Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Thomas Nagel: “The intelligentsia was so furious [at him] that it formed a lynch mob”

arroba Email
David Gelernter.
David Gelernter

Following on a Slate computer columnist’s assessment that artificial intelligence has sputtered, Yale computer science prof David Gelernter offers some thoughts on the closing of the scientific mind. Readers will appreciate his comments on the “punks, bullies, and hangers-on” who have been attacking philosopher Thomas Nagel for doubting Darwin:

The modern “mind fields” encompass artificial intelligence, cognitive psychology, and philosophy of mind. Researchers in these fields are profoundly split, and the chaos was on display in the ugliness occasioned by the publication of Thomas Nagel’s Mind & Cosmos in 2012. Nagel is an eminent philosopher and professor at NYU. In Mind & Cosmos, he shows with terse, meticulous thoroughness why mainstream thought on the workings of the mind is intellectually bankrupt. He explains why Darwinian evolution is insufficient to explain the emergence of consciousness—the capacity to feel or experience the world. He then offers his own ideas on consciousness, which are speculative, incomplete, tentative, and provocative—in the tradition of science and philosophy.

Nagel was immediately set on and (symbolically) beaten to death by all the leading punks, bullies, and hangers-on of the philosophical underworld. Attacking Darwin is the sin against the Holy Ghost that pious scientists are taught never to forgive. Even worse, Nagel is an atheist unwilling to express sufficient hatred of religion to satisfy other atheists. There is nothing religious about Nagel’s speculations; he believes that science has not come far enough to explain consciousness and that it must press on. He believes that Darwin is not sufficient.

Thomas Nagel

The intelligentsia was so furious that it formed a lynch mob. In May 2013, the Chronicle of Higher Education ran a piece called “Where Thomas Nagel Went Wrong.” One paragraph was notable:

Whatever the validity of [Nagel’s] stance, its timing was certainly bad. The war between New Atheists and believers has become savage, with Richard Dawkins writing sentences like, “I have described atonement, the central doctrine of Christianity, as vicious, sadomasochistic, and repellent. We should also dismiss it as barking mad….” In that climate, saying anything nice at all about religion is a tactical error.

It’s the cowardice of the Chronicle’s statement that is alarming—as if the only conceivable response to a mass attack by killer hyenas were to run away. Nagel was assailed; almost everyone else ran.

So: Nagel was assailed. And almost everyone else ran. Because only real thinkers have courage. The rest are just tenurebots soaking students for money they can’t afford to get degrees that won’t help them.

Gelernter hasn’t much good to say about the Kurzweil cult either, but we will leave you to enjoy that. He has a book coming out on all this, Subjectivism: The Mind from Inside (not listed at Amazon yet), of which this article is doubtless a preview.

Robert Byers @ 5 asks, "sn’t Nagel Jewish? Isn’t his defender Jewish? " Don't know about his defender, but the OP noted that Nagel is an atheist. An atheist who bears an odd similarity in appearance to Richard Dawkins. Barb
News: here is a clip that reveals the clinging to absurdity at the heart of the self-referentially incoherent evolutionary materialist project to demolish our self-aware consciousness:
DG: Your subjective, conscious experience is just as real as the tree outside your window or the photons striking your retina—even though you alone feel it. Many philosophers and scientists today tend to dismiss the subjective and focus wholly on an objective, third-person reality—a reality that would be just the same if men had no minds. They treat subjective reality as a footnote, or they ignore it, or they announce that, actually, it doesn’t even exist . . . . The present problem originated at the intersection of artificial intelligence and philosophy of mind—in the question of what consciousness and mental states are all about, how they work, and what it would mean for a robot to have them. It has roots that stretch back to the behaviorism of the early 20th century, but the advent of computing lit the fuse of an intellectual crisis that blasted off in the 1960s and has been gaining altitude ever since..
1 --> Start with a basic point: a rock has no dreams. Obvious. Nobody home there. 2 --> Next, such a rock thus cannot be fooled that it has dreams, i.e. it has no consciousness and cannot be mistaken that it has. 3 --> Now, even if we are in part mistaken as to what we are, we do have dreams, and this means we cannot be mistaken on the brute fact that we are conscious; it is self-evident. Though, of course, we may and do err about what we are, believe etc. 4 --> So, when we see men in lab coats trying to saw off the branch on which they too must sit, we need to ask, why such patent folly. 5 --> To which the answer comes back, the Lewontinian a priori commitment to absolute materialism, suitably disguised as a mere methodological constraint. Question-begging on steroids. 6 --> Where also such an a priori must int eh end seek to explain rational thought and self-aware thinking, reasoning and other conscious activity as a byproduct of material blind forces utterly irrelevant to truth, reason and warrant, etc. Blind chance and mechanical necessity from hydrogen to you, and accidents of conditioning ever since. Ending in fatal self undermining by simply asking: but what about YOU, too? 7 --> Nor, is there good reason to infer that such consciousness reduces to mere computations limited by GIGO. For, first, we have no good reason to imagine that incrementally filtered noise can write what would be the most sophisticated software ever seen. That is absurd, and yet it seems to be an article of materialist faith, one that any questioning of is going to be assailed viciously by those who seem threatened by the simple notion that serious minded persons may differ with their materialist ideology. 8 --> But also, the notion that self aware consciousness is a delusion is utterly self refuting. Who is perceiving and asserting such to be a delusion? An imaginary ghost in the machine? Noise on steroids? 9 --> Worse, once the premise is introduced that a major aspect of mind is generally delusional, there are no firewalls, so we find ourselves facing an infinite regress of Plato's cave delusional worlds. Which utterly destroys the project of reasoned discourse and objective analysis of evidence, i.e. science itself. Maybe, it is time to walk away from the mess and start afresh. KF PS: I am seeing a problem where the captcha is insisting on an error where there is no error. Last I checked, 6 - five = 1. Hopefully, it knows that 6 + 2 = eight. GIGO in action. kairosfocus
I don't trust any useful critics in these matters who are a part of the establishment. So they defend someone. So what? They just have created a monster that is getting out of hand. Its really a attack on historic Christianity in America. That is the actual passion behind it all. Evolution is the rejection of Protestant, maybe Catholic, Christianity and so opposed to the foundations in morals and intellect of America and the modern world. They are not fighting for a "theory" of biology but for a worldview just as they flirted with Marxism in the old days. Its like they hit one of their own too hard. There is no closing of the mind. They are defending a worldview conclusion but hiding this motive. They are fighting God, Christ, and America and destiny. Isn't Nagel Jewish? Isn't his defender Jewish? Is it possible this is the real reason behind the complaint of GOING TOO FAR in attacking people in "science". Just being openminded! Robert Byers
Guys like David Gelernter are extremely annoying: complaining about “the banishing of subjectivity”, ”the besmirching consciousness” and “the close-mindedness of scientism”, only to present himself as a card carrying member of the same idiotic movement with the same moronic metaphysical bias:
DG: Consider the mind. The mind has its own structure and laws: It has desires, emotions, imagination; it is conscious. But no mind can exist apart from the brain that “embodies” it.
He presents it as if it were a fact - how stupid can you get? David disagrees ‘strongly’ with computationalists:
DG: Computationalists believe that the mind is embodied by the brain, and the brain is simply an organic computer. But in fact, the mind is embodied not by the brain but by the brain and the body, intimately interleaved.
How totally not interesting! Box
Irredeemably juvenile. They don't even declaim. They bay; jackals without an alpha leader, or any prospect of finding one. Their leaders, or rather puppeteers, are these people: http://www.stockmarketsreview.com/extras/secret_group_controls_world_326682/ Axel
David Gelernter:
It’s the cowardice of the Chronicle’s statement that is alarming—as if the only conceivable response to a mass attack by killer hyenas were to run away. Nagel was assailed; almost everyone else ran.
After all is said and done, the materialist/atheist movement will be remembered mostly for their despicable gang-like cowardice and their insufferable pomposity. Mapou
A brutally entertaining piece by Gelernter. lpadron

Leave a Reply