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 ...
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:
I have wondered for some time now about the late, great Ernst Mayr's seeming insistence that biology is so separate from physics, that it needs to declare itself a "sovereign" discipline of the natural sciences, that at once requires all "intelligent" people to bend the knee to Darwinian evolutionary theory, while at the same time maintaining that Darwinian evolutionary theory isn't a straightjacket on human thought.
The late, great Mayr evidently did not consider possibilities other than evidence that can be gathered from direct observation, direct perception.
I wonder what he is perceiving now. R.I.P. Tricky problem there. I don't think he solved it. Much to his rue as I imagine.
Biology is held to be, like, its own MAGIC!
None of this asking the various parts of living plants and animals to follow those PHYSICAL laws and then seeing what conclusions you come to... that would be too MUNDANE.
Weirdness of weirdnesses... echos of the supernatural here without actually acknowledging it!
“Nagel: The great advances in the physical and biological sciences were made possible by excluding the mind from the physical world. “
Spirited: Nagel does not want the living, personal God in Three Persons to exist. To paraphrase his own words, “I don’t want the world to be this way.” In this light we can understand why he “fudged the truth” with his claim that great advances in science were made possible by excluding mind from the physical world.
The truth is that scientific advances were made when Christian theism de-divinized the cosmos with its’ teaching that though the living God upholds the cosmos and all life and mind He is not “within” the cosmos but outside of it. He is outside of the space time dimension, thus neither any part of the cosmos (i.e., earth is not the divine, sacred Gaia) nor man himself shares His divine substance as Hermetic science teaches.
betty: Pinker is professor of language, cognitive science, and evolutionary psychology at MIT
Spirited: In terms of worldview, Pinker is a modern Gnostikoi of the occult Free Masonic order (a modern Mystery Religion) with its’ taproot in the materialism of ancient Egypt. This view holds that all that exists is matter and energy (the serpent power of the one substance, Herme’s Universal Life, the Great Dragon). “Modern” occult Free Masons reframe energy in terms of Lucifer’s seething energies.
Simply put, Mystery Religion adepts are those who have mastered the energies, hence they are the Gnostikoi who “Know” the deeper things that the masses (beast-men) do not and cannot “Know.” In this sense Pinker is a Gnostikoi who “Knows” that “mind” does not exist with respect to the materialized masses but is reserved to higher adepts such as himself.
C.S. Lewis is one of the few thinkers who knew that “modern science” and it’s primary doctrine “evolution” emerged out of ancient occult science. He expounds this subject in “That Hideous Strength.”
Since the “death of God,” modern science has been returning to it’s occult parent.
Ellis Washington, a former staff editor of the Michigan Law Review and an adjunct professor at the National Paralegal College where he teaches Constitutional Law, Legal Ethics, Contracts and Advanced Legal Writing explains why for C.S. Lewis science was more closely related to ancient magic:
“Conventional thinking by the progressive left treats science as something innovative, original and modern, however, for C.S. Lewis science was more closely related to ancient magic. Lewis characterized science and magic as analogous emphasizing 3 different ways that science and magic are similar (1) Science/magic as the ability to function as religion demanding absolute obedience, devotion and worship; (2) Science/magic as credulity commands Groupthink and ironically promotes a lack of skepticism, and (3) Science/magic as power over the world in order to dominate society and triumph over nature and the universe.
Science as religion
Science has the capacity to induce worship to the same degree as any religion; her prophets are scientists and professors, their decrees infallible! Indeed, doesn’t a magical view of the world beguile one with a sense of awe that surely life is more than our humdrum daily lives? This sense grandeur of the universe gives us a sense of meaning and purpose that transcends the physical world entering the realm of the metaphysical world. Even for those people who aren’t religious, this magical view of the world can in fact be more compelling, because science-as-religion substitutes God (religion) for scientism (magic, politics). Therefore, in reality since Darwin’s “The Origin of Species” (1859), modern science has indeed devolved into a pseudo-religion; a racist, diabolical cult and a servile slave to socialist politics and government funding.
In this essential documentary on the legendary writings of C.S. Lewis titled, “The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis and the Case against Scientism,” the narrator puts into historical perspective Lewis’s heroic battles upholding truth against the cult of Darwin:
...During Lewis’s own time, there were people like H. G. Wells, who turned Darwin’s theory of evolution into this cosmic theory of life developing in this long struggle in the human universe, and then human life develops in this heroic character fighting against nature, and then, eventually, man evolves, and evolves himself through eugenics into a wave of demigods. This epic cosmic struggle of evolution was really an alternate religion for H. G. Wells, and you see that same thing today, whether it be Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins who says that “Darwin has made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.”
Read more: C.S. Lewis: when science becomes magic, Part 2
Thanks so much for the ping to the essays of Ellis Washington! This man is one of America’s great thinkers. I’ve read his essays without realizing who he is. The collected essays will be entering my library asap.
Too bad we don't get to hit an undo button on life.
Indeed, the peer review process particularly outside the hard sciences (physics and chemistry) has become increasingly an enforcement of orthodoxy.
And of course the worst are the historical sciences (anthropology, archeology, Egyptology, evolution biology) because in those disciplines "the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" whereas in the hard sciences the reverse is true "the absence of evidence is evidence of absence."
It may be argued that because the historical record is spotty at best, the historical scientists are doing they best they can to reconstruct history. But ultimately, it is still story telling - and when the story becomes dogma as it is in evolution biology, the insult to professional ethics is too great. Indeed, at least in some of the other historical science theories - e.g. archeology - the minds are not closed to alternative explanations for the historical record.
Lewis' analogy of science and magic as equivalent at some level in terms of operational principles expressing outcomes (1), (2), and (3), as seen through Ellis Washington's eyes definitely seems plausible, and thus worth pursuing. Yet of the three instances given, (1) and (2) are descriptive; (3) is what worries me. For it refers to the active principle that informs and explains (1) and (2).
On the other hand, there are still plenty of honest scientists out there. And science historically is one of the highest achievements of the human mind and spirit. We can't throw out the baby with the bathwater....
Still to note, alchemy and magic are practices of man that date back to the Neolithicum. They are not identical, but siblings that share a common heritage the spirit of ignorance and/or revolt against the constituted order (kosmos) of Reality, which boils down to a revolt against human nature and the human condition itself. Both alchemy and magic abhor God because His very existence places a Limit on man and what he can see and achieve and become by his own efforts.
Alchemy purports to be the science of transmutation of base metals into gold. Magic is a far more wide-ranging proposition, in that it would be the "general theory" of alchemy's "special theory."
As Ms. Kimball astutely notes in the present writing (and others before), man is attracted by the idea that, if dissatisfied with the world and his place in it, he can simply change the world into something to his better liking IF he has access to the deep hidden truths of nature which, if known (via gnosis) will allow him to successfully counter all the bad things he dislikes about human existence. The alchemists often were gnostics or Hermeticists, claiming to tap into some "deeper" or "higher" truth about reality than the hoi polloi could ever grasp. Their goal was to triumph over the material limits of Reality because material Reality was "evil" by their definition. But man could escape to the "good" non-material Reality if he had the requisite "gnosis," or knowledge of effective procedures to counteract and transmute the "bad" into the "good." By and large, this implies an effort in self-divinization.
But at least the alchemists kept fairly quiet, in that their main enterprise was to get Reality to cough up gold for their personal direct enrichment, out of base (less worthy) metals. They claimed they had the requisite "gnosis" to do this. So why would they not want to keep this knowledge to themselves? In short, one does not hear of the cultivation of disciples to receive and carry on their "sacred knowledge."
Not so with the magicians. Though they share certain key moral commitments with the alchemists, their sphere of operation is society at large. And it seems to me they are the worst offenders against any idea of Truth in Reality. For they are in outright revolt against Reality, not just trying to compromise it from time to time into compliance with human wishes for immediate personal gain.
But I have to say that it's not the scientists who come across to me as the main "magicians" these days. (Though it is true that some part of their community is enchanted by the instrumentalization of Nature to produce human "goods" in contradistinction to the search for the Truth of natural Reality for its own sake.) It's mainly the philosophers who have given free scope to the further deformation and deterioration of the human person and society at large. But then they've been "aping" the "methodological" natural sciences in so many respects since the so-called Enlightenment that it looks like they may have lost their ancient intellectual mooring in divine Truth....
After which the very roots of Western culture and society have come under incessant attack. This has largely been conducted by stoking the "public unconscious" into the belief that human history does not matter, so why bother to learn it? That all "spiritual" ramifications of Reality which human beings actually directly experience are "illusions."
And if illusions, then they can be manipulated into "better" illusions by virtue of "magic words" [Hegels' Zauberworte] and "magical practices" [Hegel's Zauberkraft]. For at both the beginning and the end of Hegel's "story" as told in Phénoménologie is the premise, promise, and fulfillment of the self-divinization of man, preeminently the self-divinization of Hegel, the New Christ....
The magician has if anything even more faith than the alchemist in his ability to transform the structure of Reality, which for our purposes here will be denoted First Reality. First Reality is, among other things, the culmination so far of human experience of this world over the whole sum of human historical time. It accounts for the order that constitutes the Whole of which human beings are parts and participants. Its mission is to illuminate the great hierarchy of Being, GodManWorldSociety. [It should be noted that both classical philosophy and Christian theology are completely devoted to these issues.] Of course, in this work Hegel is a self-admitted "magician." He is involved in the process of transmuting First Reality into a Second Reality more to his personal liking. This "second reality" is one which recognizes Hegel's world-representative status as a Great Thinker who was able to subsume "philosophy" love of wisdom under his new complete system of science which is not just some puny love of wisdom, but the actual possession of complete knowledge. Thus our man admittedly by magical means bootstraps himself into the status of the New Christ, who comes to abolish history and instantiate a new order of Reality over which Hegel will preside as the New Christ.
I wouldn't bother to mention him except for the profound influence Hegel has had on the constructors of Second Realities down to our time (eminently Marx, and a whole bunch of savage totalitarians who took heart and encouragement from both Hegel and Marx). His "system to end all systems" is what modern progressivist ideologies of every stripe take courage from, in the prosecution of their own sociopolitical ends. ("If Hegel can 'stuff all of (objective) Reality' into his own head, and perform 'truthful operations' on it, then why can't we?")
We see such operations daily in the words and deeds of our POTUS. Mr. Obama seems definitely to be operating under the assumption that "rhetoric" can actually "change the constitution" of objective Reality. It seems he would agree with Mao Zhedong's observation, "Tell a lie 100 times, and people will believe it is true." And it thus follows: If people believe it, then it must be true.
In conclusion, any Second Reality is the attempt to supplant First Reality. Second Reality's mission is to correct God: If God did not hand over a "perfect" world, then man must try to carry on and "perfect" what God made.
Actually, it's best just to leave off with all this "God" stuff. Man doesn't need it he can just perfect his own world without any divine assistance, thank you very much.
Well, such a man as Obama can shout out this epiphany into the public until he is hoarse. But I don't believe anything in Reality will change much, except for the poor human beings who buy his lies.... People who have the nose to sniff them out already know that no good end can come from them.
Mental cases do not have the ability to tell the truth. But the truth is, mental cases have extraordinary influence in shaping the cultural and social reality in which we all live. And if mental cases are the majority in public discussion, then we cannot (it seems to me) expect a "happy ending" respecting any socio/political matter. (One cannot understand/conduct Reality by means of a public-opinion poll in principle.)
At the same time I am reminded by the Holy Scriptures that the ululations of mental cases amount to so much "sound and fury, signifying nothing."
And yet they are there, sources of disorder to persons and societies.
Man does not realize how frail, how needful he is of God just in order to make sense of the World of which he is a part and participant....
Lose God, you will lose your humanity. Or as Baudelaire put it:
A man who does not accept the conditions of life, sells his soul....More to say, but maybe later or never. Must close for now.
Thank you so much, dear spirited, my sister in Christ, for your astute observations!
In conclusion, any Second Reality is the attempt to supplant First Reality. Second Reality's mission is to correct God: If God did not hand over a "perfect" world, then man must try to carry on and "perfect" what God made.
Truly, standing apart and looking at Obama's behavior and words it is as if he does not see the world as it really is but as he says it is. Which is to say, he seems to actually be living in his fantasy. This is particularly apparent when he panics that others do not see what is so obvious to him.