Intelligent Design

Dawkins’ Philosophical Incoherence

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In River out of Eden : A Darwinian View of Life Richard Dawkins wrote:

The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. As that unhappy poet A.E. Housman put it: ‘For Nature, heartless, witless Nature Will neither care nor know.’ DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.

In a 2007 New Scientist/Greenpeace Science debate, Dawkins said:

Far from being the most selfish, exploitative species, Homo sapiens is the only species that has at least the possibility of rebelling against the otherwise universally selfish Darwinian impulse . . . If any species in the history of life has the possibility of breaking away from short term selfishness and of long term planning for the distant future, it’s our species. We are earth’s last best hope even if we are simultaneously, the species most capable of destroying life on the planet. But when it comes to taking the long view, we are literally unique. Because the long view is not a view that has ever been taken before in whole history of life. If we don’t plan for the future, no other species will . . .

Dawkins’ does not seem to understand that he cannot have his cake and eat it too, and that leads the world’s most prominent atheist/evolutionary biologist to make mutually exclusive truth claims that I would expect the average high school freshman to avoid. Let us examine a couple:

1. DNA is all there is, and we dance to its music. Yet it is possible for Homo sapiens to rebel against DNA. But how can DNA rebel against itself? I cannot rise above myself. I cannot reach down, grab my bootstraps, and pull myself off the floor.

2. There is no good and no evil. Yet Homo sapiens has the capability of planning for the future (presumably to avoid an undesired outcome or achieve a desired outcome). But if there is no good and no evil, on what grounds should we desire any particular outcome and plan for it?

UPDATE BELOW THE FOLD

From the comments, it seems that the 1st conclusion above is not as obvious as I thought it was.  Let me try to spell it out in small steps.

1. Dawkins is a philosophical materialist.

2. Philosophical materialism compels the conclusion that mind does not exist and that what we call “mind” is an illusion, an epiphenomenon of the chemical processes of the brain.

3. Consequently, to remain logically coherent Dawkins must believe in a pure biological reductionism. And he does. His statement “DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music” is just another way for Dawkins to say, “Look everyone! I’m a dyed-in-the-wool biological reductionist.” I would have thought that is obvious, but apparently it is not.

4. Biological determinism is an inescapable corollary to biological reductionism. In other words, if every choice we make can be reduced to the chemical processes of the brain, free will is an illusion. This is what Dawkins means when he says we dance to DNA’s music.

5. Then, having said that free will is an illusion, Dawkins sounds like a Cartesian dualist in the Greenpeace debate. He says it is possible for us to “rebel” against the “otherwise universally selfish Darwinian impulse.” If this is not special pleading, I do not know what is.

6. The selfish Darwinian impulse is universal, Dawkins says. We dance to DNA’s music. Our every choice is utterly determined. Free will is an illusion. No, wait, Dawkins replies. The Darwinian impulse is only nearly universal. “I” can rebel against it. Here’s the problem. If we accept Dawkins’ initial premises, the conclusion that “I” can rebel against biological determinism is pure gibberish for the simple reason that the “I” in that statement does not exist. There is only matter in motion, and matter in motion cannot “rebel” against itself. Indeed, the concept of matter in motion rebelling against matter in motion is logically incoherent. If Dawkins’ initial premises are correct, my body is nothing but a complex biological machine, and the self-awareness I feel is an illusion. Therefore, the very idea that “I” have a “choice” about whether to follow selfish Darwinian impulses is meaningless.

So we see that Dawkins is not just any sort of fool.  He is a simpering gutless fool.  He wants to have his atheism with its concomitant materialism, but he does not have the courage to face the earth shattering metaphysical conclusions that follow ineluctability from his premises.  Instead, he tries to smuggle foundational ethics (of a particularly Christian variety at that!) in through the back door.  He shirks not only in ethics but also in politics.  See here.

Give me Nietzsche over Dawkins any day.  One can disagree with Nietzsche, yet still come away with a sort of respect for his courage.  Nietzsche never simpered nor shirked.  He faced the terrifying conclusions of his premises head on.  In our time Will Provine follows in Nietzsche’s footsteps and takes his atheism seriously:  “Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent.”  Evolution: Free Will and Punishment and Meaning in Life, Second Annual Darwin Day Celebration Keynote Address.

107 Replies to “Dawkins’ Philosophical Incoherence

  1. 1
    RkBall says:

    Dawkins want there to be no cake and to eat it too.

  2. 2
    Seqenenre says:

    Dawkins: “DNA just is. And we dance to its music”
    Arrington: “DNA is all there is, and we dance to its music.”
    Spot the difference.

  3. 3
    above says:

    It’s absurdities such as these that dawkins explicates that make some of his fellow atheists such as Ruse state that dawkins’ work is an embarrasment to atheism and that he is out of his depth on matters of philosophy.

    It’s really sad how fanatical this man is.

  4. 4
    Barry Arrington says:

    Seqenenre writes:
    Dawkins: “DNA just is. And we dance to its music”
    Arrington: “DNA is all there is, and we dance to its music.”

    No, Seqenenre, you tell us the difference. This should be interesting.

  5. 5
    magnan says:

    I am an ID advocate, but this just doesn’t wash as some sort of incoherence or contradiction.

    “1. DNA is all there is, and we dance to its music. Yet it is possible for Homo sapiens to rebel against DNA. But how can DNA rebel against itself? I cannot rise above myself. I cannot reach down, grab my bootstraps, and pull myself off the floor.”

    Even if the selfish gene theory was valid, this would not imply that evolved intelligence could not also have evolved an independent mechanism of internal self awareness and complexity that allows choice at a higher level sometimes against evolutionary imperatives. In other words, self awareness would have evolved to respond to the environment in order to survive, and this inevitably enabled the capability to make choices which go against survival. Like the Holocaust rescuers.

    “2. There is no good and no evil. Yet Homo sapiens has the capability of planning for the future (presumably to avoid an undesired outcome or achieve a desired outcome). But if there is no good and no evil, on what grounds should we desire any particular outcome and plan for it?”

    Whether or not there are no ultimate metaphysical/ spiritual/moral good and evil, humans obviously desire one thing or another based on other factors such as desire for pleasure and fear of pain. At a minimum, no other motivations are really required (though they may exist).

  6. 6
    NormO says:

    Dawkins is being somewhat poetic, but I think there is a difference between “DNA is all there is” and “DNA just is”. The first phrase implies that DNA is the sole determinate of our behaviour. The second simply acknowledges that whether we like it or not, DNA exists and we are products of it, but does not exclude the possibility that our behaviour cannot rise above a strictly determinate relationship between who we are and our DNA.

    At least, that’s my take on his entire statement taken in context.

  7. 7
    Mung says:

    If there is cake, it will evolve.

  8. 8
    Scruffy says:

    John Lennox brought this quote up in his debate with Dawkins in which Dawkins replied along the lines of,

    “We can rebel against the “selfish gene” by using condoms when we have sex, eliminating (for the most part) any chance of reproducing.”

    Being that evolutions “goal” is survival, reproduction being key, it is in this way we can rebel.

    The problem with this reasoning is that regardless of what you do, you only do said things because you evolved to think you’d want/have to make such decisions.

    You decide to wear a condom during sex because you evolved not to want to have a child at the moment or get an STD.

    Of course, you wouldn’t really be deciding anything, you’re under the illusion that you’re making decisions.

    magnan@5:

    Even if the selfish gene theory was valid, this would not imply that evolved intelligence could not also have evolved an independent mechanism…

    Said mechanism would still be subject to the very process that created it. You can’t evolve to escape evolution, all life would be created through it and all life is controlled by it. You can’t say such a mechanism would enable said intelligence to go against “evolutionary imperatives” because evolution has no imperatives.

    Evolution is a mindless, unguided process that produces what it produces. If you assume Darwinian evolution a fact, you must accept that all of your senses are a result of it and because of this, you have no real way of knowing if what you evolved to sense is true, including evolution itself.

    If you evolved through the process of evolution, you are subject to it and it alone. No rebelling, no freewill, no decision making, no planning ahead, you are and always will be dancing to its music.

    If we don’t plan for the future, no other species will . . .

    Unless, of course, another species evolves to…

  9. 9
    DonaldM says:

    Barry, I think you are quite correct that Dawkins is philosophically incoherent on a number of points, but I’m not sure the example you used is the best one. However, we can draw one from the quotes provided. First we have:

    The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.

    And then in the next quote we read:

    We are earth’s last best hope even if we are simultaneously, the species most capable of destroying life on the planet. But when it comes to taking the long view, we are literally unique. Because the long view is not a view that has ever been taken before in whole history of life. If we don’t plan for the future, no other species will . . .

    If the first quote is true, then why ought it matter if we plan for the future or not. And, plan for what? The implication is we have the power to create or destroy…to good or do evil…but if the universe really is at bottom cold, pitiless and indifferent, who cares? For that matter, why bother to care? Dawkins seems to want to imply in the second quote that somehow we can and should rise above the plans of our genes and create a different future. But the first quote forces the question, why bother?

    Dawkins real incoherence is that he has no basis whatsoever for preferring one outcome or choice over another where we humans are concerned, other than his own personal preference. But who cares what his personal preference might be. On the other hand, if there really is an objective, transcendent reason to prefer one outcome over another, then his first quote is meaningless.

    Taking Dawkins on his own terms, I’m just cold,pitiless and indifferent to his personal preference.

  10. 10
    gleaner63 says:

    To problem with Dawkins is the same problem I find with many atheists; while they believe the universe is pointless and pitiless they don’t *live* as if they really believe that to be the true state of affairs. In fact, they try very, very hard to find meaning in a meaningless universe. It seems to be a very unusual thing to do, to pour their lives into trying to convince others that nothing really matters.

  11. 11
    Lock says:

    Clearly Dawkins’ philosphy is incoherent. There is almost nothing to say about it. He is the latest in a long list of incoherent philosophers.

    How anyone could miss the metaphysic in Dawkins’ statements (not the least of which is Dawkins himself) is a testimony to the blindness of so much of modern culture.

    How interesting it is (though ancient and taking many forms), that a person can believe the underlying and ultimate reality is meaningless or untrustworthy, and yet believe in the possibility that we can overcome that ourselves.

    The idea that we are able to become greater than reality (in the natural sense of course) is nonsensical on the face of it. In doing so we would have to become what can only be described as God or gods. We would by necessity posess what could only be defined as supernatural abilites.

    Isn’t that implication (or temptation) the very thing that begot the fall of man? That is what Satan said. “…you shall become as God”

    That should be a clue to many who do not have one or resist the dots already being connected for them.

    There is nothing new under the sun…

  12. 12
    markf says:

    #10

    Barry – many very respectable philosophers disagree with “small steps” 2 and 4 (as do I).

    2 – “Mind” may be material but that doesn’t make it an illusion.

    4 – There is a long tradition of free will being compatible with determinism.

    I have no idea whether Dawkins suscribes to either of these.

  13. 13
    kairosfocus says:

    MF:

    When we look at those views, the underlying points BA makes come to bear.

    In materialistic views, as he addressed, mental phenomena become an upper story, driven and controlled by the mill-gears grinding away at one another on cause-effect through mechanism and statistical manifestations of chance.

    There is no room for a genuine I who can think credibly and infer logically, without the taint of the grinding neurological gears programmed by aeons of blind forces and psycho-social conditioning, most of it below the reach of consciousness. (Which last is not accounted for save by the poof-magic of “emergence.”)

    So, much of what goes on I find to be verbal obfuscation of circles of a priori materialism that ends up fatally self-referring into incoherence.

    GEM of TKI.

  14. 14
    DATCG says:

    markf,

    #2 cute, are they materialist? tell Dawkins

    #4 this does not exonerate Dawkins, but please do elaborate

    I’m not interested in semantics. Dawkins statements are incoherant.

  15. 15
    DATCG says:

    KF,

    “So, much of what goes on I find to be verbal obfuscation of circles of a priori materialism that ends up fatally self-referring into incoherence.”

    mmmHmmm…mmmHmmm…mmmHmmm…yumhum;,.emerging cake

  16. 16
    markf says:

    #14 DATCG

    2 -Yes, philosophers who hold that “the mind is material but that doesn’t make it an illusion” are, not surprisingly, materialist on all other matters.

    4 – Compatabilism is a long-standing school of thought about free will. Rather than repeat it all here may I refer you to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry

    If you wish to dismiss this all as semantics then you need to dismiss the ideas of philosophers such as Hobbes, Hume, Strawson and Dennett as semantics. Maybe they are wrong but you can hardly prove it by just asserting it is all incoherent or just semantics.

  17. 17
    Heinrich says:

    Barry you’re mis-interpreting Dawkins:

    1. DNA is all there is, and we dance to its music.

    Where does Dawkins say that? Has says “DNA just is”, but where does he suggest that it is all there is?

    Yet it is possible for Homo sapiens to rebel against DNA. But how can DNA rebel against itself?

    I don’t know about you, but I’m made up of more than DNA: I have a bit of protein and a few other things.

    More seriously, nobody is a simple product of their genes, and not even Dawkins would argue that. We are also a product of our environment. We are more than the product of our DNA sequence.

  18. 18
    Barry Arrington says:

    markf, compatabilism is indeed a semantic dodge. I take it on here:
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ot-really/

  19. 19
    markf says:

    #16

    Barry – I don’t want to rerun recreate the debate on compatibilism which ran for 190 odd comments. My point is simply that a large number of internationally recognised philosophers would deny that Dawkins philosophy is incoherent.

  20. 20
    Barry Arrington says:

    markf: “My point is simply that a large number of internationally recognised philosophers would deny that Dawkins philosophy is incoherent.”

    And they are wrong.

  21. 21
    vividbleau says:

    RE:18

    BA surely you are not taking the position that nothing determines our choices?

    Vivid

  22. 22
    above says:

    @lock

    -“Clearly Dawkins’ philosphy is incoherent. There is almost nothing to say about it. He is the latest in a long list of incoherent philosophers.”

    He’s not a philosopher. He is just a confused zoologist. 😉

  23. 23
    HouseStreetRoom says:

    I would note that I’ve encountered a remnant of atheists who very much dislike this trend of so-called neo-atheism à la Dawkins, Hitchens etc. That is, those atheists who don’t just choose to disbelieve in God or in any higher power, but who actively detest any form of religion or spiritualism (especially Christianity).

    One such man springs to mind: Theodore Dalrymple.

    http://johncwright.livejournal.com/250324.html

    Above is a critique of his on the subject of ‘neo-atheism.’

  24. 24
    above says:

    @house

    I’ve seen a lot of atheists, some of which are friends of mine, who detest what these so-called new atheists are doing. I also have another friend who has become a carbon copy of dawkins filled with hate and anger so I’ve experienced both.

    In my opinion the new atheists are no different than the religious fundamentalists they hate, so I tend to treat them both as one distinct group with a likeminded mentality than anything else.

    I think these people are very destructive for both science and religion and society as a whole.

  25. 25
    JDH says:

    What I don’t understand is why strict materialism is seriously discussed at all. It would seem only complete fools would waste time on it.

    The easiest things to disprove are absolute assertions. This is because they provide no wiggle room. Someone who makes an absolute assertion that there is not mind that exists outside of materialistic processes has already contradicted themselves. They STATE they have made a CHOICE And that CHOICE is to believe that they CAN NOT CHOOSE. And by the way, you should CHOOSE also to believe you have no CHOICE either.

    There is absolutely no amount of rhetoric and double speak that can get you out of that logical contradiction. Anybody who claims to have succeeded has only put forward enough rhetoric to confuse himself into thinking he has a coherent position.

  26. 26
    bb says:

    Barry,

    This is very well presented. Can I put this on my own website if I link back here to U.D.?

    BKA: Yes.

  27. 27
    tjm says:

    I agree with the writer.

    Dawkins shows here how inconsistent he is. I appreciate the fact that he realizes that his view does away with good and evil and that he admits this up front.

    I think that is the death knell of his theory because it is impossible to live as if there is no good and evil. We all know there is good and evil in our hearts. If someone comes up and rapes his daughter, he would be sorely tempted to call that evil. However, if there is no such thing, he would have to shut up and just chalk it up to the process of evolution. He would have no right to complain. Oh sure, the guy broke a law, but only a man made law that has no ultimate meaning. He has a gripe there, but he cannot call the act evil. Everything whether it is seen to be “good” or “evil” according to his theory is just a part of the evolutionary process. Given the fact that evolution has been so successful up until now, far be it from us to try and intervene and foolishly think we can do better. How arrogant!

    However, the fact that it is really impossible to live that way is a big clue as to whether or not his ideas are accurate or not.

  28. 28
    Lock says:

    above@22 writes: “He’s not a philosopher. He is just a confused zoologist.”

    🙂 LOL, well a confused zoologist is really just a bad philospher.

    Everyone is a philosopher. Unfortunately, many are terrible at it. As C.S. lewis said somehwere, “you can’t change bad intuition” (paraphrased).

    Some masquerade as many other things (including zoologists) while their philosphy goes unseen, implied under the surface, and casts a spell over an entire culture.

    It is as though many are not conscious of the fact that they are thinking!

    The Bible calls it spirtual darkness and death. But that is so not PC.

  29. 29
    markf says:

    OK I will stick my neck out and try and explain as succinctly as I can why I find materialism compatible with both the mind and free will. Of course, it is utterly impossible to do justice to this on a blog – but maybe I can convince some people it is a viewpoint worth taking seriously.

    We all know that the same thing can appear utterly different depending on how you perceive it. This could be as simple as seeing a street at night or in broad daylight. One vivid example of this is our perception of our limbs. I know the position of my leg in a completely different way from the doctor who is examining me – but there is only the one leg (well two actually). So far, so trivial, I would hope.

    For me much the same thing applies to mental activities such as thinking. The person doing the thinking has a subjective view. A neurosurgeon might (in theory) see the same activity as the firing of neurons. Different view – same activity.

    Another mental activity is deciding, an activity that is at the core of free will. Deciding is acting consciously in the light of motives and context. Subjectively it has a certain flavour which distinguishes it from e.g. involuntary actions such as blinking. But you can imagine that one day there might also be a neurosurgeon’s view of this activity. And that neurosurgeon might even be able to predict what the subject will decide to do given its motives and the context. That does not stop it being a genuine decision based on what the subject wants to do and the context. It may be that neuroscience will never get to this stage – but there is no logical reason why it should not – and if it does that doesn’t suddenly make all decisions involuntary.

    I know it is hard to accept this at first. But much of quantum physics is incredibly hard to accept. I only want to argue that it is logically possible.

  30. 30
    Lock says:

    I am not convinced that this (idea, arrived at by thinking) should be taken seriously.

    markf: “The person doing the thinking has a subjective view.”

    Why do you state that idea as an objective matter of fact when you arrived there by thinking?

    markf: “A neurosurgeon might (in theory) see the same activity as the firing of neurons. Different view – same activity”

    No, not ‘see’… the neurosurgeon might ‘think of’.

  31. 31
    kairosfocus says:

    H’mm:

    Let’s inject William Provine’s remarks at the 1998 Darwin Day celebrations at University of Tennessee (a most fateful location, given issues discussed here):

    _____________

    >> Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent . . . .

    The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them. Human free will, however, is another matter. Even evolutionists have trouble swallowing that implication. I will argue that humans are locally determined systems that make choices. They have, however, no free will . . . . Without free will, justification for revenge disappears and rehabilitation is the main job of judicial systems and prisons. [[NB: As C. S Lewis warned, in the end, this means: reprogramming through new conditioning determined by the power groups controlling the society and its prisons.] We will all live in a better society when the myth of free will is dispelled . . . .

    How can we have meaning in life? When we die we are really dead; nothing of us survives.

    Natural selection is a process leading every species almost certainly to extinction . . . Nothing could be more uncaring than the entire process of organic evolution. Life has been on earth for about 3.6 billion years. In less that one billion more years our sun will turn into a red giant. All life on earth will be burnt to a crisp. Other cosmic processes absolutely guarantee the extinction of all life anywhere in the universe. When all life is extinguished, no memory whatsoever will be left that life ever existed.

    Yet our lives are filled with meaning. Proximate meaning is more important than ultimate. Even if we die, we can have deeply [[subjectively and culturally] meaningful lives . . . .

    [[Evolution: Free Will and Punishment and Meaning in Life, Second Annual Darwin Day Celebration Keynote Address, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, February 12, 1998 (abstract).] >>
    ______________

    Got that: humans are locally determined systems that make choices. They have, however, no free will . . . ?

    So far as I can see, the sort of compatibilism so often raised boils down to equivocating on Provine’s distinction between being locally [causally] determined on forces of chance and necessity tracing to genetic and socio-cultural-behvioural conditioning, and making what we subjectively experience as choices.

    In short, choice — on evolutionary materialism — is a delusion of grandeur of creatures who boil down to the neurological equivalent of gears grinding away in Liebniz’s Mill. As Crick so openly said in his 1994 The Astonishing Hypothesis:

    . . . that “You”, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have phrased: “You’re nothing but a pack of neurons.” This hypothesis is so alien to the ideas of most people today that it can truly be called astonishing.

    All of this is ever so patently self-referentially incoherent . . .

    CONT’D . . .

  32. 32
    kairosfocus says:

    I wish I did not have to drive home the same lessons over and over again, but the insistent repetition of already long sicne corrected errors leaves me but little choice.

    Now, all of this breaks down into self referential incoherence and amorality so soon as we examine the inner workings of what is being claimed, in light of the evolutionary materialistic model of origins:

    ________________

    >> [evolutionary] materialism [a worldview that often likes to wear the mantle of “science”] . . . argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature. Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of chance.

    But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this picture. Thus, what we subjectively experience as “thoughts” and “conclusions” can only be understood materialistically as unintended by-products of the natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains. (These forces are viewed as ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance [“nature”] and psycho-social conditioning [“nurture”], within the framework of human culture [i.e. socio-cultural conditioning and resulting/associated relativism].)

    Therefore, if materialism is true, the “thoughts” we have and the “conclusions” we reach, without residue, are produced and controlled by forces that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or validity. Of course, the conclusions of such arguments may still happen to be true, by lucky coincidence — but we have no rational grounds for relying on the “reasoning” that has led us to feel that we have “proved” them. And, if our materialist friends then say: “But, we can always apply scientific tests, through observation, experiment and measurement,” then we must note that to demonstrate that such tests provide empirical support to their theories requires the use of the very process of reasoning which they have discredited!

    Thus, evolutionary materialism reduces reason itself to the status of illusion. But, immediately, that includes “Materialism.” For instance, Marxists commonly deride opponents for their “bourgeois class conditioning” — but what of the effect of their own class origins? Freudians frequently dismiss qualms about their loosening of moral restraints by alluding to the impact of strict potty training on their “up-tight” critics — but doesn’t this cut both ways? And, should we not simply ask a Behaviourist whether s/he is simply another operantly conditioned rat trapped in the cosmic maze?

    In the end, materialism is based on self-defeating logic . . . .

    In Law, Government, and Public Policy, the same bitter seed has shot up the idea that “Right” and “Wrong” are simply arbitrary social conventions. This has often led to the adoption of hypocritical, inconsistent, futile and self-destructive public policies.

    “Truth is dead,” so Education has become a power struggle; the victors have the right to propagandise the next generation as they please. Media power games simply extend this cynical manipulation from the school and the campus to the street, the office, the factory, the church and the home.

    Further, since family structures and rules of sexual morality are “simply accidents of history,” one is free to force society to redefine family values and principles of sexual morality to suit one’s preferences.

    Finally, life itself is meaningless and valueless, so the weak, sick, defenceless and undesirable — for whatever reason — can simply be slaughtered, whether in the womb, in the hospital, or in the death camp.

    In short, ideas sprout roots, shoot up into all aspects of life, and have consequences in the real world . . . >>
    ________________

    Nor is this new or unique to our time, as the roots lie in the imposed evolutionary materialistic worldview, not the findings of science (even when such science is taken captive to that worldview). Here is Plato in the voice of the Athenian Stranger, in his The Laws, Bk X, 360 BC, about 2300 years ago, with the fate of Athens at the hands of Alcibiades and co still before his eyes:

    Ath. . . . [[The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that fire and water, and earth and air [[i.e the classical “material” elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only. [[In short, evolutionary materialism premised on chance plus necessity acting without intelligent guidance on primordial matter is hardly a new or a primarily “scientific” view!] . . . .

    [[Thus, they hold that t]he Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.- [[Relativism, too, is not new.] These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might, and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions, these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others, and not in legal subjection to them.

    The more things “progress” and dismiss the hard-won lessons of the past, the more they revert to the same old errors with the same old sadly predictable results.

    When will we learn and make real progress?

    GEM of TKI

  33. 33
    markf says:

    #30 Lock

    I am not convinced that this (idea, arrived at by thinking) should be taken seriously.
    markf: “The person doing the thinking has a subjective view.”
    Why do you state that idea as an objective matter of fact when you arrived there by thinking?

    I think there may some confusion over the word “subjective” (my fault). I use the phrase “subjective view” simply as a label for the how thinking appears to you when you are doing the thinking. I don’t mean that it is a matter of opinion, or in anyway mean to suggest that view is inferior to the neurosurgeon’s view.

    markf: “A neurosurgeon might (in theory) see the same activity as the firing of neurons. Different view – same activity”
    No, not ‘see’… the neurosurgeon might ‘think of’.

    No – I mean’t literally see the same activity (well presumably through some scanning device given the scale). This is a thought experiment. It is something that could conceivably happen. Of course I understand it is not possible at the moment. My point is simply that it is logically possible.

  34. 34
    JDH says:

    markf

    I am actually trying to learn something from you. I don’t understand why you can not comprehend the obvious. What incredible psychological dodge are you using to not comprehend the big picture. Nothing you propose erases the logical contradiction between materialism and free will. It only demonstrates your deep need to somehow hang on to the possibility of their compatibility.

    In the real world, there is something so much more different than perception of where a leg is and the truly complicated human consideration of morality, free will, and choice. Please note:- even a very primitive animal like a lobster, has a perception of some kind of where its leg is. Perception of where my leg currently is, is so trivial compared to planning what time I am going to get up tomorrow.

    Let’s test your little theory with a gedanken experiment. You will claim that all my mental faculties are just the product of chemical processes in my body. ( Notice, I don’t restrict the thinking to the brain ).

    So I tell you I am going to write down twelve random sequences of letters each containing 20 letters chosen from the English alphabet. How many possibilities are there?

    Well if we consider all letter positions as independent of each other we come up with 20*12 or 240 letter positions. ( Note: they are probably not truly independent because they will be guided by my “understanding” of what a random sequence looks like, which I guarantee you falls short of being truly random )

    How many unique sequences are there?

    That’s easy 26^240. A number so large it dwarfs the number of particles in the perceived universe.

    You must conclude that due to the finite amount of conclusions available from my purely chemical brain, that there exist sequences of these 240 letters that I can not imagine. I just do not have the probabilistic resources to imagine all of them. But it seems that I can. There is no reasonable conclusion you can make that some of the sequences were just not available to me.

    This was just a trivial example of letters arranged in sequences. It pales in comparison to some real activity like designing a house, painting a picture or typing in a comment to a blog.

    Therefore, I conclude that your theory, that my brain is limited to the imaginations that can be conjured up by a finite set of chemical reactions is preposterous. I don’t see how you can continue to think such an easily defeated proposition.

  35. 35
    Ilion says:

    Dawkins’ does not seem to understand that he cannot have his cake and eat it too, and that leads the world’s most prominent atheist/evolutionary biologist to make mutually exclusive truth claims …

    And worse than that, actually; as, for instance, I discuss here

  36. 36
    Ilion says:

    Mung:If there is cake, it will evolve.

    Especially if someone leaves it out in the rai … er, if it’s in an “open system.”

  37. 37
    tgpeeler says:

    markf @ 29

    I’d like to stick my neck out here and say that I can prove that materialism is false. Of course, that’s been done at least a million times but here’s maybe a different angle.

    If materialism is true. That is, if all that exists is the natural or physical or material world – however you want to say it – and if I am strictly a material being, with no mind or soul, then all I can know of the world is what I SENSE. I can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. I have NO OTHER ACCESS to the physical world.

    So how is it that I am even aware of abstract things like mathematics?? Or laws? Or information? Those things, while sometimes expressed in physical substrates are not themselves physical. Who among us thinks that the Pythagorean theorem is destroyed when it is erased from the blackboard? Well, no one does, of course.

    So how, exactly, do I sense something like mathematics? It’s not located in space/time (I looked under my desk at home and in a couple of closets but I couldn’t find it). Mathematics doesn’t have mass or inertia. Math is not subject to the laws of physics. It doesn’t “fall” to earth when it is “dropped.” Math cannot be converted to energy. Math cannot be used to heat or move matter. In other words, mathematics is ABSTRACT. It is not sensible. Yet I know of its existence. That proves to me that there is more to my brain than neurons and chemical processes. There must be an abstract part of us that accesses the abstract world just as our senses make us aware of the physical world. Let me put this in the form of modus tollens.

    If materialism is true, then I could not know of abstract things. But I do know of abstract things. Therefore, materialism is false.

    And by the way, speaking of sense experience. How is it, exactly, that the millions of sensations I have every day are experienced by me in a unified, coherent way? A priori, one would expect a being that was only a sensing machine to have no way to corral those experiences and turn them into a coherent whole. Our minds do that for us, too. Our senses are mediated by means of our minds. That’s why we have unified sensory experiences. And that’s how we have the facility of language, the manipulation of symbols according to arbitrary sets of rules, so that we can encode information in a physical substrate, transmit it, and it can be decoded on the other end. This process is incoherent apart from mind. There is no way in the world that physics can ever explain information. But that’s another story.

    What falls out of this though is really cool. I’ll just put it in the form of a categorical syllogism.

    Abstract things cannot be destroyed.
    The mind is an abstract thing.
    Therefore, the mind cannot be destroyed.

    Hello. Looks like life after death is not only possible, it is certain. Unless of course, someone can explain how non-physical things can be destroyed or show that the mind is physical. Good luck with that.

  38. 38
    IRQ Conflict says:

    Mr. Peeler @37

    Well said! Thanks for that.

  39. 39
    kairosfocus says:

    JDH:

    Your 26^240 ~ 3.92*10^339.

    The number of Planck-time states of the atoms in the observed universe is ~10^150, less than the square root of the number you have cited. The whole universe cannot search out enougth of a fraciton of those states at random to make a difference, and to fing islands of defined fucntion is a non starter.

    So, you are right, our heads could not credibly be working based on forces of blind chance and mere mechanical necessity, to do what they do. So, one needs to account for intelligence in the human mind.

    GEM of TKI

  40. 40
    tgpeeler says:

    IRQ Conflict – you’re welcome, and thanks…

  41. 41
    markf says:

    #34 JDH
    Thank you for your lengthy response. To pick up on your earlier points.

    You assert that there is a logical contradiction between materialism and free will – but you don’t prove it – so it is hard to respond to that.

    I don’t deny that the perception of a limb is far less complicated than the perception of free will. I only used the example to establish the principle that it is possible to have a radically different “internal” and “external” perception of the same material events or objects.

    To come to your main point. You write:

    You must conclude that due to the finite amount of conclusions available from my purely chemical brain, that there exist sequences of these 240 letters that I can not imagine. I just do not have the probabilistic resources to imagine all of them. But it seems that I can.
    But why do I have to be able to imagine all possible sequences in order to be able to write down 20 of them? Clearly you could have extended your example to include as large a set of possible sequences as you choose. I can write down any of the infinite number of positive integers but that doesn’t mean I have to hold them all in my head simultaneously! Clearly I use a much more limited rule to create the digits – the same with the sequences of letters or building a house.

  42. 42
    markf says:

    #37

    tgpeeler

    Of course the nature of abstractions is a long-standing philosophical problem – going back to the Greeks. I believe that Wittgenstein essentially solved it. Our intelligence is bewitched by language. We use nouns for abstractions such as mathematics and beauty and we also use nouns for concrete objects such as your car. That bewitches us into thinking that there is something that the abstract noun refers to just as the phrase “my car” refers to a something. And you begin to ask yourself perplexing questions such as “how do I perceive numbers?”.

    Wittgenstein encouraged us to simply look at how we use words e.g. abstract nouns and mathematics. After a time you see his point of view and realise there isn’t anything corresponding to these words – rather they are tools in certain activities such as mathematics.

    But this is a very long discussion – way beyond this blog. Have you read Philosophical Investigations? If not, I highly recommend it. In my opinion the best philosophical work since the Critique of Pure Reason.

  43. 43
    markf says:

    Just noticed Barry’s update at the top.

    Barry – do you not agree that

    1) There are lot of respectable philosophers as well as Dawkins that believe that materialism and determinism are compatible with free will?

    2) If you believe that materialism and determinism are compatible with free will then you can consistently hold Dawkins’ position that it is possible to rebel against the “otherwise universally selfish Darwinian impulse”

    3) Are all the likes of Hume, Strawson and Dennett (and Dawkins) “simpering gutless fools” for arguing for what they believe and its consequences?

  44. 44
    kairosfocus says:

    Onlookers:

    Of course, MF routinely refuses to address where the connexion is made that exposes the contradiction, cf here and here above from 31 on.

    I excerpt the former:

    _____________

    >> . . . [evolutionary] materialism [a worldview that often likes to wear the mantle of “science”] . . . argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature. Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of chance.

    But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this picture. Thus, what we subjectively experience as “thoughts” and “conclusions” can only be understood materialistically as unintended by-products of the natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains. (These forces are viewed as ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance [“nature”] and psycho-social conditioning [“nurture”], within the framework of human culture [i.e. socio-cultural conditioning and resulting/associated relativism].)

    Therefore, if materialism is true, the “thoughts” we have and the “conclusions” we reach, without residue, are produced and controlled by forces that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or validity. Of course, the conclusions of such arguments may still happen to be true, by lucky coincidence — but we have no rational grounds for relying on the “reasoning” that has led us to feel that we have “proved” them. And, if our materialist friends then say: “But, we can always apply scientific tests, through observation, experiment and measurement,” then we must note that to demonstrate that such tests provide empirical support to their theories requires the use of the very process of reasoning which they have discredited!

    Thus, evolutionary materialism reduces reason itself to the status of illusion. But, immediately, that includes “Materialism.” For instance, Marxists commonly deride opponents for their “bourgeois class conditioning” — but what of the effect of their own class origins? Freudians frequently dismiss qualms about their loosening of moral restraints by alluding to the impact of strict potty training on their “up-tight” critics — but doesn’t this cut both ways? And, should we not simply ask a Behaviourist whether s/he is simply another operantly conditioned rat trapped in the cosmic maze?

    In the end, materialism is based on self-defeating logic . . . . >>

    _______________

    And that is aside from how Barry A and others have repeatedly shown the particular incoherences of Mr Dawkins.

    Mere disagreement does not remove a fact from reality.

    GEM of TKI

  45. 45
    markf says:

    #44

    KF – I am not going to get into the argument from reason here. It is separate from Barry’s argument and requires a complex response which is why I am “routinely avoiding it”. As you know I am averse to lengthy comments.

  46. 46
    kairosfocus says:

    Onlookers:

    As predicted, sadly, and on the same grounds as usual.

    But in fact what I presented is not an argument from reason — it was instead in the main a more detailed drawing out of BA’s remark in the update:

    ___________

    1. Dawkins is a philosophical materialist. [Freely acknowledged by CRD]

    2. Philosophical materialism compels the conclusion that mind does not exist and that what we call “mind” is an illusion, an epiphenomenon of the chemical processes of the brain.

    [ –> This is what I drew out above:

    “. . . [on evolutionary materialistic premises] the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature. Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of chance.

    But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this picture. Thus, what we subjectively experience as “thoughts” and “conclusions” can only be understood materialistically as unintended by-products of the natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains.”]

    3. Consequently, to remain logically coherent Dawkins must believe in a pure biological reductionism. And he does. His statement “DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music” is just another way for Dawkins to say, “Look everyone! I’m a dyed-in-the-wool biological reductionist.” I would have thought that is obvious, but apparently it is not.

    [–> Observe my elaboration:

    “. . . [on materialism] what we subjectively experience as “thoughts” and “conclusions” can only be understood materialistically as unintended by-products of the natural [= undirected chance + mechanical necessity] forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains. (These forces are viewed as ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance [“nature”] and psycho-social conditioning [“nurture”], within the framework of human culture [i.e. socio-cultural conditioning and resulting/associated relativism].)

    Therefore, if materialism is true, the “thoughts” we have and the “conclusions” we reach, without residue, are produced and controlled by forces that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or validity.”

    –> This of course has immediately fatally self-referentially incoherent consequences . . . ]

    4. Biological determinism is an inescapable corollary to biological reductionism. In other words, if every choice we make can be reduced to the chemical processes of the brain, free will is an illusion. This is what Dawkins means when he says we dance to DNA’s music . . .

    [ –> Thus, directly, we descend into incoherence, fatally undermining the credibility of reasoned thought:

    “Therefore, if materialism is true, the “thoughts” we have and the “conclusions” we reach, without residue, are produced and controlled by forces that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or validity. Of course, the conclusions of such arguments may still happen to be true, by lucky coincidence — but we have no rational grounds for relying on the “reasoning” that has led us to feel that we have “proved” them. And, if our materialist friends then say: “But, we can always apply scientific tests, through observation, experiment and measurement,” then we must note that to demonstrate that such tests provide empirical support to their theories requires the use of the very process of reasoning which they have discredited!

    Thus, evolutionary materialism reduces reason itself to the status of illusion. But, immediately, that includes “Materialism.” For instance, Marxists commonly deride opponents for their “bourgeois class conditioning” — but what of the effect of their own class origins? Freudians frequently dismiss qualms about their loosening of moral restraints by alluding to the impact of strict potty training on their “up-tight” critics — but doesn’t this cut both ways? And, should we not simply ask a Behaviourist whether s/he is simply another operantly conditioned rat trapped in the cosmic maze?

    In the end, materialism is based on self-defeating logic . . . “

    –> In short, the two analyses are closely related, not utterly distinct.

    –> Te major difference is that I have explicitly included chance and necessity as causal factors in my account.

    –> But randomness is just as opposed to intelligence as is mechanical necessity.

    ___________________

    In short, one cannot simply label this an argument from reason then dodge away on the claim that the post is long so can be ignored, at the same time as one complains that evidence to show the incoherence is not being adduced.

    At least, if one intends to be intellectually responsible.

    GEM of TKI

  47. 47
    tgpeeler says:

    markf @ 42 “Wittgenstein encouraged us to simply look at how we use words e.g. abstract nouns and mathematics. After a time you see his point of view and realise there isn’t anything corresponding to these words – rather they are tools in certain activities such as mathematics.”

    This is about the most ridiculous thing I have ever read. I guess it is safe to ignore Wittgenstein’s words since they don’t mean anything. Come on. You can say stuff like this with a straight face??? After reading the exchange with GEM and myself, I guess so. I won’t waste anymore meaningless words trying to show you the truth. Good day.

    p.s. AS USUAL, and as noted by GEM, not A PEEP about the actual argument. No attacking the validity. No attacking the premises. No attacking the clarity of the terms. Nothing but a dismissal.

    p.p.s. Note to self. How much sense does it make to reason with people who reject reason? Not much.

  48. 48
    Heinrich says:

    Barry, you’re going wrong here –

    4. Biological determinism is an inescapable corollary to biological reductionism. In other words, if every choice we make can be reduced to the chemical processes of the brain, free will is an illusion. This is what Dawkins means when he says we dance to DNA’s music.

    The chemical processes of the brain are also affected by the environment – the whole nature/nurture debate shows that it’s not just DNA that affects us. More concretely, humans are able to learn. We do this by observing our environment, and that changes how we think (i.e. it changes the chemical processes of the brain).

    Thus, one can avoid dancing to DNA’s music by dancing to other music, for example society’s music. We can learn from the people, the society, around us and dance to that music. And yes, that can be the music of the Christian church as well.

  49. 49
    markf says:

    #47

    tgpeeler

    There is an irony here. I offer a potted version of the works of Wittgenstein (widely recognised as one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century – possibly of all time) as a response to your comments about abstractions. You respond with:

    This is about the most ridiculous thing I have ever read. I guess it is safe to ignore Wittgenstein’s words since they don’t mean anything.

    You then accuse me of “nothing but dismissal”.

  50. 50
    tgpeeler says:

    And again the ORIGINAL argument is ignored. What, I’m supposed to take an hour of my time disabusing you of the fallacies in Wittgenstein’s philosophy so you can ignore that too?? And by the way, if you know anything of philosophy, and I’m a complete amateur myself, you understand that there are no authorities in philosophy, only arguments. Engage the argument, if you please.

    As far as language not being able to communicate truth… I thought the self-contradiction was obvious, and therefore ridiculous. If I said “I am not writing this” would you not be justified in immediately rejecting that as ridiculous?

  51. 51
    markf says:

    #49

    tgpeeler

    I have a degree in philosophy. I understand that authority is not a substitute for argument. However, if a recognised authority puts forward an argument and it appears to tgpeeler to be meaningless or ridiculous then there are two possibilities:

    either

    (1) professional philosophers round the world have been duped for decades and tgpeeler is the one to see through it

    or

    (2) tgpeeler has not understood the full point of Wittgenstein’s arguments

    I leave it to you to assess which is the more likely

  52. 52
    markf says:

    #49 PS

    Where did you get the idea that I claimed that language could not communicate truth?

  53. 53
    JDH says:

    When someone has learned enough about philosophy so that they can weave enough banalities together to convince students that there is no inherent contradiction between materialism and human free will, we are seeing the literal fulfillment of Biblical prophecy.

    “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Rom 1:22 KJV )

  54. 54
    kairosfocus says:

    TGP:

    “Semper Fi, Mac!”

    (MF: Figure out the language game context for that remark. Then, figure out if “there isn’t anything corresponding to these words – rather they are tools in certain activities such as mathematics” . . . contrasting Ari in Metaphysics 1011b on truth and falsity along the way.)

    GEM of TKI

  55. 55
    molch says:

    I glean from this discussion that the ID camp operates under the assumption that designed creatures in a designed universe have free will? how so?

  56. 56
    kairosfocus says:

    Molch:

    Do you regard your cognition as free enough to follow on logic and facts?

    If so, you believe in free will in the relevant sense, regardless of the implications of your underlying views, especially if they are as exposed and corrected above.

    Design thinkers are simply taking the intuitive logic of real cognition seriously.

    GEM of TKI

  57. 57
    molch says:

    55:

    Cognition is not something that can be free or unfree. Cognition is simply the term that describes thought processes such as logical thinking and the evaluation of facts.

    I thought what is discussed here is Free Will in the common philosophical sense: the ability to make CHOICES free from constraints.

    A choice is made after evidence is evaluated through cognition.

    Do you agree?

  58. 58
    above says:

    markf @ 42

    -“ 1) There are lot of respectable philosophers as well as Dawkins that believe that materialism and determinism are compatible with free will?”

    Sure there are philosophers that believe in compatibilitism but there are also solipsists and nihilists out there. I mean, after nieztsche and his absurdities one can hardly be surprised by any position a philosopher might take.

    Also, I think dawkins is confused, not a compatibilitists. In his debate with quinn, when free will came up he said he had no interest in it, which doesn’t surprise me either to be honest.

    “Wittgenstein encouraged us to simply look at how we use words e.g. abstract nouns and mathematics. After a time you see his point of view and realise there isn’t anything corresponding to these words – rather they are tools in certain activities such as mathematics.”

    That’s the problem with analytic philosophy. It’s reductionist in nature and if abused will leave one with the same conclusion as Wittgenstein. You analyze until you are either left with nothing or a tautology. Also, the way you phrase it, as it pertains to correspondence, assumes positivism as a methodology. Wittgenstein, from the little I know of him departed from that line of thought or was at least accused of doing so. At any rate, positivism collapsed so I don’t see much veracity in the statement.

    The way I would interpret the statement is more like a warning (against reductionisms) as opposed to a fact. Maybe he did not mean it as such but that’s the only way one can do so without leading to absurdities and reductios as pointed out by tgpeeler and kairosfocus.

  59. 59
    markf says:

    #57 above

    Thank for you for your rational and polite comment.

    It is true that many great philosophers have said all sorts of strange things. My main point is that it is unreasonable to dismiss them as “simpering gutless fools” or even incoherent. As Dawkins shares the philosophy of some of them he is no more or less a simpering gutless fool then they are.

    You write that the problem with analytical philosophy is that it is reductionist. It is only a problem if a reductionist approach is false.

    However, I would not describe Wittgenstein as a reductionist – in fact he was a bit of a mystic, had some religious beliefs (I don’t agree with everything he said), and in his later writings (which are the ones I am referring to) was reacting against logical positivism. One of the things he did, was to try to get at the meaning of words (and mathematics) and show that language is not just about naming things – a correspondence theory of truth is too simple. The meaning of words is not always something which those words refer to.

    Understanding the meaning of what you are talking about is something you need to do whenever you present an argument. tgpeeler argued that the existence of abstractions proved that materialism was false. I argue that abstract concepts do not entail abstract things which the concepts refer to. For some reason he thinks this is not addressing his argument. I suspect a misunderstanding somewhere along the line.

  60. 60
    markf says:

    PS A rather neat thought just occurred to me. The Logical Positivists and the likes of tgpeeler share the same misconception – that meaning = reference i.e. the meaning of a word is always what it refers to. So when it comes to abstract words, for which there is no observable referent, the positivists conclude the word doesn’t mean anything and the tgpeelers conclude there must be some mysterious non-observable thing which the word refers to. Wittgenstein identified the common fallacy.

  61. 61
    kairosfocus says:

    Onlookers:

    There are several areas where I could comment. I will briefly remark on several revealing points above:

    1] Re Molch,56: Cognition is not something that can be free or unfree. Cognition is simply the term that describes thought processes such as logical thinking and the evaluation of facts.

    Evidently, and sadly, it escapes this commenter that in order to think logically and to evaluate fact and truth claims, one has to be free enough to make real intellectual choices.

    This is easily brought out by exposing the self-referential incoherence of Crick in his 1994 The Astonishing Hypothesis:

    . . . that “You”, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have phrased: “You’re nothing but a pack of neurons.” This hypothesis is so alien to the ideas of most people today that it can truly be called astonishing.

    To this,we may observe that plainly, if Sir Francis is included, this dramatically undermines the credibility of his own thought, for reasons as I pointed out yesterday at 44 and again at 46(and which M plainly overlooked or ignored).

    Of course, as 46 points out, these issues are already raised in the original post at the head of the thread, and amplified in Mr Arrington’s update.

    The relevance of the concerns raised there decisively expose Crick’s self referentially absurd reductio, and that is why ID thinker Phillip Johnson responded that Dr Crick should therefore be willing to preface his books: “I, Francis Crick, my opinions and my science, and even the thoughts expressed in this book, consist of nothing more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.”

    (In short, as Prof Johnson then went on to say: “[[t]he plausibility of materialistic determinism requires that an implicit exception be made for the theorist.” [[In Reason in the Balance, 1995.])

    2] thought what is discussed here is Free Will in the common philosophical sense: the ability to make CHOICES free from constraints. A choice is made after evidence is evaluated through cognition.

    Immediately, choices are inextricably intertwined in real cognition, as already highlighted.

    Second, finite, fallible, morally fallen and too often ill-willed human beings are simply unable to make “CHOICES free from constraints.”

    So, to avoid strawman distortions, the distinction we must mark is that between causally sufficient conditions and causal influences or constraints that do not amount to causal sufficiency.

    Free choice does not imply unconstrained or uninfluenced choice.

    3] MF, 59: The Logical Positivists and the likes of tgpeeler share the same misconception – that meaning = reference i.e. the meaning of a word is always what it refers to. So when it comes to abstract words, for which there is no observable referent, the positivists conclude the word doesn’t mean anything and the tgpeelers conclude there must be some mysterious non-observable thing which the word refers to.

    Strawman, laced with subtle ad hominems.

    MF as a trained philosopher is fully aware that many theistic thinkers and others will easily accept the reality of abstract entities and give serious reasons for doing so; nor does he provide a serious rebuttal to the argument on the acknowledged reality — as opposed to physicality — of abstract entities.

    Koukl, in discussing the reality of evil and of morality, has an interesting take (which is discussed in App 8 my always linked note):

    Evil is real . . . That’s why people object to it. Therefore, objective moral standards must exist as well [i.e. as that which evil offends and violates] . . . . The first thing we observe about [such] moral rules is that, though they exist, they are not physical because they don’t seem to have physical properties. We won’t bump into them in the dark. They don’t extend into space. They have no weight. They have no chemical characteristics. Instead, they are immaterial things we discover through the process of thought, introspection, and reflection without the aid of our five senses . . . .

    We have, with a high degree of certainty, stumbled upon something real. Yet it’s something that can’t be proven empirically or described in terms of natural laws. This teaches us there’s more to the world than just the physical universe. If non-physical things–like moral rules–truly exist, then materialism as a world view is false.

    There seem to be many other things that populate the world, things like propositions, numbers, and the laws of logic. Values like happiness, friendship, and faithfulness are there, too, along with meanings and language. There may even be persons–souls, angels, and other divine beings.

    Our discovery also tells us some things really exist that science has no access to, even in principle. Some things are not governed by natural laws. Science, therefore, is not the only discipline giving us true information about the world. It follows, then, that naturalism as a world view is also false.

    Our discovery of moral rules forces us to expand our understanding of the nature of reality and open our minds to the possibility of a host of new things that populate the world in the invisible realm . . .

    reality does not need to imply physicality, and sneering appeals to materialistic prejudice do not substitute for cogent argument.

    ____________

    Especially in a context where MF is still failing to address the pressing issue of the credible incoherence of evolutionary materialism.

    GEM of TKI

  62. 62
    above says:

    -“You write that the problem with analytical philosophy is that it is reductionist. It is only a problem if a reductionist approach is false.”

    That’s correct. I would even go as far as say that even if reductionism is false, it might still be useful for instrumental purposes, but we would always need to be aware of its problems and limitations.

    -“However, I would not describe Wittgenstein as a reductionist – in fact he was a bit of a mystic, had some religious beliefs (I don’t agree with everything he said), and in his later writings (which are the ones I am referring to) was reacting against logical positivism.

    Yes, he did react/depart from positivism as I mentioned earlier. And I also agree that he was religious in some ways. He was influenced by both Kierkegaard and Tolstoy and if I am not mistaken he had an admiration for people of faith.

    -“One of the things he did, was to try to get at the meaning of words (and mathematics) and show that language is not just about naming things – a correspondence theory of truth is too simple. The meaning of words is not always something which those words refer to.”

    To some extend I agree. Words change meaning in different contexts, change meaning over time, can be used metaphorically and so on. What I would object to is emptying the word of its meaning like positivists do. I don’t want to get too deep into linguistic analysis (it’s so easy to get lost in it) but I will say this, language in my opinion is a living and a dynamic encyclopedia of the totality of human experience, both physical and spiritual.

    -“I argue that abstract concepts do not entail abstract things which the concepts refer to”

    I think this is where you and tgpeeler part ways. I think the disagreement might stem from the Kantian categorization of phenomenon vs nooumenon. But what if this categorization is not all that accurate (rhetorical question)?

    I happen believe that abstract objects too have an ontology, just not the same kind as physical objects do. But all this is very much dependent on one’s metaphysical position and operant methodology.

    -“tgpeelers conclude there must be some mysterious non-observable thing which the word refers to”

    I think this is where the disagreement between the two of you lies. Given the different metaphysical positions you and tgpeeler hold, I think it would be safe to say that as per your metaphysic his argument is objectionable but as per his it’s perfectly valid.

    I would be a little hesitant to accept the above statement as it places much emphasis on the ‘observable’ (which implies physicality) and don’t want to make human observation the defining factor ontology. So while I acknowledge your point, I don’t wish to limit myself to it. So once again, I think the disagreement lies in our definition of what constitutes what is ‘real’. Knowing the different worldviews that we hold, I think it would be hard to settle the argument.

  63. 63
    molch says:

    @ 55 & 60:

    “Cognition [has to be] free enough to follow on logic and facts”
    “A choice is made after evidence is evaluated through cognition.”

    “in order to think logically and to evaluate fact and truth claims [through cognition], one has to be free enough to make real intellectual choices.”

    So, your position is that one has to be able to make free choices in order to evaluate evidence upon which free choices are based.

    Thanks, but that’s utterly unhelpful to answering my question in 54.
    Is anyone else interested in addressing 54?

  64. 64
    markf says:

    #62

    above

    Again a very interesting comment.

    You write:

    I think this is where the disagreement between the two of you lies. Given the different metaphysical positions you and tgpeeler hold, I think it would be safe to say that as per your metaphysic his argument is objectionable but as per his it’s perfectly valid

    But there is a problem here. It implies that when tgpeeler and I use an abstract word such as “beauty” or “zero” we mean different things. After all if I actually meant some immaterial entity I would presumably know that. But if we are talking about different things then we are not disagreeing at all. And that seems very paradoxical. We use the same language and I am sure we could have non-philosophical discussions about beauty without it ever crossing our minds we were talking about different things.

    This is why linguistic philosophy is actually so important. If we can’t work out what we mean we are talking about things then we can go little further.

  65. 65
    kairosfocus says:

    Molch:

    The power of choice is inextricable from the power of cognition [e.g. reflect on the insight behind the root for the Greek word Logos, the basis of “logic”: leg, to choose], or the workings of cognition become just mechanical cause with some random noise injected, and self stultifying.

    That is a big part of why evolutionary materialism is self-referentially incoherent and necessarily false.

    That is not a side issue, easily dismissed as you go on to your agenda.

    And in fact, 56 answers specifically to your 55:

    M, 55: I glean from this discussion that the ID camp operates under the assumption that designed creatures in a designed universe have free will? how so?

    KF, 56: Do you regard your cognition as free enough to follow on logic and facts? [as in cf above]

    If so, [then] you believe in free will in the relevant sense, regardless of the implications of your underlying views, especially if they are as exposed and corrected above.

    Design thinkers are simply taking the intuitive logic of real cognition seriously.

    In short, you projected the assertion of an implied unwarranted ASSUMPTION on our part.

    I point out that you presumably trust your own cognition to be more than the grinding away of neurons against one another on mechanical necessity and chance.

    I then pointed out that the inference design thinkers commonly make is from trusting cognition to being sufficiently free to really think and decide for ourselves, not just the subconscious and controlling impacts of genetic and psychosocial programming and conditioning.

    In short, you cannot pretend to be a really reasoning, really communicating, really knowing subject without implying significant freedom to choose.

    I know, that does not sit wit5h the dominant power of evolutionary materialism in our day, but so much the worse for that self-referentially incoherent evolutionary materialism.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: Let me excerpt as there is a bad habit of ignoring links:

    _____________

    >> . . . [evolutionary] materialism [a worldview that often likes to wear the mantle of “science”] . . . argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature. Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of chance.

    But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this picture. Thus, what we subjectively experience as “thoughts” and “conclusions” can only be understood materialistically as unintended by-products of the natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains. (These forces are viewed as ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance [“nature”] and psycho-social conditioning [“nurture”], within the framework of human culture [i.e. socio-cultural conditioning and resulting/associated relativism].)

    Therefore, if materialism is true, the “thoughts” we have and the “conclusions” we reach, without residue, are produced and controlled by forces that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or validity. Of course, the conclusions of such arguments may still happen to be true, by lucky coincidence — but we have no rational grounds for relying on the “reasoning” that has led us to feel that we have “proved” them. And, if our materialist friends then say: “But, we can always apply scientific tests, through observation, experiment and measurement,” then we must note that to demonstrate that such tests provide empirical support to their theories requires the use of the very process of reasoning which they have discredited!

    Thus, evolutionary materialism reduces reason itself to the status of illusion. But, immediately, that includes “Materialism.” For instance, Marxists commonly deride opponents for their “bourgeois class conditioning” — but what of the effect of their own class origins? Freudians frequently dismiss qualms about their loosening of moral restraints by alluding to the impact of strict potty training on their “up-tight” critics — but doesn’t this cut both ways? And, should we not simply ask a Behaviourist whether s/he is simply another operantly conditioned rat trapped in the cosmic maze?

    In the end, materialism is based on self-defeating logic . . . . >>

    _______________

    Onlookers, see the point?

  66. 66
    molch says:

    kairofocus:

    I am well aware of your reasons to believe that “evolutionary materialism is self-referentially incoherent and necessarily false.”

    They are the same reasons that you
    “point out that you presumably trust your own cognition to be more than the grinding away of neurons against one another on mechanical necessity and chance.”

    That’s your presumption and has nothing to do with my actual position on the origin and function of cognition.

    My position on this issue is completely irrelevant to the question I asked in 55.

    I am asking anyone who is a proponent of the idea that designed creatures in a designed universe can have Free Will (in the general philosophical meaning of unconstrained or not completely constrained choice) to explain why they think so. Since kairofocus seems to continuously misunderstand my question, let me clarify: I am interested to understand WHICH component that goes into the making of any choice by a designed creature do you believe/deduce/assume NOT to be constrained by the creature’s design.

    If you, kairofocus, don’t want to answer that question, then just don’t. Nobody forces you. But stop pretending that you think you know what my philosophical ideas and conclusions are and that my question must therefore be irrelevant.

  67. 67
    vividbleau says:

    Molch RE 66

    I am not a fan of the term “free will” Every time I see that term what pops into my head is “free from what”? I much prefer the more accurate term “free choice” which is what I think people mean when they say “free will”

    Free choice is the ability ( within certain constraints) to choose whatever we most want given the options available to us at the moment the choice is made.

    Vivid

  68. 68
    molch says:

    Hi Vivid,

    According to your definition of “free choice” you basically mean free will in the sense of the freedom from coercion; I do agree with you on that assessment insofar as I accept the existence of a free will mostly in that exact sense.
    But, if you are somebody who accepts a designer as the cause for your existence, don’t you assume that some aspect of your choices (for example making the choice of accepting the existence of that designer) is NOT a consequence of the design, and was therefore made “freely”?

  69. 69
    vividbleau says:

    Molch,

    Of course the designer designed me with the ability to choose. With that out of the way I choose to accept a designer freely because , and this may surprise you, because I want to believe in a designer. Since it is my “most” want it is my free choice.

    BTW it is my position that everyone in the end only beleive and choose what they want. Just because we want to believe something does not neccessarily diminsh the validity of that belief or choice.

    Vivid

  70. 70
    molch says:

    Vividbleau,

    I agree with you that we base our choices on what we “want” – on our desires. And I am in no way suggesting that making choices based on a desire diminishes the validity of that choice. On the contrary, I don’t think there is any other basis for any choice BUT desire. Our desires, or motivations, are the outcome of evidence evaluations – conscious and subconscious. In other words, every choice is based on our judgement if the outcome will be advantageous (either instantaneously or in it’s projectd future effects) in light of accumulated first and second hand knowledge=evidence and current circumstances=evidence.

    So, would you agree with me that differences in choices between different people are based on differences in the set of evidences that they are evaluating?

  71. 71
    vividbleau says:

    “So, would you agree with me that differences in choices between different people are based on differences in the set of evidences that they are evaluating?”

    Interesting question. I guess I would modify this somewhat. Often times two people can look at the same evidence and come to different conclusions. Difference in choices are based on their perception of the set of the evidence thay are evaluating. There are “filters” that evidence goes through so to speak.

    Vivid

  72. 72
    molch says:

    “Difference in choices are based on their perception of the set of the evidence thay are evaluating. There are “filters” that evidence goes through so to speak.”

    Yes, I agree – only that in my opinion these “filters” or perceptions are the result of accumulated evidence evaluations. Maybe this is where we differ in opinion? If the different “filters” that different people apply to arrive at different choices are NOT the result of earlier, accumulated evidence evaluations, what do you presume do they originate from? The only alternative I can come up with, from a design proponent’s perspective, would be: design. Am I wrong?

  73. 73
    above says:

    @vivid

    -“BTW it is my position that everyone in the end only beleive and choose what they want. Just because we want to believe something does not neccessarily diminsh the validity of that belief or choice.”

    Well said!

  74. 74
    vividbleau says:

    “Yes, I agree – only that in my opinion these “filters” or perceptions are the result of accumulated evidence evaluations”

    Some are some are not, sometimes evidence does not matter, sometimes choices are made in spite of the evidence. I dont subscribe to the notion that we always make the most rational choices, we someties knowingly make irrational choices.

    “If the different “filters” that different people apply to arrive at different choices are NOT the result of earlier, accumulated evidence evaluations, what do you presume do they originate from?”

    I presume they originate from “self” What the “self” most wants is not always purely a result of evidence. Does that make any sense? LOL

    Vivid

  75. 75
    molch says:

    “Some are some are not, sometimes evidence does not matter, sometimes choices are made in spite of the evidence. I dont subscribe to the notion that we always make the most rational choices, we someties knowingly make irrational choices.”

    There are, I believe, three possible alternatives for the origin of “irrational” choices, that are made in spite of evidence on the table:

    1) the choice is truly random. This is probably the case for lots of mostly inconsequential choices we make every day such as “should I get the strawberry smoothie or the chocolate milkshake”

    However, if a choice is important, I don’t believe, and I suspect you don’t believe either, that it will be made randomly, i.e. that we knowingly make important choices without regard to motivations. That leaves options 2 & 3:

    2) Those motivations to make a seemingly irrational choice are an accumulation of evidences that are the building blocks of my motivation to make this choice. For an example I’ll cite one from an earlier discussion on a different thread:

    “For example, I walk up to a taxi and before I get in I take a look. Let’s say the driver is obviously impaired, the inside looks shabby, the body is a mess, scrapes, dents, etc… I evaluate this evidence and decide whether or not I want to get in the cab. The rational choice seems obvious. BUT – By itself, this is not enough evidence to decide if it is a good idea to get into the cab. I need to put it in context with my repertoire of already accumulated evidence that impaired drivers are likely to cause accidents, etc. And I need to reconcile the recognition of all these factors with current circumstances. If I need a ride to the next hospital because I have a punctured artery, and if the cab in question is the only ride available, these two pieces of evidence will likely outweigh all the negative evidence in the final decision.

    This means that the choice is a direct and necessary consequence of the evaluation of evidence, and that the will to make that choice is a combination of all the evidence evaluations (which are commonly described as motivations) that factor into that choice.”

    3) The last alternative:
    “I presume they originate from “self” What the “self” most wants is not always purely a result of evidence.”
    Which, if I understand you correctly, means that there is a part of the self that just “is”, it’s motivations are simply there and are NOT caused or influenced by evidence. This part of the self, then, these motivations, must be designed, since they are not caused by anything else. Correct?

  76. 76
    vividbleau says:

    “This part of the self, then, these motivations, must be designed, since they are not caused by anything else. Correct?”

    I would say we are designed to have “self” motivations.

    Vivid

  77. 77
    molch says:

    “This part of the self, then, these motivations, must be designed, since they are not caused by anything else. Correct?”

    I would say we are designed to have “self” motivations.”

    I’m not sure I see the difference?

  78. 78
    molch says:

    If the motivations are a property of the designed self, then they are designed, by definition. Correct?

  79. 79
    vividbleau says:

    To me to say that motivations are designed means that my motivations are the designers motivations. To say we are designed to have “self” motivations means they are my motivations.

    Vivid

  80. 80
    molch says:

    So you are basically saying that although the self that has these motivations is designed, the motivations themselves are not. What is the origin of these motivations, then?

  81. 81
    vividbleau says:

    “If the motivations are a property of the designed self, then they are designed, by definition. Correct?”

    I am designed to have self motivations.

    Molch perhaps we can make more progress if you just communicate the point you are trying to make.

    Vivid

  82. 82
    vividbleau says:

    “What is the origin of these motivations, then?”

    Self

    Vivid

  83. 83
    molch says:

    Since you just excluded 3) from #75 as an explanation for the origin of the motivations (which would have been that they are designed), I see only 1) or 2) left. Or is there a 4) I am not thinking of?

  84. 84
    molch says:

    Sorry – 83 was a repsonse to 81 – response to 82 will follow!

  85. 85
    molch says:

    Sorry about the posting confusion – I’ll try to get all my thoughts into one post and wait for your answer, so we don’t get crossed!
    🙂

    My point is, as my original question indicated, that I don’t think that the idea of humans as designed cretures in a designed universe allows for “free will” or “free choice”, whatever you want to call it, unless we are just talking about freedom from coercion.

    That does not mean that I don’t respect your opinion that there is a self that somehow can make choices independent from evidence or predesigned motivations (lots of philosophers and non-design theorists share that opinion with you).

    I am basically trying to get to the heart of the matter to see if there is a LOGICAL path to that opinion. So far I’m not seeing one. But again, that doesn’t mean I don’t respect it…

    Back to business:

    “What is the origin of these motivations, then?”

    Self”

    That’s were you go back in a circle, because you just defined that self as designed, thus, if the motivation comes from inside that self, it logically must be caused by the design of that same self.

  86. 86
    vividbleau says:

    “My point is, as my original question indicated, that I don’t think that the idea of humans as designed cretures in a designed universe allows for “free will” or “free choice”, whatever you want to call it, unless we are just talking about freedom from coercion.”

    As I have already stated there is no such thing as free will. Now I do hold that we have free choice in the sense that we are free to choose whatever we most want. What can be more free than that?

    “That does not mean that I don’t respect your opinion that there is a self that somehow can make choices independent from evidence or predesigned motivations (lots of philosophers and non-design theorists share that opinion with you).”

    I respect your opinion as well.

    “That’s were you go back in a circle, because you just defined that self as designed, thus, if the motivation comes from inside that self, it logically must be caused by the design of that same self.”

    I make a distinction between designed motivations and designed self. The self is designed to have its own motivations. These motivations are the selfs motivations not the designers motivations. I am free to make choices that may or may not be the same choices the designer would make. The same goes for motivations. My motivations are mine not the designers.

    It is true that if I was not designed to have self motivations I could not have self motivations. This does not mean that logically the motivations are “caused” by the designer. What is “caused” by the designer is the ability of the self to have its own motivations.

    Vivid

  87. 87
    molch says:

    “I respect your opinion as well.”

    Thanks. No matter the outcome, I enjoy our respectful and informative discussion!

    “It is true that if I was not designed to have self motivations I could not have self motivations. This does not mean that logically the motivations are “caused” by the designer. What is “caused” by the designer is the ability of the self to have its own motivations.”

    So what then in the self is it that causes these motivations, if it’s not the design?

  88. 88
    vividbleau says:

    “Thanks. No matter the outcome, I enjoy our respectful and informative discussion!”

    Me too!! Quite refreshing no?

    “So what then in the self is it that causes these motivations, if it’s not the design?”

    I know this will drive you crazy and I dont meant it to but the cause of these motivations are the “most wants” of the self. 🙂

    Obviously these “most wants” differ from one self to another since what one self most wants may be what the other self “most” does not want.

    Off to the beach but I will have access to the internet but no replys until I get back.

    Vivid

  89. 89
    molch says:

    Have fun at the beach!
    This is good timing, since I have to run to a number of meetings and probably won’t be able to post til tomorrow morning – that’ll give me time to ponder your crazy-making answers!
    🙂

  90. 90
    JDH says:

    Molch:

    Sorry I am late to the party, but I think I have an answer for you, but you will not like it.

    You said

    I glean from this discussion that the ID camp operates under the assumption that designed creatures in a designed universe have free will? how so?

    The ID camp has an advantage. We believe in a designer of much greater ability than ourselves. We are not reductionist. Your problem is that when you say designer, you are thinking in terms of human designers.

    I work in the computer field. I will fully admit that I can not design a computer program which has free choice. It must only respond to inputs. I can not design something which will go against its programming. ( Maybe others can I am not aware of much of the AI field ).

    But I do not believe in a designer with our human limitations. So it is possible for God ( yes, I will name my designer ) to design something which has some amount of free choice and can actually choose not to obey him. I accept this by faith.

    But don’t you see that your ( implied ) conclusion that a designed object in a designed universe can not have free will – is a religious statement. It is not a logical premise-conclusion. it is a metaphysical statement on the abilities ( or lack there of ) of the designer.

    If you can not comprehend what I am talking about, just assume you are a sphere. You visit a two dimensional land. You can easily move up and down in the two dimensional plane and even move out of it altogether, but can not change you shape.

    You have befriended someone who lives in the plane.

    He claims that you have the ability to change your size and to completely disappear if you want to.

    Now you try and explain to him that you can’t. You have no words that he can comprehend which explain to him that your perceived ability to change your size is nothing more than movement in the third dimension. There is no way to explain this. Try as hard as you can, you can not explain movement in the third dimension because for your friend in the two dimensional world, the third dimension does not exist.
    He, however, can choose to believe you by faith.

    This is the way I envisage God trying to explain to us that we are created by him and yet have our own free will. We can only accept it by faith. If we try to reason it out, we run into our limitations, not His.

  91. 91
    molch says:

    Hi JDH – welcome to the party!

    only briefly, because I have to run to another meeting:

    “I think I have an answer for you, but you will not like it.”

    I don’t have any problem with your answer, it is a similar answer I have received from many people of faith. It, if I may paraphrase, amounts to that you simply believe something to be possible that my logic says is not. But the problem (the impossibility upon which we disagree), contrary to your assumption, is NOT for “God to design something which […] can actually choose not to obey him.”
    I don’t have a logical problem with that possibility at all. I can choose not to obey god either because he/she designed me not to, or because the evidence suggests that it’s advantageous for me not to.

    The problem is, as might become more clear if you follow the exchange between myself and vivid, that any choice of yours, e.g. the one to obey or disobey god, must be based on/caused by SOMETHING. If it’s not design, and if it’s not evidence, then what is it? The only equivalent I can come up with for the “free” in free choice as you use it would be “uncaused”?

  92. 92
    molch says:

    vivid:

    quick reply to you also:

    “Obviously these “most wants” differ from one self to another since what one self most wants may be what the other self “most” does not want.”

    It actually seems you are just rephrasing “motivations” into “most wants” here. Either way, this formulation still does not let you off the hook: why do these “most wants” or motivations differ between the selfs? What’s the origin of those differences?

  93. 93
    vividbleau says:

    “Either way, this formulation still does not let you off the hook”

    What hook? I did not realize I was even on a hook 🙂

    Is this an example of what I wrote in 71?

    “Often times two people can look at the same evidence and come to different conclusions. Difference in choices are based on their perception of the set of the evidence thay are evaluating. There are “filters” that evidence goes through so to speak.”

    You see me on a hook and I have no idea what hook I am on.

    “why do these “most wants” or motivations differ between the selfs?”

    Your asking me why someone is motivated to choose chocolate ice cream and another is motivated to choose vanilla?

    “What’s the origin of those differences?”

    The self.

    The one self chose chocolate because that is the flavor they most wanted given the options available at the moment the choice was made. The other chose vanilla because that is the flavor they most wanted given the options available at the moment the choice was made.

    Vivid

  94. 94
    molch says:

    Vivid,
    sorry if I confused you with the hook analogy – I just meant that you still hadn’t provided a cause for the differences in the motivations/wants/selfs that make them choose different things.
    You still haven’t.
    So at this point, instead of running in circles, we could just agree to disagree – what do you think?

  95. 95
    vividbleau says:

    Molch,

    I guess we could just agree to disagree however I have given you the cause. The cause is the self. It is the most want of the self that determines ( causes) their choices. Do you reject that individuals make self determined choices?

    You chose to post your position on this thread, did you determine to do the posting? If not who or what did?

    Vivid

  96. 96
    molch says:

    “You chose to post your position on this thread, did you determine to do the posting? If not who or what did?”

    Sure I chose to do the posting. I had reasons for that choice (=I had evaluated evidence that motivated me to choose to post) – mostly that I could improve my own insight into the concept and existence of free will by discussing it with people of different philosophical commitments.

    “The cause is the self.”

    See, that’s the problem. The self can only be the cause for those diffences IF the selfs are different. Who/what makes them different? Or are those differences uncaused and therefore random?

  97. 97
    vividbleau says:

    “Sure I chose to do the posting.”

    Which makes you the cause of the choice. You made a self determind choice. Self determined choices are not causeless choices.

    “See, that’s the problem. The self can only be the cause for those diffences IF the selfs are different.”

    Of course the self’s are different in the sense that different selfs have different wants.

    “IF the selfs are different. Who/what makes them different?”

    Culture, upbringing, family, genetics, the list is endless.

    “Or are those differences uncaused and therefore random?”

    To say something is random does not mean something is uncaused.

    Vivid

  98. 98
    molch says:

    “, genetics, the list is endless.”

    Ok – looks like we are getting somewhere!!!

    Culture, upbringing, and family are factors that fall, in my categorization of causes in #75 under 2)”evidence evaluations”.

    Genetics falls under 3) variations that are inherent in a person, which you would characterize as designed. Right?

  99. 99
    molch says:

    ooops, I cut the quote off, I meant to quote the whole sentence:

    “IF the selfs are different. Who/what makes them different?

    Culture, upbringing, family, genetics, the list is endless.”

  100. 100
    vividbleau says:

    “Genetics falls under 3) variations that are inherent in a person, which you would characterize as designed. Right?”

    I believe that life owes its existence to a designer.

    Vivid

  101. 101
    molch says:

    “I believe that life owes its existence to a designer.”

    So, does that not mean that you attribute a person’s genes to some combination of design and inheritance?
    And inheritance, of course, is a deterministic process with random copying errors. That means that either design or necessity or random luck caused the genetic differences (or a combination thereof) between people.

  102. 102
    molch says:

    Vivid – just a quick notice: I have to leave for the weekend, but would enjoy to continue the discussion on Monday, if you are still interested – looking forward to find an answer upon my return!
    Happy weekend! 🙂

  103. 103
    vividbleau says:

    “Vivid – just a quick notice: I have to leave for the weekend”

    Godspeed!! 🙂

    Vivid

  104. 104
    vividbleau says:

    Hi Molch hope you had a great weekend.

    I took the time to read all your posts on this thread and let me summarize what I think are your two main points.

    1) You don’t think that a designed creature can have free will. (#85)

    2) You do not see a logical path to the contrary (#85)

    Lets take them one at a time. “You don’t think that a designed creature can have free will.”

    By now you know that it is my position that free will does not exist, it’s a classic oxymoron. No one has the ability to make choices free from constraints #66. This is so obvious that I wont spend any time marshalling evidence as to why that is. Also free will does not exist because the will is never free from that which determines it.

    To will is to choose, to say the will is free is no different than saying nothing causes ( determines) the choice. It is to argue that effects have no causes. When it comes to free will we all are “determinists” whether we know it or not.

    However , to repeat myself, to say there is no free will is not to say that there is not free choice. Our wills can be, indeed must be determined, and our choices can still be free. Free choice is the ability ( within certain constraints) to choose whatever we most want given the options available to us at the moment the choice is made. What can be more free than the freedom to choose what we want to choose?

    Evidently you do not see a logical path to this conclusion ( your second point). I must say the logical problem escapes me and you have not yet demonstrated where my position is illogical. Remember even if you don’t think that the existence of life is the result of a designer this does not mean your choices are not determined as well, they are.

    RE 101

    “So, does that not mean that you attribute a person’s genes to some combination of design and inheritance?
    And inheritance, of course, is a deterministic process with random copying errors. That means that either design or necessity or random luck caused the genetic differences (or a combination thereof) between people.”

    I want to be clear the difference between self choices are more than just genetic differences. With that caveat out of the way yes I am in general agreement to the above. Keep in mind like you I am a determinist 🙂

    Vivid

  105. 105
    molch says:

    “Hi Molch hope you had a great weekend”

    Good morning Vivid – thanks for the godspeed, I had indeed a great weekend, I hope you did too!!

    Looks like the break was very fruitful to our discussion, because now that you have laid out your position in all detail, I can see that we actually completely agree!

    “What can be more free than the freedom to choose what we want to choose?
    Evidently you do not see a logical path to this conclusion”

    This is the one and only meaning of free will/free choice that I DO accept – the freedom from coercion. There is no logical problem with that kind of freedom at all and we both seem to agree on that.

    “Also free will does not exist because the will is never free from that which determines it.”

    Yes, I completely agree with you. This position of yours did not become clear to me from your earlier posts. It had seemed to me that you expected some part of our motivations to be somehow free from determination. THAT was the part that has no logical basis. But I realize that that was obviously a misunderstanding on my part.

    “Remember even if you don’t think that the existence of life is the result of a designer this does not mean your choices are not determined as well, they are.[…]Keep in mind like you I am a determinist”

    Yes, I absolutely agree that all my choices, and thus my “will” are determined. That realization is an integral part of my philosophical world view.
    I find it very fascinating and refreshing to talk to a theist who has the same view! You & I may think “When it comes to free will we all are “determinists” whether we know it or not.”, but so far, all of my theist friends have disagreed with me on that and insisted that there is, somehow, a free will in all humans. Generally the theist reason for this assumption, that I have encountered, was that if their choices are determined, including the one most important to them – to obey god – then they are really just a puppet on strings, playing out a script. And most theists seem to immensely dislike that idea, probably because it calls into question the concept of eternal reward or punishment. But there are plenty of atheistic philosophers who seem to be just as uncomfortable with the reality of determined choices.
    From the human perspective though, the script is so immensely intricate that the outcome can only be known to the (omniscient) director, not the actors. Or, from the perspective of someone like me, the outcome is known to nobody, since the “director” is simply nature, taking it’s course.

    Thanks for taking the time to answer my question, and dig down to the gritty details! I am looking forward to more discussions with you!!!

  106. 106
    vividbleau says:

    Molch

    “I can see that we actually completely agree!”

    Thats got to be some kind of record for this blog!!

    “but so far, all of my theist friends have disagreed with me on that and insisted that there is, somehow, a free will in all humans.”

    They dont know what they are talking about. Many theists really have not thought through these issues. next time when they deny that their will is determined ask them did they determine to make that statement or did “nothing” make that determination for them. Ask them if effects need not have a cause? Then watch them hem and haw.

    “Thanks for taking the time to answer my question, and dig down to the gritty details! I am looking forward to more discussions with you!!!”

    Back at you!!

    Vivid

  107. 107
    molch says:

    “Thats got to be some kind of record for this blog!!”

    huzzahhh!
    🙂

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