Speaking for Science

pseudoscienceIn laying out his philosophy, atheist philosopher Alex Rosenberg makes quite a few bold claims about what science has shown.

Science provides clear-cut answers to all of the questions on the list: there is no free will, there is no mind distinct from the brain, there is no soul, no self, no person that supposedly inhabits your body, that endures over its life span, and that might even outlast it. (The Atheist’s Guide to Reality, p. 147)

I’ve encountered this general sentiment many times, and my favorite response is simply to ask which experiments verified these claims. I know of no experiment which has tested these theories–or even a scientific way to test these claims, leaving me to conclude that science has established nothing of the sort.

It is scientism, not science, that has led Rosenberg to think these things. Much like the fundamentalist preacher who claims to speak for God, he is quick to tell us that science endorses his personal view, whether it does or not.

But this isn’t simply attempting to pass off a philosophy as science, it is a positive undermining of science. For, if there is no free will, no person, and no way that we can actually think about things, then there is no reason to trust science.

Of course, science does seem to work rather well.

There are those who would say that this is simply a brute fact. Usually, this is coupled with the statement “I’m okay with not knowing”.

But, for those of us interested in advancing inquiry, stopping here is not good enough. And, once we start to explain how science can actually work as it does, we’re back on the path to theism.


17 responses to “Speaking for Science

  • L.A. Powell

    I don’t know what you mean by “self” but if your definition is similar to that of soul then there have been countless studies of everything on that list. You must not have looked very hard, here’s a bone for you (on free will) http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Benjamin-Libet-neurophysiologist-studied-the-2546807.php

    The problem with theists like you is that you misunderstand the burden of proof.

    If an already established “fact” exists, say… like the world is flat, and sciences comes and debunks it thoroughly, demonstrably, is it the onus on the atheist or the christian who continues to claim that the world is flat to prove that science is wrong?

    You’re right (for now) on the fact that there is no way to test whether or not there is a soul that survives outside of your brain, the problem with theistic thinking, is that you can’t see that there is no reason to think otherwise. So you believe that brain damaged patients can lose partial function of their mind, but that when all of your brain is damaged you somehow get all of your mind back? See how silly that sounds?

    • Debilis

      Greetings, and best to you.

      But, to respond:
      Neuroscience doesn’t demonstrate consciousness, it correlates test subjects’ behavior and claims about their mental states with brain states. To do this, one assumes consciousness, rather than proves it.

      But I fully understand the burden of proof. I’ve not remotely argued that I don’t have any for the claims I’ve made. On this topic, I’ve made claims about the nature of science, and supported those claims. Often, I’ve found that those frustrated that I haven’t shouldered the burden of proof seem to think I’m claiming more than I am in a given post.

      Or, more briefly, I can’t prove a position as massive as a major religion in a single blog-post, so I’ve broken it down into bite-sized chunks. This post only has the burden of the claims made in this post.

      But my position is not that God fills gaps in our current knowledge and that, because I can’t personally see a way that we could fill those gaps, God must be the best explanation. I completely agree that this would be silly.

      Rather, my position is that there is no way, even in principle than neuroscience can find the mind. That is not because we lack some knowledge; it is because it would contradict the definition of neuroscience to do this. It is, simply and demonstrably, outside the purview of science.

      But I have no objection to the idea that the mind and and the brain are intimately connected. Personally, I don’t even object to the idea that the mind is dependent on the brain. What I object to is the demonstrably false idea that there is absolutely nothing more to the mind than the functioning of the brain.

      Okay, I hope that was more clear.

      • Hagiographic

        We haven’t demonstrated consciousness or the mind?

        Real science is not done through arguments of ignorance; instead, to test between two hypotheses you attempt to make falsifiable predictions that differ between them and then go out and test them. If the mind is a product of the brain we would expect a range of phenomenon to exist: neuronal activation patterns in the brain should correlate with thoughts, and vice versa; alterations in the brain chemically or physically should alter thought patterns in predictable ways; goal-directed behavior and complex processing should be able to occur without conscious recognition of it; systematic comparisons of animals with different brain structures should reveal systematic differences and similarities in behavior that correspond to similarities and differences in brain structures; behavior patterns should be replicable in any medium that can mimic the neuronal interactions and architectures of the brain. All of these things are not predictions of dualism, and many would seem to be counter-predictions of dualism. There is no reason to assume that changes in thought should change the brain, or vice versa. The brain should not be capable of complex goals-direct action when the “mind” is not engaged. Animals that have more “primitive” brain structures show correspondingly similar but less complex behavioral patterns. Are we also dealing with a functionally more primitive “mind” in the animal? If the “mind” was really needed to explain behavior and information processing then modeling the neuronal architecture and firing pattern in mediums that we know do not have a “mind” (such as computers) should not be able to replicate animal and human behavior. All of the predictions made by a materialist based neuroscience approach have been demonstrated again and again in the literature, and none of the possible predictions that dualism would make have ever emerged.

        • Frank Morris

          Hg, while I could not possibly disagree with you more, I appreciate that you laid out a much more scientific argument than most materialists do. You presented a well-thought-out case, but it is quite incorrect, nonetheless.

          Does the brain cause the mind or does the mind cause the brain? The only possible answer is the latter.

          If random happenstance chemistry is the cause, there is no hope whatsoever for the result to be coherent. Unquestionably, an intelligent mind causes neural pathways to form. The brain is nothing more than a tool used by the mind, a tool we rely heavily on, but a tool built by teleology.

          If the mind were a product of the brain, as materialists claim, then we would expect random incoherence, with no relation to free will, experiences or need. Materialism fails heavily.

          If teleology forms the neural arrangements, then they will be purposeful and in accordance with thoughts, but only after the thoughts. For example, we should be able to have test subjects be given a thought process to focus heavily on for days and days while the changes in the brain are examined daily, and we should find neural pathways formed that are new, coherent and activated during the programmed thought.

          This is precisely what we see. Teleology succeeds. Mental thoughts clearly create neural pathways, not the other way around.

          If materialism is correct, we would predict that brain damage would cause problems with affected areas of thinking, problems that can never be repaired. Materialism is half right, half falsified. We gain back the ability to think correctly.

          Teleology holds that the brain would not be created by intelligence if it were not put to use. If I communicate by computer and then my computer becomes damaged, to you my intelligence died, but I am fine… just my computer needs repair. So we would expect problems in the case of brain damage, just as materialists do, but with some eventual repair. Teleology comes out on top again.

          Materialism would predict that chemo-electric data transmissions should occur when enough electrolytic force comes along through the bloodstream. Wrong again, materialists. We get those chemo-electric transmissions when we choose to have them, when we think and/or when they are needed, with the presence of chemicals and electrolytes having nothing to do with the timing of these reactions.

          Bottom line” Teleologists predict intelligent, rational thought and free will. Materialists can explain none of this.

          Teleology is right on all counts. Materialism fails.

          BTW, the scientist in the obituary you linked does not agree with your claims either.

    • Debilis

      Science has not demonstrated consciousness, no.

      Obviously, it has been demonstrated if one trusts one’s own inner experience, but that is precisely what the materialist is insisting we reject.

      I didn’t give an argument from ignorance. I set out two positions (theism and materialism), and pointed out that one predicts that we have thoughts (theism), and the other predicts that we do not (materialism).

      As such, I used exactly the sort of reasoning process you’ve recommended.

      However, you open your argument with the stipulation “if the mind is a product of the brain…”. My argument is that, if materialism is true, the mind cannot possibly be a product of the brain. To say “if the mind is the product of the brain”, then, is to presume theism.

      Moreover, the way you argue against dualism leads me to think that you are referring to cartesian dualism. So, it is worth mentioning that I’m not a cartesian dualist. I tend to lean toward hylemorphism, myself.

      But, either way, nothing you’ve said disconfirms any form of dualism I know. And most of it is only intelligible if one has already rejected materialism.

      Perhaps this will make it more clear:
      “If the “mind” was really needed to explain behavior and information processing then modeling the neuronal architecture and firing pattern in mediums that we know do not have a “mind” (such as computers) should not be able to replicate animal and human behavior.”

      The mind is not needed for behavior; that is completely agreed. I never argued otherwise. What I argued is that there is, and can never be, a purely physical description of thought. This is well known to experts. It has been called “the qualia problem” and “the hard problem of consciousness”. But it is only a problem for materialism.

      Last (and I hope this isn’t too redundant):
      “none of the possible predictions that dualism would make have ever emerged.”
      The only prediction my position makes is that people have consciousness. This is what materialism can’t explain.

      Okay, going on would be getting quite rambly. I’ll leave it at that.

  • Eduardo

    …. HIlarious as to how the heck one conclude THAT from Debilis text XD…

    LIbet’s experiments have been criticized, soooo Libet’s work is not final word on the subject.

    • Hagiographic

      So, if a document has been criticized that means it’s not the final word on the subject?

      Do you hear yourself talking?

      You know what’s probably the most heavily criticized document in history?

      The bible.

    • Eduardo

      Yep, if the criticism has worth to it then the criticized paper is not the final word.

      Yeah, i hear myself talking, do you? Look at your example, the Bible is heavily criticized so if there was a document saying that the Bible is reliable and the criticism has it’s value, then that original document is not the final word about the Bible.

      But anyways I should have made clear that criticism must be valid, still you made it look like as if Libet’s work was the final word, hence my phrase.

      • Eduardo

        Waaaaait now I get that last remark, you thought that I was a Bible-thumping Christian since I was defending Debilis, you thought that I believe the Bible can not any mistakes whatsoever…. How the heck you can conclude that, I don’t know… No if I am mistaken then your last remark is just making my point.

      • Hagiographic

        Criticism happens in science with every theory/ hypothesis put forth. The theory of evolution and the theory of gravitation, two of the strongest/most well understood theories in science still are criticized. Criticism doesn’t effect the truth of a claim, and to think that it does is a fundamental fallacy.

        • Frank Morris

          Gravity is criticized? Only by a tiny handful of materialists, like yourself.

          If by “the theory of” evolution, you mean Darwinism, then yes, it is complete garbage. Evolution itself is only marginally criticized in the scientific community, but Darwinism is rejected by most biologists.

          There is a great divide in neuroscience as to whether the mind creates the brain or the brain creates the mind, but I suspect the latter are just atheistic materialists, force-feeding their beliefs again.

          The unavoidable fact is that materialists have no explanation for intelligence, consciousness, free will or purposeful movement. If random chemistry caused thoughts, as if that were even possible, then all thoughts would be incoherent.

      • Eduardo

        Geeee, even though i corrected myself XD, you attacked me… Hmmmmm.

  • Eduardo

    Oh btw… you are smuggling in monism about mind to criticize dualism… that is begging the question, no good as an argument man…woman… whatever….

  • paarsurrey

    Reblogged this on paarsurrey and commented:
    I agree with you.

  • Frank Morris

    Rosenberg: “Science provides clear-cut answers to all of the questions on the list: there is no free will, there is no mind distinct from the brain, there is no soul, no self, no person that supposedly inhabits your body, that endures over its life span, and that might even outlast it.”

    I saw a sign up at work once: “Free answers here! (correct answers cost extra).”

    There is absolutely nothing in science that demonstrates any of his outrageous claims. This is what empirical science says about biology:

    1. Life is identified by the intelligent animation of matter. All living organisms move intrinsic matter purposefully. Without teleological forces at work, no organism could live, even for a few moments.

    2. All living organisms have an intelligent, self aware consciousness with free will decision-making ability. This intelligence exists independent of the brain and in organisms with no brain.

    3. All formations of living organisms are purposefully made, including the first living organism, all extant life and all evolution. No evolutionary change has ever occurred through Darwinism.

    These are the core beliefs of most biologists in 2014 because that is what the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates.. Rosenberg’s false claims are only held by a handful of outspoken atheist evangelizers.

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