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I was watching a lecture/presentation on YouTube by Michael Shermer, an outspoken skeptic and well-known in those circles. I have no problem with skepticism in and of itself, but I see some definite metaphysical commitments being expressed by those who claim to be freethinkers. For instance, Shermer quite confidently states "There is no mind, there's only brain." When someone inquired of him about the status of experiences and qualia, Shermer denied it was a meaningful question, stating that such subjective statements are "useless" and "fuzzy". To Shermer, for mental events to have any reality would be "magic", therefore there can't be any mind or any reality to the mental. When asked what such phenomena actually are, Shermer couldn't say, but he was confident that science would somehow, someday find a way to reduce the mind entirely to materialistic terms (which, by the way, he presumes to be the only meaningful terms. At this point Shermer's confidence becomes literally indistinguishable from some types of religious faith, resting on poor argument and special pleading.) Just to be clear what all this means, it means that experience/subjectivity/mind should one day be able to be understood purely in terms of a description of material objects and their objective, geometric/quantitative relation to one another, making the material objects the true reality while mind is just an outmoded theory and fiction. (More broadly speaking, it also means that scientific materialism is the only real and valid level of discourse.) To me this agenda is plainly absurd and indefensible, not to mention demeaning. But I also see something very ironic happening. The religious impulse has re-manifested itself in the thinking of such 'skeptics' and 'free-thinkers'. That religion is scientism, or perhaps 'scientistic materialism'. As such I contend that Shermer and Dennett really don't have any right to the claim of being rationalists in opposition to religious folk. I expect that people will one day look upon Dennett and Shermer as we look upon some ancient philosophers who we take to be profoundly wrong in their metaphysics, perhaps laughing a bit at the silliness of their agenda.

 

"Science is our religion in the very important sense that we think science tells us what reality is." - Hubert Dreyfus (writing on Heidegger)

 

Denying the reality of quality (and hence, mind) is nothing less than denying reality itself. Yet it is only with the Western obsession with the concept of material objects,which, I emphasize, is certainly and merely a concept, that this problem arises. We are fixated on the ideal of objective knowledge (and therefore with objects). I suggest that objective knowledge is a myth, because there is no such objective reality corresponding to it. Objectivity is a method, not an ontological truth.

 

Even so, I do this this quote has a lot of truth, even though I wouldn't phrase it with the terms of objectivity:

 

"Quality is objective fact; it is ultimate reality...it is energy, but energy is quality to human experience." - Weiman

 

What do you think of scientism? Is my assessment of it valid?

 

Peace,

Mike

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Mike,

 

I don't know if a non-material "ultimate reality" exists or not. It could exist, but without the necessary wiring in our brains we would not be able to perceive it (or, some would say, conceive it). Science cannot determine if there is a non-material reality or not. But, it can, I think, eventually explain how our brains are able to perceive/conceive such a thing.

 

George

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Hi George,

 

I'm not sure there is any stark distinction between 'material' and 'immaterial'. What 'matter' tends to connote to us is itself a construct, after all. I do not doubt that science will eventually be able to explain a lot about how our brain organizes experience, but I think it firmly oversteps the bounds of the scientific method to think that it can in principle provide any kind of complete knowledge of the mind (or more broadly, reality).

 

I did not mean to imply that materialism is itself scientism, because there are several forms of materialism. 'Scientism', as I have come to understand or define it, is the explicit or implicit belief that science provides the only genuine/valid type of knowledge, or offers the only genuine/valid level of discourse, and that eventually all things should be fully reducible to those terms (that is, in terms of the concept of material objects). Such a stance basically negates all other types of discourse as either secondary or illusory.

 

Peace,

Mike

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Mike,

 

My understanding of scientism as defined in Wiki is that .... Scientism is the notion that natural science comprises the most authoritative worldview or form of human knowledge, and that it is superior to all other interpretations of life.

 

I personally from my own subjective experiences find that notion is illusory but see no purpose in arguing against it. For as Ramana Maharshi said in his 40 verus on reality verse 3 ' The world is real.' 'No, it, is a mere illusory appearance.' 'The world is conscious.' 'No.' 'The world is happiness.' 'No.' What use is it to argue thus? That State is agreeable to all, wherein, having given up the objective outlook, one knows one's Self and loses all notions either of unity or duality, of oneself and the ego.

 

 

In the Invocatory it asks and states....

If Reality did not exist, could there be any knowledge of existence? Free from all thoughts, Reality abides in the Heart, the Source of all thoughts. It is, therefore, called the Heart. How then is one to contemplate it? To be as it is in the Heart, is Its contemplation.

 

I do not see where either side of the issue can be proved or disproved by concepts and reasoning alone but i do believe that the state Ramana speaks of is agreeable to all.

 

Joseph

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Mike,

 

I agree with your position. The following might be helpful:

 

This is from Wikipedia ...

 

" ... neuroscientist Roger Sperry, in his Nobel prize lecture in 1981, described modern scientific concepts of the nature of consciousness and its relation to brain processing as follows: "The events of inner experience, as emergent properties of brain processes, become themselves explanatory causal constructs in their own right, interacting at their own level with their own laws and dynamics. The whole world of inner experience (the world of the humanities) long rejected by 20th century scientific materialism, thus becomes recognized and included within the domain of science."

 

This is John Searle's stance ... (Searle is a very vocal opponent of Dennett)

 

Consciousness is an emergent property of lower level physiological processes of the brain, but is not reducible to those processes. Consciousness is not an epiphenomenon, consciousness includes the capacity for intentional causation (Searle, 1992, 1995).

 

The key concepts are "reductionism", "consciousness", "emergent properties" "epiphenomenalism" and "intentional causation". Science cannot explain consciousness. Searle's criticism of Dennett's stance includes the observation that since Dennett cannot explain consciousness he uses the old trick of denying that consciousness exists!

 

I like this quote from Searle best ...

 

"If we value life, justice, beauty ... it is only as conscious beings that we value them (Searle, 1998)."

 

Myron

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First, this guy is obviously stuck on reductionist thinking.

 

Second, as that by it's very meaning and definition, "science" can only address and examine that which can be objectively qualified and/or quantified in the material reality. To attempt to extend any knowledge established through scientific method to draw consclusions or make statements about any possible non-material reality is a departure from science.

 

Third, basic to sound reasoning, logical process, is that negative cannot prove a negative..i.e. a lack of evidence of the existence of something cannot be validly used to prove that something does not exist.

 

Fourth, scientific method can be applied only where something can be detected, observed, measured, quantified, qualified direstly or indirectly by material means. For the advances in technology in many fields of science, we are routinely able to observe, measure, qualify, and quantify many phenomenon that once seemed beyond human means to observe.

 

Many scientists are delving deeply into the big question, what is "mind", and the questions that hang from that, such as seeking to understand the questions involving the "mind-body" phenomenon. Until now, most efforts in science have been focused on the outer reality, now as Man has developed the means to explore even outer space, the new frontier in science is that of the inner space, of the material reality (think quantum physics, string theory,etc) and of the human mind.

 

I believe science has longbeen and will continue to move into what was once thought to be beyond human ability to materially observe, measure, quantify, and qualify, into what once seemed apart from or beyond the material reality...I think just as in the individual human process of individuation, in which the unconscious is brought into consciousness, so is the human race moving toward bringing the previously unconscious into present consciousness, the previously aparantly non-material reality into the material reality.

 

What you say about this idea of scientism seems to me, as noted in comparing it to religion, a knee-jerk reaction to a kind of fundamentalism, as a defense, a line drawn in the sand, so to speak, by those who feel their present beliefs and very concepts of the nature of reality, are being challenged, threatened, by advances in the very science they profess to embrace. That is what fundamentalism is, basically, whether in religion or science, or even nationalism or other social arenas where rapiid changes challenge the old ways of thinking, of being. It is to draw a line in the sand (but from the fundamentalist's viewpoint, write in stone) the present state of knowledge and belief as if it were "the final word" on any matter. To make sancrosanct the present way of knowing and being, daring any step beyond that line, into new ways that threaten to dismantle the old.

 

History is on the side of those that defy the line in the sand, that push into new realities, that dare to cross that line.

 

Jenell

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Thanks for the thoughts everyone. BTW please forgive me if my initial post here seemed overtly aggressive or hostile toward Shermer et. al.

 

I do think it is important to acknowledge the limitations of method. A method is by definition a limitation, a way of excluding some reality/truth in order to isolate a particular reality/truth. If such were not the case, it couldn't have anything meaningful to say about reality. This means that whatever 'reality' is, it is intrinsically beyond any particular method. But it also means that there are indeed different ways of approaching the question of reality. This is something that scientism does not acknowledge.

 

I think the matter/mind issue is at base not a scientific one. It is really a meta-physical question. You see, we've inherited a very specific idea of 'matter' historically from such influential philosophers as Descartes, who was a father of the scientific method. 'The material' is a metaphysical concept with specific denotations, not an empirical or scientific one. It is a matter of metaphysical presupposition that something called 'mind' and something called 'matter' are reified into independent categories in the first place. Therefore many materialists will insist on the concept of the material in contrast to mind, even in the face of not being able to account for how mind supposedly arises from purely material constituents. Or in the case of philosopher Dan Dennett, the easiest way to explain something is to deny it exists. I can't help but see a definite religious commitment in such a point of view. It is then no wonder to me that Dennett (and Shermer) are also very outspoken against religion, since their epistemological principles are so skewed.

 

Therefore, science in itself does not favor materialism over any other ontology. The fact that we tend to think science presupposes materialism is itself a symptom of some unaccounted for metaphysical presuppositions, in my view. Science is a rigorous, objective methodology. But it cannot be an omni-explanation.

 

Thanks,

Mike

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Jenell,

 

i like the points you made in your last post above. They seem most valid to me.

 

Joseph

 

PS Mike, a bit of agressiveness on your part seems in my view very human and very becoming. :lol: Good topic for discussion.

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Mike wrote: "I think the matter/mind issue is at base not a scientific one. It is really a meta-physical question."

 

I'm going to challenge you a bit on this point.

 

In the matter of the "mind-body" question as some in the mental sciences are exploring, there is evidence to support the theory that if mind can be determined to affect body, the reverse of what we already accept, that body can effect mind, then we may be looking at mind as something that has existence beyond simple the manifestation of body (brain) processes. Phenomenon such as the placebo effect is already well documented, yet still not fully understood.

 

We know that what effects the brain affects the mind. Damage the brain, and certain functions of body and mind are affected, usually in a negative way. Touch specfic points in the brain with a probe, and the person experiences physical sensations and mental images. It has also been observed that in gifted people, parts of the brain corresponding to the elements ofthat gifting, be it music, art, intellectual gifts of many kinds, are found to be larger, more developed, than in 'ordindary' people. This has also been demonstrated in a reverse manner, in that when the brains of many people were physically examined, by researchers having no personal knowledge about the deceased person's life or interests, and areas of particularly greater size and developmment than average were detected, they were able to predict with significant accuracy the kinds of special talents, interests or gifts that person had been observed to manifest in their lives. Simlilar studies using non-invasive techniques such as fMRI and CAT scan imaging, were also succesful, though to a lessor degree, in making the same predictions.

 

But research into the opposite effect is showing promising results as well, which are most valuable to those working in rehabilitation therapy with brain injured patients. A person with here-to-for little to no interest or experience in music or any of the arts, whose brains physically show no particularly advanced development in the areas of the brain important tothose activities, begins to engage themselves in learning that activity, will acually demonstrate increased development in those areas of the brain.

 

Those involved in scientific study are well aware that we cannot always observe something directly, but often must do so by indirect means. A theory is set forth, based upon which hypothesis are formed, and experiements devised to attempt to support or discredit the hypothesis. Its a trial and error process. Theories must be revised, hypothesis adjusted, and expereiments restructured. Consider, now, what Jesus said ofthe Spirit, that like the wind, it could not be observed directly, but only in its passing, as the wind moved the branches and leaves of the willows.

 

In this matter at hand, we can directly observe the body, the physical brain. Advancing technology is making it possible to even observe the physical processes of the body, and the brain. But mind is a different matter. If we theorize that mind is something that exists apart from, beyond, the mere physical processes of the brain, then we must look for evidence of that existence through indirect observations.

 

In this mind-body matter, the reductionist position, that mind is nothing more than the sum of the emergent processes of the physical brain, point to the obvious, that if the brain is damaged, so it the mind. If the brain is damage is extensive enough, as in massive trauma, or a disease such as Alzheimers, the mind and cognitive abilities deteriorate accordingly.

 

However, others posit that whatever elements of mind that is apart from, beyond physical brain processes, may not have deteriorated along with the brain, but for the physical brain being damaged, it is no longer a fully functional "channel" for the mind. Think radio or tc waves, as analogy for those elements of mind beyond the body...if the radio or tv is damaged, it may lose capacity to recieve and process radio or tv waves, but those radio and tv waves are still there, unaffected.

 

A phenomenon that is largely anecdotal, because there's no practical way at present to predict it or study it directly, is the never the less well documented phenomenon of a patient in state of coma, or advanced mental deterioration, that despite massive damage to the brain that seems to preclude any kind of normal function, suddenly and usually very briefly shortly before death open their eyes, "come to their senses", and speak with what seem a fully rational mind. Many doctors, nurses, and hospice/nursing home caregivers have observed this phenomenon so often, they know to immediately notify family and loved ones to come asap, if they might take advantage of it for last words with the dying loved one, a loved one that may not have been able to speak to them in many months or evenyears. This phenomenon is well documented, but totally lacks any rational or biological explanation. The only one I can think of, as many do, is in that late stage, about to leave this life, the mind DOES have the power, the capacity, to overcome matter.

 

 

Btw, I hope the occasional 'run-ons' of words as I type aren't too distracting, my space bar is about worn out on this laptop, and I don't always catch them all upon proofing before posting. Might say my space bar is getting pretty spaced out.....but just as with a dysfunctional brain, my mind does it's best to overcome the dysfunction of this space bar.

 

Jenell

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Hi Jenell,

 

Thanks for the response. I think you’re very much right that insofar as the question is framed this way, science does have a means speak to different problems relating to mind and body. Science has proven beyond any reasonable doubt that the brain is very much involved with cognition and experience.

 

The reason why I say that the mind/matter problem is metaphysical rather than scientific is because both matter and mind are metaphysical terms. There's a lot of presuppositions that go into the very framing of the question as 'mind vs matter'. Before getting to the point where we are positing that mind exists as something over-against the brain, we still have to sort out why we actually believe in some stuff called matter as opposed to mind. In other words - even though this may sound very strange - prove to me the ‘brain’ exists, if you catch my meaning.

 

No one has ever experienced matter, it is not an empirical or scientific concept at all but a metaphysical one. Matter is what you get when you subtract all properties from reality except for quantity, geometry, and extension through space. In other words, it is a reification of reality. I think when we speak of mind, we’re necessarily speaking to something intrinsically deeper than what is described by such objectification.

 

Thanks,

Mike

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(snip)

Matter is what you get when you subtract all properties from reality except for quantity, geometry, and extension through space. In other words, it is a reification of reality.

(snip)

Mike

 

 

Mike,

 

You have aroused my curiosity here. Could you expand on this statement a bit ? Assume my partial ignorance in word concepts on the subject matter.

 

Joseph

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In this book, I want to use the contemporary period of confusion as an opportunity to undertake a very traditional philosophical enterprise of giving an account of several apparently diverse phenomena in order to show their underlying unity. I do not believe that we live in two worlds, the mental and the physical - much less in three worlds, the mental, the physical, and the cultural - but in one world, and I want to describe the relations between some of the many parts of that one world. I want to explain the general structure of several of the philosophically most puzzling parts of reality. Specifically, I want to explain certain structural features of mind, language, and society, and then show how they all fit together (Searle, 1998, p. 6.)

 

What the branches of science explore are subsets of reality, not the whole.

 

Myron

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Hi Joseph,

 

Thanks for asking. The meaning I have in mind with that statement is that 'matter' is a concept. When Descartes formulated his mind/matter dualism, he defined matter as a substance which is defined only by quantity, geometry, and extension in space, totally inert and devoid of life. For Descartes, the 'stuff of mind' was a totally different substance. As you can imagine, that idea of materiality was a perfect fit for the aims of science, which is first and foremost the art of quantities and measurement. What cannot be quantified is beyond science. What Descartes did basically was abstract quantity and geometry from quality and experience. He arbitrarily divided reality and called one set of properties 'matter' and one set of properties 'mind'.

 

Historically, we in the West have continued to work with that Cartesian dichotomy of "mind versus matter". I personally do not hold to substance dualism, and see this division as conceptual and abstract rather than real. Materialists aren't substance dualists either -- at least, they're not supposed to be. But it seems as that they still tend to be very much taken in with the Cartesian idea of matter...of course, almost by definition. In fact, their project has been to try and fit everything into the concept of matter and deny the reality of whatever escapes that concept. Fortunately, I would say, the most direct and intimate realities of life have consistently escaped the grasp of such a project since its very beginning. I think this is because the project is intrinsically flawed.

 

Peace,

Mike

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Hmmmm...yes..interesting point. If we dissolve the apparant dualism of mind vs matter and likewise all apparant dualities of realities, so that there is but one reality, some of it more or less accessable to our present limitations to comprehend. Yeah, I like that.

 

Jenell

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The religious impulse has re-manifested itself in the thinking of such 'skeptics' and 'free-thinkers'. That religion is scientism, or perhaps 'scientistic materialism'. As such I contend that Shermer and Dennett really don't have any right to the claim of being rationalists in opposition to religious folk. I expect that people will one day look upon Dennett and Shermer as we look upon some ancient philosophers who we take to be profoundly wrong in their metaphysics, perhaps laughing a bit at the silliness of their agenda.

 

 

What do you think of scientism? Is my assessment of it valid?

 

Peace,

Mike

 

I think that science and the scientific method is peeling back the onion skin of reality. I'm not sure that either Shermer or Dennett are making "religious" (i.e.; Truth) statements of faith. They are merely bystanders watching as the onion is peeled and offering play-by-play and color commentary.

 

In truth, I would say that most who embrace naturalism (as do I) do not look on it as some kind of replacement for religious faith. It is a cavalcade of moments wherein we realize that another layer of faulty belief has been stripped from the core. This process can be quite traumatic at first, but as the skins pile up on the floor, a sort of anxious excitement awaits the next layer.

 

Indeed, it is the practice of naturalists to scoff at the heady words of wisdom proffered by their predecessors, all the while realizing that it may be their skin next to hit the compost heap.

 

BTW, I think that your assessment of the process looking from the outside is quite valid. Whether or not it is the correct observation; only time will tell.

 

NORM

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When Galileo disagreed with the church about whether or not the Earth was the center of the universe, the church accused Galileo of trying to destroy faith and placed him under house arrest. When Darwin opposed the literal belief in Genesis with the theory of evolution, Christian fundamentalists accused anyone who believed in his theory of worshiping Darwinism as a religion. New Age practitioners accuse medical doctors of believing in "scienctism" because they don't use dangerous and unproven "alternative" medicine to cure people. To quote Daniel Dennet,

The charge levelled at the New Godless is that, with their rigorous reasoning, testing and experimentation, they are making a religion out of the scientific method. "It's an all-purpose, wild-card smear," retorts Dennett. "It's the last refuge of the sceptic. When someone puts forward a scientific theory that they really don't like, they just try to discredit it as 'scientism'.

 

I'm not trying to be insulting to Mike and I have a lot of respect for him, but if you think there's proof that materialism is wrong or that God exists, you should present your proof to refute Shermer instead of resorting to personal attacks against him. Too many times we demonize fundamentalists as being the only Christians of being anti-science and again I'm not trying to mock Mike or accusing him of being anti-science, but we should be careful of our own biases and sacred cows. If we believe in the third point of Progressive Christianity of being inclusive of different world views, should we not be inclusive of Shermer's world view and taking it into consideration that he may have valid points instead of immediately shooting down his ideas before we give what he has to say a chance? Even if you disagree with Shermer and other materialists, should we not love him like Jesus loved his enemies?

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Hi Neongenesis,

 

I'm not trying to be insulting to Mike and I have a lot of respect for him, but if you think there's proof that materialism is wrong or that God exists, you should present your proof to refute Shermer instead of resorting to personal attacks against him.

 

Thanks for your thoughts, I do appreciate your concerns here. I did note that my initial post here was quite aggressive against Shermer and Dennett, which isn't usually very constructive.

 

Getting to the heart of the matter, I don't see the issue here as fundamentally about any particular scientific theory; it is about one's general worldview and basic philosophical presuppositions. It is about one's life-stance, and as such, is very important.

 

You quote Daniel Dennett here,

 

The charge levelled at the New Godless is that, with their rigorous reasoning, testing and experimentation, they are making a religion out of the scientific method. "It's an all-purpose, wild-card smear," retorts Dennett. "It's the last refuge of the sceptic. When someone puts forward a scientific theory that they really don't like, they just try to discredit it as 'scientism'.

 

I have tried to define scientism as something specific here so as to give it teeth, that is, real meaning, and to avoid such vagaries as Dennett alludes to: therefore I don't see this criticism as applicable. Dennett's materialism isn't even a scientific theory; therefore, his point is moot here (though his criticism may in general be very applicable to many who oppose him simply on religious grounds). My criticism of Shermer and Dennett is not that they are godless; it's not even that they are materialists (as there are many forms materialism can take, including ones that affirm the reality of phenomenal experience), rather, my criticism is that, in my view, they advance a radical point of view based on a metaphysical commitment that is indistinguishable from familiar types of religious faith.

 

Just to be clear, I define scientism as the implicit or explicit belief (1) that there is no meaningful statement about reality, or, (2) there is nothing about reality, that goes beyond scientific objectification. Though such scientism rests on poor philosophy and is not true to the actual scientific method, it is at least a tacit assumption among many materialists today (at least the most outspoken ones, which, perhaps, is not a coincidence).

 

Their version of materialism, a form of eliminative materialism, involves the outright denial that subjectivity even exists; there are no experiences, only material brain states that we theorize and reify as 'experiences'.

 

I could offer several ontological arguments against such a perspective, and even more ethical ones, as the view they advance is intrinsically demeaning. I contend that their kind of materialism would be exceptionally damaging to society if society as a whole were to adopt it.

 

If we believe in the third point of Progressive Christianity of being inclusive of different world views, should we not be inclusive of Shermer's world view and taking it into consideration that he may have valid points instead of immediately shooting down his ideas before we give what he has to say a chance? Even if you disagree with Shermer and other materialists, should we not love him like Jesus loved his enemies?

 

I have nothing against Shermer, et. al., personally. I agree that we should love them and I would not exclude them from the community - though I highly doubt the progressive faith community is something they're looking to get into.

 

Thanks,

Mike

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I think that science and the scientific method is peeling back the onion skin of reality. I'm not sure that either Shermer or Dennett are making "religious" (i.e.; Truth) statements of faith. They are merely bystanders watching as the onion is peeled and offering play-by-play and color commentary.

 

In truth, I would say that most who embrace naturalism (as do I) do not look on it as some kind of replacement for religious faith. It is a cavalcade of moments wherein we realize that another layer of faulty belief has been stripped from the core. This process can be quite traumatic at first, but as the skins pile up on the floor, a sort of anxious excitement awaits the next layer.

 

Indeed, it is the practice of naturalists to scoff at the heady words of wisdom proffered by their predecessors, all the while realizing that it may be their skin next to hit the compost heap.

 

BTW, I think that your assessment of the process looking from the outside is quite valid. Whether or not it is the correct observation; only time will tell.

 

NORM

 

Hi Norm,

 

Thanks for your observations. Something that has impressed me is how well some religious philosophies have weathered the test of time. I'm not saying that modernity hasn't posed its challenges to them and refined and re-defined them in important ways. But recurring themes keep surfacing with each new generation. I'm not aware of any fundamental question in ontology that has ever been settled by the scientific method, even though we've obtained more information than we could ever know what to do with.

 

There is an important sense in which we tend to take the scientific method to do what, by definition of its method, it cannot. We consistently mistake methodology for ontology in the West. I'm not saying science has nothing to do with ontology, since I do believe it is the same reality they speak to. I'm not saying there are no casualties with regard to older, outmoded beliefs. But I am saying that there are limitations to science, even though it is virtually limitless in its applications. If it weren't limited, it couldn't have anything meaningful to say.

 

As far as Shermer and Dennett go...as I see it, they are not mere commentators; they are exerting their energy in their respective fields to advance their personal metaphysical commitments. Their personal view is that there are no statements of truth aside from scientific objectivity. Reality itself must conform to the ideals of that method. Nothing is sacred, nothing is private, they will not be satisfied until everything and everyone are reduced to the category of object. I don't see how such a project could succeed in principle, since it is already on the shakiest of grounds (please see the post above for a little more elaboration). If it rests on a mistake - an absurdity even -, then in this respect I think 'time has already told'. This goes well beyond religion and to what it means to even exist.

 

Peace,

Mike

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Just to be clear, I define scientism as the implicit or explicit belief (1) that there is no meaningful statement about reality, or, (2) there is nothing about reality, that goes beyond scientific objectification. Though such scientism rests on poor philosophy and is not true to the actual scientific method, it is at least a tacit assumption among many materialists today (at least the most outspoken ones, which, perhaps, is not a coincidence).

As a materialist myself, I don't see the problem with this view. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. To proclaim there is scientific proof of a soul or a supernatural realm beyond death that we live on in after we die or that there exist a supernatural creator god which intervenes with the natural world is an extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary evidence. If there is a supernatural realm which exists beyond the natural and materialism is such a poor philosophy that doesn't stay true to the actual scientific method, then why is there no evidence yet of the supernatural?

 

Their version of materialism, a form of eliminative materialism, involves the outright denial that subjectivity even exists; there are no experiences, only material brain states that we theorize and reify as 'experiences'.

I think you're oversimplifying materialism here. Not all non-believers in the supernatural deny subjectivity and both atheists and theists are equally divided over this issue. For example, on the issue of morality, some atheists like Jeremy Bentham and Sam Harris have taken the position that morals are objective and can be determined through science while there are other atheist philosophers like J.L. Mackie who took the position that morality is subjective and something that humans created rather than discovered and Nietzsche took subjectivity to such extremes that he believed there was no point to morality and meaning. On the other hand, many postmodernists take relativity to the opposite extreme to the point where you can't say anything objective about reality at all. Likewise, religious believers are also divided on the issue of whether or not morals are relative or objective and I don't think invoking God is a solution to the problem either.

 

I could offer several ontological arguments against such a perspective, and even more ethical ones, as the view they advance is intrinsically demeaning. I contend that their kind of materialism would be exceptionally damaging to society if society as a whole were to adopt it.

I could list off several examples where society would be worse off with religious morality too.

 

 

 

I have nothing against Shermer, et. al., personally. I agree that we should love them and I would not exclude them from the community - though I highly doubt the progressive faith community is something they're looking to get into.

 

Thanks,

Mike

I've heard an interview with Shermer on the Point of Inquiry podcast and in fact Shermer is a defender of progressive Christianity and has argued that atheists should work together with Christians who support evolution to combat intelligent design. I think it's unfair to give Shermer the short end of the stick when he's in fact willing to work together with progressive Christians on these issues simply because you have different theological conclusions.

 

Nothing is sacred, nothing is private, they will not be satisfied until everything and everyone are reduced to the category of object.
Why shouldn't all ideas be open to criticism? And which materialists think that everyone should be reduced to objects? Edited by Neon Genesis
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Hi NeonGenesis,

 

I feel that we are probably talking past each other on some of the more fundamental points here. These issues tend to run deeper than theism vs. atheism or naturalism vs. supernaturalism. At base this is about the limitations of objectivity and whether there is any meaning and value (or reality) to subjective experience (or mind).

 

At this level, what counts as “natural” or “supernatural” is probably too subjective to be meaningful. To Michael Shermer, for instance, mental phenomena literally cannot have any reality/existence. If they did, it would be “magic.” What “natural” is to him means what exists when fully reduced to the concept of externalized material objects. Therefore, what I take to be entirely natural -- phenomenal experience -- Shermer takes to be “magic.”

 

So, I do wonder if you really see no problem with scientism as I have defined it. Let me try to elaborate on what it means more.

 

It means...

 

1) Everything that exists can be reduced to the concept of “object.” Effectively you and I don’t exist as subjects; all that exists is what can be externally defined, objectively, by the scientific method. You don’t have private experiences, there is no real subjectivity, everything that exists can be fully explained in terms of object-ivity; or in other words, what exists does not exist subjectively but only objectively.

 

2) The scientific method can in principle explain everything it means to exist AND/OR science explains existence itself AND/OR science makes the only valid and meaningful statements about existence AND/OR only what is accessible to the scientific method exists (again, subjective existence and/or "existence beyond objectivity" does not exist and/or it is meaningless to speak of it, only what science speaks of exists and/or is meaningful to speak of).

 

3) The humanities (literature, art, philosophy), then, also do not enjoy any autonomy, and must be reduced scientific objectification.

 

It is these presuppositions that constitute the "poor philosophy" of scientism.

 

I think you're oversimplifying materialism here. Not all non-believers in the supernatural deny subjectivity and both atheists and theists are equally divided over this issue.

 

I did not try to imply that all non-believers or all believers are decided on this issue. I targeted eliminative materialism. There are other types of materialism that aren’t eliminative, I could cite Galen Strawson, who is a philosopher and physicalist and a robust realist when it comes to mental reality. For him, physicalism/materialism must affirm the reality of subjectivity and the experiential in order to be coherent. In other words, physicalism strongly implies that mental reality is physical reality and physical reality is mental reality: panpsychism.

 

Likewise, religious believers are also divided on the issue of whether or not morals are relative or objective and I don't think invoking God is a solution to the problem either.

 

One of my main points here would be that invoking the metaphysical concept of matter does nothing toward solving any scientific problems. It is not an empirical or scientific concept but a metaphysical expectation. Science has never proven the materiality of anything.

 

I could list off several examples where society would be worse off with religious morality too.

 

A doctrine could scarcely be worse ethically than denying that subjects exist. Again, this goes beyond ‘religion’ per se and goes into sound philosophy versus scientism.

 

I've heard an interview with Shermer on the Point of Inquiry podcast and in fact Shermer is a defender of progressive Christianity and has argued that atheists should work together with Christians who support evolution to combat intelligent design. I think it's unfair to give Shermer the short end of the stick when he's in fact willing to work together with progressive Christians on these issues simply because you have different theological conclusions.

 

Shermer was being very generous in that respect, then, I must confess. This does not mean Shermer necessarily finds any value in progressive faith, however, it might only mean something like “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Shermer clearly is not an advocate of any kind of religious teachings.

 

Why shouldn't all ideas be open to criticism?

 

I agree that all ideas should be open to criticism. But I question the motives of those who want to deny people any sense of humanity - any subjectivity and private experience - through endless (and senseless) objectification. It seems downright cynical to me.

 

And which materialists think that everyone should be reduced to objects?

 

Shermer and Dennett are two examples.

 

Peace,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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Some of the most interesting science and philosophy I've read in years that I can say I understand comes from this link of Geoff Haselhurst, Karene Howie Here is a small section on Einstein and religion. Sometimes I go to this website and literally spend hours soaking up the information then I spend more hours thinking about it.

 

Introduction: Pantheist Religion of Albert Einstein

 

Over ten years I have read many hundreds of great philosophers, but of them all I have special affection for Albert Einstein. Having now read Albert Einstein's 'Special and General Relativity', and 'Ideas and Opinions' many times, I thought it would be nice to put up a web page that presented his religious ideas in as simple and ordered way as possible.

Albert Einstein was a beautiful man, wise and moral, who lived in difficult times. I think all people will enjoy the great clarity and wisdom of his ideas, and they will find them very relevant and useful in our modern (and very disturbed) world. As he writes on humanity and true religiousness;

 

A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive. (Albert Einstein, 1954)

 

The most beautiful and most profound experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms - this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.

( Albert Einstein - The Merging of Spirit and Science)

 

I share the pantheist religion / philosophy of Albert Einstein that

All is One and Interconnected (Nature, God),of which we humans are an inseparable part. Perhaps I am a romantic, but it is my hope that in the future Humanity will live by the truth, with greater harmony between different people, their religions and cultures, and to life in all its complex beauty.

Albert Einstein's ideas on Physics and Reality are also significant. It was from reading Einstein that I first realised that matter was not made of tiny 'particles'. And having also read Lorentz (who believed in an Absolute Space) I realised that a slight modification of Einstein's ideas on Physical Reality solved many of the problems of modern physics. Einstein represented Matter as Spherical Force Fields which caused 'Relative' Space-Time. This can now be explained by replacing Einstein's Spherical Force Fields with Spherical Wave Motions of Space, which cause Matter, Time and Forces.

Please see links on the side of this page for the main articles which explain and solve many of the problems of postmodern Metaphysics, Physics and Philosophy from the simple foundation of the Metaphysics of Space and Motion and the Wave Structure of Matter (WSM).

 

We hope you enjoy the Kindness, Beauty and Truth of Albert Einstein.

 

Edited by Harry
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Hi NeonGenesis,

 

I feel that we are probably talking past each other on some of the more fundamental points here. These issues tend to run deeper than theism vs. atheism or naturalism vs. supernaturalism. At base this is about the limitations of objectivity and whether there is any meaning and value (or reality) to subjective experience (or mind).

 

At this level, what counts as “natural” or “supernatural” is probably too subjective to be meaningful. To Michael Shermer, for instance, mental phenomena literally cannot have any reality/existence. If they did, it would be “magic.” What “natural” is to him means what exists when fully reduced to the concept of externalized material objects. Therefore, what I take to be entirely natural -- phenomenal experience -- Shermer takes to be “magic.”

As Thomas Paine said in the Age of Reason, the problem with subjective personal religious experiences is that they're only convincing to the people who have them and to everyone else they're hearsay. If you find personal subjective experiences of the supernatural to be helpful to your religious walk, that's fine for you, but you can't expect anyone else to believe it or get upset when a scientist disagrees with you if you don't have any objective proof. If subjective personal experiences are proof of religious claims, then any claim of a subjective personal experience is just as valid as any other no matter how dangerous it might be to claim it. If you're skeptical of Benny Hinn and other faith healers' claims to miraculously be able to heal people's diseases, then you'll understand why Shermer and other skeptics apply the same logic more broadly.

 

 

1) Everything that exists can be reduced to the concept of “object.” Effectively you and I don’t exist as subjects; all that exists is what can be externally defined, objectively, by the scientific method. You don’t have private experiences, there is no real subjectivity, everything that exists can be fully explained in terms of object-ivity; or in other words, what exists does not exist subjectively but only objectively.
And this is a problem because?

 

2) The scientific method can in principle explain everything it means to exist AND/OR science explains existence itself AND/OR science makes the only valid and meaningful statements about existence AND/OR only what is accessible to the scientific method exists (again, subjective existence and/or "existence beyond objectivity" does not exist and/or it is meaningless to speak of it, only what science speaks of exists and/or is meaningful to speak of).
Has there been some other method that's successfully explained the origins of the universe?

 

3) The humanities (literature, art, philosophy), then, also do not enjoy any autonomy, and must be reduced scientific objectification.

Do you actually know any materialists or what they actually think or are you just making stuff up about materialists at this point?

 

One of my main points here would be that invoking the metaphysical concept of matter does nothing toward solving any scientific problems. It is not an empirical or scientific concept but a metaphysical expectation. Science has never proven the materiality of anything.

Invoking God of the gaps arguments have done nothing towards solving scientific problems either.

 

A doctrine could scarcely be worse ethically than denying that subjects exist. Again, this goes beyond ‘religion’ per se and goes into sound philosophy versus scientism.

So disbelieving in personal subjective experiences is worse than religions that circumcise women, encourage terrorists to bomb buildings so they can get 72 virgins when they die, or religions encourage murdering abortion doctors and gay people? Yes, fear the dreaded materialists because we're far worse than religious terrorists because at least the terrorists believe in God. How inclusive and open minded of you. :rolleyes:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shermer was being very generous in that respect, then, I must confess. This does not mean Shermer necessarily finds any value in progressive faith, however, it might only mean something like “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Shermer clearly is not an advocate of any kind of religious teachings.
It seems to me that you don't consider anyone who's not religious to be an enemy, in which case are you any different than the fundamentalist Christians? Perhaps you should listen to Jesus' own words about plucking the shard out of your own eye before you go around calling everyone else who doesn't agree with you dogmatic.

 

 

 

I agree that all ideas should be open to criticism. But I question the motives of those who want to deny people any sense of humanity - any subjectivity and private experience - through endless (and senseless) objectification. It seems downright cynical to me.

 

 

 

Shermer and Dennett are two examples.

 

Peace,

Mike

Now this is the last straw. As a materialist and someone who is also a spiritual atheist, I have tried to be nothing but kind and respectful to everyone on these forums and this is how you repay my kindness? I find your claim that materialists are somehow denying our sense of humanity to be bigoted, closed minded, and insensitive and hurtful and I for one demand an apology from you.
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NeonGenesis,

 

I am sorry that you took offense in what I wrote. This was not my intention - I think we are consistently talking past each other here and you are misunderstanding what I’m trying to say. I’ve tried to be clear that I’m not talking about atheism vs. theism, naturalism vs. supernaturalism, religion vs. non-religion. I’m talking about something more basic here, what it means to be real, to exist.

 

I agree that all ideas should be open to criticism. But I question the motives of those who want to deny people any sense of humanity - any subjectivity and private experience - through endless (and senseless) objectification. It seems downright cynical to me.

 

I take it this is what most offended you. I’m sorry I worded it this way, I didn’t mean it in the way you’re taking it. But this is no doubt my fault because I did not provide enough context. I find that we’re living in a very cynical intellectual climate, very broadly speaking. Eliminative materialism seems to be the logical end of this cynicism. I do question what motivates some people to believe the things they do - what do they believe about reality?, is there something intrinsically cynical about their worldview? This is not an unfair question and it’s not bigoted, it is something that has been written about extensively in the history of ideas in the modern West, by various philosophers. The eliminative materialism of Daniel Dennett et. al. does in fact deny any reality to 'humanity'. This is not a slur against them but simply what they aim to do. Both Dennett and Shermer believe that the idea of 'experience' is itself profoundly wrong and that subjectivity has nothing to do with anything real. This effectively denies people any reality and meaning to their private experiences and subjectivity. Again, this is simply the project of Dennett, it is not an insult toward him. But I can't lie in the fact that I see this cynicism in this project.

 

Do you actually know any materialists or what they actually think or are you just making stuff up about materialists at this point?

 

Please look up the eliminative materialism of Daniel Dennett. I have tried to point out that not all materialisms are the same.

 

So disbelieving in personal subjective experiences is worse than religions that circumcise women, encourage terrorists to bomb buildings so they can get 72 virgins when they die, or religions encourage murdering abortion doctors and gay people? Yes, fear the dreaded materialists because we're far worse than religious terrorists because at least the terrorists believe in God. How inclusive and open minded of you.

 

I think we can both agree that it is immoral to objectify another human being. Any blatant denial of the value of subjectivity lies at the heart of many abuses, whether religious or non-religious. A society could not function in which everyone believed everyone to be objects and not subjects. Denying subjectivity is not trivial.

 

Perhaps I should just stop here for now. Again I apologize for offending you.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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Just want to interject one more thing for the sake of clarity. To elaborate more on this...

 

3) The humanities (literature, art, philosophy), then, also do not enjoy any autonomy, and must be reduced scientific objectification.

 

In other words, the eliminative materialists like Dennett believe that once a more 'complete scientific picture' comes in (presupposing that such is the role of science), there will be no need to refer to subjectivity, experience, or humanity, there will only and exclusively be objective material states devoid of any life, qualia, experience, meaning, and value. I hope that anyone can see, whether holding to materialism or not, that this is a radical view.

 

Peace,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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