Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Taner Edis on chance-and-necessity physicalism-a bottom-up understanding of the world

 This is from atheist Taner Edis: 

Physical explanations combine rules and randomness, both of which are mindless…Hence quantum mechanics has an important role in formulating chance-and-necessity physicalism, according to which everything is physical, a combination of rule-bound and random processes, regardless of whether the most fundamental physical theory has yet been formulated…Religions usually take a top-down view, starting with an irreducible mind to shape the material world from above. Physicalism, whatever form it takes, supports a bottom-up understanding of the world, where life and mind are the results of complex interactions of fundamentally mindless components.


If this is true, how could it be possible, at the same time, to say that you believe this because the evidence is good. If everything that happens in the world is, in the final analysis, the result of mindless causes, then your belikef that this is so is also the result of mindless causes, and is therefore unjustified. 

9 comments:

David L said...

This is really the same old argument . It makes no allowance for the way a information gathering, thinking brain, evolved by necessity, can operate logically BECAUSE it is a casual but sorting process. And of course also a processing that can be affected by false information and emotional commitment.

hopeful.

SteveK said...

Information isn’t physical David so I’m not sure how anyone would fit it into an argument of this type.

bmiller said...

Physical explanations combine rules and randomness, both of which are mindless

I wonder how rules can be mindless. If they are mindless then how would a mind distinguish them from randomness?

Starhopper said...

I prefer the "Argument from Baseball" (I wonder how you'd put that in Latin?) over the Argument from Reason. (Or perhaps they're both the same thing.) In a nutshell:

Just as you cannot have a baseball game without an umpire who is outside of the game, you cannot have objective truth without a Mind that is external to creation. Otherwise, everything is subjective.

One Brow said...

If everything that happens in the world is, in the final analysis, the result of mindless causes, then your belikef that this is so is also the result of mindless causes, and is therefore unjustified.

I didn't see an attempt to show that "belief is a result of mindless causes" => "belief is not justified". Why should I accept this step.

One Brow said...

Starhopper,
Just as you cannot have a baseball game without an umpire who is outside of the game, you cannot have objective truth without a Mind that is external to creation. Otherwise, everything is subjective.

Assuming that's true, why is that a problem?

Starhopper said...

Do you honestly think that the lack of objective truth would not be a problem? If everything is subjective, then no one is right and (more importantly) no one is wrong.

Even worse, the "standard" for ultimately solving an argument (or a disagreement) would be physical force. Mao Tse-Tung would have been correct in saying "Political power flows from the barrel of a gun," and the mob that stormed the Capitol would have been justified in hanging Mike Pence and shooting Nancy Pelosi, had they managed to capture them. Such would be the "logical consequence" (irony intended) of denying there is an objective reality.

One Brow said...

Starhopper,
Do you honestly think that the lack of objective truth would not be a problem? If everything is subjective, then no one is right and (more importantly) no one is wrong.

That's an extreme, and false, opinion. One of the significant part of Special Relativity is that different observers measure the same thing differently. That doesn't make every number correct.

David Brightly said...

Yes, everything is subjective. Each of us is an independent mind with its own perspective. It's this partial truth that has given rise to the pandemic of subjectivism that has lately overtaken the Anglosphere. But, but, but...it's also obvious that we invest great effort in 'coordinating' our subjectivities. We teach our children to use the right colour words, for example, and insist on them honestly saying what they see, using again the right words. This creates a shared objectivity built upon our individual subjectivities. An umpire is not a mind 'outside' the game who sees it exactly as it metaphysically is. He is merely someone with no 'skin in the game'. He is there to adjudicate the all too human perceptual mistakes, wishful thinking, and sometime wilful cheating to which we are prone. Part of the proper spirit of playing a game is always to accept the referee's decisions, even though he is a another mere mortal.

Suppose I accidentally knock a glass from the table. It falls to the floor and smashes. I am the cause of its breaking. A physicist could give an account in terms of stresses, crystal structure, atomic bonds, and so on. But surely all this bottom-up micro-stuff isn't the cause of the breaking. It is the breaking. Likewise some of that supposed neurological activity in my brain isn't the cause of the belief that I broke the glass. It is said belief. I'm sure I've suggested before (!) that there is no 'causation' in the micro-stuff at all. 'Causation' is a term we use to relate coarse, large-scale events salient to our human concerns---like moving an elbow and breaking a glass. Its philosophical analysis is a quagmire. Fortunately physics gets by without it.

I think it's possible to make too much of the indeterminism we find in the very small. Most biology surely takes place on a scale where order and regularity prevail and make possible the coordination of subjectivity.