Intelligent Design

WJM Weighs In

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As usual William J. Murray says it better than I. All that follows is his:

1. Whether or not the universe is determined, the logically consistent moral subjectivist admit that under materialism, all things are ultimately explicable by the interactions of matter and energy under the guiding influences of natural law and mechanical probability.

2. Matter and energy are neither conscious or intentional agencies under materialism, but rather only produce effects that we label with those terms. However, those labels – under materialism – do not and can not indicate anything categorically different from matter and energy interacting according to law and probability. There is no such thing as anything “intervening” in the lawful and probabilistic outcomes of material processes because there is nothing exterior to such processes that can intervene and change them from their normal course.

3. This means that conscious thoughts and intentions cannot suspend or intervene on the ongoing material processes; they are nothing more than product of or a part of those selfsame material processes. The sensation of an ought cannot physically intervene, suspend or change the normal, natural course of matter and energy interacting according to physical law and mechanical probability.

The crucial point here is that while the sensation of an ought might be part of a sequences of events, and the temporal location of that sensed ought might be at the point where ones actions appear to change, the sensation of locally commanding the ensuing action in a top-down, mind-over-matter fashion is necessarily an illusion, because both the sensation of the ought and the “decision” to change physical course are entirely produced by ultimately non-conscious, non-teleological, bottom-up interacting materials and forces.

4. Under materialism, there is no top-down ghost in the machine or emergent capacity available that can intervene in the natural procession of material interactions. Any so-called “emergent properties” are simply variant expressions of natural law and mechanical probability in certain specific conditions, ultimately generated entirely by bottom up, non-conscious, non-teleological matter & energy.

5. So, under materialism, mind and morality can be accurately categorized as delusions, mirages of top-down, deliberate, prescriptive control, sensations manufactured by happenstance interactions of non-conscious, non-teleological matter that can have no prescriptive power whatsoever to alter the course of the normal, lawful and probabilistic behavior of matter.

Under materialism, the self is nothing more than a set of illusory qualia entirely produced and directed by law and probability, existing as nothing more than a kind of happenstance-generated internal hologram that is along for the ride, so to speak, as the interacting matter (that is producing the local hologram of self) does whatever it does anyway.

All that mind and morality can be is a description of sensation and they cannot have any prescriptive power to intervene or change material processes because that’s all they can be in the first place. A hologram cannot deliberately change its “programming” in any rational sense; its programming (what it does) is entirely generated by natural law and probability even if, from the hologram’s perspective, it appears as if he is doing it independently of natural law and/or probabilities, as if he has independent agency.

It would be no more different than if a rock had consciousness and felt like it was making a decision to move every time it happened to move. The sensation of the teleological “decision” is concurrent with the movement but cannot represent a true top-down command of the movement because materialism doesn’t offer top-down, teleological control even from emergent properties.

To sum up: under materialism, mind and morality are delusions of independent prescriptive power that a programmed hologram of “self” experiences while being carried wherever natural law and mechanical probability take it and while being whatever natural law and mechanical probability make it.

TL;DR: In a materialist world, if you stripped humans of consciousness all you would ultimately lose (wrt the debate here) is the delusion that one has the top-down, prescriptive power to alter the normal course of matter and energy interacting according natural law and mechanical probability.

18 Replies to “WJM Weighs In

  1. 1
    Silver Asiatic says:

    It would be no more different than if a rock had consciousness and felt like it was making a decision to move every time it happened to move.

    It would be similar with a so-called emergent process like logic (with its rules). Logic would merely be a post-hoc description of brain outputs. Logic can’t cause thoughts to form or change anything.

    There also can’t be a top-down control because that requires the concept of order which has to be viewed from a macro-state. That’s the problem with self, or identity, or ‘group’. Even if there is an emergence of a collective thing, there’s no way to distinguish it from the individual, and no self to make the distinction.

    Contained in a rock is a gem-stone. But the rock and gem-stone are one identity. The rock, gem-stone and surrounding rocks are also one. So is the dirt and mountainside. It’s all one identity – matter in different forms with various “emergences”.

    There’s nothing that can distinguish “individuals” or “selves” within materialistic monism.

    A “moral act” is one with the organism. There’s no decision to be made. No options.

  2. 2
    Neil Rickert says:

    … the logically consistent moral subjectivist admit that …

    I’m pretty sure that WJM cannot produce an actual logical argument (clearly stated premises and deductive inference). So he claim on what is required by logical consistency is dubious.

    However, those labels – under materialism – do not and can not indicate anything categorically different from matter and energy interacting according to law and probability.

    Yet mathematics is categorically different from matter and energy, and materialists mostly accept mathematics. Some do try to argue (unpersuasively) that mathematics is just pencil marks on paper. But most do not agree with WJM’s view on the limits of materialism.

    By the way, I am not a materialist, mainly because I do not agree with some of what materialists do say.

    The crucial point here is that while the sensation of an ought might be part of a sequences of events, and the temporal location of that sensed ought might be at the point where ones actions appear to change, the sensation of locally commanding the ensuing action in a top-down, mind-over-matter fashion is necessarily an illusion, because both the sensation of the ought and the “decision” to change physical course are entirely produced by ultimately non-conscious, non-teleological, bottom-up interacting materials and forces.

    That’s like saying that because a digital computer is an entirely electrical device working on account of motion of electrons, it cannot make logical decisions and cannot possibly be a logic machine.

    The evidence of computer shows the argument to be mistaken. The computer can be given a complete causal description in terms of electricity. But it can also be given a complete description in terms of logic. These two ways of describing are not contradictory. They are different ways of describing the same thing. And it is clear that we find the description in logical terms far more useful to us as a guide on how to use the computer to solve our problems.

    In a materialist world, if you stripped humans of consciousness all you would ultimately lose (wrt the debate here) is the delusion that one has the top-down, prescriptive power to alter the normal course of matter and energy interacting according natural law and mechanical probability.

    My view is that if you stripped humans of consciousness, then the homo sapiens species would soon go extinct.

  3. 3
    Hangonasec says:

    Great, now all you need to do is explain how the ghost in the machine produces the appropriate interaction with matter in response to its immaterial ‘ought’, how it is protected, simply by being ‘immaterial’, from any parallel delusion that it has executive capability, why so many of its ‘oughts’ are preoccupied with what goes on in the physical realm, and why its ‘oughts’ are so readily influenced by physical trauma, narcotics etc.

  4. 4
    Barry Arrington says:

    Hangonasec @ 3:

    Great, now all you need to do . . .

    Nonsense. WJM need do no such thing for his argument to be sound.

    Why is it that materialists think “dualism has problems too!” is any sort of valid response to an argument about the entailments of materialism? You seem to have drunk deeply from RDFish’s Koolaid. Next you’ll be saying “I’ve read some books that they say you’re wrong. QED.”

  5. 5
    gpuccio says:

    Hangonasec:

    What’s the problem?

    The “ghost in the machine”, as you call it, is influenced by and reacts to the physical world and its events. The point is: given a certain influence, it can react in different ways, and that’s the essence of free will.

    In a materialist context, that is simply impossible: the “reactions” of the conscious being are wholly determined by external events, either algorithmic or random. Consciousness has no independent role, because it is the result of objective events. So, it’s always objective events that cause objective events.

    Not so if we believe that consciousness is not the result of objective events: then consciousness can interact with them, and make the difference.

    It’s simple, after all: both views have their inner consistency, and their necessary implications. We are free to choose. but it seems that those who choose the materialist context are always trying to cheat about the implications, maybe because those implications are really, really bad for everything we consider human.

    But that is not intellectual honesty.

  6. 6
    Jim Smith says:

    Where did this come from? Is it a personal communication from Murray or do you have a reference for it?

  7. 7

    Most of the pro-con arguments and discussions I am seeing here and on related articles is leveled on philosophical/intellectual positions. Is truth objective – is there right and wrong – is there such a thing as evil …

    I am one who believes that truth is objective … there are such things as right and wrong … there is such a thing as evil. Further, I believe evil to be real and physical … and evil knowable by our physical senses – it can be seen, touched, heard, smelled and tasted. To treat and argue that evil is merely an academic exercise to be argued among the intellectual elite is a dangerous path to follow … as history shows.

    My key witness is the European holocaust of the 1930s and 1940s and its continuation today with respect to the deliberate and calculated program of Islam to complete Hitler’s attempts of annihilation of an entire race of people … the Jews.

    I suspect that if you asked survivors of the death camps what they experienced, you would invariably find “evil” to be a common theme and experience.
    And the evil experienced was not an intellectual or academic experience, but was one they personally saw with there eyes … smelt with their noses … heard with their ears … tasted with their tongues … and touched with their fingers. You cannot look at the pictures of those camps and those people and come away with anything other than a picture of real, physical and tangible evil.

    This evil does not derive from the random placement and actions of molecules and atoms … it is not a subjective thing … it is real … it is objective … it is evil.

    And this evil is transcendent … showing an ancient and continuing war between the Biblical God of the 10 Commandments, and a fallen angel now known as Satan. What we see in events like the Holocaust is a material and physical manifestation of that spiritual battle waged on planet earth.

  8. 8
    tjguy says:

    Neil says:

    By the way, I am not a materialist, mainly because I do not agree with some of what materialists do say.

    Careful Neil, when you allow for the existence of immaterial things, it gets harder to rule out a Creator God as the ultimate cause of all that is. It seems to me it would be harder to arrive at a completely materialistic view of humanity as well.

    So, do you think there is a mind or a soul in our bodies, or are we all just chemicals and energy? How do you arrive at your answer to this?

    If you reject the mind option, why do you do this?

    Also, where do you think logic comes from?

  9. 9
    gpuccio says:

    It seems that Neil has a talent in evoking questions from his readers! 🙂

    (see my post #6 here):

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-559678

  10. 10

    Jim smith @6: I posted it in a couple of recent threads.

  11. 11

    I’d like for those that defend materialism to respond: is the sensation that we have top-down, prescriptive control over at least some of our thoughts and actions an illusion?

    Or do we actually have top-down, prescriptive control over at least some of our actions and thoughts?

    If the former, why bother arguing at all?

    If the latter, how is it justified under materialism?

  12. 12
    ppolish says:

    Why bother? Does a rock bother to sink in water? You are arguing with a box of rocks William:)

  13. 13
    Mapou says:

    Great dissertation by WJM. Hangonasec wrote:

    Great, now all you need to do is explain how the ghost in the machine produces the appropriate interaction with matter in response to its immaterial ‘ought’, how it is protected, simply by being ‘immaterial’, from any parallel delusion that it has executive capability, why so many of its ‘oughts’ are preoccupied with what goes on in the physical realm, and why its ‘oughts’ are so readily influenced by physical trauma, narcotics etc.

    As Barry pointed out, there is no need to explain how the ghost in the machine interacts with the machine. The lack of such an explanation would not give materialism a free pass.

    In my research, I have found that the brain requires a top-down control or decision center for two essential functions: attention and motor behavior. In animals, attention and behavior are exclusively controlled by instincts. These are genetically inherited programs associated with survival and procreation. The human brain is also under the influence of several such programs but something other than the brain is the ultimate decider of our actions. How do I know this? The reason is that we humans are infatuated with things that have nothing to do with survival and procreation. We are interested in spiritual things such as music, beauty and the arts. These things cannot programmed in advance and are nowhere to be found in the brain.

  14. 14
    Zachriel says:

    William J Murray: I’d like for those that defend materialism to respond: is the sensation that we have top-down, prescriptive control over at least some of our thoughts and actions an illusion?

    It’s the sensation of choosing among alternatives, even if you like chocolate best and always choose chocolate.

  15. 15
    Neil Rickert says:

    tjguy: Careful Neil, when you allow for the existence of immaterial things, it gets harder to rule out a Creator God as the ultimate cause of all that is.

    I have neither ruled in nor ruled out immaterial things. The meaning of “material” and of “immaterial” is far from clear.

    So, do you think there is a mind or a soul in our bodies, or are we all just chemicals and energy?

    There’s a sole on each shoe. I see “mind” as a metaphor. But, no, we are not “just chemicals and energy”. We are processes, or systems of behavior. The chemicals and energy are an implementation detail. If you had the chemicals and energy without the behavior, you would not have a person. If you had all of the behavior implemented some other way, it would seem to be a person.

  16. 16
    tjguy says:

    Neil says:

    I have neither ruled in nor ruled out immaterial things.

    That’s a very safe position. By saying you don’t have a position, you don’t need to defend the irrationality of materialism even if you do lean that way.

    I see “mind” as a metaphor.

    OK, so that’s your opinion/belief about the mind.

    But, no, we are not “just chemicals and energy”. We are processes, or systems of behavior. The chemicals and energy are an implementation detail. If you had the chemicals and energy without the behavior, you would not have a person. If you had all of the behavior implemented some other way, it would seem to be a person.

    I find this confusing. We are not just chemicals and energy, but are rather processes or systems of behavior. But aren’t those processes and systems of behavior a product of or the direct result of the chemicals and energy that make up our bodies? So just how does that differ from what materialists believe about humanity?

    OR, are you saying that the chemicals and energy when they act together make us into something immaterial. I doubt you are saying that. It goes back to WJM’s question of top down or bottom up. It seems you are advocating a bottom up approach, but that somehow we become more than the sum of our parts. Just exactly how that happens, I don’t know. Do you?

    But in the end, you say that we are not persons, but simply chemicals and energy that evidently inspire/direct/determine behavior. Sounds like a Materialist view of humanity to me even if you are open to the existence of immaterial things.

    Wouldn’t you say that your view of humanity is in line with the view of humanity proposed by the worldview of materialism?

  17. 17
    Neil Rickert says:

    tjguy:
    But aren’t those processes and systems of behavior a product of or the direct result of the chemicals and energy that make up our bodies?

    Let me illustrate with an analogy.

    If we dig up all of the dirt along the banks of the Mississippi river, and replace it with different dirt, then it will still be the Mississippi river. Then if we wait a few days, all of the water will have been replaced by different water. But it will still be the Missippi river. We have replaced all of the material, yet we still have the same river.

    If we take all of what we know about physics, and try to apply to the material of the river, we won’t be very successful. For you would have to also look at the material that is not yet in the river, but might get there after a few days.

    Our situation is analogous. All of the atoms are replaced by different atoms. And our behavior (what food we eat, for example) influences which atoms will become part of our body in the future.

    The processes continue, but the material is just passing through.

    So just how does that differ from what materialists believe about humanity?

    Many materialists seem to think that we are computers. I don’t believe that we are anything like computers.

  18. 18
    Mung says:

    Neil Rickert:

    Yet mathematics is categorically different from matter and energy, and materialists mostly accept mathematics.

    Odd that.

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