet very much existing. Papalinton, you insist on seeing this thread as a debate on theism. It's not - it's a discussion of materialism. I just did a search for the word "God" in this thread, and (prior to this contribution) found only three instances - two by you (!), and one by Crude calling you out on it. Once again, I detect a bit of projecting here.

"This is not the form of statement, or style expressed, that a scientist would make."

I actually got this entire argument from a genuine scientist (PhD in astrophysics, and an atheist to boot!). You think I'm smart enough to think up something like this? (the wording is, indeed, mine. I'll take full responsibility for that.) In the course of his explaining to me how he was comfortable with the idea of something originating from nothing (it involved vacuum fluctuations), he simultaneously admitted that pure materialism was unsupportable, because consistent and predictable patterns of behavior for material objects and the lack of information storage capability at the particle level were inconsistent with it.

Ironic isn't it? You've been arguing against a fellow atheist's ideas here all along... You've just been caught red-handed (again) at your knee jerk rejection of anything from outside of your personal thought-proof fortress.

William said...

Bob,

About plant consciousness: I think that plants, heck even bacteria, have genuine purpose and some basic intentionality-like properties-- this comes from expressing their DNA and is basic to life. I do however doubt that they think about any of this, they just function it :-)

B. Prokop said...

Oh, I'm not saying that we'd recognize it as "thought", but then again, I can't really figure out what it must be like to be inside my dog's brain, and I'm certain that she thinks. And don't get me started on my cats!

But haven't you ever watched time lapse movies of a vine going up a pole or a wall? You can see it trying out various routes, and doing a damn good imitation of deciding between alternatives. Or watch (again time lapse) two plants duking it out over which one gets access to a patch of sunlight. There's actual strategy going on there. Very similar to a board game called Blokus. (Great game, in case you've never played it!)

Crude said...

Bob,

I think 'panexperiantialism' may be what you're thinking of here? Which, from my bare readings, suggests that 'experience' is fundamental, but it's differentiated from 'thought'.

And hey, maybe the whole damn world is intentional through and through, from particles to people. Intentionality being distinct from experience, but really, I consider it as live a possibility as anything else.

BenYachov said...

>"There is another form of temptation, even more fraught with danger. This is the disease of curiosity. It is this which drives us to try and discover the secrets of nature, those secrets which are beyond our understanding, which can avail us nothing and which man should not wish to learn.

>-St. Augustine (354 C.E.- 430 C.E.)

I reply: Paps you misused that quote before & if memory servers I called you on it.

As Aquinas pointed out that quote from Augustine refers to Occult Knowledge not natural knowledge, not philosophy nor Science.

You keep recycling the same made up brain dead shit to prop up your low brow atheist version of Young Earth Creationism.

Let the adults talk.

K'ay?

Papalinton said...

Bob
"I actually got this entire argument from a genuine scientist (PhD in astrophysics, and an atheist to boot!). You think I'm smart enough to think up something like this? (the wording is, indeed, mine. I'll take full responsibility for that.) In the course of his explaining to me how he was comfortable with the idea of something originating from nothing (it involved vacuum fluctuations), he simultaneously admitted that pure materialism was unsupportable, because consistent and predictable patterns of behavior for material objects and the lack of information storage capability at the particle level were inconsistent with it."

I wouldn't mind a name and contact point for this astrophysicist person. I would be happy to engage him in discussion on his admission, "that pure materialism was unsupportable, because consistent and predictable patterns of behavior for material objects and the lack of information storage capability at the particle level were inconsistent with it."

Cite me where I can find his work that verifies this position so that I may read it for myself, or better still, name and number of the astrophysicist, please.

Verbaling is a common tactic, even the police are known to have done it.
.

BenYachov said...

BTW I'm going to take a wild guess.

Bob is talking about Roger Penrose.

Am I right?

Crude said...

Linton,

I wouldn't mind a name and contact point for this astrophysicist person. I would be happy to engage him in discussion on his admission,

Oh man. That would be epic. Linton, going up against a physicist who disagrees with him, with Linton intending to school him. Sight unseen, mind you. Linton couldn't even coherently state, much less understand, methodological naturalism. Let's watch him roll into a conversation about interpretations of quantum mechanics and see him reduced to the internet debate equivalent of a fat red smear on the tire of a Mack truck. That's assuming Linton gets beyond this response: "What are your qualifications to challenge me on this question? Oh, you were a teacher and you hang around on a fourth-rate atheist's blog daily? Go back to your ****ing fingerpaints, you hack." ;)

Here's one for you, Linton: Henry Stapp. PhD in particle physics at Berkeley. Go get 'im, tiger. hpstapp@lbl.gov -- Post the results here.

Ben,

I don't think so, since Penrose isn't an astrophysicist. If I were to guess, I'd suggest Bob was talking about... man, I forget who. Andre Linde? Alan Guth? I recall one of them, possibly both of them, speculating that consciousness may be fundamental. Then there's Eugene Wigner, the Many Minds interpretation, Henry Stapp apparently suggesting that consciousness is what collapses the wave, etc.

But who knows. Maybe it's just a friend of Bob.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Bob wrote:
[P]ure materialism was unsupportable, because consistent and predictable patterns of behavior for material objects and the lack of information storage capability at the particle level were inconsistent with it.

I will hand it to your friend it is an argument for panpsychism I have never seen before.

The question is: why do fundamental particles respond certain ways to other fields and particles in their vicinity?

I can't see any benefit of floating the hypothesis that they are conscious and literally know how to respond. Does the bowling ball calculate friction, gravitational forces, and consciously decide to go down the lane? Or is following such forces just something bowling balls do without literally thinking and doing the computations?

Just because we are talking about the really small doesn't make the claim any more plausible. There is a tendency to push extravagant thinking down into the quantum level because, after all, quantum mechanics is really weird. In this case it just doesn't seem to fly.

It seems prudent to go for the empirically equivalent, but ontologically less extravagant, claim that particles/fields just have the propensity to respond certain ways to other fields/particles in their vicinity. That's just how nature is structured, and there is no more to the story. Just like with the bowling ball going down the lane. How does adding 'They are conscious' add anything useful, any novel predictions, help us predict their behavior better? I truly see no virtues of this theory, Bob, other than it is sort of funky and fun.

So I strongly disagree that a materialist has to go down such an extravagant and implausible route.

Though as I said it is certainly a unique route to panpsychism, and I would like to meet your friend I love talking to physicists about consciousness. I have noticed a strong propensity toward panpsychism among them, and I would argue that this is a natural consequence of their not being biologists, and not being very adept when it comes to systems-level biological phenomena. :)

Blue Devil Knight said...

Crude if you can come up with something better than reportability as a way to access someone else's phemomenology, publish it. It will help the field.

Unfortunately, if we don't understand the phenomenon yet, we have to use crude indicators of its presence. Ultimately such crude criteria will be supplemented by neuronal criteria. Like with sleep, now we can tell if someone is sleeping with the help of electrodes on their scalp.

We still don't have a good way to characterize 'life', but we seem to have done pretty well studying it. Consciousness research is moving along nicely too, even though we don't have a failproof way to identify it in nature.

It is more productive to study things that we have good reason to think are alive [conscious] than to spend our days defining life [consciousness]. This is an important lesson of biology that many philosophers have yet to learn.

Blue Devil Knight said...

I should add that we already use neural criteria to judge if someone is conscious. In the operating room. It is not failproof, either, but is simply an additional datum to add to the full story.

Not failproof, but helpful. Fewer people are operated on now who are conscious but merely paralyzed. Not a pleasant thing, I would assume.

Crude said...

BDK,

Crude if you can come up with something better than reportability as a way to access someone else's phemomenology, publish it. It will help the field.

I already said that I have no problems with the use of 'reportability', properly qualified. But those qualifications are key, and once they're stated, the project (and the limitations of it) becomes more clear. If you're dead lost in the woods, picking a direction and walking may be the best you can do. But let's not confuse that with knowing where you're going and making (obvious) progress towards your goal. That's all.

Unfortunately, if we don't understand the phenomenon yet, we have to use crude indicators of its presence. Ultimately such crude criteria will be supplemented by neuronal criteria.

See that? You admit they're using both my indicators and my criteria. You're welcome. ;)

(This is a joke, for any slow-wits out there.)

It is more productive to study things that we have good reason to think are alive [conscious] than to spend our days defining life [consciousness]. This is an important lesson of biology that many philosophers have yet to learn.

Well, one strong reply is that quite a lot of biologists, and scientists generally, have tricked themselves into thinking they've been making steady progress on philosophical problems when they've been spinning their (philosophical) wheels, even while making scientific progress.

Another reply is the 'good reason to think' is little more than a shot in the dark - intuition, axiom and assumption. And as I've said before, hey, make your assumptions, go with your intuition and your axioms. Just recognize them for what they are, and realize how that impacts the whole project. Don't paper over them and pretend the problems aren't there.

I've encountered a lot of scientists who turn up their nose at philosophy and dismiss it as not necessary (which I'm not saying you, personally, are doing here.) And every single one of them has turned out to actually be enamored with philosophy - what they really have no use for are rival philosophies, and the questions raised by them.

B. Prokop said...

Yikes! I hope no one has gotten the idea that I think the universe is conscious! But I do believe that panpsychism is a legitimate way out of the materialists' (among whom I am not) dilemma of explaining how does matter "know" (I can't think of anything better than that anthropomorphizing word. Damn this English language sometimes!) how to act in the presence of forces (e.g., gravitation, positive or negative charges, etc.)

I would respect (but not agree with) a materialist who held that the universe was conscious. But the idea that nothing exists other than mindless matter and energy is unsupportable on (at least) two grounds:

1. Time had a beginning.
2. Matter "knows" how to act.

And BDK, you yourself were forced back onto anthropomorphizing inanimate matter, when you (yesterday, at 10:15 AM) referred to your bowling ball responding to gravitational "laws" (see my original posting discussing the concept of laws).

B. Prokop said...

And, Papalinton, your confusing the issue of information storage at the subatomic level with an argument for theism simply demonstrates to all that your atheism is of the most simplistic variety - that which is wedded to the notion of Pure Materialism.

I agree with Ben here. Such a philosophy (and that's what it is) is virtually indistinguishable from Fundamentalist Young Earth Creationism, in that neither worldview can survive the slightest crack in their eggshell-thick armor. Just as the YEC Biblical literalist cannot admit to the slightest, most trivial inconsistency in the Scriptures lest his entire house of cards come toppling down, so to with the pure materialist atheist. He cannot afford to allow for the tiniest opening for anything non-material whatsoever into his thinking. Papalinton, your defense line is one molecule thick, ready to implode at the first pinprick.

And like the YEC literalist, both you and they are forced into constructing laughable-Rube Goldbergian constructs to shore up your increasingly threatened thought constructs. With every posting, you remind me more and more of the pre-Copernican astronomers adding epicycle to epicycle to the Ptolomeic system, in an ultimately vain attempt to fend off reality.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Bob I didn't respond to that concern about 'laws' because the following you wrote is clearly equivocation on the word 'law':
Laws are something human beings devise, and are obeyed by conscious human beings. Yet we casually anthropomorphize matter and energy by speaking of them as obeying "laws".

I do think the question of the nature of scientific laws, especially in physics, is worth asking, but the above just seems confused.

As for what Crude said, as usual I think we'd largely agree though I would emphasize things differently in ways he might think are important. And I just don't have the time right now to get into it.

Papalinton said...

"I've encountered a lot of scientists who turn up their nose at philosophy and dismiss it as not necessary (which I'm not saying you, personally, are doing here.) And every single one of them has turned out to actually be enamored with philosophy - what they really have no use for are rival philosophies, and the questions raised by them."

This is a real knee-slapper. Theism a rival philosophy to science? Hardly. And yes most real-time scientists have little use or time for christian theism as a competing philosophy knowing full well the primitive nonsense on which it is founded. And for those scientists who happen to be christian, they are largely apt to leave their godism at the laboratory door during the working week, unless of course one happens to match the Behe archetype.

On closer examination of the first two sentences of the quote above, there is no doubt they are a clear measure, and a representative sample, of the level of garbled nonsense that masquerades as reasoned discourse of theists on this site. For a little clarity, let's place the two sentences one above the other:

- "... a lot of scientsists who turn up their nose at philosophy and dismiss it as not necessary ..."
- " ... [a]nd every single one of them has turned out to actually be enamoured with philosophy. ..."

This is surely a miracle in the happening. Apart from 'divine revelation' or careful tutoring from Crude, how else could this transition occur? One can only conclude that it was a miracle.

This quote has as much meaning, relevance and usefulness in the discussion on this thread as the other revealed pearls, 'inanimate objects with consciousness'; 'non-material storage devices', 'matter knows how to act'; 'panexperientialism'. The creative mind in hyperdrive. These concepts are incontrovertibly drawn from the training regimen of the theistic mindframe: A close relative of 'neologisms', I term them, 'theologisms', theistically coined words and/or concepts.

Drawing from my palette of personal experiences, the nearest concept with which I can correlate these theologisms, is, 'rocks in the head'.

B. Prokop said...

Like I said, a pure materialist fundamentalist atheist! So rarely do we meet up with a genuine, in-the-flesh straw man. We are in your debt, Sir, for showing us what one looks like.

Papalinton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Papalinton said...

Ben
"As Aquinas pointed out that quote from Augustine refers to Occult Knowledge not natural knowledge, not philosophy nor Science."

So Aquinas was able to get into Augustine's head and tell everybody what he actually meant? Commonly known as Apologetics, where facts are contra to the spin.
Tell me, which part of Augustine's, "... It is this which drives us to try and discover the secrets of nature, those secrets which are beyond our understanding..", refers to occult knowledge?

Papalinton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Papalinton said...

Bob
What is the difference between a materialist and a 'Pure Materialist'? I'm just curious.

Yes, I am a materialist and a monist to boot, and christian theism, in all its forms, is rightly posited in the mythology section of the library. And yes, even the concept of god which I can bandy about at whim solely resides in my material brain, as does information, rocks with consciousness, and non-material storage devices. And following my little astral journey among these conscious rocks and non-material storage devices, I then return to material grounding and can set aside these forays, appreciating them for what they are, little flights of fancy.

Funnily enough, my atheism [perhaps even antitheism] was the result of many years of christian indoctrination. But it is unquestionable that my worldview was shaped by and a direct product of decades of christian immersion. One might even say, god made me an atheist. But then I don't believe in folkloric tales.

"At the beginning there was the Word - at the end just the cliché." Stanislw J Lec, holocaust survivor.

Cheers

B. Prokop said...

"many years of Christian indoctrination"

Well. There's your problem in a nutshell. You apparently missed out on a Christian upbringing, getting an indoctrination instead. It's already obvious that you missed out on a proper education. Witness your response to Ben's calling you out on quoting Augustine out of context. You ask, "which part of Augustine's [quote] refers to occult knowledge?" Answer: all of it.

You know, it's funny. I frequently disagree with Augustine when I read him. But nevertheless, it's always a pleasure (and quite profitable) to read him anyway. It is a true joy to observe a mind a work that is so obviously superior to my own, even when he's wrong.

And as to, "What is the difference between a materialist and a 'Pure Materialist'?", I have met many a materialist who would nevertheless cheerfully acknowledge the existential reality of non-material things, such as Love, Purpose, Intent, Consciousness, Free Will, Good, Evil, etc., without believing them to be subjective chemical products of human brain activity. A pure materialist, on the other hand, believes all such things to be nothing more than physical matter and energy, and characteristic of their organization and activities.

B. Prokop said...

Oops. That should have read: "It is a true joy to observe a mind at work".

BenYachov said...

Paps you are an idiot.

>So Aquinas was able to get into Augustine's head and tell everybody what he actually meant?

No he actually read all of Augustine's actual writings as opposed to copy/pasting bullshit from some thinly researched atheist apologetics website.

Are we to believe you cited Augustine directly?

Then why haven't you included a reference so we may all look up the quote and read it in context?

Who was it who said "Cite me where I can find his work that verifies this position so that I may read it for myself........Verbaling is a common tactic, even the police are known to have done it."

If you actually read Augustine then show from the same document that sources the quote he was clearly talking about science.

After all the burden of proof is on the accuser. You are accusing Augustine of being anti-Science.

Put up or shut up Gnu.

(It was at this point you bailed from the argument. Care for a repeat?)


>Commonly known as Apologetics, where facts are contra to the spin.
Tell me, which part of Augustine's, "... It is this which drives us to try and discover the secrets of nature, those secrets which are beyond our understanding..", refers to occult knowledge?

I reply: If they are "beyond our understanding" then how can they be a reference to natural knowledge which by definition can be understood by the human intellect?

If he is referring to "secrets of nature(i.e. that which is hidden completely to man)" as opposed to the "mechanisms of nature" the same question?

Paps you are an incompetent Atheist apologist.

BenYachov said...

BTW Paps I just did your homework for you.

Here is the chapter where the quote comes from.

http://www.logoslibrary.org/augustine/confessions/1035.html

Here is the actual quote:

"From this malady of curiosity are all those strange sights exhibited in the theatre. Hence do we proceed to search out the secret powers of nature (which is beside our end), which to know profits not, and wherein men desire nothing but to know. Hence, too, with that same end of perverted knowledge we consult magical arts. Hence, again, even in religion itself, is God tempted, when signs and wonders are eagerly asked of Him,—not desired for any saving end, but to make trial only."

City of God
Book X
Chapter 35

Dude you suck! The quote you gave wasn't just out of context it was edited.

Lying to oppose Jesus!

Papalinton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
B. Prokop said...

Ben,

The problem here is that we're dealing with basically a troll, and we let him get away with it. Here we were having a fairly productive conversation about consciousness and materialism, and then jumps in our friend who has to turn every topic into his one note samba about his hostility to God. You'll note he even admitted as much in his last posting. He didn't label himself an atheist, but rather an antitheist - quite a different matter altogether.

I realize that I was slower than the rest of you to realize this. But I guess, like Saint Paul, I "hoped all things", and thought that perhaps under all of that hurt and hostility there might still lie hidden a rational being. Alas, I now know that not to be so.

Hey, Papalinton, if you truly want to be an antitheist, check out what Wikipedia has to say about the League of the Godless. I know you already get most of your information from that source. You might pick up a few hints from your intellectual forefathers, such as how to use icons for target practice, how to convert cathedrals into "Museums of Atheism" (St. Isaac's in Leningrad), into heavy equipment sheds (practically every village in Russia), or even into municipal swimming pools (Church of the Redeemer in Moscow). Or how to take down the names of people attending services and turning them over to the police, or spitting on old women as they prayed, or disrupting funerals and weddings with drunken brawls and cursing. Or here's a good one you might appreciate: forcing young women arrested for the crime of educating their own children (!) into prostitution in the camps.

Oh, but I forgot. You had to endure "years of Christian indoctrination". I guess things balance out!

Papalinton said...

Ben
Sheer, wonderful Apologetic conflation, Ben,
".. secrets of nature .."= ".. magical arts .."

Augustine is talking about two different things. You seem to have missed the adverb, 'too', you know, which means, in addition to; also; plus.

Let me rephrase it for you, slowly, so that you can catch the difference. Augustine is saying, "do we proceed to search out the secret powers of nature", that is, seek knowledge for its own sake alone. As well as, [the missing, too, which decouples your egregious conflation] with that same end of perverted knowledge [i.e. for the same reason that we proceed to search out the secret powers of nature], we also [in addition] imbibe in a little of the magical arts. The latter is not a qualifier of the former. The latter is in addition to the former.

Ben, your pious nonsense seems to have manacled the logic and reasoning circuits in your brain, in even the simplest of tasks as parsing and subsequent elucidation of the expressed intent of the form of words.

And when Augustine says, ""From this malady of curiosity are all those strange sights exhibited in the theatre", he overlooked the greatest theatrical display of all, the homologous rain dancing ceremonial ritual performed religiously [Oops! sorry about the pun] every week, without fail, in a great big catholic cathedral. Surely the most splendid of spectacles, the standard bearer of all the ancient 'magical arts'. And yet, ironically, catholics simply cannot see it for what it is, a play on the stage, with all the pomp and ceremony and magnificent costumery and finery that money could buy, including the ubiquitous mildly psychedelic dream-enhancing smoke of incense. Deepak Chopra, eat you heart out.

No Ben, you have it all arse about. There is little value in tradition when it is predicated largely on ritual. There are no more lessons to be learned from christian theism going forward. Slowly the level of awareness of the magical arts in catholic dogma is rising to the forefront in people's consciousness. The trend is palpable.

Papalinton said...

Hi Bob
"Well. There's your problem in a nutshell. You apparently missed out on a Christian upbringing, getting an indoctrination instead. It's already obvious that you missed out on a proper education."

Again I am just curious, [my bad, as Augustine would have it] how does one distinguish between indoctrination and proper christian education? Where is the line of demarcation? Is there a multiple-choice test, or a TIQ [Theological Intelligence Quotient] assessment available, or is it simply a matter of interpretation, pretty much along apologetical lines? And your linking Yachov's response to my observations of Augustine's writings as evidence for a poor christian education, is just petulant silliness on your part. [But I am smiling at the pouting as I write this. :o) ]

In relation to, "I have met many a materialist who would nevertheless cheerfully acknowledge the existential reality of non-material things ...", and once again it brings a smile as I casually scroll go through the role call in your many previous comments on DI:
"I have met 'many a materialist' ....... ", 'many an atheist', 'many scientists', 'many medical experts with which I socially engage', 'many PhDs', etc. And of course, I take all of these on board as I consider your evidence.

Entertaining, comes to mind.

Cheers

Blue Devil Knight said...

lol

B. Prokop said...

""I have met 'many a materialist' ....... ", 'many an atheist', 'many scientists', 'many medical experts with which I socially engage', 'many PhDs', etc. And of course, I take all of these on board as I consider your evidence."

What, you think I sit all day in from of my laptop and don't have an active social life? I wish I had more time to myself!

And yes, I spend 3-5 evenings per week in the company of PhDs, medical professionals, astrophysicists, biologists, lab technicians, software designers, and even two beer brewers, one opera singer (mezzo-soprano), and at least one carpenter! (plus present and former spies, intelligence analysts, and fairly high government officials). I had lunch two days ago with a molecular biologist and a doctor. Three evenings ago, I had a drink with an astronomer on the design team for the James Webb Space Telescope. Five days ago, I had dinner with two highly placed persons in the Defense Department. This morning I sat next to one of the highest ranking people in the National Security Agency at Mass. (We discussed the situation in Pakistan.) and that's just one random week! If I've got a problem, it's that I know too many people, and have too great a love for good discussion and learning from others. So you have no cause to scoff at my comments. Because yes, I do know and socialize with "many a materialist ... many an atheist ... many scientists ... many medical experts ... many PhDs". Too many, maybe.

Papalinton said...

Bob
"Here we were having a fairly productive conversation about consciousness and materialism, and then jumps in our friend who has to turn every topic into his one note samba about his hostility to God."

You mean, all this talk of consciousness and materialism is not about finding a gap for christian theism to nestle in among the science books? That all this talk of consciousness and materialism is not about elevating to and legitimizing christian theism at the equivalent level of science knowledge ? Well, why didn't somebody tell me!

I wasn't aware that commenters were assiduously refraining from god talk in this OP. And yes, on looking back I note commenters were only talking about sticks of butter, tables, dogs and cats, blocks of cement, conscious rocks, statues of Martin Luther King, non-material storage devices, and kids pointing.

But in my defence, I must have been distracted by Shackleman's response to finney's question, "Are mental states reducible to physical states?". He replied, "To the materialist, all things by necessity reduce to physical states, so to them, the answer is yes, though it seems many refute this answer for reasons I have yet to understand or be convinced of."

Shackleton then followed up with, "In other words, there is no soul or spirit or anything else to which he [materialists/naturalists] can siphon off intentionality." And we all know that 'soul' and 'spirit' are 100% theological concepts.

So Bob, it is not trolling as you so eagerly would want us believe. Your assessment of my intentions is a somewhat common obfuscatory tactic utilized to deflect attention away from christian theism being put under the microscope, and indeed the macroscope [another neologism in the making], and found grievously wanting.

Bob, you say, "I realize that I was slower than the rest of you to realize this." No, slow you are not. Gentle, kind, considerate, reasonable, a good bloke all round? Yes, but misguided by your attachment to religious 'tradition'.

"Hey, Papalinton, if you truly want to be an antitheist, check out what Wikipedia has to say about the League of the Godless."
Communism? Bingo! Godwin's Law invoked. I win.

B. Prokop said...

I think Godwin's Law only applies under Australian Rules Football.

Papalinton said...

A follow-up on Godwin's Law, known as the Spamer Corollary:
"As the probability of Godwin's Law being invoked approaches one the probability that 'Commie' will replace 'Nazi' also tend towards one."
-- MartinSpamer

Papalinton said...

Bob
"I think Godwin's Law only applies under Australian Rules Football."

I enjoy your humour. As far as the game is concerned, Aussie Rules is uniquely an inbread product of this country, but once the rules are appreciated it is a spectacular game for the footie watcher. And surprisingly, the rule book is quite thin, with most attention concentrating around tackling. We should sit down to a beer and a game, and I'd be most happy to introduce the rules to you.

Papalinton said...

'inbread' Oops! "inbred"

BenYachov said...

Paps, You are so full of shit. You should run for Parlement.

>Augustine is talking about two different things. You seem to have missed the adverb, 'too', you know, which means, in addition to; also; plus.
Let me rephrase it for you, slowly, so that you can catch the difference. Augustine is saying,

Paps you have only now just read the authentic quote in context (thanks to me).
I am suppose to believe the weird shit your reading into it why? You are an expert on Augustine greater than Aquinasn now? No, you are an ex-Sola Scriptura Fundamentalist Protestant. I would bet dollars to donuts you never even read any of the so called REFORMERS much less the Fathers.

This Peggy Hill act of pretending you know it all is getting old.

>Ben, your pious nonsense seems to have manacled the logic and reasoning circuits in your brain, in even the simplest of tasks as parsing and subsequent elucidation of the expressed intent of the form of words.

Paps you quoted Augustine out of context. I caught you red handed. Reading your own bullshit into him is not convincing. Pretending you understand Augustine or Catholicism to someone who has studied Catholicism and lived it for 20 years isn't convincing either. It's just sad.

>No Ben, you have it all arse about. There is little value in tradition when it is predicated largely on ritual.

What does this have to do with anything? If God doesn't exist you still misquoted Augustine & I caught you red handed.

Live with it.

BTW I still want to see an intelligent exchange between Bob, Clayton, BDK and Crude. Even if Paps is threaten by it because it shakes up his cookie cutter low brow simplistic view of Atheism.

Stop sucking up all the oxygen.

Papalinton said...

BDK
I'm not sure whether I was successful in e-mailing you, earlier.
Linton

Papalinton said...

Ben
You are so cute when you get angry.
You are a very funny man.

I do enjoy this bit: "Pretending you understand Augustine or Catholicism to someone who has studied Catholicism and lived it for 20 years isn't convincing either. It's just sad."

" ...studied and lived Catholicism for 20 years...." Does that equate to 20 years experience, or just one year's experience twenty times over? You know, like groundhog day? Based on the quality and content of your dot-point sheet exhibited throughout your commentary on this website, I am somewhat erring on the side of the perpetual one year cycle. It seems to best fit the profile of the comments that I have read here.

I love the sophistication of your wonderful grasp of English prose, little gems in the form of cookie cutter, low brow, simplistic view, the Peggy Hill act, full of shit, Dude you suck, Paps you are an idiot, and an incompetent Atheist apologist. Clearly the mind of a deep thinker, not just a natural, but a supernatural thinker.

Papalinton said...

Oh! Ben. I missed, 'an ex-Sola Scriptura Fundamentalist Protestant'. Please add to the list of epithets

Crude said...

Ben, Bob,

I have a humble suggestion.

Linton has devoted a tremendous amount of time demonstrating that not only is he a troll, but he's also pig-ignorant of the issues he can't shut up about. I mean even from a atheist, materialist perspective, this guy demonstrably can't grok most of what is said. I'm fairly certain that if you quoted Deepak Chopra and told him it was the words of Dawkins, he'd launch into a frantic defense of them if he believed that to be the case - no matter how crazy.

Life is short, gents. Conversation is grand, but really - how much time do either of you spend responding at length to this cretin? How often do you attempt to instruct him - even about the very atheism and materialism he's supposed to be so cognizant of - to no avail?

Your time is your own to spend, of course, so I'll only say this one. But I suggest you give him only what he deserves: laughter and derision. Save your energy and time for people, atheists and theists alike, more worthy of it. This is, at heart, a sad old guy who wants attention more than anything. If you really want to teach him, teach him the lesson he needs to learn most of all: that he isn't even worth the trouble. Let him go chew out Stapp, and get his ass handed to him.

Just my two cents. You both have a nice night now. ;)

cl said...

I'm fairly certain that if you quoted Deepak Chopra and told him it was the words of Dawkins, he'd launch into a frantic defense of them if he believed that to be the case - no matter how crazy.

LOL!!!

cl said...

Seriously Crude, consciousness is not a gift from god. Consciousness is an attribute of human beings that can be just as seriously damaged or compromised as would an amputation. Indeed mountains of research and evidence has demonstrated direct causal links showing how consciousness is varyingly impaired relative to the damage done in parts of the brain.

That stupid argument again? Right, because the television *CAUSES* the Simpsons...

Papalinton said...

Crude
"Your [Bob, Ben] time is your own to spend, of course, so I'll only say this one. But I suggest you give him only what he deserves: laughter and derision. Save your energy and time for people, atheists and theists alike, more worthy of it."

Jesus said "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you"
Jesus says in John 13:15, "I have given you an example, that as I have done, so should you do."
I Corinthians 11:1, Paul says, "Imitate me as I imitate Christ."
Ephesians 5:1 says, "Be imitators of God as dear children."

Mindful of your comment above, it is evident Crude, all these quotes are just rhetoric to you, aren't they? Just a bunch of words that have no significance, no meaning and no value. Living the 'christian life' is just a nonsense artifice for which there is not a scintilla of evidence for a statistical positive skew that demonstrates unequivocally that living within the moral, ethical and religious tenets produces better, more ethical, more moral, more empathetic members of the community. On the contrary, survey after survey has shown a statistically significant positive skew for atheists to be more moral and ethical than their christian theist brethren.

Cited:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/...
http://www.religiondispatches....

Religious belief is deplorably deficient indicator of the worth of a person.

Papalinton said...

The two references cited are:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-do-americans-still-dislike-atheists/2011/02/18/AFqgnwGF_story.html

and

http://www.religiondispatches.org/dispatches/laurilebo/4576/are_atheists_more_moral_than_the_religious/

Papalinton said...

Welcome back, cl.

Good to see you are out of rehab.

B. Prokop said...

I'm glad that, once again, Papalinton has conceded that good behavior and ethics are indeed within the purview of religious doctrine.

But be that as it may, fire your best shots at me quickly folks. In less than 48 hours I begin my annual 40-day Lenten internet "fast". (Started doing this last year.) It was such a liberating experience (after the first couple of days of withdrawal) that I'm actually looking forward to it. clears the mind wonderfully.

Shackleman said...

This has gone from an interesting discussion on Intentionality, Indexicals, and Consciousness to a perfectly executed, real-life example of Bulverism in action. On both sides. Can we get back to the good stuff please?

Shackleman said...

Eeek! Internet fast? I couldn't survive. I give up meat on Fridays and that's hard enough!

B. Prokop said...

I get a lot of reading done during Lent (because I "give up" so many distractions). This year I plan to finish off the following:

Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism as a Civilization, by Stephen Kotkin

Travels in Siberia, by Ian Frazier

Reason and Beauty in the Poetic Mind, by Charles Williams

Full of Grace, by Judith Dupre

Eastern Forests, by John Kricher

(and last, but not least)

The Adventures of the Stainless Steel Rat, by Harry Harrison

Shackleman said...

Mr. Prokop, you inspire. Perhaps I should give an Internet Fast a try.

I hesitate though because a few years ago I challenged myself to *really* fast from sunup to sundown. Yeah, that lasted about 4 hours---and then for the rest of Lent I was miserable with myself nearly every meal!

Blue Devil Knight said...

Papalinton I didn't get your email. My personal email is at my personal site.

B. Prokop said...

This might very well be my last posting to this website until April, so I thought I’d sum up (and hopefully clarify) what I was saying earlier on this thread, and put it all into context.

1. Consciousness may very well be tied to physical processes, but it is not part of them. In like manner, The Brothers Karamazov may be made up of black markings on a white page, and even be dependent on there being such markings for it to exist, but it is nevertheless in its essence not simply those markings. Its ens is a non-material reality, and no less real for not being physical in nature.

2. Our own conscious minds may well be affected, degraded, or even eliminated by physical processes, but even that demonstrates that there is something more than just those processes involved. Else, what is there that is being degraded?

3. Consciousness is a requirement for us human beings to perform certain actions (e.g., make a choice between alternatives). It evidently is not so for inanimate matter. Then what is? BDK says “That's just how nature is structured, and there is no more to the story.” I cannot accept “Just because” as an explanation.

4. We get around explaining why things act as they do by deferring to lower and lower states of matter. And that’s fine, up to a point. You can explain why water boils at 212 degrees by punting to the molecular level. You can explain how the atoms and molecules behave by punting to the subatomic level. You can even explain activity at that level by punting to the particle and quantum level. But there you hit a brick wall.

5. This is most emphatically not a back door “God of the Gaps” argument. I am not going anywhere near there. This in fact isn’t any sort of theistic argument at all. It is a case for non-materialism. And for all you materialists who might be reading this… think about it. Where is the information stored at the particle level (there being no finer structure possible) which enables matter to behave in a predictable manner? As far as I can see, this very real and necessary information is non-material.

6 and last. So at both the macro (human mind) and micro (particle) levels, pure materialism is inadequate to explain The Way Things Work.

Selah

BenYachov said...

>Let him go chew out Stapp, and get his ass handed to him.

Actually Crude I was very amused by his argument with Jesse(i.e. an atheist philosopher who analyzed Loftus OTF argument & found it to be crap).

The funnest part of that was no matter how many times Jesse explicitly said "The Argument is unworkable" Paps was trying to down play it & say "No you really aren't saying the argument is worthless."

Jesse as I recall was not amused.

Paps lives in his own little world. He has traded one form of simplistic religious fundamentalism
for a secular counter part.

He is hopeless.

Once in a blue moon he will say something intelligent(really, Bob's seen it). But that is only significant because it can be contrasted with the 999 stupid thing he says the rest of the time.

Hopeless.

BenYachov said...

BTW the way I see it even if Consciousness is generated or wholly dependent on physical and material processes that still doesn't answer the question. It Consciousness itself of a physical nature? Because if it is then the challenges against it still remain valid.

If not then without saying what the nature of Consciousness is we can still say it is immaterial.

Blue Devil Knight said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Blue Devil Knight said...

Bob, at some point there is no way around saying "That's just how things work." Sure, that slogan can be applied too soon, but explanations must bottom out eventually. Same with your view.

Let's assume your view is right: there is some nonmaterial vehicle that usefully explains why particles react the way they do to other particles/fields.

OK, now why do they react that way? Would you say "That's just how things work" at that point, or still say "I cannot accept 'Just because' as an explanation", and go even further to see why those nonmaterial vehicles act as they do?

Or for nonmaterial vehicles are you willing to accept an explanation bottoming out? Is that a principled move?

B. Prokop said...

BDK,

Yikes! Well, I recall Dante in the Paradiso positing that the well was infinitely deep. But be that as it may, the materialist layer of said well definitely has a bottom, beyond which (at least as I see it) one either has to settle for "Just because", or proceed to the next level - that of the non-material.

I'll have to leave my thoughts there. I'm off to a night out of Mars observations with my local astronomy club. Won't be back until the wee hours of the morning. Hope we don't freeze!

cl said...

Vic, this is the most annoying Captcha I've ever seen. 6, 7 attempts just to leave a one-line comment?

Good to see you are out of rehab.

Yeah thanks... good to see you still don't understand what a valid argument is.

Papalinton said...

Bob
"In less than 48 hours I begin my annual 40-day Lenten internet "fast". (Started doing this last year.) It was such a liberating experience (after the first couple of days of withdrawal) that I'm actually looking forward to it. clears the mind wonderfully."


1. Your booklist is exciting and great.
2. I wish you 40 days of good fortune and enjoyment
3. Come back firing on all eight cylinders.

Just a question. Have you ever thought of having a 40 day Lenten break from catholicism? No mass, no meetings, no opening bibles, no praying, purging one's thoughts of the supernatural, etc etc. For those of us that now practice a permanent Lenten period, started out as a 40 day period, extending to 50 days then a 100 then a 365 day Lenten period. We too have felt that extraordinarily powerful feeling of becoming unshackled, pretty much experiencing the very same cathartic, liberating feeling that you have momentarily felt. For me, it resulted in all the clutter in my mind being removed. No more ambivalence about what scripture said and reconciling that to what other human activity was discovering through history, the neurosciences, biology, anthropology, psychology etc.

Cheers

Linton

Papalinton said...

Yeah, cl
I apologise. That was a mean comment.
Cheers
Linton

Papalinton said...

Bob
"Yikes! Well, I recall Dante in the Paradiso positing that the well was infinitely deep. But be that as it may, the materialist layer of said well definitely has a bottom, beyond which (at least as I see it) one either has to settle for "Just because", or proceed to the next level - that of the non-material."

It seems a little odd that you accept the Dante well being infinitely deep, and, beyond the bottoming out of materialism, the well actually continues infinitely into the non-material. But concurrently, you are happy to bottom out at Aquinas's 'First Cause'. For materialists the buck stops, and for good reason, at that which is either observable and/or testable and verifiable. Not so for the immaterialists. They continue to gratuitously equivocate. On the one hand they invoke Dante's infinitely bottomless well depth to include the non-material while on the other, decidedly bottom out at the non-infinite 'First Cause'? How does one reconcile these contending concepts?

In such conspicuously equivocal circumstances, the inference of the age-old question, "Then who made God?" , remains a valid logical query. Theists can't have it both ways, infinite non-materialism anda bottomed out 'First Cause'. There is no logical sense in that.

cl said...

For materialists the buck stops, and for good reason, at that which is either observable and/or testable and verifiable.

The buck stops at something untestable, unobservable and non-verifiable whether one is a materialist or not. But hey, I guess telling the truth about science is too much to ask, eh?

Victor Reppert said...

Science affirms the existence of unobservables all the time. Anyone seen a string lately? What about electrons? If you are a strict positivists, you have to be non-realists about this stuff. But most philosophers of science are scientific realists.

cl said...

Sorry Vic, can't resist tonight:

In such conspicuously equivocal circumstances, the inference of the age-old question, "Then who made God?" , remains a valid logical query. Theists can't have it both ways, infinite non-materialism anda bottomed out 'First Cause'. There is no logical sense in that.

Sorry you never took the time to educate yourself on Aristotle or Aquinas, Paps. Glad to see the New Atheists' reach actually *ISN'T* limited to college freshmen taking bong rips at a frat party.

B. Prokop said...

The passage in the Paradiso I was thinking of was in Canto XXI, lines 91-96:

And yet that soul who doth most brightly glow,
That Seraph fixed on God with peerless might,
Could not discern the answer thou wouldst know,
The thing thou ask'st is plunged so deep in the night
Of the eternal statute's dark abyss
It is cut off from all created sight.

(Dorothy Sayers translation)

So bringing up the First Cause is irrelevant here. The infinitely deep well I was referring to was not one of causation, but of understanding.

And I can see Dante's point quite clearly. No matter how exalted the created being, no matter how profound its wisdom and understanding, it will forever be as nothing next to the infinite wisdom of God.

grodrigues said...

It is true that naturalists, of necessity, must at some point "bottom out the explanation" and posit brute facts, but the Tu Quoque does not work -- and if someone thinks it does, then please share with us an example of a brute fact in classical theism (and before someone says so, no, God is not a brute fact on classical theism).

This for me has always been the rock upon which naturalism founders -- whence the order in the universe? Aquina's Fifth Way provides the answer: the passive ordination of the universe towards its immanent telos presupposes the active ordination by a supreme Ordainer or "Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God."

Blue Devil Knight said...

grodrigues: as Bob pointed out to Linton, this isn't about theism, but materialism/nonmaterialism. The question was whether these posited nonmaterial vehicles are the ultimate explanation, or we would then need some new vehicles to explain these new vehicles.

Bob seems happy with turtles all the way down. I'm more of a foundationalist, in principle. This is all totally orthogonal to materialism/antimaterialism. I know materialists who think there are turtles all the way down, that we will just continue to dig deeper (it used to be that atoms were the fundamental particles, after all).

I'm not sure what would even motivate Bob to say that the underlying explanation of how subatomic particles react how they do to other fields/particles is nonmaterial. Do they not occur in space and time, do they not follow laws, have predictable behavior?

Why not just say electrons are nonmaterial? Why push the 'nonmaterial' claim to things we don't know about yet? That seems unprincipled. Perhaps electrons are not material. Why not neurons, bowling balls? What is the principled division here?

Also, since you mentioned it, why wouldn't you say that some explanations bottom out with God? Isn't that one of the main points of responses to Dawkins when he asks 'What caused God'? God is the uncontingent contingency-maker, no? Isn't that sort of important for the theist? Ben Yachov?

BenYachov said...

BDK,

Well for the record I would not consider energy "non-material" so I wouldn't consider an election "non-material".

Energy is just matter without form.

God by definition is Un-created so asking who created Him is a bit of a contradiction.

God is also the Ground of All Being. The Unconditioned Reality behind all conditioned realities.

If you have been reading your Thomism lately you know by now He cannot be conceived of as a being alongside other being except maximally Uber & maybe the first being who exists alongside other beings.

You know my feelings on Theistic Personalist "deities".

They suck.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Ben I am not sure you answered my question. What exactly woudl be wrong with having God be an explanation grounder? Are you saying 'nothing' or 'everything.' I'm not invoking any particular view of God here--the answer should be the same for Thomist and Personalist, no?

But good point re: electrons having mass/energy. So Bob could say if we ever hit a theory that posits processes that occur, which influence the fields and particles from physics, but they have no energy themselves, they are not material.

But then if they occur in space, and time, and follow laws that we can articulate and they follow, and they 'push around' the fundamental fields/particles in these lawful ways, how would this be different from simply finding another natural material process?

It seems a somewhat deviant usage to say such a case would show materialism is false, as Bob suggested.

So either he would not like that way of unpacking his claim, or he can bite the bullett.

Interesting question here: when two spin-entangled electrons are sent far away from one another, you measure the spin of one, and immediately know the spin of the other. The physics changes at that point, instantaneously, at a huge distance.

What mediates this instantaneous change at a distance? Does the vehicle have energy? If it does not, but can be nicely described as a wave that keeps the two electrons in contact, and communicates to the other electron instantaneously (it would have to be faster than light, mind you), would that be material?

I think yes, even though it might require revamping our physical theories to handle it. (I'm talking about Bohm's pilot wave theory of QM, incidentally).

So I never suggested that Bob's view that there are hidden variables is crazy. Rather, I am curious why he would want to say this refutes materialism. Though I guess on some definitions of materialism (in which the fundamental entities are like little solid pebbles) quantum mechanics has already refuted it.

Again, it would come down partly to conventions, and quickly become less interesting. I'd rather know how the world works than argue about word meanings in borderline cases.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Though the pilot waves do have energy, so it isn't exactly Bohm's pilot waves.

William said...

"Though I guess on some definitions of materialism (in which the fundamental entities are like little solid pebbles) quantum mechanics has already refuted it.
"

Take any past definition of the material. Fast forward a century. Physics then tends to contradict it.

Does entropy exist? It is something physics requires for its uses, right?

How is original intentionality different ontologically from something like entropy?

cl said...

BDK,

Why push the 'nonmaterial' claim to things we don't know about yet? That seems unprincipled.

Couldn't have said it better myself. You've nailed the problem: no matter what science discovers, materialists and naturalists usurp it into their metaphysic. The very notion of "materialism" continues to swallow anything and everything in its path.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Well, one thing that is not usurped is law-governed, predictible behavior of the things being studied. What changes are the specific laws, properties.

And the early stuff isn't contradicted as much as absorbed and made into a special case. Newtonian mechanics is great within certian limits, for instance. If you told someone in 1900 about special relativity it isn't like they'd exclaim "Oh my god materialism is false!"

If you study QM you find that the original formulation falls naturally out of a more general formulation of classical mechanics (Hamiltonian mechanics, which is an extremely powerful, more general version of mechanics that yields the Schroedinger equation--the Schroedinger equation is basically the Hamiltonian of a system, where Hamiltonian mechanics was a 19th century discovery).

I would expect things to look different as we plumb down to smaller spatial scales. That isn't contradictory, any more than the existence of atoms contradicts the existence of a respiratory system. We can get things right at higher levels even if we don't yet know the fundamental laws.

E.g., no physical theory will ever show that we do not have hearts, kidneys, brains, neurons, etc..

Materialists tend to say 'Whatever physics says is the case, even in the future, is material.' Some antimaterialists say 'Whatever physics says is the case right now is material' and from the latter conclude that materialism will likely be refuted.

Because of this silly dialectic, I tend to avoid discussions of what counts as 'material' in physics. It always ends up talking about where physics will go in the future, at which point everyone looks silly.

Though I predict that QM will look quaint once we have its replacement theory that explains measurement.

So now I look silly.

Papalinton said...

"Materialists tend to say 'Whatever physics says is the case, even in the future, is material.' Some antimaterialists say 'Whatever physics says is the case right now is material' and from the latter conclude that materialism will likely be refuted."

Couldn't have said it better myself, BDK. Immaterialists predicate their explanation and definition of materialism at a point fixed in time. It wasn't that long ago that neutrons, electrons and protons were the smallest material entities known. And for a time, just like Newtonian mechanics, worked perfectly. And in many cases they still do, depending on what one is wanting to explain or demonstrate. Anything that constituted an anomaly [as we now know as quarks, etc] in these descriptors was considered evidence of the non-material, most particularly by theist-minded thinkers. Slowly, irrevocably, the concept of materialism expands and the notion of immaterialism proportionally contracts. Electromagnetism, once thought to be the inexplicable power of the non-material supernatural kind, now turns out to be a ho-hum first year high school experiment for teenagers.

The big question today is, when will christian theists stop hauling around the millstone of the immaterialist thinking of our knuckle dragging ancestors? Surely a time must come when the somewhat manic and feverish resistance to letting go of ancient neanderthalic thought and be rightly set aside.

Sooner than later is my hope.

Crude said...

BDK,

If you told someone in 1900 about special relativity it isn't like they'd exclaim "Oh my god materialism is false!"

And you base this on what? The ability for someone to reformulate the definition of materialism in response to what would otherwise be data fatal for the view?

Relativity, various particulars of quantum physics and the field as a whole - all these things ran dead contrary to what until that point were fundamental commitments of what the physical world was thought to be. And not just 'thought to be, given what we know so far' but 'thought to be, all the way down'. You say you 'expect things to look different at smaller spatial scales', implying that quantum findings were no big surprise, much less challenge to both scientific and philosophical views of the material. No, that's ridiculous - any historian of science will tell you as much.

Really, you pretty much just said 'so long as laws are involved, I can call it material if I want to.' And hey, go for it - but that move slices the guts out of the claim that the history of knowledge has been one long, progressive march vindicating 'materialism'. Instead, something like the reverse was true - knowledge came, and the label 'materialism' was slapped over it each and every time, after the fact. And the label would have been slapped over it no matter what the knowledge was, because the content of the knowledge was not a concern.

Really, your apparent definition of materialism is so elastic that there's nothing stopping you from viewing Ben and Bob's views as rival materialistic philosophies. Formal and final causes, the unmoved mover - go ahead and baptize them as material concepts and entities.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Crude: I am surprised it took you so long to jump in here.

You are right I shouldn't downplay how weird quantum mechanics is, and how big a departure it was from the classical worldview (unlike relativity, which was really a much smaller break).

Even though QM originally was formulated by Schrodinger using some classical ideas (the Hamiltonian), it also included many new ideas that have no analog in classical mechanics (state vector reduction). There is no way around that.

Whether you want to count QM as materialistic will get down to one of those Cruce vs BDK arguments about how important a decision that really is.

I don't have a strong or stance on QM foundations.

But given how things stand now, do I think they material processes? I think so. Ultimately it is mass and energy jostling around in spacetime. That electron 'wave' that goes through the two slits has an energy, is localized in space, has a temporal evolution, and generates a little phosphor blip on a screen in front of the two slits.

If you think it is not material, I would be interested in your reasoning. Because 'material' is not all that well defined, I probably won't care all that much if you call it nonmaterial. I will shrug and continue to call it a material process.

Or at least a physical process. :)

I typically avoid these discussions, as QM foundations is a black hole from which it is very hard to escape. It is interesting as hell, but the actual answers won't come from philosophers or bloggers, but from some super-ninja physicist of the future. So there is only so much progress to be made in a natural language context.

Crude said...

BDK,

But given how things stand now, do I think they material processes? I think so. Ultimately it is mass and energy jostling around in spacetime.

Again: so that's the standard? 'Stuff moves'? Go read what Feynman had to say about the definition of energy to see a problem illustrated even with this minimal definition.

If you think it is not material, I would be interested in your reasoning. Because 'material' is not all that well defined, I probably won't care all that much if you call it nonmaterial. I will shrug and continue to call it a material process.

Or at least a physical process. :)


And that pretty much sums up my point: you call it 'material', and you can call whatever is discovered 'material', because 'material/physical' has been emptied of all but the thinnest meaning. A meaning so thin that Bob or Ben could retain all their current beliefs and call themselves 'materialist' if they really wanted to.

I also think it's incorrect to say "material is not all that well defined". It was, at one point, well-defined - but then popular scientific theory conflicted with those definitions. So it was redefined, again and again. And it's very likely going to be redefined in the future as well - certainly there's no barrier to exactly that happening, and William brings up a great point on that front.

And hey, you're welcome to it. It doesn't matter (ha) to me whether you call things material or not. All I have to do is point out the history of the view, the science, and how empty it is. And that serves to gut quite a lot of claims about the importance of materialism, not to mention naturalism, in science.

Crude said...

And just to add this in...

You said: "Well, one thing that is not usurped is law-governed, predictible behavior of the things being studied. What changes are the specific laws, properties."

You seemed to suggest this was the standard for materialism. And I replied that man, this is very thin stuff.

And then I stumbled over this recent quote by Lawrence Krauss.

“Maybe in the true eternal multiverse there are truly no laws,” Dr. Krauss said in an e-mail. “Maybe indeed randomness is all there is and everything that can happen happens somewhere.”

And now even laws, full stop, are usurped. Science at its finest, I'm sure. ;)

Blue Devil Knight said...

Crude:
Do you think we should have fixed the meaning of the term 'material' in the 19th century? Was it cheating to change our concept of matter as our scientific understanding of matter evolved?

I believe that physical theories describing changes in mass/energy (fields/particles) in spacetime in law-governed ways are 'materialistic'. I also include properties that supervene on such lower-level physical properties as part of my materialist worldview. E.g., hearts, respiration, and tornadoes.

What do you think would be a better way of framing things? What is your positive story?

Crude said...

BDK,

Do you think we should have fixed the meaning of the term 'material' in the 19th century? Was it cheating to change our concept of matter as our scientific understanding of matter evolved?

It's extremely deceptive to present "materialism" - a metaphysical position, not some pragmatic scientific concept - as some coherent, well-defined idea that has been ever vindicated with the passage of time, when in reality what qualifies as "material" and "nonmaterial" has changed radically over the centuries, and both can and likely will change again in the future.

I believe that physical theories describing changes in mass/energy (fields/particles) in spacetime in law-governed ways are 'materialistic'.

So Krauss, in that quote I gave, is advocating a non-materialistic view?

And let me guess - it wouldn't be fair to take 'mass' or 'energy' as having utterly fixed definitions either? Or even 'spacetime'? I again note Feynman's take on 'energy'.

You've just told me that, so long as you're dealing with law and change in a theory, the view in question is 'materialistic'. Bob and Ben can call themselves materialists if they want.

What do you think would be a better way of framing things? What is your positive story?

How about 'materialism is a nigh useless label, and the versions of it that actually had real content ended up being skewered by scientific discoveries'? The sufficient "positive story" here is just the history of science on its own, minus the modern fantasy.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Crude:
You are advocating a brittle and conservative approach to human understanding and language that I just don't buy.

However, if you don't like the term, stop using it. When I use it, I am using it as I did above. Beyond that, you are just getting into hypotheticals at which point I would have to look case by case.

For instance, let's say multiverse theory is true. Are you saying each individual universe doesn't have laws governing the changes of mass/energy of particles/fields in spacetime? If so, I'd have to evaluate it. Perhaps my above characterization of materialism would have to change, or perhaps would have to reject materialism, or maybe restrict it to this universe. It would depend on the details.

See my quote above about arguing about the future of physics, which I predicted would start to happen in this thread.

The concept of 'materialism' changes with our understanding of the nature of matter, and is not locked into our 19th century understanding of matter. Similar to our concept of energy, mass, space, time. They have all changed. Should we stop using those terms too just because their meaning has changed?

Blue Devil Knight said...

I also like another thing I said earlier:

As for what Crude said, as usual I think we'd largely agree though I would emphasize things differently in ways he might think are important.


This is a recurring theme, and the frequency with which we end up bickering about word choice is farcical.

BenYachov said...

>You are advocating a brittle and conservative approach to human understanding and language that I just don't buy.

I don't know about the understanding part but without consistent definitions then discussing ideas is futile.

Krauss can say the Universe can come from "nothing" without God but it is clear to even the informed Atheists over at Feser's blog what Krauss means by "nothing" has nothing to do with the concept as understood historically by classic philosophers much less theologians.

Materialism historically defined is the belief that matter and the byproducts of matter(i.e. energy) are the only reality.

We need to start there.

Cheers.

grodrigues said...

@Blue Devil Knight:

"Also, since you mentioned it, why wouldn't you say that some explanations bottom out with God? Isn't that one of the main points of responses to Dawkins when he asks 'What caused God'? God is the uncontingent contingency-maker, no? Isn't that sort of important for the theist? Ben Yachov?"

Some explanations do bottom out at God, but that was not my point: my point is that naturalism, by the very nature of the explanations it puts forward, must either posit brute facts (e.g. in the basic scientific laws, as they are not material in any relevant sense of the word and cannot be reduced to it) or go down an infinite regress. In classical theism, it is not turtles all the way down but intelligibility all the way down, which is precisely what positing brute facts or infinite regresses denies.

I should also say I do not know Bob's position, but if what you describe is an accurate representation of it, it does not make much sense to me either.

"I think yes, even though it might require revamping our physical theories to handle it. (I'm talking about Bohm's pilot wave theory of QM, incidentally)."

I do not like very much discussing QM over the internet, because it has been my experience that most people that talk about it do not understand it, so the discussion usually ends up in a long series of correcting misconceptions. Anyway, I do have some sympathy for Bohm's interpretation, because QM *is* inherently non-local. In the usual Copenhagen interpretation this is hidden in the state vector, which is *not* an observable but then as a revenge for hiding the lump underv the carpet you get all the spooky-action-at-a-distance phenomena. In Bohm's theory, the observables themselves are non-local but this opens up a *very nasty* can of worms.

"If you study QM you find that the original formulation falls naturally out of a more general formulation of classical mechanics"

I do not know what you mean this, but taken literally, it is false. There is a dictum, due E. Nelson if I am not mistaken, that "Quantization is not a functor". Without going into the details, this means roughly that there is no canonical, natural way to, starting from a classical system build the corresponding quantum system while preserving all the symmetries.

"I would expect things to look different as we plumb down to smaller spatial scales."

If you probe smaller and smaller spatial scales you will be inevitable confronted with gravity. Quantization of gravity is a sort of holy grail of modern physics, but it faces vast problems on all fronts: technical, empirical and philosophical.

Blue Devil Knight said...

grodrigues: thanks for the point. Indeed, in response to Crude, I corrected my claim about QM which came off as too "classical". I meant that Schroedinger's equation results directly from setting up the Hamiltonian of the system, the Hamiltonian being a classical concept. I find this pretty amazing, don't you?

If you have studied Hamiltonian and Lagrangian mechanics, I think you can't help but be amazed even at classical mechanics, much less QM. Hell, we find teleology there already :) My point was the leap from classical to QM isn't as great as many people, people only familiar with F=ma, might think.

My mistake was that it came off that I was suggesting that there was nothing weird at all (I mentioned state vector reduction as having no analog in classical mechanics). That would be false. QM is weird, and anyone that is cocky about their pet interpretation tends to not understand it. I have no strong views on QM interpretation (though as I said, I do fancy Bohm's theory right now).

I think it is smart to avoid discussions of QM on the internet. I usually avoid it, but in this thread have made an exception (I found Bob's ideas interesting). It has reminded me why I tend to avoid it. ;o

Blue Devil Knight said...

For an explanation of my cryptic statement about teleology, see this.

I find Hamiltonian mechanics nearly as amazing as QM, frankly. Am I alone in this? The fact that it can be used to produce Schroedinger's equation has always blown my mind.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Ben: My point was that our concept of matter (and space, time, energy) changes as science progresses, and it is a mistake to insist that we no longer use one of these terms because meanings have changed.

Materialism is basically the view that everything is matter. Our conception of matter has changed, and materialism has kept pace.

If someone wants to insist on a nineteenth century conception of matter, and say that materialism is thus refuted because of QM, I will find that strange. I will let them know how I use the term (as I defined it above), and hope they can keep up, and also let them know my definition is provisional, subject to change as science progresses, that it isn't an a priori conceptual truth, but is sensitive to evidence and data.

The definition of 'life' is not the same we used in the 19th century: it has incorporated new evidence about evolution, genetics, and such to reflect our improved understanding of life.

The best definitions come at the end,, not at the beginning, of science. And since science is never-ending, our understanding of these things is open-ended and evolving.

Some people, especially philosophers, have trouble accepting that. I embrace it.

Blue Devil Knight said...

And with that last post, I come full circle agreeing with Bob. :O

Blue Devil Knight said...

OK, absolutely must stop posting. Will check in tomorrow for any interesting updates. Interesting discussion.

Crude said...

BDK,

You are advocating a brittle and conservative approach to human understanding and language that I just don't buy.

What I am advocating is recognizing when a given claim has been amended, upended and changed so many times that to regard it as 'the same claim' is now ridiculous.

The concept of 'materialism' changes with our understanding of the nature of matter, and is not locked into our 19th century understanding of matter

Of course it's not 'locked'. It's hooked to nothing in particular at all anymore! That's the damn point! But the cost of that is to realize, as I keep noting, that the progress of science is not some long march of vindication for 'materialism'. Instead, it's a repeated upending of 'materialism' and - after the fact - branding whatever is left in its wake as 'materialism' all over again.

It's a joke. And a good portion of the joke can be summed up with this statement:

Materialism is basically the view that everything is matter. Our conception of matter has changed, and materialism has kept pace.

Wonderful.

"Materialism is the view that everything is matter!"
'Fascinating! What's matter?'
"I 'unno. Whatever I need it to be I guess."

What I find disingenuous here is that you keep talking about the progress of science, suggesting that I'm coming down on 'science' for changing concepts - when I've done no such thing. Let scientific theories keep right on changing their fundamental descriptions and I won't care. I'm talking about a metaphysical position and the track record it has with regards to its interplay with science throughout history.

Crude said...

By the way, I keep asking. Krauss said:

“Maybe in the true eternal multiverse there are truly no laws,” Dr. Krauss said in an e-mail. “Maybe indeed randomness is all there is and everything that can happen happens somewhere.”

So, is Krauss proposing a non-materialistic theory? Or is even 'utter lack of laws and everything that can happen happens somewhere' now materialism as well?

grodrigues said...

@Blue Devil Knight:

"I meant that Schroedinger's equation results directly from setting up the Hamiltonian of the system, the Hamiltonian being a classical concept. I find this pretty amazing, don't you?"

Not sure I understand you as Schroedinger's equation *just* is the evolution equation for a distinguished observable, the Hamiltonian, in much the same way as the classical Hamiltonian equations for the time evolution of a classical system just are the evolution equations for a distinguished classical observable, the Hamiltonian.

"Hell, we find teleology there already"

Sure, variational least action principles, which are among *the* most fundamental principles of physics, are striking illustrations of teleology. All the master equations of physics can be derived from such principles (Euler-Lagrange equations, Einstein's equations for GR, etc.). I say illustration advisedly; the need for immanent and irreducible teleology, or final causation, comes from deeper philosophical considerations.

"My point was the leap from classical to QM isn't as great as many people, people only familiar with F=ma, might think."

Hmm... QM really is a different beast from classical physics. Apologies in advance for the technical jargon, but:

- the state space of a classical system is a Poisson manifold, a state is a point on this manifold and an observable is a function on the manifold.

- the state space of a quantum space is the projective space of a Hilbert space (usually infinite-dimensional), a state is a point in this space (or a line in the original Hilbert space), and an observable is a self-adjoint operator on the Hilbert space.

The fact that an observable is a self-adjoint operator (more generally, the collection of quantum observables form non-commutative algebras) has far-reaching consequences, including the fact that, contrary to the classical case, an observable does not have a definite value on a state and hence all the QM weirdness with the state vector collapse and whatnot.

"Materialism is basically the view that everything is matter. Our conception of matter has changed, and materialism has kept pace."

You are basically saying that a materialist's ontology is dictated by whatever physics posits, correct? I will gloss over the fact that physics by itself does not fix the ontology, and although I understand Crude's criticism, I will repeat what I said in my first post: under naturalism it is unintelligible why the universe is as it is, simply because it is inexplicable, it is unintelligible why the laws of the universe are as they are -- they are brute facts. But I find the notion of an explanatory nomological series terminating in a brute fact to be ultimately incoherent. Add to this that a physical law is, obviously enough, not reducible to or explainable by matter, so how can a naturalist account for them? Do they live in some Platonic la-la land? This answer is obviously problematic for a naturalist, but then whence the order? Is a naturalist reduced to mutter some incoherent ramblings about regularities?

Blue Devil Knight said...

Crude I explicitly discussed mverse above.

Grod on cell phone will respond when I get time.

Crude said...

Crude I explicitly discussed mverse above.

Not what I asked - there's not just one multiverse anyway. There's a variety in terms of how they're conceived.

Again: “Maybe in the true eternal multiverse there are truly no laws,” Dr. Krauss said in an e-mail. “Maybe indeed randomness is all there is and everything that can happen happens somewhere.”

Materialist view? Or no?

Blue Devil Knight said...

Crude that isn't well enough formulated for me to have an opinion. What exactly is supposed to be random? Something within or between universes? Without specifics I cannot evaluate such a vague statement.

Blue Devil Knight said...

grod: I was focusing on the surprising continuity, despite the radical discontinuities that are obvious that everyone likes to point out, between Schroedinger and classical physics.

If I wasn't clear, this chapter spells out explicitly what I was talking about. I hope that clarifies what I meant. That was how I was introduced to QM, and what I was referring to.

In your last paragraph you start to throw around the word 'incoherent' a bit much. I suggested that ultimately, there could be brute laws that describe how nature works, and the buck stops there. There is nothing incoherent about that, unless you are using a deviant sense of 'incoherent' to mean something other than self-contradictory.

Same with your casual dismissal of cashing out laws as regularities. Again, that is not incoherent. You might not like it, but it isn't incoherent. Ultimately, laws have to be our best attempt to capture how nature works.

Crude said...

Crude that isn't well enough formulated for me to have an opinion. What exactly is supposed to be random? Something within or between universes? Without specifics I cannot evaluate such a vague statement.

'An eternal, utterly law-free multiverse where absolutely anything can and will happen without cause.'

Are you saying that if it was 'between universes' it would maybe be materialist, but if it was within it wouldn't be? Laws are now only essential to materialism in our universe, but in another universe there could be none?

Blue Devil Knight said...

Crude, again, this is not specific enough for me to answer. What variables are random? And what do you mean by random? Random, as in QM, or random as in something else? Specify it more precisely and I could try to give an answer.

Incidentally, this is exactly the kind of thing I was talking about above when I wrote:
I tend to avoid discussions of what counts as 'material' in physics. It always ends up talking about where physics will go in the future, at which point everyone looks silly.

Prophetic, really. But in this thread I am apparently violating my usual rule to not discuss QM here.

Incidentally, for not liking to discuss QM on the internet, grod sure discussed it a lot at 'thinking christian.' Interesting coincidence grod turning up here....

;p

Blue Devil Knight said...

I was referring to grod's critique of the copenhagen interpretation starting here.

It is interesting reading.

Crude said...

Crude, again, this is not specific enough for me to answer. What variables are random? And what do you mean by random? Random, as in QM, or random as in something else? Specify it more precisely and I could try to give an answer.

'All of them.' Utterly without law, period, full stop. Complete lawlessness, out of which all things pop into being, ultimately uncaused.

Or maybe you'd say this view, or anyone who adheres to this view, is incoherent?

Blue Devil Knight said...
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Blue Devil Knight said...

Crude: so dogs and stars instantaneously appear/disappear, Gods appear/disappear, energy is not conserved even on extremely large scales, all logical possibilities (and logical impossibilities?) can happen and it is all perfectly random in time and space, at least if space and time are even defined in this universe.

If that were how an individual universe were structured, I would truly have to rethink things. Of course, I would not exist in that universe long enough to be able to think about things very thoroughly.

However, I prefer to think about what would make me reject materialism in this universe. For instance, gross undeniable miracles involving revelations from God. If such things happen in your random universe, then materialism does not hold in that universe.

Which brings me to an interesting question for you, Crude: do you think it is nonsense to talk about evidence for miracles? If talk of 'nature' or 'materialism' is too useless to support, then what is the contrast class with the miraculous, if not the 'natural' or 'law governed'? You might define a miracle as something God interjected into nature, but my question was about what, for you, would count as evidence for miracles, not what you would count as definitional of the miraculous.

E.g., is Jesus rising from the dead a miracle? Is my dog breaking his leg when he gets hit by a car a miracle? Do you have principled basis for these distinctions?

Crude said...

However, I prefer to think about what would make me reject materialism in this universe.

Let's walk through that one, because it's priceless.

Your position is this: Sure, perhaps our universe was spawned by the Great True Eternal Multiverse which has absolutely no laws and anything that can happen, will happen. But you fail to see what any of this has to do with the truth or falsity of materialism, much less naturalism.

So it seems like even that ridiculously anemic 'It's materialism so long as laws are involved' rule fell in the course of this thread. Do away with laws entirely at the fundamental level of the universe and it's apparently still materialism. Lawless all-things-possible-occur spewing forth from the eternal nothing? Moot, with regards to materialism.

Thanks for clearing that up, and for putting my point in freaking neon.

For instance, gross undeniable miracles involving revelations from God.

See PZ Myers on 'undeniable miracles' and 'revelations from God' - that standard is a bad joke. Further, as has been repeated on this site a thousand and one times, 'theism' is not the opposite of 'materialism'. One can reject materialism and still not be a theist, much less Christian.

And I want to head off this particular move at the pass, because I knew it was coming: I don't care about an entirely personal, subjective definition or standard such that "If tomorrow I saw angels flying around in the sky, why, I personally would say materialism is false. Even though nothing really bars me from just amending my definition of materialism, again." If that's what it comes down to - what is or isn't materialism amounts to some subjective gut judgment call, or worse, shorthand for 'I'm an atheist' and little more - then to hell with it as an intellectual position with any kind of historical pedigree.

You might define a miracle as something God interjected into nature, but my question was about what, for you, would count as evidence for miracles, not what you would count as definitional of the miraculous.

The opposite of 'materialism' is not 'miraculous' either.

"Evidence for a miracle" would depend on what god we're talking about, but ultimately it has more to do with acts beyond a given threshold of apparent power best attributable to an agent - this covers everything from Zeus to the Logos. So sure, Christ's resurrection qualifies. If Ghandi died by spontaneously exploding in a crowd, and the words "WAR FOREVER" spelled out on the wall behind him in blood, I'd be willing to entertain the possibility that an Ares-like being had a sense of humor. It's a contentious, certainly non-scientific, and quite subjective standard I use. So it's a good thing I don't pretend otherwise.

But hey, great shot at a subject switch. ;)

Papalinton said...

C'mon Crude.
You know full well the only thing of which we are sure is materialism.

Creationism: the theory that Rome WAS built in a day.

Blue Devil Knight said...
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Blue Devil Knight said...

Crude. Seriously? You are just reaching.

You just wrote that you think there could be evidence for miracles while simultaneously trying to go after me for saying miracles would convince me that materialism is wrong.

Nice try.

Despite your protestations, I stand by my controversial claim: if there was a universe in which cats, dogs, gods, pop randomly in and out of existence, I would question materialism for that universe. The gall, eh: my materialism could be refuted by evidence! How anemic.

I'll remind you that I was simply indulging your predictable request for consideration of an outlandish scenario. This has little bearing on my positive view, delineated above, about how I view matter in the universe in which we actually live.

BenYachov said...

>my materialism could be refuted by evidence! How anemic.

No you would be in a space-time continuum where material things operated according to different regularities then our home space-time continuum.

It wouldn't refute materialism at all IMHO.




Cheers.

grodrigues said...

@Blue Devil Knight:

"If I wasn't clear, this chapter spells out explicitly what I was talking about. I hope that clarifies what I meant."

Although I stand by my qualifications, I think I understand what you are trying to say, so I will not press the matter further. There is a saying by S. Banach:

"A mathematician is a person who can find analogies between theorems; a better mathematician is one who can see analogies between proofs and the best mathematician can notice analogies between theories."

Make the needed replacements to apply the quote to physicists. Schroedinger was a great physicist.

"In your last paragraph you start to throw around the word 'incoherent' a bit much. I suggested that ultimately, there could be brute laws that describe how nature works, and the buck stops there. There is nothing incoherent about that, unless you are using a deviant sense of 'incoherent' to mean something other than self-contradictory."

I used the word twice, hardly a "bit much". I am not a native English speaker, but I do not think I am using the adjective in any "deviant sense". Consulting the online Merriam-Webster none of the meanings given point to self-contradiction. At any rate, my use of "incoherent" did not meant to imply it.

On to more substantive matters. First, brute facts neither have an explanation in themselves nor in anything outside of them; they are literally inexplicable. There are huge problems in positing brute facts, not the least being how do we recognize them? Second, an explanation series that terminates in a brute fact cannot be said to have explained anything in any coherent sense: pick any chain of causes explaining some state of affairs (cause here is also a *be*cause, a mode of explanation) and say of the first member that it is a brute fact; it is what it is and that is all there is to what it is. Have you really explained anything? If the first member of the series is inexplicable, how can it be said to explain the series?

Given the metaphysical commitments of a naturalist, it is inevitable that he must posit brute facts, or what amounts to the same, that at some level the universe stops being intelligible, in which case he can hardly maintain any rationalist pretenses. In a book I read recently, Alasdair MacIntyre pointed out that the theist-atheist divide, which presently, pretty much coincides with the naturalist divide, is not just about the status of one particular being but also about the intelligibility of the whole natural order.

"Same with your casual dismissal of cashing out laws as regularities. Again, that is not incoherent. You might not like it, but it isn't incoherent. Ultimately, laws have to be our best attempt to capture how nature works."

You will have to explain what you mean by regularities, but in my interpretation of the term, no, it does not make much sense. Saying that a physical law is "our best attempt to capture how nature works" explains nothing. An abstract mathematical description is not an explanation; to use a worn-out metaphor, you are confusing the map for the territory. I repeat, whence the order? Saying that the motion of the moon is explained by the law of gravity is to dodge the question, because what I am asking is whence the law of gravity? It is not matter, it is not energy, it is not space-time. So what is there in the fabric of the universe that makes the moon move in such a way that it can be predicted, at least in part, by an abstract mathematical model?

Trying to cash laws as regularities commits one to a jumble of incoherences. Laws are not regularities just as causation is not correlation. It becomes unintelligible and inexplicable why the universe is ordered. After all, it may happen that the regularity known as law of gravity stops working tomorrow and all that we have experienced is a statistical fluke of cosmic proportions; objections against alleged violations of physical law become incoherent; etc. and etc.

William said...

g:
"
Trying to cash laws as regularities commits one to a jumble of incoherences. Laws are not regularities just as causation is not correlation.
"

Are you claiming that a regularity cannot be a causal regularity? Can't we define a law as an orderly, causally related but, ultimately, "mere" regularity? This would not be incoherent.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Ben: maybe you are a more committed materialist than I am. :)

Grod: thanks for the discussion. I unfortunately don't have time to discuss the status of laws in physics, though I do know it is an active area of philosophy of science, maybe others here will take up the gauntlet.

Crude said...

BDK,

You just wrote that you think there could be evidence for miracles while simultaneously trying to go after me for saying miracles would convince me that materialism is wrong.

You may want to go back and read what I said again, chief, because you're going to notice this little problem for your play here: my standard for miracles is not predicated on the falsity of some rapt definition of 'materialism', nor does it require any reference to materialism at all - or even 'natural v supernatural'. I certainly didn't say, nor even implied, "if miracles take place, materialism is false" - and I pointed out that 'miraculous' is not the opposite of 'materialist'. I also pointed out that my standard for 'miracle' was contentious, non-scientific, and quite subjective.

You made a play here, BDK - 'I bet Crude needs to make reference to some concept of materialism and naturalism to ascertain miracles!' - and you blew it. I don't. It's largely a non-issue for me on that front.

And yes, you predictably went down the 'Well for ME PERSONALLY I would say materialism is false if God performed totally undeniable miracles', I pointed out what a joke that is on a number of levels. I also said you're welcome to that move - materialism is just some kind of personal "I call it like I see it" thing. Great. There go all the historical arguments - just what I was aiming for.

Thank ya, thank ya. ;)

Despite your protestations, I stand by my controversial claim: if there was a universe in which cats, dogs, gods, pop randomly in and out of existence, I would question materialism for that universe.

Your 'controversial claim' is an utter dodge an you know it. I asked you whether Krauss' "true eternal multiverse that is utterly lawless" concept was compatible with materialism. You've been dodging that one like crazy, and punted to, "Well, if *A* universe, one I was in, acted like that, then I would question materialism". And you left the multiverse question completely untouched.

Or maybe you didn't? Let's test that out.

True or False. The following is a materialist claim: "In the true eternal multiverse, there are absolutely no laws, and everything that can happen will happen somewhere."

Have at it, BDK.

I'll remind you that I was simply indulging your predictable request for consideration of an outlandish scenario.

This is coming pretty close to deception on your part. I did not ask you, and you damn well know I did not ask you, "So BDK, if we lived in a universe where dogs or cats regularly popped into existence out of nothingness..." I framed my question on that front with regards to Krauss' statements. You dodged them repeatedly, and then made up a different question ('So if our observable universe had all this happening...') to fake an answer at.

But hey, drag this conversation out as long as you like. It's a pleasure to see a smart guy - not you, Linton, you freaking feeb ;) - prove my point so splendidly. It's a small conversation on the internet, but man, does it illustrate the emptiness of 'materialism' in spades.

Crude said...

Ben,

No you would be in a space-time continuum where material things operated according to different regularities then our home space-time continuum.

It wouldn't refute materialism at all IMHO.


That's one response, absolutely. But as I pointed out with BDK, this wasn't a question I asked him. I asked him to pass judgment on Krauss' multiverse speculation. He refused, hemmed, and then gave an answer to some 'Well what if our observable universe was completely different' question I didn't ask. And even that response shows the problem: materialism is not some nice, static, fleshed out historical commitment. It's "I calls it likes I sees it" and some BS label. At best.

And hey, that's *fine*. Call it like you see it, I say. But then don't turn around and pretend this is some great, developed idea that is just so darn concrete and it's been vindicated over and over. The reality is that historically the position was smashed repeatedly by new discoveries, and those discoveries were labeled "materialism" anew after the fact. The fact that BDK is diving for God and miracles here should be a huge freaking red flag.

But really, it hardly matters. As I said - you, Bob, certainly myself, could say 'I'm a materialist' at this point in time while hardly batting an eye, all while embracing our respective beliefs, God and final causes and all. And I'll note, by the way, Feser takes a similar line: read his entry 'The Greek Atomists and the god of Paley' to see just one reason why the 'miracles/god' move is weak - in that context he makes reference to 'naturalism', but I argue the same applies here, and that Ed doesn't go far enough.

Papalinton said...
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Papalinton said...

Crude
A miracle is just a theist's operational definition of the inexplicable, the as yet unexplained occurrence or event. It has no analog outside christian theism and is anathema to science.

And you are right to stick to, "I also pointed out that my standard for 'miracle' was contentious, non-scientific, and quite subjective," as miracles do not have any basis for consideration outside theology.

I would however, question the assertion of your standard of miracles being contentious. Rather, 'ridiculous' is a word that comes easier to mind.

Papalinton said...
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Blue Devil Knight said...

Crude: after multiple requests for clarification about what you were talking about, about what variables in the universe are supposed tobe random, you said:
'All of them.' Utterly without law, period, full stop. Complete lawlessness, out of which all things pop into being, ultimately uncaused.

So you provided zero constraints, effectively saying that all logical possibilities happened randomly in space/time (if space and time are defined), and I answered.

You should have provided a more concrete description of this hypothetical universe you want me to evaluate (not just some bumper-sticker name-dropping reference to some email). If I can understand it, I will answer your question. I am starting to think you don't understand you own question.

Crude said...

BDK,

You should have provided a more concrete description of this hypothetical universe you want me to evaluate (not just some bumper-sticker name-dropping reference to some email). If I can understand it, I will answer your question.

Yeah, the 'bumper-sticker name-dropping reference to some email' line just happened to be Lawrence Krauss going off on hypothetical multiverse scenarios. Not exactly 'some unknown guy who quipped something'. Nor did I talk about 'a universe', much less 'our observable universe'. I'm sure you can appreciate the difference between the concept of the universe and the multiverse (even the range of multiverse concepts), even if you're confused on the details.

So yeah, swapping out a theoretical/metaphysical claim about the multiverse, for observations that take place in our observable universe, is a strawman. Not what I was asking. Big deal, write it off and move on.

And I didn't say you even had to give an either-or answer to the question. As I said: "Or maybe you'd say this view, or anyone who adheres to this view, is incoherent?" Go ahead and say that the idea of an utterely law-free multiverse is incoherent if you like. Believe me, I won't cry foul.

BenYachov said...

Crude wrote to BDK
>Go ahead and say that the idea of an utterely law-free multiverse is incoherent if you like. Believe me, I won't cry foul.

I would say it's incoherent but then again this is Kruass we are talking about.

He's just as clueless as Dawkins except maybe a bit more polite then the Dawk and less British.

BDK wrote to me:
>Ben: maybe you are a more committed materialist than I am. :)

OTOH maybe you are more of an Aristotelian?;-)

Cheers.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Again, Crude, describe this theory to me. Don't just name-drop. If I understand it, I will try to answer. I asked enough times to see that you didn't have a clear hold on what you were asking (my question about randomness was actually important, and your answer was off the mark if you meant it to apply to multiverses), but if you can manage it, I'll be happy to consider it.

That you are so confused about my considering a particular universe in the set of universes posited by the multiverse speculation shows you haven't really grasped the logic of the situation. Each universe does have laws, but they are randomly distributed across universes, not within universes.

It is basic premises like these that need to be spelled out in your question, that you did not spell out in an intelligible way. Instead of clarifying, admitting you might not have been clear (God forbid you would ever correct yourself or amend anything you have ever written in these pages), as usual you go on the attack.

It is frankly getting old.

Papalinton said...
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Blue Devil Knight said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Blue Devil Knight said...

Incidentally, I should thank you Ben for getting me on the right track in my thinking in this thread, I was going down a garden path in my questions to Bob and you sobered me up by reminding me that mass and energy and space and time are sort of important variables to consider in evaluating whether something is 'materialisic' or not.

I don't usually like to get too bogged down in semantic questions like what is 'matter' or 'nature' because I tend to focus on much higher-level questions like how are brains conscious. But it is a fun intellectual exercise, and helped me clarify my thinking on the topic, which feels good in my hylemorphic body-soul.

Papalinton said...

"Trying to cash laws as regularities commits one to a jumble of incoherences. Laws are not regularities just as causation is not correlation. It becomes unintelligible and inexplicable why the universe is ordered. After all, it may happen that the regularity known as law of gravity stops working tomorrow and all that we have experienced is a statistical fluke of cosmic proportions; objections against alleged violations of physical law become incoherent; etc. and etc."

Does this person live in this universe or does it live in the universe in which gravity is not a regularity?
Such ideation simply demonstrates the unhinged nature of those that dabble in the highly imaginative and creative centres of the brain in which the indiscriminate and undisciplined conjuring of unnatural supernaturalism is deemed to be reality. This is what religion does best. It takes people out of themselves, away from the day to day humdrum of their lives, their worries, existential anxieties and tells them that this is a real place. But this is not developing strength of mind and character, this is a descent into escapism at its most tendentious. It posits a dreamwolrd 'reality'[?] that generates a barrier between this dreamworld and the material world, the crossing of which only results in painful cognitive dissonance. And to remain in that place, practitioners of this woo, must constantly and continually reinforce the drip feed by aggregating the cumulative effects of the mass psychosis of ritual, through regular church attendance, scripture meetings, bible reading, prayer, local church social gatherings., etc. Even Theistic Satanists, sometimes called Reverse Christians, and Wikkans and Juju believers depend on ritualized performance to sustain the effect of living in this insubstantial domain, christianity no less so.

And this nonsense of, "Trying to cash laws as regularities commits one to a jumble of incoherences", is just inane conflationary bleating. Nobody apart from theists are saying that. Regularities are what laws describe and what mechanisms explain. That's the proper relationship. Even fractal patterns with various degrees of self-similarity have been rendered or studied in images, structures and sounds that are found in nature, patterns of irregularity that laws describe and mechanisms explain, such as a coastline or the patterns of weathering.

C'mon boys, we need to close the door on theology as a viable comprehensive explanatory tool looking forward. Christians have never convinced Hindus about the christian wordview and vice-versa in over 2000 years. Surely that must tell you something about the tenuous grip christian theism has on 'reality', however you wish to define that word. Not only has there been no budge either way on resolving the disparate foundations that characterize the respective religious worldviews, both are inimical to their very core. And no quantum of ecumenical display can ever disguise this fundamental truth of conflict.

Crude said...

BDK,

I asked enough times to see that you didn't have a clear hold on what you were asking (my question about randomness was actually important, and your answer was off the mark if you meant it to apply to multiverses), but if you can manage it, I'll be happy to consider it.

What baloney. I made it clear exactly what I was asking: Multiverse level lawlessness, out of which anything can, would, and presumably did, spring forth. Obviously, especially given the context of the quote and the question, this wasn't a question about whether or not this lack of law applied to our observable universe, because 'our (actual, not hypothetical) universe' is precisely one of the broad set of things that said 'true eternal multiverse' could result in.

That you are so confused about my considering a particular universe in the set of universes posited by the multiverse speculation shows you haven't really grasped the logic of the situation. Each universe does have laws, but they are randomly distributed across universes, not within universes.

It's not 'confusion', it's pointing out your answer was - intentionally or not - a complete dodge because (one more time) my question was not a hypothetical question about encountering certain empirical results in this, our observable universe. It was a question about a statement of fundamental reality serving as an 'explanation' for the set of universes. But I do like how suddenly you've shifted from complaining that you have yet to understand my question, to lecturing me about the logic required by it.

I'll also remind you - again - that there is not a single 'multiverse' concept. There are a variety. In this case, we are discussing a particular version: one where said multiverse, ultimately, is utterly lawless. Meaning: where the explanation "Why these universes?" is not 'Because of this law or laws' but, fundamentally, 'There are no laws, that which can happen simply happens'. It's not hard to grok.

Instead of clarifying, admitting you might not have been clear (God forbid you would ever correct yourself or amend anything you have ever written in these pages), as usual you go on the attack.

Oh, spare me. I've corrected myself in the past, and if warranted I would have done so here - I certainly tried to make things clearer when you asked in what I assumed was good faith. If you don't want to answer the question - heck, if you just don't understand it even now - then ditch it. I'm pleased enough with how the greater conversation turned out, believe me.

And that's not just some triumphalist echo. I called you smart for a reason. You stand in contrast to Linton over there on any day of the week.

Papalinton said...

"... my question was not a hypothetical question about encountering certain empirical results in this, our observable universe. It was a question about a statement of fundamental reality serving as an 'explanation' for the set of universes.

... a question...
... about a statement....
... of fundamental reality ...
... serving....
... as an explanation ....
... for the set ...
... of universes.

Self serving, tail chasing verbosity. The written analog of the prolixity of theistic thinking, a stream of consciousness from the top of the head, unguided, unwarranted and unwanted.

Make your point and stick with it, Crude.

mattghg said...

What about the definition of 'physical' that Victor uses?

William said...

matt,

Victor in the reference you gave defines the physical as what it is not (by what it does not include), rather than by what the physical is (what it does include).

Given the problems defining the physical outlined in the controversies above,I think that was a wise move, Victor.

grodrigues said...

@William:

"Trying to cash laws as regularities commits one to a jumble of incoherences. Laws are not regularities just as causation is not correlation.

Are you claiming that a regularity cannot be a causal regularity? Can't we define a law as an orderly, causally related but, ultimately, "mere" regularity? This would not be incoherent."

If it is a causal regularity, then it is not just a "mere" regularity, is it? If you have a different understanding of what a regularity is, then please enlighten me, but a regularity is just a correlation, e.g. given A, B obtains. It is not an explanation of a state of affairs, e.g. *why* given A, B obtains. If you do say that there is a causal relation between A and B (and not C or D or any other among a myriad of possibilities) then you are indeed offering an explanation and doing science in the broad Aristotelian sense. But then it is a perfectly legitimate question to ask what is the nature of the causal relationship between A and B, whence the relationship.

Given the metaphysical commitments of a naturalist, physical laws do not, and cannot, exist apart from that on which they operate, e.g. matter, space-time, etc. so a broadly Platonic account is not on the table -- and if it was, the label naturalist would loose all meaning anyway. Another possibility is a return to an Aristotelian-Thomistic essentialist account, but this is likewise impossible for a naturalist. For one, he could hardly escape falling prey to Aquinas' Five Ways. So how can a naturalist account for causal laws? They do not belong to the matter, energy, space-time or any other naturalist ontological categories. They are an essential piece in the explanatory framework of a naturalist. Are they necessary? Are they contingent? Either way, an account is needed. Whence the order? Maybe it is just my ignorance speaking, but I do not see any coherent way for a naturalist to explain it. A physicist can perfectly well ignore such questions and settle on an operational definition of physical laws as briefly sketched by BDK. But if you are going to make sweeping statements with metaphysical import ("everything is matter!") it is perfectly legitimate to ask for a rational justification for such a claim. Saying "God did it" may be a good or a bad explanation, but it is an explanation nonetheless; saying "no one and nothing did it" is to refuse to play the explanatory game. A naturalist can of course, resort to such a cop out, but then he should drop any rational pretenses or claim any explanatory superiority.

PatrickH said...

I'm surprised no one has referred to Bas van Fraasen on how science reinterprets what it is to be "material" as an essential part of the enterprise. When a metaphysical presupposition enters science, it forgets its origins, and may lead to a redefinition of the material to include the new element, but not as a metaphysical principle, as an empirical and therefore revisable scientific position. Forces were called occult by Cartesians when Newton imported them into physics, but force simply became a component of the material, or natural world. There's nothing dishonest or unscientific or sneaky about this. If something becomes amenable to scientific methods, then it becomes natural, without any necessity of spending thousands of hours trying to define the natural.

The key is that in becoming scientific, the latest "meaning" of natural is capable of revision through empirical investigation. If the latest meaning of "natural" is acommpanied by a completeness claim (or a permanency claim), that is the sign its metaphysics masquerading as science.

I don't see any difficulty in scientists redefining the natural or material as they go along, provided they don't start yelling about how they've got it right this time for all time. Revise away, scientists. Just don't think you've finally arrived at a place where no more revision is possible.

BenYachov said...

Considering my own disposition I acknowledge I am a complete hypocrite for what I am about to say.

Crude I love you but chill.

I absolutely grant this is like Frank Costanza telling Ralf from the Honeymooners to Chill.

(Ralf you see is far more calm than Frank by an order of magnitude)

I'm not taking sides. Maybe BDK is or is not being a little dense. I don't know enough to judge.

But because you two are the alpha dogs here who for the most part know what you are talking about I care.

BDK chile.

Yeh I'm hypocrite since I am a Sith Lord in my anger compared to you Dark Jedi amateurs. But what I do?

Peace.

William said...

"If it is a causal regularity, then it is not just a "mere" regularity, is it? If you have a different understanding of what a regularity is, then please enlighten me, but a regularity is just a correlation, e.g. given A, B obtains.
"

To me, a regularity is a pattern in the evidence. A theory is is an explanation for that regularity. A law is, at very least, a theory that is consistently successful in making predictions about future data. There are also aesthetic considerations for laws, perhaps?

There are realism considerations here of the sort that folks argue about in the discovery of theorems in mathematics, and I was just questioning your realism assumptions since you seemed unaware of them: note that I do share your realistic intuitions.

mattghg said...

William (and others), so what's the problem with a negative definition?

William said...

matt,

I think that in general, if you are partitioning a set into two subsets, where every element in the original set will be placed into either subset, but never both, that a negative definition is quite useful.

Where we run into a problem is when we want to allow an element in both sets, such as when certain sophisticated naturalists make a claim that a certain mental property is ALSO a physical property.

I think Victor's and Lewis' argument works perfectly against the reductive physicalists, but does not work so well on others who do the both-and, not just the either-or-not-both move with consciousness.

grodrigues said...

@William:

"There are realism considerations here of the sort that folks argue about in the discovery of theorems in mathematics, and I was just questioning your realism assumptions since you seemed unaware of them: note that I do share your realistic intuitions."

Since my training is in mathematics I am not completely unaware of such debates, or even of my own assumptions. But if any doubts there are, I hereby confess I am a realist through and through (of the Aritotelian-Thomistic variety).

Papalinton said...

"Saying "God did it" may be a good or a bad explanation, but it is an explanation nonetheless..."

No it is not an explanation. Indeed it is a genuine conversation stopper. Assigning 'goddidit' is an indolent and slovenly way of explaining nothing.

A list of philosophically sound reasons for why 'goddidit' is a deficit in terms of explanatory power:
http://www.philosophylounge.com/reasons-avoiding-god-answers-scientific-questions/

For a humorous and light-hearted look at the 'goddidit' avowal:
http://www.colorado.edu/Sociology/gimenez/corner/god.html

Papalinton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Papalinton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Papalinton said...

http://www.colorado.edu/Sociology/gimenez/corner/
god.html

grodrigues said...

@Papalinton:

"Saying "God did it" may be a good or a bad explanation, but it is an explanation nonetheless...

No it is not an explanation. Indeed it is a genuine conversation stopper. Assigning 'goddidit' is an indolent and slovenly way of explaining nothing."

Are you talking to me? (in a Robert de Niro pose) I will respond to any substantive point you make once you show that you have even a minimum of understanding of what I am talking about instead of peddling ignorant, idiotic rants.

William said...

Pap, as a Thomist, grod would not share your efficient-causes-only approach to explanation :)

Don't you think there are any other explanations outside of the scientific ones, Linton? If I explain to the storekeeper why I am shopping for an item, that is not a scientific explanation, for example, but isn't it still a decent kind of explanation?

Crude said...

Grod,

I will respond to any substantive point you make once you show that you have even a minimum of understanding of what I am talking about instead of peddling ignorant, idiotic rants.

Well, you just guaranteed yourself some saved time! One arguable definition of nothingness is 'What is left once you remove the ignorant, idiotic rants from Linton's comments.'

I think William is seriously overestimating the guy by suggesting Linton has an 'efficient causes only' view of the world. Barring a quick google search, he probably thinks an efficient cause has something to do with cars and gas mileage.

Papalinton said...
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Papalinton said...

Hi grod
Sorry if it seemed I was impertinent.
I did respond to your statement re the 'goddidit' explanation, but the response was more openly directed to all commenters on this site.

I do perfectly understand your position but it is not a position of any merit or worth outside the theistic mindframe. You see, you must firstly ground reason on naturalism and the physical as a basis for keeping one's feet on the floor so to speak. Because without this referent, and as we know from psychiatry and psychology research findings, a journey of the mind into the unnatural and the metaphysical can seem ever so powerfully real, and we can reach a disassociated state in which one is unable to distinguish reality from fancy. Psychosis, not in its pejorative sense, is a very common condition. [It is also important to note that psychosis usually refers to negative expressions, that is paranoia, stereotypy etc. rather than ecstatic experience such as religious ecstasy, though with such a broad term, there are no hard and fast rules. From the All reference Libraries dictionary] Personal experiences, the almost unlimited capacity of the mind to conjure cathartic personal experiences that seem real and can be viscerally felt, at both the transcendently exhilarating and the gruesomely bloody ends of the continuum, are legion. The one common thread that determines whether such ideation is real or otherwise is when it is able to be referred back to the natural and physical world. We all live, theists and atheists alike, in what is generally acknowledged as the natural world. But I do not live in a Thomist world. Nor do 6.5 billion other people on this planet. You must concede your Thomist world is a metaphysical conception, one of a myriad such conceptions known to human kind, but one that cannot ever be considered as a fundamental elemental of the natural world. It explains the world from your perspective. It does not explain the world from my perspective.

This is the very crux of misplaced conflation that theists unfortunately subscribe to. The catholics imagine the Thomist 5 ways as fundamental realities. I'm not sure Hindus would concede the Thomist perspective as fundamental to their reality of the natural world.

Grod, try not to join some of the other commenters on this site on a race to the bottom, in terms of ad hominems and personal attacks, and character assassinations. Just because I present a robust case against the perceived 'wisdom' of religious tradition, this shouldn't be construed as a personal attack. I know it is sometimes difficult not to when one's raison d'ĂȘtre is vigorously challenged, and although it feels like a personal attack, it is not. Some commenters on this site are incapable of understanding the distinction. The personalizing of the attacks is the only commenting style of the Yachovs, cls, and crudes, a strategy of last resort when they know their cupboard of theist ideas is bare.

Crude said...

Some quick, passing comments.

PatrickH,

I want to stress, and I mentioned this before, that my problem isn't with science, but with metaphysics. Let science revise its language over and over for all I care.

Ben,

The thing is, I don't think I'm being all that wild here. Bombastic? Sure, a bit. But that's about all. I even complimented BDK. I stated my problems with his replies, including why I thought they were a dodge. He stands in contrast to other contributors.

Hope you're well and all. I think Bob has the right idea with his Lenten fast! I admire him for that one, and I recall it really is yearly.

Papalinton said...

William
"Don't you think there are any other explanations outside of the scientific ones, Linton? If I explain to the storekeeper why I am shopping for an item, that is not a scientific explanation, for example, but isn't it still a decent kind of explanation?"

Yes of course. There are innumerable forms of explanations. And every individual is entitled to an explanation that best suits their proclivity or personal bias. But to deem them as an alternative to or a substitute for scientific explanation is a grievous error of category. And worse, to tout them as the equivalent to, or the equal of, a scientific explanation is whistling in the wind.

Scientific explanation is, " .. the basic structure of the most comprehensive and effective deployment of inductive reasoning in human history. Since its development during the Renaissance, modern science has contributed significantly to our ability to perceive, understand, and manipulate the natural world. Taken generally as a way of acquiring human knowledge, science is a procedure for the invention and evaluation of hypotheses that may be used to explain why things happen as they do. Unlike dogmatic appeals to the absolute, unchallengeable truth of unsupported assertions (as, for example, when a parent tells a child, "Because I say so, that's why."), scientific explanations are always tentative proposals, offered in hopes of capturing the best outlook on the matter but subject to evaluation, modification, or even overturn in light of further evidence.

The most productive model for the structure of a scientific explanation is that of a valid deductive argument whose conclusion is the event to be explained. Some of the premises of this argument will be factual statements of the antecedent circumstances, while the others will be the scientific hypotheses offered as a way of linking those circumstances to the outcome stated by the conclusion."

William, you might wish to read the rest of this quite short encapsulation of scientific explanation. http://www.philosophypages.com/lg/e15.htm

I refer to your example, "If I explain to the storekeeper why I am shopping for an item, that is not a scientific explanation, for example, but isn't it still a decent kind of explanation?"

Your proposition is sound and is a decent explanation, grounded as it is in the natural. And from it the shopkeeper could conceivably develop a testable hypothesis, even anecdotally, taking into consideration other shoppers who purchased the same item for the same reasons and others that do not for varying and different reasons. That would be a fair proxy, albeit rough and ready, for the scientific method.

If however you posited, "If I explain to a professor why I am studying comparative religion to establish that Hinduism is false based on christian findings, that is not a scientific explanation, nor is it a decent kind of explanation?" And yet christian theists have provided multiple attestations even on this site that they have read and studied and researched all the major religions, some even lived them, only to find them all singularly false, except christianity. Now, is that a fair explanation? Or even a reasonable explanation? many people have done it.

No, William, the scientific explanation is our best chance of expanding humanity's commonwealth of knowledge and information about man, about the owrld, the universe, and perhaps even about gods. And until more informed information and evidence directs to the contrary, theism is not an explanation, it is an excuse.

Victor is yet to provide anything more than a misplaced rationale in the defence of christian theology that does not rely solely on 'conventional wisdom[?] founded on tradition", as the only source.

grodrigues said...

@Papalinton:

"I do perfectly understand your position but it is not a position of any merit or worth outside the theistic mindframe. You see, you must firstly ground reason on naturalism and the physical as a basis for keeping one's feet on the floor so to speak. Because without this referent, and as we know from psychiatry and psychology research findings, a journey of the mind into the unnatural and the metaphysical can seem ever so powerfully real, and we can reach a disassociated state in which one is unable to distinguish reality from fancy. Psychosis, not in its pejorative sense, is a very common condition."

Your concern about my mental health is endearing. As you say, psychosis is very common, but alas, I am afraid I am already too far gone. I mean, the voices inside my head, they just won't shut up! Oh wait, it is just the radio (turns radio off -- now, that is better). Anyway, by your words and tone, you seem to be well acquainted with this psychosis condition. What kind of pills do you counsel? I can get my hands on Prozac, Xanax and Zoloft; do you think they are any good? Maybe something stronger? And what about psychotherapy, should I undertake it? What does your personal experience with this condition advise? But before you answer, please make sure to have taken all the meds as I would not want you to be in a state unable to distinguish reality from fancy and give me some raving, incoherent rant as you just did.

William said...

"There are innumerable forms of explanations. And every individual is entitled to an explanation that best suits their proclivity or personal bias.
"

I would say that yes, explanations are to answer our questions,and we have different questions that need explanation in either scientific or non scientific ways in different settings, with or without bias.

"But to deem them as an alternative to or a substitute for scientific explanation is a grievous error of category.
"

Only if the category of the question is one which requires a scientific explanation, which, I would suggest, your anti-religious philosophical issues do not require.

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