Cartesian dualism -- the latest weapon in the war on Darwin

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161 Responses to “Cartesian dualism -- the latest weapon in the war on Darwin”

  1. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    From Cory’s post:

    Schwartz and Beauregard are part of a growing “non-material neuroscience” movement.

    There’s a self-invalidating statement if I ever heard one. If it’s non-material, it isn’t science. How do you falsify a hypothesis about immeasurable non-material entities? How do others replicate your experiments? How can you judge which model best fits the entity’s observable characteristics? Answer: you can’t. Therefore, this isn’t science. It’s a fraud: abysmally bad theology messing about with nonexistent scientific processes.

    I suffer from a chronic neurological syndrome caused by pinpoint lesions in my brain that result in reduced levels of hypocretin. I’m medicated for it. There’s a profound difference between my mental state when I’m medicated and unmedicated. Having this be a major factor in my life disinclines me to believe in mind-body dualism.

    If our minds and bodies carry on separate existences:

    – Why does God care what our bodies do?

    – What’s the point of God randomly yoking our immaterial consciousnesses to distractingly material forms?

    – Our conscious minds begin some while after our birth. They develop as we grow and learn. Good maternal and childhood nutrition and good health tend to make them better. Their balance and focus are prone to change when the body hits puberty. They can change even more when the body is afflicted with certain illnesses. If the body is damaged, especially the top sixth or so, the mind may exhibit damage as well. As the body decays due to age, the mind will often show parallel deterioration. Why would God deliberately deceive us by giving us a soul that’s not dependent on our body, while at the same time creating for us a life cycle guaranteed to give us the impression that mind and body are at minimum interdependent?

    – If the mind isn’t dependent on the physical body, why don’t minds attach themselves to inorganic objects as well as human bodies?

    El Cid @4:

    In [Decartes'] day, concluding that there was no evidence for the existence of a soul apart from mere matter was cause for any number of punishments, occasionally including death, from the Church.

    No. That was the job of the Secular Arm.

    Takuan @93: And you’re saying this doesn’t happen with non-deists?

    JDFreiveld @100: Excellent comment!

  2. imipak says:

    Dennett FTW.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Dennett

    Heavy going but superb stuff, the most headwrenching stuff I’d encountered since Godel, Escher, Bach. Highly recommended. And +11 for the beard!

  3. MachineElf says:

    At #117:

    Speaking of kneejerk. You seem to be assuming I said something other than I actually did.

    Jornin wrote: “Over and over again DI has shown itself to be a dishonest organization.”

    I wasn’t arguing on behalf of DI. Quite the contrary, I was arguing against lowering an intelligent debate to a base level (as Cory did) simply because DI attaches itself to that debate.

    Jornin wrote: “Just because you waving your hands and saying its no proof doesn’t really mean anything. What would you consider proof?”

    I wasn’t arguing that mind does not come from the brain. I was simply pointing out that the argument in favour of it offered no proof, as some people seem to think. That certainly does mean something. I don’t believe I was “waving my hands”, but if hyperbole suits you, go for it.

    The brain might be the creator of mind, but it may also be a mediator or receiver. You can damage or modify a mediator or receiver and still affect changes in the signal. Thus, the Phineas Gage comments, for example, don’t make for good logic.

  4. Nelson.C says:

    OT nitpicking, but the magazine is, I believe, called “New Scientist”; no definite article.

    Carry on.

  5. Apashiol says:

    @#78

    … and how frequently “rational” types are far more narrow-minded than the fundamentalists they criticize.

    Please present your data.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I just realized in reading my previous posts that this point is not at all clear: I love science, and I fully support scientific investigation into EVERYTHING. I would never suggest that b/c I believe something has a supernatural aspect that it is thereby “off-limits,” that would be as foolish as the opposite. I just am eager that we move to a place as a culture where when realities overlap we view scientific inquiry as able to provide AN answer, but perhaps not THE answer. Again, its a lens, and the more lenses you have to look at a given object, the more of a complete understanding you will have of said object. Truth is truth, wherever it is found.

  7. beekone says:

    Let me know when some anthropologists weigh in on this, I don’t like taking advice on matters from specialists of other fields. Unless neuroscientists are required to learn anthropology these days?

  8. SamSam says:

    #81 shutz:

    I think it’s exactly that kind of thinking that gives IDers their opening, and leads others to think “yeah, they kinda have a point.”

    You can use the analogy of software if you like, so long as you don’t think that software is somehow “abstract and ethereal.” It isn’t. Software is 1s and 0s, represented in a very physical manner in the state of the machine that is running it. If you could freeze a computer in time and examine the state of every single bit, you could reconstruct the state of the software being run on it.

    So you say “well, yes, but software produces something non-physical.” No. It’s physical all the way up. There’s no point at which software stops being something physical, any more than the actions of a clock-work toy stop being physical. A clock-work toy is “programmed” to do something, by the positioning of it’s gears and springs, but at no point is what it does not physical.

  9. chrisbloom7 says:

    It never ceases to astound me when I read about so-called scientists that try to inject magic into science. Where’s the objectivity and observation in a theory that relies on an omniscient, unprovable, invisible, improbably super-being?

    There is extreme significance in removing theistic voodoo from the scientific method. If you haven’t done so already, please visit http://www.atheistcampaign.org/. This campaign aims to counter the pervasive notion of theistic (mono and otherwise) life by bringing awareness to the idea of a godless existence. Monies raised by the campaign will be used to place their slogan “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” on buses in and around London. Richard Dawkins himself has already donated, and the campaign has raised nearly €100k since Oct 21. (18-times their intended goal of €5500).

    It’s easy to post dissenting comments about ridiculous ideas such as this story, but to truly change this kind of thinking requires more profound action. Please consider contributing, even if you, like me, don’t live anywhere near London. The fact that this campaign has gained so much support from around the world speaks volumes.

  10. markfrei says:

    I think Spinoza already handled all this in a nice little Geometric proof entitled Ethics. Viva Radical Monism…

  11. Takuan says:

    touche! Only the non-deists don’t pretend to be NICE about it.

  12. william says:

    @slicklines, #32: Exactly right.

    Cartesian dualism was reasonable at the time, but today we have an extensive catalog of ways that affecting the brain affects the mind.

    The list of drugs that have detailed, specific effects on the mind, either intentionally or as a side effect, is long. Descartes lived before even coffee was introduced to France, so I can see why he missed this, but there’s no excuse today.

    Similarly, direct action on the brain, via stroke, wounds, surgery, or things like transcranial magnetic stimulation prove a vast array of specific linkages between brain and mind.

    A theory of mind explaining all of those details but still keeping the mind as immaterial would require not just brain scientists and philosophers, but a team of contortionists. The modern view, which is very roughly that the brain is hardware and the mind is software, is much simpler. Descartes may have come too soon for that analogy, but he came well after Occam’s razor.

  13. Sekino says:

    @ Takuan:

    sometimes I do wonder where my dreams come from.

    I sure know my dreams do not come from a christian god. ;)

    I think it was Daniel Dennett who said that he didn’t understand why we acknowledge that the ancient Greeks had wonderful philosophy and science going on, but we discarded their beliefs as silly mythology. Meanwhile, the cultures that came up with the single god could “barely rub two sticks together“. So hilarious and true.

  14. Modusoperandi says:

    Anonymous “You can always count on BoingBoing to reveal the subtle differences between an atheist and a demoniac.”
    “Demoniac”? You’re adorable.

    “An atheist believes there is no soul. A demoniac believes there is no mind.”
    Okay. Hands up everybody who doesn’t believe in mind.

    “An atheist believes values do not come from God. A demoniac believes values do not come from any source whatever.”
    I thought they came from the deep time effect of the practically infinite number (by human standards) of social interactions of a very social species. You’d be surprised as to how the brute force approach to such things figures out what works and what doesn’t. That holy texts have a habit of codifying ethics doesn’t mean that the holy deities should be credited with discovering them. It’s just a snapshot of what people at the time believed. That’s why there are stories in, say, the OT that still speak to our common humanity as well as those that are nauseating and beastial in their brutality (hint: bad stuff commonly follows phrases like “And the LORD said to…”), as well as the histories of Rome or more recent stuff like the the “founding” of the New World and Australia. Some things change. Others, not so much.
    Values do come from somewhere. Look in the mirror. Look at your parents. Look in your parents’ mirror.

    Takuan “no Modus, you had to be there. Quite the contrary, no Peter Max animation fantasy -rather the sheer volume of the totality of a completely mundane – and very complete – world.”
    Oh. Have you considered the possiblilty that you are a part of the comparatively wild and crazy dream of someone from the mundane world of your dreams?

    jornin “…this may well be a nuanced argument, but it’s not going to come out of DI.”
    1. Boy, things sure are complicated
    2. We don’t know everything about everything/science has been wrong before
    3. Therefore, a completely anonymous and unnamed Intelligent Designer did it
    That’s almost every DI argument, with the bafflegab and fun with statistics boiled away. Nuance is something they don’t do.

    Anonymous “I find it utterly ridiculous that many people treat the scientific method as some ultimate bringer of truth, readily throwing away everything that even smells untestable…”
    And I find it utterly ridiculous that many people are so willing to sacrifice the scientific method because it keeps coming up with provisional conclusions that they don’t agree with. Worse, it considers the anecdotal evidence of the supernatural to be, get this, anecdotal! Outrageous!

    “I suppose we can forge our way into space, make sophisticated weapons to deter foes, discover methods for prolonging our lives close to infinity, … and for what?”
    I tell you what. Give up all the benefits of a method of observing the universe that’s pretty good at filling in what we don’t know, that’s pretty good at providing actual answers, and that’s pretty good at solving problems (some of which, admittedly are generated by the last generation of solved problems).
    As a species, we make and improve tools. As a species, we observe the world around us and use our observations to make a model of it that’s conducive to making predictions about the future (which helped our ancestors both follow prey, and avoid being something else’s prey). The scientific method is the single best tool we have for objectively doing so (or, at least, minimizing subjectivity). It’s also good at disproving things (as its truth is only provisionally true). Meanwhile, do you know what the supernatural proofs prove? Everything. That’s how Lourdes can definitely possibly sometimes maybe cure cancer. That objective statistical evaluation shows Lourdes water to be no better than placebo isn’t science’s fault. But I’m probably going off on a supernatural tangent on this supernature-centric page.

  15. jdfreivald says:

    Thanks for the clarification.

    You asked, Does this mean we are born without souls? What would that mean about abortion?

    My response was to point out that the exact moment of ensoulment has been discussed for thousands of years, but that historically it has not been a determining factor in permitting abortions. (I looked at Christianity because they actually believe in souls.) You might think that ensoulment or consciousness (we’re not clear on the relationship, if any) should be a determining factor, which is fine as a starting point, but the historical perspective should at least make us avoid oversimplifying this moral question.

    But I’m more troubled by the rest of your comment: There is no right or wrong, there is what we prefer, either pleasure or pain. When people agree on what they prefer their opinions become law, for them and only them.

    If that’s the case, what was wrong with the lynchings that have gotten so much attention in the other thread? I mean, I know what’s wrong with them now, because as a society we “agree on what [we] prefer” with respect to lynchings; but in 1893, when Henry Smith was tortured and killed, there was apparently a broad enough consensus to have 10,000 people cheering on the lynching party. Sure, there was a minority that disagreed with the consensus, but that is completely unavoidable and therefore moot. But you talk about racism as a “problem”, point out that “the whole of N.E. Texas and S.E Oklahoma went looking for those men” (which sounds like people agreeing on what they prefer), and “lynching was an accepted way of enforcing white rule” (emphasis added). Why are those things problems, if that was the agreement about what they preferred?

    The answer is that agreement or consensus is insufficient to say what is right and what is wrong. And you seem to believe that in the lynching thread, but not in this one, for some reason. We both agree that lynching is wrong now, and was wrong in 1893. I use the term “evil”; if you prefer a different one, that’s fine, but let’s not pretend that consensus is the deciding issue.

    That leads to a discussion of your last paragraph: So what does the existence of a soul have to do with any of this? If souls do indeed exist, then there is nothing one can do to my body to harm me. Therefore, abortion becomes meaningless and evil is just a state of mind.

    Nobody thinks that we are made only of souls; if souls exist, then we are a combination of soul and body, and therefore harming the body harms the person. The consequents “abortion becomes meaningless” and “evil is just a state of mind” therefore have nothing to follow — though I have to say, even if you were correct that physical harm doesn’t harm a person, neither of those consequents truly follow anyway. For instance, if there were truly no such thing as evil, then evil would be at most a state of mind even if souls existed.

  16. chrisbloom7 says:

    @JB Lavin #66

    That would be an interesting argument since Faith is usually propped up by more Faith: “Losing Faith? Have Faith! Lost your Faith? Have Faith! I have faith in my Faith because I’m faithful!” Etc.

  17. Antinous says:

    Um…feedback?

    That’s the easy part. It’s the formation of intent that remains inadequately explained.

  18. mdh says:

    3 Try to explain how the simple direction of your intent can change your brain chemistry, thus lowering your pulse and blood pressure.

    But my intent is itself brain chemistry.

    You don’t exactly choose to meditate so much as your brain chemistry seeks meditation and you indulge it in its quest for peaceful emptiness.

    It’s certainly another way of considering it.

  19. jdfreivald says:

    I would never be so secure in myself as to believe I would not have enjoyed a good lynching in defense of my wife,…

    To be clear, I’m not saying that I would have made the right decisions back then. I often don’t make the right decisions now, either.

    Obviously not enough people agreed lynching was wrong, quite the contrary.

    Language like this confuses me. There’s no question of “not enough”. Most people thought lynching was okay, so it happened, end of story, right? I can only interpret this, while remaining consistent with your perspective, as “too few people thought lynching was wrong to stop the lynching,” which is pretty much tautological.

    without religion, there is no evil.

    Interesting. A lot of theists will claim that without God, there is no good or evil. A lot of atheists will counter by saying that’s gibberish, and defend the idea that good and evil exist independently of God. You’re actually in agreement with most theists on this one.

    For better or worse, usually worse, we have, in the past, agreed to what in hindsight is some pretty ugly shit.

    Confusing again. If, in the past, we have agreed to “some pretty ugly shit”, why is that “usually worse”? If there’s no good or evil, and right and wrong are just agreements, then the “pretty ugly shit” just is what it is, and not better or worse than what we have now. The late-1800s lynchings just were what they were — just ordinary acts performed by ordinary people.

    No, they were regular people. We don’t like to believe that, but it is true.

    I actually don’t have a problem with that. Not to go all Godwin on you, but I’m sure you can think of another group in the middle of the 20th century who were also regular people, but who participated in heinous acts. And right now there are people in Africa performing clitorectomies on their daughters, in full agreement with their history and local culture. Normal people.

    Can I assume that you don’t have a problem with any of those things, then?

    The Big Three see evil as a separate occupying entity to be excised from humanity,

    This is false for at least three reasons, maybe more. Evil is not an entity; it does not occupy us; it cannot, at this stage, be excised from humanity.

    By creating evil, we separate ourselves from responsibility. We deny our fallibility.

    This isn’t just false, it’s the absolute inversion of the truth.

    We hold ourselves culpable for doing the wrong thing by recognizing the evil of our own actions. And we are fallible precisely because we fail to do good and choose the evil. Without evil*, there is no responsibility, and no fallibility.

    [* Or without right and wrong -- they're roughly equivalent to me, whereas you seem to use the latter as merely the social compulsions attendant on certain behaviors.]

    So, even if souls exist, which I find silly, the last thing I would do is tell anyone they have one.

    That’s more-or-less all you have to say. If souls exist, you would rather not tell people the truth than run the risk of having others take advantage of them with that fact. You have been calling religious people arrogant, but if you harbor this belief then perhaps some self-analysis is in order.

    All this Right or Wrong as absolute shit, this arrogant belief in our own civilization, enabled the Colonialists and Conquistadors. This misplaced belief in our ability to discern Right from Wrong, to define absolutes, is hubris of the highest order and leads to untold misery.

    I think you’re confusing the belief “good and evil actually exist” with the belief “I know what is good and evil in every situation”.

    Moreover, the Colonialists and Conquistadors had a consensus among their civilizations that what they were doing is good — so why do you have any heartburn with their actions? It’s not like what they were doing was evil, or that causing misery is evil — evil doesn’t exist.

  20. billstewart says:

    Hi, Samsam – Back in April there were two conferences in Arizona about “Science and Consciousness”. One was your basic Deepak Chopra woo-woo silliness. The other one, which my wife attended and I tagged along, was a bunch of neuroscientists, philosophers including Chalmers, Stu Haberman who’s an anaesthesiologist, and general researchy types. (It alternates years between U.Az in Tucson and somewhere like Hong Kong.) It was a steep learning curve, since I’d never read Chalmers (nor run into The Hard Problem, zombies, qualia, Mary who’s never seen color, and don’t know which of the various areas of the brain do which subsets of visual processing, etc.)

    I found it very interesting, after lots of exposure to hard-core materialist scientists and harder-core science-groupies, who form the main political correctness here in the Bay Area, to see that there are serious academics who don’t consider materialism to be a settled question, because the relationship between mind and brain is still Hard. They’re not necessarily (or even generally) religious, but it seems that if you’re going to have any sort of religion beyond a simplified Zen or atheists-with-lots-of-committee-meetings UUism, you either need some kind of dualism or else a Hindu-style solipsist monism that says that spirit is real and material isn’t (which I don’t buy.)

    There were some people throwing around discussions of quantum mechanics. For the most part, having not had time to read the papers beforehand, it was hard to keep track of which of them actually understood quantum mechanics in a scientific manner and were observing actual quantum effects in the processes they were studying, which of them were legitimate philosophers who were using quantum stuff as a shorthand for “the only glue the materialist physicists have left us for connecting non-physically-explainable behavior to the physical world”, and which of them were kooks who were using quantum mechanics as the obvious explanation for how We Create The Reality We Want to See Around Us (i.e. didn’t realize they belonged at the Deepak Chopra conference up in Phoenix.) I’d say there were some of each, but it was a multitrack conference and I didn’t end up at any of the talks by people who might have been dealing with actual quantum mechanics.

    And at the closing night party, Chalmers and anybody else who wants to get together for a really mean version of the ain’t-got-no-qualia Zombie Blues…

  21. Anonymous says:

    @#28

    That phenomena have natural causes is a key assumption of science. To say a prior that a phenomenon must have a a physical cause, even if we don’t understand it, is exactly what you do when you use the scientific method.

    Is that assumption valid? Well, the scientific method has been very productive in terms of generating explanations that are useful and coincide extremely well with the nature of many of the phenomena it’s been used to study.

    ID or Creation Science are non-scientific methodologies that assume that phenomena can have supernatural as well as natural causes. These non-scientific methods, however, have no record of producing good explanations of anything.

    Based on the track record of scientific and non-scientific methodologies, I’m sticking with the assumption of natural causation and the scientific method based for studying consciousness.

  22. Modusoperandi says:

    Antinous “It’s the formation of intent that remains inadequately explained.”
    And positing a level beyond the natural world is necessary when the explanation is incomplete? When has that ever worked out in the supernatural’s favour?

  23. Takuan says:

    you begin to catch on

  24. RJ says:

    I notice most people lck th ntllctl frttd to discuss matters like this without using harsh, bigoted language. “Invisible Sky Daddy” or “Invisible Sky Wizard” doesn’t even have the quality of being an original jab, anymore. Tkng sch vcnt, srcstc nd smg tn n yr pprch t ny ss tmtclly dscrdts nythng y mght hv t sy.

    That aside, of course the anti-evolutionists are wrong. We all know from whence we came. The evidence is well-documented. I’m just tired of seeing the endless sarcasm from people. Dn’t jst prrt th mms; thnk! Hv smthng nggng t sy!

  25. mdh says:

    I would call that argument mental twister.

    Some peoples chemistry is only balanced by dressing up as a superhero or speed needlework or finishing every third clause IN CAPITAL LETTERS. I’d say meditation is a pretty easy cross to bear. ;)

  26. Takuan says:

    whole societies have existed and thrived without this discussion.

  27. bobbcorr says:

    And so the great worm at last drew its tail into its mouth and began to slowly consume itself.

    OM MANI PADME NOM NOM NOM

  28. ornith says:

    Um, hi,I have a degree in cognitive science, and exactly how separate the “mind” is from the brain is a matter of considerable debate, and we sure as hell don’t know why or how consciousness exists at all. There are still mind/body dualists out there *within* science, nevermind the crackpots.

    That said, those guys who wrote the Bible didn’t consider the soul and the mind equivalent. Sometimes they even threw a “spirit” in there for good measure. Claiming that our inability to prove the mind is an emergent property of the brain proves the existence of a soul is nonsense on several levels, but on that level, even the Bible disagrees with it. And it certainly has nothing to do with Darwin, either.

    I actually do believe in both science and a God, but then, I’m not a literalist about the Bible, and I believe that if God were even as smart as your average human programmer or engineer (and by definition, He ought to be far smarter), it’s a good bet He’d have set up evolution rather than hand-design every. last. protozoan. And that something can be metaphysically true without being physically true.

  29. starcadia says:

    #114 Modusoperandi:

    Here are four categories:

    1. The known.
    2. The knowable.
    3. The unknown.
    4. The unknowable.

    In one of these, perhaps the largest and most profound category in scale, science has no jurisdiction, and that is #4. It is reserved mainly for the artists, philosophers and religious, as well as mystics, some psychologists and the very best physicists, all of whom also participate to various degrees with the first three.

    Science as a whole deals with the first two very well, and with the third to some abstract extent, but that’s as far as it can go. And that’s fine, I think. Science does its job very well, but it needs to have perspective on its limitations, and the limitations in general of materiality as we are endowed to perceive it.

    Creationists are monsters created by over-zealous secularists, and vice versa. Fighting will only make it worse, the monsters bigger and more dangerous. If either side were truly intelligent, they would find ways to come together where the true might of the human intellect exists.

  30. Modusoperandi says:

    jdfreivald “Nobody thinks that we are made only of souls”
    It’s surprising just how many people forget about thetans.

    Takuan “whole societies have existed and thrived without this discussion.”
    Yes, but none of those societies have had really delicious barbeque. Not one! Coincidence? I think not.

  31. jackm says:

    In fairness, there is a good side to Cartesian Dualism– Using the head as a weapon is no longer a disrespect to the sentient mind:

    http://dresdencodak.com/cartoons/dc_031.htm

  32. mokudan says:

    Months ago, there was a post on bb about a book called _Reinventing the Sacred,_ by Stuart Kauffman. (May have spelled that name wrong; don’t have it in front of me.) I’m no scientist, which made it about the toughest book I’ve ever read–still, he did about as skillful a job as possible rebutting these types of foolishness, although the ID section of the book is really brief. Really, though, he has a neat theory about consciousness based on something called quantum decoherence…yeah, I know. Quantum who? I sure as hell can’t explain it, but I can at least recommend it.

  33. El_Cid says:

    El Cid @136, with all due respect, it was quite a lot more complicated and less cardboard-villainy than that.

    Look, I don’t want to get into a debate on the role of states and Church institutions during the Renaissance period.

    The point was that Descartes kept in mind Church doctrine and Church capacity to punish when writing; further, Descartes apparently decided not to publish his treatise on The World after Galileo was tried by Church authorities for his ideas.

    Thus some scholars of Descartes have argued that in addition to its philosophical agreement with Descartes’ own conceptions, the mind/body split allowed the maintenance of an argument for a “soul” which was not explained in a materialist fashion and thus did not conflict with the Church.

    Personally I’m not sure Descartes would argue any differently if he were here today, with no appreciable Church strictures, but it’s not possible to know for sure.

  34. strougly says:

    this is why this argument is so insipid. looking through the responses, i don’t think theres one who supports creationism or intelligent design, but there a significant portion that accept the possibility of a separation of mind and body, or accept the basic possibility that dualism might exist, contrary to all available evidence.

    this is an extreme flaw in current scientific belief: you only need to invoke dualism to re-introduce mysticism into an otherwise rational debate.

    let platonism die!

    http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/31392/title/Still_debating_with_Plato

    http://www.ems-ph.org/journals/newsletter/pdf/2007-06-64.pdf

  35. cinemajay says:

    Two words: Phineas Gage.

  36. jdfreivald says:

    Takuan, the same is true of human rights, quantum mechanics, free speech, formal logic, and the number “zero”. At any rate, this is a thread about dualism, right?

    Modus Operandi, you’re correct, I forgot about Thetans. The philosophy of Scientology is probably a bit less well-developed than the philosophies of the major religions, but you’re right that I don’t know what their opinion is on harming bodies.

  37. gd23 says:

    Two points

    1. These types of questions I find are so interesting because, as has been mentioned, they are not just about discovering a ‘truth’ but are a play in a power struggle, a ploy used to exercise and influence human activity. Scientists debate ID because debate sway peoples opinions; ID make it difficult to proceed with one’s scientific research when funding for it is withdrawn and the community disengages.

    This has effects beyond the establishment of a ‘fact’, it is caught up wholly in our daily struggle, the crucible of life. Depending on the direction opinion sways, one person may be able to buy a house, raise a family, while at another time the same person will be dead – shot for providing abortions (or questioning the position of humanity in the heavens) etc.

    At times I am sort of thankful. Reality is; it doesn’t really care what you think. If believing in sky fairies is pragmatically a better fit for your ecological niche, believers will breed, they’ll be more of their descendants. If not, then there won’t be.

    I am reminded of the old solution: “remove the warning labels, and the problem will sort itself out” Fortunately for me I have a turn of heart and I realize that these debates are vital, unless we want to live in a simple world “red of tooth and claw”, where the pen is certainly not mighty than the sword.

    2. On a different note, I enjoy thinking about the idea that mind is not reducible to brain, without denying the underlying materialism. This is the view that it is more scientifically useful (or our total scientific world view is more parsimonious, and has more explanatory power) when psychology (talk of minds and consciousness) is not reduced to physics, in a similar way that despite us knowing that molecules and chemicals are made from the stuff of physics, we still have the scientific fields of chemistry, or biology. It pays to talk about minds not because they are made of different stuff, but because the explanatory power of such a scientific worldview is greater (and as such, mind is scientifically irreducible – the best scientific-fit is to keep it that way)

    Does this sidestep the hard problem? It is a kind of dualism that keeps the theists happy? I am not sure.

  38. Modusoperandi says:

    starcadia “In one of these, perhaps the largest and most profound category in scale, science has no jurisdiction, and that is #4. It is reserved mainly for the artists, philosophers and religious, as well as mystics, some psychologists and the very best physicists, all of whom also participate to various degrees with the first three.”
    Does this excuse places like the DI for trying to put category 3 and 4 in science class? Does it help science to have Kansas add supernatural to the definition thereof?

    “Science does its job very well, but it needs to have perspective on its limitations, and the limitations in general of materiality as we are endowed to perceive it.”
    Yes. It does its job very well. Also, see my previous comment.
    As for 3 and 4, philosophy is a better fit than theology. Theology already “knows” what the answer is. That’s the problem. It doesn’t.

    “Creationists are monsters created by over-zealous secularists, and vice versa.”
    Is it geology’s fault for showing a Delugeless world that’s much older than the Ussher math says it is?
    Is it astronomy’s fault for showing that the Earth isn’t literally the center of the universe?
    Is it higher criticism’s fault for showing that the Torah was not all written by the same hand?
    Is it biology’s fault showing that sickness isn’t the act of a God of wrath?
    Is it meteorology’s fault for showing the same, but for hurricanes?
    Over-zealous secularists didn’t create fundamentalism. The history of the real world’s consistent conflict with scripture’s history of the same did. That’s not the secularist’s fault, level of zealotry notwithstanding.
    Sometimes, you have to push back. Magic in science class is a good one. “America is a Christian Nation”/”No wall between Church and State” is another. “Constitution schmonstitution!”, politics of fear and security theatre, too. I could go on. Pretty much everything on the Christian Right/NeoCons shopping list, really. Granted, I’m a atheist hippy pinko.

    “Fighting will only make it worse, the monsters bigger and more dangerous.”
    And not fighting will mean that your grand kids get to learn about Noah in history class, baraminology in biology class, and glossolalia in foreign language class. Hurrah! They aren’t in it for compromise. They’re in it for domination.

    “If either side were truly intelligent, they would find ways to come together where the true might of the human intellect exists.”
    Good luck with that. Secularists and less conservative theists, yes (secular isn’t synonymous with “atheist”). What’s the average between provisional, rationalist truth and absolute, Biblical Truth, anyway?
    Also, we do come together. In war and peace, famine and feast, we’re stuck with each other, whether at the County Fair or bailing out after Katrina. In science class, too. That doesn’t mean equal time for magic there is justified.

  39. Modusoperandi says:

    jdfreivald “but you’re right that I don’t know what their opinion is on harming bodies.”
    Who really cares, though? I mean, Tom Cruise can fly and control men’s minds, and all it cost him was a bunch of money and the remainder of his never-quite-right sanity.
    Once you can fly, all of your priorities change. Controlling men’s minds is just icing on the cake.

  40. Takuan says:

    gee! religion just makes EVERYTHING better!

  41. Takuan says:

    are souls reborn on the wheel of karma? (and Japan perfected good BBQ long ago)

  42. MachineElf says:

    I think it’s important to note how easily intelligent discussion can be derailed once the science vs religion theme gets thrown into the mix. I fear for the treatment of dualism (and theories of emergence vs reductionism etc) now that the Discovery Institute has claimed it as a new area for them. There was an interesting scientific discussion about Intelligent Design (of the non-religious form) – with guys like Francis Crick contributing – before ID became synonymous with Creationism, thus tarring anybody that wanted to discuss the topic.

    n smlr wy, Dlsm s nt Crtnst dlgy whch shld nspr Cry t dscrb t s “th d tht th brn s physcl bjct, bt th mnd tht nhbts t s md frm sm knd f ghstly jsst-235 tht cnclsvly prvs th xstnc f th nvsbl Sky Dddy n wht rb nd brd”. thnk Cry dsrvs sm crtcsm fr lwrng th dbt t tht lvl – t dsn’t ffr nythng cnstrctv, t’s jst knjrk rctn t th Dscvry nsttt’s nvlvmnt.

    Regarding how effects of drugs or traumatic injury show that mind arises out of brain processes, that’s simply poor logic. If I break the channel switcher off a television, and I can now only access one channel, does that prove that the images I’m seeing are generated directly by the TV? Brain may well create the mind, but that particular argument is no proof.

    For those interested in the topic of mind as separate from the brain, there’s an interesting academic tome titled Irreducible Mind which is worth checking out.

  43. jdfreivald says:

    “Icing on the cake” makes me hungry. Have you noticed how in every single society that has had Scientology, you’ve been able to find really great barbeque?

  44. Cpt. Tim says:

    if i have a spirit that operates on a higher level than the brain, it seems oddly susceptible to the various chemicals I’ve put in it.

    also, if the reason god exists is that an imperfect being couldn’t conceive a perfect god unless it were real… does that mean the same is true for a perfect slice of pie?

  45. Anonymous says:

    I’m sure many from all sides will misunderstand me but… that can’t be helped.

    Suppose we have a perfect theory of the brain that explains language, memory, everything. Why can’t that apply to a blind, non-perceiving machine?

    This doesn’t lead to dualistic theories, by the way, but exposes that even though most of us should know better, we reply on them. On the contrary, this leads us away from dualism.

    Even avowed atheists such as Philip Pullman can envision what I’m talking about. Consciousness seems to be a much more fundamental property of the universe than we keep making it out to be – it’s as if we keep mistaking water for the shape made by clouds.

  46. aelfscine says:

    Einstein actually took care of this for us.

    The Mind/Body Problem

    Body = Pile of fleshy matter
    Mind = Some sort of pure, essential ‘soul’ or ‘energy.’

    How could the two have anything to do with each other??

    Luckily, e=mc2 (too lazy to find tag for exponents)

    Matter is energy! Your pile of fleshy matter is made of the same stuff as your mind! The supposed duality is meaningless. :)

  47. FoetusNail says:

    I have tried to read as much as I have time for and hope I’m not repeating anything.

    What about elephants, apes, or Marine Mammals? All of these creatures and probably many others are self-aware, apparently sentient, and therefore conscious. And what do their *scientists* say about the fact that humans are not born self-aware. Humans don’t become conscious of self-awareness until they are around two years old. Does consciousness imply soul? Does this mean we are born without souls? What would that mean about abortion?

  48. slida says:

    @JSPMartin #18

    That joke was pure win.

  49. Takuan says:

    damn, now I have to go get a snack.

  50. Dillenger69 says:

    I believe the brain is a lens through which extra-dimensional intelligence focuses itself in our universe. The more complex the neural network, the tighter the focus, the higher the intelligence. This is why mentally handicapped people are the way they are. Their brains are damaged and the focus is “off”, decreasing their abilities. This is also why humans have greater mental capacity than animals. Our focus is tighter to let the extra-dimensional light burn with more intensity. When we die, the focus just goes away. We are all just aspects of the universal light of intelligence which is focused through us.

    I’ll be taking applications to move to my Montana compound soon. Please Stand By.

  51. starcadia says:

    #63 aelfscine: Precisely! Descartes split the atom of his age, and we have yet to recover from the blast, and indeed seem to be increasingly splintered and lost. Thus the religious right is as much damaged by it as the secular left. If we, the Western world, could find a way to reunite the mind with the body (a.k.a. yin with yang, religion with science, spirit with material, energy with mass, etc.), then we would have grounds for a very serious and very interesting [r]evolution, I think.

    Eastern philosophy knew about the inextricable unity of mind and body over two millennia ago, whereas the Western world has yet to catch up, with the exception of great thinkers like Spinoza, Schopenhauer and Einstein. I think some very interesting discoveries have been made during the divorce, but the resulting debt in our culture is becoming too great to ever pay back. We need to heal this duality soon or we won’t need to worry about meteorite collisions wiping us out.

    Einstein said it perfectly: “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

  52. Takuan says:

    my dogs have souls.

  53. JB Lavin says:

    From the other side of the coin, the ID people are totally missing the point of faith by needing to prove it exists somehow.

  54. TikiHead says:

    I eagerly await their revival of the Theory of Phlogiston as well.

    Seriously, show us thinking agents without material brains, and it’s settled.

  55. Modusoperandi says:

    El_Cid “Look, I don’t want to get into a debate on the role of states and Church institutions during the Renaissance period.”
    Oh, man, if I had a dollar for every time I said that!

  56. HereticGestalt says:

    Wow…these guys actually managed to pick a *real* hole in scientific understanding (self-understanding? coherency?) this time.

    Perhaps this will provide the impetus for scientists to get more serious about the problems of cognition and consciousness, examine their own methods and assumptions more critically, and seek insight by engaging with serious non-scientific thinkers about the human mind who aren’t hostile and unreasonable like the IDers…

    …ha who am I kidding. America is so fucked.

  57. Takuan says:

    mmmmm, souls!

  58. spazzm says:

    The funny thing about this discussion is what is not being discussed.

    We all assume that there is a thing called ‘consciousness’ and that we humans all posses it. Which is fine.
    What no-one(*) is willing to consider is that we have no proof that animals, or even inanimate objects, do not posses it.

    If dualism is true (which I do not think it is), why should one need to have a (human) brain to experience consciousness?

    *) Except animists.

    • Antinous says:

      spazzm,

      You raise a good point. There’s an argument in several animal painting threads between those who believe that human consciousness is “special” and those who believe that it’s just one type of consciousness on a continuum of possible consciousness. Funnily enough, the science-as-religionists tend to be the ones who view human consciousness with dewy-eyed mysticism. I mostly find that the biggest defenders of science don’t actually understand the concept very well. It’s just dogma for them.

  59. Apashiol says:

    V.S. Ramachandran tells a really funny story of a guy whose brain was bisected into two hemispheres.
    After working out a way to communicate with the non-verbal right hemisphere they posed a question to each hemisphere separately.

    The question was ‘Do you believe there is a god?’

    The right side of the brain believed in god; the left side of the brain was an atheist.

  60. sonny p fontaine says:

    TAKUAN i rather believe that all reality exists simutaniously. everything is everything.

    TERESA “Why does God care what our bodies do?”

    maybe god got chincy with the warranties and is now regretting the decision based on the inevitable depreciation of trade-in value.

  61. Frank_in_Virginia says:

    Lt’s sk Srh Pln.

  62. El Stinko says:

    The whole problem with taking Cartesian Dualism as an argument against Evolution is that it actually does require intelligence to understand the debate. This isn’t something that the anti-evolutionists have in spades for the most part. If this really starts gaining traction I think it’s going to be quite amusing to watch the anti-evolution fanatics try to recite the Cartesian Dualism talking points in a coherent manner. Good times.

  63. Anonymous says:

    #83 posted by Apashiol

    Please present your data.

    I’m guessing that’s a joke? B/c that’s exactly my point. That’s one way of understanding the world, but f y’r hnst wth yrslf I think you’ll see that there’s several more. Tk ff th glsss nd pt n sm thr ns fr whl.

    To support my narrow-mindedness statement, th fct tht ths thrd s fll f ppl wh’s ssntl rgmnt s “tht cn’t b prvd n lbrtry, hw ldcrs!” Tht’s prtty nrrw-mndd wrldvw considering the breadth of human experience, particularly the experience of those outside the hyper-visual Western culture.

    But don’t worry, thankfully the tribal drums are beating again and the global village is getting smaller. The iron hand of “Western rationalism at all costs” (as opposed to the more mature attitude “Western rationalism as far as its useful” or “Western rationalism as one tool of many”) is weakening thanks to the internet, and we’re on our way back to the future.

  64. MachineElf says:

    #127 BillStewart: “Stu Haberman who’s an anaesthesiologist”

    I believe you meant to say Stu Hameroff. Correct me if I’m wrong. Hameroff has worked with Roger Penrose on the idea of quantum consciousness. Another physicist to put forward the idea is Henry Stapp.

  65. El_Cid says:

    No. That was the job of the Secular Arm.

    Hair-splitting. If the Church had not been in the power position in which it was, there would be no “secular arm” to punish deviants from the Church’s officially sanctioned view.

    The state was not administering capital punishment for religious heresy simply to entertain itself.

    Besides, the Church repeatedly affirmed the rightness, in fact the obligation, of civil authorities to carry out such punishments for religious matters.

  66. IWood says:

    cinemajay @ #59

    All Phineas Gage proved was that getting a three-foot tamping iron shot through your head turns you into a jerk.

  67. semiotix says:

    “nvsbl Sky Dddy.” Nc. Cm n, Cry, y’r bttr thn tht.

  68. mdh says:

    SamSam @#3

    I think that the approach has much more fertile ground than any of their past advances, so it will be interesting to see how the scientific community will counter it.

    Same way ID has been handled.

    All we need to do is point out that the source of all that fertility is a sack of shit.

  69. Takuan says:

    yeah: “invisible BEARDED sky daddy”!

  70. Daemon says:

    Amusing thought: I want the mind to be discovered to be composed of Dark Engery, so that everybody can be equally confused.

    Also, it just sounds cool.

  71. jornin says:

    oh please

    Simple experiment

    1 Open mouth
    2 Insert alcohol
    3 Try to explain how a “non-material neuroscience” can describe a chemical process that affects the brain and mind.

    I think you would have to be drunk to suppose that there is any magic, oops, i mean “non-material neuroscience” going on .

    Oh wait could it be that there is some invisible God particle in the alcohol that affects the invisible alcohol receptors in our invisible soul. You win, Darwin and the TOE cannot stand up to that logic.

  72. spazzm says:

    Antonius, thank you.

    John Searle, one of the big thinkers in the field of consciousness, has a lecture on the subject of dualism:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRwOuE7IJoA

    I don’t completely agree with him, but he’s always interesting.

  73. Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator says:

    Anonymous @115, don’t call the theists demoniacs. It’s rude. Asserting that they don’t believe in the mind is both rude, and demonstrably incorrect.

    El Cid @136, with all due respect, it was quite a lot more complicated and less cardboard-villainy than that.

  74. dmduncan says:

    Well regardless of how it is used by creationists, the mind-body problem is definitely not going away any time soon. That’s because it is a real problem, and the fact that now creationists have attached themselves to it isn’t going to make it a non problem, although I’m sure some people who have unsuccessfully tried to resolve the mind-body problem probably hope it means that.

  75. Shrdlu says:

    If you’ve ever read Oliver Sacks this really seems a nonstarter.

  76. Modusoperandi says:

    Cool Products “Seeing that the burden of proof lies on the creationists, it is certainly up to them to “discover” the link between the mind and the brain (if there is even one).”
    That can’t be hard to prove. All they’re positing is that an undetectable, non-material and immortal…something…interacts with the material brain using an unknown and undetectable interface, and that this is possible only because we don’t know everything about everything and science has been wrong before and Darwin lead to Hitler and all Stalin was an atheist and dancing leads to coitus and…
    Sorry…um…I got away from myself there.

    jimbuck “Next problem they’ll have to wiggle out of: we’re not the only animals with conscienceness. Chimps and gorillas and bottle-nosed dolphins all recognize the thing in the mirror as themselves.”
    Didn’t you hear? They solved that a long time ago. Those animals don’t have souls. They merely have convincing “simulations” of such. This is the came logic, incidentally, that made the idea of vivisection not quite as heartwrenching (“This dog that I’m taking apart isn’t really in pain…”).

    cinemajay “Two words: Phineas Gage.”
    Pah! The thing that “they” don’t want you to know is that Phineas was born with a spike through his head!

    IWood “All Phineas Gage proved was that getting a three-foot tamping iron shot through your head turns you into a jerk.”
    Most of us even skip that first step.

    Anonymous “Scientific empiricism is a wonderful and important lens for looking at the world, but like all lenses it has its distortions.”
    Golly. Things generally are what they appear to be is a distortion? Oh, what a wonderful distortion! You’re entitled to your own opinions. You are not, however, entitled to your own facts.

    “And how happily reductive they are as well, as if the fact that because a certain chemical reaction in the brain corresponds with the feeling of love, that it therefore makes sense to reduce love to that reaction, rather than perhaps understand it as part of a wider reality.”
    Take the chemical away and the love changes. Put it back and it’s earlier characteristics return. Give it to someone who isn’t in love, and suddenly you have a stalker. While crass reductionism can lead one astray, supernaturalism will lead one astray. This is why religions keep getting farther apart. If you want science to follow the same crooked, wrong, splitting path, then by all means, mix them together.

    “The iron hand of “Western rationalism at all costs” (as opposed to the more mature attitude “Western rationalism as far as its useful” or “Western rationalism as one tool of many”) is weakening thanks to the internet…”
    And as long as you keep Western irrationalism the hell out of science class, I don’t particularly care. But that’s not the goal, right? The goal is the destruction of methodological naturalism…philosophical naturalism. The goal is the destruction of science and the reintroduction of the idea that “God did it” is a valid answer. It was easy to believe in a 6day/6k universe before bad people, some of whom really thought they were Christians, started actually looking at the world. It will be easier to bring it back after we…just…simply…forget everything we’ve learned in the last couple of centuries.
    The biggest problem that methodological naturalism has, is that it’s left God with so little to do.
    Don’t get me wrong; there is more to this world than we can possibly learn. This in no way means that God, via a virgin and the Holy Spirit (who is also Him), sent Himself to Earth to temporarily die for the original sin of a fictional man and his identical twin sister and you, because you like boobies, all so that you could believe in Him and have Him clear the path from you to Himself, who is also Him. To link one with the other (the crux of ID, “secular” ID’ist laments notwithstanding) is a non sequitur of the highest order. ID is a “big tent” filled with small minds that don’t like modern science because it keeps coming up with uncomfortable answers that conflict with the answers that their Pastor gave them.

    “and we’re on our way back to the future.”
    *Cough*…past.

    Takuan “There is no way my humble engines of imagination could have created the places visited in dream. I simply do not possess in my experience the raw data needed to fabricate these realms.”
    It helps that the analytical part of you shuts down when you snooze. This is why purple birds flying upside down seems deep and magical, but as you progress from a little bit conscious to full consciousness the same dream goes from being deep and spiritual to merely weird and stupid. Dreaming is like being stoned. Some say that dreams are just the brain sorting itself out. I say that makes the brain kind of messed up. Oddly, this fits.

    Antinous “3 Try to explain how the simple direction of your intent can change your brain chemistry, thus lowering your pulse and blood pressure.”
    Um…feedback? If mind is brain then mind effecting brain is just brain effecting brain. I’d come up with a simple analogy illustrating this using common machinery or electronics, but I can’t help but giggle every time I say “analogy”…as is my right!

    Anonymous “I just am eager that we move to a place as a culture where when realities overlap we view scientific inquiry as able to provide AN answer, but perhaps not THE answer.”
    If you’re willing to settle for an answer that’s close (based on the evidence so far), keep the supernatural out of the study of the natural. If you would rather have the wrong answer, on the other hand…

  77. jdfreivald says:

    The right decision in 1893 was to lynch the bastards.

    Wow. We will continue to disagree about that.

    Once again, you are missing the point in what appears to be an effort to defend religion.

    Actually, no. I have been defending dualism in this thread, at least against the more unjustified attacks against it. And in the last few posts, I have been picking at your relativism.

    With one exception, we like to think people that do things we do not prefer are “genetically defective psychopaths”,

    So you’ve said, and I’ve specifically said that I don’t think that way.

    That there are societies that disagree with our version of what is acceptable, and with whom we may also disagree, proves my point.

    No, it doesn’t. People disagree about things that must be either true or false all the time. That doesn’t mean that there is no true or false.

    You and I disagree about dualism, religion, and relativism. Does that mean that there is no right answer to the questions we’re raising?

    You are showing that people have differences of opinion about what is right and what is wrong (including the opinion that there is no right or wrong). But that is a triviality.

    To claim we have some absolute understanding of right and wrong is arrogant

    I don’t think I ever claimed to have that understanding. I don’t think that believing in Cartesian dualism or believing in God implies that, either.

    I really wish you would stop isolating my statements one from the other.

    I’m sorry, seriously. My posts are long as it is, and I don’t want to be too redundant.

    If we live forever, then this tiny bit of life on Earth becomes unimportant, [...]

    I think this is false. If we live for 100 years, does a single hour of our lives become unimportant as a result? A single second?

    …except that religion now holds your soul, your eternal afterlife, hostage to their concept of right and wrong.

    Let’s just say that (a) I disagree with this series of assertions you’re making, and (b) I was talking about dualism, not specific systems (or distortions of systems) of religious belief.

    To sum up my position, religion is a lie

    Yes, so you’ve asserted. We clearly disagree. But the question of the thread is, is dualism a lie? I don’t know, but I think there are reasons for believing in it. And as a side note, is relativism a lie? Well, probably not, but I think it’s really bad philosophy.

    Since I think we’ve gotten to the point of non-productivity, I will let you have the last word on this part of the thread.

    Also, I’m sorry that you think I’m twisting your words. I know that’s a sort of non-apology, but I assure you that I have not been trying to twist your words, and I’m still not sure that I have; but I wish we could understand each other more fully so that I would correct myself, or so that you wouldn’t feel that way, or both. I appreciate your willingness to discuss the topic civilly.

  78. SamSam says:

    Pretty smart line of attack!

    The Hard Problem is one of those problems that I don’t think is likely to be resolved in the near future, if at all (six semesters of reading Chalmers and Dennett and the like made me think that none of these guys has any idea what they’re talking about).

    So you go in there and say “Ah HA! Science can’t fill THIS hole! Therefore science is incomplete! Therefore there must be more than science! Therefore God exists! Q.E.D.”

    (…and then “therefore Darwin is wrong,” which doesn’t actually follow logically, but makes introducing non-science explanations that much easier.)

    I think that the approach has much more fertile ground than any of their past advances, so it will be interesting to see how the scientific community will counter it.

  79. crotchetyoldfan says:

    So what, these neuroscientists are saying that we’re all widgets with a ‘god’ plugin?

  80. El_Cid says:

    In disputing the ridiculousness of various anti-evolutionary dogmas, I would caution us from being too dismissive of Cartesian dualism.

    One, Descartes operated in a completely different time from ours. Even if such a Mind / Body philosophy (and remember, he established modern physics before Newton, as well as x-y geometry) had not been his best conclusion, it would have been one of the only outlets for his study of the body and of life which did not conflict with the church.

    In his day, concluding that there was no evidence for the existence of a soul apart from mere matter was cause for any number of punishments, occasionally including death, from the Church.

    Two, we haven’t really gone any farther than what Descartes has proposed.

    Currently we are still imagining that there ought be a material theory of human consciousness — and I am in that camp — but we have absolutely no progress in that direction whatsoever.

    We have no scientific theories of consciousness yet, just analogies which do not hold.

    As Noam Chomsky has written, when Descartes proposed the Ghost in the Machine approach to explaining consciousness (the ‘soul’) in relation to the ‘mechanical’ (purely physical) body, and Newton followed with Newtonian physics, people often assume that Newton therefore exorcised the ‘ghost in the machine’ approach.

    However, Newton actually reintroduced the concept of invisible, impossible “forces” like gravity, which has yet to be successfully explained.

    Cartesian physics was based on the notion that all activities could be explained, roughly, by the collisions of bodies (corpuscles).

    Thus, in Noam’s words, Newton exorcised the Machine, not the Ghost.

    Reasonable people can live with the reality that there are some things that we do not know, and we do not know that we will ever know them.

    And yet this does not excuse a turn to “magic” to explain a single thing.

    Even if we were never, ever able to reach a scientific explanation of human consciousness, it still would not justify concluding it was magic — just that we found it so difficult a question that it feels the same as explaining magic. And all we would really know is that we could not know.

  81. Chelvis says:

    I came to the comments section thinking that I could post something pretty snazzy about Descartes as I’ve read quite a bit of philosophy and Descarte’s mind/body dualism, but was pleasantly surprised by the comments already. Nice thinking, lads.

    I also hope that Rushkoff’s impending lecture on Korzybski might touch on the this Cartesian dualism as essentially Aristotelian and out-dated, ie, we need more modern semantic reactions (those matched by the findings of modern science) to the problem of minds in bodies.

  82. dmduncan says:

    SAMSAM:

    You wrote: “If it’s true that the problem is either extremely difficult or impossible to solve, then what we need to show is why that alone does not imply the existence of God…”

    Tell me, why exactly do you “need to show” this or that fact “does not imply the existence of God…”?

  83. Cragsavage says:

    Give me a functioning brain and a drill and I’ll disprove Cartesian Dualism in a second. It’ll be a bit of a bloody and screamy second…but…well…whoever said science couldn’t be messy?

  84. franklyimshocked says:

    If America spent more money on education and less on stupid wars you would quickly find that this sort of idiocy would soon grind to a halt.
    Don’t claim to be a scientist and then discount the truth because it doesn’t match up with religious dogma.
    I can’t believe in this day and age we find ourselves still taking these areguments serious in any way shape or form.

  85. Remixer96 says:

    Going off of #7, doesn’t the story above speak to the state of argument today rather than science?

    If the Discovery Institute wants to go prove the existence of the soul, fine. More power to them. But even presuming they find it, that doesn’t mean the new, unexplained phenomena would have any correlation to the one described in any religious texts.

    To claim that the soul exists -> materialism is wrong => God exists is a bit like saying I have a pie in my hand -> it’s not blueberry => it must be apple lemon custard pie. It’s a false choice fallacy in that that pie could be any other flavor as well.

    If you want to try out things other people think is stupid, feel free. But don’t undo the rules of logic to justify your views.

  86. Cragsavage says:

    Pie!

  87. thesaturnine says:

    The whole world of academia is still hung up on discussion pertaining to the objectivity of things. But they don’t have a proper system of phenomenology. It’s a bummer.

  88. bardfinn says:

    I welcome this tack.

    I believe the battlefield itself will defeat all but the most hardened strawman-creators and over-simplifiers. With the growing availability of, and experimentation in, TCEMIS – Transcranial ElectroMagnetic interference stimulation – the assertions of neurosurgeon-shills can be tested, non-invasively; the increase in actual viable knowledge about the human brain can only benefit us, and the phenomenon of consciousness better understood.

  89. Takuan says:

    I wouldn’t mind people playing with their gods and getting whatever satisfaction or stimulation it is that drives them. That by itself would be just fine. The problem ALWAYS emerges though, every single time, without exception, over and over and over: sooner or later they put their god-toys down, turn around and give me that strange little half smile. And then they try to kill me. Every. Fucking.Time. Why is that, do you suppose?

  90. strougly says:

    i find this most recent attack on rationality the most worrisome, as they’ve found the current weak spot in the scientific community and exploited it. the biggest problem is that even for scientists who claim to be atheists, agnostics and rational thinkers, most are dualists in one form or another.

    whenever any mathematician or scientist talks about the “right” way to think about a problem, they are essentially making a plea to dualism. even erdos famously talked about “the book”. while most probably a little tongue in cheek, this was most undoubtedly at least partially genuine as well.

    for those of you who scoff at the idea that dualism is pervasive, even amongst the scientific community, consider how many believe ai is a fruitless endeavor. how many people need to invoke quantum mechanics or undiscovered/poorly understood, new, physical quantities to explain our sophistication of thought? how many people, even scientists, find the thought of a computer that thinks like a human revolting?

    penrose is a famous dualist. while he would deplore being put in the same camp as the intelligent design community, thats exactly where he rests. this is why this argument is so insipid: smart and well respected scientists have essentially already made the case for them.

    to me, this is an updated form “we’re descended from monkeys? how drole!”, except now its “our brains are just a nand gate? how silly!”. this is going to gain a lot of traction by playing to peoples fear of being reduced.

    and i love the fact that they use materialism like its a dirty word…like i’m going to build a rational theory of the brain and then blow my months pay check on a really audacious purse…

  91. Anonymous says:

    How long, how long before mndlss scntsm falls? Too long. Mcluhan was a prophet: “rationality,” or sequential logical (visual) thinking is a Western European technology. Scientific empiricism is a wonderful and important lens for looking at the world, but like all lenses it has its distortions. I would hope in an environment so (I guess “ironically”) hip for crypto-zoology, the supernatural, alternative culture, psychedelics, tht thr wldn’t b sch rdcls kn-jrk “f ts nt n tst tb dn’t blv t” tttds.

    It always boggles my mind how blind people are to their own narrow-mindedness, and how frequently “rational” types are far more narrow-minded than the fundamentalists they criticize. And how happily reductive they are as well, as if the fact that because a certain chemical reaction in the brain corresponds with the feeling of love, that it therefore makes sense to reduce love to that reaction, rather than perhaps understand it as part of a wider reality. What happened to the spirit of true skepticism? Hume was just as skeptical of the scientific method, the concept of causation, as he was of everything else.

    To bring it full circle, those who missed the lessons of Marshall Mcluhan will be doomed to repeat him, but that gives me hope. Our culture will recreate him, we need another prophet crying in the cybernetic wilderness.

  92. karengeier says:

    This could easily be called Pilkingtonism, based on the idea posited by Karl Pilkington in several episodes of the “Ricky Gervais Podcast” whereby he views the person in conflict with and must become master of his brain.

  93. avraamov says:

    whilst on a tube train, i overheard two students talking about just this subject. one declared ‘of course, professor pearson was saying that if the human brain were simple enough to understand, we wouldn’t be able to understand it…’

  94. shadowfirebird says:

    Am I missing the point here? How does this disprove Darwin or prove god(s)?

    To say that the mind is somehow more than software ran by the brain (or, a construct of such software, whatever) appears to be rather difficult to disprove. But also difficult to prove.

    I have no objection to people believing things that cannot be scientifically proved. But that should not be confused with science — and I am at a loss to explain why anyone would want to try to confuse the two.

  95. sonny p fontaine says:

    it’s not where your dreams come fron TAUK-san it’s where they take you.

  96. salimfadhley says:

    Oh no! Cory!!!

    You just mentioned Denyse O’Leary the Internet’s most uninformed self-styled “science journalist”.

    Please stop it. You are hurting my brain.

    :-)

  97. Versh says:

    I’ve enjoyed the comments much more than the article. Thanks to all who posted.

    Though it is unfortunate to note that all these solid rational arguments will not sway irrational views– seeing how it involves using reason.

    Ironic, and somewhat disheartening.

    I’ll echo the call for the education system’s speedy repair.

  98. strougly says:

    @shadowfirebird #15

    acknowledging that the mind is not just software run by brain is tantamount to saying that there is something other-worldly at play. whats the alternative if you reject the “software on the brain” hypothesis? that no scientific theory will properly explain the mind? that the mind exists somewhere other than the gray matter that we see? this is a plea for mysticism, which is the case they are making.

    once you accept an unrational explanation for the mind, then this is accepting a soul by another name. while accepting the existence of a soul is not equivalent to accepting god, it helps. and this does go against darwin, as you’ve posited an other worldly affect, separate from the very earthly natural selection.

    this is how these arguments gain traction. they compartmentalize the notions of darwin, god, the soul, and then slowly tick them off one by one. the current tac is to start with the idea most weakly defended…

  99. FoetusNail says:

    The Kingdom of Heaven is within you
    and within all is Buddha Nature.

    Krishna consciousness has its existence everywhere, within all parts of our existence.

    From the Gita:
    There is neither Self-knowledge, nor Self-perception to those who are not united with the Supreme. Without Self-perception there is no peace, and without peace there can be no happiness. (2.66)

  100. jspmartin says:

    They are quite clearly putting Descartes before the horse.

  101. GLP says:

    As I understand it, Descartes claimed the existence of God because he said that an imperfect creature (man) could not conceive of a perfect being (God) and so the idea of God must have been placed in the mind of man by God.

    This can be looked at in reverse – you can use Descartes’s logic to say that a perfect creator (God) could not have created an imperfect creation (man) and therefore God cannot exist.

    Interesting debate.

  102. salimfadhley says:

    Actually the ID / Creatationists have had monism / materialism on their list of targets for a very long time. Take this article posed in all seriousness at Mrs. O’Leary’s blog:

    http://www.overwhelmingevidence.com/oe/blog/hela/materialism_circular_logic

    http://www.overwhelmingevidence.com/oe/blog/hblavatsky/of_pandas_wolves_birds_and_people/

    Actually, I lied about these being serious. These are all nonsense articles posted to Denyse’s blog by a prankster whose name will go unpublished (at least for now).

    The idea was to see if ID Creationists had the most meagre ability to distinguish the nonsense written by genuine creationists from utter nonsense written about creationists in jest.

    What has this proved… that creationists lack the ability to detect mockery? Hardly a novel finding. In the end the prankster gave up – it’s absolutely impossible to distinguish an actual ID screed from a satirical ID screed other than by context.

  103. cholling says:

    #6: “Give me a functioning brain and a drill and I’ll disprove Cartesian Dualism in a second. It’ll be a bit of a bloody and screamy second…but…well…whoever said science couldn’t be messy?”

    Disprove it how? Suppose I had a theory that said my car needs both an engine and a transmission in order to run properly. You destroy the transmission, and the car fails to run. Have you disproved the “engine hypothesis”? No. Likewise, Descartes (who in his time was just about the most knowledgeable person in the world regarding brain science) never claimed that the brain was not an essential component of thought, nor would the fact that brain damage affects thought have affected his thesis.

  104. krops says:

    The only the the Discovery Institute have ever proved is that it’s possible to have a brain but not use it to think.

  105. Antinous says:

    Meatists always word their questions so that they can only be answered in ways that reinforce their existing ideology. That doesn’t sound very scientific to me.

  106. airshowfan says:

    I find this to be extremely worrisome. Maybe even more worrisome than all the efforts to teach ID.

    The average person on the street is probably more willing to include supernatural causes in his/her understanding of the human mind than in his/her model of pretty much any other phenomenon, even evolution.

    Despite the fact that the materialist/naturalist view of the mind is almost ubiquitous among philosophers and scientists (ok, perhaps not quite as ubiquitous as a materialist/naturalist view of evolution), I think the general population consists almost entirely of dualists, including many of the people who realize that creationism (when it comes to evolution) is BS.

    Even during my gradual change from Catholic to atheist, one of the last things I let go of was the need for a supernatural soul to explain consciousness. Only a lot of Dennett, Hofstadter and Ramachandran eventually convinced me that a soul is not necessary to explain consciousness, something that to me was a huge relief.

    Anyways… I think this initiative to fight materialism with mind-body dualism might actually be more likely to succeed than all the ID stuff, since dualism is something that most people intuitively agree with, and take for granted. I know many Christians who appreciate science (even evolution) as much as I do, but who have trouble even comprehending the idea that we might not have supernatural souls…

    God help us ;)

  107. Takuan says:

    and that Sonny, is the Mystery. How can I encompass all that? Even allowing for total recall of a lifetime soaked in more written,spoken, acted,presented – and even smelt – sheer variety of information far beyond what 99% of the species was heretoforth permitted by simple circumstances; where does it all come from? There is no way my humble engines of imagination could have created the places visited in dream. I simply do not possess in my experience the raw data needed to fabricate these realms.

  108. Apashiol says:

    @#90
    Oh, jornin.
    Don’t you see? It’s the ‘spirit’ in the alcohol that affects the mind!

  109. sabik says:

    So, basically, a “God of the gaps” argument. How novel!

  110. Takuan says:

    sometimes I do wonder where my dreams come from.

  111. Frank_in_Virginia says:

    @89, Oh my.

  112. jdfreivald says:

    FoetusNail: Humans don’t become conscious of self-awareness until they are around two years old. Does consciousness imply soul? Does this mean we are born without souls? What would that mean about abortion?

    The notion of “ensoulment” and when that occurs was discussed by Christian theologians and philosophers in the early centuries of the Church, with some saying conception, others “the quickening” (which I think might have been the end of the first trimester), and perhaps other times.

    I don’t know that they ever came to consensus. But abortion was always considered evil, even from the earliest days of Christianity, so among Christians I doubt that the two things (a. whether the foetus has a soul and b. when it would be okay to kill a foetus) would be considered intrinsically linked.

  113. FoetusNail says:

    Again, you are missing my point. The right decision in 1893 was to lynch the bastards. In hindsight, we now judge those actions as ugly. Years from now, I hope a majority of people will judge the death penalty likewise.

    Humans created religion, god, and evil. This shit controls people. Once again, you are missing the point in what appears to be an effort to defend religion. As I have said before, there is no good or evil, there is what we prefer today, in this time. In hindsight, meaning judging by today’s standards, we agreed to do then what we now consider ugly, wrong, to defend our way of life. So, yes, I do consider what was done in the past as some ugly shit. Whether the acts or the perpetrators were ordinary has nothing to do with our perception of their actions. With one exception, we like to think people that do things we do not prefer are “genetically defective psychopaths”, sometimes they are, other times they are just like us.

    I really don’t know how to say this any differently. What people consider normal is just that and no more. Our group has a different agreement than their group. Groups will reconcile their differences, maybe peacefully, maybe not. In other words, what we consider as right and wrong will evolve. Our group decides their group not only did something evil, but that they were evil. He was evil. He did it because he was evil. I just think he was a sociopath.

    This discussion is difficult because it is very hard to discuss this without using the words right and wrong. This is why I choose to say there is what we prefer. Using the words right and wrong implies there is some universal standard by which we measure our actions. Clearly, this is not true, because there are many things that were once common practice, which over time have become unacceptable. That there are societies that disagree with our version of what is acceptable, and with whom we may also disagree, proves my point. To claim we have some absolute understanding of right and wrong is arrogant and did in fact lead to Colonialism. That we now disagree with their actions only means our agreement as to what is acceptable behavior has evolved. I hope and expect our agreement to continue evolving.

    I really wish you would stop isolating my statements one from the other. The paragraph concerning souls, states that I find this concept silly, and I believe the concept of souls both cheapens life and provides a handle on your ass. If we live forever, then this tiny bit of life on Earth becomes unimportant, except that religion now holds your soul, your eternal afterlife, hostage to their concept of right and wrong. They will not give you back a happy afterlife until you get down on your knees and kiss ass. Why else is suicide illegal? Why not just die and get on with the good stuff? They have created a vision of life after death, this vision means they don’t have to deliver on any promise of salvation, and by creating another rule saying you can’t just say, fuk u I’m going to heaven today, they hold you by the short hairs now and forever. It’s fukin brilliant and because they start putting these ideas in our heads when we’re two and three years old, we never stand a chance.

    We are made to believe when we can’t understand, and to obey so we may never understand.

    To sum up my position, religion is a lie; all of it is a lie, gods, souls, everlasting life, all of it. This lie cheapens this life, and helps religion control brainwashed believers. What is right or wrong is not absolute, but a constantly evolving agreement without which societies would not exist. Some groups think eating your enemies is OK, some don’t. So, lacking a vocabulary, I just like to say there is no such thing as right and wrong there is what we prefer, either pleasure or pain. Try not to twist my words any further.

  114. failix says:

    What desperates me most in all of this, is that some people actually think that creationism/ID etc counts as an actual science or as an alternative to evolution.

  115. Cragsavage says:

    #21 – yeah…you got me there. What I should’ve said is that I’d disprove the mind/brain separation.

  116. Anonymous says:

    Y cn lwys cnt n BngBng t rvl th sbtl dffrncs btwn n thst nd dmnc.

    n thst blvs thr s n sl. dmnc blvs thr s n mnd.

    n thst blvs vls d nt cm frm Gd. dmnc blvs vls d nt cm frm ny src whtvr.

  117. noen says:

    Anonymous
    It always boggles my mind how blind people are to their own narrow-mindedness, and how frequently “rational” types are far more narrow-minded than the fundamentalists they criticize.

    That’s how it works. Ideology structures our experience but it must remain unconscious in order to function. So we have in this thread people that fall back to explaining the mind/body problem with a hardware/software analogy. As if that isn’t itself an ideology, a way of thinking, that imposes it’s own order on subjective experience.

    All we have is the world and our reaction to it. For some, they believe they perceive a deeper reality behind our semantic representation. Sort of like how we can perceive a dog on the other side of a picket fence. It’s just an illusion of simulacrum, this is religion. For others all we have is our description of the world, our symbolic net. But it’s incomplete, it can approach but never really capture the world because the Real is “that which resists symbolization”.

    So people get scared and retreat into the obscurantism of religion or other forms of secular absolutism and mystification. It’s a difficult thing to live in this world as it is. It’s too much, it overwhelms and floods us. At other times it feels as though it’s all too insubstantial, that the ground beneath our feet has fallen away and we are left hung upon the air. Being is ontologically incomplete.

    We may never solve the problem of consciousness. It may turn out that any machine sufficient to give rise to conscious behavior is too complex for us to understand. How will we react to these problems that cannot be solved and yet do not go away? For much of the world the easy answer is fundamentalism.

  118. El_Cid says:

    acknowledging that the mind is not just software run by brain is tantamount to saying that there is something other-worldly at play. whats the alternative if you reject the “software on the brain” hypothesis? that no scientific theory will properly explain the mind? that the mind exists somewhere other than the gray matter that we see? this is a plea for mysticism, which is the case they are making.

    This is completely wrong. You are welcome to make hypotheses that the mind is akin to software run by the hardware of the brain. So far these analogies have not proven fruitful.

    Demanding that explanations that you have not yet created must be accepted a priori is also mysticism.

    At the moment, we simply do not know what is going on. That isn’t a plea for mysticism.

    The fact that we do not know what is going on, and haven’t gone far towards knowing, is not any sort of support for mysticism. To say that it is, is an emotional reaction in which one fears that irrationalists will exploit our lack of knowledge in order to push their own mysticism and irrationality.

    It must be borne in mind that our understanding of matter has a great deal of problems; insisting, ideologically, that our current understanding of matter must someday explain the operations of something we are hard pressed even to define, much less explain — i.e., “mind” or consciousness — is something we don’t need to do.

    Maybe I’m just weird, but the fact that we aren’t close to defining or explaining consciousness strikes me as simply mystery, not mysticism.

  119. dancentury says:

    That’s Karl Pilkington logic!

  120. jdfreivald says:

    I don’t see most of the arguments here as helpful. Many attack the idea of a soul as irrational, but that’s just question-begging. We should at least be able to assume the dualist perspective and find a contradiction before we do that.

    So let’s say that man is a combination of an immaterial soul and a material body. The soul, as traditionally understood, is the thing that makes us self-determining — the thing that makes us different from meatballs or waterfalls.

    To do this, it must be distinct from the body (or else it’s just an extension of it), but it must act on the body (or else it’s irrelevant). Let’s say that it acts on the brain, though it may do other things as well.

    If the soul is self-determining, then you can’t see what makes it do what it does. In other words, to an outsider, it simply behaves in such-and-such a way, without cause: It appears to be random. So how would you detect a soul? You probably couldn’t; you would see brain behavior that appeared partly determined (by alcohol or electric shocks or whatever) and partly random. Dualists would interpret the apparent randomness as the activity of the soul, while monists would interpret it as true randomness.

    So when I assume the dualist conclusion, I don’t see a contradiction. I don’t see much possibility of falsification, either, and so much the worse for dualism as a scientific theory. But it’s not irrational, strictly speaking, to believe in a soul.

    I will open myself to ridicule by saying this: The soul is a simple postulate, the addition of which is rational if (a) you believe in free will and (b) aren’t a compatibilist. That describes me, so I accept the soul hypothesis and move on.

    Could I be wrong? Sure, but worrying about being wrong seems somewhat silly if I couldn’t choose to be right. If I’m wrong, then my physically determined body couldn’t think any other way if it wanted to (and it can’t want to).

    The problem with the Discovery Institute going down this path, then, isn’t that they’re pursuing dualism. It’s that the existence of a soul has no real bearing on evolution or the existence of God. I am a Catholic non-creationist, if it matters, but if I were an atheist who believed in free will and weren’t a compatibilist, I could still come to the same conclusions.

    If you want to attack the DI, it’s probably better for you to attack their non sequiturs rather than attacking dualism.

  121. jdfreivald says:

    Tom @105: Dualism gets us nowhere with regard to explaining anything because the notion of a “supernatural explanation” is an oxymoron.

    Part of the problem is that the notion of “supernatural” hasn’t been updated since Sir Isaac Newton’s time. Newton described “occult forces” that managed the interactions among bodies, and from what I understand (though I’m no expert), that caused a great deal of consternation at the time.

    So what does “supernatural” mean? Honestly, I can’t tell. The soul (at least as I’ve discussed it at #100 above) needn’t be any more “supernatural” than Newton’s occult forces were, and I wish people who talk about it wouldn’t use that term. Sure, if souls exist, they must affect matter without being affected by other matter, and we could know them only from their effects. But that sounds just like Newton’s “occult forces” or dark matter, both of which are natural.

    They’re natural, that is, if they exist.

    It appears that Newton’s occult forces don’t exist, and that we’re actually dealing with the curvature of space-time (general relativity) or the exchange of gravitons (quantum gravity). So he had a good idea that involved occult forces that we all eventually accepted, but that appears to be wrong.

    And I personally don’t know why we should believe in dark matter; from the explanations I’ve heard, dark matter is postulated as the stuff that causes gravitational lensing where there’s insufficient normal matter to account for what we’re seeing. To which I ask, “Why do we think that space-time is only curved by matter? Does there have to be ‘matter’ that doesn’t interact with anything to explain this phenomenon?” Maybe that’s just my ignorance showing, but at any rate it seems to this layman that dark matter is a quasi-scientific / philosophical invention that “saves the phenomena”, as the old-time natural philosophers would say.

    So these things are all “natural”, if they exist: dark matter, forces, and souls. The term “supernatural”, used for or against the Discovery Institute, just clouds the issue.

  122. Takuan says:

    no Modus, you had to be there. Quite the contrary, no Peter Max animation fantasy -rather the sheer volume of the totality of a completely mundane – and very complete – world.

  123. jornin says:

    #108 posted by MachineElf

    “I think Cory deserves some criticism for lowering the debate to that level – it doesn’t offer anything constructive, it’s just a kneejerk reaction to the Discovery Institute’s involvement.”

    Over and over again DI has shown itself to be a dishonest organization. The very fact that they are bringing up an argument lowers the debate. They have an ax to grind and books to sell, this may well be a nuanced argument, but it’s not going to come out of DI.

    “Regarding how effects of drugs or traumatic injury show that mind arises out of brain processes, that’s simply poor logic. If I break the channel switcher off a television, and I can now only access one channel, does that prove that the images I’m seeing are generated directly by the TV? Brain may well create the mind, but that particular argument is no proof.”

    What? We can see what happens to people when alcohol/drugs/traumatic injury happen to the brain and how it affects the mind. We can’t see/test any evidence of a soul, or that something is transmitting the concept of our minds into our brains. Just because you waving your hands and saying its no proof doesn’t really mean anything. What would you consider proof? We can repeatably see drugs/alcohol/and brain injury change both the working structure of the brain, and the mind. I don’t see any thing that will change the structure of the brain without effecting the mind. And that TV analogy is really bad. It’s like saying if I cut out your tongue and can’t hear you talk, is your brain generating thoughts.

  124. Anonymous says:

    Wouldn’t a quick thump on the head disabuse anyone of the notion that their mind is magically somewhere else in a nonphysical realm?

  125. Chocolatey Shatner says:

    “There’s a star man waiting in the sky… He’d really like to meet us, but he thinks he’d blow our minds.” – Ziggy Stardust

  126. Flying Orca says:

    These guys need to read Pinker.

  127. Slicklines says:

    @21 Utterly bogus, I’m afraid. If you take the engine out of a car, leaving the transmission intact, you can still prove the transmission works perfectly fine. (And vice versa) You can even discover exactly what it does. Your theory of Engine + Transmission = Go is easily separated into two, testable parts. We can discover what both do. For your analogy to prove anything, we would have to be able to separate mind and brain into two, testable parts. Umm… good luck with that. To steal a riff from HST:

    Kill the brain and the mind will follow.

  128. Antinous says:

    1 Open mouth
    2 Insert alcohol
    3 Try to explain how a “non-material neuroscience” can describe a chemical process that affects the brain and mind.

    Fair enough:

    1 Open mind.
    2 Learn to meditate.
    3 Try to explain how the simple direction of your intent can change your brain chemistry, thus lowering your pulse and blood pressure.

  129. cherry shiva says:

    @#15 (&17):

    i agree with shadowfirebird – this is a valid idea which in no way proves or even implies a creator god. that “mind” is not “brain” is obvious, and i’m all for a systematic challenge to pure materialism, but i see no reason to then connect invisible dots to “god” or a christian hierarchy. it just doesn’t follow.

    buddhist philosophers are atheistic AND concerned with the idea that the conscious whole is greater than the sum of the bloody parts; that human consciousness (as we know it) may depend on a brain, but is not “the” brain.

    consciousness is an aggregate phenomenon, subject to decay like all aggregates.
    a mythical creator god is utterly beside the point.

  130. Cool Products says:

    #21: I think he was trying to make a joke, haha, and you took it way too seriously.

    Seeing that the burden of proof lies on the creationists, it is certainly up to them to “discover” the link between the mind and the brain (if there is even one). Going back to the “because you can’t disprove what we are putting forth, it is right” just takes us back a few hundred years in our use of logic and reasoning. I’m looking forward to hearing about the two scientists discoveries (and better use of simple logic).

  131. ookanuba says:

    This is just more BS from the ID community. They can’t quite get over the first of the several stages of loss: Denial.

    If someone discovered an actual soul, it still wouldn’t negate the overwhelming evidence for the evolution of the physical body.

    Even the discovery of God wouldn’t negate the evidence for evolution! But it would give us the chance to ask her about some of those pesky gaps in the fossil record.

    If anyone is upset by these ‘last throes of idiocy’, watch NOVA’s “Judgment Day” and see Darwin kick their asses!

  132. SamSam says:

    #75 dmduncan:

    Because the existence of an explanatory gap wouldn’t be a proof of God any more than Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem is a proof of the existence of a mathematical God. They are in two entirely different spheres.

  133. mordicai says:

    What is really distressing is that THIS WILL WORK. People are desperate to believe in a soul, & this is a good building block that not just Christians but lapsed Christians & other religions & “I take a little from a lot of places” hippies can all get bhind. Alas, a strong hand played by ignorance.

  134. SamSam says:

    As we’ve all noticed the obvious logically fallacy of an argument in the form

    (1)The Hard Problem demands a non-scientific answer, (2) therefore science cannot completely explain the world, (3) therefore we didn’t descend from monkeys

    I wonder if we might not be being led astray by the fact that these are ID-pushers. It’s likely that their end goal is not the destruction of evolution, but rather the introduction of God into science.

    They’re decades-long fight for creationism and ID is less about Darwin, I think, than about God. So they may actually be perfectly happy stopping at point (2) above, concede the battle on evolution, to try and win the battle on God.

    I think that scientists who counter this need to be careful not to get fixated on proving evolution and instead look at the actual argument at hand, since ID won’t necessarily be their goal.

  135. SamSam says:

    #24 sabik:

    Yes, it’s a God of the Gaps argument, but the “gap” is an embarrassingly large one that some, like David Chalmers who coined the phrase “The Hard Problem,” believe that science logically cannot answer, in much the same way that Gödel shows that there are statements in logic that cannot be proven (the arguments aren’t related, however).

    If it’s true that the problem is either extremely difficult or impossible to solve, then what we need to show is why that alone does not imply the existence of God, any more than the incompleteness theorem does.

  136. Anne K. says:

    God, just the word Cartesian sends me into spasms of freshman English induced rage.

  137. SamSam says:

    #36 Cool Products:

    I think you have it backwards. It’s the burden of proof for the creationists to come up with the link between the brain and the mind. Rather, the argument is that it’s the burden of Science to come up with the link. If Science is unable to do so, the argument goes, then Science alone cannot explain the link between the brain and the mind.

  138. andygates says:

    #15, #39: Yup, it seems to be a logical fallacy of the most glaring order to say “we cannot explain mind yet therefore man did not evolve.

    Those dots don’t join up, and once again we’re left with the ID “god of the gaps” proposal, which isn’t terribly impressive.

  139. Anonymous says:

    Takuan: I get mine from a little old lady in Schenectady, who sends ‘em in a plain brown wrapper.

    Some excellent comments here, especially El Cid. I’m not used to seeing this level of discourse on basic philosophical concepts!

    –Charlie

    PS: However, my captcha is “but plummer” which sort of instantaneously draws me back down to the usual Internet discussion forum level.

    –C

  140. SamSam says:

    Correction to my post #41: the argument is that it’s not the creationist’s burden of proof.

  141. dhuff says:

    Dualism ? Sure. Brain and Mind are different.

    But where the ID / Creationist argument falls down is in their premise that both are “nouns.”

    “Brain” is a noun. “Mind” is a verb – it’s what a properly functioning Brain does.

  142. shutz says:

    I read the first dozen or so comments before posting this, so I apologize if anyone else here has already posted the following idea.

    Dualism is partially right: brain and consciousness are two different things. The brain is the “hardware” or “wetware”, if you will, while consciousness is the “software”.

    Anyone who’s played around with complex math, fractals and chaos theory has no problem seeing that a simple and finite system such as a brain can lead to infinitely complex and interesting results, such as a consciousness.

    That, alone, is enough to convince me that there is no need for a “god” to explain us. But the “mind” is not the same thing as the “brain”, and we can all agree that “software” is something abstract and ethereal, which somewhat fulfills Descartes’ dualism, albeit in a twisted way.

  143. FoetusNail says:

    JDFREIVALD- Because we agree today does not mean we would have agreed then. I would never be so secure in myself as to believe I would not have enjoyed a good lynching in defense of my wife, children, and community had I been alive in Paris, TX in 1893. Obviously not enough people agreed lynching was wrong, quite the contrary.

    This is hard for some to accept, but there are no absolutes when discussing what is right or wrong, and without religion, there is no evil. Right and Wrong is a constantly evolving agreement between members of groups. For better or worse, usually worse, we have, in the past, agreed to what in hindsight is some pretty ugly shit.

    Through it all the Torah, Bible, and Quran permited all manner of what are now judged to be atrocities. Come to think of it, I could be stoned, or blown the fuk up for what I’m writing and millions, maybe billions, would find it wholly acceptable. Is it possible that the self same inhabitants of 1893 Paris, TX were all evil or were they all devout Christians? Were they all “genetically defective psychopaths”? No, they were regular people. We don’t like to believe that, but it is true.

    Yes, evil is always a state of a mind, the state of a brainwashed religious mind. The Big Three see evil as a separate occupying entity to be excised from humanity, which would otherwise be pure. We struggle against evil, why? By creating evil, we separate ourselves from responsibility. We deny our fallibility.

    Take killing, is killing always wrong? If not when is it OK? The Big Three say, “Thou shall not kill.” So, we define some killings as murders. Killing is not wrong, murder is wrong. We have many acceptable reasons for killing. Why is it so hard to accept that those reasons change as societies refine their agreements? Today most Americans support the Death Penalty. Are they Right, will they always be right, or will we one day agree this too is just as wrong as we now believe lynching to be.

    Souls. Souls? Souls cheapen corporeal life. The concept of everlasting souls cheapens the miracle of life. Souls allow postponement of religion’s rewards. Just wait you’ll get yours. Did you say your prayers, pay your dues, kiss enough ass; let ‘em pass. The evil of religion is the concept of everlasting souls. Everlasting souls provide an everlasting hold on your existential ass. So, even if souls exist, which I find silly, the last thing I would do is tell anyone they have one.

    All this Right or Wrong as absolute shit, this arrogant belief in our own civilization, enabled the Colonialists and Conquistadors. This misplaced belief in our ability to discern Right from Wrong, to define absolutes, is hubris of the highest order and leads to untold misery.

    We do not advance society until we let go of what we here today perceive as Right.

  144. Anonymous says:

    I find it utterly ridiculous that many people treat the scientific method as some ultimate bringer of truth, readily throwing away everything that even smells untestable…

    I suppose we can forge our way into space, make sophisticated weapons to deter foes, discover methods for prolonging our lives close to infinity, … and for what?

  145. The Lizardman says:

    This is an incredibly shrewd attack but its merit lies not in ‘facts’ but rather in the intuitive appeal (to most) of this sort of dualism along with the fact that while it can be done away with (and mostly has been academically beyond the undergraduate level for those in philosophy and philosophy of science) the process is difficult for many resulting in the predictable result that they don’t go through it. Most will never go through the philosophic study with its twists and turns that ultimately dissolves the dualism but will happily go along with what seems right according to their intuitions willfully ignoring the failings of those intuitions (or dogmas) to accurately model reality.

  146. Keneke says:

    The problem here, of course, is not the argument of monism versus dualism, but rather the lengths one side will go to to oppress the other.

  147. bardfinn says:

    I think it’s wonderful. The very best thing they can claim out of this is that because Science has yet to find a “soul” in the brain, it’s therefore numenous. They won’t ever define a “soul”, either – because as soon as they do, someone somewhere with a TCEMIS device will turn it on and off in a test subject, reproducibly.

    Science can already reproduce “transcendent” and “religious” experiences – the feeling of prayer, of being in the presence of a deity, visions, hallucinatory experiences, distortions of perception, personality changes, and on and on and on –

    Let me diverge for a moment:

    In the classic game of Go, there are usually two opposing sides and a limited number of places that can be taken over.

    In any game of Go between two mismatched players, there always comes a moment when the stronger player knows that the other player is eventually doomed, but does not realise it – the weaker player keeps trying to re-take ground already lost, thinks that because the stronger player has not yet taken over open spaces that there is still yet hope for winning by expanding into those areas.

    This is one of those situations.

  148. jdfreivald says:

    FoetusNail, is that a response to me, or something else? I don’t see how it’s relevant either to what I wrote or to the conversation at large. If it is, please explain.

  149. ill lich says:

    Hmmmm. . . the right wing may find this hurts them in their “right to life” pursuits– I’m thinking of how this would apply to the Terry Schiavo case, at what point did her etherial mind leave her physical brain?

    Next up: scientists investigate how many angels will fit on the head of a pin.

  150. jimbuck says:

    Next problem they’ll have to wiggle out of: we’re not the only animals with conscienceness. Chimps and gorillas and bottle-nosed dolphins all recognize the thing in the mirror as themselves.

    So whatever god-plugin there is, it’s only homo sapiens compatible.

  151. Takuan says:

    well, if it gives me more drinking time, that’d be worth it.

  152. FoetusNail says:

    I don’t like or agree with the concept of evil, which seems to motivate all Christian thinking. We are born evil, etc. There is no right or wrong, there is what we prefer, either pleasure or pain. When people agree on what they prefer their opinions become law, for them and only them.

    Benedict de Spinoza wrote, “Everyone exists by the highest right of Nature, and consequently everyone, by the highest right of Nature, does those things which follow from the necessity of his own nature. So everyone, considers his own advantage according to his own temperament, avenges himself, and strives to preserve what he loves and destroy what he hates.”

    So what does the existence of a soul have to do with any of this? If souls do indeed exist, then there is nothing one can do to my body to harm me. Therefore, abortion becomes meaningless and evil is just a state of mind.

  153. Frank_in_Virginia says:

    “Could the next battleground in the ID movement’s war on science be the brain?”

    No, because that assumes those who believe in ID have one.

  154. Tom says:

    Dualism gets us nowhere with regard to explaining anything because the notion of a “supernatural explanation” is an oxymoron.

    Explanations that do not violate elementary consistency conditions are invertible: if we say that A explains B, then by studying B we can learn about A. This follows from Bayes theorem.

    But it is precisely this inversion that supernaturalists deny. They want to be able to claim that “the soul” causes some aspect of human behaviour (where thought, our interior life, etc is include in “behaviour”) but that we can’t learn anything at all about the nature of “the soul” by studying human behaviour. If we could, then “the soul” would be just another perfectly ordinary natural phenomenon, and “soulology” would be a perfect ordinary branch of science, no different than any other in its basic method.

    Since the explicit claim of supernaturalists is that “the soul” must be invoked to account for things that can’t yet be explained by science, they must be denying that we can learn anything about the soul by studying the phenomena it is supposed to explain. If we could, it would just be science, and they have told us it is not and cannot be encompassed by science.

    One might therefore reasonably ask how we can know that the soul exists, and where exactly the line is drawn between the things we can know about the soul and the things we can’t.

    If the soul is to be useful as an explanation of anything it must, for example, interact with matter. Furthermore, the soul may have state, because it does not always seem to have the same effect on matter, but effects that vary with time and circumstance. By investigating these purported effects in detail, we may apparently learn an almost arbitrary amount about the soul, once the advocates of soulology build us a soulometer.

    One suspects such a device will be long in coming, though, because the supposed “evidence” for the soul is and must remain entirely negative if it is to remain in the realm of the supernatural.

    Claiming your explanation is “supernatural” triggers a social cue that indicates it would be in very bad taste to ask these sorts of question. The wonderful thing about science is that we get to ask any question whatsoever, no matter how bad it might taste to some people.

  155. AceJohnny says:

    Tangentially on topic, but I first discovered the notion of Cartesian Dualism (but didn’t pay attention) in a Dresden Codak strip. And he knew what he was talking about… I haven’t checked the other references: philosophy ain’t my principal field of interest.

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