Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Mary Midgely on the concept of matter

Here is an interesting quote which was included in a note from Ed Babinski last October, quoting Mary Midgley. Ed wrote:

Vic,
See the Royal Institute of Philosophy, Supplement 56, Mary Midgley's article, "Souls, Minds, Bodies, and Planets":

"When physicists abandoned the notion of solid particles the word 'materialsm' lost its original meaning. Though this word is still used as a war-cry it is by no means clear what significance it ought to have today. That change in the ontology of physics is one scientific reason why it is now clear that the notion of matter as essentially dead stuff--hopelessly alien to conscious life--is mistaken. But an even more obvious reason is, of course, the Darwinian view of evolution.

"We now know that matter, the physical stuff that originally formed our planet, did in fact develop into the system of living things that now inhabit its surface, including us and many other conscious creatures. So, if we are still using a notion of physical matter that makes it seem incapable of giving rise to consciousness, we need to change it. That notion has proved unworkable. We have to see that the potentiality for the full richness of life must have been present right from the start--from the first outpouring of hydrogen atoms at the big bang. This was not simple stuff doomed for ever to unchanging inertness. it was able to combine in myriad suble ways that shaped fully active living things. And if it could perform that startling feat, why should it be surprising if some of those living things then went on to the further activity of becoming conscious?"

VR: But this whole discussion plays into the notion that I have been discussion earlier. If we are content to simply say that matter is just whatever occupies space and time, then one could postulate that there exists something that does everything dualists say a soul does, including leave the body at death, and say that it exists in the space between our ears. We could, for example, allow explanations in terms of purpose and intentionality to be basic explanations. We could say that it is the nature of this "matter" that it is aware of realities that are not in space and time at all, such as number, Platonic Forms and God. All of this is compatible with something having a spatiotemporal location. If we do that, however, we ought to hear screaming and yelling from people like Blue Devil Knight saying that materialism is no longer meaningful. If on the other hand materialism is to be serious, then materialism has to have something like the three characteristic outlined in tbe book ; that the basic level of analysis is nonpurposive, that the material realm is causally closed, and that whatever else is real supervenes on what exists on the physical level.

One way to change our concept of matter would be to accept something like Aristotle's hylomorphism, according to which there are no purely material objects and everything, for rocks to humans, is a combination of matter and form. This, however, would be to fo against what for many are the great gains achieved by the Scientific Revolution.

6 comments:

Alethes Ginosko said...

MM: That change in the ontology of physics is one scientific reason why it is now clear that the notion of matter as essentially dead stuff--hopelessly alien to conscious life--is mistaken. But an even more obvious reason is, of course, the Darwinian view of evolution.

We now know that matter, the physical stuff that originally formed our planet, did in fact develop into the system of living things that now inhabit its surface, including us and many other conscious creatures.

If physicists abandoned the notion of solid particles, then they did so b/c their observations reflected a need for this abandonment and a need for change. She just said that evolution, a hypothesis for origins, is more reason to change the concept of matter than physicists' observations. That strikes me as odd.

And then there is the vacuous and seemingly arrogant "we know..." Chemical evolution and abiogenesis are two of the largest scientific mysteries on the planet. It seems slightly overconfident to state that "we know" precisely what we do not know at all. (ie. that non-living, inorganic substance came together to form organic substance and then living organisms)

Jason said...

{shudder} ...you invoked the ed... {waiting for a meandering gollywog post of topical spam to plop into the comment list...}

{g}

More seriously: I wonder if MM is trying to trend toward something like vitalism. I remember that being a popular option back at the beginning of the 20th century, when Darwinism was being progressively shot full of holes and the neo-Darwinian synthesis hadn't been formulated yet. Notably, one of the main reasons Richard Dawkins does, or used to, reject Lamarckism, is that he thinks, or thought, it required or implied a vitalistic philosophy to plausibly work. (This was back in his 1996 republication of TBW, and it's been ten years and I don't know whether he may have altered his dissension on that; thus my qualifications. {s})

I suspect (though I can't be sure from the quote) that MM may be hinging on a distinction between 'dead' meaning simply 'inert' (matter doesn't behave in any energetic way, as opposed to "energy"), and... matter as being energetic in its own constituency, thus 'alive'? Or proto-alive?

Still, as she herself points out (assuming she's being as self-consistent as possible), physicists have _already long abandoned_ the notion that matter in its own constituency is something different from energy. So _that_ can't be what she means, when she says that "if we are still using a notion of physical matter that makes it seem incapable of giving rise to consciousness, we need to change it. That notion has proved unworkable. We have to see that the potentiality for the full richness of life must have been present right from the start--from the first outpouring of hydrogen atoms at the big bang."

Looks a lot like intrinsic teleology of some sort is the option being advocated to changing _to_ (from where we _currently_ are in our understanding of physics). Unless she's willing to advocate theism of some sort, however (perhaps a naturalistic theism such as positive pantheism), then the way to go would be some refined version of vitalism. (i.e. the basic units of material matter/energy are alive and so behave according to the self-organization of living purpose where conditions are favorable, even though at that basic level they aren't _really_ being 'purposeful' in the sense we normally mean by that word.)

That would be a sort of halfway house between theism and atheism.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Jason,

Thou speakest and the genii doth appear.

I wish to thank both you and Vic for acknowledging a spectrum of possible philosophical views. If you continue marveling at the possible spectrum of philosophical interpretations and the unanswered questions, you may even wind up at the place I presently inhabit, intellectually speaking.

I doubt philosophy contains final answers, and I recognize with Midgley, Van Fraassen, Raymond Smullyan and many others, that the philosophical map is not the same thing as the actual territory, and words are not things, including words like "matter," "energy," and "reason."

Someday you and Vic may "grok" what I'm talking about concerning such a spectrum of philosophical views and unanswered questions.

My main problem with philosophical "proofs" related to either theology or the brain-mind question, are based on the limitations of what is known--i.e., addressed in both a collective sense of what philosophers who study the mind and language admit are the limitations of their knowledge, and of what scholars who study history and science admit are the limitations of their knowledge. And also, concerning the limitations of what I personally know. I certainly have never been to "the third heaven" as Paul claims he "knows a man" who visited there (nor does Paul describe his experiences there).

Neither have I had the pleasure of meeting Jesus of Nazareth or hearing him or seeing him. And all the alleged words we have of him could fit in a small 16 page booklet (one that I bought once in a Christian bookstore). Neither do any of the four cannonical Gospels even contain the names of their authors.

On the other hand the world around us that we are all most intimately familiar with on a daily basis, seems to be based on neither heavenly rewards nor damnable punishments, but primarily on consequences.

Consider the question I have raised, of consequences, in the light of prayer:

The majority of educated Christians probably agree that prayer changes the mind/heart of the person doing the praying to a far greater extent than it changes the physical world. Even in modern scientific studies on prayer, the physical results claimed by its most ardent advocates are relatively meager, and the overall interpretation of the results remains controversial. You get far more significant results in the physical world from simply taking vitamin and mineral supplements, watching your diet and weight, and by lowering your risks via rational means, like not driving with bald tires in the rain, or not driving too fast when trying to get to church or a prayer meeting on time. *smile*

Some of the earliest mathematical studies that questioned the effectiveness of prayer include those of Francis Galton who examined the longevity of clergy. He reasoned that clergy should be the longest lived of all since they were the most "prayerful class" of all and among the most prayed for. When Galton compared the longevity of eminent clergy with eminent doctors and lawyers, the clergy were the shortest lived of the three groups. In this study of the clergy, he cited a previous study by Guy (Galton wasn't the first to think of analyzing prayer statistically but usually gets the credit) where Guy found prayer did not protect royalty, who were much prayed for, when compared to other members of the aristocracy. In analyzing the data on royalty, Galton concluded: "Sovereigns are literally the shortest lived of all who have the advantage of affluence."

Galton looked for other statistical data. He examined the insurance rates for ships. He reasoned that ships carrying missionaries and pilgrims should have lower rates since frequent praying by the occupants should decrease the number of accidents. He found that the rates were the same; ships carrying missionaries and pilgrims sank just as often as other ships.

Following up on Galton's statistical studies on prayer, Rupert Sheldrake, a 20th century Cambridge-trained plant biologist, did one of his own, examining the effects of prayer in India. Most people there prefer having a son, and a tremendous amount of praying goes into the effort to produce one. Sheldrake examined statistics of live male births in India and used data from England as a control where the preference for sons was less strong. He found that in both England and India there were 106 males to 100 females, just as in every other country. He stated, "if this enormous amount of psychic effort and praying of holy men were working, you would expect on average the percentage of live male births to be higher."

Mother Teresa said, "When I pray, coincidences happen." However, coincidences cut both ways, and people are naturally prone to recall the hits and forget about all the misses. For instance, people who pray also die from "coincidental" lightning strikes during church services and even while praying beside a large cross:

Mexico City, Mexico--Five children between 9 and 16 years old died and several others suffered burns when lightning struck a white-painted metal cross set on a hill in the town of Santa Maria del Rio early on Sunday. "The lightning went straight into them and killed them instantly," local Red Cross chief Eduardo Suarez said. Several families had been participating in a midnight ceremony as part of a local religious festival that centers around the cross.

"Lightning kills 5 Mexican children in prayer: Youths between 9 and 16 die praying at metal cross in central Mexico," Reuters, April 24, 2006
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12467604/from/ET/

~~~~~~~~~~~

Blantyre, South Africa - About 40 people had gathered in the Church of Central African Presbytery in Mzimba, about 300km north of the capital Lilongwe, when lightning struck on Saturday afternoon, said Fletcher Ndhlovu, an elder of the church. "Strong lightning struck the church building, sending everybody into shock," Ndhlovu told AFP. The victims were taken to the district hospital "where 11 people were pronounced dead on arrival," said Mzimba hospital physician Barton Jere. "The persons arrived here when they were already dead but we admitted eight people and 10 others were treated as out patients," Jere told AFP. "They were all in a state of shock."

"Lightning Kills 11 In Church," Dec. 18, 2005
http://www.news24.com/News24/Africa/News/0,,2-11-1447_1852587,00.html

~~~~~~~~

I might add that over a hundred children were taken captive in a schoolhouse hostage situation in Russia (2004), which included several children of Baptist missionaries who died in the final act of that hostage tragedy. Prior to the children's deaths I had rec'd an email begging for prayers for the children sent out by the Baptist World Alliance (I am on their email list).

I also read about a year ago in the magazine, Christianity Today, that four American missionaries went to Iraq and no sooner were they off the plane and driving through town than they were gunned down, all four dead. The article further explained that it was not the fact that they were missionaries that got them killed, but they had lost their way in the streets and simply driven into the wrong side of town and were gunned down simply for appearing to be Americans. I am sure those missionaries did not arrive in Iraq without many prayers having been said for them.

In another case, a few years ago, on the television news show, 20/20, a South American missionary's small airplane was gunned down with the missionary inside by a military jet aircraft who mistook the tiny missionary's plane as a drug-runner's plane.

In Pucuro, Panama, three missionary men were taken away from their families in 1993. After eight long years of praying for the safe return of the men, their families recently learned that they had been killed by their captors five years previously.

~~~~~~~~~~~

On the opposite hand, what about people who have actively opposed "prayer?" Sure, there was Mad Madeline Murray O'Hair, the atheist who opposed prayer in schools, wound up murdered decades later. And the child she used to make her court case later became an alcoholic and then a convert and spokesperson for Evangelical Christianity. However O'Hair's court case was not the only one dealing with mandatory prayer in schools.

Here's the story of another person who actively opposed mandatory Bible readings in schools, and whose longevity and long marriage and three kids speaks for themselves: Ed Schempp, 1908-2003 Supreme Court state/church victor Ed Schempp, 95, died in New Hampshire on Nov. 8, 2003 "surrounded by the beauty of nature," writes his son Ellery. The father/son pair launched the landmark lawsuit, Schempp v. Board of Education, ridding public schools of devotional bible readings. In 1956, Ellery protested the mandatory bible reading by reading from the Koran. After he was reprimanded, his father filed suit. Ellery was dropped from the suit after he graduated from high school. Madalyn Murray's later, similar case out of Maryland was joined with the Schempp case before the Supreme Court, with the high court reserving the bulk of its opinion for the Schempp case. The Supreme Court issued an 8-1 ruling on June 17, 1963, barring mandatory bible reading in public schools, which followed its 1962 decision barring prayer. "In the relationship between man and religion, the state is firmly committed to the position of neutrality," Justice Clark wrote Schempp. Ed was a longtime member and honorary officer of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and was featured in the FFRF film, "Champions of the First Amendment." A native Philadelphian, Ed took over his father's hardware business as a young man, and later worked in electronics. He was active in Unitarianism and peace groups. Ed Schempp is survived not only by the enduring legacy of his major court victory, but by his wife of 69 years, Sidney, and their children Ellery, Roger and Donna.
Secret of Longevity: "Laugh a Lot" Freedom From Religion Foundation
member Clara Carlson of Washington State is 96, and her husband Ralph is 100.

The Peninsula Daily News recently ran a feature story about the long-lived couple, who have been married for more than 75 years. When asked her secrets to longevity and a long marriage, Clara replied: "Drink lots of champagne, eat lots of chocolate, and laugh a lot." "Everything we do is a partnership," Ralph told the newspaper. Clara also credited the "miracles of modern medicine" with helping Ralph survive four cancers, two heart attacks and two bouts with pneumonia. They have three daughters, nine grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren. Both have longevity in their genes, and stayed physically and mentally active after retirement. Home health and chore service workers have enabled them to keep living at home. Clara remains active in freethought, humanist and feminist causes. She had planned to travel to a recent FFRF national convention, but had to cancel the trip to help celebrate her daughter's 50th wedding anniversary.

Other famous overacheivers in today's news (who are not religious) include: Bill Gates, and Lance Armstrong (bicycle racing champion).

-----------

"Say one prayer three times daily" The New York Times, October 12, 2004
Millions of dollars are being spent in the US on researching whether the prayers of others can affect a patient's health. If researchers are struggling to prove that intercessory prayer has benefits for health, at least one study hints that it could be harmful. In a 1997 experiment involving 40 alcoholics in rehab, psychologists at the University of New Mexico found that although intercessory prayers did not have any effect on drinking patterns, the men and women in the study who knew they were being prayed for actually did worse. "It's not clear what that means," said Dr William Miller, one of the study's authors.
http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/10/11/1097406506362.html?oneclick=true [If the above URL doesn't take you to the article, try googling the exact title above, which also works]

LASTLY...

Retreating into untestable hypotheses over the prayer question, proves nothing to non-religious folks. Instead, you need to address each specific promise found in the Bible regarding the alleged promises and power of prayer, and explain why you prefer some verses and some interpretations of those verses rather than others.

PART 1 OF SCRIPTURAL PRAYER PROMISES
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you (Matthew 7:7) No requirements. (1) Ask and (2) it shall be given.

For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (Matthew 7:8) (1) Ask, Seek, Knock and (2) receive, find, opened.

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (Matthew 7:11) Ask for good things and get them.

Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 18:19) There are no qualifiers to this statement. (1) Two individuals agree on what they will ask, (2) they ask and (3) it shall be done.

And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. (Matthew 21:22) All things will be received. The only requirement is "believing."

And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. (Luke 11:9) A reiteration of Matthew 7:8. This promise must be taken seriously if it’s here two times.

For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (Luke 11:10) A contiuation of Luke 11:9. Ask and receive. Seek and find. Knock and it shall be opened. It’s here in two consecutive verses in Luke so it must be important. No qualifiers.

But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. (John 11:22) Just as in John 3:16, a "whatsoever" no qualifier. Ask and it will be given.

And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (John 14:13) Another "whatsoever." Ask anything in Jesus name and it will be done.

If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. (John 15:7) A qualifier here. You must live in Christ and his words must live in you. Not such a difficult task for a born again Christian, it would seem.

Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. (John 16:23) Yet another "whatsover." Ask and get.

Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. (John 16:24) A continuation of the above verse. Ask and receive. No qualifiers. And you will receive so that your joy may be full.

PART 2 OF SCRIPTURAL PRAYER PROMISES
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. (James 1:5) It means everyone. No exceptions. It uses the words "any" and "all." Ask for it, and you will get wisdom.

Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. (James 4:2) You don't have because you don't ask. Just ask.

And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us. (1 John 5:14) A qualifier. But there aren't many qualifiers in the scriptures above. Just ask.

And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him. (1 John 5:15) Another "whatsover." No qualifier. Whatsoever we ask.

Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. (James 4:2) Of all the scriptures listed above, here is the one serious disclaimer. You ask wrongly so that you can use the answers to your prayers for “lustful” purposes. But what about prayers not based on selfish lustful purposes, like prayers for basic necessities and basic health needs, prayers for good things to happen to people other than yourself, or prayers for the salvation of others? They are not lustful, so in most cases they ought to be answered, per the many repeated promises in the N.T. Indeed, the parable of the widow who kept entreating an unjust judge, who finally gave in to her entreaties is meant to prove that God who not an unjust judge, will hear and answer a believer’s prayers.


Debunking Medical Prayer Studies

http://ffrf.org/fttoday/2002/april02/index.php3?ft=williamson.html

----------------
Bush wants to put the nation on a prayer diet. For whatever ails you, Bush believes a spoonful of salvation is the answer... It appears we are entering a new era in Washington, one where the wall separating church and state has been razed to a pile of rubble and the IRS has become one giant collection plate.
-- Columnist Robyn E. Blumner, St. Petersburg Times, Sept. 15, 2002
~~~~~~~~~~

The latest reserch regarding prayers and health was all over the news the past two months, and was one of the largest and most thorough studies yet performed. They compared recovery rates of patients after cardiac surgery--and the results of prayer/or no prayer, were null.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Alethes Ginosko said:
We do not know... that non-living, inorganic substance came together to form organic substance and then living organisms.

ED: May I add to what Ginosko wrote above that when chemistry was in its infancy in Europe, chemists thought and taught that there was an unbridgable gap between inorganic and organic substances, the latter only being observed to come about via the mysterious functioning of a living body. That includes even the substances excreted from a living body, such as urea. The notion os such an unbridgable gap was dispelled when a chemist reproduced the organic substance, urea, in a lab from simply pouring a particlar form of acid on limestone I believe. Eureka, urea! An organic substance produced from mixing together two INorganic substances.

Let me also add...

According to the Bible, God made the stars on the fourth day of creation. But even more remarkable is the fact that He is creating them still, though the latter miracle is considered not worth mentioning by any of the Bible’s authors. (I wonder why? The creation of new stars is being chronicled continually in magazines and journals like Astronomy, Sky & Telescope and The Astrophysical Journal, just to name a few.)

And God is still creating new planets (that continue to form out of rings of matter circling stars--see the above mentioned magazines).

And God is still fusing simple hydrogen atoms together inside stars to create other elements with greater proton and electron numbers (the heaviest known elements are created during super nova explosions of stars).

And God is still creating large multi-cellular organisms out of a single cell that keeps dividing over and over by a process called embryogenesis.

And God is still transforming inorganic substances into organic ones, even into living things, because there are tiny microorganisms that live by taking in nothing but water and inorganic molecules and turning them into more members of their own species. I am speaking of certain bacteria that live directly on minerals, and also the simplest forms of plant life that live on minerals and sunlight. That’s where the “chain of life” begins, with the inorganic world and the organic creatures that come about from ingesting inorganic substances, and next comes all the forms of life that live on those simple forms and so on and so forth. In fact, if you keep in mind the entire chain of life and the way the simplest living things live on inorganic substances, then God is still creating human beings out of inorganic matter (and turning inorganic oxygen molecules into “the breath of life,” every time we inhale).

Still, creationists argue that

aside from the creation of new stars;

aside from the creation of new planets;

aside from all the elements in the periodic table being created out of the simplest and lightest element of them all, hydrogen;

aside from complex multi-cellular organisms being created from a single cell via embryogenesis;

aside from inorganic matter lying at the base of the chain of life even today;

aside from the fact that organisms have the ability to increase in number as well as branch off into new species (as even creationists admit);

aside from all of that; creationists continue to claim that evolution is “prohibited by the second law of thermodynamics!”

I’d say that creationists are missing the forest for the trees, which by the way, continue to grow from tiny seeds; trees that become forests that continue to reach out and envelop as much of the earth as they can, and whose members continue to branch off (forgive the pun) into new species as they do so.

Alethes Ginosko said...

Ed,

I find it interesting that as a response to my post about chemical evolution you raised and destroyed a strawman about the 2nd law of thermodynamics.

I will, however, address the limestone+acid(what acid?)-->Urea claim. Though there was no source given for the data to support this claim I'll assume it is accurate.

To restate what I said earlier:
We do not know... that non-living, inorganic substance came together to form organic substance and then living organisms.

Can you find for me an article/paper that elucidates the mechanism through which chemicals 'evolve' and how exactly one chemical is more fit in a given environment and then selected for? And then another in which it is described how these chemicals come together to form a microorganism that satistfies all requirements for the definition of life? (Organization/matabolism/growth/reproduction/response to stimuli)

I'd like to read these things.

Jason said...

{{Thou speakest and the genii doth appear.}}

crap.

{g}

{{I wish to thank both you and Vic for acknowledging a spectrum of possible philosophical views.}}

I've been acknowledging them all the time. (So has Victor.) In fact, I specifically told you once, years ago, that I wouldn't believe as strongly as a Christian today if I hadn't gladly acknowledged and made use of some arguments normally proffered as oppositional arguments by opponents. (From this you somehow decided that I meant that I hated them for showing me something I didn't care to see and cracking my faith thereby; suggesting, if I was in such a dither, that perhaps I should concentrate instead on showing people what sort of fog we're all really in, as you do.)

If you paid better attention, you'd pick up on these sorts of things. I'd be willing to bet that about 90% of the entertainment I enjoy is strictly pagan or secular (if you tallied up all the novels and films and anime and games and music that I own. "Genii", btw, is plural, not singular. {g}) When my novel streets this year (looks to be Sept 1), it's very likely to be flamed by the exact same people who flamed the Potter series. (Maybe moreso even! Among other things, it could be said to feature a variant of philosophical vitalism... {topically ironic g} Though I doubt that's what various superconservatives are going to ping against the most, by a long shot.)

One of the finest compliments I ever received, was from an agnostic with paganistic leanings marvelling that I could be so at home in the worlds she creates, and able to relate to them so well.

_You're_ the one who has fadged up this myth of my ignorance of "the spectrum of possible philosophical views" and my supposed inability to appreciate them. It's almost as ridiculous as pretending that C. S. Lewis grew up simply ignorant of all the historical criticism and philosophical scepticism in the scholarly culture around him.

I believe what I believe because I _am_ aware of many various options, and have a serious appreciation of their strengths as well as of their weaknesses. As I have _also_ told you before (though you continue to flatly refuse to believe me.) Perhaps even more to the point, as you ought to well remember, I have told you more than once before that (in effect) I believe Christianity to be true because I insist on believing in _you_, personally.

After which I started receiving a load of 'illusion of conscious will' related things from you. I don't debate philosophy with Furbees, though, even if Furman insists on paying them a salary. Which is why I've been refusing to address you directly now for several years. If you insist on committing cognitive suicide as a way to oppose what I believe to be true... Well, I admit it's annoying; but not remotely for the reason you seem to wish it to be to me.


{{I doubt philosophy contains final answers}}

A doubt that conveniently vanishes before you even finish your sentence; indeed you instantly (if tacitly) deny this claim beginning in your very next phrase:

{{I recognize with [so-and-so] and many others, that the philosophical map is not the same thing as the actual territory, and words are not things}}

So much for doubting that _these_ philosophical positions consist of final answers. You have to deny your own position, in order to make it appear as though your contention has any strength at all.

Put another way: I actually respect about 4/5 of your sentence there. Not only that, I actually agree with it (so far as it goes). I _could_ respect the first 1/5--if you consistently held to it (in which case you would have very little if anything else of substance to say. But I'd still be prepared to respect that you have nothing of substance to say.) When you put them together, though... pfft.

More shortly: when you say you doubt that philosophy contains final answers, and then go on to apply some final philosophical answers, you're cheating.

Make a list of final philosophical answers you're willing to stick to, and then stick to them. Or, don't; if you find the answers you thought were final were faulty, then reject them--at which point you'll be in possession of _other_ final philosophical answers (so far as you can tell). Stick with _them_, unless or until you find better light to see by. But don't flip-flop back and forth between mutually exclusive sets of claims in order to borrow the strength of one and the other for as long as it seems convenient for you to do so. That's the worst sort of treachery, in principle. (At best it's only a trick of mere rhetoric.)


{{My main problem with philosophical "proofs" related to either theology or the brain-mind question, are based on the limitations of what is known}}

Limitations which, themselves, you're treating (in effect) as final philosophical answers. That's _why_ they can be used to some effect.

There are, of course, situations where limits to knowledge provide legitimate constraints on what can be claimed; and legitimate criticisms can be raised thereby. It ought to be grossly obvious that Victor and I agree with that, because we ourselves regularly apply the principle.


{{Neither do any of the four cannonical Gospels even contain the names of their authors.}}

A bit of a trivial aside; but where this is true (such as in GosJohn), it actually looks _more_ interesting for that reason. (John the apostle is mentioned, _but_ never by name--only by patronymic. His brother, too, iirc.) GosMatt _does_ however contain the name of its (apparently) attributed author, and features the one time he's specifically named as Matthew aside from the lists of the Twelve. (In the other Synoptic accounts of his particular story, he's named as Levi son of Alphaeus. GosMatt is the text which identifies this character as being the apostle.)

Are you seriously saying, though, that if the accounts had specifically said "and I, Apostle or disciple X, am writing this with my own hand" (or something like that), you'd be _more_ inclined to accept them as being accurate? (To say the least, I'm dubious you would. But if so, there are people with some nice apocryphal gospels to sell you... {g})


{{On the other hand the world around us that we are all most intimately familiar with on a daily basis, seems to be based on neither heavenly rewards nor damnable punishments, but primarily on consequences.}}

This is a rather peculiar thing to say; since reward and punishment are intimately linked with the notion of consequences. But then, I am not aware of any Christian who claims the world around us is _based_ at all, intimately or otherwise, on rewards and/or punishments, much less ones which by definition apply to life after this world. Certainly _I_ am not making that claim; and _I'm_ the one you're supposed to be writing your letter to.

(At this point I have grounds to think you're purely spamming whatever happens to catch your fancy, with virtually no relation to actual dialogue. What does any of this have to do with whether MM might be trending in the direction of vitalism?? Or even with the particular things that Victor brought up her quote to discuss?? Though admittedly, it could be said to have something to do with "a meandering gollywog post of topical spam", I guess. {g})


{{The majority of educated Christians probably agree that prayer changes the mind/heart of the person doing the praying to a far greater extent than it changes the physical world. Even in modern scientific studies on prayer, the physical results claimed by its most ardent advocates are relatively meager.}}

{shrug} Conclusion, prayer isn't magic that we work on the world around us. The most ardent advocates tend to treat it like magic; I disagree that it is; consequently, it hardly surprises me to discover their claims are shot down. I'd've been _very_ surprised if the tests had 'worked'. (And I would have suspected statistical anomaly, of some kind.)

{dozing through the subsequent protracted discourse on statistical inefficiency studies on prayer, none of which is news to me in principle or in practice; nor which touches on anything I myself have ever made grounding claims about, including to you; nor which has anything remotely at all to do with Victor discussing Mary Midgley...}


You missed an example of prayer in the NT, by the way: Jesus asked, in Gethsemene, and did _NOT_ receive. 'twould seem like a rather important element to the sceptical argument, wouldn't it? Kind of the clincher. Literally "crucial", even...

(Now _why_ would the devoted Christian be willing to bring up the most obvious apparent failure to all the 'pray-and-receive' language, when the spamming sceptic missed it? Must be my naiveity about prayer... {g} 'cause I have to be sure that all my own prayers were granted just the way I asked for them to be, up to now, so that all this will come as some kind of big shocking surprise--right?)

Hey! I just remembered a recent prayer of mine that not only wasn't granted, but actually went the way I was hoping it wouldn't. ("...great, Victor referenced Ed. Lord, I'd sure like for him not to show up and topic-spam us to death again..." {g})

{{May I add to what Ginosko wrote above...}}

A double-failed prayer! How... astonishing... that's never happened before... my faith... is crumbling... {weep}

At least this letter involved an actual topic being discussed by someone, though. {rolling eyes} So I guess in fairness I can't call the second letter meandering topical spam.

Still, it's more than a little funny. Alethes chides MM on making a sweeping claim beyond our current limits of knowledge--and you instantly throw aside your own use of that principle, in order to try to defend MM; mainly by impugning the Christians.

Also, it ought to be obvious, though I suppose it isn't, that a _chemist_ made the organic substance out of the inorganic in your example. Really, you could have done much better, without importing an intentional designer into it. (No _atomic_ matter can be classified as organic at all, for instance. Surely there are relevant examples of organic matter being naturally brought about by atomic reaction, though. Right?)

As a follow-up, in the centuries since then even the human intentional designers aren't doing so well in trying to get those organic substances to develop into living organisms. Apparently a bunch of fairly complex systems and structures have all got to be put together more-or-less at once for it to work. Not that I'm saying irreducible complexity should be concluded from this, though... I'm willing to allow that they might just not have figured it out yet. (Limits to knowledge, etc.)


{{And God is still transforming inorganic substances into organic ones, even into living things, because there are tiny microorganisms that live by taking in nothing but water and inorganic molecules and turning them into more members of their own species.}}

Sure. So? Alethes is hardly the one denying that some living thing created all other living things from inorganic things.

Meanwhile, apparently the atheistic solution to the "chain of life", which MM was asserting and which Alethes was criticising, and to which you were supposed to be replying, is that it begins with the inorganic world and with the organic creatures that come about from the organic creatures ingesting inorganic substances...

How silly for Alethes not to have seen _that_ as an obvious rejoinder, when he wrote "we do not know at all... that non-living, inorganic substance came together [i.e. originally, before there were living natural organisms] to form organic substance and then living organisms". Well, duh, the organic creatures already there could have created the first organic substances and creatures. (Like that chemist! {nodding!})


{{creationists continue to claim that evolution is “prohibited by the second law of thermodynamics!” }}

Yep, some of them still do that, weirdly enough. Was Alethes doing that? I didn't catch it in his comment about MM. {scanning back} Nope, still don't see that being a ground for his criticism. But yep, some creationists still make that objection. Maybe even Alethes, for all I know, though I'd rather wait until I saw him actually saying so before bringing that up against him. (Seems like there's a pertinent limit of knowledge there, otherwise... But maybe you know from experience elsewhere that he claims it. Isn't impossible. I've seen a sceptic claim, in essence, that the first organic substances and creatures were created out of inorganic materials by other organic creatures; though personally I wouldn't have attributed that defense to him until he tried it. {shrug})


Jason

PS: well, I see Alethes has answered the question about whether he advocates using the 2nd ThermoLaw against evolution. Unless he's simply lying, you attributed it to him for no reason. (There's even less reason in gabbing on about it if you weren't even attributing it to him and linking it to his criticism of MM.)