Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Hate Mail File -- You Can't Debunk Minds Without Also Debunking The Mind You're Using To Debunk MInds

One of the most seriously discrediting things about materialism is that materialists have to depend on them and their ideology having an exemption from the very materialism they are asserting.   That was the issue I had with Richard Seymour when he made an absurdly tortured argument for the material nature of ideologies, one which he got rather heated about when I raised it.

Materialism, like Biblical fundamentalism, is a monist system, a system in which it is declared that nothing exists which is not included in and accounted for by their ideological frame.   Materialists assert that there is nothing but the material universe, complete with the forces and physical laws that govern the movements of objects.   In some more sophisticated assertions of it, "naturalism" "physicalism", the definition of what that comprises is more up to date with current physics but the monist nature of it and its insistence on the same things make those really no different.

Everything in a materialist universe is governed by the same physical causation that they use to analyze the origins and behaviors of physical objects, nothing exists outside of that web of causation, anything proposed which could escape it is declared, by force of their original assertions, non-existent.  And, like all ideologies, those are a program of faith to be believed in, to be convinced of, held on to through, at bottom, an emotional choice to believe them.

That is why our minds are such a big problem for materialists to get rid of.  Our experience of consciousness doesn't fit into their ideological framing and most people, I would assert even the most rigid of materialists, don't really believe that is what their minds are like.  Which is a huge area of discussion but it's not the one I'll go into.

For a materialist, their real goal is almost always to get rid of God and any things that anybody can possibly believe imply the existence of God.  I have never, once, encountered an ideological atheist whose major area of focus is not trying to convince other people and, perhaps, themselves, that there is no God.   It is an emotional thing with them, beneath all of their pretenses.  That is the reason they are willing to go to such absurd lengths to make claims aimed at destroying anything that implies that God is real and that we are more than merely physical objects that, when applied to them, it impeaches the validity of their ideological framing and, as well, the minds with which they think up these ideas.  

I have been through this before, as recently as earlier this week.   If our ideas are the product of physical causation working on the chemicals and structures in our brains then any idea we have is merely the working out of that pre-existing chemistry and physics to its inevitable end.  That it produces strychnine  swallowing Pentecostalism in one mind is as inevitable and right as it producing the thinking of Stephen Hawking or Jerry Coyne or Richard Seymour.   There is no way to say that the one is wrong and the other is right, they are merely the results of the peculiar chemical precursors that led to the ideas that those produce.  AND IT IS IMPOSSIBLE THAT ANY IDEA CAN TRANSCEND THAT MOST BANAL AND ENTIRELY VULGAR CHARACTER.  I say "vulgar" because that character is one that would be truly universal, it would apply to every idea anyone has about everything.   For a strict materialist, the thinking that produced a British mass murderer, committing genocide on the inhabitants of Tasmania has exactly the same character as the thinking that produced the acts of the most benevolent missionary, the reason that the Tasmanian and other genocides could be discussed so dispassionately in 19th century science, in the same books which ridiculed the missionaries' work.   I noted that last week, as well.

Ah, but, you may say, science objectively consults the physical universe, holding up scientific ideas against that*  and so achieves objective reality.   But materialism is a universal faith, you can't pick and choose which ideas get to be a foundation, not conditioned by the same physical forces.  Those acts of the mind that comprise the practices of science don't get to escape the sealed maze you've insisted on any more than the ideas you don't like.  All acts of perception, analysis, measurement, review, are as stuck in the mire of physical causality, all of them are the mere result of the peculiar chemistry and physical action which produced them.  Logic, itself, is a mere product of material causation in the materialist system, that two people arrive at the same result and another person arrives at a different one is merely the result of chance presence of chemicals and physical forces.  None of that can escape their peculiar pre-conditions to achieve objectivity.  Given that no two brains will ever be exactly alike, I think materialism provides a better argument against two scientists ever having exactly the same idea or even one person retaining an idea for more than a split second before it changes into something else than it is that something residing in a human brain called "objectivity" is real.

And all of those virtues of science, the quest for truth, would have to be fantasies as well.   Truth, truths, would also have no status above being the mere, inevitable results of the peculiar chemistry and physical conditions that produced those ideas.   "Truth" would have to transcend that to achieve the status of virtue, something which materialism has no room for.

This could go on and on, including whether or not the necessary reactions and physical adjustments of chemicals and physical structures happen fast enough to account for our real-time experience of thinking and having ideas and continually modifying those ideas, yet still being able, in all of that, for those ideas to retain a cohesive identity in our minds, but I don't have the time right now.  I've got a hell of a lot of snow to move today.

My guess is that, by now, you're feeling pretty angry at me looking at just some of the logical necessities of your own ideology, atheist materialism.   My guess is that it's an experience you share with a really rigid Biblical fundamentalist when confronted with the fact of evolution and its associated facts of geology.  That is, if you're wrong and something like a "fact" can exist independent of the brains that have those ideas.   I don't know if, perhaps, you can learn from that experience.  Maybe your brain doesn't contain the correct molecules to construct those ideas from.

* I'll point out for at least the dozenth time that Stephen Hawking has called for that rule of science to be junked and that the ideas of science be judged on their internal coherence, alone.  Something which he's not alone in doing, it has been an idea popular with scientists, all of those I'm aware of dedicated materialists and atheists, for well over a century.  Freud, abiogenesis, the "exobiology" invented by "The Cosmos is all there is" guy himself.

Update:  And, about that footnote, those very dedicated materialists who "do science" divorced from even the possibility of holding up their equations and claims against real things in the real universe are, ironically, proposing to bring science back to the late, medieval scholastic practice that Galileo confronted.  His greatest opponents weren't cardinals and even popes, many of whom had supported him, even some of the members of the Inquisition, even the nephew of The Pope, who arranged for his protection and sheltering after the sentence was passed.  I'd always been told that it was the Cardinals who refused to look through his telescope but I've recently read that it was actually the faculty members specializing in natural philosophy (what science was called back then) who were, almost all devoted to the scholastic tradition.   In one of the funniest and most telling of all things about current ignorance of the background of what they turned into the Galileo myth, many of those who championed empiricism were, in fact, members of the Catholic clergy.


  1. Yes, my religious ideas are a product of fear or a predilection toward taking certain mental experiences as "divine" when they are in fact chemical, and in confusing bio-chemistry for "God."

    Your scientific objectivity, on the other hand, is the result of direct access to universal truth because "science" and "objectivity". It's not a result of mere chemical reactions in nerve endings of the brain at all. That would be reductionist and absurd.

    Clearly. Because the truth is out there; but it's only accessible to science, not to religion. The latter is just the product of the "lizard brain" (I swear I still hear that nonsense treated as fact); the former transcends mere brain chemistry because....well, because it's true! Alright?!

    1. One of the key insights I had in the past nine years of writing about this is that, at times, history can produce facts more absolute about reality then science does. It is an absolute fact that JFK was assassinated on November 22, 1963 and it is knowable that disbelieving that is a delusion to within an absolute degree. I believe at the same time the eminent cosmologist Fred Hoyle was holding out for a universe which had no beginning, one which would violate the second law of thermodynamics, I'd expect. And today atheists such as Sean Carroll hold out for a fluctuating universe that goes in and out of existence, something which one philosopher pointed out would have had to have wound down some time in the infinite past if they wanted to retain the validity of the second law. Though I can't say I've mastered anything like the arguments involved. Carroll didn't have an answer to that point in anything I recall coming across. I think knowing that JFK was assassinated has a knowable reality, means of checking and an importance in human life that Carroll's entirely conjectural infinite ensemble of universes does not and never will. Something he and other atheists invented on the basis of nothing in order to get by the creation of the fine-tuned universe we are believed to know exists, the universe they claim to respect so much that they've made it the object of their study.

      The motives of ideological atheists in science and their production of an enormous amount of junk science would make an interesting study. I really meant it when I said that that weird science going back to the scholastic practices of the late medieval period was, in every case I know of, invented by and championed by atheists with a clear ideological motive.

      I hope you liked the Update. I almost had to put a shovel full of snow down I was so pleased with the idea.

    2. My first response to your post was to point out the empiricism of Hume led him to conclude that "consciousness" was an illusion, because empiricism could only confirm that our brain received sensory inputs, it could not confirm what turned those inputs into awareness, understanding, memory, perception, etc.

      Hence, such things were illusory. There is, in other words, no "mind," no "me," no "ghost in the machine" which does the observing/processing of what sensory data the body provides.

      But how does that work? Does a television operating in an empty room perceive what it projects? Does the furniture in the room? Does the room? Hume was committed to his empiricism, so he had to conclude consciousness is imply illusory. It doesn't really explain anything, though. All it does is keep his empiricism intact.

      And keep it turtles, all the way down.

      And the update underscores how quickly we forget education and literacy and even Aristotle (the true "father of science" in the west) were kept alive by the church, which promoted the universities and the sciences, especially through Mendel and LeMaitre. I think it's fair to say that when science divorced itself from philosophy, and Anglo-American philosophy wedded itself to science, that both rather thoroughly lost their claims to answering more than the simplest, and ultimately least important, questions. We cannot, as you say, ever prove the nature and origin of the universe.

      And more and more I ask: what does that have to do with the question "How should we then live?" And really, which question is more important?

  2. I really enjoy the posts. I started reading this blog a little while ago, and it's nice to see someone who puts forth the effort to explain the irrationality and inconsistencies of materialism, particularly when it comes to attempting to explain the mind and consciousness. I tried writing a long message the other night but it got jumbled as my thinking often does.
    Anyway, you've probably seen this quote from C.S. Lewis before, but I was wondering if you have any thoughts on it:

    "Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God."

    I haven't read too much C.S. Lewis. My protestant grandfather was into him. He seems like he was a good person and quite smart (same with my grandfather!).

    When I've read about people like Sean Carroll or Alex Rosenberg who believe that everything is a part of a closed causal chain, it's pretty depressing. But still, it would have to be a pretty bizarre accident of that closed causal chain were any of our thoughts to have any actual bearing on abstract reality. That's a big problem for naturalism. Not only is morality not something that can be justified, but even rationality can't really be justified either. Not only would our thoughts not really be our thoughts, but we'd have no reason to really think them truthful.

    Keep put the blogging. It's very interesting stuff, Anthony!

  3. Thank you for the encouragement. It's good to know other people are thinking serious about the implications and even the necessary logical conclusions that the Sean Carrolls refuse to consider. Everything about the conduct of the materialists betrays that they either believe, somehow, they have an exemption from their own claims or that they haven't thought very deeply about them.