Culture Intelligent Design Naturalism Philosophy

Philosopher: Materialist claims to explain the mind are like claims to have squared the circle

Spread the love

From philosopher Edward Feser at Claremont Review of Books, reviewing Daniel Dennett’s Bacteria to Bach and Back:

How do you get blood from a stone? Easy. Start by redefining “blood” to mean “a variety of stone.” Next, maintaining as straight a face as possible, dramatically expound upon some trivial respect in which stone is similar to blood. For example, describe how, when a red stone is pulverized and stirred into water, the resulting mixture looks sort of like blood. Condescendingly roll your eyes at your incredulous listener’s insistence that there are other and more important respects in which stone and blood are dissimilar. Accuse him of obscurantism and bad faith. Finally, wax erudite about the latest research in mineralogy, insinuating that it somehow shows that to reject your thesis is to reject Science Itself.

Of course, no one would be fooled by so farcical a procedure. But substitute “mind” for “blood” and “matter” for “stone,” and you have the recipe for Daniel Dennett’s From Bacteria to Bach and Back. The philosopher Peter Geach once wrote that we should treat materialist claims to have explained the mind the way we would treat a claim to have squared the circle: the only question worth asking is “How well has the fallacy been concealed?” In Dennett’s case, not well. More.

No, Dennett does not conceal the fallacy well. But look at his audience. Do they really care? For the bicoastal elite, naturalism does not need to make sense so much as it needs to be enforced.

See also: Philosopher Ed Feser offers some fun: Richard Dawkins vs. Thomas Aquinas

Philosopher exposes neo-Darwinian Daniel Dennett: Claims “so preposterous as to verge on the deranged”

and

The illusion of consciousness sees through itself.

53 Replies to “Philosopher: Materialist claims to explain the mind are like claims to have squared the circle

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    “(Daniel) Dennett concludes, ‘nobody is conscious … we are all zombies’.”
    J.W. SCHOOLER & C.A. SCHREIBER – Experience, Meta-consciousness, and the Paradox of Introspection – 2004
    https://www.scribd.com/document/183053947/Experience-Meta-consciousness-and-the-Paradox-of-Introspection

    And there you have it folks, absolute proof that when you deny the reality of your own mind you have in fact lost your mind!

    Philosophical Zombies – cartoon
    http://existentialcomics.com/comic/11

    There is simply no direct evidence that anything material is capable of generating consciousness. As Rutgers University philosopher Jerry A. Fodor says, “Nobody has the slightest idea how anything material could be conscious. Nobody even knows what it would be like to have the slightest idea about how anything material could be conscious. So much for the philosophy of consciousness.” And as the theoretical biologist and complex-systems theorist Stuart Kauffman puts it, “Nobody has the faintest idea what consciousness is…. I don’t have any idea. Nor does anybody else, including the philosophers of mind.” Nobel neurophysiologist Roger Sperry took a similar position, saying, “Those centermost processes of the brain with which consciousness is presumably associated are simply not understood. They are so far beyond our comprehension at present that no one I know of has been able even to imagine their nature.” From modern physics, Nobelist Eugene Wigner agreed: “We have at present not even the vaguest idea how to connect the physio-chemical processes with the state of mind.” And as contemporary physicist Nick Herbert states, “Science’s biggest mystery is the nature of consciousness. It is not that we possess bad or imperfect theories of human awareness; we simply have no such theories at all. About all we know about consciousness is that it has something to do with the head, rather than the foot.”,,,
    “No experiment has ever demonstrated the genesis of consciousness from matter. One might as well believe that rabbits emerge from magicians’ hats. Yet this vaporous possibility, this neuro-mythology, has enchanted generations of gullible scientists, in spite of the fact that there is not a shred of direct evidence to support it.”
    – Larry Dossey
    https://www.amazon.com/review/R2HDJP51TQLJXC

  2. 2
    Seversky says:

    Take away the matter, you take away the mind. If Feser has anything better to offer – aside from jeering – let’s hear it.

  3. 3
    Dick says:

    From 2: “Take away the matter, you take away the mind. ”

    This is a bit like saying that if you take away the tv set you take away the electromagnetic signal. The two together produce the image on the screen, but it doesn’t follow that eliminating one eliminates the other.

  4. 4
    Querius says:

    “Matter” cannot *explain* consciousness just as a TV cannot explain the source of the electromagnetic signal that creates coherent images on the TV screen.

    But some scientists are indeed moving in the other direction. I’m reading about scientists embracing animism or universal consciousness. After all, if rocks, plants, and clouds are conscious, then it’s no big deal that humans are conscious, and we all might even unconsciously share the same consciousness. Oooooh.

    And consciousness may have . . . drum roll . . . EVOLVED!

    Problem solved.

    -Q

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    “Take away the matter, you take away the mind.”

    Presumably Sev is talking about brain matter from living human beings in particular and not just all matter altogether.

    And yet, despite Sev’s claim for which he provided no experimental support, we find that when matter is ‘taken away’ from the brain of a living human being that, surprisingly, the mind remains:

    Removing Half of Brain Improves Young Epileptics’ Lives: – 1997
    Excerpt: “We are awed by the apparent retention of memory and by the retention of the child’s personality and sense of humor,” Dr. Eileen P. G. Vining,,
    Dr. John Freeman, the director of the Johns Hopkins Pediatric Epilepsy Center, said he was dumbfounded at the ability of children to regain speech after losing the half of the brain that is supposedly central to language processing.
    ”It’s fascinating,” Dr. Freeman said. ”The classic lore is that you can’t change language after the age of 2 or 3.”
    But Dr. Freeman’s group has now removed diseased left hemispheres in more than 20 patients, including three 13-year-olds whose ability to speak transferred to the right side of the brain in much the way that Alex’s did.,,,
    http://www.nytimes.com/1997/08.....lives.html

    In further comment from the neuro-surgeons in the John Hopkins study:

    “Despite removal of one hemisphere, the intellect of all but one of the children seems either unchanged or improved. Intellect was only affected in the one child who had remained in a coma, vigil-like state, attributable to peri-operative complications.”

    A few more notes along the same line

    Strange but True: When Half a Brain Is Better than a Whole One – May 2007
    Excerpt: Most Hopkins hemispherectomy patients are five to 10 years old. Neurosurgeons have performed the operation on children as young as three months old. Astonishingly, memory and personality develop normally. ,,,
    Another study found that children that underwent hemispherectomies often improved academically once their seizures stopped. “One was champion bowler of her class, one was chess champion of his state, and others are in college doing very nicely,” Freeman says.
    Of course, the operation has its downside: “You can walk, run—some dance or skip—but you lose use of the hand opposite of the hemisphere that was removed. You have little function in that arm and vision on that side is lost,” Freeman says. Remarkably, few other impacts are seen. ,,,
    http://www.scientificamerican......than-whole

    How Removing Half of Someone’s Brain Can Improve Their Life – Oct. 2015
    Excerpt: Next spring, del Peral (who has only half a brain) will graduate from Curry College, where she has made the dean’s list every semester since freshman year.
    http://www.mentalfloss.com/art.....their-life

    Discrepancy Between Cerebral Structure and Cognitive Functioning: A Review – 2017
    Excerpt: The aforementioned student of mathematics had a global IQ of 130 and a verbal IQ of 140 at the age of 25 (Lorber, 1983), but had “virtually no brain” (Lewin 1980, p. 1232).,,,
    This student belonged to the group of patients that Lorber classified as having “extreme
    hydrocephalus,” meaning that more than 90% of their cranium appeared to be filled with cerebrospinal fluid (Lorber, 1983).,,,
    Apart from the above-mentioned student of mathematics, he described a woman with an extreme degree of hydrocephalus showing “virtually no cerebral mantle” who had an IQ of 118, a girl aged 5 who had an IQ of 123 despite extreme hydrocephalus, a 7-year-old boy with gross hydrocephalus and an IQ of 128, another young adult with gross hydrocephalus and a verbal IQ of 144, and a nurse and an English teacher who both led normal lives despite gross hydrocephalus.,,,
    Another interesting case is that of a 44-year-old woman with very gross hydrocephalus described by Masdeu (2008) and Masdeu et al. (2009). She had a global IQ of 98, worked as an administrator for a government agency, and spoke seven languages.,,,
    ,,, , people who grew up with only one hemisphere developed all the neuronal foundations needed for ordinary cognitive and most motor skills. Even so, it seems additionally surprising that one hemisphere can accomplish this after the other has been removed or was isolated anatomically and functionally from the rest of the brain, as it is the case of surgical hemispherectomy.,,,
    It is astonishing that many patients can lead an ordinary life after this drastic procedure, having only minor motor disabilities that result from mild hemiplegia.,,,
    McFie (1961) was astonished that “not only does it (one hemishere) perform motor and sensory functions for both sides of the body, it performs the associative and intellectual functions normally allocated to two hemispheres” (p. 248).,,,
    ,,, most patients, even adults, do not seem to lose their long-term memory such as episodic
    (autobiographic) memories.,,,
    Finally, we will present additional considerations about memory processing, especially in savants. In this respect, Kim Peek (1951–2009) was most remarkable in that he seemed to possess a perfect memory: he forgot nothing he ever read and remembered complete melodies, even if he heard them only once. Most remarkably, his brain showed considerable malformations that included a deformed cerebellum, abnormalities of the left hemisphere, and the complete lack of the corpus callosum, as well as the anterior and posterior commissures. In addition, much of the skull interior comprised empty areas that were filled with cerebrospinal fluid, as in hydrocephalic subjects (Treffert and Christensen, 2005). Nevertheless, he memorized more than 12,000 books, apparently verbatim, the contents of which amounted to an encyclopedic knowledge in multiple areas of interest.
    Typically, he would read a page in eight to ten seconds, and then turn to the next page. He even read two pages of smaller books such as paperbacks simultaneously, using one eye each for each page. Moreover, he had impressive calendar calculating abilities (Treffert, 2010).
    https://med.virginia.edu/perceptual-studies/wp-content/uploads/sites/360/2017/12/Discrepancy-between-cerebral-structure-and-cognitive-functioning-JNMD.pdf

    Moreover, in Near Death Experiences we find people can experience their consciousness outside their body

    A Reply to Shermer Medical Evidence for NDEs (Near Death Experiences) – Pim van Lommel
    Excerpt: For decades, extensive research has been done to localize memories (information) inside the brain, so far without success.,,,,So we need a functioning brain to receive our consciousness into our waking consciousness. And as soon as the function of brain has been lost, like in clinical death or in brain death, with iso-electricity on the EEG, memories and consciousness do still exist, but the reception ability is lost. People can experience their consciousness outside their body, with the possibility of perception out and above their body, with identity, and with heightened awareness, attention, well-structured thought processes, memories and emotions. And they also can experience their consciousness in a dimension where past, present and future exist at the same moment, without time and space, and can be experienced as soon as attention has been directed to it (life review and preview), and even sometimes they come in contact with the “fields of consciousness” of deceased relatives. And later they can experience their conscious return into their body.
    http://www.nderf.org/vonlommel.....sponse.htm

    The Mystery of Perception During Near Death Experiences – Pim van Lommel – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avyUsPgIuQ0

    Atheists like to claim Near Death Experiences are unscientific, but, when compared to the evidential standards of Darwinists themselves, Near Death Experiences have far more experimental support going for them than do the claims of Darwinists:

    Near-Death Experiences: Putting a Darwinist’s Evidentiary Standards to the Test – Dr. Michael Egnor – October 15, 2012
    Excerpt: Indeed, about 20 percent of NDE’s are corroborated, which means that there are independent ways of checking about the veracity of the experience. The patients knew of things that they could not have known except by extraordinary perception — such as describing details of surgery that they watched while their heart was stopped, etc. Additionally, many NDE’s have a vividness and a sense of intense reality that one does not generally encounter in dreams or hallucinations.,,,
    The most “parsimonious” explanation — the simplest scientific explanation — is that the (Near Death) experience was real. Tens of millions of people have had such experiences. That is tens of millions of more times than we have observed the origin of species , (or the origin of life, or the origin of a protein/gene, or of a molecular machine), which is never.,,,
    The materialist reaction, in short, is unscientific and close-minded. NDE’s show fellows like Coyne at their sneering unscientific irrational worst. Somebody finds a crushed fragment of a fossil and it’s earth-shaking evidence. Tens of million of people have life-changing spiritual experiences and it’s all a big yawn.
    Note: Dr. Egnor is professor and vice-chairman of neurosurgery at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....65301.html

    In the following study, materialistic researchers who had a bias against Near Death Experiences being real, set out to prove that they were ‘false memories’ by setting up a clever questionnaire that could differentiate which memories a person had were real and which memories a person had were merely imaginary.
    They did not expect the results they got: to quote the headline

    ‘Afterlife’ feels ‘even more real than real,’ researcher says – Wed April 10, 2013
    Excerpt: “If you use this questionnaire … if the memory is real, it’s richer, and if the memory is recent, it’s richer,” he said.
    The coma scientists weren’t expecting what the tests revealed.
    “To our surprise, NDEs were much richer than any imagined event or any real event of these coma survivors,” Laureys reported.
    The memories of these experiences beat all other memories, hands down, for their vivid sense of reality. “The difference was so vast,” he said with a sense of astonishment.
    Even if the patient had the experience a long time ago, its memory was as rich “as though it was yesterday,” Laureys said.
    http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/09/.....periences/

    Memories of Near Death Experiences (NDEs): More Real Than Reality? – Mar. 27, 2013
    Excerpt: University of Liège
    ,,,researchers,, have looked into the memories of NDE with the hypothesis that if the memories of NDE were pure products of the imagination, their phenomenological characteristics (e.g., sensorial, self referential, emotional, etc. details) should be closer to those of imagined memories. Conversely, if the NDE are experienced in a way similar to that of reality, their characteristics would be closer to the memories of real events.
    The researchers compared the responses provided by three groups of patients, each of which had survived (in a different manner) a coma, and a group of healthy volunteers. They studied the memories of NDE and the memories of real events and imagined events with the help of a questionnaire which evaluated the phenomenological characteristics of the memories. The results were surprising. From the perspective being studied, not only were the NDEs not similar to the memories of imagined events, but the phenomenological characteristics inherent to the memories of real events (e.g. memories of sensorial details) are even more numerous in the memories of NDE than in the memories of real events.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....190359.htm

  6. 6
    Latemarch says:

    Luke 19:38-40 (NKJ)

    saying: “`Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”

    Maybe rocks aren’t as dumb as we think“;^)

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    A Doctor’s Near Death Experience Inspires a New Life – video
    Quote: “It’s not like a dream. It’s like the world we are living in is a dream and it’s kind of like waking up from that.”
    Dr. Magrisso
    http://www.nbcchicago.com/on-a.....31791.html

    Medical Miracles – Dr. Mary Neal’s Near Death Experience – video (More real than real quote at 37:49 minute mark)
    https://youtu.be/WCNjmWP2JjU?t=2269

    “More real than anything I’ve experienced since. When I came back of course I had 34 operations, and was in the hospital for 13 months. That was real but heaven is more real than that. The emotions and the feelings. The reality of being with people who had preceded me in death.”
    – Don Piper – “90 Minutes in Heaven,” 10 Years Later – video (2:54 minute mark)
    https://youtu.be/3LyZoNlKnMM?t=173

    Exactly how is it possible for something to become even ‘more real than real’ in a NDE unless the world we currently live in really is just a shadow of the heavenly paradise that awaits us after death as is held in Theism and in Christianity in particular?

    In fact, whereas, atheists have no compelling evidence for the various parallel universe and/or multiverse scenarios that they have put forth,,

    Multiverse Mania vs Reality – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQJV4fH6kMo

    ,, Christians, on the other hand, can appeal directly to the higher dimensional mathematics behind Quantum Mechanics, Special Relativity and General Relativity to support their belief that God upholds this universe in its continual existence, as well as to support their belief in a heavenly dimension and in a hellish dimension.

    Quantum Mechanics, Special Relativity, General Relativity and Christianity – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKggH8jO0pk

    In fact, whereas Darwinists have no clue how the basic ‘form’ of any particular biological organism might be achieved during embryological development, or how that basic ‘form’ might be maintained for precisely a lifetime, and not a moment longer,,,

    Darwinism vs Biological Form – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyNzNPgjM4w

    The Unbearable Wholeness of Beings – Stephen L. Talbott – 2010
    Excerpt: Virtually the same collection of molecules exists in the canine cells during the moments immediately before and after death. But after the fateful transition no one will any longer think of genes as being regulated, nor will anyone refer to normal or proper chromosome functioning. No molecules will be said to guide other molecules to specific targets, and no molecules will be carrying signals, which is just as well because there will be no structures recognizing signals. Code, information, and communication, in their biological sense, will have disappeared from the scientist’s vocabulary.
    ,,, the question, rather, is why things don’t fall completely apart — as they do, in fact, at the moment of death. What power holds off that moment — precisely for a lifetime, and not a moment longer?
    Despite the countless processes going on in the cell, and despite the fact that each process might be expected to “go its own way” according to the myriad factors impinging on it from all directions, the actual result is quite different. Rather than becoming progressively disordered in their mutual relations (as indeed happens after death, when the whole dissolves into separate fragments), the processes hold together in a larger unity.
    per – The New Atlantis

    Christians, and the other hand, can appeal directly to breakthroughs in quantum biology to support their belief in a ‘soul’ that gives the material body its basic form and also to support their belief in a soul which is capable of living past the death of our material bodies:

    Darwinian Materialism vs. Quantum Biology – video
    https://youtu.be/LHdD2Am1g5Y

    “Let’s say the heart stops beating. The blood stops flowing. The microtubules lose their quantum state. But the quantum information, which is in the microtubules, isn’t destroyed. It can’t be destroyed. It just distributes and dissipates to the universe at large. If a patient is resuscitated, revived, this quantum information can go back into the microtubules and the patient says, “I had a near death experience. I saw a white light. I saw a tunnel. I saw my dead relatives.,,” Now if they’re not revived and the patient dies, then it’s possible that this quantum information can exist outside the body. Perhaps indefinitely as a soul.”
    – Stuart Hameroff – Quantum Entangled Consciousness – Life After Death – video (5:00 minute mark)
    https://youtu.be/jjpEc98o_Oo?t=300

    Verse and Music:

    Matthew 16:25-26
    For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

    Jewel – Who will save your soul – Video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LukEq643Mk

  8. 8
    Latemarch says:

    BA77:

    In fact, whereas Darwinists have no clue how the ‘form’ of any particular biological organism might be achieved during embryological development, or how that basic ‘form’ might be maintained for precisely a lifetime, and not a moment longer,,,

    Thought experiment:
    Take a few billion bacteria. Place them in an ideal nutrient media. Now gently disrupt all the cell walls and let the contents spill out into the media. The ideal starting point for life! Everything is there. The complex molecules required for energy from nutrient. The programming in the DNA. Even the membranes to enclose it all. The perfect little warm pond.

    Now let’s wait for life to arise……still waiting…..

    Odd isn’t it that the only thing disrupted was the ‘form.’

    Colossians 1:16-17
    For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities– all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

  9. 9
    bornagain77 says:

    “Odd isn’t it that the only thing disrupted was the ‘form.'”

    Thanks Latemarch, interesting insight that adds an exclamation point to the evidence that had thus far been presented.

  10. 10
    Molson Bleu says:

    If the mind were proven to be material, wouldn’t that put a lot of philosophers out of work? Philosophers are good at some things but when it comes to commenting on their bread and butter, the mind, I tend to take them with a large grain of salt.

  11. 11
    Seversky says:

    bornagain77 @ 5

    “Take away the matter, you take away the mind.”

    Presumably Sev is talking about brain matter from living human beings in particular and not just all matter altogether.

    I am saying that when a brain shows no detectable signs of electrical activity anywhere, when blood flow to the brain has ceased and when chemical decomposition of the brain matter has begun – in other words, the brain and the individual of which it is a part are, by any measure, dead – we have never observed the conscious mind of that individual to return. You can easily prove my claim wrong if you can provide evidence of conscious minds reappearing after physical death but I won’t be holding my breath.

    Near death experiences don’t count, by the way, as those patients did not die. By definition, they were only near death. They only show that some people in that situation have similar experiences. They may simply be due to common biochemical activity in brains under those circumstances rather than being glimpses of an afterlife.

    And yet, despite Sev’s claim for which he provided no experimental support, we find that when matter is ‘taken away’ from the brain of a living human being that, surprisingly, the mind remains:

    Removing Half of Brain Improves Young Epileptics’ Lives: – 1997
    Excerpt: “We are awed by the apparent retention of memory and by the retention of the child’s personality and sense of humor,” Dr. Eileen P. G. Vining,, …

    I wasn’t talking about some matter being removed. I was claiming that we never observe a conscious mind in the absence of a physical substrate, in this case the brain.

    Yes, we know from work like this that the brain can be surprisingly resilient to some damage or injuries. In fact, it might be better to think of it as an interlinked twin-brain system where the two hemispheres are able to function to some extent as independent units. I’m reminded of the fictional twin HAL 9000 computers on Earth referred to in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

    Against that, we also have evidence of how injuries to the brain can alter the experienced or observed behavior of the conscious mind and even shut it down, although the organ continues to function at a non-conscious level.

    Either way, none of this provides support for the contention that the conscious mind can exist apart from a physical substrate like the brain.

  12. 12
    Seversky says:

    bornagain77 @ 7

    Christians, and the other hand, can appeal directly to breakthroughs in quantum biology to support their belief in a ‘soul’ that gives the material body its basic form and also to support their belief in a soul which is capable of living past the death of our material bodies:

    Darwinian Materialism vs. Quantum Biology – video
    https://youtu.be/LHdD2Am1g5Y

    “Let’s say the heart stops beating. The blood stops flowing. The microtubules lose their quantum state. But the quantum information, which is in the microtubules, isn’t destroyed. It can’t be destroyed. It just distributes and dissipates to the universe at large. If a patient is resuscitated, revived, this quantum information can go back into the microtubules and the patient says, “I had a near death experience. I saw a white light. I saw a tunnel. I saw my dead relatives.,,” Now if they’re not revived and the patient dies, then it’s possible that this quantum information can exist outside the body. Perhaps indefinitely as a soul.”
    – Stuart Hameroff – Quantum Entangled Consciousness – Life After Death – video (5:00 minute mark)
    https://youtu.be/jjpEc98o_Oo?t=300

    No, Christians can’t appeal to “quantum biology”.

    In the first place, Hameroff is referring to NDEs not death. Death, by definition, is irreversible. It’s what you don’t recover from.

    In the second place, when the body dies it undergoes chemical decomposition. Over time, the matter and energy of which it was composed disintegrate and “dissipate[s] into the universe at large” but it still exists. The net amount of matter and energy in the Universe as a whole is unchanged. What is gone – and, as far as we can tell, gone for good – is the unique pattern or arrangement of that matter and energy that was that individual before death. There is nothing, even in quantum theory, as far as I’m aware to suggest that the individual’s ‘blueprint’ is stored somewhere else just waiting for the right technology to rebuild him or her.

    As a human being, I would love there to be an eternal life after death where we would be re-united with all our loved ones and friends and all Earthly suffering would be ended. As an a/mat I feel compelled to try and understand the world as it is, not as I would like it to be.

  13. 13
    eddieunmuzzled says:

    Seversky, you wrote:

    “Take away the matter, you take away the mind.”

    There is a difference between asserting that A is a necessary condition for B, and that the existence of B is fully explained by the existence of A.

    In the case of the brain-mind relationship, atheist-materialists (which you identify as your tribe) are claiming not merely that there is no mind in the absence of a brain; they are also claiming that *all* the properties and activities of mind are derivable solely from the properties of the brain. And they fiercely resist, and try to explain away, any data which suggests that mind cannot be fully explained by the brain alone. That’s because of their commitment to a certain metaphysics.

    “As an a/mat I feel compelled to try and understand the world as it is, not as I would like it to be.”

    The atheist/materialist position (as distinguished from a merely agnostic position) is quite evidently (in most cases known to me) driven very strongly by wishful thinking, i.e., the wish that there should be no soul subject to eternal judgment, no design in nature, no designer, and no God. It is just as wish-driven as the position: “I need to feel loved; therefore there must exist a God who loves me.”

    Someone who truly sought to understand “the world as it is” would likely conclude that the evidence is not sufficient on either side, i.e., that the data neither demonstrate nor refute the existence of design, God, soul, etc., and that is possible for a rational, educated, fair-minded person to believe in all of those things without intellectual dishonesty. Angry and cynical people like Coyne, Dawkins, Myers, etc. project their own anti-religious metaphysics onto the world, rather than derive their metaphysics from a cautious, philosophical analysis of the world. This is why their writing about ultimate matters seems childish in comparison to that of people like Feser, Plantinga, etc. They are incapable of philosophical detachment.

  14. 14
    ET says:

    Seversky:

    As an a/mat I feel compelled to try and understand the world as it is, not as I would like it to be.

    As an a/mat you will never understand the world as it is.

  15. 15
    Seversky says:

    eddieunmuzzled @ 13

    There is a difference between asserting that A is a necessary condition for B, and that the existence of B is fully explained by the existence of A.

    Agreed.

    In the case of the brain-mind relationship, atheist-materialists (which you identify as your tribe) are claiming not merely that there is no mind in the absence of a brain; they are also claiming that *all* the properties and activities of mind are derivable solely from the properties of the brain. And they fiercely resist, and try to explain away, any data which suggests that mind cannot be fully explained by the brain alone. That’s because of their commitment to a certain metaphysics.

    Yes, if there is no evidence of mind existing apart from the physical brain then it is reasonable to assume that the former is derivable solely from the properties of the latter. However, it’s certainly true that there is Chalmers’s “hard problem of consciousness”. Actually deriving what we experience and observe as the mind from the observed physical properties of the brain has proven to be an intractable problem so far.

    Of course, to be fair, science has only been working on the problem for a short time. The fact that we don’t yet have a good materialistic explanation of mind doesn’t mean that there isn’t one. I realize that’s a weak defense, really just a plea for more time, but is there any better alternative? Immaterial concepts of mind are no more cogent and have far less evidentiary support.

    The atheist/materialist position (as distinguished from a merely agnostic position) is quite evidently (in most cases known to me) driven very strongly by wishful thinking, i.e., the wish that there should be no soul subject to eternal judgment, no design in nature, no designer, and no God. It is just as wish-driven as the position: “I need to feel loved; therefore there must exist a God who loves me.”

    If God is able to judge me, why should I not judge Him? The only differences are that we assume that God’s judgments are based on much greater knowledge than I have and He has the absolute power to enforce His judgments on me whereas I am utterly powerless to affect Him.

    However, on the assumption that you do not endorse the principle that might makes right, questions arise about why are God’s judgments better than mine or yours, why doesn’t He ever give detailed explanations to us of how He arrived at those judgments. More irritating to me is why so many Christians never bother to even ask the questions while coming down hard on agnostics and atheists just because we have.

    Someone who truly sought to understand “the world as it is” would likely conclude that the evidence is not sufficient on either side, i.e., that the data neither demonstrate nor refute the existence of design, God, soul, etc., and that is possible for a rational, educated, fair-minded person to believe in all of those things without intellectual dishonesty.

    I would tend to agree with all that.

    Angry and cynical people like Coyne, Dawkins, Myers, etc. project their own anti-religious metaphysics onto the world, rather than derive their metaphysics from a cautious, philosophical analysis of the world. This is why their writing about ultimate matters seems childish in comparison to that of people like Feser, Plantinga, etc. They are incapable of philosophical detachment

    If some of the so-called New Atheists have expressed their views more vehemently and caustically than some would like it’s an understandable reaction. For centuries, expressing atheistic views could cost you your life and in some parts of the world it still can. Public opinion polls in the US still show atheists held in very low regard. Small wonder that, now they are relatively free to speak out, you see bitter resentment in what they say and write.

  16. 16
    bornagain77 says:

    Sev, your posts are garbage.

    for example:

    “Near death experiences don’t count,”

    Says who, you?? NDEs are powerful evidence for the afterlife and as far Darwinian Evolution is concerned, are certainly far more credible scientifically than Darwinian evolution is.

    Your supposed rebuttals of empirical evidence only gets much worse from there since you don’t actually ever cite empirical evidence but only state your personal opinion/philosophy as if that counted against empirical evidence.

    I’m confident that the readers of UD can see through your shallow lies.

    In fact, given your history of pestering me and others on UD with such shallow and petty nonsense, I’m sure your comments only bolster my claims in the eyes of others..

    Unbeknownst to you, your shallow rebuttals are one of our best secret weapons for spreading Intelligent Design 🙂 , Keep up the good work. 🙂

  17. 17
    eddieunmuzzled says:

    Seversky:

    You wrote:

    “If some of the so-called New Atheists have expressed their views more vehemently and caustically than some would like it’s an understandable reaction. For centuries, expressing atheistic views could cost you your life and in some parts of the world it still can.”

    But it’s precisely the societies in which Coyne and Dawkins live that atheists and agnostics have long had the most freedom to speak out. Thomas Henry Huxley was not persecuted by the British state (though his name may have been execrated by many individuals) for his religious views. Darwin (whose final position was probably agnosticism) was free to publish his work, even his work on the descent of man which many found religiously offensive. In North America, skeptics like Ingersoll had a following a century ago, and of course the American Secular Union and/or similar organizations have been around for nearly a century if not longer, and I’m not aware that their members have been jailed, prevented from publishing books and pamphlets, prevent from renting a hall and speaking, etc. (Has Michael Shermer been persecuted?) And Carl Sagan was wildly popular (even appearing several times on Johnny Carson!) back in the 1960s and 1970s, long before Coyne or Dawkins were even heard of. Isaac Asimov and several other science fiction / science fact writers of agnostic or atheist temperament published their books and stories for decades without hindrance.

    So it’s hardly the case that Coyne and Dawkins are heroic voices speaking out against repression of agnostics/atheists; people have been free to voice the case for agnosticism and atheism, at least in Britain and North America, for a century now.

    What “new” in the “new atheism” is not any set of ideas (indeed, the basic set of ideas is as old as the hills), but the militant attitude. Unlike Carl Sagan, unlike Isaac Asimov, etc., the new atheists project a militant hatred of religion, a militant desire to remove it from human society. The older, more gentlemanly atheists and agnostics were content to smile at religion as something some people seemed to need and therefore not to be actively opposed, as long as it did not impose itself on individuals; the new atheists want to destroy religion. And there is no cause for this: Coyne, Dawkins, Myers, etc. have all been free to be as atheistic as they please, and hold or have held lucrative positions which have allowed them a platform to freely attack religious beliefs and religious people. They are not repressed; nor are atheists or agnostics in their societies repressed; in fact, in both Britain and North America atheists and agnostics are probably over-represented (relative to their numbers in the population) on university faculties, in journalism, in the arts, etc.

    If Dawkins and Coyne lived in, say, Saudi Arabia, and were publishing books and radio broadcasts about the repressive nature of religious regimes, I would say they were pretty courageous, given the probable consequences of their protests; but it takes not even a shred of courage for them to mouth off against religion in the societies in which they live. In fact, it makes them celebrities of a sort, and Dawkins in particular must be gloating over the size of the piles of glowing gold coins from his anti-religion book sales.

  18. 18
    eddieunmuzzled says:

    Seversky, you wrote:

    “More irritating to me is why so many Christians never bother to even ask the questions while coming down hard on agnostics and atheists just because we have.”

    Which Christians are you reading? Barely literate fundamentalists from the Bible belt, or serious Christian thinkers? Serious Christian thinkers have never shied from the big questions. Newton, Kepler, and Boyle all did foundational and highly respected scientific work while discoursing freely about God, and were willing to defend their belief in God against any and all comers. Thomas Aquinas very carefully considered the writings of non-Christian Jewish and Muslim philosophers, as well as of the pagan Aristotle. Augustine very carefully considers the arguments of the neo-Platonists. Theologians of the German Enlightenment responded to the humanist criticism of Lessing; highly educated (and sometimes decorated) philosophers and scholars such as A. E. Taylor, Christopher Dawson, C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, Alvin Plantinga and others have defended Christianity and/or a general theism at a very high level, not avoiding any of the tough arguments. Father Copleston showed up on British radio to debate Bertrand Russell. Christian thinkers have shown themselves fully aware of the challenge of various materialistic arguments, and have not been shy of meeting those arguments head-on, in personal debate or in print.

    I would suggest that you concentrate less on the poor arguments that are so frequently found in the blogosphere and in religious pamphlets hawked on street-corners, and familiarized yourselves with the original writings (not Wikipedia summaries) of the great Christian philosophers, theologians, historians of science, political theorists, etc. — people who have earned degrees from the world’s greatest universities and frequently have taught at the same. You will find that Christian thinkers have not hidden their heads in the sand, and can hold their own against atheist/materialist arguments.

    In fact, when the atheist/materialist arguments come from poor thinkers such as the New Atheists, they can hold their own without even working up much of a sweat. Against someone on the level of Spinoza or Nietzsche they have to work harder, but refuting Dawkins and Coyne is pretty much kindergarten stuff. Most scientists are pretty poor philosophers, and their arguments show it.

  19. 19
    eddieunmuzzled says:

    Seversky, regarding:

    “Yes, if there is no evidence of mind existing apart from the physical brain then it is reasonable to assume that the former is derivable solely from the properties of the latter.”

    I don’t follow your reasoning here. We may never see vultures except where there is carrion, but it doesn’t follow that vultures are derived from carrion (as once flies were supposed to be derived from dead bodies). Even if one says that vulture bodies are built up entirely from proteins ingested from carrion (which wouldn’t be true, since presumably vultures at least occasionally drink some water), those specific proteins doesn’t dictate the form “vulture”. To get a vulture, you need more than carrion; you need vulture DNA and developmental processes. So it’s not true that a vulture is reducible to mere carrion, even though carrion is necessary for its existence.

    Analogously, it may be that minds can exist without bodies, though they need bodies to act in the world; in that case, we would see that all mental activity is accompanied by bodily activity, but would be wrong to conclude that mental activity requires a body. There may at this moment be disembodied intelligences contemplating the laws of quantum physics. The most we can say is that we are unfamiliar with any intelligences that don’t inhabit bodies. We can’t rule out their existence.

    I haven’t had any out-of-body experiences myself, but apparently credible reports exist (e.g., of patients who can remember seeing themselves from above the operating table, and describe what the doctors were doing even though they were unconscious with their eyes closed at the time). That is certainly evidence for some degree of separability of body from mind. I don’t say it’s proof, but it’s evidence. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio …

  20. 20
    Seversky says:

    eddieunmuzzled @ 17

    Seversky:

    You wrote:

    “If some of the so-called New Atheists have expressed their views more vehemently and caustically than some would like it’s an understandable reaction. For centuries, expressing atheistic views could cost you your life and in some parts of the world it still can.”

    But it’s precisely the societies in which Coyne and Dawkins live that atheists and agnostics have long had the most freedom to speak out. Thomas Henry Huxley was not persecuted by the British state (though his name may have been execrated by many individuals) for his religious views. Darwin (whose final position was probably agnosticism) was free to publish his work, even his work on the descent of man which many found religiously offensive. In North America, skeptics like Ingersoll had a following a century ago, and of course the American Secular Union and/or similar organizations have been around for nearly a century if not longer, and I’m not aware that their members have been jailed, prevented from publishing books and pamphlets, prevent from renting a hall and speaking, etc. (Has Michael Shermer been persecuted?) And Carl Sagan was wildly popular (even appearing several times on Johnny Carson!) back in the 1960s and 1970s, long before Coyne or Dawkins were even heard of. Isaac Asimov and several other science fiction / science fact writers of agnostic or atheist temperament published their books and stories for decades without hindrance.

    Need I remind you that even today there is not one self-declared atheist in the US Congress even though there is a Constitutional guarantee of freedom of belief or non-belief and the prohibition of a religious test of applicants for public office? Do I need to point to the public opinion polls which show in what low esteem, to put it mildly, atheists are still held or comments by various US politicians who hold that atheists should not qualify for full citizenship, for example?

    Certainly the UK has been more tolerant of atheism, possibly because it tends to be more tolerant of eccentricity and it’s significant that it was British authors like Dawkins and Hitchens who initially began to win a greater measure of public acceptance of what has been labeled New Atheism. I think the only thing new about New Atheism is a much greater willingness to be confrontational and critical of organized religion rather than keeping their heads down and being polite and respectful but I understand why that is the case. I think that, rightly or wrongly, when the New Atheists imagine Christians it is of the strident and aggressive evangelical persuasion that is still so influential in the US.

  21. 21
    Seversky says:

    eddieunmuzzled @ 18

    Seversky, you wrote:

    “More irritating to me is why so many Christians never bother to even ask the questions while coming down hard on agnostics and atheists just because we have.”

    Which Christians are you reading? Barely literate fundamentalists from the Bible belt, or serious Christian thinkers?

    Yes, I’m well aware that Christianity has been defended by some brilliant scholars over the centuries and that many of the great scientists of history were themselves believers who could espouse their faith as well as practice their science and I have no problem with any of that.

    But, as you are no doubt aware, there have been moves to introduce creationism or creation science or Intelligent Design into the high school science classroom. There is one survey of high school science teachers which indicates that a small percentage of those teachers are openly but unlawfully teaching creationist beliefs in those classes. Personally, I have no problem with creationism or Intelligent Design being discussed in the science class as long as they are not being presented as scientific alternatives of equal standing in science to the theory of evolution. It could be a useful teaching aid for all concerned to confront and consider such questions.

    My question is how many churches would be willing to invite an atheist to attend services or Bible classes so that they could be confronted with atheist criticisms of their standard interpretations of the stories that are taught as lessons to the faithful? How many, in fact, teach the thinking of the advanced and sophisticated theologians that the New Atheists are accused of ignoring?

  22. 22
    Seversky says:

    eddieunmuzzled @ 19

    Seversky, regarding:

    “Yes, if there is no evidence of mind existing apart from the physical brain then it is reasonable to assume that the former is derivable solely from the properties of the latter.”

    I don’t follow your reasoning here. We may never see vultures except where there is carrion, but it doesn’t follow that vultures are derived from carrion (as once flies were supposed to be derived from dead bodies). Even if one says that vulture bodies are built up entirely from proteins ingested from carrion (which wouldn’t be true, since presumably vultures at least occasionally drink some water), those specific proteins doesn’t dictate the form “vulture”. To get a vulture, you need more than carrion; you need vulture DNA and developmental processes. So it’s not true that a vulture is reducible to mere carrion, even though carrion is necessary for its existence.

    Not a good analogy since we observe from the outset that vultures are physical entities separate from the carrion they eat.

    I can’t rule out the possibility that there are disembodied intelligences somewhere contemplating the great mysteries of the Universe (or multiverse) but the only evidence I see is that the human mind is so closely correlated with the physical brain that the most reasonable inference is that the former is in some way a property of the latter. I’m not impressed with the suggestion that the brain is some sort of receiver like a radio or physical interface for some sort of disembodied consciousness. We have good theories which explain how electromagnetic radiation works and how it interacts with the antenna and circuitry of a radio and we can detect that radiation outside the receiver. If someone finds an equivalent theory of consciousness and can detect it outside the brain then I’m sure science will be happy to consider it but, until then, the assumption is that the mind is generated in some way by the physical brain.

  23. 23
    ET says:

    Seversky:

    Personally, I have no problem with creationism or Intelligent Design being discussed in the science class as long as they are not being presented as scientific alternatives of equal standing in science to the theory of evolution.

    There isn’t any scientific theory of evolution. There isn’t any science that supports evolution by means of blind and mindless processes. So clearly you are very confused.

  24. 24
    ET says:

    If God is able to judge me, why should I not judge Him?

    You are not qualified to do so, duh.

  25. 25
    eddieunmuzzled says:

    Seversky @20:

    Your response is pathetic. Atheists are held in low esteem by many voters? What do you want, a crying towel? Aren’t the atheists big enough as human beings to take criticism without whining? Isn’t this whole culture of self-esteem (“I have the right to be respected and valued by others”) part of the problem — the enfeeblement of America, its schools, its culture, and its life, by touchy-feely psychological discourse? Americans used to be a virile, tough race of people who couldn’t give a —- whether or not anyone “esteemed” them. Can you imagine Rockefeller or Carnegie or Henry Ford losing sleep at night over whether or not they were “esteemed”? C’mon, Seversky, you can do better than that.

    Besides, you can hardly demand that the public respect atheists more when the most prominent atheists openly mock and insult religious believers. That’s a double standard. If atheists want more respect, why don’t they start giving it? You haven’t responded to my point that the atheists of old like Asimov and Sagan were not disrespected the way Coyne, Dawkins, Hitchens, etc. are. Did you never bother to try to understand why it was that even Christian Americans kind of liked Carl Sagan, whereas they dislike the new atheists? Are you not capable of connecting the dots here? Can you not understand that offensive behavior will engender dislike?

    Whatever silly thing a very small number of politicians may propose (about restricting citizenship against atheists, for example), such proposals haven’t a snowball’s chance in –you know where — of getting passed. Even if a legislature passed such insane proposals (which no legislature would), the Supreme Court would strike them down. The fact is that there is no law forbidding any atheist from running for Congress, from seeking the leadership of a party or starting his/her own party, from raising funds, etc., so if open atheists aren’t elected it’s not due to the law or the Constitution.

    In fact, I’m sure there are plenty of non-declared atheists in Congress, and I’m pretty sure that the electorate knows or suspects who they are, but they keep getting elected if they pass good legislation. I doubt very much that Donald Trump is Christian in any meaningful sense, and it would not surprise me if he was at least an agnostic, and I’m sure that many Christians were very suspicious of his lip-service to religious faith, but voted for him on policy grounds having nothing to do with religion.

    What do you propose, a quota system whereby a certain number of atheists are automatically entitled to seats in Congress, in accord with their proportion of the population?

    If the atheist community wants more representation in Congress, it should start producing less odious atheists. If the public perception of atheists is that they are arrogant, shallow, rude, insulting, vulgar people like P.Z. Myers, then of course atheists are not going to get elected to Congress. But if the public thinks of jolly, humorous, playful atheists like Carl Sagan, then it’s only a matter of time before such atheists win their places in the legislative bodies. The problem is that the pro-science community in the USA has increasingly let science be represented by people like Myers and Krauss rather than by people like Sagan. So people turn against science because they associate it with un-American bad manners and with an aggressive (as opposed to a merely passive) form of atheism. People like yourself have to start telling off these Coynes and Myerses; tell them to get out of sight so that a “gentler, kinder” sort of atheist can come to the fore. Yes, if your “openly atheistic candidates” are arrogant jerks, they will not be elected. If they attack the deepest religious beliefs of many Americans, they will not be elected. So find some candidates that the people will like.

    Plenty of avowed atheists are elected to office in every other democracy on earth. They will be in the US Congress, too, in time. But whining about how there aren’t enough of them won’t get you the change you want. Find better leaders for your movement!

  26. 26
    eddieunmuzzled says:

    Seversky @21:

    I don’t support the compulsory introduction of either creationism or ID into science classrooms, or any other classrooms. Neither does Discovery. Their official policy statements have stated since before the Dover trial that ID should not be mandated in the classrooms and that evolution should be taught more thoroughly and more critically, based on problems identified in the peer-reviewed secular scientific literature. And of course I believe that *everything* should be taught more critically in the schools, whether it’s the science of global warming or the intentions of the Founding Fathers regarding religion and the state or anything else. Neither science nor any other subject should be taught as a sort of catechism. The goal of schools should be to generate smarter people, not to generate disciples, accepters of the status quo, blind adherents to ruling paradigms, etc. So evolution should be taught in schools, but so should the criticisms of neo-Darwinism by secular professors of evolutionary biology from Yale and Chicago. This has nothing to do with either creationism or ID; it’s just a point of educational principle. But of course Eugenie Scott dedicated years of her life not merely to preventing ID from being even *heard* (let alone defended) in the schools (under her the NCSE was much more restrictive than you seem to be), but trying to veto *every single proposal made in the country* for a *critical* approach (no ID, no creationism, no Bibles, just scientific criticism) to teaching evolutionary theory. And her successors are doing the same.

  27. 27
    eddieunmuzzled says:

    Seversky @22:

    “the human mind is so closely correlated with the physical brain that the most reasonable inference is that the former is in some way a property of the latter.”

    The inference is not sound. “Mind is found in association with brains” does not warrant the conclusion “Mind is a property of brains,” or still less your earlier formulation which was that mind was “wholly derivable” from brains. A non-doctrinaire thinker would try to investigate the relationship between mind and brain with an open “mind”, and would not, as you seem to do, simply dismiss numerous reports by intelligent witnesses of apparent out-of-body experiences. I don’t claim such experiences prove anything, but I see them as relevant to the discussion, whereas you apparently think all such reports are lies, fabrications, errors etc. and simply refuse to deal with them. I infer that you feel that if they are true reports, your materialism might be threatened, and thus you seek to dismiss them. You appear to cling to your materialism as firmly as some fundamentalists cling to their literal Genesis. Personally, I’m against “clinging” and in favor of a dialogical approach to all theoretical questions. I don’t hold rigidly to any literal reading of Genesis and I don’t hold rigidly to materialism. I’m in favor of Socratic inquiry in which no result is ruled out in advance, not even minds independent of bodies, designers, immortal souls, or God.

  28. 28
    eddieunmuzzled says:

    Seversky @21:

    “My question is how many churches would be willing to invite an atheist to attend services or Bible classes so that they could be confronted with atheist criticisms of their standard interpretations of the stories that are taught as lessons to the faithful? How many, in fact, teach the thinking of the advanced and sophisticated theologians that the New Atheists are accused of ignoring?”

    A church is a free association of convinced Christians, and there is no reason why it should invite into its midst people who advocate that its teachings are false. However, there is a time and a place for Christians to allow public criticisms of their views — it’s just not the Sunday worship service. Many churches have evening events of a less devotional, more educational nature, where arguments from atheists can be considered; and on university campuses, there are groups such as Intervarsity and others who often sponsor debates between Christians and non-Christians. There are also plenty of places on the internet where religion can be criticized and defended.

    Public schools, however, are quite different from churches. Churches don’t pretend to be neutral on questions about God, etc., and they therefore are under no obligation to entertain alternate views; schools, on the other hand, are supposed to be objective about questions of scientific and historical truth, and therefore should have no objection to the airing of alternate views in science class, history class, etc. There should be no problem in explaining neo-Darwinism in a biology class and then also presenting Shapiro’s critique of neo-Darwinism, for example. There should be no problem in presenting the view that the Founders wanted a rigorous separation of church and state, alongside the view that the Founders did not intend such phrases to mean what they are now often taken to mean. Schools are a logical place for students to learn how to handle disagreements of this sort. Churches, however, are not a logical place to present a weekly debate between atheism and Christianity.

    However, while “the Church” as such has no obligation to give atheist arguments any platform, I believe that Christians ought to familiarize themselves with atheist arguments (and Jewish, Muslim, etc. arguments) for their own good. Christians should read writings by people of non-Christian views, and take them with intellectual seriousness. That’s part of personal religious and intellectual growth. But there are many ways of carrying out that idea that do not involve invitations of atheists to come into churches to tell Christians that they believe a delusion.

    As for your other point here, it’s true that many Christian churches have a deplorably low level of intellectual life. Most Christians nowadays don’t even know the founding documents and books of their own denominations, let alone the arguments of atheists. Hardly any Reformed people are left these days who have read Calvin extensively; hardly any Lutherans read Melanchthon any more; hardly any Episcopalians have even heard of Hooker, let alone read him. Hardly any churchgoers these days studied Latin in school or learned anything about Greek philosophy which formerly was part of the intellectual apparatus for interpreting Christian faith. American Protestantism has increasingly become a religion of arbitrary and selective private judgment about the meaning of the Bible, of private piety, of religious “experience”, and so on, and the intellect is not valued, systematic thought is not valued.

    This anti-intellectual tendency in Protestantism is not an inherent thing; the founders of the Reformation were inveterately bookish and scholarly; but American religion for complex historical reasons has become more oriented to feelings, activism, etc. than to the study of ideas, reasons, arguments, etc. This is a bad thing, but it won’t change overnight.

    But the same is true of atheism. Quite often popular atheist argument doesn’t rise above grand claims that science has disproved religion, often with very little knowledge on the atheist’s part about either science or religion. The number of barroom atheists is legion, but the number of atheists who have carefully read Lucretius, Spinoza, Hobbes, Nietzsche, etc., and on the other side Plato, Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, etc., and thus learned how to be intelligent atheists, is minuscule. There is vulgar, uninformed atheism as there is vulgar, uninformed, Bible-pounding Christianity.

    Dawkins offers a pretty vulgar understanding of the religion he criticizes, such that even fellow-unbeliever Michael Ruse had to take him to task for his abysmal ignorance of theology. And most internet or coffee-shop atheists fall below the level of even Dawkins. It would help if the schools of America could get Americans in the habit of reading hard books again, and writing proper English prose again, so that both the level of atheistic and the level of Christian argument could be improved.

  29. 29
    kairosfocus says:

    Eddie, quite interesting. KF

  30. 30
    kairosfocus says:

    Seversky,

    Pardon but your ideological imbalance is showing:

    there have been moves to introduce creationism or creation science or Intelligent Design into the high school science classroom.

    On the other side of the equation is something like:

    . . . to put a correct view of the universe into people’s heads [==> as in, “we” the radically secularist elites have cornered the market on truth, warrant and knowledge, making “our” “consensus” the yardstick of truth . . . where of course “view” is patently short for WORLDVIEW . . . and linked cultural agenda . . . ] we must first get an incorrect view out [–> as in, if you disagree with “us” of the secularist elite you are wrong, irrational and so dangerous you must be stopped, even at the price of manipulative indoctrination of hoi polloi] . . . the problem is to get them [= hoi polloi] to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world [–> “explanations of the world” is yet another synonym for WORLDVIEWS; the despised “demon[ic]” “supernatural” being of course an index of animus towards ethical theism and particularly the Judaeo-Christian faith tradition], the demons that exist only in their imaginations,

    [ –> as in, to think in terms of ethical theism is to be delusional, justifying “our” elitist and establishment-controlling interventions of power to “fix” the widespread mental disease]

    and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth

    [–> NB: this is a knowledge claim about knowledge and its possible sources, i.e. it is a claim in philosophy not science; it is thus self-refuting]

    . . . . To Sagan, as to all but a few other scientists [–> “we” are the dominant elites], it is self-evident

    [–> actually, science and its knowledge claims are plainly not immediately and necessarily true on pain of absurdity, to one who understands them; this is another logical error, begging the question , confused for real self-evidence; whereby a claim shows itself not just true but true on pain of patent absurdity if one tries to deny it . . . and in fact it is evolutionary materialism that is readily shown to be self-refuting]

    that the practices of science provide the surest method of putting us in contact with physical reality [–> = all of reality to the evolutionary materialist], and that, in contrast, the demon-haunted world rests on a set of beliefs and behaviors that fail every reasonable test [–> i.e. an assertion that tellingly reveals a hostile mindset, not a warranted claim] . . . .

    It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us [= the evo-mat establishment] to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes [–> another major begging of the question . . . ] to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute [–> i.e. here we see the fallacious, indoctrinated, ideological, closed mind . . . ], for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door . . . [–> irreconcilable hostility to ethical theism, already caricatured as believing delusionally in imaginary demons]. [Lewontin, Billions and billions of Demons, NYRB Jan 1997,cf. here. And, if you imagine this is “quote-mined” I invite you to read the fuller annotated citation here.]

    And that was enforced by way of a media lynching just over a decade ago, not to mention by lawfare under false colour of well-judged legal reasoning and judicious rulings.

    So, perhaps it would be helpful for you to reflect on the principle that the sauce that works for the goose also works for the gander.

    KF

  31. 31
    eddieunmuzzled says:

    kairosfocus @29:

    Thanks for your comment. I’m not sure that Seversky found any of my further replies interesting, because he hasn’t replied now for 4 days. It’s always a judgment call, how much time to spend on these conversations. One writes in hopes of evoking a reply from one’s conversation partner, and when no reply is forthcoming, one then wonders whether other person agrees, disagrees, is bored, or whatever. Perhaps I invested too much energy in dealing with Seversky’s claims. But if the conversation was of interest to you it might also have been of interest to others. Maybe the justification for replies is that they serve the general good of the reading community, even if they don’t get anywhere with the person to whom they’re addressed.

  32. 32
    gpuccio says:

    eddieunmuzzled:

    You make very good points in a very reasonable and brilliant way. I really liked reading your thoughts! 🙂

  33. 33

    I agree with GP. Thanks for taking the time.

  34. 34
    kairosfocus says:

    Eddie, I agree with GP and UB, two of our community’s significant commenters and contributors. Here at this blog, we often have to bear in mind the onlooker now and later. Also, as UD is under extraordinary hostile scrutiny that often leads to pouncing on real or imagined flaws, silence may reflect what has hit home. I think you made solid points and that you have said them well. Why not an OP from your direction, or — better yet — a series? If you want, I would host. KF

  35. 35
    Molson Bleu says:

    “Also, as UD is under extraordinary hostile scrutiny that often leads to pouncing on real or imagined flaws, silence may reflect what has hit home.”

    I wouldn’t read too much into anyone’s silence, on this web-site or any other. I often see the word “crickets” used as if it is an argument that the opposition has no counter argument. I suspect, in most cases, the silence has more to do with people having busy lives and not wanting to waste it on discussions where there is zero chance of changing the minds of those standing against them. That is why I try not to be dragged into discussions on things like objective vs subjective morality, abortion, same sex marriage, gun control or atheism vs theism. I don’t always succeed because venting can tend to be cathartic. But they are never fruitful conversations because both sides in any of these types of discussions rely largely on on cliched talking points and the denigration of the opposition.

  36. 36
    kairosfocus says:

    MB, under normal circumstances. While UD’s context is not as far gone as is Wikipedia [almost instant reversion etc then troll-domain escalation . . . ], there are plenty of objectors whose motivation is extreme; to the point of cyber stalking and on the ground stalking. In this context, the walk-away is often significant. KF

  37. 37
    Molson Bleu says:

    KF@36, this may be true, but what does this have to do with Seversky. I have seen nothing but respect shown by him. Why paint him with this brush?

  38. 38
    kairosfocus says:

    MB, the issue is not Seversky. KF

  39. 39
    Molson Bleu says:

    “MB, the issue is not Seversky.“

    Thank you. But it begs the question why you would bring it up in a question about Seversky’s silence.

  40. 40
    kairosfocus says:

    MB, there is a pattern which has come up sufficiently, of scrutiny and intervention. When it does not happen, that is at least perhaps like Holmes and the guard dog that did not bark. Meanwhile, it is also quite evident from your line of questions, that your intervention is studiously tangential to the primary focus, on personalities rather than substance. This tends to support the point. And that’s before we actually look at the force of ed’s remarks, which have spoken for themselves sufficiently as to draw the remarks by GP and UB above. In short, your own actions tend to support the point. If you have something to say on actual substance, kindly do so. KF

  41. 41
    Seversky says:

    eddieunmuzzled @ 25

    Seversky @20:

    Your response is pathetic. Atheists are held in low esteem by many voters? What do you want, a crying towel? Aren’t the atheists big enough as human beings to take criticism without whining?

    I could say exactly the same about Christians. Aren’t they tough enough to ignore a few barbs slung their way by so-called New Atheists?

    Isn’t this whole culture of self-esteem (“I have the right to be respected and valued by others”) part of the problem — the enfeeblement of America, its schools, its culture, and its life, by touchy-feely psychological discourse? Americans used to be a virile, tough race of people who couldn’t give a —- whether or not anyone “esteemed” them. Can you imagine Rockefeller or Carnegie or Henry Ford losing sleep at night over whether or not they were “esteemed”? C’mon, Seversky, you can do better than that

    That’s right. A tough, independent, virile race which employed slaves on an industrial scale and brushed aside native peoples – the original occupants of the land – and whatever rights they might have had whenever it suited them. And don’t give me crap about ‘robber barons’ who grew obscenely rich on the back of the hard labor of others and were quick to use private armies of “goons” to crush any workers who dared to stand up for better conditions.

    Besides, you can hardly demand that the public respect atheists more when the most prominent atheists openly mock and insult religious believers. That’s a double standard. If atheists want more respect, why don’t they start giving it?

    On this we agree. I see no reason to go out of one’s way to be offensive to others. The first approach should involve common courtesy and consideration for others. Of course, if that is not reciprocated then one could assume that one is relieved of that duty in that case.

    What do you propose, a quota system whereby a certain number of atheists are automatically entitled to seats in Congress, in accord with their proportion of the population?

    No, I suspect that would be an unconstitutional religious test. The best approach is a long-term strategy to win greater acceptance of secularism and non-belief in “the public square” and, whatever their faults, the New Atheists have advanced that cause a little. However, sooner or later both sides will have to try and find a way past the hyper-partisan tribalism that seems to be infecting so much of public life here.

  42. 42
    Seversky says:

    eddieunmuzzled @ 26

    Seversky @21:

    I don’t support the compulsory introduction of either creationism or ID into science classrooms, or any other classrooms. Neither does Discovery. Their official policy statements have stated since before the Dover trial that ID should not be mandated in the classrooms and that evolution should be taught more thoroughly and more critically, based on problems identified in the peer-reviewed secular scientific literature. And of course I believe that *everything* should be taught more critically in the schools, whether it’s the science of global warming or the intentions of the Founding Fathers regarding religion and the state or anything else. Neither science nor any other subject should be taught as a sort of catechism.

    I doubt if we are very far apart on this. I accept on your word that you don’t support the compulsory introduction of creationism or ID into the science classroom and I know the DI opposes it. That said, we have evidence that, in some areas, there are parents, administrators and even some teachers who do. That needs to be stopped. Students should be taught what is the current thinking in science but also, as you say, that this is not dogma, that science deals in the best available explanations of what we observe, which are always open to criticism. Questions of Absolute Truth® are the province of philosophers and theologians.

  43. 43
    Seversky says:

    eddieunmuzzled @ 27

    Seversky @22:

    “the human mind is so closely correlated with the physical brain that the most reasonable inference is that the former is in some way a property of the latter.”

    The inference is not sound. “Mind is found in association with brains” does not warrant the conclusion “Mind is a property of brains,” or still less your earlier formulation which was that mind was “wholly derivable” from brains.

    I disagree, I argue that regarding the mind as a property of the brain is the most reasonable inference based on what we observe, although it’s not a deductive conclusion. NDE’s, OOBEs are, as the names suggest, accounts of subjective experiences of people whose brains are undergoing similar changes in their physical states. Of themselves, they are not dispositive on the question of the nature of “mind”. I don’t rule out the possibility of an immaterial mind but, as yet, no one has provided an adequate account of the nature of such an entity.

  44. 44
    ET says:

    Seversky, What needs to be stopped is teaching the unscientific nonsense of evolutionism in science classrooms. Students should openly question evolutionism and make their teachers uncomfortable with the fact they don’t have any answers and they can’t find them.

    Biology should be taught in biology classrooms and not the untestable pap of evolutionism.

    There isn’t any reason nor rationale for thinking the mind is a property of the brain. You are clearly full of the kooky-aid.

  45. 45
    Seversky says:

    eddieunmuzzled @ 28

    A church is a free association of convinced Christians, and there is no reason why it should invite into its midst people who advocate that its teachings are false. However, there is a time and a place for Christians to allow public criticisms of their views — it’s just not the Sunday worship service. Many churches have evening events of a less devotional, more educational nature, where arguments from atheists can be considered; and on university campuses, there are groups such as Intervarsity and others who often sponsor debates between Christians and non-Christians. There are also plenty of places on the internet where religion can be criticized and defended.

    The problem with internet forums is, as we know, that people tend to stick with those who share their beliefs rather than seeking out those who differ. And, yes, there are groups inside and outside universities who foster discussions between Christian and non-Christians and churches are under no legal obligation to invite atheists to address them. I just think it would both sides would benefit from such confrontations if they were staged on the basis of mutual respect and tolerance.

  46. 46
    ET says:

    All you have to do is ask atheists how they explain our existence and watch the dance that comes after. Explain the mind? Atheists can’t even account for the brain.

  47. 47
    Molson Bleu says:

    “Meanwhile, it is also quite evident from your line of questions, that your intervention is studiously tangential to the primary focus, on personalities rather than substance.“

    No. Eddie questioned why Seversky hadn’t responded and you jumped in with an unflattering insinuation. I simply pointed out that there are many reasons for commenters to go temporarily silent. You responded to this by saying that Seversky wasn’t guilty of what you were insinuating. Which is strange because your insinuation was in response to a very specific question about Seversky.

    My point is that we should all refrain from playing these silly rhetorical games and just provide comments in good faith, under the assumption that others are doing the same. Whether or not they are is immaterial because when it occurs, as was the case with your insinuation, it is easy for all to see. Bad faith comments only cast doubt on those making the comment, not those who the comment is aimed at. I won’t say anything more about this. You can take it as the constructive criticism it is, or not.

  48. 48
    Molson Bleu says:

    Seversky and Eddie, thank you for this discussion. I have thoroughly enjoyed it and have benefitted from both sides.

  49. 49
    ET says:

    The problem with teaching evolution in the science classroom is the evidence for evolution is very, very limited and the teaching usually goes far beyond what is science. Why isn’t everyone upset about that?

  50. 50
    eddieunmuzzled says:

    Seversky @41:

    I’m unaware that any of the people I mentioned (Rockefeller, Carnegie, or Henry Ford) owned slaves. I mentioned them as self-driven individuals who accomplished more in their lifetimes than the average person did. My point was that they were not hampered in their accomplishments (as a modern businessman or government administrator, trying to accomplish the same things, would be) by feeling any need to deal with whining complaints like, “You shouldn’t use that pronoun because it makes me feel excluded!” or “You called that person an Indian rather than a Native American and that’s degrading!” The politics of “special interest group alleged hurt feelings” are very recent.

    Of course, slavery is another matter entirely. Actually hurting someone physically or economically by enslaving them, whipping them, denying them the right to marry, etc. must of course not be allowed. But I was not defending any such thing.

    And I didn’t need the examples of famous people. I can think of many common people, from my grandparents’ generation, who did not own slaves, oppress native Americans, etc. but would have scorned the special interest group whining which so preoccupies politicians and journalists today. They would not have had anything against a black or native person attending a university, earning a degree, working up slowly from stock-boy to boss, bettering himself or herself, etc., but they would have had no patience at all with, say, recent revolts of lazy, self-indulgent students (whether black, Hispanic, or of any other ethnic roots) who demanded that university curricula be reshaped in accord with their interest-group politics, with a corresponding watering down of rigorous academic standards.

    “University professors need to change what they do to make interest-group members feel good about themselves” is not a claim that should be taken seriously. The job of university professors is to make smart, good, diligent, industrious, and hard-working students feel good about themselves (for their intellectual accomplishments), not to make lazy, below-average, under-achieving students (whether black, Hispanic, white or of any other stock), who spend all their time in political agitation rather than cracking open their books, feel good about themselves. The university is a place for the bright and the industrious, a meritocratic setting where what you come from (ethnicity, religion, sex, orientation, etc.) shouldn’t matter at all. There should be no discrimination against any group but there should be no handouts or hand-holding of people from any group, either. And certainly neither curriculum nor grading standards should be controlled by gangs of underachieving students motivated by resentment rather than the desire to learn.

    I’m not at all impressed by atheists who claim that “they don’t get no respect.” I already mentioned (to your silence) that Isaac Asimov and Carl Sagan were popular atheists in their day, who had the respect of the public, as brilliant lay educators (and entertaining writers). The answer is simple: if you are an atheist and want the public to respect you, don’t be an arrogant, combative jerk like Coyne or Myers; be a decent, all-right human being like Sagan or Asimov.

    I think I’ve said enough on this subject.

  51. 51
    eddieunmuzzled says:

    Seversky @42:

    “I accept on your word that you don’t support the compulsory introduction of creationism or ID into the science classroom and I know the DI opposes it. That said, we have evidence that, in some areas, there are parents, administrators and even some teachers who do. That needs to be stopped.”

    I agree. Individual teachers and parents shouldn’t be trying to subvert the state-mandated science curriculum. If they want it changed, that change should be made at the political level, through elected representatives in charge of the educational system. No individual teacher should be saying to a science class in a state-funded school that evolution is not true and that a literal reading of Genesis is true instead. That’s out of bounds. But it shouldn’t be out of bounds for a science teacher to mention, briefly, some minority views held on a scientific subject by bona fide research scientists. It should not be illegal for a science teacher to say that neo-Darwinism taught that random mutations filtered by natural selection could produce all evolutionary change, but that some scientists in recent decades have questions this — on scientific grounds (as opposed to religious grounds). It should not be illegal for a science teacher to mention (as opposed to champion) Behe’s argument from irreducible complexity (as long as the teacher makes clear that the majority of scientists don’t accept the argument). It should not be illegal for a science teacher to mention the critiques of neo-Darwinism of Lynn Margulis, James Shapiro, some of the Altenberg people, etc. — again, within the understanding that these are alternate views not currently held by the majority but might in some cases turn out to have some validity as science progresses. Of course, if the teacher spends a disproportionate amount of time on criticisms of evolutionary theory, and almost no time presenting its strengths, I would begin to suspect the motivation of such a teacher. But the curriculum is set up so that mostly what is discussed are what the majority of scientists believe, and any mentions by the teacher of criticism are likely to occupy less than 5% of the class time in the unit on evolution. I don’t see the problem with this. In fact, as a student, I always found science classes more lively when teachers discussed debates among scientists than when they just said, “You gotta learn this stuff to get on to the next level — so learn it!”

  52. 52
    eddieunmuzzled says:

    Seversky @43:

    “I argue that regarding the mind as a property of the brain is the most reasonable inference based on what we observe, although it’s not a deductive conclusion.”

    It’s not a deductive conclusion — I agree. That’s what I was trying to get you to concede. That’s why I suggested you should qualify your claim to something more cautious, such as, “The activity of the mind seems to be closely related to the activities of the brain.”

    I have noticed that materialists (also Darwinists, AGW activists, radical feminists, and many others) tend to go for extreme and unqualified statements. They are satisfied with a much looser epistemology than people trained in philosophy are. I’m merely issuing an academic caution here, so that readers can see that your certainty that mind is “nothing but” an activity of the brain is a claim that you hold on less than demonstrative grounds. That doesn’t make your claim wrong, but everyone should be aware of the difference between “This seems to me to be the only reasonable explanation of the facts” and “This is the only physically and logically possible explanation of the facts.”

    I’m trying to caution the readers here against moving from “science has found a connection between mind and brain” to “science has shown that mind is nothing but brain activity.” Science has shown no such thing. Science has shown us connections. Various people, including scientists, journalists, bloggers, etc. have drawn metaphysical conclusions from those connections. The public needs to be educated in spotting the move from science to metaphysics.

    The main crime of the New Atheists, it seems to me, is not that they are religious unbelievers (some of my best friends are unbelievers), nor even that they engage in debate with religious believers (that can be done in constructive ways, though the New Atheists have trouble with the “constructive” part). The main crime of the New Atheists is that they try to pass off their personal metaphysics as the logical or inevitable consequence of being a good scientist or accepting good science. The public is confused by this because of the prestige that “science” has in our culture. But most scientists aren’t any better at metaphysics than baseball players or movie stars are. If a neurologist tells me that he sees certain blips indicating electrical activity in the brain on his screen, I am inclined to trust him; if he says “Mind is nothing but the activity of brain” I am inclined to reserve judgment, especially if the neurologist is known to me to have a proclivity toward a materialist and reductionist metaphysics and to be less than open-minded about alternatives.

  53. 53
    eddieunmuzzled says:

    Seversky @45:

    “The problem with internet forums is, as we know, that people tend to stick with those who share their beliefs rather than seeking out those who differ. And, yes, there are groups inside and outside universities who foster discussions between Christian and non-Christians and churches are under no legal obligation to invite atheists to address them. I just think it would both sides would benefit from such confrontations if they were staged on the basis of mutual respect and tolerance.”

    I agree with all of this. My original objection was to your suggestion that Christians run scared when confronted with learned arguments for atheism, materialism, etc. My point was that Christianity — learned Christianity — has a long track record of not running from such arguments, but of meeting them head-on.

    If your point is that this is not true of some Bible-Belt Christians or churches, I agree; unfortunately some Protestant Christians in the USA came to the conclusion, decades ago, that the best way of dealing with criticism of religion is to shut their ears so they can’t hear it, or to tell their children lies or half-truths to inoculate them against the criticism of religion. To me that bespeaks fear. But I don’t see that fear in C. S. Lewis, Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, Chesterton, Gilson, Plantinga, Feser, and many others alive today. The fact that many of the more fundamentalist churches don’t encourage their members and children to read the writings of such Christians, but would rather maintain insularity by using canned Sunday school and adult Bible class materials of low intellectual quality, produced in fundamentalist quarters by people who are more devout than informed or intelligent, is in my view to the discredit of those churches. And I think it hurts Christianity itself, to make out that Christian ears need to be protected from hearing about non-Christian views, or that weak or specious arguments against atheism and materialism are adequate. It makes Christianity look much weaker than it is. But no one who has read the history of Christian thought could imagine that Christianity has been championed by intellectual weaklings.

    One of the worst things about American sectarian Protestantism is that it has actively or tacitly discouraged the systematic study of the history of Christian thought. The pastors and lay leaders generally know very little about it, and stick to their Bibles alone. That’s a huge mistake. All the great religious traditions — Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist — in addition to their sacred texts, have developed highly intelligent systematic writing. The fundamentalists’ idea that all you need is your Bible is a huge mistake. You need rational thought to help articulate the meaning of the Bible. And you can’t do that without the help of the great Christian minds.

Leave a Reply