An accommodationist slide at the Evolution meetings

Reader Lynn sent me a tw**t that included a screenshot of somebody’s PowerPoint talk  photo of someone’s poster at the Evolution meetings in Raleigh, North Carolina. Here’s the tw**t from Alex Stewart:

Screen shot 2014-06-24 at 7.18.05 AM

Unacceptable, indeed!

Why? Here’s an enlargement of the relevant section:

Bq2WdyBIMAAdmCY

Okay, who are these miscreants?

The good news is that scientists clearly recognize the woo-ish nature of Templeton, as well as its nefarious mission to pollute science with religion. (Note, though that, contra the slide, Templeton has disavowed all forms of creationism, including intelligent design.)

The bad news is that four collaborators on this project took Templeton money anyway.

 

 

77 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted June 24, 2014 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    sub

  2. Arthur
    Posted June 24, 2014 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    Michael Shermer too. He took the money in 2010.

  3. Posted June 24, 2014 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    I can’t really fault them for taking the money. They’re offering it. I’ll take their money too if it helps further the science.

    • Posted June 24, 2014 at 7:45 am | Permalink

      Would you take money from the Council of Conservative Citizens (a segregationist organization), or the Tea Party to do pure science? How about the Nazi Party? Is there no organization so nefarious that you wouldn’t take their money?

      Really, people take it not to further the science, but to further their careers, because you need funding to get tenure, promotions, and so on.

      I do fault those who take Templeton money, for they’re lending their imprimatur to an organization whose aim is the corruption of science. That’s precisely why Templeton funds “pure” science–to give them cover for their investigations of “spirituality and science”–the so-called “Big Questions.”

      • Nick Vockrodt
        Posted June 24, 2014 at 8:00 am | Permalink

        This is a fallacious argument – it may be that Templeton money is as tainted as those unsavory groups’ (or that it is across some moral line in the sand) but providing examples of horrible people whose money you wouldn’t take isn’t an argument against taking Templeton money.

        • Posted June 24, 2014 at 8:03 am | Permalink

          You’re wrong. The argument is not fallacious and you’ve just shown that. If Templeton money is tainted (as I believe), then the onus is on the person who takes it to justify taking it. It’s precisely the same argument that must be made for taking money from any nefarious organization.

      • Sastra
        Posted June 24, 2014 at 8:17 am | Permalink

        Would you take money from the Council of Conservative Citizens (a segregationist organization), or the Tea Party to do pure science? How about the Nazi Party? Is there no organization so nefarious that you wouldn’t take their money?

        Here’s an interesting wrinkle: what if a scientist takes the money not for pure, disinterested research — but to do research which directly undermines the claims and purposes of those organizations? You do a study on “race” and conclude that the distinctions are meaningless. You do a study on The Jews and demonstrate that they had nothing to do with current economic problems in Germany. Or you do a study on scientists and spirituality and find that scientists overwhelmingly reject the woo-woo interpretations.

        I think that was Michael Shermer’s defense. He wasn’t using the Templeton funds to do research on Bigfoot or something. He took them and put out pamphlets which took great care to make good arguments against what the Templeton Foundation was trying to do. Science and Religion are not finding common ground and coming together. On the contrary — and here is why.

        I suppose you could say that they can “use” this to try to make a point about how “open-minded” they are — but we know that this is a double-edged sword. The credit you gain by letting the Other Side speak freely is eventually overshadowed by the credibility you lose when the Other Side actually makes more sense than you do.

        • Posted June 24, 2014 at 8:26 am | Permalink

          But you also have to take into account who is likely to see the results the the research that undermines Templeton’s goals.

          Templeton is buying the right to associate themselves with respectable scientists, ie, buying credentials. How many people are going to see the disclaimer pictured above? Too few, and Templeton knows it.

          I think it might be better not to sell them credentials in the first place.

          • Sastra
            Posted June 24, 2014 at 8:38 am | Permalink

            If Templeton makes a grand show of associating themselves with a respectable scientist who has ended up doing research which doesn’t support their main thesis then anyone who pays attention to Templeton will pay attention to that.

            I was bringing up a hypothetical which is different than the one in the OP.

            • Posted June 24, 2014 at 8:48 am | Permalink

              I was thinking more along the lines of Templeton being able to namedrop, without pointing to the actual work that does the undermining.

              Not unlike what we saw not too long ago here at WEIT when Chopra trotted out all the names that will participate in his upcoming woofest. A lot of people will see the list, look no further, and conclude “hey, there must be something to this Chopra guy!”

              I know many individuals who claim to be into science, but really aren’t skeptical at all. They know the names, and if they saw NdGT participating in a Chopra woofest, they would make the above conclusion.

              • Sastra
                Posted June 24, 2014 at 9:13 am | Permalink

                I don’t know. It might be a matter of which group is being looked at.

                The skeptical point of view is in power in the field of science; if woo gets admitted to an actual science symposium it’s granted unearned credibility by the general public — even if everyone else there ripped it to shreds.

                But skepticism and science are both despised underdogs when it comes to both religious forums AND the general public. If something is clearly labeled “Science and Spirituality” then the expectation is that there will be nothing but sweetness, light, and flowers thrown at the spirituality side from all corners. In that sense, the skeptical scientist has nowhere to go but up. It’s a hostile forum and audience.

                As you point out, though, many people will only see that Tyson was there and conclude that he supported the woo. So you may be right on that aspect. Though I suspect they wouldn’t assume the same of Dawkins.

                I was thinking more about the research. If Templeton gives money to scientists who haven’t been vetted for being cozy with religion (or cozy with other people having religion) then the results aren’t guaranteed. The fact that a Real Scientist took their cash might be outweighed by the fact that a Real Scientist subsequently went on to discover that science and religion aren’t coming together after all. Not all findings can be spun to look positive.

                Though I may not be giving the Templeton Foundation enough credit there.

        • GBJames
          Posted June 24, 2014 at 8:27 am | Permalink

          In the hypotheticals you pose, there is no science being done. What you are describing is not taking the money to “do a study on…”, it is taking the money to do advocacy that is counter to the intent of the donor.

          I’d say that this is not a morally defensible position to take.

          • Sastra
            Posted June 24, 2014 at 8:34 am | Permalink

            Good point. Let us say then that “pure science” which is done on a topic which is directly relevant to Templeton’s purpose and goal will result in having the chips fall where they may. We can of course speculate on what happens if they do not, after all, go as expected — for either side.

            Both we and they take similar risks.

            • GBJames
              Posted June 24, 2014 at 8:43 am | Permalink

              No, because the motives aren’t the same. “We” might be interested in honest outcome of scientific inquiry. Templeton, however, is in it for something else. They want the respectability of science. They win as soon as the money is accepted.

              • Sastra
                Posted June 24, 2014 at 8:54 am | Permalink

                What, they “win” even if they can’t get a headline out of it, let alone a story? I disagree.

                The fact that they are ideologues means that funding legitimate scientists is dangerous. You won’t see Discovery Institute grant money to Richard Dawkins or the like to do research on evolution. If you’re looking for bragging rights you need to have something to brag about. I may grant your point if they’re simply giving money for research which has jack all to do with science and religion. My argument is that once they set someone who takes science seriously into studying something like NDEs — something relevant to a claimed “intersection” — they will probably think twice about doing that again.

              • GBJames
                Posted June 24, 2014 at 9:00 am | Permalink

                Yes, they win. They get to put your good name on their list of chums.

                They don’t need to get a headline. They are doing it to buy name-association. They can ignore anything that comes down the road later if they want to. After all, they are religionists. Ignoring evidence comes naturally.

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted June 24, 2014 at 9:06 am | Permalink

          I expected that to come up. It is the old “if I don’t buy this wolf fur, or that elephant tusk, someone else will” argument.

          I’ve never seen the “And I can use those trophies to show how hunting is not a good business” variant though.

      • Posted June 24, 2014 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

        And, in addition to all the discussion farther down about how Templeton’s goals is to line up baseball cards of “supporters,” there’s the ver real problem that it is very difficult for human beings to refrain from skewing their expressed opinions in favor of their benefactors, at the very least by “giving them the benefit of the doubt.” Worse, even if you’re convinced you’d never do that…well, by taking the money, you’ve just placed yourself in the category of those most likely to do it and publicly proclaim you’re unaware that that’s what you’re doing.

        There really isn’t any valid excuse for taking Templeton money. Even the “feed my starving family” excuse won’t cut it, as there are other more honorable ways of providing sustenance-level support for your dependents these days.

        Cheers,

        b&

    • Kevin
      Posted June 24, 2014 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      I agree. In the long run, continued allocation of funds from Templeton used to do good science will only diminish their organization’s primary mission.

      By definition, Templeton’s mission is not to support science. Ironically, if they issue money that subverts that thesis, it is their own fault and a benefit to society. History will show that this is the case.

    • Latverian Diplomat
      Posted June 24, 2014 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      If it’s the difference between taking Templeton money and not doing the research, it’s hard for me to say to someone else, turn down the money and nobly take a career hit for the rest of us.

      Given that we’re having this discussion on a medium largely developed with money from DARPA, I think that’s defensible, no pun intended.

      I think there is a difference between grant money and accepting the Templeton Prize, which is pretty much indefensible.

  4. Posted June 24, 2014 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    It might not matter much, but that’s from a poster at one of the poster sessions. I don’t know if the poster presenter actually gave a talk.
    Sorry for any confusion.

  5. Posted June 24, 2014 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    This looks like a poster, actually.

    It is possible, I suppose, to take Templeton money without compromising all principles. It can be hard to get grants from the federal agencies, especially for basic research. Still, I would put the acknowledgement in very small print. Maybe 6 pt. font.

    • Posted June 24, 2014 at 7:56 am | Permalink

      And how do you take money from an organization like that without compromising “all principles”? The same way you take money from The Council of Conservative Citizens without compromising all principles?

      The fact is that you’ve compromised principles simply by taking the money.

      • Posted June 24, 2014 at 10:15 am | Permalink

        I would not expect that the people who developed the above poster are now prepared to accept $ from The Council of Conservative Citizens. A compromise in principle in one area should not condemn one to having all principles in all areas compromised.

  6. Erik Verbruggen
    Posted June 24, 2014 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    I think it’s funny! I do understand Jerry’s take on whether you should or shouldn’t accept Templeton funding, but if you do I think this is the way to go: actually you invite visitors to extra scrutiny on hidden “God” messages.
    And you make fun of your funders!

    • Posted June 24, 2014 at 8:11 am | Permalink

      I don’t think it’s making fun of Tempelton; I think it’s trying to make fun of people who are opposed to taking Tempelton money. And I think it is trying way too hard to be funny…and failing.

      • Posted June 24, 2014 at 8:18 am | Permalink

        I agree with pacopicopiedra. Maybe the intent is a bit nebulous, but it’s factually incorrect (Templeton doesn’t fund creaitonism or ID any longer), and unprofessional as well. If you’re going to take money from someone, you don’t diss them in public. I bet if Templeton found out about this (I won’t tell them!) they wouldn’t give any more $$.

        • Erik Verbruggen
          Posted June 24, 2014 at 8:28 am | Permalink

          I suppose I just have a different attitude towards funders, from what I get from the responses to my comment. 1) I see no problems with criticizing your funder, and 2) I see no obligation to agree with a funder. For this reason I would hesitate less when accepting funding (for many scientists it is simply accepting or not doing science!), even though perhaps I would draw the boundary a little closer than Templeton from what I understand here, and much closer than nazi’s obviously.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted June 24, 2014 at 8:59 am | Permalink

      The sorry thing is that your’s is not a theoretical discussion along the lines of “if I sold gas handling equipment to Nazi Germany, joking about it is the way to go”. :-/

      • Erik Verbruggen
        Posted June 24, 2014 at 9:34 am | Permalink

        well, I am just picturing this PhD student/ post-doc grasping an opportunity with both hands to work with a famous evolutionary biologist (e.g. Martin Nowak at Harvard), only to later find out funding came from Templeton. Then I feel this is a nice way to deal with. Not analogous to Hitler, Pol Pot or whatever at all.

  7. NewEnglandBob
    Posted June 24, 2014 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Some prominent evolutionary scientist (hmmm, do we know any?) should start a signature petition/letter to circulate among scientists to sign a pledge not to accept Templeton money.

    Maybe hundreds or thousands of scientists will sign.

    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted June 24, 2014 at 8:06 am | Permalink

      That might work… in the same way as people are still submitting to Elsevier journals, though they should know better.

      • Kevin
        Posted June 24, 2014 at 9:48 am | Permalink

        Or ACS (Chem Society), which can be egregiously expensive.

  8. Jim Thomerson
    Posted June 24, 2014 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Is there such a thing as ethical money laundering?

    • Kevin
      Posted June 24, 2014 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      I have a similar understanding of what motivates general research. What is the difference between taking money from big oil or weapons or Templeton or Al-qaeda?

      If Al-quada pays for work in distributed energy delivery systems, like laser pulse weapons how is that different than Raytheon or LockMart? It seems different, but is it?

      What about NSA paying developers to build AI systems to automate invasive screening algorithms that sweep through all private data versus Google that may supplant the same technology for purposes of benefiting their advertisers?

      There is no clear answer, but solving problems is no more than solving problems. If you can show me how to make the power grid wireless that would be an unbelievable triumph of physics/engineering. That’s actually the same problem of developing long range EM weapons. Solving AI problems for espionage can have immediate benefits for scientific programs inundating by data, like astronomy and biology and climate change models.

      The cohesiveness of science is already in inherent detriment to nefarious organization that fund science with their own agenda. If you push one method (THAT WORKS) forward for your own benefit, its going to help others in ways that are not necessarily foreseeable.

  9. ascanius
    Posted June 24, 2014 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Huff Po just introduced me to a woo-meister accommodationist I’d never heard of, Michael Dowd, who describes himself as an “evidential mystic.” Teresa of Avila would have also probably claimed her mysticism was based on evidence. Under threat from the rise in atheism he seems to be engaged in the same game of redefining god so as to be unrecognizable to 99.9% of believers. Spinoza had to worry about the Inquisition. Einstein had to worry about anti-semitism when making public statements about god and religion, especially early on. What’s Dowd’s excuse?

    “Reality is my God.
    Evidence is my scripture.
    Big history is my creation story.
    Ecology is my theology.
    Integrity is my salvation.
    Ensuring a just and healthy future is my mission.”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-michael-dowd/tedx-talk-reality-reconci_b_5513264.html?utm_hp_ref=religion

    • Sastra
      Posted June 24, 2014 at 8:28 am | Permalink

      We’ve dealt with Michael Dowd before on WEIT.

      Dowd is an interesting case of Accomodationism. He claims to love gnu atheism — in fact, he’s one of us! It’s just that supernaturalism is more likely to be discarded and naturalism advanced if we atheists also adopt the strategy of claiming to refine the understanding of God. Use their language to explain and promote our concepts.

      Alas. Clarity is one of the virtues of science, and thus it is one of ours. He’s a great guy and he means well — but I’m not impressed by the cunning strategy. It doesn’t work. They will nod, embrace us, and misunderstand that this is a change for them and not us. Spiritual thought is fuzzy thought. It slips and slides and can’t be taken by stealth. That’s their weapon.

      Credit however is always granted to any accomodationist who refuses to throw gnu atheists under the bus. Iirc he likes the idea of different approaches.

      • darrelle
        Posted June 24, 2014 at 10:36 am | Permalink

        They will nod, embrace us, and misunderstand that this is a change for them and not us.

        Exactly. This is the key problem with accommodationism. The large majority of the time the believer is taking whatever it is the accomodationist is offering as justification for, and additional affirmation that their religious beliefs are right and good.

  10. MR
    Posted June 24, 2014 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    On a slightly different topic, it mystifies me how they select Templeton Prize winners. The common denominator seems to be – don’t say anything nasty about religion. For example the physicist Bernard d’Espagnat won the prize in 2009. I’ve read his book On Physics and Philosophy, which is actually pretty good, a philosophical inquiry mainly on the nature of quantum mechanics. But there is nothing remotely religious or spiritual about the book in any way, shape or form. He mentions Spinoza’s god in the book, of course is no god at all but another name for nature. The book is thoroughly naturalistic from cover to cover. I can only guess that he has never said anything nasty about religion, or perhaps it doesn’t even warrant a mention in his book, holding the dictum “I have no need of that hypothesis.” It is strange if this is taken as a promotion of spirituality.

    • Sastra
      Posted June 24, 2014 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      For some reason my #11 failed to post under your comment. Probably my fault.

  11. MR
    Posted June 24, 2014 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    delete this one, sorry for posting twice.

  12. Sastra
    Posted June 24, 2014 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    If I recall correctly d’Espgnat received the award at least partly because of public interviews he gave which did say something nasty about atheism. Or at least the wrong kind of atheism, like the kind Dawkins promotes.

    That in itself may be sufficient.

    • MR
      Posted June 24, 2014 at 8:52 am | Permalink

      OK, that would explain it. Dissing Dawkins is worth a million dollars.

      • MR
        Posted June 24, 2014 at 8:55 am | Permalink

        Of course that is sarcasm.

    • Posted June 25, 2014 at 9:24 am | Permalink

      I also recall him propagating subjectivist misinterpretations of QM, too. These might be regarded as “religion friendly”. (Think of Paul Davies’ stuff.)

  13. Posted June 24, 2014 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    If Templeton has disavowed creationism and ID, I’m supposing in like manner to Dr. Francis Collins, why do you give a wit whether or not a lecture in science has its financial origins in an organization that espouses certain theistic social policies? You might be irreligious but others are not and the latter are hardly winning the hearts and minds of the American public as can be appreciated through changes in statutory law, precedent setting law, secularized public education, anti-theistic fervour both encouraged and expressed by and among college and university faculty, and the full recognition of and extension of rights to various historically marginalized social groups, same-sex marriage as one example. Why not view this collaboration as an opportunity to shift limited resources from the pockets of theists to the service of an atheistic driven, evolutive-oriented model of cosmological and ontogenic origins? From what do you fear? An emergence of a Judeo-Christian renaissance sweeping across the country reclaiming it’s previously ascendant position as the moral conscience underwriting social order and good government? Why do you truckle while your enemy scurries about on the plains below your dominant, firmly entrenched position on the high ground? Fear Intelligent design and the slow collapse of the neoDarwinian project but not those who, like the Templeton group and Collins, carry your banner to ever greater heights.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted June 24, 2014 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      What color glasses are you using to view the world?

      It’s not the world I live in.

    • Sastra
      Posted June 24, 2014 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      robertjsimpson wrote:

      Why not view this collaboration as an opportunity to shift limited resources from the pockets of theists to the service of an atheistic driven, evolutive-oriented model of cosmological and ontogenic origins?

      Because evolution isn’t the only issue, that’s why. Jerry and the rest of us advocate a science-based approach to reality. Templeton is trying to to use science as a prop in order to promote a religious/spiritual view of the world — a view which is not really where science leads us.

      Just because it’s not overt evolution-denying creationism doesn’t mean it’s atheism. You can’t lump New Atheists together with New Agers as part of a movement against “Judeo-Christianity.” The New Agers are aligned with the more traditional religions when it comes to science.

      • Kirth Gersen
        Posted June 24, 2014 at 10:18 am | Permalink

        Bingo. Creationism is just one (admittedly bizarre) symptom of a pervasive anti-reality bias. In these matters, it’s generally best to directly address the underlying problem.

      • Bea
        Posted June 24, 2014 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

        Sastra,
        You keep using that word [science]. I do not think it means what you think it means.

        It does not mean “physicalism.”

        In what way does [basic] acknowledgment of and exploration of mentality/spirituality conflict with science?

        • Sastra
          Posted June 24, 2014 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

          I know that ‘science’ does not mean “physicalism.” That is why I talked about where it is leading us. It is not leading us towards mind/body dualism or its supernatural/paranormal variations.

          I cannot answer your question without more information — such as your definition of “mentality/spirituality.” There would of course be no conflict or problem with a scientific/objective/secular exploration of mind, religion, spiritual beliefs, and so forth. That is not, however, what Templeton really wants. It seeks confirmation — as well as the reassurance that there is no ‘conflict’ in a different sense.

        • Posted June 24, 2014 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

          As Sastra wrote, you need to flesh out what you mean by “mentality/spirituality”, but assuming you mean mind/body dualism, there’s loads of science that conflicts with it.

          If a mind is something other than an emergent property of the brain, then why are states of mind so vulnerable to intentional or accidental manipulation of the brain? Physical brain damage can alter your personality, your intelligence, your ability to comprehend visual or aural stimuli. Various chemicals can alter your state of mind ranging from euphoria to tipsy to blocking out the mind completely (ie, inducing unconsciousness).

          You can’t seriously think science isn’t in conflict with dualism.

        • Bea
          Posted June 25, 2014 at 9:55 am | Permalink

          My question is, do you think science [itself] tells us that there are no nonphysical/mental/spiritual aspects to reality? If you do, then in what way?

          • Posted June 25, 2014 at 10:48 am | Permalink

            Science most emphatically tells us that everything in the everyday world of human existence reduces to electrons, quarks, photons, electromagnetism, the strong and weak nuclear forces, gravity, and the Higgs field. Everything — and I do mean everything — that you are going to experience during the course of your day today can be explained as the interaction of those particles and forces, and only those particles and forces.

            Whatever you mean by “nonphysical/mental/spiritual aspects to reality,” either they’re emergent phenomena of those fundamental particles and forces (such as the wetness of water molecules aggregated at in certain quantities at certain temperatures and pressures), or they simply don’t exist.

            Standard disclaimer: there’s much, much, much more to physics than that small corner of the Standard Model I described, including a great deal that we know we don’t yet understand. However, just as Euclidean geometry is far more than ample for you to build your house and Quantum and / or Relativistic Mechanics are utterly irrelevant to that task, so, too, do we know, without room for doubt or question, that the everyday world is precisely and completely explained by that small corner of the Standard Model.

            Cheers,

            b&

          • Bea
            Posted June 25, 2014 at 11:31 am | Permalink

            Ben,
            Your answer to the first question seems to be, “Yes, science [itself] tells us that there are no nonphysical/mental/spiritual aspects to reality.”

            But I’m unclear on your answer to the second question. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds to me like, “Because if you mention any, I’m going to call them ‘emergent’ from the physical, like wetness.”

            Whether or not that’s a correct (or fair) interpretation, please explain how science itself (rather than physicalist beliefs) would justify such a conflation, such an ultimate collapse to physicality.

            In other words, what do you think human minds have perceived about mass/charge/spin set in spacetime that would make them imagine that only mass/charge/spin set in spacetime really exists?

            Do mental conceptions of (and beliefs in) mass/charge/spin set in spacetime not really “exist”? Careful where you step…

            • Posted June 25, 2014 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

              [P]lease explain how science itself (rather than physicalist beliefs) would justify such a conflation, such an ultimate collapse to physicality.

              The best place to start would be Newton, especially with the field-centric reformulation by Laplace. Newton conclusively demonstrated that the motion of the planets can be explained the same way an apple falling from a tree can be explained: as the inevitable result of gravity and inertia operating on objects with mass.

              Physicists have since expanded our knowledge of forces and objects to what is now referred to as the Standard Model.

              The most striking feature of the Standard Model is its completeness at human (and much more than human) scales.

              For example, you don’t need to know anything about that apple to know how long it will take to fall from the tree to the ground than its height and the combined masses of the apple and the Earth (with the caveat of the oversimplification that we’re ignoring air resistance and other negligible factors to move the discussion along). Plug those figures (plus the Gravitational Constant) into your equation, and every single time the calculation will match observation to within any degree of precision you’re going to be able to personally manage.

              You could say that it’s not merely gravity that decides how long it takes the apple to fall, but gravity plus the apple dryads; however, the only reasonable conclusion is that the actual input of the dryads is indistinguishable from gravity alone, and the apple would fall exactly the same way without the dryads.

              And you can confirm that gravity works this way for yourself. An experiment that you should have done already in school is to calculate the acceleration of gravity by measuring the time it takes different objects to fall from different heights and / or roll different distances down a ramp set at different angles — with the latter being an easier experiment to measure precisely. Do the experiment, do the math, and you’ll come up with the exact same figures that Newton did, to within the margin of error of your measurements.

              You can (and should!) re-create many of the other landmark experiments in physics. That should give you confidence that, when the physicists state that a certain solution is sufficient to describe a certain phenomenon over a certain domain, it really is the case — that, just as with the apple falling from the tree, there’s nothing more to add.

              At that point, you can continue down the process to where we are with the results from the Large Hadron Collider: that, if there were any other forces or particles or fields or anything else necessary to understand life at human scales, we would have long since discovered evidence for it. Instead, we’re left at the same place as we are with the falling apple: the picture is complete.

              Now, you might want to argue that consciousness is akin to the air resistance I explicitly ignored up above, and that a strong gust of wind could change the path the apple takes on its way to the ground. However, the point remains that we do understand wind and aerodynamics, and a less simplistic model would take that into account. You then might wish to argue that there is motion in the falling of the apple that we can’t account for with gravity and aerodynamics (and all the other forces I’m still ignoring). However, that’s just simply not the case. We’ve looked and measured and poked and prodded, and there really isn’t anything going on in brains that can’t be accounted for by a small subset of the Standard Model. There really is enough complexity in the brain to account for all our experiences and behaviors, and we really have mapped the physical operation of the brain to thoughts and feelings and experiences and all the rest. We might not have it mapped down to the level of Google Street View, but we’ve got not only all the continents outlined but also all the major rivers and all their tributaries and all the mountains and hills and valleys.

              You might not understand that, but your ignorance on the subject no more makes cognition “special” than a parallel ignorance of gravity would make the dryads real.

              Cheers,

              b&

            • Bea
              Posted June 25, 2014 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

              I know the physics too, Ben… and it’s beside the point. It’s only your bottom-up perspective that makes you extrapolate upward from the bottom.

              As I’ve explained before, physics is not the study of aware, purposeful minds (or spirits, if you will), or even of how these interact with the [apparent] physical world.

              Physics studies and reflects the behavior of basic physical systems. When there is a mental agent in the system, it is no longer purely a physics problem. (hmmm, I suppose a system with no mental agent at all is both unknown and unknowable… not to mention unimaginable… anywho, back to the “matter” at hand)

              For example, if you became angry and threw an apple at someone’s head, the complete explanation for the motion of that apple from “at rest” to “collision with head” would actually have to include aware and purposeful mind(s)… at least yours, and likely the other person’s as well.

              Another example… you find a wristwatch in a field (and I’m just talking about a wristwatch in a field, not a metaphor for this wondrous universe). You’d be foolish to ponder the “miracle” of just how all those bits happened to come together in just that way via physics. No, you’d simply assume that someone lost their watch, which they were using to tell what time it was, so they could get to all the fun and not so fun things they planned to experience each day. There is a long chain of mental awareness and intention preceding your “find.”

              Whenever mind is acting strongly within a system, it’s a whole lot fuzzier and less mechanistic… but the events are no less comprehensible and no less actual. They simply include mental causation in addition to physical causation.

              This is one of the reasons that physics itself cannot logically be used to try to justify a conflation of mental/spiritual with [albeit fancy] physical.

              Anyway, I’m still listening to hear how the sciences we’ve constructed with and within our minds are somehow telling our minds that there are no nonphysical/mental/spiritual aspects to reality.

              I suggest it’s not science but only physicalist belief that is busy doing that. And I think it’s important that we distinguish between the two.

              • Posted June 25, 2014 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

                Ben, I like the fact that you don’t, unlike most neoDarwinian affirming folk conversant in the basic sciences, summarily dispatch the possibility of non-materialist realities, keeping yourself truly open to following the evidence, whether derived a posteriori or from a priori reasoning, to wherever it leads – a truly honest sceptic in best sense. I may not agree with your beliefs on many matters, though the degree to which we depart from one another is unknown to me since I am new to this blog, but we accord regarding the atheist/agnostic’s view that a strict, inviolable distinction exists between modern science and religion/metaphysics. These categories are said to represent non-overlapping magisteria, as S. Gould puts it. But on what basis, with what warrant is such an assertion based? Certainly none can be located in the annals of history; this concept is quite recent and remains somewhat contentious. But consider this, atheism is itself the product of a serious deliberation in metaphysics, this evinced by the its foundational doctrines and their obvious implications, such as: there is no God, nothing exists beyond or without the natural universe, life emergence has occurred as a result of the operative lawful regularities acting on mass-energy, neither life nor the cosmos has been created or guided, there is no purposive end toward which any thing is striving, consciousness/self-awareness/minds/morality/unique identities are illusory. I would take this set of doctrines as good evidence for the imbrication of science and religion/metaphysics among atheists. But this is to be expected since the previous moniker used to describe what today we refer to as science, to wit, natural philosophy, represents a fuller, more accurate characterization of this human enterprise. All this, everything forementioned above contained in this reply, is intended to call forth and unabashedly repudiate atheism’s most pernicious doctrine: Atheists must, as a matter of principle, accept and behaviourly comply with all doctrines, and do so dogmatically. What is the atheist’s hackneyed mantra on the subject of dogma – but only the very same thing they mindlessly practice. Atheism renders the mind inert in the project of pursuing evidence wherever it leads.

              • Posted June 25, 2014 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

                Ben, I like the fact that you don’t, unlike most neoDarwinian affirming folk conversant in the basic sciences, summarily dispatch the possibility of non-materialist realities

                Yes and no. In principle, it could have been the case that some such formulation of reality could have proven correct. In practice, it’s akin to observing that, once upon a time, we really could have fully investigated our neighborhood and concluded that the Sun orbits the Earth.

                These categories are said to represent non-overlapping magisteria, as S. Gould puts it. But on what basis, with what warrant is such an assertion based?

                None whatsoever. Gould’s NOM is a non-starter. If it — whatever “it” may be — somehow interacts with something that’s real, we can at least observe the results of that interaction and learn something about it. Indeed, that’s all that particle physics has ever been about, as almost all particles other than the familiar ones decay before they can be directly detected.

                If there were gods or magic, we would have discovered them by now. We haven’t, and there’s nowhere else for them to hide. Continuing to suggest they’re there is like suggesting that the reason we can’t see the dragon in your garage is because it’s invisible and it breaths room-temperature fire indistinguishable from motionless air.

                But consider this, atheism is itself the product of a serious deliberation in metaphysics, this evinced by the its foundational doctrines and their obvious implications, such as: there is no God

                No, that’s a conclusion, not a premise. We’ve looked everywhere any remotely god-like entity could possibly hide and found nothing. And as we’ve looked farther and farther afield and ruled out more and more hiding spots, the very definition of the word, “god,” has changed to the point that the definition itself is no longer even coherent. We’ve gone from the gods being the entities that controlled the weather and shepherded the celestial bodies across the dome of the firmament to all-powerful entities that don’t actually do anything.

                As the rest of your post follows from that profoundly incorrect presumption, there’s no point in addressing it.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Posted June 25, 2014 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

                Mr. Simpson, you are arrogant in your dismissal of all atheists as dogmatic. But I’m commenting to ask you to abide by our custom here. You’re clearly not an atheist, so you must be religious. And if you are, it is the custom to ask 1) what is the evidence you have that a god exists, and 2) what is the evidence that your faith is the right one as opposed to, say, the Greek or Hindu polytheism, or the Norse gods?

                Before you will be allowed to post further, you have to answer these questions. and you really should apologize for insulting all the nonbelieving reader on this site for being “mindless.” Do apologize for that, too, because we don’t insult each other like that.

              • Posted June 25, 2014 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

                Physics studies and reflects the behavior of basic physical systems. When there is a mental agent in the system, it is no longer purely a physics problem.

                As I suggested you would, you’re claiming that there’s motion in the falling apple that isn’t accounted for by gravity plus aerodynamics plus other known marginal forces. Whereas, your incredulity notwithstanding, no such motion has been observed.

                Whenever mind is acting strongly within a system, it’s a whole lot fuzzier and less mechanistic

                No, it’s still entirely deterministic; it’s just a bit more complex and perhaps chaotic. The difference is akin to that between the orbits of a two-body system which Newton could perfectly model (ignoring relativistic effects) and something as messy as the accretion disc around a newborn star, which we don’t yet have the computational oomph to fully model — though we can come damned close in that particular example.

                I’m sure you don’t need to invoke spooky mind vibes to explain an abacus, and you likely don’t need to do so to explain your typical pocket calculator. You also don’t need it to explain the most powerful supercomputers…nor the simplest nervous systems, which are much less complex than the most powerful supercomputers. Keep ratcheting up, and you don’t need it for slightly more complex nervous systems, nor mammalian nervous systems, nor human nervous systems. It’s all one giant continuum, with that abacus at one end and your brain at the other, and no room anywhere in the middle to insert spooky mind vibes.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Sastra
                Posted June 25, 2014 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

                robertjsimpson describing the major views of atheism:

                … there is no God, nothing exists beyond or without the natural universe, life emergence has occurred as a result of the operative lawful regularities acting on mass-energy, neither life nor the cosmos has been created or guided,

                …so far so good…

                there is no purposive end toward which any thing is striving,

                Wait, what? There are many agents in the universe and most of them are striving (or ‘striving’) for a purposive end. Neither I (nor I think any other atheist) is going to accept a description of reality which apparently leaves us out! Where do we begin and the universe leaves off?

                consciousness/self-awareness/minds/morality/unique identities are illusory.

                Okay, now stop this. Just stop it. You’re misusing the word ‘illusory’ and we’ve complained about it before.

                Atheists DO NOT deny the existence of consciousness, self-awareness, minds, morality, or unique identities. We embrace them all into naturalism. We just don’t describe or explain them the same way the supernaturalists do.

                Again, if something is called an “illusion” that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist; it only means that it’s not necessarily what it appears to be on the surface.

            • Bea
              Posted June 25, 2014 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

              When your mind is thinking about the nature of reality as a whole, it cannot reasonably leave the nature of mind out of the picture.

              As to “not actually a cryptic form of creationist apologetics”… I took it as a reminder not to be sweepingly dismissive of all Templeton funded research.

              • Posted June 25, 2014 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

                When your mind is thinking about the nature of reality as a whole, it cannot reasonably leave the nature of mind out of the picture.

                And what makes you think we are?

                The mind is the result of a very messy and complex computation device with lots of inputs and outputs and, especially lots of recursive self-analytics and other forms of model-building. Indeed, I’m at a loss as to imagine how a computational device matching our general description could possibly not be consciously self-aware in the same basic way we are. It’s like suggesting that you could build a device with an aerodynamic profile that’s within a range of specs and a weight in this other range of specs and so on, but it wouldn’t fly. Maybe you can string words together in a grammatically-correct way to describe something like that, but it still doesn’t make sense.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Sastra
                Posted June 25, 2014 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

                When your mind is thinking about the nature of reality as a whole, it cannot reasonably leave the nature of mind out of the picture.

                Yes; the tendency to confuse our inner worlds of thought and feeling with the outer world of object and event is innate and seductive. I think that the scientific naturalists are both more sensitive to this fact and more sensible when taking it into account.

                To minds, everything looks quite a bit like a mind. We must take care we do not continue to assume that this is a primary insight into objective reality just as our own reflections are a primary insight into our subjective selves (or seem to be on the surface.)

              • Bea
                Posted July 8, 2014 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

                Hi Ben,
                Can you tell me whether it’s on purpose or by accident that you ignore the mental causation (awareness/logic/anger/intention) that initiated the motion of the hand that threw the apple?

                The motion of physical objects happens to be simple stuff… not so for awareness, logic, intention, etc. I repeat, the latter are not studied or described by physics. There’s no logical reason to ignore this difference in “kind” (or assume it’s just some mysterious difference in “degree”). Ask yourself “why” you ignore it.

                On the other hand, maybe there’s nothing wrong with seeing it as a difference in “degree.” In which case, I wonder at your firm preference for assuming that “mental” must be a complicated form of “physical,” rather than “physical” being a simple (and relatively predictable) form of “mental” (shared conceptions). 😉

                Classical determinism is ultimately invalid, even when looking at a [supposedly] purely physical system. Not to mention that this universe is evidently not a purely physical system, as we only know and share it via mentality. (Still, in physics we often picture/imagine idealized closed systems without any minds observing or affecting.)

                Unlike you, I don’t consider minds and mental activity “spooky”… it’s simply what we are, and what we do. And I see no evolutionary or developmental justification for inferring awareness/intention at work/play within artifacts purposefully designed by human minds and constructed by human hands. As far as I can tell, your only reason for believing in such bottom-up “awareness” (in calculators? really?) is the very physicalist assumption that I’ve asked you to try to distinguish from actual science.

                I’m still listening to hear how the sciences we’ve mentally constructed with/within our minds are somehow telling our minds that there are no nonphysical/mental/spiritual aspects to reality. It’s kind of a trick question. But that’s actually the point.

              • Posted July 9, 2014 at 9:47 am | Permalink

                Can you tell me whether it’s on purpose or by accident that you ignore the mental causation (awareness/logic/anger/intention) that initiated the motion of the hand that threw the apple?

                I’m not ignoring what you’re calling, “mental causation.” I’m trying to explain that it’s an emergent property of the computational nature of the brain, in much the same way that “wetness” is an emergent property of aggregates of water molecules at a certain range of temperatures and pressures.

                The motion of physical objects happens to be simple stuff… not so for awareness, logic, intention, etc.

                So you assert, but your assertion can only be possible if everything we know about the way the Universe works is horribly incorrect in the most conspiratorial of fashions.

                I wonder at your firm preference for assuming that “mental” must be a complicated form of “physical,” rather than “physical” being a simple (and relatively predictable) form of “mental” (shared conceptions). 😉

                The worldview you present is an ancient and intuitive one. It even has limited utility in certain domains. But it doesn’t bear much semblance to what we know of reality.

                Similarly, our intuitions tell us that heavier objects fall faster than lighter ones, that the only way to make something move is by pushing on it, and that walls don’t push back when you push against them. Yet Newton conclusively and emphatically demonstrated otherwise.

                If you haven’t yet yourself performed the experiments to demonstrate those principles, you greatly owe it to yourself to do so. Once you’ve done that, there are an whole host of other experiments that are fun and easy to do that will lay the complete foundation of modern physics, all the way through quantum mechanics. You’ll eventually reach a limit after which you need multi-billion-dollar institutions to reproduce certain findings, but you’ll know enough to be able to check the results and confirm or deny that they’re in line with what you yourself would expect if they’ve honestly reported their observations. And, when you peel away all those layers you come to the inevitable and inescapable conclusion that, just as water is nothing more than a particular arrangement of a very limited number of fermions, consciousness is nothing more than a particular arrangement of electrochemical patterns in your brain.

                For it to be otherwise, again excluding conspiracy theories, the team at CERN would have had to have found other particles, which they didn’t. If you’d like, I’d be happy to again explain why the fact they didn’t find other particles excludes the possibility of consciousness being something other than brain states.

                If you’re still not convinced, then answer this: is the wetness of water fundamental in the same way that you think consciousness is fundamental? If so, please explain how the wetness of water is fundamental; that should be easier to address without all the extra baggage of personality. If not, please identify what it is that makes consciousness fundamental but not wetness.

                b&

              • Bea
                Posted July 8, 2014 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

                Hi Sastra,
                You said, “To minds, everything looks quite a bit like a mind.” Would you say, “To matter, everything looks quite a bit like matter”?

                My point was simple. Reality includes mentality. I see no rational (or scientific) reason to try to explain mentality as some fancy form of physicality. I see more reason to notice that the qualifier “physical” (shared/sensory/spatiotemporal) is applicable to some of our mental contents… but not all.

              • Bea
                Posted July 9, 2014 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

                Hi Ben,
                “Wetness” describes a physical quality or sensation. “Consciousness/awareness” is the mental perceiver/conceiver of any and all physical qualities and sensations (and more). This difference in “kind” is neither explained nor erased by calling mind “an emergent property” (in service to physicalist beliefs).

                Again, Ben… what we’ve learned about the tendencies of simple physical stuff applies to simple physical stuff, not to the nature of nonphysical mind. Yes, even at CERN. And remember that physics is constituted of mental models… because unlike any of our conceptions of even the most complex matter/energy, minds are curious and enjoy finding ways to understand and explain past events, and predict future events.

                To learn about the nature and capacities of mental/nonphysical mind we actually have to focus on the nature and capacities of mental/nonphysical mind (however inward and wooly we happen to find it to be). So it goes. You wouldn’t swim around at the bottom of the ocean to learn more about stars.

                I grasp that you firmly believe that “consciousness is nothing more than a particular arrangement of electrochemical patterns in your brain.” If it’s “nothing more,” why doesn’t a complete physical description of neural activity tell the complete story? By what logic do you allow yourself to “poof”/add “awareness” like sentient frosting atop an otherwise mindless cupcake? This is a serious question. What threshold do you cross?

                You say the CERN team would have had to find other particles? Why? What for? What kind of particles do you think minds must perceive/conceive before minds are capable of admitting the mental nature of mind, the knower/imaginer of realities?

                Consciousness is what you are, arguing about ideas here online with me… and it’s what I am, arguing back. It is the holder and arranger of all conceptions, it dances them around within itself, and that includes all conceptions of itself and water and wetness too. I’m not expecting you to make the same claims for wetness, but I try to never say never. (oops, I said never)

                Best wishes

              • Posted July 9, 2014 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

                You say the CERN team would have had to find other particles? Why? What for?

                One of the most important things that science has taught us is that there are certain patterns in nature. Push your wallet off your desk, and it’ll take so long for it to hit the floor. Do it again, and it’ll take the same amount of time to hit the floor. Do it a Brazilian times, and it’ll always take the same amount of time to hit the floor. Do it somewhere else with a different wallet and a different desk, if the height of the desk is the same, the time to hit the floor will be the same. Change the height of the desk, and the time it takes the wallet to hit the floor changes in a very predictable and well-understood and widely-known pattern.

                Physicists call these types of patterns, “symmetries.” Just as you can rotate a square by 90° or flip it along a central axis and not be able to tell that you’ve done anything to it, you can repeat that wallet-drop experiment anywhere and not be able to tell the difference.

                Symmetries are powerful things, and it’s fair to state that most of science is about little more than discovering and explaining symmetries.

                Another symmetry is that all electrons have the same mass and charge. Another way of stating that is that the gravitational and electromagnetic fields are uniform with respect to electrons. Put an electron in any combination of gravitational and electromagnetic fields in any shape you like, and you’ll know just what that electron will do. (There are quantum uncertainties that might come into play when considering a single electron, but, even then, we know exactly the odds of the different outcomes. Roll the dice enough times and you’re guaranteed certain patterns of results, even if you can’t predict any particular throw.)

                Similar symmetries exist with all particles and all forces that we’ve ever found. And the whole collection of symmetries fits perfectly together in what physicists refer to, unimaginatively enough, as the Standard Model.

                Just as in Newton’s Theory of Motion the only way to make an object change direction is to exert a force on it, the Standard Model says that there are only certain ways to do anything at all to elementary particles. If you want to move an electron, you can do so with any force other than the strong nuclear force. If you want to move a photon, the only way to do so is with gravity.

                We have a complete inventory of what makes up an human body. It’s entirely atomic matter, which means it’s just electrons and nucleons; and the nucleons are just top and bottom quarks coupled with gluons and assembled into neutrons and protons. There’s simply nothing else in your body.

                It’s not unlike if you were made out of a certain selection of Lego bricks, without either any other bricks or any non-Lego objects. We might not have the instruction plans for how to assemble all those bricks, but we know exactly what bricks there are, and we know everything there is to know about what those bricks can and cannot do.

                Where CERN comes into play is that they have conclusively demonstrated that there aren’t any missing pieces to the Standard Model puzzle. Millions of times a second for years on end they jiggled pieces together in every possible combination to see what they could possibly shake loose that they didn’t already know about. All they found that was new was the Higgs Boson that they very much suspected they’d find.

                There’s still much hope from the CERN team to find still more fascinating and exotic facts about physics, and they’re ramping up right now to continue the search. But, just as we can be certain that, if you’ve nothing magnetic in your wallet, no magnet no matter how powerful will change its course as it falls off the table, we also know that no other forces aside from gravity and electromagnetism will change its course, either — and we also know that the wallet is made of the same electrons and nucleons as you yourself are. (Electromagnetism isn’t just magnets; it’s also the force that causes electrons to push against each other. When you push your hand against the table, it’s the electrons in your hand pushing against the electrons in the table, and it’s the electromagnetic force that does the pushing.)

                So, whatever consciousness is, we know, absolutely and certainly and without a doubt, every bit as much as we know that the Sun will rise in the East tomorrow morning, that it is a process that arises from the interaction of electrons (almost exclusively) and nucleons mediated by the electromagnetic (almost exclusively) and gravitational forces — with a nod to the strong, weak, and Higgs forces that are essential for nucleons to behave as they do but which have no influence outside of the nucleus of an atom.

                The human body and its behaviors may well be a virtually incomprehensible Rube Goldberg assemblage of electrons (and nucleons) held together with electromagnetism, but we know that that’s exactly what it is. The only challenge lies in mapping out the pieces and the connections and making sense of how pushing on this bit here makes that other bit over there jiggle like so. And that includes the thoughts and feelings in your brain, in any and every form.

                For consciousness to be anything else, it would mean that the CERN team missed something in their search, and that everything we think we know about physics is completely worng. And if you sincerely think that to be the case, for whatever reason, one way or another, you yourself are completely unmoored from reality. Maybe it’s through ignorance of the state of modern physics; maybe it’s through wishful thinking for some faery tale to really be true; maybe it’s through arrogance of being certain that your personal intuition trumps the most massive and careful and thorough experimental observations ever performed by humanity; maybe it’s because of something else entirely. But, whatever the reason, the fact still remains that we know what the human body is made of, we know what sorts of things you can do with those pieces, and we know that there aren’t any fundamental gaps in the nature of that knowledge (even if there’s lots of infill yet to be done).

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Bea
                Posted July 12, 2014 at 8:38 am | Permalink

                Hi Ben,
                No, those of us who admit the nonphysical nature of consciousness are not “completely unmoored from reality.” In fact, I’m wondering what a physicalist could possibly mean by that… our brain activity is “completely unmoored” from our brain activity? 😉

                You probably just mean that our minds are not exclusively focused upon physical “observables.” Correct. Neither is yours.
                _____________________

                We learn about particular things by focusing mental activity upon those particular things. If the folks at CERN were instead focused upon mind/mentality, they might be pondering the curiosity, intellect, willfulness, ambition, creativity, and the highly purposeful social, economic, and mind/brain/body physiological coordination that went into the design, building, operation, and [mental] fruits of the lab where they work.

                But they’re not.

                They’re doing something that’s in many ways much simpler… watching to see how some [albeit abstract] [relatively mindless] [apparent] physical stuff behaves.

                Indeed, it’s truly impressive, how persistently, consistently, and mathematically comprehensibly [relatively mindless][apparent] physical stuff behaves.

                It’s those qualities that enable us to form stable and useful mental models in physics, models that describe the behavior of [relatively mindless] [apparent] physical stuff… and nothing else.

                Perhaps you thought the impressive persistence, consistency, and shared observability of [relatively mindless] physical stuff somehow indicates that physical stuff [not only has those qualities, but ALSO] is ALL THAT EXISTS.

                Such a leap is not logical. It rests on a belief in physicalism plus confirmation bias, with the attendant assumption/claim that mind is “nothing more” than what brains do.
                _____________________

                One of the triumphs of science has been debunking all manner of human “projections” of mindful activity in nature (in mythical gods, creatures, events). This has unfortunately led some human minds to an absurd extrapolation… to the point of thinking we must also debunk the presence of actual mindful/mental awareness and influence in humans (… the very origin of our ability to falsely infer it in nature!).

                It boils down to black/white thinking, the odd belief that mental awareness and influence (operating in spacetime) must be either ALL (at a maximum everywhere/everywhen), or NOTHING (nowhere ever at all). That’s an unreasonable requirement, cleanly disputed by the existence of self-aware yet constrained minds (which we know ourselves to be).

                Not to mention that spacetime itself is a mental construct, but that’s getting more abstract that many folks care for… baby steps. (However, note that your mind easily conjures up its own personal spacetime realms while dreaming.)

                What if you pondered the possibility that mentality is simply a ubiquitous but variable aspect of reality all the while? (throughout the apparent spacetime of this universe and beyond)? What if you merely noted that concentrated mindful/mental awareness/influence is most intensely focused on/through [living] evolved brains?

                What if you also merely noted that, at locations remote from brains, mindful/mental awareness and influence are typically very weak (even undetectable), and that [relatively mindless][apparent] physical stuff behaves quite persistently, consistently, and mathematically comprehensibly?

                You see, pondering the role of mind/mentality in reality is not about looking for some special kind of locatable matter-like-stuff that we just haven’t discovered yet (like these “other particles” you think CERN folks would have found by now).

                It’s more like noting some kind of variable organizing agent, operating at who knows how many levels (I certainly don’t know, and neither do you). Being nebulous does not actually mean it’s unreal or unimportant… it just means it’s nebulous.
                _____________________

                Basically, Ben, you continue to assume your conclusion up front… that studying “physical” fundamentals is equivalent to studying “reality” fundamentals. That’s called believing in physicalism (not science).

                Minds and mentality are not describable by “physical” fundamentals. Even you, despite your talk of “thoughts and feelings in your brain,” were also quite adamant that there are only atoms “in your brain.”

                Neuroscience makes progress detailing “correlations” between certain “physical” fundamentals (as currently conceived) and mental activity. But you run into a logical dilemma if you think scientific minds will someday mentally argue scientific minds and mentality out of “real” existence.

                Yes, we know what the human body is made of, but we also know the human body to be regularly driven by the human mind with creativity and purpose. A comprehensive theory of reality must include both kinds of evidence.

                And Ben, keep in mind that in science we do not claim to know things “absolutely and certainly and without a doubt” (what you said). That sounds to me like religion.

                Know too that acknowledging the mental nature of mind (and mental aspects of reality) poses no threat whatsoever to the science done by minds. Physical stuff will almost certainly continue to behave much as it has in the past, dontcha know.

              • Posted July 12, 2014 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

                No, those of us who admit the nonphysical nature of consciousness are not “completely unmoored from reality.” In fact, I’m wondering what a physicalist could possibly mean by that… our brain activity is “completely unmoored” from our brain activity? 😉

                No, I mean that what you believe to be true is not even remotely true, in the same way that the stars do not control our fates despite the beliefs of astrologers, that aliens did not build the Pyramids despite the beliefs of UFOlogists, or that the world is not mere thousands of years old despite the beliefs of many Christians.

                We learn about particular things by focusing mental activity upon those particular things.

                That’s a poetic way of putting it that doesn’t help much in this context. Rather, when we learn things, we do so by constructing computational models of them. The closer our models match reality, the better we understand the phenomenon in question.

                If the folks at CERN were instead focused upon mind/mentality, they might be pondering the curiosity, intellect, willfulness, ambition, creativity, and the highly purposeful social, economic, and mind/brain/body physiological coordination that went into the design, building, operation, and [mental] fruits of the lab where they work.

                But they’re not.

                That is absolutely false and highly insulting. Had you paid even the slightest bit of attention to those in academia, and most especially high-energy physicists, you’d know that what you just summarily dismissed instead occupies most of their working lives, and that they generally lament how little of their attention they get to focus on the actual search. The rest of that part of your rant depends on that offensive caricature, and is not deserving of further comment.

                It boils down to black/white thinking, the odd belief that mental awareness and influence (operating in spacetime) must be either ALL (at a maximum everywhere/everywhen), or NOTHING (nowhere ever at all).

                No. What you claim is an a priori premise is rather a conclusion based upon careful observation. We looked everywhere and found nothing even where we would have had to have found something. Riffing off Einstein, it is insanity to keep thinking you’ll find something if only you keep looking.

                What if you also merely noted that, at locations remote from brains, mindful/mental awareness and influence are typically very weak (even undetectable), and that [relatively mindless][apparent] physical stuff behaves quite persistently, consistently, and mathematically comprehensibly?

                You are positing a field in the sense that physicists use the term: something that has a value everywhere, even if that value is zero. As such, your idea is entirely open to testing. Yet, as I have repeatedly explained, the evidence conclusively demonstrates that no such field exists.

                Not all that long ago, physicists were somewhat confident that light propagated by means of the Luminiferous Aether. And so they, in particular Michelson and Morley, made careful observations to better understand its nature. Yet, when they looked, they found nothing.

                We’ve already made all the observations necessary to have found your mental field, if it existed. We’ve looked, and found nothing. As with the Luminiferous Aether, it’s an idea whose time has come and gone.

                It’s more like noting some kind of variable organizing agent, operating at who knows how many levels (I certainly don’t know, and neither do you). Being nebulous does not actually mean it’s unreal or unimportant… it just means it’s nebulous. [emphasis added]

                For it to organize, if that word is to have any meaning, it has to move stuff around. We know how to move stuff, and we know how stuff can’t be moved. Your proposal falls perfectly in the latter category, with no overlap in the first.

                Yes, we know what the human body is made of, but we also know the human body to be regularly driven by the human mind with creativity and purpose.

                We know the exact opposite. Unequivocally, unquestionably, without any reasonable doubt.

                There’s an infinite variety of exclusively physical things you can do to your body that will change your mind in very predictable ways, and that you are utterly helpless to mentally overcome. Similarly, your mental abilities end at the exact same place your physical abilities do.

                No amount of willpower will permit you to stay sober after consuming enough alcohol. No amount of willpower will permit a recent amputee to move the severed limb laying nearby. For people with certain forms of depression, no amount of willpower will let them get out of bed in the morning — but the right drugs doing the right physical things to the right parts of their brains let them function as they wish.

                A comprehensive theory of reality must include both kinds of evidence.

                So show the evidence. Demonstrate how to separate the mental from the physical, the same way that you can separate electromagnetism from electrons and photons.

                Give me an experiment that I can do for myself that will convince me that there is some “mental” part of me that is perfectly independent of my body.

                And Ben, keep in mind that in science we do not claim to know things “absolutely and certainly and without a doubt” (what you said).

                One must keep an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out. It’s always possible to construct conspiracy theories that invalidate anything and everything we think we know. It’s also always the case that such conspiracy theories are utterly useless and entirely the domain of insanity. Maybe you’re just a subroutine in some Matrix-style computer; how would you rule that possibility out? Or maybe your tinfoil hat has slipped and aliens are controlling your thoughts with their mind rays. Or maybe the Red King in Alice’s Wonderland is dreaming you up — better not wake him!

                Do you have any doubt that the Sun rises in the East? Do you have any doubt that things near the Earth’s surface fall at about 10 m/s/s until air (or other) resistance becomes a factor? Do you have any doubt that water is two hydrogen atoms electromagnetically coupled to one oxygen atom, or that the human body is about 80% water?

                If you doubt any of those facts, either your education is woefully inadequate or you’re entertaining a conspiracy theory and therefore crazy.

                If you don’t doubt those facts, then you should be aware that the Standard Model of physics is every bit as undoubtable. You should be further aware that the Standard Model accounts for everything we observe in human bodies and our everyday lives and much more, and that it explicitly rules out the possibility of the magical mentality you advocate.

                That’s what I mean by, “completely unmoored from reality.” Your mind magic has as much to do with the real world as Western sunrises, apples falling up, water as one of the sacred elements (with earth, wind, and fire), or humans as spiritual rather than corporeal entities.

                Cheers,

                b&

          • Sastra
            Posted June 25, 2014 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

            Bea wrote:

            My question is, do you think science [itself] tells us that there are no nonphysical/mental/spiritual aspects to reality? If you do, then in what way?

            I’m afraid I’m still fuzzy on the exact meaning of your term “nonphysical/mental/spiritual aspects to reality.” It’s a bit of a deepity: I can think of an interpretation for which I would consider such aspects ‘true but trivial’ (meaning no naturalistic paradigms are shifted); I can also think of interpretations which are ‘extraordinary but false.’

            Assuming that I take the latter route and translate your phrase into a variation of “the supernatural” (Pure Mentality), I’ll first point out that science technically can’t eliminate any possibility. You can always bring astrology, vitalism, the ether, or other discarded concepts, hypotheses, theories, etc. in through the back door of “What If” (as in ‘what if everything we think we know so far turns out to be wrong!!!)

            But our scientific investigations surprised us and failed to support predictions of supernaturalism (such as the paranormal) and have instead built up a pretty good alternate model for naturalism*. That’s not conclusive against supernaturalism — but it tends in the wrong direction.

            *(In naturalism, everything mental depends on something non-mental; in supernaturalism at least one thing does not.)

            • Posted June 25, 2014 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

              But our scientific investigations surprised us and failed to support predictions of supernaturalism (such as the paranormal) and have instead built up a pretty good alternate model for naturalism*. That’s not conclusive against supernaturalism — but it tends in the wrong direction.

              Actually, we’re well past the point where supernaturalism can reasonably be entertained any more. The doors started to close with Newton, and were shut but not quite locked with Darwin. Now that the Large Hadron Collider team has discovered the Higgs Boson and thereby completed the Standard Model and exhausted the search for lighter particles and stronger forces, the doors have had meter-thick titanium plating applied and hermetical sealing permanently affixed all ’round.

              The only way to retain a “reasonable” belief in the supernatural is to presume a conspiracy theory along the lines of, “We’re trapped in the Matrix,” or, “Our tinfoil hats have slipped and the aliens are controlling our thoughts with their mind rays.” You can’t disprove those, but you can’t do anything productive with them, either.

              Cheers,

              b&

              • Sastra
                Posted June 25, 2014 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

                Most defenses of the supernatural divide reality into the area where all the physics works just as we think it does no problemo … and then the shadowy, mysterious, or rarified area where different laws and rules which are as flexible and sensitive as thoughts take over. They think both worlds work in tandem — but the supernatural world is only known through either paranormal glimpses or deep reflection on the ‘interior.’

              • Posted June 25, 2014 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

                That’s fair. My point is that the “big news” of the discovery of the Higgs is that even those shadowy realms are conclusively and exhaustively demonstrated non-existent — or, at least, perfectly incapable of interacting with humans, even indirectly or in principle or metaphorically.

                I know it might seem preposterous to the layperson to think that the physics is that conclusive, but it’s just an extension of the same principle that Newton ruled out, once and forever, the possibility that the gods had any role in guiding the orbits of the planets. Our knowledge of physics has advanced beyond mere orbital mechanics to the fundamental-to-us particles and forces of nature, and quite a ways beyond, and we are far more certain of our conclusions than Newton could ever have dreamt of being.

                To wit: if you want to interact with an human, the only way to do so is by pushing around photons and electrons and up and down quarks, and there are only so many ways that that can be done — just like there’re only so many ways that you can change the orbit of a planet. And none of those ways are open to supernatural options.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Posted June 26, 2014 at 4:55 am | Permalink

                Bingo!

                /@ / National Harbor, MD


%d bloggers like this: