Friday, July 21, 2017

Materialism and the Illusion of Following the Evidence

Brain processes are physical events. They occur in accordance with the laws of physics, not the laws of logic or laws of evidence. Our brains follow the laws of physics automatically, we obey the laws of logic or laws of evidence, when we do, only when the laws of physics dictate that they do so. If you think this way, then I fail to see how William Hasker's conclusion is avoidable: the laws of logic and evidence, or as he puts it, the principles of sound reasoning, are inoperative.

Some atheists (Jerry Coyne is a good example) think that the idea of free will is a useful fiction; we should keep it around even though we know it's false. I think that if naturalistic atheists are consistent, they have to say the same thing about their claim that they believe what they do because the evidence is superior. But this would be an awfully damaging admission. They perceive themselves as following the evidence, but if their own world-view is correct, their thoughts are brain processes ultimately subject, not to the rules of evidence, but to the laws of physics. Their beliefs are caused in exactly the same way as a fideistic religionist who believes in God as a matter of faith.

8 comments:

Stardusty Psyche said...

"Brain processes are physical events."
--Indeed.

" They occur in accordance with the laws of physics, not the laws of logic or laws of evidence. "
--"Laws" as written human models are descriptive, not prescriptive. The principles of logic we employ are descriptive of the way things work in physical existence, or at least we aspire to make them so. The principles of physics we employ are also descriptive of the way things work in physical existence, or at least we aspire to make them so.

How are the principles of logic somehow at odds with the principles of physics? Do you suppose the real world is chaotic and disordered but we humans have made up orderly logic out of whole cloth, which is disconnected from how material changes progress?

"I fail to see how William Hasker's conclusion is avoidable: the laws of logic and evidence, or as he puts it, the principles of sound reasoning, are inoperative."
--This is a non-sequitur on the materialist/naturalist view.

"Some atheists ... They perceive themselves as following the evidence, but if their own world-view is correct, their thoughts are brain processes ultimately subject, not to the rules of evidence, but to the laws of physics."
--False dichotomy. Our accepted rules of evidence are derived from physics and thus no such conflict actually exists.

" Their beliefs are caused in exactly the same way as a fideistic religionist who believes in God as a matter of faith. "
--This cannot literally be true since the outcomes are different.

It is true that we have reason to assert all brains are structured similarly. But, quite manifestly, they function differently in many important aspects. On the materialist/naturalist view those differences in function are accounted for by differences in physical structure, evidenced in part by brain injury/neurosurgery/behavioral study.

On the provisional postulate of the basic reliability of the human senses the atheist/materialist/naturalist does indeed demonstrate superior evidence and reasoning versus that of the theist. BTW check gccaz for an example of careful analytical reasoning that exposes some logical flaws of theistic thinking.

Legion of Logic said...

Stardusty: "On the provisional postulate of the basic reliability of the human senses the atheist/materialist/naturalist does indeed demonstrate superior evidence and reasoning versus that of the theist."

To my knowledge there is literally zero evidence for this. Perhaps your gccaz thing will finally prove me wrong, though, so I will check it out.

Victor Reppert said...

The gccaz website is the website for Glendale Community College. I didn't find anything there that fit your description.

David Brightly said...

Consider coin-tossing. Would we say that coin-tossing obeys the laws of probability only when the laws of physics so dictate? If so, would we say that the laws of probability were then inoperative? I suspect not. What then is the relevant difference between the laws of logic and the laws of probability that makes Hasker's conclusion unavoidable?

bmiller said...

Hi David,

Consider coin-tossing. Would we say that coin-tossing obeys the laws of probability only when the laws of physics so dictate?

I think the argument goes this way:

Brains operate according to the "laws of physics" only since they are physical objects only. If the "laws of physics" provide you with the illusion of a "coin-tossing probability", how could you possibly know if "coin-tossing probability" is an illusion or not?

It will not matter how much or long you consider the question, because, the "laws of physics" will determine the outcome of your deliberations, not you. So why bother?

David Brightly said...

Hello BM. I'm afraid I don't follow you. Let me explain the motivation for my comment. It seems to me that proponents of the AFR assume that the physical and the mental are in some sense exclusive. At any rate, obedience to the laws of physics somehow 'rules out' obedience to the laws of logic. Why else would Hasker say (*) that if the laws of physics dictate what happens then the laws of logic are inoperative? Since we are all in possession of a gadget that obeys both, this seems to me plain wrong. I guess I have missed something important. So I looked around for some other law-following activity that I could contrast with the physical. It's easy to come up with simple examples, like repeated coin tossing, that obey both the laws of probability and the laws of physics. So it seems that the laws of physics are compatible with at least one other kind of law. Hence my question, What makes the laws of logic different in this respect?

* Thinking about this a bit more, I'm now wondering if much depends on how we conceive of 'law-following'. If we think of the laws as pushing stuff around then maybe two distinct laws could be seen as clashing. Or if we see law-following in terms of obedience then there may be an ambiguity as to which law is being obeyed. But I don't personally conceive of the laws of physics or logic in these ways.

bmiller said...

I may think that I am operating according to the "laws of logic", but that is only because physics is rattling electrons around in a particular manner. In that case, I have no real intellect to make decisions or reason things out.

Is "coin-tossing" obeying some law? One couldn't actually "know" since that perception is merely material particles moving about. So is the illusion that you actually have a brain that is making decisions.

David Brightly said...

I think you are falling into the trap I alluded to above, that of assuming that which must be shown, namely,  that the rattling of electrons cannot constitute the working of a real intellect.  Something we have to be wary of, I think, is confusing the working of the intellect with consciousness thereof.