Thursday, July 27, 2017

Susan Blackmore on the Hard Problem of Consciousness

How can objective things like brain cells produce subjective experiences like the feeling that ‘I’ am striding through the grass? This gap is what David Chalmers calls ‘the hard problem.’ ...It is a modern version of the ancient mind/body problem – but it seems to get worse, not better, the more we learn about the brain... The objective world out there, and the subjective experiences in here, seem to be totally different kinds of things. Asking how one produces the other seems to be nonsense. The intractability of this problem suggests to me that we are making a fundamental mistake in the way we think about consciousness – perhaps right at the very beginning.

 Susan Blackmore, ‘What is consciousness?’, Big Questions in Science, in Harriet Swain (ed.), Big Questions in Science, (Jonathan Cape, 2002), p. 29-40.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Supervenience and its discontents

Terence Horgan was one of the original defenders of supervenience as a way of cashing out nonreductive materialism. However, he is one of its critics. See here. 

He now claims to be ambivalent about materialism.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Almeder on the scientific proof of materialism

After all, where in the scientific literature, biological, neurobiological, or otherwise, is it established either by observation or by the methods of testing and experiment, that consciousness is a biological property secreted by the brain in the same way a gland secretes a hormone? Better yet, where in the history of science has it been established that consciousness exists, but cannot be a substance very much unlike any substance we ordinarily deal with in contemporary physics or biology? In short, there is no scientifically well-confirmed (much less robustly confirmed) belief within science that consciousness is a biological product of the brain. We do not see the brain secrete consciousness in the same way we see a gland secrete a hormone. Consciousness is nothing like a hormone.

Almeder's paper is here. 

Threats to religious freedom


Apologetics and the Academy

By Kelly Burton, who teaches philosophy at Paradise Valley Community College in the Phoenix area.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Why the Resurrection wasn't fabricated


Hinman on Carroll on atheist cosmologists


But see also Donald Page's guest post on Carroll's blog.

Do evolution advocates violate the establishment clause?

According to this, yes. 

And please, spare me the "A Discovery Institute person said it, so you know it has to be wrong." That's called, you know, the ad hominem circumstantial fallacy.

NOMA and the Jones decision

The Jones decision absolutely reeks of NOMA, and it only works as an establishment clause case on the assumption of NOMA. Were questions of design refuted by Darwinian biology, or were they set aside as metaphysical issues outside the purview of science per se? Did the methodological assumptions of science change over time to preclude design inferences? Are there weaknesses in the Darwinian story that are constantly being papered over? Is Darwinian theory being protected by leaders in the scientific community, using the phobia of creationism to silence honest, and secular criticism of the standard theory? The guy from China said that while in China you can criticize Darwin but not the government, over here you can criticize the government but not Darwin. 

If you go by the Jones decision, then biology textbooks are going to have to be checked to make sure they don't have antireligious content in them. Otherwise they violate the establishment clause in just the same way that the Dover statement violated it. How much do you want to bet that you could find lots of violations in many biology textbooks? 

What I believe on the other days of the week is that NOMA is true, biology should be metaphysically neutral, and science textbooks should indicate that questions of intelligent design lie outside the purview of science and cannot be settled one way or the other by science. So, evolution is affirmed because science has to work that way, and you can legitimately ask the question of design, but as an extrascientific question that science, per se, cannot answer.

Creationism, Evolutionism, Intelligent Design

When people say that intelligent design is just creationism, it is hard to see what they mean exactly. Meanings of terms like these have a bad habit of sliding around.

Creationism can mean the belief that God created the world, the belief that God created the world in six days, the belief that science can discover that God created the world, or that science can discover that God created the world in seven days.

Evolution can mean that the earth is old, or that there is common ancestry, or that speciation occurred without design, or that life and speciation occurred without design.

Intelligent design means that at least some life on earth was designed (by a nonhuman designer), or that science can discover that life on earth was designed. It typically means at least the second of these things.

All creators are designers, but some designers are not creators. Plato believed in design but not creation. ID advocates say that science can discover design but not creation. But most believe in creation, and hope that those who come to accept design will come to believe in creation. Is this enough to make them creationists, in the perjorative sense?

With respect to the public school controversy, it is true that ID was used by many creationists to bring as much of what they believed into the public school classroom as they could. Insofar as leading ID advocates took an interest in public education, they aroused the ire of the scientific community. But someone could support the idea that, at the higher education and research level,  researchers should be free to pursue design hypotheses, but until those are further developed, they should not attempt to push theories that contradict the consensus of the scientific community in the public school classroom. This is my position, at least on some days of the week.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Jewish philosopher Saul Kripke on materialist prejudice

“I don’t have the prejudices many have today, I don’t believe in a naturalist world view. I don’t base my thinking on prejudices or a world view and do not believe in materialism.”

Saul Kripke. 

Materialism and the Illusion of Following the Evidence

Brain processes are physical events. They occur in accordance with the laws of physics, not the laws of logic or laws of evidence. Our brains follow the laws of physics automatically, we obey the laws of logic or laws of evidence, when we do, only when the laws of physics dictate that they do so. If you think this way, then I fail to see how William Hasker's conclusion is avoidable: the laws of logic and evidence, or as he puts it, the principles of sound reasoning, are inoperative.

Some atheists (Jerry Coyne is a good example) think that the idea of free will is a useful fiction; we should keep it around even though we know it's false. I think that if naturalistic atheists are consistent, they have to say the same thing about their claim that they believe what they do because the evidence is superior. But this would be an awfully damaging admission. They perceive themselves as following the evidence, but if their own world-view is correct, their thoughts are brain processes ultimately subject, not to the rules of evidence, but to the laws of physics. Their beliefs are caused in exactly the same way as a fideistic religionist who believes in God as a matter of faith.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

You are only a Christian because of your birthplace!

Gee, where have we heard that before? Saints and skeptics answer here.