Mind Neuroscience

Interview with Dutch journalist: On trolls, free will, the self, and nakedness

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Here’s an introduction to Henk Rijkers’ review/profile/interview with me about The Spiritual Brain (Mario Beauregard and Denyse O’Leary) in a Dutch Catholic newspaper. The book covers the failure of materialism to fulfil its promises and offers a look at a non-materialist approach to neuroscience, hence the controversy.

Update: Here’s the complete text.

You’ll need Google Translate (just below Navbar) to follow that, so I thought I’d post a few English language comments I made:

Rijkers: When I am looking around on the internet, I see that your book nonetheless has met with a lot of stiff criticism. What I would like to know is whether the criticism has in any way changed your position or that of you co-author. Or do you know of any scientific information after publication of the book, that underpins your conclusions?

O’Leary: Most of the criticism is coming from materialists with an axe to grind and (in my case) sometimes from guys with some weird problem that causes them to curse and use insulting sexual references when one of the authors is a woman. Maybe they don’t get out much? They got a problem with women?

Basically, Henk, anyone who was deterred by all the nonsense these people spout would never get anywhere with anything useful. Fundamentally, I just close the door and look at the evidence.

The evidence hasn’t supported materialism since the advent of quantum mechanics nearly a century ago and it never will. But the mail can be really, really slow getting through in some places.

And today? Massive more information now underpins our conclusions. I can hardly keep up with it all, which is why I started the blog Mindful Hack (on hold till June 15, while I write my next book). But I now just post those stories at Uncommon Descent.

[I probably should have mentioned to Rijkers my troll riddance/avoidance protocol (TRAP): Peace at my price, not peace at any price. And, as it happens, I am not paying a cent or giving an inch.]

Rijkers: So what about the self, and free will? Are they outdated concepts?

O’Leary About the self, I quote the Jewish Zen: If there is no self, whose arthritis is this? About free will, I only say, if you really did not have free will, you wouldn’t be asking. Think about it: How would you know such a thing as free will existed if it is not a fact about something, and if it is a fact about something, why not about you? You thought of it, after all.

I sometimes reference the moment in the Garden of Eden story where God asks Adam, “Who told you that you were naked?” No one had told Adam that they were naked. He and his wife had simply realized that for themselves.

They thought nakedness was a problem and tried to do something about it by twisting vines of leaves around themselves. It wasn’t a very good solution, but it showed what they were thinking about.

The story is, among many other things, an old-fashioned way of talking about the discovery of self-consciousness – not, as it happens, under happy circumstances.

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