Darwinism Evolution

Remy Chauvin Slams Darwinism

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[From a colleague:] There is a wonderful critique of Darwinism by the French zoologist Remy Chauvin. It is called Le darwinisme, ou La fin d’un mythe [Darwinism, or The end of a myth] (Editions du Rocher, 1997). It is even better, especially for polemical purposes, than the book by Chandebois, previously discussed on this blog. It includes close discussion of many specific cases, with calm and crushing objections (Kettlewell’s moths do not land on the trunks in nature, but under the leaves; Batesian “mimics” also occur among species, both of which are perfectly palatable to predators; etc., etc.). He also gives many statements of Darwinian reasoning that are so logically faulty and empirically vacuous that they would never be publishable in any other area of science. The overall tone is extremely serious and sober, and Chauvin is obviously extremely well informed. He leaves Darwinism in smoking ruins. Best of all, he cannot be accused of partisanship. Far from being a “creationist,” he rather takes the attitude of “a plague on both their houses.” He insists that we have no idea how evolution occurs, and simple scientific honesty compels us to say so.

In this book by Remy Chauvin, there is an amusing anecdote, recounted by the author on the authority of an unnamed friend. Here is a rough and ready translation (pp. 8-9): “[Chauvin’s friend] mentioned to [Dawkins’s wife] that he had observed that whenever anyone wished to speak about evolution with her husband, he would ask them a question: ‘Do you believe in God?’ And if they said yes, then he turned his back on that person. ‘Madame,’ my friend remarked, ‘your husband seems to be very afraid of God.’ ‘Certainly not, Monsieur,’ she replied, ‘but God ought to be very afraid of my husband.’ My friend’s jaw dropped . . .”

61 Replies to “Remy Chauvin Slams Darwinism

  1. 1
    Bombadill says:

    Dawkins is married? Does he see the covenant as illusory, since love is illusory under his world view?

  2. 2

    Not just married, but several times.

  3. 3
    Marcos says:

    Ah that nasty selfish gene again, spreading itself far and wide.

  4. 4
    DaveScot says:

    “Not just married, but several times.”

    Women like girly men at first but the novelty wears off quickly.

  5. 5
    Benjii says:

    I think he had 2 wives prior to his marriage to Lala Ward. Ward is a british actress. Bill are you married?

  6. 6
    Bombadill says:

    Woah! He married Romana from Dr. Who!?

  7. 7
    keiths says:

    Bombadill writes:
    “Dawkins is married? Does he see the covenant as illusory, since love is illusory under his world view?”

    Why on earth should a materialist worldview imply that love is illusory?

  8. 8
    Bombadill says:

    Because it is a metaphysical reality, keiths. Can you reduce a concept or proposition like love, with all of it’s subtlties, to matter?

  9. 9
    GilDodgen says:

    “He insists that we have no idea how evolution occurs, and simple scientific honesty compels us to say so.”

    This is a key point. Apologists for Darwinian theory frequently present pure speculation, based on absolutely no hard evidence, as established fact. For example, you’ll hear, “The way evolution produces complex, functionally integrated biological machinery is through a process called co-option. Here’s how it works…” They should be honest and say, “Some biologists speculate that biological components that served other functions could be co-opted to assemble new machinery that performs a new function. However, there is no hard evidence that this process actually takes place, and no detailed, testable proposals for how random mutations could engineer such a process.”

    Of course, they also always leave out an explanation for the hard stuff. Where did the assembly instructions come from? They too must be irreducibly complex, since a partially assembled motor is of no use even if all the parts are available.

    I sometimes wonder if these people are actually aware of what they are doing. Perhaps (because they are convinced that such a process _must_ take place, because the underlying theory _has_ to be true) they have deluded themselves into thinking they are providing facts and explanations instead of unsubstantiated speculation.

  10. 10
    SteveB says:

    I can order a cup of coffee in French, but that’s about it. Is the book available in Enlgish?

  11. 11
    keiths says:

    Me:
    “Why on earth should a materialist worldview imply that love is illusory?”

    Bombadill:
    “Because it is a metaphysical reality, keiths. Can you reduce a concept or proposition like love, with all of it’s subtlties, to matter?”

    Bombadill,
    Love is a feeling and a constellation of behaviors associated with a particular brain state (see Helen Fisher’s excellent book “Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love”). This feeling is dependent on the brain and influenced by hormones such as oxytocin.

    No, love cannot be “reduced” to matter, but it can be “reduced” to a set of configurations of matter and energy in the brains of people and animals, just as other feelings can. But “reduced” is the wrong word to use here, because the brain is enormously complex and capable of rendering emotions which are quite nuanced and multifaceted.

  12. 12
    crandaddy says:

    I would be interested to know what the Dawkins family does on December 25. Well…on second thought…given Dick’s immense hostility to belief in God and its subsequent religious practices, it may not be such an amusing sight to behold. I really wouldn’t be surprised if it included sexual orgies and burning nativity scenes.

  13. 13
    Josh Bozeman says:

    1. we don’t know what causes a person to feel love. the list of 25 questions here admits that we cant even explain consciousness. if you cant explain that, you cant explain a feeling of love. keiths, youre trying to reduce the feeling to a pattern in the brain, but thats not going to work but for a small minority in science.

    2. love IS illusory in the world dawkins must live in. if theres no point or meaning to even being alive, youre gonna have a hard time arguing that love means anything either. if life is nothing but a game run by your selfish genes to simply make more genes, then love in fact does not exist, and it is, as bombadill said, illusory. as ive said before- few people wish to take nde theory to its only logical conclusion. dawkins seems to be an example.

  14. 14
    PaV says:

    keiths: “Love is a feeling and a constellation of behaviors associated with a particular brain state (see Helen Fisher’s excellent book “Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love”). This feeling is dependent on the brain and influenced by hormones such as oxytocin.”

    Based on this statement, I’m going to take a stab in the dark and guess that you’re not married.

  15. 15
    Red Reader says:

    GilDodgen wrote:
    “Perhaps (because they are convinced that such a process _must_ take place, because the underlying theory _has_ to be true) they have deluded themselves into thinking they are providing facts and explanations instead of unsubstantiated speculation.”

    It is “wishful thinking” or “magical thinking” or “insanity”. It seems to permeate every field of science and culture.

    I’ve written this before:
    ….
    Someday phychologists (or phyciatrists!) will want to examine what underlay the mass insanity of the 20th and early 21st century.

    My theory: the cause of madness will be found to be … Darwinism.
    ….

    There is magical thinking in science, in politics, in law.

    Darwinism says, “This obviously developed accidentally over millions of years from such and such structure that has two similiar molecules.”
    ID says, “This system requires all it’s parts to be functional. It appears to be designed.”

    The first “explanation” is fantasy, magical thinking, aka insanity.
    The second is not “explanation” at all, but objective observation of reality, aka sanity.

    G. Jennings

  16. 16
    BenK says:

    ‘This feeling [love]is dependent on the brain and influenced by hormones such as oxytocin.’

    Your language is ambiguous; like so many defenses of materialism in philosophy of mind its whole strength depends on its ambiguity. In what sense is a feeling ‘dependent’ on the brain? If mind is matter, then it would be clearer and more correct to say that the feeling _is_ the a state of the brain under the influence of certain hormones.

  17. 17
    Josh Bozeman says:

    from reading many reviews and summaries of the book keiths mentions- it turns out that many scientists don’t accept her claims in the least. also- her definition of love is odd…she defines a feeling of love as being dependent on the other person, not something you feel internally that doesnt need the other person. her definition, from that particular book, is based on the idea that love is being dependent on another person and how they feel about you- my feeling of love depends on how so and so (the other partner in the rship) feels about me.

    One amazon.com reviewer says this is the book’s definition of love, and the chemicals involved are based on this definition:

    “Jealousy, possessiveness, need, mood swings, emotional dependence ”

    Sorry, but I don’t feel any of these things when I feel love for another person. I doubt there are many people alive that think any of this is what constitutes love.

    Of course brain chemicals drive certain functions, and they increase levels of certain feelings (even this is up for debate, new studies on seratonin are showing that these levels might have little to NOTHING to do with a feeling of being depressed- which might be why only around 30% of the population in the US has ANY improvement while using SSRIs, a class of drugs that boosts the levels of seratonin in the blood stream and in the brain.) We know far too little about anything related to emotions and moods, and worse yet- compound moods (I feel happy, but at the same time I feel anxiety for my inlaws come home tomorrow, and I feel sad a bit because my favorite team lost the championship.)

    Scientists and any other person need to be constantly warned that we, as people, know only a fraction of all there is to know and to be always cautious when thinking we know more than we truly do.

  18. 18
    DaveScot says:

    “Can you reduce a concept or proposition like love, with all of it’s subtlties, to matter?”

    More or less… yeah.

  19. 19
    DaveScot says:

    “Based on this statement, I’m going to take a stab in the dark and guess that you’re not married.”

    Yeah well I’ve been married 25 years, raised 3 kids of my own and countless critters, and I agree with Keith on the nature of love. What’s most interesting to me is that higher animals, mammals and even some birds, are capable of displaying love that is indistinguishable from the human emotion. Love appears to be an instinct in some animals and it definitely isn’t limited to offspring. Many bird species mate for life and when a mate dies the other often dies soon afterward of what can only be described as heartbreak.

    I pity the poor fool who hasn’t the empathy or experience of love amongst a wide range of God’s creatures. Love is the greatest gift we were given and it wasn’t given to just us humans.

  20. 20
    DaveScot says:

    “In what sense is a feeling ‘dependent’ on the brain?”

    The sense is totally dependent. However, I’m open to evaluating any evidence you may have that feelings can be experienced independent of a brain. If you have any credible evidence in that regard you’ll be the first.

  21. 21
    Josh Bozeman says:

    Dave continues to confuse moods/feelings/emotions/thoughts with impulses or sensory perception. There’s zero evidence that mood/feelings/emotions/thoughts can be reduced to brain matter and that’s the end of that. The ONLY thing we have even remotely gotten close to seeing is a brain scan where the senses (the eyes and ears usually) picked up a certain thing. High pitched noises make for a different pattern than low pitched noises…straight lines fire off a different pattern than a zigzag. Brain signals telling your arm to move show up in a certain fashion. None of these are thoughts or moods or emotions.

    My commentdidn’t go thru yet, but the book keiths mentions has the author stating that love is a feeling of jealousy and possessiveness- a defintion I assume few here would accept. The book also says that love only lasts around 4 yrs, why? She looked at some stats that showed a high number of marriages end within 4 yrs after the birth of the first kid. Well, that’s a leap to get from this stat to this is how long love in humans lasts! The chemicals mentioned are in question as well. In my comment before I mentioned seratonin…new evidence has come out to show that maybe this chemical has little and maybe nothing at all to do with a feeling of happiness. Which is probably why the SSRI’s which boost the chemical has such a high failure rate- it works on about 20–30% of the people who take it. A failure any way you look at it.

    Few would support the ridiculous notion that a bird could show love at all, let alone show love in anywhere near the same way humans do. I have to wonder why such a reductionist supports ID at all. If a bird CAN show love and it’s indistiguishable from human love- let’s be honest about it- we were doomed from the start. You have to have the ability to make decisions to actually LOVE. A dog licking your face and sitting by your side isn’t love. Humans seem to want to project their own humanness onto animals, but that’s all it is.

  22. 22
    Josh Bozeman says:

    Oops. Make that “serotonin”.

  23. 23
    Josh Bozeman says:

    I should note that it’s plain fact that when it comes to brain CHEMICALS (neurotransmitters), there is no way to know much of ANYTHING about levels in particular people. You often hear a doctor say ‘he/she has a chemical imbalance.’ But, you cannot measure the levels of brain chemicals on living patients- this is only possible during an autopsy, and it really goes without saying that, overall, autopsies are a rare event.

    fMRI and other scanning techniques have come a long way, but they don’t measure levels of chemicals in the brain.

  24. 24
    keiths says:

    Josh makes mistakes faster than they can be pointed out to him. Not a bad strategy for avoiding refutation.

    I’ll get to some of his other flubs, but this one cries out for an immediate response:
    “Few would support the ridiculous notion that a bird could show love at all…You have to have the ability to make decisions to actually LOVE.”

    Josh, birds make decisions all the time: Where should I forage? Do I need to flee that predator, or is it at a safe distance? Which mate do I choose? Which telephone line shall I perch on?

    And contrary to your assertion, few would support the ridiculous notion that a bird CANNOT show love. As DaveScot points out, birds are quite capable of displaying love. If you haven’t seen it, watch “March of the Penguins” and take note of the scene where a penguin quite obviously grieves when the egg he has been incubating breaks and the chick fails to hatch.

    Next you’ll be telling us that animals are automatons that can’t experience pain, as Descartes believed (to the detriment of countless animals whose cries of pain were ignored by the scientists vivisecting them without anesthesia, on the belief that this was merely an automatic response with no attendant feeling).

  25. 25

    Keiths:

    Right on about animals loving. Automatons, they ain’t.

    But does the fact that love is associated with brain states or even dependent on them in some sense—a fact I concede, by the way—mean that love IS those brain states? Love is, at least in part, also an experience, and it seems odd to say that an experience, as experienced, is a brain state.

    Aren’t you risking confusing the material support of experienceing love with love as actually experienced?

    Cordially,

    Adrian

  26. 26
    Ben Z says:

    Are we reducing love to feelings, or are we including actions? (Can I love my mom and let her starve?).

    Anyway, J.P. Moreland defends dualism.

  27. 27
    Josh Bozeman says:

    lol. yes keiths- birds acting on instincts and impulses are doing the same thing humans do. suffice it to say im going to guess very few people alive see birds loving like humans. youre now confusing decision making and planning with instincts.

    unfortunately we cant ask penguins how they feel about eggs breaking. but we can always, as i said, project our own human qualities onto them as we often do with animals in general. because an animal seems to act in a certain way doesnt mean its actually experiencing moods or feeling anything. it doesnt mean theyre pondering their feelings, their thoughts, their very lives. we might want to personify them in a way, but it doesnt make them moody creatures, nor thoughtful, nor anything else.

  28. 28
    keiths says:

    Josh writes:
    “Because an animal seems to act in a certain way doesn’t mean it’s actually experiencing moods or feeling anything.”

    Do you really believe that a dog moping under a table because his master has yelled at him isn’t “experiencing moods or feeling anything”? And if you’re skeptical about that, then why believe that other humans are capable of thinking and feeling? After all, you can’t see their thoughts and emotions — only your own. Asking a person doesn’t help — when they respond, how do you know the responses reflect genuine feelings or thoughts, and aren’t just the mechanical responses of an affectless zombie?

    Josh charges:
    “You’re now confusing decision making and planning with instincts.”

    Am I? Your low opinion of birds and other animals is not warranted. See the links below concerning Irene Pepperberg’s research with Alex, an African Grey Parrot. Alex has learned to name objects, discriminate colors, judge relative sizes, count things, and decide whether things are the same or different. These learned skills are far from the “instincts and impulses” you cite in your post.

    A short but neat video of Alex in action:
    http://www.alexfoundation.org/alextheparrot.mov

    A longer video on Alex and other parrots from Scientific American Frontiers.
    The Alex video is the 3rd one down the page.
    Also see the 5th, 7th, 8th and 9th videos for more on animal intelligence.
    These excellent videos feature
    1) a sea lion who reasons without language;
    2) a chimp who understands the correspondences between a scale model room and its full-size counterpart;
    3) rhesus monkeys who display impressive mathematical abilities without any training (take that, DaveScot :-));
    4) the same chimp as in #2, who shows that she can understand numerals, addition, and fractions;
    5) raven problem solving; and
    6) concepts of gravity and physics in cotton-top tamarins.

    http://www.pbs.org/saf/1201/video/watchonline.htm

    An interesting article describing how Alex is trained:
    http://www.africanature.com/Or.....etalex.htm

    Evidence that Alex understands a concept very much like ‘zero’:
    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_.....070805.php

    An interview with Irene Pepperberg, Alex’s trainer:
    http://www.edge.org/3rd_cultur.....index.html

  29. 29
    Gumpngreen says:

    For the sake of discussion…

    Let’s accept as a premise that dualism is reality. Who is to say in this functionality “split” between matter and mind that it’s not the physical brain that calculates a portion of this thing we call love? So an animal could know love in a fashion yet not to the degree of creatures endowed with full consciousness/mind. Because quite frankly I don’t see a reason to defend the notion that animals are complete unfeeling machines.

  30. 30
    keiths says:

    Adrian Walker asks:
    “But does the fact that love is associated with brain states or even dependent on them in some sense—a fact I concede, by the way—mean that love IS those brain states?”

    Hi Adrian,

    You’re right that until we completely understand the nature of consciousness, we can’t absolutely rule out an immaterial component within it. However, I believe that Occam’s Razor suggests we not invoke such a component without a good reason. Perhaps such a reason will emerge, but I tend to doubt it.

    My doubt is based on the fact that there seems to be very little for an immaterial component to do. Neuroscience shows us that all of the following are utterly dependent on the brain:

    1. Will
    2. Emotions
    3. Morality
    4. Memory
    5. Consciousness itself
    6. Perception
    7. Cognition

    …and more. If all of these things depend on the brain, then at most the hypothetical immaterial component merely assists with them, and cannot independently perform any of these functions unless joined to a body.

    Many people find that problematic, because they would like to believe in a full-fledged soul which retains its full personhood after death and continues to carry out most, if not all, of the functions I listed which are inextricably associated with personhood in our minds (for good reason).

    For more on this, see the discussion starting around comment #8 at http://www.uncommondescent.com.....chives/564

    Regards,
    Keith S.

  31. 31
    pmob1 says:

    I ain’t no porcupine,
    Take off your kid gloves
    Are you ready for the thing called love?

    …primeval man was round, his back and sides forming a circle; and he had four hands and four feet, one head with two faces, looking opposite ways, set on a round neck and precisely alike; also four ears, two privy members, and the remainder to correspond. He could walk upright as men now do, backwards or forwards as he pleased, and he could also roll over and over at a great pace, turning on his four hands and four feet, eight in all, like tumblers going over and over with their legs in the air; this was when he wanted to run fast.

    …the gods could not suffer their insolence to be unrestrained.

    Zeus… …said: “Methinks I have a plan which will humble their pride and improve their manners; men shall continue to exist, but I will cut them in two and then they will be diminished in strength and increased in numbers; this will have the advantage of making them more profitable to us. They shall walk upright on two legs, and if they continue insolent and will not be quiet, I will split them again and they shall hop about on a single leg.”

    He spoke and cut men in two, like a sorb-apple which is halved for pickling, or as you might divide an egg with a hair; and as he cut them one after another, he bade Apollo give the face and the half of the neck a turn in order that the man might contemplate the section of himself: he would thus learn a lesson of humility. Apollo was also bidden to heal their wounds and compose their forms. So he gave a turn to the face and pulled the skin from the sides all over that which in our language is called the belly, like the purses which draw in, and he made one mouth at the centre, which he fastened in a knot (the same which is called the navel)

    After the division the two parts of man, each desiring his other half, came together, and throwing their arms about one another, entwined in mutual embraces, longing to grow into one, they were on the point of dying from hunger and self-neglect, because they did not like to do anything apart; and when one of the halves died and the other survived, the survivor sought another mate, man or woman as we call them, being the sections of entire men or women, and clung to that.

    They were being destroyed, when Zeus in pity of them invented a new plan: he turned the parts of generation round to the front, for this had not been always their position and they sowed the seed no longer as hitherto like grasshoppers in the ground, but in one another; and after the transposition the male generated in the female in order that by the mutual embraces of man and woman they might breed, and the race might continue…

    Each of us when separated, having one side only, like a flat fish, is but the indenture of a man, and he is always looking for his other half…

    Wherefore let us exhort all men to piety, that we may avoid evil, and obtain the good, of which Love is to us the lord and minister; and let no one oppose him-he is the enemy of the gods who oppose him. For if we are friends of the God and at peace with him we shall find our own true loves, which rarely happens in this world at present.

  32. 32

    Dear Keiths,

    Thanks for your reply. You and I agree that 1-7 depend on the brain. Where we part company is that you think they “UTTERLY” depend on the brain. Of course, you claim that the legitimacy of this adverb has been proven—beyond a doubt?—by neuroscience. I can see how neuroscience can prove that 1-7 depend IN SOME SENSE on the brain, but I have trouble seeing how it could prove that they depend entirely and completely on the brain. Here is one of the reasons why I doubt: in order to be able to know of a certainty that, say, morality depended utterly on brain functions x, y, and z, you would need to have a set of criteria for mapping morality entirely onto x, y, and z. But those criteria, by definition, can’t be x, y, and z. So they must be criteria that make sense and hold in addition to the neuroscientific evidence. Which means that we’ve got some more-than-strictly-empirical stuff to settle before we even get into arguing that morality (or whatever) depends totally on the brain. So you’re always going to need a supplementary source other than just neuroscientific data for deciding that neuroscience proves that 1-7 depend entirely on the brain. So what is your supplementary source?

    One of my supplementary sources for deciding that the evidence does not warrant the conclusion you draw from it is this: love is associated with brain waves, sure, but it isn’t simply brain waves, because it includes a subjective experience that seems to add something that isn’t just the brain waves by themselves. Otherwise, the fact that my brain is having those waves would be enough to mean that my brain, taken by itself, is in love. But I am in love, not my brain, even though I couldn’t be in love without it.

    Cordially,

    Adrian

  33. 33

    Keiths,

    One more point: the fact that X depends on Y doesn’t mean that X isn’t different from y. Take the example of a fire: you can’t have a fire without something to burn—say wood—but that doesn’t mean that fire just is wood. Otherwise you could not have chemical fires.

    Thanks for your patience
    Adrian

  34. 34
    taciturnus says:

    Something that must be kept in mind in discussing the “mind/brain” problem is that the mind is not just another object that can be investigated by science, like Mars or a bacterium. The mind is the very instrument of science itself, which makes any scientific statements about the mind necessarily dialectical.

    For instance, we can’t blithely say that “consciousness is utterly dependent on the brain” (Keith’s point #5) because the brain itself is only known in and through consciousness. “The brain” is not an immediately given empiric, like a log you happen to stumble over in the dark, but a highly refined product of the scientific consciousness (ancient philosophers thought the seat of consciousness was the heart). That isn’t to say the brain isn’t real, but it is to say “the brain” as a scientific variable is such only by virtue of consciousness. If anything, it would be more accurate to say that “the brain is utterly dependent on consciousness”, because “the brain” as a scientific construct only comes into meaningful existence through consciousness.

    Science does not provide a way to stand outside of consciousness and judge its foundations, because science is an act of consciousness itself. Whatever foundations might be alleged (be it the brain, the heart, or an immaterial soul) will themselves be products of consciousness, and you can’t explain something in terms of its own products. Consciousness is, in the truest sense of the word, a mystery.

    Trying to use science to find a material foundation for consciousness is like putting on your glasses to look for where you lost them.

    Cheers,
    Dave T.

  35. 35

    Dear Dave T,

    Well said—all of your posts have been good, in fact: clear, well-argued, right on the money.

    Yes, just when you’ve managed to reduce your consciousness to the brain (accessible only through consciousness), you discover that something unreduced has been left over—the consciousness with which you reduced consciousness to the brain.

    Have you read Walker Percy, by the way? The elusiveness of consciousness is a big theme in his work. He says a lot of good things about it in Lost in the Cosmos.

    Cheers to you,
    Adrian

  36. 36
    taciturnus says:

    Adrian,

    I’m a Percy fan as well and “Lost in the Cosmos” is on my list of favorites… the argument I have been deploying owes a lot to that wonderful man. Nice job spotting it.

    Dave T.

  37. 37

    Dave T,

    Any friend of Percy’s . . .

    Adrian

  38. 38
    Gumpngreen says:

    If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true…and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.

  39. 39
    Josh Bozeman says:

    Keiths is completely wrong when it comes to neuroscience and the brain. No respectable neuroscientist will tell you that morality is depedent on the brain- no one has seen a brain scan that showed morality, nor have we a list of chemicals that choose right from wrong. Free will is the same thing- there are rare disorders where a person has no desire to do things and cannot get up the desire to move, get our of bed, etc…but it’s rare as I said, and it also doesn’t prove that every willed action is controlled by a chemical or brain area. Consciousness is the worst- only a few brave souls will claim they even truly know what consciousness is let alone why we have it, where it comes from, etc. It’s called one of the hard problems of the brain, so we cannot claim that it’s been figured out let alone that it’s been figured out and it’s completely dependent on the brain.

    It’s even speculative where emotions come from. I mentioned in another thread that the brain chemical serotonin is thought (key word THOUGHT) to affect a feeling of happiness and they use a drug that boosts these levels to treat depression. Now, the SSRIs that do this only work for about 30% of the population and therapy is important with this as well- which says that most people don’t get relief from the chemical itself and they need to add a therapy regiment with it which says it’s not all chemical. The doctor who wrote the book Prozac Backlash talks about the failure of serotonin based drugs and many doctors agree with him- there’s no basis to claim this chemical is what causes depression. You can’t even figure out if someone has a chemical imbalance while they’re alive- this can only be seen with an autopsy. Besides that- the only fMRI brainscans we’ve seen merely show the brain receiving senses from the eyes and ears and the brain can recognize between 2 different patterns. A straight line will show slightly different than a zigzag, and the doctors can guess (GUESS) with some certainty what the person is looking at- straight line or zigzag. They don’t always guess right.

    The other scans have shown willed actions- basic directions to muscles to move this way and that. I have said it before, no scans have ever shown emotions or thoughts (thoughts as in indivial thoughts- ‘i like ice cream’ ‘im nervous about this or that’), nor have the scans showed moods. They’ve never done a scan and told someone what mood they’re in…There’s no evidence of any of the list outside of the few studies of scans I mentioned, and these have been very simple scans that have merely shown commands and perception via the eyes and ears.

    We get into dangerous situations when we claim that we know much more than we truly know. Especially for people that have mental disorders- to claim the brain has been shown to do all of this leads to failed treatments (as the serotonin drugs have shown), and it leads to drug makers pushing onto the public a false impression of what science and medicine can do and not do…what they have discovered and not.

    I agree with Green in the sense he said that he shouldn’t believe thoughts to be true. If all thoughts are chemicals and nothing else, we’ve little reason to ever believe in any of it let alone take any firm belief in the fact that what others say is true and complete. And that will always be a problem when claiming the brain is merely chemicals which is all thought and mood and will.

  40. 40
    keiths says:

    Some replies for adrian walker, taciturnus, and Gumpngreen.

    Adrian, taciturnus:

    I read the book long ago, but I still think about Percy’s ‘lapsometer’ from “Love in the Ruins”.

    adrian writes:
    “Where we part company is that you think they “UTTERLY” depend on the brain…”

    I used the word only to emphasize that these functions cannot be performed without the assistance of the brain, not to claim that it is impossible for a hypothetical transcendent entity to assist in their execution. My point was that the transcendent entity, if it exists at all, is very different from the commonplace notion of a soul in that it cannot carry out any of these functions independently of the brain. This tends to disappoint people who believe that the soul encapsulates one’s personhood and allows it to persist and function after death.

    taciturnus writes:
    “That isn’t to say the brain isn’t real, but it is to say “the brain” as a scientific variable is such only by virtue of consciousness. If anything, it would be more accurate to say that “the brain is utterly dependent on consciousness”, because “the brain” as a scientific construct only comes into meaningful existence through consciousness.”

    Couldn’t the same be said of ANY scientific construct? Substitute “Mendelian inheritance” for “the brain” and your statement still makes sense.

    taciturnus again:
    “Science does not provide a way to stand outside of consciousness and judge its foundations, because science is an act of consciousness itself.”

    I guess I don’t see why you think it is necessary to stand outside of consciousness in order to study it. Using consciousness to study the foundations of consciousness (the brain plus a possible transcendent adjunct) seems no different to me than using vision to see the foundation of vision (the eye, the optic nerve, the visual cortex, etc.). And if you are troubled by the idea of a consciousness studying itself (as your ‘glasses’ metaphor seems to indicate), then what is wrong with one consciousness studying another? As long as we’re not solipsists, we can accept the consciousness of another person and subject it to scientific inquiry, as is done all the time in neuroscience labs.

    Gumpngreen writes:
    “If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true…and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.”

    Computers can reason correctly, despite being wholly material, so why shouldn’t a brain that is constructed correctly be able to form correct beliefs? You of course must ask where the brain’s design comes from. IDers would presumably say it comes from a designer (note that ID is not incompatible with the idea that mind is wholly brain-based). I believe it was fashioned by natural selection. Brains which “get it right” confer an advantage and tend to get their owners’ genes into the next generation.

    Reasoning does not seem to be a problem for a material mind. The subjective experience of consciousness is a much tougher nut to crack.

  41. 41

    Keiths:

    Sorry for making more of your “utterly” than you really meant.

    That said, I would respectfully submit that you haven’t addressed my point yet, which is this: granting that 1-7 depend in some sense on the brain, it does not automatically follow from this dependence that 1-7 are essentially brain states. Moreover, neuroscientific data alone aren’t sufficient to prove that 1-7 are brain states; the most that neuroscientific data can show is that 1-7 are associated with brain states. Therefore, proving 1-7 are brain states requires a lot more than just reciting the neuroscientific data. It requires arguments of a trans-empirical character.

    As for the Darwinian basis of reasoning,it may be true that brains that “get it right” confer survival advantage, but the real question is this. Do the rules for “getting it right,” does the very normative definition of “getting it right,” get its force, its validity, etc. from its survival advantage? To say yes seems to be to commit a category mistake. To say no, though, implies that Darwinism can at most explain how man’s ancestors got smart enough to be capable of reasoning—but it can’t account for what reasoning is or why it is the way it is. Reasoning seems to have a basic status of its own that would be as it is even in a non-Darwinian universe.

    Adrian

  42. 42

    Keiths:

    One other point. Computers can be said to “reason” only in an equivocal sense. In order to reason in the proper sense, after all, you have to know what you are doing. But computers can’t be programmed to know what they are doing; they can only be programmed to perform operations leading to results that reasoning would normally arrive at. Since, however, the computers’ performance of the operations themselves are unaccompanied by any awareness of what they are doing, it is not really reasoning in the strict sense.

    Adrian

  43. 43
    Josh Bozeman says:

    Not reasoning at all. Even the most complicated AI is only doing what its been programmed to do. A computer has no idea what it’s doing AND why. It has no reasoning powers in the true sense. Reasoning means being able to come up with novel concepts (a computer has only a choice of what has been input into it), and arriving at those novel concepts via reasoning something out- processing various pieces of data and making your decision based on these various factors (moral values of an action, the benefit or cost to you and others, etc). In making that decision, to actually reason, you have to know why you’re doing what you’re doing. If you’ve no idea what you’re doing or why, it’s merely picking an option from a list, at least somewhat arbitrarily.

  44. 44
    taciturnus says:

    Keith,

    It is problematic to use the very thing you are trying to explain as part of the explanation itself. An analogous problem is using a word in it’s own definition. Or, the one thing you won’t find by putting on your glasses and looking around is the glasses themselves.

    We can use our consciousness to study Mendelian inheritance because Mendelian inheritance is not itself consciousness. It is something understood by consciousness. Unfortunately, when we try to explain consciousness itself, we can never eliminate consciousness as an element of the explanation because our scientific constructs are themselves cognitive products. The elements of scientific explanation (“mass”, “force”, “matter”, “energy”, “field”, “element”, “molecule”, etc.) are not immediately given but are the postulates of highly refined scientific consciousness. They might be able to explain just about everything in the universe, but they won’t be able to explain away the consciousness through and by which they came into existence as concepts. (Another analogy is that children cannot explain their own parents.)

    I’m not saying we can’t study consciousness with consciousness, but I am saying that it can’t be assumed that we can study consciousness as though it were just another object. This isn’t an anti-scientific position, but is the position of great Enlightenment, pro-scientific thinkers like Immanuel Kant. What makes the scientific method so powerful is that man, through his consciousness, creates the very principles (“inertia”, “mass”, etc.) through which he interrogates nature. Nature is made to answer on man’s terms, not its own, which is why science works. But it would be a misunderstanding to then turn around and try to explain away human consciousness itself in terms of its own creative products.

    I haven’t seen any evidence of science studying consciousness in the lab. What I have heard discussed are things like the stimulation of emotion through electrical signals and the overpowering of the will through electrical stimulation. Emotions are not consciousness, but inputs to consciousness and may have a purely material origin. This was a commonplace of medieval philosophers like Aquinas. That the will can be overpowered by physical means is also nothing new. Neither is the fact that brain injury affects mental processes, this has long been known, although not in current detail. Yes, consciousness is dependent on the brain, just as science is dependent on microscopes and voltmeters. It doesn’t follow that science is nothing but microscopes and voltmeters.

    Consciousness is rational understanding. To begin demonstrating that consciousness is merely material, scientists need to do more than make subjects cry by playing with their brains. They need to induce rational, scientific understanding on them through merely material means. Zap someone’s brain so they understand “F=M*A” or “c^2 = a^2 + b^2” or even simply understand “force”, “mass” or “inertia” (or “the mind is merely material”) and there might be something to talk about. The fact that neuroscientists are limited to stimulating emotions rather than authentically rational insight confirms rather than falsifies the traditional account. I don’t think they will ever be able to stimulate truly rational insight through material means because the attempt to do so is chasing your own tail.

    The problem with computers is that they only have meaningful existence as products of human consciousness. A computer’s CPU only “does math” because we find it’s operations mathematically meaningful. Absent a human interpreter, a computer is like a toaster, a hunk of metal with electrons whirling around inside it.

    Cheers,
    Dave T.

  45. 45
    Edin Najetovic says:

    Quoth Adrian:
    “Moreover, neuroscientific data alone aren’t sufficient to prove that 1-7 are brain states; the most that neuroscientific data can show is that 1-7 are associated with brain states.”

    This distinction is moot. You could argue that the brain is merely a channeler of an unseen and unmeasurable soul, but it is unnecessary. Occam’s razor minces such an interpretation. You can of course still believe it, but saying neurological data is not enough to build a picture on the functions of the brain mapped on its functions (ie. our thoughts etc.) is like saying dropping something is not necessarily the work of gravity. It need not be, it’s true. For all we know, tiny invisible people are pushing, it just doesn’t matter; if and only if the model is correct. This is science, make of the ‘why’ in the equation what you will. Fill it with nothing, Jesus or the Greek pantheon. Science doesn’t care. By extension, all that you need for proof that certain cognitive functions (like emotions, conscience) are existant in the brain is to be able to turn them off by poking or shocking said brain. I could show you a host of studies where this is highly succesful.

    What you could lay more emphasis on is the keiths claim that consciousness is explained by neuro-science. I myself am firmly confident it will be one day, but it surely is not today… unless keith has read something I have not?

    As for computer science, computational power of your run of the mill supercomputer still doesn’t come close to the computational power of the brain when last I checked. Not to mention the software.

    Quoth Taciturnus:
    ” Unfortunately, when we try to explain consciousness itself, we can never eliminate consciousness as an element of the explanation because our scientific constructs are themselves cognitive products.”

    Actually, no. Our cognitive powers are as much minimalised as possible. Something like the totally counterintuitive but mathematically and theoretically sound quantum mechanics can be thought up by us. This is what science is about, stripping nature of your own opinions on it and then looking at it in the simplest way possible so that you may explain how it works.

    Consciousness is just as good a part of nature as anything else and can be studied thusly. Your reasoning “Science is a consequence of consciousness ergo it can not explain consciousness” is not really sound in my opinion and it also seems to imply that we should not be able to talk about consciousness at all because it would fry our brains if we tried. You seem to be going for a Descartian reductionism that has as only foundation “I think therefore I am”, but, to be frank, science has no interest in that.

    I am getting tangled up in wordy sentences that in my tiredness I can’t fully parse myself, but what I’m trying to say is this: if consciousness is natural and not supernatural, it can be studied. For if it is natural it will be subject to other principles which have been and can be studies, but if it is supernatural… well, we’ll have ourselves the biggest pantheon in the universe 🙂

    Kind regards

  46. 46

    Dear Edin,

    Ockham’s razor doesn’t authorize us to adopt the simplest imaginable explanation, but only the simplest one.

    Now, the facts boil down to this, as far as I can tell: a lot of so-called “mental states” have a material basis, which, if affected or removed, makes it impossible for us to have them.

    So, there are three questions here: (1) do you agree with my formulation of what the facts boil down to? and (2) if so, then do not the facts authorize us to go no further than the claim that the brain is a necessary condition of “having ‘mental states'”? (3) Now, if that is the case, then on what neuroscientific facts are you basing what I take to be your claim that the brain is a sufficient condition for having mental states—or that mental states ARE nothing but brain states, period?

    It seems to me, in other words, that you are offering a READING of the facts, which, by definition, includes, not just a recitation of the facts, but an additional argument, over and above that recitation, as to why those facts cannot but mean that . . . (here: the mind=the brain). The only problem is that you have not yet revealed to me what that additional argument is. Unless you are claiming that it is Ockham’s razor, in which case I think I have said enough to problematize your appeal to it.

    By the way, I have not once in this thread spoken of “an unseen and unmeasurable soul.” My point all along has not been to argue positively that there is a soul, but to argue negatively that Keiths—and now you—have not yet shown that mind=brain. Why do I say this? Because I am clinging irrationally to my cherished beliefs? No, because you have not yet acknowledged the distinction—which I believe Dave T. has also made in his own way—between a mere recitation of the facts (mental states are associated somehow with brain states) and an argument as to why we must interpret those facts as decisively proving that mind=brain.

    Coridally,
    Adrian

  47. 47

    Edin,

    My first paragraph lost a sentence. It should read: “Ockham’s razor doesn’t authorize us to adopt the simplest imaginable explanation, but only the simplest one compatible with the facts.”

    Cordially,
    Adrian

  48. 48
    taciturnus says:

    I don’t understand your point. Science is an activity of human consciousness like anything else, unless it is your view that scientists don’t think when they do science. Quantum mechanics is, as you say, a highly counterintuitive product “thought up by us”. You have specified the origin of quantum mechanics: It is a creative product of the scientific mind, it is something “thought up by us.”
    This doesn’t mean it doesn’t say true things about the world, but it does mean that it has its meaning in and through human consciousness (human thought). Quantum mechanics stripped of consciousness (thought) is… nothing, since it is simply one way we human beings understand the world through thought.

    I’ve already specifically made the point that I am not saying we can’t think about consciousness. Obviously I don’t think our brains would fry if we thought about it, because the very thing I am doing is writing and thinking about consciousness. What I am saying is that consciousness cannot be treated like any old object of science. To think it can is based on a misunderstanding of science, like this one:

    “This is what science is about, stripping nature of your own opinions on it…”

    Scientists don’t strip nature of their own opinions about it. What they do is confirm or disconfirm their opinions through empirical investigation. But there has got to be someone there in the first place for science to happen at all. That is why scientists cannot get behind consciousness to some allegedly “more real” foundation.
    Whatever opinions they have about that “more real” foundation are themselves products of consciousness. It would be like a filmmaker proclaiming his own non-existence because he hasn’t found himself in any of his movies.

    We have a bad habit of talking about science in the abstract, as in “what science is about” or “science shows us that” or “science has always known”, as though science is some free-floating objective thing that exists in it’s own right. That’s why I try to write only about “scientists” and the “scientific method” because it keeps things grounded in reality: The reality that science only exists in the mind of scientists. And there is just no way for scientists to get behind their own minds, folks, anymore than you can get behind your own shadow.

    Cheers,
    Dave T.

  49. 49
    Josh Bozeman says:

    I’d note that Ockham’s razor has to cover all the facts for any given idea. Since there are more questions than answers in regard to mental states (we have an idea, for example, that the hippocampus is partly responsible for memories, but we’ve no clue how they’re formed and how they’re encoded from short term to long term memory, how they’re stored, where exactly they’re stored, in what form they’re stored, how they’re retrieved, etc. So, the basic idea that all mental states are reducible to brains and nothing more doesn’t take into consideration all the facts since there are many admitted mysteries to all of this.

  50. 50
    Edin Najetovic says:

    Quoth Taciturnus:
    “But there has got to be someone there in the first place for science to happen at all.”

    This I can agree with, but you can swap science with any term and it would still be true. This is Descartes problem.

    “I’ve already specifically made the point that I am not saying we can’t think about consciousness. Obviously I don’t think our brains would fry if we thought about it, because the very thing I am doing is writing and thinking about consciousness. What I am saying is that consciousness cannot be treated like any old object of science.”

    Well good, what makes the scientific method any different from another method like conversation? The fact that we talk about consciousness given your earlier remarks about something for science to be reduced to, I don’t see how scientifically researching consciousness is any different from thinking about it.

    You seem to be stating there is a strange dichotomy between naturalism on one side and Descartes’ rationalism on the other. You seem to object the applicability of naturalist research due to the unremovable existence of the other, am I right?

    This is rather pointless. A point like this is easily thrown out by starting to research other consciousnesses than your own, as keiths stated. Nor does the fact that science is reducable to something exclude that we can not study that something. In fact, that is what we science is all about. Quantum mechanics is not so much ‘thought up by us’ you can not form a mental image of quantum mechanics (bilocality and such things) but necessitated to explain the evidence. That thought is the basis of this to elaborate these equations into useful models to explain reality is negligible in my view.

    But still, the main point remains. If we can think about consciousness, why can we not research it?

    Josh Bozeman & adrian:

    OK, let’s look at the facts. Some brain functions (but not all) have been mapped to correspond with certain moods, feelings, emotions, memories, capabilities, etc. If they are damaged the capabilities vanish. We only need these links to explain the functions that were damaged, because nothing else was. So I propose we agree on that at least these functions are localised solely in the brain? Any proposition of an external agent is unnecessary for these cases and should therefore not be made. If you wish, you could of course, but science doesn’t care. Can we at least agree on that?

    Adrian:
    ” (2) if so, then do not the facts authorize us to go no further than the claim that the brain is a necessary condition of “having ‘mental states’””

    Only for those mental states that have been tested. And this is not the case for all states (as of yet).

    “(3) Now, if that is the case, then on what neuroscientific facts are you basing what I take to be your claim that the brain is a sufficient condition for having mental states—or that mental states ARE nothing but brain states, period?”

    If any mental state can be completely lost by brain damage, yes. I know no more than neurolinguistics and there we are pretty sure of at least proper syntax to be localised in the brain. Look up Broca’s aphasia on the WWW. If these things can be turned off by brain damage it is more than reasonable to assume it is localised there. Positing anything else is unnecessary to explain these laesions of the brain, so any other interpretation is moot. That is, unless you bring data that there are more aspects to that mental state. There are two ways that can go “There is more stuff in the brain than this that causes this state” or “There is more outside the brain that causes this state”. Since you have been succesful in mapping at least parts to the brain it is obvious you will look for further progress in that same field. To my knowledge, extra-cranial research has not been done with any success, so unless you are willing to come with (scientific) data to support your view my (scientific) stance will not change.

    “It seems to me, in other words, that you are offering a READING of the facts, which, by definition, includes, not just a recitation of the facts, but an additional argument, over and above that recitation, as to why those facts cannot but mean that . . . (here: the mind=the brain). The only problem is that you have not yet revealed to me what that additional argument is. Unless you are claiming that it is Ockham’s razor, in which case I think I have said enough to problematize your appeal to it.”

    It does not matter HOW you read them, as long as you provide explanatory adequacy. Anything else is not supported by Occam’s Razor nor the scientific method. If you discredit the brain=mind theory you must have valid empirically testable arguments to support this. Brain=mind offers an explanatory model, and yes it is incomplete and probably wholly wrong (like everything in science is. No model is ever done) but it is the only scientific model we have at the moment. If you believe my interpretation of the data to be incorrect, please give me a study in which an alternative model of interpretation is presented and I will to reappraise my opinion. The simple reading has up to been the most (scientifically) explanatorily adequate.

    “By the way, I have not once in this thread spoken of “an unseen and unmeasurable soul.” My point all along has not been to argue positively that there is a soul, but to argue negatively that Keiths—and now you—have not yet shown that mind=brain. Why do I say this? Because I am clinging irrationally to my cherished beliefs?”

    Those were keiths words, not mine. Consciousness in particular has been poorly explained in a satisfying manner (we just don’t know!). In that way you are right, we have not shown 100% that mind=brain. But there are strong pointers that it is. Conversely, Newton’s theories were never correct, but they were adhered to for nearly 300 years before being replaced by Einstein’s. At the moment mind=brain is the correct scientific model. If you don’t think that’s the case, you’re free to research on your own. Science is not God, just the most likely explanation of a phenomenon at a point in time.

    Kind Regards

  51. 51

    Dear Edin,

    “It does not matter HOW you read them, as long as you provide explanatory adequacy,” you wrote. But precisely our argument, my dear fellow, is over precisely what constitutes explanatory adequacy.

    All the examples you have given at most prove this: there is a correspondence between some brain states and some mental states, such that, if the brain states are removed or compromised, the mental states cannot be had any longer. Now, that is true and important, but it does not in and of itself suffice to prove your claim that mind=brain. It’s a matter of logtic: the fact that there is a regular correspondence between X and Y such that Y cannot happen without X does not in and of itself warrant the conclusion that Y=X, of that nothing but X is needed to account for Y.

    It’s also not a question of the completeness of our knowledge. Even if we could completely map mental states on to brain states, this would expand our knowledge of what the regular correspondences-with-dependence between brain and mental states included—but it wouldn’t change the fact that you can’t conclude mind=brain from those correspondences-with-dependence.

    You will ask me to produce more empirical studies, but what I am trying to tell you is that the argument is precisely over this question: what can we reasonably expect empirical studies to prove?

    My counter question is this: what empirical studies can you cite to show that empirical studies are—in principle—enought to account for mind, or to prove that mind=brain?

    Edin, I am not attempting here to prove that mind does not equal brain. I am simply pointing out that your case rests on inferring too much too fast from too little.

    One last point. It seems to me that a person cannot intelligently hold the positions they hold without being aware of the real objections that may be legitimately raised to them. Thus, I cannot intelligently say God exists without taking account of the problem of evil, and so forth. One of the big problems for the mind=brain position is accounting for subjective experience, which does not seem to be the same type of thing as electro-chemical impulses. How do you deal with this problem, without simply asserting that “science says X,” when it can be reasonably argued that science does not say X, but only that you are hastily concluding it does?

    Cordially,
    Adrian

  52. 52
    taciturnus says:

    Edin,

    This doesn’t really matter, but my argument owes a lot more to Kant than it does to Descartes…

    I wrote:

    “But there has got to be someone there in the first place for science to happen at all.”

    You replied:
    “This I can agree with, but you can swap science with any term and it would still be true. This is Descartes problem.”

    Whether Descartes thought that or not, I don’t. Meteor showers, the rise and fall of tides, grass growing, the change of seasons… all these things happens whether people are around or not. “Science” is not like that. It is, in fact, an activity of the human consciousness by which we understand the world. There is no science without scientists. But the seasons change whether there are scientists or not.

    The scientific method depends on the subject/object distinction. That’s what we mean when we call it “objective”. The scientist can be an objective investigator of the tides because his own thinking is not directly implicated in the tides. Unfortunately, the subject/object distinction collapses when we start addressing the subject of consciousness. The thing under discussion (consciousness) is the very thing the scientist is using to investigate (consciousness). This is why consciousness is not just one more thing the scientist can investigate in the usual way. We can still investigate it, but we must keep in mind that the tool of investigation is just what is being investigated.

    Why does this matter? Because people assume that consciousness just means emotions or cognitive perception, and they figure that scientists have explained consciousness if they can induce emotions through brain stimulation or make people see things that aren’t there. But the thinking of the scientist doing the experiment is as much a part of consciousness as the emotions of the experimental subject. To explain consciousness as purely material, the scientist has to show how scientific thinking itself can be induced by merely stimulating the brain. By forgetting that science is part of consciousness itself, the scientist always leaves out the most important part. Thinkers since Aquinas have not doubted that emotions and perception have a physical origin. The sticking point for them was always whether rational thought can be explained in a purely physical manner (for Kant to, by the way.)

    It doesn’t matter that a scientist is investigating a consciousness other than his own. What he is investigating is the general phenomenon of “consciousness”, of which scientific consciousness is one aspect. The claim being made is that human consciousness in its totality has a purely physical basis. Implicit in that claim is that scientific and rational consciousness also has purely physical origin.

    Of course I don’t think scientists ever will show that scientific thought itself has a purely material origin… simply because I don’t see how a science experiment can account for the thought of the scientist who created and ran the experiment in the first place. That would be like using a movie to investigate the camera that filmed it, or putting on your glasses in order to find them. But they are welcome to give it a whirl…

    Cheers,
    Dave T.

    P.S.

    “Quantum mechanics is not so much ‘thought up by us’ you can not form a mental image of quantum mechanics (bilocality and such things) but necessitated to explain the evidence.”

    This is a very interesting sentence. “Thought up by us” were originally your words not mine. Now you say QM is “necessitated” as opposed to “thought up by us.” Does this mean that we can recognize necessity without using thought to do it?

  53. 53
    taciturnus says:

    Adrian,

    Per Walker Percy:

    “… could completely map mental states on to brain states…”

    No doubt you have realized that if someone ever does completely map mental states on to brain states, they will unfortunately discover that the brain state with which they comprehend the complete mental map will not itself be in the map. Every brain state but his own will have its place in the tidy cosmic map…

    Cheers,
    Dave T.

  54. 54

    Dave T.,

    Absolutely. My only point is that the “mapping” is only the recording of some sort of correspondence between “mental states” and “brain states,” which does not—pace Edin—automatically imply any identity between them. But I am with you on the impossibility of fully objectifying consciousness.

    Cordially,

    Adrian

  55. 55

    Dave T.,

    Right: consciousness is the one thing that doesn’t fit into the scientific worldview, because it is the condition of the posssibility of there being a scientific worldview in the first place.

    Edin,

    The above suggests another argument: certain experiences, e.g., seeing red, may depend essentially on the brain as to their content, but it does not follow that the reflexive awareness of seeing red, which in the concrete is bound up with such experiences, also depends essentially on the brain.

    To illustrate the distinction: if I am being experimented on, and the scientist stimulates my brain so that I see red and then don’t see red, in both cases he will be asking me: “now what do you see?” and I will be saying “I see red,” then “I don’t see red.” The point? There is a reflexive awareness that accompanies both the seeing red and the not seeing red.

    The question would be: is this reflexive awareness, the ability to know that I know, that I experience, etc. simply equal to brain states or simply essentially dependent on them? If I understand Dave T., what he is saying is NO, because, whenever I study consciousness objectively as I would a rock or an insect, I am studying it with my subjective consciousness, and I can never perfectly identify the latter with the former.

    A further consideration: given the abiding difference between consciousness as an object and consciousness as a subject, I can never exhaustively map my consciousness onto my brain, and so neuroscientific data can never prove mind=brain, because they are just not the sort of things from which we could reasonably expect such a proof, given the abiding gap between consciousness as an object of study and the consciousness of the studier (Thomas Nagel is good on this, too, by the way: “What is it like to be a Bat?”

    Cordially,
    Adrian

  56. 56
    taciturnus says:

    Adrian,

    That is very well put and makes the problem of mapping brain states even worse than
    I thought.

    Suppose there is a scientist mapping thoughts onto brain states. A subject has a thought (“I am thinking of 2+2=4”), and the scientist associates it with a particular brain state (call it “B1”) that he records in his notebook. But the act of the scientist associating a brain state with a thought is itself a thought (“2+2=4 is associated with brain state B1”) and so needs recording if the brain map is to be complete. Who will do the recording? Not that particular scientist (call him S1)… he’s busy monitoring the subject. So we need a second scientist (S2) to monitor the brain of the first scientist and record the brain states associated with the first scientist recording the brain states of the patient. What he records is “Brain state SB1 is associated with associating 2+2=4 with brain state B1”. Of course that very act of scientist S2 is itself a new thought and needs recording by yet another scientist S3, etc., etc. Simply accounting for a single brain state involves an infinite regress that makes it impossible.

    I now know what Aquinas meant when he wrote in the Summa Contra Gentiles that the mind is infinitely self-reflexive, and therefore cannot be reduced to a mere act of the body.

    The other point I have been making, separate from the above, is based on the fact that the mind is active rather than merely passive in our perception and understanding of the world. The materialist wants to account for the mind in terms of “matter”, “atoms”, “molecules”, “neurons”, “force”, “mass”, etc. But scientific constructs like these are not immediately presented to us in experience; rather they are actively constructed by the creative mind of the scientist in his attempts to understand the world. And they only have meaning within that endeavor. For example, Newtonian force (F=M*A) has its specific definition in the context of the Newtonian system of the world, which is a theory of the scientific mind about how the world works. Elevating “force” beyond the system as a metaphysical absolute that exists prior to and more fundamentally than the scientific mind itself is a misunderstanding and evacuates the term of meaning. This can be demonstrated by asking those who try it to define “force”… either the definition will lose content so as to be no longer scientific, or it will involve reference to the use made by it by the scientific mind, which makes the alleged explanation circular. The same goes for “matter”, “molecule”, and all the others. These terms have meaning because the scientific mind finds them meaningful… the attempt to use them to explain the very mind that gives them meaning is just chasing your own tail…

    Cheers,
    Dave T.

  57. 57

    Dave T.,

    As to point one, bingo! The self-reflexivity of consciousness—which is potentially infinite—essentially and of its very nature defies all attempts to pin it down in an objectifying way, to “map it” one-to-one onto anything like brain states.

    As for your point two, I take it to be—in substance—a corollary to point one: if scientific objects presuppose, and so can never encompass, concsiousness, it is precisely because (a) consciousness has a self-reflexivity such that it (b) can abstract from the flux of experience the elements it needs to create scientific objects AS objects, that is, as things standing over against consciousness in its self-reflexivity.

    I would say, though, that, while Kant is right to highlight the constructive power of self-reflexion, as well as the Percyean” paradoxes that result for scientism from that power (which you’ve articulated splendidly in your posts, by the way),I would reject Kant’s claim that the Ding-an-sich is inaccessible, which I find to be either a banality (yes, we can’t know what things are like without knowing them) or, despite his anti-skeptical intent, a concession to skepticism. In any case, Kant never really argues for the inaccessibility of the Ding-an-sich—he just asserts it over and over again.

    Myself, I’m much more of an Aristotelian in thinking that there are things like substantial forms that so to say obtrude themselves on our notice within the flow of the world—even though I admit that our noticing is a new act that is not simply reducible to the above mentioned obtrusion. I know Kant would accuse me of domgatically claiming to extend my knowledge beyond the empirical, but, for me, that is just the point: what we mean by “empirical.” I am tempted to say a lot more, but that would take us far afield, and, anyway, I have a feeling that you are not a Kantian, even though you are quite capable of using Kant in interesting ways.

    It’s nice to have encountered a truly philosophical voice in this conversation thread.

    Cordially,

    Adrian

  58. 58
    taciturnus says:

    Adrian,

    You are right, I’m not really a Kantian, being much more partial to Aristotle and especially Thomas Aquinas. I draw on him, though, because people nowadays are culturally conditioned to a Kantian way of thinking and find arguments made in those terms more immediately sympathetic than those made in Aristotelian terms. Since the material mind is a non-starter on either Aristotle’s or Kant’s view (really, any philosophical view thoroughly thought out), I find it easier to make the argument in Kantian terms.

    I’ve enjoyed this conversation as well…

    Dave T.

  59. 59

    Dave,

    What you say confirms my intuition about where you are coming from and what sort of argumentative strategy you are pursuing. To be fair to Kant, I admit that some what he says about knowing jibes with the “classical tradition” (Aristotle and Aquinas—love them too), even though he puts it to a “foreign use” that the classical tradition wouldn’t have approved of.

    One thing I would be interested in hearing your opinion about is: what accounts for the plausibility of materialism/physicalism—beyond its pervasiveness in the current scientistic cultural climate? I have to say that most materialistic arguments—at least popular ones—strike me as question-begging (e.g., “neuroscience says. . .”). And yet, there have been a lot of smart materialists down through the ages. What gives?

    Adrian

  60. 60
    taciturnus says:

    Adrian,

    I don’t have a lot of insight here… I do know that Aquinas attributed the materialism of the pre-Socratics to their “failure to rise above their imaginations.” Man is an embodied knower, which has the following consequences:

    1) Everything we know about the world has its origin in the senses, and therefore comes to us mixed with matter. It’s easy to naively conclude that the basic elements of reality must therefore be material, the way the pre-Socratics thought the metaphysical fundamentals were earth, air, fire and water.

    2) Imagination accompanies our thought, and it is easy to conflate the two and think that imagination is the same thing as thought. What follows is the conclusion that what can’t be imagined can’t be thought. Since we can only imagine things as extended in space, only what is extended must be real. Materialists try to imagine the immaterial mind, find they can’t, and conclude that the immaterial mind can’t be real. What’s happened is that they have confused a principle of human psychology for a principle of metaphysical reality.

    Argument doesn’t usually work because the materialist first filters anything you say through the imagination and rejects what can’t be imagined. The only way to get through, if you can at all, is the way Aristotle did, which is to show the materialist that the metaphysical fundamentals he holds can’t pull the weight he thinks they can, and to show that human thought extends beyonds what can be imagined.

    Cheers,
    Dave T

  61. 61

    Dave,

    I suppose you and Aquinas are right: one does have the impression that the materialist can’t conceive—or imagine—any framing of the question that doesn’t presuppose materialism. That would certainly account for the question-begging tendency of (most? all?) materialist arguments, which we’ve certainly seen a bit of in this thread.

    Cordially,

    Adrian

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