Monday, April 24, 2017

Hate Mail - Have You Considered That Maybe You Only Speak For Yourself

Perhaps you should consider that you and your fellow atheists who love the idea that minds are meaningless byproducts of the chemistry and physics within your heads that you are forced to believe that because the chemistry and physics at work in your brains don't come up with much.  I can't say that my experience of consciousness and thinking leads me to conclude that matches my experience of thinking but maybe it works for you guys.  

Perhaps atheism is a result of a more banal level of chemistry present in your heads but not present in other peoples'. 

Let me guess, you also believe as a result of your chemically determined thinking that you are a "free thinker".  

Update:  Well, if it's true that our minds, our consciousness, our thoughts are the mere byproduct of whatever chemistry and physics are present in our brain then it can't have any kind of transcendent meaning, it can't be anything but determined and its products can't be meaningful.   A strychnine drinking snake handler is merely playing out the results of whatever chemistry and physics is present in his mind that makes him do that but, also, Richard Feynman and Bertrand Russell were merely doing the same.  

As to the claim no one believes that, they claim they do.  Paul and Patricia Churchland do, Richard Seymore does, all materialists who have been forced to face the ultimate consequences of their ideological position do, claim to believe it.  Of course, they want an exception from their claims for themselves and those whose thinking they like but materialism is a monist system which can't have exceptions.  Only they don't really believe that either.  

And, apparently, Charles Darwin believed it.  He endorsed Ernst Haeckel's History of Creation in which he said:

By the Theory of Descent we are for the first time enabled to conceive of the unity of nature in such a manner that a mechanico-causal explanation of even the most intricate organic phenomena, for example, the origin and structure of the organs of sense, is no more difficult (in a general way) than is the mechanical explanation of any physical process; as, for example, earthquakes, the courses of the wind, or the currents of the ocean. We thus arrive at the extremely important conviction that all natural bodies which are known to us are equally animated, that the distinction which has been made between animate and inanimate bodies does not exist. When a stone is thrown into the air, and falls to earth according to definite laws, or when in a solution of salt a crystal is formed, the phenomenon is neither more nor less a mechanical manifestation of life than the growth and flowering of plants, than the propagation of animals or the activity of their senses, than the perception or the formation of thought in man. This final triumph of the monistic conception of nature constitutes the highest and most general merit of the Theory of Descent, as reformed by Darwin. 


Ernst Haeckel:  Natürliche Schöpfungsgeschichte  vol. 1 (translated by Ray Lankster)

Though Haeckel was certainly not prepared to accept that his thinking on the matter shared the same banal quality of physical causation as other thinking which he had no emotional difficulty dismissing as meaningless.  That's a common trait of materialist-atheists.  A lot of religious thinkers are far more ready to face the consequences of their thinking, even when they don't like it. 

Darwin, himself, said his theory troubled him because he thought that if our thinking shared the same development as animals - as I recall he mentioned apes, specifically - that he didn't see that there was any reason to believe it had any kind of transcendent significance, or truth.  I'll find the quote if you fuss about that, it is a rather famous one. 

Why does it not ever surprise me when an atheist-materialist a. is entirely unaware of the literature of their ideology and b. are unaware and unwilling to face the real meaning of their claims.
Which brings us back to my original speculation above, that atheist-materialists don't exhibit a very high level of thinking. It's one of the most simple-minded of academic poses which probably accounts for its popularity.   

Update 2:  If it's true you have a PhD in a STEM subject you only demonstrate the folly of allowing anyone who gets a bachelors degree or above to be so ignorant of basic rhetoric and basic philosophy.   You can't make what Haeckel said disappear, it was the basis of his entire career.  That it is obviously incompatible with transcendent meaning in our thinking merely shows he was a philosophical idiot in claiming that.  It's a common enough problem with the claims of materialists. 

16 comments:

  1. "By the Theory of Descent we are for the first time enabled to conceive of the unity of nature in such a manner that a mechanico-causal explanation of even the most intricate organic phenomena, for example, the origin and structure of the organs of sense, is no more difficult (in a general way) than is the mechanical explanation of any physical process; as, for example, earthquakes, the courses of the wind, or the currents of the ocean."

    So Aristotle was right? And who, pray tell, is the Unmoved Mover who set all this in motion?

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  2. You're apparently not allowed to bring up such questions because they're philosophy and that has the cooties.

    I think so many sci-guy atheists hate philosophy mostly because they've never read any because it's hard and they resent anything being hard except science and, besides, it cuts into their TV time.

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  3. Freakonomics Radio is advertising their next episode on local NPR station, about people who would rather shock themselves than sit quietly and think. The analysis is that we hate to be bored, but honestly, is that it? Is it a surprise most people would rather do anything, even mild self-harm, rather than sit still and actually think? Especially about ideas as abstract as thought itself (epistemology) or causation and what was the First Cause?

    Far more fun to natter on about how anybody who doesn't think "scientifically" (which is usually just "sciencey!") isn't thinking right. Beats boredom, I suppose.

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    1. I wonder if there is a self-selection effect in that the code of ... um, "ethics" in the social sciences means that all of their study populations are voluntary (which precludes the possibility of them ever having a truly random sample) and that people who would agree to subject themselves to such an idiotic study would also be the kind of people who, as Housman said, "It hurts to think".

      You have to wonder about the people who come up with these study protocols. For some reason it reminds me of John Waters' negative reinforcing psychologist in Hair Spray torturing Penny Pringle out of wanting a black boyfriend. It's been a long month.

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  4. Darwin was right about some important things and wrong about some important things. His statements should be taken one at a time. Being scientific means that nothing should be taken as gospel, no matter how well-regarded the person is who said them. Claims can be evaluated separately. Unscientific claims, such as theological beliefs that most natural scientists in the 1800s held, have no standing in science.

    "a. is entirely unaware of the literature of their ideology"
    It is not possible for a literature that I am not aware of to speak for my personal "ideology". I uniquely speak for whatever "ideology" I hold. I don't expect any other atheist to speak for me and it is a fallacy to assume that is the case.

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    1. If you are a materialist I'm sorry to be the one to have to inform you but materialism is, as Haeckel noted, a monist ideological position. If you hold that there is something in the universe that is not material, is not subject to causal determinism, you are not a materialist. If you deny that there not only is but could not be anything which is non-material and that everything which is, was or ever will be is material and is the product of causal determinism you have to include our minds. That precludes a belief that freedom is real, that free choice is real, that any of our thoughts are anything other than the product of material causation based in the chemistry and physics present in our heads at any given time which means that we not only don't choose what we think but it rules out the possibility that any of our thoughts, no matter what line of merely apparent intellectual content it is a product of, has no more than a vanishingly improbable chance of being "true". Materialism precludes a belief that our thoughts are more than a material artifact like iron oxide or what happens when you mix vinegar and baking soda. That is exactly what Haeckel said, it is essentially what modern materialists such as the Churchlands, Daniel Dennett, etc. still say.

      That conclusion is an inescapable logical conclusion of materialism. I have said that it's clear that atheist-materialists don't really believe it because they refuse to acknowledge that, if they were consistent, that they believe their thinking is a non-chosen and banal result of physical causation.

      I'm just taking them at their word.

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  5. So if I believe in (at least the illusion of) free will, I am not a materialist and hence religious in some way? Is that what you are getting at?

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    1. If you believe that free will is an illusion, that means you believe free will is an illusion. If you think that what we experience as free will is an epiphenominal product of the chemistry and our brains, if you believe that all of our mental processes and experiences are such products of the chemistry of our brain and the everything else is, you are a materialist.

      You seem to suspect that I'm making an argument for religion in noting this when I could have left the word out. I'm only noting that a materialist, if they are going to be consistent, as a logical conclusion of materialism can't believe in freedom, can't believe that our thinking is anything like a choice, can't believe that there is anymore significance to our thoughts than any other physical reaction, as Haeckle pointed out.

      I would note that materialism pretty much precludes the entire program of liberalism due to its logically necessary holdings. Any materialist who holds to any liberal position would have to be being inconsistent with their materialist ideology.

      That's what I'm getting at.

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  6. Then by your definition I'm a materialist. Leave Haeckle out of this. Aside from noting some interesting patterns in comparative embryology, his writings, as far as I have read, have little to no value to modern science. What they say about philosophy I could scarcely care less. Just because I believe X does not mean you can automatically ascribe to me any views, or extrapolations of things from those views, of others who also believe X.

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    1. Not my definition, the definition of materialists. I didn't define materialism, they did.

      Haeckel was an example of a materialist who explicitly believed that our minds, our thoughts are a result of material causation and he, correctly, stated that under materialist ideology neither could have any more significance than the examples of movements in inanimate objects and chemical processes. Materialism inevitably leads to a devaluation of life, human life included.

      If you hold any ideas or beliefs that aren't, ultimately, defined by a reduction of things and living beings into physical phenomena, including our thinking, you are being inconsistent with your materialism. As I noted, materalists always make exceptions for themselves, their ideological and other, favored ideas and things. It is a ridiculous ideology that no one can really live in or really believe in. The Churchlands are an especally ridiculous case in which they purport to actually see each other in those terms, the results are anything but believable. Materialism is an ideological pose that can have very serious consequences when it is inserted into science and it suckers credulous people into viewing living beings and people as objects which are disposable and to whom no moral obligations are owed. That is the history of your ideology in the real world.

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  7. I disagree with any "logic" that says that I can't be a liberal thinking and acting individual if I believe that the mind and soul are a temporary figment of the neurochemistry of my brain. I and (at least) thousands of other people stand as physical evidence that this is a preposterous claim.

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    1. Liberalism, in its traditional American form is founded on assumptions, free will, free thought, equality of all people and, most often left out but probably the most crucial component of making liberalism real in the world, a binding and very real moral obligation, equally held by all of us, to respect those rights. Anything that impedes both the exercise of those rights within a real of personal autonomy that respects the rights of other people is destructive of liberalism.

      There is nothing in materialism to a. make those out of, b. there is everything in materialism which can and has been used to attack those foundations and c. everything which denies that there is any real, binding moral obligation for everyone to respect those rights on an equal basis. I can cite document after document in mainstream materialist literature to support my contentions on those points.

      What do you find in materialism to make those foundations out of - keeping in mind that materialism is a monist ideological position that allows for no exceptions, just as the laws of nature allow no exceptions. If you claim there can be exceptions I'd like an explanation of that.

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  8. Here is the way I see it. The most likely (and in fact the only scientific) explanation of the mind and its emotions is a naturalistic one, that involves no supernatural agents. Two of these emotions are the ability to see things from others' perspectives (empathy) and a desire to help others (altruism). The capacity to feel and express these emotions is likely a product of natural selection. This capacity varies in individuals across a large spectrum. It doesn't need to be more complicated than that.

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    1. First, if "the mind and its emotions" are not the creation of matter and natural forces working on matter there can be no real scientific explanation of them. Science can only study whatever parts of the physical universe that can be honestly and successfully treated with its methods, if there is anything which is non-material to expect that it could be know, partially or comprehensively with science is a basic misunderstanding of what science is and what it does.

      The desire to turn morality - especially as it forms the basis of liberalism - into a product of natural selection is an especially dishonest practice. From the time of Darwin, in publications that Darwin, himself endorsed, his closest colleagues, confidants and friends, such as Thomas Huxley, Francis Galton, Ernst Haeckel and others and Darwin himself, denied the reality of human equality. Natural selection is inescapably linked to the holding that the death of the "weaker members" or a population as a result of the action of the superiors is beneficial for the survivors. Every attempt to turn that into "empathy" or "altruism", even within species, is the product of dishonest word juggling. The history of natural selection in relation to the assertion, or more often, the denial of morality and moral obligations proves that, despite a couple of passages Darwin wrote to cover his ass, the large majority of those who accept it weren't fooled as to its essentially amoral and morally nihilistic consequences.

      You have not shown how your materialism can allow of any freedom that anyone has an obligation to respect, you have not shown how materialism can produce equality of human beings, you have not shown how it produces a moral obligation for anyone so disinclined to respect the rights of those they don't choose to. Natural selection certainly doesn't allow for the reality of equality or the reality of moral obligations to treat people morally. Anyone who heard that argument who chose to could merely say, "who's going to make me" or "who says I have to". I have noted, with quotes and with links to the video where he said it, Steve Weinberg, someone many atheists seem to think is some kind of expert in "what makes good people do bad things" when Rebecca Goldstein tried to make the argument you did merely said he didn't buy it and that he didn't think he had any moral obligations he would acknowledge outside of his immediate family and his own university department. I will look up the urls if necessary.

      I'm afraid your pretending it isn't complicated is obviously and blatantly wrong. The political and social history of natural selection couldn't more obviously prove that it is wrong. Look at my post this morning for only one example.

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  9. I'm not doing the word juggling here. This is getting nowhere. I was foolish to try to engage. I am liberal in my thoughts and actions, by my definitions, which are the only ones that matter. Any philosophical analysis of my motives is subjective. As to the scientific analysis, I am comfortable with what I stated above. Most of it is yet unsolved by science, but that does not de-legitimize science. In fact, it validates the enterprise.
    You are free to not consider me a liberal. The reason I commented was to point out that you that it is fallacious to define my views by (your interpretations of) the writings of others. Wasted thought and effort on my part. A mistake I won't make again.

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    1. First, I didn't do anything to "de-legitimize" science, I endorsed the validity of science honestly applied to those parts of the physical universe which can be adequately treated with its methods. I admit that what it can tell us about physical phenomena when applied in such a way is legitimately believed to be reliable.

      I have said that mixing that up with the ideology of materialism and presenting the results of that as if they shared in the reliability of science is not only mistaken, it is dishonest.

      If that constitutes "philosophical analysis" it is certainly less subjective than subjecting science to an imposition of materialist ideology.

      "Most of it is yet unsolved by science, but that does not de-legitimize science. In fact, it validates the enterprise."

      Your statement assumes something which is not known to be true and which I think there is good reason to believe is not true, that our minds are the product of physical causation and so can be treated with science. There is no way to know if the promissory note of materialism contained in your assertion can be redeemed because if our minds are not what you want them to be, science will never be able to account for them, certainly not in any comprehensive manner. To assert that science can be applied where the subject of it cannot be treated with science is what endangers "the enterprise" To claim that it is known that that will someday happen is materialist wishful thinking.

      There are real consequences to liberalism if a majority of people adopt materialism and those consequences are uniformly bad. I think the decline in liberalism in the United States is directly linked to the adoption of materialism, either the elite, intellectual form or the vulgar form of it, by large numbers of people. Especially among those with educations.

      If people who may have once been legitimately called "liberals" come to believe that freedom is an illusion, that equally held rights and the obligations to respect rights are metaphors or no more than a emotional residuum of natural selection (Darwin was one of the early figures who made that claim in The Descent of Man) and that acting in accord with them is optional then the temptation to opt out of them will prove stronger than any such emotional residuum to inconvenience yourself to do so. That's certainly something that history shows. It is especially tempting in those with power and in a majority.

      Materialism is probably the thing that is most destructive of liberalism in the United States in the past half-century. Any materialists who retain the habits of thought that constituted liberalism in the past are probably an endangered species.

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