Toward the end of December, a â€œscientist and engineerâ€� appeared and initiated a debate. For the very first time, somebody actually tried to refute me instead of the usual fare of contempt and insults. This self-identified scientist made it very clear that he dismissed my lengthy stories from ancestors as hallucinations, because of his reductionist materialist presupposition that any such communication at a distance, without some sort of physical connection, was impossible.
â€œReductionist materialismâ€� is but one solution to the so-called mind-body problem that exercised natural philosophers (â€œscientistsâ€�) in the 17th and 1th centuries. Are mind and body two separate things? If so, which one is primary? An overview of the mind-body problem can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind%E2%80%93body_problem
Reductionist materialism means that things like astrology or shamanism or channeling or communicating with ancestors get summarily dismissed as â€œhallucinationsâ€� or â€œsuperstition.â€�
The conclusion of the debate (because the scientist made a point of bowing out without offering any counter-argument) came on Jan. 7. Here is the essential part of what I wrote to the scientist:
The forum thread where this originally appeared is here: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic ... yqswb4d5WAYou made it clear that you consider mind to be an epiphenomenon of neural activity in the brain, and you go on to say: â€œTo me, the mind is a function of a living brain, meaning that theyâ€™re not distinct. In my opinion, there can be no mind without some form of complex structure, like a brain.â€�
In response to your opinion that there can be no mind without some form of complex structure, the obvious question is, why not? I am reminded of the New York Times declaring that a heavier-than-air flying machine was impossible. Your opinion seems to be unscientific, and serves to block skeptical inquiry. It would also seem to be rigidly atheistic (denying the possibility of a transcendent deity), as opposed to a healthy skepticism when approaching questions that appear to be unknowable. Your position regarding belief in witchcraft, denying that it has anything to do with â€œtruth,â€� also seems to be arbitrarily rigid and unscientific, opposed to a spirit of skeptical inquiry. However, perhaps you wrote hastily and polemically, and perhaps in general you are able to keep an open mind regarding subjects where you are inclined to strongly doubt claims that violate your pre-existing suppositions about reality.
Please keep in mind that, regarding the mind/body problem, there used to be (and still are) several different approaches, as opposed to the mind-numbing reductionist materialist view that is overwhelmingly prevalent today in science departments. Perhaps Leibnizâ€™s approach was the most esoteric, and he was a renowned scientist and mathematician (as well as a philosopher and diplomat). His view was routinely dismissed but never refuted (as far as I am aware), but Leibnizâ€™s influence simply disappeared from universities after protracted tenure battles in the mid-eighteenth century. However, Leibnizâ€™s view isnâ€™t the only possibility. I am intrigued by the thought that both matter and consciousness are manifestations of something underlying, which is not inconsistent with my own view of reality.
It seems to me that reductionist materialism (your stated belief) fails to explain the all-important phenomenon of human creativity, as measured by our ability to reorganize our environment (as a result of scientific discovery and technological progress) to establish a potential population density orders of magnitude above that of a primitive hunter-gatherer society in the same geographical area. (There is an important corollary here: Once a human society exits the Stone Age and begins using metal as a basic part of the production of food and tools, in the long run we must continue to progress or collapse due to resource depletion, especially regarding the need for progressively more efficient sources of energy. And there is another corollary as well: As a society gets more technologically complex, the minimum area for measuring relative potential population density increases.)
Is this human capability explainable in terms of matter reorganizing itself in ever-more-complex fashion? If you answer â€œyesâ€� to such a question, the subsidiary question is: how does matter organize itself in ever-more-complex ways (such as the creation of human brains that then come up with the technological breakthroughs and social organization to support ever-higher relative potential population densities)? Does random chance work for you as an answer to this question? If so, isnâ€™t that an arbitrary (and therefore unscientific) theological supposition? Or do you see the inherent logic in positing some form of intelligent design (an argument as old as Plato)? If you accept the principle of intelligent design, it seems to me that, to be consistent, the reductionist materialist view would have to posit an immanent (as opposed to transcendent) intelligence, as with the Spinozistic pantheism that influenced Lockeâ€™s followers and arguably influenced Locke himself. But if you go in that direction, where is the â€œuniversal mindâ€� that is guiding the formation of human brains capable of creative discovery, and how does it communicate with the matter that comprises such brains? The way I see things, both the â€œdeification of random chanceâ€� argument and the supposition of an immanent â€œdivineâ€� creative force have insurmountable problems, leaving some sort of transcendent divinity as the default answer regarding the question of the efficient cause of human creativity, with the final cause being the imperative for humans to participate in the ongoing creation of the universe.