Intelligent Design

Not Merely False

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“We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men” (George Orwell).

The following statements are so obvious as to be considered truisms.

1. The primordial datum: I am subjectively self-aware.

2. It is not possible even in principle to account for mental facts, such as the primordial datum, on the basis of physical facts. They are different sorts of things; therefore one cannot account for the other. Trying to account for subjective self-awareness by suggesting it is an epiphenomenon of the electro-chemical process of the brain is like saying the color blue can be reduced to its constituent banana peels.

3. It follows that a reductionist materialism is not merely false but obviously false.

4. Just as obviously, it does not follow that committed materialists will admit that reductionist materialism is false, for they have reasons to put their faith in their metaphysical commitments that have nothing to do with the evidence and logic of the matter.

68 Replies to “Not Merely False

  1. 1
    Acartia_bogart says:

    Barry, with all respect, stating that these are truisms does not make them so. And ridiculing anyone who does not accept these as truisms, as you and others have a habit of doing, does also not make it true. If anything, it detracts from the arguments that you are trying to make.

  2. 2
    JDH says:

    AB – I have to admit, I do not understand how someone maintains a position of materialism. I know that I can’t prove it to you, or convince you that you are wrong, but I can express my utter frustration that either you just can’t see the logical incoherence of your position, or I am blind to some logical way to understand the generation of self-awareness from mere chemicals.

    See, once one admits self-awareness, I don’t see a good reason to believe in materialism. You belie yourself by saying that you choose to believe materialism based on evidence. Who is it that chooses, who does the evaluation, who makes the choice between the admittedly abstract concepts of materialism and theism?

    Most arguments I can see a logical reason to believe the other position. I am sorry, in this case, I just can’t. Do you think you can explain it to me? Please give it a try — if you dare.

  3. 3
    Graham2 says:

    I absolutely, totally and inconvertibally agree with all 4, 100%, yessiree.

    Because I don’t want to be banned.

  4. 4
    Heartlander says:

    The one thing we all know more about than anyone else is ‘ourselves’ – what we think and believe. For materialism to be true, core things I know about myself would be false even though I know them to be true. No free will, no right or wrong – good or bad, the love for my wife and beauty I see in her are not real but merely a chemical stimulus for reproduction, the care and love I have for my son are just selfish gene reproduction, my consciousness is reduced to electro-chemical brain activity and I have no ‘mind’ or ‘self’.

    Huxley asked, “How is it that anything so remarkable as a state of consciousness comes about as a result of irritating nervous tissue?” Or even more to the point, if the brain secretes thoughts the way the liver does bile – why are they ‘my’ thoughts? How would I know anything, if this were true?

    For materialism to be true – we would all be delusional.

  5. 5
    StephenB says:

    It is obvious that matter cannot reflect on itself.

  6. 6
    Acartia_bogart says:

    StephenB: “It is obvious that matter cannot reflect on itself.”

    My argument is not whether or not this is true. That is not Barry’s claim. His claim is that it is an obvious truism. It is this claim that I have a problem with. By making this claim he is essentially stating that he will not accept any dissenting views. Then it seems to me that there is no point in him writing this OP.

  7. 7
    StephenB says:

    That is not Barry’s claim.

    Barry and I are saying the same thing. I just used different words.

  8. 8
    Acartia_bogart says:

    StephenB, are you trying to say that Barry didn’t make the following claim?

    “The following statements are so obvious as to be considered truisms.”

    It seems quite obvious to me what he is saying. Let me paraphrase. If you disagree with any of these you are wrong because Barry says that you are wrong.

    It is a truism that, by the way Barry words this OP, and others, he is not welcoming honest discussion. He is only welcoming cheerleaders for his opinion.

  9. 9
    Heartlander says:

    A-B @ 8

    If you have an argument, make it. You are complaining about an imaginary situation where you can’t express your view.

  10. 10
    Vishnu says:

    AB: If you disagree with any of these you are wrong because Barry says that you are wrong.

    I would put it differently. If you disagree with what Barry is saying then you are blind in some fundamental way that puts you out of the game, so to speak. If you can’t “see” after a bit of introspection that consciousness is fundamental and transcends materialistic explanation, then you are either a zombie or have a brain defect.

    There’s nothing left to discuss.

    So, in a sense, Barry is preaching to the choir.

    But that’s OK. Sometimes us choir folk like to hear the preaching.

  11. 11
    Barry Arrington says:

    A-B, you are free to disagree with me. All I ask is that if you do disagree with me that you present arguments – logic and evidence — to support your position. So far, all you’ve done is whine.

  12. 12
    HeKS says:

    Acartia_bogart,

    I’m having a heck of a time trying to wrap my head around your method of argumentation … or lack thereof.

    If someone asserts that something is a truism and I think their claim is baseless, I simply explain why I think it’s baseless. I don’t just complain that in saying something is a truism the person is somehow telling me they are unwilling to accept dissenting views. Comments are turned on. If you have a dissenting view, bring it forth and show why Barry’s point are, in fact, not truisms.

  13. 13
    Acartia_bogart says:

    Barry, I was not trying to argue against your views, just the way that you are presenting them. This is not whining, it is just constructive criticism.

    But even if I take your advice: “A-B, you are free to disagree with me. All I ask is that if you do disagree with me that you present arguments” you have not provided any arguments of your own to disagree with. You have simply stated what you consider to be absolutes. And when someone cannot be convinced that you are correct, you simply say that they are too stupid or stubborn to understand. That is not exactly a compelling argument.

    But i will stick to your rules. Yes, we are self aware. And I may even concede that we have free will, although I don’t think that there is any way to unambiguously test this. But acknowledging that these occur is not proof that these are not the ultimate result of chemical reactions on the physical brain. The fact that we can interfere with these through the use of chemicals is a strong suggestion for the opposite. And what about direct stimulation of the brain? Through this technique, a purely physical one that does nothing more than stimulate physical parts of the brain, we can make the person sense things indistinguishable from what they sense through there normal senses. Or make them happy, sad, etc. all of this the result of physical interference with the brain.

  14. 14
    HeKS says:

    Please pardon the italics issue in that comment.

  15. 15
    Mung says:

    Barry, did you ban someone for calling someone else a liar?

    My memory is that RDFish was placed in moderation, not banned. Was there a banning?

    I just wanted to check my facts before asserting that Arcatia_bogart was lying about you banning someone for calling someone else a liar.

    I wouldn’t wanted to get banned 😉

  16. 16
    Mung says:

    Arcatia_bogart:

    He is only welcoming cheerleaders for his opinion.

    You’re missing the point unless you’re claiming that Barry’s opinion is an obvious truth.

    Arcatia_bogart:

    It is a truism that, by the way Barry words this OP, and others, he is not welcoming honest discussion.

    You’re wrong. SURPRISE!

    But given that you have no positive case for your position, you have to go motive mongering.

    By the way, why OUGHT Barry word his OP in such a way as to encourage “honest” discussion?

  17. 17
    StephenB says:

    AB:

    It seems quite obvious to me what he is saying. Let me paraphrase. If you disagree with any of these you are wrong because Barry says that you are wrong.

    No. He is saying that if you disagree you are wrong because it isn’t possible that you could be right. Or, to put it yet another way, a cause cannot give what it does not have to give. Accordingly, there is nothing in the cause (physical facts, electro-chemical processes) than could possibly produce the effect (mental facts, subjective self awareness). There is no way to get from the former to the latter.

  18. 18
    Mung says:

    Arcatia_bogart:

    My argument is not whether or not this is true. That is not Barry’s claim. His claim is that it is an obvious truism. It is this claim that I have a problem with. By making this claim he is essentially stating that he will not accept any dissenting views. Then it seems to me that there is no point in him writing this OP.

    It appears that this is an obvious truth (truism) to you.

    In fact, you also say:

    It is a truism that, by the way Barry words this OP, and others, he is not welcoming honest discussion.

    Is that an obvious truism?

    Just wondering if you affirm or deny that some things are obviously true (or obviously false).

    Are you one of those who say that it is an obvious truism that there are no obvious truisms?

    If you agree that some things are obviously true (or obviously false), is it that you disagree with Barry about what those things are?

    Why not try to find areas of agreement?

    For example, you could say, “Barry, I would agree that it is obviously true that atheism entails nihilism except for the fact that atheism also entails that there are no obvious truths.”

    From there it is such a small step to the recognition that it is an obvious truth that atheism entails nothing, and is therefore inherently irrational, but given that atheism also entails that there there is no truth …

    Ah heck, there i go again. Since atheism entails nothing, it cannot entail that there are no truths, so so either atheism is false or it is irrational.

    Of course, as an atheist, you should not be bothered that atheism is false nor that it is irrational, since both of those are entailed by atheism, which entails nothing.

    No wonder the “true atheist” embraces nihilism.

    hah, true atheism. I like that. I wonder if the domain name is taken.

  19. 19
    Heartlander says:

    A-B @ 13,

    Explain why anyone should be held responsible for a crime if materialism is true – how can ‘chemicals in the brain’ be put on trial for things other animals do without consequence?

  20. 20
    Acartia_bogart says:

    StephenB: “Accordingly, there is nothing in the cause (physical facts, electro-chemical processes) than could possibly produce the effect (mental facts, subjective self awareness). There is no way to get from the former to the latter.”

    You may be right. But what evidence do you have for this? We have very strong evidence that by disrupting the chemistry or the structure of the brain, we can affect the memory and self awareness. Much of scientific knowledge has progressed through the selective removal or altering something to see what the result is.

    If we remove the eyes, we are blind. That is pretty conclusive evidence that the eyes are critical for sight. If we damage the visual centre of the brain, we are also blind.again, demonstrating that sight is probably due to chemical and physical properties. . So, why does the same concept not apply to what we consider special about us (I.e., consciousness, self awareness etc.)? If we can chemically or physically disrupt these, why is it not reasonable to infer that they are not chemically and physically caused? Keep in mind that I am not saying that this is an obvious truism, simply that there is enough evidence to strongly suggest that resorting to supernatural causes is not warranted at this time.

  21. 21
    Barry Arrington says:

    20 comments in and A-B finally stops whining and makes an argument. Atta boy A-B; atta boy.

  22. 22
    Graham2 says:

    BA: Now its your turn.

  23. 23
    HeKS says:

    Acartia_bogart,

    You seem to be arguing as though the non-materialist claim is that the physical brain is not a necessary condition for the existence of the human mind (or at the very least for its interaction with the material world, depending on the individual’s personal view of mind). Rather, the claim is that the physical brain is not a sufficient condition for the existence of the human mind. If the activities you mention had no effect on a person, we would have to conclude that humans are able to function perfectly well without a brain! Is that really what you think the non-materialist is claiming?

  24. 24
    StephenB says:

    AB

    You may be right. But what evidence do you have for this?

    It is one of reason’s rules that every effect must have a proportionate cause. Evidence does not evaluate reason’s rules; reason’s rules evaluate evidence. That is what it means to interpret evidence in a rational way.

    If we can chemically or physically disrupt these, why is it not reasonable to infer that they are not chemically and physically caused?

    A disrupted air passage can cause death. That doesn’t mean that air can cause life.

  25. 25
    Acartia_bogart says:

    Barry: “20 comments in and A-B finally stops whining and makes an argument. Atta boy A-B; atta boy.”

    Graham2: “BA: Now its your turn.”

    To quote Sheldon, Bazinga. Thank you Graham2, I was afraid that I might be accused of whining if I pointed out the blatantly obvious. And you gave me a good chuckle.

  26. 26
  27. 27
    Mung says:

    Graham2:

    BA: Now its your turn.

    lol. it’s like stacking firewood.

    WHY? It’s Barry’s turn to do what? And why OUGHT Barry do whatever you think it’s Barry’s turn to do?

    Whine less. Argue more. But why?

  28. 28
    Mung says:

    SB:

    Evidence does [not] evaluate reason’s rules; reason’s rules evaluate evidence.

    Unless you’re an atheist. In which case either/or/nought is just fine and there is no reason to be consistent (or not).

    But then we all know full well that atheism is not about reason and evidence. It’s about belief. Not disbelief, not lack of belief, but belief.

    A rational person offers reason for belief.

    Atheism is the absurd claim that no reason is required for disbelief, because disbelief is merely the absence of belief. Therefore no reason is required.

    Makes it easy to be an atheist, as long as one is willing to suspend rational thought. But if one is willing to suspend rational thought, why be an atheist?

  29. 29
    Tim says:

    Thanks, HeKS, for the quick dismantling of A_B and in the brief tutorial on necessary and sufficient cause.
    A_B, the ball isn’t quite in Barry’s court yet.
    What’s with this (A_B@13)

    (Barry has) not provided any arguments of (his) own to disagree with

    When I see a list of premises (numbered even!) connected logically, you know, it just seems like an . . . argument.

    And now if the choir may both criticize and compliment in the same comment.

    Barry, while missing the premise that ties statement number 4 into the argument, you have managed to encourage Mr. Bogart to provide it for you. As Mickey said to Rocky, “SHHHRREWWWDDD”

  30. 30
    Acartia_bogart says:

    Tim, not even close. Barry did not provide a list of premises. His second premise, as you define it, is a statement that Barry claims is fact, without any grounds to support it. Everything that follows, therefore, is pure speculation.

    HeKs: “. Rather, the claim is that the physical brain is not a sufficient condition for the existence of the human mind”
    A claim that is unsupported by evidence.

    ” If the activities you mention had no effect on a person, we would have to conclude that humans are able to function perfectly well without a brain! Is that really what you think the non-materialist is claiming?”

    Nice attempt at extrapolating to the extreme. By your logic, because a person can function quite well if we remove a kidney, we must conclude that they will function just as well if we removed the other kidney.

  31. 31
    Tim says:

    Don’t pretend to lecture on premises. Statements are premises. The entire point of syllogisms is the power of the truth of the statements combined with the flow of the logic.

    That Barry left the grounds unstated is your opportunity to dispute the truth of the statement. Blithely commenting that Barry has not mentioned supporting grounds is just lame.

    Organon:
    All men are mortal.

    A_B:(This) premise . . . is a statement that (Organon) claims is fact, without any grounds to support it. (Sure, most men are mortal, but all men? come on . . .) Everything that follows, therefore, is pure speculation.

    How about this: give just one counter-example of premise #2. Then, for Barry, game over; without it, though, game ON!

  32. 32
    StephenB says:

    AB

    A claim that is unsupported by evidence.

    Evidence has absolutely nothing to say about it. The point is that a cause cannot give what it does not have to give. Accordingly, some things simply cannot happen. A glass of water cannot play chess. A refrigerator cannot make love to a stove. A hydrogen atom cannot produce an inferiority complex. The fact that you would ask for evidence shows that you don’t understand the point that is being made.

  33. 33
    Graham2 says:

    Tim: If you people insist on such vague, slippery terms such as a ‘mental fact’ then these discussions are pretty pointless. What on earth is a ‘mental fact’ ? How do we account for such a thing ‘on the basis of’ something else ?

  34. 34
    HeKS says:

    Acartia_bogart,

    I continue to find your arguments incredibly bizarre.

    You say that the non-materialist’s claim that the physical brain is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the existence of the human mind is one that is unsupported by the evidence. I disagree.

    I think we both agree the brain is a necessary condition. There seems to be a number of reasons to believe that, not the least of which is the difficulty humans have thinking once their brain has been removed.

    But we also seem to have several reasons to think that the physical brain is not a sufficient condition for the existence of the human mind as we typically understand it, because the human mind has many characteristics that do not seem attributable to pieces of matter. Barry mentioned one example, being subjective self-awareness. Another is the characteristic of “intentionality”, in that the mind has thoughts that are about things, and there is no basis for saying that globs of matter, in any particular configuration, can themselves be about anything. These are fairly obvious conclusions that one can draw from the data, and we have no physical explanation at all for how consciousness and intentionality can exist and no evidence, apart from the disputed example of the mind, that matter can display these qualities.

    Now, for some reason you seem to be acting as though you think theists are the only ones who have recognized this problem and the necessity of these conclusions. That simply isn’t the case. Plenty of atheist materialists have recognized that materialism cannot account for the conscious lives we experience. The way they address that problem is by claiming that the conscious lives we experience are, therefore, illusory. That is the standard view of materialism. There is no self, there is no mind, there is no intentionality, there is no free will. This is unsurprising. It is, after all, the standard materialist response to disconfirming evidence: if materialism can’t explain it, it doesn’t really exist in the first place.

    You, on the other hand, seem like you want to have your cake and eat it too.

    If the activities you mention had no effect on a person, we would have to conclude that humans are able to function perfectly well without a brain!

    Nice attempt at extrapolating to the extreme. By your logic, because a person can function quite well if we remove a kidney, we must conclude that they will function just as well if we removed the other kidney.

    Huh? You think that what I said compares to your example? Do you think that removing a kidney literally has zero effect on a person just because they can survive with their other one, which serves the same purpose?

    Let’s try and use that silly example with brains. Suppose a person had two identical brains that both fulfilled the same purpose. And suppose you injected one of their brains with chemicals or delivered to it some kind of other stimulus but the person’s mind continued to operate normally, with very little or no effect from the stimulus. Would you then be warranted in concluding that the person’s two physical brains had nothing to do with their mind? Nope. It could simply be the case that the other brain was taking over the workload, right?

    Well, I’m not really sure where else to go with that, because your kidney argument really has no relation to the point I was making; especially since we’re not arguing that kidneys have some function or characteristic that cannot be explained by their physical makeup.

    Let’s return to the real world, where we have just one brain. If we could do anything we wanted to that brain, like drug it, hit it with an electric current, stab it, shoot it, remove large sections of it, and those actions literally had no effect whatsoever on a person’s mind, including their ability to willfully initiate motor functions, that would suggest that the brain has little or even nothing to do with the mind. In other words, it would strongly indicate that the brain is not even a necessary condition for the existence of the mind, much less a sufficient one. It would be at least a reasonable hypothesis that we might be able to go right on thinking without any brain at all.

    What your argument about the effects of drugs on the mind proves is what the non-materialist already readily admits, which is that the brain is a necessary condition for the mind. Your argument does not prove that the brain is a sufficient condition for the mind. The ability to impair or affect the mind through such methods does not explain how the mind could originate in the first place and have the characteristics it does.

  35. 35
    Barry Arrington says:

    I have seen it many times, but I am nevertheless amazed afresh each time I see it — someone stamping their feet and getting red in the face as the absolutely insist they do not exist and neither does the person they are addressing.

  36. 36
    Mark Frank says:

    Heks #34

    Plenty of atheist materialists have recognized that materialism cannot account for the conscious lives we experience. The way they address that problem is by claiming that the conscious lives we experience are, therefore, illusory. That is the standard view of materialism.

    You are talking about eliminative materialism. There are many other materialist philosophies of mind in the sense that they believe that body and mind are the same thing (although they might not be called materialist).  In Wikipedia they are conveniently listed under the label physical monism.

  37. 37
    Lesia says:

    “Imagine”
    (a song of a materialist – to the tune of “Imagine” by J.Lennon)

    Imagine evolution*
    Is a reality
    Survival of the fittest –
    That’s all morality
    Imagine all the people
    Are simply mere apes

    You
    You may say I’m a dreamer,
    That STE’s a bunch of fakes
    But I am still a fierce believer
    No matter what blind faith it takes

    Imagine all your software
    Creates itself by chance –
    At last no need for money
    To activate license
    Imagine super-programs
    Need no intelligence.

    You
    You may say I’m a dreamer,
    That STE’s a bunch of fakes
    But I am still a fierce believer
    No matter what blind faith it takes

    Imagine mind and logic
    And creativity
    Produced by side reactions
    Of brain activity
    Imagine that your consciousness
    Can be reduced to chemistry

    You
    You may say I’m a dreamer
    That atheism’s a bunch of fakes
    But I am still a fierce believer
    No matter what blind faith it takes
    _______________________________________
    * – under “evolution” here we mean Darwinian evolution, not simply change in time

  38. 38
    Andre says:

    In the beginning was Nothing and Nothing created Everything. When Nothing decided to create Everything, she filled a tiny dot with Time, Chance, and Everything and had it explode. The explosion spread Everything into Everywhere carrying Time and Chance with it to keep it company. The three stretched out together leaving bits of themselves wherever they went. One of those places was the planet Earth.

    For no particular Reason—for Reason is rarely particular—Time and Chance took a liking to this wet little blue rock and so decided to stick around and see what adventures they might have. The pair thought the Earth was intriguing and pretty, but also rather dull and static. They fixed upon an idea to change Everything (just a little) by creating a special Something. Time and Chance roamed the planet, splashing through the oceans and scampering through the mud, in search of materials. But though they looked Everywhere there was a Missing Ingredient that they needed in order to make a Something that could create more of the same Somethings.

    They called to their friend Everything to help. Since Everything had been Everywhere she would no doubt be able to find the Missing Ingredient. And indeed she did, hidden away in a small alcove called Somewhere, Everything found what Time and Chance had needed all along: Information. Everything put the Information on a piece of ice and rock that happened to be passing by the former planet Pluto and sent it back to her friends on Earth.

    Now that they had Information, Time and Chance were finally able to create a self-replicating Something which they called Life. Once they created the Life they found that it not only became more Somethings it began to become Otherthings too! The Somethings and the Otherthings began to fill all the Earth— from the bottom of the oceans to the top of the sky. Their creation, which began as a single Something eventually became millions of Otherthings.

    Time and Chance, though, where the bickering sort and were constantly feuding over which of them was the most powerful. One day they began to argue over who had been most responsible for creating Life. Everything (who was constantly eavesdropping) overheard the spat and suggested that they settle the debate by putting their creative skills to work on a new creature called Man. They all thought is was a splendid plan—for Man was a dull, hairy beast who would indeed provide a suitable challenge—and began to boast about who could create an ability, which they called Consciousness, that would allow Man to be aware of Chance, Time, Everything, and Nothing.

    Chance, who had always been a bit of a dawdler, got off to a slow start so it was Time, who never rested, that was able to complete the task first. Time rushed around, filling the gooey matter inside each Man’s head with Consciousness. But as he was gloating over his victory he noticed a strange reaction. When Man could see that Everything had been created by Time, Chance, and Nothing, his Consciousness would fill with Despair.

    Chance immediately saw a solution to the problem and used the remaining materials she was using to make Consciousness to create Beliefs. When Chance mixed Beliefs into the gray goo, Man stopped filling with Despair and started creating Illusions. These Illusions took various forms—God, Purpose, Meaning—but they were almost always effective in preventing Man from filling up with Despair.

    Nothing, who tended to be rather forgetful, remembered her creation and decided to take a look around Everything. When she saw what Time and Chance had done on planet Earth she was mildly amused but forbid them to fill any more creatures with Consciousness or Beliefs (which is why Man is the only Something that has both). But Nothing took a fancy to Man and told Time and Chance that when each one’s Life ran out that she would take him or her and make them into Nothing too.

    And that is why, my young friends, when Man loses his Life he goes from being a Something created by Time and Chance into becoming like his creator—Nothing.

    The End

    http://www.firstthings.com/blo.....erialists/

  39. 39
    Florabama says:

    A few atheists are admitting that materialism can’t explain the mind — and that a self aware mind is contraindicated by Darwinism. Chief among the atheist rebels is Thomas Nagel. I read the book a couple of years ago and it was an interesting tour of the various theories of the mind that by all materialist accounts shouldn’t be there. Nagel pulls no punches. Darwinism must be false he says which leaves him stranded — a man without a home. That the self aware mind shouldn’t be there, is a straight forward and obvious point unless one has an a priori religious commitment to materialism. Certainly the AB’s of the world should be able to acknowledge that if your mind is nothing more than electrical signals in the brain, then there’s no way to tell whether what you see and feel are real or whether you’re just a battery in the Matrix. How do you know, AB?

    http://www.amazon.com/Mind-Cos.....omas+nagel

  40. 40
    Mark Frank says:

    #39 Florabama

    Certainly the AB’s of the world should be able to acknowledge that if your mind is nothing more than electrical signals in the brain, then there’s no way to tell whether what you see and feel are real or whether you’re just a battery in the Matrix. How do you know, AB?

    How does dualism solve this problem?

  41. 41
    HeKS says:

    @Mark Frank #36

    Hi Mark,

    It seems from your comment that you think forms of physical monism somehow solve the problem. The category of “Physical Monism” is merely a storehouse for materialist conceptions of mind, which still essentially deny the real existence of a subjective internal life. Of course, in some cases they try to assert that something like what people consider a mind might in some sense be an emergent property of matter, though the relationship is always from some physically determined brain state to some corresponding “mental state” without the ability of the mind to in any way impact brain states, which creates an obvious problem for free will or for the concept that our thoughts are anything other than chemical reactions taking place in a physically predetermined way.

    None of these theories of mind account for intentionality or a real subjective internal life. They are motivated by the desire to limit reality to the material in the hopes that everything about reality is accessible and knowable to materialistic science (‘What a piece of work is the materialist scientist … In apprehension how like a god!’).

    All these materialist conceptions of mind are reductive, which is to say that they all reduce anything resembling a mind to mere properties of physical stuff and so they are forced to merely make assumptions and assertions that perhaps something that would appear to us like aspects of a mind might be able to be generated by matter alone. But the evidence for the ability of matter to generate even some kind of pseudo-mind comes primarily from the assumption that materialism must be true. Eliminative materialism is itself just another more extreme form of physical monism that holds that even our current methods of thinking about and discussing mental life will eventually be discarded once it is better understood that matter is all there is. Of course, how we could be thinking about anything in the first place in order to change the way we’re doing it remains unclear.

    In any case, none of these concepts in the storehouse of Physical Monism have any ability to account for the full breadth of the human mental experience. Eliminative conceptions address the problems of mind by simply denying the mind exists at all. Less extreme versions are actually more problematic in some ways, since in trying to maintain any sense of a mind they must then actually face the problems of mind rather than simply sweeping them aside and so must attempt to account for the emergence of self-consciousness and intentional thoughts from meaningless conglomerations of atoms, which none of them have done at all convincingly.

    I hasten to add that all these views about the potentiality of matter seem all the more absurd if one eliminates the possibility of Intelligent Design, which would at least allow for the possibility that some agent intentionally constructed matter in such a way that phenomena as bizarre as self-consciousness as intentionality might emerge from very specific configurations of an otherwise inert substance.

    I might also add that many would take serious issue with the idea that physical objects precede mind in light of the discoveries of Quantum Mechanics, which has suggested even to some atheists that the reality is precisely the opposite, which has in turn caused them to switch from atheism to either theism or deism. Interestingly, on this view of Quantum Mechanics, if any type of monism was going to be supported it would be of the non-physicalist variety, such as some form of Idealism.

    It seems telling to me that even many atheist materialists find these physical monist options unconvincing and feel forced instead to adopt an eliminative view of mind, denying that it really exists at all.

    Whatever option the materialist chooses, the problems stand.

  42. 42
    Mark Frank says:

    #41 Hi Heks

    I was not intending to embark on a full blown discussion of the philosophy of mind. I can see it leading very quickly to the pack descending on me, hot tempers, and wasted time. I just wanted to challenge your assertion that the standard view of materialism is that our conscious experience is illusory. (This would indeed be circular as illusions are part of our conscious experience)

    Mark

  43. 43
    Andre says:

    Mark Frank….

    It must be really horrid to know you can’t trust the convictions of your own mind. Your mind has been developed from the lower animals right?

    “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?”

  44. 44
    Axel says:

    A-b #6

    No surprise, A_c. You don’t see design in nature – never mind see it as an obvious truism!

  45. 45
    Axel says:

    The whole point of an obvious truism is that it would be 100% obvious to an adolescent with IQ identical to his age. In such cases, even if one were foolish enough to undertake explaining it, it would be very difficult to know where to start, because wherever one did start, one would feel extremely foolish – stating the obvious.

    It is for you to question the adduced obvious truism, on the basis of evidence and logic – not continuing to whine.

  46. 46
    Box says:

    Acartia_bogart #20: If we remove the eyes, we are blind. That is pretty conclusive evidence that the eyes are critical for sight. If we damage the visual centre of the brain, we are also blind. again, demonstrating that sight is probably due to chemical and physical properties.

    You argue that (external) sight is reducible to the eyes and the brain. However true blindness occurs when ‘inner-sight’ is lost. Similarly, not able to ‘hear’ one’s thoughts is far worse than being deaf. Similarly, not being able to think is far worse than not being able to speak. Notice that the inner ‘counterpart’ is always fundamental to the external.
    Would you or anyone suggest that reason is reducible to a speech organ and the part of the brain responsible for its mechanics?
    The eye is an instrument of sight, like a speech organ is an instrument of reason.

  47. 47
    Axel says:

    No evidence to adduce for your case, A_c? Just, why me?

    Box: What’s more sight has been proven to be not always dependent upon our eyes, both by people who have undergone NDE’s under tightly-controlled conditions, but by a lesser known, I think, female, saint a century ago or more. Anecdotal but surely reliable, in view of its permanence; perhaps proved at the time by describing things or scenes, blindfolded.

  48. 48
    Barry Arrington says:

    Graham2 @ 33:

    If you people insist on such vague, slippery terms such as a ‘mental fact’ then these discussions are pretty pointless. What on earth is a ‘mental fact’ ? How do we account for such a thing ‘on the basis of’ something else ?

    Wonderful! Thank you Graham2. I knew this was coming, but that you would jump in with it right up front is a treat.

    What does a materialist do when he has no good argument? Very often he resorts to the “me no speaka the English” distraction.

    Thanks for the illustration.

  49. 49
    Acartia_bogart says:

    A_B’s first comment:

    Barry, with all respect, stating that these are truisms does not make them so. And ridiculing anyone who does not accept these as truisms, as you and others have a habit of doing, does also not make it true. If anything, it detracts from the arguments that you are trying to make.

    Barry’s comments since then:

    #11: A-B, you are free to disagree with me. All I ask is that if you do disagree with me that you present arguments – logic and evidence — to support your position. So far, all you’ve done is whine.

    #21: 20 comments in and A-B finally stops whining and makes an argument. Atta boy A-B; atta boy.

    #35: I have seen it many times, but I am nevertheless amazed afresh each time I see it — someone stamping their feet and getting red in the face as the absolutely insist they do not exist and neither does the person they are addressing.

    #48: Wonderful! Thank you Graham2. I knew this was coming, but that you would jump in with it right up front is a treat.
    What does a materialist do when he has no good argument? Very often he resorts to the “me no speaka the English” distraction.
    Thanks for the illustration.

    Barry, I think that you have made my point for me. Rather than discuss the dissenting comments, you have simply tossed them aside with condescension and ridicule. I also have a tendency to fall into this behaviour but at least I admit it.

    So, let’s just look at your actual OP. You have made four statements of fact (truisms) but refuse to provide any evidence why they are truisms. Some of the other commenters have asked me why OUGHT you? And fair enough, it is your post and you are the UD moderator. But evidence would certainly add context for discussion.

    Your first truism, that we are self aware (whatever that means), I will give you. It would be impossible to argue against this because we all experience it. But this is not proof that this self awareness is outside the physical nature of our body.

    As previously mentioned, numerous clinical observations and directed research have shown that destructive and non-destructive actions on the brain can temporarily or permanently affect this self-awareness, and other mental functions. Studies have also shown that the sensations that have been reported during NDE can be replicated in the laboratory. I am not saying that this is conclusive evidence that your statement is false. It may turn out to be true. But to call it a truism at this point is simple false. And as such, proceeding to your third and fourth statements are simply unwarranted extrapolation based on a questionable assumption.

  50. 50
    Barry Arrington says:

    A_B, others have very ably engaged the points you raise.

  51. 51
    groovamos says:

    A_B:
    But i will stick to your rules. Yes, we are self aware. And I may even concede that we have free will, although I don’t think that there is any way to unambiguously test this. But acknowledging that these occur is not proof that these are not the ultimate result of chemical reactions on the physical brain.

    One of the fallacies of materialist thinking is that everything can be reduced to a scientific issue. There seems to be an axiomatic assumption among materialists that there can be a scientifically established causal nexus between electrochemical phenomena and the attributes of consciousness. I can state philosophically that this is false but I can’t prove it and you can’t falsify it because it is outside the reach of science, therefore it is not science, which supports my view. If you think it is within the realm of scientific inquiry then go ahead, but there certainly is no scientific progress in this area in the last 300 years to support such an opinion. The physical sciences are just as stuck in the mud as ever on the questions of human suffering due to mental/moral states. This last is maybe not true of other avenues of research see my last point.

    The fact that we can interfere with these through the use of chemicals is a strong suggestion for the opposite.

    Bring up a video on your computer screen, open up the case and while it’s playing drip salt water on the motherboard, and watch the screen. Then come back and tell us that the source of the video is the motherboard because of what you see using said chemical.

    Around 12 years ago the U.S. government resumed licensing the use of psychedelics (specifically psilocybin) in psychotherapy. The substances with their dramatic effects on consciousness happen to be the best tools for establishing some of the major underlying ‘mechanisms’ (poorly fitting word) of consciousness. In short, the best data to come out of consciousness research is from sessions with these powerful medical tools. And the results from these thousands of studies over the years do NOT support materialism in the least. Sorry that’s just the way it is brother. In multiple sessions, the subject begins the experience of unfolding themes of personal, psychological, and spiritual nature. The breakthrough book on this is Grof: Realms of the Human Unconscious (1975) I have quoted on UD the mind-boggling opening paragraphs of Chapter 4 entitled “Perinatal Experiences in LSD Sessions”. I have given this book to several materialists to read and they get bogged down in this chapter and quit. This last out of fear I’m assuming, it is too hard to give up the struggle against ones own nature after decades of harboring delusional beliefs.

  52. 52
    [email protected] says:

    If, as you say, ‘It is not possible even in principle to account for mental facts, such as the primordial datum, on the basis of physical facts.’ then how is it possible to account for physical facts on the basis of mental facts? Is that not what dualism requires?

  53. 53
    Barry Arrington says:

    “how is it possible to account for physical facts on the basis of mental facts? Is that not what dualism requires?”

    No, dualism does not require this. The premise of your question is false.

  54. 54
    Mung says:

    Mark Frank:

    How does dualism solve this problem?

    It begins by not engaging in the tu quoque fallacy and the fallacy of the excluded middle.

  55. 55
    Barry Arrington says:

    A_b and Graham2, your childish antics grow tiresome.

  56. 56
    anthropic says:

    Two comments, two posts.

    First, I agree with AB 56 that it is generally better to keep opposing posts online and debate them. For one thing, sometimes the opposition has a good point that has been overlooked. For another, this trains ID supporters to understand and meet objections.

    If the post is just a venomous bunch of ad hominem attacks, then removing them may be appropriate. We want light, not just heat.

    Just my two cents, BA. I’m new here so may well not understand the history. These calls are difficult sometimes.

  57. 57
    anthropic says:

    Second comment, maybe slightly off topic but the talk about the eye and brain connection reminded me…

    In Mark 8:22-26 we are given an account of Jesus healing a blind man. What’s particularly interesting about this is that, perhaps uniquely in healing accounts, Jesus performs two actions, not just one.

    First, Jesus spits(!) on the man’s eyes and asks if he can see. The blind man replies, “I see people, they look like trees walking around.” Then Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes and we are told that “his eyes were opened and he saw everything clearly.”

    What fascinates me is that this account 2,000 years ago parallels what sometimes happens today after eye surgery. People who have been blind for a long time have trouble interpreting what their eyes see at first. Usually it takes several weeks before the brain learns to “see” properly.

    Obviously this wasn’t known two millennia ago. The obvious inference is that this account is almost certainly historically accurate.

  58. 58
    Querius says:

    Andre@38,

    Brilliant! Most people think they understand Nothing but they don’t. 😉

    Thank you. It’s a keeper.

    -Q

  59. 59
    [email protected] says:

    Barry, you appear to have responded to my second question but I think you have ignored the first. I repeat, ”If, as you say, ‘It is not possible even in principle to account for mental facts, such as the primordial datum, on the basis of physical facts.’, then how is it possible to account for physical facts on the basis of mental facts?’

  60. 60
    anthropic says:

    Don’t mean to brag, but even when I was very young my parents told me that I both knew and understood Nothing. Now that’s something! 😉

  61. 61
    Mung says:

    anthropic, your father was not Sgt Schultz was he?

    What is the truth Schultz, as you see it?

    I see nothing, I know nothing!

    Hogan’s Heroes – Sgt. Schultz

  62. 62
    Mung says:

    @61

    The mental can apprehend the physical, the physical cannot apprehend the mental. that’s how.

  63. 63
    Barry Arrington says:

    email protected, I see only one question. If there are two, please break them out.

  64. 64
    Acartia_bogart says:

    Barry: “email protected, I see only one question. If there are two, please break them out.”

    Hmmm. I count two question marks. I see two distinct questions. The second you simply sluffed off with no explanation. The first you did not answer. Please correct me if I am wrong councillor, but I dont see an honest attempt to answer to either question.

  65. 65
    Mung says:

    A_b,

    What is the ethical basis for your constant whinging about what Barry ought do and ought not do?

    That’s what has many of us puzzled, in case you haven’t picked up on it yet.

    You deny objective morality while constantly accusing others of being immoral, as if they ought to share your same lack of objectivity on the matter.

  66. 66
    Acartia_bogart says:

    Mung: “What is the ethical basis for your constant whinging about what Barry ought do and ought not do?”

    I can honestly say that I have never whinged about anything.

  67. 67
    Mung says:

    Acartia_bogart:

    I can honestly say that I have never whinged about anything.

    Then stop complaining.

    verb
    verb: whinge; 3rd person present: whinges; past tense: whinged; past participle: whinged; gerund or present participle: whingeing; gerund or present participle: whinging

    1.
    complain persistently and in a peevish or irritating way.
    “stop whingeing and get on with it!”

    noun
    noun: whinge; plural noun: whinges

    1.
    an act of complaining.

  68. 68
    [email protected] says:

    Mung says ‘The mental can apprehend the physical, the physical cannot apprehend the mental. that’s how.’ But my question is not about apprehension, but about the mental causing physical changes. Apprehension by the mental of the physical surely does not affect the physical in any way.

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