Materialists have a lot of stock responses they use to distract themselves from the explanatory poverty of the “answers” their faith commitments require them to spew out in response to obvious objections. Consider the materialist responses to my last post, Quashing Materialist Appeals to Magic (Again).
Briefly, I argued that unless materialists can provide some sort of an explanation of the process by which the physical electro-chemical properties of the brain result in the mental properties of the mind, then merely invoking “emergence” has exactly the same explanatory power as invoking “magic.” I quoted atheists Thomas Nagel and Elizabeth Liddle, who concur.
Now to the materialist’s stock answer (courtesy of Popperian): Barry, you have committed the Fallacy of Composition. The fallacy of composition arises when one infers that something must be true of the whole from the fact that it is true of some part of the whole. For example, hydrogen atoms are not “wet” and oxygen atoms are not “wet,” but if one inferred from the non-wetness of individual hydrogen and oxygen atoms that a particular way of combining and organizing those atoms would also be non-wet, one would be wrong. Organize the atoms in a particular way and you get water, which is wet in a way that none of its constituent parts are. In other words, “wetness” is an emergent property of the whole that is not a property of any of its parts, and if you had drawn an inference about the wetness of the whole from the non-wetness of the parts you would have been wrong. In the same way, carbon atoms and the other physical components of the brain are not conscious, but when those parts are organized in a certain way, consciousness emerges.
No Popperian. I have not committed the fallacy of composition. Instead, you have committed the fallacy of false analogy. The process of analogical inference involves noting the shared properties of two or more things, and from this basis inferring that they also share some further property. The structure or form may be generalized like so:
- P and Q are similar in respect to properties a and b.
- P has been observed to have further property c.
- Therefore, Q probably has property c also.
A person commits the fallacy of false analogy when he makes a faulty inference from analogy. And Popperian’s inference is faulty. Let’s see why this is so. Here is Popparian’s argument from analogy:
- Water and the brain are similar as to the following properties:
(a) Water molecules are made of parts; the brain is made of parts.
(b) The constituent parts of water molecules are organized in a particular way; the constituent parts of the brain are organized in a particular way.
- Water molecules have been observed to have a further property, namely the emergent property “wetness” resulting from the organization of its parts even though none of those parts exhibits that property.
- Therefore, the brain probably also has an emergent property, namely consciousness, resulting from the organization of its parts even though none of its parts exhibits that property.
An analogy is false if the similarities are not relevant to the conclusion. In this case, the similarities are completely, totally, and utterly irrelevant to the conclusion.
We know why water is wet. From Wikipedia:
Water is the chemical substance with chemical formula H 2O one molecule of water has two hydrogen atoms covalently bonded to a single oxygen atom. Water is a tasteless, odorless liquid at ambient temperature and pressure, and appears colorless in small quantities, although it has its own intrinsic very light blue hue. Ice also appears colorless, and water vapor is essentially invisible as a gas.
Water is primarily a liquid under standard conditions, which is not predicted from its relationship to other analogous hydrides of the oxygen family in the periodic table, which are gases such as hydrogen sulfide. The elements surrounding oxygen in the periodic table, nitrogen, fluorine, phosphorus, sulfur and chlorine, all combine with hydrogen to produce gases under standard conditions. The reason that water forms a liquid is that oxygen is more electronegative than all of these elements with the exception of fluorine. Oxygen attracts electrons much more strongly than hydrogen, resulting in a net positive charge on the hydrogen atoms, and a net negative charge on the oxygen atom. The presence of a charge on each of these atoms gives each water molecule a net dipole moment. Electrical attraction between water molecules due to this dipole pulls individual molecules closer together, making it more difficult to separate the molecules and therefore raising the boiling point. This attraction is known as hydrogen bonding.
In summary, we know why water has the emergent property of wetness (i.e., it is a liquid at certain temperatures even though its constituent parts would not be a liquid at those same temperatures). We know, that is, that the parts of water are causally adequate to account for the properties of the whole, including the emergent property “wetness,” and we know exactly why that is the case. If we had reason to know that the parts of the brain were causally adequate to result in consciousness, then that analogy would be apt. But we don’t. In fact, just exactly the opposite is true. We don’t have the first idea how, even in principle, the physical properties of the brain are causally adequate to account for the mental properties of the mind.
Therefore, the analogy to the wetness of water gets us exactly nowhere, because we simply have no reason (other than materialist metaphysical faith commitments) to believe that the wetness of the water is similar in relevant respects to the consciousness of the brain. In fact, we have good reason to believe that the physical can ever be, even in principal, causally adequate to result in the mental, far less actual knowledge of how that is the case, as we do with water.
Popperian’s analogy gets us no further than demonstrating that that emergence is possible under certain conditions for certain systems. But no one disputes that. The question is not whether emergence is possible. Of course it is. The question is whether emergence occurred. And merely pointing out that emergence is possible gets us nowhere with respect to the question of whether emergence actually occurred. With respect to that question, Popperian has not given us the slightest hint of a nod toward an explanation of how that could have happened, and there are good reasons to believe it could not.
Not only has Popperian committed the fallacy of false analogy, but he also has committed the fallacy of “affirming the consequent.” This error takes the following form:
If P, then Q.
The reason this is false is because there may be other causes of P besides Q, as the following example demonstrates.
If it is raining the streets are wet.
The streets are wet.
Therefore it is raining.
Why is this reasoning invalid? Because while it is certainly the case that if it is raining the streets will be wet; the converse is not also true. The streets can be wet when there is not a cloud in the sky (as for example when a fire hydrant breaks).
Here is how Popperain affirms the consequent when he invokes emergence to account for consciousness:
If there are emergent properties, the whole has properties that cannot be reduced to the properties of its individual physical components.
The mind/brain system has properties that cannot be reduced to the properties of its individual physical components (i.e., consciousness).
Therefore, the mind/brain system exhibits emergent properties.
Why is this affirming the consequent? Because there could be another reason besides emergence to account for consciousness, namely, the existence of an immaterial mind.
Popperian, the streets are wet. That does not necessarily mean it is raining. Write that down.