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But why does Richard Dawkins trust his reason?

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We get mail. A friend writes to explain why Richard Dawkins, even though he is a metaphysical naturalist (nature is all there is), trusts his own reason. The argument goes something like this:

I trust my own reason because it proves itself useful time and time again, and until someone can demonstrate that reason isn’t to be trusted, there’s no reason to think otherwise.

We thought that sounded odd because it is his reason that tells him that it is useful. But then it would, right? And what if it didn’t? What then?

Other naturalist atheists say that our brains were shaped for fitness, not for truth, so Dawkins’s conclusion is part of a fitness function—but how would he know that, given that consciousness is a user illusion anyway?

Michael Flannery

We asked science historian Michael Flannery what he thought, and he replied,

This argument from reason, a la Dawkins, goes nowhere. I can suggest at least three reasons.

1) As a Christian, my faith is founded upon the historical reliability of Scripture and the logical coherence of arguments by Augustine and others. Dawkins may find his reason “useful” but why do his rational conclusions trump mine? The Argument from Reason, in this sense, simply begs the question.

2) In arguing for the “usefulness” of something indicates pragmatism, but neither of the leading pragmatists I can think of (i.e. Charles Sanders Pierce and William James) would have supported the rank scientism espoused by Dawkins and his ilk.

3) If Darwin was right (as I’m sure Dawkins would insist) that we have no free will and we are nothing but the product of blind “laws of nature,” on what basis can we trust our own reason? Darwin himself admitted as much when he wrote to William Graham, “But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?” Where does that leave this so-called argument from reason?

Readers? Your thoughts?

It’s curious that someone would be arguing this in an age when, as we noted earlier today, science is becoming increasingly post-fact, and objectivity is sexist. (And that we need the right kind of post-fact science to help women succeed.)

One senses that science in the new evolutionary post-reality world is not something that, Einstein, for example, would recognize.

See also: Einstein: Deist, pantheist—or theist?

Evolution bred a sense of reality out of us

and

Richard Dawkins needs to lie down

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50 Replies to “But why does Richard Dawkins trust his reason?

  1. 1
    mahuna says:

    I spend VERY MUCH more time reading History and Politics than I do Science, and I can tell you that once you get past names and dates (and even names and dates are often argued), there simply AREN’T any facts.

    There are of course the currently approved explanations for WHO was responsible for some documented event and WHY the event is important, but even more than in Science, History changes based on the deaths of Patriarchs who OWNED World War 1, etc.

    By the 1930s it as widely accepted in the US and Britain that WW1 had CONTINUED after the opening battles (Germany sought an end to the fighting before Christmas, 1914) because of the War Profiteers, who were making more money than anyone could count. But these facts were again buried as WW2 approached, and leaders in Britain and the US could ONLY hope to convince the new generation of young men to go die in trenches by returning to the myth of Evil Germany.

    So the facts changed again, and the officially approved facts remained facts well into the 1970s, when writers disillusioned by Vietnam began to once again question the right of some men to make money through the deaths of another generation of young men (and of course uncounted millions of noncombatant women and children).

    So, facts, beyond basic Arithmetic and Mechanics, are things that we choose to agree on for a generation or 2. And of course, if you’re a Marxist, you START by rejecting all the facts of the mainstream society.

  2. 2
    asauber says:

    trusts his own reason

    I recall some readers got in a huff about “what makes sense to us”.

    What’s the difference?

    Andrew

  3. 3
    Origenes says:

    There is no Richard Dawkins who trusts his reason — there are just fermions and bosons. And even if there were a Richard Dawkins, then the act of trusting his reason would not stem top-down from Richard Dawkins as a person, but from the level of non-rational fermions and bosons. And even if there would be a person with the ability to trust or not to trust his reason, then this act would not be by free will.

  4. 4
    goodusername says:

    As a Christian, my faith is founded upon the historical reliability of Scripture and the logical coherence of arguments by Augustine and others. Dawkins may find his reason “useful” but why do his rational conclusions trump mine? The Argument from Reason, in this sense, simply begs the question.

    And Flannery’s argument isn’t begging the question? He may believe as a Christian that God gave him reason, but in doing so he’s trusting his own reason that the reasons he believes he has reason are reasonable – and around we go.

    There are obviously different opinions on where our reason came from, but when it comes to whether we can actually trust our reason, we’re all in the same boat.

  5. 5
    Origenes says:

    goodusername: There are obviously different opinions on where our reason came from …

    Indeed. Theists hold that reason stems from a free responsible rational person. Materialists, on the other hand, hold that reason comes from blind non-rational particles bumping into each other.

    goodusername: … but when it comes to whether we can actually trust our reason, we’re all in the same boat.

    Not quite, given our differences wrt the origin of reason, I would say that it makes good sense for theists to trust reason, while for materialists trusting reason makes no sense whatsoever.

  6. 6
    goodusername says:

    Not quite, given our differences wrt the origin of reason, I would say that it makes good sense for theists to trust reason, while for materialists trusting reason makes no sense whatsoever.

    But you must already trust your reason for you to trust your reason that that is the reason that you can believe that you can trust your reason. So believing in God obviously isn’t the reason you believe that you can trust your reason. You also can’t be any more sure that God gave you reason than you are already sure of your own reason. You trust your reason for the same reason that materialists trust their reason.

  7. 7
    Origenes says:

    Goodusername @6

    You make a very important point:
    Trusting one’s reason is prerequisite to trusting one’s reason. What no one can do is evaluating one’s own reason from an independent external ‘irreproachable’ position. In this sense one cannot step outside of oneself.

    Those who demand understanding have no choice but to trust their reason. If reason is not to be trusted*, then truth is out of reach. Indeed, we must assume reason to be trustworthy.

    So, yes, trustworthy reason is an assumption and “we are all in the same boat”.

    However, and this is important, we must all make sure that subsequent beliefs do not interfere with the assumption of trustworthy reason.
    I would like to argue that materialism does no such thing. Materialism utterly fails to provide grounds for a trustworthy reason.

    – – – –
    (*) Note that fundamentally distrusting one’s reason is an incoherent state, somewhat akin to the liar paradox.

  8. 8
    kairosfocus says:

    Origines, any scheme that sets grand delusion loose on any major faculty of mind is to be set aside as absurdly self-refuting, as it undercuts itself in a context where there are no convenient firewalls. For example, moral confusion leads to undermining the conscience’s urges to the truth and the right, which are key to responsible, rational thought. Evolutionary materialism — a core component of Dawkins’ views — is of course amoral. Other ideologies constructed to be fellow travellers then fall under the same absurdities. And that’s before we get to the gulch between blindly mechanical GIGO-limited computation on a substrate and the contemplative freedom that is a pre-requisite of responsible, rational thought. Never mind the lab coat and institutional dominance, evo mat is self-defeating and ruinous. KF

  9. 9
    Origenes says:

    KF, I googled “grand delusion” and found this article at Newscientist

    This might come as a shock, but everything you think is wrong. Much of what you take for granted about day-to-day existence is largely a figment of your imagination. From your senses to your memory, your opinions and beliefs, how you see yourself and others and even your sense of free will, things are not as they seem. The power these delusions hold over you is staggering …

    These lines ooze materialism. Why? Materialism desperately wants to instill us with the belief that everything at the macro-level is but an illusion. Everything at the macro-level which presents itself as one indivisible thing is in fact not. ‘All oneness at the macro-level is an illusion’ is the ‘great insight’ of materialism.

    What materialists forget, again, again and again, is that there is no irreproachable position, external to oneself, from which one can say “everything I think is wrong”.
    So the opening line of the article “This might come as a shock, but everything you think is wrong.” is simply incoherent. One cannot coherently state “everything I think is wrong — including this statement”.

    This mistake is foundational to materialism and cannot be avoided. Even Alex Rosenberg makes the exact same mistake again, again and again.

    In his book ‘The Atheist’s Guide To Reality’ Rosenberg consistently writes from some detached irreproachable standpoint which simply cannot exist. A few insane examples:

    “We have to see very clearly that introspection tricks us into the illusion that our thoughts are about anything at all.”

    “Scientism shows that the first-person POV is an illusion. Even after scientism convinces us, we’ll continue to stick with the first person. But at least we’ll know that it’s another illusion of introspection and we’ll stop taking it seriously. We’ll give up all the answers to the persistent questions about free will, the self, the soul, and the meaning of life that the illusion generates.”

    “In Chapter 8 we saw that the “thoughts” in the brain can’t be about anything at all, either things inside or outside the brain.”

    – – – – – –
    Edit: only now I notice that Rosenberg uses “see” (and “saw”) instead of “understand” — “We have to see very clearly …”. Indeed, it sounds better than “we have to understand very clearly … that we do not understand anything“, but nonetheless it’s not very convincing 🙂

  10. 10
    Flannery says:

    Goodusername @ 4 claims my proposition #2 “begs the question” as if the arguments claimed by Dawkins and my own were equivalent. They are not. The essential claim of Darwinian naturalism is (as quoted by Darwin himself) rooted in the human/animal continuity of the mind, and Darwin was right in suggesting that there was no reason to trust such a mind.My beliefs are drawn from historical analysis and logical argument itself. Before Goddusername can claim any “question begging” on my part, the sources of those claims should be examined first. Here are a few of them: 1) Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (1987); 2) Paul Rhodes Eddy and Gregory A. Boyd, The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition; 3) John Haley, Alleged Discrepancies of Bible (1992); 4) Peter Kreeft, Christianity for Modern Pagans: Pascal’s Pensees (1993); 5) Augustine, The City of God. But there are further reasons of a more personal and immediate nature with which we must deal.

    Indeed the pragmatism suggested in the “usefulness” of rationality is actually a powerful argument for theism. As David Elton Trueblood wrote in his Logic of Belief (1942), “The fact that religious experience occurs is a fact with which every philosophy must eventually deal. The claim which such experience makes, the claim to actual contact, not merely with persons and things, but with the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, is so stupendous and so insistent that it cannot be neglected. Our philosophy must either explain it away or construct a world view consistent with it.”

    Now Goodusername is welcome to claim all these sources and claims are wrong, but only after a full and fair examination of them. Because each of these works identifies the human condition as being special and uniquely apart from the animal kingdom, they all rest on fundamentally different grounds from those of Dawkins and Darwin. In short, if these are true we really aren’t “in the same boat,” or if we are it’s not exactly the “boat” Goodusername expected to be in.

  11. 11

    The problem materialists have is that if they claim they are carrying on a rational debate, they are necessarily implying they have a supernatural capacity to recognize and implement (over brute physical cause) logical reasoning. Otherwise, they have no capacity to actually understand logic (other than some personal, chemical-produced view of it) or to override the brute, happenstance chemical interactions that cause every thought and word.

    Also, in making a rational argument, we must assume that the other guy has the same supernatural capacity – to understand the same logical principles and rules in the same way and be able to supernaturally override the happenstance brain patterns his or her particular organic chemistry generates.

    If there is no such presumed capacity, then all our words and thoughts are just sound and fury signifying nothing other than solipsistic thoughts generated by happenstance physical events.

    Why even bother to make “arguments” if that is the case? Neither you or the other guy can be “wrong” about anything, because chemistry and physics just produce whatever they produce. A thought or belief can no more be “wrong” than a pattern on a butterfly’s wings can be “wrong”. With no supernatural capacity to recognize objective truth and install it over the wishes of one’s own biochemistry, “truth” is just whatever our solipsistic biochemistry says it is.

    You might as well be a maple leaf arguing with an oak leaf that it’s the “wrong” shape.

  12. 12
    john_a_designer says:

    It is not a matter of what one believes about the reliability of his own reasoning (truth detecting) capabilities but whether one can explain such capabilities on the basis of his world view. Naturalists/ materialists like Dawkins begin with the assumption that our minds– our reasoning/ truth detecting capabilities– are the result of non-teleological mindless process. Theists, on the other hand, begin with the assumption that our minds are a creation of a Mind. The burden of proof is on those who try to explain how a mindless process, like Darwinian naturalistic evolution, can “create” minds in the first place then furthermore minds with reliable truth detecting capabilities. Remember, Dawkins is arguing that his world view is based on empirical science. Therefore, he should be able to give me a compelling and objective science based explanation (“proof”) of how mindlessness creates minds. Where has he ever done this?

  13. 13
    kairosfocus says:

    Folks,

    I always find J B S Haldane (a co-founder of the neo-Darwinian synthesis FYI, GUN) to be highly relevant:

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” [“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209. (NB: DI Fellow, Nancy Pearcey brings this right up to date (HT: ENV) in a current book, Finding Truth.)]

    When GUN et al can address that without falling into the fallacy of grand delusion, then we can have something to discuss, a way to discuss and someone with whom to discuss.

    I predict, GUN et al will duck this, as usual.

    KF

  14. 14
    john_a_designer says:

    KF,

    I am sure that you already know, Charles Darwin also appears to have also been disturbed by this question. He wrote in a letter to a friend:

    “With me,” says Darwin, “the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”

    Patricia Churchland, a philosopher who specializes in issues raised by cognitive science, has argued that the way our nervous system and brain evolved they cannot be expected to give reliable knowledge and beliefs.

    “Boiled down to essentials, a nervous system enables the organism to succeed in the four F’s: feeding, fleeing, fighting, and reproducing. The principle chore of nervous systems is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive. . . . . Improvements in sensorimotor control confer an evolutionary advantage: a fancier style of representing is advantageous so long as it is geared to the organism’s way of life and enhances the organism’s chances of survival. Truth, whatever that is, definitely takes the hindmost.”

    According to retired University of Notre Dame philosopher Alvin Plantinga, .“Darwin and Churchland seem to believe that (naturalistic) evolution gives one a reason to doubt that human cognitive faculties are reliable (produce mostly true beliefs): call this; Darwins Doubt.”

    Plantinga, on the other hand, argues that:

    “The traditional theist… has no corresponding reason for doubting that it is a purpose of our cognitive systems to produce true beliefs, nor any reason for thinking the probability of a belief’s being true, given that it is a product of her cognitive faculties, is low or inscrutable. She may indeed endorse some form of evolution; but if she does, it will be a form of evolution guided and orchestrated by God. And qua traditional theist — qua Jewish, Moslem, or Christian theist – she believes that God is the premier knower and has created us human beings in his image, an important part of which involves his giving them what is needed to have knowledge, just as he does.”

    In other words, theism provides a sufficient foundation for truth and knowledge. Naturalists like Darwin, Haldane, Churchland and others concede that naturalism does not provide a sufficient foundation. Our interlocutors, on the other hand, run away and hide when confronted with this fact. Why is that?

  15. 15
    goodusername says:

    Flannery,

    My beliefs are drawn from historical analysis and logical argument itself. Before Goddusername can claim any “question begging” on my part, the sources of those claims should be examined first.

    No, that isn’t the first step. There’s no point in doing any examination unless one assumes that there’s any chance that the results of an examination will makes any sense. And to assume that the results of any examination will make sense one must assume that one has reason that is (more or less) trustworthy. And so any examination as to whether we have reason is going to be begging the question.

  16. 16
    goodusername says:

    Origenes,

    Goodusername @6

    You make a very important point:
    Trusting one’s reason is prerequisite to trusting one’s reason. What no one can do is evaluating one’s own reason from an independent external ‘irreproachable’ position. In this sense one cannot step outside of oneself.

    Those who demand understanding have no choice but to trust their reason. If reason is not to be trusted*, then truth is out of reach. Indeed, we must assume reason to be trustworthy.

    So, yes, trustworthy reason is an assumption and “we are all in the same boat”.

    However, and this is important, we must all make sure that subsequent beliefs do not interfere with the assumption of trustworthy reason.
    I would like to argue that materialism does no such thing. Materialism utterly fails to provide grounds for a trustworthy reason.

    – – – –
    (*) Note that fundamentally distrusting one’s reason is an incoherent state, somewhat akin to the liar paradox.

    I pretty much agree with all of that – even that materialism fails to ground trustworthy reason: I believe that reason/mind did come about naturally and via evolution, but I have no idea how that occurred. Of course, that’s different than saying that it couldn’t have occurred naturally. I have no idea how matter does most of the things that it does, or what matter is capable of doing. If we do discover (somehow) that reason/mind is impossible under materialism, than that will mean that there must be something beyond materialism, not that reason/mind doesn’t exist.

    But theism also fails to ground trustworthy reason. Assuming that there’s a God that gave us trustworthy reason is not grounding trustworthy reason.
    IMO no worldview (as of yet) grounds reason in the least.

  17. 17
    Phinehas says:

    GUN:

    Assuming that there’s a God that gave us trustworthy reason is not grounding trustworthy reason.

    If you assume, arguendo, that the human mind is the trustworthy design of a capable, reasoning and trustworthy designer, then you may indeed conclude trustworthy human reason.

    If you assume, arguendo, that the human mind is the product of purposeless and naturalistic processes that did not have it in mind, you can conclude no such thing.

    The first assumption can get you somewhere. The second gets you absolutely nowhere. Ever. Even if you add an appeal to fantastically improbable serendipity, you call you ability to be reasonable into question by doing so.

  18. 18
    Flannery says:

    Goodusername @ 15,

    Either that first step must be taken or no step can be taken at all. If there is, in fact, “no point in doing any examination unless one assumes that there’s any chance that the results of an examination will make any sense” unless the trustworthiness of reason is assumed, then agreed. But then again, back to the original point, why would Dawkins’s reason trump mine? Actually, the real reason it can’t is that reliance upon purely material, chance-based causes gives no assurance of trustworthiness; again, this is precisely what Darwin recognized. If no one can be assured of the trustworthiness of reason then we’re done. End of discussion. There’s no question begging in this case because there’s no question (certainly no reliable question) in the first place. All is nihilism, but I don’t think Dawkins subscribes to this kind of post-modernism.

    Actually, Phinehas @ 17 summarizes it rather nicely.

  19. 19
    goodusername says:

    Flannery,

    why would Dawkins’s reason trump mine?

    I’m not saying that it does. But you’re criticizing Dawkins for making a circular argument when your argument is just as circular.

    Actually, the real reason it can’t is that reliance upon purely material, chance-based causes gives no assurance of trustworthiness

    Nothing can give us an assurance of trustworthiness. Any argument we can attempt to make that we are reasonable is itself reliant on us being reasonable. All of us believe we are reasonable only because, well, it seems like we are, and we have no choice but to act under that assumption.
    The disagreement is only on how it is that we became reasonable.

  20. 20
    asauber says:

    Nothing can give us an assurance of trustworthiness.

    You say this like you are certain. You can’t be. Right?

    Andrew

  21. 21
    asauber says:

    So Materialism goes like this:

    “I don’t know how or why I’m here, or why I have the opinion I do, because I can’t be certain of anything, including anything I’ve tried to convey in this comment. But I want attention, so I’m bothering you with my materialist noise.”

    Andrew

  22. 22
    Origenes says:

    Goodusername @16,

    I believe that reason/mind did come about naturally and via evolution, but I have no idea how that occurred. Of course, that’s different than saying that it couldn’t have occurred naturally. I have no idea how matter does most of the things that it does, or what matter is capable of doing.

    Let’s assume, arguendo, that matter can produce mind. Now one thing is for sure: the primary concern of chemicals is chemical reactions. What they do not care about is mind stuff. Therefore consciousness, logic, coherence and truth become unintended by-products.
    For instance, “Socrates is mortal” is not produced because it follows logically from the premises “all men are mortal” & “Socrates is a man”, but instead due to a chemical reason, e.g. because NA+ and OH- merge into NAOH.

    Now the question arises:

    How can we trust our logic if it supervenes on chemical reactions which don’t have logic in mind? If “Socrates is mortal” is the outcome because of sodium hydroxide and not because of logic, then how can we ever be sure that it is a logical statement?
    If we cannot trust our logic then all is lost.

  23. 23
    kairosfocus says:

    See why I am concerned that the now dominant intellectual climate in our civilisation is leading us straight over the cliff in a march of folly to ruin?

  24. 24
    Phinehas says:

    Andrew @21:

    You forgot:

    “…and purposeless, materialistic evolution from microbe to mind is a fact!”

  25. 25

    Why does Richard Dawkins trust his reasoning?

    Because he thinks natural selection has raised his reasoning abilities far beyond those who disagree with him. He has stated as much in his books and public debates.

    Laughable.

  26. 26
    rvb8 says:

    Dawkin’s argument once again, as opposed, to the kerfuffle that followed is quite edifying. He said, that at the moment his reason proves no longer useful he will probably be senile, brain damaged, or dead.

    He quite clearly states that he believes his reason is an evolved function that causes him usually, to judge situations in such a way that the outcome of his reasoned choices best suit him, and his survival.

    The philosopher above mentioned the God bomb, and thus removed the discussion from the realm of reason, and science and into the realm of faith, and the supernatural; is he a reasonable philosopher?

  27. 27
    mike1962 says:

    Inductive reasoning, which is what Dawkins is doing here, is dog logic. Hume destroyed its credentials. Humans rely on it because we have to, but we’re smart enough to see it’s limitations, and that it’s always tentative. (I will believe this until shown otherwise, etc. All swans are white… until a black one shows up.) C.S. Lewis demolished it it further with regards to materialism’s claims in Miracles. Poor Richard is hallucinating and doesn’t even know it… unless Reason really is something that (at least partly) stands above materialism.

    Tit for tat, I’ll play along: all functionally complex things always have a designer. Therefore when I see the DNA/ribosome replicator and the functional complexity within cells, I will tentatively assume that this has a designer too… until shown otherwise. It’s the rational thing to do.

  28. 28
    rvb8 says:

    Mike,

    C.S. Lewis’s arguments involve setting up several non-choices and then saying, ‘therefore he must be the Lord.’ Christ must either be mad, or the Lord, and nothing inbetween, such as a sound thinker, teacher or healer.

    Fair enough, that ‘s his faith, backed up by other’s faith, and no science.

    And Hume? Please!? The father of modern, empiricism, scepticism, and radicalism.

    Be very careful who ID gets into bed with. Hume was one of Hitchen’s favourite thinkers.

    And your ‘assumption’ that the complexity of DNA suggests a designer is in what way any more advanced than Willaim Paley’s, pocket watch on a beach.

    The RNA world has a little more credibility, than your assumptions.

  29. 29
    cmow says:

    rvb8 @ 26 —
    Yes, Flannery is a reasonable philosopher.

    Faith is not the opposite of reason. The opposite of faith is unbelief.
    Reason is not the opposite of faith. The opposite of reason is irrationality.

  30. 30

    And your ‘assumption’ that the complexity of DNA suggests a designer is in what way any more advanced than Willaim Paley’s, pocket watch on a beach.

    Because the physical sciences have done away with the analogy (about half a century ago). The semiotic system that enables nucleobases to specify amino acids is the exact same system that enables the spatially-oriented objects on this page to specify concepts within your brain. And moreover, they are the only two systems in the cosmos that have this specific architecture, with these specific capacities.

    Do you want to argue the physics?

    The RNA world has a little more credibility, than your assumptions.

    The interactions of RNA are 100% rate-dependent, having nothing whatsoever to do with the system of translation in the cell. It is a completely different physical system, and very literally does not have the capacity to produce the effects required to organize biology.

    Do you want to argue the physics, or run from them? Do you believe in empirical science, or not?

  31. 31
    Marfin says:

    rvb8 at 26-You say of Dawkins that “He clearly states that
    HE believes” now who is this he, both he and you are talking about ? Does this he control the chemicals in his brain , or do the chemicals in his brain control the he ?. What is the he ?. How does this”he reasoned surely this he is just a product of evolution and goes where evolution leads and as no more than we can say an ant through evolution reasoned and deceived to become an ant , should we accept that Dawkins has reasoned out his position, and it is the logical reasoned position , and not just what evolution makes him believe he has reasoned out.

  32. 32
    kairosfocus says:

    RVB8, your attempted dismissal of Miracles by CSL only shows your ignorance of the book and its arguments on the reality of miracles vs our attitudes to such. As touching the so-called trilemma argument, CSL as a world class literary scholar — as in, contributing to Oxford on History of English Literature etc. (not to mention becoming an essayist and novelist in his own right) — went on record that the Gospels were reportage not the sort of mythical or fantastically embellished story [e.g. cf Gnostic G, Peter’s resurrection account with that in the Gospels] that they were being dismissed as by scholars who should have known much better. In effect, they would otherwise have had to be an unprecedented surfacing of the techniques of the modern novel 1700 or so years too early, and in a context whose literary merits did not commend that view. In short, he gave literary support to the longstanding historical evidence that shows that Jesus of Nazareth was a figure of C1 history, and the gospels and wider NT are credibly C1 documents tracing to eyewitness testimony. In that context, it is relevant to see the reportage of what he claimed of himself, and what this poses to those who responsibly address the matter: he was either a lunatic on the level of a man imagining himself a poached egg, or else a horrible deceiver, or else he was just what he claimed to be. Where, no lunatic was able to show that level of composure, insight and coherence in the face of what he faced in C1 Palestine, and no deceiver of that magnitude would have emerged as a leading ethical teacher of humanity. And this classic case (it was by no means original to CSL, he just added his insights as a world class scholar of literature) still obtains today, regardless of sneering selectively hyperskeptical objectors. Cf, here on for a 101. KF

  33. 33
    kairosfocus says:

    GUN, an inference to best explanation argument at worldviews level involving comparative difficulties (and particularly addressing reductio ad absurdum on one candidate) is NOT a question-begging argument. As, you know or full well should know after years of making objections in and around UD, where abductive reasoning is a major type of argumentation. It seems you are giving inadvertent insights on why so many objectors seem to so consistently misunderstand the design inference as a case of inference to credible cause on well warranted empirically reliable sign. FYI, the laws of thermodynamics, stand on the same sort of provisional inference to best explanation inductive argument. In the modern sense of induction as arguments where premises (and underlying observations etc) are held to support a conclusion with some responsible degree of strength rather than necessitating it as the result of the logical necessity once premises are for argument granted as true. I emphasise responsibility to bring out the ethical aspect of the reasoning process, where Mr Dawkins’ arguments also drastically undercut ethical responsibility as a part of letting grand delusion loose in our minds. It remains the case that evo mat fails the comparative difficulties test by being grossly incoherent to the point of undercutting reasoning, ethics and inductive reasoning. It is corrosive not only to science but to society and the sooner we all realise this and draw the appropriate conclusion that it is necessarily false and destructive the better it will be for our civilisation. KF

  34. 34
    mike1962 says:

    rvb8: C.S. Lewis’s arguments involve setting up several non-choices and then saying, ‘therefore he must be the Lord.’ Christ must either be mad, or the Lord, and nothing inbetween, such as a sound thinker, teacher or healer.

    You have no clue what I’m referring to.

  35. 35
    Origenes says:

    If everything in life, reasoning included, depends on chemistry, as materialism suggests, then we do not draw a conclusion based on understanding but instead based on chemical law. The outcome “78” is “valid” not because of mathematical laws which dictate that 25 + 53 = 78, but due to the real cause, that is, a chemical process. We are not rational beings who understand “all men are mortal” and “Socrates is a man” and follow-up with the conclusion “Socrates is mortal” based on that understanding. Understanding and laws of reason don’t cause anything — only chemical reactions do.

    If everything in life, reasoning included, depends on chemistry, as materialism suggests, then there must be a curious sequential synchronicity in time between chemical events and reasoning events. So, in order to trust reason, the materialist must assume the existence of this curious synchronicity between chemicals and illusory mental phenomena and chemical laws and illusory logical laws. Quite an assumption I would say …

    Under materialism, mental phenomena can be viewed as isolated islands sitting on top of chemical events. Mental phenomena are not interconnected — mental laws are powerless —, they only have a connection downwards with their cause: chemical events. Notions of (logical, thematic) mental connections and notions of understanding (eureka!) are themselves the result of chemical processes and are disconnected from (illusory) content of thought.

  36. 36
    Belfast says:

    For the life of me I cannot understand why you people respond to the comments of GUN and rvb.
    Their comments are basically no more than quibbling.
    It calls to mind an old legal quip, “Make it please your lordships, this is an appeal from the decision of Mr Justice Goat, but we have many other grounds apart from that.”

  37. 37
    rvb8 says:

    Belfast,

    they have to respond, as this is the only site I know that allows IDers direct access to rationalists. ‘Evolution News’, allows no such inter-action, for obvious reasons. Therefore the only other place IDers can go are the science sites, where their argumets are given their just reward.

    Kairos,

    please show me film of an arm growing back, and give me less of the, ‘500 credible witnesses attest that…’, nonsense.

    mike1962,

    I’ve seen but not read Narnia, and that film was enough for me to get understand the level of this man’s religiosity. The fact that Tolkien cooled their friendship in later life is enough for met to recognise a second rait mind when I see one.

    cmow,

    the opposite of faith is not ‘unbelief’. Again why must IDers make evrything, and I do mean everything, so rarefied and complex, when the matters at hand are so clear and easy?

    The opposite of ‘faith’ is ‘fact’. And as the supernatural can produce no fatcs, it follows it is pure ‘faith’. Fine! I have no problem with that. Just please stop putting your hopes, and wishful thinking up as evidence for God. Specifically a Christian God, going by the name of Jesus Christ! Not the ones going by the mames of Allah, Budha, Yawhe, Zeus etc ad-nauseum.

    The opposite of ‘reason’ is actually ‘unreason’, but your choice of ‘irrationality’ will do.

    Which is rational? Either to take physical evidence in the soil, rocks, body, DNA, and deduce likely natural histories? Or, to resort to the divine, miracles, and the supernatural, and deduce natural histories?

    Kairos, and the long absent BA77 (where is he?), and,(I will be brave to say), ALL other posters supporting ID here, will say, the supernatural, and miracles are solid evidence.

    Unfortunately this evidence is actually not evidence. Richard Dawkins, and I, and science, say this, and the world that is sane, has accepted this. Unless there is a second Dark Age, this is what is. Your sidelines philosophising is just that thankfully; sideline!

  38. 38
    kairosfocus says:

    RVB8,

    pardon but your unjustified contempt and dismissveness are showing.

    In effect, you equate evolutionary materialistic scientism with “science,” and term ideologues or those dominated by that inherently self-falsifying ideology (cf. above), scientists — duly supported by the “science”-minded indoctrinated of course.

    The whole scheme falls apart, starting with the issue that is being discussed in this thread, namely evolutionary materialistic scientism implies grand delusion in mind and morals, leading to collapse of intellectual and morally governed endeavours. Indeed, leading to the collapse of the responsibly, rationally free individual.

    And yet, its advocates such as Dawkins and supporters such as yourself, also fellow travellers are forced to act as though this scheme does not collapse into self-refuting absurdity.

    This shows that a sounder basis is that we are patently (indeed self-evidently) dependent on responsible rational freedom just to have a discussion so we start from that, as a premise. In that light, we find that anything that would inject grand delusion thereby shows itself to be utterly incoherent and self-refuted, absurd and necessarily false.

    Evolutionary materialistic scientism, we are looking straight at you.

    In that context, the undermining of responsibility, conscience and moral government is seen for what it is, a component of the absurdity.

    We may safely set the whole aside, never mind that it is what dominates the mindset of today’s Schoolmen and their supporters.

    Game over.

    KF

    PS: When it comes to the core design inference, even to object you had to create yet another example on top of the trillions already existing, as to how functionally specific complex organisation and/or associated information, are only seen to come from intelligently directed configuration. A config space, search challenge analysis readily shows that blind, chance and necessity-driven search of such a space beyond 500 – 1000 bits, is only capable of sampling so negligible a fraction that we can disregard it as a credible explanation of such FSCO/I. In short, we have here a very strong causal inference on sign backed up by analysis of the search challenge implied by attempted blind search. Where, random document generation exercises [monkeys at keyboards on steroids] show that so far we are a factor of 10^100 short of the bottom end of the threshold zone, precisely as expected. So, when we for example look at the text in the DNA of the cell, and the associated co-ordinated molecular nanotech machinery that allows it to function as communication in controlled processes, we find that this is a strong example of FSCO/I and is therefore best explained by design. On that, we then see that OoL and Oo body plans up to our own, is then best explained on the same basis. to date, we find no good, empirically warranted, demonstrated causally sufficient reason to infer otherwise to blind mechanisms. So, we know that your contemptuous rhetoric is so much whistling by the graveyard at midnight, hoping not to stumble across a duppy leaning on the fence. Bad news, BOOOO!

    PPS: To see the current state of play try here: http://www.uncommondescent.com.....-analysis/ (Notice which side is largely missing, and ponder why.)

  39. 39
    john_a_designer says:

    Belfast @ 36,

    For the life of me I cannot understand why you people respond to the comments of GUN and rvb. Their comments are basically no more than quibbling.

    I agree. As far as I can see our regular interlocutors are not here to engage in honest discussion or debate.

    Why is this? As far as I can see they are either motivated by fear or contempt or some combination of the two. (If they were honest, wouldn’t they be open about their motives?) Whatever their motives, it’s pretty obvious that they are closed minded and incorrigible, and therefore, not really interested in considering alternative points of view, which is why I no longer engage these kind of people. It’s irrational, a waste of time and foolish.

    On the other hand, the fact that they can’t honestly and rationally counter ID arguments gives me some confidence that we are on the right track. Why knowing the truth would be such a threat to some people is confounding and bewildering. But don’t ask them why. You won’t get an honest answer.

    I’ve asked people on our side to stop enabling these kind of people, but sadly it appears to have been to no avail.

  40. 40
    kairosfocus says:

    JAD, there is a threshold beyond which there is a cut-off. However, there is also a place for showing that we are not dealing with a responsible, reasonable, well-founded argument coming from objectors; for example across time when commenters have become abusive and were disciplined, there was a great pretence of censorship of people when they made arguments we cannot reply to. So, we have to take time and make our case sufficiently that a reasonable onlooker can see what is going on. For instance, the theme of this thread is actually among the most decisive: evolutionary materialistic scientism is inherently self-falsifying and amoral, thus utterly corrosive to the intellectual foundations of our civilisation. Advocates, enablers and fellow travellers have to be challenged to face this, and then their typical counters and side-tracks need to be answered. Perhaps, 2 – 3 loops so it is clear where the balance on merits lies. Notice, how ferociously they have reacted across several threads when the consequence, dehumanisation and commoditisation of human life leading to the worst holocaust in history was pointed out. 800+ million unborn children killed over the past 40+ years, mounting up now at a million more per week. Of course, nowhere in the mainstream media in those stark terms. The attempt to deflect the example of reformation and transformation pioneered by Wilberforce as a sound way to deal with such a horror, is also instructive. Notice, too how GP’s threads on engineering in the cell have been more or less side-stepped. Similarly, notice the failure to come to grips with what we know about the cause of functionally specific, information-rich complex organisation, and more. Then, contrast the narrative being told to kids in school and the general public in the media. Then ask yourself about the relevance of Plato’s parables of the cave and the mutinous ship of state, noting Luke in Ac 27 along the way. KF

  41. 41
    Pindi says:

    JAD, the fact that you would prefer a forum where no views are challenged speaks volumes. Without the “regular interlocutors” (of which there are alone a couple) UD would just be an echo chamber of self congratulation.

    And if you want to get your “ID arguments” countered – pop over to TSZ. I challenge you. Very tough but very fair interlocutors there. They call it as it is, but if your’e not a shrinking violet you’ll be fine. A number of your colleagues from here have migrated.

  42. 42
    kairosfocus says:

    Pindi,

    TSZ is forever tainted by being a slightly less disreputable front for several atheistical sites that have stooped to slander, stalking and the like, for something like a decade now.

    UD has never been an echo chamber, and I suggest that evolutionary materialistic scientism is in fact irretrievably self-falsified and is also utterly amoral. As, evidence in this very thread and many others, underscores.

    It is high time for a major re-thinking in our civilisation.

    KF

  43. 43
    Origenes says:

    Pindi: … the fact that you would prefer a forum where no views are challenged speaks volumes …

    You have come too late to the party. The debate is over. We all know it. Materialists no longer engage in scientific or philosophical debate. Tactics have changed. The days that the ID view was “challenged” by mat evo are gone.

  44. 44
    john_a_designer says:

    Pindi,

    …the fact that you would prefer a forum where no views are challenged speaks volumes.

    That is not what I said nor was that my intention. The problem is that our regular interlocutors seldom ever address the issues or the topic of the OP. Rather they waste our time and their time obfuscating. Apparently they believe that vacuous self-serving rhetoric, an occasional clever one-liner and mindless obfuscation is how one makes a reasonable and logical argument. Frankly, it does not.

    I think we should welcome anyone who is willing to respond to the topic of the OP, ask honest question and engage with logically valid arguments. That means finding some common ground– some fact based premises– and not always taking a contrarian POV.

    Where on this thread have you engaged the topic of this OP? Why do you always seem to show up when the discussion is about process and not substance? Are you here for honest dialogue and debate or are you trying to subvert a view that for some reason you find threatening?

  45. 45
    rvb8 says:

    I visit TSZ, but I rarely post as defenders of reason abound on that site, and my contributions add little to a well defended POV.

    I also notice the posters who used to post here, the defenders of ID, who now argue at TSZ.

    They have a wide breadth of POVs and some of the defenders of ID occasionally make points, however poorly supported by evidence.

    This site is indeed an echo-chamber. Posts are derailed and end up endless pointless tirades against abortion, the non-links between Darwin and Hitler, the complexity of nature and this used as proof of design, how culture and humanity is becoming, or is, bankrupt, and general ‘culture war’ topics of little, or zero relevance to science generally, and biology specifically. Or sometimes phylosophical resurrections of an irrelevant Plato, or Augustine. Discuss Democritus (the greatest Greek philospher), and I might join in.

  46. 46
    kairosfocus says:

    RVB8, defenders of reason as a characterisation of those advocating or travelling in the company of a self-refuting ideology, evolutionary materialistic scientism, is inadvertently revealing. It also exposes the ugly projection that sets up stereotyping, scapegoating and general bigotry on the part of too many of today’s atheists and fellow travellers: we are the “brites” and if you dare to differ with us, you must be ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked — a turn of expression pioneered or championed by Mr Dawkins. KF

    PS: Keep on projecting the grossly false accusation, “echo chamber.” Just remember, there is still an outstanding Pro-Darwinism Essay Challenge here that is now several years old without a serious response. One I put up when I got tired of the rhetorical antics of many Darwinist commenters, and said in effect: I will host a summary essay of up to 6,000 words [as a suggested but not hard limit] that can link elsewhere to heart’s content but must lay out in summary the positive case for evolutionism, from the root of the tree of life up to us. For over a year, there were no serious takers, I eventually composed a synthetic response from various comments by objectors, including the founder of TSZ. I also took up Wiki and the darwinist origins archive that still sometimes pops up. If you or others are willing to take it up, the offer is still open. The truth is, a cogent response could be put together at any time, and a good account as to how it is empirically warranted as to how FSCO/I can and does originate per observation through blind chance and/or mechanical necessity would instantly kill ID. There is a point where the absence of such a clear direct answer tells any reasonable person that there is no answer because there is no case that can stand on the merits. Which more than amply explains the actual pattern of behaviour we have consistently seen: rhetorical gamesmanship. (Currently, involving a walk-away game.)

  47. 47
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Let us note from Reppert on the Argument from Reason:

    . . . let us suppose that brain state A, which is token identical to the thought that all men are mortal, and brain state B, which is token identical to the thought that Socrates is a man, together cause the belief that Socrates is mortal. It isn’t enough for rational inference that these events be those beliefs, it is also necessary that the causal transaction be in virtue of the content of those thoughts . . . [[But] if naturalism is true, then the propositional content is irrelevant to the causal transaction that produces the conclusion, and [[so] we do not have a case of rational inference. In rational inference, as Lewis puts it, one thought causes another thought not by being, but by being seen to be, the ground for it. But causal transactions in the brain occur in virtue of the brain’s being in a particular type of state that is relevant to physical causal transactions.

    This expands Haldane’s remark from the turn of the 1930’s:

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” [“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209. (NB: DI Fellow, Nancy Pearcey brings this right up to date (HT: ENV) in a current book, Finding Truth.)]

    Darwin’s remarks on jumped up monkey minds simply points out how longstanding the challenge is; never mind he tried to restrict that to dismissing doubts about his evolutionary scheme.

    Similarly, Nancy Pearcey aptly observes (citing a noted UK-based atheistical philosopher]:

    A major way to test a philosophy or worldview is to ask: Is it logically consistent? Internal contradictions are fatal to any worldview because contradictory statements are necessarily false. “This circle is square” is contradictory, so it has to be false. An especially damaging form of contradiction is self-referential absurdity — which means a theory sets up a definition of truth that it itself fails to meet. Therefore it refutes itself . . . .

    An example of self-referential absurdity is a theory called evolutionary epistemology, a naturalistic approach that applies evolution to the process of knowing. The theory proposes that the human mind is a product of natural selection. The implication is that the ideas in our minds were selected for their survival value, not for their truth-value.

    But what if we apply that theory to itself? Then it, too, was selected for survival, not truth — which discredits its own claim to truth. Evolutionary epistemology commits suicide.

    Astonishingly, many prominent thinkers have embraced the theory without detecting the logical contradiction. Philosopher John Gray writes, “If Darwin’s theory of natural selection is true,… the human mind serves evolutionary success, not truth.” What is the contradiction in that statement?

    Gray has essentially said, if Darwin’s theory is true, then it “serves evolutionary success, not truth.” In other words, if Darwin’s theory is true, then it is not true.

    Self-referential absurdity is akin to the well-known liar’s paradox: “This statement is a lie.” If the statement is true, then (as it says) it is not true, but a lie.

    Another example comes from Francis Crick. In The Astonishing Hypothesis, he writes, “Our highly developed brains, after all, were not evolved under the pressure of discovering scientific truths but only to enable us to be clever enough to survive.” But that means Crick’s own theory is not a “scientific truth.” Applied to itself, the theory commits suicide.

    Of course, the sheer pressure to survive is likely to produce some correct ideas. A zebra that thinks lions are friendly will not live long. But false ideas may be useful for survival. Evolutionists admit as much: Eric Baum says, “Sometimes you are more likely to survive and propagate if you believe a falsehood than if you believe the truth.” Steven Pinker writes, “Our brains were shaped for fitness, not for truth. Sometimes the truth is adaptive, but sometimes it is not.” The upshot is that survival is no guarantee of truth. If survival is the only standard, we can never know which ideas are true and which are adaptive but false.

    To make the dilemma even more puzzling, evolutionists tell us that natural selection has produced all sorts of false concepts in the human mind. Many evolutionary materialists maintain that free will is an illusion, consciousness is an illusion, even our sense of self is an illusion — and that all these false ideas were selected for their survival value.

    So how can we know whether the theory of evolution itself is one of those false ideas? The theory undercuts itself.

    A few thinkers, to their credit, recognize the problem. Literary critic Leon Wieseltier writes, “If reason is a product of natural selection, then how much confidence can we have in a rational argument for natural selection? … Evolutionary biology cannot invoke the power of reason even as it destroys it.”

    On a similar note, philosopher Thomas Nagel asks, “Is the [evolutionary] hypothesis really compatible with the continued confidence in reason as a source of knowledge?” His answer is no: “I have to be able to believe … that I follow the rules of logic because they are correct — not merely because I am biologically programmed to do so.” Hence, “insofar as the evolutionary hypothesis itself depends on reason, it would be self-undermining.

    Let us hear a substantial reply: _______________________

    (Failing which, we can readily infer the true balance on merits; which already beckons, as were there a ready and cogent reply it would have long since been put to us.)

    KF

  48. 48
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N2: My own 101 outline:

    First, some materialists actually suggest that mind is more or less a delusion, which is instantly self-referentially absurd. For instance, Sir Francis Crick is on record, 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.

    Philip Johnson has replied that Sir Francis should have therefore been willing to preface his works thusly: “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.” Johnson then acidly commented: “[t]he plausibility of materialistic determinism requires that an implicit exception be made for the theorist.” [Reason in the Balance, 1995.]

    In short, it is at least arguable that self-referential absurdity is the dagger pointing to the heart of evolutionary materialistic models of mind and its origin. For, there is a very good reason we are cautioned about how easily self-referential statements can become self-refuting, like a snake attacking and swallowing itself tail-first. Any human scheme of thought that undermines responsible [thus, morally governed] rational freedom undermines itself fatally. We thus see inadvertent, inherent self-falsification of evolutionary materialism. But, “inadvertent” counts: it can be hard to recognise and acknowledge the logically fatal nature of the result. Of course, that subjective challenge does not change the objective result: self-referential incoherence and irretrievable self-falsification. (An audio clip, here, by William Lane Craig that summarises Plantinga’s argument on this in a nutshell, is useful as a quick reference.)

    This issue can be discussed at a much higher level, but it can also be drawn out a bit in a fairly simple way for blog level discussion:

    a: Evolutionary materialism argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature; from hydrogen to humans by undirected chance and necessity.

    b: Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws of chance and/or mechanical necessity acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of happenstance initial circumstances.

    (This is physicalism. This view covers both the forms where (a) the mind and the brain are seen as one and the same thing, and those where (b) somehow mind emerges from and/or “supervenes” on brain, perhaps as a result of sophisticated and complex software looping. The key point, though is as already noted: physical causal closure — the phenomena that play out across time, without residue, are in principle deducible or at least explainable up to various random statistical distributions and/or mechanical laws, from prior physical states. Such physical causal closure, clearly, implicitly discounts or even dismisses the causal effect of concept formation and reasoning then responsibly deciding, in favour of specifically physical interactions in the brain-body control loop; indeed, some mock the idea of — in their view — an “obviously” imaginary “ghost” in the meat-machine. [There is also some evidence from simulation exercises, that accuracy of even sensory perceptions may lose out to utilitarian but inaccurate ones in an evolutionary competition. “It works” does not warrant the inference to “it is true.”] )

    c: But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this meat-machine picture. So, we rapidly arrive at Crick’s claim in his The Astonishing Hypothesis (1994): what we subjectively experience as “thoughts,” “reasoning” and “conclusions” can only be understood materialistically as the unintended by-products of the blind natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains that (as the Smith Model illustrates) serve as cybernetic controllers for our bodies.

    d: These underlying driving forces are viewed as being ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance shaped by forces of selection [“nature”] and psycho-social conditioning [“nurture”], within the framework of human culture [i.e. socio-cultural conditioning and resulting/associated relativism]. And, remember, the focal issue to such minds — notice, this is a conceptual analysis made and believed by the materialists! — is the physical causal chains in a control loop, not the internalised “mouth-noises” that may somehow sit on them and come along for the ride.

    (Save, insofar as such “mouth noises” somehow associate with or become embedded as physically instantiated signals or maybe codes in such a loop. [How signals, languages and codes originate and function in systems in our observation of such origin — i.e by design — tends to be pushed to the back-burner and conveniently forgotten. So does the point that a signal or code takes its significance precisely from being an intelligently focused on, observed or chosen and significant alternative from a range of possibilities that then can guide decisive action.])

    e: For instance, Marxists commonly derided opponents for their “bourgeois class conditioning” — but what of the effect of their own class origins? Freudians frequently dismissed 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? Should we not ask a Behaviourist whether s/he is little more than yet another operantly conditioned rat trapped in the cosmic maze? And — as we saw above — would the writings of a Crick be any more than the firing of neurons in networks in his own brain?

    f: For further instance, we may take the favourite whipping-boy of materialists: religion. Notoriously, they often hold that belief in God is not merely cognitive, conceptual error, but delusion. Borderline lunacy, in short. But, if such a patent “delusion” is so utterly widespread, even among the highly educated, then it “must” — by the principles of evolution — somehow be adaptive to survival, whether in nature or in society. And so, this would be a major illustration of the unreliability of our conceptual reasoning ability, on the assumption of evolutionary materialism.

    g: Turning the materialist dismissal of theism around, evolutionary materialism itself would be in the same leaky boat. For, the sauce for the goose is notoriously just as good a sauce for the gander, too.

    h: That is, on its own premises [and following Dawkins in A Devil’s Chaplain, 2004, p. 46], the cause of the belief system of evolutionary materialism, “must” also be reducible to forces of blind chance and mechanical necessity that are sufficiently adaptive to spread this “meme” in populations of jumped- up apes from the savannahs of East Africa scrambling for survival in a Malthusian world of struggle for existence. Reppert brings the underlying point sharply home, in commenting on the “internalised mouth-noise signals riding on the physical cause-effect chain in a cybernetic loop” view [cf above] . . . .

    i: The famous geneticist and evolutionary biologist (as well as Socialist) J. B. S. Haldane made much the same point in a famous 1932 remark:

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” [“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209. (NB: DI Fellow, Nancy Pearcey brings this right up to date (HT: ENV) in a current book, Finding Truth.)]

    j: Therefore, though materialists will often try to pointedly ignore or angrily brush aside the issue, we may freely argue: if such evolutionary materialism is true, then (i) our consciousness, (ii) the “thoughts” we have, (iii) the conceptualised beliefs we hold, (iv) the reasonings we attempt based on such and (v) the “conclusions” and “choices” (a.k.a. “decisions”) we reach — without residue — must be produced and controlled by blind forces of chance happenstance and mechanical necessity that are irrelevant to “mere” ill-defined abstractions such as: purpose or truth, or even logical validity.

    (NB: The conclusions of such “arguments” may still happen to be true, by astonishingly lucky coincidence — but we have no rational grounds for relying on the “reasoning” that has led us to feel that we have “proved” or “warranted” them. It seems that rationality itself has thus been undermined fatally on evolutionary materialistic premises. Including that of Crick et al. Through, self-reference leading to incoherence and utter inability to provide a cogent explanation of our commonplace, first-person experience of reasoning and rational warrant for beliefs, conclusions and chosen paths of action. Reduction to absurdity and explanatory failure in short.)

    k: And, if materialists then object: “But, we can always apply scientific tests, through observation, experiment and measurement,” then we must immediately note that — as the fate of Newtonian Dynamics between 1880 and 1930 shows — empirical support is not equivalent to establishing the truth of a scientific theory. For, at any time, one newly discovered countering fact can in principle overturn the hitherto most reliable of theories. (And as well, we must not lose sight of this: in science, one is relying on the legitimacy of the reasoning process to make the case that scientific evidence provides reasonable albeit provisional warrant for one’s beliefs etc. Scientific reasoning is not independent of reasoning.)

    l: Worse, in the case of origins science theories, we simply were not there to directly observe the facts of the remote past, so origins sciences are even more strongly controlled by assumptions and inferences than are operational scientific theories. So, we contrast the way that direct observations of falling apples and orbiting planets allow us to test our theories of gravity.

    m: Moreover, as Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin reminds us all in his infamous January 29, 1997 New York Review of Books article, “Billions and billions of demons,” it is now notorious that:

    . . . It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel [[materialistic scientists] to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. [And if you have been led to imagine that the immediately following words justify the above, kindly cf. the more complete clip and notes here.]

    n: Such a priori assumptions of materialism are patently question-begging, mind-closing and fallacious.

    o: More important, to demonstrate that empirical tests provide empirical support to the materialists’ theories would require the use of the very process of reasoning and inference which they have discredited.

    p: Thus, evolutionary materialism arguably reduces reason itself to the status of illusion. But, as we have seen: immediately, that must include “Materialism.”

    q: In the end, it is thus quite hard to escape the conclusion that materialism is based on self-defeating, question-begging logic.

    r: So, while materialists — just like the rest of us — in practice routinely rely on the credibility of reasoning and despite all the confidence they may project, they at best struggle to warrant such a tacitly accepted credibility of mind and of concepts and reasoned out conclusions relative to the core claims of their worldview. (And, sadly: too often, they tend to pointedly ignore or rhetorically brush aside the issue.)

    Let’s see the reply on the merits.

    KF

    PS: Where also it is worth further drawing out Pearcey’s cite from John Gray, a British academic and writer, in his Straw Dogs (2002), pp. 26 – 27, as further bringing out the self-referential absurdity of trying to root the human mind in materialistic evolutionism and linked scientism (the notion that Science — usually, as conceived in evolutionary materialistic terms — monopolises (or effectively monopolises) knowledge, truth and rationality):

    Modern humanism is the faith that through science humankind can know the truth – and so be free. But if Darwin’s theory of natural selection is true this is impossible. The human mind serves evolutionary success, not truth. To think otherwise is to resurrect the pre-Darwinian error that humans are different from all other animals.

    and:

    [O]nly someone miraculously ignorant of history could believe that competition among ideas could result in the triumph of truth. Certainly ideas compete with one another but the winners are normally those with power and human folly on their side. Truth has no systematic evolutionary advantage over error.

  49. 49
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N3: Pearcey on Darwin:

    People are sometimes under the impression that Darwin himself recognized the problem. They typically cite Darwin’s famous “horrid doubt” passage where he questions whether the human mind can be trustworthy if it is a product of evolution: “With me, the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy.”

    But, of course, Darwin’s theory itself was a “conviction of man’s mind.” So why should it be “at all trustworthy”?

    Surprisingly, however, Darwin never confronted this internal contradiction in this theory. Why not? Because he expressed his “horrid doubt” selectively — only when considering the case for a Creator.
    From time to time, Darwin admitted that he still found the idea of God persuasive. He once confessed his “inward conviction … that the Universe is not the result of chance.” It was in the next sentence that he expressed his “horrid doubt.” So the “conviction” he mistrusted was his lingering conviction that the universe is not the result of chance.

    In another passage Darwin admitted, “I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man.” Again, however, he immediately veered off into skepticism: “But then arises the doubt — can the mind of man, which has, as I fully believe, been developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animal, be trusted when it draws such grand conclusions?”

    That is, can it be trusted when it draws “grand conclusions” about a First Cause? Perhaps the concept of God is merely an instinct programmed into us by natural selection, Darwin added, like a monkey’s “instinctive fear and hatred of a snake.”

    In short, it was on occasions when Darwin’s mind led him to a theistic conclusion that he dismissed the mind as untrustworthy. He failed to recognize that, to be logically consistent, he needed to apply the same skepticism to his own theory . . . .

    Applied consistently, Darwinism undercuts not only itself but also the entire scientific enterprise. Kenan Malik, a writer trained in neurobiology, writes, “If our cognitive capacities were simply evolved dispositions, there would be no way of knowing which of these capacities lead to true beliefs and which to false ones.” Thus “to view humans as little more than sophisticated animals …undermines confidence in the scientific method.”

    Just so. Science itself is at stake. John Lennox, professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford, writes that according to atheism, “the mind that does science … is the end product of a mindless unguided process. Now, if you knew your computer was the product of a mindless unguided process, you wouldn’t trust it. So, to me atheism undermines the rationality I need to do science.”

    Of course, the atheist pursuing his research has no choice but to rely on rationality, just as everyone else does. The point is that he has no philosophical basis for doing so. Only those who affirm a rational Creator have a basis for trusting human rationality.

    The reason so few atheists and materialists seem to recognize the problem is that, like Darwin, they apply their skepticism selectively . . .

    Beyond this point, the cluster of issues just laid out should be pivotal.

    Prediction, they will be dodged by objectors.

    KF

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    kairosfocus says:

    so far, prediction holds good.

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