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Materialist Hypocrisy

Many materialists argue out of both sides of their mouth when it comes to consciousness. 

 

On the one hand, they argue that consciousness is the key to dignity and the right to life.  See, for example, the arguments of Peter Singer, who argues specifically that there is no ethical problem in killing an unborn baby because the baby at that stage of development is not self-conscious. 

 

But then materialists turn right around and argue that consciousness is ontologically meaningless, asserting that it is nothing but an epiphenomenon of the electro-chemical activity of the brain. 

 

Well, which is it?  Is consciousness absolutely crucial, literally a matter of life and death, or is it the essentially meaningless byproduct of chance and necessity? 

 

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79 Responses to Materialist Hypocrisy

  1. There is no contradiction in supposing that consciousness is a key factor in ethics and also that it is the consequence of electro-chemical activity of the brain.

    Why do you see the two as incompatible?

  2. Barry

    asserting that it is nothing but an epiphenomenon of the electro-chemical activity of the brain.

    Are you not doing the same thing, more or less? You are also asserting that consciousness is not simply an epiphenomenon of the electro-chemical activity of the brain but unlike your opponents you have not provided any evidence to the contrary.

    Your opponents have, apart from much expermental work tying alterations in consciousness to alterations in the physical structure of the brain (for instance, damaging parts of the brain in seperate people produces similar effects) never seen any evidence that supports your case. What direct (or indirect) evidence do you have that supports your case may I ask?

    Well, which is it? Is consciousness absolutely crucial, literally a matter of life and death, or is it the essentially meaningless byproduct of chance and necessity?

    Even if it was a byproduce of “chance and necessity” as you say would that make it meaningless?

    Why? If it were proven to be the case would you not still feel, see, live life, love etc? Nothing would change.

    As Mark asks, why do you see the two as incompatible?

    Are you afraid that if you believe that consciousness is “reduced” to mere matter and matter alone you won’t go somewhere after you die like you hope you will currently (I presume?)

    Is it fear of oblivion that drives you on this subject?

    Fear is the mind killer.

  3. at that stage of development is not self-conscious.

    Do you believe animals can be self-conscious Barry?

    Are you a vegetarian Barry?

  4. 4

    Neither Mike nor Mark seem to understand the point of the post. The post is not about the nature of consciousness. It is about the hypocrisy of trying to have it both ways — saying it means nothing and that it means everthing at the same time. Mike and Mark should move along. Those of you capable of grasping the basic point of the post should feel free to post comments.

  5. 5

    “Fear is the mind killer.”

    Also, quoting “Dune” in support of your argument automatically puts you in the “frivolous” category.

  6. ” You are also asserting that consciousness is not simply an epiphenomenon of the electro-chemical activity of the brain but unlike your opponents you have not provided any evidence to the contrary.
    ” – Mike

    Actually, entire books have been written on this subject. Do your homework.

  7. Even if it was a byproduce of “chance and necessity” as you say would that make it meaningless?

    Of course. What inherent meaning exists in matter? None. What inherent meaning exists in a thing we call a brain if all that is produced by that such a mere material organ is nothing but electro-chemical pulses?

    Crick said, “you’re nothing but a pack of neurons” – so what gives inherent meaning t o a pack of neurons? Why should anyone believe a pack of neurons?

    If you’re nothing but a bag of chemicals there is no real meaning – either in your own brain or anyone else’s – no more than a worms brain. Meaning is thus all in your mind. Just an illusion.

    Evidence to the contrary? As Berceuse said, you could at least do your homework!

    Maybe look up Dr. Jeffery S Schwartz. Maybe start HERE

  8. Barry

    My point is not about the nature of consciousness. It is that there is no hypocrisy. You can believe that mind is result of the electro-chemical activity of the brain and also think that it is ontologically meaningful. I will “move along” if you want – but I think you misunderstood my first comment.

  9. 9

    If life is just happenstance, animated matter, and consciousness is just the product of material processes, then what’s wrong with simply killing everyone who disagrees with you? Isn’t it basically the same thing as weeding your garden?

    The hypocrisy of the materialist is that they wish to proselytize their dangerous philosophy while being comfortably protected from the inevitable conclusions of that philosophy by non-materialistic (theistic, spiritual) rules of morality, ethics and justice.

    Even Dawkins admits he wouldn’t like a society based on materialistic darwinism … yet, oddly, that doesn’t stop him from promulgating those ideas into society, and attempting to dismantle the very views that keep society from rushing headlong into that disastrous consequence.

  10. Borne

    “What inherent meaning exists in matter?”

    This is of course the key question. If you believe, as I do, that all our desires, ability to suffer, feelings for others etc arise from matter – then quite a lot.

  11. Berceuse#6

    Actually, entire books have been written on this subject.

    Book, yes. Peer reviewed papers in the scientific literature, not so much.

  12. 12

    #10:

    That isn’t inherent meaning. If there is no inherent meaning, then one ends up with moral equivalence and rational justification for anything one wishes to do.

  13. Bourne

    What inherent meaning exists in a thing we call a brain if all that is produced by that such a mere material organ is nothing but electro-chemical pulses?

    Please prove to me there is more to the brain then “electro-chemical pulses”. I’m more then happy to look at your scientific evidence, if you have any.

    If you’re nothing but a bag of chemicals there is no real meaning – either in your own brain or anyone else’s – no more than a worms brain. Meaning is thus all in your mind. Just an illusion.

    And, as I noted, if it is discovered and proven to even your satisfaction that the brain is simply the brain and no more and no less then that (i.e. nothing “non-material” about it) will your life suddenly become meaningless?

    Even if it is “just an illusion” if you can’t see how the illusion works does it really matter that it’s “just an illusion”.

    As far as Dr. Jeffery S Schwartz goes

    Jeff’s breakthrough work in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) provided the hard evidence that the mind can control the brain’s chemistry.

    As the brain generates/causes/is the mind it’s perhaps not surprising. I don’t see how this supports your case however. Anything specific you had in mind? He’s certanly not proven the “mind” is non-material has he?

  14. Re #12.

    If desires, ability to suffer, feelings for others don’t count as inherent meaning then perhaps you can give me an example of inherent meaning?

    Thanks

  15. William

    That isn’t inherent meaning. If there is no inherent meaning, then one ends up with moral equivalence and rational justification for anything one wishes to do.

    Could you tell me where you get this “inherent meaning” from please?

    I’ve always been interested to hear from people when they claim “universal morals” or meaning exist. What are they and where did they come from?

    It seems to me that no two religious people can agree on the “meaning” or what “morals” should be. It’s why there are so many religions and splinter groups.

    If there really was a “universal moral code” flowing from a deity why are there so many different versions of these so called “universal morals” then?

    People who claim that without a deity there can be no morals typically cannot agree on what those morals actually are. And it’s often the most religious (and so presumably more moral) people who fall the hardest.

    If life is just happenstance, animated matter, and consciousness is just the product of material processes, then what’s wrong with simply killing everyone who disagrees with you?

    Are you telling me that the only reason you don’t kill everyone who disagrees with you is fear of punishment after death?

    Really?

  16. This may spark things up:

    The Day I Died – A Closer Look At Near Death Experiences 4/6

    http://www.godtube.com/view_vi.....8ddfddddb4

    Miracle Of The Mind/Brain in Recovering from Hemispherectomy

    http://www.godtube.com/view_vi.....22500a3172

  17. >blockquote>Even if it is “just an illusion” if you can’t see how the illusion works does it really matter that it’s “just an illusion”.

    This rather comfortable question perhaps should be addressed to any of the several dozen million people who have had their lives systematically taken from them in the past century by people who didn’t have any reference beyond their illusion.

  18. 18

    Mark Frank writes: “You can believe that mind is result of the electro-chemical activity of the brain and also think that it is ontologically meaningful.”

    What an astonishing thing to say. Yes, you can believe mutually exclusive things simultaneously if you are mentally dexterous enough for the psychological gymnastics that requires. But your irrational subjective beliefs do not interest me.

    Do you have any arguments or evidence to support your views? If not, really, move along.

  19. There is no contradiction in supposing that consciousness is a key factor in ethics and also that it is the consequence of electro-chemical activity of the brain.

    Who would you save gets to determine the ethics?

  20. “Do you have any arguments or evidence to support your views? If not, really, move along.”

    Absolutely I have arguments.

    The first one is simply that the two statements are not logically contradictory. It is not like asserting that 2+2=5. So I might reasonably ask you why you find my statement astonishing. However, I will also provide my own reasons.

    To go further we need to agree on what we mean by “ontologically meaningful”. Given the context of your initial post I have interpreted it as “has a right to life”. If you mean something different by “ontologically meaningful” please say.

    Now we need to examine how certain entities gain the right to life. You no doubt relate it your religion, but I don’t – and remember this post is about being hypocritical, not about whether our world views are right or wrong. I, as a materialist, believe that the right to life is not an objective attribute from God but something that humans grant to each other and other animals because we respond to their similarity to our own position and our own very strong desire to live. We have an in-built desire to protect the life of other animals that are sufficiently similar to us (of course, this desire is often overcome by other more selfish desires – just like any other conflict of motives – and a few people lose or never have this desire and become psychopaths). For some materialists, such a Singer, “sufficiently similar” excludes any animal or human that is not conscious. The fact that this consciousness is the result of electrochemical processes does not change this desire.

    Singer may be wrong but he is not being hypocritical.

  21. 21

    Mark Frank continues to lead with his chin:

    “I, as a materialist, believe that the right to life is . . . something that humans grant to each other”

    The 20th Century was one long lesson in the folly of your formulation. Again, I am astonished that you do not grasp such a simple truth. Humans who believe that others have the right to live only because they have granted them that right also believe they have the power to revoke that grant for those whom they deem undesirable. This is what Mao and Stalin and Pol Pot and Hitler all believed. After all, “ya gotta crack a few eggs to make and omelet.” The Germans even had a phrase for it: “Life unworthy of life.”

    “We have an in-built desire to protect the life of other animals that are sufficiently similar to us”

    What utter drivel. The built in desire you posit did not keep Mao from slaughtering 60,000,000 Chinese. Were all 60 million insufficiently similar to Mao ya think?

    “For some materialists . . . “sufficiently similar” excludes . . .”

    Jews.

    You have gone from silly to scary. Your ethics are nothing short of despicable.

  22. 22

    Lest my last post be misunderstood, I am not suggesting that Mark would exclude Jews. I am stating there is nothing in the logic of his ethic to keep him from doing so if he chose.

  23. MikeKratch

    You write:

    “Could you describe where the ‘logic of your ethic’ comes from?”

    Ever heard of natural law?

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entr.....aw-ethics/

    As the article makes clear,

    “It is essential to the natural law position that there be some things that are universally and naturally good.”

    Unfortunately, reductionist “bottom-up” materialism, by dispensing with “top-down” teleology in its account of the world, leaves no room for the concept of a universal good. On the other hand, someone – and I include atheists here – who affirms the reality of teleology as a basic category can engage in meaningful moral discourse.

    By the way, I’m a vegetarian, because I don’t like to make animals suffer (I eat fish, however, as they are an important part of a good diet, and they do not feel pain – see http://www.nal.usda.gov/awic/p.....e/Rose.pdf ). I believe that animals (mammals and birds) are conscious but not self-conscious.

  24. 24

    MikeKratch, all of your efforts to redirect this thread into a discussion of the Old Testament and religious beliefs were a waste of time. They were deleted. If you want to discuss the topic of this post, by all means do so. If not, move along. If you continue to try to bring extraneous topics into the thread they (along with your privilege to post on this site) will be deleted as well.

  25. Barry,
    That’s fine. It’s your blog, you can do what you like.

    This is what Mao and Stalin and Pol Pot and Hitler all believed.

    However I would point out you first brought up the subject of how belief shapes behaviour. I simply pointed out things are perhaps not as simple or clear cut as you make out.

    The 20th Century was one long lesson in the folly of your formulation.

    What, in your opinon changed in the 20th century that was different to the 19 previous centurys then?

  26. I suggest that those who believe consciousness is purely physical read The Conscious Mind by David Chalmers. He is a materialist of sorts, but recognizes that minds cannot be reduced to physical matter. How can the experience of feeling pain or seeing blue possibly be described in terms of particles and energy?

    There is no possible way to describe to someone what “blue” is or looks like by describing the relevant physical processes (same goes for pain). This is why materialist philosophers like Dan Dennett deny that these experiences of pain or color are real; he is forced to discard them as illusions. In a conversation with my mother-in-law this somehow came up; her reply? Clearly he has never given birth.

  27. vjtorley

    On the other hand, someone – and I include atheists here – who affirms the reality of teleology as a basic category can engage in meaningful moral discourse.

    So normal atheists do not have morals then?

    Interesting…

  28. I’m not going to get into morals about meat and what “innate” value means. This term has, after all, been criticized as being as arbitrary as just saying “that which we like = x value”

    Or from the Vedas: That which pleases is Virtue; that which hinders the same is Vice.

    (We can all see around the corners how problems can arise from such definitional sloppiness).

    I shall not step there for now. That’s quicksand and molassas.

    But: Perhaps Mike and Mark would finally get the “point” of Barry’s pen if they understood the term “contradiction” in the context Barry meant. Despite Herculean efforts by Barry, they alas do not.
    The point here is not about death penalties allegedly shortselling our morals about life and death vs. the actions of Chairman Mao (the two are hardly comparable, the first is society’s response to evil actually ACKNOWLEDGING the value of life–the “inherent”, to use a phrase the Dynamica M Duo hates–and the latter is about the INITIATION of evil for some putative gain that has less to do with punishement than elitist marxian dialectics gone awry with the peasantry. So spare us.)

    Let’s try another tack. Someone once told me that Embryonic stem cells should be harvested for research and federally funded (although lackluster compared to the ADULT version of the same thing), as the moral issue is not relevent. Why not? They aren’t really human? How so? They are just clumps of cells that “merely” are communicating via electrochemical reactions at the blastocyst level.

    Hmm.

    Now then. How does the ADULT human brain operate?

    Well… um….clumps of cells that communicate….electrochemically.

    Who among us shall henceforth advocate live vivisection of human flesh for the advancement of science and making the spine-injured walk again?

    I thought not. I can’t know for certain–nor can anyone–what is the spark that separates consciousness from electrochemical interpretations of thought. Some say it is indeed all illusion. One of the M Crew above asked if this is meaningful. If consciousness is but pure illusion, in the first place you’d have a problem ascertaining what reality is and proving your own notions one way or another. Perhaps thinking that you are THINKING is but an adaptation to troubled moment? Second, we assume that science must move to explain things–not guess at them for all eternity as a coffee chatter jawbone excercise for fun.

    If consciousness is but mere illusion than it may have “meaning” only to the extent that a David Copperfield trick of apparant levitation does. Neato. But unreal and for most people unexplained.

    I’m guessing that science still holds the goal of explaining the unexplainable?

  29. Mike K,

    It is not that atheists cannot act morally. It is simply that within that worldview there is no ultimate law dictating good or evil; quite literally, anything goes. Whatever humans decide are “moral” becomes appropriate behavior. Clearly a “morality” that can be redefined whenever we like is very different from what is normally meant by the word.

    Again, it is not that atheists are necessarily immoral; rather they have no good reason to be.

  30. 30

    Mike asks: “What, in your opinon changed in the 20th century that was different to the 19 previous centurys then?”

    The prevalence of materialist ideology of course.

  31. I simply pointed out things are perhaps not as simple or clear cut as you make out.

    By making them insignificant?

  32. Edit:

    I should have said:

    Again, it is not that atheists are necessarily immoral; rather they have no good reason to act in any certain way.

  33. 33

    jlid means “they have no good reason not to be.”

  34. 34

    Our correcton posts crossed.

  35. The prevalence of materialist ideology of course.

    I see. Yet the vast majority of the population of, for example, the USA do not buy into materialist ideology.

    And yet there are terrible problems.

    So, there were no wars in the 19th century then? As materialist ideology had not yet become prevalent. Nor the 18th, 17th etc.

    It seems to me that terrible things have happened all the way through history and, if anything, more crimes against humanity were committed in the name of non-materialist ideology in previous centurys then not. Crusades, pogroms, purges, witch hunts etc etc etc.

    I take the opposite view. It is only in this century where we see things like the advent of sexual equality, racial equality and abolition of slavery. And yet these things happened, according to you, despite the prevalence of materialist ideology.

    Yes, there are lunatics like Pol Pot but you cannot say that those terrible things those lunatics did was driven by some sort of materialist ideology. Madmen need no excuses. And there were madmen a-plenty who murdered in the day and pray at night, in all centuries inclusing this one.

  36. jlid

    Again, it is not that atheists are necessarily immoral; rather they have no good reason to act in any certain way.

    And yet there are atheists that act in a moral way and theists that act in a immoral way.

    How do you explain that? If anything it’s more puzzling that theists act in immoral ways as they most certanly have a “good reason” to act in a moral way. The fear of eternal punishment would certanly make me behave in whatever way was proscribed, if I believe it.

  37. Mike it will be shown unto you if you but ask for it.

    Of course atheists can not have morals. Neither do anyone else. There is Good and there is Bad and we know where these things come from and we know reifying this any further is pointless.

    the propensity to do Good or Bad has been called “moral”. I say not. the propensity to do Bad is known to Christians by another name and there is an explanation. The propensity to do good?

    God is Love.

  38. 38

    MK: “Could you tell me where you get this “inherent meaning” from please?”

    WJM: Inherent meaning is designed into the message or phenomena; interpreted meaning is whatever a mind interprets. Here’s the difference: this post has inherent meaning. One might be able to make certain interpretations of it that vary from the orginal meaning slightly, but not too far from the inherent meaning (depending on how good I am at imbuing it with the meaning I desire)without something being wrong with the mind interpreting it.

    It requires an intelligent designer to imbue anything with inherent meaning, because it requires understanding the context, the medium, and something about the nature of those who observe the message. That doesn’t necessarily mean everyone gets the meaning.

    Now let’s take a randomly generated piece of art – throwing paint at a canvas blindfolded, and putting it up in a gallery, and asking each person what it means. The art itself has no inherent meaning, because it wasn’t designed with any meaning, or imbued with any message intended for any observer; the interpretations of the “meaning” of the abstract art only reflects the psychology of the individual observing it. Randomly generated messages – if you can call them that – have no inherent meaning.

    MK: “What are they and where did they come from?”

    WJM: They are messages or phenomena deliberately designed to mean something to the experiencer or obserer. Obviously, a designer. God, if you will.

    MK: It seems to me that no two religious people can agree on the “meaning” or what “morals” should be. It’s why there are so many religions and splinter groups.

    WJM: Just because scientists or doctors disagree on a conclusion or on a diagnosis, doesn’t mean that no conclusion or diagnosis is the correct one.

    MK: “If there really was a “universal moral code” flowing from a deity why are there so many different versions of these so called “universal morals” then?”

    WJM: Why do some people still believe the world is flat? Why do some people think they can fly? Why do some people think that there’s a worldwide conspiracy to turn them into slaves? Just because something has inherent meaning, doesn’t mean it is impossible for humans to misinterpret aspects of it, or tack on their own local, cultural additions and revisions.

    MK: “People who claim that without a deity there can be no morals typically cannot agree on what those morals actually are. And it’s often the most religious (and so presumably more moral) people who fall the hardest.”

    WJM: Whether or not various people misinterpret or fail at living up to an inherent meaning doesn’t change the argument that without inherent meaniing, there’s nothing to “misinterpret” or “fail to live up to”; anyone is free to “interpret” whatever they want from the chance abstract in front of them.

    MK: “Are you telling me that the only reason you don’t kill everyone who disagrees with you is fear of punishment after death?”

    I have no fear of punishment after death regardless of whatI choose to do. I don’t believe in that kind of god, or in that kind of afterlife. I do think there are many aspects of existence that have self-evident meaning and self-evident value, even if the mind of man is capable of altering, misinterpreting, and corrupting that meaning for it’s own ends.

  39. Sola,
    Sorry, I’m afraid I’m not interested in being witnessed to.

    Do you believe in enternal punishement (i.e. an eternity in boiling nasty substances) for “sins” committed in this life?

    If so, how do you explain the fact that some Christians do things that will subject them to this punishment?

  40. William

    Just because something has inherent meaning, doesn’t mean it is impossible for humans to misinterpret aspects of it, or tack on their own local, cultural additions and revisions.

    An interesting view of the world you have. These “misinterpretations” you mention have driven more human pain and misery then anything else that ever existed. So many people have died over “misinterpretations” that it’s unbelievable.

    The inherent meaning you mention must be so inconclusive, so vague and open to misinterpretation I suspect that there is no inherent meaning at all, it’s just the noise you are seeing. And as it’s just noise everybody sees what they want to see and no two people say the same thing.

    Just because scientists or doctors disagree on a conclusion or on a diagnosis, doesn’t mean that no conclusion or diagnosis is the correct one.

    The difference is that a correct diagnosis can save a persons life. There is no way to determine which interpretation of the inherent truth is the correct one. Conclusion: Inherent truth is an illusion.

    And, out of interest, where are these “inherent truths” documented? What reference or source are you talking about here? What is it that people are looking at and intrepreting in so many diverse ways?

    There are thousands of religions. Are you saying that only a single one is correct? Which one? The one you happen to follow? That would be something of a co-incidence.

  41. 41

    MK: “Yes, there are lunatics like Pol Pot but you cannot say that those terrible things those lunatics did was driven by some sort of materialist ideology. Madmen need no excuses. And there were madmen a-plenty who murdered in the day and pray at night, in all centuries inclusing this one.”

    WJM: There’s no such thing as madness, unless there is a standard of inherent “non-mad” behavior by which it can be objectively compared. The only reason Hitler and Pol Pot are recgonized as mad, is because of the ineherent, standard meanings of life and responsible, human behavior they violated.

    Further, without a prime-mover free will, they have violated nothing; they have simply done what aeons of physics and chance have produced. Without a prime-mover free will, free of material cause and effect, Hitler is nothing more than elm disease and pol pot is the moral equivalent of a forest fire.

    Without inherent meaning imbued by a designer and a spiritual free will consciousness that can make meaningful choices ungoverned by cause and effect, we are all simply chance manifestations of matter pretending that morals or ethics mean something or ultimately matter in order to motivate ourselves towards some goal, and if so, then we are free to imagine and interpret anything whatsoever because there is no inherent meaning whatsoever.

  42. Mike K,

    I was not trying to explain the reasons why people do what they do; we could forever ponder something like that. My point, simply, is that within atheism there can be no objective justification for certain behavior over other behavior. The most one can say is that it is “preferred” for some practical or psychological reason or another. The Christian, by contrast, believes in the existence of an eternal God whose very nature defines good and evil. The Christian has no say in the matter.

    If the Christian is right, there are objective moral values that we should take care to follow. If the atheist is right, it hardly matters (in any fundamental sense) because there is no such thing as good and evil. “Good” and “evil” become euphemisms for what we like or don’t like.

    Of course this does not mean that Christians therefore always act in accordance with proper moral values, but merely that if Christians are right then good and evil do in fact exist. If atheists are right then no one has any business claiming that certain acts are evil and others good. The most one can say is certain acts are more useful in certain situations. If you disagree, perhaps it is because somehow we all know that good and evil do in fact exist. This, however, is very surely an artifact of the Judaeo-Christian worldview. If we reject this worldview and accept materialism we must also give up condemning anything as evil.

  43. MikeK:

    The grand tally and combined total of all religious inspired killing in history as far as anyone can reliably account for probably does not top 100,000 persons, if you’re talking about organized religion. And even this might be exaggerated.

    Stalin could knock off this many Kulack before his morning cognac and cigars.

    Now granted part of this was the horrifying development of advanced weaponry, no doubt. But slave labor camps, Siberian outposts of frozen nothingness, and other low key killings never required such either.

    You mention the accompaning developement of “sexual freedoms”, the end of slavery, and other Western themes in the incremental advancement of human righs. Well, history is always a mixed bag.

    But then how are you defining the good? Are we back to the Vedas then? That which YOU find abhorrent—or what many people deem abhorrent—is vice? Always?

    Going to the dentist is incredibly annoying to me. But is dentistry immoral? Or are you detailing “rights” then? How do you define such?

    Sez who? And on what universal or culturally accepted basis? Thus for example many archeologists are loathe to critique the Aztecs for their bloodletting ceremonies atop stone pyramids to usher in good harvests. Cultural relativism is applied here but not for the Spanish Conquistadores whose quest for gold vanquished their bloody culture. Hmm.

    As to Pol Pot. Who says he was a madman? On what accepted basis?

    Being evil as hell is not the same thing as being crazy. One assumes you have some meausure of “the good”–no doubt pertaining to sexual innovations that others might find “depart” from the norm.
    How are these then justified for you?

    My point is not to draw out some definitive answer here. I can’t do that. Beyond my pay grade, as Barry the Prez Elect likes to say. But to demonstrate that in a materialist universe of action/reaction, if we’re consistent here, and guys like Stephen Pinker are correct, then there ultimately is not such beast as “right” or “wrong.”

    These are mere convenient, utilitarian social conventions that only have meaning for personal desires. This can be the only consistent materialist approach to morality. The human brain was built for SURVIVAL. It is at most a side mechanism evolved to house and maintain the life support system for sperm and egg delivers, which is REAL focus of all biology.

    Thus we are designed for survival long enough to make little copies. Reproduction, Mike, is not the same thing as “moral truth.”

    Ask yourself if planarian worms are “moral” beings.

  44. 44

    MK: “These “misinterpretations” you mention have driven more human pain and misery then anything else that ever existed.

    WJM: Oh, I think you’re being a bit overdramatic, and I think this hyperbole reveals a bias. There have been few purely religious wars; most wars were about power, population, resources, secular ideology, and economics, and I think all wars pale in comparison to disease or natural disaster when it comes to generating human suffering.

    MK: “So many people have died over “misinterpretations” that it’s unbelievable.”

    WJM: So what? I don’t see how this is relevant.

    Anyway, you’re being rather vague. Perhaps you could be more specific about what “misinterpretations” you’re talking about. We seem to have wandered far off the point of human consciousness having inherent meaning; i.e., a free will agent capable of making decisions in a context of messages and phenomena that have inherent meaning.

    MK: “The inherent meaning you mention must be so inconclusive, so vague and open to misinterpretation I suspect that there is no inherent meaning at all, it’s just the noise you are seeing. And as it’s just noise everybody sees what they want to see and no two people say the same thing.”

    WJM: Actually, most religions and spiritual beliefs do have some very basic, common messages, and point to some very basic, common meanings.

    However, even if they did not, and even if the meaning is vague and easily misinterpreted: so what? The point is, without inherent meaning as a standard, decisions, morality and ethics are trivial equivocations one can bend to any shape. Whether or not those inherent meanings are vague or highly interpretable is irrelevant.

    A book has inherent meaning; that many people come away with different interpretations doesn’t change that fact. You seem to be making an argument about a particular kind of god that “should” leave particular kinds of messages and meanings that “should” be easily understood in detail by everyone, regardless of what they’ve chosen to believe in and think.

    God isn’t required to live up to your epectations, nor are god’s messsages and meanings required to be utterly self-evident to everyone, regardless of whatever decisions they’ve made concerning how they think and what they believe. If a god exists, it isn’t required to be the god you’d prefer.

    You seem to want god to organize his meaningful messages and phenomena in a way that removes our free will capacity to ignore them or make up our own.

    MK: The difference is that a correct diagnosis can save a persons life. There is no way to determine which interpretation of the inherent truth is the correct one. Conclusion: Inherent truth is an illusion.

    WJM: If so, why should I believe your argument? You make your argument as if entities with free will capacity can evaluate the inherent truth of your argument, and then you state your conclusion as if it is an inherent truth.

    This is the fundamental point you don’t seem to get; all materialist arguments are ultimately self-refuting simply because they ultimately deny inherent meaning, self-evident truth and real free will,which invalidates every basis for making an argument and reaching a conclusion.

    MK: “And, out of interest, where are these “inherent truths” documented? What reference or source are you talking about here? What is it that people are looking at and intrepreting in so many diverse ways?”

    WJM: IMO, inherent meanings are designed into the relationship of the soul and it’s existential framework.

    MK: “There are thousands of religions. Are you saying that only a single one is correct?”

    MK: No. I’m not saying any of them are, in full or in part. I think there are likely large meaning themes that are generally apparent to most people, and more specific meanings that are written into the lives of individuals.

    Let’s look at it this way; let’s say god is a magnificent author, and it’s writing a book called the story of life on earth. Now, the writer imbues all the relationships, sequences, and contrivances of plot with meaning; it develops characterizations and events in designed consideration of it’s storyline. There will be overarching inherent meanings, subtext meanings, inherent characterizations, etc. It’s not all just random noise, but there can be many diverse meanings.

    That there are many meanings doesn’t change the point that they are inherent in the story. That some of them even contradict each other creates conflict in the story which – by design – manifests the overall inherent meaning of the story, even if one character cannot see it all from their perspective.

    MK: “The one you happen to follow? That would be something of a co-incidence.”

    WJM: I don’t belong to any religion or spiritual doctrine. I attempt to divine the inherent meanings of my personal life as best I can and “obey” their direction, because I’ve found they inevitably lead to a profoundly more satisfying, enjoyable, successful existence. When I play the role I was inherently meant to play, I find peace, joy, satisfaction, and contentment.

  45. Re #21

    Barry – I understood that you wanted to restrict this post to a discussion of hypocrisy. I am happy to talk about the details of materialist ethics, but I was trying to stick to the point, which is that there is no contradiction between this ethical standpoint (whatever you think of it) and considering consciousness to be an electrochemical process.

  46. Re #28

    Perhaps Mike and Mark would finally get the “point” of Barry’s pen if they understood the term “contradiction” in the context Barry meant. Despite Herculean efforts by Barry, they alas do not.

    In the initial post Barry wrote:

    “Is consciousness absolutely crucial, literally a matter of life and death, or is it the essentially meaningless byproduct of chance and necessity?”

    I wrote that I thought that was a false dichotomy. After that I cannot find any attempt by Barry to explain the contradiction. Only attacks on me personally and on my ethical standpoint. Where are the Herculean efforts to explain the contradiction?

    Someone once told me that Embryonic stem cells should be harvested for research and federally funded (although lackluster compared to the ADULT version of the same thing), as the moral issue is not relevent. Why not? They aren’t really human? How so? They are just clumps of cells that “merely” are communicating via electrochemical reactions at the blastocyst level.

    The difference is that adult cells, while still electrochemical, are combined in such a way that they are conscious – which is exactly where we came in :-)

  47. The difference is that adult cells, while still electrochemical, are combined in such a way that they are conscious – which is exactly where we came in

    Yes, I know you mentioned that you felt there was no contradiction.
    Not speaking for Barry, but I get the drift that he was pointing out that chemicals are just that: Chemicals. With all their relations of whatever type–in whatever combination, formulation, or pattern. So consciousness is the result of all this? No matter how complex or whatever the resultant “emergent” property, how do we cross then that chasm of the “is” to the “ought”?

    If consciousness is the byproduct of these combinations, or illusion, or just a jumble of chemicals, why should it contain any more meaning than the fact that this computer screen has the appearance of solidity but is just a stream of photons hitting my eye? Where does meaning come in? How so? Via suffering? Fish suffer too? Are you pitching for veganism? I’m not trying to be cute here, but just to point out that matter is just matter. Pain is the reflection that something might be wrong physically, yes, but to say it has some inherent “meaning” is to try and move into the metaphysical, and not the physical. Or not JUST the physical.

    _______________________

    As far as the Herculean efforts, what I was referring to mostly was Barry’s effort to get you two back on track, rather than a drift to the Hinterlands of ethical input that in turn ventured into other areas which ended up being a precis on rights and animal meat.

    Though to be sure Mike did more of this.

    “is it fear that drives you?” kinda comments from him, kinda like “fear is the mind killer” is really offbeat. So Dune it is.

    Though I think the first one was said by Megatron in Transformers :)

  48. William,

    Without inherent meaning imbued by a designer and a spiritual free will consciousness that can make meaningful choices ungoverned by cause and effect, we are all simply chance manifestations of matter pretending that morals or ethics mean something or ultimately matter in order to motivate ourselves towards some goal, and if so, then we are free to imagine and interpret anything whatsoever because there is no inherent meaning whatsoever.

    And yet those terrible things happened anyway. You claim that “inherent meaning has been imbued by a designer” and yet this meaning is so unclear that it can be easily ignored or discarded. You “pretend” that your morals matter because you believe that they were defined by “a designer” but you don’t actually have any evidence. So sure, both sides might be “pretending” but only one realises it.

    Sure, you might then say the reason theists do bad things is because we have freedom of choice also given to us by “the designer”. Yet “the designer” could quite simply make sure everybody did the right thing every time without restricting free will just by providing an unambigious clear message.

    Thus we are designed for survival long enough to make little copies. Reproduction, Mike, is not the same thing as “moral truth.”

    You are almost there…

    jlid

    If the Christian is right, there are objective moral values that we should take care to follow.

    So, in your world only Christians can behave in a moral way? I’ve got news for you, there are billions of non-christian theists out in the world and the vast majority behave in ways you would no doubt agree are moral. So what does Christinanity have to do with anything?

    What are these “christian moral values” please? Can you provide a list?

    S Wakefield

    The grand tally and combined total of all religious inspired killing in history as far as anyone can reliably account for probably does not top 100,000 persons, if you’re talking about organized religion. And even this might be exaggerated

    Evidence for this please? Citations?

    Thus for example many archeologists are loathe to critique the Aztecs for their bloodletting ceremonies atop stone pyramids to usher in good harvests.

    Why did the “inherent moralty” fail here? If you think that their bloodletting was immoral why do you supposed it happened? Presumably as morality is inherent they had to make a decision to ignore that? And so by definition their behaviour was immoral? Why do you suppose they ignored the “inherent morality” and went their own way?

    Is it because the “good news” had not yet reached them and so they had no option but to behave in a immoral way?

    Whether or not those inherent meanings are vague or highly interpretable is irrelevant.

    Not at all, it’s the heart of hte matter. You can watch white noise static all day and start to see shapes and patterns that might not really be there. Does that mean that in fact those shapes are really there?

    If people claim there is such a thing “inherent meanings” but then go on to claim “oh, I can’t actually tell you what they are or explain why everybody thinks they are different” I’m inclined to believe they are not there at all. After all, if they were there in a way that was more signal then noise would humanity over time converge on them? Quite the opposite appears to be happening.

    I attempt to divine the inherent meanings of my personal life as best I can and “obey” their direction, because I’ve found they inevitably lead to a profoundly more satisfying, enjoyable, successful existence.

    Everybody does. And here we are. Everybody “obeys” in a different way. The only difference between us is that you think that everybody has the same internal “compass” that’s been inserted by some external force.

  49. 49

    One of the most fundamental, self-evident meanings in the universe is that A cannot be both A, and not-A. Conciousness being simply another physical characteristic – like hair, or the ability to breath in water, or equillibrium – or, consciousness being something uniquely special that we should make life and death decisions in regards to, offer a clear A or not-A truth.

    Consciousness is either inherently unique and of great importance, OR it is just another physical feature that just happened to develop, with no intrinsic value greater than hair color or a sense of balance.

    If one is just going to arbitrarily pick consciousness as a grounding point for morality and ethics, then one can as easily, and as meaningfully, pick skin color, size, ideology or reigion as the linchpin of morality and ethics.

  50. One of the most fundamental, self-evident meanings in the universe is that A cannot be both A, and not-A.

    And you get to morals from this how exactly?

    Consciousness is either inherently unique and of great importance, OR it is just another physical feature that just happened to develop, with no intrinsic value greater than hair color or a sense of balance.

    And yet there appears to be no way to tell the difference between these two postions. If it was of crucial importance don’t you find that odd?

    If one is just going to arbitrarily pick consciousness as a grounding point for morality and ethics, then one can as easily, and as meaningfully, pick skin color, size, ideology or reigion as the linchpin of morality and ethics.

    I don’t quite understand your point there. And, religion, ideology, skin color have all been used in the past to seperate the “moral” from the “immoral” or more exactly the “worthy” from the “unworthy”.

    So yes, it has been the case that one can as easily, and as meaningfully pick any of those items as the linchpin of morality and ethics. History shows that unambigiuosly.

  51. Re #47

    As far as the Herculean efforts, what I was referring to mostly was Barry’s effort to get you two back on track, rather than a drift to the Hinterlands of ethical input that in turn ventured into other areas which ended up being a precis on rights and animal meat.

    Though to be sure Mike did more of this.

    Can you point to a single place where I did this (excluding this current discussion about the conduct of thread itself)?

    If you can be bothered, why not do a little research? Look through the various comments on this thread and see who stuck to the subject: the potential conflict between a materialist view of consciousness and regarding consciousness as the key to having a right to life and who got sidelined into debating whether either of these views were true.

    Your honest answer would be interesting.

    Thanks

  52. 52

    MK: “And you get to morals from this how exactly?”

    WJM: I didn’t claim to get morals from it; I said it’s one of the most fundamental, self-evident meanings without which there is no chance of rational discourse. Without a basis for rational discourse and other self-evident meanings, there is no chance of understanding any moral system other than simply asserting one and attempting to enforce it.

    I guess this is what you’re actually arguing, and correct me if I’m wrong; materialists can take consciousness and arbitrarily assign it whatever meaning and value they wish, and that this is the functional equivalent of believing that consciousness has inherent meaning.

    MK: “And yet there appears to be no way to tell the difference between these two postions. If it was of crucial importance don’t you find that odd?”

    WJM: I think there is a very real and relatively easy way to tell meaningful differences between arbitrarily assigned meaning and inherent meaning; adhering to inherent meanings (such as the principle of non-contradiction, the existence of the I, free will, etc.) builds things successfully, like a system of logic and science, successful societies based on inherency values (like freedom and equality); a legal and economic system based on personal responsibility, a rational debate and discussion, a reputaton that makes sense in context with inherent human values like honor and trustworthiness, etc. Without such fundamental acquiescence to inherent rules and meanings, it would be virtually impossible to build anything beyond whatever any group could agree to, for whatever duration of time the felt such an agreement convenient to their personal desires.

    Whether or not there is a “way to tell” is irrelevant; if you choose to believe there is no inherent meaning, then you’ve annihilated any further argument or conclusion based on reason or logic, because you’ve also dismissed the principle of non-contradiction as an inherent, meaningful truth.

    MK: I don’t quite understand your point there. And, religion, ideology, skin color have all been used in the past to seperate the “moral” from the “immoral” or more exactly the “worthy” from the “unworthy”.

    Yes, they have, and that’s my point. Without inherent meaning and truths, one is free to pick anything they wish to be the basis of their code of ethics and morality. In other words, one has no basis for claiming any materialist agenda is moral, or ethical, other than simply attaching words to arbitrary laws or rules and enforcing them.

    MK: So yes, it has been the case that one can as easily, and as meaningfully pick any of those items as the linchpin of morality and ethics. History shows that unambigiuosly.

    WJM: The difference between our arguments is that your argument authorizes such arbitrary and historically despicable moral systems as the ontological equal of any other, while mine refers to an inherent standard by which those awful systems are properly judged as wrong, or “evil”.

    If you inherently find a moral system based on class, wealth, or skin color to be wrong, how do you justify it as wrong? What is the standard by which they are measured, if not some ontologically-meaningful moral code, even if it might be ill-defined and easily misinterpreted?

    Your apparent outrage at the misery caused by religion is based on what? It’s presumed ontological equivalence to any other system? I don’t think so. Your outrage, it seems to me, is based on accessing a standard you hold to be inherent, but you refuse to admit it since it conflicts with your intellectual position.

  53. Gol, such huffing and puffing from our Brites and so little proof!

    Let’s begin with reductionism. No “proof” has ever been given that any given idea is a purely chemical phenomenon. Climb off your high horse for a moment, dear Quixotes, and think about what such a proof would entail. You can posit some sort of ill-defined connection between chemical and idea, but no one can see it. No instrument can measure it. And please, don’t weary us with saber-rattling about “regions of the brain.” That’s like trying to pinpoint a building in Boise by chanting “Idaho.”

    Moreover, showing such a connection would be mere child’s play compared with the daunting task of factoring the “I” into the equation. The stubborn fact—fatal in itself to the type of proof for which materialists are pining—is that every given idea is subjective. Different people have different ideas, even when that idea is identified colloquially as the same thing; e.g., “table.” Hence you would not only have to prove that there is a direct link between chemical and idea, but you would also have to demonstrate that the chemistry is flexible enough to account for the known fact of subjectivity.

    And speaking of proof, where is the proof for the ambitious claim that materialists are capable of constructing morality without God? Remember, we are talking about proof here, not to be confused with bald assertion. The fact that a given atheist can come to the conclusion that murder is wrong without reading the Bible does not mean that this conclusion can be reached without God. These are two separate issues; surely our materialists are not so unsophisticated as to conflate them.

    If you are claiming, like the evolutionary psychologists, that morality is hard wired by evolution, then show us the wiring. Show us the actual coding, refined in the fire of natural selection, underlying the judgment “thou shalt not kill.” We love your just-so stories—hugely entertaining, in the vein of “modern art”—but the time has come to progress from pleasant Sunday school dawdling to confirmation. Where is the physical proof?

    If, on the other hand, your argument is ontological, then you need to do a good deal more work than has been done so far by any proponent of materialism. Lacking any direct physical proof to indicate otherwise, the default position is that moral judgments reflect the existence of a logos in being. Note, this has nothing to do with whether you read the Bible or not. Disentangling oneself from this possibility requires a precise, well-developed methodology, not merely self-indulgent assertions.

    Materialism makes many claims and is incapable of proving any of them—which is strange, if being really is made of matter. Is this “hypocrisy”? Maybe not. But it is certainly hubris.

  54. MikeKratch wrote:

    Sure, you might then say the reason theists do bad things is because we have freedom of choice also given to us by “the designer”. Yet “the designer” could quite simply make sure everybody did the right thing every time without restricting free will just by providing an unambigious clear message.

    Nope.

    A clear message in most countries’ laws is “don’t murder other people”. Murder still happens in these countries. This is true of every single crime.

    If the en vogue Darwinian theory regarding human “goodness” was true, we would not need legal systems.

    To paraphrase James Madison, if men were angels, no laws would be necessary.

    Are atheists “good” only because they fear punishment from the legal system they live under? Since they feel this type of question is compelling enough to use against Christians concerning divine punishment, perhaps it is a form of psychological projection on their part.

    On topic, though, the charge of hypocrisy stems from the self-contradictary beliefs about a non-material thing existing only when convenient. If we use the word “ghost” instead of “consciousness” in examples, we can more easily understand the hypocrisy.

    Peter Singer says we can kill babies because they don’t have as many ghosts as toddlers or adults do. This is true, so we can kill babies. And there’s no such thing as ghosts, since ghosts are hallucinations of our electromechanical meat-computers. This is also true, so we can denounce ghost-believers (other than Peter Singer, of course).

  55. Mike K wrote:

    So, in your world only Christians can behave in a moral way? I’ve got news for you, there are billions of non-christian theists out in the world and the vast majority behave in ways you would no doubt agree are moral. So what does Christinanity have to do with anything?

    Reply:

    I am trying to be patient, but please take a second to think about what I wrote. As I mentioned: I am not trying to explain why people behave certain ways. I am not claiming only Christians can perform good acts. This is a discussion about worldviews and whether or not on objective ethics is possible. If Christianity is true, then the words “good” and “evil” are ontologically meaningful. If atheism is true, “good” and “evil” can only be euphemisms for what we prefer or don’t prefer.

    Can you please explain how an atheist can be justified in declaring something to be evil? What does evil mean in this context other than he or she dislikes it?

  56. angryoldfatman #54

    Thank you for making a comment which is on topic.

    On topic, though, the charge of hypocrisy stems from the self-contradictary beliefs about a non-material thing existing only when convenient. If we use the word “ghost” instead of “consciousness” in examples, we can more easily understand the hypocrisy.

    Peter Singer says we can kill babies because they don’t have as many ghosts as toddlers or adults do. This is true, so we can kill babies. And there’s no such thing as ghosts, since ghosts are hallucinations of our electromechanical meat-computers. This is also true, so we can denounce ghost-believers (other than Peter Singer, of course).

    As an aside – you somewhat overstate Peter Singer’s position. He believes it is wrong to kill babies. He just thinks that taking an adult’s life is even worse than taking a very young baby’s life.

    However, that is not the main point. Singer says babies have less consciousness than adults and this is the reason they have less right to life – to put it starkly. This does not in any way entail that consciousness is anything other than an electrochemical result. By using the word “ghosts” you distort his position. Try substituting just X where X is an undefined attribute.

    Then you get this modified and more concise version:

    Peter Singer says babies have less right to life because they don’t have as much X as toddlers or adults do. X is a consequence of our electromechanical meat-computers and increases as those computers grow.

    Now you may disagree but there is no contradiction or hypocrisy in that summary.

  57. 57

    MK: “And yet those terrible things happened anyway. You claim that “inherent meaning has been imbued by a designer” and yet this meaning is so unclear that it can be easily ignored or discarded.”

    WJM: So? I can write an advice book on all sorts of things. I could have the greatest advice ever in it. It has inherent meaning. Others can competely misinterpret it or discard it. What’s your point?

    MK: “You “pretend” that your morals matter…”

    WJM: Actually, I think you’re pretending that they do not, when in fact you live and operate by virtually the same set that I do, and you live as if they matter. The difference between your position and mine? I believe they matter, and you act as if they do, while intellectually arguing that they do not.

    MK: … because you believe that they were defined by “a designer” but you don’t actually have any evidence.

    WJM: Of course I have evidence. I have all kinds of evidence, empirical, scientific, testimonial, anecdotal. Where do you get off telling me what evidence I do, or do not have? You’re expressing your own ideological assumptions here.

    MK: So sure, both sides might be “pretending” but only one realises it.

    WJM: The only one of us that is “pretending” is you. The strange part is, you claim you’re pretending, but I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that you could no more go strangle a baby or beat up an elderly woman for her purse than any of us “non-pretenders” could – which you could do, were you only “pretending” that such meanings and morals were inherent.

    MK: Sure, you might then say the reason theists do bad things is because we have freedom of choice also given to us by “the designer”. Yet “the designer” could quite simply make sure everybody did the right thing every time without restricting free will just by providing an unambigious clear message.

    WJM: Irrelevant to the point that if no such inherent meaning exists, this entire conversation is as meaningful as the rustle of leaves answering the wind. You can pretend that no such meaning exists if you wish, but again, I’ll bet you will still behave, and act, and argue, and operate your life as if such inherent meaning and value exist.

    I mean, you’re doing it right now; you’re arguing for something you believe to be an inherent truth about our existence, that it is materialistic, and that the fact that it is materialistic means something. If you REALLY didn’t believe in inherent truths and meaning … you wouldn’t be here arguing in favor of one – even a materialistic one.

  58. #51

    Mark:

    Not sure why this would be interesting, as you claim,but you’re right. You didn’t drift off into animals rights and the killing of the Amelekites unless there’s a post I’m not aware of.

    My bad. I confused ya there for a moment with the other Mteam member.

    However, just as bad on YOUR part, you simply went in circles. There is no contradiction, you say, because even though one set of of flowing energy in relation to cellular action is superior to another set of the same.

    If “consciousnes” is your line of demarcation, then why? (and those in a coma have no rights at that, and people who’re asleep, while certainly experiencing brain interaction and imagery, have no real “conscience” in the full measning of the word either).

    If it is either illusion at worst or explainable by mechanistic forces, we’re not getting into the value of it. Or the value attribution is completely arbitrary.

    From 56#

    Here’s a more recent example:

    However, that is not the main point. Singer says babies have less consciousness than adults and this is the reason they have less right to life – to put it starkly. This does not in any way entail that consciousness is anything other than an electrochemical result. By using the word “ghosts” you distort his position. Try substituting just X where X is an undefined attribute.

    HUH?

    We’ve not even crossed the “is” “ought” chasm of what the conscious mind actually is and means–and Singer makes this distinction? Why?

    Blastocysts–arguable. OK.

    But babies are just small humans.

    To say they have a lesser complement of experience is true. But this is not the same as “lesser” consciousness. The full complement of cells and their electric potential is already there.
    In fact it has both more electrical potential and social potential than most of our old folks over 65. Just less experience in life matters.

    Are our seniors therefore less valuable for have less brain cell potentiality now that they are old?

    Try that one on the AARP.

    Now conversly, to say babies are less valuable or more disposal due to less traffic in the mind is like, well, saying that a brand new BMW is less valuable than the worn out junk I see sitting in some people’s driveways due to the newer ones not having bald tires and as much road experience.

    (I taken as given, however, that people don’t think of most material resources in such a cavalier manner).

    Only Singer could.

    We peasants don’t have this luxury.

  59. Mark Frank
    ==========

    In my last post, I left unaddressed the following question: “If it is not consciousness that gives us a right to life, then what does?”

    Here, then, is my answer. To a 21st century materialist, my answer might seem utterly topsy-turvy. For I have argued elsewhere that our capacity for reasoning, by virtue of which we have basic human rights (such as the right to life) is a NON-BODILY capacity. Nevertheless, I also maintain that the criteria whereby one ascertains that someone actually possesses this capacity for reasoning are all physical and empirical. None of the criteria involve airy-fairy concepts like possessing “consciousness.” This means that even if you’re a materialist and you don’t happen to agree with me that reasoning is a non-bodily activity, you might still agree with my list of necessary and sufficient requirements for possessing basic human rights.

    OK. Here goes. Any entity satisfying all of the following four requirements is a human being with a right to life:

    (1) The entity’s developmental end-point is a human adult. (Chimps obviously fail this condition.) This characteristic is empirically verifiable, simply from inspecting the entity’s DNA. Why is this requirement necessary? Well, anything that’s not even on its way to becoming a rational human being (roughly, a human adult) can hardly be entitled to HUMAN rights as such. If it’s Martian, it may have rights as a Martian, and for all I know some other animals might also possess a right to life, but that’s another matter; I’m merely addressing the question of which beings are entitled to basic HUMAN rights, including the right to life;

    (2) A complete set of genetic instructions – i.e. a program – for building a human being. Without a developmental program, the entity is not even a human-in-the-making, let alone a human being;

    (3) A biological embodiment for those instructions: in other words, the entity is an organism. This is important: I could put all the instructions for making a human being on a CD, but that certainly wouldn’t make it a person. In fact, it wouldn’t even be alive;

    (4) The developmental program in for building a human being has to be in run mode – i.e. the epigenetic switches are fully activated. Here, I agree with Singer that a potential for becoming a human person does not endow an entity with the rights of a person. If it did, then every skin cell which my body sheds would be a human person.

    I’ve briefly argued for why I believe the four requirements listed above are NECESSARY for having basic human rights (especially a right to life), but that doesn’t prove they’re SUFFICIENT. Before I answer this question, however, I’d like to address the question of which entities actually meet these criteria. In short: zygotes, embryos and fetuses do, as well as children who have already been born. Ova and sperm cells don’t.

    Let’s start with a zygote. A zygote possesses the following combination of characteristics:

    (1) A human telos. It’s a developing entity, and the biological end-point of its development is a human adult. We can say the same of a fetus, a baby and a child. Could we say the same of an unfertilized ovum? Well, yes, if it’s about to be fertilized, we might.

    (2) A complete set of genetic instructions – i.e. a program – for building a human being. Note that all of the instructions are internal to the zygote. During pregnancy, the mother gives the embryo/fetus nutrition, warmth and love, but the one thing she does NOT give the embryo/fetus is information on how to develop. It already has all of that information. An ovum flunks out here; it only has half the instructions. Ditto for a sperm cell.

    (3) A biological embodiment for those instructions: obviously, it’s an organism. An ovum and a sperm cell satisfy this condition too. A cyborg does not.

    (4) Fully activated epigenetic switches, which mean that the program for building a human body is in run mode. This disposes of the standard objection, “Every cell in my body has human DNA, so why isn’t it a person too?” The answer is that in skin cells, and other body cells, most of the epigenetic switches are turned OFF, which is why skin cells can only turn into skin cells.

    Note that all of the foregoing characteristics are ACTUAL characteristics, rather than potential ones. “What about the first one?” I hear you object. No problem there. The question is simply: what is the organism’s developmental end-point? We can know the answer to that question by looking at an organism’s DNA, long before it matures.

    So much for the old canard that the pro-life case is built on the potential qualities of the embryo. It is clearly not. Note too that there’s nothing about an immaterial soul in these conditions, either.

    Now, I will acknowledge that Singer has a valid point about personhood: rights are only exercised when we make choices, which is something that only a self-aware entity can do. My first point is that that a living organism which has a built-in and fully switched-on program whose terminus or end-point is a mature, self-aware adult, is the same entity as the adult it becomes: it has not only MATERIAL continuity (same body), but also continuity of FORM (same program), continuity of PROCESS (it’s been running the whole time) and TELOS (same developmental goal).

    My second point is that during the course of its development, nothing is ADDED to this entity that would enhance its value. As it develops, certain features (e.g. complex brain function) may emerge, but they are not added from outside. The instructions for building these features all came from WITHIN, and what’s more, these instructions were fully SWITCHED ON from the beginning (conception). All that was needed was time for them to run, and a supportive environment, which however adds NO NEW INFORMATION.

    Now let V be the value of a mature adult. We have determined that the value ADDED to the embryonic organism from which it develops is zero. Thus the value of this organism must be V – 0, which equals V. Thus an embryo must matter as much as the human adult it becomes. But anything that matters as much as a human person, IS a person. Therefore, an embryo is a human person.

    Common Objections.
    1. The twinning argument: zygotes sometimes split in two. Big deal. All that means is that humans have two modes of reproduction – sexual and asexual – and that the parents of identical twins are really their grand-parents (their parent – the zygote from which they both developed – having died). What’s the metaphysical problem here? There isn’t one. Nature has killed the parent, but sadly, nature kills children all the time – that’s just the old problem of evil. Bad things happen.

    2. The cloning argument. Mad scientist X clones a baby. When does its life begin? Even a clone cannot develop unless the donor’s nuclear DNA is inserted into a (denucleated) human ovum, whose development then has to be artificially triggered (e.g. by an electric shock). My response: if the trigger turns all the epigenetic switches on, so that the human development program is in run-mode, then that’s when the baby’s life begins.

    3. Deformed human embryos. What about an embryo whose DNA is so damaged that it will never develop into a self-aware adult? Is it a human person? Yes. To illustrate this, consider a thought experiment. A scientist from the 22nd century travels back in time and repairs the genetic defect of a deformed embryo, enabling it to develop properly. Has the scientist added anything of value? I would say not, any more than someone repairing a crack in the “Mona Lisa” adds value to it as a work of art by restoring it to its original condition. (The deformed embryo may never have been in such a condition, but that is the condition that it should have been in, from a “programming” perspective.) There is a difference between adding or creating new information and restoring damaged information. The former adds value; the latter does not.

    Thus if a scientist from the 23rd century were to come back and tinker with the genes of a chimpanzee embryo, so that it developed a brain like ours, he/she would have thereby altered its value and created a new kind of entity, which would acquire a right to life only when it acquired the genes for developing a human brain.

    4. The hydatiform mole argument (a reductio ad absurdum) – these non-viable embryonic growths seem to meet conditions (1) to (4), so are they human beings too? My answer: probably not. With complete moles, all the genes come from the father, so the full set of instructions for developing into a human being is never present (in other words, condition (2) is not met). Partial moles, on the other hand, do have maternal as well as paternal genes (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydatidiform_mole ). The question would then be: are the epigenetic switches fully activated? (Condition (4).) I would guess not; if they were, I’d be prepared to entertain the possibility that some moles are severely deformed human beings.

    5. A few people are chimeras: their bodies have two or more different populations of genetically distinct cells that originated in different zygotes. Chimeras may be formed from four parent cells (two fertilized eggs or early embryos fuse together) or from three parent cells (a fertilized egg is fused with an unfertilized egg or a fertilized egg is fused with an extra sperm). If chimeras are people, then why aren’t moles?

    My response: obviously these individuals have all the instructions they need to develop (or they wouldn’t be alive); and luckily for them, the fusion event in their development did not turn their switches off, so they clearly meet all four conditions. Individuals resulting from the fusion of two zygotes are new entities, whose immediate parents (the zygotes from which they formed) are now dead: two developmental programs merged and formed a new third program, which happened to be viable.

    6. The mortality argument – embryos die in large numbers, prior to implantation. True, but so did children until 200 years ago. What does that prove?

    As I said, regardless of whether you believe in a soul, the pro-life position on human rights makes a lot more sense than the “sentientist” position that we acquire rights when we start feeling pain, or even later, when we become self-conscious. Those positions are fraught with ethical peril: they destroy human equality and harden our hearts to such a degree that we fail to recognize babies as people.

    Finally, anyone interested in reading articles by doctors and philosophers in defence of the pro-life position might like to peruse the following:

    “Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research: What’s Wrong With It?” by Professor David Oderberg at http://www.rdg.ac.uk/AcaDepts/.....search.pdf .

    “Life: Defining the Beginning by the End” by Professor Maureen Condic at http://www.firstthings.com/art.....rticle=485 .

    “What We Know About Embryonic Stem Cells” by Professor Maureen Condic at http://www.firstthings.com/art.....ticle=5420 .

    “When Do Human Beings Begin? ‘Scientific’ Myths and Scientific Facts” – by Dr. Dianne N. Irving, M.A., Ph.D. at http://www.l4l.org/library/mythfact.html .

  60. #59–vjtorley

    Thanks for the interesting post.

    Some of your links are broken.

    Thanks!

    –SWT

  61. Mark Frank @ #56

    As an aside – you somewhat overstate Peter Singer’s position. He believes it is wrong to kill babies. He just thinks that taking an adult’s life is even worse than taking a very young baby’s life.

    I don’t know where you get your information from.

    If his writing is any indication of his belief, he has no problem with babies (or toddlers, or adults) being killed, provided of course they are disabled enough.

    There is, conveniently, a German term for that. Nice of those fellows to sum up all of Singer’s blatherings into a couple of words… even before Singer was born.

    Then you get this modified and more concise version:

    Peter Singer says babies have less right to life because they don’t have as much X as toddlers or adults do. X is a consequence of our electromechanical meat-computers and increases as those computers grow.

    Now you may disagree but there is no contradiction or hypocrisy in that summary.

    It is contradictory and/or hypocritical, unless you happen to believe in something silly like qualia. Dennett and Dawkins don’t believe in such silliness, why should you?

  62. Re #61

    It is contradictory and/or hypocritical, unless you happen to believe in something silly like qualia. Dennett and Dawkins don’t believe in such silliness, why should you?

    I am sorry. I cannot see where the contradiction lies. The two sentences:

    (A) Peter Singer says babies have less right to life because they don’t have as much X as toddlers or adults do.

    and

    (B) X is a consequence of our electromechanical meat-computers and increases as those computers grow.

    Are logically compatible. So there has to be some additional reason why they are contradictory.

    I am afraid I am also unable to see what qualia have got to do with it. Although I agree it is a very dubious concept invented by philosophers for philosophers.

  63. “Fear is the mind killer.”

    Claptrap. As fear can only be a product of mind/brain, material or otherwise.

    Thus continuing the material apologist’s confusion about mind/brain problems.

    The question of “how do you feel” only further degrades the conversation into nihilism, and subjectivity.

  64. Mark Frank and MikeKratch:

    We have discussed in great detail, and I have personally posted many times, about the problems of strong AI as a scientific theory. I don’t want to repeat it all here.

    Just a brief thought about the relationship between a non materialist theory of consciousness and moral problems.

    It’s very simple. Strong AI, and all purely materialist theories of consciousness, believe that consciousness is a product of the physical processes in the brain. In my opinion, that is no explanation of the subjective nature of consciousness, never has been, and never will.

    But OK, let’s play your game, and say that consciousness “is” a product of the physical processes in the brain. Some materialists will arrive to the extreme of denying that consciousness really exists, saying it is just an “illusion”. Probably you are not in that group.

    So, let’s say that you agree that consciousness is something, that it is precious and important just the same, even if it arises from naterial deterministic (or, at quantum level, random) processes. That’s your point, I believe.

    Well, let’s concede all that, for the moment. But what about free will? A materialistic theory can admit a real consciousness, but how can it admit a “real” free will? In other words, one that has real meaning, and is not only an illusion?

    And how can you argue for a “real” (not illusory) moral context, if there is no free will? Even Dawkins uses to be evasive when asked that question.

    So, to sum up: you are a materialist and a supporter of a materialist theory of consciousness, like strong AI. You can choose between two:

    a) Both consciousness and free will are subjective illusions. And then, Barry’s observations are perfectly valid.

    b) Consciousness has some objective reality, although as a product of the brain, and it is precious just the same, and so on. But free will does not really exist as an objective property. It is just a subjective illusion, created by necessary, or random, processes. Then, Barry’s point remain valid at least for the moral field.

    Or, as a last alternative, you may try to begin to explain how necessary or random processes can give birth to objective free will. Woe shall we call that? Strong Artificial Free Will Theory?

  65. So one materialist (or devil’s advocate) glories over the equality that has developed over the 20th century, and then another defends Singer on his distribution of rights by inequality, suggesting that there is at least a more reasonable case for assigning an inequality of rights.

    Mike also evokes the question “would your life become any less meaningful?” When that worldview is closer to what Hitler describes in Mein Kampf than my own worldview, and he found ample meaning in the idea of exterminating people he thought of as the enemies of Nature. In a rather nihilistic tilt, he wrote in Chapter 6 of MK:

    [humanitarianism or aesthetics] do not float about in the ether, they arise from man’s imagination and are bound up with man. When he departs from this world, these concepts are again dissolved into nothingness, for Nature does not know them.

    He basically attributes them as great works of the the great civilizations, like the German nation. And because these are the product of the great societies, when one great society is under attack for existence, it is proper for it to set them aside.

    So with “knowing” that things don’t hang in the ether, and that these principles were made out the imaginations of men, he still found meaning for his life. If he can, we can too–but that wasn’t your point was it?

  66. gpuccio #64

    First I want to say that I think you are the best contributor on the ID side that I have read over the last few weeks. I disagree with you; but your comments are comprehensible, logical, polite, to the point, and as concise as they reasonably can be. I understand that English is not your native language and this makes it even more impressive.

    Now to respond :-)

    Are you not aware that there is a very respectable school of thought that free will and determinism are compatible? Daniel Dennett is a leading exponent. If you are a compatabilist then I think there is no problem combining free will with a materialist theory of mind. I don’t know Peter Singer’s views on free will but I suspect he may also be a compatabilist.

    If you want to know more about compatabilism then, as usual, the Stanford Encyclopedia is a good place to start.

  67. Mark Frank:

    thank you for the kind words, they are certainly appreciated. I really love confrontation with people who think differently, when they are sincerely interested in a fair discussion. The purpose is never to convince anyone, but to understand and compare each other’s view as well as possible, so that anybody may decide for himself what to think.

    Thank you for your link about compatibilism. I will read it carefully, and give you feedback as soon as possible. It is obviously a philosophical position, but I hope it can give us hints for further discussion about the scientific models of consciousness, which I think is more the point here.

  68. Mark Frank:

    I have read the Stanford page about compatibilism (indeed, most of it; I stopped after the Dennett part, believing I had enough of it). And, as promised, here are my personal thoughts.

    First of all, it would be useful to know if you are a compatibilist, and if you are a Dennett type compatibilist. That would make the discussion easier.

    For now, I will assume that you are, and reason consequently.

    For those who are reading this discussion, I will sum up briefly the premises: compatibilism is a generic name given to philosophical positions arguing that determinism and free will are in some way compatible.

    I will not speak of historical compatibilism (Hobbes), because it really seems useless in our context. The Stanford summary then relates about three important contributions in the sixties, one against compatibilism (Ginet), and two in favor of it (Frankfurt, Strawson). Then it gives a review of modern compatibilist positions, including Dennett’s.

    Well, I am not a philosopher (luckily), and I will not go into the details (the link is there for all who want to know them). I will just do two things: I will give my own perspective on the problem, and then quote some of Dennett’s positions.

    1) I will try to stay simple, and to stick to a scientific point of view as far as it is possible. Determinism has many flavors, but the determinism we usually deal with here is the one of the laws of physics. Physical systems, in classical physics, are completely determined: systems evolve according to mathemathical laws, and cannot do otherwise. Even systems where small differences in the initial conditions are quickly amplified, making predictions almost impossible (chaotic systems) do not really contradict that principle: the behaviour of the system is intrinsically deterministic, but it is practically impossible for us to predict it.
    That is no more true if we consider quantum mechanics. Quantum systems evolve deterministically, but “precipitate” probabilistically when measurements are made (the so called collapse of the wave function). So, they are both deterministic and truly random, in different “moments” (or modalities) of their existence.
    Well, let’s go to the problem of consciousness and free will. The materialist view (strong AI) is that consciousness, and all its functions, are products of the brain. The brain, moreover, is conceived by the materialist as some very sophisticated physical machine, probably in some way akin to the computer.
    That’s the materialist’s point of view, isn’t it? Do we agree on that?
    Well, then, unless our knowledge of physical laws is completely wrong, the working of the brain obeys physical laws, and is completely determined by necessity (if quantum effects are negligible), or by necessity and true randomness (if, as I believe, quantum effects are very important). OK, and free will?

    Free will has no room there. And all the philosophical arguments of compatibilism have no relevance here. Why? Because they are philosophical arguments about how we consider responsibility, reason, the reaction of consciousness, and many other things which have no meaning in the context we have just described. Because, in that context, “anything” which happens in our consciousness, even philosophy itself, is the product of the brain, and the brain works according to necessity or true randomness. You see, the problem is not only if we are free to “act”, or to “react”. The problem is that we are not even free to “think”, or to “reason”, or to “feel”, or to “perceive”. All those states are states of the brain, and the brain is a machine. If those states are not necessary, they are random, or they are both things. Intention, choice, reaction, feeling, conception, creativity, and all those kinds of things are void words created by the brain and necessarily (or randomly) assigned to brain states.
    So, it is really not important to know if we can act or if we have alternative possibilities. In necessity, there are not alternative possibilities. In randomness, there are, but they are not controlled by anyone.

    How can we get out of that? We simply cannot. Either we are not free in any aspect of our existence, or the premises are wrong. You can choose: consciousness is not the product of the brain; or, our understanding of the laws of physics is completely wrong. I have made my choice a long time ago.

    2) Let’s go to Dennett. I will just paste some of the points attributed to him in the Stanford page:

    “According to Dennett, even a thermostat can be interpreted as a very limited intentional system since its behavior can usefully be predicted by attributing to it adequate beliefs and desires to display it as acting rationally within some limited domain. For example, the thermostat desires that the room’s temperature (or the engine’s internal temperature) not go above or below a certain range. If it believes that it is out of the requisite range, the thermostat will respond appropriately to achieve its desired results.”

    Well, everybody is entitled to his own opinions. As for me, I believe that conscious events are definitely empirical facts: they are there or they are not there. If Dennett wants to argue for the existence of desires in a thermostat he is free to do that (after all, I do beleive in free will). But I will not certainly have greater esteem of him for that.

    “Just as the decision to adopt towards a system the intentional stance is a pragmatic one, so too is it a pragmatic decision to adopt towards a system the stance that it is a morally responsible person.”

    I understand that it is certainly a pragmatic, and very personal, decision for some philosophers to state whatever they state.

    “Such systems are morally responsible agents if interpreting them according to the personal stance pays off”

    I don’t know if it pays off for Dennett. Not for me, anyway.

    “Furthermore, just as he treats the intentional stance, Dennett argues that, due to the complexity of such systems, it is practically impossible to interpret and predict the system purely from the physical (deterministic) stance. Hence, the physical stance will never supplant the personal stance.”

    But then, why insist so stubbornly that the system is purely physical? Why is my personal stance that consciousness is not physical so out of fashion?

    “We persons involved in the everyday commerce of interacting with each other need the personal stance; it is not threatened by the specter of determinism.”

    What does that mean? That determinism is true, but we can ignore that in our “everyday commerce”? That determinism is not true? That philosophy and everyday life have nothing in common?

    “What is free will on Dennett’s account? Dennett explicitly rejects regulative control (1984a, 1984b), arguing for a point that he shares with Frankfurt (1969), namely, that the ability or inability to do otherwise is irrelevant to the control pertinent to moral responsibility.”

    Is that true also of the ability to “think” otherwise, to “believe” otherwise, to “feel” otherwise, to “react” otherwise? Is Dennett free to think what he thinks? Is he responsible for what he says?

    “For Dennett, free will consists in the ability of a person to control her conduct on the basis of rational considerations through means that arise from, or are subject to, critical self-evaluation, self-adjusting and self-monitoring.”

    And what are rational considerations, critical self-evaluation, etc.? Necessary/random states of the brain?

    “That is, free will involves responsiveness to reason”

    Isn’t the brain machine the one which reasons? Isn’t the brain machine the one which reacts? What reacts to what? And where is free will? Could the brain react to the brain in any different, or non randomly different, way?

    “Dennett certainly has many useful observations about how this sort of control might have naturally arisen from less sophisticated sorts of creatures through a process of evolution”

    Why am I not surprised?

    “By appealing to views on intentionality, rational action, agency, and personhood, Dennett offers a suggestive account of how it is that an agent can be an authentic source of her action ”

    Well, if the purpose was to show how, in a materialist scenario, we are an authentic source of our action as much as a thermostat is, I think Dennet has scored an important point.

    But I will not give any more time to Dennett. Frankly, I don’t think it’s worthwhile. Maybe I should have stuck to Hobbes.

  69. What a coincidence, I’ve been just talking about Dennet.
    gpuccio, great post. I’ll add a couple of comments on DD (quotes from wikipedia review of “Elbow Room”:

    the power to be active agents, biological devices that respond to our environment with rational, desirable courses of action.
    Yes, we’re better, more universal robots, definitely upgrade to wasps thanks to rationality. But no free will.

    If our hypothetically mechanical brains are in control of our behavior and our brains produce good behaviors for us, then do we really need such choice?
    We don’t need to be able to make a choice. Again, no free will.

    Dennett argues that choice exists in a general sense: that because we base our decisions on context, we limit our options as the situation becomes more specific. In the most specific circumstance (actual events), he suggests there is only one option left to us.
    Finally we have free will – we can make a choice, but we always have only one option to choose. Gosh.

    I think we are free do decide what we want. To shape our will. To choose what we belive. To do something because we believe it’s right thing to do or despite of it. Sometimes we regret wrong choice and that means we feel we were free to do the right thing.
    In my opinion freedom of will, objectivie existence of reality and moral law in our minds is what anyone feels to be true at least at some point of his/her life. Any philosophy that denies that knowledge, those three pillars of common sense, is a lie.

  70. 70

    What is the point of doing such an esoteric dance to avoid non-material free will and non-material mind?

    Why is it that materialists require there to only be a material world, regardless of evidence, logical argument, and presonal experience (free will, consciousness) to the contrary?

    I don’t get it. It’s like insisting that the subatomic world doesn’t exist, or that life doesn’t exist anywhere else in the universe; I mean, so what if a non-material reality exists? Isn’t that a good thing? Why spend such mental effort and gymnastics avoiding that conclusion?

    It immediately “makes sense” of all sorts of empirical phenomena, none of which “makes sense” without a non-material world; so all of that other phenomena gets dismissed, denied, ridiculed, hand-waved.

    I mean, come on. At some point one has to realize all they are doing is avoiding the obvious.

  71. William J. Murray wrote:

    What is the point of doing such an esoteric dance to avoid non-material free will and non-material mind?

    Why is it that materialists require there to only be a material world, regardless of evidence, logical argument, and presonal experience (free will, consciousness) to the contrary?

    Because it would allow that dreaded foot in the door.

    Why spend such mental effort and gymnastics avoiding that conclusion?

    Because when you allow that aforementioned foot in the door, it puts a crimp in your style.

  72. Oh, and Mark Frank, I’m not avoiding you. I think it’s hilarious you didn’t address how you were wrong about Singer.

    And the reason why you don’t see the contradictions in your position is the same reason you don’t see anything wrong with Singer and the phrase “less right to life”.

    Let’s just chalk it up to your meat-computer configuration. You can’t help it because your brain is wired that way and you can’t think any differently. It’s not like you have free will to believe anything else.

  73. angryoldfatman

    Re #72.

    I stopped addressing the “does Singer approve of killing babies?” question because to prove my point would require extracting quotes and then degenerate into “it all depends what you mean by”. I don’t have the time and energy. Anyone who is interested can read the piece you referred to and make up their own mind.

  74. gpuccio

    #68

    This took quite a time to read! I am going to leave the second half on Dennett. I think he is pretty much right but it would just take too long to go into it.

    Your argument in the first half seems to hinge on this sentence:

    Because they are philosophical arguments about how we consider responsibility, reason, the reaction of consciousness, and many other things which have no meaning in the context we have just described.

    It seems to me that you are assuming that materialism is false. As a materialist I believe that all these mental acts and states are different ways of looking at the same thing as a state of the brain (actually it is bit more complicated – they describe brain state + context). And again I need to keep coming back to the point. The objective is not to prove materialism true. It is just to show that it is not hypocritical. So to argue on the assumption that it is false doesn’t crack it.

    I am trying to write a fuller response, but it will be too long to be a comment and I am not sure if I will complete it. If I do I will post a link to it here.

  75. Mark:

    There is a new thread open on compatibilism. I would appreciate your comments (or a link to them) there. The subject certainly deserves a detailed discussion, even beyond the problem of hypocrisy.

    Moreover, my point was not so much to affirm that materialism iswrong, but that, is materialism is right, compatibilism is wrong. In other words, my reasoning was: “responsibility, reason, the reaction of consciousness, and many other things” are all things which, in a materialist context, arise from necessity, chance, or a mix of the two. Brain states arise form those causal factors (in a materialistic context). Context too arises from thsoe causal factors. Therefore, none of those concepts is relevant to affirm any free will, alwys in a materialistic context.

    In other words, Dennett cannot affirm that “intentionality, rational action, agency, and personhood” are in some way a manifestation, or a tool, of free will, if those same things are the result of necessity and chance. However you put it, if necessity and chance are the only rules, there is no room for true free will: one can only, as Dennett does, redefine the appearance of free will as true free will, but that is only playing with words.

  76. Re #75

    gpuccio – see my response to Barry on the new thread. I think the key to understanding (if not agreeing) with compatabilism is probably really realising that being able to predict a choice does not stop it being a choice.

  77. “Anyone who is interested can read the piece you referred to and make up their own mind.”

    Except, apparently, Barry.

  78. Dear Barry: Your OP exposing Materialist hypocrisy can also be described as Materialist senselessness.

    When we remember that Materialists are Atheists and that all Atheists are Darwinists the senselessness is suddenly explained.

    Could we expect persons who believe that apes morphed into men over the course of millions of years to make sense or not engage in hypocrisy since Materialism-Darwinism makes no sense to begin with, having zero correspondence to reality?

    Ray

  79. In the sort of blase skeptic sort of way that we have observed that we could find a sort of meaning where life to be determined, we can observe that things might still happen, whether or not they were determined. Determinism then, is an unnecessary projection from the observance of things that we have determined to be determinable to everything else.

    As long as compatibilism is mainly a skepticism against the necessary conflict between determinism and free will (and little more), it does nothing more than leverage their confidence that everything is “natural”, “mechanical”, “material”, or “deterministic”.

    However, one of the new emerging popular conjectures, the Multiverse, never even hints at explaining why the cosmic constants are what they are in this universe. It just suggests a distribution of various levels, without a hint that those levels were determined.

    However much we might want “free will” to be precisely understood, it’s not. But that everything is determined is not that well understood either. One just sounds more scientific than the other, because job of Science is to determine outcomes.

    Although is is possible to argue morality from deterministic perspective leveraging “what we someday may know”, it is has not been successful in arguing it by overlapping the two ideas as currently understood. Hence the confusion.

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