Thursday, June 30, 2005

Richard Carrier Responds

On Wednesday, March 30, 2005, at 12:55 PM, victor reppert wrote:> Richard: I started a blog a couple of months ago. One> series I am developing is going step by step through> your responses to my critique and giving my answers. This is the first installment.

I finally found the time to read this--I was surprised it is so brief.BTW, I'd like to take a moment to thank you for taking my arguments seriously and patiently and responding rationally and politely--something I miss lately, having had to cope recently with the constant barrage of James Holding's invective now that I have criticized his flagship essay on the origins of Christianity. His treatment of me always calls me to notice and appreciate the kinder, saner voices among Christians who disagree with me. So I really thank you.

Now to the blog entry:
(1) You are correct to ask "Why in the world does he think that I present an argument against the existence of rational inferences" since I did not claim you do in my critique, and never intended to claim so. But in my casual remarks interjected into what you sent me, I did give the mistaken impression (several times) that I was claiming this. That's my fault. What I meant to imply was not that you "present an argument against the existence of rational inferences" but that this is an unforeseen consequence of your AfR. Maybe this will help:If it is the case that rational inferences cannot exist if a particular kind of god (hereafter God) does not exist, then either rational inferences don't exist or God exists. That is what the AfR essentially argues. So let's define the AfR (only for now--we are skipping the nuts and bolts) as: "rational inferences cannot exist if a particular kind of god (hereafter God) does not exist, therefore either rational inferences don't exist or God exists." Let's assume this AfR is true (i.e. its premises and conclusion are true). If this AfR is true then a skeptic can come along and say "Okay, then rational inferences don't exist." How can you refute him? You cannot present a rational argument to the contrary without assuming rational arguments exist (hence begging the question), and you cannot present a rational argument that God exists (and therefore "rational arguments exist") without again assuming God exists (because, per the AfR, only if God exists do rational arguments exist), begging the question again. This is the problem I am talking about. A naturalist does not face this problem because the naturalist does not have to assume God exists, i.e. a naturalist rejects the premise that "rational inferences cannot exist if God does not exist." Now, it a naturalist does face an equivalent problem (as I tried to explain in a Note 6 in my critique online), but even so, it is not the *same* problem, because I am describing a problem that only results from accepting the AfR, and a naturalist does not accept the AfR.But for all that (and I tried to make this clear in the critique itself), I do not believe this particular problem is insurmountable nor do I think you could not surmount it, and hence I do not think this is a fatal objection or even a serious problem for your case. It is merely a problem that will have to be solved some day. And I would be the first to say that naturalism also has its share of problems that arise from its own premises, premises you reject, and therefore I agree naturalism should not leave those problems unsolved, either--I am an equal opportunity critic here, and my own book was an attempt to address problems I think many naturalists wrongly ignore.Hence I started the critique's formulation of this point by noting simply that you don't prove true the premise "If any thesis entails the conclusion that no belief is rationally inferred, then it should be rejected and its denial accepted." That's all. You assert that premise, but do not prove it is true. Nothing more. And as I say, I don't think this premise is false nor do I think you could not prove it true (to a reasonable enough extent), but it is still the case that you merely assume it is true, and therefore your argument is incomplete in that one technical respect (hence I call it a "technical flaw" and not a fatal flaw).But then I argue that this flaw does make things harder for you in a certain way: a naturalist (believes he) can argue from basic observations to the existence of rational arguments, without going all the way to arguing for the existence of something unobserved (God). But if the AfR is true, you have only two options. Either (1) you have to first argue to God and then to the existence of rational arguments, but the only way to argue to God is to presuppose the existence of rational arguments (because God cannot be observed directly, thus there is no other way to argue for his existence but from rational arguments), or (2) you have to argue for the existence of rational arguments, without using rational arguments (and hence presupposing they exist) and without presupposing God exists--and since we can't do that by arguing to God and then to rational arguments, it seems the only means left is to argue from natural facts. But if you can argue from natural facts to the existence of rational arguments, then so can a naturalist, and the AfR is false--unless there is some way to argue from natural facts to the existence of rational arguments that is not available to the naturalist. Again, I suspect there is such an argument. But I think it must be produced before we can get from the AfR to God, rather than from the AfR to worldview agnosticism.Again, there are similar (but not identical) arguments one can advance against naturalism that also invoke the problem of demonstrating that rational arguments exist without presupposing they exist, but the solution to these arguments cannot be the same as the solution required for you (for the simple reason that the argument you need must exclude naturalism).(2) You do try to say now "that belief in rational inferences is properly basic." That, indeed, would constitute an argument against the PS objection--whether it is successful or not, it would at least acknowledge the problem and attempt to solve it. My point was that you did not even do this in the book. But I have no objection to your trying to advance arguments now that close the gap I pointed out, including this argument, that "belief in rational inferences is properly basic." I have certain objections to that argument, but that does go beyond your book and my critique of it. Nevertheless, for your benefit I'll digress on it now, now that you are advancing it as an argument:To be properly basic requires that something be undeniable. Because if it could be false, then it could be as false as true, and therefore to assert that it is true, or even more probably true than false, you must appeal to some evidence--but by definition, if you need to appeal to some evidence before asserting X is true, the fact that X is true cannot be properly basic.That is why (as I explain in my critique of Rea: the only candidates I can find for properly basic beliefs are beliefs that certain experiences exist (that I am seeing the color red now is a properly basic belief--or for really extreme skeptics, that there is a seeing of the color red now is a properly basic belief--but that I am seeing a red tomato is not). Everything else is derived from (argued from) this evidence and therefore not basic.The problem for you is this: you can certainly say that "there is an experience now that X is a rational inference" is a properly basic belief, but that X *is* a rational inference is still not basic, because an experience of X being Y does not entail that X is Y. For example, you can say there is the image of a red tomato in your visual field, and that would be a properly basic belief--but as you know, whether there really is a red tomato there, apart from the image of one in your visual field, is another question altogether, and therefore we are beyond properly basic beliefs now. Hence, that rational inferences *exist* cannot be a properly basic belief. That they *seem* to exist can be a properly basic belief, but that's all.Ultimately, I think "rational inferences exist" is a theory about experiences (since it could be false) and thus must be constructed from experiences. How I (as a naturalist) would do that without using rational inferences is a separate problem (and a problem I acknowledge), but however I accomplish this, it will probably be different from how you would do it, because whatever strategy I use, you probably could not use it (for my strategy would be consistent with naturalism, and if the existence of rational inferences is consistent with naturalism, then the AfR is false).In other words, I assume that, without presupposing God is true (or even that naturalism is true), we can produce a justified belief that rational inferences exist--but this will only be from evidence, never a basic belief. And I think the best evidence I have that rational inferences exist is a cumulative case from basic experiences (colors, thoughts, etc.) to physical systems (and the distinctions between truth-finding and truth-missing machines) to aggregate observed facts (the causes and consequences of these different machines in operation), which (if all this is correct) entails that the AfR is false. So you could not use that strategy. But maybe you can find a different strategy. I have never argued that you can't. But nevertheless, you will have to--and that is my point.(3) To draw the point further regarding both (1) and (2) above, when you say "Can't I just point out the disastrous epistemic consequences of not believing in rational inferences?" you are missing the point of the PS objection. A PS proponent would answer: "Yes, the epistemic consequences are disastrous, but reality does not conform to the way we want things to be, and for all we know, the way things are may indeed be epistemically disastrous and there is nothing you can do about that."Let me remind you that, as I say in my critique, I reject PS, so I am not advocating PS here, but that is what a PS proponent would argue. Thus, a PS proponent would say (co-opting your own words) "maybe there are no mathematical inferences and no one ever does science as you understand it and though there may be all sorts of overpaid people who think they are scientists, it may be that there is really no such thing." Moreover, a PS proponent would argue that, if the AfR is true (in the sense defined above in (1)), then we have evidence that all this *is* the case, though because of that very fact, we cannot know whether it is the case because if there are no rational inferences, then we cannot infer from this evidence what is the case, and therefore agnosticism in the form of radical skepticism is what we are left with. You would respond, "But if God exists, we are not in that predicament." To which the PS proponent would respond, "Well how do you know God exists then?" And that is where the problem begins: how do you answer?(4) "Carrier seems to subscribe to a very strong form of epistemological foundationalism" -- I really hate terminology like this, because it implies baggage, and it is not the case that every foundationalist shares the same baggage. To pin me as holding to "a very strong form of epistemological foundationalism" risks leading people (and yourself) to infer things about my views that follow from the textbook definitions of "very strong forms of epistemological foundationalism" but are not in fact true about what I actually hold. Best to avoid terminology and address the facts (or inquire as to the facts) regarding what I actually do hold (my critique of Rea will help, but my book gives a far longer explanation of my epistemology).Case in point: you say for my "very strong form of epistemological foundationalism" that "there is a fact of the matter as to whether some claim or other rests upon a foundation, and this does not vary from person to person." I do not hold that. Rather, I hold that "there is a fact of the matter as to whether some claim or other CAN BE RESTED upon a foundation, and this COULD vary from person to person," since (a) you and I can have completely different evidence that X is true, owing to our having access to different information, but each of our sets of evidence can be sufficient to believe X is true; and (b) once we have established the trustworthiness of a method or procedure foundationally, we do not have to recreate this proof every time, and so we can be justified in believing things without direct foundations so long as we are justified in inferring that the foundations exist.The garden variety example of the latter is trusting what our friends say: we don't have to check their claim that X, though we do have to have evidence that they have been and thus are now very likely to be trustworthy about X--thus, once we have established their trustworthiness, etc., we don't need the foundation for X itself--until something comes up that challenges our inferences here. Thus, in this example, I believe on good evidence that there is a foundation for believing X, simply because I believe on good evidence that my friend would not claim X unless there was a foundation for believing X.This example oversimplifies things, since the reality is that we are engaging in this kind of indirect inference all the time, in many more ways than in regard to human testimony, and my friend's claim that X is true is itself constructed from a matrix of such inferences, and so on. But the simplified example captures the basic structure of what is going on--and that it is tenuous is precisely why we often find ourselves in error. But we find ourselves correct often enough to trust the inferences involved, even though we know they must fail us occasionally. Certainly, if there were a better way available to us (if we could literally be everywhere at every time, if we had the ability to directly sense everything that exists, and so on) we would use it. But we can only use the best tools available to us.You then say "If something is properly basic, or properly grounded, for one person, it must be properly basic or properly grounded for everyone." I am not sure what you mean by this. It does not sound like anything I believe, but I can't say for sure, since I am not sure what you are saying exactly. But as noted above, it is not my view that (as you then say) "there is a set of propositions that are properly basic, and other beliefs are justified just in case they are supported by those beliefs." Rather, it is my view that "there is a set of beliefs that are properly basic, and other beliefs are justified just in case they CAN BE supported by those beliefs" or in a different direction "what makes a belief true is just that it can be justified in reference to some set of beliefs that are properly basic" (though different sets can often be sufficient, so one does not always need the same set). In effect, that last statement is a simple foundationalist definition of "truth."[And of course we are both leaving out the difference between all beliefs as such (all the beliefs that can be), and beliefs an individual actually holds, which obviously is a much smaller set than the beliefs that could be had, which is why we can generally only know something by going out and looking for it, in order to increase the number of our relevant beliefs. But I note this only in case it wasn't obvious.]Again, when you say "this is the thrust of Descartes' project" you seem to have my epistemology all wrong--for I reject Cartesian epistemology. I am very much with his enemies, the empiricists. Descartes wanted to build all knowledge from internal contemplation. In contrast, I think basic beliefs can only be acquired by making empirical observations, and knowledge can only increase by increasing one's store of basic beliefs (even to the extent that knowledge can be increased by understanding better the beliefs we already have, this very activity generates some new basic beliefs in regard to internal sensations). Likewise, Descartes was insensitive to the realities of human practical limitations (such as the complexities of dealing with testimony, of both other people and our own senses). I am closer to the pragmatists in that area, though I am not a Pragmatist as such (I don't define truth in terms of utility).And "the traditional empiricist counter-move is disallow Descartes' doubts about experience" may be true (the history of modern epistemology is not my area of expertise), but if it so then I am not a traditional empiricist. I don't think it is a valid move to simply "disallow" Cartesian doubts. We have to advance reasons for rejecting them in favor of some particular alternative interpretation of the same observed facts, which is why I devote a lot of words to this very project in my book (as you can see by looking up "Cartesian Demon" in the index).(5) Ultimately, I agree completely with you on what you describe as your view:"I think people should reason, but they should reason from within their own belief systems and abandon the beliefs against which there is good evidence. So different people start from different places, but we can all think together toward the common goal of consensus, even though that 'Omega point' seems pretty far in the distance on a lot of issues."I completely concur. In fact, if ordinary naturalism is true, it is impossible that it could be any other way. There is a clear difference between how we got to where we are and how we justify staying where we are--the effort to do the latter, if conducted honestly and rationally and without cognitive impairment (e.g. you are not being systematically lied to, by others or your own senses), will result in everyone relocating themselves to roughly the same place ideologically. But that project cannot begin at birth. We have to develop and be educated into a particular position or worldview before we can start questioning that position or worldview and finding out how to get from there to where we ought to be--i.e. where the truth is (or where it most probably is, so far as we can know). I think we are both on the same page there.And again, there are certainly numerous epistemological problems to solve no matter where you begin or end up. Hence naturalism must provide an answer to PS, too. I am not saying it doesn't. Rather, I am saying that Naturalism can provide an answer that does not require presupposing God exists, but the AfR requires you to presuppose God exists before you can establish that rational inferences exist--*unless* supplementary argument is provided. My criticism of your book was simply that it did not provide that supplementary argument, not that you couldn't have provided it. I strongly suspect you could. Which is why I set it aside in the critique and moved on.(6) You argue in conclusion of this one blog element that "if there are no rational inferences, then the whole process of evaluating arguments, which is what Carrier and I are both doing, makes no sense. Without the use of rational inference, we would have no way of using critieria to determine which arguments are persuasive and which are not." That is not obviously true. Animals make decisions about what it is best to do, and according to you, I presume, animals are not engaging in rational inferences, so reacting to information in a utilitarian way would not, on that assumption, entail the existence of rational inferences. Of course, I would argue that they are using rational inferences (even if in a sense slightly different than we normally mean when we talk about human reason), but again that this debate exists means the truth here is not obvious.But more to the point, a PS proponent would argue that he does not believe that, say, arguments of type X are persuasive, but that at present he finds it convenient to act as if they are, for the simple reason that doing so realizes what he wants (he actually finds himself persuading people), regardless of why or whether it is in any sense true that "arguments of type X are persuasive." Now, I have a whole line of argument in response to this, against the PS position just stated. So I am not saying his position is necessarily defensible. But to reject it, one must actually argue the point somehow. It isn't enough (at least for anyone who takes the truth seriously) to just sweep the PS position under the rug as something merely ridiculous. It may be ridiculous (that's a matter of taste). But it is not self-evident why it is wrong.And more importantly, if you accept the AfR (as defined under (1) above), the number of ways you can rebut the PS proponent here is highly constrained--in a way it is not constrained for the naturalist or even the ordinary worldview agnostic--and therefore defending the AfR puts a new burden on you that is not shared equally by those who reject the AfR. But let me reiterate in closing that I find this to be the least important objection to your book that I raised in my critique--especially since, even if it were the case that you could not solve this problem, if everything else you say about the AfR remained true, then it is still the case that we are not warranted in believing naturalism is true.I hope that clarifies a lot of things.Be well.--Richard C. Carrier, M.Phil.Columbia

Hasker on Augustine's arguments

A general problem with Keith Augustine's line of thought is that it in effect presupposes that physicalists *do* have a good explanation foreverything that goes on in the mind. At least, an "in-principle" good explanation; no one can reasonably demand, at this point, that all the details be filled in. But what is in question is precisely whether physicalism does, or can, generate such an explanation. Churchland, after all, was driven to his (hugely implausible) eliminative materialism by the conviction that existing reductionist programs were unsuccessful. And then there is Colin McGinn, who tell us in effect,"Of course, the mind is the brain, but all of us are constitutionally incapable of understanding how this is the case."Now, I readily admit that dualism, including emergent dualism, is a morecomplex theory than physicalism. So if physicalism really can get thejob done, Ockham's Razor looks like slicing off dualism at the roots.But it won't do to simply assume the adequacy of physicalism without confronting the arguments against it. Among the more difficultchallenges, I think, are the Argument from Reason, featured in Vic's book, and the unity-of-consciousness argument, which I've developed following Leibniz and Kant. (As I've noted, Stapp seems to have afairly good grip on both of these arguments. He thinks quantum physicscan overcome them, and that is something that needs to be further explored.)

Cheers, Bill

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Menuge on Dretske

One well-known attempt to “bake an intentional cake out of physical yeast and flour” is Fred Dretske’s Knowledge and the Flow of Information. According to Dretske,“Perhaps…the intentionality of our cognitive attitudes…a feature that some philosophers take to be distinctive of the mental, is a manifestation of their underlying information-theoretic structures.”

Angus Menuge, in Agents Under Fire, (Rowman and Littlefield, 2004) pp. 179-180 offers two lines of response.

“The first is to note that the move does not really work but is yet another example of relocating and hiding the original problem. If the transmission of information is to do any work in explaining human cognition and behavior, this information cannot be viewed as mere uninterpreted signals. We must suppose that the information has content. For example, if certain signals from the visual cortex of as tourist near Banff National Park carry the information that a grizzly bear is ten feet away, then the fact clearly explains the tourist’s recollecting the ranger’s advice, “Do not run; if attacked, lie face down until the bear moves away.” But physical signals are not self-interpreting. Indeed the pattern of events occurring in the visual cortex might be interpreted in an infinite number of ways, only a few of which are relevant to the encounter with a grizzly. The fact is that the salient information in these signals is recoverable by an interpretive agent who understands them. Understanding is, however, an intentional state.”

"Likewise, merely understanding the information that a grizzly is nearby explains nothing without supposing that one not only has a desire to stay alive but also has instrumental beliefs about how to do so….For information to do the kind of work that it needs to do to explain human actions, intentional attitudes toward that information will have to be involved."

Menuge goes on to argue that the information involved in cognition is a prime example of the sort of specified complexity that is best explained by intelligent design.

A comment from an anonymous commentator

On your last post about "the argument" from intentionality.Any critique of naturalistic accounts of reference (intentionality, content) needs to grapple with Fred Dretske's 'Knowledge and the Flow of Information' (KFI). He addresses all the concerns in the post about how a physical system could have intentionality: in his words, how to 'bake a mental cake using only physical yeast and flour'.As background, in neuroscience we use the idiom of 'representation' all the time, to refer to 'internal maps by means of which we steer' (Dretske's line). More dryly (and still leaving out some details) in neuroscience, the following are in practice taken to be sufficient criteria for Y to be an internal representations of X (where X is some feature of the world): Y must carry information about X (roughly, X should be predictable from Y), and Y is used by the rest of the system to guide behavior with respect to X. That is, Y is a map of X, and the organism uses Y to steer behavior wrt X. At any rate (and despite some of Vallicella's confident yet unfounded claims to the contrary), we indeed have discovered representational systems in brains that meet the above criteria. This notion of representation is Dretske's starting point, which he spells out in the first two parts of KFI. Then, in the remaining third of his book, Dretske adds to this initial proto-representational core to get things like concepts and full-fledged intensional content.Given that Dretske's story is generally recognized by naturalists (myself included: his books are in the very short list of philosophy books I have read that have actually helped me clarify my ideas as a neuroscientist studying sensory systems) as one of the best stories around about content, I was wondering if in your work on intentionality you have looked at or responded to Dretske's work, in particular KFI? When I read your most recent post, in the back of my mind was Dretske's theories providing obvious responses that make your arguments seem sort of out of touch with the positive naturalist accounts that are out there.As an aside, Vallicella mentions Dretske on his site, here: he does not understand Dretske and ends up attacking a straw man. On that site, he attributes to Dretske the view that Y carrying information about X is sufficient for Y to have X as intentional content, so (e.g.) a thermometer could be said to represent temperature. Dretske takes great pains to point out that this 'thermometer' view of content is false, but doesn't go on (like Vallicella did) to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Rather, Dretske points out that just because natural meaning (basically, information) is not sufficient for intentionality, that doesn't mean that a naturalistic account of intentionality needn't draw at *all* on the resources of information theory. Indeed, Dretske spends the last third of his book discussing how natural meaning can be incorporated into an account of full-fledged intentional content (with all its nice properties like absent referents).

A quote form John Searle

Any attempt to reduce intentionality to something nonmental will always fail because it leaves out intentionality. Suppose for example that you had a perfect causal account of the belief that water is wet. This account is given by stating the set of causal relations in which a system stands to water and to wetness and these relations are entirely specified without any mental component. The problem is obvious: a system could have all those relations and still not believe that water is wet. This is just an extension of the Chinese Room argument, but the moral it points to is general: You cannot reduce intentional content (or pains, or "qualia") to something else, because if you did they would be something else, and it is not something else." (Searle, Rediscovery p. 51).

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Part of "Defending the Dangerous Idea"

For my presentation in England,I have been working on my a paper entitled "Defending the Dangerous Idea" I've started work on the part of the paper having to do with intentionality. It may help to answer some objections that have come up on another thread:

I. The Argument from Intentionality
The first of the arguments that I presented is the Argument from Intentionality.
Physical states have physical characteristics, but how can it be a characteristic of, say, some physical state of my brain, that it is about dogs Boots and Frisky, or about my late Uncle Stanley, or even about the number 2. Can’t we describe my brain, and its activities, without having any clue as to what my thoughts are about?
To consider this question, let us give a more detailed account of what intentionality is. Angus Menuge offers the following definition:
1) The representations are about something.
2) They characterize the thing in a certain way
3) What they are about need not exist
4) Where reference succeeds, the content may be false
5) The content defines an intensional context in which the substitution of equivalents typically fails.
So, if I believe that Boots and Frisky are in the back yard, this belief has to be about those dogs, I must have some characterization of those dogs in mind that identifies them for me, my thoughts can be about them even if, unbeknownst to me, they have just died, my reference two those two dogs can succeed even if they have found their way into the house, and someone can believe that Boots and Frisky are in the back yard without believing that “the Repperts’ 13 year old beagle” and “the Repperts’ 8 year old mutt” are in the back yard.
It is important to draw a further distinction, a distinction between original intentionality, which is intrinsic to the person possessing the intentional state, and derived or borrowed intentionality, which is found in maps, words, or computers. Maps, for example, have the meaning that they have, not in themselves, but in relation to other things that possess original intentionality, such as human persons. There can be no question that physical systems possess derived intentionality. But if they possess derived intentionality in virtue of other things that may or may not be physical systems, this does not really solve the materialist’s problem.

It seems to me that intentionality, as I understand it, requires consciousness. There are systems that behave in ways such that, in order to predict their behavior, it behooves us to act as if they were intentional systems. If I am playing chess against a computer, and I am trying to figure out what to expect it to play, then I am probably going to look for the moves it think are good and expect the computer to play those. I act as if the computer were conscious, even though I know that it has no more consciousness than a tin can. Similarly, we can look at the bee dances and describe them in intentional terms; the motions the bees engage in enable the other bees to go where the pollen is, but it does not seem plausible to attribute a conscious awareness of what information is being sent in the course of the bee dance. We can look at the bees as if they were consciously giving one another information, but the intentionality as-if intentionality, not the kind of original intentionality we find in conscious agents. As Colin McGinn writes:
I doubt that the self-same kind of content possessed by a conscious perceptual experience, say, could be possessed independently of consciousness; such content seems essentially conscious, shot through with subjectivity. This is because of the Janus-faced character of conscious content: it involves presence to the subject, and hence a subjective point of view. Remove the inward-looking face and you remove something integral—what the world seems like to the subject.
If we ask what the content of a word is, the content of that word has to be the content for some conscious agent; how that conscious agent is understanding the word.
In reading Carrier’s critique of my book we find, in his response to the argument from intentionality, terms being used that make sense to me from the point of view of my life as a conscious subject, but I am not at all sure what to make of them when we start thinking of them as elements in the life of something that is not conscious. Consider the following:
Returning to my earlier definition of aboutness, as long as we can know that "element A of model B is hypothesized to correspond to real item C in the universe" we have intentionality, we have a thought that is about a thing.
Because the verbal link that alone completely establishes aboutness--the fact of being "hypothesized"--is something that many purely mechanical computers do…
Or again
Language is a tool--it is a convention invented by humans. Reality does not tell us what a word means. We decide what aspects of reality a word will refer to. Emphasis here: we decide. We create the meaning for words however we want. The universe has nothing to do with it--except in the trivial sense that we (as computational machines) are a part of the universe.
Now simply consider the words, hypothesize and decide that he uses in these
I think I know what it means to decide something as a conscious agent. I am aware of choice 1 and choice 2, I deliberate about it, and then consciously choose 1 as opposed to 2, or vice versa. All of this requires that I be a conscious agent who knows what my thoughts are about. That is why I have been rather puzzled by Carrier’s explaining intentionality in terms like these; such terms mean something to me only if we know what our thoughts are about. The same thing goes for hypothesizing. I can form a hypothesis (such as, all the houses in this subdivision were built by the same builder) just in case I know what the terms of the hypothesis mean, in other words, only if I already possess intentionality. That is what these terms mean to me, and unless I’m really confused, this is what those terms mean to most people.

Some conclusions about the Lewis-Anscombe controversy

My researches into the Anscombe exchange show pretty clearly 1) Anscombe provided some legitimate objections to the formulation of the argument against naturalism as found in the first edition of Miracles. 2) Lewis seems to have felt discouraged in the immediate aftermath of the exchange, as shown by comments he made to literary friends. 3) Lewis did not think that Anscombe’s considerations put the naturalist in the clear; in fact, Lewis employs Anscombe’s distinctions in the response that appears in the very issue of the Socratic Digest in which Anscombe’s paper appeared. 4) Anscombe considered the revised argument much more serious than the first edition, although she did not endorse it. 5) Lewis's revisions, along with other philosophical considerations, show that Lewis's argument, properly reformulated, can survive Anscombe's objections. 6) Although Lewis published no more books about apologetics after the Anscombe exchange, he did write many articles devoted to apologetics, revising and expanding the controversial chapter of Miracles for the Fontana edition. You don't expand a chapter you think has been proven wrong. 7) Attempts by A. N. Wilson and others to identify the Green Witch in Narnia (who attempt to persuade the children that the Overworld does not exist) with Anscombe are complete and utter nonsense.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Hasker on Stapp

In the course of the previous discussion of the unity of consciousness and physicalism, I got som responses from Mike Wiest, who took a position that anti-physicalist arguments work against physicalism if the "physical" is understood in terms of classical physics, but quantum mechanics opens the door to answer the questions posed by these arguments. My initial reaction was that this was a form of scientific idealism and a rejection of mechanism at the level of fundamental physics. I sent the link to Stapp's paper, which Wiest recommended, to William Hasker, who responded as follows:

Greetings! Your query about Wiest’s message came at a (relatively) good time – no major projects are underway at the moment, and I am pretty well caught up on F & P stuff. So, I printed out Stapp’s article, and have been trying to figure it out.

To begin with, I think Stapp does have a fairly good grip on the unity-of-consciousness argument, and on the evolutionary version of the Argument from Reason. Roughly, the idea seems to be this: a “thought” – say a belief – typically involves nervous activity in widely scattered parts of the brain. But, on classical assumptions, each micro-area within the brain is in direct causal contact only with immediately adjacent areas; also, the physical description of what is going on at a given point in the brain (i.e., values for the several physical “fields” at that point) is far too simple to register a complex state of consciousness. So consciousness, if it exists, must be something “external” to the brain, but then (assuming causal closure) it would have no effect on behavior and would confer no evolutionary advantage, and would thus be scientifically inexplicable. This is pretty rough, and it’s a mixture of what he says and some of my own ways of putting things, but I do think it basically captures what he is saying up through section 2.

The tricky part begins in section 3. I’ve tried to figure out the mathematical notation; it doesn’t help that parentheses have got converted into tildes, and some guesswork is involved in putting them back! I think I’ve got a fair grip on what he is saying up through 3.5. But what he says about the quantum-mechanical description of a system leaves me in the dust. I can to some extent interpret the formulas, but I have no idea what they represent or what the point is of describing the system in the way he sets out. So for present purposes, I have to take it on faith that he knows what he is talking about. But the payoff (in 3.9f) seems to be this: the quantum-mechanical description of a system (such as the brain) is enormously more complex than the classical description, such that (I hope I’ve got this straight!) a description of what is going on at any one point involves the simultaneous de­scrip­tion of what is happening at all the other points in the system. Thus, the quantum-mechanical state-description, unlike the classical state-description, is sufficiently complex to correspond to a belief or some other complex state of consciousness.

This amounts, in fact, to a kind of ontological holism: “The fundamentally holistic character of the quantum mechanical description [of] nature is perhaps its most basic and pervasive feature” (3.12). And this does respond to the challenge of the UOC argument: to account for the UOC, we need something that functions holistically rather than atomistically, as physical reality does on a classical model. Actually, 3:11 is the bit that best summarizes the point of this section as a whole.

So far, this does not tell us why thought is involved in the quantum-mechanical process. (Note that all of the above would apply to any physical system, not just to the brain.) I take it the following section is supposed to help with this. Or rather, to point us in the direction of other work of the author’s (surprise, surprise!) that does the job. The big promissory note (so far as the present article is concerned) is the claim that the author’s theory “appears to be able to explain in terms of the laws of physics the causal connections underlying human behavior that are usually explained in psychological terms” (4.7). My reaction, as you may surmise, is along the lines of: “This blank check and a dollar bill will get you a can of pop out of the machine.” Of course, the author apparently has made an effort, in his book, to cash out the promissory note. My instinct, however, is that the Argument from Reason is going to kick in here, and I see nothing that suggests he will have a good answer to it.

The “Conclusions” (section 6) summarizes very nicely the limitations of classical physics (as captured by the UOC argument) in providing an understanding of mentality. The way in which quantum physics overcomes these limitations is, unfortunately, not spelled out with equal clarity.

Appendix A gives some of the basics of the author’s theory, which strikes me as extremely interesting though highly speculative. (Incidentally, I believe David Chalmers has recently come out for something roughly along these same lines.) It’s possible that the holistic character of quantum mechanics can be used to account for the holistic nature of thought. But I see nothing so far that shows me that Stapp has crossed the divide (or perhaps, even seen clearly the divide) between the “mechanistic” nature of matter and the intentional and teleological character of thought, as featured in the AFR.

I guess I’ll leave it at that, for now. Does this help at all towards clarifying your perplexity about the material? And, do you have any further thoughts to share? This really is interesting stuff, though the author has lots to learn about writing for non-physicists.

Beckwith's new blog

Francis Beckwith has a new blog, "a site dedicated to supporting the political liberty of religious citizens to participate in America's liberal democracy. The purpose of this blog is to advance this cause by pointing readers in the direction of important resources and commentaries."

Vallicella responds to Steven Carr

One of Steven Carr's comments was in large part a response to Maverick Philosopher William Vallicella on intentionality, and Maverick responds here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

A review of a book with some similarity to CSLDI

People interested in the arguments in my book might also be interested in this: it's a book by John Byl called The Divine Challenge.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

To ID or not ID

With respect to the ID debate, both with respect to the viewpoint discrimination issues, and the plausibilty of the claims of ID itself, people are going to have to make up their own minds. On the Caldwell v. Scott issue, Angus Menuge suggests a posting at

Also, Dembski responds to a lot of the common criticisms of ID in his book The Design Revolution, put out by Inter-Varsity Press.

I'm personally sympathetic to ID, but I can't say that I am up to defending their arguments myself.

I did notice on thing on the Panda's Thumb website. I kept looking for an ID defender to step forward, and no one did. Now either the strength of the case at the Panda's Thumb is so overwhelming that no one can gainsay it, or something is preventing people who disagree from posting comments. Here at Dangerous Idea, I'm proud to say, we don't have that problem. Both sides of issues, I believe, are getting good representation, and most of the dialogue has been courteous.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Lippard v. Menuge

Victor:I just saw Menuge's response on your blog.I retract my statement about Sternberg which was based on hismembership in the "Baraminology Study Group," which has as its purpose the study of the original kinds of living things created by God.Apparently Sternberg is not a believing member, according to this website: I stand behind my otherstatements on this issue, however--Menuge has said nothing thatrefutes the critiques of Meyer's unoriginal and poor quality paper that I cited.

The ethical complaints about Leonard are not so much about the contentof his dissertation as they are about the improper procedures whichallowed him to get to the dissertation defense stage withoutappropriate members of his dissertation committee, a situation whichhas now been rectified by putting the head of the biology departmenton his committee. Menuge's statement that "their key complaint is that it is unethical to have taught students about the controversy about Darwinism, because there isn't one." I don't believe that is the key complaint, and that's certainly not why OSU has taken theactions that it has. Again, I point to the discussion at the Panda'sThumb, which Menuge has not acknowledged or addressed in any way:
The Caldwell issue is nothing I've commented on, but I recommend readingattorney Timothy Sandefur's commentary on the suit here, which pointsout far more egregious misrepresentations by Caldwell than those he asserts from Scott: Jim Lippard

Menuge responds to Lippard

All of it false:1) Sternberg has 2 Ph.D's in evolutionary biology and is not even a proponent ofID, far less a creationist: he is simply a structuralist. Too many Darwinistsmake the mistake of labeling all their critics "creationist." This means thatStuart Kauffman, who believes in naturalistic self-organization, is a creationist. Absurd? I think so.2) Leonard's critics admit they only objected after his testimony at Kansas andnot on the basis of *any* knowledge of his dissertation or research. Their keycomplaint is that it is unethical to have taught students about the controversyabout Darwinism, because there isn't one. But there is, even among entirelynaturalistic cicles. See for example, eds. Gerd B. Muller and Stuart Newman,The Origination of Organismal Form, MIT Press. P.7: "neo-Darwinism has no theoryof the generative."On the back cover, the last blurb confirms: "This volume challenges the primacyof both neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory and developmental genetics as completeexplanations for the phenomena of evolutionary developmental biology." The bookargues that neo-Darwinism fails to explain new body plans and the devlopment ofindividual orgaisms, because both depend on more than the gene. I'll leave others to decide if unfounded accusations, blatant misrepresentationof people's positions, childish ad hominems and attempts to ruin people'scareers amount to persecution. Here's another recent example from Evolution News:News Release                   For Immediate ReleaseCALIFORNIA ACADEMY OF SCIENCES SETTLES LIBEL CLAIMOVER EVOLUTION ARTICLEParent's Claim Sparked by False Article by Leading Darwin Advocate                  ROSEVILLE, CA -- The California Academy of Sciences has settled with a California parent, Larry Caldwell, who raised a potential libel claim against the organization over its publication of a false and defamatory article authoredby Eugenie C. Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for ScienceEducation, Inc. (NCSE) Scott's article, entitled "In My Backyard: Creationists in California," appeared in the Spring print and online editions of theAcademy's California Wild magazine. The article had also been accessible througha link on the NCSE's website.In a lawsuit filed against Scott and the NCSE in April, Caldwell claimed thatthe Scott article contained numerous factual misstatements and libeled him in an effort by Scott and the NCSE to discredit his efforts to promote his "QualityScience Education" policy, which is designed to include some of the scientific weaknesses of the Darwin's theory of evolution in biology classes. Caldwell'slawsuit did not formally name the California Academy of Sciences as a defendant,although, as the publisher of the Scott article, it was a potential defendant inthe suit.In a settlement agreement finalized recently, the California Academy of Scienceshas agreed to permanently remove all on-line access to the Scott article. TheAcademy has also agreed to publish a lengthy letter by Caldwell and a retractionletter by Scott in the upcoming Summer 2005 Edition of Calfornia Wild, whichwill be available in print and on the internet in early July. Caldwell's letter will correct a number of factual misstatements in the Scottarticle. Scott's letter will retract several false allegations about Caldwell andhis-year long effort to improve science education in the Roseville high schooldistrict. For example, Scott had falsely accused Caldwell of purportedlyproposing two young earth creation science books to the Roseville Joint UnionHigh School District for potential adoption and use in biology classes--one of which is authored and published by the Jehovah's Witnesses. In her letter to be published in California Wild, Scott now concedes that Caldwell did not submit these books to the school district. Contrary to her article, Scott also now admits that school officials in the Roseville high school district never actually considered those books foradoption anyway. Scott also concedes that her allegation that a science expert had purportedlyexpressed his opinion that Caldwell had a "gross misunderstanding of science"was false; and Scott will also retract her claim that the Roseville high schoolboard had purportedly passed a resolution "recommending" that "creationist"materials be used in science classes.Said Caldwell, "I am pleased that the California Academy of Sciences andCalifornia Wild have shown the professional integrity to remove this libelous article from internet access, and to give me an opportunity to set the record straight on my Quality Science Education Policy"Caldwell added, "It's a shame it took a lawsuit to get Scott, the author of the article, to retract some of the more outrageous factual misstatements in her article."Unfortunately, Scott and the NCSE have a long history of libeling people in the debate over how evolution should be taught in our public schools; my case isonly the most recent example. Hopefully, it won't take any more libel lawsuitsto teach them how to stick to the truth.""Other critics of Darwin's theory have been personally attacked on the basis of misrepresentations in similar cases where the Darwinists claim that the critics' professional statements or qualifications are false," said Caldwell. "The difference between them and me is that I decided to take legal action.Darwinists need to get the message: engage in civil discourse without defamationor prepare to answer in court."According to Caldwell, there's also an important lesson for journalistsand publishers: Claims by Darwinists should by carefully investigated before being reported as facts. Meanwhile, Caldwell's libel lawsuit against Scott and the National Centerfor Science Education, Inc. continues.Caldwell is the founder of Quality Science Education for All, a non-profitorganization dedicated to securing and defending the right of all students to receive a quality science education that exposes them to the scientific strengths and weaknesses of evolution. Quality Science Education for All is onthe web here
VR: The chances for civilized discussion of the merits of ID are not looking good to me, and that is too bad.

Lippard responds to Menuge

In response to

1. Richard Sternberg is a creationist who published a very bad ID
article by Stephen Meyer in a journal of taxonomy even though the
article had nothing to do with taxonomy, and he didn't follow the
journal's own review standards prior to that publication. Further,
Meyer's article is not original, but is mostly composed of previously
published but uncited material by Meyer and other authors. This has
been discussed in great detail at The Panda's Thumb blog:

2. The Leonard case is clearly not a case of persecution--though it
does appear to be a case of serious ethical failings on the part of ID proponents. How can a legitimate Ph.D. in science education on
teaching evolution be awarded to someone with no one with any
expertise in science or evolution on his dissertation committee?
Leonard clearly stacked the deck--his dissertation committee has two
people with no expertise in science or education, but both happen to
be ID supporters.

3. ID is a political and religious movement. The Wedge strategy originally said that the science would be done before the PR and political aspects, but that turned out to be inconvenient--the science still hasn't been done, but they've moved full steam ahead into PR and politics.

Jim Lippard

Jim Lippard replies to Matt Jordan on ID

Would you mind forwarding this? I'm NOT an expert in evolution and am
somewhat out-of-date, but I did spend over a decade with study of
evolution vs. creation as a major avocation.
On your blog, he says "I am willing to acknowledge that Darwinian
evolution really might be the correct account of our origins. But
based on what I've seen, it's just plain inferior to ID."
That's quite interesting, since *there is no scientific theory of ID* that has
ever been published anywhere, while there is a wealth of scientific theory behind evolution.
In response to his questions:
> 1. Do you know of any one book which details in systematic fashion
>the evidence for Darwinian macroevolution? I'm looking for something
>accessible to the non-expert which answers the question "why should I
>believe that Darwinian evolution offers the correct account of the
>origin and diversity of life on earth?" (I'd also be interested in any
>single-volume critique of ID that you can recommend.)
Try any college textbook on evolutionary biology. Or, if you want a contrast
between creationist claims and evolutionary claims, try Eugenie Scott's
Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction, or Doug Futuyma's (now somewhat out
of date) Science on Trial. For philosophers' contributions, try Philip Kitcher's
_Abusing Science_ and Robert Pennock's _Tower of Babel_. The latter is particularly
directed at ID, and is by a Christian philosopher (Pennock's a Quaker).
> 2. Are the ID folks correct in their claim that the plausibility of
>Darwinism derives largely from a prior commitment (in the scientific
>community) to methodological naturalism? If so, how is that commitment justified?
All science uses methodological naturalism. Auto mechanics use methodological
naturalism. It's used because it works. Appeal to the supernatural occurs when
no other explanation is available. Biology is not looking for supernatural
causes, and it doesn't seem to need them. Ditto for chemistry, physics, geology.
If ID is right that we should adopt a framework of theistic science (Plantinga's
term), then why shouldn't we adopt that in all other sciences as well? How
about in legal theory and criminal forensics?

> 3. I've seen a number of scientists criticize ID on the grounds that
>it is neither testable nor useful for making predictions. These are
>both understandable criticisms, except that I don't see how
>evolutionary theory is likely to do better than ID in either
>regard. It seems like both theories should be understood as inferences
>to the best explanation. Is that wrong? Or are there other "epistemtic
>virtues" possessed by Darwinism but not by ID?

Evolution has the huge advantage of being an actually existing scientific
theory. ID has the huge disadvantage of not being formulated in any scientifically
useful way.

> 4. In your view, does the initial presence of genetic information
>pose a special challenge to Darwninism (as advocates of ID have

It's a harder problem, but it's still capable of scientific test as well as
computer modeling (e.g., Thomas Ray's Tierra program).

> 5. Same as #4, but with 'irreducible complexity' in place of 'the initial
presence of genetic information'.

"Irreducible complexity" is not a problem at all. Behe's very examples have
already been addressed... e.g.,
on blood clotting, see the Davidson 2003 source cited here:

> 6. Is there one specific feature of ID which you would cite as the
>fundamental flaw with the theory? (Obviously, I'm assuming that
>neither of you is a proponent thereof.)

What *is* the scientific theory of ID? Or *a* scientific theory of ID?

> 7. I've sometimes heard the following sort of argument, which is
>related to question #2 above. "Critics of ID reject it because ID
>appeals to the work of a (probably nonphysical) agent as the efficient
>cause of natural phenomena, and those critics believe that this makes
>ID nonscientific by definition. But it is at least possible that the
>correct account of the origin of life involves the work of such an
>agent. And since science is, if anything, the domain of inquiry which
>seeks true explanations of natural phenomena, ID should count as a
>scientific theory. If we claim that ID is unscientific solely because

What's the theory? If simply saying "God did it" counts as a
legitimate scientific theory, then doesn't that work in all other
sciences as well? Doesn't that work just as well as a defense in a
criminal trial? Is that what you're advocating is a way of increasing
our knowledge of the natural world?

>it appeals to the work of an intelligent agent, and we grant that an
>intelligent agent could be the cause of life, then we are forced to
>hold that science as such may be in principle incapable of discovering
>the truth about the natural world. No scientist wants to claim that,
>however, so it should be agreed that ID is a scientific theory
>(whether it's actually a good theory or not). Q.E.D." In your view,
>does this sort of argument hold any water?

Not as an argument for the scientific value of ID. I think there's no
doubt that science (or humans) may be in principle incapable of discovering
certain truths about the natural world (though I disagree with your phrasing
above--I think humans have discovered a great many truths about the natural
world already). But that doesn't make ID science, and it certainly doesn't
make science a waste of time. It does mean that some truths may be beyond the
reach of science--I think that's relatively uncontroversial, even among

What's a mistake is to say that X is inherently out of reach of
science, therefore no one should try to apply scientific methods--yet
that seems to be the real message behind ID.

I've not read any of these yet, but these are critiques of ID more
recent than Pennock's book (which addresses Behe, Johnson, and some of
Dembski's work): Niall Shanks, God, the Devil, and Darwin
Mark Perakh, Unintelligent Design Matt Young and Taner Edis, ed., Why Intelligent Design Fails If you think Dembski has any credibility at all, I recommend reading
the critiques of his work by Elliott Sober, Branden Fitelson, and
Christopher Stevens (, by
David Wolpert (, by
Wesley Elsberry
and by Wesley Elsberry and Jeffrey Shallit
Elsberry has a page full of detailed critiques of Dembski here:
Jim Lippard
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Durbin and Limbaugh on Gitmo

Well, this has been quite the week for over-the-top political rhetoric. First we have Dick Durbin saying that what we are doing at Guantanamo Bay is like what the Nazis did during the Holocaust. Then we have Rush Limbaugh selling Club Gitmo shirts, comparing Gitmo to a tropical resort.

OK. I personally subscribe to the Hitler Rule. Comparing anything but Hitler and the Holocaust to Hitler and the Holocaust is, with a few exceptions, over-the-top rhetoric. But comparing it to a tropical resort is pretty insane too. Does the end of getting information from these prisoners justify the means we are using to get it? (Charles Colson, for example, criticized Mark "Deep Throat" Felt because even though the end he was aiming at may have been legitimate, the means he used was deceitful and unethical). If we don't have to live up the the standard of the Geneva Accords when it comes to these prisoners, what standards do we have to live up to? Being more ethical than the SS is clearly not enough. So where do we draw the line?

But these are the wicked perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks! Don't we have the right to use any means at our disposal to stop terrorism?

But have we proved that? And even if it were so, aren't there still limits on what we have the right to do to anyone, regardless of what they might have done. I can't imagine a more despicable and cowardly act than the Oklahoma City bombing. Did we have the right to torture Timothy McVeigh to get whatever information we could out of him about his possible confederates before we put him to death?

I realize that some of you who like my metaphysics may not like what I have to say here. (And vice versa). But we must follow the argument where it leads.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Vallicella on Mind, Science and Ockham's Razor

This is Bill Vallicella's take on the argument from neuroscience. It fits in very nicely with the discussion we've been having on this blog.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

On the neurophysiological argument

The dialogue concerning the case against the future life is interesting. I would say that the neurological dependence argument is interesting and if we were considering only the data there I might be inclined to be a materialist, but absent any good physicalist responses to issues like the unity of consciousness, intentionality, the role of truth in a materialist world, mental causation, the psychological role of the laws of logic, the weakness of Darwinian arguments for the reliability of our mental lives if materialism is true, the problems connected with indexicals and the first person, the persistent failure of materialists to explain consciousness without explaining it away, I don't think the neurophysiological argument gives us good grounds, on the whole, to accept materialism.

As for the problem of survival, couldn't a Christian claim something like this: that there is a soul, that its mental states require the existence of a close relationship to the body, that it continues to exist into the next life, where it is re-embodied with all the "information" from its earthly life to count as the person who lived on earth? The soul is the continuer from the earthly life to the future life, but the embodiment-dependent mental life is guaranteed by the strucural similarity of the future embodiment to the earthly embodiment. The Christian is committed to the resurrection of the body and not the immortality of the soul, but the view I am suggesting says that we still need the soul to solve personal identity problems, even though it cannot function in a disembodied state. Although, I suppose God could "plug in" the information the soul received from its body on earth without actually providing a body.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

An old essay by Jim Lippard

This is an old article by Jim Lippard, whose atheist and pro-Darwinian credentials are impeccable, but who decries the anti-creationist tactics used by a couple of anti-Gish debaters. Regardless of what side you are on, it offers some important lessons about debating your points.

Angus Menuge responds

A note from Angus Menuge:

Victor,Thanks for this. By the way, there is no doubt about the Darwinian inquistion, which is ongoing. Just recently, palenotologist Richard Sternberg was removed from his office after allowing publishing of a science article by Stephen Meyer defending ID, "The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories," [see] and there is Bryan Leonard, an Ohio State school teacher who testified with me at Kansas. Leonard presented the results of his Ph.D research showing that a "teach the controversy" approach in Ohio improved student test results in science. Now 3 Ohio state professors are trying to deny him his Ph.D. [See Discovery Institute press release below]

Attack on OSU Graduate Student Endangers Academic Freedom SEATTLE
An effort by three professors at Ohio State University (OSU) to publicly damage the academic future of a graduate student, Bryan Leonard, because of his support for teaching about the controversy over evolution is "an attack on academic freedom and a violation of professional ethics," said Discovery Institute President Bruce Chapman. Bryan Leonard has not even had a chance to defend his dissertation through the university process and they have gone to the press to try to discredit him in public, said Chapman. "It seems to me that the graduate student's real crime in this group's eyes is that he represents the science teaching policy recently adopted by the Ohio State Board of Education, added Chapman. Having failed to win their way with the state board, they are taking it out on an unusually promising graduate student who was consulted by the board in its deliberations. The professors apparently have not even read the dissertation they are denouncing. According to an article in the June 9, Columbus Dispatch, OSU professors Steve Rissing, Brian McEnnis, and Jeffrey McKee are seeking to discredit the dissertation research of Mr. Leonard, an OSU graduate student (and current high school biology teacher). Mr. Leonard's dissertation analyzes how teaching students "the scientific data both supporting and challenging macroevolution" impacts student beliefs about evolution. "Last year Prof. Rissing tried unsuccessfully to kill the lesson plan that Mr. Leonard helped to draft, but he was rebuffed by the Ohio Board of Education," said Chapman. "Now it appears he and his colleagues are trying to strangle Mr. Leonard's academic future." According to the Dispatch, the professors admit that they haven't read Leonard's dissertation. But that hasn't stopped them from asserting that Leonard's research is flawed because it "may have involved unethical human-subject experimentation." But the supposed unethical problem with human subjects is nothing more than teaching high school students the scientific criticisms of evolutionary theory along with the evidence favoring the theory. That kind of teaching is an approach endorsed by Ohio's official science standards and also the conference report appended to the federal No Child Left Behind Act. "The complaining professors are simply defining as 'unethical' any research that disagrees with their dogmatic view of how to teach evolution, said Chapman.

Angus is the author of Agents Under Fire (Rowman and Littlefield, 2004) . Here is a dialogue concerning the book:

Monday, June 13, 2005

Ismael and Pollock on Nolipsism

This is a very intersting essay by Ismael and Pollock that maintains that physicalism can be rescued from serious problems posed by the indexical issue by denying that indexicals refer to anything. But I wonder if that doesn't open them up to a self-refutation argument. If there is no single person thinking the thoughts that make up the arguments in this essay, doesn't it follow that we can't really consider them to be rational inferences at all?

ID and the fear of religion

Here is the Dembski quote I was looking for:

By the way, you may be wondering why I don't here simply provide a list of peer-reviewed articles by design theorists from the biological literature that support intelligent design. The reason is that I want to spare these authors the harassment they would receive if I listed their work in this book. Overzealous critics of intelligent design regard it as their moral duty to keep biology free from intelligent design, even if that means taking extreme measures. I've known such critics to contact design theorists' employers and notify them of the "heretics" in their midst. Once "outed" the design theorists themselves get harassed and harangued with e-mails. Next, the press does a story mentioning their unsavory intelligent design associations. (The day one such story apperaed, a close friend and colleague of mine mentioned in the story was dismissed from his research position at a prestigious molecular biology laboratory. He had worked in the lab for ten years). Hereafter, the first thing that an Internet search of their names reveals is their connection with intelligent design. Welcome to the inquisition. (Dembski, The Design Revolution, p. 305).

I'm sorry, Blue Devil Knight, but this is not the normal quality control engaged in in the normal course of academic life. If this is true, this is a deliberately conceived witch-hunt aimed and destroying ID by intimidation. It is treating ID not merely as a false idea (many false ideas have made tremendous contributions to the history of science) but as a disease that must be eliminated root and branch. Does science need to be kept "pure" in this way? I can assure you that tactics like these will not improve the relationship between science and the wider community. At the same time people like Richard Dawkins use the prestige of evolutionary biology to support a campaign for atheism, a campaign which seems to me to be simply loaded with specious arguments.

For most of my life I would have regarded myself as pretty much a theistic evolutionist. I have no truck with any attempt to say that good science shows that the earth was created 6000 years ago in 6 days. However, in studying the philosophy of science I wondered at some of the arguments designed to show that science is necessarily naturalistic. I decided those arguments didn't work, and interestingly enough my staunchly atheist philosophy of science teacher in grad school agreed with me. It reminded me of arguments by David Hume that there couldn't be enough evidence for a miracle. (Some people accept that argument, and then also say they don't believe in God because he didn't give us enough evidence for his existence).

Science is perfectly free to use heuristic principles, like methodological naturalism, in a defeasible way. But the idea that the universe is undetermined at the quantum level, and the idea that the universe had a beginning in time, are both claims that would have been proscribed by most versions of "methodological naturalism" that might have prevailed prior to the acceptance of Big Bang cosmology and quantum mechanics.

But methodological naturalism is sometimes held to in a dogmatic way. Consider the following quote by Richard Lewontin:

Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community of unsubstantiated just-so stories [in evolutionary biology] because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material causes, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who believes in God can believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that Miracles may happen. (1997)

As I pointed out in my book, what would happen if some Christian were to say the same thing about the inerrancy of the Bible?

Our willingness to accept biblical teachings that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between faith and unbelief. We take the side of Scripture in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the existence of unsubstantiated just so stories in Scripture, because we have a prior commitment to Scripture's inerrancy. It is not that the methods and institutions of biblical study somehow compel us to accept only interpretations which are in accordance with the Bible's inerrancy, but on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to biblical inerrancy to create a method of biblical study that [produces explanations that are consistent with inerrancy, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, our commitment to inerrancy is absolute, for we cannot allow doubt to get its foot in the door. For anyone doubting the Word of God in any respect will end up doubting it in all respects.

Why, it would make you want to use the f-word (the long one that is).

Are these ID attackers really just trying to uphold science? Or are they motivated by the fear of religion? As Thomas Nagel observes:

In speaking of the fear of religion, I don't mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper - namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn't just that I don't believe in God, and naturally, hope that I'm right about my belief. It's that I hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that. (1997)

Now I have no intention of explaining philosophical naturalism as a whole in terms of the fear of religion. But I think that some of the extreme responses by the enemies of ID, and the attempt to make methodological naturalism into an absolute instead of a defeasible heuristic, is a sure sign that the fear of religion, and not the love of science, is at work.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Paper presentation at Oxbridge 2005

Just to let all of you know that I am going to be giving a paper updating discussion on the Argument from Reason at the Oxbridge Conference on Aug 1. They don't have me on the program yet, but I fly out on Jul 30 and come back Aug 3. Blog entries devoted to the trip are promised.

Dembski on ID part II

Let's get back to the main point. Whether or not you think Dembski's work is correct, have the advocates of intelligent design suffered unjustified, inquisitorial attacks by at least some of their opponents? I wish I had my copy of The Design Revolution on hand, but Dembski says that scientists who come out in favor of design have their scientific careers attacked and potentially ruined, and he knows some who were dismissed from research positions when they were "outed." Even if you think that Dembski's arguments are bad or that Darwinism is true, is there something wrong with allowing a fair hearing to the attempt bring design into a scientific context? The questions posed by Intelligent Design are the questions that we would all like answered, questions that affect us existentially. If it really is wrong, shouldn't it die a natural death instead of having people working so hard to kill it? And can anyone complain about Dembski's tactics if the tactics used against him and his cohorts are what they seem to be? That is the point behind my linking to the Beckwith post on Right Reason.

Throwing design positions out of court a priori in virtue of some definition of science (and hence pseudoscience) weakens any attempt that anyone might make to appeal to the results of science as a basis for physicalism. Here's why. If science by definition must always come up with properly physicalist solutions to, let us say, the problem of mind, then the fact that all neuroscientific theories "support" physicalism will be tautological. Of course they are physicalistic, otherwise they wouldn't be science. To say that the neuroscientific evidence supports X is to imply that it could have supported Y, but didn't. But if it couldn't have supported Y no matter what, then it really lends no support to X.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Dembski and the war on ID

In a comment on a post of mine, Blue Devil Knight issued a complaint about some tactics that William Dembski admitted to using. Dembski had written:

I’m not going to give away all my secrets, but one thing I sometimes do is post on the web a chapter or section from a forthcoming book, let the critics descend, and then revise it so that what appears in book form preempts the critics’ objections. An additional advantage with this approach is that I can cite the website on which the objections appear, which typically gives me the last word in the exchange. (the quote is from here).

Blue Devil Knight replied: That quote makes me sick: Dembski dresses himself in academic cloth and language, but is really a sneaky manipulative witness to Jesus (and after having read his books I know his arguments are as specious as the one about indexicals above). This kind of dissemblance sickens me: talking of 'secrets', as if it is some kind of espionage where you are manipulating, rather than directly interacting with your interlocutor in good faith. Despicable. Even if your interlocutor has a good counterargument, at least you get the last word because it is in a book (spurious, incidentally).

Now I find Dembski's comments a little distateful myself; there's nothing wrong with putting ideas on a website that are in rougher shape than what you find in peer-reviewed published work, but I must admit I would not want to talk about getting the last word. You never get the last word of course.

At the same time, while I have run into some pretty harsh criticisms of my own work, but I think I've been pretty good at keeping things civilized with people who disagree with me. But the advocates of ID, unless they are lying about what they have experienced, have really been facing an inquisition from some of Darwin's rottweilers. Consider this post by Francis Beckwith on Right Reason, who has defended not the philosophical adequacy of the arguments for ID, but rather the constitutional permissibility of teaching ID in public schools.

Is this a case where the Darwinists should remove the log in their own eye so they can see clearly enough to remove the speck from their opponents' eyes?

Monday, June 06, 2005

Attention dualists: A physicalist challenge from Keith Augustine

Keith Augustine responded to some of the comments that I have blogged. Instead of answering his comments I want to underscore them. This is why physicalists are physicalists.

VR: I thought my point was that sophisticated dualists like Bill Hasker have never denied the extensive relaince of the mind upon the brain.

KA: Acknowledging mind-brain dependence is not the same as making sense of it. If I may quote Paul Churchland in _Matter and Consciousness_:"If there really is a distinct entity in which reasoning, emotion, andconsciousness take place ... then one would expect reason, emotion, andconsciousness to be relatively invulnerable to direct control or pathology by manipulation or damage to the brain. But in fact the exact opposite is true. Alcohol, narcotics, or senile degeneration of nerve tissue will impair, cripple, or even destroy one's capacity for rational thought.... And the vulnerability of consciousness to anesthetics, to caffeine, and to something as simple as a sharp blow to the head, shows its very close dependence on neural activity in the brain. All of this makes perfect sense if reason, emotion, and consciousness are activities of the brain itself. But it makes very little sense if they are activities of something else entirely."Note that this empirical argument would establish the improbability not only of Cartesian dualism, but of any sort of dualism which maintains that the mind is something separable from the brain, whether it is a pure disembodied mind or some quasi-physical astral body made of exotic matter. The mind-brain dependence argument does not establish that the mind depends upon some physical system, but upon a specific organic physical system which decays at death and thus, in all probability, destroys the mind as well.

VR: So we would not be appealing to soul theory to explain the Capgras > problem, for example, or blindsight. In fact, Hasker specifically appeals to these things to argue that a more traditional, Cartesian form of dualism is inadequate, in favor of an emergent kind of dualism in which the soul emerges from the activity of the brain.

KA: I think Jim's point was that such mental disorders, caused by neurological deficits, makes a soul thery--*any* soul theory--scientifically implausible. The issue is not whether emergent substance dualism can explain these syndromes; it is that the details of these syndromes are what we would expect to obtain if physicalism or property dualism were true, but not if substance dualism were true.I don't understand how an emergent *substance* could be highly dependent upon a brain. Emergent properties clearly could be. But a substance by definition is something that can exist independently of other substances. So if at some point in the development of a human being a "soul" emerges from neural activity, that means the brain has just ex nihilo created a soul. It does not explain why, once A has generated B, the states of B continue to depend upon the states of A. If A and B have separate existences now, there should be no dependence between them beyond that of a driver and his car. That is, if one's car engine catches on fire and is destroyed, the driver's heart should not automatically catch on fire too. And yet those who take psychedlic drugs effect the mind *directly*, not merely the mind's ability to control the body--the mind itself. Psychotropic drugs do not merely produce paralysis or cut off one's sensory information--they affect the mind's functioning. That seems to indicate that mental functioning cannot occur without brain functioning.

VR: I don't see how the sort of dualism Hasker has in mind is refuted by these sorts of phenomenon. If I am right a lot of anti-dualist arguments attack a straw man.

KA: Perhaps an analogy is appropriate here.Let's say we have two separate, interacting things: A Predator drone and the remote pilot controlling it from a distance. The drone is captured and its captors start fiddling with its transmitter/receiver. What's the worst the captors can do to the remote pilot, miles away? They can destroy the drone's camera, making it blind. The person controlling the drone will no longer be able to see the environment around the drone. They can destroy the microphone, making it deaf, and again, the radio controller will no longer be able to hear what is going on. Ditto if the wires connecting the camera and microphone to the transmitter are severed. Information from the senses has been cut off. Next, suppose that the wires connecting the receiver to the drone's engines are severed. Now the pilot cannot even blindly control the drone.It seems inescapable to me that any form of substance dualism is committed to predicting that the mind (the controller) is largely independent from the brain (the drone's transmitter/receiver). The worst you can do to the controller by manipulating the drone's transmitter/receiver is make the controller deaf or blind regarding the drone's environment, or unable to move the drone. You cannot affect the the controller's ability to do math, to understand language, or recognize undistorted faces. You cannot get the controller to go into a psychotic rage by manipulating the drone's radio. But you can make someone psychotic by spiking his drink with PCP, or prevent him from being able to do simple addition by lesioning certain areas of his brain. In short, basic neuroscientific facts are simply inexplicable on any variety of substance dualism.

VR: That has the effect of taking away the illusion that the "soul" is something radically separate from the brain. It's matter all right, it just doesn't obey the normal laws of matter.

KA: It doesn't matter (no pun intended) if the soul is a nonphysical substance or a physical substance separate from the brain. The argument from the dependence of consciousness on the brain cuts across both versions of dualism.

VR: The radio receiver analogy looks, on its face, like a good one.I strongly disagree for the reasons above. When I started this e-mail, my computer crashed, and I had to start over.

KA: Yes, but when your computer crashed, you did not have to check into a mental institution. But if your brain "crashed," you would have to--or worse. It's amazing how a ministroke in a specific area of the brain can cause one to behave in a way that seriously jeopardizes one's salvation... as if one freely chose to have a ministroke. And not just a ministroke that causes reflex-like reactions, but a ministroke that affect one's behavior because it affects one's mind. A frontal lobotomy can change one's personality (to say the least!). How, then, can one's personality persist after the full-brain lobotomy called death?

VR: Clearly, deficits and enhancements in my computer result in defecits and enhancements of the message I received.

KA: Certainly. But a distorted message does not affect your IQ, your beliefs, or your desires, in the way that LSD, schizophrenia, or Alzheimer's disease could, does it?Regards, KA

Friday, June 03, 2005

Re-evaluating a famous game

[Event "Moscow cf"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "1974.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Karpov, Anatoly"]
[Black "Kortschnoj, Viktor"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "B78"]
[WhiteElo "2700"]
[BlackElo "2670"]
[PlyCount "53"]
[EventDate "1974.??.??"]

As a preface to my study of another of my old Dragon games, the context provided by this game loomed large. This is one of the most famous "prime time" outings for the Dragon, and the best known game from what I call Karpov's Reign of Terror. Anatoly Karpov amassed an almost unbelievable record of victories against the Dragon, by my count on Chessbase it was something like 14 wins, one draw, and one loss (in a practice match against Kortschnoj). His victories include two wins over Miles and three over Sosonko, the leading Dragonists of the time. Despite this incredible pattern of Dragon-slaying,
none of the variations Karpov used to defeat the Dragon is now considered critical. In the Karpov-Gik game Black subsequently learned not to play .... Qxc3. The classical lines with Bg5, although troublesome back in 1977, have been adequately met and are no longer considered to offer any advantage. 9 g4 in the Yugoslav is considered the weakest of White's three main choices: 9 Bc4, 9 O-O-O and 9 g4, but it defeated the likes of Miles and Mestel in the early
1980s. This game is no exception. After this game it was discovered that 16...Re8, to preserve the Dragon bishop, yields no advantage for White and maybe a disadvantage, really. 16...Qa5, however, was considered inferior and good for advantage for White. White's chances are considered so good that White players looked for creative ways to transpose their games to the position after White's 19th move.
I have my doubts, however. I'm prepared to contend that Black found the fourth best move on move 19, and that three other lines could have kept Black in the game and given him a chance for

1. e4 1... c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7
7. f3 Nc6 8. Qd2 O-O 9. Bc4 Bd7 10. h4 Rc8 11. Bb3 Ne5 12. O-O-O Nc4 13. Bxc4 Rxc4 14. h5 Nxh5 15. g4 Nf6 16. Nde2

This is one of something like ten or twelve possibilities here. Thanks to 16....Re8, it is no longer considered critical. 16. Nb3 was recommended in the second edition of Beating the Sicilian, 16. Bh6 was played a lot prior to this game, 16. b3 is a tricky line
that beat me in a postal game once, 16. e5 is sharp but answerable, 16. Kb1 may be dangerous.

16... Qa5 17. Bh6 Bxh6 18. Qxh6 Rfc8 19. Rd3 19... R4c5

Here is the fourth-best move that loses for Black.

A) Almost completely unnoticed in the literature on the game was the move 19...R8c5, keeping the rook in an aggressive position on c4.} 19... R8c5 20. g5 (20. Nf4 Be6 21. g5 Rxg5 22. Nfd5 Rxd5 23. Rxd5 23... Qc7 {looks fine for Black}) 20... Nh5 21. Nf4 Rxc3 (21... Rxg5 22. Rd5 wins for White) 22. Rxc3 Rxc3 (22... Rxg5 23. Nd5 Rxd5 24.
exd5 Qxa2 25. Ra3 Qxd5 26. Rxa7 Qc6 27. Ra8+ Be8 28. Rd8 Nf6 29. Kb1 29... b5 looks unclear to me.) 23. Nxh5 gxh5 24. Qxh5 Kf8 25. Qh6+ Ke8 26. Qxh7 Rxc2+27. Kxc2 Be6 28. a3 Qxg5 29. Qh5 29... Qg2+ with compensation).

19... Qd8 20.
B1. 20. g5 Nh5 21. Nf4 (21. Rxd6 Rxc3 22. Nxc3 Rxc3 23. Rxd7 Qxd7 24. bxc3 e6) 21... Qf8 22. Qxf8+ (22. Nxh5 Qxh6 23. gxh6 gxh5 24. Rxh5 R8c5 25. Rxc5 Rxc5 26. Nd5 Kf8 27. Rd1 Bc6 28. b4 Rc4 29. Ne3 Rxb4 30. Rg1 Bxe4 31. fxe4 Rxe4 32. Kd2 Rh4 33. Nf5 Rh534. Rf1 = {Sapi and Schneider}) 22... Kxf8 (22... Rxf8 23. Nxh5 gxh5 24. Nd5 Re8 25. Rdd1 Be6 26. Nf4 Rec8 27. Rd2 R4c5 28. Nxe6 fxe6 29. Rdh2 29... Rf8 { Ding Yulin-Yu Hanling Torch Real Estate 2005 1/2 34}) 23. Nxh5 gxh5 24. Rxh5 Kg7 25. Rd2 Rxc3 26. bxc3 Rxc3 27. Rd3 Rxd3 28. cxd3 Kg6 29. Rh6+ Kxg5 30. Rxh7 Be6 looks fine for Black.

B2. 20.Nd5 (Shamkovich) Rxc2+ (20... e6 is a key alternative not considered in the books} 21. Nxf6+ Qxf6 22. Qxh7+ Kf8 23. Nc3 Ke7 (23...Qf4+ 24. Kb1) 24. Qh2 Rd4 25. Rxd4 Qxd4 26. Qh4+ Qf6 27. Qxf6+ Kxf6 28. Kd22 g5 {And White's advantage is hard to find.})
21. Kb1 e6 22. Ndc3 Rxe2 23.Nxe2 Bb5 24. Rd2 Bxe2 25. Rxe2 {Shamkovich says White's exchange advantage might be decisive, but} 25... Qb6 26. Reh2 Qd4 27. Rd2 Qe5 28. Qe3 a6 29. g5 Nh5 30. Qb6 Qxg5 31. Qxd6 Qc5 32.Qxc5 Rxc5 33. Rd7 b5 34. Rc1 Rxc1+ 35. Kxc1 35... Nf4 {looks more than OK for Black. I think Shamkovich underestimated Black's active queen.})

C. 19... Be6 {The best-known of the altermatives.} 20. g5 Nh5 21. Ng3 Qe5 22. Nxh5 gxh5 23. Qxh5 (23. Rxh5 Qg7 24. Rd2 Qxh6 25. Rxh6 R8c5 26. f4 Bg4 27. Rdh2 Bf3 28. Rxh7 Bxe4 29. Nxe4 Rxe4 30. R7h4 Kg7 31. c3 a6 32. Rh7+ Kf8 33. Rh8+ Kg7 34. R2h4 (34. R2h7+) 34... Rcc4 35. R8h7+ Kf8 36. R4h6 36... Rxf4 and White has nothing better than a draw.) 23... Kf8 24. Qh2 Qxg5+ 25. f4 Qf6 26. f5 Rxc3 27. bxc3 Bxa2 28. Qxh7 Ke8 29. Qh8+ 29... Kd7 is an old Nesis postal game which looks satisfactory for Black. 29... Qxh8 {
is also possible},

The actual game continued:
20. g5 Rxg5 21. Rd5 Rxd5 22. Nxd5 Re8 23. Nef4 Bc6 24. e5
Bxd5 25. exf6 exf6 26. Qxh7+ Kf8 27. Qh8+ 1-0

Thursday, June 02, 2005

A comment from Keith Parsons, and a reply from Vallicella

Keith Parsons: Vic, I thought that I didn't really understand your view, and now I'm sure I understand even less than I thought I did. You say that mind is not(ordinary) matter, nor is it a Cartesian soul, but it is a tertium quid thatexits in space and, indeed, is found in the brain, but it has weird"soulish" properties such as the ability to exercise libertarian free will.

VR: I'm not dogmatic about what the nature of the soul. My main point is that there are a lot of varieties of dualism out there, and "Cartesianism" is only one of them. I haven't seen any good arguments that I know of for the claim that the soul doesn't occupy space, so I don't see why it couldn't. And some people define matter as "whatever occupies space." So on that definition of matter I'm a materialist, or at least I don't have any arguments on hand against materialism thus defined. (Maybe someone else has some). In William Hasker's The Emergent Self he mentions Cartesian dualism, Swinburne's version of dualism from The Evolution of the Soul, Eleonore Stump's Thomistic dualism, and his own emergent dualism, according to which the soul is generated by the brain like a magnetic field. I'd argue that even Cartesianism isn't nearly as silly as people like Dennett make it out to be, and there are other forms of dualism besides. In fact some positions that go by the name of materialism, such as the view of Lynne Rudder Baker, are in fact somewhat questionably materialist in my view.

Am I right so far? Now, by denying that mind is constituted of ordinary matter, I assume you mean that it is not constituted of quarks and leptons. But since mind interacts with ordinary matter, there must be an exchange of energy (mediated by photons, or other bosons, perhaps?), and I assume some sort of conservation laws apply (or not? Does mind create energy ex nihilo?).

VR: There seems to be no reason to suppose that the mind couldn't produce energy, since it is outside the ordinary system of causation, and the laws apply only within that system. On the other hand, that is a question I'm inclined to leave open.

If so, then it looks as though mind does obey some of the"ordinary" laws of matter. On the other hand, if there is no energy exchange between mind and matter, then it looks as though the interaction problem is just as intractable as it was for Descartes. Am I just being obtuse here, missing obvious points? Thanks for your patience.


As I said in my book, without putting some meat on the bones of the "problem of interaction," I think it's an overrated objection. On the face of things, anything could interact with anything. Theists already believe that the entire physical universe was created by a nonphysical being. So if non-physical/physical interaction is somehow impossible, then we've got a great argument for atheism that I don't hear atheists using very often. But if theism is true, why couldn't God create a physical universe with doors, so to speak.

Bill Vallicella addressed this on his blog, and I reproduce his comments here:

An Inconclusive Argument Against Dualist Interactionism

One can be a substance dualist in the philosophy of mind without being an interactionist. And one can be an interactionist without being a substance dualist. (Exercise for the reader: explain why both assertions are true.)

But suppose you are a latter-day Cartesian: you are both a substance dualist and an interactionist: you believe that mind and body are distinct (kinds of) substances and you also believe that some mental events cause physical events and some physical events cause mental events. You will be taxed by some with a supposedly insurmountable difficulty: how can there be mind-body and body-mind causation if mind and body are radically different kinds of substance?

There are benighted souls who think this objection is decisive against Cartesian dualism. They are mistaken.

To show that the objection is not decisive it suffices to set forth a theory of causation that would allow mental events to cause physical events (and vice versa) even if a mental event is construed as an irreducibly mental substance's instantiation at a time of a mental property and a physical event is construed as an irreducibly physical substance's instantiation at a time of a physical property.

Well, a regularity theory of causation would do the trick, would it not? Suppose we say that:
Event-token e1 causes event-token e2 if and only if (i) e1 temporally precedes e2, and (ii) e1 and e2 are tokens of event-types E1 and E2 respectively such that every tokening of E1 is followed by a tokening of E2.

On this Hume-inspired theory (sans the contiguity condition), causation is just regular succession. If this is the correct theory of causation, then there is nothing problematic about mental events causing physical events, and vice versa.

Of course, if you think that causation must involve the transfer of some physical quantity such as energy or momentum, then of course substance-dualist interactionism is out. But there is nothing in the very idea of substance-dualist interactionism to render it incoherent. It all depends on how causation is understood.

Suppose one adopted a counterfactual analysis along the lines of: c causes e =df had c not occurred, e would not have occurred. There is nothing here to rule out substance-dualist interactionism.