XFiles: Musical Gods

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 5: “Why is the universe fine-tuned for life?”)

Dr. Craig closes Chapter 5 with an attempt to debunk The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Specifically, he goes after Dawkins’ famous “Ultimate Boeing 747” argument, in an attempt to show that it does not disprove the “design” argument he makes for a “fine-tuned” universe. But before we dig in, I want to make just a quick observation about the difference between “design” and mere “function”.

In brief, the difference between design and function is simply the presence or absence of intention. Outwardly, design and function are indistinguishable: all you can see is that a certain set of causes work to produce a specific result. If this result was an intended outcome, then we say it was produced by design; if not, then it is merely functional. If a squirrel climbs a tree one one side of a stream, and runs across interwoven branches to reach a tree on the other side, then the branches function as a bridge. This does not mean, however, that the trees were designed as a bridge unless someone specifically intended for the trees to have that function.

Scientifically, all we can observe is the function. The evidence cited by ID creationists does not consist of actual, verifiable intention, it consists merely of specific instances of function. To turn this into design, we must assume the presence of actual intention which is not present in the evidence itself. In other words, what ID creationists are doing is making the assumption that observed functions were intended by some Creator, and then using this assumption to interpret the evidence in a way that leads to the conclusion that the functions were intended by some Creator. Or more briefly, they’re just being superstitious.

Now then, on to Craig v. Dawkins.

Dr. Craig’s first attack on Dr. Dawkins is to accuse him of a “lack of philosphical depth.” I’m going to use a longish quote here because I think it’s important to see exactly how he proceeds.

Detractors of design sometimes object that on this hypthesis the Cosmic Designer Himself remains unexplained. This objection is what Richard Dawkins calls “the central argument of my book” The God Delusion. He summarizes his argument as follows:

  1. One of the greatest challenges to the human intellect has been to explain how the complex, improbable appearance of design in the universe arises.
  2. The natural temptation is to attribute the appearance of design to actual design itself.
  3. The temptation is a false one because the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer.
  4. The most ingenious and powerful explanation is Darwinian evolution by natural selection.
  5. We don’t have an equivalent explanation for physics.
  6. We should not give up hope of a better explanation arising in physics, something as powerful as Darwinism is for biology.

Therefore God almost certainly does not exist.

…Dawkins’ argument is jarring because the atheistic conclusion, “Therefore God almost certainly does not exist,” doesn’t follow from the six previous arguments even if we concede that each of them is true… Dawkins’ argument is plainly invalid.

Anyone who is a quick and/or careless reader might miss the fact that the summary Dr. Craig presents as being Dawkins’ summary is actually Craig’s summary. The conclusion is indeed jarring, however it is not quite what Dawkins actually wrote. In context, Dr. Dawkins has just finished presenting rebuttals to the classic arguments for God (Chapter 3) and is now presenting his argument against God (Chapter 4). His conclusion is this:

If the argument of this chapter is accepted, the factual premise of religion — the God Hypothesis — is untenable. God almost certainly does not exist.

Dawkins’ point, in context, is that if complexity requires something even more complex to design it, then introducing a Designer only compounds the problem by increasing the complexity that needs to be designed. That’s not an invalid argument (and in fact Dr. Craig doesn’t really think so either, since he later tries to refute Dawkins’ point, which would be unnecessary if the argument itself were simply invalid).

What we need to consider here is precisely which God we mean when we say He “almost certainly does not exist.” Dr. Craig started out his book by giving a very specific definition that I think fits well.

Now when I use the word God in this context, I mean an all-powerful, perfectly good Creator of the world who offers us eternal life.” [Emphasis added.]

If the existence of a Creator is an untenable hypothesis because it only multiplies the difficulties that require explanation, then it is reasonable to conclude that God, as defined by Craig himself, almost certainly does not exist. You can argue with the premise (as Craig does later on), but the argument itself is hardly “invalid,” as Craig would lead us to believe. The God Whom Dawkins is refuting is a very specific God: He’s a Creator God, and Dawkins is rejecting His existence because he finds the creation explanation scientifically untenable.

Mind you, I don’t think Dawkins “Ultimate Boeing 747” argument is sufficient as a rebuttal of God’s existence. It’s on the right track though. We might not be able to prove a negative (i.e. “no invisible gods/dragons/unicorns/fairies exist”), but we can take each of the specific dogmas men propose and show how the teachings of men are inconsistent with each other and with the real world. Of course, then we get into the game I call “Musical Gods.”

Musical Gods is a game like musical chairs, but with a few variations. In this game, you have a certain number of gods who are very similar to each other and yet each is slightly different in some unique way. And you have as many chairs as there are gods. The game starts when the skeptic pulls the chair out from under one of the gods, as Dawkins does with his Ultimate Boeing 747 argument. At this point, the god falls down, and the skeptic says, “See? Your God can’t really stand on his own.” The believer then declares that the skeptic has pulled the chair out from under the wrong god, and indicates some other god or gods still firmly seated. The skeptic then goes to pull the chair out from one of the other gods, as indicated by the believer. Meanwhile, the believer quietly re-seats the original god, and the game continues ad infinitum.

At most, all that follows from Dawkins’ argument is that we should not infer God’s existence on the basis of the appearance of design in the universe… Maybe we should believe in God on the basis of the cosmological argument or the moral argument. Maybe our belief in God isn’t based on arguments at all but is grounded in religious experience or in divine revelation.

All of which, of course, Dawkins’ had previously addressed in Chapter 3 of The God Delusion. But those gods were quietly re-seated while Dawkins turned his attention to the one sitting in the “Design” chair. Meanwhile, Dr. Craig accuses Dawkins of a “lack of philosophical depth,” because his Ultimate 747 argument only pulled out one chair.

Notwithstanding his earlier claim that Dawkins’ whole argument was invalid, Dr. Craig then goes on to try and refute the premises. He first tries to dismiss point #6 as being “nothing more than the faith of a naturalist” (apparently assuming that “faith” means believing in something that ain’t necessarily so, hmm). But contrast Dr. Craig’s version of Dawkins’ summary with what Dawkins actually wrote in point 6:

We should not give up hope of a better crane arising in physics, something as powerful as Darwinism is for biology. But even in the absence of a strongly satisfying crane to match the biological one, the relatively weak cranes we have at present are, when abetted by the anthropic principle, self-evidently better than the self-defeating skyhook hypothesis of an intelligent designer.

Contrary to Craig’s snide insinuation, Dawkins is not at all resting on faith alone that we will someday find natural explanations for everything. He’s saying that what we have already seen so far is a better explanation than Intelligent Design. Dr. Craig may not agree with Dr. Dawkins’ conclusions, but he should at least try and resist the temptation to misrepresent them.

Dr. Craig tries to address the problem of “Who designed the Designer?” (step 3) by arguing that you don’t need to know who designed the designer to know that the artifact in front of you was designed. He uses the examples of archeologists finding arrowheads from some previously unknown culture, or of astronauts finding machinery on the back side of the moon. Accepting such things as “designed” does not require that you have all the answers to every question about who created them.

That argument sounds persuasive to a lot of people because it uses familiar informal reasoning to reach plausible sounding conclusions. If we follow through on our reasoning, though, this is actually a pretty good argument against the idea of Intelligent Design as an explanation of the universe. If we see an arrowhead buried in sediments, or a pile of machinery on the moon, we infer the existence of arrowhead makers or machine builders precisely because we have our own experiences in building machines and working with stone. In other words, we infer intention because of the similarity between the artifact and the types of artifacts we ourselves have produced by design.

So how many of you out there have ever created a universe ex nihilo, with arbitrarily-designated physical constants? Anyone? Buehler?

We don’t have any experience with creating universes, and therefore it’s not going to be like finding a machine on the moon. In the case of the cosmos, we don’t have a basis of common, real-world experience tying the alleged artifact with any known process capable of producing such artifacts by design. On what basis, then, could we reasonably conclude that intelligent design is even possible, let alone necessary?

We have two alternatives: we can concede that Intelligent Design is not, in fact, necessary (thus eliminating ID as an argument for God’s existence), or we can assume that there must be some principle that requires Intelligent Design in order to produce any phenomenon as complex as the universe. In the latter case, however, we get into an infinite regression, because the same principle is going to require a Designer for the Designer. The only way out of that regression is to concede, sooner or later, that Intelligent Design is not necessary in order to produce complex phenomena.

The example of arrowheads and moon machines is a red herring, because we don’t assume that ancient civilizations or even space aliens are themselves uncaused causes. Whether or not we know who made the arrowheads or who built the moon machine, we naturally infer that some prior set of natural conditions led to their existence, since this is consistent with what we have observed so far. To the degree that ID creationists feign belief in the possibility that alien races might be the Intelligent Designer, the question of “Who designed the designer?” remains a valid question. At the point where you try to turn the Designer into a Creator, though, you get into trouble. Either Intelligent Design is not required for things as complex as the universe, or else God also requires a Designer.

At this point, Dr. Craig takes his argument in a truly bizarre and fecklessly materialistic direction.

Dawkins’ fundamental mistake lies in his assumption that a divine Designer is just as complex as the universe. That is plainly false. As a pure mind without a body, God is a remarkably simple entity. A mind (or soul) is not a physical object composed of parts. In contrast to the contingent and variegated universe with all its inexplicable constants and quantities, a divine mind is startlingly simple.

Ok, Dr. Craig, please explain the Trinity in 25 words or less. Shouldn’t be too hard for a “remarkably simple entity” like God, eh?

Apparently Dr. Craig believes that only material things can be complicated. A mind can contain complex ideas, but the mind itself is exquisitely simple. Or so he claims. “Therefore, postulating a divine mind behind the universe most definitely does represent an advance in simplicity, for whatever that’s worth.”

I think Dr. Craig just put the entire psychiatric profession out of business, not to mention eliminating epistemology and phenomenology (assuming a mind with no body would be capable of knowing and perceiving). Minds are simple. Only ideas and material things are complex. “Goddidit” is the simplest possible explanation for the universe and everything in it. Sheesh.

Like I said, I have some reservations about Dr. Dawkins arguments in The God Delusion. I think he could have said more, and maybe rephrased his conclusion about the Ultimate 747 argument a little better. But then again, given the way apologists play Musical Gods, such problems are an occupational hazard of skepticism. And whatever flaws might befall The God Delusion, Dr. Craig’s problems seem much worse.

Next week: Can we be good without God? Stay tuned.

60 Responses to “XFiles: Musical Gods”

  1. jayman777 Says:

    Dawkins’ point, in context, is that if complexity requires something even more complex to design it, then introducing a Designer only compounds the problem by increasing the complexity that needs to be designed. . . . The God Whom Dawkins is refuting is a very specific God: He’s a Creator God, and Dawkins is rejecting His existence because he finds the creation explanation scientifically untenable.

    It appears that Dawkins is rejecting the existence of a complex Creator. But, traditionally, God has been viewed as simple (not composed of parts).

    In the latter case, however, we get into an infinite regression, because the same principle is going to require a Designer for the Designer.

    Why? If the Designer’s mind displays inherent intentionality (like our human minds) then the explanation for the teleology in the universe stops there.

    Ok, Dr. Craig, please explain the Trinity in 25 words or less. Shouldn’t be too hard for a “remarkably simple entity” like God, eh?

    That’s not the definition of simple Craig is using. Simple means without parts. It has nothing to do with one’s ability to comprehend or understand God.

    • mikespeir Says:

      God is said to be a spirit, and I think Dr. Craig is trading on the popular and ill-defined (undefined is more like the truth) conception of “spirit.” In most of us, the word conjures up an amorphous, homogeneous cloud of “somethingness,” distinguishable from nothingness mostly by semantics and appeals to ignorance. It might be alleged that such a being, if it demonstrably existed, might be simplicity itself. But it couldn’t think anything; it couldn’t do anything. (Frankly, I don’t see how it could be anything.) Any god capable of planning, designed, creating, and maintaining even what we know of the universe would have to have almost infinitely vast repositories of data, “places” to store it, faculties to process it, and the means to put the outgrowth of the process into effect. I can’t see that as “simple.”

      • jayman777 Says:

        mikespeir:

        Any god capable of planning, designed, creating, and maintaining even what we know of the universe would have to have almost infinitely vast repositories of data, “places” to store it, faculties to process it, and the means to put the outgrowth of the process into effect. I can’t see that as “simple.”

        Why not? What is it about any of those things that requires God to be composed of parts?

    • Deacon Duncan Says:

      @jayman777

      In the latter case, however, we get into an infinite regression, because the same principle is going to require a Designer for the Designer.

      Why? If the Designer’s mind displays inherent intentionality (like our human minds) then the explanation for the teleology in the universe stops there.

      Because the principle being used to require a Designer states that complex effects require complex causes. Either you have to provide an infinite regression of ever-more-complex causes to explain each Designer, or you have to concede that complex effects do not require complex causes. In the latter case, however, you’ve lost your justification for inferring that a Designer is required.

      Simple means without parts. It has nothing to do with one’s ability to comprehend or understand God.

      But then you get into the other problem I mentioned: if God is really that simple, then either He’s too simple to be the cause of the universe, or else there’s no need for an Intelligent Design hypothesis, since Dr. Craig is conceding that simple causes can produce effects as complex as a “fine-tuned” universe.

      • jayman777 Says:

        DD:

        Because the principle being used to require a Designer states that complex effects require complex causes.

        Is that really the principle used by Craig (as opposed to Dawkins)? In chapter 1 of Contending with Christianity’s Critics Craig appears to be making the same argument you critique in this post. As the last quotation in your own post implies, Craig is perfectly fine with a simple explanation for the complex universe. If Craig is truly stating that complex effects require complex causes then he could not write that “Dawkins’ fundamental mistake lies in his assumption that a divine Designer is just as complex as the universe. That is plainly false.”

        In the latter case, however, you’ve lost your justification for inferring that a Designer is required.

        I disagree. At the start of the post you brought up function. You seemed to imply that teleology was used by proponents of Intelligent Design to argue for the existence of a Designer. Whether this argument is successful is a separate matter, but the point is an argument for a Designer can rest on teleology and not complexity.

        But then you get into the other problem I mentioned: if God is really that simple, then either He’s too simple to be the cause of the universe, or else there’s no need for an Intelligent Design hypothesis, since Dr. Craig is conceding that simple causes can produce effects as complex as a “fine-tuned” universe.

        You’ve contradicted yourself regarding what Craig believes in your comment. On the one hand, you state that Craig believes a Designer must be more complex than the universe. On the other hand, you state that Craig concedes a simple cause can produce complex effects. Which is it? Regardless, you have provided no reason why a simple (not composed of parts) being cannot be the First Cause.

      • Alex SL Says:

        jayman777 sez: You’ve contradicted yourself regarding what Craig believes in your comment. On the one hand, you state that Craig believes a Designer must be more complex than the universe. On the other hand, you state that Craig concedes a simple cause can produce complex effects. Which is it?

        He hasn’t contradicted himself, but he has pointed out a contradiction in Craig’s argumentation.

        jayman777 sez: Regardless, you have provided no reason why a simple (not composed of parts) being cannot be the First Cause.

        Musical chairs again. This is not about the first cause argument, which is addressed eloquently elsewhere on this blog and in Dawkin’s book, but about the argument that you need a complex creator for a complex creation. If the creator can be a simple being, then it can also be a simple natural process.

      • jayman777 Says:

        Alex SL:

        He hasn’t contradicted himself, but he has pointed out a contradiction in Craig’s argumentation.

        My point is that Craig is not saying what DD attributes to him.

        This is not about the first cause argument, which is addressed eloquently elsewhere on this blog and in Dawkin’s book, but about the argument that you need a complex creator for a complex creation.

        But Craig, properly understood, is not saying that you need a complex creator to explain a complex creation.

        If the creator can be a simple being, then it can also be a simple natural process.

        Perhaps, but other atheists in this thread have denied the existence of simple things. And if you’re willing to accept the existence of a simple First Cause then you’re pretty much believing in a god of some kind anyway.

    • mikespeir Says:

      Jayman

      Do you know of anything that can do those things that is not composed of parts? Give examples. If you can’t, why suppose there is any such thing? Why not, rather, suppose there isn’t? If you’re not willing to do that, can you at least understand why some of us can’t accept that there is such a thing? And, furthermore, why we find the redefinition of “simplicity” of Dr. Craig, et al, disingenuous, to say the least?

      • jayman777 Says:

        mikespeir:

        Do you know of anything that can do those things that is not composed of parts? Give examples.

        One might say that the mind is simple. Of course the average atheist will deny this. But the theist holds that God is unique so it does not damage his case if God is unique in this sense (among others).

        If you can’t, why suppose there is any such thing?

        Because it’s logically deduced from various arguments in natural theology. Likewise a belief that the mind is simple is based on various arguments in the philosophy of mind.

        Why not, rather, suppose there isn’t?

        Because, if you accept the above noted arguments, it would be irrational to do so.

        If you’re not willing to do that, can you at least understand why some of us can’t accept that there is such a thing?

        I am under no illusion that any argument will persuade everyone. I merely hope that you can understand the argument and offer a principled objection (e.g., don’t deny a premise of the argument when it leads to belief in God but accept the premise in everyday life).

        And, furthermore, why we find the redefinition of “simplicity” of Dr. Craig, et al, disingenuous, to say the least?

        Craig’s use of the term is how it has been used by theologians for at least 1500 years. Then, in the quote provided by DD, he states: “A mind (or soul) is not a physical object composed of parts.” I can understand that you might be ignorant of divine simplicity or did not read carefully. We all do such things from time to time. But the fault lies with you, not Craig.

    • mikespeir Says:

      “One might say that the mind is simple. Of course the average atheist will deny this.”

      I will.

      “But the theist holds that God is unique so it does not damage his case if God is unique in this sense (among others).”

      But what about us who don’t start with the presupposition that there is a God?

      “Because it’s logically deduced from various arguments in natural theology.”

      Implicit in theology is the assumption that there’s a god. Why start there?

      “Likewise a belief that the mind is simple is based on various arguments in the philosophy of mind.”

      So, because some people think the mind is simple I should buy the idea that there’s a God and that “he” is simple?

      “Because, if you accept the above noted arguments, it would be irrational to do so.”

      If? If I accept that it’s irrational not to think there’s a God who is simple, then, yes, by my own definition it would be irrational not to think so.

      “…e.g., don’t deny a premise of the argument when it leads to belief in God but accept the premise in everyday life.”

      I don’t accept that something that exhibits the attributes of complexity (personality, for example) is, in fact, simple but can produce complexity. I don’t assume that in the question of the existence of God; I don’t assume that in everyday life.

      “Craig’s use of the term is how it has been used by theologians for at least 1500 years. Then, in the quote provided by DD, he states: “A mind (or soul) is not a physical object composed of parts.” I can understand that you might be ignorant of divine simplicity or did not read carefully. We all do such things from time to time. But the fault lies with you, not Craig.”

      It isn’t a matter of not reading carefully. It’s a matter of finding the proposition of Craig and others preposterous. I really don’t care how long apologists have been imposing this definition on “simplicity.” From my standpoint, they’ve been doing it because that’s what it takes to skirt the obvious problem with ascribing characteristics we demonstrably find only in complexity to simplicity and then to empower them to suggest that that simplicity can purposefully give rise to complexity. It’s all too conspicuously an end searching for a means.

      • jayman777 Says:

        mikespeir:

        But what about us who don’t start with the presupposition that there is a God?

        You examine the arguments for the existence of God. If they convincingly show that God exists and that he is simple then whether you can point to another entity that is simple is irrelevant. The argument stands on its own merits.

        Implicit in theology is the assumption that there’s a god. Why start there?

        Natural theology does not assume God exists. It starts with something simple, like the existence of cause and effect, and attempts to prove that God exists from those simple premises.

        So, because some people think the mind is simple I should buy the idea that there’s a God and that “he” is simple?

        No, you should accept the idea that God is simple if a sound argument for that conclusion is convincing to you.

        From my standpoint, they’ve been doing it because that’s what it takes to skirt the obvious problem with ascribing characteristics we demonstrably find only in complexity to simplicity and then to empower them to suggest that that simplicity can purposefully give rise to complexity. It’s all too conspicuously an end searching for a means.

        I see no point in psychologizing others. Simply show that the arguments are based on false premises or invalid logic and be done with it.

    • Søren Kongstad Says:

      Well complexity is, in theory, measurable.

      Lets assume that god is simple, in the way that it has no parts. But the number of parts is not enough to calculate complexity.

      Now to find a minimum of the complexity of this god, we can use Kolmogorov complexity as a measure. It is the minimum number of bits used to implement a Turing machine describing gods mind.

      If the god is all knowing, then you must at least implement enough bits to account for all possible knowledge. I would hazard a guess that regardless of the implementation, this would require a staggering number of bits, and thus the lower bound of the complexity of such a god would be enormous, comparable to or greater than the complexity of the universe.

      So if he is ok with his god not being all knowing, then we can at least start to assume that the Kolomogorov complexity of this god is not larger than the complexity of the universe.

      But this will impact on any fine tuning argument. Since we now know that god is not able to know the state of the universe in advance, we are reduced to arguing that it can calculate which parameters are favorable to the advent of life, but any working memory of this god must have an upper bound, lest we run into the problem of the complexity of god being similar or larger than the complexity of the universe.

      I am not saying the problem is not solvable, but I am not sure many theists will accept the idea of such a crippled god.

    • mikespeir Says:

      “You examine the arguments for the existence of God. If they convincingly show that God exists and that he is simple then whether you can point to another entity that is simple is irrelevant. The argument stands on its own merits.”

      But they don’t convincingly show that God exists. And, no, whether another such entity exists is not irrelevant. You have no example to demonstrate that such a thing is even possible. Hypothecating that it is isn’t very convincing absent a demonstration that it is. To demonstrate that it is you’ll need to come up with a demonstrably real-world example.

      “Natural theology does not assume God exists. It starts with something simple, like the existence of cause and effect, and attempts to prove that God exists from those simple premises.”

      Did you catch what you said there? The attempt is blatantly to prove that God exists. That’s the starting point. Cause-and-effect is merely a means to that end, with nothing to demonstrate that the effect even is an effect, much less that the suggested cause really caused anything–or that it’s there to cause anything.

      That there’s something rather than nothing is a brute fact. But there is no proposed answer to that question that at present qualifies as a fact, so you’re in no position to insist anyone accept your supposition or your arguments as “proof.” At some point along here the apologist always tries to put the cart before the horse, so to speak. First demonstrate that your God exists and then we can talk about whether he’s the cause of any effect. Nonexistent entities don’t cause anything.

      “No, you should accept the idea that God is simple if a sound argument for that conclusion is convincing to you.”

      But I don’t see any such sound argument.

      “I see no point in psychologizing others. Simply show that the arguments are based on false premises or invalid logic and be done with it.”

      Why? I won’t accept the burden of proof. It’s not my job to show that undetectable entities don’t exist. I don’t have to show you that “simple” doesn’t mean “complex,” or that hand-waving won’t magically render complexity simple. Positing some unseen being that purportedly possesses the characteristics we find indisputably only in complex systems and trying to force-fit the traits of this “what if” kind of entity into the definition of “simple” does not throw the ball into my court.

      Do you want to be convincing? Come up with an unequivocal example of utter simplicity that is capable of intentionality and that can purposefully produce complexity. In lieu of that, you’re just playing What If? as far as I can see. There’s nothing compelling about that, much less compulsory.

      • jayman777 Says:

        mikespeir:

        But they don’t convincingly show that God exists.

        Obviously that’s where we disagree. But can you see how a logical deduction is a demonstration? If I handed you a mathematical proof, would you consider that a demonstration or would you still require a real world example?

        Did you catch what you said there? The attempt is blatantly to prove that God exists. That’s the starting point.

        Not necessarily. One could also argue for multiple gods, a deistic god, or the non-existence of gods. Ultimately all that matters is whether your premises are true and your argument sound.

        In lieu of that, you’re just playing What If? as far as I can see.

        You’re way off. It is more like: if you accept A, B, and C then you must logically accept D. If you can’t get that then there’s no point replying to much else.

    • mikespeir Says:

      Jayman,

      Do you have something tantamount to a mathematical proof of the existence of God, gods, or goddesses? I know you insist you do, but that’s what I’d expect you to say. I don’t see any such ironclad logical proof.

      “Not necessarily. One could also argue for multiple gods, a deistic god, or the non-existence of gods. Ultimately all that matters is whether your premises are true and your argument sound.”

      I used “God” as a placeholder for deity of any stripe. Of course what matters are that your premises are true and your argument sound. I don’t see that you have any such.

      “You’re way off. It is more like: if you accept A, B, and C then you must logically accept D. If you can’t get that then there’s no point replying to much else.”

      Well, of course if A & B & C lead logically to D then you must accept D. Show me this inescapable chain of reasoning.

      But, here, let me try a different tack: Just how simple is your God (or gods, or goddesses)? As simple as a rock? Or is a rock too complicated? How about a cup of water? Maybe a surge of current? Is there some kind of Poindexter Standard Simplicity Scale, 1 to 100; with the rock at, say, 14, the cup of water at 9, and the surge of current at, maybe, .27?

      Oh, how about utter nothingness? Is your god as simple as utter nothingness? If so, how do you distinguish him from utter nothingness? Or is that too simple? Maybe he’s a touch more complicated; say, .03 on the PSSS? How much more complicated than utter nothingness is God? What method do you use to make the determination? Show your work. (And, BTW, if you blow this off as only sarcasm, I’ll know you haven’t thought it through.)

      • jayman777 Says:

        mikespeir:

        Do you have something tantamount to a mathematical proof of the existence of God, gods, or goddesses? I know you insist you do, but that’s what I’d expect you to say. I don’t see any such ironclad logical proof.

        The premises to arguments for the existence of God are not axiomatic as they are in math, but they both employ deductive reasoning. Apparently you accept the validity of deductive reasoning so you should not need a so-called real world example to accept a conclusion based on premises you already accept (the premises can be based on direct experience).

        Of course what matters are that your premises are true and your argument sound.

        Which means the existence of other simple things and the motives of various philosophers are irrelevant.

        Show me this inescapable chain of reasoning.

        Note this comment or search my blog for Aquinas’ Five Ways.

        But, here, let me try a different tack: Just how simple is your God (or gods, or goddesses)?

        To say that God is simple is to say that he is not composed of parts. There are only three points on the “scale”: (1) non-existent, (2) simple, and (3) complex (composed of parts). Nothingness falls under (1), God falls under (2), and a rock falls under (3).

      • mikespeir Says:

        Who gets to define this scale of yours, Jayman? I mean, really, what could be simpler than utter nothingness? It must be considered the zero on any scale of simplicity vs. complexity. If God isn’t utter nothingness, he’s more complicated than utter nothingness. That means there’s some complexity to him. How much? How can you tell?

        When it comes to simplicity and complexity, everything falls somewhere inside of a continuum. There is no such thing as utter nothingness (no real thing; so I suspect God qualifies). There’s probably no such thing as utter complexity. Where along the line between utter nothingness and infinite complexity does God fall? Show me some evidence you’ve got a better grasp of this whole thing than your repeated assertions that “God is simple” reveals.

  2. San Ban Says:

    “One might say that the mind is simple. ”

    One might, but one would be expected to provide evidence for a claim that goes against all we have come to discover about the mind, including that it is ALWAYS a product of a highly complex body and brain.

    “But the theist holds that God is unique”

    Again, with no evidence to show it may be so.

    “so it does not damage his [the theist’s?] case if God is unique in this sense (among others).”

    The special pleading is just as silly here as it usually is.

    • jayman777 Says:

      San Ban:

      One might, but one would be expected to provide evidence for a claim

      Which is why I alluded to arguments in the philosophy of mind.

      that goes against all we have come to discover about the mind, including that it is ALWAYS a product of a highly complex body and brain.

      The evidence does not support that claim. You interpret the evidence from a certain perspective but the evidence does not demand your conclusion.

      Again, with no evidence to show it may be so.

      I alluded to arguments from natural theology.

      The special pleading is just as silly here as it usually is.

      How is that special pleading? I find any argument of the from “X is unique therefore X does not exist” to be fallacious.

  3. Ibis Says:

    @jayman

    I would say that the first error is at the root, defining God into existence as a perfect and therefore simple being. What justification is there for this? It’s just an intellectual game made worse by Christians identifying the Platonic One with the god concepts of biblical tradition (whose conflicting properties are also forcibly compacted together). I don’t think the theologians ever made a convincing case that a simple, perfect, One could have thoughts or a mind at all. An error compounded yet again now that we have real knowledge about the world and how minds are emergent properties of brains.

    • jayman777 Says:

      Ibis:

      I would say that the first error is at the root, defining God into existence as a perfect and therefore simple being. What justification is there for this?

      The Five Ways of Thomas Aquinas all lead to this conclusion by different routes.

      It’s just an intellectual game made worse by Christians identifying the Platonic One with the god concepts of biblical tradition (whose conflicting properties are also forcibly compacted together).

      The meaning of the Divine Name in Exodus 3:14 is a good fit with the so-called God of the philosophers. The conclusion can be reached through reason and revelation.

      An error compounded yet again now that we have real knowledge about the world and how minds are emergent properties of brains.

      But we have no such knowledge. Many scientists would be surprised to know that you know more about the mind than they do.

      • Ibis Says:

        Aquinas (and your bringing up Aquinas) is jumping the gun. You have to go back to Plato and figure out if the simplicity definition still holds water on its own merits without all of the Christian theological accretions, given what we now know about physics and biology. You can’t bring in the Exodus divine name stuff either because that’s a post hoc identification (which is ahistorical in any case–if we’re not going to beg the question, you have to deal with each biblical and post-biblical concept with an understanding of historical context, not treat it all as one huge monolith as though the writers of Exodus, Plato, Aquinas, and WLC are all talking about the same god).

      • Ibis Says:

        Can’t believe I missed this:

        An error compounded yet again now that we have real knowledge about the world and how minds are emergent properties of brains.

        But we have no such knowledge.

        !!! You’re seriously saying that we have no real knowledge about the world? Or that we have no knowledge about the mind being an emergent property of the brain??

        Granted, we don’t know everything, but I think both of my statements are pretty incontrovertible (at least by scientists).

  4. Paul Wright Says:

    @jayman: if an argument rests on some idea that God is “simple”, it’ll fall to Hume: a simple mind is no mind at all, those who claim God is simple are atheists without knowing it.

    Søren Kongstad has it: the complexity measure we use when we decide whether introducing something into our model of the world is worth the complexity cost is Kolmogorov’s, or something like it: see Yudkowsky on Occam’s Razor, for example. This works for immaterial things: how many physical “parts” do candidate laws of nature have? How big would a simulation of God be?

    @DD: I’m guessing you’ve read Hume 🙂 But Craig’s point with the arrowheads and whatnot is that, to accept that we see design, we needn’t know who designed the designer. You seem to accept or ignore that claim by saying that we don’t see design. Have I understood that right?

    • jayman777 Says:

      Paul:

      (1) At least from the one paragraph you linked to, I think Hume begs the question concerning whether a simple mind is a mind at all. Is he assuming that God’s thoughts are immutable or that God’s essence is immutable? If it is the former, why assume that a mind with one everlasting thought is not a mind? If the latter then the door is open for the distinct and successive thoughts Hume believes a true mind requires.

      (2) Your post from Yudkowsky concerns induction whereas most of Craig’s arguments (at least from what I’ve seen) are deductive.

  5. Janney Says:

    …we have no such knowledge [about how minds are emergent properties of brains]. Many scientists would be surprised to know that you know more about the mind than they do.

    Could this possibly be true? That, in the last century or so, our endeavors to understand how consciousness works have not led us toward any sort of materialist conclusion?

  6. Tony Hoffman Says:

    jayman777: “…we have no such knowledge [about how minds are emergent properties of brains]. Many scientists would be surprised to know that you know more about the mind than they do.”

    No such knowledge? On the contrary, it seems. And the linked video is, shall we say, a tad awkward for your (false) assertion.

    • jayman777 Says:

      Tony, your video failed to explain how the mind emerges from the brain. Apparently you believe a split brain patient is proof of materialism. Yet it is consistent with many forms of dualism.

  7. jayman777 Says:

    AndrewWoods, all I mean is that we have made no discovery that shows the mind is a product of the brain. It is an assumption on the part of materialists.

    Even Sam Harris, in “The Mystery of Consciousness” on his blog, writes: “Likewise, the idea that consciousness is identical to (or emerged from) unconscious physical events is, I would argue, impossible to properly conceive—which is to say that we can think we are thinking it, but we are mistaken. We can say the right words, of course—’consciousness emerges from unconscious information processing.’ We can also say ‘Some squares are as round as circles’ and ‘2 plus 2 equals 7.’ But are we really thinking these things all the way through? I don’t think so.”

    Obviously, as an atheist, he still maintains that consciousness somehow arises from unconscious complexity, but he at least admits it is extraordinarily difficult to see how that could be.

    If you are truly open to strange examples of consciousness, then I would recommend reading Irreducible Mind. You’ll either have to deny the evidence cited or give up materialism.

  8. AndrewWoods (@AndrewWoods) Says:

    AndrewWoods, all I mean is that we have made no discovery that shows the mind is a product of the brain. It is an assumption on the part of materialists.

    You were arguing that mind has no parts, which is an implausible claim given the tasks it must perform. If a putative “spirit” is so simple that it needs to attach itself to the brain’s evident complexity to express itself, it follows that spirit is too insubstantial to be considered mind.

    A mind is a relational structure, and a structure must contain parts, and at the lowest level each of these parts is non-mind. Thus there is good reason to conclude that the material is more fundamental than mind and must precede it.

    You’ll either have to deny the evidence cited or give up materialism.

    I have looked at a review and it seems that the book relies heavily on parapsychology. Other mentioned subjects, such as psychosomatic illnesses and the placebo effect, do not defy material explanations.

    • jayman777 Says:

      AndrewWoods:

      If a putative “spirit” is so simple that it needs to attach itself to the brain’s evident complexity to express itself, it follows that spirit is too insubstantial to be considered mind.

      Nowhere did I say the mind needs to attach itself to the brain to express itself.

      A mind is a relational structure, and a structure must contain parts, and at the lowest level each of these parts is non-mind. Thus there is good reason to conclude that the material is more fundamental than mind and must precede it.

      Your definition of “mind” is debatable. I think you summarize a good reason to believe the mind is not material. An argument could be outlined as such:

      (1) A mind is conscious, experiences qualia, exhibits inherent intentionality, and so on.

      (2) Matter does none of the things mentioned in (1).

      (3) Therefore the mind is not material.

      I have looked at a review and it seems that the book relies heavily on parapsychology.

      It does note parapsychology. The authors realize that this phenomena needs to be explained and not merely denied. The materialist simply denies evidence that contradicts his beliefs. This is why I prefaced my statement by saying you need to be truly open-minded. If you ask for strange examples of consciousness but aren’t willing to look at such examples then there’s nothing I can do for you. You’re mind’s already made up.

      Other mentioned subjects, such as psychosomatic illnesses and the placebo effect, do not defy material explanations.

      The authors do not state that psychosomatic illness or the placebo effect, in themselves, defy material explanations. They are among a wide range of phenomena that they feel is better explained by their model of the mind.

      • AndrewWoods (@AndrewWoods) Says:

        (2) Matter does none of the things mentioned in (1).

        This is simply assuming that which was to be proved. We humans are material objects.

        The reason that the evidence provided by parapsychologists is denied is that it cannot be reproduced reliably by disinterested people, and so does not constitute scientific evidence.

  9. Tony Hoffman Says:

    Jayman: “Tony, your video failed to explain how the mind emerges from the brain. Apparently you believe a split brain patient is proof of materialism. Yet it is consistent with many forms of dualism.”

    As I understand the original assertion, minds (or consciousness) are emergent properties of the brain. By this I mean that the brain precedes consciousness, and that consciousness is dependent on brains. How that happens is besides the point. The fact is that consciousness is dependent on the brain, and we have evidence for this. Tell me, what is the (scientifically verifiable) evidence that minds are not dependent on the brain?

    We know from scientific study that damage to brains causes changes in consciousness, experience, and behavior. The explanation that consciousness is a property of brains is highly productive. The explanation works — it predicts, it simplifies, etc. What exactly does dualism explain? How is it superior than the explanation that consciousness is an emergent property of brains? What is the evidence for dualism? What forms of dualism — at least two — are consistent with a split brain patient?

    • jayman777 Says:

      Tony Hoffman:

      As I understand the original assertion, minds (or consciousness) are emergent properties of the brain. By this I mean that the brain precedes consciousness, and that consciousness is dependent on brains. How that happens is besides the point.

      It is my understanding that William Hasker believes the mind emerges from the brain, somewhat like a magentic field emerges from a magnet. However, he is a dualist in that he does not believe the mind is the brain (just as the magnetic field is not the magnet). For the sake of argument, we can accept that (1) the mind emerges from the brain, (2) the brain precedes consciousness, and (3) consciousness is dependent on the brain, and we still don’t need to conclude that materialism is true.

      The fact is that consciousness is dependent on the brain, and we have evidence for this.

      I disagree. We have evidence that the brain interacts with the mind (and vice versa). Stating that consciousness is dependent on the brain is an interpretation of certain evidence.

      Tell me, what is the (scientifically verifiable) evidence that minds are not dependent on the brain?

      What kind of evidence would you find convincing? Veridical NDEs? Poltergeists? Psychokinesis? Telepathy?

      We know from scientific study that damage to brains causes changes in consciousness, experience, and behavior.

      Which is compatible with any view of mind (whether materialist or dualist) that accepts that the brain and mind interact with each other.

      The explanation works — it predicts, it simplifies, etc.

      That’s debateable. Materialism can’t explain consciousness, qualia, inherent intentionality, or certain parapsychological phenomena. I fail to see how hypothesizing that the mind is the brain predicts any of these things. It would seem to predict the opposite: add a bunch of unconscious cells together and we would expect an unconscious clump of cells, not a conscious mind.

      What exactly does dualism explain?

      By positing a simple substance it can explain the above items materialism fails to explain. For example, if the nature of this substance is conscious then it explains why the mind is conscious. It is exactly as we would expect. Dualism also explains parapsychological phenomena.

      How is it superior than the explanation that consciousness is an emergent property of brains?

      Quite simply because it explains all the observed evidence. The average materialist denies part of the evidence (parapsychology) and can’t explain another part of evidence (consciousness, inherent intentionality, qualia).

      What is the evidence for dualism?

      The two main lines of evidence are arguments from the philosophy of mind (e.g., materialism provides no real explanation for consciousness, qualia, intentionality, etc.) and phenomenon suggesting the mind is not the brain (parapsychology).

      What forms of dualism — at least two — are consistent with a split brain patient?

      Note that it is not universally agreed upon that two persons are actually present in such a patient. Either way, the emergent dualism of William Hasker and the transmission model of the mind detailed in the book Irreducible Mind are both compatible with such observations.

  10. jayman777 Says:

    mikespeir:

    Who gets to define this scale of yours, Jayman?

    I’m defining how I’m using the term simple in relation to God. I’m not saying the term isn’t used in different ways in different contexts.

    When it comes to simplicity and complexity, everything falls somewhere inside of a continuum.

    Yes, if you are working with definitions of “simple” and “complex” that are different than what I am using. But if you’re using different definitions then you aren’t really addressing my point at all.

    • mikespeir Says:

      “Yes, if you are working with definitions of “simple” and “complex” that are different than what I am using. But if you’re using different definitions then you aren’t really addressing my point at all.”

      This kind of equivocation is what I see you doing, Jayman. The understanding that intentionality implies and requires complexity and not simplicity relies on commonplace definitions of “complexity” and “simplicity.” You and those who think like you, on the other hand, have coined specialized definitions more in line with the conclusions you want to reach. When you say God is “simple,” you mean “simple” by an occult definition, but you’re counting on us inferring the more common meaning. This is where I’m going trying to pin you down on concrete expressions of concept; but I’m guessing you grasp the negative implications, and so skirt the issue.

      It’s been pointed out repeatedly here, but you appear immune to it, that storing, categorizing, processing, and acting on disparate bits of information requires a system with discrete, disparate functions. Even given that mind could exist without body (something you need to prove, not assert–there are certainly no clear examples that anyone is obliged to acknowledge), just its purported immateriality wouldn’t imply simplicity. Whatever its substance, it would still have to function by exchanging information between diverse components within itself. If it were ordinarily just a homogenous corpus of “spirit,” that spirit would have to diversify, at least temporarily, into separate spheres of function in order to effect this exchange. It would have to become as complex as necessary for the job at hand, for a while, anyway. But the capacity to do that would imply a persistent core of complexity, in that, it would have to engage in just this kind of exchange in order to gather itself to make the transition.

      Honestly, I’m having trouble understanding what it would take to make one believe the things you’re saying. Yes, I’m “psychologizing.” (We all do it. Christians do it to us all the time, so don’t get all righteous on me.) I don’t apologize. When confronted with propositions that seem profoundly silly it’s natural to wonder what motive drives them. Your idea that God is simple while purportedly doing the kind of thing that in the real world we see only coming of complexity is profoundly silly to me. I suspect you really, really want to believe what you do and you think you’ve found a rational way to justify that belief. But, hey, I’m just guessing. I have trouble reading my own mind sometimes. 😉

      • jayman777 Says:

        mikespeir:

        You and those who think like you, on the other hand, have coined specialized definitions more in line with the conclusions you want to reach. When you say God is “simple,” you mean “simple” by an occult definition, but you’re counting on us inferring the more common meaning.

        Both Craig and myself have been quite clear in the definition of “simple” we are using. There’s nothing I can do if you keep inferring the common meaning.

        It’s been pointed out repeatedly here, but you appear immune to it, that storing, categorizing, processing, and acting on disparate bits of information requires a system with discrete, disparate functions.

        But it has simply been asserted, not demonstrated (on the other hand, divine simplicity is deductively proven). And note, once again, that you are drifting away from my explicit definition. You mention “discrete, disparate functions” while I mention separate parts.

      • mikespeir Says:

        “You mention “discrete, disparate functions” while I mention separate parts.”

        Complexity is complexity. I’d say that when arbitrarily defined Sphere B of this spirit mass assumes a role distinct from that of arbitrarily defined Sphere A, Sphere B can then be regarded as a separate “organ.” Pointing out that they’re both “spirit” doesn’t solve the problem. My body is all “flesh.” At an elemental level it’s effectively impossible to distinguish the substance of a liver from that of a heart or a brain. But how that substance is arranged makes all the difference. That arrangement we describe as “complex.” Without it, there could be no functionality. A spirit being would be just the same, regardless the composition of the spirit “material.” And regardless how it would be arranged, by the way. But there would have to be some arrangement, and that would imply complexity.

        Tell me, can you point to anything else that fits your definition of “simple”? Anything at all. It could be organic or inorganic, big or small, pretty or ugly–you name it. Is there anything you can think of to which this definition of yours can be applied, or does God need a special definition that describes only him? If your “simple” has no meaning aside from him, why use the word “simple”? Why not manufacture something? How about “ultratude”? Why are you stuck on using a definition of “simple” that’s useless except in describing God? That would be telling, don’t you think? Or, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it does fit other things. Like what?

  11. Tony Hoffman Says:

    Jayman: “It is my understanding that William Hasker believes the mind emerges from the brain, somewhat like a magentic field emerges from a magnet. However, he is a dualist in that he does not believe the mind is the brain (just as the magnetic field is not the magnet). For the sake of argument, we can accept that (1) the mind emerges from the brain, (2) the brain precedes consciousness, and (3) consciousness is dependent on the brain, and we still don’t need to conclude that materialism is true.”
    If consciousness is dependent on the brain, as my casual reading of Hasker just now indicates, then materialsm is (as I understand it) unaffected. Supervenience, Hasker’s emergent dualism, both seem unabashedly materialistic to me. I don’t see anything in either theory that would support the notion of a simple mind existing without any material parts to invoke it; the ideas seem totally unrelated.
    Jayman: “I disagree [that we have evidence that consciousness is dependent on the brain]. We have evidence that the brain interacts with the mind (and vice versa). Stating that consciousness is dependent on the brain is an interpretation of certain evidence.”
    What is the evidence that the mind controls the brain?
    What kind of evidence would you find convincing [ that brains are not dependent on the brain]? Veridical NDEs? Poltergeists? Psychokinesis? Telepathy?
    Yes, if those were controlled and not anecdotal. It should trouble you that all the examples I have ever come across are so fabulously unrigorous and fail so miserably when it comes to repeatability and prediction, and how they can also be explained by natural, known phenomena like cognitive biases.
    Jayman: “[We know from scientific study that damage to brains causes changes in consciousness, experience, and behavior, w]hich is compatible with any view of mind (whether materialist or dualist) that accepts that the brain and mind interact with each other.”
    No. It leaves the traditional dualist with the need to explain how it is that the mind is not entirely dependent on the brain. If the dualist propones that the mind is not dependent on the brain, then the dualist needs to demonstrate that the mind can be independent of the brain. As far as I know, there is no credible evidence for this.
    Jayman: “Materialism can’t explain consciousness, qualia, inherent intentionality, or certain parapsychological phenomena.”
    All of which are such vague terms that they the reason materialism can’t explain them is that they haven’t been properly defined. I might say that materialism can’t explain lyricism, but I don’t think that’s really a fault of materialism, for instance.
    Jayman: “I fail to see how hypothesizing that the mind is the brain predicts any of these things. It would seem to predict the opposite: add a bunch of unconscious cells together and we would expect an unconscious clump of cells, not a conscious mind.”
    Hmm. I don’t believe anyone is saying here that the mind is the brain. I think the point of the OP and this discussion has been to limn the fact that what we commonly call the mind or consciousness seems entirely dependent on the complex, material, and little understood brain. And that suggestions that a mind can exist independently and prior to said material brain appears to be a hypotheses in need of some evidence.
    Jayman; “By positing a simple substance [dualism] can explain the above items materialism fails to explain. For example, if the nature of this substance is conscious then it explains why the mind is conscious. It is exactly as we would expect. Dualism also explains parapsychological phenomena.”
    The reason materialism fails to explain parapsychological phenomena (as I understand it) is because there’s no good evidence for parapsychological phenomena. If there were such evidence, then a mind independent of a brain would maybe be a better explanation. But I’ve always found in these discussions that dualism is an interesting theory in search of some good evidence.
    The two main lines of evidence [for dualism] are arguments from the philosophy of mind (e.g., materialism provides no real explanation for consciousness, qualia, intentionality, etc.) and phenomenon suggesting the mind is not the brain (parapsychology).
    The first in your above is an argument, and arguments are not evidence. And, as I’ve pointed out above, I suspect that you do not really have any good evidence for parapsychological phenomena.
    What forms of dualism — at least two — are consistent with a split brain patient?
    [T]he emergent dualism of William Hasker and the transmission model of the mind detailed in the book Irreducible Mind are both compatible with [split brain patients].

    I don’t mind the idea that consciousness or the behavior in the mind can occur without having an effect on the physical world, but I believe that Hasker acknowledges that the mind is dependent on the material brain, and that animals would have (simpler) souls for this reason, etc. As I understand Hasker, he seems not so much a dualist as someone who struggles, as so many have before him, to explain how it is that mental activity relates to the physical world.

  12. Ibis Says:

    @jayman

    It’s time to catch up to the 21st century.

    add a bunch of unconscious cells together and we would expect an unconscious clump of cells, not a conscious mind.

    Add a bunch of sub-atomic particles together, and we’d expect a clump of particles that behave just like any other clump of particles, not different elements with different properties.

    Add a bunch of non-living, self-replicating chemicals together, and we’d expect a clump of self-regulating chemicals, not living cells.

    Add a bunch of living cells together, and we’d expect a clump of living cells, not a plant or animal.

    Well, your expectations would be wrong. I suggest you go read something other than philosophy.

    • jayman777 Says:

      Ibis:

      Aquinas (and your bringing up Aquinas) is jumping the gun. You have to go back to Plato and figure out if the simplicity definition still holds water on its own merits without all of the Christian theological accretions, given what we now know about physics and biology.

      Why? If Aquinas’ arguments deductively prove that God is simple then that’s the end of the story.

      You can’t bring in the Exodus divine name stuff either because that’s a post hoc identification…

      No, it’s based on the Hebrew wording of the text. Nahum Sarna, on p. 18 of his JPS (no Christian accretions, right?) commentary on Exodus, states the divine name either expresses the quality of absolute being or it means he causes to be.

      You’re seriously saying that we have no real knowledge about the world? Or that we have no knowledge about the mind being an emergent property of the brain??

      I’m saying we no very little about the mind.

      Granted, we don’t know everything, but I think both of my statements are pretty incontrovertible (at least by scientists).

      I’m not interested in a poll of scientists. I want to know why we should believe minds are emergent properties of brains.

      Well, your expectations would be wrong. I suggest you go read something other than philosophy.

      Care to explain how materialism predicts a brain would be conscious? We actually have reasons to expect different elements to behave differently. This is where your analogy breaks down.

  13. Tony Hoffman Says:

    (I am reposting this because my last post didn’t have paragraph breaks: I find that really annoying to read.)

    Jayman: “It is my understanding that William Hasker believes the mind emerges from the brain, somewhat like a magentic field emerges from a magnet. However, he is a dualist in that he does not believe the mind is the brain (just as the magnetic field is not the magnet). For the sake of argument, we can accept that (1) the mind emerges from the brain, (2) the brain precedes consciousness, and (3) consciousness is dependent on the brain, and we still don’t need to conclude that materialism is true.”

    If consciousness is dependent on the brain, as my casual reading of Hasker just now indicates, then materialsm is (as I understand it) unaffected. Supervenience, Hasker’s emergent dualism, both seem unabashedly materialistic to me. I don’t see anything in either theory that would support the notion of a simple mind existing without any material parts to invoke it; the ideas seem totally unrelated.

    Jayman: “I disagree [that we have evidence that consciousness is dependent on the brain]. We have evidence that the brain interacts with the mind (and vice versa). Stating that consciousness is dependent on the brain is an interpretation of certain evidence.”

    What is the evidence that the mind controls the brain?

    Jayman: “What kind of evidence would you find convincing [ that brains are not dependent on the brain]? Veridical NDEs? Poltergeists? Psychokinesis? Telepathy?”

    Yes, if those were controlled and not anecdotal. It should trouble you that all the examples I have ever come across are so fabulously unrigorous and fail so miserably when it comes to repeatability and prediction, and how they can also be explained by natural, known phenomena like cognitive biases.

    Jayman: “[We know from scientific study that damage to brains causes changes in consciousness, experience, and behavior, w]hich is compatible with any view of mind (whether materialist or dualist) that accepts that the brain and mind interact with each other.”

    No. It leaves the traditional dualist with the need to explain how it is that the mind is not entirely dependent on the brain. If the dualist propones that the mind is not dependent on the brain, then the dualist needs to demonstrate that the mind can be independent of the brain. As far as I know, there is no credible evidence for this.

    Jayman: “Materialism can’t explain consciousness, qualia, inherent intentionality, or certain parapsychological phenomena.”

    All of which are such vague terms that they the reason materialism can’t explain them is that they haven’t been properly defined. I might say that materialism can’t explain lyricism, but I don’t think that’s really a fault of materialism, for instance.

    Jayman: “I fail to see how hypothesizing that the mind is the brain predicts any of these things. It would seem to predict the opposite: add a bunch of unconscious cells together and we would expect an unconscious clump of cells, not a conscious mind.”

    Hmm. I don’t believe anyone is saying here that the mind is the brain. I think the point of the OP and this discussion has been to limn the fact that what we commonly call the mind or consciousness seems entirely dependent on the complex, material, and little understood brain. And that suggestions that a mind can exist independently and prior to said material brain appears to be a hypotheses in need of some evidence.

    Jayman; “By positing a simple substance [dualism] can explain the above items materialism fails to explain. For example, if the nature of this substance is conscious then it explains why the mind is conscious. It is exactly as we would expect. Dualism also explains parapsychological phenomena.”

    The reason materialism fails to explain parapsychological phenomena (as I understand it) is because there’s no good evidence for parapsychological phenomena. If there were such evidence, then a mind independent of a brain would maybe be a better explanation. But I’ve always found in these discussions that dualism is an interesting theory in search of some good evidence.

    The two main lines of evidence [for dualism] are arguments from the philosophy of mind (e.g., materialism provides no real explanation for consciousness, qualia, intentionality, etc.) and phenomenon suggesting the mind is not the brain (parapsychology).

    The first in your above is an argument, and arguments are not evidence. And, as I’ve pointed out above, I suspect that you do not really have any good evidence for parapsychological phenomena.

    What forms of dualism — at least two — are consistent with a split brain patient?

    [T]he emergent dualism of William Hasker and the transmission model of the mind detailed in the book Irreducible Mind are both compatible with [split brain patients].

    I don’t mind the idea that consciousness or the behavior in the mind can occur without having an effect on the physical world, but I believe that Hasker acknowledges that the mind is dependent on the material brain, and that animals would have (simpler) souls for this reason, etc. As I understand Hasker, he seems not so much a dualist as someone who struggles, as so many have before him, to explain how it is that mental activity relates to the physical world.

    • jayman777 Says:

      Tony, thanks for the re-post with paragraphs.

      If consciousness is dependent on the brain, as my casual reading of Hasker just now indicates, then materialsm is (as I understand it) unaffected.

      Here is a quote from Hasker: “As a consequence of a certain configuration and function of the brain and nervous system, a new entity comes into being – namely, the mind or soul. This new thing is not merely a “configurational state” of the cells of the brain (as, for example, a crystal is a configurational state of the molecules that make it up). The mind, in this view, is a “thing in itself”; it is what some philosophers call a “substance.” It isn’t made of the chemical stuff of which the brain is composed, though it crucially depends on that chemical stuff for both its origin and its continuance. It is this mind – the conscious self – that thinks, and reasons, and feels emotions, and makes decisions; it is the central core of what we mean by a “person” (Mark C. Baker;Stewart Goetz. Soul Hypothesis: Investigations into the Existence of the Soul (Kindle Locations 2815-2820). Kindle Edition). I think this can be described as an immaterial mind. I suppose a materialist might be able to accept it if “matter” is defined incredibly broadly. But why call yourself a materialist at that point?

      What is the evidence that the mind controls the brain?

      That, barring interference of some kind, when your mind intends to do something your body actually does it. As another example, employing cognitive behavioral therapy can change the structure of the brain.

      Yes, if those were controlled and not anecdotal. It should trouble you that all the examples I have ever come across are so fabulously unrigorous and fail so miserably when it comes to repeatability and prediction, and how they can also be explained by natural, known phenomena like cognitive biases.

      Seeing as we are unable to control anybody else’s mind, the phenomena cannot be controlled in the same way that a physics experiment can be controlled (but something like the auto-ganzfeld experiment is very controlled). Nonetheless, let’s start by hearing your materialist explanation of the Rosenheim poltergeist:

      “Another workplace incident, reported by German parapsychologist Hans Bender, is also worth mentioning at this point. It occurred in 1967 in a lawyers’ office in the Bavarian town of Rosenheim. Investigators watched and filmed as decorative plates jumped off the walls, paintings began to swing and drawers opened by themselves. There was rogue electrical activity, too: lights and fuses kept blowing, and the telephones all rang at once, with no-one on the line. As many as forty people were said to have witnessed the events, including power technicians, police officers, doctors, journalists and the firm’s clients. In this case, the disturbances were associated with a nineteen-year-old secretary named Annemarie Schneider. When she walked through the hall, the lamps behind her began to swing and light fixtures exploded, the fragments flying towards her. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute in Munich, called in to help, used monitoring equipment to systematically eliminate every physical cause, including variations in the supply of current, electrostatic charges, static magnetism, loose contacts and faulty equipment. Critically, they also ruled out manual intervention and concluded that the electrical deflections could only be due to some unknown energy that depended in some way on Schneider.” (Robert McLuhan. Randi’s Prize: What sceptics say about the paranormal, why they are wrong and why it matters (Kindle Locations 665-675). Matador, 2010.)

      Did the phenomena repeat itself? Yes. Was it predictable? Yes, in the sense that it was associated with the secretary. Is there a perfectly natural explanation? Not according to the scientists at the Max Planck institute.

      No. It leaves the traditional dualist with the need to explain how it is that the mind is not entirely dependent on the brain.

      Because it is an independent substance.

      All of which are such vague terms that they the reason materialism can’t explain them is that they haven’t been properly defined.

      There seem to be plenty of materialists who admit they can’t explain such things (see the Sam Harris quote above). They have no problem with the definitions. And there’s nothing stopping the materialist from providing a solid definition and showing how materialism explains these things.

      • Tige Gibson Says:

        The “thing” which needs explanation here is the mind, not God. God is merely a blank assumption, and any explanation of the mind would not draw any conclusions whatsoever with respect to something that has no meaningful definition (ie. “Simple”). It is precisely because there is active research in this area (the mind), that it constitutes a “gap” in which some theists have posted their tent, but it would be more accurate to say that this is a field where theists have traditionally had exclusive dominion and they are desperate to hold any ground against their adversary science. And as a typical Christian the word materialism is dogwhistle for science. So we translate jayman’s last statement as “why haven’t scientists explained this *yet*, therefore God”. Since jayman isn’t intellectually honest, the proper response should be to ignore him.

  14. Tony Hoffman Says:

    jayman777: ” I think [Hasker’s definition of a mind] can be described as an immaterial mind. I suppose a materialist might be able to accept it if “matter” is defined incredibly broadly. But why call yourself a materialist at that point?”

    Two things: I believe that the common definition for materialism accounts for consciousness as emerging from material processes. Consciousness exists in a materialistic worldview — it exists as a result of material processes. Call consciousness a substance if you like (although I think that makes terms even muddier), but Hasker seems firmly entrenched in the materialistic camp with his explanation of consciousness. Also, I didn’t say that I was a materialist. I’m not trying to be tricky, but I would call myself a skeptic rather than a materialist, although I’m not trying to use this to disguise the fact that I do agree that methodological naturalism, for instance, seems the only means available to us to gain objective knowledge about reality.

    jayman777: “That, barring interference of some kind, when your mind intends to do something your body actually does it. As another example, employing cognitive behavioral therapy can change the structure of the brain.”

    Okay, on the first one I’d say that it seems that way, and I’ll concede that the seeming should account for some kind of evidence. (It might be bad evidence, but that is something that can be determined later.) But I see no reason why I can’t replace the word “mind” with “brain activity alignments” or some such thing there as well. In your second, you seem to be assuming that a mind exists. I think you are saying that when a brain undergoes certain patterns that have a conscious experience, the brain changes to reflect those changes. Again, you’ve given me no reason to account for the existence of brain in this process; it seems to me like saying that “muscleness” is necessary in order for a weightlifter to increase their muscle size through exercise. In other words, just as use of a muscle results in the muscle undergoing changes, it seems all that your saying is that use of the brain results in the brain undergoing changes. You don’t seem to be making any case for the need for an immaterial mind.

    Regarding the Rosenheim poltergeist story, it sounds like another anecdote based almost entirely on hearsay. False and deceived testimony is common — have you never heard of scientific hoaxes before? Regarding Wikipedia notes, for instance, that “There is also no evidence on video that matches the more extreme (and, therefore, paranormal) events said to have occurred.” You say it was repeatable, but several reports is not what is meant by repeatability when it comes scientific verification. As DD has said here, all that we are looking for is something that is objective, reliable, and verifiable. Do you really think that your story about the Rosenheim poltergeist rises to that level? (A level that an uncountable amount of real knowledge does rise to, btw.)

    Jayman777: “Because [the mind] is an independent substance.”

    You are making an assertion that you haven’t backed up. At all. Repeating yourself, under inquiry, does not make your case more true, and it does not account well for your intellectual honesty. Do you have anything more to add to the discussion than: a) theologians and philosophers used to account for consciousness by defining the mind as something distinct from the matieral world; and b) consciousness is not easily defined therefore it is not dependent on material processes, and c) if we cannot explain something now, therefore God (the argumentum ignorantiam)?

    • jayman777 Says:

      Tony Hoffman:

      I believe that the common definition for materialism accounts for consciousness as emerging from material processes.

      But what “emerges” from material processes? If it’s an immaterial mind then it’s hard to call it materialism anymore.

      You don’t seem to be making any case for the need for an immaterial mind.

      Because my belief in an immaterial mind is rooted in philosophy and parapsychology, not mundane observations which can be interpreted within many different models of the mind.

      Regarding the Rosenheim poltergeist story, it sounds like another anecdote based almost entirely on hearsay.

      It isn’t. Even the Wikipedia article noted it is based on eyewitness testimony. For example: “the police officers present and others unconnected with the company, such as Karger and Zicha, did give official statements claiming to have witnessed unexplained object movements.”

      False and deceived testimony is common — have you never heard of scientific hoaxes before?

      You can always trot out the hoax defense. The fact is there is no evidence of a hoax. It is unlikely the secretary created a hoax in order to get herself fired.

      Regarding Wikipedia notes, for instance, that “There is also no evidence on video that matches the more extreme (and, therefore, paranormal) events said to have occurred.”

      Yet earlier the article states: “Pictures were filmed rotating around their hooks, this being regarded the first filming of a psychokinetic process under convincing control.” This should not happen if materialism is true.

      You say it was repeatable, but several reports is not what is meant by repeatability when it comes scientific verification.

      Different investigations must rely on different kinds of repeatability. If an anthropologist studies a tribe for six months and then, after some time, the tribe goes extinct, the anthropological community doesn’t relegate the scientist’s study to “anecdote” and unworthy of learning anything from. The fact is that a thorough investigation occured in Rosenheim. Whether you want to call it science or something else, it should not have happened if materialism is true.

      As DD has said here, all that we are looking for is something that is objective, reliable, and verifiable.

      How does this not fit the bill? Is it solely because the phenomena did not occur forever?

      Do you really think that your story about the Rosenheim poltergeist ris es to that level?

      Yes. The only response I ever get from skpetics is doubt for the sake of doubt.

      a) theologians and philosophers used to account for consciousness by defining the mind as something distinct from the matieral world;

      What is wrong with a philosophical arguement?

      b) consciousness is not easily defined therefore it is not dependent on material processes,

      Wasn’t it you who said consciousness is not easily defined?

      and c) if we cannot explain something now, therefore God (the argumentum ignorantiam)?

      That’s not my arguement. My arguements are: (1) what we know about cause and effect logically entails the existence of God and (2) what we know about the mind and matter suggests the mind is not a material substance.

  15. pboyfloyd Says:

    “But, traditionally, God has been viewed as simple (not composed of parts).”

    See? Dawkins is SOOOOO wrong because Jayman rather likes the idea that God is simple(not composed of parts).

    I view my personal helicopter as simple(not composed of parts), too! When I look at my helicopter pad, which is likewise simple, I notice that I can’t see the helicopter or the pad for that matter.

    Who is going to try to tell me that my personal helicopter and it’s pad don’t exist, aren’t real?

    Have some respect for Jayman and I’s traditional beliefs, for Christ’s SAKE!

  16. jayman777 Says:

    AndrewWoods:

    This is simply assuming that which was to be proved. We humans are material objects.

    I am not assuming matter can’t do certain things. It is an inference based on observations of matter. I have yet to see even a logically conceivable hypothesis (let alone a physically plausible hypothesis) of how, say, inherent intentionality can exist in matter. I don’t see how it is any more of an assumption than the materialist assumption that the mind is purely physical. How long should we put up with materialism’s lack of explanatory power before we discard it?

    The reason that the evidence provided by parapsychologists is denied is that it cannot be reproduced reliably by disinterested people, and so does not constitute scientific evidence.

    Not all skeptics are disinterested and there have been skeptics who have become believers in the paranormal/supernatural. What is your explanation of the Rosenheim poltergeist?

    • AndrewWoods (@AndrewWoods) Says:

      What you said was that matter can’t be conscious. But we are conscious and we are material things. The immediate evidence points to “yes”; therefore “no” is that which must be proved.

      What you are saying is that we don’t understand how a brain creates mind, therefore something supernatural must be involved. But the brain’s complexity is so great that there is no reason to think that it is not a mechanism. Comparison with animals’ brains and nervous systems supports this idea. Increasing complexity correlates with increasing awareness. And as for “lack of explanatory power”, the supernatural interpretations simply defer the explanation, they don’t provide it.

      • jayman777 Says:

        AndrewWoods:

        What you said was that matter can’t be conscious. But we are conscious and we are material things. The immediate evidence points to “yes”; therefore “no” is that which must be proved.

        The issue is whether our minds are solely material in nature. Since the materialist hypothesis explains so little I don’t think it’s fair to consider it the default position that does not need to be proved. Unless one is going to claim ignorance, I think everyone needs to argue their case.

        What you are saying is that we don’t understand how a brain creates mind, therefore something supernatural must be involved.

        First, I don’t care if one calls an immaterial mind “natural” or “supernatural.” The demarcation between the two is vague. Second, I am saying we should accept that the mind is immaterial because: (1) a material mind is logically problematic, (2) a material mind is physically problematic, and (3) observations have been made that falsify the material mind hypothesis.

        But the brain’s complexity is so great that there is no reason to think that it is not a mechanism.

        Mere complexity does not get the hypothesis over any hurdles. (1) Is it logically possible for matter to exhibit inherent intentionality? If the intentionality is inherent to the mind then it is difficult to conceive that it is somehow spread out among various parts of the brain. (2) Is it physically possible for matter to exhibit inherent intentionality? In the case of computers, we can, at best, show how derived intentionality can occur in matter. There is no physical demonstration of matter exhibiting inherent intentionality. (3) Given materialism, things like the Rosenheim poltergeist should not happen. The predictions of materialism have been falsified. It’s time to rework or replace the theory.

        Comparison with animals’ brains and nervous systems supports this idea. Increasing complexity correlates with increasing awareness.

        How do you measure another creature’s awareness level? Regardless, this kind of data makes sense within dualist frameworks so it doesn’t help us in narrowing down our choices.

        And as for “lack of explanatory power”, the supernatural interpretations simply defer the explanation, they don’t provide it.

        If by this you mean that we then have to provide an explanation for the immaterial mind, I agree. However, this general problem faces any explanation, whether materialist or dualist and whether it is about the mind or not. By your silence am I to assume that the materialist hypothesis offers no explanation for the things I mentioned?

  17. jayman777 Says:

    mikespeir:

    I’d say that when arbitrarily defined Sphere B of this spirit mass assumes a role distinct from that of arbitrarily defined Sphere A, Sphere B can then be regarded as a separate “organ.”

    Good thing divine simplicity does not entail spheres of spirit mass.

    Tell me, can you point to anything else that fits your definition of “simple”?

    I’ve already noted it’s a tangent since belief in God’s simplicity is rooted in deductive argument not observing other simple entities.

    If your “simple” has no meaning aside from him, why use the word “simple”? Why not manufacture something? How about “ultratude”? Why are you stuck on using a definition of “simple” that’s useless except in describing God?

    I don’t know the origin of the English wording. I’m not going to create a new term when one already exists.

    • mikespeir Says:

      “I’ve already noted it’s a tangent since belief in God’s simplicity is rooted in deductive argument not observing other simple entities.”

      Then why don’t you just admit that this is a definition of “simple” contrived specially to describe your concept of God? It isn’t necessary to use the letters s-i-m-p-l-e to write it out, is it? In fact, there’s no call at all to use that word. You have a concept in mind and you’ve arbitrarily tagged it with “simple,” to, I suspect, avoid the negative implications of ascribing complexity to God. Again, it’s pure equivocation. Even if your deductive argument really were to come up with something that might be real in some sense, the way you use the word “simple” doesn’t ring any bells. There’s nothing in agreed-upon reality to which it can be affixed with any hope of recognition. It leaves us wholly unenlightened, and you’ll end up having to write out a description of what you mean every time, because “simple” doesn’t convey that connotation to anyone but the initiated who’ve agreed to play this game with you.

      And, speaking of games, I think I’ve about all the fun with this that I can stomach. I’m one of those people who don’t believe I’ll have an eternity to make up for wasted time here.

  18. jayman777 Says:

    Tige Gibson:

    It is precisely because there is active research in this area (the mind), that it constitutes a “gap” in which some theists have posted their tent, but it would be more accurate to say that this is a field where theists have traditionally had exclusive dominion and they are desperate to hold any ground against their adversary science.

    I don’t see it as a gap. I see it as a contradiction.

    And as a typical Christian the word materialism is dogwhistle for science.

    No it isn’t. In this context, a materialist is someone who believes the mind is the brain.

    So we translate jayman’s last statement as “why haven’t scientists explained this *yet*, therefore God”.

    I never argued that an immaterial mind proves God’s existence. I offered it as an example of something that might be considered simple. The discussion has gone off on a tangent from there.

  19. pboyfloyd Says:

    It’s simple folks! The immaterial mind is like the program which runs on the computer. The running program isn’t material, is it, no.

    Therefore it is magic.

    Listen to Jayman! He’s a Thomist! How can you argue with a Thomist? In the body of the Aquinas Five ways, three of them use the idea that infinity is ludricous, can’t be counted to, therefore God exists! Many have argued that this is nonsense, but as any Thomist will explain, Aquinas later shows how he is arguing infinite regress backwards, per se, not per accidens, which means Aquinas is assuming God, and ‘Hellsbells’ why wouldn’t an atheist assume God???

    Why?

  20. Tony Hoffman Says:

    Jayman: “But what “emerges” from material processes? If it’s an immaterial mind then it’s hard to call it materialism anymore.”

    Hard for whom?

    Jayman: “[M]y belief in an immaterial mind is rooted in philosophy and parapsychology, not mundane observations which can be interpreted within many different models of the mind.”

    Oh. If you choose to handicap yourself with only those two forms of inquiry, I suppose that the rest of your posts do make more sense. I see no reason why you’d choose to limit yourself that way, but we are all free to choose our own epistemologies.

    Jayman: “[re the Rosenheim poltergeist] Even the Wikipedia article noted it is based on eyewitness testimony.”

    You are correct. I meant to write that it was based on the accounts of people that I couldn’t interview, etc. But that does not mean that we don’t have eyewitness accounts, and you are right that the Rosenheim poltergeist phenomena do appear to have eyewitnesses.

    There are two problems I see with your credulousness regarding the Rosenheim poltergeist. One is that every time paranormal events are placed under scientific scrutiny it is observed that something else is going on other than what the paranormalists are purporting. The other is that a lack of explanation does not default to “supernatural.” I keep on raising this issue, as do others, but you have not explained why you are not committing the error of the argument from ignorance. It appears rife in your thinking, as when you write:

    Jayman: ” You can always trot out the hoax defense. The fact is there is no evidence of a hoax.”

    That’s like saying that Magico the Magician’s pulling a rabbit from a hat must be magic, because there’s no evidence of trickery in his particular case. To ignore the priors that we have from all supernatural hoaxes (and people just getting the facts wrong) in your particular case is a kind of special pleading. You can’t do it without good explanation, and I (and others here) will find it hard to take you seriously.

    Jayman: ” It is unlikely the secretary created a hoax in order to get herself fired.”

    Well, if it was a hoax, she didn’t have to be in on it. And if she was in on it maybe she didn’t think things through, or she was rewarded in some other way, or she did it for conflicted psychological reasons that she would deny even to herself, or… I could go on. Again, I don’t know why or how you could justify ruling out a hoax, even if this case was placed under vastly more scrutiny without finding any evidence of a hoax. And if it was not purposely done to deceive, it could be a kind of physical anomaly that can be explained naturally, or everyone experiencing it was part of an experiment in which they were not aware, etc., etc.

    Jayman: ” “Pictures were filmed rotating around their hooks, this being regarded the first filming of a psychokinetic process under convincing control.” This should not happen if materialism is true.”

    I am reminded of Peter Venkman turning to Egon Spengler in the New York Library. “You’re right, Egon. No human being would stack books like that.” Whaaaa? Pictures rotating around their hooks is about as natural as anything that can be imagined. There are a virtually limitless number of ways to do this naturally. Really, are you going to be that aggressively gullible?

    Regarding the rest of your comment, it occurs to me that you do not understand the process we call science, and the aspects of the process that have made it so productive. Well there is room to quibble on (the margins of) what constitutes scientific study, you seem to be outside even that with your understanding. I think this goes a long way to further undermining any value I would have once thought could be gained from primarily studying philosophy.

    • jayman777 Says:

      Tony Hoffman:

      Hard for whom?

      Anyone whose materialism requires them to hold that the mind is nothing more than the brain. If an immaterial mind is emerging from the brain it looks like that brand of materialism has been falsified.

      If you choose to handicap yourself with only those two forms of inquiry, I suppose that the rest of your posts do make more sense. I see no reason why you’d choose to limit yourself that way, but we are all free to choose our own epistemologies.

      It’s not that I ignore those forms of inquiry, it’s that I don’t see how the results of such inquiry falsify materialism or dualism. We need to look for data that allows us to weed out competing hypotheses of the mind. I’m guessing you agree in part, which is why you brought up the split-brain patient as a reason to discard dualism.

      I meant to write that it was based on the accounts of people that I couldn’t interview, etc.

      But this is an absurd standard of evidence. If we were to follow it consistently we would have to plead ignorance of all historical events more than about 120 years old.

      One is that every time paranormal events are placed under scientific scrutiny it is observed that something else is going on other than what the paranormalists are purporting.

      This is false as the very example we are discussing shows.

      The other is that a lack of explanation does not default to “supernatural.”

      First, I find the distinction between “natural” and “supernatural” to be vague. If someone wants to call poltergeist activity “natural” that is fine by me. Second, sometimes it is necessary to posit the existence of something new in order to explain observed phenomena. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that you personally investigated the Rosenheim poltergeist and found no natural explanation. What would you do? Would you posit the existence of a new entity, a poltergeist? Why or why not? At what point will you revise your beliefs?

      That’s like saying that Magico the Magician’s pulling a rabbit from a hat must be magic, because there’s no evidence of trickery in his particular case.

      Your example only has rhetorical effect because we all know that if the magician’s act was studied thoroughly we would find a mundane explanation. Yet when the Rosenheim poltergeist activity was studied thoroughly no mundane explanation was found.

      To ignore the priors that we have from all supernatural hoaxes (and people just getting the facts wrong) in your particular case is a kind of special pleading.

      I’m not ignoring the possibility of a hoax. I am saying it is always a possibility. But we never accept this explanation in other kinds of cases unless we have evidence pointing to a hoax actually occurring. It’s a possibility that the split-brain example you cited is a hoax. I didn’t raise this objection because I have no evidence that is the case. I am not engaging in special pleading. I am applying a general rule of thumb: if numerous people thoroughly investigate an event and there is no evidence a hoax took place then a hoax probably did not take place.

      I don’t know why or how you could justify ruling out a hoax, even if this case was placed under vastly more scrutiny without finding any evidence of a hoax.

      I don’t absolutely rule out a hoax. It is always a possibility. It’s also a possibility the Holocaust is a hoax, 9/11 is a hoax, evolution is a hoax, etc. But I don’t take the hoax hypothesis seriously in any of the these cases because there is no evidence for a hoax. Mere abstract possibility is not a reason to accept the hoax hypothesis. Why do you cling to the hoax hypothesis in the Rosenheim poltergeist case but not in other cases? Also, in the case of the Rosenheim poltergeist, if a hoax took place the hoaxer did a spectacular job. He was so good he apparently violated the accepted laws of physics.

      Pictures rotating around their hooks is about as natural as anything that can be imagined. There are a virtually limitless number of ways to do this naturally. Really, are you going to be that aggressively gullible?

      When, under controlled conditions that rule out known natural causes, pictures rotate around their hooks then, yes, that is good evidence. You’re trying to water down the evidence so you can rationalize what happened.

      Regarding the rest of your comment, it occurs to me that you do not understand the process we call science, and the aspects of the process that have made it so productive.

      By all means, educate me. Suppose you were put in charge of investigating the Rosenheim poltergeist. What would you do differently? If you found not natural explanations what would you do?

      Well there is room to quibble on (the margins of) what constitutes scientific study, you seem to be outside even that with your understanding.

      I’m not an adherent of scientism, so I’m willing to consider evidence regardless of whether it is labeled “scientific.” What was un-scientific about the investigation? How could it have been more scientific?

      • Tony Hoffman Says:

        Jayman: “If an immaterial mind is emerging from the brain it looks like that brand of materialism has been falsified.”

        Okay. But seeing as how I don’t know any non-dualists, nor can imagine one, who contend that consciousness is a material substance this seems to falsify a belief that does not exist.

        Jayman: “It’s not that I ignore those forms of inquiry, it’s that I don’t see how the results of such inquiry falsify materialism or dualism.”

        Hmm. Not sure how anyone could falsify materialism or dualism. My chief problem with dualism is that a) there’s no (good) evidence for it, and b) it’s superfluous (meaning it doesn’t do any work, isn’t productive, etc. It’s fanciful.)

        Jayman: “We need to look for data that allows us to weed out competing hypotheses of the mind.”

        This is what I mean by your mindset seeming so jarringly unscientific to me. Data is data. Data does not “weed out” hypotheses. Experiments falsify (disprove) certain hypothesis, but data itself is just another term for a measure of reality.

        Jayman: “But this is an absurd standard of evidence. If we were to follow it consistently we would have to plead ignorance of all historical events more than about 120 years old.”

        No, I think you misunderstand me. At first I expressed the (wrong) statement that the Rosenheim thing was based on hearsay testimony. You are correct, there were apparently eyewitnesses. But what I was trying to say was that I won’t accept (nor should anyone) personal attestations (eyewitness or otherwise) for an extraordinary phenomena that isn’t controlled and can’t be verified. This is actually how we typically behave in real life – only on a blog like this do I find myself having to painstakingly express this fact.

        Jayman: “[Every time paranormal events are placed under scientific scrutiny] is false as the very example we are discussing shows.”

        Ha. You are funny if you think that having some physicists on hand to observe some crazy shit equals scientific scrutiny.

        Jayman: “First, I find the distinction between “natural” and “supernatural” to be vague.”

        Excellent. I define the natural as all that can be experienced empirically or that has an empirical effect. Please clear up the this issue for us by providing your definition of the supernatural in a way that makes it distinct from a (mine or yours) definition of the natural. As I am a skeptic, I have no need for the term supernatural, as I don’t think anything that might exist that cannot be experienced empirically has any impact on me or reality.

        Jayman: “I’m not ignoring the possibility of a hoax. I am saying it is always a possibility. But we never accept this explanation in other kinds of cases unless we have evidence pointing to a hoax actually occurring.”

        You are lying to yourself. You believe in one religion. Why do you not believe in all those other religions in which you do not have evidence for a hoax?

        At this point, I am becoming so annoyed by what I think is your blatant intellectual dishonesty that I am not going to go through the rest of your post. If you want to respond in a more meaningful way than you have so far to the substance of my comments or others here then I’ll probably feel differently in the morning.

  21. pboyfloyd Says:

    Isn’t saying that the mind is immaterial, the same thing as saying material isn’t material, since materials are composed of the electron clouds of atoms interacting?

    I’m not sure how you, Jayman, can dance around the perfectly natural electro-magnetic and electro-chemical phenomena which we know is involved in the processes of the brain, including ‘the mind’.

    I think philosophers/theologians such as yourself are willing to hand-wave away scientific facts about how the brain functions, how chemicals, such as alcohol, LSD etc. etc., how magentic pulses, electric probes and viral infection and other disease can affect how the processes we call ‘the mind’ functions. And it’s because the mind is a process of the brain.

    Your argument seems to hang it’s hat on the musings of philosophers and theologians who assume God and assume a supernatural source for ‘the mind’. It’s no real wonder why you’re a Thomist since that allows you to view rreality for a 13th. Century perspective and ignore modern science.

    I think that thies parapsycology thing is simply a distraction.

  22. pboyfloyd Says:

    Sorry for the typos, I’m typing ‘blind’ after the first dozen lines here.


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