Intelligent Design

Angus Menuge vs. P.Z. Myers Debate

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Angus MenugePZ Myers

On Saturday, 19 April 2008, philosopher of psychology Angus Menuge debated blogger and biologist P.Z. Myers at the University of Minnesota-Morris. What follows is Menuge’s summary of their interaction; his slides are available here.

“Does Neuroscience Leave Room for God?”

My debate with Dr. PZ Myers at University of Minnesota at Morris, 8pm-10:30pm, Saturday, April 19th, 2008

by Dr. Angus J. L. Menuge

1. Format of the debate. The debate was moderated as follows: each of us had a maximum of 40 minutes to present our case. Then there was a maximum of 30 minutes in which Dr. Myers and I could probe each other’s position with questions. Finally, we opened to the floor and members of the audience could ask questions of either speaker.

2. My presentation.

I presented first and made three main points:

(1) First, I argued that materialism is presumed true before looking at the evidence. Richard Lewontin has admitted that he holds to materialism in science as an a priori assumption. My main points were that inflexible adherence to materialism could prevent us from finding the truth, and weakens the claim to have found the best explanation by eliminating competitors to materialism without considering them. But what about those who claim that materialism has such an amazing track record, we should have a presumption in its favor?

(2) My second main point was that materialism does not have such an impressive track record. I noted that Christian theology, not materialism, played a substantive role in the rise of modern science, by justifying belief in laws of nature and in minds reliable enough to discover them. I noted the “Argument from Reason” against Evolutionary Naturalism, which points out that Evolutionary Naturalism predicts minds equipped with useful gadgets, but not ones attuned to discovering truth, especially in theoretical matters having nothing to do with basic survival. By contrast, rational theism predicts that our minds are attuned to the laws of nature, since both reflect the same divine logos.

Moving closer to the central issue of the debate, I argued that there is considerable evidence against the materialist contention that the mind reduces to the brain. There is the “hard problem” of consciousness, that subjective awareness is not explained or predicted by impersonally described states of the brain. Then there is the evidence from neuroscientists such as Jeff Schwartz and Mario Beauregard that, in addition to the bottom-up influence of the brain on the mind, the mind has a top-down influence on the brain (cognitive therapies that exploit neuroplasticity) and on health (psychoneuroimmunology). I focused on how these approaches gave hope to patients by showing that their own conscious choices could play a role in their recovery and health. I also mentioned the remarkable studies of Near Death Experiences by Pim van Lommel. I held up and recommended Jeff Schwartz and Sharon Begley’s The Mind and the Brain, and Mario Beauregard and Denyse O’ Leary’s The Spiritual Brain, and said that if someone is a true skeptic, they should be skeptical of materialism as well as of non-materialistic claims.

(3) My third point was to critique the slew of contemporary materialist attempts to explain away religious belief and experience. I noted that a culture of one-way skepticism encourages both a presumption that supernatural religions are false without investigating the evidence for their truth claims, and also credulous acceptance of unsubstantiated materialist speculations, such as the “God gene” and “God spot” theories, all of which can be decisively refuted. I then investigated the claim that religion is a “virus of the mind,” and argue that the underlying theory of memes would either discredit everyone’s beliefs or, if it does not, require us to check out the actual evidence for or against them.

3. Dr. P. Z. Myers’s presentation.

Dr. Myers focused mainly on defining the terms “science” and “God.” He argued that science can only work with what is measurable, and that “God” cannot be defined in a way that is measurable, and so God/theology are irrelevant to science. He claimed that scientists must accept the rule of methodological materialism, according to which scientists can believe in any religion they want, but, within science, must restrict themselves to considering only material causes. He likened the scientist to the plumber who must work at the level of what physically works. Indeed, Dr. Myers asserted that science is not about truth, but about what works, and that God is irrelevant to science because “God” is not a tractable concept.

Dr. Myers held up a large standard volume on neuroscience, and asserted that it was better than Schwartz’s and Beauregard’s books, apparently because it was bigger! He then showed some interesting slides detailing the standard “homunculus” model of the brain, mapping various sensations and bodily functions to parts of the brain. He acknowledged the reality of neuroplasticity, but claimed that this could all be understood in terms of chemical processes in the brain, without appeal to consciousness. Yet, interestingly, he admitted that no-one could explain consciousness. Dr. Myers also mentioned a recent scientific experiment showing that in advance of conscious awareness of decision, there is already a 60% probability of action. (He did not, however, claim that this showed there was no free will, and since the result was so recent and under-analyzed, I chose not to take the bait.)

The remainder of Myers’s presentation was focused on the case for the brain’s bottom-up influence on the brain, including the impact of neural deficits and degeneration through illness and age. At one point he made the quite absurd suggestion that some people seem to think that neurons have nothing to do with it! Since I had argued for neuroplascticity and psychoneuroimmunology, this was a bit hard to take. I suppose it was an exaggeration or a joke, designed to make dualists look silly. Dr. Myers’s presentation was frankly depressing, because it left the impression that we are passive products of physical causes, with no ability to take control of our health. Myers did try to claim that he could account for some of the studies I had mentioned, but in terms of one part of the brain taking charge of another. The talk included relatively few slides, some of them showing the plight of family members.

4. Our discussion/debate.

Myers was surprisingly passive in debate and did not really seem eager to spar. I got the sense that he had previously dismissed me as another creationist “ID-iot,” and that he was not really prepared for me to make a serious case. Here are some of the main points of our discussion.

(1) While I agreed with Myers about the evidence of bottom-up causation, I argued that this did not negate the evidence of top-down causation. To refute the idea that consciousness must simply be generated by the brain, I used the analogy of a telephone. If someone calls and we drop the phone and break it, we no longer hear the voice, but the voice is not generated by the phone: the phone transmits it. Likewise the fact that certain thoughts are impossible with neural deficits does not show that the brain generates our thoughts or that our mind is simply a passive shadow of the brain.

(2) I noted that at the end of his review of The God Delusion, Michael Ruse had argued that if the likes of Richard Dawkins continue to claim that Darwinian evolution inevitably supports atheism, then teaching Darwinian evolution in schools would violate the first amendment. Was not the approach to science advocated by Myers likewise against the constitution?

In response, Myers said that science only uses methodological materialism, so it does not technically exclude religion, saying that he knew scientists who were Christian who subscribed to Methodological Materialism. (What he did not address was the distinction between those theists who believe in the natural knowledge of God and those who do not. Methodological Materialism favors secular humanists and those theists unconcerned about the natural knowledge of God and discriminates against those who believe God worked detectably in nature by preventing them from exploring scientific evidence for their point of view.)

(3)Wishing to expose the way Methodological Materialism can be held indefinitely, no matter what the evidence, I challenged Myers to define what could convince him that materialism was false, pointing out that if all materialist explanations were working or very promising, I could be persuaded that theism was false.

He dodged the question saying it was too hypothetical. I did not get the impression that he has seriously considered the question of what it would be like to learn materialism is false. How, then, can he claim that the materialism of science is purely methodological, which implies it could be dropped if it fails to work in some areas?

(4) I also argued that Myers’ attempt to reduce science to the physically measurable was inadequate, because science postulates theoretical entities that may or may not turn out to be observable. Mendel postulated genes, and these were later shown to be observable. In physics, however, there are plenty of entities (particles, forces, strings etc.) that are at the least unobserved, and also measurement itself presupposes such abstractions as logic and numbers that are inherently unobservable. I agreed with Myers that science should try to get the tractable and observable if it can, but argued that science should not give up if the best evidence points away from the observable. In my view, Myers is maintaining a positivistic view of science which limits science to what is verifiable by observation, but this does not square with Quantum Physics for example, particularly as it recognizes the role of the conscious observer in influencing what is measured.

(5) I asked Myers why, if science was neutral, there were so few studies of the psychology and neurology of atheists and secular humanists, given all the attempts to explain away theistic belief and experience. He surprised me by noting that Schwartz and Beauregard are Christians, suggesting that only theists were interested in the question. This did not jive with all the studies by secularists of the psychology and neurology of atheists cited by Beauregard. I also noted the 3 million dollar European project, “Explaining Religion,” cited in The Economist, March 19th, 2008 (“Where angels no longer fear to tread”).

(6) I also asked why, if science was a free inquiry, Guillermo Gonzalez had been so shabbily treated at Iowa State University. Myers claimed that this was because he had not brought in enough grant money. I pointed out that Gonzalez had 68 peer reviewed science articles, was author of a Cambridge text on astronomy, and that the emails acquired through Iowa’s open record laws showed that Gonzalez’s tenure was denied because of his pro-design views.

(7) Myers and I sparred on the fine-tuning argument. He asserted that there was nothing surprising: we wouldn’t be here if it hadn’t happened. I mentioned John Leslie’s analogy: suppose you are scheduled to be executed by 200 sharpshooters. It would not be a convincing explanation of them all missing, that unless they had, you wouldn’t be here. We would want to know if there was an order from above, a conspiracy, a flaw in the manufacture of the guns, etc.

I had two very big surprises. First, Dr. Myers denied being a Darwinist, which produced the kind of stunned silence one would expect if the Pope announced his non-Catholicity. Myers’s stated grounds were that Darwin has been dead for over a hundred years. I wished I had pointed out that I am on many issues a Platonist, even though Plato has been dead for 2400 years. Second, as I mentioned, Myers denied that science is really about truth. I had to wonder why it was so important for him to exclude design from science if all that matters is what works. After all, I had noted earlier on in my presentation that the Darwinist philosopher Michael Ruse agrees that methodological design does work in biology by helping scientists decode the machinery of life.

At the end, I made Myers the offer of trying to set up a special issue of a journal where he could bring in his “cronies” and I could bring in mine to discuss the issue. He found the idea amusing and, so far as I could tell, not without appeal. I do not know if this will happen, but I am going to look into it.

22 Replies to “Angus Menuge vs. P.Z. Myers Debate

  1. 1
    Marie says:

    Where’s the actual transcript or recording of the debate?

    I’d love to read more about this!

  2. 2
    jinxmchue says:

    Myers not a Darwinist? His god and king, Dick Dawkins, doesn’t have a problem labeling himself a Darwinist (or, as he erroneously and bizarrely puts it, a “Darwinian”). Myers is just playing silly games, which is his usual tactic.

  3. 3
    PannenbergOmega says:

    Interesting. Plus, it is probably a good idea to have a neurologist supporting ID. So that the Darwinian Evolutionists can’t go around saying ID’ers are delusional.

  4. 4
    mentok says:

    From my article Mystery of the mind revealed

    Can a chemical reaction based machine be constantly aware of your thoughts, experiences, and mental imagery? Can a machine based on chemical reactions then store those thoughts, experiences, and images? Can those machines then make them available to your awareness simply by your desire? Can any type of cell in your body read your mind? Can any type of cell search out and present data to your mind?…

    …If there was a biological process which controls the memory system it would need to be able to understand and communicate in human language. That means our cells need a dictionary database, a grammar database, a linguistics database, and then be able to actually comprehend all of that and use that comprehension to understand our mind’s thoughts and then communicate to our mind the information we need in the language we understand. Can cells speak to us like we speak to each other? Our conscious memory is presented to us exactly in that fashion by our mind.

  5. 5
    Jason Rennie says:

    Yeah where can we listen to the debate ? Was it recorded ?

  6. 6
    PannenbergOmega says:

    Mentok,

    Are you an ID supporter or..?

  7. 7

    I’d like to see PZ Myers version of events – just to get a balanced view.
    Has he posted something on this?

  8. 8
    tribune7 says:

    It sounds like PZ got his butt kicked.

  9. 9
    JunkyardTornado says:

    Just some informal remarks. I felt obliged to make a few remarks for various reasons, but I am not really all that fond of debating, so don’t anyone feel like they have to respond. (I am certainly under no illusion that there is anything here that necessarily warrants a response.)

    (from article)
    First, I argued that materialism is presumed true before looking at the evidence. Richard Lewontin has admitted that he holds to materialism in science as an a priori assumption. My main points were that inflexible adherence to materialism could prevent us from finding the truth…

    The assumption of materialism in a broad sense is not something that requires evidence. Materialism in a broad sense means that we limit our discussion to things that are potentially comprehensible, potentially describable in a finite manner that is also reliable and rigorous. Those to whom the moniker “materialist” would be commonly ascribed certainly do not assert that the only things real are things that are visible, or tangible in a trivial sense (i.e. can be touched tasted smelled, etc.) Certainly materialists would grant the reality of inferred entities, entities for which a definite description has been derived, entities which have been shown to be predictable in their behavior, at least in some circumscribed area. So this type of fundamental assumption of materialism in a broad sense is not something that needs to be justified with evidence, and those who can’t understand this axiom are truly lost.

    It must be noted, that what we know about God from the Bible is also finite. So, as far as we are able to know, God is finite. For example, if you look at how God characterizes himself in the Penatuch to the Children of Israel it is very algorithmic: “If you do this then I will do this. If you do that then I will do that.” Over and over and over again God makes these sorts of comprehensible declarative direct statements about his nature to the Hebrews. So if we are to reason about God, we have only a finite amount of information to work with, and as far as are able to know, that finite amount of information is all there is to God.

    If you assert the reality of things like a spirit, then it as well must be potentially describable algorithmically. It must be possible to enumerate definite properties it has, to potentially predict its behavior. If that is possible, then it falls under the rubric of materialism as well.

    I noted the “Argument from Reason” against Evolutionary Naturalism, which points out that Evolutionary Naturalism predicts minds equipped with useful gadgets, but not ones attuned to discovering truth, especially in theoretical matters having nothing to do with basic survival. By contrast, rational theism predicts that our minds are attuned to the laws of nature, since both reflect the same divine logos…

    This I truly don’t understand. A robot would be a deterministic materialistic entity. Is anyone thinking that a robot couldn’t examine his environment and over time discern regularities which he could exploit and use to guide his behavior in the future? Would it matter whether or not those regularities he discerned represented Absolute Truth. Is it possible for any finite entity to verify that something represents in all circumstances absolute Truth. What a naive uninformed notion the writer and those he advocates are laboring under. Do Newton’s Laws represent absolute Truth for them? Is a dog not able to reason about his environment and make predictions with a certain degree of accuracy? Does he accomplish this by virtue of a nonmaterial mind or some dog spirit? Speaking of dogs, they experience joy, sorrow, loneliness, curiosity, listlessness, pain, and on an on- by virtue of what – an immaterial free will, spirit or some such?

    There is the “hard problem” of consciousness, that subjective awareness is not explained or predicted by impersonally described states of the brain…

    There are plenty of things that have to be experienced to be fully comprehended. Does that mean that these things must somehow transcend the physical universe?

    Then there is the evidence from neuroscientists such as Jeff Schwartz and Mario Beauregard that, in addition to the bottom-up influence of the brain on the mind, the mind has a top-down influence on the brain (cognitive therapies that exploit neuroplasticity) and on health (psychoneuroimmunology). I focused on how these approaches gave hope to patients by showing that their own conscious choices could play a role in their recovery and health…

    How does that imply or necessitate an indescribable nonmaterial mind. First, let it be noted that no one thinks (materialist or otherwise) that you equate to your brain. Such a formulation would first of all ignore the entire sensory apparatus, the nerves that cover your body, not to mention eyes, ears and so on. Let’s assume that one equates to their entire body (including but not limited to any memories they have of past experiences) as opposed to merely their brain. If someone were able to concentrate on the source of some pain somewhere on their body, and through careful meditation somehow discover how one can heal oneself thereby, I am at a loss how this necessarily implies (or indeed can possibly imply) a non material “brain.”

    My third point was to critique the slew of contemporary materialist attempts to explain away religious belief and experience…

    I think certainly a Christian should be wary of appealing to “religion experience” in a broad sense. According to the Bible everything other than Christianity is essentially demon worship. So, a demonic entity appears to someone, provides them with hidden knowledge, accepts worship and adoration, and so on. Are you going to appeal to that for substantiation of the spiritual. The Bible’s message regarding spiritual entities generally speaking is, DON’T HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THEM. The subtext to me would be, let your reasonings about truth be grounded in physical reality.

  10. 10

    This comment is for Dr. Menuge:

    I have for the past year been corresponding with Hannah Maxson (founder of the Cornell IDEA Club), primarily on your book Agents Under Fire. She is currently in Mongolia, caring for a dozen infants in an orphanage in Ulaan Baatar, but has found the time to correspond with me on the subject. I have found the exercise to be amazingly salutory for my own understanding of the subject of agency, and would be very interested in contributing to either an extended debate on the subject, or an anthology of original articles on the subject. You can email me at adm6 atsign cornell dot edu for more on this subject. I eagerly await your reply!

  11. 11
    JDH says:

    Junkyard Tornado. I suggest you read the book “Flatland”. I find your arguments silly. Please read “Flatland” it should set you on the road to better thinking.

  12. 12
    Paul Nelson says:

    For those who wondered about a recording of the event: apparently the whole thing was videotaped, and I’ll make a link available as soon as I hear from Dr. Menuge that it’s ready.

  13. 13
    Tedsenough says:

    Allen,

    If you want to contact Dr. Menuge why don’t you email him or call him? I have actually spoke to him on his office phone when I called for information (time, location) regarding his up and coming debate with Myers (back when it was up and coming).
    Wouldn’t emailing him directly be better than posting on a blog that he may or may not see?

  14. 14

    I haven’t been able to find his contact information online. I will keep looking, but if you know it, could you email it to me?

    adm6 atsign cornell dot edu

    Thanks!

  15. 15

    Oops, found it. As Emily Litella would say, “Never mind…”

  16. 16
    Peter says:

    JunkyardTornado

    A very interesting post. It has inspired much thought. However, your understanding of Christianity is somewhat lacking. You are off the mark when you say that Christianity tells you to’let your reasonings about truth be grounded in physical reality.’ The most important command is to love God with your whole heart, and mind, and soul. Jesus gives this as the greatest commandment. In this command you are to love an immaterial being because Jesus has told us that God is spirit. I could go on but this makes the point.

  17. 17
    JunkyardTornado says:

    Peter wrote: A very interesting post. It has inspired much thought. However, your understanding of Christianity is somewhat lacking. You are off the mark when you say that Christianity tells you to’let your reasonings about truth be grounded in physical reality.’ The most important command is to love God with your whole heart, and mind, and soul. Jesus gives this as the greatest commandment. In this command you are to love an immaterial being because Jesus has told us that God is spirit. I could go on but this makes the point.

    I guess were veering pretty drastically into religion and so I don’t know if this will be deleted, but a few comments:

    Speaking as a Christian I’m not sure the “whole heart mind and soul” injunction is any more than an idiomatic construct in which Christ is enjoining us to love God with all our capability. I don’t think it was Christ’s functional analysis of a human being. I think its possible that Christ as a man thought that cognition literally took place in the human heart (i.e. the organ that pumps blood). The reason for this is that in castigating the Pharisees he says that what enter a man cannot defile him because it enters the stomach and is then eliminated, but out of the heart proceeds evil thoughts, etc. (So evidently he got the function of the stomach right, but not the other human organ he mentions – the heart.) Also note that when Jesus miraculously calms the storm, he addresses the wind and waves directly, as if they were intelligent entities capable of comprehending his commands. For the record I do believe the miracle happened. It doesn’t appear to me however, that Christ’s divinity as a man was manifested in scientific knowledge comparable to what we have today (at least I don’t think so.)

    AS far as Jesus saying those who worship God must worship him in spirit, I think the emphasis is getting away from viewing God as physically resident in a temple, and to whom outward cermonial laws must be observed. This was also in an age when sophisticated people thought their gods were physically resident in an idol.

    But if the word “spirit” is to enter the discussion in any meaningful sense, we must be able to attribute definite properties to it, describe how it interacts with the physical and so on.

    Just discussing this – not particularly enamored by any of my comments. Don’t know if they’re correct or not, hopefully they’re not heresy.

  18. 18
    PannenbergOmega says:

    Hey guys, not sure if anyone saw this besides DLH and I.

    Stephen Hawking, world famous Cosmologist has suggested that alien life is probably in the universe. Though it is probably bacterial. Intelligent life is rare. Isn’t this what ID has been saying?

    http://ukpress.google.com/arti.....cKAEAoirug

  19. 19
    avocationist says:

    JunkyardTornado,

    You certainly have some oddly incongruous remarks.

    [quote]I think its possible that Christ as a man thought that cognition literally took place in the human heart (i.e. the organ that pumps blood). The reason for this is that in castigating the Pharisees he says that what enter a man cannot defile him because it enters the stomach and is then eliminated, but out of the heart proceeds evil thoughts, etc. (So evidently he got the function of the stomach right, but not the other human organ he mentions – the heart.)[/quote}

    For heaven’s sake, man, in this case the heart means the soul, or the soul-emotion-psyche aspect of a person. The word heart is used this way in many, many different places in literature. Jesus himself uses it this way when he says, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” No?

    [quote]But if the word “spirit” is to enter the discussion in any meaningful sense, we must be able to attribute definite properties to it, describe how it interacts with the physical and so on.[/quote]

    I agree.

  20. 20
    ericB says:

    “He [Hawking] theorised about possible answers to whether extraterrestrial life exists.

    One option is that there likely is no life elsewhere.

    Or maybe there is intelligent life elsewhere, but when it gets smart enough to send signals into space, it also is smart enough to make nuclear weapons.

    Prof Hawking said he preferred the third option: “Primitive life is very common and intelligent life is fairly rare.” ” (emphasis added)

    One key observation is that he is listing three possible answers to why we don’t detect signals coming from intelligent life. In other words, why didn’t SETI detect intelligent causation of radio signals apart from the mass of radio signals produced by undirected causes?

    So, this is all about considering why a design detection experiment did not detect design (when the hypothesis expected to find it, if intelligent life is abundant).

    If we did not think we could distinguish intelligently caused signals from undirected sources, they wouldn’t be having that conversation.

    A secondary observation is that Hawking is just stating his preference among the three possible explanations.

    He is not an OOL scientist. He doesn’t have any scientific basis for saying that the option of no life elsewhere is not true. However, that would reinforce the uncomfortable possibility that life here is intentionally designed.

    The second option is not preferred simply because the idea that intelligent life usually kills itself off is depressing with regard to our own prospects. However, that also is not a scientific conclusion, merely a preference.

    In short, he has no scientific basis for thinking even simple life is common. He is just saying, as a human, what he prefers to think is true.

  21. 21
    JunkyardTornado says:

    avocationist wrote:

    For heaven’s sake, man, in this case the heart means the soul, or the soul-emotion-psyche aspect of a person. The word heart is used this way in many, many different places in literature. Jesus himself uses it this way when he says, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” No?

    The following is from a guy who appears to deny the substitutionary atonement of Christ in his death on the Cross, and maintains a patronizing dismissive posture in general for one orthodox doctrine after another. So let the unlearned proceed with caution. Nevertheless, he does have some quite obviously valid observations to makes that are thought-provoking such as the following:

    While the Hebrews, however, had only a rough and ready knowledge of bodily functions, they experienced the intimate identification of mental and emotional life with them. A man to them was primarily a body, animated, to be sure, with a breath-soul, but still basically a body, and all his experiences, intellectual and emotional as well as physical, were conceived in bodily terms.

    Three organs, in particular, were regarded by the Hebrews as the seats of what we should call psychical activity — heart, kidneys, and bowels. Of these the heart came, in the end, to have the widest usage and the most abiding importance, so that it has passed over into modern speech and we still symbolize our emotions in terms of it. At the beginning, however, this usage was not confined to one organ, and far from being figurative, it represented the literal thinking of the people.

    In the Old Testament the heart is used, as we use it, to express emotional experiences, such as anxiety — “his heart trembled”; (I Samuel 4:13.) joy — “the priest’s heart was glad”; (Judges 18:20.) love — “the king’s heart was toward Absalom”; (II Samuel 14:1.) even intoxicated gaiety — “Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunken.” (I Samuel 25:36.) But it is also used to express mental activity, such as meditation — “Thou shalt say in thy heart”; (Deuteronomy 7:17.) or the achievement of wisdom — “an understanding heart to judge thy people.” (I Kings 3:9.) Even beyond this the word is used to express, as nephesh does, the whole inner life and character — “Man looketh on the outward appearance, but Yahweh looketh on the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7.)

    The naturalness of this manner of speech in our usage should not deceive us as to its original meaning. To us it is figurative; at the beginning of our Hebrew-Christian tradition it was literal. The meaning then was not that personality, conceived somehow in metaphysical terms as a soul, had sensations and experiences mediated through or associated with its physical organism. Then the physical organism was the man and the bodily organs were the active agents of experience. ‘The heart’ was not a metaphor for ‘the spirit,’ nor was there any psychological theory to explain that the experiences of the self are associated with organic sensations. All such sophisticated thinking was still centuries ahead. It was the heart itself that felt, thought, desired, and decided. As H. W. Robinson summarily puts it: “The body, not the soul, is the characteristic element of Hebrew personality.” (The Christian Doctrine of Man, p. 12.) In a word, the Old Testament began with a thoroughgoing primitive behaviorism.

    This is the more easily seen when we turn to the Old Testament’s use of bodily organs other than the heart. So alien to our manner of speech are certain passages that when the bowels, for example, are employed to express love (Song of Solomon 5:4.) or compassion (Isaiah 16:11.) or distress, Jeremiah 4:19.) the Revised Version declines a literal rendering and disguises what the Hebrew says in euphemisms — ‘heart’ or ‘inward parts.’ In the same way, the kidneys are used as the seat both of discontent (Psalm 73:21.) and of wise meditation, (Psalm 16:7) but in our translations we must turn to the margin to discover that the word rendered ‘heart’ really means ‘reins.’ The Old Testament, therefore, plainly begins with man as a physical being, whose emotional and intellectual life is a physical function.

    Moreover, within the boundaries of the Old Testament, the Hebrew religion never outgrew the idea that man’s life is indissolubly associated with his body. This is evident from the fact that when the hope of life after death emerged, it took the form of bodily resurrection.

    (from “A Guide to Understanding the Bible” by Harry Emerson Fosdick)

    (Frankly for people who go read more of this guy’s writings, some or going to be led astray. But the fault of that is the reluctance of more orthodox sources to deal openly with the subject discussed above. Most other sites that discussed this were things like, “Atheists online” and the like, and the source I’ve included, such as it is, is the least objectionable I could find.)

    I think he goes on to say that the Hebrews only gradually developed the idea of an immaterial self that is distinct from the body only through the influence of the Greeks. But if this notion did come from the Greeks, was it because they as well did not understand that cognition is centered in the brain. In other words, if they knew quite a lot about the brain and still adamantly maintained the existence of an immaterial self, their conviction in that regard would be more compelling. But certainly, all the references to “heart” in the Bible is the foundation in many people’s minds for the idea of cognition emanating from an immaterial source.

    But what is really reprehensible to me is how all the modern translations have completely deleted references to kidneys and bowels and the like, so that for example

    “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.”

    actually reads,

    “I, the LORD, search the kidneys, I test the heart, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.”

    But actually, an interpretation of this could go either way, if you think about it. I for one don’t think that it alone establishes that thought only involves a physical organ, or that the eternal God thought that thought took place in the kidneys, even if he said the above through a prophet (and frankly I do pretty much believe he did).

    But I have to say the following – as what is being done with mind control becomes more well-known and coincides with what is prophetically discussed in scripture regarding the beast, (e.g. “…He taketh his seat in the temple of God showing himself to be God…”) people are going to have to come to grips with the reality that thought is a quite physical and tangible process, and not something that emanates from some ill-defined (or more accurately undefined) and hazy conception of a nonmaterial “mind”. And take all the amusement you care to from that assertion – for now.

  22. 22
    tragicmishap says:

    On Myers saying he’s not a Darwinist:

    Forgive me if this is painfully obvious to everyone already, but Myers was probably making a rather simple-minded dig at Christians for following Jesus whom Myers believes has been dead for 2000 years.

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