** The below is a collection of thoughts that is currently not quite finished, yet close to it. **
Consciousness - prevailing theory
What is the current state of the scientific understanding of consciousness?
Physicist Nick Herbert is frank: "Science's biggest mystery is the nature of consciousness. It is not that we possess bad or imperfect theories of human awareness; we simply have no such theories at all. About all we know about consciousness is that it has something to do with the head, rather than the foot."
And neuroscientist John Eccles: "Nowhere in the laws of physics or the laws of the derivative sciences, chemistry and biology, is there any reference to consciousness or mind... This is not to affirm that consciousness does not emerge in the evolutionary process, but merely to state that *its emergence is not reconcilable with the natural laws as at present understood*." (Emphasis mine.)
Philosopher of mind B. Alan Wallace: "Despite centuries of modern philosophical research into the nature of the mind, at present there is no technology that can detect the presence of absence of any kind of consciousness, for scientists do not even know what exactly is to be measured. Strictly speaking, *at present there is no scientific evidence even for the existence of consciousness!* All the direct evidence we have consists of nonscientific, first-person accounts of being conscious." He continues, "[We] do not understand how the brain produces any state of consciousness. *In other words, if mental phenomena are in fact nothing more than emergent properties and functions of the brain, their relationship to the brain is fundamentally unlike every other emergent property and function found in nature.*" (Emphasis Beauregard's.)
So, we see from these admissions that there has really never really been as much as a materialist theory of mind: there are various hypotheses that are largely untested and untestable.
According to Dr. Mario Beauregard, writing in The Spiritual Brain, "qualia" are "how things appear to us individually - the experiential aspects of our mental lives that can be accessed through introspection. Every person is unique, so complete understanding of another person's consciousness is not likely possible in principle."
Dr. Beauregard continues to note that "materialist neuroscience has a hard time with qualia because they are not easily reproducible to a simple, nonconscious explanation. In 'The Astonishing Hypothesis", Francis Crick grumbles:
'It is certainly possible that there may be aspects of consciousness, such as qualia, that science will not be able to explain. We have learned to live with such limitations in the past (e.g., limitations of quantum mechanics) and we may have to live with them again.'"
Vilayanur Ramachandran, director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California at San Diego, attempts to evade the problem (as Beauregard says) of qualia at the cose of his Reith Lectures in 2003:
"The question is how does the flux of ions in little bits of jelly in my brain give rise to the redness of red, the flavor of marmite or matter paneer, or wine. Matter and mind seem to be utterly unlike each other. Well, one way out of this dilemma is to think of them really as two different ways of describing the world, each of which is complete in itself."
Notes Beauregard, "He compares qualia to the fact that light is described as both particles and waves, depending on the context. This might be a useful approach as long as we are prepared to see mind as an objectively existing category that is 'utterly unlike' matter, but Ramachandran's subsequent comments provide no ground for confidence that he himself is so prepared."
In other words, Ramachandran, a materialist, proposes the wave/particle duality of quantum mechanics as analogous to a mind/matter duality, but his analogy is completely hollow because, as a materialist, he does not believe mind really exists, certainly not as anything on the same level as matter.
Philosopher Daniel Dennett dogmatically insists that "there are simply no qualia at all" - a seemingly ridiculous assertion, given that the concept is surely recognizable as quite valid. Beauregard notes that "what Dennett really means is that the eliminative materialism that he champions cannot easily account for qualia".
[For background on Dennett, here is a statement on how he regards the mind: "We not understand that the mind is not, as Descartes confusedly supposed, in communication with the brain in some miraculous way; it *is* the brain, or more specifically, a system or organization within the brain that has evolved in much the same way as our immune system." Note how bold is his assertion that what he proposes is what we *understand*; when the full weight of the evidence is felt this rings very hollow indeed.
Beauregard notes that "the puzzle that qualia presents for materialist neuroscience is really an aspect of the puzzle of consciousness". And materialism simply does not explain consciousness well at all - in fact, for the most part what materialist theories of the mind are doing is attempting to explain consciousness away.
The Mind as a Computer?
A short aside on the notion that computers are analogous to the human mind is appropriate. We have already talked about Penrose's argument that the mind cannot be analogous to a Turing machine (which is an accurate model of any mechanical or electronic computer we know of). Of course, this did not stop very many scientists, I would say foolishly, from clinging to such a model. [In fact, I understand that a great project was recently undertaken to build an electronic neural network approaching perhaps 10% of the complexity of the human brain: it is hoped, in fact, that consciousness will in fact 'emerge' magically from this machine.]
Beauregard quotes software pioneer Mark Halpern on this subject: "Computers are general-purpose algorithm executors, and their apparent intelligent activity is simply an illusion suffered by those who do not fully appreciate the way in which algorithms capture and preserve not intelligence itself but the fruits of intelligence." Bingo! As a computer scientist myself, I admit to being both amused and bemused when first encountering the sentiment among some of my colleagues many years ago that "it was only a matter of time" before computers had 'minds' 'just like people'. Too much science fiction and wishful thinking and not enough real thinking!
Halpern also notes that the celebrated Turing Test for machine intelligence (can you tell whether you're talking to a person or a computer) has not been met. For the most part, researchers attempt to argue for computer 'intelligence' by changing the test or casting doubt on the idea of human intelligence. When challenged, they are "strong on indignation and weak in citing specific achievements". And, "the AI champions, in their desperate struggle to salvage the idea that computers can or will think, are indeed in the grip of an ideology: they are, as they see it, defending rationality itself. if it is denied that computers can, even in principle, think, then a claim is tacitly made that humans have some special property that science will never understand - a 'soul' or some similar mystical entity."
Yes, indeed - it seems that the soul just may be the most *dangerous*, or threatening, idea of all.
I write software for a living. Computers simply do not 'think' - they do what we tell them to do. Period. While it is true that neural nets and other parallel architectures designed to mimic a biological brain can be programmed to 'learn' in some sense, the key word is still 'programmed'. The process is quite deterministic and there is absolutely not a shred of evidence that this has anything at all in common with true consciousness.
"Utterly contrary to common sense... and to the evidence gathered from our own introspection, consciousness may be nothing more than an evanescent by-product of more mundane, wholly physical processes." - Michael Lemonick
So sums up one of the two dominant materialist 'models' of the mind: that the mind, or consciousness (they being essentially the same thing), somehow 'emerges' from matter (the brain). It is generally acknowledged that nobody really has any idea how this occurs (see above).
Francis Crick, co-discoverer of DNA (who, incidentally, eventually concluded that aliens must have brought life to earth since he could conceive of no workable model for abiogenesis): "You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior or a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll's Alic might have phrased, 'you're nothing but a pack of neurons."
[Crick also admits the following: "Our highly developed brains, after all, were not evolved under the pressure of discovering scientific truths but only to enable us to be clever enough to survive and leave descendants. Sound familiar?
As Beauregard sums up, "Most theories of mind and consciousness are based on a materialism rooted in classical physics, which treats consciousness as an anomaly to be explained away." I would note that to say that to explain away *consciousness* is really to explain away *what it is to be human*. And there is the insidious evil buried inside of this seemingly innocuous philosophy.
But that is not all of it. Let us look at more quotations and assertions from those neuroscientists, philosophers of mind, etc., wearing the (self-imposed) chains of promissory materialism. We have seen the position that the mind/consciousness is merely an epiphenomenon with no real 'value' or 'ability'; it might be there, but it can't really *do* anything.
Due to the difficulties of the subject, another prevailing line of research has been to essentially pretend that consciousness simply does not exist. B.F. Skinner, a disciple of the school of behaviorism, defined it as such some decades ago: "It is in the nature of an experimental analysis of human behavior that it should strip away the functions previously assigned to autonomous man and transfer them one by one to the controlling environment."
You heard it, folks - 'autonomous man' is simply a myth and the environment explains all! (What, and not even a tip of the hat to genetics here?)
And Lemonick: "Despite our every instinct to the contrary, there is one thing that consciousness is not: some entity deep inside the brain that corresponds to the 'self,' some kernel of awareness that runs the show, as the 'man behind the curtain' manipulated the illusion of a powerful magician in The Wizard of Oz. After more than a century of looking for it, brain researchers have long since concluded that there is no conceivable place for such a self to be located in the physical brain, and that is simply doesn't exist."
(Note the ridiculousness here: He is essentially saying that because he can't 'find' a non-material mind *physically within the brain*, it clearly does not exist! And the hyperbole: there is no firm consensus among brain researchers on this question; materialism may be the prevailing assumption, but it obviously does not rule supreme.)
Dr. Beauregard comments that "According to this view - seriously argued by eliminative materialists - children are *indoctrinated* by prescientific cultures into a 'folk psychology' that acts on them in such a way that they perceive a consciousness or self *that does not exist*" (emphasis mine).
Have you got that? *You* have been brainwashed into believing that *you* exist! "I think, therefore I am" - not? Descartes' famous quote is really about as self-evident a proposition as is possible, but that is what is under attack here - what is dismissed as folk psychology. A materialist might here object that, yes, they agree that "you" exist, since you are here reading, etc., but what really is under attack is that the concept of *you* is itself meaningful. A thinking person (no pun intended) should immediately spot this as the nonsensical drivel that it is.
Free Will in the Materialist Model
"We are descended from robots, and composed of robots, and all the intentionality we enjoy is derived from the more fundamental intentionality of these billions of crude intentional systems." - Daniel Dennett
"Like many philosophers, I believe that science and ethics are two self-contained systems played out among the same entities in the world, just as poker and bridge are different games played with the same fifty-two-car deck. The science game treats people as material objects, and its rules are the physical processes that cause behavior through natural selection and neurophysiology. The ethics game treats people as equivalent, sentient rational, free-willed agents, and its rules are the calculus that assigns moral value to behavior through the behavior's inherent nature or its consequences." - Steven Pinker
Beauregard notes that 'materialist neuroscience cannot accept free will, for a reason that is rooted in physics". And, "Materialists sometimes teleport the ethical dilemma into a vague realm of nonscientific concepts that are immune to disproof."
Note that ethics is simply a "game" and free will nothing but an artifact of this "game". This sort of thing is one of the ways that materialists attempt to get around their dilemma: the fact that they, like everyone else, behave as if free will really exists, and intrinsically know it exists, whilst at the same time claim that it does *not* exist as their models can in no way account for it and in fact must declare that it cannot be real.
Note that all modern societies are based in large part on the assumption that free will does, in fact, exist - this is why we have laws, and why people are punished for breaking them, and why judges give stern lectures about straightening up and flying right, and in fact why democracy is assumed to have any chance of actually working to begin with!
But, perhaps, is a radical re-thinking of the nature of society warranted? Richard Dawkins thinks so:
"As scientists, we believe that human brains, though they may not work in the same way as man-made computers, are as surely governed by the laws of physics. When a computer malfunctions, we do not punish it."
Note that Dawkins:
i) Performs his usual slight-of-hand in implicitly defining *science* equivalent to *materialism*: a *scientist* *must* believe that free will does not exist, because materialism does not allow for it!
ii) Implicitly puts *himself* above the "it" he is observing. For Dawkins, as with all materialists, somehow, quite magically, the rules of materialism do not apply. (He's even suggested as much directly when pressed in interviews.) He is fit to lay down the law from on high; his materialist mind is somehow immune from the rules he is setting up for all the rest.
The government that Dawkins proposes would be one that treats its citizens, out of complete necessity according to its core tenets, as robots, or cattle. They are not capable of any sort of autonomy; they are in need of direction in every matter, and if their thinking about something is not 'correct', be assured it can be corrected. The Masters themselves, though, are above the common law, as Masters must be.
Collapsing the House of Cards
We have seen the sorts of models of the mind that materialist scientists use and the sorts of assertions these models (and perhaps their other assumptions) cause them to make. We may be reminded of the quote from Harvard biologist Richard Lewontin that we have seen before:
"Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are *against common sense* is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. *We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism*. *It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world*, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door." Emphasis is mine.
Lewontin, like Dawkins, does not make the critical distinction between "science" and (promissory) materialism - not because he doesn't understand the obvious distinction, probably, but because he doesn't want to acknowledge, and, like Dawkins, probably doesn't want anyone else to think about it.
We have seen, straight from the pens of those espousing promissory materialism, assertions and postulates that are indeed "against common sense" (not always so bad) and also quite "patently absurd" (more difficult to defend). And we know that it is indeed the "a priori adherence to material causes" that has driven such hypothesis and such positions. The all-important question is how closely do these model jive with reality? And the answer is not very well at all.
We can point to the following (non-exhaustive) list to demonstrate that the materialist account of mind cannot be true; it does not fit the evidence:
1) Behavior-based psychiatric treatment.
For me, the interesting part of Beauregard's book is the section dealing with psychiatric treatment & the placebo affect - largely simply because these were areas I hadn't seriously pondered before.
It turns out that working from a nonmaterialist model of the mind has real advantages when it comes to psychiatry, as this allows a treatment program to make use of the mind as a tool, and a powerful tool it turns out to be.
Beauregard gives examples from the work of he & some of his colleagues of the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, and depression using power-of-mind techniques, demonstrating that a person simply using her will to change behavior or eliminate a disorder is very effective - and that the use of the mind in this fashion physically *changes* the brain as well.
Speaking of a colleague's work with OCD patients who were simply trained to mentally ignore and subjugate their OCD impulses, Beauregard writes: "Schwartz's UCLA group performed PET scans on 18 OCD patients with moderate to severe symptoms before and after they underwent individual and group four-step sessions. These patients were not treated with any type of drug. Twelve improved significantly during the ten-week study period. Their PET scans showed significantly diminished metabolic activity after the treatment in both the right and left caudate, with the right-side decrease particularly striking. There was also a significant decrease in the abnormally high, and pathological, correlations among activities in the caudate, the orbital frontal cortex, and the thalamus in the right hemisphere. In other words, these patients really had changed their brains."
Schwartz's comments: "This was the first study ever to show that cognitive-behavior therapy - or, indeed, any psychiatric treatment that did not rely on drugs - has the power to change faulty brain chemistry in a well-identified brain circuit... We had demonstrated such changes in patients who had, not to put too fine a point on it, changed the way they thought about their thoughts."
Note that OCD is a disorder that has proved extremely resilient against drug therapy, and that Freud himself considered it "untreatable".
Note also that this is clear evidence that the 'mind' can & does affect the brain, and that that statement directly implies the falsehood of the materialist model of the mind. The mind cannot have any such abilities whatever if it is simply analogous to the brain or directly 'emergent' from it - and materialists know this, of course.
Other case studies in the treatment of phobias, depression, and experiments that demonstrate that the use of the will can blunt sexual arousal and other physiological responses to stimuli are detailed in the book.
One has to wonder the successes that might be experienced if the neurological and psychiatric communities were not currently so steeped in materialist thought. I can't count the number of times I have heard someone say something to the effect of, "How did previous generations possibly cope with <this or that psychiatric problem or illness> without modern drugs, neuroscience, etc."? I suspect that previous generations knew better how to use their minds in the ages before the establishment started telling them they don't have one (or that their 'mind' is a complete slave to the brain).
Now this is not to suggest that drug therapies have no purpose whatsoever: I suspect that they do, in some cases, and of course I am quite unqualified to draw any conclusions there anyway. No one disputes the notion that the mind and the brain are tightly interwoven, and physiological effects can affect the mind as well.
2) The placebo effect.
The placebo effect is an extremely well-known phenomena in the medical field that can be defined as treatments that do not have any actual, physical healing power whatsoever resulting in the healing of the patient. As much as those with a materialist bent tend to downplay it and attempt to wish it away, it seems to be a very pertinent phenomena indeed, the medical field has long acknowledged this.
Beauregard: "The placebo effect... must not be confused with natural healing processes. It depends specifically on the patient's mental belief and expectation that a specific remedy will work. For millennia, doctors have given placebos, knowing that they often help when all else fails. Since the 1970s, a proposed new drug's effectiveness is routinely tested in controlled studies against placebos, not because placebos are useless but precisely because they are so useful. Placebos usually help a percentage of patients enrolled in the control group of a study, perhaps 35 to 45 percent. Thus, in recent decades, if a drug's effect is statistically significant, *which means that it is at least 5 percent better than a placebo*, it can be licensed for use" (emphasis mine).
He goes on to note that the journal "'New Scientist', hardly known for its support of nonmaterialist neural theory, listed '13 Things That Don't Make Sense,' and the placebo effect was number one on that list. Of course, the placebo affect 'doesn't make sense' if you assume the mind either does not exist or is powerless."
Beauregard cites one case-study regarding an anti-depressant trial. A patient in the trial, a Janis Schonfeld, had been suicidally depressed at its outset - and the medication she was given turned her life around. As "Mother Jones" put it, she was "yet another person who owed a nearly miraculous recovery to the new generation of antidepressants". What wonderful news - except that Schonfeld's "wonder drug" was a sugar pill, as she was told at the conclusion of the trial, and it was the hope that the "drug" gave her that cured her.
[I have observed that if there is one thing that the people who are on an anti-depressant seem to have in common, it is that they are depressed. It is hammered into us these days that depression is a physiological illness, often with a definable "cause" in terms of brain chemistry - but is the brain chemistry observed in depressed individuals the cause or an effect? That's the question the materialist doesn't ask. This is something of an oversimplification, since of course it is acknowledged that a specific external event or situation, such as a death, divorce, etc., can play a role in depression. Yet, drugs are almost always part of the proposed solution - drugs that have serious side-effects and questionable results. I do not mean to discount entirely the role of these types of drugs since I am uneducated on this subject and do believe that there are circumstances where they are warranted. But they are prescribed willy-nilly.]
The placebo effect works with regard to neurological illnesses as well. Beauregard cites cases of Parkinson's disease eased by placebo. Since the neural activity associated with the tremors also declined, the patients could not have been mistaken or incorrect about the improvement. In another study, de la Fuente-Fernandez & colleagues, reported that "our results suggest that in some patients, *most* of the benefit that is assumed to be obtained from an active drug might derive from a placebo effect." PET scans on Parkinson's patients given placebos revealed that "the placebo effect in Parkinson's patients was mediated through activation of the damaged nigrostriatal dopamine system."
There are further examples given.
3) The "Psi" effect.
I'd rather not write about this topic: the danger of losing somebody is too great! I know I rolled my eyes when I realized that Dr. Beauregard was going to talk about telepathy and telekinesis! But the fact is - as I learned from this book - that both phenomena are established as legitimate beyond any reasonable doubt - beyond odds of a billion trillion to one, actually, a figure that was calculated from the metadata of hundreds of experiments in these fields going back several decades. The scientific establishment accepts this, albeit certainly without glee.
But, you object, wasn't the spoon-bending Great Sheister really a fraud? Of course he was. Because the type of telepathy and telekinesis that are observed in the laboratory are *low-level* effects - quite low-level. But, statistically, absolutely true.
What we're talking about are things like subjects guessing - at a rate very slightly better than chance - which of a set of images (that they cannot see) has been selected, and influencing - again, to a tiny degree, but one that is always statistically significant - the results of random number generation, simply by *willing* it.
When you 'feel someone watching you from behind' - chances are you really did.
And you just can't explain these things without a real Mind, folks.
4) Dealing with abstract thought/qualia.
5) Consciousness & free will.
We know that consciousness exists experientially. It is self-evident, and anyone who denies it has lost their grip on reality. Yes, that is simply an assertion, but at least as of now I am of the opinion that anyone who questions it has a love affair with irrationality that simple precludes discussion. Likewise with the experience of free will: we have the ability to *know* we can make honest, true choices. Note that free will as a concept is essentially binary: you have it or you do not (what materialist ponderers call 'contra-causal free will' is really simple *free will*). The attempts that materialists make to concoct some sort of 'partial free will' in order to get around consequences of their worldview that are not always palatable are incoherent from the start.
One can wander over to naturalism.org, that bastion of materialist thought, and read various essays on free will (rather the absence of it) by Tom Clark and others. This paper is not meant to be a comprehensive rebuttal to that entire library of material, but let's take a look at a few quotes.
"Judged from a scientific and logical perspective, the belief that we stand outside the causal web in any respect is an absurdity, the height of human egoism and exceptionalism. We should get over the idea that to be real agents we have to be self-created. After all, self-creation ex nihilo is an impossibility. There has to be something already there to get the ball of agenthood rolling; and whatever that is, it too had antecedents which it didn’t choose."
This quote, like virtually all the material on the site, and like virtually anything one ever reads from *any* committed materialist, simply *assumes* materialism at the outset, with everything that follows: it is an 'absurdity' to suppose that actual free will exists, as judged from 'science'. There is the other slight of hand constantly performed - 'science' as a synonym for materialism. One wonders if this is conscious or not: is the materialist really unable to distinguish between science - that is, the study of the natural world using the scientific method - and materialism, that far broader philosophy that is only related to science in the most tangential fashion? Or, is he fully capable of seeing the distinction, but writes in the hope that his readers will not? I am fairly certain the latter is much closer to the truth, in general.
"It feels like there’s something immaterial about me, something not my body that’s the essential self, something like a soul or a mental essence that chooses without being caused to choose. And my thoughts, feelings and emotions seem like non-physical mental things, in contrast to my physical body and the outside world. But again, we shouldn’t take these dualistic intuitions as a direct indicator of what’s the case, we should stick with science."
Once again, we have the same 'ole slight of hand: materialism *is* science, you see, and thus anyone who does not readily accept all of the tenets of materialism (no matter how absurd) is 'anti-scientific'. How often have we seen that label thrown around with a broad brush? Oh, the shame indeed for those who will not bow down to 'science' as the materialists define it!
"Avoiding responsibility: Free will lets us off the hook by implying that we don’t have to worry about the conditions under which people fail or succeed; after all, the conditions don’t finally determine what people do, it’s their freely willed choices. Free will is the perfect justification for laissez faire economic and social policies: since he can make it on his own, if he just chooses to, we aren’t responsible for being our brother’s keeper."
So, it is free will that 'lets us off the hook'! I'd like to see Clark get this one off with a straight face: this strikes me as one of those attempts to go so far into the realm of the preposterous as to hope to hit credibility again from the backside!
His point: if people can be said to have free will then there is no need for a socially responsible government (or a babysitting government, depending on how one might view it). But this is a non-sequitur: though perhaps some might justify neglect for the poor by simply asserting their free will, that question clearly has no bearing on whether or not free will exists, and the existence of free will in no way justifies policies in violation of the laws of social justice. Catholic teaching, for example, obviously fully acknowledges free will while also requiring that social justice be preserved: clearly, some individuals or populations at some times may simply have the deck stacked against them and be incapable of escaping poverty without assistance. The fact that individuals are autonomous agents with free will does not automatically imply that each has in his power the ability to do *anything*!
"Morality. The self-flattery, demonization of others, and avoidance of responsibility abetted by the assumption of contra-causal free will are arguably moral failings. They stand opposed to the virtues of humility, compassion and solidarity espoused by most ethical traditions, secular and religious. Belief in free will brings out the worst in us: unbridled ego, arrogance, punitive contempt, and unconcern for those that could have succeeded, but simply chose not to. Is this who we want to be?"
More non-sequiturs: the mere recognition of free will leads to self-flattery and the 'demonization' of others? Why would that be? Clark, to put it simply, does not distinguish between correlation and causality, and though there may be a correlation between acceptance of free will and broad, personal judgement (especially because virtually everyone actually believes in free will either explicitly or implicitly!), that is hardly a point of 'evidence' against it. (Indeed, Clark seems to spend most of his time not arguing that free will doesn't exist, but that he wishes it didn't.)
On the "downside of indeterminism" (meaning free will): "Of no help in choosing. Being uncaused is of no use whatsoever in making choices. Why? Because an uninfluenced decider has no reason to decide between alternatives. It’s the alternatives themselves that determine the choice, based on their subjective desirability."
Clark is saying that if in fact we have no free will, and our hands are tied when it comes to making choices, that's a good thing, because then the best choice simply chooses itself, so to speak. A number of criticisms of this line of logic come readily to mind:
- The suggestion is clearly ridiculous when it comes to actual experience. Note that he asserts both that free does *not* exist and if it truly doesn't, in general the choices that are generally the most "subjectively desirable" will be selected. At least Clark included the word subjective: just what standard here determines the "desirability"? For the traveling businessman agonizing over whether or not to cheat on his wife, is it a matter of how hot the girl at the bar is?
- If what he is asserting is true - there is no free will and if there isn't in general the "best" choices will be chosen - then the world ought to be pretty close to perfect the way it is! This is just one of the many, many ways this philosophy breaks down so quickly: If what Clark asserts *were* actually true, he would not need to convince people of it - it wouldn't matter, and people would have no real way to decide to accept or reject the tenets anyway.
What we have here is essentially emotional hand-wringing begging for a state of reality where free will does not exist, built on top a foundation of nonsensicality.
I have been wondering how it is that these people can so readily and enthusiastically embrace the materialist/determinist position: how can they so easily convince themselves that they don't really have the ability to make moral choices? Would it be fair to say that it is likely that it is primarily people that don't *want* to have that ability embrace this philosophy? How nice it might be to, for example, be able to claim no ability at all to keep oneself from infidelity - or any other particular vice or weakness.
[Note that the non-determinist certainly doesn't deny that the environment (including cumulative experience) and physiology can *influence* choices - of course they do.]
Another general point to be noted in relation to these many essays on free will from a materialist point of view is that, despite the illogical equation of "science" with materialism throughout, and despite the constant undertone that the non-existence of actual free will is a certainty, is that very broad (and damning) qualifications such as "as far as science can tell" and "as far as we are able to determine" make appearances. Now, the fact is that science does give quite a lot of evidence for the non-materialist position, and thus the existence of free will, but beyond that, such qualifications are so open-ended, if one has *not* assumed materialism a priori, as to render the bulk of the surrounding material quite moot.
What is the materialist's denial of free will rooted it? First of all, obviously, it is materialism itself: the materialist realizes that a material "mind" must be essentially deterministic. (Quantum mechanics might be seen as producing a hole of a certain size into that assertion, but the materialist cannot really be faulted for ignoring this.)
Secondly, the materialist will point to evidence that free will does not exist in the form of physiological experiments demonstrating certain relationships in the timing of brain events - such as that the brain appears to be operating on a choice before a person is consciously aware of it. But this logic, too, ultimately rests on assumptive materialism and thus to use it to support materialism (determinism) is circular: choice may well be an act of the will prior to both the attendant brain responses and full consciousness of the choice. The materialist is making some brave assumptions in believing to understand how brain function *must* proceed in order to support free will of the intellect!
People behave as if free will exists because people know it exists, and because we all know that society can't make sense without it. Most importantly, perhaps, the fact is that you aren't really a "you" if you don't have honest free will - nobody is. Nobody is truly conscious if they do not actually possess the ability to make moral choices - and so to deny this is madness.
For the evidence for his position, the materialist generally cites one of two categories:
- The mind cannot be observed as a separate entity.
- The mind is correlated with the brain, and thus is assumed to not exist or be for all purposes identical to the brain.
The first of these propositions, we have seen, is simply not true: the mind is right there when one is looking for it.
The second is a straw-man argument: no one denies that the mind and the brain are highly correlated. This has nothing whatever to do with whether or not the mind exists as a reality distinguishable from the brain and, if so, exerts influence on it . In fact, we have seen that the mind - no matter how one defines it - *does* influence the brain, in a most direct fashion.
[develop these further]
Dr. Beauregard remarks that "It is not really surprising that the materialist account of mind, self, and consciousness has stalled", outlining six major areas where materialist models of the mind fail:
1) Current materialist accounts aim to preserve materialism rather than account for the evidence.
2) Materialism leads to major disconnects in thinking.
3) Materialism leads to hypotheses that can never be tested.
4) Promissory materialism leads to the promotion of impractical projects in the indefinite future to avoid grappling with current issues.
5) Taken seriously, materialism undermines our capacity to eventually to understand the human mind and the human brain.
6) Materialism is out of step with modern physics.
I will further develop & defend these tenets further in subsequent posts.
Like a stubborn child fitting a square peg into a round hole with persistence and determination, the materialist shrugs off the many, glaring contradictions between his philosophy and reality - including his own behavior - and accepts the preposterous conclusions that result with a shrug. The shrug may work for some, but not, I think, for those who are keenly interested in the truth of the matter.
What are the consequences of the materialist view concerning human beings in particular?
- There is no real sense of 'self', and thus no real sense of 'others'. Denying free will and even consciousness takes man's intrinsic dignity from him. He is then an animal, or a 'biological machine', not only free to be treated as such but desperately in need of such management.
- Human life has no intrinsic value; it is exactly equivalent to 'quality of life'. It's no surprise that such an empty view of human life, that implicitly denies the uniqueness and infinite value of human life, made in God's image, leads directly to policies that destroy innocent human life.
Materialism, as a philosophy, is more properly referred to as promissory materialism - it is built on the *hope* that materialism will someday explain phenomena that at least today it most certainly *cannot* explain (Polkinghorne). And materialism is a rather fragile thing, it setting out to prove a negative: one need provide only a single piece of evidence for something existent other than matter to bring down the house of cards. And we have seen that this is not difficult to do.
From Wikipedia: The psychologist Imants Barušs suggests that "materialists tend to indiscriminately apply a 'pebbles in a box' schema to explanations of reality even though such a schema is known to be incorrect in general for physical phenomena. Thus, materialism cannot explain matter, let alone anomalous phenomena or subjective experience, but remains entrenched in academia largely for political reasons."
I'm not sure that materialism cannot explain even matter, but I know that it cannot explain reality.