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More ridiculous Darwin hagiography …

Darwin was a classic Brit toff of his generation – crumpets and tea and genteel unbelief sat well with administering the parish church. Indeed. British physicist David Tyler tells us, 

In an informative essay, Janet Browne reflects on three Darwin commemorations: his funeral in Westminster Abbey, the 1909 centennial and the 1959 celebration. Each grasped the “opportunity to push an agenda, and even to adapt the past, so telling us what we like best to hear”.

 For sure.

I defy anyone to read this ridiculous hagiography, and not realize that something is fundamentally wrong with the Darwin picture. Are people really expected to sit through this in museums? (I guess so. But if they walk out, good for them!)

Still, don’t expect your local science education consultant to grasp that there is a problem right away. She might still be dancing with the biologists, or something. Anyway, she has a mandate to teach Darwin as The Truth – or anyway as the last secular icon standing.

Yawn.  Oh, by the way, New Scientist has published non-materialist neuroscientists’ letter protesting a recent smear. Hey, non-materialism is fun!

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30 Responses to More ridiculous Darwin hagiography …

  1. Darwinian evolution is not even compatible with higher planes of thought. Take for instance the Fibonacci sequence… what is the Darwinian explanation for its natural occurrence?

  2. From Mario Beauregard’s letter to New Scientist protesting Amanda Gefter’s critical article:

    Indeed, Gefter’s breezy explanation, “There’s nothing odd about minds changing brains if mental states are brain states: that’s just brains changing brains” reveals a fundamental lack of knowledge of mind-brain interactions. In such interactions, the mind state often changes the brain state as a result of new information or a new choice of attention. Information and focus are not material entities.

    Information gets into the body via sound, light, touch, etc. Why does Beauregard think that information can’t be carried by these stimuli?

    What is surprising about the fact that differing patterns of physical stimulation have different effects on the brain, and therefore the mind?

  3. Ribczynski, Gefter is – one would gather – a materialist who thinks that there is no mind, it is simply an illusion created by the response of neurons to stimuli.

    Is that what you in fact think too?

    As it happens, that theory does not help us with the hard problem of consciousness nor provide a useful model for a number of mind-brain interactions. (“Information and focus are not material entities.”)

    You could read Beauregard’s book (The Spiritual Brain) or his comments at the Symposium if you would like to know more about his views.

  4. Whither the attempt by scientists to show that mind is made of matter? Surely they must know that science can never demonstrate such a connection empirically. It can speculate, using imaging and other surrogates, but science lacks the descriptive power to trace any given thought to specific brain substances and processes in even the most rudimentary fashion.

    Scientists who attempt to link thought to matter are tilting at windmills, but their chimerical quest is not motivated by a love of science per se. They are clinging to the old religion of Darwin and Nietzsche—the belief that materialism can produce happiness by eliminating the difference between spirit and matter.

    There is a difference, however, between thought and the physical processes that are thought to have brought it into being. This difference can be seen in the strange phenomenon of the “I.” From our brains an entity of some kind emanates which is the “I” with all of its known alienation from existence.

    The stubborn reality of this entity is shown by the fact that it is the sole enterprise of Eastern religions to annihilate it in the hope of obtaining release from unhappiness. Only acknowledged masters of the way are believed to have gone beyond the difference between the “I” and physical existence and found rest.

    Given that the Eastern religions have not eliminated this difference in spite of thousands of years of devotion and discipline, it seems unlikely that materialists will succeed in their philosophical program by pretending to demonstrate that thought is made of matter. The very fact that mind is capable of grasping such a concept shows the difference between matter and itself.

    Mind is a qualitative power, while matter is purely quantitative. Scientists may one day be able to map out underlying physical processes that appear to correlate to a given judgment, but they cannot map out the judgment itself. They cannot show, through strictly empirical means, why they themselves prefer to believe that mind is made of matter.

    For the philosopher, this difference is significant. The goal of philosophy is happiness, which requires coming to terms with the alienation of the “I.” This alienation is left over from the age of materialism and science. Intellect may not be “the good,” as the old philosophers believed, but the difference they described between intellect and matter was not annihilated by Nihilism.

    Beginning with Descartes, the distinction between science and philosophy was blurred to the point where science has now married itself to the philosophy that is Materialism. By a strange, circuitous route science and philosophy have returned to the same relation described by the first philosophers. Empirical science is materialism, while philosophy addresses itself to matters of spirit, or the immutable difference between the “I” and its material existence.

  5. IMO, the main difference between mind and matter is that matter is an object with which you can interact with the five senses. It is objective. That is how we know that matter exists.

    However, consciousness is what is used to “look at” matter. Consciousness does exist as per everyone’s individual experience, however we can never “look at” consciousness. We can only “look through” consciousness. Matter is objective, whereas consciousness is wholly subjective. We can never interact with consciousness with our senses, unlike how we interact with matter, yet we know that consciousness (our awareness of matter and thought) does exist.

    Even *if* Consciousness were a by-product of sufficiently organized matter, it still exists and is purely subjective. It is a whole new set of reality apart from objective matter.

    Moreover, what evidence and reason do we have to suppose that the objective gives rise to the subjective rather than the other way? And since it is wholly subjective and not objective is consciousness even amenable to scientific scrutiny? Can we turn consciousness, which is put to work to scrutinize objective matter in the discipline known as science, on itself to objectively scrutinize the purely subjective — itself.

    Does this produce self referential absurdity? Does this mean that consciousness may not be amenable to scientific scrutiny? Yet as per our experience, we know that consciousness exists. If it didn’t exist, there would be no awareness of the objective state of matter. Is there any logical rule which states that everything that exists must be amenable to scientific and objective investigation? Might this philosophical materialistic rule of “scientism” be forgetting that we look through the subjective to rationally investigate the objective?

    Furthermore, if consciousness is merely an illusion, who is it fooling?

  6. That last line is good.

  7. Read Leibniz’s Monodology and the illustration of the mill. It most clearly represents what you are talking about.

  8. Thx Frost.

    I’m gonna look into that.

  9. Denyse O’Leary wrote:

    Gefter is – one would gather – a materialist who thinks that there is no mind, it is simply an illusion created by the response of neurons to stimuli.

    Is that what you in fact think too?

    Denyse,

    Gefter seems to be a materialist, but nothing in her article suggests that she thinks the mind is an illusion. Nor do I. Nor do most of the materialists whose ideas I am familiar with. I’m not sure where you got the idea that we are all mind-deniers.

    A computer program might be stored as millions of electrical charges on the floating gates of a flash memory chip, but that doesn’t make the program an illusion. Why then should the mind be regarded as an illusion simply because it is instantiated as the activity of an incredibly complicated network of neurons?

    As it happens, that theory does not help us with the hard problem of consciousness…

    Neither do non-materialist theories. The non-materialist has to explain how the immaterial mind can give rise to consciousness. The materialist must explain how matter can do so. Neither has succeeded so far.

    Theories that invoke quantum mechanics (like Penrose and Hameroff’s ORCH-OR) fare no better, because they fail to explain how quantum mechanical events give rise to consciousness if ordinary neural activity does not.

    Consciousness is indeed “the hard problem”, as David Chalmers dubbed it, but it’s hard for everyone, materialist and non-materialist alike.

    …nor provide a useful model for a number of mind-brain interactions. (”Information and focus are not material entities.”)

    As I mentioned earlier in the thread, materialists have no trouble explaining how information gets into the mind: it is carried by sensory stimuli, translated into nerve impulses, and carried into the brain. Where’s the problem?

    It is the dualist who faces an explanatory problem: how can sensory stimuli inform the mind if the stimuli are physical but the mind is not?

    Likewise with focus. It is well known that parts of the brain can modulate the activity of other parts. What is problematic about the idea that focus is an instance of this?

    And again, dualists are faced with the more difficult problem: How can a ghostly, ethereal, immaterial mind modulate the physical activity of the brain?

    You could read Beauregard’s book (The Spiritual Brain) or his comments at the Symposium if you would like to know more about his views.

    I have read The Spiritual Brain, but I don’t remember any arguments on this point other than the one you’ve presented above: that information and focus are not material entities, yet they change the brain’s state.

    As the co-author of the book, can you point me to any other passages that address the issue?

  10. —–CJYman:

    —-”Consciousness does exist as per everyone’s individual experience, however we can never “look at” consciousness. We can only “look through” consciousness. Matter is objective, whereas consciousness is wholly subjective. We can never interact with consciousness with our senses, unlike how we interact with matter, yet we know that consciousness (our awareness of matter and thought) does exist.”

    Excellent! And true. The investigator cannot be synonymous with the invetigation, and must, therefore, be distinct from it. Matter cannot investigate matter.

  11. —–ribczynski

    —– “And again, dualists are faced with the more difficult problem: How can a ghostly, ethereal, immaterial mind modulate the physical activity of the brain?”

    It is not necessary to know HOW an immaterial mind can modulate the physical activity of the brain in order to know that it does, in fact, do it.

    I don’t know how Mozart summoned the creativiey to write his compositions, but I do know, in fact, that he did it. I don’t know how the “placebo effect” works, but I do know that it serves as one good example of how the mind can influence the brain.

    You are confusing the “how” of the fact with the reality of the fact.

  12. 12

    ribczynski writes
    “A computer program might be stored as millions of electrical charges on the floating gates of a flash memory chip, but that doesn’t make the program an illusion. Why then should the mind be regarded as an illusion simply because it is instantiated as the activity of an incredibly complicated network of neurons?”

    A computer program exists in a flash memory chip only in the sense that the symbolic representation of the program exists on the chip in a complex series of 1’s and 0’s. One could write the computer program down in machine code on a piece of paper, and it would exist on the piece of paper in the same sense it exists in the memory chip. The chip is no more aware of (or “conscious of,” if you like) the program than the piece of paper is.

    Your question implies that you assume the “mind” can be written out on a piece of paper in the same way the machine code can. What a strange assumption. You seem to not be able to grasp the distinction between an “awareness” and the object that the “awareness” is aware of.

  13. —–”Gefter seems to be a materialist, but nothing in her article suggests that she thinks the mind is an illusion. Nor do I. Nor do most of the materialists whose ideas I am familiar with. I’m not sure where you got the idea that we are all mind-deniers.”

    So, does this mean that you now affirm the existence of a non-material mind? Or does it mean that you, like other epiphenominanalists, have simply redefined it as a totally brain dependent and materially grounded faculty of absolutely no consequence. Are you playing word games for the sake of plausible deniability? To deny an immaterial mind is to deny everyone’s (including ours) working definition.

  14. Barry

    The chip is no more aware of (or “conscious of,” if you like) the program than the piece of paper is.

    Are you aware of the incredibly complicated network of neurons that make up your brain then? Is that something you are conscious of? Or, perhaps are you aware of their interconnections in some direct way other then the consciousness it creates?

    Or, to put it another way, if your brain was to be copied and replicated exactly in a computer simulation would you experence something different to what you are experencing now in a organic brain? Why? What? How would you tell if the thing that you are “telling” with was essentially exactly the same? After all, it’s not the type of atoms that make up your brain that count it’s the interconnections between the structures those atoms create. A computer would be made of exactly the same atoms and as long as the intercommections were replicated exactly then what then?

    You seem to not be able to grasp the distinction between an “awareness” and the object that the “awareness” is aware of.

    Without the program the chip is useless. Without the chip the program is useless. Without a brain mind does not exist. Without a mind the brain exists but is useless.

    The chip is no more aware of (or “conscious of,” if you like) the program than the piece of paper is.

    And you are no more aware of the interconnections in your brain then the paper is aware of some writing on it.

  15. StephenB wrote:

    Matter cannot investigate matter.

    So you claim. Can you justify that statement?

    It is not necessary to know HOW an immaterial mind can modulate the physical activity of the brain in order to know that it does, in fact, do it.

    In order to conclude that the immaterial mind modulates the activity of the physical brain, you have to know that the immaterial mind exists in the first place. You’re not entitled to assume it.

    I don’t know how Mozart summoned the creativity to write his compositions, but I do know, in fact, that he did it. I don’t know how the “placebo effect” works, but I do know that it serves as one good example of how the mind can influence the brain.

    Neither of these phenomena require an immaterial mind.

  16. Ribczynski quoted and replied:

    Stephen B:I don’t know how Mozart summoned the creativity to write his compositions, but I do know, in fact, that he did it. I don’t know how the “placebo effect” works, but I do know that it serves as one good example of how the mind can influence the brain.

    Ribczynski’s reply:

    Neither of these phenomena require an immaterial mind.

    And to that I reply to you, with your own quote, “So you assume. Can you justify this statement?”

    You don’t know that they do not require an immaterial mind. That’s exactly what’s in question. You can’t just assume it does not require an immaterial mind. It could be that the mind is immaterial, and thus is needed for such phenomena as above.

  17. Domoman,

    That’s the principle of parsimony — aka Occam’s Razor — in action. We don’t posit the existence of additional entities such as immaterial minds or souls unless the evidence requires it.

    That’s what makes the concept of “Intelligent Falling” so funny. We see gravity as being sufficient to explain why objects fall, and so the idea of an intelligent agent stepping in to make each object fall on cue strikes us as comical and utterly unnecessary.

    This highlights a problem with the way most people approach the question of the immaterial mind or soul: they assume its existence by default (because they have been taught that it exists, or simply because it seems intuitively true to them). When confronted with the massive body of findings from neuroscience and neurophilosophy, the correct question for them to ask is, “What is the simplest explanation that accounts for this evidence?” We know that the physical brain exists. An immaterial mind or soul should be invoked only if it explains something that cannot be explained by the existence of the physical brain.

    Instead, the question that most people ask, either implicitly or explicitly, is this: “I believe in an immaterial mind or soul. Is there a way to interpret the evidence that allows me to maintain this belief?”

    The answer is often yes — there is at least one interpretation of the data (though it might be a strained interpretation) that allows one to hang onto the belief.

    The danger of this approach — which, by the way, is the approach you are taking in your comment — becomes clear if we apply it to the Intelligent Falling case.

    Suppose I believe in an “Intelligent Faller”. You challenge me, saying that a force called gravity is sufficient to cause falling and that the Intelligent Faller is not required.

    I object, saying: “You don’t know that. That’s exactly what’s in question. You can’t just assume that the Intelligent Faller is not needed. Maybe the force you call ‘gravity’ doesn’t really exist, and so the Intelligent Faller is required.”

    Do you see the problem?

  18. How do we know that the physical brain exists? We use and appeal to our own consciousness to derive ideas like matter and mind to begin with. That is, all knowledge begins and ends with experience. Call it mind or matter- consciousness if you like. The problem begins when either side argues for a duality or a singular interpretation of the world broken down into it’s so called simplest parts. There is no substitution for experience- ideas like mind and matter are incomplete-

    However the perplexing and paradoxical questions like the ones we find in origins science having to do with the origin of form and complex specified information and primary causation- and interpretation of natural history- demand us to stretch our experience and minds as far as they can go- and lead to a seemingly transcendent explanation- that is one that is beyond both mind and matter- space and time. One which we do not yet posses the ability to understand.

    What I write above is not “anti-science” as many in the mainstream would have you believe. It is in fact reality and the reason why we have science.

    Science has become a religion but it is supposed to be an imperfect logically consistent framework whereby we seek new knowledge though, investigation, experimentation and reasoning.

    I like this quote by Heisenberg when discussing the definition of science because Heisenberg is a heavy authority and given his work with quantum relativity this point reflects a deep truth about science and so called “physics” in general-

    “The world is not merely stranger than we think. It is stranger than we can think.”

  19. Frost122585:

    A truly beautiful post. I agree 100%.

  20. gpuccio,

    I thank you greatly for the kind words.

  21. Frost122585,

    The world might be stranger than we can think, as Heisenberg suggests, but that is not a reason to accept any particular “transcendent explanation”.

  22. 22

    Lydia_Lunch re [14]. Circular reasoning. You assume the brain is nothing but a complex organic computer. Given that assmpution there is nothing in principle that would prevent us from replicating the organic computer in an artificial computer. True. But the thing you assume is the very thing to be demonstrated.

    ribczynski re [17] ROTFL. You invoke Occam’s Razor to dispute the existence of the mind. Yet you reject the application of the Razor to dispute the existence of the multiverse. You strain on a mind and swallow a multiverse whole. Rich.

  23. Barry,

    You still haven’t grasped that Occam’s Razor is about limiting a theory’s assumptions, not its entailments. The theories in question entail the multiverse, but they do not assume it.

    Domoman was assuming an immaterial mind where there was no necessity, just as the Intelligent Falling theorist was assuming an Intelligent Faller.

    You’re not an IF supporter, are you?

  24. 24

    rib, it is you who has not grasped the obvious — that Darwinists are now assuming the existence of the multiverse to prop up their teetering theory. Here’s an example.
    http://www.biology-direct.com/content/2/1/15

  25. Barry,

    If you read the abstract that you linked to, you’ll see that Koonin does not assume the multiverse; it is entailed by inflationary cosmology.

    If you want to wield Occam’s Razor against Koonin, you’ll need some other basis.

  26. 26

    Rib, give me a break. Read the whole paper, not just the abstract, and you will find that his entire project is to assume a multiverse to rescue Darwin from improbability.

  27. Barry,

    Koonin does not assume the multiverse. The entire first section of the paper explains how the multiverse is a consequence of inflationary cosmology.

  28. 28

    Rib, you just don’t get it. If the paper were a cosmology paper, you might be right (I’m not saying you would be, but at least you would have half a let to stand on). It is not a cosmology paper. It is a biology paper. Koonin is saying “Let’s assume the multiverse guys are right. Whew! That helps us Darwinists overcome the vanishingly small probability of our theory being correct.” In this paper, the multiverse is an assumption that drives a conclusion in biology. It is NOT, as you say, a consequence of examining biological data. This conclusion is not subject to reasonable dispute, so don’t be tedious and try to dispute it.

  29. Barry wrote:

    In this paper, the multiverse is an assumption that drives a conclusion in biology. It is NOT, as you say, a consequence of examining biological data.

    I did not say that the multiverse was a consequence of examining biological data. Where on earth did you get that idea?

    Koonin acknowledges that his argument depends on the inflationary model, and he explicitly states that his argument is untenable in a finite universe.

    His argument assumes the correctness of the inflationary model, and the multiverse flows out of that as an intermediate step.

    That is completely different from assuming the multiverse with no justification whatsoever.

  30. 30

    Rib, you have now devolved into sophistry. It is only a very short step from sophistry to “booted from UD.”

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