Thursday, June 21, 2007

Michael Egnor is Retarded

Michael Egnor, Discovery Institute warrior extraordinaire, believes that thoughts are immaterial:

P.Z. Myers' reply to my observation that ideas like altruism have no physical properties, like location, leaves a thoughtful observer to wonder: why do materialists have so much difficulty with this basic philosophical principle? It’s clear that ideas share no properties with matter. Ideas have no mass, or length, or temperature, or location. They’re immaterial. Clearly, under ordinary circumstances the brain is necessary for our ideas to exist, but, because matter and ideas share no properties, it’s hard to see how the brain is sufficient for ideas to exist.


Yes, and the magnetic charges on your hard drive have no mass, length, temperature, or location. I’m also quite sure that the electrons traveling through your brain also have no mass, length, temperature, or location.

Imagine that we can do complete split brain operations. We can separate the hemispheres of the brain completely, and not just partially as we can do now with corpus callosotomies. We can then further subdivide the tissue, keeping the brain parts biologically alive, in quarters, eighths, etc. Ignoring for the time being what would happen to the person’s consciousness (which brain part would mediate the first person experience of the original person, if any?), what would happen to the original person’s altruism? Would each one-eighth brain have one-eighth the altruism? Would each lobe contribute one-eighth of the previous brain’s annual contribution to the United Way? Would the altruism stay in one of the lobes- the left occipital lobe, and leave the other lobes heartless? What if we kept dividing? Is there an altruism neuron? The question seems nonsensical. Altruism, as an idea, doesn’t have ‘parts’. Unlike matter, ideas can’t be divided or localized.


Yes, and next lets open up my USB memory stick and "look" for the electronic documents stored within it. Ooops! I can't see my excel spreadsheets stored on my USB memory stick when I disassemble the thing! I guess that means that my excel files have no mass, length, temperature, or location.

In everyday life, the brain is clearly necessary for ideas, but there are good reasons to think that that brain is not sufficient to cause ideas. This observation is very old; philosophers from Plato to Aquinas to Descartes to Popper and Eccles have known it. Myers seems not even to understand this basic paradox of the mind-body problem. The materialist assertion that ideas are caused entirely by brain matter, with no need for the existence of a soul or other incorporeal substance, is philosophically and scientifically incoherent. It is a materialistic dogma, an act of faith.


Of course! It makes perfect sense! The brain is not sufficient to cause ideas! And neither is my computer sufficient to process data and store it on flash memory! God has been doing it all along!

Michael Egnor is an absolute fucking retard. Thoughts are no more immaterial than data on a computer disk. Does a materialist view of the functions of a wristwatch, or a cellphone, require some crazy leap of faith?

UPDATE: PZ Myers provides a far better analysis than I can.

42 comments:

BlackSun said...

Boy did Egnor mangle this one. Talk about incoherent.

Ray Kurzweil has been waging the exact same battle though on another front, with much smarter philosophers. He's been trying to promote the idea that the human brain is simply a computer with a high level of processing power. As such, it should be possible eventually to create an artificial intelligence with human level functions. Many have disagreed with him, most notably John Searle with his "Chinese Room" analogy, arguing that any non-biological entity would not really be thinking, but like a "dumb" computer, simply spitting out things it had previously been told:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_room

This is a tangential debate to the really hard problem of consciousness, namely how very sophisticated computation gives rise to subjective self-awareness. Hacks like Egnor don't even understand the problem--they're so busy chalking everything up to 'divine magic.'

But we can expect this silly debate to continue until such time as a fully cognizant AI wakes up in about 10-15 years and in its own unique and irrefutably eloquent way tells all the naysayers to go to hell.

Zachary Moore said...

Not disgusted enough?

Michael Egnor is a neurosurgeon.

Anonymous said...

I have a more basic problem with this altruism talk: why is it assumed that altruism is some kind of idea at all?

Altruism is the name we choose to give a certain behavior, labeling it as some kind of noble and selfless endeavor (whatever those words might mean). But how does anyone know when altruism is happening?

I might run into a burning building to save my child. That would look like altruism (though I think the biological explanation might be that I'm rescuing my genes for future replication -- a less selfless-looking undertaking). And I might rescue someone else's child, which might also look like altruism -- though in fact I did it because I knew the child had a winning lottery ticket in his pocket.

Maybe you can do the "where in the brain is it" with some other concept, but I don't think it works well with a concept that's clearly a subjectively interpreted behavior.

Greg Laden said...

FYI, I think your link is bad.

Aaron Kinney said...

Blacksun,

But we can expect this silly debate to continue until such time as a fully cognizant AI wakes up in about 10-15 years and in its own unique and irrefutably eloquent way tells all the naysayers to go to hell.

LOL! Would that be ironic, or poetic justice?

I think perhaps both.

Aaron Kinney said...

Zach,

Not disgusted enough?

Michael Egnor is a neurosurgeon.


Wheres my vomit emoticon?!?

Aaron Kinney said...

Anonymous,

Good points on the merits of altruism. I have very intense opinions of altruism's merits (or lack thereof) But the point here in this post is not about altruim per se, but about whether or not any concept or idea, be it altruism or selfishness, is a material thing inside ones head.

In other words, are thoughts material? And by corollary, is the mind or spirit or whatever also eternal?

I say fuck no, as you can guess by the title of my blog ;)

Aaron Kinney said...

Greg Laden,

Sorry about that. I fixed the link I think.

-R said...

A neurosurgeon should know better -- brain death is an irrefutably example of (the cessation of) an electrical/chemical biological network capable of thought. Besides, if supernatural thoughts exist, why is a physical brain, or body, even necessary?

However, if supernatural thoughts do exist, then how could we scientifically determine which lifeforms have duality? Suppose I logically concluded that all of the great apes have souls, could Michael Egnor dispute the notion on any grounds other than the Bible?

Anonymous said...

...Searle with his "Chinese Room" analogy...

I just note that Daniel Dennett has a good refutation of Searle in, I think it was, "Consciousness Explained".

olly said...

It truly does amaze me that dualism has survived as long as it has. The fundamental problem with dualism is, and always has been, God of the Gaps. There is no rational, logical way to cohere dualism with what we actually observe in the world around us. In the end, all dualistic arguments have to fall back to an untested, faith based hypothesis... making them as untenable to a neurosurgeon as the Bible is to an archaeologist.

In other words (using the Bible analogy), some of the names and places may be correct, but they give us very little in the way of real information about, really, anything.

-olly

Aaron Kinney said...

But Olly, our consciousnesses are too COMPLEX for them to exist materially!!!!!!!

;)

Anonymous said...

Aaron,

How do you establish 'identity' when all you have are causal correlations? Why assume that the mind and brain are identical and could be completely explained via a computer analogy? Many things are causally correlated but this does not show that the two are identical (i.e., smoke and fire).

Olly,

Why assume that "the problem with dualism is, and always has been, God of the Gaps"?



groundfighter76

Aaron Kinney said...

groundfighter76,

How do you establish 'identity' when all you have are causal correlations?

Just how, exactly, does the establishment of identity within a materialist context relate to the issue at hand: the proposition of a whole additional and immaterial realm of eternal existence?

Why assume that the mind and brain are identical and could be completely explained via a computer analogy?

I dont claim that the mind and brain can be completely explained by a computer analogy. Of course, as with all analogies, there are differences. But in regards to materialism vs dualism, a computer analogy works well IMO.

But your question had two parts. So why assume that the mind and brain are identical? You are trying to shift the burden of proof my friend. Taking your logical style, I could in turn legitimately ask you why you assume that dualism is the answer? Why not quadrism? Or octism? I dunno if those are spelled right, but you get my drift.

You are essentially asking why I am not ASSUMING an additional entity within the theory. We dont ASSUME positive claims, by default, if we desire to ascertain truth about things.

Many things are causally correlated but this does not show that the two are identical (i.e., smoke and fire).

True, I concede this. But, allow me for a moment to take your own smoke/fire example and compare it to the materialism vs. dualism example:

Dualism is the equivalent of claiming that the fire does NOT create the smoke. Rather, it claims that the fire contains an additional, immaterial dimension, which in some inexplicable way causes the burning flames to produce smoke.

So why, Groundfighter76, when you go camping and you make a campfire, do you ASSUME that the smoke is the result of the fire, and not the extra eternal fire afterlife in which all fire spirits dwell and conjure smoke from an immaterial realm whenever they chance to inhabit a smouldering campfire in this dimension?

You are unnecessarily multiplying entities, Groundfighter76. The explanation of the mind/brain works without the dualism, or quadrism, assumption.

Olly was right when he mentioned god of the gaps.

Anonymous said...

Aaron said, "Just how, exactly, does the establishment of identity
within a materialist context relate to the issue at hand: the proposition of a whole additional and immaterial realm of eternal existence?"

Because in a "materialist context", the mind is identical to the brain. If this is the case, then there is no need for any other 'realms' as you'd say. How do you justify this reductionism given consciousness, subjectivity, qualia, intentionality, et al?



Aaron said, "I dont claim that the mind and brain can be completely
explained by a computer analogy. Of course, as with all analogies,
there are differences. But in regards to materialism vs dualism,
a computer analogy works well IMO."

You said in your blog, "Thoughts are no more immaterial than data on a computer disk. Does a materialist view of the functions of a wristwatch, or a cellphone, require some crazy leap of faith?"

Apparently you think that using a functionalist/computational model of the mind solves specific problems related to mind/body problems. Why else would you refer to this analogy? I know analogies break down at some level so I'm not sure how your reply is germane.



Aaron said, "But your question had two parts. So why assume that the mind and brain are identical? You are trying to shift the burden of proof my friend.

Taking your logical style, I could in turn legitimately ask you why you assume that dualism is the answer? Why not quadrism? Or octism? I dunno if those are spelled right, but you get my drift."

I have not shifted any burden. I only want you to actually support yours. I am a dualist because I am of the opinion that materialistic conceptions
*cannot* (not just in the present but cannot possibly) show how the various features of the mind are to be accounted for in purely physical terms.



Aaron said, "You are essentially asking why I am not ASSUMING an additional entity within the theory. We dont ASSUME positive claims, by default, if we desire to ascertain truth about things."

No that is not what I am "essentially" asking. I only want to know your justification for reducing the mind to the brain and how your conception of the mind could deal with the aspects noted above. How is your computer
analogy not a positive claim?



Aaron said, "True, I concede this. But, allow me for a moment to take your own smoke/fire example and compare it to the materialism vs. dualism example:

Dualism is the equivalent of claiming that the fire does NOT create the smoke. Rather, it claims that the fire contains an additional, immaterial dimension,
which in some inexplicable way causes the burning flames to produce smoke.

So why, Groundfighter76, when you go camping and you make a campfire, do you ASSUME that the smoke is the result of the fire, and not the extra eternal fire
afterlife in which all fire spirits dwell and conjure smoke from an immaterial realm whenever they chance to inhabit a smouldering campfire in this dimension?"

Apparently, there was no contention with my smoke/fire analogy in regards to identity.

Nevertheless, I'm not even sure what you are asking here. What does smoke and fire refer to in your analogy? What type of dualism are you attempting to pit this analogy against?



Aaron said, "You are unnecessarily multiplying entities, Groundfighter76. The explanation of the mind/brain works without the dualism, or quadrism, assumption."

This is an unfounded assertion considering that you have not even begun to give an account of the mind, other than asserting that it works like a computer!


Aaron said, "Olly was right when he mentioned god of the gaps."

**Assuming you are correct (a big assumption indeed)**, are you saying:

a)that there is some mystery (i.e., god of the gaps) given our present knowledge of
neuroscience that would give dualists the right/ability to hold to "the god of the gaps"? or,

b) that we have *at present* the scientific knowledge to account for the mind in purely
physical terms?

If you assert the former, how can you say that dualists 'unnecessarily multiply entities'?

If you assert the latter, then why say that dualists hold to 'god of the gaps' since there
is no 'mystery' (no god of the gaps) to begin with?


Dualists don't offer their position and arguments as a 'better explanation' of mental phenoma; rather,
their claim is that mental properties *cannot possibly* be identical to material properties. So to charge dualists with 'god of the gaps' nonsense seems to beg the question in favor of a scientistic conception of philosophy that will some day be able to give us the answers to solve metaphysical problems.

Regards,
GF76

Aaron Kinney said...

Groundfighter76,

Because in a "materialist context", the mind is identical to the brain.

Only insomuch as the mind is an emergent property of the brain.

If this is the case, then there is no need for any other 'realms' as you'd say. How do you justify this reductionism given consciousness, subjectivity, qualia, intentionality, et al?

Im not quite sure that I understand your question, but I will say that consciousness, subjectivity, qualia, intentionality, etc, are compatible with a materialist worldview. These things do not require an immaterial dimension populated by eternal spirits or souls in order to be accounted for in a materialist existence.

You said in your blog, "Thoughts are no more immaterial than data on a computer disk. Does a materialist view of the functions of a wristwatch, or a cellphone, require some crazy leap of faith?"

Apparently you think that using a functionalist/computational model of the mind solves specific problems related to mind/body problems. Why else would you refer to this analogy? I know analogies break down at some level so I'm not sure how your reply is germane.


I refer to this analogy because to illustrate that, while it does not necessarily in itself solve the mind/brain question, the conjuring up of a whole other undetectable dimension to explain the functions of the brain is absurd. Complex systems, in which we do not yet fully understand all the intricacies of their operation, need not have such an unfalsifiable and grandiose claim as another dimension to explain their function. Indeed, the fact that we dont yet know everything there is to know about the function of the brain is a reason against promoting a superfluous dimension of eternal existence.

I have not shifted any burden. I only want you to actually support yours. I am a dualist because I am of the opinion that materialistic conceptions
*cannot* (not just in the present but cannot possibly) show how the various features of the mind are to be accounted for in purely physical terms.


LOL! What justification do you have for the contention that the complexity of the brain and/or mind cannot be fully understood or explained a priori? Incidentally, does this opinion of yours extend to other mammals, like dogs or cats? Or what about reptiles? Or Amphibians? Or invertebrate animals? Where do you draw the line, and why?

But more importantly, GF76, is that you and I both agree that the physical brain has a significant role in the operation of the mind. I claim that the physical brain is sufficient to account for the mind, and you claim that something else is needed. So I only have to support my assertion inasmuch as I have to address the specific claims that you make in support of your own, more complex, hypothesis.

No that is not what I am "essentially" asking. I only want to know your justification for reducing the mind to the brain and how your conception of the mind could deal with the aspects noted above. How is your computer analogy not a positive claim?

Reduction? A reduction is only possible when something overly complex has first been proposed. You dont reduce things that havent yet been asserted. And to borrow from my computer analogy, I dont reduce the mind to the brain any more than I reduce an operating system to a hard drive.

This is an unfounded assertion considering that you have not even begun to give an account of the mind, other than asserting that it works like a computer!

In previous posts in my blog, I have stated that the mind is an emergent property of the brain. I dont always restate everything about my worldview every time I post on a given topic.

But maybe I should ask you how you give an account of an immaterial dimension in which "minds" eternally inhabit?

**Assuming you are correct (a big assumption indeed)**, are you saying:

a)that there is some mystery (i.e., god of the gaps) given our present knowledge of
neuroscience that would give dualists the right/ability to hold to "the god of the gaps"? or,

b) that we have *at present* the scientific knowledge to account for the mind in purely
physical terms?

If you assert the former, how can you say that dualists 'unnecessarily multiply entities'?


Because they are unnecessarily multiplying dimensions of existence.

If you assert the latter, then why say that dualists hold to 'god of the gaps' since there
is no 'mystery' (no god of the gaps) to begin with?


Dualists hold to god of the gaps because they are reluctant to give up their notion of an eternal existence; it is scary to confront the fact that one's consciousness will not survive their bodily death. And they justify their clinging to silly notions by pointing to current gaps in our scientific knowledge. Furthermore, they often insist that these gaps cannot ever hope to be fully closed.

Dualists don't offer their position and arguments as a 'better explanation' of mental phenoma; rather,
their claim is that mental properties *cannot possibly* be identical to material properties.


So they propose immaterial properties along with conveniently comforting claims of eternal conscious existence. And they do so with the kind of feeble whining that can be found in the writings of retards like Michael Egnor.

So to charge dualists with 'god of the gaps' nonsense seems to beg the question in favor of a scientistic conception of philosophy that will some day be able to give us the answers to solve metaphysical problems.

Dualist: we cannot currently explain the mind/brain connection completely, so we will insist that it is not possible whatsoever!

Thats god of the gaps my friend.

Anonymous said...

test

Anonymous said...

Only insomuch as the mind is an emergent property of the brain.

So the mind/brain is physical, correct?


Im not quite sure that I understand your question, but I will say that consciousness, subjectivity, qualia, intentionality, etc, are compatible with a materialist worldview. These things do not require an immaterial dimension populated by eternal spirits or souls in order to be accounted for in a materialist existence.

All I've been wanting you to do is explicate your position when it comes to consciousness, intentionality, et al.


I refer to this analogy because to illustrate that, while it does not necessarily in itself solve the mind/brain question, the conjuring up of a whole other undetectable dimension to explain the functions of the brain is absurd.

But if your analogy does not 'solve' the mind/body problem, why would it be absurd to "conjuring up of a whole other undetectable dimension to explain the functions of the brain"? This seems to be double speak.

**One problem with your analogy is that it presupposes the existence of what it attempts to explain. A computer is only a computer relative to us and our interests. In itself, it is only a hunk of plastic, steel, silicon, wires, etc. with an electrical current. Due to this phenomena, the existence of a computer presupposes that there is a mind who gives it meaning and purpose - iow, it presupposes the existence of observers and thus the existence of minds. So to explain observers/minds by appealing to a computer et al which presupposes them is to put the cart before the horse. That would be akin to explaining someone's appearance by appealing to a painting of him, saying, 'See, the painting looks like this, so that must be why he does too.' As a result, nothing appears to be intrinsically a digital computer, much less the brain. More could be said and other reasons given but that's enough for now.


Complex systems, in which we do not yet fully understand all the intricacies of their operation, need not have such an unfalsifiable and grandiose claim as another dimension to explain their function. Indeed, the fact that we dont yet know everything there is to know about the function of the brain is a reason against promoting a superfluous dimension of eternal existence.

This begs the question in the same way that I referred to earlier. It begs the question in another way by assuming that we will one day be able to 'explain' the mind in physical terms. Why not take the opposite assumption, namely, that our scientific knowledge in the future will have to postulate immaterial or nonphysical properties in order to account for mental phenomena?

Nevertheless, I'm still unsure of how scientific knowledge can resolve metaphysical disputes. This also completely miscontrues the nature of dualist arguments.


LOL! What justification do you have for the contention that the complexity of the brain and/or mind cannot be fully understood or explained a priori?

This is somewhat muddled. Above you stated that, "...we dont yet know everything there is to know about the function of the brain...". How could we 'fully understand or explain' the complexity of the brain and/or mind *a prior* after coming to an *a posterior* understanding of it through scientific inquiry? Huh?


Incidentally, does this opinion of yours extend to other mammals, like dogs or cats? Or what about reptiles? Or Amphibians? Or invertebrate animals? Where do you draw the line, and why?

I would say it does in some manner. Animals appear to have 1st person/private access (among other things like qualia) in regards to their mental phenomena. Now this by itself does not entail that they would have these in the same sense as people do (i.e., eternal existence).


But more importantly, GF76, is that you and I both agree that the physical brain has a significant role in the operation of the mind. I claim that the physical brain is sufficient to account for the mind, and you claim that something else is needed. So I only have to support my assertion inasmuch as I have to address the specific claims that you make in support of your own, more complex, hypothesis.

You guys are hilarious with your make-believe burden of proof anxieties. When people look at various phenomena associated with a particular topic, it is their job to show how their theory can account for the different phenomena observed.


Reduction? A reduction is only possible when something overly complex has first been proposed. You dont reduce things that havent yet been asserted. And to borrow from my computer analogy, I dont reduce the mind to the brain any more than I reduce an operating system to a hard drive.

When I speak of reduction it is metaphysical reduction to physicalism. All I mean is that when one looks at all the different theories, you reduce yours to the physical only.


In previous posts in my blog, I have stated that the mind is an emergent property of the brain. I dont always restate everything about my worldview every time I post on a given topic.

I've read many of your posts and have not seen much interaction with dualist positions/arguments nor an account of various mental phenomena.


But maybe I should ask you how you give an account of an immaterial dimension in which "minds" eternally inhabit?

Could you be alittle more precise about what you want to know here?


Because they are unnecessarily multiplying dimensions of existence.

This doesn't address what I was asking, but I digress.


Dualists hold to god of the gaps because they are reluctant to give up their notion of an eternal existence;

Since you apparently know why dualists hold to dualism (i.e., they are reluctant to give up their notion of an eternal existence), I would like to see your refutations of *all* of their arguments and positions, so that they wouldn't have good reasons to hold to dualism other than for the reason you say. But there's an even bigger kicker for your omniscience claim: even if you successfully refute the dualists' arguments and positions, they could still hold to dualism for 'bad'/unproven/illogical reasons and not because 'they are reluctant to give up their notion of an eternal existence' as you so boldly proclaim.

it is scary to confront the fact that one's consciousness will not survive their bodily death. And they justify their clinging to silly notions by pointing to current gaps in our scientific knowledge. Furthermore, they often insist that these gaps cannot ever hope to be fully closed.

Here is some more of the oft repeated petitio principii statements.

In closing, I must say that you haven't given a very compelling case for accepting materialism in regards to the mind/body (and yes, I've read your other posts). Just think, I haven't even offered many arguments yet for not accepting materialism. We'll have to save those for another time. So much the worse for your position.

Regards,
Groundfighter76

Anonymous said...

Wow! If that last anonynous post isn't Frank Walton, I'll eat a turd!

angelsdepart said...

Yea, I agree, it does seem like his style.

Good post Aaron. Have you been busy lately, we usually see a lot more post from you?

Intergalactic Hussy said...

Retard is a strong word...wouldn't that be offensive to those mentally challenged everywhere?

Great post, thanks!

Aaron Kinney said...

GF76,

So the mind/brain is physical, correct?

They are both physical, not "is" physical.

But if your analogy does not 'solve' the mind/body problem, why would it be absurd to "conjuring up of a whole other undetectable dimension to explain the functions of the brain"? This seems to be double speak.

Explanations require supporting evidence. The conjuring up of an immaterial (and therefore unevidencable, if thats a word) dimension in order to explain something that may not have been fully explained through evidence is absurd.

One problem with your analogy is that it presupposes the existence of what it attempts to explain. A computer is only a computer relative to us and our interests. In itself, it is only a hunk of plastic, steel, silicon, wires, etc. with an electrical current. Due to this phenomena, the existence of a computer presupposes that there is a mind who gives it meaning and purpose - iow, it presupposes the existence of observers and thus the existence of minds. So to explain observers/minds by appealing to a computer et al which presupposes them is to put the cart before the horse. That would be akin to explaining someone's appearance by appealing to a painting of him, saying, 'See, the painting looks like this, so that must be why he does too.' As a result, nothing appears to be intrinsically a digital computer, much less the brain.

Intersting point. I will admit that this is probably the most respectable objection from you that Ive heard yet, IMO. And yes, my analogy isnt perfect. But you seem to still be thinking that my analogy is meant to completely explain the mind/brain question materially. That is not what my analogy was intended to do. My analogy was intended only to show by example the absurdity of proposing an undetectable dimension as an answer to the mind/brain question.

The existence of a computer does presuppose that it was created as a tool for use by a sentient being, just as any tool does so, whether its a primitive spear or a modern calculator. But I dont think that your "cart before the horse" objection applies here, because this analogy is only meant to show that complex functions of intricate systems can, in principle, be explained materially, which is a response to your (and Egnors) actual objection that a material explanation is impossible a priori. This analogy is not meant to explain observers/minds in totality, but if it were, then I would concede your cart before the horse objection.

This begs the question in the same way that I referred to earlier. It begs the question in another way by assuming that we will one day be able to 'explain' the mind in physical terms.

I believe that assuming we will NOT one day be able to explain it is the actual question begging.

Why not take the opposite assumption, namely, that our scientific knowledge in the future will have to postulate immaterial or nonphysical properties in order to account for mental phenomena?

Because that is an unjustified assumption. You dont go around assuming positives if you want to learn anything. The negative-the blank slate-is the only proper assumption, because it is a negative assumption. You are trying to assume an entire extra dimension! And how could any immaterial thing be verified or credibly supported anyway? What kind of evidence could be found? Wouldnt the finding of evidence for an "immaterial" dimension make it in fact material?

This is somewhat muddled. Above you stated that, "...we dont yet know everything there is to know about the function of the brain...". How could we 'fully understand or explain' the complexity of the brain and/or mind *a prior[i]* after coming to an *a posterior* understanding of it through scientific inquiry? Huh?

The only a priori thing in this debate is your a priori instistence that the mind/brain cannot ever fully be understood through empirical testing or observation. You are trying to place an artifical ceiling on the abilities of scientific inquiry without any evidence to support it.

You guys are hilarious with your make-believe burden of proof anxieties. When people look at various phenomena associated with a particular topic, it is their job to show how their theory can account for the different phenomena observed.

Then tell me, GF76, how do you account for the immaterial dimension through observed phenomena?

In closing, I must say that you haven't given a very compelling case for accepting materialism in regards to the mind/body (and yes, I've read your other posts).

Ha! And this whole blog post was about me pointing out the lack of a compelling case on Egnor's part for an immaterial and eternal mind/soul. The thing is that you, and other dualists, already admit that the material dimension exists, and that the mind (somewhat) inhabits it. It is the materialists who are rejecting the insertion of an additional and immaterial dimension on account of the case for it not being very compelling.

You are clearly very much stuck in a situation of starting your argument at the wrong starting point.

Just think, I haven't even offered many arguments yet for not accepting materialism. We'll have to save those for another time. So much the worse for your position.

Oh yes, my position. You mean the position that is being ever-more embraced by the average Joe as they become more aware of modern science and knowledge? How does my position fare in relation to Egnors? He and his ilk are being exposed for the laughingstock that they are. I dont think one could exactly claim that dualism is expanding its subscriber base at the moment. We still have a long way to go, but my position is on the winning side nevertheless.

Aaron Kinney said...

Angelsdepart,

Yes actually I have been a bit busy as of late, and that is why you are seeing less of me :(

I am actually working on an entrepeneurial project, and I hope to make big bucks in the near future. It is taking up lots of my time and therefore I cannot post as often as Id like. I hope to increase my post frequency again soon.

wade419 said...

hm...ok, so before I throw my hat into the ring, I've got to comment that an electron does have mass. Position and length (or radius) are still tough to figure out (yet there *are* accepted values), but I've used 9.1*10^-31 kg in too many equations to let that slide. (I apologize, I'm an engineer, sometimes I can't help it)

parenthetic comments ftw. :P

Anyway, when I think of mind/brain dualism, I simply think of it as a matter of cause and effect. If we consider that the brain is a single entity with no extra dimension to affect its behavior, then the brain can be seen as only a ridiculously advanced processor made of biological tissue that can regenerate itself. That means that all of the activity in the brain is a result of...things processed by the brain. Meaning that the input/output system consists purely of things taken in by our senses and the actions that we take in response.

Bear with me. There is a sort of decision system hardwired into our brain that consists of moral and logical basics. Therefore, our actions are going to be based on these basics coupled with the piled up data of our experiences. This means that the only way to "learn" is to add information to the database of our experiences. Then, with the new data, we should be better able to process a logical and moral response, right? In essence - given a set of data (experiences), there should only be one possible outcome for every potential junction of decision - the one that the brain computes as the best based on its set rules.

Here's the problem. With this assumption, it is essentially assumed that there is no choice at all in the human brain. If we assume that the brain is solely a ridiculously advanced processor, how can it actually make a choice? It is only weighing (very complicated) data. Deep analysis of the brain would lead to an eventual conclusion that data is in a continual loop around the universe, and after being processed by the brain, the data is responded to according to the laws of said universe.

You could raise a number of issues here. The first that comes to mind is an emotional one. This conclusion, if you think about it, contradicts the very definition of our human consciousness. We, as humans, somehow are aware. We make choices, we observe things, we brood things over, and we have emotional responses. The combination of all of these things that make us human is not reflected in a conclusion that our brains are logical processors.

Yes, there is evidence of the vast majority of our actions being logical and moral and simply a result of chemical reactions and electric currents. But at some point those reactions had to come from somewhere - we had to make a choice. There had to be a cause! We had to consciously decide something. And the fact that we are not quite like the Borg leads me to believe that these logical processors are only a part of our decision making process. I feel, that from this line of thinking, it can be concluded that there is *something* else bringing an input into the equation of our decisions in our brains.

The other issue with the processing loop is a purely logical one. We have determined that the law of entropy dictates that our universe is slowly but steadily leaning toward a state of chaotic equilibrium. Order is not favored in the law of entropy. So how has our logical processor been able to evolve? What is driving our biological systems to create a logical and moral basis for our actions? How can we explain that our brains have somehow ordered themselves in so fine-tuned a fashion that we have a consciousness about us, that we can make decisions based on the inputs given to us? That we somehow know that we...are? In light of the law of entropy, our brains do not make sense.

I don't buy that the entropy in the surrounding universe has sufficiently increased to allow for our increase in order to be balanced out. There must be some sort of cause to initiate our astronomical increase in order in our brains and biological systems - some cause to defy the law of entropy. You could make this argument for the state of life, or the state of the universe, and I'm sure people have. But to consider the ridiculously ordered state of the brain and our consciousness associated with it, I believe that our brains exhibit the most compelling evidence for *something* else bringing input into the equation.

So, my two points both lean toward the indication of *something* else factoring into our decision-making process, our consciousness, and the advanced state of our brain. I personally believe that this *something* is indicative of the mind associated with each brain.

If you wish to say that is multiplying entities, so be it. I am simply seeing another variable in the equation, and assigning the variable the value of "mind", "choice" and "free will", a variable independent of the logical circuits dictated by chemical reactions and electric currents in the brain. Given that they are both parts of the equation, changing one's mindset or making a choice can and usually will affect the logical circuits of the brain, and changing the logical circuits of the brain can and usually will change the mindset and conscious decisions made in one's mind. However, just because they are connected, does not mean that they are one and the same variable (this is an assertion that Austin Cline made in his article that you referenced in your last post, Aaron). One could sustain heavy damage to brain tissue, and yet have the consciousness remain intact. Similarly, one can change one's mind, and the only difference in a brain's wiring may be the wires that are used.

My ramblings and assertions may not be totally coherent - but what I am trying to get across is that there is something else in the equation here. If you wish to see that as my taking a "God of the Gaps" stance, I have never heard that term before, but its definition makes sense and will probably be applied. But just because there are gaps in our knowledge does not mean that we can continue to fill those gaps with the same kind of logic that we have used in other portions of our search for knowledge. In fact, throughout the history of scientific progress, we have continued to expand our horizons. The world was not considered round, and suppositions against a flat world were not considered sane, until overwhelming evidence was found to support this completely new dimension of thinking about the world.

I'd appreciate feedback - from anyone. I reserve the right to get smarter.

Intergalactic Hussy said...

FYI, you've been tagged.

angelsdepart said...

You have been tagged! See you soon!!!

groundfighter76 said...

First to Anonymous and angelsdepart,

I am not Frank Walton. My name is Don and I've been posting under the moniker of groundfighter76 for quite some time. So I guess anonymous should "eat a turd". ;)

Aaron,

They are both physical, not "is" physical.

Which was my point...


Explanations require supporting evidence. The conjuring up of an immaterial (and therefore unevidencable, if thats a word) dimension in order to explain something that may not have been fully explained through evidence is absurd.

This misses my point. I'm saying that, prima facie, I fail to see how it's absurd to consider the mind nonphysical if materialistic explanations do not account for mental phenomena. There's plenty of 'evidence' to show that the mind is nonphysical. Some
of these will be posted below.

One of your problems seems to be that you are construing 'evidence' as that which is empirical. This brings a bias to the very beginning of the debate. If you consistently applied your criterion of evidence in this manner, then 'science' would seem to be in a heap of trouble. For instance, two theories can be empirically equivalent and, as a result, scientists must go
beyond the 'evidence' in determining which theory to accept. These additional constraints are not empirical. Secondly, one can observe the physical effects of the mind on the body. I fail to see how this is significantly different than seeing as or seeing that in postulating quarks, electrons, fusion, et al. Finally, your criterion also happens to be self-refuting.

Contrary to popular belief in your crowd, scientific inquiry is not the only form of rational inquiry available to us.


Intersting point. I will admit that this is probably the most respectable objection from you that Ive heard yet, IMO. And yes, my analogy isnt perfect. But you seem to still be thinking that my analogy is meant to completely explain the mind/brain question materially. That is not what my analogy was intended to do. My analogy was intended only to show by example the absurdity of proposing an undetectable dimension as an answer to the mind/brain question.

The existence of a computer does presuppose that it was created as a tool for use by a sentient being, just as any tool does so, whether its a primitive spear or a modern calculator. But I dont think that your "cart before the horse" objection applies here, because this analogy is only meant
to show that complex functions of intricate systems can, in principle, be explained materially, which is a response to your (and Egnors) actual objection that a material explanation is impossible a priori. This analogy is not meant to explain observers/minds in totality, but if it were, then I would concede your cart before the horse objection.


This is nothing more than hand waving and telling me that your right. The problem is that your
analogy is incoherent and does not explain the mind *at all*, not that it's imperfect. What is
a 'perfect analogy' anyway?

How could one discover that the mind/brain is intrinsically like a computer since syntax is
not a part of physics? If you want to use a computer analogy to show how complex systems can be
explained materially, then why not use a group of pecking pigeons? Or a book? Since nothing is
intrinsically a computer and the interpretation that it is a computer is dependent on the
user, this has the odd consequence that *everything* could be considered to have a computational
sequence and be a mind/brain analogy. Consequently, your analogy is ill-defined and does not even reach the level of falsehood much less truth.


I believe that assuming we will NOT one day be able to explain it is the actual question begging.

I don't *merely* assume it. But here you only reverse what I say which proves my point.


Because that is an unjustified assumption.

Not anymore than assuming the opposite.


You dont go around assuming positives if you want to learn anything.

Sorry, but this is complete nonsense. Let's see: "If I want to learn anything, then I must not
'go around assuming positives'." First, this seems to be very much a positive statement. Secondly,
it doesn't follow *at all*.


The negative-the blank slate-is the only proper assumption, because it is a negative assumption.

Yes, we have a winner! The negative is the only proper assumption because it is negative! Wow!

Now what were you saying about Egnor?


You are trying to assume an entire extra dimension! And how could any immaterial thing be
verified or credibly supported anyway? What kind of evidence could be found?


I'm not merely assuming anything. Evidence? Ummmm logical/philosophical argumentation for one.


Wouldnt the finding of evidence for an "immaterial" dimension make it in fact material?

This question commits a category error given the manner in which you are apparently using the
criterion of 'evidence'.


The only a priori thing in this debate is your a priori instistence that the mind/brain cannot ever fully be understood through empirical testing or observation. You are trying to place an artifical ceiling on the abilities of scientific inquiry without any evidence to support it.

Ahh ok. I apologize. I read your question incorrectly.

Even so, you continually seem to engage in foot/mouth behavior. Your 'a priori' insistence is that
the mind/brain are both physical, have admitted that we can't fully explain the problem but insist that
we will, give no real theory that explains specific mental phenomena, and all with no argumentation! So much for your 'a priori' claim.


Then tell me, GF76, how do you account for the immaterial dimension through observed phenomena?

My justification for the mind being nonphysical (a few briefly stated):
1. Indivisibility of the mind vs the divisibility of the brain and physical objects
2. Qualia - No matter how much a scientist studies the nature of 'blueness', if he doesn't ever experience it, then there is a sense in which he doesn't know what 'blueness' is like.
3. Private access to the mind vs public access to the physical.
4. 1st person perspective of the mind vs 3rd person perspective of physical objects.
5. Indeterminate meaning of the physical & it's derived intentionality by nature vs the minds intrinsic meaning and intentionality.

Ha! And this whole blog post was about me pointing out the lack of a compelling case on Egnor's part for an immaterial and eternal mind/soul.

Actually, I was referring to your entire blog - notice I said "(and yes, I've read your other posts)".


The thing is that you, and other dualists, already admit that the material dimension exists, and that the mind (somewhat) inhabits it. It is the materialists who are rejecting the insertion of an
additional and immaterial dimension on account of the case for it not being very compelling.

You are clearly very much stuck in a situation of starting your argument at the wrong starting point.


What we say is that the material is inadequate in dealing with the mind. In the past, I have notice that you have often spoken of
choosing the simpler theory (Occam's Razor). However, what does one mean by 'simpler'? A theory can actually be simpler *metaphysically* but not explanatorily adequate. Simplicity is usually appealed to *after* two theories have been determined to have equivalent explanatory power. So to merely appeal to simplicity without examining the theories is somewhat ridiculous.


Oh yes, my position. You mean the position that is being ever-more embraced by the average Joe as they become more aware of modern science and knowledge?

Ahhh you are not aware of the current state of professional philosophy. But your appeal is empty.


How does my position fare in relation to Egnors? He and his ilk are being exposed for the
laughingstock that they are.


In the eyes of some scientists? So what? Another empty statement.


I dont think one could exactly claim that dualism is expanding its subscriber base at the moment.

Did you conduct a survey?


We still have a long way to go, but my position is on the winning side nevertheless.

Talk about "a priori" insistences.

Regards,
Don (GF76)

Aaron Kinney said...

Wade419,

Hey my brotha! Nice to see you cruising around the blog :) I hope I can reply to your comments/questions adequately. Here it goes!

hm...ok, so before I throw my hat into the ring, I've got to comment that an electron does have mass. Position and length (or radius) are still tough to figure out (yet there *are* accepted values), but I've used 9.1*10^-31 kg in too many equations to let that slide. (I apologize, I'm an engineer, sometimes I can't help it)

parenthetic comments ftw. :P


LOL not at all. That was good, and especially welcome coming from you. Now length and volume aside, I think we can all agree that an electron has mass. After all, an electron is a vital piece of any atom and they can be detected materially. So lets both assume this if you are ok with that.

Anyway, when I think of mind/brain dualism, I simply think of it as a matter of cause and effect. If we consider that the brain is a single entity with no extra dimension to affect its behavior, then the brain can be seen as only a ridiculously advanced processor made of biological tissue that can regenerate itself. That means that all of the activity in the brain is a result of...things processed by the brain. Meaning that the input/output system consists purely of things taken in by our senses and the actions that we take in response.

I like the sound of that. Whats the problem with respecting the brain for the complicated, intricate, and beautiful machine that it is?

Bear with me. There is a sort of decision system hardwired into our brain that consists of moral and logical basics. Therefore, our actions are going to be based on these basics coupled with the piled up data of our experiences. This means that the only way to "learn" is to add information to the database of our experiences. Then, with the new data, we should be better able to process a logical and moral response, right?

I agree completely. And your analysis on this issue so far is very refreshing coming from a theist.

In essence - given a set of data (experiences), there should only be one possible outcome for every potential junction of decision - the one that the brain computes as the best based on its set rules.

That is, essentially, material determinism if Im not mistaken.

Here's the problem. With this assumption, it is essentially assumed that there is no choice at all in the human brain.

Why is that? Im not sure I see how you get to that conclusion.

If we assume that the brain is solely a ridiculously advanced processor, how can it actually make a choice?

Easily: through its analysis of data gained through past experiences/input and prediction of future events based on that knowledge.

It is only weighing (very complicated) data.

How exactly would this differ if there were an immaterial dimension inserted into the mix?

Deep analysis of the brain would lead to an eventual conclusion that data is in a continual loop around the universe, and after being processed by the brain, the data is responded to according to the laws of said universe.

Sure, why not?

You could raise a number of issues here. The first that comes to mind is an emotional one. This conclusion, if you think about it, contradicts the very definition of our human consciousness. We, as humans, somehow are aware. We make choices, we observe things, we brood things over, and we have emotional responses. The combination of all of these things that make us human is not reflected in a conclusion that our brains are logical processors.

Again I agree, and again I dont understand how this conflicts with freedom of choice. Perhaps Im missing something?

Yes, there is evidence of the vast majority of our actions being logical and moral and simply a result of chemical reactions and electric currents. But at some point those reactions had to come from somewhere - we had to make a choice. There had to be a cause! We had to consciously decide something. And the fact that we are not quite like the Borg leads me to believe that these logical processors are only a part of our decision making process. I feel, that from this line of thinking, it can be concluded that there is *something* else bringing an input into the equation of our decisions in our brains.

Of course we have to make a conscious choice! But how is that incompatible with a purely materialistic reality? And how does our individuality (our anti-borgness) refute a material reality? I mean, wouldnt the same problem (where one must rely purely on their mind/brain composition and the sense data that is receives/has received to make a decision) still apply in a dualist worldview? Maybe you could explain to me how dualism would solve this problem?

The other issue with the processing loop is a purely logical one. We have determined that the law of entropy dictates that our universe is slowly but steadily leaning toward a state of chaotic equilibrium. Order is not favored in the law of entropy. So how has our logical processor been able to evolve? What is driving our biological systems to create a logical and moral basis for our actions? How can we explain that our brains have somehow ordered themselves in so fine-tuned a fashion that we have a consciousness about us, that we can make decisions based on the inputs given to us? That we somehow know that we...are? In light of the law of entropy, our brains do not make sense.

Well, Wade, the law of entropy only applies to a closed system. The law of entropy can "appear" to be violated when looking at (open) subcomponents within a closed system, but that is merely a mistake of perception. You see, if we assume a materialist worldview, we can account for your question by the fact that our brains are not closed systems! For that matter, neither is the Earth: it gets a constant (for now anyway) fresh supply of usable energy from the sun! And whats more, even our own solar system isnt really a closed system. Indeed, the only "closed system" in the universe is the UNIVERSE itself! Thats how ordered things like stars and galaxies and crystals and brains can form, because they do so within an open system context.

I don't buy that the entropy in the surrounding universe has sufficiently increased to allow for our increase in order to be balanced out. There must be some sort of cause to initiate our astronomical increase in order in our brains and biological systems - some cause to defy the law of entropy. You could make this argument for the state of life, or the state of the universe, and I'm sure people have. But to consider the ridiculously ordered state of the brain and our consciousness associated with it, I believe that our brains exhibit the most compelling evidence for *something* else bringing input into the equation.

Wade, Im sorry but this is merely an argument from incredulity, or perhaps an argument from ignorance: "I am astounded by X, therefore God exists."

So, my two points both lean toward the indication of *something* else factoring into our decision-making process, our consciousness, and the advanced state of our brain. I personally believe that this *something* is indicative of the mind associated with each brain.

Would this leaning of yours towards an extra *something* dissapear if you were convinced that our brains, and our planet, and our solar system, are not closed systems?

If you wish to say that is multiplying entities, so be it.

Okay, I will, and it is.

I am simply seeing another variable in the equation, and assigning the variable the value of "mind", "choice" and "free will", a variable independent of the logical circuits dictated by chemical reactions and electric currents in the brain.

I would be happy to concede this extra variable if you could perhaps help me account for it? I know that you just tried to, but it wasnt very convincing. Is there some other kind of evidence or argument that you can share with me, or perhaps refute my responses?

Given that they are both parts of the equation, changing one's mindset or making a choice can and usually will affect the logical circuits of the brain, and changing the logical circuits of the brain can and usually will change the mindset and conscious decisions made in one's mind. However, just because they are connected, does not mean that they are one and the same variable (this is an assertion that Austin Cline made in his article that you referenced in your last post, Aaron). One could sustain heavy damage to brain tissue, and yet have the consciousness remain intact. Similarly, one can change one's mind, and the only difference in a brain's wiring may be the wires that are used.

Oh, snap on the Austin Cline reference! Ok I concede that point. But if you notice my earlier dialogue with GroundFighter76, you will see that I allowed for the possibility of a difference between the mind and the brain while pointing out that this allowance does not neccessitate an immaterial dimension; it can still be material.

My ramblings and assertions may not be totally coherent - but what I am trying to get across is that there is something else in the equation here.

I think they were very coherent and I enjoyed reading them, even if I disagree. You are clearly giving the issue serious critical thought from both sides, and that is admirable.

I'd appreciate feedback - from anyone. I reserve the right to get smarter.

We both reserve that right. I look forward to your reply, and I think that both you and I will learn a thing or two from this exchange :)

Aaron Kinney said...

GroundFighter76,

First to Anonymous and angelsdepart,

I am not Frank Walton. My name is Don and I've been posting under the moniker of groundfighter76 for quite some time. So I guess anonymous should "eat a turd". ;)


I am guessing that they were suspicious of your identity because Ive had some fake atheist imposters trying to trick me as of late. Also, I dont think they know of you. But of course, you and I know each-other and I can vouch for your authenticity :)

Re: (Other) Anonymous and angelsdepart,

GroundFighter76 and I actually go back a ways, and he is for real. He is not Frank Walton (actually GF76 is more intelligent and less belligerent IMO). But I understand your concern given the recent episodes that have occured here.

Aaron,

"They are both physical, not "is" physical."

Which was my point...


So just to be clear, your point is that the mind and brain can be distinct and seperate components of a person without invoking an immaterial dimension to account for it? Thank you!

This misses my point. I'm saying that, prima facie, I fail to see how it's absurd to consider the mind nonphysical if materialistic explanations do not account for mental phenomena.

That is a God of the Gaps argument.

There's plenty of 'evidence' to show that the mind is nonphysical. Some of these will be posted below.

I cant wait to see it!

One of your problems seems to be that you are construing 'evidence' as that which is empirical. This brings a bias to the very beginning of the debate.

Actually, I consider evidence to be of an empirical or logical nature, or both. I will concede your bias charge if you can give me an example of evidence which does not involve anything empirical or logical.

If you consistently applied your criterion of evidence in this manner, then 'science' would seem to be in a heap of trouble. For instance, two theories can be empirically equivalent and, as a result, scientists must go beyond the 'evidence' in determining which theory to accept.

Enter Occams Razor.

These additional constraints are not empirical. Secondly, one can observe the physical effects of the mind on the body. I fail to see how this is significantly different than seeing as or seeing that in postulating quarks, electrons, fusion, et al. Finally, your criterion also happens to be self-refuting.

If the mind has a detectable effect on the body, then that is an argument in favor of the minds material nature. It is certainly not an argument in favor of the mind being immaterial.

Only material things can affect material things. If a material instrument cannot detect an immaterial entity, then how could an immaterial entity detect, much less interact with, a material entity?

Contrary to popular belief in your crowd, scientific inquiry is not the only form of rational inquiry available to us.

Ill concede this for the sake of argument.

This is nothing more than hand waving and telling me that your right. The problem is that your analogy is incoherent and does not explain the mind *at all*, not that it's imperfect. What is a 'perfect analogy' anyway?

I think you and I both agree that perfect analogies dont exist. And you seem to still not realize the fact that I declared that my analogy was only to argue 1) for the minds material nature, and 2) point out the absurdity of inserting an immaterial factor that cannot, even in principle, be supported by evidence.

How could one discover that the mind/brain is intrinsically like a computer since syntax is not a part of physics? If you want to use a computer analogy to show how complex systems can be explained materially, then why not use a group of pecking pigeons? Or a book? Since nothing is intrinsically a computer and the interpretation that it is a computer is dependent on the user, this has the odd consequence that *everything* could be considered to have a computational sequence and be a mind/brain analogy. Consequently, your analogy is ill-defined and does not even reach the level of falsehood much less truth.

Syntax is meta-data. Meta-data is material. Meta-data is a part of physics. Ones zeros, positives, negatives, etc...

I don't *merely* assume it. But here you only reverse what I say which proves my point.

It would prove your point, if my assuming the negative until proven otherwise was some kind of illogical leap of faith. But the negative is assumed by default until proven otherwise.

Not anymore than assuming the opposite.

I suppose next you will concede to me that invisible leprechauns could very well live in the center of the sun, even though I have nothing to support this contention, since you cant currently disprove it?

Sorry, but this is complete nonsense. Let's see: "If I want to learn anything, then I must not
'go around assuming positives'." First, this seems to be very much a positive statement. Secondly,
it doesn't follow *at all*.


Are you familiar with Occams Razor? And if so, do you consider it a valid principle? My assumption of the negative is only my application of occams razor to my worldview.

I'm not merely assuming anything. Evidence? Ummmm logical/philosophical argumentation for one.

Care to share? I hope you can do better than Egnor!

This question commits a category error given the manner in which you are apparently using the
criterion of 'evidence'.


Actually, you got me there. I will concede this point.

Your 'a priori' insistence is that the mind/brain are both physical, have admitted that we can't fully explain the problem but insist that
we will, give no real theory that explains specific mental phenomena, and all with no argumentation! So much for your 'a priori' claim.


Actually, I only stated that we havent fully explained the question for the sake of our argument. I will clarify now that I do not know nearly as much as, say, a neuroscientist, and some of the leaders in that field may very well have explanations that I am unaware of. I will admit, at least, that I personally cannot fully explain the mind/brain question. Im not a brain specialist.

My justification for the mind being nonphysical (a few briefly stated):
1. Indivisibility of the mind vs the divisibility of the brain and physical objects


Actually, I personally know a guy who got a lobotomy after a horrible car accident, and his "mind" is certainly divided, or missing parts that used to be there. He acts almost like a vegetable now, and he can no longer work or walk upright, and he can barely talk anymore. I would argue that the mind is divisible and it divides in accordance with the way one cuts up a physical brain.

2. Qualia - No matter how much a scientist studies the nature of 'blueness', if he doesn't ever experience it, then there is a sense in which he doesn't know what 'blueness' is like.

Thats a funny example, because just today I read an article that talked about how most women have more color receptors in their eyes than men do, and that men are more likely to be color blind. I think your point #2 is an argument for materialism if anything, since deficiencies in color perception can be accounted for in genetic and developmental causes.

3. Private access to the mind vs public access to the physical.

I think this is a good one actually, if for no other reason than Ive never thought about it before. I like it! But could you help explain why this would indicate an immaterial mind?

4. 1st person perspective of the mind vs 3rd person perspective of physical objects.

This is an interesting one too, but again, I dont see how it requires an immaterial dimension in order to be accounted for...?

5. Indeterminate meaning of the physical & it's derived intentionality by nature vs the minds intrinsic meaning and intentionality.

Okay, so your points 3, 4, and 5, I like, but I am unfamiliar with them. Can you help me understand how these argue for an immaterial mind?

What we say is that the material is inadequate in dealing with the mind. In the past, I have notice that you have often spoken of
choosing the simpler theory (Occam's Razor). However, what does one mean by 'simpler'? A theory can actually be simpler *metaphysically* but not explanatorily adequate. Simplicity is usually appealed to *after* two theories have been determined to have equivalent explanatory power. So to merely appeal to simplicity without examining the theories is somewhat ridiculous.


Simpler means the one with less entities and/or dimensions.

Did you conduct a survey?

No, but in 2000, the US census did, and it found that atheism and nonbelief are on the rise :)

groundfighter76 said...

Aaron,

This is my last post. It's apparent that you are not even familiar with the mind/body problem and are not taking my statements in context.

So just to be clear, your point is that the mind and brain can be distinct and seperate components of a person without invoking an immaterial dimension to account for it? Thank you!

No, my point was to actually understand what your view was - not that they actually can be "distinct and seperate components of a person without invoking an immaterial dimension".

Actually, I consider evidence to be of an empirical or logical nature, or both. I will concede your bias charge if you can give me an example of evidence which does not involve anything empirical or logical.

Your acceptance of Occam's Razor. This was my point below which was totally missed. Its *acceptance* is neither logical (which logical law) nor empirical. Also, first principles such as whether one should be a scientific realist, critical realist, or anti-realist. A cursory reading of an introduction to epistemology would answer this question for you.

I said, "If you consistently applied your criterion of evidence in this manner, then 'science' would seem to be in a heap of trouble. For instance, two theories can be empirically equivalent and, as a result, scientists must go beyond the 'evidence' in determining which theory to accept.

You said, "Enter Occams Razor."


See above and this again completely misses my point.

If the mind has a detectable effect on the body, then that is an argument in favor of the minds material nature. It is certainly not an argument in favor of the mind being immaterial.

Only material things can affect material things.


If you are saying that all causation must involve physical contact between cause and effect, you are simply asserting something that some dualists would deny and thus begging the question. You are presupposing a transfer theory of causation that makes dualist interaction impossible from the outset. There are other theories of causation on which causation is unproblematic.


If a material instrument cannot detect an immaterial entity, then how could an immaterial entity detect, much less interact with, a material entity?

I'm not sure how this even follows. Nevertheless, this still commits the category error from earlier and begs the question in regards to causation.


I think you and I both agree that perfect analogies dont exist. And you seem to still not realize the fact that I declared that my analogy was only to argue 1) for the minds material nature, and 2) point out the absurdity of inserting an immaterial factor that cannot, even in principle, be supported by evidence.

Contradicting me is not an argument. All you are doing is simply re-asserting what I've argued against.

Nevertheless, without an actual response to my refutations, your analogy accomplishes neither of your desired points above.


Syntax is meta-data. Meta-data is material. Meta-data is a part of physics. Ones zeros, positives, negatives, etc...

Whatever meta-data is, contradicting me is not an argument. All you are doing is simply asserting what I've argued against.


It would prove your point, if my assuming the negative until proven otherwise was some kind of illogical leap of faith. But the negative is assumed by default until proven otherwise.

This is another repeat and a claim of illogicity. Nothing substantive.


I suppose next you will concede to me that invisible leprechauns could very well live in the center of the sun, even though I have nothing to support this contention, since you cant currently disprove it?

What's funny is that this could be evoked in your case.

Apparently, you don't want take context seriously.

Are you familiar with Occams Razor? And if so, do you consider it a valid principle? My assumption of the negative is only my application of occams razor to my worldview.

Much of your post could be ommitted had you simply read my entire post before responding. Occam's Razor has nothing to do with this situation. Unless of course you want to attempt an argument that shows that Occam's Razor dictates which theory one should hold to at the outset. Good luck arguing this.


Actually, I only stated that we havent fully explained the question for the sake of our argument. I will clarify now that I do not know nearly as much as, say, a neuroscientist, and some of the leaders in that field may very well have explanations that I am unaware of. I will admit, at least, that I personally cannot fully explain the mind/brain question. Im not a brain specialist.

This doesn't matter at all in context since your claim was 'a priori'.

I suspect you would only trust a neuroscientist's analysis if he was materialist as evidenced by this blog post. That is quite convenient - believe what you want to believe and then find support from those who agree.


Actually, I personally know a guy who got a lobotomy after a horrible car accident, and his "mind" is certainly divided, or missing parts that used to be there. He acts almost like a vegetable now, and he can no longer work or walk upright, and he can barely talk anymore. I would argue that the mind is divisible and it divides in accordance with the way one cuts up a physical brain.

You misunderstand this point. You can divide a physical thing into parts and still have physical things, but you cannot divide a mind into parts and still have minds (two minds).


Thats a funny example, because just today I read an article that talked about how most women have more color receptors in their eyes than men do, and that men are more likely to be color blind. I think your point #2 is an argument for materialism if anything, since deficiencies in color perception can be accounted for in genetic and developmental causes.

You misunderstand this point. There is an argument from color blindness, but this ain't it. In materialism, all that exists are physical facts. Theorectically, a scientist should know all there is to know about 'blueness' (substitute whatever here), but actually gains knowledge once he experiences it. If that is the case, then there are more than just physical facts.


3. Private access to the mind vs public access to the physical.

I think this is a good one actually, if for no other reason than Ive never thought about it before. I like it! But could you help explain why this would indicate an immaterial mind?

4. 1st person perspective of the mind vs 3rd person perspective of physical objects.

This is an interesting one too, but again, I dont see how it requires an immaterial dimension in order to be accounted for...?


What these examples show is that the mind is nonphysical since it does not have common physical properties.

Though brief, I'm stopping here with my explanations of these. These (1-5) are basic and in intros to the philosophy of mind. It's apparent to me that you are unfamiliar with the mind/body problem. I fail to see how your 'confidence' is justified.


I said, "What we say is that the material is inadequate in dealing with the mind. In the past, I have notice that you have often spoken of choosing the simpler theory (Occam's Razor). However, what does one mean by 'simpler'? A theory can actually be simpler *metaphysically* but not explanatorily adequate. Simplicity is usually appealed to *after* two theories have been determined to have equivalent explanatory power. So to merely appeal to simplicity without examining the theories is somewhat ridiculous."

You said, "Simpler means the one with less entities and/or dimensions."


This does not begin to address what I said. Again, assertions do not a refutation make.


No, but in 2000, the US census did, and it found that atheism and nonbelief are on the rise :)

Atheism/nonbelief does not entail physicalism/materialism. Bertrand Russell is one such example. Sorry, but you need a more detailed study.


This is my last post. You appear to be quite unfamiliar with the mind/body problem. Through this exchange, it's apparent that you will believe whatever you want to believe and then attempt to find some justification for it, though you have yet to find much support or at least post that support.

Unfortunately, I have seen the same carelessness in your studies of Christian theology as you have shown here. None of this justifies the hostility and 'confidence' that is displayed.

Maybe God will grant repentance and faith.

Regards,
Don

Aaron Kinney said...

Groundfighter76,

I'm not sure how this even follows. Nevertheless, this still commits the category error from earlier and begs the question in regards to causation.

Not true. How can one argue for an immaterial cause and effect when the immaterial portion of it cannot be verified, even in principle? Cause and effect was discovered by observing causes and effects. Observing a cause and effect in a dualist framework is not possible, because the immaterial component would be hidden from detection.

Nevertheless, without an actual response to my refutations, your analogy accomplishes neither of your desired points above.

What refutations? Declaring me to be begging the question when it is in fact you that is arguing for a dualist cause and effect when there very nature of immaterialism would prevent the cause and effect from being verified? How can you support a cause and effect in dualism when, for example, an immaterial cause cannot be detected or observed for the material effect that is causes?

Im not beggin the question, all Im doing is challenging you to support an immaterial component within a cause/effect relationship.

Whatever meta-data is, contradicting me is not an argument. All you are doing is simply asserting what I've argued against.

Actually, I gave examples of material meta-data. Are not the concepts (meta-data) formed through written words (data) material?

What's funny is that this could be evoked in your case.

Too bad this is your last post, because I would love for you to show me how an unevidenced leprachaun assertion could be levied against my position!

Much of your post could be ommitted had you simply read my entire post before responding. Occam's Razor has nothing to do with this situation. Unless of course you want to attempt an argument that shows that Occam's Razor dictates which theory one should hold to at the outset. Good luck arguing this.

Ha! I love how theists discard occams razor while simultaneously borrowing from it.

I can "argue this" by stating that Occams Razor shows that we should choose the simpler of otherwise equally supported theories. Now for the sake of argument, I could allow for both our worldviews to be "equally supported" (although in reality I dont hold this), and then Occams Razor would show that we should choose my theory since it is the simpler of the two. In other words, it invokes less entities in its explanation.

I suspect you would only trust a neuroscientist's analysis if he was materialist as evidenced by this blog post. That is quite convenient - believe what you want to believe and then find support from those who agree.

Yes, I would. But notice that the word "neuroscientist" includes the word science in it. And science, as you should know, is all about materialism. Because the only way to understand any process or cause and effect is through material observation. I would love to see you provide a supportable example of cause and effect that involves an immaterial, and unobservable, cause!

You misunderstand this point. You can divide a physical thing into parts and still have physical things, but you cannot divide a mind into parts and still have minds (two minds).

Now whos begging the question? There are many verifiable cases of a a physical brain being lobotomized and ones personality being changed as a result. We have even identified, for the most part, which portions of the brain perform which mental function. There is one story that comes to mind of a guy who got a big nail stuck through his head, then had a frontal lobotomy, and then his whole personality changed. He became a malevolent asshole, and lost his inhibition and his forethought, and it was precisely because the portion of his brain that controls such functions was surgically removed.

Now, if one cuts up a brain into parts, you still have physical "things" as you stated, but you no longer have the complete physical "thing" that you once had. You conceded this in your pluralization of the word "things."

So when a person has a piece of their brain removed that performs a certain mental function, and after the operation that mental function no longer works in that person, is that NOT evidence that a mind can indeed be divided or have components of it removed, and consequently have some of its functions diminished or even omitted entirely?

You misunderstand this point. There is an argument from color blindness, but this ain't it. In materialism, all that exists are physical facts. Theorectically, a scientist should know all there is to know about 'blueness' (substitute whatever here), but actually gains knowledge once he experiences it. If that is the case, then there are more than just physical facts.

Being able to explain and understand blueness isnt the same as experiencing it directly. Similarly, having detailed blueprints for a Beoing 747, and having a complete understanding of the principles of flight, isnt the same as directly experiencing a flight in a 747.

In your example of blueness, you have failed to identify all the proper components. You said that all that exists are physical facts in an attempt to equivocate or discard meta-data. Understanding blueness as a wavelength of light is like meta-data, but experiencing blueness directly is more like direct data.

Similarly, the blueprints for a 747 are material, and the 747 that is symbolized in those blueprints is the meta-data. But an actual 747 is data itself, and is the object that the aforementioned blueprints symbolize. Indeed, one can design a material object on paper, and that is "physical facts" even though it is only a symbol or representation of the actual designed (but not yet built) object.

What these examples show is that the mind is nonphysical since it does not have common physical properties.

And how are #s 3 and 4 examples of not having "common physical properties"? Since when is the perspective of a mind not a common physical property? Isnt this begging the question?

Though brief, I'm stopping here with my explanations of these. These (1-5) are basic and in intros to the philosophy of mind. It's apparent to me that you are unfamiliar with the mind/body problem. I fail to see how your 'confidence' is justified.

Well help explain it to me then if you feel like you are coming from such an education position! I asked you for clarification on your 5 points, and all you did was assert that these are examples of the nonphysical. But how is this so? Dont just assert that #s 1-5 are examples of nonphysical minds, support it! Im happy to hear what the basis of these arguments are, so why wont you share them? Why dont we start with #4: WHY is the 1st person perspective of the mind vs. the 3rd person perspective of physical objects an argument for the nonphysical mind? It seems like a non-sequitor to me... but I would love to read your explanation for it.

This does not begin to address what I said. Again, assertions do not a refutation make.

Sure, but when all Im dealing with are your unsupported assertions, I am left with little to work with. "What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence." And so far all youve given me are assertions: "you dont understand the mind/body problem. 1st vs. 3rd person perspective neccessitates a nonphysical mind, etc..."

Atheism/nonbelief does not entail physicalism/materialism. Bertrand Russell is one such example. Sorry, but you need a more detailed study.

I already know that atheism does not neccessitate materialism, but you and I both know that the vast majority of atheists in the western world subscribe to materialism. In practice, atheism and materialism are often found together.

Similarly, theism does not necessitate immaterialism, but again you and I both know that almost all theists subscribe to immaterialism and the afterlife.

This is my last post. You appear to be quite unfamiliar with the mind/body problem. Through this exchange, it's apparent that you will believe whatever you want to believe and then attempt to find some justification for it, though you have yet to find much support or at least post that support.

Assuming that I am not familiar with the mind/body problem, and assuming that you ARE, why is it that the support you have offered for your assertions is less in quantity that the support I have given for my assertions? Why is it that you seem to be more interested in accusing me of unfamiliarity than demonstrating it with your allegedly superior grasp of the topic? Dont hold back my friend, I can take it.

Unfortunately, I have seen the same carelessness in your studies of Christian theology as you have shown here. None of this justifies the hostility and 'confidence' that is displayed.

Actually, I am less "confident" in my position than you are in yours. I have demonstrated a willingness to hear your side and contemplate your arguments more than you have demonstrated to me. Looking back at your exchange, you clearly come off as more confident and sure of your position than I am in mine. I am inviting criticism while you are not. I want to wrestle with the issues, but you just want to dictate.

Besides, what more "confidence" can one have than the confidence of a position based on faith and undetectable entities? A position that cannot be verified, nor falsified, often brings inflated "confidence" to those who hold it.

The very STRENGTH of science is its lack of confidence in the positions it holds; its willingness to scrutinize and re-evaluate itself; its tendency to correct itself, admit mistakes, and revise its positions according to new information and discoveries. These things are absent in theism and immaterialism. How can re-evaluation and second-guessing be applied to allegedly revealed knowledge? How can repeated testing be peformed on the immaterial? How can unevidenced assertions be checked?

I may state things in a confident way, but I also invite challenges to my statements. I am always happy to admit the limits of my knowledge, and I am not afraid to admit when others have points that I find compelling or worth further consideration. The very nature of your worldview, however, prevents you from doing the same.

Indeed, it was my very insistence on leaning "unto [my] own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5) that compelled me to abandon faith altogether and embrace a materialistic worldview. It was my willingness to question the things I held as true that led me to where I am today.

Maybe God will grant repentance and faith.

I was already a Christian once. Now that I am a materialistic atheist, I dont know how I could repent and follow God unless I came across some kind of evidence of His existence. Would it be too late for me to repent if I suddenly saw Jesus descend from the heavens? Or would it be too late for me to repent if, one random day, I had a conversation with a burning bush (Ex 3:2)? Or would it be too late for me to repent if I came across four beasts who each have six wings and are full of eyes (Rev 4:8)?

Christians always tell me that I should believe in God/Jesus without expecting to see these kinds of miracles beforehand. They say that miracles dont even happen anymore. Of course, I am supposed to see the truth of God BEFORE I find any real reason to. Thats the nature of faith! Hebrews 11:1 says "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Faith is belief in something by virtue of its unsupportability! How ludicrous.

I know you probably dont believe me when I say this, but if I had an experience of a miracle similar to those described in the Bible (and referenced above), I would certainly become a devout follower! But thats the catch-22, isnt it? I need something tangible before I can commit to a belief. In fact it was the material evidence available to me that led me away from faith in the first place! Perhaps material evidence is the very foundation of the falling of man and his continued sin? The original sin did come from the tree of knowledge after all.

Sorry, GF76. I have already arrived at the point where I wont believe in something unless there is observable, testable support for it. Am I doomed to Hell now for violating Proverbs 3:5? If so, it is because Adam bit into the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge. And thats his fault, not mine, original sin be damned (ha ha the thought of damning sin itself is kinda funny).

But in all seriousness, even if I am wrong, and there is a God and dualism is true, I can at least be fairly comfortable in betting that it is not a God of any Abrahamic (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) religion.

Good luck in your apologetic pursuits. Youll need it!

Aaron Kinney said...

GF76,

I dunno if youll come back here or not, but I thought I would share this with you just in case:

In another post, Wade419 left a comment that included this link to a Time magazine article about the brain. Id like to quote a few snips of it:

Modern scientists have done a far better job of things, dividing the brain into multiple, discrete regions with satisfyingly technical names--hypothalamus, caudate nucleus, neocortex--and mapping particular functions to particular sites. Here lives abstract thought; here lives creativity; here is emotion; here is speech. But what about here and here and here and here--all the countless places and ways the brain continues to baffle us? Here still be dragons.

Slowly, that is changing. As 21st century science and technology open the brain to us as never before, accepted truths are becoming less true. The brain, we're finding, is indeed a bordered organ, subdivided into zones and functions. But the lines are blurrier than we ever imagined. Lose your vision, and the lobe that processed light may repurpose itself for other senses. Suffer a stroke in the area that controls your right arm, and another area may take over at least some of the job.

Specialized neurons are being found that allow us to mirror the behavior of people around us, helping us learn such primal skills as walking and eating as well as how to become social, ethical beings. The mystery of memory is being teased apart, exposing the way we store facts and experiences in addition to the emotional flavors associated with them. Magnetic resonance imaging is probing the brain as it operates, essentially--if crudely--reading our minds, and raising all the attendant ethical questions.

Finally and most elusively, we are learning something about consciousness itself--the ghost in the neural machine that gives you the sense of being in the moment, peering out at the world from the control room behind your eyes. If we can identify that cognitive kernel, can we one day endow a machine with it? But by isolating such a thing, do we in some way annihilate it too?

groundfighter76 said...

Aaron,

Well I found some of your counter-examples funny so I had to respond. ;)

Not true. How can one argue for an immaterial cause and effect when the immaterial portion of it cannot be verified, even in principle? Cause and effect was discovered by observing causes and effects. Observing a cause and effect in a dualist framework is not possible, because the immaterial component would be hidden from detection.


What refutations? Declaring me to be begging the question when it is in fact you that is arguing for a dualist cause and effect when there very nature of immaterialism would prevent the cause and effect from being verified? How can you support a cause and effect in dualism when, for example, an immaterial cause cannot be detected or observed for the material effect that is causes?

Im not beggin the question, all Im doing is challenging you to support an immaterial component within a cause/effect relationship.


Again, misrepresentations.

But let's look a little closer at the self-refuting nature of Aaron's Theory of Knowledge (ATK for short).

ATK states that: "A proposition is an object of knowledge, verifiable, or supportable if and only if the proposition in question is supported/verifiable/justified by evidence of an empirical nature or a logical nature."

In order to see the self-refutation of ATK, we need to look at ATK itself. ATK is *only* an object of knowledge if it can meet it's own criteria of what constitutes knowledge.

First, we'll look at the 'empirical' evidence for ATK. Is ATK supported by any kind of 'empirical' evidence. It's hard to see how it can be. Now using Aaron's logic, he may reply by saying that the words he has typed (and ATK) consist of 'meta-data' and are thus 'material' in nature and empirically verifiable. However, if Aaron goes this route then what empirical reason could he give to accept ATK? Aaron could reply that obversation has guided him to truth in the past (although this this is circular I digress), but I fail to see how this would support ATK. ATK, you see, *only* allows knowledge to be gained through empirical means (or logical). So even though we may accept empirical methods of knowing, this lends no support to ATK's criteria of an object of knowledge being *only* supportable by empirical methods. Consequently, I fail to see how *any* amount of observation could support ATK.

Next we need to look at 'evidence of a logical nature'. Is there any 'logical' evidence to support ATK? Don't get me wrong, if I first accept ATK, propositions could follow logically from it. But we need logical evidence to actually support ATK. Aaron could appeal to the laws of logic, but it's hard to see how one could derive ATK from the law of noncontradiction, identity, or excluded middle without bringing in many other assumptions that would need that same type of support. None of the laws of logic tell me anything about ATK. Therefore, ATK can't be known through 'logical' evidence.

Since ATK cannot satisfy it's own criteria and be known/supported/verified through evidence of an empirical or logical nature, it follows that Aaron cannot know ATK!

Unfortunately for Aaron, his naive empiricism self-destructs. So much for his views of science. :(

Actually, I gave examples of material meta-data. Are not the concepts (meta-data) formed through written words (data) material?

Oh right you said 0s, 1s, etc. But so what? A computational sequence is *observer relative* and thus escapes your 'examples' of 'meta-data'. Nor do I see how your postulation touches the fact that your example presupposes what it needs to explain...

But what's funny is that you think numbers are material! If I write a number and destroy it, is the number now destroyed? OR if I destroyed *all* the physical numbers which is definitely possible since they are now material and phyical objects can be destroyed so that they are no longer the same physical object, would there now be no numbers at all? That follows if numbers are material.


Ha! I love how theists discard occams razor while simultaneously borrowing from it.

Ha! Another good ole misrepresentation. I never said such! This is almost comical.


I can "argue this" by stating that Occams Razor shows that we should choose the simpler of otherwise equally supported theories. Now for the sake of argument, I could allow for both our worldviews to be "equally supported" (although in reality I dont hold this), and then Occams Razor would show that we should choose my theory since it is the simpler of the two. In other words, it invokes less entities in its explanation.

Welp, this has nothing to do with anything. I stated that you need to show how Occam's Razor supports some *default* position. I've already explained what you wrote above to you in my previous post.


Let's get to the good part:

Now whos begging the question? There are many verifiable cases of a a physical brain being lobotomized and ones personality being changed as a result. We have even identified, for the most part, which portions of the brain perform which mental function. There is one story that comes to mind of a guy who got a big nail stuck through his head, then had a frontal lobotomy, and then his whole personality changed. He became a malevolent asshole, and lost his inhibition and his forethought, and it was precisely because the portion of his brain that controls such functions was surgically removed.

Now, if one cuts up a brain into parts, you still have physical "things" as you stated, but you no longer have the complete physical "thing" that you once had. You conceded this in your pluralization of the word "things."

So when a person has a piece of their brain removed that performs a certain mental function, and after the operation that mental function no longer works in that person, is that NOT evidence that a mind can indeed be divided or have components of it removed, and consequently have some of its functions diminished or even omitted entirely?


OH MY! You better call the authorities! Those people who performed that lobotomy actually threw a *mind* away! You know a center of consciousness! with qualia, subjectivity, intentionality et al

You still have yet to grasp this argument. The argument has nothing to do with a certain area of the brain affecting the mind, which no one denies.

The argument is that one can continually divide physical objects into smaller and smaller physical objects and one still has physical objects. It matters not that the parts are not the whole object as it originally was (that would be dumb since the parts now equal the whole) but that the physical objects are *still physical*.

But the mind, being simple, if *it* is divided into smaller and smaller parts does not now become two minds and three minds and four minds and on and on. These further minds that the original mind was divided into would need to have the same properties that the original mind had - consciousness, intentionality, qualia, thoughts, subjectivity, and on and on - just like the parts of the original physical object would have physical properties like the original had.

Sorry, but your counter-example is completely *irrelevant*.

Being able to explain and understand blueness isnt the same as experiencing it directly. Similarly, having detailed blueprints for a Beoing 747, and having a complete understanding of the principles of flight, isnt the same as directly experiencing a flight in a 747.

In your example of blueness, you have failed to identify all the proper components. You said that all that exists are physical facts in an attempt to equivocate or discard meta-data. Understanding blueness as a wavelength of light is like meta-data, but experiencing blueness directly is more like direct data.

Similarly, the blueprints for a 747 are material, and the 747 that is symbolized in those blueprints is the meta-data. But an actual 747 is data itself, and is the object that the aforementioned blueprints symbolize. Indeed, one can design a material object on paper, and that is "physical facts" even though it is only a symbol or representation of the actual designed (but not yet built) object.


Sorry but you undermined this counterexample a while back. "Meta-data" is material as you stated. Since 'meta-data' is material, it is physical. Since 'meta-data' is physical, 'meta-data' consists of physical facts. And since physical facts can be known from a third person perspective, your counterexample fails. As a result, the scientist could learn something new from his experience -a first person, subjective fact.


I already know that atheism does not neccessitate materialism, but you and I both know that the vast majority of atheists in the western world subscribe to materialism. In practice, atheism and materialism are often found together.

Similarly, theism does not necessitate immaterialism, but again you and I both know that almost all theists subscribe to immaterialism and the afterlife.


Umm YOU ARE VIOLATING ATK!
Oh we just know it! You know you know it! Don't deny it!


As far as your pontificating about you being a Christian once, I'd have to say that according to the Bible you were not a Christian. It's written that those who go out from among us were not of us. It's written that those who *perservere* have saving faith. It's written that God predestinates and if that is so and God is sovereign, then you were never a Christian.

You would not believe even if a dead person were to be raised. As a matter of fact, it's written that it's not even in your power to savingly believe and repent given man's fallen state. Remember that according to Scripture Christ came into the world and man *would* not come to the light because his deeds were evil. Not only that, but man crucified Christ. Now if Christianity is true, how depraved is that? So, no, you wouldn't just believe.

Can the leopard change his spots? Can the Ethiopian change the color of his skin? Can those who are accustomed to evil do good? No, says Scripture.

I think an argument could be made that even though the dead in hell desire their punishment abated, they would still not want to be in heaven because God is there and they hate Him and He likewise hates them (Psalm 5:5 among others). Your contention that you were once a Christian has no basis in Scripture.

And you are doomed to hell because of your sin. I believe in original sin but it would be a nonissue in your case because of your actual sin. If one sin causes a certain amount of damnation, then what about two sins? And if two sins is twice as much, what about three? And on it goes.

And not only the number but the nature of each sin will be taken into account. A careless word will bring judgment. And if a careless word brings judgment, what about a cruel word? Or a harsh word? Or some deed? I think you get the point.

Jonathan Edwards once commented that if it were man's to give, he'd give the entire world and all that is in it, just to decrease his sins by one in order to reduce his punishment.

Regards,
Don

Anonymous said...

Trying to argue your case by using an analogy is not very convincing. Comparing the brain to the USB stick and the mind to the information stored on it, as you do, is nothing more than that - an analogy, a comparison between two very different systems that share a few similarities. It is also not a very good idea for other reasons such as:
1. Computer hard drives, disks, DVD's and other information storage systems and devices were all CREATED by an intelligence (us), whereas the brain/mind, according to materialists such as yourself, were not.
2. Computers cannot think for themselves, they have no free will. They can only do what we, the truly intelligent ones, tell them to do.
3. Machines and biological entities are completely different. Machines do not grow, reproduce, or evolve and change over time (unless, again, we design a better model - but that's not how biological evolution works, now is it?).
4. Attacking the person, rather than his position on a particular issue (by calling him, for example, a retard), is just plain idiotic.

wade419 said...

Wow, this is/was quite the conversation here. Not sure that you guys, Aaron and GF76, have actually understood each other, and I hate that this happens so much in theist/athiest debates. Anyway, sorry it took so long for me to step in, I had to do this in a number of different sittings, hopefully you are still willing to hear me out. I'm gonna cut to the chase, and try to address a few points that I've seen from this whole conversation here. I'll try to make the points, in bold, from your point of view to make it easier to follow.

Point 1: If you're missing information, how can you justify an entire new dimension? And how could any immaterial thing be verified or credibly supported anyway? What kind of evidence could be found? Wouldn't the finding of evidence for an "immaterial" dimension make it in fact material?

Well, I can look at other examples where other dimensions have been assumed and later justified scientifically. The main one that comes to mind is the mathematical phenomena of "imaginary numbers". To clarify, real numbers are the ones we usually think of, and apply along a number line, going to infinity in one dimension. But after trying to figure out what the square root of a negative number was, we came up with the concept of imaginary numbers. They can be represented on a 2D graph, with the real number line along the x-axis and the imaginary number line along the y-axis. An entire new dimension to something as simple as numbers!

And these imaginary numbers are not just things that we made up to explain a square root that we couldn't solve. They are inextricably linked to real numbers, in the same beautiful way that all of mathematics seem to flow. As an engineer, I've used imaginary numbers a *lot*, and they can even be applied to real world: they are used in circuitry to adequately describe induction/capacitance relationships and the power, voltage, and current properties of complex circuitry and motors. I'll save you any more explanation; I think you get the point.

Aren't there even something like 11 dimensions that scientists are considering for our universe now? String theory and quantum mechanics are strange, but I'm pretty sure they do a lot of invoking of other dimensions to explain phenomena in this world. So, immaterial things *can* be justifiably assumed if given enough reason. I'll try to give some reason for an immaterial dimension of the mind by the end of this post.


Point 2: Of course we have to make a conscious choice! But how is that incompatible with a purely materialistic reality?

Because a conscious choice represents an outside input after the brain's logical and moral processing has been done. There is a weighing of the outputs, there is time taken that is a result of our *conscious* formation and insertion of this outside input. If we had processors for brains, why would we need to stop and consider things? why does it take time to mull something over and actually come to a decision? why not just run the input through the system, get a response, and act?

Consider the difference between muscle memory, learned actions, instinctual responses…and when we actually have to make a decision. All of the former are when we do not even have to think about what we are doing - we do it because we have the programming already in place. This, to me, represents what happens when we are not inserting much *conscious* effort into our actions. We are still aware of what we are doing, we are still able to insert a conscious choice to change our behavior if we want, but for the most part we're just kind of doing what we know how to do. We can do stuff without really thinking about it. Our processors are working hard, and cells and neurons are still getting strengthened and altered to accommodate this familiar set of actions, but our mind (for the most part) is taking a back seat, or free to think about other things.

But when we encounter a new situation, our mind needs to be engaged to process the new information. This is not a simple weighing of our experiences that we have stored into our physical memory banks, it is not a logical output of the circuitry of our brain, it is that *something else* that I have tried to hint at before. There is a distinct difference between these two situations, and I hope you see it. Keep in mind that I still have not tried to prove anything for an immaterial dimension of the mind yet. I'm just trying to lay the framework, so that maybe you can see along my line of thinking – maybe it will help make my thoughts clear.

At this point, it might be interesting to note that this is where I draw the line between animals and humans. Some animals have more advanced processors than others, and can seem to make a conscious choice in certain situations, such as a dog learning new tricks and behaviors; or a chimpanzee using a tool, crudely imitating human behavior, or cleverly using a box as a stepstool to reach some bananas. The difference is, we as humans have continued to exhibit mental advances, are acutely aware of others and abstract situations, and – here's the kicker – can act on new information in a completely different way than other animals. This is where our curiosity, our hunger for knowledge, our altruistic behaviors, etc come in. Everything that makes us human, different from an animal, is a function of our consciousness. *Not* the complexity of our processor.


Point 3 (a biggie): The law of entropy applies to closed system; brains are not a closed system. Also, an argument from incredulity just doesn't cut it: "I am astounded by X, therefore God exists." An immaterial dimension still can't be a justified assumption!

I agree with your statement about closed systems, and understand the implications. I tried to make that clear, but eh, I'm not a writer. But – even considering a system as large as the universe, does that mean that something as heavily evolved as the brain could *continue* to develop, defying entropy the entire way, without some sort of continuous action or stimulus towards development?

Let me first paraphrase your argument, as I understand it. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that you are saying that when a whole system is considered, laws such as entropy apply for the whole system, and anomalies can be explained away by the fact that there is a compensation to balance out the whole system. In this case, the system is the universe and the anomaly is the human brain and the organization brought about because of it.

I completely agree with that statement. Yet we must consider a special case here - the case in which the anomaly that we are looking at is increasingly defying the law of entropy in place for the system.

If we consider that we have observed monumental increases in order brought about both in the human brain and in human civilization over the short period of time (compared to the calculated age of the earth) that we have existed, it seems logical to question the existence of some outside influence guiding decisions and organizing the structures in our brains, and by transition, our civilization. To clarify that: we've seen leaps and bounds in organization, why not assume something is doing some organizing? It should seem logical to say that the probability of defying a law such as the law of entropy is much less than the probability of following it. Let's consider our special anomaly, where the law is continually being defied. It seems obvious to me that the possibilities for an explanation of this anomaly fall into two categories:

A) a string of improbable random chances has led to the increased defying of the law, or
B) there is some outside influence on the system.

Keep in mind that both cases are still following the law of entropy for the entire system. The whole closed system, the universe, still balances out. We are simply trying to explain the crazy deviation from the norm that goes against the laws that we see in place.

When weighing the probabilities of these two options, I see option B as the overwhelmingly more probable one. In fact, Occam's razor comes into play here. It usually is stated as something along the lines of: "All things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the best one." So when instituting Occam's razor, I feel one would see the most probable solution as the simplest one. Referencing Ockham's original statement, he said something in Latin that wikipedia has translated as "entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity." The important note that I'd like to make here is that enough entities have to be present in order to suitably explain the situation! If the situation is not explained, then *perhaps* another entity is necessary to explain the situation. I feel that Ockham was very aware of this fact, and I also feel that in this case, the lone entity of a logical processor is not sufficient. Meaning: As I see it, the logical conclusion would be that something must be influencing the system. (I haven't tried to prove immaterial anything yet! ;D)

SIDE NOTE: so instead of saying "I am astounded by X, therefore God exists.", I am saying "X pushes against the laws of the universe, reason, and logic; therefore there must be some cause and explanation for its astronomical aberration from the norm." One might even say that a system at rest will stay at rest, and a system following laws will continue to follow laws, until acted upon by an outside force.

So as long as we can agree that the existence of an outside influence is logical, we can move on to attempt to somewhat identify or explain it. The problem is that we have reason to believe that an outside influence is acting on the system, yet there is no evidence of it in the physical world. This thing does not seem to follow the logical flow of "material determinism" that you mentioned, because of the difference in our reflexes and programmed outputs as opposed to our conscious thinking, as I mentioned earlier. This influence also seems to defy the laws of the material universe that we have seen. So can we logically conclude that this influence is originating in our universe/plane of existence/dimension? I feel that the reasonable answer here is no.

You can go on to describe how one can justify the current connotation of the "mind" as this outside influence by observing each individual person as a closed system. The same thing is done in physics and mechanics (and really, all of science) all the time – in order to better understand something in detail, you have to consider it a closed system, *to a degree*. This can be justified, because the observed range of influence is only within one's consciousness, the mind is uniquely interacting with this one person, and there is no connection to any other person. If you are thinking, we cannot actually trace your thoughts unless we drill into you – if we actually insert something into the system. And even then, we would not be tracing the thoughts themselves – we would be tracing the *effects* of your thoughts on your physical brain, the electric currents and chemical reactions occurring in the physical processor.


Point 4: Brain surgeries and such are evidence of a material mind, because when the physical brain is changed, the mind and personality are changed.

My response to this is simple – while the mind and brain are separate, they are inextricably linked. Like, say, a symbiote and a host. In many cases in nature, both entities are needed to survive, and changing one is going to affect both. Another example is with an operator and a machine – if you change the machine, then the operator is going to have to adapt his style of interacting with the machine so that it can still work in the best possible way. The mind and brain, if they are in separate dimensions or the same physical one, can *both* be changed if one is altered because of the link between them.

Finally, you said: I may state things in a confident way, but I also invite challenges to my statements. I am always happy to admit the limits of my knowledge, and I am not afraid to admit when others have points that I find compelling or worth further consideration. The very nature of your worldview, however, prevents you from doing the same.

Indeed, it was my very insistence on leaning "unto [my] own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5) that compelled me to abandon faith altogether and embrace a materialistic worldview. It was my willingness to question the things I held as true that led me to where I am today.


And this, Aaron, is why I respect your opinion and your approach to this and most situations. I think I've already subtly changed my line of thinking just by reading through the 30-some comments so far. As you said before, although we come to different conclusions, I'm eager to hear you out. As always – hope my thoughts come out clear, and I reserve the right to get smarter.

Aaron Kinney said...

Groundfighter76,

Sorry for the late reply. I overlooked this one somehow. Anyway, lets get to it:

But let's look a little closer at the self-refuting nature of Aaron's Theory of Knowledge (ATK for short).

ATK states that: "A proposition is an object of knowledge, verifiable, or supportable if and only if the proposition in question is supported/verifiable/justified by evidence of an empirical nature or a logical nature."


I do not agree with this exactly. I do, for example, believe that there are some axioms that cannot be verified empirically.

In order to see the self-refutation of ATK, we need to look at ATK itself. ATK is *only* an object of knowledge if it can meet it's own criteria of what constitutes knowledge.

First, we'll look at the 'empirical' evidence for ATK. Is ATK supported by any kind of 'empirical' evidence. It's hard to see how it can be. Now using Aaron's logic, he may reply by saying that the words he has typed (and ATK) consist of 'meta-data' and are thus 'material' in nature and empirically verifiable. However, if Aaron goes this route then what empirical reason could he give to accept ATK? Aaron could reply that obversation has guided him to truth in the past (although this this is circular I digress), but I fail to see how this would support ATK. ATK, you see, *only* allows knowledge to be gained through empirical means (or logical). So even though we may accept empirical methods of knowing, this lends no support to ATK's criteria of an object of knowledge being *only* supportable by empirical methods. Consequently, I fail to see how *any* amount of observation could support ATK.


This is all true, but you are attacking a strawman. I do not believe "A proposition is an object of knowledge, verifiable, or supportable if and only if the proposition in question is supported/verifiable/justified by evidence of an empirical nature or a logical nature." I also hold a few axioms.

Next we need to look at 'evidence of a logical nature'. Is there any 'logical' evidence to support ATK? Don't get me wrong, if I first accept ATK, propositions could follow logically from it. But we need logical evidence to actually support ATK. Aaron could appeal to the laws of logic, but it's hard to see how one could derive ATK from the law of noncontradiction, identity, or excluded middle without bringing in many other assumptions that would need that same type of support. None of the laws of logic tell me anything about ATK. Therefore, ATK can't be known through 'logical' evidence.

Again, excellent analysis, but it is an analysis of a strawman.

But what's funny is that you think numbers are material! If I write a number and destroy it, is the number now destroyed? OR if I destroyed *all* the physical numbers which is definitely possible since they are now material and phyical objects can be destroyed so that they are no longer the same physical object, would there now be no numbers at all? That follows if numbers are material.

Numbers are material, because numbers, in this sense, are meta-data, and meta-data is material.

For example, if I write "1" on a piece of paper, it is not itself a physical "number", but a symbol or representation of the concept of the number 1. In other words, the "1" in this case is meta-data which is obtained through observation of the properties of the writing I put on the paper. If that paper is destroyed or the writing is erased, then that meta-data "1" is effectively destroyed.

So, in theory, you COULD destroy all the numbers in the universe, but you would pretty much have to destroy everything everywhere in the process.

Im curious what your thoughts are on meta-data, GF76? Do you consider the meta-data in a printed book to be immaterial? Are thoughts immaterial in your eyes?

You still have yet to grasp this argument. The argument has nothing to do with a certain area of the brain affecting the mind, which no one denies.

The argument is that one can continually divide physical objects into smaller and smaller physical objects and one still has physical objects. It matters not that the parts are not the whole object as it originally was (that would be dumb since the parts now equal the whole) but that the physical objects are *still physical*.

But the mind, being simple, if *it* is divided into smaller and smaller parts does not now become two minds and three minds and four minds and on and on. These further minds that the original mind was divided into would need to have the same properties that the original mind had - consciousness, intentionality, qualia, thoughts, subjectivity, and on and on - just like the parts of the original physical object would have physical properties like the original had.


Ive never come across anything in materialism that claims: "These further minds that the original mind was divided into would need to have the same properties that the original mind had - consciousness, intentionality, qualia, thoughts, subjectivity, and on and on - just like the parts of the original physical object would have physical properties like the original had."

Ive never claimed this myself either. Can you explain to me how this is necessary to the materialist worldview?

As far as your pontificating about you being a Christian once, I'd have to say that according to the Bible you were not a Christian. It's written that those who go out from among us were not of us. It's written that those who *perservere* have saving faith. It's written that God predestinates and if that is so and God is sovereign, then you were never a Christian.

I know lots of Christians who would disagree with this. And if you claim that I was never a Chrisian, since I turned form the faith, then how can you even KNOW that you are a Christian, since you dont KNOW for sure if you will ever turn from the faith yourself in the future (however unlikely that may be)?

How do you justify calling anyone a Christian? And if I were to suddenly re-find faith one day (and hold it till my death), would that make me a Christian by your standard?

You would not believe even if a dead person were to be raised.

I wouldnt believe your mere word. But I would believe my own eyes if I were to see it.

As a matter of fact, it's written that it's not even in your power to savingly believe and repent given man's fallen state. Remember that according to Scripture Christ came into the world and man *would* not come to the light because his deeds were evil. Not only that, but man crucified Christ. Now if Christianity is true, how depraved is that? So, no, you wouldn't just believe.

I understand your argument, and since we cant see into the future, neither of us can say for sure if I would repent in the future. Its possible that I could re-discover Christ, isnt it? Otherwise, whats the point of apologetics and evangelism? What if one day you or Manata convinced me that the Bible was true? What if I saw Jesus return to Earth? I imagine, and bet, that if I were to encounter firsthand evidence of a Biblical event that I would repent rather quickly, if it wasnt too late by then.

I think an argument could be made that even though the dead in hell desire their punishment abated, they would still not want to be in heaven because God is there and they hate Him and He likewise hates them (Psalm 5:5 among others). Your contention that you were once a Christian has no basis in Scripture.

Ill grant this for the sake of argument. Now, also for the sake of argument, lets assume that tomorrow I turned to Christ and became a churchgoing Jesus believer for the rest of my days. How would Scripture relate to that? Would I still be damned? Would I still not be a "Christian" by these standards?

And you are doomed to hell because of your sin.

How does this make you feel? GF76, I will take a chance and say that you probably think that Im not the worst of all people on this planet. Sure we all "sin," even Christians, right? So, does the idea of me going to Hell make you happy, or sad, or neither? Can you share your thoughts on this with me?

I believe in original sin but it would be a nonissue in your case because of your actual sin.

It wouldnt be a non-issue for you now, would it? So GF76, if you are guilty of Adam and Eves sin, then hypothetically, are your children guilty for your sin as well? Or does this inhereited sin thing only work with the original sin and no others?

And did Jesus inhereit original sin as well? I imagine that you think not, but why?

Aaron Kinney said...

Hi Wade419!

Wow, this is/was quite the conversation here. Not sure that you guys, Aaron and GF76, have actually understood each other, and I hate that this happens so much in theist/athiest debates.

Me too. GF76 and me I think are talking a bit past eachother. Im trying hard to understand him and give relevant replies, but its not the easiest. And yes, I experience this quite often in debates with theists.

Anyway, sorry it took so long for me to step in, I had to do this in a number of different sittings, hopefully you are still willing to hear me out. I'm gonna cut to the chase, and try to address a few points that I've seen from this whole conversation here. I'll try to make the points, in bold, from your point of view to make it easier to follow.

Im so glad you decided to jump in! I always appreciate your input.

Point 1: If you're missing information, how can you justify an entire new dimension? And how could any immaterial thing be verified or credibly supported anyway? What kind of evidence could be found? Wouldn't the finding of evidence for an "immaterial" dimension make it in fact material?

Well, I can look at other examples where other dimensions have been assumed and later justified scientifically. The main one that comes to mind is the mathematical phenomena of "imaginary numbers". To clarify, real numbers are the ones we usually think of, and apply along a number line, going to infinity in one dimension. But after trying to figure out what the square root of a negative number was, we came up with the concept of imaginary numbers. They can be represented on a 2D graph, with the real number line along the x-axis and the imaginary number line along the y-axis. An entire new dimension to something as simple as numbers!


Yes, but those numbers are meta-data, which are concepts represented by regular data, and the dimensions proposed by physicists nowadays are not thought to be immaterial. Indeed, the mere fact that these dimensions can be logically supported or evidenced (to a degree) means that they are material. No physicist says that any of the 11 dimensions of quantum physics is immaterial.

Point 2: Of course we have to make a conscious choice! But how is that incompatible with a purely materialistic reality?

Because a conscious choice represents an outside input after the brain's logical and moral processing has been done. There is a weighing of the outputs, there is time taken that is a result of our *conscious* formation and insertion of this outside input. If we had processors for brains, why would we need to stop and consider things? why does it take time to mull something over and actually come to a decision? why not just run the input through the system, get a response, and act?


It is entirely possible that the consciousness is the necessary component of making such complicated choices, where the consciousness serves as the function that evaluates and chooses these choices/options. And nowhere does your explanation validate an immaterial mind or immaterial dimension.

Consider the difference between muscle memory, learned actions, instinctual responses…and when we actually have to make a decision. All of the former are when we do not even have to think about what we are doing - we do it because we have the programming already in place.

And these things you mention are things that we LEARN to subconsciously, automatically do after lots of conscious effort and practice at them. Thats how we learn to walk, throw, etc...

This, to me, represents what happens when we are not inserting much *conscious* effort into our actions. We are still aware of what we are doing, we are still able to insert a conscious choice to change our behavior if we want, but for the most part we're just kind of doing what we know how to do. We can do stuff without really thinking about it. Our processors are working hard, and cells and neurons are still getting strengthened and altered to accommodate this familiar set of actions, but our mind (for the most part) is taking a back seat, or free to think about other things.

neuroscientists have long known about this phenomena: where a new task or action must be consciously thought about first, and the performing of the task is not very skillful or efficient, but as practice and repetition occurs, the conscious mind lets teh subconscious take over, and soon enough the action is done skillfully and efficiently, and with much less conscious thought applied. this is how we learn and incpororate new data into our long term memory and subconscious.

But when we encounter a new situation, our mind needs to be engaged to process the new information. This is not a simple weighing of our experiences that we have stored into our physical memory banks, it is not a logical output of the circuitry of our brain, it is that *something else* that I have tried to hint at before. There is a distinct difference between these two situations, and I hope you see it. Keep in mind that I still have not tried to prove anything for an immaterial dimension of the mind yet. I'm just trying to lay the framework, so that maybe you can see along my line of thinking – maybe it will help make my thoughts clear.

LOL and I only read this paragraph after I already explained the learning process thing. Well, so far we are on the same page, but as you admit a few sentences ago, so far you have done nothing to explain or support the immaterial mind or an immaterial dimension.

At this point, it might be interesting to note that this is where I draw the line between animals and humans. Some animals have more advanced processors than others, and can seem to make a conscious choice in certain situations, such as a dog learning new tricks and behaviors; or a chimpanzee using a tool, crudely imitating human behavior, or cleverly using a box as a stepstool to reach some bananas. The difference is, we as humans have continued to exhibit mental advances, are acutely aware of others and abstract situations, and – here's the kicker – can act on new information in a completely different way than other animals. This is where our curiosity, our hunger for knowledge, our altruistic behaviors, etc come in. Everything that makes us human, different from an animal, is a function of our consciousness. *Not* the complexity of our processor.

I understand your argument, but I disagree. I do not believe that you have justified that humans act on new information in a completely different way than other animals. I think that humans act on information in a more advanced way, not a completely different way.

Would you allow me to use your logic and state that a monkey acts on information in a completely different way than a fungus, and therefore can be considered to have an immaterial soul when a fungus does not?

Is there anything testable about human consciousness that you can point to that shows how or why humans act on information in a fundamentally different way than all other life forms?

I agree with your statement about closed systems, and understand the implications. I tried to make that clear, but eh, I'm not a writer. But – even considering a system as large as the universe, does that mean that something as heavily evolved as the brain could *continue* to develop, defying entropy the entire way, without some sort of continuous action or stimulus towards development?

Not necessarily forever, but temporally, yes. According to astronomers, the universe has a long way to go before entropy reaches the max.

If we consider that we have observed monumental increases in order brought about both in the human brain and in human civilization over the short period of time (compared to the calculated age of the earth) that we have existed, it seems logical to question the existence of some outside influence guiding decisions and organizing the structures in our brains, and by transition, our civilization. To clarify that: we've seen leaps and bounds in organization, why not assume something is doing some organizing? It should seem logical to say that the probability of defying a law such as the law of entropy is much less than the probability of following it. Let's consider our special anomaly, where the law is continually being defied. It seems obvious to me that the possibilities for an explanation of this anomaly fall into two categories:

A) a string of improbable random chances has led to the increased defying of the law, or
B) there is some outside influence on the system.


A) is not a valid representation of the materialist position. There isnt much, if any, violation of the 2nd law in the universe according to our observations. A violation of the law would only occur in a closed system, so you cant point to humans or crystals or lead molecules and say that that is a violation of the 2nd law. It isnt.

One might even say that a system at rest will stay at rest, and a system following laws will continue to follow laws, until acted upon by an outside force.

But somehow this does not apply to the hypothesized "outside influence" aka god?

Would not an outside influence, in its interaction with our universe, conform to the same laws and rules in order to interact with us, and therefore be vulnerable to the same rules that apply to us? Remember that if A affects B, then B affects A. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

For example, if God were to reduce our entropy, wouldnt his have to increase?

And this, Aaron, is why I respect your opinion and your approach to this and most situations. I think I've already subtly changed my line of thinking just by reading through the 30-some comments so far. As you said before, although we come to different conclusions, I'm eager to hear you out. As always – hope my thoughts come out clear, and I reserve the right to get smarter.

Thank you! I feel the same way. Your thoughts do come out clear, and its also clear that youve been thinking these thoughts out ;)

groundfighter76 said...

Aaron,

I do not agree with this exactly. I do, for example, believe that there are some axioms that cannot be verified empirically.

This is all true, but you are attacking a strawman. I do not believe "A proposition is an object of knowledge, verifiable, or supportable if and only if the proposition in question is supported/verifiable/justified by evidence of an empirical nature or a logical nature." I also hold a few axioms.

Again, excellent analysis, but it is an analysis of a strawman.


(I’ve lumped all of your reply to my epistemic argument into one quote.)

Well what evidence do you have for accepting a proposition as an axiom? Why hold to any axiom or hold ATK as axiomatic? Is it because you think it should be?

Whether you call it a strawman or not, this argument undermines approximately 99.9% of your posts above.


Numbers are material, because numbers, in this sense, are meta-data, and meta-data is material.

This is circular and, unfortunately, it provides no evidence that numbers are material. You are saying nothing more than, “Numbers are material because Numbers are material.”


For example, if I write "1" on a piece of paper, it is not itself a physical "number", but a symbol or representation of the concept of the number 1. In other words, the "1" in this case is meta-data which is obtained through observation of the properties of the writing I put on the paper. If that paper is destroyed or the writing is erased, then that meta-data "1" is effectively destroyed.

What you’ve done is destroyed a numeral. Even if one learns of numerals through observation, it’s a non-sequitor to then claim that numbers are material or to claim that they have a ‘material’ basis. The question remains: what is a number – the ontology of it?


So, in theory, you COULD destroy all the numbers in the universe, but you would pretty much have to destroy everything everywhere in the process.

I fail to see how this follows. If a number is material, then it follows that one could destroy all numbers without destroying “everything everywhere”.

Your response does not take into account possible worlds either, but I digress.


Im curious what your thoughts are on meta-data, GF76? Do you consider the meta-data in a printed book to be immaterial? Are thoughts immaterial in your eyes?

Well, for one, I’ve never heard of ‘meta-data’. If ‘meta-data’ are words in a printed book, then the ‘meta-data’ would be ‘material’. Unfortunately, this only shows me that *tokens* are particular concrete instances and does not address *types*.


Ive never come across anything in materialism that claims: "These further minds that the original mind was divided into would need to have the same properties that the original mind had - consciousness, intentionality, qualia, thoughts, subjectivity, and on and on - just like the parts of the original physical object would have physical properties like the original had."

Ive never claimed this myself either. Can you explain to me how this is necessary to the materialist worldview?


It matters not if this is what ‘materialism claims’. It shows that the physical/mental are differing substances – one can be divided (divisible) and still be the same substance, while the other cannot be divided and still be the same substance (indivisible).


I know lots of Christians who would disagree with this. And if you claim that I was never a Chrisian, since I turned form the faith, then how can you even KNOW that you are a Christian, since you dont KNOW for sure if you will ever turn from the faith yourself in the future (however unlikely that may be)?

That’s fine they disagree with it. The apostles give tests all throughout the New Testament to know that one is in the faith (and when His Spirit bears testimony with our spirit). Read 1 John; read where Paul told the Corinthians to *examine* themselves to see if they were in the faith because many would be deceived. Read where Christ told his followers to make *every effort* to enter in at the strait gate and follow the narrow way because wide is the road that leads to destruction. Read the Beattitudes.

Perservance in faith is just one test. One could persevere in Christianity and still not be a Christian (consequently there was no saving faith- see Jesus telling the story of separating the sheeps from the goats).


How do you justify calling anyone a Christian? And if I were to suddenly re-find faith one day (and hold it till my death), would that make me a Christian by your standard?

One cannot know for certain whether someone else is a Christian. But one could look at the evidences in others’ lives to help determine it.

If you were to ‘re-find’ faith one day, it would not make you a Christian. Faith is not something that one controls at their whim. It is written that the Holy Spirit blows to and fro like the wind and no one knows where it goes.


I wouldnt believe your mere word. But I would believe my own eyes if I were to see it.

Sorry but perception does not entail nor imply belief. There are many examples of this in intros to epistemology.


I understand your argument, and since we cant see into the future, neither of us can say for sure if I would repent in the future. Its possible that I could re-discover Christ, isnt it? Otherwise, whats the point of apologetics and evangelism? What if one day you or Manata convinced me that the Bible was true? What if I saw Jesus return to Earth? I imagine, and bet, that if I were to encounter firsthand evidence of a Biblical event that I would repent rather quickly, if it wasnt too late by then.

It’s possible that you could repent and have faith in the future, but it would not be a work of yours. The Bible says that if you are in the flesh you can’t even understand the things of the spirit. It would be a miracle of God where He removes the ‘heart of stone’ and gives you a ‘heart of flesh’. Remember when the rich young ruler left disappointed and the disciples commented to Jesus, ‘who can be saved’ and Jesus replied saying that “with men it is *impossible* but with God it is possible’ (my paraphrase of course).

If God does not hear the prayers of the unrighteous as the Bible says, do you think that merely asking Him to give you faith and repentance will accomplish it? It’s God who changes people.

The point of apologetics, evangelism, etc is that God uses means to accomplish His desired ends.


Ill grant this for the sake of argument. Now, also for the sake of argument, lets assume that tomorrow I turned to Christ and became a churchgoing Jesus believer for the rest of my days. How would Scripture relate to that? Would I still be damned? Would I still not be a "Christian" by these standards?

If you became a Christian then you would not be damned. But judge yourself according to the biblical evidences as to what a Christian is. Perseverance is not the sole test. And if you did become a Christian it would only be because Christ changed you, not because of evidences you may exhibit.

As Protestants say, “You are justified by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.”


How does this make you feel? GF76, I will take a chance and say that you probably think that Im not the worst of all people on this planet. Sure we all "sin," even Christians, right? So, does the idea of me going to Hell make you happy, or sad, or neither? Can you share your thoughts on this with me?

The idea of you going to hell makes me sad. However, when the saints are all in heaven, no one will be sad at the misery of damned. It will be made evident who the elect of God are and who the non-elect are. They will see as God sees and that their sin against an infinite God deserves infinite punishment. It is even written that God will laugh at your calamity and mock you. Now if Christianity is true, it would be terrible to have an omnipotent, omniscience being as your eternal mortal enemy. It is God Himself who punishes the damned in hell.


It wouldnt be a non-issue for you now, would it? So GF76, if you are guilty of Adam and Eves sin, then hypothetically, are your children guilty for your sin as well? Or does this inhereited sin thing only work with the original sin and no others?

Not in the same sense. Adam represented all of mankind before God. He was their federal head. There is a sense where God does punish several generations because of the sins of the father though. I’ll leave it to you to see the examples in the Old Testament.


And did Jesus inhereit original sin as well? I imagine that you think not, but why?

No because Adam was not the Federal Head of Christ. The Father in heaven was.

Don

groundfighter76 said...

Aaron,

I wanted to say alittle more:

I said, "Well what evidence do you have for accepting a proposition as an axiom? Why hold to any axiom or hold ATK as axiomatic? Is it because you think it should be?

Whether you call it a strawman or not, this argument undermines approximately 99.9% of your posts above."


Claiming that you have axiomatic beliefs doesn't get you out of this predictment. Axiomatic beliefs must be self-consistent and non-self refuting beliefs. If you claim that ATK is one of your axiomatic beliefs, the problem still exists since ATK is itself self-refuting and thus can't be axiomatic. Consequently, ATK cannot be an axiomatic belief. Sorry... ;)

wade419 said...

heh - I'm liking the revival of this discussion.

Don and Aaron, seeing that you've had a lot of discussion on meta-data, and Aaron mentioned it with me too, perhaps you should consider checking out the wikipedia article about metadata. I had not heard of this concept/word before, and it was different than I expected after reading through some of your discussions about it.

Aaron, you said: ...the dimensions proposed by physicists nowadays are not thought to be immaterial. Indeed, the mere fact that these dimensions can be logically supported or evidenced (to a degree) means that they are material. No physicist says that any of the 11 dimensions of quantum physics is immaterial. and later you said Would not an outside influence, in its interaction with our universe, conform to the same laws and rules in order to interact with us, and therefore be vulnerable to the same rules that apply to us? Remember that if A affects B, then B affects A. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.


Hm. Good point. I guess I hadn't really examined what I consider "immaterial". Looking at it further, to me immaterial fundamentally means that something doesn't consist of matter. The immaterial forces and such that immediately come to mind are things such as...well, forces. Gravity, magnetism, and just plain pushing on something else, etc. But come to think of it, all of these forces are contingent upon the existence of matter in both of the two "parties" involved - A and B, if you will. All four of the fundamental forces: strong atomic, electromagnetic, weak atomic, and gravitational all involve some sort of matter in some way.

Ok - at this point I have now done some research. The problem is, it involves quantum theory, and people usually shudder at the thought of this stuff. As briefly as possible, here's my findings:

Elementary particles are divided into two categories according to the "Standard Model". These categories are fermions and bosons. Fermions are further divided into quarks and leptons, but all fermions have one thing in common - matter. Bosons, however, are *not* associated with matter - they are "force carriers". Examples of force carriers are photons, W and Z bosons, and gluons. Gravitons are still trying to be figured out.

The idea is that fermions (or, pieces of matter) do not interact with each other *at all*. Instead, they exchange bosons, or force carriers. Bosons are described mathematically as "field equations for massless particles". This says to me that they interact with matter, but themselves are massless. Bosons are also described in a different way as "virtual particles". Here's where it gets interesting. (Check out the wikipedia article on virtual particles for a pretty concise, but sometimes complicated, idea of them.)

So...virtual particles aren't really defined because we are having trouble explaining them. They cannot be measured or detected, at least not by our current standards. They can only be *inferred*. Here's an excerpt from the wikipedia article that I found especially interesting:

"In the quantum field theory view, "real particles" are viewed as being detectable excitations of underlying quantum fields. As such, virtual particles are also excitations of the underlying fields, but are detectable only as forces but not particles. They are "temporary" in the sense that they appear in calculations, but are not detected as single particles. Thus, in mathematical terms, they never appear as indexes to the scattering matrix, which is to say, they never appear as the observable inputs and outputs of the physical process being modeled. In this sense, virtual particles are an artifact of perturbation theory, and do not appear in a nonperturbative treatment. As such, their objective existence as "particles" is questionable; however, the term is useful in informal, casual conversation, or in rendering concepts into layman's terms." (emphasis mine)

This sounds strangely familiar to what I was saying before! We're missing actual material evidence of *something*, but we have inputs and outputs. So scientists have pinned this, as of right now, on a host of immaterial fields/particles that we can't detect.

So, I don't know about anybody else, but I'm finding this incredibly interesting, despite the fact that it does nothing to prove the immaterial nature of consciousness or God. All that it is serving for me right now is a sort of support system for the fact that immaterial (aka "matter-less") ideas and possibly even dimensions can't be totally thrown out the window. A couple more references, and then I'm done with quantum stuff for now. Both are from a site by a professor from the University of California at Riverside: http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/Quantum/virtual_particles.html

"Now, consider a virtual photon that comes from the particle on the right and is absorbed by the particle on the left. Actually calculating the photon's wave function is a little hairy; I have to consider the possibility that the photon was emitted by the other particle at any prior time. (However, I can save myself a little effort later by automatically including the possibility that the photon actually comes from the particle on the left and is absorbed by the particle on the right, with the recoil nudging the left particle: all I have to do is include situations in which the photon is "emitted on the right" in the future and goes "backward in time," and take its momentum to be minus what it really is! As long as I remember what's really going on, this trick is formally OK and saves a lot of trouble; it was introduced by Richard Feynman.)"

Ok - so this is in the context of considering that the only way to have an *attractive* force due to boson transfer is to consider that the force carriers aren't really even particles - instead they're plane waves that propagate *throughout space*. o.O This can then be modeled by pretending that these particles are going backward in time! WTF! He then goes on to use the imaginary component of the complex mathematical function that describes attractive forces to quantify it. So we're talking time traveling, all-of-space-spanning, imaginary "particles"/plane waves. Whew - a separate dimension is sounding more and more possible.

And finally, check at the very end of the article for some notes on how gravity just defies all logic and can't even be described by our complex, imaginary, immaterial particle equations. Perhaps, without knowing it, Sharpton wasn't so far off with his gravity analogy after all? ;P

Whew, that's enough quantum junk for the moment - once again, not proving anything, but imo very interesting and thought provoking about the plausibility of an immaterial dimension. But in any case, you got me thinking again, Aaron. Perhaps the way that God factors in here has something to do with the fact that He can influence the world through both material and immaterial dimensions? Maybe there really *isn't* anything that is immaterial, we just haven't found all of the material stuff that exists, in separate dimensions or not. Maybe the whole idea of our souls and heaven and hell being in different dimensions or planes is just a clever play by God of all different kinds of matter. I really just don't know.


Alright, different note, you said: I understand your argument, but I disagree. I do not believe that you have justified that humans act on new information in a completely different way than other animals. I think that humans act on information in a more advanced way, not a completely different way.

Would you allow me to use your logic and state that a monkey acts on information in a completely different way than a fungus, and therefore can be considered to have an immaterial soul when a fungus does not?

Is there anything testable about human consciousness that you can point to that shows how or why humans act on information in a fundamentally different way than all other life forms?


I cannot give you anything testable to justify a hypothetical immaterial consciousness. But that may be because it is just that - immaterial, and we can only see the inference of some additional consciousness, not material evidence. You can reference the whole deal about virtual particles again if you want, but I said I was done with quantum junk, lol.

And about the monkey versus the fungus, the monkey has a brain. The fungus does not. I think I may be able to leave it at that...

wade419 said...

and by the way, I can't believe I just used quantum theory in an athiest/theist discussion.

groundfighter76 said...

wade419,

Don and Aaron, seeing that you've had a lot of discussion on meta-data, and Aaron mentioned it with me too, perhaps you should consider checking out the wikipedia article about metadata. I had not heard of this concept/word before, and it was different than I expected after reading through some of your discussions about it.

It matters not that metadata is data about data (that's obvious) but what the ontological status of 'metadata' is. I have seen Aaron's 'blog' on this in the past though...

My arguments stand simply because of Aaron's claim that 'metadata' is material. My critique of the computational model of the mind also stands because if concepts are 'meta-data' as Aaron claims, they are still observer-relative since concepts exist in minds; hence he would presuppose that which needs to be explained (the argument is in one of my posts above).

Don