Thursday, June 18, 2015

Larry Gilman objects to my argument


Lewis’s “Argument from Reason” gives me that fishy feeling I have whenever someone tries to get the jump on science by the power of pure reason.  As I learned from reading Lewis himself, logic only tells you that if you have one penny in a drawer and put another in, there must be two pennies in the drawer; it doesn’t and can’t tell you whether there is a penny in the drawer.  To know that, you must look.  Logic alone, no matter how pure, no matter how apparently compelling, can never tell us what is physically real, in a bureau, in a brain, or anywhere else.  We must look, and that looking we call “science.”  Lewis and Reppert, in effect, rule on what science can find before science has looked — whereupon I cry Foul.  Lewis even thought he could exclude a purely naturalistic, evolutionary origin for the human brain on the strength of the Argument from Reason (Ch. 3 of Miracles).  That’s an awful lot of biological history to settle without leaving one’s easy chair.  But despite my gripes, I think that the Argument from Reason draws attention to a fascinating and knotty class of problems.  If it were reclassified as the Problem of Reason, I would have no quarrel with it.

But my argument does not directly conclude that naturalism is false. What it concludes is that it cannot both be the case that the world is naturalistic AND that we make the rational inferences that constitute the scientific enterprise. There are two possible worlds, one with scientists in it which is not naturalistic, and a world without scientists which is naturalistic. Science is not a presupposition-free enterprise, it presuppose that there are scientists and that scientists do infer conclusions based on evidence. 

And, many people think that science is only allowed to appeal to materialistic explanations, otherwise it isn't science. That seems also to be deciding scientific questions without actually doing the science. 


grodrigues said...

When a critique starts with "Lewis’s “Argument from Reason” gives me that fishy feeling I have whenever someone tries to get the jump on science by the power of pure reason." there is no need to read any further, as this is proof proven that the author is a confused Science fetishist.

planks length said...

Apropos of making too much of "science", From the Pope's latest encyclical:

"… many problems of today’s world stem from the tendency, at times unconscious, to make the method and aims of science and technology an epistemological paradigm which shapes the lives of individuals and the workings of society. The effects of imposing this model on reality as a whole, human and social, are seen in the deterioration of the environment, but this is just one sign of a reductionism which affects every aspect of human and social life."

Reductionism - what a perfect word. Reducing everything to "science" and empiricism is an ever-narrowing spiral (as in "going down the drain").

Edward T. Babinski said...

"Not naturalistic" means what? Platonism?

How impressive is Platonism? Are there perfect archetypes for each idea, each word? How about the word "human?" Is there an archtypical "human?" Was there ever? Even in "God's mind?" Many extinct species of homo exist in the fossil record with far smaller cranial capacities than modern humans, and before them in the fossil record you find upright apes with brains larger than any living species of apes. How does one define "human" exactly, precisely, archetypically? If you were to line up the human and chimpanzee genomes and began to exchange a single base-pair in each of them, one at a time, at what precise base-pair exchange does the chimpanzee become the human and the human become the chimpanzee? And what of the possibility of future humans self-augmented via genetic and cybernetic enhancements? Will they look upon today's human as we look upon the Australopithecines? Will future humans also branch out into diverse species throughtout the cosmos? Which of those species will be the true human?

Take any word you like such as pond, and then consider how vague it is, because when does a pond become a lake, a lake a sea, or a sea an ocean? Or take the word chair, and consider, when exactly does a chair become a love seat, a love seat a couch, a couch a bed? Some chairs don't even have legs, they are amorphous bean bags, or they are rocks with an angle so obtuse one can sit rather than lean upon them. But when does leaning become sitting in such a case? Some chairs are even suspended by beams from the wall or cords from the ceiling, or even supported by blasts of air from beneath them like hydofoils. Which is the archetypical chair? I guess chair includes anything that allows one to take a bit of pressure off one's feet and place it on one's backside, but how much pressure exactly? Who knows?

Edward T. Babinski said...

The Argument from Reason fails to convince because it is based on a fallacy of equivocation.

It introduces us to questions like, "How can a neuron recognize that an argument is valid?" But no naturalist is claiming a single neuron equals a full brain-mind-sensory nervous system encased in a body that interacts with nature (and other brain-mind-body systems) in a far larger than "single neuron" fashion.

Once you recognize that the atom is pulled about by the overall dynamics of the molecule of which it is a part, and the molecule is pulled about the overall dynamics of the entire cell of which it is a part, and the cell functions in light of the overall dynamics of the tissue and organ of which it is a part, and the organs are moved about by the total organism that sees, hears, smells, and thinks based on what it sees, hears and smells, etc. then the argument can be seen as proving nothing. Because organisms can and do detect similarities and differences and in organisms with higher brain functions they also make inferences. Logic proves no more than what the body and nervous system as a whole already knows via its sensory input, it knows when things are the same or similar, it knows in what ways things differ, namely that some may be bigger or small than others, and it can remember which things those are. Logic just sums up what is already known, namely that if one object is larger than another, and the second object is larger still, then the first objects will be smaller than the third. That is axiomatic and not signaling the presence of something supernatural going on.

The brain-mind embodied sensory system is in constant motion, constantly receiving feedback both externally and internally, in the latter case looping through an internal wealth of thoughts and mental connections forged from babyhood to adulthood. Consciousness is not a noun, it's a verb, a process. And there are different types of consciousness and different degrees among those types, and differing mental states of clarity and focus that move from one to the other based on previous experience and the connections that we began to form from birth or sooner. That is how the naturalist views consciousness:

Edward T. Babinski said...

Other reasons the argument from reason is unconvincing

We keep naming processes, giving them names that are nouns, so we can discuss them in simplified fashion as if by naming something we know precisely what is going on, even though every process is not a noun but a verb, and processes in the brain-mind system run simultaneously with other processes and interact with other processes such that no singular process out of all those simultaneously running and interacting processes can be summed up as the noun we call consciousness.

There are also different types and degrees or levels of consciousness that one experiences daily (or in some cases only on rare occasions), but applying a word to describe each of them does not do justice to how one type or degree of consciousness flows into another in one's own experience. Nor do the application of words do full justice to how one type or degree of consciousness evolves into another as species with brains evolve from other species over geological epochs.

Philosophers pile what they imagine to be solid blocks on one another to explain consciousness, solid sounding nouns like "intentionality" and "abstract objects." They like to talk about objects rather than, say, activities, because activities are fluid and harder to convince one's self one has nailed them down with enough words. They prefer nouns not verbs, making even "consciousness" a noun. But the pyramids they build from these blocks of words do not do full justice to consciousness because the brain-mind, like the cosmos, is in constant motion involving constant tugs back and forth, and or incessant feed back. Consciousness is a process, not a noun. Compare pyramids of nouns with this video of an animal's brain functioning.

If you could magnify each noun-based block in the philosophy of mind toolkit you would see subtle waves of energy swirling back and forth, not even maintaining solid borders with nearby blocks, but interacting with them incessantly and in ways too numerous to put into words.

Naturalism will always be trying to nail down that elusive beast, nature, whose squiggly energetic lines of constant movement require more and more mathematical models to approximate them as the lines continue to act, react and interact with other lines. Newton's equations outline the basic way objects attract one another, but for light/photons over galactic distances you need Einstein's equations to understand gravitational lensing, etc. Neither does any model equal reality, not even the most comprehensive mathematical models, because no map equals the territory completely just as no word equals the thing completely.

Philosophy claims that if it just uses the right words, it can nail down nature. While theologians imagine they can nail down even supernature if they employ the right analogies. But words do not equal things, and analogies are wild and numerous and prove nothing.

Edward T. Babinski said...

I think science is on the right track when it comes to continuing to investigate how neural processing functions, and that must never be separated from the total human being, not just its 100 billion neurons and trillion electro-chemical connections between those neurons, but also its sense organs that feed the brain human-sized sensory data, and the brain's overall development of pathways, it's growing neural connections and how they proliferate and/or get weeded out based on real life interactions from birth, etc.

See also which I doubt Vic ever really understood, because the brain-mind system is also conservative. Once we imagine we have grasped something one way, the system is not easily reset back to zero. Which is another reason why I don't think any God who knows about such brain-mind conservatism would demand everyone agree on the same beliefs in religion. There's got to be time enough for rewiring, further feedback and consideration, further revelatory input (if you believe in God). Time and God are the best teachers said one Jewish wit. So if God exists, I can only imagine him having more patience with a primate species such as ours, not less patience, not a God who is a big fan of eternal damnation after the short time spent on a "fallen world" in a "fallen cosmos."