Materialism vs. Science

science-vs-pseudoscience_box-300x125“Now they [DNA molecules] swarm in huge colonies, safe inside gigantic lumbering robots, sealed off from the outside world, communicating with it by tortuous indirect routes, manipulating it by remote control. They are in you and me; they created us, body and mind; and their preservation is the ultimate rationale for our existence.”

– Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene

“Now they are trapped in huge colonies, locked inside highly intelligent beings, moulded by the outside world, communicating with it by complex processes, through which, blindly, as if by magic, function emerges. They are in you and me; we are the system that allows their code to be read; and their preservation is totally dependent on the joy we experience in reproducing ourselves. We are the ultimate rationale for their existence.”

– Denis Noble (in response to The Selfish Gene)

The point Noble was making, and one which even so staunch a materialist as Dawkins was willing to concede, is that there is no scientific test to decide between these two views. These both speak to the facts as they stand, and no amount of extra empirical data could alter this situation.

Unfortunately, Dawkins seems to have missed the larger point here.

That is, this shows that there are at least some (and probably a great many) questions that are about subjects other than science. Like many (but by no means all) scientists, Dawkins tends to assume that only those methods he’s personally comfortable with and trained in is the only means of getting at truth.

He seems to have no idea that this assumption is, itself, a philosophical (rather than scientific) position.

This is the basic contradiction of scientism: that it is, itself, not established by science. But there is another point to be made here. One that is, in my view, much deeper and more significant.

For those that know a bit about metaphysics, Noble’s description of genes is vaguely aristotelian, whereas Dawkins’ is basically cartesian. This is significant in that it illustrates, contrary to popular opinion, why talk of aristotelian teleology isn’t answered by appeals to science. Science simply has no way of testing whether or not teleology exists in a particular system.

That is, whether or not a thing in the universe “points toward” something else (say, a match pointing to the creation of fire or a day-dream pointing toward Paris) is basically ignored when doing science. It has never been genuinely ruled out as a possibility.

But I say “basically ignored” rather than simply “ignored” because science (at least as it has been practiced in the last four centuries) tends to presume teleology in the same way that it presumes math and logic.

That is, as David Hume pointed out, the modern materialist has no basis whatsoever for believing that science works. Inductive reasoning is, to such a person, simply a kind of magic that has created all the wonders of the modern world.

Induction, and therefore science, assumes that there are patterns to reality: that like situations will produce like results. This is perfectly explicable in terms of teleology: all things have particular effects that they “point toward”.

The idea that science opposes teleology (and the rejection of materialism it implies) is more an accident of history than anything like a rational argument. Like so many things, it enjoys credibility by a vague association to the mythos of science without actually having been supported by evidence.

And when people begin to assert that teleological systems (such as our minds and wills) can be explained away by science, the fact that scientism is being confused for science becomes all the more obvious. Dawkins is simply a relatively recent example of those who have fallen into this trap.

What is less obvious is that this would be science “explaining away” its own foundations. And, for this reason, real science will never do this. Science is, and always has been, anti-materialist.

51 responses to “Materialism vs. Science

  • john zande

    Very well: what is the final cause, and how do you know this to be true?

    • Debilis

      The final cause of one thing may be different from the final cause of another.

      But what does “how do you know this to be true” mean?

      Does it mean “how do you know there is such a thing as a final cause”?

      If so, that is what the post is about.

      Or, does it mean “how do you know it is that specific final cause”?

      If so, that would depend on the particular thing we’re discussing.

      In general, I’m noticing a trend of people “defending” materialism by asking “how I know” that some highly specific non-materialistic philosophy is true. I count three logical fallacies with this approach. If materialism were true, it should have an answer to what has already been written above.

      • john zande

        I just re-read your article and still couldn’t identify what you say is a final cause. Perhaps you can help me out and just tell me?

        • Debilis

          The two examples of final cause I gave were the creation of fire being the final cause of a match, and Paris being the final cause of a daydream.

          These things “point to” fire and Paris, respectively. That is to say, it is in the nature of a match to create fire and the nature of a (particular) day dream to be about Paris. Examples could be multiplied, of course. But these are the one’s I happened to use.

          I honestly thought that was said directly in the post above. Apologies if it wasn’t clear.

          That said, I do also want to know if there is any response to the above other than to request examples. I did make a specific argument about how good science is practiced–and how that contradicts materialism. Unless you agree that materialism is disconfirmed by science, that is the more pertinent issue.

        • john zande

          To focus on your match example. It is erroneous. Fire is “a” result, yes, but so is the asthma attack sparked by the sulphur dioxide given off. Is that a final cause? No. The burning match also produces carbon dioxide, so it becomes useful to plants, which in-turn convert it to oxygen, and oxygen is then breathed by mammals, for example, and so on…

          Simply put, there is no such thing as a final cause in an open system. This is where theists go terribly off the rails. To maintain your “faith” (unjustified belief in things unseen) you must, however, close the system off, and this is grossly simpleminded.

          Regarding the rest of your article, I’m afraid to say it makes no sense. Your persistence in trying to reclassify science is odd, to say the least, and makes no sense whatsoever. As I’ve asked you repeatedly before, give me three examples of things not material and then, and only then, can I get a handle on where your head is at. Perhaps then I can respond in-tune, but I have to know what you’re talking about first.

          So, can you give me these examples now?

        • Debilis

          Simply attacking an oversimplified understanding of one example does not discredit the entirety of aristotelian metaphysics–or even make it simple.

          Nor, incidentally, is what you are attacking theism. I have no idea why you seem to connect the two things. I wasn’t discussing theism.

          Now, if you can’t make sense of my post, that is a more significant issue. The first thing I would say to that, however, is that you can’t possibly have a good reason to dismiss my views if you don’t understand them.

          And it shouldn’t be terribly difficult to understand them. I suspect that you’d long since have understood if we could set aside some false assumptions about what it is I’m actually saying:

          First, I’m not reclassifying science. I’ve said nothing about science that hasn’t been common knowledge for centuries. It is the proponents of scientism that are reclassifying it.

          Yes, if you read my post with that assumption, it is bound to make no sense. I’m sure if you read the Principia Mathematica under the assumption that it is making the case that the universe is chaotic, it won’t make any sense, either.

          And this is exactly what keeps frustrating you with respect to the “three examples” issue. I’ve given you much more than three examples. The response has always been “Now prove that exists with tangible evidence”.

          But that is just to assume that the thing mentioned is material. Anything that is not material isn’t tangible. That’s rather the point. So long as you assume that the word “example” (for some strange reason) means “tangible example” the things I say will never make sense to you.

          But, I’m sure you’ll respond, without tangible evidence, how do we know it exists at all? That’s what the post was about. Without the non-tangible things I’ve mentioned, the patterns that science assumes wouldn’t exist–and science, therefore, wouldn’t work.

          That’s the answer (or, rather, one of a few answers) to your conflating of teleology with results in the broad sense. Anyone who knows much about science ought to know that not everything that happens further down the causal chain from an event tells us about the nature of the thing being described. Simply arguing that there is no difference is to dismiss the scientific method.

          And this was my point. Materialism, for all it’s pretensions, is anti-science.

          But, sadly I suspect that this line of reasoning will be dismissed in favor of demanding “examples” (though I’ve already addressed that very issue and given much more than three already). I suppose that demanding examples is more rhetorically advantageous, after all, than addressing the logic of the argument.

          That being the case, please note that I’ve presented the success of science itself as an example of a thing that contradicts materialism. Science has always required that materialism is false.

          And I find it completely odd that anyone claiming to be a devotee of science should demand more examples than that.

        • john zande

          I can dismantle teleology and render it obsolete at whim. That frustrates you, I understand. My advice would be to try and come up with some “new” argument, rather than redressing the obsolete thoughts of others. You seem bright enough, you enjoy this stuff, so invent something new. Dazzle me, because this stuff is tremendously inane.

          Now, Debilis, do you believe the world is intelligible? Do you concede no “magic” answer has ever been arrived at to explain the world? Do you accept that wherever and whenever “magic” was posited it has since been overturned and replaced by a natural explanation? For example, the processes of life used to be attributed to a mysterious élan vital; now we know they are powered by chemical and physical reactions among complex molecules. So, do you believe the world is intelligible?

        • Debilis

          If you have a rock-solid disproof of teleology, I’d be very interested to hear it. That would indeed be something new. Please offer it.

          But simply calling it inane isn’t a rational response. Do you know of a scientific test to settle the competing views of DNA I quoted above?

          Even Dawkins seems to agree that there is no such thing. As such, it’s only reasonable for me to actually want an argument for materialism before accepting it.

          But, to answer your questions, I most certainly don’t believe in magic–but I have no idea how your putting the word in quotation marks changes its meaning. Magic is a failed way of investigating the physical, but “magic” may well be something else altogether.

          So, yes, I tend to believe that the world is intelligible . This has been the basis of most of my refutations of materialism: pointing to things that are unintelligible unless we reject a materialist view.

          That is not to propose magic. It is to propose that not all of reality is accessible through the scientific method. Science itself assumes this: not the least because it is based on mathematics, logic, and certain metaphysics (such as the idea that the world is intelligible). So to investigate these through science would be to reason in a circle.

          That doesn’t make math and logic “magic”. It makes them something other than science. Simply insisting that the only options on the table are science and “magic” is a simple false dichotomy. We really need to get our thinking out of that box.

        • john zande

          You concede the world is intelligible, then a few words later you point to things “that are unintelligible.” Which one is it, Debilis? Intelligible or unintelligible? You can’t have it both ways.

          Excuse me, but you posit magic. Are not miracles magic? You might not like the word, but I’m afraid to say that is precisely what you are suggesting: magic.

        • Debilis

          Responding to both of your comments:

          First I don’t know that I “concede” that the world is intelligible so much as have been insisting upon it for more than two hundred posts.

          As to the other issue–I’d definitely echo Mark’s response.

          The only thing I can add to it is to suggest that, perhaps, you should consider the idea that you aren’t trying very hard to understand. This reads a lot more like quote-mining in order to score debate points.

          That is, it does make sense. The fact that you can’t seem to make sense of it only means that you haven’t actually addressed what I’ve said. That is a concession, not an argument.

          But I think it is fair to request a definition of materialism. (Though I don’t need to “dazzle” you. I’m not quite sure how a definition would “dazzle”.) In this context, I’ve been defining it as the idea that everything humans experience (including our own minds) is physical.

          Materialists believe that the physical is all we need to think about in order to form a complete picture of life. I’ve been pointing out reasons to reject this belief: how it contradicts science, common sense, morality, and itself.

          Materialism, in addition to being a poor philosophy, is also a form of pseudoscience–it’s proponents loudly demand that it is the “scientific worldview”, which is why I wrote the post–making the case that it actually contradicts science.

        • john zande

          “In this context, I’ve been defining it as the idea that everything humans experience (including our own minds) is physical.”

          -Great, thanks! You are, of course, aware that it is a term you’ve just invented to satisfy your own apologetics, but that’s OK. You’re free to do this. Unfortunately though, your opposition to this definition is somewhat vaporous as you’ve (to date) failed to present a single thing that is outside the material. Materialism, I’m afraid to tell you, is running rings around you, my good man, and you’re left flatfooted writing essays trying to “redefine” things.

          Can you give me an example of science participating in anything non-material?

          To back up my point here I’ll draw your attention to the Templeton Fun which has in the last 25-odd years spent hundreds of millions of dollars funding “research” into what they call, “spiritual realities.” This effort, and its kitty of now US$2.5 billion, has returned precisely zero positive results. ZERO, and you know why? Because, for better or worse, there really is nothing beyond the material. “Material” and “real science” are inseparable.

          “I’ve been pointing out reasons to reject this belief: how it contradicts science, common sense, morality, and itself.”

          -First up, it’s not a “belief,” and you might have been trying, but you’ve been failing rather terribly. I have demonstrated to you the root of morality with scientific experimentation, whereas you have presented precisely “NOTHING” to back up your claim. You see, Debilis, you can talk all you like and invent as many terms as you care to, but until you can actually present something tangible (like I have, and will continue to do)no one’s going to take your mental meanderings seriously.

          If I may make a suggestion. Draw up a research proposal and present it to the Temple Fund. Actually do some research for once, and then see where it goes., Who knows, it might turn out well and you could win the annual £1,100,000 Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, renamed in 2001 the Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities. There, something “real” for you to do. Wouldn’t that be exciting for a change? Here’s their website:

          Best of luck. I’d be very keen to hear your proposal and method for investigation. I mean that with all seriousness.

        • Debilis

          Actually, I didn’t invent that definition of materialism. It’s pretty standard.

          But I’m aware that you keep claiming that I’ve not presented “examples”. That has been thoroughly answered. I’ve presented a number of reasons why materialism is false. It’s completely false–even self-contradictory. To insist that materialism is “running rings around me” because of some lack of examples is no more rational than to say that 2 + 2 is sometimes 13 is true because I haven’t provided examples that this never happens.

          In this context, I’ve shown materialism to contradict science. I’ve pointed out that science has to assume things other than the physical to work in the first place; I named them. If you want to argue with that, feel free, but I don’t see any point in simply asking me to repeat myself. First deal with the things I’ve already named, then we’ll see what more I can name.

          Instead you simply make this claim: “Because, for better or worse, there really is nothing beyond the material.” And I’ve not see any support for that belief.

          And, yes, it is a belief. You’ve said it; I assume you think it is true (why else would you say that it is true?). Do you think that a belief is something other than a thing one thinks is true? That seems strange indeed.

          Materialism is a belief–unless, of course, no one thinks it is true.

          So, let me know if you reject materialism in this way. I’d be glad to hear that.

          Nor do I remember you proving anything about “the root of morality”. You did cite some very good evidence about the root of empathy. But, when I asked how that showed that empathy was the root of morality, you repeated that this was the root of empathy, and otherwise demanded that empathy and morality were the same thing.

          If this is the big defense of materialism I’ve been told was coming, I’m all the more confident that it needs to be thrown out.

          But, once again, you’ve demanded something tangible. At this point in the conversation, you should be aware that demanding something tangible is to demand something material–and that demanding a material example of the non-material is just silly.

          But I’m not sure I understand the implication of your suggestion. Are you saying that what you’ve been doing is research? I’m not sure how. If so, how is claiming that my reading not research? How is my pointing out that materialism is a self-contradiction something that doesn’t bother a person unless he’s disinterested in what is true?

          And that is one of my methods of investigation right there: I reject ideas that contradict themselves. This is how I know that there is no such thing as a round square, a married bachelor, or validity in materialism.

        • john zande

          “But I’m aware that you keep claiming that I’ve not presented “examples”. That has been thoroughly answered.”

          -NO, no it hasn’t been answered. Please, for the love of all that’s holy, give me some examples. Your word salads are unbearably tedious! Just man-up and present your examples so I can analyse them. Is that so difficult?

          Examples, now, or stop talking nonsense. If you can’t give me examples just close your blog and walk away because you’re achieving nothing.

        • Debilis

          I’ve given you examples. I’ve mentioned a number of things. The fact that you don’t seem to have understood my examples is regrettable, of course, but it is not that I haven’t given them.

          If you scroll up this post, you’ll find that I’ve pointed to the regularity of the universe (on which science depends) as an example. Further down, I point that out specifically–reminding you of this fact.

          I’m not sure how I could possibly make that clearer. I can guess, but I genuinely don’t know why you can’t seem to understand concepts that are, to me, very simple. The examples are there. I’ve named them, and I think we should deal with those before asking for more.

          But part of me suspects that you’re still asking for tangible examples–simply ignoring the fact that demanding a tangible example of the non-tangible is a self-contradiction.

          Perhaps I’m wrong there. But, if so, you need to give me some reason why you’ve simply ignored the examples I’ve given.

          Are you thinking to respond with the statement that you don’t see an example here? If so, scroll up to my second paragraph, then re-read the original post.

          It’s alright if you have questions and challenges about that example, but simply to pretend that it wasn’t offered makes no sense at all.

        • john zande

          I don’t mean this in a nasty way, but i really haven’t seen any examples until now: the “regularity of the universe.” That’s all I was asking for; something that could be discussed. Thank you.

          Now, the regularity of the Universe. By this I’m guessing you’re implying the notion of fine tuning. This is merely an impression; a conception. It is also the weakest of all the arguments for a god. The likelihood of things being the way they are is precisely 1 in 1. We are that chance, and until you can produce another universe to compares ours against nothing can be inferred from the differential equations. If, however, you want to evoke fine tuning then this universe is in fact better designed for the production of black holes, not life bearing planets. Also, this universe is anything but regular. The day will come, for example, when all the hydrogen will have been spent in fusion, and the age of the stars will end. It is a system, a very large one, but a material/natural system nonetheless.

        • Debilis

          Apologies, then, if it was not clear that I’d presented this.

          But, unfortunately, things are still unclear. I, most emphatically, do not mean the fine tuning. I’ve discussed that issue, but not here. As such, I’ll not get into that point, but explain the actual point.

          I mean to say this: Science assumes that the universe behaves according to regular patterns, then sets out to discover what those patterns are.

          A noble effort, indeed. But it leaves us with the question: why does it have patterns in the first place? Modern people tend to just take it for granted that this is the case. But, to anyone who actually wants an explanation, it becomes obvious very quickly that the answer can’t be scientific.

          This is because science starts from the belief that the world has regular patterns. It can’t, therefore, investigate the matter.

          But, if there are legitimate questions that science doesn’t answer, materialism can’t be the whole explanation of reality. And that is the same as to say that materialism is false. After all, it is the idea that science is the whole answer to all questions.

          And that leads me into the conclusion of the post: the very thing that makes science possible (the regularity of the universe) shows us why materialism is false. Hence, to embrace science is to, implicitly, reject materialism.

        • john zande

          “Science assumes that the universe behaves according to regular patterns, then sets out to discover what those patterns are.”

          -No it doesn’t. Science assumes nothing. If patterns are what is discovered then it is patterns that are discovered. If science “assumed” there are only patterns then we’d never have quantum mechanics. In fact, we now know with a great deal of certainty that it was only because of quantum fluctuations (the opposite of pattern) in the protean universe that we have the constants we experience today. The Uncertainty Principle is one of the foundation points of all QM theory. This, however, may be wrestled into some understanding if/when people far smarter than you or I nail down quantum gravity. That may or may not be patterned, we just don’t know, but without that we can’t explain the universe in its entirety.

          Now, I’m not sure if you’re aware of it or not, but you’re committing a terrible blunder in logic. On the one hand you are admitting the universe exhibits patterns, then on the other saying patterns are unnatural. How do you make this leap? If patterns are observed then patterns it is. Where is the mystery here?

          And I’m confused as to how you’re NOT (allegedly) making the case of ID here.

        • Debilis

          It is simply not the case that science assumes nothing. Surely, it assumes that mathematics and logic are valid, that the universe isn’t simply one’s personal delusion, that reports of past experiments aren’t conspiracy.

          These are all very reasonable assumptions, in my view, but they are assumptions (of science, philosophy can offer reasons to accept them, but that would be accepting that there is more to inquiry than science).

          And it assumes that there are patterns in the universe. When scientists fail to find a pattern, they never say “I suppose this part of the universe is simply chaotic”. They look harder for the pattern.

          But, what of the (far overused) example of quantum mechanics? A few things, actually:

          First, it isn’t “the Uncertainty Principle”. It is the Indeterminacy Principle”, and there is a world of difference between accepting indeterminacy and believing that there are no causal patterns on the quantum level.

          Second, not all theories of quantum mechanics use indeterminacy as a foundational principle. Some of them are fully deterministic. The Copenhagen interpretation may well be correct, but there’s currently no way to test that claim.

          Third, it wouldn’t matter even then. Whether or not science “assumes” causal patterns, it does not explain why they exist. It only describes those patterns (and offers evidence for those descriptions).

          Useful, to be sure, but it is not a reason why the universe has patterns.

          But I’m not “admitting” that the universe has patterns so much as having been insisting on that for a very long time. Nor am I claiming that “patterns are unnatural”. I don’t believe that.

          What I believe, and what I said, was that explaining why the universe has patterns is going to take more than science.

          So, how is that different from ID? In a thousand ways.
          If, by ID, you mean the fine tuning argument, this is fairly obvious. That argument takes the laws of nature (patterns) for granted and focuses on constants and quantities. My question isn’t about constants and quantities, nor about why these particular laws of nature exist, but why there are any laws in the first place.

          And that simply isn’t a scientific question.

        • john zande

          Well, of course some assumptions must be taken. We expect things to fall at the same speed and always toward the center of the earth. This is a material world, after all. My point was that science does not start with the “answer,” as religion does, then work backwards. And yes, science is descriptive. I never said otherwise.

          “why there are any laws in the first place?”

          You say this “isn’t a scientific question.” I categorically disagree. If this were even approaching a truthful statement then scientists would never had answered ANYTHING! A hypothesis is arriving at a guess as to the question how/why? Here you are merely placing “laws” outside the purview of everything else without any justification apart from “Because I say so.” It’s the same manouever performed by proponents of the first cause argument. They simply stop the count for no reason and insert “magic.”

          You see, Debilis, you’re just re-defining things to try and fit your worldview. I’m not saying you’re a bad person, I don’t think you are, but you’re being terribly disingenuous, and I think you know you are. You want the investigation to stop at this mystical, magical thing you call “metaphysics,” yet you’re simply not making the case as to why. Nowhere, at any time, in any field of enquiry has a magical explanation been found. Not one. Ever. Yet, against this tide of contradictory evidence you want to insert magic at some perceived beginning. Sir, we don’t know anything about beginnings so everything you say is wishful speculation. The beginning you are looking for might in fact be nothing but a retrocausal act; a feedback loop where the rules of QM actually create themselves. We know retrocausal events are real through experimentation, so wouldn’t that be a more logical explanation than magic, considering magic has never answered anything, ever?

        • Debilis

          If we agree that science starts with certain basic assumptions, then we agree that not every question is a scientific one.

          And, incidentally, whether or not “religion” starts with an answer, that is not what I’ve done here. It is a straw man fallacy to use this as an attack on the argument I’ve presented.

          I’m not actually sure that you do disagree with my claim that the question of why there are scientific laws in the first place isn’t a scientific matter.

          I see that you claim that you don’t, but then you attack an idea that is clearly different from what I actually said. I didn’t claim that scientists don’t believe that there are laws, or that science isn’t in the business of discovering what those laws are. I said that science doesn’t answer the question as to why there are laws. It starts from the assumption that they exist, and therefore does not investigate that particular question.

          That doesn’t mean that it can’t proceed to tell us a great deal about what particular laws and patterns hold for this universe. That is another issue altogether.

          That isn’t a “because I say so”. It is a “because that is precisely how science works”. You yourself agree that there are basic assumptions in science. That you can claim that science can investigate things that it assumes from the outset seems odd.

          That you can follow that with the suggestion that my position (admitting that not all questions are scientific) is simply a re-defining of terms is even more odd.

          I thought “of course some assumptions must be taken” was agreed upon. How is that different from “not every question is answerable by science”?

          Specifically, those assumptions that “must be taken” are the province of philosophy and mathematics.

          It has long been known that science can’t look into the validity of logic, mathematics, and it’s own assumptions. This isn’t some new re-definition. This is part of the basis of science. Anyone familiar with Descartes, Bacon, or the other founders of modern science would know this.

          Nor, by the way, do I want to stop investigation. I’ve been making augments and moving forward, inquiring further. It is the staunch materialist who wants to stop thinking as soon as the question isn’t answerable by science.

          But you keep using this word “magic”. You are aware, of course, that no one is claiming that anything magical exists? I’m not sure whether I’d rather that you are, and are intentionally attacking a straw man, or that you aren’t, and are still that unaware of the basic concept I’ve outlined.

          But, in case it is the latter, read over what I’ve said with special attention to the fact that I’ve never appealed to magic. I’ve never inserted “God” or “theism” or anything else into an equation as some sort of causal principle. I’ve specifically been arguing about the underlying structure of reality beyond the causal studies of science–and have clarified that point multiple times.

          To be treated to a rant about how magic doesn’t exist makes no more sense than “refuting” Schrodenger by loudly demanding that cats aren’t simultaneously dead and alive. It only reveals that one doesn’t understand what is actually being said.

          I’m not sure how demanding “we don’t know, so I’m going to be a materialist” is more respectful of inquiry than someone who patiently works on what we can know–which is precisely what I was proposing we do.

          More obviously, I’m not talking about the beginning of the universe. I’ve specifically clarified that. This is more straw man shredding. And there are some other fallacies here besides, but I won’t get into those.

          And this is where I always seem to end up. Offering a logical argument for some sort of transcendent reality, and being told that magic isn’t real. Well, no. It’s not. And that has nothing to do with anything I’ve said.

          Really, this comes across as, “I know your argument was about the nature of reality and the basic assumptions of science, but I’m going to change that to a claim that magic exists, because that’s much easier to mock”.

          Either way, none of this defends materialism. It doesn’t matter how fervently and passionately we demand that “materialism” and “magic” are the only options. That simply isn’t true.

        • john zande

          Debilis, i use the word “magic” for one simple reason: it’s what you are evoking. Magic stands as something outside the natural, correct? How then does the word “magic” not define where you’re headed?

          Please, if there is a difference, then by all means explain it to me.

        • Debilis

          I had thought your view was that “the atheist doesn’t make any claim about God.” But, here you are telling me what my view is.

          As your only source of information about what my view is, I’m telling you that you are wrong. How so? Think about this “logic”:

          “Magic stands as something outside of biology, correct? Therefore physics is magic. How does it not define what physicists headed.”

          Magic is not a catch-all term for the non-natural. Don’t believe me? Check the dictionary. Magic is a (failed) alternative to science. Another attempt at understanding and controlling the natural order.

          The non-natural is a completely different thing. Something that (as the name suggests) isn’t natural at all. Magic can be ruled out by science precisely because it is about the natural world–which is what science investigates.

          The non-natural is a blanket term for everything else. And, much like atheists are keen to stress with the term “atheist”, there isn’t any more to it than that: not natural.

          This is a major point (In fact, it is probably the single biggest point in the current debates):

          Until one understands this difference, one can’t understand the actual arguments for God’s existence.

        • john zande

          OK, if you’re happy with that definition then i guess you’re happy with that definition. Could you give me a clear and precise example of something non-natural, that is not magic? That’ll certainly help me understand.

        • Debilis

          Yes, I’m definitely happy to use a dictionary.

          But, as to examples, the blog is littered with them.

          More more than that, our conversations are littered with them. We’ve debated them in the past. You’ve commented on posts that have done exactly that.

          If giving you an example would help you understand, then you should already know what I’m describing–and, therefore, wouldn’t have confused my position for something so completely different.

          So, rather than dive back into the “give me tangible examples of the non-tangible” demands, could you ask a specific question?

          To me, the idea that not everything is natural is very straight forward. Even those who disagree shouldn’t have trouble understanding it.

          But, if that is unclear to you, please tell me what it is that you don’t understand about the idea I’ve just explained, and I’ll do my best to clarify further.

          That will get us a lot further than asking for examples.

        • john zande

          On second thoughts, as you have serious trouble providing examples (in fact, you haven’t presented a single one yet) let me perhaps instead ask you to explain “Why” you think a non-natural (not magic) thing/realm/landscape exists at all? That is to say, what leads you to suspect this non-natural (not magic) thing is real?

        • Debilis

          Sorry, I should have read this first.

          But, in any case, the “why” is outlined above.

          Again, I need a more specific question. In the opening post, I’ve said “here’s an issue that no scientific test can settle. That being the case, not every question is a matter of science.”

          You’re responding with “But why do you think that not everything is answerable by science?” If you really don’t understand, that’s fine, but it’s hard to make it simpler than that. Could you at least meet me half way and ask a specific question.

          But, to do my best with what I have here:
          You’re still picturing the natural. I’m not talking about a “realm” or a “landscape”.

          My best guess is that you aren’t trying so much to intellectually understand the statement, but to picture a non-natural thing in your mind’s eye.

          If so, don’t. It is at least extremely difficult, and probably impossible, to visualize the non-natural. But (like many areas of advanced science) the point isn’t to imagine them in one’s mind’s eye, the point is to understand the concept.

          That might help, but isn’t the “why”. There are many arguments given. One is at the top of the page. It’s fine to have questions, of course, but could you please be more specific? I really don’t know what to do with “But I still don’t understand why. Could you say something else?”

        • john zande

          No, no I’m not asking “But why do you think that not everything is answerable by science?” rather:

          “Why do you suspect there is something else other than the natural?”

          Despite your objections I find this a perfectly direct question, and here’s why: nothing non-natural (not magic) has ever been identified. Although alluded to at every turn in more ancient, juvenile times, EVERY once thought-to-be non-natural phenomenon has been explained naturally. My question, therefore, is simply why suspect there is a non-natural against an ocean of contradictory examples? The tide is not in your favour, so why are you pitching your tent and hoisting your flag to the opposite?

          Feel free to give a poetic answer here if your chose. After all, even William Lane Craig admitted (after being pressed) in a debate with Shelly Kagan the ONLY reason he suspects something non-natural is because he hates the idea of the universe extinguishing and life disappearing. For once, WLC was at least honest.

          Now, you seem to use DNA as an example but all you’re doing is appealing to its wonder, not to any great mystery that defies a natural explanation. Don’t forget, The Selfish Gene was first published in 1979. A TREMENDOUS amount of information regarding the nature of DNA has been unearthed since. In 2009 John Sutherland of the University of Manchester successfully cooked up two of the four ribonucleotides found in both RNA and DNA molecules and by doing so created the first stirrings of life on earth. Also in 2009, Dr. Gerald Joyce of the Scripps Research Institute and his graduate student, Tracey Lincoln, pretty much nailed primitive ‘life’ – a progenitor of life if you like – when they developed a molecule composed of nothing but RNA enzymes in a test tube that replicated and evolved, swapping genes for just as long as the conditions were right to do so. I’d also point you to the work being done by Jeremy England of MIT who’s presented a patently simple (mathematically elegant) explanation for how the most basic (and essential) reorganisation of inorganic matter probably brought about the most primitive of all information systems: what we’d call, “not-life, but behaving.”

          So, again, the question is this: Why do you suspect there’s something non-natural?

        • Debilis

          I’m not sure how those are different questions.

          The natural is simply the collection of things that are investigable by science. So, as to why I think that there are things other than that, the fact that there are questions that science can’t answer is the same as saying that there is more than the natural.

          But my “objections” wasn’t that your question wasn’t direct. I completely agree that it was. Rather, what I asked for was something specific.

          I’ve pointed out a reason to think that there is more to reality than the type of thing science studies (the natural). To respond with “but why is there more than the natural” is direct, but not specific. What was it about the original explanation that you don’t understand?

          “EVERY once thought-to-be non-natural phenomenon has been explained naturally”

          I’ve discussed quite a few that haven’t. I’ve referred to qualia, intentionality, rationality, logic, moral truth, the existence of the contingent, and the order of the universe. None of these things have been explained naturally–or, even in theory, could ever be explained naturally. They aren’t questions about the natural.

          Regarding the example of DNA, I wasn’t remotely appealing to its wonder. I was pointing out that the quoted comments about it weren’t addressing the natural. Yes, a “TREMENDOUS” amount has been discovered (which I take to be like a tremendous amount, only announced more loudly). And, yet, not a bit of progress toward deciding between the two statements about DNA.

          That’s for the very simple reason that neither of them are scientific statements.

          And that was my point. There are some issues that are on topics other than science. A rather modest point, in my view, but one that runs counter to materialism.

        • john zande

          “So, as to why I think that there are things other than that, the fact that there are questions that science can’t answer is the same as saying that there is more than the natural.”

          -No, that doesn’t in any way say there’s something un-natural going on. It merely says, we don’t know, yet… but considering EVERYTHING ELSE has been explained by completely natural means the likelihood of these questions being answered by completely natural means is highly probable. You see, this is why theists aren’t taken seriously. You make these huge (irrational) leaps and say “Ta-da!”

          If you could demonstrate a single thing that has been explained by some un-natural means then we’d have something to look at. Alas….

          I’ve already pointed out to you that your examples of things “rationality” and “morality” are simply the product of intelligence, which in-turn is the product of the giant image processing, storage and retrieval devise sitting above our eyes. The ONLY way you could prove this statement wrong is by demonstrating that consciousness exists outside of (and independent of) the brain.

          Can you?

        • Debilis

          Actually, it does.
          I’m not referring to things that science hasn’t answered yet; I’m referring to things that science can’t answer without contradicting the definition of science.
          But I don’t find your argument about “everything else” very strong (even when you capitalize it). This is because, in this situation “everything else” specifically refers to things that science can study.

          I’ve basically said “the area that science can’t study shows that science can’t study everything”. To respond with “but science can study EVERYTHING ELSE than the area that it can’t, so it will probably study that one day, too” is not a good argument.

          Science studies the natural. It is nothing short of amazing in that area, but that doesn’t remotely mean that it studies the non-natural.

          But I’ve demonstrated many things that have been explained by non-natural means. The fact that you, personally, reject those explanations does not change that.

          Don’t believe me? Let me throw out one I’ve given many times:

          You know that you have actual conscious experience via means other than science. There is no physical test, neurological or otherwise, that taught you that. In fact, there is no neurological experiment that shows people are conscious–neurobiology simply starts from that assumption.

          Of course, some people try to demand that neurology will some day provide evidence for this. But, even if we ignore the (very good) arguments why this is false, all that means is that these people are remaining agnostic about whether or not they are actually thinking until neurobiologists get back to them on this.

          So, are you aware that you have thoughts? Do you know that without running to a neurologist to get a brain scan? Then you’ve established something via means other than the natural.

          But notice how nothing I said talks (at all) about whether or not consciousness is independent of brain function. That’s important to understanding my argument. I’m not talking about mysterious other-worldly things. I’m talking abut the non-natural side of things that we all run across every day.

        • john zande

          You insist on saying “non-natural” but you have yet to give a single workable example. You are aware of this, aren’t you? Just saying ‘non-natural” doesn’t make it real.

          Don’t twist my words, Debilis. You know perfectly well what I said: not a single example of this not-magical non-natural has ever been spied, hinted at, of smelled on the air. No indication, ever, has been given. Nothing. Not a drop. Seems you’re seriously confusing superstition (cognitive blunders in causal relations) with actual reality.

          EEG activity denotes consciousness. It’s been mapped in quite amazing detail, right down to dream states. And yes, I am aware of my thoughts. It’s a delayed feedback mechanism where I sense my brains own activity. That said, I understand where you’re coming from. Inspiration, art, creativity; these all seem esoteric, but you can’t prove that. However, it can be shown in MRI scans. Parts of the brain light up, focusing attention on certain areas. These pathways are where its at. Block those pathways and the activity ceases. Period. It does not exist without them. That is physical proof.

          So, again, you have failed to make any case for this non-natural (not magic) thing you “think” exists, but have no evidence for.

          If I may ask: where do you think you’re going with all this? What do you hope to achieve?

        • Debilis

          I’ve given a number of examples of things that are inexplicable unless one accepts the existence of the non-natural.

          As to “workable example”, there are many: the mind, God, moral truth. The trouble with these is that New Atheists either simply deny that they exist or demand that they are physical.

          That would be fine, of course, if such people would answer my arguments as to why that can’t be the case, rather than simply demand “workable examples”.

          Usually, this is accomplished by simultaneously demanding total authority on what constitutes “workable”. Almost always, it simply means “physical”. I always respond by pointing out that demanding a physical example of the non-natural is a silly argument.

          So far, the response to this has simply been to back up to the demanding examples step–but never with any more clarification as to what is meant by “workable”. That’s purely rhetorical, however. It doesn’t address the arguments I’ve already given against the “workable example” meme.

          I’ve pointed out that my examples aren’t about what science hasn’t found yet, but what it can’t, by the definition of science, ever look into. To respond with the claim that science hasn’t yet found the non-natural is a point in my favor, not against it.

          But I’m more interested in these claims about consciousness you make, but I see no support at all for the major one here: “EEG activity denotes consciousness”.

          What is the evidence for that? What experiment showed this? What journal published the findings?

          To ask these questions is to answer them. It isn’t a scientific statement at all, but rather a materialistic tack-on to the science. Consciousness seems to involve EEG activity; but to say that the two are the same thing is pure speculation at best (and demonstrably false at worst).

          But saying that thoughts are a sense of your brain’s activity doesn’t answer the question. How do you know that activity is conscious? How do you know that you aren’t simply a robot?

          The point isn’t that you don’t know this (of course you do). And it has nothing to do with any particular thought being “esoteric”. The point is that a brain scan won’t tell you whether or not you are conscious if you don’t already know that.

          That is to say that MRI scans don’t help. Yes, parts of the brain “light up”, but anyone who doesn’t believe in consciousness (and there are a few), wouldn’t be convinced by that. All that shows is electro-chemical activity that controls behavior. It does not show us consciousness.

          All this is to say that you know that you are conscious via a method other than those available to science. You experience being conscious every day.

          And that is, quite simply, to say that there are ways of knowing things other than the scientific. But this completely undermines the arbitrary demands about what constitutes evidence that underlie all the denials that I’ve provided evidence.

          So, that is what I “hope to achieve”, a pointing out that it is not science, but the way the New Atheists insist on interpreting science that is the basis for these bold claims.

          And, unless we’re granting those interpretations by granting the New Atheist total authority to define words like “workable” and “evidence” without even telling us what those definitions are, then I’ve done exactly that.

          So long as one uses the dictionary to define these words, then, there is every reason to dismiss materialism.

        • john zande

          Apologies, I was a tad lazy saying EEG denotes consciousness. We can be unconscious and still have EGG readings. What I was meaning was brain activity on the whole, which we use for definitions of death. As follows:

          In 1979, the Conference of the Medical Royal Colleges, “Diagnosis of death” declared: “brain death represents the stage at which a patient becomes truly dead.”

          This was updated in the 1980s and 1990s to state that brainstem death, as diagnosed by UK criteria, is the point at which “all functions of the brain have permanently and irreversibly ceased.”

          Further still updated in 1995 (to present), “It is suggested that ‘irreversible loss of the capacity for consciousness, combined with irreversible loss of the capacity to breathe’ should be regarded as the definition of death’

          Now, are serious saying “god” is an example? Come on, Debilis, let’s try and keep this real, here, okay? You are trying to argue there is a non-natural (but not-magic) reality, if I may call it that; an esoteric realm that I’m guessing encompassed and also pervades the material universe (including the multiverse) which we can sense naturally, and with instrumentation. We cannot, however, sense the non-natural (not-magic) realm with our senses or any instrumentation. The charge that will of course be leveled here is you’re simply detailing your superstitions; cognitive blunders in causal relations. You’re seeing something, want to believe, and are simply ascribing some external conscious agency to it. The only “example” you’ve presented which has some value is “mind,” but that is a very difficult one to argue for. Can you demonstrate that the mind is independent of the brain? One need only open a medical journal and go to any brain injury article to see the effects of cranial injury on the entire concept of “mind.” The evidence all points to it not being independent. (Sorry, I don’t have time to find references here, but I have read many such articles). One study concerning the process of entering consciousness (the emergence of “mind”) I can point to was conducted by Swiss developmental psychologists, Jean Piaget, who noted that until an early developmental stage a child watching a toy train disappear into a tunnel will witness the event and perceive the train to have simply vanished. In the infantile mind, a mind that experiences the world as “parcels of constant novelty,” what emerges magically from the other side is an entirely new train. Piaget observed that it was only after a sufficient number of the right connections had been made in the infantile frontal cortex (connections that allowed a sequential ordering of events) did a child instinctively glance forward after seeing a train enter a tunnel and wait for it, the same train, to emergence from the other end. He called this ability to predict “conservation,” and it appears in us all bit by little bit. Month after month the dendrites branch out in a massive public works program until finally stabilising at about the 36th month. It is only then when memories are no longer misshaped by brain growth; they can be encoded, associated, retrieved, and reread whenever needed, marking a shift in consciousness where we quite literally leave behind the childlike perspective of cascading surprise and enter a world where events are ordered in time. And with that begins the age of memory: the age of “self” and “mind.”

          So, again, unless you can demonstrate a mind existing independent of the brain you’re pretty much out to sea with no supporting data. I, however, can produce plenty of examples from child aborisation to adult brain injuries to back up my assertions.

          Alas, material still stands firm, and you have yet to demonstrate a single viable thing.

        • Debilis

          I completely agree that people use a lack of brain activity to determine death. The point was that I don’t see any evidence that brain activity–or certain brain activity that appeals to brain studies alone. For that, one has to already know that people are conscious, and have some ideas about when.

          If there is no such evidence, then one’s reason for believing that people are often conscious is not based on scientific evidence, but (most likely) on the simple fact that one experiences being conscious every day.

          You’d asked for an example for the sake of understanding. That being the case, God is most certainly legitimate. This reaction only drives home the point to me that you aren’t asking for examples in order to understand what I’m saying, but for examples that you, personally, agree exists.

          Since you are a materialist, of course you are going to deny anything non-natural. I really don’t see the point in asking for examples at all if the real request is “provide examples that a materialist accepts as real”.

          Rather, if you want a reason to believe in the non-natural, you should be asking for that, instead of examples. And that is precisely what I’ve been giving in all those posts where we’ve gone rounds about examples.

          But I’ve offered other reasons than just the mind. I’ve pointed to the contingency of matter, the origin of the universe, the moral sense, and the incoherence of materialism (among other things).

          But, as to mind, I don’t need to show that it exists independently of the brain. I need to show that either it does or that there are things about brain function that are not investigable by the scientific method.

          And that is the point of the posts on Thomas Nagel (and many of the posts on Rosenberg) that I’ve done. One can take these arguments in either of those two ways: one can say “I suppose that it is most likely that the mind is not brain function” or “I suppose it’s most likely that there’s more going on in the brain, and probably all matter, than what can be mathematically modeled”.

          I have my opinions, but either conclusion works as well for what I’ve been arguing.

          And neither position is refuted by the idea that the physical has an effect on the mental. Even the most committed cartesian agrees that the brain is required for thought. Their claim is simply that it is not the only requirement.

          But I’m not a cartesian myself. The point is that showing that there is a connection between the brain and thought (as if that were a modern discovery) does not support materialism. Every view agrees on that.

          So, to put my argument another way, thought and personal experience is not physical. It is not a wave or a particle. And, if you say that it is the result of such things, all you are saying is that there is more to waves and particles than science studies.

          And this is one of the several reasons why there is more to reality than what materialism admits. We should, of course, be careful about investigating that “more”, but the first step is to realize that there is indeed more.

        • john zande

          All this dancing about by you reminds me a line from Tim Minchin:

          “Alternative medicine, by definition, has either not been proven to work, or been proven NOT to work. Do you know what they call alternative medicine that HAS been proven to work? Medicine.”

          I do hope you can grasp the profundity of this statement and see how it applies to you.

        • Debilis

          I’m not sure how one can write a response that doesn’t, in any way, respond to a single argument I’ve made while accusing me of “dancing”.

          It would seem to me that it is ignoring actual arguments in favor of insisting (without evidence) that some off-topic quotation applies to myself more than yourself that is “dancing”.

          So, let’s get away from dancing and onto actual arguments.

          What is the evidence that brain activity–or a certain kind of brain activity is synonymous with consciousness? What kinds of tests were (or even could be) done in order to acquire that evidence? Could you provide a link to the study which showed this?

          I’ve asked for that several times, but have never been given actual scientific findings, only reports about how committees have chosen to define things.

          But, if you have no such evidence, then you don’t have scientific evidence in support of your belief in consciousness. Rather, you believe in consciousness for non-scientific reasons (unless you’re an elimanativist, of course).

          That’s not “dancing”. That is a straight forward, matter-of-fact statement about the limits of physical inquiry.

          What is “dancing” is the belief (without evidence) that brain activity is utterly synonymous with brain function. It is an article of faith the way that the New Atheists define faith. At least, unless you can give me data (not committee declarations).

          It’s also “dancing” to respond to this by making demands that I support specific theories of mind that I don’t believe in, or that I provide “examples” as if that isn’t exactly what I’m doing in this very argument.

          I know that it makes for excellent rhetoric to grab cute slogans about alternative medicine, but, as the New Atheists can never seem to understand, a meme simply doesn’t add up to a rational argument just because it feels vaguely scientific to Dawkins’ fans.

          No, a claim needs actual physical evidence before it can be called scientific, and we haven’t seen any evidence (at all) that consciousness and brain activity are synonymous–only that they are causally connected (which is perfectly consistent with what I’ve been saying from the beginning). This tack-on about the mind being nothing other than brain function is belief without evidence.

          Disagree? Then give me some actual data.

          As it is, this is simply sidestepping my points to make unfounded, off-topic claims about me. I’d be much more impressed by evidence.

        • john zande

          Debilis, it’s clear you have no idea whatsoever about modern neurological research, or you wouldn’t be professing such ignorance. Here is a good quote from Scientific American which might inspire you to go and do some reading:

          “The hypothesis that the brain creates consciousness, however, has vastly more evidence for it than the hypothesis that consciousness creates the brain. Damage to the fusiform gyrus of the temporal lobe, for example, causes face blindness, and stimulation of this same area causes people to see faces spontaneously. Stroke-caused damage to the visual cortex region called V1 leads to loss of conscious visual perception. Changes in conscious experience can be directly measured by functional MRI, electroencephalography and single-neuron recordings. Neuroscientists can predict human choices from brain-scanning activity before the subject is even consciously aware of the decisions made. Using brain scans alone, neuroscientists have even been able to reconstruct, on a computer screen, what someone is seeing…. Thousands of experiments confirm the hypothesis that neurochemical processes produce subjective experiences. The fact that neuroscientists are not in agreement over which physicalist theory best accounts for mind does not mean that the hypothesis that consciousness creates matter holds equal standing.” (Jul 1, 2012, Michael Shermer)

        • Debilis

          I asked for specific data–a reference to an actual scientific study, and got a Scientific American quotation (from Michael Shermer, of all people) in response.

          So where, exactly, is the evidence here? Whether it is an atheist quoting Shermer, or a theist quoting the Bible, simply referencing a set of claims and demanding that if I “really understand”, I’ll suddenly agree is not a good argument.

          And, not incidentally, nothing Shermer claims here opposes my position. You seem to keep assuming that I am a cartesian; I am not.

          So, if you have no evidence (and there simply is no scientific evidence here), then you either don’t accept the idea that you actually have thoughts, or you accept that you do on grounds other than the scientific.

          I’m guessing the latter, but let me know.

        • john zande

          Shermer is a science historian. I believe that makes him perfectly capable of writing on the current state of the science of neurology… and evidently the editors of Scientific American agree. As a general overview it was a perfect quote. Attacking the man merely demonstrates that you’ve run out of coherent arguments. In fact, your case, as you know, has no supporting evidence at all, whereas Shermer rightly points to thousands of studies that have demonstrated the effects of brain injury on consciousness. Now, you can either research these studies yourself, like an honest person would, or throw a tantrum and pretend they don’t exist. It’s your choice. I’m not the one being willfully ignorant, so I’m unmoved by whatever decision you make.

        • Debilis

          Whether or not Shermer is a valid and unbiased authority here (he isn’t), I didn’t ask for the thoughts of a science historian, I asked for evidence. The fact that you haven’t provided any is a problem.

          And I’ve been told that belief without evidence is something to avoid.

          But you suggest that I go looking for my own evidence. But this assumes that I haven’t already done this. In fact I have, and (since you seem to think that this is somehow relevant), I completely agree that brain injury affects consciousness. In fact, I’d agree that most anything that happens to the body affects the mind to some degree.

          But there is a very simple problem with this:
          That wasn’t what I asked for evidence for.

          I asked for scientific evidence that consciousness exists. I contend that materialists don’t actually have such evidence, and know that it exists the same way the rest of us do (personal experience).

          This is to show that there are ways of knowing other than the scientific, which was my point from the beginning.

          If you want to argue with that, you have to show me evidence for consciousness not for the idea that (for those of us who already believe in consciousness) there is a connection between it and the brain.

          I’ve only ever agreed with that last. Between that and your closing remarks I think its clear that you need to pay more attention to what my argument actually is:

          1. You know that you are conscious at least some of the time.
          2. You have no scientific evidence that you are conscious, so:
          3. You have ways of knowing things other than science.

          Absolutely nothing in the quotation from Shermer contradicts any of that. To contradict it, you need to either give me some evidence, or deny any knowledge that you are conscious.

          Believe it or not, some materialists opt for the latter after hearing this argument.

        • john zande

          “I completely agree that brain injury affects consciousness”


          Scientific evidence of consciousness? I’m not even sure i know what the hell you’re talking about there. I’m simply demonstrating that consciousness is (demonstrably) located in the brain, as you just admitted. Screw with the brain and the person changes.

          I’m not interested in debating philosophical meanderings. Although sometimes interesting, philosophy has produced nothing, no data, ever.

        • Debilis

          If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you have no idea whether or not my claims are correct.

          But it isn’t because it is hard, it is because, both here and elsewhere, you have consistently refuse to think on the matter. It’s your right to remain ignorant, I suppose, but I don’t see why I should take that position seriously.

          The question was simple. Is there any scientific evidence that consciousness exists? Not a study that simply assumes it, but one that actually looked into the question.

          If not, then you have no scientific evidence, and believe in consciousness for non-scientific reasons.

          That isn’t complicated; a child could understand it.

          And, really, I have no idea how one could possibly believe that refusing to think about the question is a defense of materialism.

          Is “I don’t understand and I’m not interested” really the materialist answer to “what is your evidence”?

        • john zande

          Let me just clarify that last comment. I appreciate that you like philosophy… it is, after all, all you have, but I just find it mind-bendingly boring and entirely fruitless. As I said, philosophy has never produced a single bit of data. It can demonstrate nothing. This, of course, is why apologists worship it, but I find it meaningless. Sitting in a chair thinking hard so as to ‘conclude’ a god doesn’t (and will never) equal ‘demonstrating’ it.

        • Debilis

          I’m aware that this is your position. Consider it clarified. I’m not even going to ask you for support for the claims here.

          Rather, I’m just going to point out that all I’ve done is given you some simple logic, and asked for evidence.

          The response has been to skirt the issue of evidence and tell me that you find taking logic to a question “boring” and “fruitless”.

          If you want to get away from philosophy, move to science and give me some actual evidence. Don’t guarantee me that there is some out there that I might find. If that’s what you really want to talk about, bring it up. Let’s discuss a scholarly article that (in your opinion) gives you a scientific reason to believe in consciousness.

          No philosophy allowed, just give me the science.

          And, if you can’t. Well, I’m not remotely demanding a public response, but you really need to privately consider the thought that this “science only” approach is overly simplistic.

        • john zande

          And BTW, your new post is erroneous. The free will defence for the existence of evil has not been solved. I just demolished in my latest post.

        • Debilis

          Feel free to go there and challenge it. I’d be happy to respond.

          I’ve heard lots of big claims like “demolished” before. I’m not convinced just because someone makes that claim.

          But, if you’ve really managed it, you should send a letter to Parsons, Oppy, or one of the other professionals who would love to have such an refutation. You’d advance knowledge and become well known in academia at the same time.

        • john zande

          And Debilis, do you really think either Shermer or the entire editorial board of Scientific American would publish an article stating thousands of experiments and studies exist if it weren’t true? It’s a little ludicrous, I think you’d agree. Those studies are there for you to find. You need only look.

          You, on the other hand, have nothing but ‘ideas’ postulated without evidence… philosophised, but never demonstrated. Doesn’t this absence of evidence concern you?

        • Debilis

          Again, there is no actual evidence here.

          I understand the value of expert opinion, but there are at least three problems here:

          1. Shermer has shown clear bias on the points we’re discussing.

          2. What other people know doesn’t defend the claim that you have scientific evidence (as opposed to believing based on experience).

          3. The thing they are claiming to have evidence for isn’t what I asked for evidence for.

          The third is the most important point, and I’ve just made it in my last comment. Rather than vaguely gesturing in the direction of “thousands of studies”, please simply link to a single one that offers scientific evidence that people are conscious.

          Also, please quit demanding that I should go look. If you’d bother to look yourself, rather than re-interpret Shermer’s claims to mean something he didn’t actually say, you’d find that none of those studies shows what you are claiming they show.

          And that is an idea postulated “without evidence… philosophized but never demonstrated”. I’ve requested evidence, and only received assurances that I’d find it if I went and looked.

          If it were that easy, I suspect that you could come up with a single study. The fact that you haven’t means, at the very least, that I haven’t been given evidence.

          If you really think that people shouldn’t believe things without evidence, you need to actually find some (or give up on your belief that you are sometimes conscious).

          If, however, that was only ever a great rhetorical meme meant to sound good in debate, but never actually meant to be taken seriously–then there’s no reason why theists should be impressed by all the talk about evidence.

          So, I don’t think you need to answer me, but you really should think about your own question. Does your lack of evidence here concern you?

        • Mark Hamilton

          “You concede the world is intelligible, then a few words later you point to things ‘that are unintelligible.'”

          You might want to finish that quote.

          “So, yes, I tend to believe that the world is intelligible . This has been the basis of most of my refutations of materialism: pointing to things that are unintelligible unless we reject a materialist view.”

        • john zande

          That doesn’t even make sense.

          I think its time for a clear definition of “materialism” to be offered. Dazzle me….

  • Frank Morris

    jz: “For example, the processes of life used to be attributed to a mysterious élan vital; now we know they are powered by chemical and physical reactions among complex molecules.”

    Nothing could be further from the truth. The more we know about life and how it works, the more we know that standard chemistry is hopeless as a means of accomplishing it.

    The molecules are indeed complex, but that is a part of the problem. Such complexity does not exist in non-biotic nature and mathematically, such molecules should never be formed unless by intent. Yet our cells produce them by the millions.

    Moreover, all movements of matter in living organisms must maintain precise placement, amounts and timing, and all reactions must cause very precise directionality, or we can not function.

    Life absolutely REQUIRES functional teleological movements at all times. If teleology were to stop existing even for a few moments we would all be dead. Without the intelligent movement of matter, no life can exist, let alone reproduce, heal, grow or think.

    IOW, take the materials in a living organism and then subtract teleology, and you get a corpse.

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