Skip to comments.A Darwinist Mob Goes After a Serious Philosopher
Posted on 03/24/2013 8:51:28 AM PDT by dirtboy
s there a greater gesture of intellectual contempt than the notion that a tweet constitutes an adequate intervention in a serious discussion? But when Thomas Nagels formidable book Mind and Cosmos recently appeared, in which he has the impudence to suggest that the materialist neo-Darwinian conception of nature is almost certainly false, and to offer thoughtful reasons to believe that the non-material dimensions of lifeconsciousness, reason, moral value, subjective experiencecannot be reduced to, or explained as having evolved tidily from, its material dimensions, Steven Pinker took to Twitter and haughtily ruled that it was the shoddy reasoning of a once-great thinker. **** him, he explained.
Here was a signal to the Darwinist dittoheads that a mob needed to be formed. In an earlier book Nagel had dared to complain of Darwinist imperialism, though in his scrupulous way he added that there is really no reason to assume that the only alternative to an evolutionary explanation of everything is a religious one. He is not, God forbid, a theist. But he went on to warn that this may not be comforting enough for the materialist establishment, which may find it impossible to tolerate also any cosmic order of which mind is an irreducible and non-accidental part. For the bargain-basement atheism of our day, it is not enough that there be no God: there must be only matter. Now Nagels new book fulfills his old warning. A mob is indeed forming, a mob of materialists, of free-thinking inquisitors.
It is bad for the lefts own culture war. Whose side is he on, anyway? Almost taunting the materialist left, which teaches skepticism but not self-skepticism,
(Excerpt) Read more at newrepublic.com ...
The God haters are not very tolerant.
Modern philosophy is an intellectual desert. Postmodernism has been deconstructed to the point of empty parlor room word games.
I used to think that Postmodernism might be fading away, but what could come after such vapidness?
Maybe this is the start of a new beginning.
Absolutely! However, if the materialism is true there would be no way to know that it is true because Reason would then be invalid and merely the epiphenomenon of blind irrational forces i.e chemical reactions, eletromagnetic waves etc. Reason, in order to be valid, MUST be independent of nature. This was very clearly explained in C.S. Lewis's book "Miracles."
Clear thinking Atheists know this but just cannot give up on Atheism regardless of its glaring, in your face, falsity. So they throw tantrums instead.
Amen to your tagline. Seems apropos on this thread. Let the materialists argue among themselves. It "matters" not. Dust to dust.
Yep - just as "An unexamined life is not worth living" displays how worthless the Left is - they examine everyone but themselves.
To be a materialist, one has to believe that
1) omething came from nothing
2) natural law, symmetry, order, and beauty came from primordial disorder
3) organization came from utterly random primordial disorganization
4) consciousness,free will, and reason came from matter
5) life came from from non-life or inanimate chemicals
6) anthrropic coninidences came from chance
7) man, from pond scum
8) human knowledge and human values came from a universe without absolutes and without absolute truth
Thanks for posting the source of the materialism vs. reason paradox.
Thank you for posting that on this fine Palm Sunday morning up here in Alaska.
it is always thrilling to watch the left become unhinged over something. there is so much to learn by watching them! any astute watcher would realize just how narrow-minded and close-minded they really are. they have memorized their talking points and beyond that, there is no reasoning to be done, so they mock, denigrate, profane, and retaliate against the supposed offender. we should encourage the ‘mocked’ to just step back and let the left carry on. what they accidentally do, is to cause some to wake up to reality.
Should be a Doctor of the Church someday. Totally unappreciated by the modern world. His writings are brilliant.
Thanks for posting this piece. I really like the author, I think we can call him a “liberal with sanity” like Ed Koch.
Today’s radical atheists are really quite a group. I don’t understand why they get themselves so worked up over stuff they don’t believe in.
But it’s only the God of the Christians and Jews that irritates them.
That world class moron Dawkins was actually asked about Allah the other day. He said he’d never thought much about him.
How mind bendingly S.T.U.P.I.D. is that?
To an atheist ALL Gods should be the same, some fake “god” that no sensible person could believe in. It makes sense for religious people to ponder the differences between religions, but not atheists.
He’s just a stinking, stupid coward. Yet he’s considered “an intellectual”.
The world is truly a pathetic place. I’m almost sure it wasn’t this pathetic years ago, but I could be wrong about that.
I have never witnessed an atheist tantrum. On the other hand theist tantrums are on display in every interaction, as here: "...cannot give up on Atheism regardless of its glaring, in your face, falsity."
You think something is false, fine, but in no way is the non-theistic world view glaringly false. If it were, it would not have so many intelligent, considered adherents. If you think it is false, it is up to you to put forward some convincing arguments in support, otherwise it is nothing more than a figurative stamping of feet. And, as Nagel says, there is really no reason to assume that the only alternative to an evolutionary explanation of everything is a religious one.
Here is a real insight few on either side of the divide will find comfort in.
The principal target of postmodernism was science, at least as perceived by scientists. With titles like “We Have Never Been Modern”, “Against Reason”, and “The Truth about THE TRUTH”, the pomo movement sought to demolish every sort of certainty, including in particular scientific certainty.
In the process it elevated premodern points of view, such as animism, to equal status, if anything had any status in this fundamentally nihilistic philosophy. It was great fun, though.
Perhaps you haven't read many of Dawkins' "arguments." They are little more than rhetorical barbs, so vapid that Michael Ruse says they make him ashamed to be an atheist. If your mind is open, you might read "Is God a Moral Monster?"
There are only two possible systems for creation of life, ethics, and order: supernatural, or natural. The two systems have been argued at length. Macroevolusionist Theory is on the ropes. Even Anthony Few saw that. If one chooses to reject the evidence for a supernatural origin, and pin their hopes on someday discerning another natural explanation we have no hint of at this time, then that's an emotional reaction. Personally, I don't have that kind of blind faith.
As for me, neither do I have that kind of blind faith, nor any other kind.
Are you going for humor here? I reject your artificial binary choice, as should anyone willing to give the matter honest and unfettered consideration.
Also, I doubt I will devote any time to the book you suggest as it appears that the book is intent on destroying an argument I would never make, and as such would not offer anything relevant to me.
I will only say that both sides seem to insist on defining terms in such a way as to devalue the arguments of the other side. It's really simple, if you control the definitions, you control the outcome of the debate - and destroy any chance of deeper understanding in the process.
|GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother & Ernest_at_the_Beach|
I did, go back and read my post.
Sorry, but I can not spot them...
Not so! Reason is and must be part of any necessary and sufficient definition of Nature.
Nature is far grander and more wonderful than your absurd caricature of it.
I find nothing whatsoever either original or compelling in your post.
You are certainly correct that it is not original, it is the core argument in C.S. Lewis's book "Miracles." Lewis made this argument in response to materialist philosophy which holds that "the only thing that exists is matter or energy; that all things are composed of material and all phenomena (including consciousness) are the result of material interactions. In other words, matter is the only substance, and reality is identical with the actually occurring states of energy and matter."
If all phenomena, including consciousness, are the result of irrational material interactions that would include Reason, and therefore Reason would not be valid.
However, if Reason stands on its own, independent of natural forces i.e. it is supernatural, then it has the potential of being valid. Now if you want to redefine nature such that consciousness is not included in the definition, and that it is the result of something other than material interactions, you are simply restating the supernaturalist argument and refuting materialism.
I’m definitely not getting involved, I think of that old Mark Twain quote...
When we remember that we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.
I simply do not subscribe to either of these reductionist philosophies.
If Lewis defines materialism as you say: “the only thing that exists is matter or energy; that all things are composed of material and all phenomena (including consciousness) are the result of material interactions. In other words, matter is the only substance, and reality is identical with the actually occurring states of energy and matter,” then obviously he can savage the materialist position to the point of devastation, and so he should. The materialist description of reality is nonsense.
Similarly, Lewis’ positing of natural and “supernatural” realities is equally subject to devastating critique, the same critique that has been applied to every dualistic philosophy espoused since time began: dualism always fails because of it cannot account for the interaction problem.
That’s why I don’t subscribe to either extremist position. Neither is an efficient descriptor of reality, and thus is almost certainly not a true descriptor of reality.
That wasn’t Lewis’s definition, it was websters.
Supernaturalism is not dualistic. Supernaturalism posits that Mind has always existed and created nature, and holds nature in existence. The supernatural interacts with creation first by being the source of Reason, and secondly, though rarely, in the form of miracles (Judaism, Christianity, Islam). Deists believe in the supernatural but do not believe that it ever interferes with nature.
If naturalism/materialism and supernaturalism are both false then what is the third philosophical worldview?
Webster or whosoever. I care not.
Supernaturalism IS dualistic. The characteristics of mind: immaterial, eternal, undefiled. The characteristics material nature: dense, transient, sullied.
The postulate that mind “contains” nature or predates it is obvious claptrap, a kludge meant to bridge the unbridgable.
The alternative to both these is a natural world that partakes of a total set of characteristics which while knowable are not easily known, and which are neither eternal or transient, immaterial or material, pure or sullied, but which transcends all these imperfect attempts at description.
Call it what you like, this worldview at least has the imprimatur of age.
Well, dualistic and dualism are two different things. Yes the created material world is inherently different than the supernatural Mind that created it, and if you want to call that dualistic then fine. The simple fact that they are different does not make the concept "claptrap."
"Dualism", in the philosphical sense, is a system which would explain the universe as the outcome of two eternally opposed and coexisting principles, conceived as good and evil, light and darkness, or some other form of conflicting powers. This concept was condemned as heresy by Emperor Theodosius I in 382.
With respect to your proposed third philosophical worldview, what Philosophers have promoted this worldview as you have defined it, and what are their key supporting arguments? It sounds to me just like just another way of describing Naturalism, which we have both dismissed as bunk.
To keep this exchange from going on ad infinitum, I will make this my last response. Thanks for the interesting discussion.
I really don’t think you are right about Dawkins. I also sincerely doubt you are right about the Bible literacy of atheists, but what do I know, I’m an RC so my Bible literacy is quite low.
Ra, Thor and Zeus are rather defunct as gods. I don’t think that’s a good example at all.
I’d advise you to give some thought to Allah, and his followers. There a goodly number of them who want to chop YOUR head off right now. They don’t really care what you believe in, or what you think about. I mean, they feel that way about me too, and everyone here, and every over at the NY Times and most other places.
That’s actually a much more pressing issue that Mr. Dawkins, or atheism, or most other things.
Perhaps it is a semantic problem.
One possible way to look at supernatural is not an either or.
It can be include and transcend. As reason includes the purely physical and transcends it; the spiritual includes reason and transcends it.
There are things that can be known by science, but not all; there are things that can be known by reason, but not all..
Each as sphere including the previous, but more - transcending and including.
Perhaps to a degree, but mainly it's an ontological problem. It's the container problem: can a container be made of the same stuff it contains? If so, what contains the container?
The alternative is to reject the entirely arbitrary, even whimsical, distinction that is made between “natural” and “supernatural”, a distinction with no reality at all. It is a purely linguistic construct.
Rearity is reality, and it defies reductionst absurdities, despite your willingness to entertain them.
Jeepers, I wonder if Professor Pinker even read Nagel's deeply engaging and closely reasoned book. Had he done so, he probably would have noticed a couple of "interesting points" raised there to which he could have responded in rebuttal. Instead, he takes an ad hominum meat-ax to Professor Nagel.... (This tells me Pinker is not a serious thinker, whatever else he may be.)
Pinker is professor of language, cognitive science, and evolutionary psychology at MIT. Nagel is professor of philosophy at NYU. Note: Neither is a biologist or any other kind of natural scientist. Yet the former is a disciple of Neo-darwinist orthodoxy. The latter, a self-described atheist, is not.
Neo-darwinist theory has been spectacularly successful at the level of microbiology. But Nagel raises the issue: To what extent do empirical findings of microbiology extrapolate to the system at large, such as to give a "complete" description of the system in this case, the universe in purely naturalistic, or materialist, or physicalist terms? He is "almost certain" that Neo-darwinist theory cannot do this.
The obvious problems that Neo-darwinism tries to obviate is the origin of life and the emergence/evolution of mind. [Folks like Dawkins, Pinker, Dennett, et al., evidently think it's perfectly acceptable to obviate what one cannot explain.] Thus a "bigger picture" than the one that sees only physico/chemical reactions according to physical laws as fully explaining the biological and psychological dimensions of the universe is critically needed.
Here we enter into the terrain of scientific cosmology. [The physicists and mathematicians are already there. So far the ones reluctant to join this party tend to be the evolutionary biologists.... To me, they are the "bitter clingers" of a decaying doctrine that would prefer to be sucked into a black hole than to live to see the coming paradigm shift in science.]
Nagel picks at a few good scabs, bound to upset the "bitter-clingers" who put all their hopes in Darwin, and none at all in human common sense and experience not to mention Reason. (Darwin's theory is absolutely hapless to address where "reason" came from, or to explain what in Nature it can possibly refer to.)
Nagel first of all goes right after scientific reductionism:
Physico-chemical reductionism in biology is the orthodox view, and any resistance to it is regarded as not only scientifically but politically incorrect. But for a long time I have found the materialist account of how we and our fellow organisms came to exist hard to believe, including the standard version of how the evolutionary process works. The more details we learn about the chemical basis of life and the intricacy of the genetic code, the more unbelievable the standard historical account becomes.... But it seems to me that, as it is usually presented, the current orthodoxy about the cosmic order is the product of governing assumptions that are unsupported, and that it flies in the face of common sense....Nagel suspects that reductionist materialist approaches to the understanding of nature, and particularly of biological nature, do not, and cannot rise to the explanatory challenge. As Nagel puts it, "my guiding conviction is that mind is not just an afterthought or an accident or an add-on, but a basic aspect of nature."
The great advances in the physical and biological sciences were made possible by excluding the mind from the physical world. This has permitted a quantitative understanding of that world, expressed in timeless, mathematically formulated physical laws. But at some point it will be necessary to make a new start on a more comprehensive understanding that includes the mind. It seems inevitable that such an understanding will have a historical dimension as well as a timeless one. The idea that historical understanding is part of science has become familiar through the transformation of biology by evolutionary theory. But more recently, with the acceptance of the big bang, cosmology has become a historical science. Mind, as a development of life, must be included as the most recent stage of this long cosmological history, and its appearance, I believe, casts its shadow back over the entire process and the constituents and principles on which the process depends....
...[T]he coming into existence of the genetic code an arbitrary mapping of nucleotide sequences into amino acids, together with mechanisms that can read the code and carry out its instructions seems particularly resistant to being revealed as probable given physical laws alone. Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos, p. 5 ff. [Italics added for emphasis.]
Plus then he adds insult to injury, by averring that teleology is implicit in biology. Teleology, that is Final Cause a/k/a purposes or goals operative in natural processes and in Nature as a Whole has been abolished by science since Francis Bacon. Yet, not only Nagel, but other noteworthy scientists, mathematicians, and philosophers, think it's time to bring teleology back into scientific respectability.
Pretty good for an atheist, huh???
A little later (p. 16), Nagel adds
Science is driven by the assumption that the world is intelligible. That is, the world in which we find ourselves, and about which experience gives us some information, can not only be described but understood. That assumption is behind every pursuit of knowledge, including pursuits that end in illusion. In the natural sciences as they have developed since the seventeenth century, the assumption of intelligibility has led to extraordinary discoveries, confirmed by prediction and experiments, of a hidden natural order that cannot be observed by human perception alone. Without the assumption of an intelligible underlying order, which long antedates the scientific revolution [no kidding!!! Go back to first-millennium B.C. Greece for the fundaments of this understanding], those discoveries could not have been made. [Ibid., itals added for emphasis.]Well, that's how Nagel basically gets the ball rolling in this fascinating book. Thus he tells us that Neo-darwinist theory is at least "incomplete." Also he will have no truck with devotees of Intelligent Design. (The idea of a "designer" seems to give him the willies. I gather if the "designer" were God, Nagel wouldn't trust him.) As for alternative cosmological theories that have the capacity of accounting for life and mind in Nature, he finds that monist, dualist, and emergent theories don't really cut it either.
He has his own modest proposal. But I won't tell you what it is. Rather, I urge you to read Nagel's book.
Whether or not you agree with his findings, you will learn a lot from an honest thinker who is genuinely in pursuit of the Truth of the universe, while still having a very strong desire for its ultimate explanation to be capable of being cast in purely "naturalist" terms.
dirtboy, thank you so much for posting this fine essay. It only just came to my attention today. Really Good Stuff!!!
That’s a really nice summary of it.
If only THEY could see the absurdity of their position.
I suspect the biologists presumed their invitees would follow the biologists' methodology of fitting new observations into established theory (dogma, in effect) - even if it must be kluged to fit. But to physicists science is all about the theory. And mathematicians require proof, not dogma.
As H.H. Pattee said: