Evidence for God: Humanness and the Interaction Problem

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Part of the extended series Evidence for the Faith

Ah, the interaction problem finally appears on the stage. I was expecting it to arise in the course of my discussions about humanness and evidence for the faith. I had decided not to include it until someone brought it up.  The question is: if the physical brain is not the whole story, and if human mind is immaterial, how does that immaterial mind interact with the physical world?

Not Ruled Out By Science

1. There is increasing evidence that the brain acts as a quantum effects amplifier. Mind could influence the physical world at the quantum level without violating conservation of energy, Daniel Dennett has identified as the chief scientific objection to immaterial mind. I don’t know if that’s how mind interacts with the brain, but as long as it remains a possibility, science doesn’t rule out an immaterial mind.

Proving Too Much With the Interaction Problem

2. To make this the deal-killer for human immaterial minds is also, probably, to make it a deal-killer for theism, for theism posits God as immaterial mind who interacts with the physical world.

More specifically, if non-theists say the immaterial cannot affect the physical, they are in effect saying that God doesn’t exist or does not interact with his own creation, which by the way he probably couldn’t have created, either.

That should give the skeptic pause. If God could be disproven that easily, someone would have built that case a long time ago. There’s a reason that hasn’t been done, at least not very prominently: it begs the question of God. It practically asserts God out of existence: “There is no God, or there is no God who interacts with the physical world, because the immaterial cannot interact with the material.” The theistic answer to that is quick and easy. “Really? How did you come to know that much about what God could or couldn’t do, if there is a God?

But suppose the non-theist were to say this:

This isn’t about God, it’s about humans. God is posited as wholly other, wholly transcendent, totally omnipotent. I won’t try to include him in this argument because I can’t pretend to understand what he could or couldn’t do, if he existed. Humans, on the other hand, are familiar territory. We’re in the physical world. To posit an immaterial soul that can interact with the physical world is to suggest that humans have a God-like supernatural ability to touch the physical world from an immaterial place.

My answer would be, Sure! Why not? The biblical account is clear: God created humans in his image. Like God, and unlike the animals, we are rational creatures with moral and spiritual dimensions. Why not also have an immaterial dimension with some limited ability to affect the physical world? To deny that possibility is, again, to assert the biblical view of humanity out of existence. It’s just as question-begging as the question above, concerning God himself.

The Evidence from Neuroscience

3. The non-theist will probably point to neuroscience as evidence that cognition and behavior depend on the brain, and of course we would agree. We only disagree on whether demonstrates that it is dependent on the brain alone, and nothing but the brain.

Look at it this way. I have a long-term foot injury. I’m recovering from tendon transplant surgery almost nine weeks ago, and I still cannot walk more than a few steps at a time. I have a problem expressing my will in the physical world. I’d like to walk to the next room and refill my coffee mug, but I can’t do it without an assistive mobility device (or at least, not without more pain than I care to experience).

Everyone knows that between the will and the act there is a physical interface, and that this interface can malfunction. I have a malfunction in my foot, with an obvious effect in the physical world. I could also have a malfunction in the part of my brain that controls that foot, which could likewise have an effect in the physical world. A brain issue would be upstream of an ankle tendon issue, but it would be in the same stream.  A glitch in the physical stream can have a physical result. That’s not news to any theist.

It’s also well known that neural stimulation can produce behavioral effects. E-stim (electrical current through the foot) in the physical therapist’s office can make your toes curl. A high enough voltage with a pathway to ground can make you hold on to a wire and be unable to let go. Similarly, as Willard Penfield discovered some fifty years ago, electrical stimulation in the brain can produce behaviors and cognitions. Interestingly enough, though, patients always knew it wasn’t them doing it; they knew it was being done to them. Penfield decided this was best explained on the theory that the brain isn’t the sole seat of identity and behavior.

Explaining the Interaction

4. Finally, the non-theist will likely say, You can claim this interaction is real, but you could never show how it happens, so it’s no explanation at all. The theistic response (and now I’m speaking specifically of substance dualists; see below) is to ask what one means by explanation. Typically in today’s mindset, explanation means a description of how things interact physically: the conditions and causes that bring out a result according to physical laws. Applied in this context, the request becomes: Show us the physical manner in which non-physical mind touches the physical world; which is near neighbor to, Show us that non-physical mind is really physical after all.

It’s a question-begging request, in other words. It assumes that the working of that which is non-physical must be describable in physical terms, which is to say it assumes that the non-physical isn’t non-physical after all.

Admittedly that leaves the substance dualist still without an explanation for how immaterial mind interfaces with the material world. I’m okay with that. We don’t have mental categories for that kind of explanation, any more than we have categories to explain how nature’s physical laws came to be. Call it a mystery, call it a matter for continued research, call it what you will: the question is not whether we can or cannot explain the workings of this interface, the question is whether there’s evidence that it’s real.

The Hylemorphic Dualist Position

Some of this blog’s frequent commenters opt for hylemorphic dualism, which posits an immaterial soul, but not as a discrete immaterial substance. As I have already said in this series, I’m not fully settled on what I believe: I lean toward substance dualism but I could see myself being persuaded otherwise.

One advantage of hylemorphic dualism is that there is no interaction problem in it. Therefore if I’m wrong at this stage, and if hylemorphic dualism is a better description of human reality than substance dualism, I have at least defended the more potentially problematic position. A successful defense of interaction under substance dualism would mean that there is no real interaction problem under any prominent Christian position. If my points 1 through 4 are successful, then the skeptic’s challenge has been met, one way or the other.

Evidence for the Faith
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279 Responses to “ Evidence for God: Humanness and the Interaction Problem ”

  1. The “Quantum Mind”:

    Here is a physicist explaining why there are no consciousness particles or forces that can interact with the brain at the quantum level, because by definition they would be so weak that they could not affect the activity of neurons.

    patients always knew it wasn’t them doing it; they knew it was being done to them. Penfield decided this was best explained on the theory that the brain isn’t the sole seat of identity and behavior.

    That is not even suggestive of such a conclusion.

    Admittedly hat leaves the substance dualist still without an explanation for how immaterial mind interfaces with the material world. I’m okay with that.

    You are contradicting decades of scientific experimentation and observation, replacing the rigorous explanations with a posited mystery. That is not an explanation.

    the question is whether there’s evidence that it’s real.

    There is not. The brain has been studied since the 30’s, and there is no evidence for an immaterial mind, the brain has explained every single thing observed so far and scientifically there is no need to tack on immaterial influences, regardless of whether they cohere with the findings of quantum physics.

    Premise 1 has been rejected, so the rest doesn’t follow, but 4 is also essentially you saying that you believe dualism without eviedence to support your belief (well I guess you do cite the Bible in 2….).

    Edited to fix citation about the Bible.

  2. @Oisin

    I am not a substance dualist, so I am not particularly interested in defending it, but your comments, in this and the other thread, attack a ginormous straw-man caricature of substance dualism and show a glaring ignorance of what his most substantial defenders have actually, you know, *defended*. Start say, with “The Immaterial Self” by John Foster.

  3. G. Rodrigues:

    your comments, in this and the other thread, attack a ginormous straw-man caricature of substance dualism and show a glaring ignorance of what his most substantial defenders have actually, you know, *defended*

    This is simple ad hominem, you have not shown anything except that you do not agree with me.

    Tell me why I’m wrong, and we can talk about it, but telling me I’m creating straw-men and knocking them (without even saying how or where) doesn’t advance the conversation at all.

    If you read this man’s book you should be able to use your knowledge of it to address my points, but telling me to simply “go read a book” is frankly insulting.

  4. I think at this point there is a question that needs to be answered on this topic, but also would be helpful on others too:

    What would change your mind about this?

  5. Tom Gilson –

    Mind could influence the physical world at the quantum level without violating conservation of energy,

    Of course, quantum effects are measurable in many ways. Do you think that statistical examination of neural phenomena could turn up evidence of such interaction?

  6. I actually don’t have much of a problem with this general idea, but one thing:

    ….electrical stimulation in the brain can produce behaviors and cognitions. Interestingly enough, though, patients always knew it wasn’t them doing it; they knew it was being done to them.

    Expose people unwittingly to oxytocin and their behaviors change. They do not feel it is “being done to them.”

  7. I’m curious Tom, do you believe our memories are stored in two places (the brain and the soul)? If brain damage or disease results in the inability to form new memories or retain long-term memories, is the soul equally affected?

  8. @Tom Gilson:

    Two comments about your post:

    (1) Hylemorphic dualists will not just posit an “immaterial soul”; they will point out that the problem is as much about the “mental side”, as it is about the “material side”.

    (2) I do not know where Ray intends to take his question, but I have to say that like him (I presume) I am left a bit puzzled by the mention of quantum effects. Besides the obvious problems with such a suggestion on the physics side (it is hard to see how typically quantum behavior can arise in the brain), it has obvious conceptual problems as pegging one’s hopes in some hole elbowed out by quantum indeterminacy is bound to raise more problems than it solves. But the major issue is that the whole proposal obfuscates that the problem is a philosophical one. If the arguments that Substance Dualists advance are correct, then they are correct and that settles it, for they are not a sort of quasi-scientific arguments, possibly advanced to fill out some gap or other in our knowledge, but strict deductive demonstrations that (purport to) show that the mind is immaterial, so they are either correct or they are not.

  9. What would change your mind about this?

    The ability to actually change my mind. Oh wait, that wouldn’t do it either.

  10. @Oisin:

    If you read this man’s book you should be able to use your knowledge of it to address my points, but telling me to simply “go read a book” is frankly insulting.

    Since I do not want to sound insulting, allow me to rephrase my suggestion: do not read books. Do not learn what substance dualists have actually defended. Attack a straw-man in blissful ignorance of their real position. Does this sound better?

  11. G. Rodriguez:

    their real position

    Present it and we can talk about it, or do not present it and we cannot talk about it.

  12. That is not even suggestive of such a conclusion.

    To quote Penfield himself:

    “For my own part, after years of striving to explain the mind on the basis of brain-action alone, I have come to the conclusion that it is simpler (and far easier and logical) if one adopts the hypothesis that our being does consist of two fundamental elements”

  13. bigbird:

    To quote Penfield himself:

    I wasn’t disputing whether Penfield came to that conclusion, I am saying that it is not logical to make the claim that there is an immaterial mind just because someone was aware that their movements were being caused by electronic stimulation.

    I am aware that the twitching of my eye is not consciously caused, I am not doing it, does that mean I am a soul looking out, witnessing the behavior? The conclusion doesn’t follow by necessity, not at all. (my eye isn’t actually twitching, in case anyone was worrying about me)

  14. I don’t get it.

    Wouldn’t the fact that I can *freely* change my mind prove that your view is incorrect? If so, that’s what I meant. If not, then nevermind.

  15. SteveK:

    Wouldn’t the fact that I can *freely* change my mind prove that your view is incorrect? If so, that’s what I meant. If not, then nevermind.

    Free from what? Free from your prior experiences and the current state of your brain? Free from the physics that makes your brain work the way it does, and that resulted so far in you holding the beliefs that you do?

    Determinism doesn’t mean that your beliefs can never change, it means that there were physical reasons that caused you to have the beliefs you do now, and physical causes will change your beliefs in the future (e.g. believing you have your keys in your pocket, then checking and finding that you don’t, simple physical cause, the more abstract ones have a seriously complicated series of causes including social influence, upbringing, genetics, environment, etc.). The fact that people can and do change their minds about things is not a problem for determinism as long as we acknowledge that this is a language trick, that persons and their brains and minds are not separable.

  16. Determinism doesn’t mean that your beliefs can never change, it means that there were physical reasons that caused you to have the beliefs you do now, and physical causes will change your beliefs in the future.

    Yes, I know this, er, I mean yes, I’m determined to think this is true even though I don’t really know if it is.

  17. So back to your question.

    Q: What would change my mind?
    A: Whatever series of physical events results in this effect.

    Kind of obvious, right?

  18. Notice, what several of our interlocutors having been doing over the last couple of threads. They have been using the fact that modern neuroscience has discovered that there is a correlation between the brain and what we think of as the mind or conscious self to conclude (rather hastily) that the brain, therefore, equals the mind or conscious self. Case closed. Apparently, at least from there perspective, it’s settled science…

    Not so fast. An interactionist form of mind-brain dualism, which sees the mind using the brain instrumentally, would also predict that there would be correlations between mental states and brain states. The physicalist then, to prevail in the argument, has to do more that appeal to a mind-brain correlation and declare victory.

  19. They have been using the fact that modern neuroscience has discovered that there is a correlation between the brain and what we think of as the mind or conscious self to conclude (rather hastily) that the brain, therefore, equals the mind or conscious self.

    We didn’t need neuroscience to discover this correlation – we’ve known it exists for a long time, probably even before we discovered alcohol.

  20. SteveK:

    Q: What would change my mind?
    A: Whatever series of physical events results in this effect.

    Kind of obvious, right?

    Not what I meant. What information would be enough to convince you that dualism is not a good explanation for consciousness, or that materialism provides an explanation that is equally as good as or better than the dualist explanation?

    JAD:

    The physicalist then, to prevail in the argument, has to do more that appeal to a mind-brain correlation and declare victory.

    Well also the dualist explanation is evidence-free, and in fact logically incoherent. The interaction between brain and soul is impossible under current scientific understanding of physics, there is no evidence of another type of causation like the one dualists posit.

    Bigbird:

    We didn’t need neuroscience to discover this correlation – we’ve known it exists for a long time, probably even before we discovered alcohol

    Check your modern education privilege. People used to think the heart was the house of the mind, or that the mind had no relation to the body whatsoever and that the brain was a radiator to regulate body temperature… Science has provided our current knowledge, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

  21. Check your modern education privilege.

    What is that supposed to mean?

    People used to think the heart was the house of the mind, or that the mind had no relation to the body whatsoever and that the brain was a radiator to regulate body temperature… Science has provided our current knowledge, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

    Check your references. It was the Pythagoreans who first believed the brain was where the mind was located – about 2,500 years ago. Herophilus and Erasistratus were very early pioneers in understanding the brain.

  22. Oisin,

    Well also the dualist explanation is evidence-free, and in fact logically incoherent. The interaction between brain and soul is impossible under current scientific understanding of physics, there is no evidence of another type of causation like the one dualists posit.

    That is so wrong in so many ways. Since there are philosophical arguments based on evidence there is evidence.

    Interaction of soul and brain is impossible under a current understanding of physics interpreted according to a reductionist philosophy. Do you understand the difference?

    There are very good reasons to reject the anaemic version of causation adopted by materialists in favour of a more complete view that includes all four causes.

  23. Check your references. It was the Pythagoreans who first believed the brain was where the mind was located – about 2,500 years ago. Herophilus and Erasistratus were very early pioneers in understanding the brain.

    Why let facts get in the way of spinning a good story?

  24. Oisin @#21: You say, “Not what I meant.” I think SteveK’s answer was completely in accord with what you claim to believe, so if it wasn’t what you meant, can you explain how you could have meant something else?

    I’d be especially interested to know why you think there could be some information that anyone could expect to change anyone’s mind.

    Of course I don’t doubt that information could do that, but then I’m not committed to a physicalist view of thought. Your view has a problem, though. Information is non-physical, whereas from your point of view everything in the mind is determined by physical processes. How does information drive physical events?

    You have an interaction problem, you know: the interaction between non-physical propositions and the physical brain. Your earlier question to SteveK and his answer really show it plainly, but in fact everything anyone says or writes does the same. You see, you raised a question about an expectation or a prediction about what non-physical information could change a person’s physical brain. You raised the question in part because you had hope, another sort of expectancy state albeit a tentative one, that merely prodding SteveK with the information in that question might change his physical brain.

    This is quite remarkable, you know. Not only do non-physical propositions change the physical brain, but they do so in ways that allow us sometimes to predict those changes. Actually in some contexts those predictions are very reliable, since not everything is as difficult as overturning someone’s worldview. I tell my wife I’m going to the office, and I can very reliably predict that this non-physical information will result in her physical brain changing such that she will exhibit subsequent behaviors consistent with her knowing that I have gone to the office.

    You say elsewhere that soul/brain interaction is logically incoherent. Could you explain how the interaction between non-physical propositions and the physical brain is logically coherent?

  25. Melissa:

    That is so wrong in so many ways. Since there are philosophical arguments based on evidence there is evidence.

    There are also philosophical arguments for solipsism, why are they not evidence that solipsism is true?

    Interaction of soul and brain is impossible under a current understanding of physics interpreted according to a reductionist philosophy. Do you understand the difference?

    You are simply assuming that science is in principle not open to the possibility that there are other types of causation. The only philosophy behind the scientific method is this: you should always check to see if you are wrong. Modern physics has worked out all of the possible particles/fields in existence under Earth conditions, and also all of the forces that operate at the level of the brain (there may be some too weak to detect, but they cannot affect brains). There is no other avenue for causation to operate at the level of neurons.

    Further, if there existed non-physical types of causation, we would see evidence for them in their effects on physical reality. We would be able to see that an event was not caused by a previous physical event (for example through brain scans), so this would be evidence for your view. Such evidence did not exist.

    There are very good reasons to reject the anaemic version of causation adopted by materialists in favour of a more complete view that includes all four causes.

    This is a pseudo-claim, not even a true claim, if you want to defend dualism then you need to present the evidence that you speak of, at least by making a claim that can be checked. Your pseudo-claim re-worded: “There are things I use to reject material causation. I believe there are four causes.” This is not discourse.

  26. Tom:

    Oisin @#21: You say, “Not what I meant.” I think SteveK’s answer was completely in accord with what you claim to believe, so if it wasn’t what you meant, can you explain how you could have meant something else?

    Just read the sentence that followed it, man, come on.

    Information is non-physical, whereas from your point of view everything in the mind is determined by physical processes. How does information drive physical events?

    I’m neither a physicist nor a computer scientist, but if you are interested in information theory then fire away. The brain is an organic computer on materialism, so computer science is where to look for how information is represented and processed by physical systems. (Natural selection was the original coder, in case you were wondering).

    This is a classic case of avoiding the question via pedantry: “What information would be enough to convince you that dualism is not a good explanation for consciousness, or that materialism provides an explanation that is equally as good as or better than the dualist explanation?”.

    We know physical things exist. How do we know that non-physical things exist?

  27. According to French philosopher Elie During the metaphysics of modern materialism can be traced back to the dualism of Renet Descartes who completely separated the mind from the body. During explains:

    “Once the body and the brain were reduced to their sheer mechanical functioning and the mind was considered as substantially distinct from matter, the way was open for materialism: one only needed to drop the second part of the scheme—namely, the spiritual substance—and explain everything along mechanistic lines”

    There are other kinds of dualism besides Cartesian dualism (hylomorphic dualism, for example) which conceive of mind and consciousness being more intimately interrelated with brain function than Descartes envisioned. Most modern dualists that I am familiar with (and I am referring here to philosophers of the mind or neuro-scientists) reject Cartesian dualism. Ironically many modern materialists, after rejecting Descartes concept of the mind appear to have fully embraced a crude all inclusive mechanistic Cartesian ontology when it comes to describing the physical world. In other words, their world view is Cartesian but without the mind.

  28. Further, if there existed non-physical types of causation, we would see evidence for them in their effects on physical reality.

    Yes, we do. Our thoughts affecting our physical brains.

    We would be able to see that an event was not caused by a previous physical event (for example through brain scans), so this would be evidence for your view. Such evidence did not exist.

    You are telling me that brain scans can clearly demonstrate a casual link from a physical event to my thoughts to my actions? Sorry, I think you vastly overstate the case. In fact, I’m not sure how you can even demonstrate casuality rather than correlation. References?

    Your entire thread of discussion seems to be permeated with a certainty that I don’t see displayed in the literature.

  29. The brain is an organic computer on materialism

    A debatable statement. Can you provide some supporting links?

  30. Nonsense, Tom. The proposition “all swans are white” weighs 1kg, is (ironically) back in colour and is generally found at the back of a fridge.

    I should have asked Oisin not only for supporting links but also links to arguments that counter the view that brain = organic computer. I’ve not had much exposure to this notion and I’m curious to know more.

  31. Tom:

    Propositions are non-physical.

    What is the basis of this claim? What is a proposition, and how do you know it is non-physical? (Not that I don’t know what a proposition is, I just need you to fully say what you are thinking)

    Billy Squibs:

    The brain is an organic computer on materialism

    A debatable statement. Can you provide some supporting links?

    Here’s the Wikipedia page, other sources include psychology and neuroscience textbooks, it’s more accurate to say that brains engage in computation, rather than to say they are computers, like birds and plans both engage in flight but are not the same thing.

    Bigbird:

    In fact, I’m not sure how you can even demonstrate casuality rather than correlation.

    Via falsificationism, fella. Every function of the mind can be damaged by damaging a part of the brain, so those parts of the brain are those parts of the mind.

    I refuse to answer a single other question, query or response until my question is answered (since it has been repeatedly ignored and avoided): what evidence would change your mind about dualism? Please be specific, rather than something like “a good philosophical argument” or “strong evidence against it”.

    If you cannot think of something that would change your mind, then I am wasting my time on people accepting things on blind faith rather than rational reasoning. I don’t think that’s the case, but I will assume it until I get a response.

  32. Oisin,

    I refuse to answer a single other question, query or response until my question is answered (since it has been repeatedly ignored and avoided): what evidence would change your mind about dualism? Please be specific, rather than something like “a good philosophical argument” or “strong evidence against it”.

    Not ignored. Not avoided. Answered in terms that would make sense if the proposition were actually true. See SteveK’s initial response.

    And we’ve been correcting persistent misconceptions of yours. You’ve repeated one just now: “Every function of the mind can be damaged by damaging a part of the brain, so those parts of the brain are those parts of the mind.”

    I addressed that in the OP and showed that you can’t prove a mind-brain identity that way. JAD spoke to it in #19. You’re not holding up your end of the conversation yourself.

    I’m in a phone meeting that I should get back to…

  33. Besides all the obvious nonsense that Oisin is peddling, the question “what would change your mind (to my way of thinking)?” is impossible to answer without knowing the minute details about what physical conditions the brain is in.

    If I came up to you with an object behind my back, telling you it was a ball of some kind, and asked you what kind of physical energy or force you’d apply to it, and in what way you’d apply it, in order for it to move forward 16 inches – could you give me an answer? Not really. You’d be guessing because you have no idea if the ball has a cover on it that is ripped, if it is light or heavy, if it is oddly shaped, etc.

    I haven’t seen my brain and Oisin expects me to know how various cause/effect relationships will unfold. Just as silly is that Oisin thinks he knows.

  34. SteveK:

    I asked what logical reasoning would change your mind. You cannot think of any, therefore your position is not based on logical reasoning.

  35. Here’s my answer:

    I would begin to change my mind if someone would show me a way for propositions to (a) exist as purely physical realities, and/or (b) to have causal efficacy on a purely physical plane in a manner consistent with what we know about principles of rational inference.

    Beyond that there is an entire worldview involved, but that would be a great beginning.

  36. Oisin,

    SteveK:

    I asked what logical reasoning would change your mind. You cannot think of any, therefore your position is not based on logical reasoning.

    That’s one possibility but it’s not entailed, because it’s not the only possibility. The other one is that you’ve asked a question that’s logically incoherent in itself, which is exactly what SteveK and others are trying to show.

  37. Logical reasoning = specific physical effect

    What will cause the effect, given the condition of my brain? Read my prior comment.

  38. Tom:

    (a) A way for propositions to exist as purely physical realities.

    We know propositions can be represented by physical reality, on computers for example. You would claim that the proposition itself exists independently of physical reality, like it says in the Standford Philosophy Encyclopedia:

    The proposition that ‘there are rocks’, which we denote , does not entail the existence of any beings that have or are capable of having mental states. It entails this neither in a strictly or broadly logical sense. That is, it is possible in the broadest sense for to be true in the absence of all mental states. But now, if this proposition is possibly true in the absence of mental states, then it possibly exists in the absence of all mental states, and so is mind-independent.

    There is an assumption here that, if the proposition is true of the world, that therefore it can exist in that world. These do not follow from one another. I can make a proposition that ‘there are no propositions’, and that proposition would be true of a world without propositions without that proposition existing in it.

    (b) A way for propositions to have causal efficacy on a purely physical plane in a manner consistent with what we know about principles of rational inference.

    We know that physical things can represent information, and this information can cause things to happen through physical action (for example a heat-sensitive nerve detecting heat, causing muscles to contract and move away from the heat).

    What do you think?

  39. Billy’s comment #32 is a good first-pass explanation for why it’s implausible to think of propositions as physical entities. Where is the proposition, “I’m in Austria today”? Is it on the screen you’re reading? But no, it’s also on a lot of other people’s screens. Macro-sized physical entities can’t be in that many places at once (certain recent subatomic level experiments notwithstanding). Is it in your brain? But it’s in my brain, too, and probably in the brains of a lot of people who aren’t reading here: young children reading stories about fire trucks, people who order fire trucks for their local fire department, etc.

    How much information is contained in that proposition? You could run Shannon numbers on it and find out how many bits are required to produce the sentence . But then you could also run Shannon numbers on the sentence, Heute bin ich in Österreich, which expresses the same proposition. Even country name Österreich appears to contain more Shannon information than Austria. The information contained in both versions, as it’s perceived and understood by people who know both languages, is identical, but the Shannon information varies. This means that the propositional information cannot be identical to Shannon information.

    And then there is the question of truth. It is not, alas, the case that I am in Austria today. The proposition is false. Can a physical state be false? Can a set of voltages be true? Could a neurophysical state be false? I don’t see how.

    Next topic.

    To say that brains compute is non-controversial. The controversy has to do with whether computers are dealing with information in the same sense that humans deal with information.

    They can certainly manipulate representations of information, in the form of voltages, mostly. The question is whether a highly complex and algorithmically changing voltage state has anything to do with knowing, recognizing, inferring, concluding, and so on. That’s what humans do with information. Arguably it’s not information unless it informs, and to inform it must inform some entity with the ability to recognize its being informed.

    So you have much work to do before you can make a plausible case that information is physical, and that the computer-brain analogy is sufficient to explain the mind.

  40. I should add this, though: it’s clear that though propositions are not physical entities, they do have causal efficacy. The proposition, “I’m in Austria today” could very easily cause my friend in Ohio not to call and invite me to lunch today. It could cause you to write and ask, “Oh? What are you doing in Austria?” And so on. In order to have some causal efficacy they must have some connection to that upon which they have effects. The best way to view that is to say that they have that connection in persons’ mind by way of cognition and by (non-physical) principles of rational inference, and that their eventual effect in the physical world is by way of mind’s interaction with body.

  41. SteveK:

    the question “what would change your mind (to my way of thinking)?” is impossible to answer without knowing the minute details about what physical conditions the brain is in.

    You are saying that, even if I was right, you would not be able to change your mind? Or that, if I were right, you would not know what would change your mind?

    Again you are avoiding providing the evidence that would change your mind. If your opinion was arrived at through logical reasoning, then you know what logical conclusions of yours would need to change to accept materialism.

    After this, if you still do not have an answer, I will know that you did not use logical reasoning to come to the conclusions you have come to, and I will not try to change your mind anymore.

  42. No, Oisin, SteveK is saying that you are saying that “You are saying that, even if I was right, you would not be able to change your mind? Or that, if I were right, you would not know what would change your mind?”

    The reason he’s saying that is because your system has no causal space in it for rightness or wrongness to create change in the physical system of the brain. Propositions aren’t physical, and their rightness or wrongness involves non-physical rational relationships. You’ve said that non-physical things can’t change physical things.

    You’ve got to understand that SteveK is not resisting your questions, he’s echoing your theory!

  43. That is, your sentence here is masterwork of self-contradiction!

    If your opinion was arrived at through logical reasoning, then you know what logical conclusions of yours would need to change to accept materialism.

    You’re asking him what logical conclusions would lead him to accept that minds operate by some principle other than logic!

  44. Oh, and PLEASE don’t respond by telling me computers use logic. They don’t. They don’t use inference. They use switches. Logic is in computers only by analogy.

  45. Tom:

    Where is the proposition, “I’m in Austria today”?

    This proposition need not be represented the same in every brain that employs it for it to be usable.

    The symbols of language activate certain parts of the brain, and these parts of the brain cause further physical effects, sometimes resulting in behaviour. The coherence of the effects on each individual brain need not be absolute, to some the symbol “Austria” may represent a specifc place, to others it may just activate the “place” schema in the brain, and “Austria” and “Österreich” could even activate different neurons. These are not impossible, and would allow for a greater degree of freedom that would explain communication errors more satisfyingly than the existence of non-physical, formal propositions.

    You are assuming that propositions exist non-physically, but you have not shown this, you have merely said that it is difficult to understand the relation between all of the information and thus drawn an easy conclusion. My response to (a) should show that you have made a leap of logic.

  46. Tom:

    You’re asking him what logical conclusions would lead him to accept that minds operate by some principle other than logic!

    Neurons operate via voltage gates, Yes/No responses, that is enough to operate logically.

  47. I agree with Tom about propositions not having any causal force, but my most recent point is different.

    I cannot know how a physical object will react to a cause unless I’ve studied and know the particular details of that physical object. I’ve never seen my brain, I have no idea how much it weighs , I have no idea how it reacts to certain causes, therefore I have no idea what cause will produce the desired effect of logical reasoning. Not just any logical reasoning effect but the correct logical reasoning effect. And how I would know the correct logical reasoning effect was produced, I haven’t a clue.

  48. SteveK:

    I cannot know how a physical object will react to a cause unless I’ve studied and know the particular details of that physical object.

    Determinism has a view of consciousness, so you can be conscious of the activity of your brain in many cases. If you employed what we call logical reasoning, this would involve directing your attention to your memory banks, and testing the various memories in their relation to one another.

    If you consciously thought through your position, you will have created memories of doing so. If you know how you came to your conclusions, it is trivially easy to use counterfactual thinking to create a model of what memories could have been used in your reasoning process to produce the opposite conclusion.

    Again this is a dodge. Unless me giving an account of how one reasons materialistically counts as a way of changing your mind? I doubt it, since you haven’t said this, because then you would be forced to actually follow through. The truth is that you did not use this process to achieve the conclusions you did, and so did not employ logic to come to your current position.

  49. Tom to Oisin:

    You’re asking him what logical conclusions would lead him to accept that minds operate by some principle other than logic!

    Or, he is asking us to accept a position that is logically incoherent and self refuting… Once again under determinism, there is no point in trying to change anyone’s beliefs because you, I and every other human who has ever existed, thinks and believes the way we do because we have been predetermined to think and believe that way. Notice that I am using logic to reject a logically incoherent belief. That answers Oisin’s question.

  50. JAD:

    there is no point in trying to change anyone’s beliefs because you, I and every other human who has ever existed, thinks and believes the way we do because we have been predetermined to think and believe that way

    This interaction here is a physical fact that feeds into the processes of the brain. The outcome is pre-determined, but we do not know what the end result will be because we are not omniscient. Processes in the brain work to try to make their behaviour patterns cohere with reality, and data from one’s environment is continually compared with the mental models of reality that have been created thus far. By my acting as a part of your environment that is contradicting your mental models, your brain is forced to try to find out where the contradiction lies. I am hoping that the processes will find the contradiction within the model, and then change it.

  51. What sensory stimulus results in my brain searching its memory banks and inducing the correct logical process? Tell me, Oisin.

  52. Oisin:

    I am hoping that the processes will find the contradiction within the model, and then change it.

    I has. It has found a contradiction in your model. So it’s not worth considering.

    P.S. There is no such thing as hope under determinism.

  53. SteveK:

    What sensory stimulus results in my brain searching its memory banks and inducing the correct logical process? Tell me, Oisin.

    Oh I’ll tell you, Steve.

    The words on the screen in front of you are the stimulus. The process of forming true beliefs seems to be based on Coherentism as the brain’s method of coming to knowledge.

    Everyone:
    We’ve actually gotten caught up in a silly practice here: you have placed the burden of proof on me to explain exactly how every single aspect of the mind works physically. One by one we are jumping from one aspect of thought to another, and I’m looking up general studies in areas that are not my primary interest (my interest is in religion).

    My claim is this, and this alone:

    *you do not have a sound logical foundation for positing the existence of non-physical entities and causes.*

    All my neuroscience and psychology could be wrong and open to change, but this proposition is the crux of it. Further:

    *You did not arrive at your ideas about non-physical entities and causes through examining the evidence, you found it in the Bible and use it to explain things that you do not understand or find difficult.*

    I cannot, and will not, prove the second, but it would be disproven if you could explain to me how you know that non-physical entities or causes exist. The fact that non-physical entities and causes are useful as a blanket explanation for areas that you do not have full knowledge should be suggestive to you, and all the areas where similar non-physical explanations used to exist, and now do not, should also be suggestive.

    The first proposition here is the only requirement for refuting dualism.

  54. JAD:

    You are making lots of illogical claims here.

    It has found a contradiction in your model. So it’s not worth considering.

    P.S. There is no such thing as hope under determinism.

    You have not identified a contradiction. Brains are physical, they are information processing, information from one’s environment fuels this processing, these process form models of reality, information being input into the system can add to, alter, confirm or disconfirm a certain model. This is all fine under materialism.

    Emotions like hope also do not contradict materialism/determinism. Physical creatures experience emotions, you don’t need a soul to hope.

  55. …you don’t need a soul to hope.

    Really? You know of another species that “hopes”. And you know this how?

  56. BillT:

    Really? You know of another species that “hopes”. And you know this how?

    Dogs salivate when they associate your behaviour with feeding time.

    How do you know that babies experience emotions? You infer from their behaviour, until they can talk. Similarly we infer from animals what emotions they are experiencing, based on their behaviour.

    Your rampant skepticism is unwarranted.

  57. So Pavlov’s response is now understood as “hope”. Do you have any evidence for this (because if you do I think a Nobel Prize awaits) or are you just making it up as you go along. And dogs salivating can be properly paralleled with an infant’s emotions who we know become emotional beings. Wow! the things you learn.

    Your rampant skepticism is unwarranted.

    Glad you told me.

  58. Oisin,

    You are simply assuming that science is in principle not open to the possibility that there are other types of causation. The only philosophy behind the scientific method is this: you should always check to see if you are wrong.

    No I am not. Please try to read what is written. My point was not about what science allows but rather the way that science and your philosophy are inextricably linked in your mind such that when you write “science says” you really mean science + my philosophy says this about reality.

    Modern physics has worked out all of the possible particles/fields in existence under Earth conditions, and also all of the forces that operate at the level of the brain (there may be some too weak to detect, but they cannot affect brains). There is no other avenue for causation to operate at the level of neurons.

    Physics has worked out how particles act as particles but there is no evidence to support a reductionist philosophy which is what you need to support this claim. My point, just so you don’t miss it – it is reductionism that is wrong not particle physics.

    Further, if there existed non-physical types of causation, we would see evidence for them in their effects on physical reality. We would be able to see that an event was not caused by a previous physical event (for example through brain scans), so this would be evidence for your view. Such evidence did not exist.

    Oisin you continue to fail to respond to what I am writing. A brain scan cannot tell us if there is anything going on in the brain other than a physical response to physical stimulus.

    This is a pseudo-claim, not even a true claim, if you want to defend dualism then you need to present the evidence that you speak of, at least by making a claim that can be checked.

    First, by your own standard every one of your claims is a pseudo claim, I suggest you apply the same criteria to yourself and your own views. Second, it would not be possible to educate you in the combox format, that would require reading a book in your part and we all know your aversion to that. Fourth, since you have not yet responded with any relevant objection to the argument that has already been placed in front of you, it’s clear that I would be wasting my time to introduce any more at this stage.

  59. Melissa:

    by your own standard every one of your claims is a pseudo claim

    Simply unhelpful.

    Physics has worked out how particles act as particles but there is no evidence to support a reductionist philosophy which is what you need to support this claim

    This explains nothing, you give no detail about how anything but physical causation could work.

    A brain scan cannot tell us if there is anything going on in the brain other than a physical response to physical stimulus.

    It could tell us if there was no prior physical cause for the physical response.

    since you have not yet responded with any relevant objection to the argument that has already been placed in front of you, it’s clear that I would be wasting my time to introduce any more at this stage.

    You introduced no evidence here, you just contradicted me and didn’t explain why, you are wasting my time by just saying the opposite of what I said (with the gravity of someone delivering the killing blow to an argument on its knees), without actually presenting information to help or hinder.

  60. Oisin,

    This explains nothing, you give no detail about how anything but physical causation could work.

    It explains that your view is not supported by physics but by a reductionist philosophy, which is all I was aiming for their, because it means that your argument is question begging. Would you like to provide a non-question begging argument?

    It could tell us if there was no prior physical cause for the physical response.

    Will you just take a bit more than one second to think about your claims. Oh no, you can’t. Your eyes see the screen and the neurons in your brain fire and your hands move. Seriously think about it. How would brain scans do this?

    You introduced no evidence here, you just contradicted me and didn’t explain why, you are wasting my time by just saying the opposite of what I said (with the gravity of someone delivering the killing blow to an argument on its knees), without actually presenting information to help or hinder

    I can’t help you. I suspect, going by your responses, that you don’t want to understand.

  61. Melissa:

    It explains that your view is not supported by physics but by a reductionist philosophy, which is all I was aiming for their, because it means that your argument is question begging

    It does not explain this, it claims this without evidence.

    Will you just take a bit more than one second to think about your claims.

    I can’t help you. I suspect, going by your responses, that you don’t want to understand.

    You are not providing any response to the words I write, except direct contradiction (which isn’t an argument), and you merely tell me to rethink my position, rather than actually say what is wrong with the logic that I employ. Regardless of which, my main claim is sustained so far:

    My claim is this, and this alone:

    *you do not have a sound logical foundation for positing the existence of non-physical entities and causes.*

  62. Oisin, look, this is simply prejudice in action:

    *You did not arrive at your ideas about non-physical entities and causes through examining the evidence, you found it in the Bible and use it to explain things that you do not understand or find difficult.*

    I don’t actually have a problem with discovering truth in the Bible, since I think that’s a very good place to find it. But there are other reasons, other evidences. One of them relates to this, which you said immediately after that:

    I cannot, and will not, prove the second, but it would be disproven if you could explain to me how you know that non-physical entities or causes exist. The fact that non-physical entities and causes are useful as a blanket explanation for areas that you do not have full knowledge should be suggestive to you, and all the areas where similar non-physical explanations used to exist, and now do not, should also be suggestive.

    How do we know non-physical causes exist? Let me refer you back to your own admission of the fact in number 50. I’m sure you didn’t recognize it for what it is, but I’ll explain.

    You said,

    This proposition need not be represented the same in every brain that employs it for it to be usable.

    Here you acknowledge that something called a proposition exists, that it can be usable, that it can be represented, that it can be employed, that not every representation must be the same, but that it can be spoken of in the singular, meaning that it is one proposition.

    So you acknowledge the reality of propositions, and their causal efficacy: they couldn’t be used or employed for anything if they did not have that property.

    You acknowledge that one proposition can be represented in many ways. Now, where is the reality of that proposition, or in what does it consist? It can’t be in its representations, for they are completely different. A proposition’s representations can consist in different brain states, different neurochemical patterns in different persons. On another level it can consist in the sentence by which it is expressed, which in turn can be spoken, written, encoded as voltage states, and so on.

    Among all these representations there is one thing that is the same: the proposition itself. That one same entity cannot be identical with all of those different representations. (In fact, no entity could rationally be said to be identical with its representation.) In what physical form does the proposition itself subsist or consist? Where is it? What is it made of? What physical forces act upon it? There’s nothing physical there!

    And yet this non-physical proposition has causal efficacy as minds process it.

    That’s a strong argument for the reality of something non-physical that can affect things physical. And I didn’t even crack open the Bible to present it. Not that I would mind finding similar truths in the Bible, but I wouldn’t expect you to consider that as credible a source for analysis as your own words are.

  63. The fact that non-physical entities and causes are useful as a blanket explanation for areas that you do not have full knowledge should be suggestive to you, and all the areas where similar non-physical explanations used to exist, and now do not, should also be suggestive.

    And that latter information should be suggestive of what? That extrapolations are always accurate? I hope if you had a house to sell (in America, that is), that you put it on the market in 2006, not 2008.

  64. Tom:

    Among all these representations there is one thing that is the same: the proposition itself.

    This is an assumption.

    You do not know that, and the only reason you think that is because the language we use standardizes our brain structures so that we can all communicate. It’s not perfect, sometimes two people express the same proposition and mean different things (which is my basis for rejecting the claim), but this system works. It does not necessitate an ultimate super-proposition that transcends the material realm.

  65. I do not know what?

    That’s a serious question. The reason is because I think you were referring to something represented by, “Among all these representations there is one thing that is the same: the proposition itself.”

    That’s the proposition (or the expression thereof) to which the pronoun “that” was referring. Now, if it’s not somewhat the same proposition in my mind as it is in yours, then how could you possibly suppose that I don’t know it?

    Granted, each of us might have a different nuance on some propositions. “Mom is a good cook” would mean something very, very different to different people, to take an extremely obvious example.

    But here’s the thing: If I said, “Mom is a good cook” and you said, “Mom is a good cook,” we’d be talking about different things, and we would know that we were talking about different things. If I said, “Earth’s sun is hotter than its moon,” however, you would be very, very hard pressed to suppose that we were not talking about the same things. In entertaining that proposition in our minds, we would be in fact thinking about the same things in almost precisely the same way.

    In other words, it is no mere assumption when I say that certain propositions remain the same across multiple representations.

    And here’s the thing, too. There’s something Melissa has pointed out, which I am seeing as well: you do not understand the position you are rebutting. You seem eager to dispute it with pronouncements like, “This is an assumption,” and “You have no evidence,” and “You just got that out of the Bible.” You’re not displaying much interest in understanding what it is you’re pronouncing upon.

    For my part, I think that in my four points in the OP here I showed that I have at least a partial grasp on what I was rebutting. I could have gone technical and discussed epiphenomenalism, supervenience, and intentionality, and I’ll be glad to do so. If you want a discussion of property dualism as opposed to the strict naturalism/physicalism I was rebutting here, I’d be glad to offer you that, because I’ve taken some time to try to understand these things. You haven’t staked a claim with any of these, but they are among the chief theories offered by thinkers who deny immaterial reality. (I didn’t find them just now in Google or Wikipedia, by the way.) I could talk further about computational theory and the brain if you wish, and in fact I have done so in about the same depth that you have put it forth for discussion.

    I’m not saying all those to boast toward you, but perhaps instead to goad you. You’re very, very quick to criticize, but when you say we’re presenting our position without evidence, what you yourself are evidencing is that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    Does that matter to you? I mean, does knowing what you’re talking about make a difference to you?

  66. In fact, I’m not sure how you can even demonstrate casuality rather than correlation.

    Via falsificationism, fella. Every function of the mind can be damaged by damaging a part of the brain, so those parts of the brain are those parts of the mind.

    For the sake of argument I’ll grant you 1) “Every function of the mind can be damaged by damaging a part of the brain”, although I don’t think you have a strong case as it presupposes your position.

    Still, 2) “those parts of the brain are those parts of the mind” is not something you can deduce from 1).

    At best, you can deduce it means those parts of the brain have some kind of relationship with those parts of the mind – something most dualists don’t dispute. As I said, you’ve at best shown correlation.

    I refuse to answer a single other question, query or response until my question is answered (since it has been repeatedly ignored and avoided): what evidence would change your mind about dualism?

    How about you tell us what would change your mind about your position?

  67. I mean, does knowing what you’re talking about make a difference to you?

    I don’t mean to pile on here Oisin but to Tom’s point, just above you tried refuting my point with “facts” you then admitted you just made up. I get the impression often that this is just a rhetorical game for you.

  68. Tom,

    I’m having a very difficult time following the arguments against your article, which I find to be very clear and convincing. It seems to me that the non-theists here are merely asserting some sort of “there is no such thing as a …” as an “argument.” IMO, what is needed here is a little grounding in the simple realities of human existence, without which there would be no discussion whatsoever of God’s “existence.”

    Every organ in the human body is a tool for interacting with and processing some aspect of our reality to enable us to sustain and enhance life (beyond the level of animals): the digestive system is a tool for processing food to produce energy, the nervous system is for processing visual, auditory and sensory stimuli, etc. What then, is so troubling about viewing the brain as a tool for processing both the physical and spiritual (metaphysical) dimensions of our reality? Why would we have a tool for processing spiritual reality if there were no such thing?

    The body is equipped to feel hunger because we need food, thirst because we need water, sexual desire because we need to reproduce, etc. Why then do we have a need to seek and know God through the mind and spirit if there were no God to know and experience? It’s not that esoteric or other-worldly, which IMO, is exactly what the Bible demonstrates. The ancient Hebrews encountered, experienced and related to God. The OT really has very little in terms of metaphysical arguments about God’s “existence” They just tell us about their relationship with the reality that is God.

    Atheists are really simply “pre-literate” about God, not having graduated from spiritual kindergarten yet. They are trying to take us “back” to a place humankind has never been: being concerned about whether or not God “exists” in order to be encountered. We Christians have the living, breathing incarnate God to whom we relate and who we encounter.

    Keep up your excellent writing about evidence for our faith. That’s what I’m focused on. JB

  69. (1) If some form of substance dualism is correct, then something immaterial has a causal effect on the material.

    (2) Humans are something where the immaterial cause is supposed to have effects, e.g. in the physical actions humans choose to take.

    (3) Humans are demonstrably at least partially composed of matter.

    (4) We have a pretty good handle on what matter does, and how it behaves physically, chemically, and so forth.

    (5) We have a pretty decent idea of how humans take actions. Muscles contract because of nerve signals, which originate from other nerves, and we can work backward from there to brain states. In more and more detail as time goes on.

    (6) The preceding seems to mean that humans at least sometimes do things that mere matter wouldn’t do, and eventually we’ll see something like, “Hey, this group of neurons should, biologically, have fired at this point, but they didn’t!” or something like that.

    Is this correct? If not, at what step did I go awry? I’ve numbered them to help narrow things down.

  70. Tom:

    Now, if it’s not somewhat the same proposition in my mind as it is in yours, then how could you possibly suppose that I don’t know it?

    “Somewhat the same”

    If I said, “Earth’s sun is hotter than its moon,” however, you would be very, very hard pressed to suppose that we were not talking about the same things. In entertaining that proposition in our minds, we would be in fact thinking about the same things in almost precisely the same way.

    “almost precisely the same”

    it is no mere assumption when I say that certain propositions remain the same across multiple representations.

    “certain propositions remain the same”. And there is the leap.

    You begin with true statements, stating that information is represented in the brain of humans, and these representations are so similar from human to human that it allows us to communicate, especially in people who speak the same language. All fine, functionally (but not actually), these representations are the same from person to person.

    You jump here though. The next thing you say is there is something *that is identical among all of these similar representations*, this something is not located in any brain individually, so this something is immaterial. How do you know this something exists?

  71. Jenna:

    Atheists are really simply “pre-literate” about God, not having graduated from spiritual kindergarten yet. They are trying to take us “back” to a place humankind has never been: being concerned about whether or not God “exists” in order to be encountered.

    Humans created God after God throughout our history of tribal cultures, atheism is definitely relatively new compared with theism, perhaps you’d prefer “post-literate”?

    What differentiates your experiences of God and Jesus Christ from a Muslim’s experiences of Allah, or a Hindu’s experiences of their various gods? (Gods?)

    I am not saying that these experiences are not real, I am saying that each religion is equal in its experiences of God, they merely use current languages and different books to talk about it, on my view.

    My spiritual experiences are not lesser than a Christian’s. (Though I don’t believe in spirits, I’d call them peak or transcendent experiences)

  72. Tom:

    Because we can communicate.

    Are you making the claim that we could not communicate if the representations of information in our brains that we were communicating about were not identical?

    And because you spoke of “this proposition” which is a singular noun.

    Why ought that to refer to anything except the representation of information in your brain?

  73. Oisin,

    It does not explain this, it claims this without evidence.

    Do you really not understand that it is your philosophy not the science that’s doing the work? My suggestion to you is to lay out your argument from particle physics through to your conclusion that there is no room in the brain for anything outside if that physics and then it will be as obvious to you as it is to the rest of us.

    You are not providing any response to the words I write, except direct contradiction

    Because the words you write are not refuting my position and you have not thought through what you are writing. I want you to think through your own position. Why should I do all the hard work? Brain scans are data that need to be interpreted. Brain scans correlate with thought but also with physical stimuli and actions, how do you propose to seperate all that out?

  74. Melissa:

    I could be wrong about most things I think are true about the brain, but that would not relate to my claim that:

    *you do not have a sound logical foundation for positing the existence of non-physical entities and causes.*

    You have demonstrated an unwillingness to make any kind of claim relating to this that can be interacted with.

    I do not draw a line between science and philosophy, for me philosophy is the art of building models of reality, and once those models make testable predictions they become science.

    the words you write are not refuting my position and you have not thought through what you are writing

    I have said that humans do not engage in formal thought as the people you refer to describe, thought is never determinate, and I have given you examples of the myriad of times thought is not determinate. It is not necessary to posit formal thought to explain human behaviour or the actions of minds. Do you have a response to that?

  75. What differentiates your experiences of God and Jesus Christ from a Muslim’s experiences of Allah, or a Hindu’s experiences of their various gods? (Gods?)

    None (up to a point). By that I mean, as Christians, we don’t have any problem with the understanding that all religions “see” in some manner some part of the truth about God. We don’t believe they see the whole truth but a shared spiritual experience is a valid understanding (as I said, up to a point).

    I am saying that each religion is equal in its experiences of God,…

    This, per the above, is where you are mistaken.

  76. Are you making the claim that we could not communicate if the representations of information in our brains that we were communicating about were not identical?

    No. You said, “This proposition need not be represented the same in every brain that employs it for it to be usable.” I agree, and I said so in #69. The representations do not need to be identical. But quit asking me what I meant, please, and ask yourself what you meant when you said in that comment (#40), “This proposition.” What did you mean by “this proposition”? Please re-read #69 to get the rest of the question surrounding that question.

  77. BillT:

    we don’t have any problem with the understanding that all religions “see” in some manner some part of the truth about God. We don’t believe they see the whole truth but a shared spiritual experience is a valid understanding (as I said, up to a point).

    Don’t be too hasty with the word “we”, this is a strikingly progressive viewpoint.

    Why did God reveal himself to a small group of Jews, but never to the Hindus? Why did he leave them unknowingly worshipping false gods? (Gods?)

    Bear in mind that I think the only way to experience God is through interaction with his creation, like deism, pantheism, Gnosticism, etc., so all these experiences are interactions with his creation that allow people to come to knowledge of God (=Gnosis)

  78. Ray,

    The problem is at 6. The conclusion:

    eventually we’ll see something like, “Hey, this group of neurons should, biologically, have fired at this point, but they didn’t!” or something like that.

    doesn’t follow. We could just as easily conclude (as I do) that reductionism is false. Therefore biology does not reduce to biochemistry to chemistry to physics. Material things are not just matter in motion.

  79. Ray @#76, you’ve outlined the part of our argument that follows after the argument. What we’re arguing for is your #1. If you’re interested in outlining our position—which I really appreciate—you would want to try to understand what precedes #1, not only what follows it.

  80. Tom:

    What did you mean by “this proposition”?

    The”proposition” I was referring to is the language statement you made, it’s the representation of information in your brain that I am currently modelling in mine.

    I think I’ll stop using the word proposition now, it means something different to me when I use it.

    Off topic on the comparative religion, apologies, I’m like a dog with a bone, I’ll stay on track now 😛

  81. “Why ought that to refer to anything except the representation of information in your brain?”

    Because it was in your brain, mind, etc., when you were referring to it.

  82. You can quit using the word “proposition” if you like, but if communication is about some representation of information in my brain that you are modeling in yours, how did it get from mine to yours, and what gives you the slightest confidence that you are modeling anything in your brain that has anything to do with what I am modeling in mine? And if it’s not a proposition that you and I are modeling, what is it?

  83. Oisin,

    I do not draw a line between science and philosophy, for me philosophy is the art of building models of reality, and once those models make testable predictions they become science.

    Whatever. Lay out your pseudoscientific argument then.

    I have said that humans do not engage in formal thought as the people you refer to describe, thought is never determinate,

    OK. No one ever does math or uses logic. You are offering an argument that seems to be using logical processes but whatever process you think you might be using might not be the process you are using so it invalidates your argument. No need to go any further, any argument you might give on this or any other topic is invalidated because you have undermined the reasoning process itself. It’s amazing what skeptics will do to avoid a rational conclusion.

  84. Tom:

    how did it get from mine to yours,

    Language.

    what gives you the slightest confidence that you are modeling anything in your brain that has anything to do with what I am modeling in mine

    The language you use in response to the language I use.

    if it’s not a proposition that you and I are modeling, what is it?

    A state of affairs, a possible world.

    Your claim that propositions are non-physical ultimately *comes from* the idea of the non-physical soul posited by your religion, yet you use one to justify the other, the reasoning is circular and so:

    *you do not have a sound logical foundation for positing the existence of non-physical entities and causes.*

  85. Wow. You know, I’d be a lot more interested in this discussion if I had a clue that you were interested in understanding what you’re disputing.

    “Language.”

    Oisin, language is, again, a representation, a symbolic tool used to carry some information from one mind to another.

    So let’s suppose that you have some idea D in your head that you want to convey to me; and suppose that D has no non-physical reality. D is represented, you say (beginning in #27), in the brain, probably by some brain state Db. There’s our first hurdle: is D the brain state, or is it represented by the brain state? It can’t be both, so I don’t know what you mean by that.

    Anyway, you want to convey to me something related to D; you want me also to think D in my brain, or at least to consider or examine D and respond to it. Therefore you re-represent D in the form of language. You write words.

    I read the words, and then incorporate them into my brain in the form of some other brain state Eb (since my physical brain and your physical brain are different), and I become aware of the idea E.

    You say that language, which is representation, ensures that my idea E, represented in my brain by Eb, is sufficiently similar to D (represented by Db), so that you can have some confidence that I am thinking about D in some way.

    How does language obtain that power? How does it drive my brain into a state such that its resultant idea E is similar to the original D?

    My contention is of course that language can do this, but its ability to do so comes by way of its association with propositions, which are not identical with language-encoded words or sentences.

  86. Tom:

    How does language obtain that power? How does it drive my brain into a state such that its resultant idea E is similar to the original D?

    Again you have changed tack and are asking me how the brain works. The particular answer here lies in the evolution of language use, and in the area of developmental language acquisition, but this is irrelevant.

    If I had said “I don’t know how language obtains this power”, you would say “Aha! Non-physical reality is the only answer!”, but this would be an argument from ignorance, not positive evidence supporting your conclusion.

    At the moment my one important claim remains supported. I’m going to bed. Goodnight everyone.

  87. I am not asking how the brain works, Oisin, I’m asking how language could have the power you say it has.

    Which important claim remains supported? (Tomorrow.)

  88. #60 BillT

    …you don’t need a soul to hope.

    “Really? You know of another species that “hopes”. And you know this how?”

    Hope – the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best

    Female adolescent chimpanzees will gather around a new mother with a brand new baby, attentively grooming and attending to the mother whilst there is a possibility that their work will be rewarded by getting to nurse the new infant. They hope to pick up the baby.

    This of course doesn’t show that you don’t need a soul to hope, but rather that it’s possible chimpanzees have a soul. Your assertion that “hope requires a soul” and can be proven or disproven by the fact of any other species displaying “hope” is built on your assumption that only humans have souls.

  89. How does it drive my brain into a state such that its resultant idea E is similar to the original D?

    I’ve been discussing natural ends with Ray on another blog post, and I can’t help but see a similar problem for naturalism with respect to that here.

    If E is different than D, is it the fault of Oisin’s brain or Tom’s brain? In Oisin’s world the answer must be neither. Casually-closed cause/effect relationships that lack a final cause can never result in an untrue, or erroneous effect because they are not directed toward an end. The effect is the effect, and you cannot say it should be some other way.

    To say an effect isn’t true, or is in error, would mean that the effect is a mistake, that it missed the prescribed mark. But Oisin’s brain didn’t intend (final cause) anything because naturalistic physical process are not directed toward any natural end, they just play out.

    So where does error fit in? The same question can be asked about logic if it’s purely a physical process.

  90. So, if materialism entails that there is no true free will that one’s mind is simply the results of how physical laws interact with one’s brain matter, then this means that all human creations, inventions, art, and designs are the result of natural laws in the same way that the Grand Canyon is. Our smart phones, music, fighter jets, space station, paintings, architecture and so on are not really the result of intelligence and design but the result of natural laws shaping the interaction of material (atoms). I am not sure if anything could be more bizarre than this. If anything could be further divorced from reality than this. How many more reasons do we need to reject materialism and the material-only “mind”?

  91. Tom:

    I am not asking how the brain works, Oisin, I’m asking how language could have the power you say it has.

    We associate symbolic sounds with certain sets of neurons representing external and internal reality, and we associate certain symbols with these sounds. We are conditioned from birth to use these symbols to communicate with other humans, our brain having mechanisms that punish us for failing to communicate and reward us for successful communication, such that we learn to communicate with greater and greater accuracy with age. These empathy mechanisms allowing communication can of course be impaired, but I don’t need to go into that.

    The only point is that it is not necessary to posit super-propositions that are non-physical, the physical representations could have come into existence without the add-on so you need further proof that these propositions exist, which I claim you do not have.

    Which important claim remains supported?

    *you do not have a sound logical foundation for positing the existence of non-physical entities and causes.*

    Kinda sick of copy-pasting that, please remember it or look it up, as I have said it is my one important claim.

    SteveK:

    The effect is the effect, and you cannot say it should be some other way…To say an effect isn’t true, or is in error, would mean that the effect is a mistake, that it missed the prescribed mark

    Humans make mental models of reality, making predictions according to their model and behaving according to the predictions. When the predictions not match what actually happens, we say that the prediction contained an error.

    Oisin’s brain didn’t intend (final cause) anything because naturalistic physical process are not directed toward any natural end, they just play out.

    You are pretending that the brain does not have motivational and self-regulating capacities, which is obviously untrue as we see in patients with frontal-lobe damage. The brain has internal punishment and reward systems, which illegal drugs skew to either remove the punishment briefly or to release lots of reward, to put it simply.

    Melissa:

    No one ever does math or uses logic. You are offering an argument that seems to be using logical processes but whatever process you think you might be using might not be the process you are using so it invalidates your argument.

    Does no-one ever play chess on my view? On your view are the rules of chess understood and carried out by the spirit?

    The rules of logic and maths are applied by the brain in a similar way to the way that the rules of chess are carried out, no-one would claim that the rules of chess are an integral part of the self or soul and so I would claim with logic and maths, we only have the laws of physics, our evolutionary history and neurplasticity to work with. This system can behave logically, and sometimes it does.

    Bigbird:

    For the sake of argument I’ll grant you 1) “Every function of the mind can be damaged by damaging a part of the brain”

    Granting that would make it redundant to posit a soul, since the physical reality would appear to be enough explanation. Since we know that our current laws of physics would have to be wrong for a soul to interact with matter or for matter to have any additional characteristics, you would be hard-pressed to make anyone worry that this is just a correlation.

    How about you tell us what would change your mind about your position?

    Evidence that you have a sound logical basis for positing a non-physical something would be a start, next I’d need to see testable predictions based on dualism, then I’d probably need a very good explanation for the inconsistencies of your particular religion.

    Everyone questioning my motives:

    I believe that I am being reasonable, and have not been shown evidence to the contrary as of yet. I believe that your emotions are clouding your judgement on this issue, but I am open to bring proven wrong on that.

    Yes, this is a game for me, but that is because I am extremely confident that I am correct, and this confidence stems from the fact that I am constantly checking to see if I am wrong about things and I change my beliefs when I am wrong. I hold no emotional attachment to my beliefs, they are like clothes that I wear until they don’t fit me anymore, at which point I get new ones. I think I have some pretty nice clothes at the moment, I’ll try on the ones you are recommending if I find that they fit better than mine.

  92. DR84:

    I wouldn’t see those as reasons to reject materialism, it’s that line of reasoning that makes studying the universe so fascinating.

  93. Oisin,

    We associate symbolic sounds with certain sets of neurons representing external and internal reality, and we associate certain symbols with these sounds.

    One problem with this. To expand what you have written symbolic sounds are associated with neurons that represent (or symbolize or are directed towards) other external or internal realities. Given that you think physics could in principle give a complete account of neurons it follows that neurons are not pointed towards anything. Do you think you could reword your explanation to avoid the misleading teleological language?

    Does no-one ever play chess on my view? On your view are the rules of chess understood and carried out by the spirit?

    On my view the rules of chess are understood by the intellect. On your view no one could know whether they are implementing the rules of chess or some other process because the physical facts alone are unable to tell us.

    The rules of logic and maths are applied by the brain

    Applied to what?

    no-one would claim that the rules of chess are an integral part of the self or soul and so I would claim with logic and maths,

    No one is claiming that the rules of logic and math are an integral part of the self or soul. Who exactly are you responding to here?

    Since we know that our current laws of physics would have to be wrong for a soul to interact with matter

    Why do you keep stating this as if it is in controversial, and without acknowledging the objections that you still haven’t replied to. If scientific reductionism is true then the current laws of physics would have to be wrong. Therefore we have at least two alternatives on the table: either there is no immaterial aspect of thought and reductionism is false. Now since there are sound arguments for an immaterial aspect of thought and none to support reductionism, we should reject reductionism.

    I am constantly checking to see if I am wrong about things

    So that’s why you refuse to read any of the references suggested to help you understand alternate viewpoints … hang on …

  94. Melissa:

    Given that you think physics could in principle give a complete account of neurons it follows that neurons are not pointed towards anything

    This statement is meaningless to me. Fingers point towards things. Your use of the word did not follow convention.

    Do you think you could reword your explanation to avoid the misleading teleological language?

    The meaning of this is not clear. What do you mean by “making teleological language”? I suspect you will not answer this and use an argument from authority to try to make me look silly.

    On my view the rules of chess are understood by the intellect

    Is the intellect an immaterial something that we cannot know anything about scientifically? How do you know about it? If you just say philosophy then it will be as if you didn’t answer at all.

    If scientific reductionism is true then the current laws of physics would have to be wrong

    This makes no sense. I presume that you mean that we need a spirit to know things for sure, which is not justified.

    either there is no immaterial aspect of thought and reductionism is false. Now since there are sound arguments for an immaterial aspect of thought and none to support reductionism, we should reject reductionism.

    You have not shown how you know that any immaterial things exist. Reductionism is too loose a phrase here, please either clarify and expand so that it is clear or choose a better word, otherwise I will not understand what you are saying, though I suspect you desire this in some sense.

  95. Oisin, you say,

    *you do not have a sound logical foundation for positing the existence of non-physical entities and causes.*

    I think I’m going to have to post on the argument from reason next, because I can’t find any logical foundation, sound or unsound, for positing anything at all in your deterministic system. I’ll cover this more later, and I’ve already covered it some here. The basic problem as it applies in this context is that logic implies that one thought follows another because it follows logically, whereas your system entails that one thought follows another strictly on account of physical necessity.

    If causation is closed on the physical, then rational inference has no room whatsoever to poke its nose into the causal flow. Not even a little bit. You cannot speak, therefore, of sound logic under your system, because the soundness of a logical conclusion depends on the validity of its inferences, of which your system admits none whatsoever.

  96. Now, for the sake of clarity (and for the second time I’ve brought this up recently), would you please do us the favor of reading back to us the argument you think we’re making? That could be a bit confusing, I suppose, since there are several of us approaching this from several angles. Could you at least read back to us one of the arguments you think one of us is making?

    Choose one that you think has more substance rather than less, please.

    For my part, the most intellectually challenging thing you’ve said, which I’m going to have to chew on a while, is your last response to me concerning language. I’ll try to read that back to you in its strongest form before I try to respond to it. That will be later this morning, I think.

  97. Meanwhile, there is this evidence that you’re not trying to understand:

    Is the intellect an immaterial something that we cannot know anything about scientifically? How do you know about it? If you just say philosophy then it will be as if you didn’t answer at all.

    Really? I’m not so sure. I think we should test it and see.

    Ready?

    philosophy !

    Hmmm… you’re right. That was almost like not answering at all, even with italics and an exclamation point!

    Melissa, shame on you for just saying “philosophy.”

    I’m not sure exactly where you did that. Wherever it was, I’m almost certain you didn’t use italics or an exclamation point. Maybe when you did it, it was so much like not answering that you didn’t even press the “Post Comment” button after you said it. Or maybe it was so much like not answering that the software put it the same place all the other non-answers are, which is someplace called nowhere.

    Or maybe Oisin misrepresented you.

  98. The ironic point is this, Oisin. You wrote this:

    If you just say philosophy then it will be as if you didn’t answer at all.

    And it was so disconnected from what she actually did say, it was no answer to what she said at all. That’s one of the reasons I’m calling on you to show that you actually grasp what at least one of us is saying.

  99. Oisin,

    This statement is meaningless to me. Fingers point towards things. Your use of the word did not follow convention.

    My suggestion is that if you are unaware of how terms are used in a particular field that you could make some effort to educate yourself.

    The meaning of this is not clear. What do you mean by “making teleological language”

    I didn’t write “making teleological language”. Careful reading is important if you going to understand the written word.

    If you just say philosophy then it will be as if you didn’t answer at all.

    Oh, the irony.

    If scientific reductionism is true then the current laws of physics would have to be wrong

    This makes no sense. I presume that you mean that we need a spirit to know things for sure, which is not justified.

    Don’t presume, you’re sure to go wrong. I was just rewording your sentence to include the missing premise.

    You have not shown how you know that any immaterial things exist.

    This is surreal. Numerous arguments have been put forth in this thread by various commenters, arguments that you have failed to understand, let alone raise meaningful objections to, and these are just some of the possible arguments that we could have put forth.

    Reductionism is too loose a phrase here, please either clarify and expand so that it is clear or choose a better word, otherwise I will not understand what you are saying,

    That physics could in principle give a complete account of everything.

  100. “Irony”

    Hah! I beat you to it by one minute, Melissa! (Though you had probably actually typed it before I did.)

    I promise I didn’t edit the time stamps.

  101. Lucky us. We get to experience many ironic moments in our discourse here.

    Anyway, it’s time for sleep here. Enjoy your day.

    PHILOSOPHY!!!

  102. Tom:

    The basic problem as it applies in this context is that logic implies that one thought follows another because it follows logically, whereas your system entails that one thought follows another strictly on account of physical necessity

    Actually my system relies on the former. We have evidence that material reality exists, so that is but open to question. What I am questioning is how you know non-material anything exists. I’ll repeat the problem I see in your logic next.

    Choose one [argument] that you think has more substance rather than less, please.

    My comment 77 is the best summary of the situation. You go from “representations of information are very similar from one brain to another” to “there is an immaterial something that is identical among all of the similar representations”. The first does not entail the second, and this is the only evidence you have provided, so your claim to knowledge of an immaterial something is still unjustified.

    Melissa:

    Philosophy

    I do not see philosophical arguments as a problem in this conversation, I agree that they are a type of evidence. I disagree of your tactics:

    Arguments from authority:

    My suggestion is that if you are unaware of how terms are used in a particular field that you could make some effort to educate yourself.

    Claims that arguments exist elsewhere that you conveniently do not reference:

    . Numerous arguments have been put forth in this thread by various commenters

    Unjustified, poorly-defined, unexplained claims:

    If scientific reductionism is true then the current laws of physics would have to be wrong.

    You are simply not an honest interlocutor, from my perspective at least, so I have no further interest in interesting with you. I do not doubt your intellect, knowledge or honesty, but I doubt that you have any intention of communicating openly with me, so I am done.

  103. Oisin, now I’m going to have to ask you to read back to me the argument I wrote in #105. It’s partly for you and partly for me. You see, when I say that your system has implications that rule out logical inference, and you answer, “Actually my system relies on [logic],” what you’re explaining to us is that you don’t get the argument.

    Let me summarize.

    1. I say that the position you hold rules out the possibility of logic, for reasons I laid out very briefly in #105.
    2. You answer, logic leads to the position you hold.

    Do you see yet how weak #3 is there? If logic has led you to a conclusion that entails that logic is impossible, then (at least) one of us us has a flaw in his reasoning that cannot be papered over by intoning that the conclusion was reached by logic!

    By the way, this is crucial to your position. If the argument I’ve briefly outlined there succeeds, then it is absolutely impossible for logic to lead to the position you hold.

    Absolutely.

    Impossible.

    So if you have an answer to #105, by all means make it, but take the effort first to demonstrate that you understand it. If you do not understand it, then you have no idea what your position is up against.

  104. *you do not have a sound logical foundation for positing the existence of non-physical entities and causes.*

    Kinda sick of copy-pasting that, please remember it or look it up, as I have said it is my one important claim.

    It’s a claim, that’s all, and not a very strong or important one.

    The existence of free will *is* a sound logical foundation for positing the existence of the mind as an immaterial cause.

    The subjective argument is another logical reason – as Nagel asked, how can we know what it is like to be a bat?

    You, on the other hand, have to resort to claiming free will is some kind of illusion, and have to assume that one day we’ll fully understand qualia via neurological investigation.

  105. If your answer in #77 is your best summary of one of our substantive arguments, Oisin, my answer to you is that you can’t fit a summary of an opponent’s position, including his argument for that position, into one sentence. It can’t be done.

    But you have the opportunity to try again, with the argument I presented in #105.

  106. Tom:

    If causation is closed on the physical, then rational inference has no room whatsoever to poke its nose into the causal flow. Not even a little bit. You cannot speak, therefore, of sound logic under your system, because the soundness of a logical conclusion depends on the validity of its inferences, of which your system admits none whatsoever.

    This is the passage that you are referring to? Apologies, I did not respond to it.

    I don’t quite understand: “If causation is closed on the physical, then rational inference has no room whatsoever to poke its nose into the causal flow. Not even a little bit.” I don’t think this has much meaning, but you probably mean more than you said, could you elaborate?

    I think I understand the trust, essentially you are saying that it is fair to infer that, because of the similarities between the information representations in brains, there must be something that has its own existence outside of material that unifies them?

    I think that your immaterial proposition exists in the exact same way centres of gravity exist, as useful fictions that assist in completing the real at hand (in this case communication). You see you are offering a spirit into existence *as one possible explanation*, and then attempting to use this as evidence to prove other things, rather than using anything else to prove the inference, in fact you provide no methods of checking at if this inference was right or wrong.

    Sorry if there’s speaking mistakes or miso placed words, autocorrect…

  107. Hi, Oisin,

    We might be making progress now, as some disconnects in our communication are coming to light.

    Here’s what I mean by causation being closed on the physical: simply that
    1. physical events can have only physical explanations or causes;
    2. whatever happens in the physical world happens strictly because it is caused physically;
    3. to be caused physically means to participate in a chain of natural necessity,
    4. where that necessity is completely and fully explained by natural law that is either already known by science or is potentially knowable by science.

    A shorter version of that would be to say it’s physics all the way up, physics all the way down, and nothing but physics.

    So mental events like reaching the conclusion A, “All mental events result from purely physical causes” are the result of purely physical causes. If one thinks A, it is because one has been caused to think A for no other reason except for some chain of electrochemical/neurochemical events which are, in principle, completely explainable through a comprehensive understanding of the physics involved.

    The word “closure” in causal closure specifically means that when one has finished with one’s physical explanation (if one could ever actually finish), one would be completely finished with the explanation. A complete physical explanation would be an exhaustive explanation, because the potential “explanatory space” is 100% physical. There is no other category or type of cause or explanation; physical explanations are it, period.

    I think that describes your understanding of the world. Let me leave it at that for now and let you respond and tell me if I understand you correctly.

  108. Oisin @101

    Humans make mental models of reality, making predictions according to their model and behaving according to the predictions. When the predictions not match what actually happens, we say that the prediction contained an error.

    You’ve just restated the same problem I already outlined, only you are using different terms for the same physical processes that I referenced. You didn’t address the actual problem though. All you did is say (in your own words) that unguided physical systems can miss the mark.

    The question you didn’t address is this: how is it possible that an unguided sequence of events can be described as misguided, or in error?

    Suppose several rocks came tumbling down a hill as the result of an earthquake, and suppose some came to rest half way down the hill and some came to rest at the bottom of the hill. Can any of the points of rest be described as the wrong place of rest? No. But that’s what you are saying when you argue that the brain can arrive at the wrong brain state (conclusion).

    You cannot respond by invoking logic, reason, thought, etc. because these terms are identical to (metaphorically) rocks tumbling down a hill. It’s all rocks in motion – but they are in you head, not on a hill.

    In 116 you referred to useful fictions. That’s what logic, reason, etc are. These things may represent physical things, but they too are actually physical things. I just wanted to add this to reinforce that it’s really all rocks in motion – all of it.

  109. Tom:

    I’m with you so far! But that is not necessary to this argument, all I’m saying is that you do not have proof of your claims. Though I presume you are saying it is necessary for logic to work?

    SteveK:

    Do you accept the concept of the philosophical zombie?

  110. Thanks, Oisin.

    Now we add this to the above discussion on causal closure: you say that you have reached your position through logic. I think you would say that your position is the result of some chain of logical reasoning, or that it was your reflection on certain facts, and the logical inferences you drew from those facts, that led you to your conclusion. Am I still reading you correctly?

  111. Tom and Oisin,

    I question whether or not thoughts can be called “events” or analyzed as to what “caused” a thought.

  112. Why wouldn’t they be events? They’re discrete happenings that begin and end at certain times. They have effects, without any doubt (see #45 above). They have causes, too.

    Think right now of the name of the country in which you currently reside.

    Did that country’s name just pop into mind? Did that happen without any cause? No.

    That shows very simply that thoughts can have causes. The nature of those causes can be very complex, maybe even completely hidden; and then there’s the question at issue here, which is whether those causes are necessarily physical in nature. All that may be why you wonder whether thoughts can really be spoken of as having causes.

    There are all kinds of complexities wrapped around this issue, when it comes to how thoughts are caused. But whether thoughts are caused (at least some of the time) is easy to answer.

  113. Melissa in 87 and Tom in 88 give different responses to my outline in 76. If I understand correctly, Tom doesn’t see a problem with it, but Melissa does.

    Melissa – I’m going to need more details about your exact objections to reductionism. Thought experiment – we develop nanotechnology to the point where we can build a molecularly exact duplicate of a human brain. We do so, and… what happens? Does it fail to operate, or what?

    Tom – I understand that you want to establish (1); I’m just pointing out that it would seem to have detectable material consequences. Perhaps even (statistically?) measurable consequences. Which actually brings it into the realm of science, or at least into contact with that realm. That by no means indicates that (1) is wrong, of course, but it also opens up the possibility of it being falsified by science.

  114. Tom:

    Jenna is correct—thoughts are not events: they are beings of reason, i.e., they are things—not events. You’re applying the term “event” in the post-Humean sense of efficient causality, i.e., you’re (implicitly) looking upon all causes as efficient causes, i.e., you’re applying causality in a univocal sense. (And, by the way, Ray is on to something critical @123 regarding your position: you’ve unintentionally opened yourself up to reductionism because you appear want free will measured… just like IDers want “design” measured, rather than measuring things and then arguing philosophically to design. Be careful!)

    A cause is an explanation for why a thing exists—it is not the post-Humean notion of efficient cause-and-effect. Events don’t fully explain anything because it is things that change, whereas events are the “locations” of those changing things in time and space. (Just because Einstein metricized time and space into a mathematical formalism doesn’t mean the that formalism becomes the reality, i.e., one is not permitted to reify the math… hence space-time is a being of reason, it is not a thing in the sense that a substance is a thing.) Humean causes are events, and so are their effects, but—in fact—it is typically substances that “have” causes.

    Another example: to explain evil, one must look at things in their privations—not as if evil were a thing like a substance is a thing. Since evil is not a thing (yet, at the same time, it is not nothing!), to blame something for causing evil—by the very nature of the assertion—imposes a reality upon evil that it simply doesn’t have:

    But evil has no formal cause, rather is it a privation of form; likewise, neither has it a final cause, but rather it is a privation of order to the proper end; since not only the end [perfection] has the nature of good, but also the useful, which is ordered to the end. Evil, however, has a cause by way of an agent, not directly, but accidentally. In proof of this, we must know that evil is caused in the action otherwise than in the effect. (ST I, Q 49, A 1, respondeo)

    That’s also why, by the way, Oisin is playing so amateurishly (and arrogantly) out of his league: he’s out in deep water, yet insists reality is a puddle. He’s happy getting all muddied up in a little puddle while missing the living waters out there because he so unscientifically asserts there’s only one way to look at reality: “Natural science is the answer because science works, b*****s!” He happy to turn his privated knowledge (= ignorance) into a reality… which is another way of saying, he believes (at the very least by implications) that reality is what he wants it to be.

    This whole discussion on free will is eliciting a bunch of “huhs?” and “mehs…” from me. Try ST I, Q 83, A 1 in the respondeo and the reply to the 3rd objection. Oisin and his kind are “bottom dwellers” in the sense that they don’t want (get it?) ontological distinctions: moral categories are eviscerated of meaning intentionally (get it?) and reality is flat-landed to one ontological kind. (Which, ironically, is what Craig wants with his univocity shtick… but I digress.) For them, there is no free will (hence moral persuasion) because there is only the external imposition of “behavior modification”. Their arguments for determinism and against free will—apart from being unscientific—come from below, from the bottom, from matter and the physical sciences because they continue to assert—over and over, pseudo-philosophically that’s the only way. You don’t start from the atoms that comprise human beings to fully understand a human being. You start from the in-your-face, undeniable fact of the primary substances known as human beings who behave in a certain way per their natures, which includes the capacities for intellection and free will… and then descend down (dig deeper) for more details.

    Free will comes from above—from divine determinism and from predestination. The divine determinism objection can be answered not by denying predestination but by reconciling it with free will by the application of the principle that grace always perfects nature rather than destroying it (again, see ST I, Q 83, A 1 reply to 3rd objection).

  115. Tom:

    I think you would say that your position is the result of some chain of logical reasoning, or that it was your reflection on certain facts, and the logical inferences you drew from those facts, that led you to your conclusion

    Fair enough I guess, though I do find it unpleasant to be subjected to the Socratic method and would ask that you not do it again after this, please.

    When I talk about logic I mean like a software program running on the brain, the rules of the program must be followed to have non-contradictory thoughts. This has been programmed into us, imperfectly, by natural selection and culture/education.

    I hope you intend to answer the question of why you jump from very similar physical representations to non-physical propositions, I presume your answer will come out of this process soon.

    Jenna:

    I question whether or not thoughts can be called “events” or analyzed as to what “caused” a thought.

    I understand, it’s really counter-intuitive when you haven’t had it all explained to you, but there is some seriously crazy and interesting things going on in our brains that we know nothing about until we study it! Here is one type of really weird thing that neuroscience had found that relates to what you said.

  116. Tom, RE: 122

    As an educator, I think of thoughts. as in having thoughts or having a thought, as part of a process, the thinking (cognitive) process, not as events. For me, the term “event” has a temporal meaning, while thoughts, it seems to me, cannot be isolated and examined or analyzed as apart from a the thinking process, most especially in our attempts to understand how thoughts lead to actions, as in a decision to act, or problem-solving, in terms of the thinking processes that lead a person to take a deliberated course of actions.

    I guess I’m just puzzled as to how looking at thoughts as events helps us to understand the mind, the self, or the soul.

  117. Holopupenko:

    You actually characterize me quite well apart from the insults, I thought they were a bit rude but whatever, I guess you can say what you like.

    I think you should answer Ray’s thought experiment in 123 before you continue calling me anti-scientific or whatever you were saying.

  118. Oisin, there’s the Socratic method that tries to dig out the flaws in a person’s thinking, and then there’s the human interchange approach of asking questions to find out whether one understands what a person is thinking. If the latter approach is unpleasant to you, would you (pardon the question again) prefer that I proceed without understanding what you’re thinking?

  119. Ray,

    I’m going to need more details about your exact objections to reductionism. Thought experiment – we develop nanotechnology to the point where we can build a molecularly exact duplicate of a human brain. We do so, and… what happens? Does it fail to operate, or what?

    If does not reason rationally if that’s what you mean by operate. That’s the point of the objections to materialism.

    Neither of you have put forward any reason to think that physics could in principle provide an exhaustive explanation for every physical thing therefore the claim that physics doesn’t leave any room for anything immaterial to act is also unsupported.

  120. I don’t really think that Ray’s #1 in #76 need be the sort of thing that has statistically measurable effects. We’re talking about an impossible measurement problem, to start with, in the human brain, and then we’re talking about distinguishing signal from noise at a quantum level. I could be wrong about that, but not in the foreseeable future of any science.

    Holopupenko, I’ve said before and I’ll say it again: if I step across the line to a physicalist’s or non-theist’s side of a discussion in order to show that, from that side and from within the limits of their position, their position fails, I don’t consider that surrendering to the dark side of the Force. So I’ll accept what you say about thoughts not being events and consider that a point of learning. For purposes of this discussion, however, I think it’s entirely appropriate to probe them in terms of their causes. That’s what Oisin is doing, and I think his account fails; it fails from within his own system. That’s what I’m seeking to show here.

  121. Holopupenko:

    [Determinism reconciles with] free will by the application of the principle that grace always perfects nature rather than destroying it

    I like that, also works for materialistic lack of free will! Though I suspect you don’t like my equating predestination with determinism… Oh well, is bottom-feeders take what we can get!

    he so unscientifically asserts there’s only one way to look at reality: “Natural science is the answer because science works, b*****s!”

    In principle, no scientist would assume that natural reality and natural causes are all there is, science is based on pure observation and logical thought. It’s just that the evidence provided for the existence of non-material anything is pre-suppositional, as we see here in Tom making the leap from material information representations to non-material propositions.

    You start from the in-your-face, undeniable fact of the primary substances known as human beings who behave in a certain way per their natures, which includes the capacities for intellection and free will… and then descend down (dig deeper) for more details.

    That is exactly what psychology and neuroscience does, the evidence from which supports the idea that minds are a natural by-product of evolution and natural selection, and are produced from a particular organisation of material (the brain).

  122. Holopupenko –

    (Just because Einstein metricized time and space into a mathematical formalism doesn’t mean the that formalism becomes the reality, i.e., one is not permitted to reify the math… hence space-time is a being of reason, it is not a thing in the sense that a substance is a thing.)

    How does that square with the relativity of simultaneity and such?

  123. Tom:

    Oisin, there’s the Socratic method that tries to dig out the flaws in a person’s thinking, and then there’s the human interchange approach of asking questions to find out whether one understands what a person is thinking. If the latter approach is unpleasant to you, would you (pardon the question again) prefer that I proceed without understanding what you’re thinking?

    The problem is that this looks like the first, since you stopped relying directly to my objection.

    Proceed, but I don’t like being lead by your questions, I am only making a claim about your claims, my explanations for logic, material reality and spirits, etc., do not need to be right as long as I am right in saying you are making an unjustified assumption about non-material things. This last thing is the only position I will strongly hold to here.

  124. Melissa:

    If does not reason rationally if that’s what you mean by operate. That’s the point of the objections to materialism

    Please expand on this. How would this (let’s call it) meat-human behave? What would it’s reasoning be like?

    Everyone:

    How do you respond to Ray’s thought experiment in 123?

  125. Oisin,

    Please expand on this. How would this (let’s call it) meat-human behave? What would it’s reasoning be like?

    To repeat – it doesn’t reason.

  126. Oisin, RE: #133 Your response to Tom

    As I read this comment, you are telling us that you stand firm in your position (opinion) that Tom is “unjustified” in what he is saying about “non-material things.” How do you know this if you don’t believe that there are such “things” as “non-material things”? How can you claim that Tom is wrong (has made an “unjustified assumption”) in that case? What “assumptions” about “non-material things” are justified, if you happen to believe that any can be or are?

    BTW, I consider the concept of non-material things to itself be a contradiction, since the word “things” implies material, an object, which of course, thoughts are not. Nor is language. Doesn’t the fact that we have thoughts and we have language refute the notion that there is no such “thing” as “non-material things.”

  127. Jenna:

    What “assumptions” about “non-material things” are justified, if you happen to believe that any can be or are?

    I honestly don’t know of any, I’ve never seen evidence that a non-material thing exists, which is why I claim that all claims to knowledge of such things relies on presupposing the answer. (edited to actually relate to the current discussion)

    I consider the concept of non-material things to itself be a contradiction, since the word “things” implies material, an object, which of course, thoughts are not. Nor is language. Doesn’t the fact that we have thoughts and we have language refute the notion that there is no such “thing” as “non-material things.”

    Tom is claiming that non-material propositions exist and interact with the material world via the soul, which is itself a non-material thing (thing being a vague catch-all, I would know what to call non-material… substances? beings of pure reason?)

    Melissa:

    To repeat – it doesn’t reason.

    Okay I am genuinely giving up on you now, I love that this is how you respond to my request that you expand on what you are saying…

  128. For purposes of this discussion, however, I think it’s entirely appropriate to probe them in terms of their causes. That’s what Oisin is doing, and I think his account fails; it fails from within his own system. That’s what I’m seeking to show here.

    I agree with this approach.

    If you take Oisin’s view, many things cease to exist that we consider to exist. In Oisin’s world, perceptions cannot be mental abstractions of physical reality, they must be *identical* to physical reality, because on Oisin’s view, reality is physical things moving about – and that’s all it can be. If perceptions are different than physical things moving about then we’ve introduced something non-physical into the world – which Oisin insists is a false view of reality.

    The choices are clear: deny your perceptions actually exist (impossible), or accept that your perceptions exist in some form that is *not* identical to physical things moving about.

  129. Oisin, the rest of your answer to me in #125 gets to the heart of the question I’m driving at.

    Picture a box, a very large one, containing all the efficient physical causes in all of reality. On your view, that box contains all of the causes in all reality, because you hold to your view of causal closure.

    The difference between you and me, then is that you take it that rational inference is inside that box. It is a strictly physical process.

    I take it that the universe of causation is larger, and that the very large box of physical causes is inside an even larger box that includes many other classes of causes. I would say that thoughts, in general, have causal roots in several different boxes. At this point I’m aware of the weakness of my analogy: boxing these things up is rather too cubical and physical of a way of thinking about them. I hope you get my main point, anyway, which is that causation is not closed on the physical, and that thoughts have causes from many different roots.

    Rational inference, now, is different. You would say that a thought produced through rational inference is also a thought produced through entirely physical processes, and that logic in human thought is like the logic programmed into a computer. I don’t think that’s possibly true. There are many reasons for this.

    First, there is the intentionality or “aboutness” problem. Logic gates in computers are not “about” the signal passing through them, nor are they “about” the information they carry. This is true of the individual switch, and it’s true of any large array of switches, for complexity cannot magically create “aboutness.” But rational inference is really a matter of being about the content being processed.

    Modus ponens and modus tollens are algorithms. Plug any two true premises in, run the algorithm, and you get a sound conclusion—provided that the content actually is true, and provided that the premises are related to each other in such a way that the algorithm actually applies. A computer’s logic is about the algorithm, not about the content; it will run the same algorithm equally well with any input. (I recognize that a computer could halt on “contradictory” or “false” input, but that’s either because the algorithm won’t work, producing infinite loops, for example, or because other input or programming elsewhere in the system instructs it to throw some kind of halt switch if it encounters certain conditions.)

    Second, diving into a deeper layer of my first point, there is the problem of the content’s being true or false. Physical systems cannot be true or false about anything. Nothing in my laptop is true about some other thing. This is partly a consequence of the aboutness problem in physical objects, and it’s partly a matter of relationships. Consider the spreadsheet formula,

    =1=1

    Excel will return “TRUE” if you type those characters into a cell. But what is it in those characters that is true? Nothing. The expression is true only in the interpretation (and humans either have to ignore the first = or else interpret it differently than the second one). There is, after all, a reason we call it an expression: the truth is not in the signs on the screen or the voltage states that produce the signs; the truth is in that which is being expressed.

    Further: The computer is not reflecting on the values of 1 and 1, and considering whether their equality is something that obtains in wider reality. It’s not recognizing a correspondence between “1=1” and some general truth. The computer is throwing switches as it’s been programmed to throw them. It’s been set up to throw switches corresponding to the characters “TRUE” just in case the first number represented there is identical the second one. It knows nothing of truth. It knows nothing, actually, though it is a most impressive switch-throwing machine.

    Third, there are the clear differences between rational inferences and physical processes. Rational inferences don’t follow physical laws. There are no equal and opposite reactions in them, no inherent tendency towards entropy, no mass, no inertia, etc. They don’t have a size, a shape. They progress, but they don’t travel north, south, east, west, up or down.

    As C.S. Lewis points out in the third chapter of Miracles, to the extent that we can ascribe inferences to physical causes, to that same extent we doubt their rationality. If Grandpa expresses an opinion, the response, “Grandpa says that because he’s tired,” is likely to be another way of saying, “Grandpa’s opinion probably can’t be trusted.”

    Fourth, there is the problem of how safe it is to conclude that physical laws in physical brains could have any reliable effect of producing truth in response to their causal predecessors. There is no known mechanism whereby mere physical processes could reliably produce truth-related outputs.

    I understand that evolution is commonly proposed as exactly that mechanism. There are two problems with that view, however. To begin, evolution is not a truth-seeking activity of nature, it is a survival- and baby-producing activity. Beliefs need not be true to be effective in leading persons to survival and reproduction. Sure, there could be a relationship there, but if there is, it’s accidental, not essential. Further, it’s really quite a fantastic conjecture to suppose that in its producing humans who could survive in the bush and the caves, it produced a brain capable of non-Euclidean geometry, algebra with imaginary numbers (which turn out to be quite useful in electronics), and a whole huge host of other abstract ideas of which I have no clue, and yet which turn out to be classifiable in their contexts as true or false.

    For those four reasons, or five if you split the last one in two, I seriously doubt that rational inference can be fully explained from within the merely physical box of causation. Furthermore, if what we name “rational inference” could be fully explained on physical causation alone, there would be little about it that was rational.

    That brings us to the point I’ve been aiming at all along: if causation is closed on the physical, then rational inference is out the window. If you have concluded by means of logic that the physical world is all there is, then you have concluded that the world is the kind of place wherein logical, rational conclusions cannot be made. You have concluded that you cannot conclude anything. That’s the contradiction inherent in your system, and it’s one of the main reasons I’m convinced the world must be more than physical.

    (Expect to see some version of this comment showing up in a new blog post sometime soon.)

  130. @131:

    It’s just that the evidence provided for the existence of non-material anything is pre-suppositional, as we see here in Tom making the leap from material information representations to non-material propositions.

    Huh? (again… sigh…) First, your bigotry is showing: Tom did not make a “leap” (the thinly veiled swipe against “leap of faith” is not lost on me): he came to a conclusion based on evidence. Whether you personally consider things you don’t agree with as evidence or not is… heh… immaterial. To suggest Tom made a leap is to suggested every conclusion of a syllogism is also a “leap”. Clearly, you have a way to go in terms of understanding logic.

    Second, show us exactly (with verifiable references) where any formal argument that concludes to the existence of immaterial entities makes a “leap”. That such arguments and conclusions don’t match your unscientific presuppositions and pseudo-philosophical notions is… heh… immaterial. Your personal subjective assertion that such things are “leaps” doesn’t even rise to a doxa. Consider Aristophanese’s admonition… and otherwise shut your yapper if all you can offer is arrogant assertions.

    @ 132: think about it.

  131. Oisin, just a quick note about this:

    The problem is that this looks like the first, since you stopped relying directly to my objection.

    Suppose I think there’s a real chance I misunderstand your position. I could skip the clarifying questions, and just reply directly to my potentially twisted picture of your objection. Would that satisfy your desire that I reply directly to your objection?

    I’m all for anyone asking me questions to clarify whether they understand my position. If I find those questions threatening, then I probably need to re-evaluate my position.

  132. Granted, there’s another purpose in asking clarifying questions: it helps ensure that you understand your position at the same time. That’s the part that gets hard. I’ve felt that pressure myself often enough.

  133. Oisin,

    To repeat – it doesn’t reason.

    Okay I am genuinely giving up on you now, I love that this is how you respond to my request that you expand on what you are saying…

    I can’t expand on what it’s reasoning is like if it doesn’t reason. I hope this is enough of an expansion of my position for you to understand.

    I will address one other point of yours:

    When I talk about logic I mean like a software program running on the brain, the rules of the program must be followed to have non-contradictory thoughts. This has been programmed into us, imperfectly, by natural selection and culture/education.

    A computer program is considered imperfect to the extent that it doesn’t implement the programmers intentions. The physical facts of the computer alone cannot tell us what function it is supposed to be performing. In the same way, the physical facts of brains cannot be interpreted as imperfect unless there is a function or set of functions that they are supposed to be implementing.

  134. Tom:

    First, there is the intentionality or “aboutness” problem. Logic gates in computers are not “about” the signal passing through them, nor are they “about” the information they carry

    If you had hundreds of millions of logic gates, and they all began firing and making calculations due to being stimulated by optic nerves detecting a face, could we say that their activity and calculations were about that face, potentially?

    Also humans aren’t computers, they just engage in computation.

    2. Physical systems cannot be true or false about anything

    If the set of neurons detecting the face earlier did lots of calculations, and caused the language part of the brain to be activated and the vocal chords to say “Hi John”, but the next thing that the neurons detected was a drawing of John’s face, activating their memory banks and comparing the pattern of neurons representing John’s face a second ago with the representation of the drawing now, activating the amygdala which causes the cheeks to blush and the heart to race, and then the language part of the brain to say “Oops”, what do we call this first identification if not false?

    3. Rational inferences don’t follow physical laws. There are no equal and opposite reactions in them, no inherent tendency towards entropy, no mass, no inertia, etc. They don’t have a size.

    This is an assumption based on no evidence. If the activity of neurons causes activity of the body based on predictions about the future in turn based on previous experience, physical laws are obeyed by this system.

    4. There is no known mechanism whereby mere physical processes could reliably produce truth-related outputs.

    Yes, human reasoning is flawed and prone to error, that is why we need science to recheck everything repeatedly.

    evolution is not a truth-seeking activity of nature, it is a survival- and baby-producing activity. Beliefs need not be true to be effective in leading persons to survival and reproduction. Sure, there could be a relationship there, but if there is, it’s accidental, not essential.

    Rationality is not 100% essential, which is why biases and logical fallacies exist, and why we rely on heuristics (rules of thumb that get good results rather than fully-reasoned plans for activity). However, as an example we can see how the principle of non-contradiction could have evolved by imagining humans that had not evolved this capacity: “this animal attacks me and makes me hurt, which I do not like, therefore I will allow it to hurt me”. The other rules of logic that we instinctively follow, and recognize their absence on the mentally ill and certain other life-forms, could easily have evolved. The rest could have been adaptations acquired through culture, good memes, which was made possible by the neuroplasticity of the brain.

    if what we name “rational inference” could be fully explained on physical causation alone, there would be little about it that was rational.

    The people accused of scientism address this problem by saying that *you need to check to see if your inferences are valid*. I will happily accept this label, I think rationality is adaptive, imperfect and error prone, and it is through millions of years of trial and error that we have gotten this far. The current state of humanity means that we are much better at testing out ideas than we used to be, but clearly some artifacts from a less reasonable time remain today.

    you have concluded that the world is the kind of place wherein logical, rational conclusions cannot be made

    Incorrect. In a material world, our claims about reality can be either true or untrue about reality, either this gas is composed of atoms consisting of a single proton and electron, or it is not. Our reasoning processes that bring us to conclusions may not always be rational, but sometimes they are, and that is enough for science to work.

    So you make the leap I mentioned earlier by saying that the fact that humans sometimes come to correct conclusions in their reasoning is evidence that non-physical propositions exist? I hope you see why I do not accept this conclusion.

  135. Tom:

    Suppose I think there’s a real chance I misunderstand your position. I could skip the clarifying questions, and just reply directly to my potentially twisted picture of your objection. Would that satisfy your desire that I reply directly to your objection?

    Granted. I thought you may have been plotting some rhetorical trick, but you were not, my suspicions were unfounded, I apologize.

  136. Oisin,

    Tom took the time to write out quite a long comment setting out five objections to the materialist position, the least you could have done is to make even the tiniest effort to understand the points he made.

    Now if, by your understanding, you conclude that someone who is obviously not intellectually challenged or uninformed is making the idiotic argument that:

    the fact that humans sometimes come to correct conclusions in their reasoning is evidence that non-physical propositions exist?

    there is good reason to think that maybe you haven’t understood their argument.

    Of course it never crosses your mind that you might be rejecting something you have little understanding of. It is rude and contemptuous behaviour that does nothing to promote productive discussion. Whether Tom is right or wrong about dualism is beside the point, he is obviously better informed than you on this particular subject and it would be to your benefit to take a learning posture in this discussion.

  137. what do we call this first identification if not false?

    Identification? There was no “identification” there. You smuggled that term in. What there was, was,

    the set of neurons detecting the face earlier did lots of calculations, and caused the language part of the brain to be activated and the vocal chords to say “Hi John”

    What about that counts as “identification”? And what about it was false, even if it were an identification? “Hi John” is not false under any circumstances.

    This is an assumption based on no evidence. If the activity of neurons causes activity of the body based on predictions about the future in turn based on previous experience, physical laws are obeyed by this system.

    This is an objection based on not understanding the point. Pure and simple. Could you at least try, please?

    4. There is no known mechanism whereby mere physical processes could reliably produce truth-related outputs.

    Yes, human reasoning is flawed and prone to error, that is why we need science to recheck everything repeatedly.

    Error, my friend is truth-related. When I said no mere physical processes could reliably produce truth-related outputs, that included outputs whose relationship to truth was its antithesis. Maybe I didn’t articulate that well enough the first time. Please rethink my point with that clarification.

    The other rules of logic that we instinctively follow, and recognize their absence on the mentally ill and certain other life-forms, could easily have evolved.

    HUH????

    Do these rules have DNA? Has their genetic material varied, and have their best variations been selected for by way of reproductive success in changing environments?

    I keep saying it:

    Wow.

    if what we name “rational inference” could be fully explained on physical causation alone, there would be little about it that was rational.

    The people accused of scientism address this problem by saying that *you need to check to see if your inferences are valid*.

    And how will others check the validity of their inferences, if there is little about rational inference itself that is rational?

    You quoted me as saying, then you answered,

    you have concluded that the world is the kind of place wherein logical, rational conclusions cannot be made

    Incorrect. In a material world, our claims about reality can be either true or untrue about reality, either this gas is composed of atoms consisting of a single proton and electron, or it is not. Our reasoning processes that bring us to conclusions may not always be rational, but sometimes they are, and that is enough for science to work.

    Do you realize that your objection to my conclusion here is nothing more than a restatement of your position? It’s the very thing I have argued against, which you have misunderstood, misconstrued, and worse.

    How about we try this, Oisin: how about if you ask me some clarifying questions, as I did with you, earlier? It’s not for me that I make this request; as I already told you, it’s for you. It’s so you won’t continue to (I mean this in all honesty) embarrass yourself by rebutting a position that you don’t understand. It’s also for you to have the opportunity really to consider a belief other than your own, to process it for what it is, and to have your world expanded by doing so. You have not done that so far, because you haven’t made the effort to understand this other belief.

  138. I see where the problem is, Ray pointed to it already, but I tried playing your game instead of focusing on this:

    Thought experiment – we develop nanotechnology to the point where we can build a molecularly exact duplicate of a human brain. We do so, and… what happens?

    Assume it builds a body too. In fact, whoever is now reading this, assume that it is your own brain and your own body that had been built. What happens?

  139. Oisin:

    I don’t know what happens. Do you? Can you answer it without begging the question?

    If you think you “see where the problem is,” I challenge that with the clear fact that you don’t understand the position you’re disputing.

    Now, if you want to call my objections to your position a “game,” then you can find someone who wants to play it with you. It wasn’t a game in my view.

    If you want to understand our position more, and then object to it if you still disagree after that, then full speed ahead. But I’m not interested in following you down some other trail as you evade that issue. You can try to understand what you’re dealing with, and that’s fine. But at this stage in the game you’re not going to steer us off that course.

  140. Oisin,

    see where the problem is, Ray pointed to it already, but I tried playing your game instead of focusing on this:

    No you really don’t and I’ve already answered this a couple of times. The resulting artifact does not reason or understand. The implication of this for you is that your position entails that we don’t reason or understand which you cannot coherently argue for.

  141. Tom:

    Thought experiment – we develop nanotechnology to the point where we can build a molecularly exact duplicate of a human brain. We do so, and… what happens?

    I don’t know what happens.

    And yet you say here:

    if causation is closed on the physical, then rational inference is out the window. If you have concluded by means of logic that the physical world is all there is, then you have concluded that the world is the kind of place wherein logical, rational conclusions cannot be made. You have concluded that you cannot conclude anything.

    So if such a purely physical being existed, with our brains: the language part of the brain, the visual part, the motivation/inhibition/planning part, the emotional part, the behavioural part, the sensory part, what would it be like?

    What would be missing from this organic machine that your non-material somethings would provide? You claim that rational inferences could not be made by it, logic could not be employed by it. Would it continually contradict itself, would it not be able to make rational inferences and so never learn to cook, or drive, or to learn a language? I say of course it could; neuroplasticity and the brain’s innate punishment/reward system would allow it to build a brain that could perform these tasks with practice.

    Would it feel fear, or love? People who have their amygdala damaged can be prevented from experiencing these emotions, so presumably having it intact would allow for this experience? Would it act, talk and give every possible clue that it was experiencing emotions, when it actually was not? It would act for all the world like a human, crying, laughing, hugging, scowling.

    My claim is that this is what we humans are. We know all of these parts exist, we know that without these parts the functions I have ascribed to them do not occur.

    We do not know that immaterial somethings exist. You have tried to claim that rational inferences could not be made by material alone, yet on the other hand you claim you have no knowledge of what it would be like if there was a human that was only material. This is because you do not know what the material parts do, you do not know what the posited immaterial parts do, you do not have a sound basis for making your claim to knowledge about immaterial somethings, be they souls, propositions, etc.

    My claim here is that, if such a thing existed, it would just be a human, there would be nothing missing. Since you cannot say what would be missing, you cannot claim that the material explanation for minds is lacking, and the utility of positing immaterial somethings disappears.

    I’m done.

  142. Oisin, given what I’ve already written, you might have guessed that your interpretation of “I don’t know” might have been overly triumphant. You might have said, “I’m surprised to hear you say that; it doesn’t seem to fit what you’ve been writing all along.” Instead you milked it to your greatest possible advantage. You didn’t care then, any more than you have all along, to understand what you’re disputing.

    What I was doing there, to be honest, was shrugging off the question so that I could point you back at the one that you had been evading.

    At the risk of redundancy,

    If you think you “see where the problem is,” I challenge that with the clear fact that you don’t understand the position you’re disputing.

    Now, if you want to call my objections to your position a “game,” then you can find someone who wants to play it with you. It wasn’t a game in my view.

    If you want to understand our position more, and then object to it if you still disagree after that, then full speed ahead. But I’m not interested in following you down some other trail as you evade that issue. You can try to understand what you’re dealing with, and that’s fine. But at this stage in the game you’re not going to steer us off that course.

    You’re done if you choose to be done. Please don’t go away thinking, though, that you’ve refuted anything other than your own distortions of our position. You can’t refute what you don’t grasp.

  143. Oisin doesn’t believe in the principle of sufficient causation. With enough time and energy, mindless matter in motion will result in computers, complete with Windows software and an Angry Bird game.

    Science!

  144. According to Oisin, the brain detects (“detecting the face”), calculates (“did lots of calculations”), speaks (“the language part of the brain”), compares (“comparing the pattern of neurons” ??), represents (“pattern of neurons representing”), etc.

    Now all this is nothing but pseudo-scientific babble; but the most interesting aspect is that what the Substance Dualists evacuate to the mind, the powers that properly belong to the *whole* human being, Oisin evacuates to the brain. The fallacy is the same, and the only thing that differs is the mode of evacuation. It seems that for each activity of the whole human being, such as detect, calculate, speak, compare and represent, there is a little homunculus crouched inside the brain that does it for us. I wonder what is the location of the second order homunculus we should appeal to to explain what the first order homunculus does. Either way, one can readily see why materialists get girlishly excited with all this: no explanation is forthcoming, but at least we got rid of the ghost in the machine.

    @SteveK (#150):

    This is more appropriate.

  145. Tom:

    You can’t refute what you don’t grasp.

    The nature of my refutation is that you assume that humans are rational and logical, which is patently untrue and the results of cognitive psychology in the field of human rationality would tell you this if you bothered to look.

    If physical systems can replicate logical behaviour imperfectly, and if physical systems can learn new ways of behaving based upon stored information about its previous behaviours (neuroplasticity) which would be in essence rational inferences, then your objections here are void. We have explanations of how a brain can do these things in psychology and neuroscience, there is no gap that needs filling by magic.

    Until you know what your immaterial somethings are, what they do, and how they affect humans, you are an epiphenomenalist and I cannot interact with you.

    SteveK:

    What directed the causes so that these things would come to exist? Chance.

    If you think that natural selection means the same thing as chance then you have a lot of reading to do to remedy that. I recommend ‘The Selfish Gene’ by Richard Dawkins, insightful look into the nature of life itself.

    G. Rodrigues:

    It seems that for each activity of the whole human being, such as detect, calculate, speak, compare and represent

    Common misconception, addressed in ‘Consciousness Explained’ by Daniel Dennett. There is a good summary by the man himself in the link, he discusses the Cartesian Theater and its problems, and how the Multiple Drafts Model of consciousness removes the need for humunculi.

    There is no need for humunculi in the materialistic explanation, all there is is connections between the different parts of the brain which allows for complex behaviours to emerge, for example:

    The eyes detect something large taking up more and more of the visual field, the data is analyzed in the brain resulting in the emotional state of fear being activated in the body which consists of an adrenaline rush and blood rushing to the hands and legs for combat or flight, the neurons in the eyes send a signal to the sensory part of the brain which communicates with the fixed action part of the brain to relax the thigh muscles, then the body drops to a crouch. At the same time, memories with language associations are being created, so if the motivational part of the brain sends a memory retrieval request, the language parts of the brain are activated and the phrase “Wow, something big just flew right at my head!” is activated, and in turn causes further reactions in other parts of the brain, etc.

  146. Oisin, I hold an M.S. in psychology. I never said that every single thing humans think or do is rational, but rather that we have the ability to think rationally. The nature of your refutation, as you put it, would be valid if it were true that humans were never in any context or in the slightest degree rational or logical. No one in cognitive psych thinks that is true.

    The nature of your refutation is that it assumes that you and I can draw a rational inference from evidence and premises; otherwise you would not have offered me an inference from evidence and premises. The nature of your refutation, therefore, is to affirm solidly that which you tell me I “assume:” that humans have a rational capacity.

    You cannot refute what you do not understand. Why not try to understand? Why not enlarge your world?

    Do you regard yourself as a tolerant person, who values diversity? If so, what you’re demonstrating instead is that you really don’t value hearing or respecting others’ viewpoints.

    You’re interacting with us and shutting us out at the same time. Why are you erecting these walls of misunderstanding? I’m not urging you here that ought to agree with me, but that you ought to at least encounter us as fellow human beings, who have our different way of viewing the world.

    It’s one thing to take another person’s argument, to explore it, and to find that it is not what that person thought it was. That’s what I’ve been trying to say to you about your position here.

    It’s another thing entirely to take another person’s argument, misunderstand it, distort it, and tell them that it’s not what that person thought it was.

    When you respond to us by distorting what we believe, and when you continue not to care that you are doing that, you’re showing that you don’t mind twisting other human beings’ most central, core hearts and identities into a shape that suits you.

    My guess is that this is not the kind of person you perceive yourself as being. My guess is that you really do value other human beings. If so, here’s your opportunity to show it.

  147. Oisin,

    The nature of my refutation is that you assume that humans are rational and logical, which is patently untrue and the results of cognitive psychology in the field of human rationality would tell you this if you bothered to look.

    We don’t need cognitive psychology to show us that humans don’t always reason correctly, you’ve provided plenty of evidence in this very thread of the truth of that.

    If humans are purely material then a logically sound chain of rational inferences in never a cause of any action. Never. Not at all.

    If you were to attempt to provide an argument to support this conclusion the conclusion itself refutes your argument.

    Therefore if by chance you happened to be right it would not be because of any rational reasons. It would not count as knowledge.

    We have explanations of how a brain can do these things in psychology and neuroscience,

    Psychology and neuroscience study brains, yes, but it’s question-begging nonsense to make the claim that they only “see” the effects of physical particles in motion. Neuroscience and psychology do not provide the evidence you need.

  148. @Oisin:

    Dennett is a mediocre philosopher with an abominable prose (*). More to the point, he has refuted absolutely nothing as Bennett and Hacker conclusively demonstrate, especially nothing that either me or they are criticizing (hint: your talk about the Cartesian theater is a complete waste on me).

    I notice also that when *I* directed you to go read a book to cure yourself of your ignorance and misunderstanding, your answer was to feign outrage and saying:

    If you read this man’s book you should be able to use your knowledge of it to address my points, but telling me to simply “go read a book” is frankly insulting.

    So should I feel insulted? This kind of childish antics speaks volumes about your intellectual misconduct. Rest assured: I am not going to direct you to Bennett and Hacker’s decisive refutation; not only you might feel insulted, you might (God forbid!) actually learn something.

    (*) The best insult was hurled by David Berlinski (from memory): “You got a guy like Daniel Dennett, whose greatest intellectual achievement was growing that stupid beard of his.”

  149. Still waiting @140 for Oisin to show us exactly (with verifiable references) that there is any formal argument which concludes to the existence of immaterial entities by making a “leap”… or that any of these arguments presuppose the immaterial (to support his personal subjective opinion @ 137).

    Watch for him to twist “evidence” to his liking and to discount any arguments–as sound as they may be–that conclude other than to his presuppositions… as he’s been doing all along. Here’s a “brilliant” example:

    The nature of my refutation is that you assume that humans are rational and logical, which is patently untrue and the results of cognitive psychology in the field of human rationality would tell you this if you bothered to look.

    Well, apart from the fact that I certainly am not making such an assumption wrt to him, this is laughable (indeed, Oisin is not thinking–he’s aping Rosenberg): in trying to “explain” to us or “reason” us into accepting his nonsense, Oisin appeals to the very thing he rejects.

    Amazing. Atheism. What a repugnant self-serving concept.

  150. Aping Rosenberg? I’m not so sure of that.

    Rosenberg is both more confused and more intellectually aware than Oisin. His awareness is in his recognizing that it’s physicalist philosophy, not empirical psychology, that makes rational thought impossible. Thus he has a much better understanding than Oisin of physicalism’s implications — and I think maybe more honest. He’s less inclined to protect physicalism from its own weaknesses, and more inclined to let it be what it is and mean what it means.

    Rosenberg’s confusion, of course, is in not recognizing that physicalism’s implications also mean its complete self-contradiction.

    Frankly, I don’t see Oisin trying to explain or reason us into accepting his position. If he were paying attention to what we were saying, and actually trying to address it, then I might agree that he was trying to reason and/or explain himself that way. I think instead he’s trying to repeat himself often enough so that we’ll accept his position.

    Oisin, if you disagree, the best way you could demonstrate it would be to pick up the ball run with it. Show that you’re reasoning by engaging with our position, not your distorted understanding of our position. The first step toward that would be to show that you understand our position. Now’s your opportunity.

  151. Tom:

    I get your Rosenberg point and I agree… but that’s why I used the term “aping,” which generally means repeating (of which you correctly accuse him) without thinking things through (pretty evident, eh?).

    You “don’t see Oisin trying to explain or reason us into accepting his position”? Then… umm… why is he here and what’s he up to? What possible end could be served if there is no point to his maddness? Simply to bloviate? Okay, I accept that.

  152. Oh, and natural selection does not select for anything that will result in an iPod or a Ronco food chopper, so that’s another thing you’re wrong about, Oisin. The magic of deterministic, materialistic naturalism did it.

  153. Tom:

    Frankly, I don’t see Oisin trying to explain or reason us into accepting his position. If he were paying attention to what we were saying, and actually trying to address it, then I might agree that he was trying to reason and/or explain himself that way. I think instead he’s trying to repeat himself often enough so that we’ll accept his position.

    Thus the use of same kind of tactics we see over and over again here:
    (1) creation and recreation of the same strawmen (2) being argumentative rather than presenting real arguments (3) duck, dodge and weave, creating rabbit trails into the weeds or “throwing a lot of mud (or something else like it) against the wall to see what sticks” (4) a reliance upon Wikipedia as an authoritative source… etc… etc…

    Someone once hypothesized (here or someplace else) that interlocutors like Oisin at one time happened to skim over a book on logic but mistook the section on logical fallacies for a “how to” manual.

  154. Hey Tom:

    Is there a functionality that you can add to your blog that permits readers to “like” particular comments–something similar to what Facebook employs? If so, please ascribe a two-thumbs up for JAD’s “‘how to’ manual” comment.

  155. You know, there have been several times lately I’ve wished I could like a comment. I’ll look into it.

    Oisin, remember, even with some chiding like JAD gave, you’re still more than welcome to show us you came here to have a rational discussion.

  156. Here is a paper that argues that a deterministic view of neurophysiology is little more than an anachronistic hold over from 19th century physics.

    The paper argues that there must be some free will process acting on the brain (which the authors label process 1). Because,

    Some process beyond the local deterministic process 2 is required to pick out one experienced course of physical events from the smeared-out mass of possibilities generated by all of the alternative possible combinations of vesicle releases at all of the trillions of nerve terminals. As already emphasized, this other process is process 1. This process brings in a choice that is not determined by any currently known law of nature, yet has a definite effect upon the brain of the chooser. The process 1 choice picks an operator P and also a time t at which P acts. The effect of this action at time t is to change the state S(t) of the brain, or of some large part of the brain, to

    PS(t)P+(I−P)S(t)(I−P).

    The action P cannot act at a point in the brain, because action at a point would dump a huge (in principle infinite) amount of energy into the brain, which would then explode. The operator P must, therefore, act non-locally, over a potentially large part of the brain.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1569494/

    From the conclusion:

    Materialist ontology draws no support from contemporary physics and is in fact contradicted by it. The notion that all physical behaviour is explainable in principle solely in terms of a local mechanical process is a holdover from physical theories of an earlier era. It was rejected by the founders of quantum mechanics, who introduced, crucially into the basic dynamical equations, choices that are not determined by local mechanical processes, but are rather attributed to human agents. These orthodox quantum equations, applied to human brains in the way suggested by John von Neumann, provide for a causal account of recent neuropsychological data. In this account brain behaviour that appears to be caused by mental effort is actually caused by mental effort: the causal efficacy of mental effort is no illusion. Our willful choices enter neither as redundant nor epiphenomenal effects, but rather as fundamental dynamical elements that have the causal efficacy that the objective data appear to assign to them.

    Whether you agree or not the authors philosophically, they do give some emprirical experimental evidence to support their view. Earlier I said (@ #19) that “what several of our interlocutors having been doing… [have been appealing to the fact] that modern neuroscience has discovered that there is a correlation between the brain and what we think of as the mind or conscious self to conclude (rather hastily) that the brain, therefore, equals the mind or conscious self…”

    However, I also pointed out that “An interactionist form of mind-brain dualism, which sees the mind using the brain instrumentally, would also predict that there would be correlations between mental states and brain states.”

    In other words, philosophically the argument, at least when is come to neural correlations, is a wash. Here I am presenting a paper in which the authors appeal to evidence that supports their position. Scientifically then the evidence is tilted in favor of a position that sees mind or will being real, not illusory, as being a viable ontology.

  157. Tom:

    You said:

    you have concluded by means of logic that the physical world is all there is, then you have concluded that the world is the kind of place wherein logical, rational conclusions cannot be made. You have concluded that you cannot conclude anything.

    And I said:

    If physical systems can replicate logical behaviour imperfectly, and if physical systems can learn new ways of behaving based upon stored information about its previous behaviours (neuroplasticity) which would be in essence rational inferences, then your objections here are void.

    You said later:

    How does language obtain that power? How does it drive my brain into a state such that its resultant idea E is similar to the original D?

    My contention is of course that language can do this, but its ability to do so comes by way of its association with propositions, which are not identical with language-encoded words or sentences.

    If you change the word “contention” to “hypothesis”, then it becomes obvious that you have not justified your claim.

    As I have said:

    My comment 77 is the best summary of the situation. You go from “representations of information are very similar from one brain to another” to “there is an immaterial something that is identical among all of the similar representations”. The first does not entail the second, and this is the only evidence you have provided, so your claim to knowledge of an immaterial something is still unjustified.

    You said of my view:

    The basic problem as it applies in this context is that logic implies that one thought follows another because it follows logically, whereas your system entails that one thought follows another strictly on account of physical necessity.

    If causation is closed on the physical, then rational inference has no room whatsoever to poke its nose into the causal flow. Not even a little bit. You cannot speak, therefore, of sound logic under your system, because the soundness of a logical conclusion depends on the validity of its inferences, of which your system admits none whatsoever.

    It allows logical processes to evolve over time, because animals that come to untrue conclusions about the world will not be able to predict the future correctly, human survival depended and depends on predicting the future.

    A computer’s logic is about the algorithm, not about the content; it will run the same algorithm equally well with any input.

    If the algorithm changes with every output, and there are multiple interacting algorithms, and these begin to become specialized for certain types of inputs such because certain types of outputs are selected as being better than others (natural selection), then this comparison is invalid. Humans are not computers, they are much more complex than a single algorithm running over and over and over again the same way each time.

    Physical systems cannot be true or false about anything.

    The selections of certain outputs over others removes this objection.

    Look, I see what you are trying to do. You could not justify your claim that non-physical somethings existed, so instead you tried to attack the material explanations for these phenomena such that only the non-material explanation was left. This does not work. All you have said is that computers cannot reason like humans can, which is a straw-man. Even if it were not, this would not preclude other material explanations for these phenomena, you are trying to create a false dichotomy and succeeding because most everyone here already agrees with you without question.

    However, you have still provided no evidence that a non-material anything existed.

    I will not respond to your condescension, it is beneath you.

  158. I think we’ve given you plenty of evidence that you’re making a category error, Oisin. That rationality is not the same thing as cause and effect relationships. If they’re not the same thing then they are different.

  159. Oisin, you say,

    If you change the word “contention” to “hypothesis”, then it becomes obvious that you have not justified your claim.

    Look, you’re making this harder for yourself than you need to. Here’s what I wrote:

    How does language obtain that power? How does it drive my brain into a state such that its resultant idea E is similar to the original D?

    My contention is of course that language can do this, but its ability to do so comes by way of its association with propositions, which are not identical with language-encoded words or sentences.

    So, let’s change “contention” to “hypothesis,” “comes by way of” to “has nothing to with, and “are not identical with …” to “obviously don’t exist except as physical realities.”

    So with those convenient changes, it become even more obvious that I haven’t proved that you’re wrong.

    You can choose not to respond to my “condescension” if you like. How about if I offer you an ultimatum instead: show some interest in actually understanding my view rather than twisting it, or else admit you don’t give a damn whether you understand what you’re talking about.

  160. JAD:

    Some process beyond the local deterministic process 2 is required to pick out one experienced course of physical events from the smeared-out mass of possibilities generated by all of the alternative possible combinations of vesicle releases at all of the trillions of nerve terminals.

    The inclusion of the word deterministic is unnecessary.

    As already emphasized, this other process is process 1. This process brings in a choice that is not determined by any currently known law of nature, yet has a definite effect upon the brain of the chooser.

    This is presuppositional, they do not have any reason to claim it is not determined by the laws of physics, the true answer is that they do not know how this selection occurs but they claim it anyway.

    I notice that at least one of the authors thinks religion shouldn’t be kept separate from science, and is a loud proponent of intelligent design that claims that there is some fiscal secular conspiracy against religious science (when of course there is a limitless supply of funding for science that advances religious causes). How convenient.

    Why not actually try checking to see how the brain selects one pattern of activation over all of the others instead? For example through more strongly activated processes inhibiting the other conflicting processes, removing the need for a humunculus chooser, perhaps… But no, that would be investigating too deeply when they have already found that the answer to all hard questions is God…

    Holopupenko:

    I am not an atheist. You are a rude human being.

  161. There’s one option you could choose instead of those two I just closed with. It’s to quit pretending you’re engaging in dialogue with us, by quitting this pretend dialogue altogether. (I’d rather you stayed in it without pretending, but I’m not interested in you staying in it under the pretense you’ve been practicing.)

  162. I notice that at least one of the authors thinks religion shouldn’t be kept separate from science, and is a loud proponent of intelligent design that claims that there is some fiscal secular conspiracy against religious science (when of course there is a limitless supply of funding for science that advances religious causes). How convenient.

    Genetic fallacy. Ad hominem.

    I suppose you think the same could be said of the Royal Society, who published it.

  163. Tom:

    So, let’s change “contention” to “hypothesis,” “comes by way of” to “has nothing to with, and “are not identical with …” to “obviously don’t exist except as physical realities.”

    If you don’t like the word ‘hypothesis’, then change it to ‘idea’, ‘claim’, ‘explanation’. Not evidence.

    How about if I offer you an ultimatum instead: show some interest in actually understanding my view rather than twisting it, or else admit you don’t give a damn whether you understand what you’re talking about.

    I understand your view, Tom. You just don’t understand why I don’t agree, because rather than acknowledge the weakness of your explanation’s evidence you turn around and try to make my view look weak in comparison. My view doesn’t matter, and you haven’t justified yours.

    SteveK:

    rationality is not the same thing as cause and effect relationships

    I’m a little fascinated by this, extremely succinctly and accurately put.

    So we are defining rationality differently then, in this case. You are defining rationality with regard to immaterial propositions and souls, I am defining rationality with regard to the degree that an organism predicts the present or future states of the world.

    Is my definition wrong?

  164. Oisin, you told me earlier I was understanding your view correctly. You claim now,

    I understand your view, Tom. You just don’t understand why I don’t agree, because rather than acknowledge the weakness of your explanation’s evidence you turn around and try to make my view look weak in comparison. My view doesn’t matter, and you haven’t justified yours.

    You’re still pretending, and not owning up to it. Your next comment to appear here (if any) will be one that drops the pretense. I’ll use moderation to ensure that. I don’t have time for this otherwise.

  165. @175:

    Physical systems cannot be true or false about anything.

    The selections of certain outputs over others removes this objection.

    I’m sorry – there is no other way to say this: it’s idiotic. I am embarrassed for you. Really. You are so ignorant in your baseless, self-serving assertions that , frankly, you should not be attending a university: you are hurting every person there… as noted earlier: .

    Propositions, to the extent they correspond to the reality they portray, can be true or false. But, if you’re going to characterize a physical system (your “outputs”) as “true” or “false,” you’re literally making a metaphysical claim employing a transcendental that refers to the ontological status of that physical thing (true, good, beautiful, etc., to the extent it exists)… but we all know your scientistic position on metaphysics in particular and philosophy in general.

  166. Tom:

    You’re still pretending, and not owning up to it.

    Pretending to want to communicate? Then why would I be here?

    I thought about this, had a quick read over stuff and found an error in your explanation of my view that I missed before (my italics):

    A complete physical explanation would be an exhaustive explanation, because the potential “explanatory space” is 100% physical. There is no other category or type of cause or explanation; physical explanations are it, period.

    I would think that explanations can work at various levels of abstraction, which is the basis of Dennett’s Intentional Stance. He says:

    “Here is how it works: first you decide to treat the object whose behavior is to be predicted as a rational agent; then you figure out what beliefs that agent ought to have, given its place in the world and its purpose. Then you figure out what desires it ought to have, on the same considerations, and finally you predict that this rational agent will act to further its goals in the light of its beliefs. A little practical reasoning from the chosen set of beliefs and desires will in most instances yield a decision about what the agent ought to do; that is what you predict the agent will do.”

    This is a useful fiction, like a center of gravity, but deep down these things are the results of physical processes that do not have beliefs, etc., themselves.

    If you want me to stop posting after this, just let me know, I will accept your judgement. I stand by what I have said here about justifying claims, and I thank you for your time.

  167. The reason you’re still here, Oisin, is whatever it is. You know your reasons better than we do.

    The fact that you’ve been pretending to communicate, though, is sealed by your unwillingness to put in the effort to understand what we’re saying. For you this dialogue is a one way street. You tell us your opinions, and you tell us our opinions.

    Here you have at least (at last!) engaged in what I had to say without appreciable distortion. Thank you for that. I find it amusing that you find your exception to causal closure in a “useful fiction.” That was a most charitable admission you made, and an important one.

    You don’t have to stop posting. Just stop pretending.

  168. Tom:

    SteveK:

    rationality is not the same thing as cause and effect relationships

    Oisin:
    I’m a little fascinated by this, extremely succinctly and accurately put.

    So we are defining rationality differently then, in this case. You are defining rationality with regard to immaterial propositions and souls, I am defining rationality with regard to the degree that an organism predicts the present or future states of the world.

    Is my definition wrong?

    What’s your take on this?

    Separately: where do you see errors in my post 175?

  169. Your basic error is not taking the time to understand what you’re disputing. It’s not my turn to tell you all that all over again. It’s your turn to try to show that you know what you’re contesting.

  170. Tom:

    You say that physical computations are not genuinely “about” other things in the universe, they are merely reactions going to completion.

    You say that the results of these reactions cannot be true or false, they just are what they are, physical reactions, and physical reactions cannot physically react in a “true” or “false” way.

    You say that physical material does not follow the laws of logic and rationality, it follows the laws of physics, the two types of law are not related.

    You say that there is no known mechanism whereby mere physical processes could reliably produce truth-related outputs.

    You say that the only way for truths to be known and logic and propositions to have any meaning is to posit non-material propositions that our language and information representations refer to, and souls that can interact with the non-material.

    Fair?

    If so, please explain why I think you are wrong.

  171. That’s a fair summary of my major points, yes. (I think you meant souls can interact with the material.) Now if you show you understand why I have said those things, that would be real progress. Or, if you don’t understand (maybe you think I was wrong, maybe I wasn’t clear, …) you could ask me to clarify. Thanks.

  172. I don’t exactly say “There is no known mechanism whereby mere physical processes could reliably produce truth-related outputs.” I don’t think it’s possible in principle for a mechanism in itself to produce a true or false output (reliably or unreliably), since truth and falsehood are not about physical outputs but about propositions’ relatedness to reality.

  173. Tom:

    You say that physical computations are not genuinely “about” other things in the universe, they are merely reactions going to completion.

    Rational inference is really a matter of being about the content being processed, whereas computations would be indifferent to the inputs and outputs, they just do their thing according to the laws of physics, so the calculations would not be “about” the content in any meaningful sense.

    You say that the results of these reactions cannot be true or false, they just are what they are, physical reactions, and physical reactions cannot physically react in a “true” or “false” way.

    Physical reactions do not know truly whether the propositions they are representing are true or false, they just follow their programming and mark things TRUE or FALSE based on what they have been programmed to mark TRUE or FALSE.

    You say that physical material does not follow the laws of logic and rationality, it follows the laws of physics, the two types of law are not related.

    I think that is pretty self-explanatory, the interaction of matter is not the same as the validity or invalidity of the inferences of propositions.

    I don’t exactly say “There is no known mechanism whereby mere physical processes could reliably produce truth-related outputs.” I don’t think it’s possible in principle for a mechanism in itself to produce a true or false output (reliably or unreliably), since truth and falsehood are not about physical outputs but about propositions’ relatedness to reality.

    Funnily I actually copy-pasted that sentence, but what you say follows from the other three points so I’ll take that.

    You say that the only way for truths to be known and logic and propositions to have any meaning is to posit non-material propositions that our language and information representations refer to, and souls that can interact with the non-material (and material – edit).

    This is your conclusion that follows from the above.

    I think I have shown that I understand, so now I think you need to show that you understand me.

  174. You already told me, above, that I was representing you correctly. I’ve shown that I understand you.

    Your previous objections to my position have virtually all been based on misunderstanding my position. I understand that about you, too.

    Now, if you have an objection to my actual position, now that you’ve demonstrated you can copy-paste it and then do some (good!) analysis on it, we could start all over again from there. And starting over is exactly what’s needed. Most of what you’ve said so far in answer to my position, you need to re-think and re-write, because you got my position wrong the first time you tried. What you’ve offered in explanation of your own position, I have already rebutted (which you have already misunderstood).

    But if you want to pick it up again from the beginning, we might conceivably make progress this time.

  175. Tom, this is dishonest of you. You asked me about my views on logic and the material universe, you did not refer to my position in this argument at all, and have repeatedly ignored the bulk of what I have said, you have not shown that you understand.

    See 187 and 175 for the current state of affairs.

  176. See #188 for my response. I’ve already given it to you. Nothing disingenuous, nothing dishonest. I’ve been telling you all along that the problem with your participation was that you were doing it on the basis of twisting my position. You did it in #175. I said as much already.

    I have not ignored the bulk of what you’ve said, I’ve responded by telling you that the bulk of what you’ve said has been based on a distorted misconception of what you’ve been purporting to answer.

    And what was #129 if not a response to a summary of your position, which you approved? Which reminds me: if I’ve been so lacking in understanding your position, please explain your #119 and #125.

    So with that in mind, why on earth would I want to go back through what you’ve written and respond to it again? I already have responded: I’ve told you repeatedly how your contribution here has been founded on a distortion. Now that you’re making a move toward straightening that out, I say, please continue! I am not, however, going to go back through what you wrote and say to you, this, this, this, this, and this was based on your distorted view of my position, this minority of points here weren’t based on a distortion but I’ve already responded to them, and oh, here’s one (maybe) that wasn’t distortion-based and which I haven’t answered.

    I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to sort through and find your distortion free points for you.

    If you have a rebuttal to make to anything I’ve actually said, not your previous twisted version of it, then go ahead. It’s your turn, not mine. And don’t tell me I’m dishonest for continuing to tell you what Melissa has been saying since #65, and I’ve been saying since #72, well over two days ago.

  177. Tom:

    You say that physical computations are not genuinely “about” other things in the universe, they are merely reactions going to completion. Rational inference is really a matter of being about the content being processed, whereas computations would be indifferent to the inputs and outputs, they just do their thing according to the laws of physics, so the calculations would not be “about” the content in any meaningful sense.

    If physical systems can create algorithms that take in inputs, and produce outputs, and these outputs are selected for by natural selection, then the algorithms that produce certain types of results remain. If the algorithms are changed by the results of their outputs, and also by the inputs the receive as a result of their outputs, they will remain stable if the accurately predict the inputs that will be received, so they can be said to be “attempting” to predict the future inputs on the intentional stance. These attempts to predict the future inputs are what logical reasoning and rationality are.

    You say that the results of these reactions cannot be true or false, they just are what they are, physical reactions, and physical reactions cannot physically react in a “true” or “false” way. Physical reactions do not know truly whether the propositions they are representing are true or false, they just follow their programming and mark things TRUE or FALSE based on what they have been programmed to mark TRUE or FALSE.

    The trueness or falseness of the predictions of such systems does not necessitate that they “know” instantly whether their outputs are true or false, they “find out” from the next set of inputs they receive. The trueness or falseness of the prediction can be measured in the level of change to the algorithm, a perfectly true prediciton will result in no change, a false prediction will result in changes and the degree of change displays the degree of falseness as it is a scale.

    You say that physical material does not follow the laws of logic and rationality, it follows the laws of physics, the two types of law are not related. I think that is pretty self-explanatory, the interaction of matter is not the same as the validity or invalidity of the inferences of propositions.

    The laws of logic can evolve over time in the physical systems I describe above, they do not need to be perfect on this view.

    You say that the only way for truths to be known and logic and propositions to have any meaning is to posit non-material propositions that our language and information representations refer to, and souls that can interact with the non-material (and material – edit).

    As material explanations for logic and reasoning exist, this claim is not necessarily true. Further, if such reasons were not known, this claim would still not necessarily be true, it would need supporting evidence, but it has been defined in such a way as to avoid making any predictions about what such evidence would look like.

    To treat this view of non-material propositions and souls as evidence is incorrect, it is the claim, and you have not justified it.

  178. Not that anyone’s counting, but here are most of the comments where Melissa and I called on you to demonstrate understanding of our position before you brought forth a rebuttal:

    69, 72, 95, 107, 108, 113, 115, 146, 147, 151, 154, 162, 166, 177, 179, 183, 186, 188.

    Eighteen times.

    And then you finally responded to what started out as a request and then turned into goading.

    Along the way you called Holopupenko rude. Do you realize that ignoring a request from a host this many times is also rude? (See esp. #146.)

  179. Oisin, how is it that you say,

    These attempts to predict the future inputs are what logical reasoning and rationality are.

    You’re really personifying logic gates throughout that whole paragraph, and in following ones. “Predict”? Computational systems predict? Do they think about the future? I really don’t understand that. Could you explain how these things are the same, please?

    The intentional stance is, as you have already alluded to it as, a useful fiction.

    You say, repeating something I’ve already addressed,

    The laws of logic can evolve over time in the physical systems I describe above, they do not need to be perfect on this view.

    I wrote in #147,

    HUH?

    Do these rules have DNA? Has their genetic material varied, and have their best variations been selected for by way of reproductive success in changing environments?

    Your summary paragraphs depend on the truth of “As material explanations for logic and reasoning exist, this claim is not necessarily true.” I’ve asked some clarifying questions here, the answers to which are pretty important to us coming to agreement on that.

    You add,

    Further, if such reasons were not known, this claim would still not necessarily be true, it would need supporting evidence, but it has been defined in such a way as to avoid making any predictions about what such evidence would look like.

    Could you explain what the second “it” is referring to there? I can’t quite trace the antecedent. The first one refers to the claim, but you speak of it being “defined” which doesn’t seem to fit a claim.

  180. Tom in 198:

    This rebuttal here is not different from what I have said already. It is presented nicer, but the content is roughly the same. So I have responded. You repeatedly accused me of not understanding your position, I ignored this outright condescension for a long while and tried to keep conversing and answering questions, but I gave in and proved I knew what you were saying. If my refusal to give in and even risk writing anything that looked like an admission of my supposed ignorance offended you, then I apologize, I had no intention of being rude on this but I can see how that could come across.

    I never said anything mean to you throughout this, I have merely stated my position. holo was malicious in his words about me.

    You’re really personifying logic gates throughout that whole paragraph, and in following ones. “Predict”? Computational systems predict? Do they think about the future? I really don’t understand that. Could you explain how these things are the same, please?

    This is the intentional stance again. Algorithms that provide the selected-for output every time can be said to have “predicted” the inputs they will receive, since the algorithm would change into a new one if this “prediction” did not occur. It’s survival of the fittest, Dawkins calls these units “memes”, though a meme is more a thought experiment than empirical science at the moment, it serves well enough here.

    Do these rules have DNA? Has their genetic material varied, and have their best variations been selected for by way of reproductive success in changing environments?

    No, I guess on this view the rules of logic are memes. I never thought of that before now!

    Could you explain what “it” is referring to there? I can’t quite trace the antecedent.

    The “it” is the claim that preceded the paragraphs I wrote:

    the only way for truths to be known and logic and propositions to have any meaning is to posit non-material propositions that our language and information representations refer to, and souls that can interact with the non-material (and material – edit).

    I say that this claim is unfalsifiable because it makes no predictions, and so is not useful as an explanation. And that you have not shown that it is logically necessary.

  181. You never said anything mean, that’s true. Ignoring a host’s requests well over a dozen times is not saying anything mean. I’ll grant you that much.

    The rules of logic are memes?

    Do you know what a meme is, on meme theory?

    Short answer, Oisin: if the rules of logic are memes, then there are no rules of logic, for memes are exactly the kind of thing that could not be a rule of logic.

    The rules of logic are in fact precisely the kind of thing that could not have evolved–unless you’re thinking that in, maybe, the early Devonian a rock could have been a cloud at the same time in the same relationship. Or more likely you think they came to be during or after the same period during which intelligence was coming to be. If so, then in what manner would fitness have been apparent to evolution? In what manner would it have been not-apparent? (Please answer without reliance on the law of noncontradiction, since you can’t assume it would have already evolved into being.)

    I still don’t know what in that claim was “defined”–the antecedent to the second “it”.

    I’m going to have to do further work on this predictive algorithm thing. Back in a bit.

  182. As for the intentional stance, I’m re-reading Dennett on that. I don’t have Consciousness Explained here; that was a library book. In Intuition Pumps, he writes,

    The intentional stance is the strategy of interpreting the behavior of an entity (person, animal, artifact, or whatever) by treating it as if it were a rational agent who governed its “choice” of “action” by a “consideration” of its “beliefs” and “desires.” The scare quotes around all these terms draw attention to the fact hat some of their standard connotations may be set aside in the interests of exploiting their central features.: their role in practical reasoning, and hence in the prediction of the behavior of practical reasoners. Anything that is usefully and voluminously predictable from the intentional stance is, by definition, an intentional system, and as we shall see, many fascinating and complicated things that don’t have brains or eyes or ears or hands, and hence really don’t have minds, are nevertheless intentional systems….

    I propose we simply postpone the worrisome question of what really has a mind, about what the proper domain of the intentional stance is. Whatever the right answer to that question is – if it has a right answer – this will not jeopardize the plain fact but the intentional stance works remarkably well as a prediction method in these other areas, almost as well as it works in our daily lives as folk psychologists dealing with other people.

    The intentional stance is a way of perceiving a system’s actions as being like humans’ intended actions, recognizing that the system may, like a machine code in a computer, be unbearably complex, and that it’s simpler to treat it as if it were a mind. Dennett’s best example is a chess-playing computer, which we can treat as if it were really thinking about moves it might make, when in fact we know it’s running code and flipping gates (switches).

    You imply that there is something about effectively operating algorithms’ “predictions” that can be explained simply by declaring them an instance of the intentional stance. It seems to me, however, that the intentional stance applies to the larger system, not to its algorithms.

    I’m granting you, for purposes of argument, that the intentional stance is a valid concept. I don’t necessarily grant that for larger purposes. But I suppose that if you could make your system more by reference to this intentional stance, that would be worth discussing. At this point, however, I see you are applying the intentional stance concept to the wrong level of analysis.

  183. Tom:

    The rules of logic are in fact precisely the kind of thing that could not have evolved–unless you’re thinking that in, maybe, the early Devonian a rock could have been a cloud at the same time in the same relationship

    You are mistaking your own view for mine, that logic and propositions have a non-physical existence.

    in what manner would fitness have been apparent to evolution? In what manner would it have been not-apparent?

    To quote myself answering this question before you asked it:

    The trueness or falseness of the prediction can be measured in the level of change to the algorithm, a perfectly true prediciton will result in no change, a false prediction will result in changes and the degree of change displays the degree of falseness as it is a scale.

    States of affairs, or the universe, existed since the big bang. The systems that predicted what inputs the universe would input into them were selected for, the ones that did not predict their inputs changed or were not used at all.

    I still don’t know what in that claim was “defined”–the antecedent to the second “it”.

    No idea what this means.

    I’m going to have to do further work on this predictive algorithm thing.

    Hmm. I think you are gonna dig yourself a hole if you go down that route.

    I’m going to bed, goodnight, thank you for clarifying my thinking, Tom, I’ve found this debate extremely helpful. God bless.

  184. Predictions here are purely mechanistic, they do not require intentions to function, I misspoke.

    By prediction I mean an algorithm is altered based on previous inputs, nothing more. It’s predictive in the sense that the algorithm survives if the alteration prevents future alterations.

  185. Oisin, you quoted yourself answering a question before I asked it. The funny thing is, your answer didn’t address my question. (Your predictive powers aren’t that great after all!) My question also included:

    Or more likely you think they came to be during or after the same period during which intelligence was coming to be. If so, then in what manner would fitness have been apparent to evolution? In what manner would it have been not-apparent? (Please answer without reliance on the law of noncontradiction, since you can’t assume it would have already evolved into being.)

    Now, back to this supposed pre-answer:

    The trueness or falseness of the prediction can be measured in the level of change to the algorithm, a perfectly true prediciton will result in no change, a false prediction will result in changes and the degree of change displays the degree of falseness as it is a scale.

    This is how you propose the rules of logic would have come gradually to be (evolved). Let me re-write this in the way I think you intended it, and if I got it wrong you can let me know.

    An algorithm is running. It makes a prediction. That prediction can be measured for its truth or falsity. Truth is registered when there is no change in the algorithm, falseness on the other hand is a matter of degree, and the degree of change in the algorithm is a measure of the truth or falsehood of that algorithm.

    So that for example if an organism is running an algorithm that combines certain sensory inputs and outputs “Run away!” and if running allows that algorithm to survive another day, that registers as true, whereas if upon the same inputs it registers, “lay down and spread beef stew across your stomach,” it won’t survive another minute, and it will register as extremely false.

    My problem with that, if I understand it correctly, is how “survival and reproductive effectiveness” in an algorithm gets transmuted into “truth;” and if your view is actually true, does that mean it really corresponds to reality, or that it’s fitness-enhancing? In other words, how was the leap made from physical behavior into logical principles?

    And is it really your contention, implied here, that the rules of logic have a physical existence? Either they have a physical existence, a non-physical existence, a mixed or other exotic kind of existence, or no existence. Which is it, in your view?

  186. By prediction I mean an algorithm is altered based on previous inputs, nothing more. It’s predictive in the sense that the algorithm survives if the alteration prevents future alterations.

    Doesn’t that mean that it’s predictive if it navigated the past successfully? And isn’t that a strange sense of predictive?

  187. All this talk of algorithms and prediction is just muddying the waters.

    What Oisin’s position boils down to is that organisms whose neurones fired in particular ways in response to certain stimuli survived. That is all there is – neurons firing in response to stimuli.

    There is no logic, rational inferences, or anything else … there is (as Oisin likes to remind us) … no room for anything else.

  188. Doesn’t that mean that it’s predictive if it navigated the past successfully? And isn’t that a strange sense of predictive?

    Inferences are more complex forms of this, they would require combinations of algorithms or something.

    This is how you propose the rules of logic would have come gradually to be (evolved).

    Specifically it would’ve been during the population bottleneck during the evolution of our ancestors in the plains of Africa, the population was small, weak and slow and had to catch animals by running them to exhaustion or using simple tools to kill them. They had to track them using cues in their environment to predict their condition and future behaviour, and they probably used prediction in other ways but it doesn’t matter.

    I do not need to explain the course of evolution to you, Tom.

    Since my argument is even vaguely plausible, and other arguments may be equally or more plausible, your false dichotomy crumbles. It is not true to say that anyone has proven materialism wrong here, so you can’t just assume the existence of non-material things.

    Melissa:

    There is no logic, rational inferences, or anything else … there is (as Oisin likes to remind us) … no room for anything else.

    Incorrect, you are contradicting me. Your understanding and explanation for these things is just not coherent with the science of what human beings are, you need to come to views without making pre-supposed assumptions about things you can’t know, here being non-material something.

    Everyone:

    I think this argument is over. Good luck learning about human evolution and the neuroscience of reasoning processes, it’s absolutely fascinating. I’ll probably check back to read, but I have nothing more to post about. Thank you all, I genuinely appreciate it, but please remember that I am no atheist, I just think that miracles have not occurred. Question everything!

  189. Oisin,

    Your understanding and explanation for these things is just not coherent with the science of what human beings are,

    Well you keep saying that but you’re wrong. You don’t even understand my view enough to determine whether this is true and you are unable to distinguish between actual science and pseudo-scientific babble.

    you need to come to views without making pre-supposed assumptions about things you can’t know,

    How ironic.

    I think a reality check is in order.

    Good luck learning about human evolution and the neuroscience of reasoning processes,

    … because the only reason why we would disagree with you is because of our appalling ignorance of science

    Question everything!

    … and our closed minds and unexamined beliefs.

    Well, that was predictable. My neural algorithms remain the same for now.

  190. Melissa, you had no interest in honest interaction at any point here, so I’m not surprised your viewpoint remains unchanged seeing as it was never open to question in the first place.

    Your knowledge of chemistry obviously surpasses mine but your knowledge of what it means to human is simply incorrect. If you take issue with that, 197 is a good place to start, otherwise your claims about my lack of understanding just look lazy and poorly-thought out. If you want to take part you need to actually engage with what is said.

  191. Oisin,

    you had no interest in honest interaction at any point here, so I’m not surprised your viewpoint remains unchanged seeing as it was never open to question in the first place.

    I told you what would change my mind and that was a relevant objection to the arguments against materialism. You have not done that. You haven’t even managed to offer a valid objection to a single one of them. Instead you have regaled us with “useful fictions” and just-so stories of how logic evolved.

    Would you just for once be honest with yourself and admit that the account you give of “physical” rational inference is pure speculation. Not to mention that you failed to get through a single point without making use of your “useful fictions” (including your #197 which you seem particularly proud of). News flash, things that are not true do not provide an explanation. The fact that there is not a single materialist explanation that avoids relying on these useful fictions is suggestive that they are more than just fictions. You can refer to the arguments against materialism if you want to understand why these are not just useful, but necessary if you want to provide any kind of coherent explanation.

    Yep, I’ll accept the conclusion of a sound argument over a materialist bedtime story every single time. I’m just close minded about that.

  192. Melissa:

    Would you just for once be honest with yourself and admit that the account you give of “physical” rational inference is pure speculation.

    I’ve actually repeatedly said that my explanations could well be wrong, for example in comment 83, directly to you! This is just showing again that you are not an honest interlocutor.

    a relevant objection to the arguments against materialism. You have not done that. You haven’t even managed to offer a valid objection to a single one of them. Instead you have regaled us with “useful fictions” and just-so stories of how logic evolved.

    The mere possibility of my arguments negates the dualist explanation, because the dualist explanation has to assume that there is no other explanation possible. Further I have repeatedly refuted anti-materialist arguments, if you have a problem with my arguments please respond to them directly and present your logic fully and openly so that conversation can be had.

    However, your intellectual dishonesty will lead to you just making claims about my arguments without direct references, and further saying they are refuted by your dualist arguments that you will conveniently also not reference.

    Admit you have no interest in genuine communication, whether you’re arguments are valid or invalid, so please stop writing comments at me.

  193. Oisin,

    I’ve actually repeatedly said that my explanations could well be wrong, for example in comment 83, directly to you! This is just showing again that you are not an honest interlocutor

    The statement that you could be wrong is very different to admitting that your theories are pure speculation. I doubt you were intentionally pulling a swiftly here, I think probably you have difficulty making careful distinctions.

    The mere possibility of my arguments negates the dualist explanation, because the dualist explanation has to assume that there is no other explanation possible

    You really don’t understand the arguments do you? They show that reasoning could not in principle be physical. Therefore a pie in the sky possibility (that is note really a possibility because of the in principle objections) does not cut it as a refutation. You need to show where the arguments go wrong.

    Further I have repeatedly refuted anti-materialist arguments, if you have a problem with my arguments please respond to them directly and present your logic fully and openly so that conversation can be had.

    It is impossible to respond directly because your refutations are based on misunderstandings of the arguments and you resist every attempt to correct your misunderstandings. As shown by you still thinking there re some kind of hidden assumptions being made.

    Admit you have no interest in genuine communication, whether you’re arguments are valid or invalid, so please stop writing comments at me.

    That’s rich. You call me dishonest, imply that I am uninformed and close minded, but I’m not allowed to respond? Stop whining.

    I care very much whether an argument is valid or not so you are wrong about that. I would have liked to get into the meat of the arguments with you but either you didn’t want or couldn’t do that.

    Good night.

  194. However, your intellectual dishonesty will lead to you just making claims about my arguments without direct references, and further saying they are refuted by your dualist arguments that you will conveniently also not reference.

    Pretty good prediction right there…

  195. Oisin,

    Now you’re flailing:

    Doesn’t that mean that it’s predictive if it navigated the past successfully? And isn’t that a strange sense of predictive?

    Inferences are more complex forms of this, they would require combinations of algorithms or something.

    When you resort to “or something,” and when your answer to a question of past and future is to say “complexity,” then I am sure you have lost connection with any knowledge of what you’re talking about.

    You are right: you don’t need to explain the course of evolution to me: the evolution of biological diversity, that is. But no one I’ve ever heard of in all my years of interactions and reading has ever said that it applies to the rules of logic. No one. And since you’re the first, if you want it to be “vaguely plausible,” it’s still incumbent on you to explain how it is (ahem) vaguely plausible. Until then, Melissa is exactly correct, and I can’t see how you could deny it: You’re running on pure speculation.

    It is not the case, by the way, the way, that I’ve misunderstood your evolutionary account of logic. You haven’t offered one. Not even close. You’ve indicated when you think it might have happened, but not how. You’ve reminded me of what we all know about biological evolution, as if you think that’s the answer to a question about the “evolution” of logic.

    And in case you hadn’t noticed, I extended the question:

    My problem with that, if I understand it correctly, is how “survival and reproductive effectiveness” in an algorithm gets transmuted into “truth;” and if your view is actually true, does that mean it really corresponds to reality, or that it’s fitness-enhancing? In other words, how was the leap made from physical behavior into logical principles?

    And is it really your contention, implied here, that the rules of logic have a physical existence? Either they have a physical existence, a non-physical existence, a mixed or other exotic kind of existence, or no existence. Which is it, in your view?

    Your answer to that was ???

    Silence.

    It’s sad. Just when you were starting to pay attention to what we were writing, you’ve begun flailing, and almost as quickly declared the argument over and our side the loser.

  196. The flailing here has not been pretty. Oisin, I think Holopupenko’s opinion is probably shared by others. I placed your comments under moderation previously because you weren’t demonstrating a desire to understand. You finally showed some movement in the right direction, but your latest posts show that we haven’t made any real progress. Melissa’s recent comments, and mine, explain why I would say that. I think it’s time to end this conversation, just as you said before.

  197. I’ve been watching the conversation and am amazed that Oisin has stuck around as long as he did given his reception. I want to make two points that I hope add to the conversation:

    1) Philosophical arguments make great starting points for investigation and can lead real advances but they cannot prove anything about the world without confirming evidence. Einstein’s Theory of Relativity started as thought experiments without empirical backup. I was not until astronomical observations were found to be consistent was it accepted.

    The arguments about the rules of logic and such in this thread should be treated the same way. Until we find actual evidence that they are are true they remain just interesting arguments.

    2) Philosophical arguments can seductively “obvious” and it can be really difficult to pinpoint where the flaws lie especially when they rely on basic assumptions we are making about reality. That’s why asking commentators to logically disprove your philosophical arguments really not advancing the conversation. There are other ways they can be disproved. For example, Astronomers had really convincing philosophical arguments that epicycles were true.

    http://csep10.phys.utk.edu/astr161/lect/retrograde/aristotle.html

    “That ancient astronomers could convince themselves that this elaborate scheme still corresponded to “uniform circular motion” is testament to the power of three ideas that we now know to be completely wrong, but that were so ingrained in the astronomers of an earlier age that they were essentially never questioned:
    – All motion in the heavens is uniform circular motion.
    – The objects in the heavens are made from perfect material, and cannot change their intrinsic properties (e.g., their brightness).
    – The Earth is at the center of the Universe.”

    Even when our every day experience says that the philosophical argument is wrong, it can be extremely difficult to point out the exact problem. For example, philosophers spend centuries trying to find the flaws in reasoning for Xeno’s Paradox even though it is clearly false.

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/paradox-zeno/

    Please have some humility and understand that you could be wrong. Assess the real world evidence. Are the soul and “immaterial logic” the new epicycles?

  198. Bill K.,

    I think you misunderstand where philosophical arguments begin, which is with evidence. There is no general rule that philosophical arguments can never lead to any true understanding. The question is whether they’re based in solid knowledge and reasoning, not whether they are “philosophical.”

    In fact your principle is self-defeating because the statement, Philosophical arguments make great starting points for investigation and can lead real advances but they cannot prove anything about the world without confirming evidence is a claim about the real world based in philosophy and lacking in confirming evidence.

    The arguments about the rules of logic and such in this thread should be treated the same way. Until we find actual evidence that they are are true they remain just interesting arguments.

    Which arguments? The only one I know of in this discussion was over their provenance, whether they came about by way of evolution. Oisin’s contention was that they arose by the same evolutionary process as biological diversity, which is as empty a claim as I have ever seen in ten years of blogging. He proposes no model. When I asked him how it might have happened he gave a “when” answer. He appears to believe that the rules of logic are material things, which is categorically preposterous. There is nothing there, in other words, to argue.

    Philosophical arguments can seductively “obvious” and it can be really difficult to pinpoint where the flaws lie especially when they rely on basic assumptions we are making about reality. That’s why asking commentators to logically disprove your philosophical arguments really not advancing the conversation. There are other ways they can be disproved. For example, Astronomers had really convincing philosophical arguments that epicycles were true.

    You misunderstand philosophy again. I’m not limiting commenters to logical disproof. Any old disproof will do.

    What I was (repeatedly!) asking Oisin to do was to show some genuine awareness of what he had chosen to try to disprove, and to stop distorting our position through his unwillingness really to understand it. That’s no an unreasonable request.

    Please have some humility and understand that you could be wrong. Assess the real world evidence. Are the soul and “immaterial logic” the new epicycles?

    Bill K., I don’t know how to express this more clearly than I have already: my approach to Oisin was to understand his position as clearly as I could, and where I saw things that appeared wrong in it to me, to ask him questions about it. I gave him every opportunity to explain his position, clarify his points, correct my thinking, and demonstrate his thinking. When he came back with illogic, I responded with questions, except some occasions when his illogic was so clear that it only needed to be identified as such.

    And do you know what, Bill K.? Other than your closing (rhetorical?) question, that’s more open-ended and open-minded than the approach you’ve displayed here with me.

  199. @221

    Looks like Bill K should take a little of his own medicine, re: have a little humility. This, for example, betrays a huge ignorance regarding the relationship between philosophy and the natural sciences:

    Philosophical arguments make great starting points for investigation and can lead real advances but they cannot prove anything about the world without confirming evidence.

    You can not be further from the truth because philosophy is a reflection upon reality–not an inventor of reality. Philosophy deeply, fundamentally depends on our understanding the extra-mental world (a.k.a. known as the natural sciences) so that correct broader understandings can be reasoned to. One reasons to higher verities from those directly accessible to our five primary senses.

    The “scientific method” (switching to epistemology for a moment) is not “out there” waiting to be discovered by any of the natural sciences. The “scientific method” is arrived at through philosophical reflection using how people engage with the real world through their senses to acquire knowledge. The “scientific method” is not an object that any of the natural sciences can study because there’s no sensory access to the object called the “scientific method”… in the same way that biologists do NOT study life–they study living things.

    What about “causality” (now switching to ontology)? Does “causality” exist like an aardvark exists? No. It’s a higher verity which we come to understanding by reasoning from the sensory world to the non-sensory world. If this is not respected, you get chowder heads like David Hume who reduce causality to a “convention” because it’s not accessible to our senses. Well, no duh, Sherlock–of course “causality” is not sensory accessible because it’s not an object of the senses–it’s an object of the intellect. When one focuses on the existence of causality, that requires a wholly different science than the natural sciences, namely metaphysics.

    So, really, Bill K, your other points fall as a result of your lead-in error. A little humility is, indeed, in order. Zeno’s paradox is no more a “paradox” than some of the nonsense Russell tried to convince us of as being “paradoxes.” It’s just that one must make proper distinctions and not just understand “space” and “position” in the modern metrical sense, but “place” and “location” in the ontological sense… and making proper distinctions is basically the one-liner job description of the philosopher.

  200. I do not mean, Bill K., that I never spoke a declarative sentence to Oisin. I want to clarify that. What I want to say instead is that I was demonstrably open to hearing what Oisin had to say.

  201. BTW:

    If we accept Bill K’s approach to reality, then every MC Escher work is a true paradox. In fact, not a single one of them is. Escher “crammed” reality into a pathological 2D state, and those that admire his work say “wow!” without thinking further. Of course his drawings will appear to be paradoxical: they’re trying to represent 3D reality within the confines of a 2D reality… and problems will arise, but not paradoxes.

  202. But then even he had the evidence, “Cogito” (“I think”). So maybe that correction was unnecessary. He discounted every evidence he could find the slightest reason to discount, but when he finally landed on “ergo sum” (“therefore I am”), he based that conclusion on real-world evidence.

    I hereby correction my correction.

  203. I’m liking the “Like” button thingy.

    I hope Bill K also likes #223 because it serves to set him straight. His current understanding is upside down.

  204. Bill K;

    Philosophical arguments can seductively “obvious” and it can be really difficult to pinpoint where the flaws lie especially when they rely on basic assumptions we are making about reality.

    Which is what the problem was (among many others) that I saw with most of Oisin’s arguments. Essentially he assumed that science had proven materialism to be true. (The flaws in his argument were not difficult to pinpoint.)

    However, even some atheists think that materialist point of view is fundamentally weak. For example, John Searle very clearly states his position in his book, Mind: A Brief Introduction (A book I own and recommend.) He writes, that if he tries to state his own position…

    “in the traditional vocabulary the words end up meaning something totally different from the way they are described by the tradition. The materialist says, ‘Consciousness is just a brain process.’ But the materialist means: consciousness as an irreducibly qualitative, subjective, first-personal, airy-fairy, and touchy-feely phenomena does not really exist. There exist only third-person, objective phenomena. But what I mean is that consciousness precisely as an irreducibly qualitative, subjective, first-personal, airy-fairy, and touchy-feely phenomenon is a process going on in the brain. The dualist says, ’Consciousness is irreducible to third person neurobiological processes.’ I say, ’Consciousness is irreducible to third person neurobiological processes.’ But the dualist takes this to imply that consciousness is not part of the ordinary physical world but is something over and above it. What I mean is that consciousness is causally reducible but not ontologically reducible. It is part of the ordinary physical world and is not something over and above it.” (p. 88)

    I can learn from someone like Searle because he understands the problems with the different perspectives. Of course, he’s been criticized for being a little too coy about his own POV. But maybe his position, at least for the time being, is that we do not know enough for anyone to come to any kind of firm conclusion.

    Personally, I lean towards some kind of dualism but there are a number of different kinds of dualism. I’m willing to have an open minded discussion. Oisin, however, showed himself to be anything but open minded. That is more a tragedy for him than anyone else.

  205. But the materialist means: consciousness as an irreducibly qualitative, subjective, first-personal, airy-fairy, and touchy-feely phenomena does not really exist. There exist only third-person, objective phenomena.

    This was my point to Oisin way back in #138. It’s a point made by everyone here, I think. Oisin continues to consciously believe his conscious beliefs don’t exist – and because “science” has demonstrated that Oisin is correct, “science” has demonstrated that contradictions exist.

    Ahh… the wonders of “science”. Fortunately we still have science, which is far more reliable than “science”.

  206. Atheist, here, with a note of appreciation to Oisin: tough job, difficult concepts, hostile audience, you did well nonetheless.

    For the evolution of logic, a better tack I think is noting that logic is part and parcel of language. Language can not exist without logic. Once two brains are evolved enough, the sound “blue” can be neurally connected to the visual experience of the color blue. And with that the basis for all logic, the law of identity, A is A and not ~A, bursts into being.

    The use of logic in everything we do is really no more than to communicate or understand, with precision, experiences that have earlier been translated into symbols and language. “True” means that our understanding is consistent and matches what has been communicated within the limits of language, “false” means something went wrong.

    That’s why “truth” gets stuck at the boundary between the senses and the “real world”. Can logic tell us anything about the real world beyond our experience of it? All it can say is that our knowledge is consistent with the body of symbols and language accumulated by mankind, but it can’t tell us if that experience is a simulated brain in a vat or an organic computer in a universe.

    The beauty of physicalism is the unwillingness to multiply entities unnecessarily. We don’t need logic to exist apart from language, we don’t need propositions to exist apart from (mostly) shared neural structures. We don’t need intentionality to exist beyond the useful fiction of the intentional stance.

    However, theists should not think that physicalists deny consciousness. Conscious experience requires an entity absolutely (who would deny his or her own conscious experience?). It is accounted for by noting that this universe appears to fundamentally have matter, energy and “observer”. Brains evolved to process information, develop models of minds, then meta-models and then became observers. Research in artificial intelligence will likely shed more light on this point over the next decade.

  207. djc,

    That’s why “truth” gets stuck at the boundary between the senses and the “real world”. Can logic tell us anything about the real world beyond our experience of it? All it can say is that our knowledge is consistent with the body of symbols and language accumulated by mankind, but it can’t tell us if that experience is a simulated brain in a vat or an organic computer in a universe.

    Well that’s true if you define logic as you have done, which is one of the drawbacks of such a theory, or to put it in familiar terms, one of the reasons why we think it’s necessary to include abstract objects as having actual existence outside of our minds if we want to make sense of our experiences and what they tell us about the real world. Did you *intend* your arguments to convince us of something that is true about the real world?

    It is accounted for by noting that this universe appears to fundamentally have matter, energy and “observer”.

    I think that the idea of an “observer” presupposes intentionality of the real, not fictional kind.

  208. djc, you say,

    “And with that the basis for all logic, the law of identity, A is A and not ~A, bursts into being.”

    This is an interesting evolutionary model, to say the least. Trying to meet you on your own ground, I’m curious as to which you think came first, though: agreement between two organisms that “blue” is “blue,” or the law of identity? Was it simultaneous, as in, their agreement actually was (or constituted) the formation of the law of identity?

    You say rightly that language cannot exist without logic. What about proto-language? What preceded agreement on “blue”? A simultaneous leap from (a) content-free behavioral signaling (logic-free language) to agreement that “blue” is “blue,” and (b) the non-existence of logic to the law of identity, seems like rather an amazing saltation to me. What could possibly have been the genetic precursors, the adaptive predecessor, to that?

    (I know that you didn’t mean literally “blue,” or any color, by the way; your point was that some early pair of organisms was able to agree that some sound represented something.)

  209. @djc:

    Once two brains are evolved enough, the sound “blue” can be neurally connected to the visual experience of the color blue. And with that the basis for all logic, the law of identity, A is A and not ~A, bursts into being.

    This is a grave error, as it puts epistemology before ontology when it is the latter that drives the former. It destroys any and all knowledge, Science included, that thingumajig that Skeptics are always saying they love and care about foremost, but of which they have no solid understanding.

    There is an obvious reductio following from what djc says, but here I will give two slightly different arguments.

    Argument 1:

    (1) There is a time t_0 before which there were no human minds. Proof: uncontroversial.

    (2) There is a time t_0 at which no mathematical equations holds. Proof: since mathematical equations are human artifacts like the laws of logic, it follows by actualism: for something to hold and hold true it must exist in some sense.

    (3) There is a time t_0 at which the GR equations G = 8 pi T do not hold. Proof: by (2).

    So djc is committed to denying any and all known science; unless that is, he gives us an account of what it means to say that G = 8 pi T holds, or any other physical law holds, if no human minds are around to give meaning to G and = and 8 and pi and T. Maybe when Einstein first thought of G = 8 pi T, it became true for the entire past of the universe? Human minds create reality? Or maybe there are no physical laws? In which case, what exactly are the scientists saying?

    If mathematical equations give you the heebie jeebies, just replace them by propositions and run the same argument with say, the true proposition “An electron has spin 1/2”.

    Argument 2:

    (1) It is possible that human minds did not existed. Proof: uncontroversial.

    (2) It is possible that logical laws do not hold and hold true. Proof: since logical laws are human mental artifacts, follows from (1) and actualism: for something to hold and hold true it must exist in some sense (left unspecified).

    (3) Possibly, the laws of logic do not hold and hold true in the actual world. Proof: from (2).

    (4) To know that the logical laws do hold in the actual world an argument is needed. Proof: from (3).

    (5). Every argument, directly or indirectly, relies on the laws of logic for its validity. Proof: obvious.

    (6) But this would make the argument needed in (4) fallaciously circular and thus invalid.

    (7) It follows that we cannot in fact rationally justify our belief in the fact that the laws of logic hold in the actual world.

    (8) It follows that we cannot rationally justify any belief whatsoever in the actual world.

    The argument is formulated in terms of possible world modalities; the modal content is crucial to it, the possible world talk is just one way to formalize it.

  210. djc:

    We don’t need intentionality to exist beyond the useful fiction of the intentional stance.

    Which means everything you have written about (@ #232) is meaningless, because it cannot be about anything that is real.

  211. G. Rodrigues
    At time T0, it was possible for A=~A and yet science can study events from T0. Maybe the earth is both thousands of years old and billions of years old.This is where djc’s beliefs lead.

  212. Tom,

    This is an interesting evolutionary model, to say the least. Trying to meet you on your own ground, I’m curious as to which you think came first, though: agreement between two organisms that “blue” is “blue,” or the law of identity? Was it simultaneous, as in, their agreement actually was (or constituted) the formation of the law of identity?

    The law of identity is the agreement on “blue”, they’re the same thing, I’m noting. I see no need to suppose that a law of identity exists floating around and connects up with two organisms sharing agreement on blue. The law of identity is something we’ve given a name to that happens to refer to something as conceptually simple as a neural connection between a sound and a color.

    When I observe that something as simple as a neural connection gives rise to logical behavior, it is much easier to see it as forming naturally by evolution and not requiring an intelligent designer.

    You say rightly that language cannot exist without logic. What about proto-language? What preceded agreement on “blue”? A simultaneous leap from (a) content-free behavioral signaling (logic-free language) to agreement that “blue” is “blue,” and (b) the non-existence of logic to the law of identity, seems like rather an amazing saltation to me. What could possibly have been the genetic precursors, the adaptive predecessor, to that?

    As I’ve argued, logic is a term we’ve given to aspects of the fundamental nature of language and communication. However, it doesn’t exist apart from that. If you have signaling, you have logical behavior in so far as the signal is processed and understood. So I don’t know what to make of “logic free language”. That seems to be a contradiction in terms.

  213. G. Rodrigues,

    So djc is committed to denying any and all known science; unless that is, he gives us an account of what it means to say that G = 8 pi T holds, or any other physical law holds, if no human minds are around to give meaning to G and = and 8 and pi and T. Maybe when Einstein first thought of G = 8 pi T, it became true for the entire past of the universe? Human minds create reality? Or maybe there are no physical laws? In which case, what exactly are the scientists saying?

    This is easy. The symbols and equations are a model of physical law represented ultimately in neural structures of the human mind, but they are not physical law itself.

    There is certainly a time T when no neural models of physical law exist, but physical law still exists. Don’t confuse the model with the data.

  214. Melissa,

    one of the reasons why we think it’s necessary to include abstract objects as having actual existence outside of our minds if we want to make sense of our experiences and what they tell us about the real world. Did you *intend* your arguments to convince us of something that is true about the real world?

    Reification can help or hurt, it depends on the circumstance. In this case, I think it is hurting our understanding of our shared perception.

    (Note I take our shared perception as real enough for all practical purposes and that’s what I mean by “real world”.)

    I think that the idea of an “observer” presupposes intentionality of the real, not fictional kind.

    A computer mimics intentionality but does not experience it. If a computer suddenly becomes an observer, does that mean then has real intentionality? I’ve always thought that if this happened the computer still wouldn’t have real intentionality, but would have the experience of what goal-directed behavior feels like from the inside.

  215. djc,

    However, it doesn’t exist apart from that. If you have signaling, you have logical behavior in so far as the signal is processed and understood

    Before we go any further could someone please explain how an explanation that depends on something we know to be not true could itself be true.

  216. The symbols and equations are a model of physical law represented ultimately in neural structures of the human mind, but they are not physical law itself.

    In what form does this law exist, and where is it located when it is not being represented in neural structures of the mind?

  217. djc,

    Reification can help or hurt, it depends on the circumstance. In this case, I think it is hurting our understanding of our shared perception.

    (Note I take our shared perception as real enough for all practical purposes and that’s what I mean by “real world”.)

    Why? So you’re trying to neither convince me of anything about the real world, nor of anything about your own idiosyncratic “real world” because that would require shared perceptions which just aren’t there.

    A computer mimics intentionality but does not experience it. If a computer suddenly becomes an observer, does that mean then has real intentionality?

    ??? If an observer presupposes intentionality and a computer doesn’t have intrinsic intentionality then a computer cannot suddenly become an observer.

  218. Melissa,

    Before we go any further could someone please explain how an explanation that depends on something we know to be not true could itself be true.

    I don’t know what you’re asking for here, sorry.

    Reification can help or hurt, it depends on the circumstance. In this case, I think it is hurting our understanding of our shared perception.

    (Note I take our shared perception as real enough for all practical purposes and that’s what I mean by “real world”.)

    Why? So you’re trying to neither convince me of anything about the real world, nor of anything about your own idiosyncratic “real world” because that would require shared perceptions which just aren’t there.

    There’s nothing idiosyncratic about being careful and allowing for the possibility that shared human experience may not necessarily having anything to do with ultimate reality. That’s just allowing for unknowns, i.e. brains in a vat scenarios.

    But shared human perceptions are there. We’re genetically alike enough to think and experience things with a high degree of similarity and therefore it is possible for me to develop a world image made up shared human perception in the form of symbols, language, images, etc. And then take a leap of faith and assume that is real enough to act on and engage with.

    A computer mimics intentionality but does not experience it. If a computer suddenly becomes an observer, does that mean then has real intentionality?

    ??? If an observer presupposes intentionality and a computer doesn’t have intrinsic intentionality then a computer cannot suddenly become an observer.

    Let me rephrase that. As a thought experiment, suppose a computer suddenly becomes an observer. Assuming you agree that a computer can successfully mimic intentionality (by holding representations that are about other things and acting on those representations to achieve goals that are directed towards other things), does that mean it now has real intentionality?

    I would say “no”, merely being inside and experiencing representations that are “about” other things should not magically bring intentionality into existence.

    SteveK,

    The symbols and equations are a model of physical law represented ultimately in neural structures of the human mind, but they are not physical law itself.

    In what form does this law exist, and where is it located when it is not being represented in neural structures of the mind?

    My view, i.e. the physicalist view, is that “physical law” doesn’t exist anywhere at all. The workings of the universe match physical models developed by human brains and that’s the point of those models, but those models aren’t to be confused with the universe itself.

    Edit: let me clarify that further since I’m using physical law in two senses and shouldn’t. If “physical law” is taken as the actual workings of the universe, then it isn’t anywhere one can point to except to point to the actual workings of the universe. If “physical law” is taken as the models we develop to explain and predict the universe, these are only in shared neural patterns in human minds.

  219. djc,

    Before we go any further could someone please explain how an explanation that depends on something we know to be not true could itself be true.

    I don’t know what you’re asking for here, sorry.

    How can an explanation that depends on something you claim is a fiction (intentionality) be true itself?

    There’s nothing idiosyncratic about being careful and allowing for the possibility that shared human experience may not necessarily having anything to do with ultimate reality. That’s just allowing for unknowns, i.e. brains in a vat scenarios.

    It is idiosyncratic to define the real world as our shared perceptions and doing so does not allow for the possibility of the brain in a vat scenario because in that case there would be no shared human experience or perception, there is only the individual’s experience and perception.

    Let me rephrase that. As a thought experiment, suppose a computer suddenly becomes an observer. Assuming you agree that a computer can successfully mimic intentionality (by holding representations that are about other things and acting on those representations to achieve goals that are directed towards other things), does that mean it now has real intentionality?

    I would say “no”, merely being inside and experiencing representations that are “about” other things should not magically bring intentionality into existence.

    This is still very confused. The computer does not “hold representations” nor does it act on those representations to achieve goals that are directed towards other things. Any intentionality a computer seems to have is by virtue of the extrinsic intentionality of the programmer and user. Having representations that are about other things just is an instance of intentionality so if something does intrinsically represent something else then it has intrinsic intentionality.

  220. djc,

    You seem to be contradicting yourself when you say this:

    Can logic tell us anything about the real world beyond our experience of it? All it can say is that our knowledge is consistent with the body of symbols and language accumulated by mankind

    and this:

    The workings of the universe match physical models developed by human brains and that’s the point of those models

    Maybe some clarification is needed.

  221. Melissa,

    How can an explanation that depends on something you claim is a fiction (intentionality) be true itself?

    I wasn’t aware my explanation depended on intentionality being real to be true. I grant that it is difficult to talk/write without adopting the intentional stance, but it shouldn’t actually result in a real contradiction, as far as I can see.

    It is idiosyncratic to define the real world as our shared perceptions and doing so does not allow for the possibility of the brain in a vat scenario because in that case there would be no shared human experience or perception, there is only the individual’s experience and perception.

    I’m not defining the real world as our shared perceptions. I’m saying it’s real enough to take a leap of faith on, to act and engage. Perhaps a better way to put it is that shared perception is all I have and pragmatically this is as real as it gets until I find something better.

    This is still very confused. The computer does not “hold representations” nor does it act on those representations to achieve goals that are directed towards other things. Any intentionality a computer seems to have is by virtue of the extrinsic intentionality of the programmer and user. Having representations that are about other things just is an instance of intentionality so if something does intrinsically represent something else then it has intrinsic intentionality.

    Yes, I’m granting that a computer does not have or display real intentionality. Are you agreeing with that or are you saying a computer actually does have intentionality but it is endowed by its programmer/user?

    That’s why I said a computer mimics intentionality. It has a program that is designed to direct the computer’s behavior towards an external object and which contains representations of external things. The program could be intelligently design or it could arise through random variations by natural selection. In either case, it is not real intentionality.

    As a thought experiment, what if the computer becomes self aware? Is the attribute of self-awareness, becoming an observer, enough to turn mimicked intentionality into real intentionality? My feeling is “no”. Rather, the computer would only have the experience of what representations feel like. The experience of representations that are about other things does not seem to be real intentionality. Thus, I don’t think the idea of an “observer” presupposes intentionality.

    You seem to be contradicting yourself when you say this:

    Can logic tell us anything about the real world beyond our experience of it? All it can say is that our knowledge is consistent with the body of symbols and language accumulated by mankind

    and this:

    The workings of the universe match physical models developed by human brains and that’s the point of those models

    Maybe some clarification is needed.

    The first quote I would leave as is. The second quote I would rephrase as

    “The observed workings of the universe match physical models developed by human brains.”

    It is tricky to remember to insert all the caveats and conditionals of the fallibility of human experience but you can assume I mean them implicitly in everything I say.

  222. djc,

    As a thought experiment, what if the computer becomes self aware? Is the attribute of self-awareness, becoming an observer, enough to turn mimicked intentionality into real intentionality? My feeling is “no”. Rather, the computer would only have the experience of what representations feel like

    Of course the computer would not have real intentionality, but it also wouldn’t have the experience of what representations look like, because it by itself doesn’t have representations. To be an observer is to have your attention directed towards something. It’s intentional.

    The first quote I would leave as is. The second quote I would rephrase as

    “The observed workings of the universe match physical models developed by human brains.”

    Which for pragmatic reasons you consider close enough. Which means that ultimately you think that the mathematical equations and logic do reflect something true about the rest of the real world, not just human language.

    I’d like to see your response to G.Rodrigues second argument if you have one.

  223. djc,

    I wasn’t aware my explanation depended on intentionality being real to be true. I grant that it is difficult to talk/write without adopting the intentional stance, but it shouldn’t actually result in a real contradiction, as far as I can see.

    If the intentional terms are doing any real work in the explanation then it results in a contradiction. If they are not then it shouldn’t be that hard to drop them. The fact is that the use of words the presuppose meaning and intentionality are the only things that give these explanations any kind of plausibility.

  224. Melissa,

    Of course the computer would not have real intentionality, but it also wouldn’t have the experience of what representations look like, because it by itself doesn’t have representations. To be an observer is to have your attention directed towards something. It’s intentional.

    But I’m noting that the only difference between an observer with intentionality and a computer (or insect or animal) mimicking intentionality is self-awareness. So the intentionality problem dissolves into the self-awareness/consciousness problem: intentionality is just the experience of information representation, no real problem for physics as long as physics can account for self-awareness/consciousness. And of course I don’t know how physics can account for self-awareness/consciousness, but it clearly is an attribute of this universe and must be amenable to the scientific method somehow.

    Which for pragmatic reasons you consider close enough. Which means that ultimately you think that the mathematical equations and logic do reflect something true about the rest of the real world, not just human language.

    As long as true does not mean “absolutely true” and “real world” does not mean “ultimate reality”.

    I’d like to see your response to G.Rodrigues second argument if you have one.

    I would take issue with “(2) It is possible that logical laws do not hold and hold true”. Logical laws are defined to be true so can not be anything but true. A = A is true because it is defined to be true.

    But the problem side-stepped by the argument is that beliefs need more than logic to be valid, they also need correct knowledge of the world. For that I believe Solomonoff induction provides a way to get around Hume’s Problem of Induction so I would disagree with (8). This at least gives us a direction to go to pursue truth if not to actually reach it.

    If the intentional terms are doing any real work in the explanation then it results in a contradiction. If they are not then it shouldn’t be that hard to drop them. The fact is that the use of words the presuppose meaning and intentionality are the only things that give these explanations any kind of plausibility.

    “The computer refuses to print”. This uses intentional terms incorrectly yet still gets the point across quickly and easily. The alternative is a lot wordier. I don’t see a big problem here.

  225. djc,

    But I’m noting that the only difference between an observer with intentionality and a computer (or insect or animal) mimicking intentionality is self-awareness. So the intentionality problem dissolves into the self-awareness/consciousness problem: intentionality is just the experience of information representation, no real problem for physics as long as physics can account for self-awareness/consciousness.

    And I saying the difference is nothing to do with self-awareness. An animal or an insect does have intrinsic intentionality in that it can be directed toward other things. A computer does not, the intentionality is in human minds. An observer would have intrinsic intentionality because to be an observer is just to have your attention directed towards something. Intentionality is not just the experience of information representation. Representation itself presupposes intentionality because to represent something is to be directed towards the thing that is being represented.

    I would take issue with “(2) It is possible that logical laws do not hold and hold true”. Logical laws are defined to be true so can not be anything but true. A = A is true because it is defined to be true.

    If you are going to take issue with (2) you need to say why the associated proof doesn’t hold.

    But the problem side-stepped by the argument is that beliefs need more than logic to be valid, they also need correct knowledge of the world. For that I believe Solomonoff induction provides a way to get around Hume’s Problem of Induction so I would disagree with (8).

    Well you can disagree with 8 but can you give us a valid reason (either show the argument is invalid or show with a valid argument that one of the premises is wrong) to justify your disagreement.

    “The computer refuses to print”. This uses intentional terms incorrectly yet still gets the point across quickly and easily. The alternative is a lot wordier. I don’t see a big problem here.

    In the case of the computer you are just communicating that the printer isn’t printing. You, however, are attempting to provide an explanation in purely physical terms, that is supposed to be devoid of formal and final causes (or meaning and intentionality if that is more familiar to you). You should be able to see the problem here.

  226. djc,

    I forgot to respond to this:

    As long as true does not mean “absolutely true” and “real world” does not mean “ultimate reality”.

    Which is very cute but fails to shed any light on the matter. Note that I am not suggesting that true means that the models provide an exhaustive description of what they are modelling, nor am I suggesting that we are talking about absolute certainty. What I want to know is do the models tell us anything true about reality at all?

  227. As long as true does not mean “absolutely true” and “real world” does not mean “ultimate reality”.

    So in other words, “there is no Truth” (capitalization intended.) How would we prove that to be True? I suppose you could presuppose something like that and believe it privately but how could you ever convince somebody else, if that other person believed the opposite about Truth? For example, I believe that it is absolutely True that I Really exist as a self conscious mind. That is impossible for you to disprove because you do not have knowledge of and access to my private state of consciousness. In other words, you don’t know what I know.

    We could argue whether a self referential sentence like, “This sentence is false”, is self refuting or just plain ridiculous, but what would be absurd would be if someone were to use such a sentence to argue that logic and language are irrational and completely unreliable. Essentially that is exactly the way some atheists on this thread have been arguing about mind, free will and intentionality. Either, our current interlocutors are being dishonest or ignorant. Neither option is good.

  228. Melissa,

    And I saying the difference is nothing to do with self-awareness. An animal or an insect does have intrinsic intentionality in that it can be directed toward other things. A computer does not, the intentionality is in human minds.

    If you believe insects have real intentionality, what about protozoa, bacteria, protozoa, virii? Is there intentionality in all life or is there a continuum from non-intentionality to intentionality in your view?

    My view would be that insect “intentionality” is no different from computer “intentionality”. They both use information processing and modeling that superficially looks like beliefs and desires. Neither experience true beliefs and desires because both lack consciousness, the ability to be an observer.

    Whenever you have an information processing system like a brain/computer, it has neurons/transistors that “represent” things outside the organism. It has neurons/transistors that cause the organism to act in particular ways towards other objects, to achieve some sort of “goal”. For neurons/transistors alone, I don’t a problem accounting for this with physicalism because the physical connection between the neurons/transistors and the objects or goals can be precisely measured: it requires simulating the program over time with sensory inputs and observing the resulting connection to the output behavior, a direct, deterministic result. Assuming consciousness is non-existent in the above brain/computer, do you see any problem with this analysis? Is there a problem for physicalism here?

    From G. Rodrigues:
    (1) It is possible that human minds did not existed. Proof: uncontroversial.

    (2) It is possible that logical laws do not hold and hold true. Proof: since logical laws are human mental artifacts, follows from (1) and actualism: for something to hold and hold true it must exist in some sense (left unspecified).”

    While I agree that something must exist for it to hold and hold true, the inverse does not seem to me to be true. Something that does not exist is not therefore automatically false. Nonexistent should mean it can neither be used as true or false; in fact nothing should be derived from it.

    In the case of the computer you are just communicating that the printer isn’t printing. You, however, are attempting to provide an explanation in purely physical terms, that is supposed to be devoid of formal and final causes (or meaning and intentionality if that is more familiar to you). You should be able to see the problem here.

    My language assumes that we are sophisticated computer programs having consciousness, so it seems safe to talk as if we have beliefs and desires. I’m not sure which language should be off-limits. How would you propose using intentional language under the assumption we are sophisticated computer programs with the attribute of being self-aware conscious observers?

    What I want to know is do [mathematical equations] tell us anything true about reality at all?

    I assume so and I hope so, but I’m in no position to guarantee it.

  229. djc,

    If you believe insects have real intentionality, what about protozoa, bacteria, protozoa, virii? Is there intentionality in all life or is there a continuum from non-intentionality to intentionality in your view?

    On my view formal and final causes are intrinsic to all natural substances. Natural things are directed towards some range of particular ends but not others, but final causes range from non-concious causes of inorganic matter up to the rational thought of human beings. Animals have conscious purpose but is not conceptualised as it is for humans.

    My view would be that insect “intentionality” is no different from computer “intentionality”. They both use information processing and modeling that superficially looks like beliefs and desires. Neither experience true beliefs and desires because both lack consciousness, the ability to be an observer.

    The intentionality of the computer is in the mind of the programmer and user. There is no actual representation happening in side the computer. What is in the computer only counts as a representation because that is the way it is interpreted by us. Why do you conclude that insects lack consciousness?

    do you see any problem with this analysis? Is there a problem for physicalism here?

    In a computer the transistors only represent things by virtue of the human interpreter. The computer is a tool to accomplish a human goal. The physical connection between the object or goal cannot be measured because it is not in the physical facts. The problem is that the physical facts at time t cannot determine what process the computer is performing, they could be consistent with any number of functions, for this reason also you cannot account for errors. Running the program multiple times does not help because while it may rule out some possible functions it cannot rule out them all (unless you ran it infinity times) and you still would not know whether the behaviour is a mistake and intended. Animal behaviour while being intentional but lacking the conceptualisation involved in human thought would also be generalised rather than determinate in a similar manner.

    While I agree that something must exist for it to hold and hold true, the inverse does not seem to me to be true. Something that does not exist is not therefore automatically false. Nonexistent should mean it can neither be used as true or false; in fact nothing should be derived from it.

    Which is exactly what 2 states.

    My language assumes that we are sophisticated computer programs having consciousness, so it seems safe to talk as if we have beliefs and desires.

    Whether or not we are sophisticated computer programs having consciousness is the question under dispute so any part of the argument that assumes that would be question begging. I would propose that since physicalism entails that formal and final causes do not exist, that if you are trying to give an explanation to show that physicalism is true that you avoid words that presuppose these things.

    I assume so and I hope so, but I’m in no position to guarantee it.

    If you have a reason to think that the mathematical formulas tell us something about the real world then you are contradicting your statement that logic cannot tell us anything about the real world.

  230. Melissa,

    The intentionality of the computer is in the mind of the programmer and user. There is no actual representation happening in side the computer. What is in the computer only counts as a representation because that is the way it is interpreted by us. Why do you conclude that insects lack consciousness?

    I assume that if the programmer dies, the intentionality disappears?

    Part of a working theory of consciousness under materialism is that a brain must be sophisticated enough to model other minds and that self-awareness in some sense emerges by modeling the self, a meta-model. It does not seem currently likely that insect brains have the complexity to model other minds this way.

    In a computer the transistors only represent things by virtue of the human interpreter. The computer is a tool to accomplish a human goal. The physical connection between the object or goal cannot be measured because it is not in the physical facts.

    Take a computer program that reads an input and feeds it straight to an output. The physical connection would be obvious. How about a logic gate with two inputs and one output, the output only occurring if both or either inputs are true. Again, I think the physical connection is obvious. Now add a register between inputs and outputs such that the connection happens only after a delay in time, now functioning as a state of memory, requiring a clock cycle delay to transport input information to output. All computer programs basically connect these 3 simple elements up in enormously complex ways. But as long as the physical connection between inputs and outputs is seen in the simple elements, surely it exists in the more complex program.

    I’m basically saying that the behavior of computer program is fully consistent with physicalism. You may deny that computer programs can come into being under physicalism (if they require intelligence) but I would think you should agree that they do not violate physicalist principles while running. That was what I was trying to figure out from your earlier comment.

    back to G. Rodrigues’ second proof:
    (2) It is possible that logical laws do not hold and hold true. Proof: since logical laws are human mental artifacts, follows from (1) and actualism: for something to hold and hold true it must exist in some sense (left unspecified).

    I’ve interpreted this to be a false premise. Saying logical laws “do not hold” first presumes their existence. Saying logical laws “do not hold true” first presumes their existence. Non-existent logical laws rules out the possibility that they do not hold or hold false. Therefore the premise is false and the argument is false.

    But more importantly the argument assumes that we need to justify logic. I say we don’t, logic is defined to be part of accurate communication and all it does is guarantee that language is understood consistently between minds that observe. To grasp the ridiculousness of questioning logic, imagine if one person utters the sound “blue” and points to the sky, the other shakes his head and utters “opossum” while pointing to the sky, and they then part company. Rejecting logic is rejecting the possibility of communication.

    Whether or not we are sophisticated computer programs having consciousness is the question under dispute so any part of the argument that assumes that would be question begging. I would propose that since physicalism entails that formal and final causes do not exist, that if you are trying to give an explanation to show that physicalism is true that you avoid words that presuppose these things.

    That’s understood.

    If you have a reason to think that the mathematical formulas tell us something about the real world then you are contradicting your statement that logic cannot tell us anything about the real world.

    I was distinguishing pure logic from observations. Mathematical formulas are observations in model form. Observation is the key to all knowledge, and logic is the way of making sure our encoding of observation in language, sound, symbol and bits is accurately and consistently communicated.

  231. djc,

    I assume that if the programmer dies, the intentionality disappears?

    You’re forgetting about the user.

    Part of a working theory of consciousness under materialism is that a brain must be sophisticated enough to model other minds and that self-awareness in some sense emerges by modeling the self, a meta-model. It does not seem currently likely that insect brains have the complexity to model other minds this way.

    Conciousness and self-awareness are not the same thing.

    But more importantly the argument assumes that we need to justify logic. I say we don’t, logic is defined to be part of accurate communication and all it does is guarantee that language is understood consistently between minds that observe. To grasp the ridiculousness of questioning logic, imagine if one person utters the sound “blue” and points to the sky, the other shakes his head and utters “opossum” while pointing to the sky, and they then part company. Rejecting logic is rejecting the possibility of communication.

    OK, this is interesting, you are disputing 2 but agreeing with 3: “Possibly, the laws of logic do not hold and hold true in the actual world.” Or more correctly you are arguing that logic has nothing to do with the actual world.

    I was distinguishing pure logic from observations. Mathematical formulas are observations in model form.

    Models are not observations, nor are they a form of observations. We reason from observations to a mathematical model.

  232. Even assuming that theism can adequately explain the issue and naturalism cannot, it by no means follows from that alone that only theism can adequately explain that fact. There are alternatives to theism other than naturalism and nontheism in general which may also be able to adequately explain it with the same reasoning.

    Where is the evidence the human brain be the only complex physical object in the universe to have an interface with another immaterial realm? Where is the evidence for the existence and nature of this immaterial world? Even if it exists, where is the evidence of God? God seems to be slotted into by mere assertion. Where is the evidence it is a loving God? Given the vast amount of suffering and premature death in the world, and the absence of a satisfactory theodicy, there is every reason to suppose an unloving or evil god if at all. The same “evidence” can not confirm equally well incompatible hypotheses. There is no good objective evidence presented that God exists.

  233. GrahamH,

    Where is the evidence the human brain be the only complex physical object in the universe to have an interface with another immaterial realm?

    As was pointed out up the thread matter is no less problematic than mind. Materialism fails in more ways that just explaining the human mind.

    Even if it exists, where is the evidence of God? God seems to be slotted into by mere assertion.

    The are further arguments for God. You should check them out some time.

  234. Here is a blog post by Ed Feser in which he examines some of the “the fallacies committed by those who suppose that contemporary neuroscience has radically altered our understanding of human nature, and even undermined our commonsense conception of ourselves as conscious, rational, freely choosing agents.”
    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/03/scruton-on-neuroenvy.html#more

    He begins by quoting British philosopher Roger Scruton who refers to these fallacies as “neuroenvy”.

    Neuroenvy… consist[s] of a vast collection of answers, with no memory of the questions. And the answers are encased in neurononsense of the following kind:

    ‘The brains of social animals are wired to feel pleasure in the exercise of social dispositions such as grooming and co-operation, and to feel pain when shunned, scolded, or excluded. Neurochemicals such as vasopressin and oxytocin mediate pair-bonding, parent-offspring bonding, and probably also bonding to kith and kin…’ (Patricia Churchland).

    As though we didn’t know already that people feel pleasure in grooming and co-operating, and as though it adds anything to say that their brains are ‘wired’ to this effect, or that ‘neurochemicals’ might possibly be involved in producing it. This is pseudoscience of the first order, and owes what scant plausibility it possesses to the fact that it simply repeats the matter that it fails to explain. It perfectly illustrates the prevailing academic disorder, which is the loss of questions.

    Later in the same article Scruton goes on to explain:

    To describe the resulting ‘science’ as an explanation of consciousness, when it merely reads back into the explanation the feature that needs to be explained, is not just unjustified — it is profoundly misleading, in creating the impression that consciousness is a feature of the brain, and not of the person.

    http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/7714533/brain-drain/

    In other words, besides begging the question, the fallacy of neuroenvy is smuggling a materialistic ontology into a yet-to-be-settled question under the pretense that it is science.

    According to Feser, Scruton is “almost exactly right.” He then goes on to explain what he means:

    The reason I say that Scruton has things “almost exactly right” might be evident from this comparison. Paint chemistry might have some relevance to understanding the beauty of a painting; for example, it would not be without interest if it turned out that certain colors retained their vibrancy for a longer period of time if they were painted with paint having such-and-such a chemistry. Similarly, we can allow that neuroscience can give us some insight into human behavior…

    But paint chemistry is obviously only a part, and a relatively small part, of understanding the beauty of a painting. And brain chemistry is only a part, and a relatively small one, of understanding human nature. In particular, it gives us only what Aristotelians call the material cause of human behavior, and part of the efficient cause; but it does not give us the formal or final causes, or the entirety of the efficient cause…

    Once again, whatever advances there have been in neuroscience, we are a long way from explaining free will, consciousness and person-hood scientifically. At present no one has a clue how we even could explain those things scientifically.

  235. Melissa,

    You’re forgetting about the user.

    Yes, assuming the computer or software program is being used by a person. But once a human mind is no longer using a computer or program that is operating, does intentionality cease or go on operating? A thought experiment would be Voyager 1 after a human extinction event. Does all intentionality cease as Voyager 1 goes on taking pictures and transmitting?

    Conciousness and self-awareness are not the same thing.

    I’m not certain of that. The issue is that our brain does a considerable amount of processing that we are neither conscious of nor self-aware; for example low level visual processing. The question is whether this part of the brain is truly unconscious or it is merely not connected to the parts of the brain that recognize our introspective abilities. Are we experiencing consciousness in this low-level part of the brain but simply not aware of it because we can’t store that experience in short-term memory for introspection? I don’t know.

    OK, this is interesting, you are disputing 2 but agreeing with 3: “Possibly, the laws of logic do not hold and hold true in the actual world.” Or more correctly you are arguing that logic has nothing to do with the actual world.

    No, I’m definitely disputing 3. It makes no sense to talk about the laws of logic not holding or being false.

    And I would not say that logic has nothing to do with the actual world, rather that pure logic is distinct from observations. Observation is the key to all knowledge, and logic is the way of making sure our encoding of observation in language, sound, symbol and bits is accurately and consistently communicated.

    Models are not observations, nor are they a form of observations. We reason from observations to a mathematical model.

    I don’t see how you can support that. For ‘model’ substitute ‘digital photograph’. Certainly a digital photograph is an encoded form of human observation. It is represented with colors and pixels which are effectively part of a mathematical model of vision perception.

  236. djc,

    Yes, assuming the computer or software program is being used by a person. But once a human mind is no longer using a computer or program that is operating, does intentionality cease or go on operating? A thought experiment would be Voyager 1 after a human extinction event. Does all intentionality cease as Voyager 1 goes on taking pictures and transmitting?

    The computer will continue to be directed towards the goals of the programmer. Although if some other intelligent life came along they would not be able to determine from the physical facts alone, what that goal was nor what the physical facts were representing.

    No, I’m definitely disputing 3. It makes no sense to talk about the laws of logic not holding or being false.

    And I would not say that logic has nothing to do with the actual world, rather that pure logic is distinct from observations. Observation is the key to all knowledge, and logic is the way of making sure our encoding of observation in language, sound, symbol and bits is accurately and consistently communicated.

    Given how you’ve described logic it only makes no sense to talk of logic not holding or being false with respect to it’s use in consistent communication. How about you spell out the connection between logic and the actual world as you see it because from what you’ve already said I don’t see one.

    I don’t see how you can support that. For ‘model’ substitute ‘digital photograph’. Certainly a digital photograph is an encoded form of human observation. It is represented with colors and pixels which are effectively part of a mathematical model of vision perception.

    Except that a digital photograph is a representation of a particular event. The mathematical models in physics claim to be universally applicable, they are not just representations of particular events.

  237. The mere fact that there is much to learn about the human brain, and still many mysteries for the sciences to discover, I do not see as reason why slotting into that mystery the immaterial or a God is a convincing argument for the existence of those things. There is certainly no evidence to support that argument – and an argument without evidence is not evidence.

    Slotting in a supernatural explanation, without any objective evidence, breaks the rule of parsimony and makes any mystery more complicated to explain including the significant problems with the dualistic interface. The argument presented here accepts as “evidence” the assumption that there is an immaterial. Little work is done to establish this immaterial realm except saying words to the effect “naturalism does not explain the mystery adequately”. I see very little evidence in the argument.

    Over the ages many phenomenon of supposedly supernatural mystery has been debunked with an uncontroversial scientific explanation. Why should consciousness be any exception? The discussion of consciousness is obviously stimulating and intriguing. But as Daniel Dennett says “that dualism would never be seriously considered if there weren’t such a strong undercurrent of desire to protect the mind from science, by supposing it composed of a stuff that is in principle uninvestigable by the methods of the physical sciences.” Supposing into existence the immaterial is not evidence for it.

  238. GrahamH,

    The mere fact that there is much to learn about the human brain, and still many mysteries for the sciences to discover, I do not see as reason why slotting into that mystery the immaterial or a God is a convincing argument for the existence of those things.

    Lucky then that that is not the argument.

    Why should consciousness be any exception?

    Since science studies the quantitative aspects of reality and ignores the qualitative, relegating everything that cannot be quantified to the mind, it is obvious that consciousness, being largely to do with qualitative experience, will resist the same kind of reduction.

  239. Slotting in a supernatural explanation, without any objective evidence, breaks the rule of parsimony and makes any mystery more complicated to explain including the significant problems with the dualistic interface.

    Denying a supernatural explanation when there is no objective evidence for a material one breaks the rule of not over-extrapolating from one’s evidence, not to mention begging the question.

  240. @ Tom, No my statement is more “Denying a supernatural explanation when there is no objective evidence for the supernatural explanation is sound.”

    @Melissa
    “…science ignores the qualitative”? Not too sure what you are really saying here and I would be interested in the evidence in that statement. Regardless of how I understand what you say, there seems to be overwhelming evidence for a dependant link between minds and brains including the following:

    1. When the brain is directly stimulated or put in a physical state you have a corresponding experience.

    2. Types of injuries to the brain can mean you can have no mental states at all.

    3. Other injuries to the brain destroy various mental capacities, and which capacity is destroyed is tied directly to the particular region of the brain that was damaged.

    4. When we examine the mental capacities of animals, they become more complex as their brains become more complex.

    5. The development of mental capacities is correlated with the development of neurons in the brain in all species.

    The supernatural is not required to demonstrate the dependence of consciousness on the brain, confirming that the mind must die with the body. The conclusion that nothing mental happens without the occurrence of a corresponding physical event seems very sound.

    I should add again that this so-called Evidence for God article on this page is very deficient in any actual evidence that the mind is immaterial, let alone providing any evidence for God. If there was some I would be very appreciative to examine it.

  241. Showing that there are correlations between mental states and brain states is not an explanation either for what self conscious mental states are or why they exist. Most contemporary dualists, by the way, accept that these correlations exist. As Roger Scruton argues in the article I linked to @ 261 this is an argument that is fundamentally flawed and fallacious.

  242. GrahamH,

    Not too sure what you are really saying here and I would be interested in the evidence in that statement. Regardless of how I understand what you say, there seems to be overwhelming evidence for a dependant link between minds and brains including the following:

    If you don’t understand what I wrote how do you think you can provide evidence against it? A correlation between the brain and mental states is irrelevant to my point and not at all unexpected given my position.

    My point us a simple one – for the purposes of pushing forward our ability to predict and control nature through the scientific method material things are reduced to those aspects that may be quantified. Everything that couldn’t be reduced in this way was relocated to reside solely in the mind, for example redness, warmth etc. Therefore the problem of qualia (how to explain redness, warmth etc) is actually created by the materialist definition of matter and for obvious reasons the same technique cannot be used to reduce mind to the physical.

    I should add again that this so-called Evidence for God article on this page is very deficient in any actual evidence that the mind is immaterial, let alone providing any evidence for God. If there was some I would be very appreciative to examine it.

    Since the point if the OP was not to provide evidence if the immaterial but rather to answer a common objection to the immaterial raised on another post do you really think it surprising that there is no argument for the immaterial itself that would be a seperate blog post. This post is part if a series, I suggest you hang around for the rest.

  243. Melissa
    “If you don’t understand what I wrote how do you think you can provide evidence against it?” Well I don’t really need to if you don’t provide evidence for what you write. I am otherwise free to add my thoughts to the discussion.

    In any case, I agree you would need to establish the bona fides of Qualia including its existence, definition and nature before the immaterial can even be contemplated. Qualia, like Free Will is a subject of controversy and can’t just be assumed to exist in any sound reasoning. I can’t accept a persons position on Qualia is correct without examining it given it is leaned on so heavily to make an argument.

    I also do not accept that Qualia or phenomena related to it is off limits or inaccessible to any discipline of the sciences that rejects or does not need the supernatural simply because you assert it is “obvious”, particularly given my comment above. It is certainly not off limits to philosophy or the humanities that do not assume the supernatural or require the invoking of it.

  244. GrahamH,

    I am otherwise free to add my thoughts to the discussion.

    Of course you are free to add your thoughts to the discussion but since they are not relevant to what I wrote why address them to me?

    I also do not accept that Qualia or phenomena related to it is off limits or inaccessible to any discipline of the sciences that rejects or does not need the supernatural simply because you assert it is “obvious”,

    If you want to interact with the reason I gave of why it is obvious that qualia cannot be reduced to the physical as it is defined for the sake of science you may. I would appreciate though if you did not attempt to make my argument into something that it is not as you have done here.

  245. Melissa – I would be happy if at least we could get your argument to a level that is coherent to me and well articulated. Then we can avoid you, as my new friend, chastising me for not understanding it. Although I suspect this will come up in later posts, I am indeed very curious what you define is qualia, how you know it exists and why it can not explained by the physical. I assume it is ok to discuss this on this thread if what you argue is related to the OP “Humanness and the Interaction Problem”.

  246. GrahamH,

    Sorry, I shouldn’t have been snappy, and I misread one of your sentences.

    The definition of qualia or such things is tangential to the argument. Consider, that for the sake of science our experience of the world is reduced to only those aspects that can be quantified. Things are nothing but colourless, odorless, unintentional matter. Anything that didn’t fit this quantitative method is labelled subjective and moved to the mind. Now if the mind is going to be explained by science then it too must be reduced to quantitative unintentional matter. The problem is that what has been parked there just is the qualitative and intentional and there is no where else to hide these things. Therefore if you are going to eliminate the mind you also eliminate subjective experience (consciousness) and intentionality.

  247. Yes I agree natural science (and human knowledge generally) has practical limits, and Tom has a new post on that I may comment on. We can quantify things like colours and odours, in terms of, for example, colour being of a particular light wave and power. The note A above middle C is 440 kilohertz, and the brain is stimulated a certain way, but science can’t say whether you must like it or not. What you enjoy is up to your own aesthetic criteria.

    The only thing I can’t help noticing from your argument is that it should also apply to other species in the animal kingdom. They have experiences in the world too? So at this stage, they seem to be included within the same phenomena of consciousness you outline, and we haven’t yet got to the “humanness” part that may be related to the OP.

  248. GrahamH,

    The only thing I can’t help noticing from your argument is that it should also apply to other species in the animal kingdom. They have experiences in the world too? So at this stage, they seem to be included within the same phenomena of consciousness you outline, and we haven’t yet got to the “humanness” part that may be related to the OP.

    With respect to animals that is correct. The interaction problem came up as a response to Tom’s post on free will which is why the connection to humanness. In my opinion consciousness does not require anything immaterial but it is problematic if you insist that all natural phenomena are reducible (in principle even if not in practice) to physics. Free will and the intellect are those aspects of humanness that require some kind of immateriality.

  249. “The theistic answer to that is quick and easy. “Really? How did you come to know that much about what God could or couldn’t do, if there is a God?”
    That’s quick and easy indeed and also wrong. You are the one postulating an immaterial entity. You are the one postulating that that immaterial entity can interact with our material reality. So the burden of proof is on you. What’s more – you don’t tell how your god does it, which means he uses and which procedures he follows. What’s more – we don’t have one single piece of evidence of this kind of interaction. So materialists are completely justified to reject an idea – you basically suck it out of your thumb.

    “We only disagree on whether demonstrates that it is dependent on the brain alone, and nothing but the brain.”
    Same fallacy. You are the one who has to provide a coherent and consistent argument pro. You have utterly failed. And no – that’s not a question-begging request.

    “Call it a mystery, call it a matter for continued research”
    Call it a mystery is always the easy cop-out (it just is that way, don’t ask me to tell you more). How do you propose that continued research to be done? All research we know is utterly material …. as such you nicely show that your article is not coherent.

  250. MNb,

    You have misread the purpose of this article. You have treated it as if it were my demonstration of my position, and you have taken me to task for not succeeding. That’s not what this article was for. I have written often on that topic; for example, most of the articles in this series are of that nature. This one, however, was not like that. This was an answer to a specific materialist objection in the course of that series. That should have been clear enough from the opening paragraph and the links there.

    And so, to begin with your first complaint, you’ve misunderstood what that question was doing in the context in which it was written. I was referring to a definite claim some materialists make about God: that the immaterial cannot interact with the material. Now, when someone makes a definite claim in debate, it’s that person’s responsibility to show that the claim is true. My question which you quoted at the beginning of your comment, was essentially a call for some demonstration that the materialist’s claim is true.

    You say that was wrong because I am the one postulating an immaterial entity. In another context that would be a valid point to make. (I would want to add that I’m not actually postulating that, but there’s a technical point involved there that doesn’t matter to our discussion, I only insert it here as a nod of acknowledgement to those who know about it.)

    In the current context, though, I wasn’t proposing anything. I was putting a question to those who make a definite claim about “God, if there is a God.” My question was not incorrect in this context. You’ve confused where the burden of proof lies in this case.

    Your question about which means and procedures God uses is the typical wrong-God fallacy I see so often: that God must use techniques we humans can understand, otherwise there is no God or at least none we can know. I wrote on this just last week.

    You quote me,

    The non-theist will probably point to neuroscience as evidence that cognition and behavior depend on the brain, and of course we would agree. We only disagree on whether demonstrates that it is dependent on the brain alone, and nothing but the brain.

    And then you say I have “utterly failed” to provide a coherent and consistent argument for my position.

    At this point it’s worth pointing out that your claim was nothing but that: a bare claim. Have I failed? You say so. Is your say-so the reason I should agree that I have failed? I certainly don’t accept it as such!

    This is a website for people who will interact on ideas, not for people who will throw say-sos around.

    Note that in the context of my original post I was, once again, contesting a materialist view, that the mind must be dependent entirely on the brain. You’re fussing at me for not proving everything I believe about the mind. I hadn’t set out to do that here. In the passage you quoted my purpose was to show that the reasons materialists give do not succeed in proving that mind must depend entirely on the brain.

    “All research we know is utterly material,” you say. There’s another say-so for you. It’s true of scientific research, but not all research is scientific. (G. Rodrigues, have you ever done any non-material research?) Meanwhile you haven’t dealt with the key point of the paragraph you quoted from: “the question is not whether we can or cannot explain the workings of this interface, the question is whether there’s evidence that it’s real.”

    If it’s real, then it’s a mystery to be explored by way of continued research. Is it real? I think so. I have given reasons for thinking so, but that was elsewhere, not here. You, on the other hand, have made errors including confusing where the burden of proof belongs, committing the “wrong-God” fallacy, supplying us with a say-so and expecting us to accept it, and falsely claiming that all research is utterly material.

    I hope you’ll stick around as a commenter here, MNb, but I hope also that you’ll look carefully at what you’re objecting to, and that you’ll consider carefully the answers I’ve given you here.

  251. What’s more – you don’t tell how your god does it, which means he uses and which procedures he follows.

    I’m seeing a pattern here – that unanswered ‘how’ questions are deadly to theism, but not materialism.

  252. MNb,

    Rather than your hammering away at Tom, please allow me to recommend a great book with deep and credible research on the topic of brain, mind and religious experience. It’s by William P. Alston (1991). Perceiving God: The epistemology of religious experience. This book is what I call “heavy lifting” on the topic, but well worth it. Alston’s careful research and argumentation thoroughly IMHO debunk what he calls an “epistemological imperialism” inherent in materialism vs. common human experiences and ultimately, Christian mysticism. On p. 243, Alston says this: “Again scientific philosophers will claim that everything that exists falls within the purview of science; anything that is alleged to fall outside the domain of scientific investigation is thereby deemed to dismissal as nonexistent. But again it is no part of science to make imperialist claims like this.”

    Science can legitimately and credibly study the brain. It cannot study the mind, nor can it establish that the brain “causes” the mind.