Monday, April 27, 2020

Is materialism the ultimate in science denial?

But, more seriously, it seems to me that there have to be in existence unitary selves in existence in order for the rational and mathematical inferences necessary for science to take place. Some single entity has to entertain successive thoughts in order to, say, prove the Pythagorean Theorem, or infer natural selection from finch beaks on the Galapagos Islands. If there is no single, unitary being called Charles Darwin who observes the beaks, and then creates a theory to explain how the beaks turned out to be the way they are, then no one actually ever finds out that evolution is true. The materialism that is supposed to be based on the successes of the scientific enterprise is actually inconsistent with the possibility of science. It is as if science-lovers have forgotten that scientists have to exist in order to have science, and their materialism, taken to its logical conclusion, is the ultimate in science-denial. (Chesterton would love this).

Sunday, April 26, 2020

If naturalism is true, do I really exist?

I don't see, how, if naturalism is true, there can be "me" now. I can't see how they can believe in a metaphysically real entity that ceases to exist when a person dies. If naturalism is true, I think you'd have to conclude that there were no persons in the first place.

             Susan Blackmore: 

Each illusory self is a construct of the memetic world in which it successfully competes. Each selfplex gives rise to ordinary human consciousness based on the false idea that there is something inside that is in charge.
Steven Pinker: 
Each illusory self is a construct of the memetic world in which it successfully competes. Each selfplex gives rise to ordinary human consciousness based on the false idea that there is something inside that is in charge. 

Friday, April 24, 2020

What does causation look like in a world without design?

Consider what happens when I am at the bottom of a mountain and rocks are falling down the mountain in an avalanche. Will the rocks avoid my head because they want to spare me, or hit me because they think I deserve to get my head smashed in? No, they will blindly follow what the laws of physics require that they do, given their trajectory and velocity. If physical determinism is true, the laws and facts, which are blind to purposes of any kind, guarantee all future states. Any even that occurs other than those which the laws and facts require would be, in fact, in a significant sense, miraculous. But what if the physical level is not deterministic, on the basis of some quantum mechanical indeterminism? Even there, a cause which introduces design at the basic level of analysis still introduces a miracle to the blind universe.

Consider the falling rock example once again. What if I look up to see the avalanche headed straight for me, and I see no way of escape. I am, I conclude, certain to be crushed by the rocks. But then, to my surprise, the rocks veer away from me and go someplace else. Probably as a Christian, I would see this as a divine miracle. But even if I were not a Christian, I would at the very least see this change in the direction of the rocks as the work of someone with a mind, and the technological capability of redirecting the pathway of the rocks, perhaps some benevolent aliens from another planet. 

Thursday, April 09, 2020

The argument from reason and the triangular garden

Consider, for example, a person who figures out the area of her triangular backyard garden using the Pythagorean Theorem. She decides how much of various kinds of seeds to purchase, in part, because of the area she has calculated for the garden she is going to plant. So, protons, neutrons, and electrons in her body, not to mention other protons, neutrons and electrons, are in certain places because of her knowledge of the Pythagorean Theorem. The Pythagorean Theorem is the ground of the beliefs she comes to hold, which produce considerable effects in the physical world. But, if the physical is causally closed, how does the truth of the Pythagorean Theorem have to do with the occurrence of her belief as a psychological event? Protons, neutrons, and electrons are determined, not by the truth of the Pythagorean Theorem, but by the physical laws governing protons, neutrons and electrons. The Theorem is not in space and time, but protons, neutrons, and electrons are affected only by things that are in space and time. Therefore, if naturalism is true, she cannot have used the Pythagorean Theorem to lay out her backyard garden. Since she did use the Theorem, naturalism is false.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Nagel on Dennett, with some further explanation from Lewontin

I am reminded of the Marx Brothers line: “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?” Dennett asks us to turn our backs on what is glaringly obvious—that in consciousness we are immediately aware of real subjective experiences of color, flavor, sound, touch, etc. that cannot be fully described in neural terms even though they have a neural cause (or perhaps have neural as well as experiential aspects). And he asks us to do this because the reality of such phenomena is incompatible with the scientific materialism that in his view sets the outer bounds of reality. He is, in Aristotle’s words, “maintaining a thesis at all costs.”


‘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 the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, 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 for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.
It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow 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 explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, 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 could believe in God could 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.1 [Emphasis in original.]

What if someone were to say that about 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.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Does abortion take a human life?

Does abortion take a human life? Well, it results in a death, and that death is the death of a member of the species homo sapiens, not canis familiaris or felis domesticus.

But does taking the life of a species member have the same moral gravity as taking the life of a two-year-old, as the hard pro-life line implies? Given that to get an abortion a mother stops providing a life support system for another life, with the potential for harm to herself in so doing, this is a relevant factor in decreasing the moral gravity of abortion. Another is the fact that the fetus, at least until very late in the pregnancy after most abortions have already taken place, this is another factor that, to my mind seriously mitigates the gravity of abortion. So I am disinclined to use murder rhetoric to talk about abortion. There is, I suppose a sense we could attach to the word "murder" which applies to any instance in which we take the life of a member of homo sapiens and there is not sufficient justification to support the action as at least morally equivalent to the alternative action. But I think the word has connotations that go beyond that definition, which I prefer to avoid.

At the same time, just because the biographical life of the fetus has not begun, and it only has its biological life, does that mean that nothing is lost in an abortion? I know the hard pro-choice position tries to defend this, but I cannot. I think there is a significant loss when something that develops through a natural process into a human person, and is a human entity, is destroyed. So, abortion is bad, though under conceivable circumstances it may not be wrong, in that the alternative action, carrying the pregnancy to term, may do more harm than abortion. But, I suspect, these cases are not in the majority. Most abortions, I think, are less moral than the alternative.

Nobody is going to be satisfied with this.