Re: MD Philosophy and Theology

From: Scott R (
Date: Fri Apr 04 2003 - 07:03:17 BST

  • Next message: Scott R: "Re: MD Mysticism and the appearance/reality distinction"


    [SCOTT previously: mentions implausibility argument against Darwinist

    > RICK
    > My 'creationist' psuedo-science detector is buzzing...
    > (
    > This argument has two forms. In the simple version creationists will say
    > that random processes could not have created life. [etc.]>

    Yes, it is an argument given by creationists (by which I mean believers in
    the literal truth of Genesis) against Darwinism. However, the argument
    itself is only against Darwinisim, meaning it is not for any other theory.
    It is also used by Intelligent Design folks, who are mainly Christians who
    accept evolution, but deny that evolution can be explained mechanically.
    Whether it (the argument) is pseudo-science is a matter of confidence that
    one has calculated the probabilities correctly, which is probably not
    possible. All I mean to do by raising it is to say that it is not
    established that chance mutation of genes and natural selection are
    sufficient to account for biological evolution. (And, of course, there is no
    evidence that any species evolved solely through this means from another

    What is disturbing about your "creationist detector" going off is that you
    seem to fall into that wide camp of people who assume that if one is not a
    Darwinian, then one is a 6-day creationist. I am not either (nor do I fully
    agree with the Intelligent Design folks).

    > SCOTT
    > The second minor fallacy is
    > > that Darwinism does nothing to explain what might be called our own
    > of
    > > what we call our purposeful behavior. That is, even if one accepts that
    > > Darwinism explains purposeful behavior in the biological realm, it
    > > do so in the human (social and intellectual) realm (see my post of Jan.
    > > of why I think there cannot be a mechanistic explanation of awareness,
    > which
    > > would make Darwinism irrelevant in the biological sphere as well.)
    > RICK
    > I'm not sure why you think this is a fallacy. Darwinism is a theory that
    > describes the biological realm, why should it have anything more to say
    > about social/intellectual purpose than physics or chemistry?

    "Fallacy" was a bad word to use here. What I wanted to point out is that
    *if* there is no possible mechanical explanation for the existence of
    consciousness *then* the assumption of a mechanical explanation for
    biological evolution is a highly dubious move. There is not now a mechanical
    explanation for the existence of consciousness. My argument in the Jan. 10
    post is to say that a mechanical explanation for the existence of
    consciousness is not possible. Here's the argument, and as I said then, I
    welcome criticism of it.

    [From Jan. 10 post]
    My point is that *when* we see the problem here, *then* the Darwinian turn
    shows itself to be valueless. Consciousness, or even sentience, *cannot*
    evolve out of non-consciousness. To see the problem, take the normally
    accepted view of how visual perception works: light bounces off an object,
    stimulates the rods and cones in the eye, which stimulate nerve cells, and
    (much complexity later) we say "I see the tree". The materialist is forced
    to conclude that all that nerve cell agitation is the seeing of a tree. But
    this is impossible, if one assumes that space and time are the context in
    which all that is necessary to explain perception occurs.

    To see this, ask how the excitation of one electron being hit by one photon
    can have any *connection* to any other electron that is being, or has been
    hit by another photon. For this to happen a signal must pass from the first
    to the second, but that signal cannot carry any additional information than
    that of a single photon. So unless we assume an electron has memory, and can
    distinguish between one photon and another, there can be no greater
    experience than that which an electron experiences on absorbing a photon (or
    any other single interaction it can undergo, like being annihilated by a

    This argumentation applies at whatever level of granularity one tries to
    think it through. One nerve cell excites others. But unless the nerve cell
    itself has memory and is sentient, it cannot make distinctions or note
    similarity. But how can it if it has parts (separated in space). One or more
    of these parts must be responsible for holding a piece of the memory, but
    then that piece has to be combined with others....

    There is one out, and that is depending on quantum non-locality. But note
    that doing so says that reality is fundamentally non-spatio-temporal, that
    *all* spatio-temporal experience arises out of eternity. So teleology just
    means causation in a different temporal direction, and Darwinism becomes
    [End of selection from earlier post]

    > SCOTT previously:
    > > But it is the major fallacy that is most to the point. It is the
    > assumption
    > > made by Dennett that it is purpose that is to be explained...
    > ...Why does he assume that
    > > consciousness needs explaining? Because he *assumes* that the universe
    > > basically non-conscious...
    > RICK
    > Can you produce one compelling reason to *assume* otherwise?

    The argument above is only a reason to reject the idea that consciousness is
    reducible to a spatio-temporal mechanism. A reason to assume otherwise is
    that many mystics all over the place say so. This is not a "compelling"
    reason, of course, but in tandem with the argument above, what the mystics
    say is no longer all that weird. So, for these reasons, and others, I have
    decided that the the better bet is on a basically conscious universe than an
    non-conscious one. What is a compelling reason to assume that the universe
    is basically non-conscious?

    > RICK
    > Sorry, I should have said "induces" the hypothesis. That is, his
    > is the result of induction from specific observations to a general rule.
    > The general rule then becomes the hypothesis that is tested against other
    > observations (sheesh, you really gotta run on all 8 cylinders at once with
    > this crowd :-).

    or 10 cylinders :-). "Induction" is seeing the sun rise in the East every
    morning, and then taking it as a fact that "the sun rises in the East".
    Abduction is coming up with the hypothesis that if the earth rotates
    constantly and the sun is stationary, then the sun will appear to rise in
    the East every morning. There are always many possible hypotheses, so
    Peirce's point about the difference of abduction from induction is that it
    takes some strange leap of reason to come up with a good hypothesis.

    > > RICK (from last time)
    > > . If a better
    > > > theory came along that explained all of Dawkins observations and
    > evidence
    > > > better than materialism, he would drop it like a bad habit.
    > SCOTT
    > > I actually doubt this (short of the evidence being God parting the sky
    > > announcing his reality -- or would Dawkins explain it away as a mass
    > > hallucination :-). A materialist is more likely to ignore evidence that
    > puts
    > > materialism into question.
    > RICK
    > More likely than who?

    A materialist is more likely to ignore evidence that puts materialism into
    question than to investigate it.

    Which is to say, like most people of strong opinions, including theologians,
    they are not going to go very far out of their way to search for evidence
    against their opinions, since they think it unlikely that they will find it.
    For example, if you see a book called "20 Cases Supporting Reincarnation"
    (or something like that) are you likely to read it, or dismiss it out of
    hand? Or Robert Monroe's books on his out-of-body experiences? I'm not
    saying you should read them (I haven't read the former), just asking whether
    one is likely to investigate. And yes, one only has so many hours in the
    day, but again, what assumptions are brought to bear on deciding how those
    hours are best spent?

    > RICK
    > That god exists and Jesus reveals him are alleged assertions of fact.
    > Metaphysical stances are not meant to be provable. But facts are.

    No, "God exists" and "Jesus reveals him" are *not* facts, because the word
    "God" has no ostensive definition. That is why theologians fill volumes
    trying to say what these phrases mean.

    > RICK
    > And whether or not one who reads the scriptures metaphorically can be
    > a 'believer' is also debatable. And as I asked of Sam, if you read it as
    > metaphor then you need to explain why theology shouldn't be in the fiction
    > section with the rest of the nice metaphors.

    Theology is, to a great extent, commentary on and interpretation of
    scripture, not scripture itself. By this logic, all art and literary
    criticism should be in fiction as well.

    > SCOTT previously
    > > Doubtful. Many do, but the Catholic Church and all mainstream Protestant
    > > groups no longer do. The fundamentalists just get all the press.
    > RICK
    > I hope you're right. But to me it sounds like you're saying that there's
    > disagreement between science and christianity because most christians
    > believe in science anyway.

    Most Christians do believe in science. Fundamentalists will reject the
    evidence (or come up with ludicrous explanations for it) so as to affirm the
    Genesis account, but --wrongheaded though they are -- they still feel it
    incumbent on themselves to name it "Creation Science". But they are a
    special case. I really doubt that there is any difference between Christian
    non-fundamentalists and non-Christians in their regard for science. (As
    opposed to scientism). And you would be hard-pressed to find a modern,
    non-fundamentalist theologian who thinks there is a conflict between science
    and Christianity. (Some question the technological consequences, but that is
    a moral argument, not an epistemological one.) Theologians understand the
    difference between the two spheres much better than scientists do -- again,
    because in the modern times, they have to address the problem (which
    includes acknowledging the mistakes of the past, like the Galileo case),
    while scientists do not.

    > RICK
    > What secular assumptions do you think theologians should not have conceded

    > to?

    As an example, the "search for the historical Jesus". Crossan, for example,
    tries to turn Jesus into a social revolutionary, and thereby diminishes the
    mystical Jesus. Another example is the Jesus Seminar, which supposedly is
    trying to rate the sayings attributed to Jesus in the Gospels according to
    their likely authenticity. They turn out to judge them on how well they
    would sound to modern, more or less secular ears.

    - Scott

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